Dear Readers, I would request you to please read Parts 1 to 4 of this series first, if you have not already done so, to understand the continuity of the story so far...
An Unusual Romance - Part 5
As soon as I mentioned that let's plan a trip out of town tomorrow and I'll organize a car, Seema got super excited and rushed towards me. I knew what was coming...it was no stopping her when she gets all excited. I took my refuge behind Fatima. "Fatima didi save me", I implored jokingly.
Fatima was laughing seeing Seema's excitement. She stretched out her big hands to the sides to block me out from her.
"This is not fair, Didi. You are my didi first, you should be in my support", Seema was also laughing.
Fatima said, "Wait, stop fooling around Seema. I have something to say." We both became serious, came and stood by Fatima didi. "What I was saying was," continued Fatima, "You both want me to stay, but I have not come prepared. After coming from work, I had just changed into this sari and rushed here. How will I stay the night? I haven't got my night dress and toothbrush, and salwar suit for tomorrow's outing."
I said, "Toothbrush won't be a problem, that can be arranged from the hotel."
Seema said, "And didi, in this hotel room, the AC is very good, it won't be a problem if you don't change from your sari. Don't spoil the fun at the last moment."
Fatima said, "But Seema you know that I cannot go to sleep, unless I take my bath and change to a fresh dress."
Seema looked dejected. I spoke up, "Ok let's decide fast. It's 7.20 pm now, let's go and get your clothes and whatever you need from your house. How long will it take to go, pack your things and come back."
Seema replied, "The problem is, at this hour, the auto service stops in this route. They take the direct station route, which is through the bypass. The only option is cycle-rickshaw. One way will be 35-40 minutes."
I said, "That means, up and down will be around one and a half hours. The other option is a hired car, but getting a hired car will also take some time".
Fatima said, "No, there's no point in hiring a car for this. It'll be too expensive."
I said, "Ok decided, let's go by cycle-rickshaw only. If we start right now, we'll be back by 9pm. That's good enough time. There's a good buffet served here at dinner. I want to have as much time for that as possible. Didi let's go. Seema you stay back. You already have your clothes with you."
Seema reacted immediately, "Why should I stay back? I'll also go. I need some fresh clothes too." She already reached the door pulling Fatima along with her."
I said, "Wait, in that case we have take two cycle-rickshaws*. If I'm in one, then I don't know your house. If I lose track of your rickshaw, I won't be able to reach. In that case, let me stay back. Both of you go and come back fast." ( * For those not aware, in a cycle-rickshaw, only two people can sit on the seat.)
Seema said in mock anger, "What sort of a gentleman are you? You are asking two ladies to go alone at night so far on a rickshaw and you'll relax in the hotel ?"
I said, "But you two are locals over here. Moreover you both are policewomen. You must be used to returning late night also."
Seema said, "When we are late, the police van drops us home. And also we are in our uniforms then. That makes a lot of difference."
I said, "Ok ok... I'm coming."
I picked up my purse and mobile and went after them. By the time I locked up, they were in the lift. I caught up with them. I told Seema, "So, we'll take two rickshaws. I'll be following yours. Ask your rickshaw to keep a check whether my one is behind. Otherwise slow down."
She said smiling, "Don't worry, we are locals here, you said. Leave it upto us."
By the time I was dropping my room keys at the reception counter and enquiring about the dinner timings, they were out of the hotel. As I came out of the hotel, I saw Fatima was already negotiating with a cycle-rickshaw puller a little away from the hotel. Seema was waiting for me by the rickshaw. As soon as I reached, she asked me to get up on the rickshaw.
I asked, "What about you?"
She said, "Fast, fast, we'll have to return by 9. Get up, get up."
I looked around, there was no other rickshaw in sight. "How can three of us go in one rickshaw ?" I said.
Just then I saw an empty Auto passing by. I hailed it and made it stop. I ran towards it and asked Seema to come fast and give the location to the auto driver. Luckily the driver agreed but he was charging a bit more. I told him, we'll go and come back after 5 to 10 minutes only. With his fare getting doubled, he agreed to a reasonable rate. By that time Fatima had also come. I asked her to get in first. Seema wanted to sit on the side, so I had to get in the middle, sandwiched between the two tall ladies. Off we went. Getting this auto suited me very well. We can now easily be back well within 8.30 pm.
I saw Seema and Fatima exchange meaningful looks, above my head, smiling wickedly. I said, "What's the matter? What's going on between you too ?" Both of them started laughing.
Fatima said, still laughing, "Seema's plan failed."
I looked at Seema and said, "I knew she was upto some mischief, when she kept on harping on a cycle-rickshaw and insisted on coming along with us." Seema gave me a poke at my side unnoticed by Fatima.
Seema said, "What were you saying about a great dinner, what is it ?"
I said, "They have a buffet dinner in this hotel, which I heard is very good. So, I wanted that we spend as much time there, because there are many dishes in the spread and we need to take our time on the food."
Seema said, "So till what time will this be open ?"
I said, "They said, they'll serve till 11pm, but you can eat till you finish your food on the plate."
Fatima said, "But I know these buffets are expensive. Why do you have to spend so much, Sandeep ?"
