At the time, I lived on the 31st floor of a modern apartment complex for middle-income households. I loved the large grounds and being a fitness freak, the easy access to a pool and a gymnasium. I loved having a shopping mall and a multiplex cinema a stone’s throw away.
It was 4 am and I exited my Uber, teary-eyed, inebriated and nauseous. I had just ended things with Dee, the love of my life. It had been the most amazing relationship for eight years. We were two hippies who floated through life like synchronized swimmers too lazy to collect their gold medals at the Olympics.
We understood why John Lennon was the greatest Beatle and possibly the greatest musician that ever lived. We had a band and created music that channeled Bob Dylan’s vocals and Jim Morrison’s sound without even trying. We fornicated, loudly and aggressively, just like two carefree street dogs.
We joined the mile-high club together on a flight to Dubai and got caught. Dee then convinced the air hostess that I was nauseous and he was in the toilet teaching me how to throw up. She not only lapped it up but also offered us an upgrade to business class so we could be more comfortable.
Of course, Dee refused the upgrade and we stayed put. That’s the kind of guy he was; he had the world in the palm of his hand but only chose to take what was rightfully his.
We were the perfect couple and all of our couple friends envied us. We were meant to last a lifetime and we both knew it. There was only one catch. Dee was a nonconformist.
He promised to share everything he had – his income, his property and his entire inheritance but never wanted the tag of being married. He also never wanted kids. It was too much of a responsibility for him. He wanted to be independent and on a whim, run away to Goa and trip on acid for a week.
Unfortunately, deep down, I was not as much of a hippy. For the last year or so I started having doubts about Dee and me ending up together. It started with nightmares of me
She would look at me, emit a spurt of evil, high-pitched laughter and scream, “Stay with Dee and you will end up like me.”
The fear of not having a ring on my finger and money in my purse started governing my existence. I stopped finding Dee’s cool, non-conformist ways attractive. I wanted a traditional family and financial security – something my mother never had.
My mother and birth father never got married. They were dating for about six months when Mom became pregnant. When she told him about the baby, he tried to get her to have an abortion. She flatly refused. She was pro-life and had always wanted kids.
Soon after the pregnancy, my mother discovered that my father was already married. Things got worse when his wife found out about the affair and began making threatening phone calls. Mom wanted nothing to do with him or his family and moved to the United States to live with her parents.
For the first twenty years of my life I never met my father. Then he got in touch when we moved back to India and tried to become a part of my life. We meet like once in six months but he still doesn’t feel like family.
That fateful night after Dee and I broke up, I stumbled into the elevator high as a kite, fumbled with the keys and somehow made it to my bedroom. I took off my T-shirt and as I began to slip off my jeans and panties, I blacked out.
The next thing I hear is Mom screaming in my ear while I’m lying in bed half-naked.
“It’s 11 am, Naina. This is my house and you’ll live by my rules. It’s time to wake up.”
“Mom, I’m really not in the mood for your bullshit. Leave me alone and go to work already!” I mumbled half asleep.
“I know that Dee and you broke up and took the day off. I’m proud of you, ‘jaan.’ In fact as luck would have it Dr. Satish Dhawan called last week and they are very interested in setting you up with their son Karan who lives in London. As you probably remember, he is very fair, over six feet tall and their family has oodles of money. Did I mention, he is a doctor and has the body of Akshay Kumar,” said my mother animatedly.
“I just broke up with Dee. Leave me alone for the next few months. I need my space,” I responded angrily.
“Rubbish, you need your space. You’re a woman and your space is beside a man. As luck would have it he’s in town for a wedding and he’s coming over for lunch,” my mother said forcefully.
She skillfully left the room without waiting for my response and returned shortly with a cup of coffee and two vitamin C tablets.
I was livid with her. If it were any other family, I would call the boy and tell him to stay the hell away until I could figure things out.
Dr. Dhawan’s family was different. I had spent a few summers with them in England and they took care of me like I was their own child. We’d have meals together, explore the city and even shop together. They were the nuclear family I never had and I, the daughter, they’d always wanted.
