His session ended with thundering applause. He made a final announcement before he left.
‘We only have a few places in the group. Those interested, apply with the training coordinator. We will shortlist and get back to you,’ he said and looked in my direction. ‘Do try. It’ll be worth it.’
Did he just signal me to apply? Did he like my answer? My phone buzzed. Debu had sent a message.
‘Tao restaurant. 58th Street and Park Avenue. 8 p.m. Okay?’
Damn, I almost forgot. I had a date, or at least a ‘let’s meet for Chinese food’ tonight. Before that I had something even more important. I had a waxing appointment.
‘Ohohoh. . . Slower, that hurts,’ I said to the waxing lady.
‘You haven’t done this before?’ said my fifty-year-old waxing lady, Catherine, politely, while ripping the waxing strips off me most brutally.
I was lying down in my underwear. I had come to Completely Bare, a funky ‘high-tech meets comfy chic’ waxing studio on 68th Street and Madison.
‘I have. Twice in my life. In India. Years ago,’ I said.
‘Really? Did it hurt then?’
Hell yeah, it did. Aditi didi had made me do it for a wedding in the family. I almost broke family ties with her after that. If only Debu knew what I was going through to have a plate of noodles with him. Catherine dipped a spatula in a bowl of molten wax.
‘Cold wax hurts more, but the results last longer,’ she said. She applied the wax on my upper thigh, then put a white strip of cloth, six inches long and two inches wide, on that. Hair clung to it. I felt the Armageddon coming.
‘Can’t you give local anaesthesia or. . .oww. . .oww. . .oww. . .’
‘Relax, honey,’ Catherine said.
I clenched my teeth and closed my eyes. I imagined myself in the Middle East. They punish women with lashes if they do something awful like driving a car, offering men their opinions or something totally immoral like exposing their elbows in public.
‘Fifty lashes for Radhika.’ I imagined a fatwa on me as Catherine went to work. She finished my legs from the front and flipped me around. I felt like a fish being scaled before dinner.
‘You don’t want a Brazilian?’ Catherine asked me. ‘It is only fifteen dollars more.’
‘What’s that?’ I said. Catherine rolled her eyes.
‘It’s everything gone, honey. Down there too.’
It took me a second to figure out what she meant. Then I realized the embarrassment and pain involved.
‘Do girls do it?’ I said.
‘Everyone, honey. The boys don’t like them bushes anymore.’
Okay, I thought. It’s only fifteen dollars more. I am Indian after all, and Indians like bargains, even if they involve pain.
‘You want it?’ Catherine said.
Maybe I can do this. This is not for Debu or tonight. This is for me. Enough of being a frumpy nerd, Radhika. Do it.
‘Sure, I’ll take the Brazilian,’ I said.
I don’t want to go into the details of what happened next. It started with Catherine examining bits of me nobody else ever had, while she shook her head in disapproval. After that she applied molten wax on body parts that were clearly never meant to ever come in contact with molten wax. Why do we women put ourselves through this? Why can’t boys. . .oww. . .oww. . .oww.
I think I would prefer the lashes in Saudi Arabia.
‘There we go,’ Catherine said after her ten-minute sadism experiment ended.
‘I might faint,’ I said.
‘You will get used to it,’ Catherine said. ‘Trust me, he will love it.’
There is no he, I wanted to tell her. I am only going to have wonton soup with him. Not wanton sex.
Catherine came back with a strip of crystal dots.
‘And as a special promotion, we are giving all customers who got a Brazilian a free Swarovski service. Allow me. This won’t hurt at all.’
I couldn’t believe what happened next. Catherine made a pattern with thirty crystals down there.
Once done, she told me to stand up and look into the mirror.
‘I look like a stripper,’ I said.
‘You look sexy.’
‘I can’t walk out with crystals on my. . .you know.’
‘Don’t worry. They wash off in a couple of days. Faster if you rub with soap.’
‘Hey, done with training? You will be on time, right? Or should we make it 8.30?’ Debu said.
‘I am done. Was just taking care of some. . .internal issues. See you soon,’ I said.
‘You look,’ he paused, ‘wonderful.’
‘Thank you,’ I said.
‘Your dress is lovely too.’
‘Look, no tag today,’ I said and turned around. Both of us laughed. I was wearing a military green lace dress I had picked up from Gap. It ended well above the knees, exposing enough leg. However, I still don’t think Debu noticed the hundred dollars I spent fixing my limbs. The dim lighting and the restaurant table covering my legs did no justice to the hour I had spent in the torture chamber.
Debu ordered a set dinner for us.
We sat down in the upper level of Tao, a large-sized restaurant by New York standards. Downstairs, we could see a giant Buddha and the Zen koi pond.
‘Nice place,’ I said.
‘Did you know they shot the Sex and the City movie here?’ Debu said.
I didn’t. ‘So how was your day?’
‘Good. We are pitching for this new sportswear brand called Under Armor. If we get the campaign it will be awesome. How’s Goldman?’
‘Still in training. Busy. It will get even more hectic after work begins.’
I told him about Neel’s distressed debt presentation. I recounted how I was questioned in front of the entire class.
‘So I am thinking, I won’t apply to distressed debt. It’s quite difficult to get anyway. Plus, the job seems too difficult,’ I said.
‘How can you not apply?’ Debu said. ‘You are from IIMA. You will crack it.’
‘People in my class are from top colleges around the world. Harvard, Stanford, you name it.’
‘So what? You answered the question the partner asked you in the presentation, right?’
I looked at Debu. He had listened to me with full attention. His deep black eyes flickered in the candlelight. I leaned back on my seat and crossed my legs. They felt unusually smooth. I remembered why and smiled.