One Indian Girl(5)

by Chetan Bhagat

‘Come, come, see the dulhan,’ one of the aunts said. The monkey was out of the cage and there was a free sighting in the lobby. A crowd gathered around me. I tried to remember as many names as possible.

‘My mother’s sisters, Rohini masi and Gunjan masi,’ Brijesh said, ‘and that’s dad’s brothers, Purohit chacha and Amit chacha.’

Bob-bob went my head as I wished them all. If I saw anyone with even a hint of white or dyed or henna-tinted hair, I went for their feet. Exactly as my mother would expect me to. Amid the introductions and obsequious respect going on, Brijesh pulled me aside.

‘Hey, is this too much for you?’

I shrugged.

‘Is there somewhere we could take a walk?’ he said.

There, he was being sweet. I had told him earlier I wanted to get to know him better, and he was making an effort.

‘Sure. Let’s go to the poolside,’ I said.

2

Palm trees along the Marriott pool swayed green in the breeze. The 5 p.m. December sun lit up the hotel’s cottages, casting gentle shadows everywhere. We went down the walking path, with the hotel to our left and the Arabian Sea to our right. I felt overdressed in my sunflower outfit as other hotel guests roamed around in shorts and vests.

‘So you just arrived yesterday from San Francisco?’ I said.

‘Yeah, landed last night,’ he said. ‘I wanted to maximize my leave. One week for the wedding. A couple of days after that at home in Mumbai. Then Bali for our honeymoon. Used it all up, actually.’

The word honeymoon caused a jolt in me. Mini-me woke up again.

Honeymoon! After a dozen-odd Skype calls and meeting once over a day trip? A week in Bali with this man I am walking next to. Will we be naked? Stop it, Radhika. Focus on the moment.

‘Must be tiring, flying so much,’ I said.

‘I saw you. Not tired anymore.’

I smiled. The man is trying. Maybe I should too.

Brijesh smiled back. He had innocent teacher’s-pet eyes. ‘How’s Facebook?’ I said.

‘I had a busy month. Just finished an enterprise project. So much work, front-end interfaces, back-end systems, underlying APIs.’

‘APIs?’

‘Application programme interface. Set of routines, protocols and tools for building software applications. How software components interact, basically.’

I nodded, having understood not a word.

‘You have no idea what I am talking about, right?’

I laughed.

‘I know. Not the most exciting job in the world,’ he said, his voice flat.

‘Come on, you work at Facebook. It’s quite cool.’

‘People think it is Facebook so there’s nothing to do. We post pictures all day or something.’

‘I am sure it is pretty high-tech behind the scenes.’

Should I talk about more personal stuff? He will happily discuss computer code for two hours if I let him. Radhika, take control.

‘You like your job?’ I said.

Brijesh shrugged. ‘It’s nice. A lot of smart people. Always stuff happening. Pays well. Stock options. Flexi time. . .’

‘What about that start-up idea?’ I said. He had mentioned setting up his own software company when we’d met earlier.

‘That’s there. I still want to do it,’ Brijesh said.

‘So then?’

‘Facebook is hard to leave. The salary, stock options and benefits. Plus, I would need funding. Arranging all that, leaving that level of security takes a lot. Just simpler this way.’

I nodded. We had to talk beyond work. Fortunately, he switched topics.

‘I love Goa,’ he said. ‘I am here after a decade. We came here from our engineering college. Of course, not to such fancy resorts. We stayed in a simple place. Ate at the shacks.’

‘I love the shacks.’

‘You will love San Francisco too,’ he said.

‘I have lived in New York. Never on the West Coast.’

‘California is different from New York. More laid-back.’

‘Even our group at Goldman is supposed to be more chilled out in San Francisco.’

‘How’s that coming along? Your transfer done?’

My phone buzzed twice.

‘Sorry, phone. Maybe mom needs something,’ I said.

‘Sure,’ Brijesh said.

I had two messages from an unknown number. The number started with ‘+1’. Someone in the USA, I figured.

‘Hey, heard you are getting married. True?’ said the first message.

‘This is Debu, by the way. Hope you remember me,’ said the second.

Debu? Debashish Sen! After what, like, three years? Debu was messaging me?

‘Hi,’ I typed back. He replied immediately.

‘Hi, Radhika. How are you? Took me a while to hunt for your number. Been wanting to talk to you.’

‘Everything okay?’ Brijesh said, noticing how preoccupied I was with my phone.

‘Huh? Yeah, all good,’ I said, my voice nervous. I lowered the phone and clenched it in my hand.

‘So, all done?’ Brijesh said.

‘What?’

‘Your transfer. We were just talking about it.’

‘Huh? Yes, yes. It’s done, mostly. I will have to shuttle between London and San Francisco a few times, for my existing investments. But it is done.’

My phone buzzed three more times, vibrating in my hand. I should have ignored it. However, there is something about buzzing phones—my obsessive-compulsive disorder makes me look at them. After all, it could be mom or Aditi didi. It wasn’t.

‘Hey baby. I just want to say I am sorry,’ Debu’s message said. He continued:

‘I found out you are getting married.’

‘I couldn’t believe it.’

I had to reply to this.

‘Why? You didn’t think anyone would?’ I typed back.

Having reached the end of the garden, Brijesh and I turned around to stroll back.

‘We have to find a place to stay. Facebook is in Menlo Park, Goldman Sachs is downtown, right?’ Brijesh said.

‘Huh? What is downtown?’ I said, my mind still on Debu’s message.

‘Goldman Sachs. San Francisco office,’ Brijesh said, each word slow and deliberate. After all, he was speaking to a distracted idiot like me.

‘Yeah, Goldman is on California Street, downtown.’