Finding a liberal boyfriend in a place like Udaipur was worse than finding a a cheap and yet comfortable flat in Mumbai. Asavari had dated briefly in Behrampur, when she went home for vacations, but none of the affairs lasted beyond a few weeks. Tired of searching for the right man, Asavari had actually almost given up. Till she met Vijay Singh. He was a bit clumsy on the bus they first laid eyes on each other. He was fumbling for money in his pocket, she remembered. And she was suppressing a silly grin. He's never really been on a bus has he? she wondered.
Truthfully, Vijay Singh had never been on a bus. So much so, he'd never been to a bus station before this day. But circumstances forced to him to get on this rickety tin vehicle that looked like it would explode at the seams. Very much like Radhika maasi, he thought, smiling to himself.
The girl, standing three seats away holding the railing, is staring at me. Do I know her? Or most importantly, does she know me? he questioned, his arched eyebrows becoming obvious with query. She is pretty though.
Asavari was trying her best to conceal her tattoo with her dupatta. People here aren't really used to forward-thinking women, unless of course they were tourists. A tattoo is an obvious statement of a fallen women, especially the one she was hiding. Finely crafted on her upper arm was the image of a mermaid, one of Asavari's favourite motifs. She was naked of course, except for a few golden locks that fell gently on her breasts, covering them, but not quite. She'd gotten it when she was went to Amsterdam to visit a long-lost aunt. That of course was a completely different story.
Asavari's life was pretty much scattered all over and each tale was complexly ridden with secrets that were either kept from her or she kept from the rest.
Vijay Singh was leaning over his co-passenger to check if his station was near. He found the roads vaguely familiar, not quite used to the topography, something his mother was quite ashamed of.
Incidentally, Asavari and Vijay got off near the main bus station and as their eyes met briefly, she smiled at him.
She must be a hooker, he confirmed to himself, without even bothering to think twice. And almost as if she'd read his mind, Asavari walked up to Vijay Singh and said, I am not that sort of a girl. I smiled because your discomfort back in the bus was rather amusing.
A prostitute with good English. Must be a girl from Bombay, he thought without responding to her.
I don't bite, said Asavari and walked away.
They met again, almost by accident, two weeks later at the Jaipur Literature Festival. It's such a pseudo-place. Fancy, nose-in-the-air writers who don't really write that well but can sell, thanks to their selling skills. Although, Asavari was quite taken in by Jeet Thayil's poetry. They're so beautiful that they're almost lifeless, she'd thought.
Vijay was of course there for a completely different reason. He was meeting a real estate agent at Diggi Palace who had obviously no clue about the festival. And Vijay had forgotten about it. Too much was going on in his head for him to remember.
It's the same girl. Oh lord! Now she'll think I am following her, he thought as soon as he'd spotted Asavari.
Hello there! She said, walking up to the young lanky fellow. There was something charming about the way his hair looked perpetually unkempt.
Umm... Hello, said Vijay Singh, without really looking at her.
Are you here for the festival? she asked.
Yes. And no. Okay goodbye, said the nervous youth and walked away.
Okay, he is really strange.
They met each other on the second day again. And this time around, he avoided her completely. It would not look good if the agent saw them talking and reported any thing back home.
So now you'll avoid me completely, said Asavari, walking up to him. I don't bite you know. Plus I think you need a cup of coffee.
Vijay Singh nodded at her and the two of them walked towards the cafe. Can we get two cups of coffee please and a cucumber sandwich as well. Would you like something to eat? Asavari asked Vijay.
No. I have already had breakfast. It is okay. Thank you, he said uncomfortably.
The two of them talked a bit. Asavari told him about how she'd come to Jaipur to meet an old friend who might have a job for her and how she hated living in Udaipur and so on.
Vijay Singh said nothing. Is she going to ask me questions about my past? She is from Udaipur. That's not very safe. She might know me, or know of me. Has she actually recognised me and is just playing, Vijay wondered.
The sun was setting. The second day of the festival was coming to an end. Vijay would be leaving the next day and so would Asavari. She was heading out to Delhi for an assignment. I wonder if she will ever run into me again. I hope not, he thought.
Can I have your email address? she asked.
Email? I have a number....