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Desi Romance Happy

“So, George Clooney tells me, ‘Cooking is very easy. I can do it. You can certainly learn it before you marry me.’”

Siddharth smiled from across the table, “You must have mastered culinary skills, then?”


Maitri threw a dirty glare towards him and let out a long breath.

“You let such sexy husband material slip through your fingers?”

“He wasn’t that great a catch”, Maitri chewed and spit out every word through gritted teeth.


Pulling back from the table, she straightened, inhaled sharply and declared, “And more importantly, I hate, hate, hate, absolutely hate cooking. I would rather pass over Johnny Depp, George Clooney, and even Julien Dore if they’d ask me to cook.”

Siddharth cocked his head and smiled slyly, “Who’s Julien Dore? Not too much of a competition to disqualify me from the race, I hope.”


Maitri broke into peals of laughter. Finally, a match-making date which wasn’t headed straight downhill. The 5th match-making one to be exact. Jane Austen did say that a man of considerable fortune was in need of a wife. But as a woman of marriageable age, it was her solemn duty to throw herself in the path of guys deemed even remotely eligible by friends and family.


The self-proclaimed George Clooney was the first guy she ever met as a potential marriage match. And boy, did he do an absolutely impeccable job of lowering the bar of her expectations from a prospective partner! The guy was short, of average intelligence, overly streetsmart, worked in some nondescript IT job, was borderline narcissistic and wanted a sexy albeit homely girl who would serve as arm candy during his office parties and family functions, though thankfully he had the decency to not actually say so.


“You expect to beat a French musician at sexiness. Some audacity you have.”

“Ahh Madame! Je suis désolé.”

“You speak French?”

“Not really. Just a few words. I guess you do if you are into French music.”

“Je parle en peu Francais. But what I am really into are French musicians, the sexy-looking ones”, Maitri winked. 


At a younger age, Maitri had great hopes of having a jet-setting career taking her around the world, dazzle everyone with her intelligence and talents, maybe even have a few romantic flings on the side. She still had an enviable career trajectory from the perspective of an average Joe, but it fell short of what she had envisioned for herself. Learning French was part of the initial world dominion plan. But as her teenage dreams crashed on the high waves of adulthood, the need to learn French was jettisoned out of her life too. Now, she just used whatever she remembered of the language to elicit Oh La Las from people she couldn’t care less about, but unfortunately still bothered about enough to impress, or at least try.


But not everyone would get her high-brow jokes. The last guy she met, for example, was a decent one; worked at a bank, earned a handsome salary, looked presentable, had an apparently nice set of family members, but in spite of a decent sense of humour didn’t get her jokes.


Maitri was the practical sort and was not given to reject otherwise eligible men just because they wouldn’t laugh at her jokes. She did what she thought was prudent; put the guy on her waitlist and thought of having a market survey before finalizing the marriage deal. A deal had to be convenient and make sense. Especially, a long-term one was worth thinking through, with the costs and benefits properly weighed in. 


It would be a mistake to squarely attribute her cold-hearted calculations and business-like approach to relationships to her demanding corporate career. It surely wasn’t Maybelline. More likely she was just born with it. Early on in life, she had drawn up a list of attributes she wanted to see in her husband; not a vague mental list, but a detailed, typed out in bullet points one. She did allow for the occasional emotional connect, but the checks and crosses on her checklist were better predictors of deal-making and breaking.


“Meet up in a couple of weeks when I am back in town?”

“Of course, Siddharth. It was a pleasure talking to you.”


Maitri headed back home peppier than her usual self.

“It went well, Mom.”

“How many ticks, this one?”

“Quite a few. He might have some potential.”

“You told him your job isn’t transferable? Is he ok with relocating to Mumbai?”

“Works as a consultant. Travelling most of the time. I guess he should be ok.”

“Call us after you reach your apartment. Dad wants to know too.”

“Will give all details tomorrow. Have to call Alex today.”


Usually, Maitri called Alexandre on weekend afternoons. With a 4.5 hours time difference between India and France, scheduling a call on a weekday needed someone to be up at unearthly hours, unmanageable on a workday. Not sensible either. And Maitri acted on convenience. Moreover, she was too excited to hold back the juicy details of her meetup for a whole long week.

Alex worked shifts as a production assistant in a local factory and was no high-flying executive like Maitri or her suitors. But he was well-behaved, soft-spoken and had been insanely patient since she started out with her French learning. And he was always a good sounding post for her corporate troubles and gave level-headed advice which was why they stayed friends, long after Maitri gave up seriously learning French.


“Bonsoir Mademoiselle! Comment ça va?”

“Ça va bien. Très bien actuellement.”

“Ah! You are excited.”

“Oui! Oui! The meeting went well.”

Alex smiled encouragingly, “This guy.. He looks like George Clooney?”

“Naaah...What’s with you and George Clooney?”

“Oh! Because you only like guys who look like him.”

“Really? Maybe that’s why I am still single.”

“A little like Julien Dore, then?”

“Not even close. But you know, this guy knows a little French.”

Alex turned his face to look away from the screen, half grinning.

"Très drôle. What’s so funny, m’expliques s’il te plait?”

“Weren’t you searching for someone who spoke your mother tongue?”

“And so?”

“Why is his French so important then?”

“It’s not. I was just happy to impress him with what you taught me.”

“L’amour de ma vie??”

“Monsieur Alex. My brain is not that crazy yet.” Maitri rolled her eyes in her signature style, “And I just met the guy.”

“You seem very.. umm.. happy.”

“I was just trying my French pick-up lines on him.”

Alex winced. “You speak French with others, but not with me.”

“Umm.. My accent..”

“Je sais, ma chéri. I am your teacher for the last 6 years. Who knows more about your accent than me?”

“I will..when I get better….”

If you will”

“What?”

“If you will still talk to me.. ” Alex pulled a long face, “He even speaks French..Maybe you won’t need to.”

“Eh..Don’t joke.” Maitri sounded unconvinced even to herself. But Alex played chivalrous, went along, and smiled his kind smile without raising further objections.


If. You. Still. Talk.

The words whirled around in her head long after Alex had taken his leave from the video call. The heady feeling from the morning had suddenly left her. Falling for someone halfway across the globe was impractical, and Maitri had never entertained the thought. But they will remain friends, like all these years. Of course, it would never ever come to a complete communication stoppage between Alex and her. It could not. She wanted to call up Alex right then and explain that nothing would change. He was not online. Maitri left a message asking Alex to call her, no matter how late he saw the message.

A couple of hours passed. She checked again. She felt sleepy from the tiredness, but the uneasy feeling would not leave her. But no luck. Alex was still not online. He had not seen her message yet. 

Finally, Maitri fell into a fitful sleep. She didn’t know how much time had passed when the mobile beeped. “Had a great time talking today morning. Let’s meet up soon.” 

Half asleep, Maitri murmured, “Oui, Alex.”


December 14, 2020 16:25

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3 comments

Ann Sable
17:05 Jan 03, 2021

Thanks for the story! Actually, it sounded more like the beginning of a novel to me, YA or something like that, filled with French language and romance, but as a short story, it sounds really great too. I found the main character's humour and personality to be very likeable, a very interesting combination of lively wit and calculating mind.

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Mou Sukoshi
05:35 Jan 04, 2021

Thank you so much :D The story has the potential to be extended, then. Will certainly work on it.

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Ann Sable
22:40 Jan 06, 2021

Awesome, I am really looking forward haha!

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