The bar was buzzing with people talking. Tushar looked around the place. The pub was a decent one with aureate chandeliers which gave an old-world look. The pub did not play any music to his surprise which also made him but uncomfortable because all he could hear around him were people talking, which also made him feel exposed as he sat alone.
“Hi,” said a girl.
He jumped up only to find out that his date was standing behind him. Tushar was a young twenty-six years old who completed his MBA and was working in the retail team of a large multinational bank.
“Hi,” smiled Tushar and offered the girl seat.
He met the girl through a dating app. This was his first date of the day. He was meeting another girl little later in the night. Tushar was an average looking guy with boyish yet magnetic charm. He was known to be a Casanova in his circles and to women whom he dated and never called or kept in touch.
Tushar scanned the girl. Her name was Anya. She was petite but radiant. She did not wear heels and wore light makeup. She wore jeans and a smart top which seemed as if she had come for a business meeting.
“Nice to meet you,” she said.
Tushar was accustomed to this form of dating and he knew how to steer away from any uncomfortable silence.
“Should we order our drink first? Wine or Vodka?” he asked.
“I will have a glass of Jeam Beam with ice and water,” she said.
‘Nice’ he thought. He called the waiter and ordered Jim Beam and whiskey old-fashioned for himself.
“The last time we were chatting you said you were looking forward to see a new movie. You saw it?” asked Tushar.
“Yeah. It was great. But, not brilliant,” she said.
“What is your definition of brilliant movie?” asked Tushar.
She looked up for some time and then looked down. Tushar saw a burst of expressions on her face and he realized she was not very pretty but had a warm and pleasant face.
“No one has asked me this. Let me think. I guess a movie which stays with you immediately and always is a brilliant movie. The memory of the movie brings the same emotion you felt when you saw it for the first time could be called brilliant. I guess something like Gone with the wind, Pans Pan’s Labyrinth or Die Hard?”
Tushar almost spat his drink, “Die hard?”
“You don’t like Die hard?” asked Anya incredulously.
“Yes. Why? What’s wrong?” she asked.
“No nothing. I just did not expect someone could put Gone with the wind and Die hard on an equal scale.”
“You have watched Gone with the wind?” she asked.
“No, not really. I am not a movie buff like your profile says. I watch the popular ones Avengers, Rocky or something like Game of Thrones. But I know about Gone with the wind and the types. I always felt it is not my cup of tea,” said Tushar.
“Fair enough. So, what do you like?” asked Anya
“Nothing in particular. A little bit of this and that. Cricket, Football, at times I read.” Tushar could not say that he liked meeting women. He could not say that he liked being with them, kissing them and knowing them for a day and then moving on. For a moment Tushar felt that conversation would soon stop. She did not look like the flirtatious kind of girl. Although he had already met few of those too, but this time he got an intuition that the girl in front of him was not the same.
“What about work?” she asked.
He shrugged. “I guess I like my work. I am good at it. If you ask me if this was my dream job,I will honestly answer that I do not know. Let’s just say I am here for the ride.”
“Impressive,” said Anya. “That must be very liberating. Like I know I want to be a CEO one day. I am currently working in the product team of an e-commerce start-up. I have created these boundaries of where I want to go and what I want to be.” She said.
Tushar saw that a faint gloom filled her face.
“Well that’s awesome, very few people are so sure,” he said trying to cheer her up.
“Yes, maybe but when you know exactly who you are – a movie buff, careerist, reader, likes long drives, you simply don’t surprise yourself anymore. You become predictable,” she said smiling. Tushar could not take his eyes away from her face. He realized instantaneously; she was probably the most honest person with an honest face he had ever met.
“Dating is something which is always unpredictable?” he asked.
“Well…” she said.
“Don’t tell me, you are out of a long relationship and I am your first date?” he asked.
She smiled and said. “Yes. Absolutely right. Something tells me you have met a lot of women like me.”
Tushar sighed. He could have simply lied to her that he is not dating kind of guy, but he did not.
“I wouldn’t say many but quite few.”
“Well that’s quite fascinating.” Her face lit up. “Don’t worry I am not looking for something very serious. So how does this work. I mean after you meet these women or in this case me, how do you proceed?”