I replied, "Didi, why are you always thinking about expense ? Let us make this first day of our friendship memorable."
Seema said, "So didi, once we reach, you pack up fast. I'll take only a couple of clothes, let's pack in one bag only, yours and mine together. We have to get back fast. I will eat a lot today. I've heard about such grand buffets only till now. My boyfriend is now gifting it to me." She put one arm around my back and pressed lightly. Then she continued, "They also serve drinks in these buffets no, Sandeep?"
I said, "Not part of the buffet menu, but you can order separately. But do you drink ?"
Fatima immediately responded, "No, no, we never drink".
I said, "But policemen drink, I heard".
The conversation in the back seat of the auto continued like this :
Fatima : "The men drink. Not the policewomen."
Seema : "Do you drink, Sandeep?"
I : "Occasionally at official parties and social gatherings".
Seema : "Will you drink today? "
I : "No."
Seema : "Why? Because we will be there? If you were alone, would you have drank today?"
I : "Possibly yes. My deal has gone well, I'm very hopeful of getting the order, so why not celebrate ?"
Seema : "But won't you offer us drinks today ? I would love to taste."
I : "If you are wanting for the fun of it, then maybe I can allow. But not if you are already used to it. Then no."
Seema : "No, I haven't ever. But I would like to taste it once and see. Did not have the nerve to try it on my own. I would like to just taste it today, since both of you will be there, if anything goes wrong."
I : "No, not in the restaurant. I wouldn't take the risk. You'll not enjoy the dinner. Besides, we've just met yesterday, I think I shouldn't offer you drink so early in our relationship. Let us know each other better and be confident of each other, then possibly, I might think of it."
Fatima : "Good boy, Sandeep, I like your attitude. Seema don't insist today. Maybe later, when you two get more close."
I : "How far is it to your place ?"
Fatima : "We are almost there."
We reached shortly thereafter. It was a small one room flat. Basically one large size room, with the kitchen platform on one corner with a gas oven. Shelves running beside it, with utensils and kitchen essentials. The toilet, a small one was in another corner. Two separate single beds placed in the centre of the room, under the fan. A medium sized table standing on one side with two plastic chairs. A small refrigerator, a small TV and a red plastic stool completed the furniture in the room. Two separate built-in shelving racks with doors in the wall, served as the two almirahs for the two ladies living in the room. The room was very simple but clean and organised, reflecting the nature of the inhabitants.
I sat on one of the chairs, while the ladies got busy packing their clothes in a bag. Within this short time, Seema opened the fridge and came out with a box of sweets and held in front of me. "Eat from the box," she said smiling at me, "no time to give you a plate." I picked one and closed the lid.
Within ten minutes the ladies were ready to leave. Seema took the bag while Fatima was locking up their main door.
On the return journey also we sat the same way, with me sandwiched in the middle.
I said, "You know, I always was in awe of the big, tall policewomen from my youth."
Both of them laughed out at my remark. Fatima said, "And why exactly were you in awe of policewomen ? Because they were bigger and taller than you ?"
I said, "I haven't tried to find a reason for this, but possibly yes."
Seema said with a chuckle, "And now at this grown up age, you are arrested by two tall policewomen."
I replied immediately, "Don't know who arrested whom. But right now the two policewomen are going to spend the night in my jail."
Both of them had a hearty laugh again. Fatima took my hand inside her big palm and held it lovingly. "Verry smart ! And why are you taking us to your jail ?"
I said smiling, "Because your sister stole my heart."
Fatima said, "But then, why are you taking me also ? Arrest my sister. What did I do?"
I said, "How can you ask what you have done ? You have stolen me. See, even now you are holding my hand tightly."
Both of them broke out laughing. "Yes your honour, we both plead guilty," Fatima was still laughing, "we deserve a night in your jail."
I said, "No, that is not enough punishment. You will be put in jail for 2 nights and 2 days." All three of us had a hearty laugh at that.
I said, "Jokes apart, I seriously was very fascinated by policewomen all along. In fact, at one time I was planning an interview with a few policewomen and planned to write an article or a story on the data collected. I had a long list of questions ready typed."
Both the ladies were very interested. "Really ? What happened ? Did you do that interview ?" Fatima asked.
We had reached the hotel. I said, "We'll discuss this later, let's go to the room now." I paid off the auto driver and went in to the reception to collect the keys. The ladies were in front of the lift, waiting for me. Once in the room, I told them, "It's 8.30 now, we'll go down to the dining hall at 9pm. If you have to freshen up or dress up, get started. I'll take a quick bath. Anyone wants to go in before me ? I'll take just 5 minutes only."
Seema said, "Ok you go ahead. We'll organise our things by then."