Karan was an awkward teenager at the time, obsessed with video games and comic books. We didn’t have much in common. The little alone time that we did have was spent walking “Jeeves,” their whitish-brown Labrador retriever around the beautiful grounds of their old country estate.
On these walks I’d do most of the talking and Karan was very curious to learn about everything Indian, especially the class and caste divide, religion and politics. I was a natural-born activist and had strong views about all of these topics.
I glanced at my watch. It was 12:30 pm and I had just finished my morning cup of coffee. A freshly ironed red and white Anarkali ‘salwar-kameez’ lay on the bed next to me. Still angry, I stepped into the bathroom, washed my face and ran a brush through my hair.
As I was doing this, the doorbell rang. I was sure it was Karan. He had a habit of coming early – no pun intended.
I sprayed some deodorant under my arms and put on the first bra and T-shirt I could find. I then picked up last night’s pair of jeans from the foot of my bed, unraveled them and fished out my panties.
As I threw my dirty underwear into the laundry basket, I realized I was naked from the waist down. Impulsively, my thoughts morphed into words and I said to myself, “Fuck it! I’m going commando.”
I slid on last night’s wrinkled pair of jeans and smiled to myself imagining the expression on Mom’s face. I looked like someone ready to embark on her walk of shame except the shame part never happened.
Just then, Mom walked into my room, saw me and nearly had a heart attack.
“Is that what you’re wearing? Why aren’t you wearing the ‘salwar kameez’ I got ironed,” said my mother.
“Because I don’t feel like dressing up. The only reason I’m even meeting with Karan is because his parents were good to me and I don’t want to upset them,” I responded half-screaming.
“At least put on some make-up. You can’t meet him looking like this,” said my mother in a nagging voice.
“Try me, Mother!” I screamed and stormed into the living room.
Doctor Karan Dhawan sat uncomfortably on the couch in a grey three-piece suit. He was nervously fidgeting with his spectacles and fixing his hair at the same time. His medium-length brown hair was parted sideways and he wore small square spectacles that rested on the tip of his nose. I could tell that he had freshly shaved for the occasion and had used way too much cologne.
He was everything I found a turn-off in a man, yet his puppy dog-like over enthusiasm made him a tad bit endearing.
As I walked up to him, he got up and leaned in to hug me. Sensing my discomfort, he put his hand out for a shake instead. I shook his hand while he made an awkward joke about the dress code and how he felt overdressed.
As much as I tried to dislike him, he started winning me over with his nerdy innocence. He was someone who had gone down the straight and narrow, oblivious to all the dirt around him and had somehow succeeded.
While my mother began setting up lunch on the dining table, he opened up to me.
“So let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m a ‘willy’ Doctor in London. I studied medicine at Imperial College and have lived in London all my life. I’m a sports fanatic and play football, cricket, tennis, squash, rugby and even polo. I love cooking and eating at new, interesting restaurants. I have a thing for fast cars. I’ll show you my collection someday.”
“Is that how you introduce yourself at parties as a ‘willy’ doctor,” I responded taking the bait.
“Always, people find it quite fascinating,” said the awkward doctor getting into his element.
“So what exactly does your work entail?” I asked more enthusiastically than I wanted to.
“Well, people come to me with all kinds of stuff – erectile dysfunction, problems urinating, penis implants,” Karan responded with a smile on his face.
He had stopped fidgeting now and was resting comfortably on the couch. I noticed his physical appearance for the first time. He was incredibly good looking, with a slim muscular build, a well-sculpted jawline and a warm smile. It was as if Brad Pitt was at a Halloween party dressed as the geeky Maurice from ‘The IT Crowd.’
“Woah! Have you ever done a penis implant?” I asked smiling.
“Of course. Hundreds of them. That’s my bread and butter,” he responded enthusiastically.
“So how does it work?” I asked.
“Everyone asks me that. Okay, so we do this surgery generally for people with erectile dysfunction. We implant two cylinders into the penis, along with a reservoir that holds saline water in the belly and a pump in the scrotum. When you press on the pump, it sends the water from the belly into the cylinders creating an erection. There is a deflation site on the pump, which you can use to deflate the erection. In some cases if you hit the belly the penis deflates.”