Tushar was taken aback. No one had ever asked this question. He was bit offended and he didn’t even know why.
“I am sorry, I’ve come across a bit weird,” said Anaya when she saw his expression change. “I really did come out six-year-old relationship. We dated from the time we were in junior college. I really am out of touch. I was skeptical of coming today because I am not ready you know…,” she said, not able to find the right words.
Tushar softened. “It’s alright. Dating the simplest thing Anya.”
‘What a beautiful name,’ thought Tushar while saying her name for the first time.
“All men and women like attention, want to be heard and like to be felt. The degree and the way they want will be different always.”
“I have a confession,” said Anya guiltily. Tushar leaned forward to make her feel more comfortable.
“I have another date after you. I don’t know what came over me and I accepted two requests.”
Tushar gave a small laugh but he felt a faint sting in his heart and quickly ignored it.
“I too have a date after you. Everyone is doing that. It is the most normal thing to do,” said Tushar
“Oh!” said Anya disappointed.
“But it is out of character for you,” he said touching her hand for the first time confidently.
Anya smiled relieved.
“So how come I was the first date?” asked Tushar.
“I don’t know I didn’t think. You think about this? Well why was I the first date” she asked.
“You don’t want to know,” said Tushar guiltily.
“Tell me,” demanded Anya.
“Well, you didn’t seem the kind of person who would come back to my place for a drink,” he said.
Anya started laughing and said, “Well you are right.” She continued giggling, which amused Tushar. Anaya straightened her face and asked, “You really have no fixed passion? What did you say for your job interview? I am sure they asked,” asked Anya.
“Well, its very easy to lie, isn’t it,” said Tushar. “The thing is Anya, I know what you are thinking and you are absolutely right. I live freely and have carefree life. But independence is often looked upon as selfishness and hence to many I am selfish. I got for music concerts at my will, I chill with my friends when I feel like it and I watch TV when I don’t feel like doing anything. I also sleep in my room for hours and not worry that I should be somewhere.”
Anya nodded like a school kid. “Yes. You are somewhat right,” she said and kept nodding and mumbled something.
“You are talking gibberish,” said Tushar.
“Freedom and selfishness,” she said.
“Yeah?” said Tushar
“We have that in common,” said Anaya.
Tushar looked at her enquiringly.
“I guess when it comes to me becoming a CEO one day I completely free. The rules I have created are simply mine.” said Anaya.
“So, you are saying in your own predictable ways you pursue freedom?” asked Tushar.
“Yes, I guess,” said Anaya.
The food soon arrived, and the conversation drifted from mundane discussions about life to even an argument on the better Die Hard movie. Anya also asked Tushar on why he dated a lot women to which Tushar replied, “Don’t do that psychoanalysis shit on me. I had normal parents, normal childhood and no melodramatic heartbreaks. As, I said, I like the energy and the vibe when I meet someone new.”
They continued talking and after an hour and half, Anya looked at her watch and gasped.
“Oh no! I am late for my second date,” she said.
“Shit! That’s bad. Let’s ask for the bill. Always keep one hour buffer between two dates,” said Tushar.
They both stood outside the pub and waited for their Uber.
“I really had a nice time. I hope your second date goes well,” said Anya warmly.
“I did too,” said Tushar honestly. He could sense that she did not want to go for her second date.
He looked at her and asked, “Will you do me a favor?”
Tushar put his hand out for a handshake. When Anya responded with a tight shake he took her hand with both his hands slowly.
“Go on the second date. You never know, you may be surprised.”
The cab arrived and just before she went in, she hugged him very briefly. Her cheeks briefly touched his. Her hair smelled divine and she fit perfectly in his arms.
As he pulled back Anaya whispered, ‘Thank You’ in his ears holding his shoulders with both her hands and then planted a peck on his right cheek. She left giving him the most genuine smile he had ever seen in his life.
Tushar cancelled his Uber. He took out his phone and messaged his date that since there was an emergency, he would not be able to make it. He then put his phone back in pocket and lit a cigarette and strolled smiling at himself and faded into the city lights.