We were all ready by 9pm. The ladies had brought some special saris from home. I was impressed by their dressing sense. They were very sedate and sober in their choice of colour and sari material; nothing over the top, even their make-ups were bare minimum. I like it that way, simple and sober, it shows your character. I complimented them on their looks and we proceeded to the dining hall. Although I was flanked by two ladies much taller than me, their demeanour put me completely at ease. It was also very heartening for me to notice that Seema who generally seemed too much of an attention seeker, was absolutely restrained in her behavior and expressions in the dining hall. We first selected a seat at the corner, with cosy and comfortable sofa. Since this was their first experience in such a buffet, the ladies said that each will go with me in turn, so that I can guide her, while the other waited at the table. Seema came with me first. I guided her through the different courses starting from the soups and the salads and the starters and main course and dessert for an initial survey of what she would ultimately like to choose on her plate. Although walking just behind me with her very tall height, she was dwarfing me, I rather felt proud escorting her with her beautiful athletic figure being accentuated by the chiffon saree draped around her. She was smart enough to wear absolute flats, but even then she was half a foot taller than me. I helped her take the first round of helpings on her plate, according to her choice. Then I escorted her back to our table. I did the same round with Fatima, who with her magnificent height also towered over me. But somehow, rather than feeling awkwardly small walking beside her, with her nomadic features and robust built, I was feeling elated as if escorting some tall, dusky, ex-model around. I filled up my plate too, along with Fatima and returned to our table. We found Seema was just nibbling at her food, waiting for us to join her. The ladies sat beside each other on the sofa, while I sat opposite them on the plush cushioned chair. I could see from their expressions and whispering to each other and their suppressed smiles that they were super excited. That was my prize, it was such a satisfying feeling to see both of them thoroughly enjoying the food and ambience. They discussed the preparations and flavour in low voices. I ordered mocktails for them according to my choice. They initially mistook that for cocktails and Fatima refused to take it. I assured her that the drink doesn't have alcohol. They went for their next round of helping together, gaining in confidence by then. I would admit that these ladies could eat, obviously justifying their physique. The dessert with five different sweets with four assorted flavours of ice cream was the last surprise for them.
When the bill was served, Fatima picked it up and glancing at the amount, raised her eyebrows at me. I took the bill from her hand and took out my credit card. When we came out of the dining hall it was 10.30 pm. I knew from the look of their faces and body language, that they were restraining themselves hard from being too vocal about their joy. When we were almost near our room, Fatima's mobile rang. She just looked at her phone and asked us to carry on, saying she'll just take a stroll in the lobby and come back. We left her and went into our room.
Once inside the room, I had just finished removing my shoes near the door and was about to put on my slippers... I was swept off my feet. Seema just cradled me up in her big arms and walked slowly inside the room. She was smiling from ear to ear. She carried me to centre of the room and stood there looking down at my face lovingly. My hand was around her neck for support. She held me quite high up with my face just below hers.
She said softly, "I'll not say thank you, because I cannot thank you enough.This is the best dinner of my life and I know you did it only for me. Didi told me the dinner bill amount and I know very well that this will not be paid by your company. We just met last night and you are doing so much just to make me happy. I insisted on inviting Fatima didi to stay back with us. You willingly took that additional expenses also on your head. I don't know whether I deserve you, but you are the only person in this world who is loving me for what I am."
I said, "Arrey, I didn't know that you could talk so romantic too. But, I just want to tell you one thing before Fatima didi returns. Please do not do this PDA in front of her also".
Seema's brows were questioning, "What is PDA?"
I said, "PDA is Public display of affection. I told you earlier also, it's absolutely not necessary for anyone else to witness how involved you are with me physically... It feels a bit awkward. For the other person and me too. You show all your emotions for me, when we are alone."
Seema said, "Ok fine. Now don't spoil my mood with your PDA lecture. You don't know how much I love holding you like this in my arms."
I laughed, "Seema, you are incorrigible."
The door bell rang. Seema made a face, then put me down and went to open the door.
Fatima was at the door. Seema let her in, saying, "So fast today ?"
Fatima rolled her eyes at her but did not reply. She came to me straight and took both my hands in hers. "Sandeep, I don't have words to say thank you. It was the grandest dinner of my life. What variety, what taste, what ambience ! I've never eaten so much in my life. I need to do full dieting tomorrow."
Seema quipped in, "Me too. I'll at least skip breakfast tomorrow."
I made a wry face, "Ok ladies, as you please. Then I'll have to enjoy the breakfast buffet alone tomorrow".
Seema jumped, as is her customary reaction, "Breakfast buffet ? What ? Why?" She didn't know what she was asking.
Fatima said, "Not tomorrow Sandeep, the next day."
I said, "Didi, Seema, it is complimentary, along with the room charges. Although it will not be so grand, but there'll be enough spread of Indian and Continental dishes for a breakfast buffet."
Fatima and Seema looked at each other and both couldn't contain their laughter.
I said, "But we have forgotten to make tomorrow's plans for going out. Tell me, I'll have to organise a car if required."
Seema said, "I would rather enjoy the hotel. Let us chat till late night today. Then we'll get up late and have buffet breakfast to the full. I also saw the swimming pool. Why don't we go for a swim before lunch ? Then maybe if energy permits, we can go for a movie in the evening."
Fatima said, "Superb plan. So no need for the car booking. Let me just take a bath first. Then we'll start on our night chat session."
As Fatima went into the bathroom, Seema was eyeing me wickedly with a thin smile bending her lips....
( To be continued in next chapter...)