When Vijay had first suggested that we go out that fateful evening, he had done so in a deliberately casual manner. Determined to outdo him, I had accepted in a manner bordering on careless indifference.
‘Oh sure. Whatever. I mean, I don’t care.’ For good measure, I even added something along the lines of ‘I go out with anyone who asks me.’
He looked at me appraisingly and I realized this hadn’t sounded too good, so I deftly changed the subject to ‘So where do you think we should go?’
He thought for a while and then, with a gleam in his brown eyes, he asked me ‘Would you like to see ducks?’
This was a question I had never been asked before, but I decided to just go with the flow and said in the same casual manner ‘Yes, of course.’
That afternoon, I found myself getting a little worried. I had no idea what to expect and was vaguely apprehensive that ‘seeing ducks’ was perhaps in fact some sort of secret code for acts I was not yet ready for – or even worse, that he might be planning to take me to the Bangalore zoo.
That evening he picked me up from my guest house. I walked up to his car, a dark-green Hyundai Accent. As I got in next to him, he said ‘Hey, you’re looking nice.’ I was congratulating myself for the wise but unusual decision of wearing a skirt and applying some lipstick when he added ‘Nicer than you usually look.’ My smile froze on my face, but he looked like he hadn’t noticed anything amiss. I would learn later that Vijay usually said whatever popped into his
head. This was always without any malice whatsoever, but still difficult for a slightly oversensitive person like me to digest. But right now, he appeared to be in a very happy,
conversational mood, and I melted as it dawned on me that he was talking about making this a very special first date – he was planning to drive us two hours out of Bangalore to ‘see
ducks’ at a little resort right on the Cauveri river. I settled back in my seat with a delicious feeling of anticipation, put on my seat belt and we zoomed off.
Vijay was a very skilled driver, at least as far I could tell with my own limited knowledge of the matter. He negotiated the city traffic with great speed and nonchalance, humming tunelessly to himself when he wasn’t keeping the conversation going with me and swerving out of the way of
oncoming buses just in the nick of time. I tried to play it cool too, and restricted my display of horror to a few sharp intakes of breath whenever it looked like we were going to perish, which he did not seem to notice. Thankfully, we were soon out of the city and headed along some quieter country roads leading towards Mysore. Our destination was about mid-way to Mysore, a resort called Amblee.
We finally reached and I was quite delighted by my first glimpse of the quiet, scenic place. It did give the impression of being rather dilapidated and I was dimly aware that at least part of its charm at the moment was the mere lack of sunlight, but for now, it was quite perfect.
The promised ducks were indeed there – all four of them – in a murky little pond in the resort gardens, and after paying our respects to them, we proceeded to a table set right by the river that sparkled in the moonlight. There was absolutely nobody else around and we were having a pleasant, quiet conversation and getting to know each other better. Naturally, I was therefore taken aback when after a comfortable lull, Vijay leaned over, looked me in the eye and said, ‘Naam hai Vijay… Deenanath… Chauhan. Maalum?’
I’d not had the slightest interest in Hindi cinema till I met Vijay. Obviously, therefore, I did not know that this was a dialogue from the movie, Agneepath, and that Vijay was trying to impress me with what he thought was an uncanny imitation of Amitabh. I only wondered why he was suddenly whispering in a voice two octaves lower than his regular voice. Out loud I just politely remarked that I had always thought his last name was Sharma, not Chauhan, adding that Deenanath was a very interesting middle name, if a bit old-fashioned. He was a bit demoralized by my reaction, but when he explained to me what he had been trying to do, I pretended that I had just been kidding and praised him for his unmistakable impression of Amitabh, possibly overdoing it a bit by saying he ‘actually sounded more like Amitabh than Amitabh himself.’
After we finished our otherwise uneventful, peaceful dinner, Vijay announced that he had organized for us to do some fishing, a thought that I was quite excited by. We settled ourselves comfortably on the cool stone steps leading into the river, and a friendly resort employee handed us our extremely make-shift fishing rods – which were actually just two thin bamboo sticks with strings, at the end of which dangled little hooks wrapped in bits of atta.
There we sat, the two of us, holding our charming and only slightly sad little fishing rods, and the conversation now took a more serious turn as we quietly exchanged our many divergent views on the world at large.
It was clear that despite our mutual attraction, we had too many differences – he referred to himself as a ‘simple man’ and was easy-going, good-humoured, and even-tempered. He also was a small-town boy, had been brought up as part of a conservative family in Jaipur and had a distinctly desi flavour. I on the other hand, was a ‘modern’, Delhi girl who had always had a bit of a hot temper and clearly favored Alanis over Amitabh.
He had just finished telling me about how he had always been told that he was one of the calmest and most centred people around, when he suddenly felt a tug on his bamboo stick. He stared at it in amazement while I excitedly cried that it looked like he had actually managed to hook a fish.
‘BHAIIYA! BHAIIYA!’ his sudden panicked screams shattered the stillness of the night. I asked him to calm down but he went on rather incoherently about being a Brahmin and a Vegetarian and how he had never thought these sticks would ever catch a fish and that he wanted to throw it back but couldn’t bring himself to touch it and anyway he was afraid it would bite him and it looked so awful struggling there like that and so on. The friendly resort Bhaiiya came back and laughingly rescued Vijay from the fish, tossing the latter back into the river whereupon it indignantly swam away. Vijay shuddered and said we should head back into town now.
And that was our first date.