On the Eve of His Twenty-Eighth Birthday
9 November 2010
He looks at the arrangement on the terrace of a forty-floor high-rise in Mumbai. A cosy mattress, a transparent tent and five love candles around it. He heaves a sigh of satisfaction. He recently bought the terrace and the floor below it without telling her about it. Tonight he will turn one of her fantasies into reality. They will make love under the stars. Tonight he will also realize his five-year-old dream. He will ask her to marry him the moment the clock strikes twelve—on the eve of his twenty-eighth birthday. He has never been happier.
She is attending a corporate training programme, which is due to end in an hour, at a resort in Lonavla. She has checked her watch at least ten times in the last five minutes. Time seems not to be at its usual pace today. She does a quick mental math for the umpteenth time. Five more minutes for the training session to get over, two minutes to greet everyone, say goodbye, another two minutes to hit the highway and then a couple of hours to reach Mumbai if there’s no untoward traffic. She has already asked her friend, an expert at baking, to make his favourite: blueberry cheesecake. She will make a detour after she reaches Mumbai to collect the cake, which will not take more than half an hour. She will reach his place by 10 p.m. Good, she tells herself and checks her watch yet another time.
The tent is right in the middle of the terrace. He places the smooth white mattress inside and puts a soft blanket over it. The air has just the right amount of chill, which makes him crave for her. For a moment, he can almost see the two of them becoming one inside the tent. He snaps out of the tempting reverie and readjusts the position of the candles. Tonight should be the perfect night, the kind lovers fantasize about, or so he has in mind. He places a sixth candle, a fake one, right above the mattress, where they will place their heads. It is actually a candle-shaped box and has a diamond ring inside.
She feels elated to hear the final ‘thank you for being such a nice batch’ from the trainer. The session is officially over for the day. She rushes out, greeting whomever she meets on her way. Almost everyone asks her if she wants to accompany them to Lion’s Point, a famous mountaintop, but she politely says no and calls her driver.
Satisfied with the preparation on the terrace, he makes his way to the flat and heads straight into the kitchen. He had googled and written down the recipe of sun-dried tomato risotto, her favourite, on a
Post-it note. He has also arranged for Montoya Cabernet Sauvignon—one of the best red wines in the world—as the perfect accompaniment. Suddenly he wants to hear her voice and decides to call her.
She is in the car now. She picks up her phone to call him and finds him calling her. This is how synchronized they are in their relationship. Be it matters of the heart or the mind, they are always on the same page. And it’s this very perfect timing that has gently pushed them into seeking a forever together every day. She says a soft hello into the phone.
He talks to her for some time and then lies that he has some important official work to complete. He has never been the kind who would surprise anybody, but this time he wants everything to be special, a memory that would last forever. She believes his lie. He cuts the call and wears an apron.
She hums her favourite romantic song while checking the photo gallery of her phone. Her car climbs the treacherous roads of Lonavla, with hills on one side and a gorge on the other. A boulder is displaced a few feet above the road that her car is on. Tearing the safety net around the boulders, placed to stop them from sliding down abruptly, it falls exactly on top of her car. It crushes the vehicle out of shape and the driver and her out of recognition. Her heartbeat stops almost immediately.
He keeps waiting to surprise her.