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A collaboration over too much coffee.
coffee and pen

01 September, 2005

Being Pragmatic

There was a murder here last week, I thought vaguely, walking down the Gateway Walls, the boundary of waist-high stone that separated Bombay city from the Arabian Sea. Not that the murder had anything to do with me. It was just one of those crazy things that people never expect to happen in this city. People come to Bombay, and people live here, and they expect it to be heaven on earth. Nothing bad could ever happen here, they say.

Not me. I’m the pragmatic one. Or so I like to think.

Because that’s all one can do. Think. And hope. And realize that, in the end, it was all meant to be.


Terrible to think there was a murder here, only last week. That sort of thing never happens in Bombay. That’s the kind of thing people in Delhi are so used to, not us, not here! It’s strange to think of random people coming in from wherever and just... slitting people’s throats. At the Gateway, where so many people come around, happily posing, pressing, pushing for pictures… how strange.It would be strange also if I asked to have a picture of you and me together.

It would be strange because it would be so... soon. I hate that word. I hate being the understanding person who goes slow. The pragmatic one. I hate to be the one who has to pretend to be the silent partner, the one who must take it easy when I know that it’s the last thing on my mind.

I guess that makes me the fool.

I smile, for I see you, and I wave. You wave back, and a rush of happy blood surges to my brain...


I like the way you talk about random things in the world. I like the way you smile and tilt your head. I like the way you raise your eyebrows so instinctively when I say something funny, something overtly serious, or something hypocritical. I like the child that you are, but to be honest, I can’t help feeling slightly worried about that part of you.

“I’ve never been here before. It’s great.”

I smile at your honesty. Some people would say something like, O, I’ve been here ages ago, - by personal invite from the owners! “It’s one of my favourite places,” I reply, and I love the smile you beam my way in response. There’s a reason why I like you... there’s a reason why...

You so obviously love the sea. You’ve been here for ages. All your life. A Bombay Boy. It sounds funny to put it like that, and I smirk, remembering the film by the same name... you probably hated it, if you ever saw it! And that’s when I think – I know so little about you. And I’m not sure whether what I know is what I’m looking for. And yet, I’m sitting here, absolutely riveted to my seat. What’s the word my pragmatic soul is searching for...?

Aa, yes, it’s smitten...

And you smile in response again now. I wonder whether you’re really not a mind-reader.


I’m a bit overawed by all this, I admit. The fancy restaurant, the fancy coffee, the fancy croissants, the fancy people sitting not five yards away from us. It’s even more unnerving, to realize that you’ll grab the cheque as soon as it comes, and I’m going to sit there, fidgeting before the waiter, as you take your time choosing which credit card to pay with. There’s something funny in there, of course, and I can’t help smiling at the thought: even though I would gladly go Dutch, there’s just no way I’d be able to afford it, given your penchant for the most expensive places in Bombay!

I actually smiled at that thought, and your hand came out to clasp mine.But then you retract.That‘s the way it goes. Begin the game. The Game. The Hide and Seek. The I’ll-count-to-hundred-and-you-go-hide-till-I-find-you game. There are a million names for it. I’m horrible at the game, and yet I realize why it’s so important I play it. I’m just not a pragmatist. Just not the kind of person who understands that human beings need to have someone run away from them, before they can be stimulated enough to run towards them. Silly theory. I never did understand it. But I have to play it. Whoever wants to die a virgin, after all?

And at that, I smile again.


They met some weeks earlier, at a party A had thrown for his promotion at work. X had stood at a pillar, sipping at the wine, when he spied Y. Y had stood at the balustrade, chatting with C, when she noticed X talking with A. There had been different moments.

There had been one moment. At the buffet counter, shoulders nudged, smiles exchanged, and enquiries were later made. Someone worked at a high profile MNC bank. The other was an artist, with a single exhibition out. Whispers were made among mutual friends, approving the match, and numbers were freely handed out. But of course, X decided it would be strange to call up Y without speaking to her before. And Y decided that it would seem much too desperate to call up first.

That’s when A got into the act, called both of them, and told Y that X was interested in getting some Impressionist pieces for his collection. And then left them alone.

For their first date, X had procured passes to an exclusive drama performance at the NCPA. And after that, a midnight dinner at the Taj. They talked about art and the show, about their mutual friends, about what the stars in the sky that night suggested, and then X dropped Y home. There was no goodnight kiss, and Y wondered why not. X wondered why not, either, and debated with himself whether or not he should have asked her out for a drink.

There were phone conversations in the week after that. He was busy with meetings, and she was working on a new collection. Life came in the way. But they talked. About little things. And they still wondered, albeit privately, why they hadn’t kissed.


Roll the dice. Walk across the Walls. Feel the sea salt spray. There’s a rush of sea in the air suddenly, and I’m splashed! You’re laughing, and I’m indignant, but then a split-second later, I’m laughing as well. It’s ridiculous how beautiful your face looks when it’s laughing, and that sets me off smiling at first, and then laughing, as well. We touch, and I’m on fire. (Too cliched!) I rope my fingers around your back, and my breath falls heavy on your shoulder. I’m soaked to the skin, and warm to the core.

Damn it, why don’t you kiss me?

Utter Vexation.


The lights of the Press Club are shining bright ahead in the darkness, by the time why leave the cafe. There are still people around the Walls, though, but I suppose that never changes, whatever time of day it is. The sea is choppy, too, and I remember the slight drizzle while we were inside. I’ve always had something special... a special fondness for the rain... I would sit for hours once, by the window sill, looking out... and I wonder if it’s the same with you. I turn to ask -

You’re wet!

You’re wet!

And spluttering like a wet... Something!


I hold you in my arms, and by this time you’re laughing as well. You’re looking lovely, a sparkle in your eyes... O, damn, why must I degenerate into cliches now? They sound so bloody trite

Stop talking, stop talking. Fingers burn. (Trite again.)

There. I kissed you. Was this the first time?