I began laughing as he explained this to me with a serious expression on his face. Every time he spoke about work his frontal vein started bulging. I found this to be quite sexy.
“What? That is crazy. So sex isn’t over after the guy orgasms, he has to thump his belly as well,” I joked.
“Yes exactly,” he responded laughing.
I then proceeded to tell him about myself.
“I’m a professional Bharatanatyam dancer and a musician. I perform all over the country with my dance troupe and absolutely love what I do. I also love theatre, old Hollywood films, the outdoors and all kinds of food,” I said warming up to him.
He then asked me all the generic questions a prospective groom would ask: my goals, my views on family, on children and if I’d be happy living abroad. We seemed to be a perfect match in all respects and I could sense that I had won him over. Yet, I had to be honest with him.
“I just got out of a long relationship and I need some time to myself before I can put myself out there again,” I said firmly.
He seemed visibly upset upon hearing this. He started fidgeting again and his head drooped like a puppy dog being denied his doggy treat.
“Oh! Your mom never mentioned that. How much time do you think you would need?” he asked.
“At least five or six months. The wound is still fresh,” I responded honestly.
I don’t know why but I felt bad being upfront with him. He wore his heart on his sleeve and I did not want to hurt this sweet, innocent man.
“Okay, let me level with you. I’m looking for someone immediately. I’m lonely by myself in London. I need companionship. I’m looking to get married within the next six months,” he said hoping to change my mind.
“I’m sorry you have the wrong person. I’m sure there are plenty of beautiful, smart women wanting to marry someone like you,” I responded, sticking to my guns.
“It’s not as easy as you make it out to be. I was hoping that you’d give me a chance to court you. You seem like a pretty perfect version of yourself, comfortable in your own skin, smart, down to earth, attractive, funny and a bit fiery,” he said with a disheartened look on his face.
At that moment, my mother entered with two ‘lassis.’ She gave me a dirty look as she handed him one of the glasses. He glugged it and got up to leave causing my mother to panic.
“Aren’t you going to stay for lunch?” asked my mother.
He explained that he had a flight to catch and was running late. As he walked out the door he looked me in the eyes and said with an intensity I’ve never seen before, “If you do change your mind, I’m planning to make another trip to India next month. I’d love to take things further then.”
A week later, I walked into the kitchen at noon expecting to see my mother cooking a delicious Bengali lunch. Yet, she was nowhere to be found and the kitchen was untouched. I searched the house and found her lying in bed with her eyes closed and a peaceful expression on her face. A sinking feeling overcame my entire being and I shook her body trying to wake her. It took over an hour for the paramedics to arrive and they pronounced her dead on the spot. I was overcome with an incomprehensible grief and in that instant the rebel in me died.
Six months later, I was standing beside a bed covered with rose petals in the bridal suite of The Oberoi Grand Hotel in Kolkata. I was wearing a red and gold Ritu Kumar Lehenga with hand-stitched embroidery and Doctor Karan Dhawan was towering over me with a bottle of champagne in his hand. Our friends had just left the suite.
It was 4:30 am. This was our wedding night and we had waited to consummate our relationship. Karan leaned over and gently kissed me on the lips. He was a good kisser and I was quite aroused. Six months of abstinence will do that to a woman.
It took me ten minutes and a considerable amount of effort to remove my bridal attire and I was finally in bed wearing a very expensive, pink Bluebella negligee that I had bought for this very occasion.
Karan seemed to be a gentle lover and undressed me with the diligence of a bank teller counting a wad of two thousand rupee notes.
We were both too tired to indulge in foreplay and he was soon on top of me thrusting gently and rhythmically. I don’t remember much after that and came to my senses, screaming, in the throes of an absolutely fantastic orgasm.
“Dee, harder babe! Oh Dee! Yes, Dee! Right there! Just keep doing that,” I screamed like I’ve never screamed before.