Have you noticed the way men make complete idiots of themselves around women? It is not
intended, of course. In fact, the intention is quite the opposite but, sadly, it just happens.
Which one of us has not approached a beautiful woman (in our own distinctive
estimations), only to trip at the last moment, spilling half the Bloody Mary—originally
intended as an ice-breaker or conversation-starter—on her pristine white sari, the balance
to be ingested internally (if she stops screaming and accepts it thereafter).
Which of us have not seen a beautiful woman pass in front of our car at a traffic light, and
blown the horn. Blowing the horn? Come on, have a heart! For a lot of us, this is a reflex
reaction. Something way beyond our control. Our hands at that time have a mind and spirit
of their own. What exactly are we trying to do here? Telling her to get out of the way? No,
we can safely rule that one out. Then what? Are we trying to get her attention? Probably, but
then, what after she disdainfully looks at the driver and gives him a ‘drop dead’ look. What
is the next step, buddy? Good question, but of course we have not thought that far ahead.
Remember the hand moving of its own volition? It’s just something we do.
Which of us have not given soulful looks across a crowded restaurant or pub at a
gorgeous woman, only to quickly look away when she is joined by her boyfriend/husband,
who incidentally looks as if he has nothing better to do except work out at the gym and have
This brings us to Ranjit.
The above instances are real-life examples, directly lifted from Ranjit’s young but hectic
life. He lives in Kolkata, a city with quite a few million people living—or rather existing—
in it. He has a job selling vacuum cleaners of a famous brand who believe in direct sales,
depending on people like Ranjit to take them door to door demonstrating them and hopefully
selling a few of them in the bargain and thereby earning a livelihood (if one could call it
that, he used to often think). He had done his school final and also thereafter graduated in
economics. He was sometimes gullible and could be fooled, but he believed steadfastly in
honesty. He was a hard worker and though fairly street smart, he accepted as true the motto
—Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. He lived by this maxim.
Ranjit was twenty-nine years old. He was a sardar and all of 5’4” tall, weighing a steady
fifty-eight kgs, which in the land of the sardars made him downright puny. But he was a
spirited lad, charged and filled with the zest for life. He did not just get out of bed every
morning—he actually sprang out of it. Once he leaped out, he would go straight to his
parents’ bedroom and do their ‘charan sparsh’. (To the uninitiated it means touching feet.)
He rigidly believed the blessings received after charan sparsh of his parents were like
invisible armour. They motivated him and gave him strength. The blessings this gesture of
respect included, he staunchly believed, was protection and gave him vigour and selfconfidence. He had not missed this routine even once in the last twenty years except on his
only unaccompanied trip to his organization headquarters in Mumbai, at the time of his
product and marketing training.
At the party during his above-mentioned training he had seen Geeta, his counterpart from
Mumbai, and had really liked her. And there was a lot to like. She was a healthy twenty-sixyear-old sardarni who was reserved and aloof almost to the point of being unfriendly. She
was tall (an inch taller than Ranjit at 5’5”), and at a slim 54 kgs, looked taller much to
Ranjit’s chagrin, but it did not bother him enough to keep him away. However, as he
watched her from across the room, what attracted him the most to Geeta was the dimple
which formed only on her left cheek whenever she smiled. Maybe they formed on both
cheeks, however from his vantage point he could only see the left one, standing as he was on
her left, which for the purpose of riveting his attention on her, was well and truly enough.
He was mesmerized by her singular dimple as she smiled often, conversing with Mrs
Shukla, the general manager of the company. He thought she looked so unattainable,
perfectly attired in her yellow and green salwar suit. In fact, he thought, she looked so far
out of his league, she might well have been from another planet!
But, if anything, Ranjit was a fighter. And in Geeta, he saw something well worth fighting
for. To break the ice, he thought he would get her a drink.
He remembered the old catchphrase of Coca Cola, “things go better with Coke” and
hoped it would, while getting her one and negotiating the distance between them. While
attempting to get close to her to give her the Coke, he overlooked that the end of the carpet
had curled up, and this caused him to go flying into her lap as she was seated (by this time)
on a steel fold-out chair—and spilled half the 200 ml on to her lap. He sheepishly tried to
offer her the balance 100 ml, except that she on receiving the cold beverage on her lap,
Geeta jumped up and this caused Ranjit to spill the remaining 100 ml on himself.
It did not help that thoughtfully, Ranjit had put four cubes of ice in the glass and both
Ranjit and Geeta stood staring at each other, gasping as the freezing cold drink soaked their
respective attires. Ranjit, holding a now-totally-empty glass in one hand, wracked his brain
for something to say to salvage the situation. One might have thought that the situation was
beyond redemption, sunk completely like the Titanic. It was the most socially awkward
moment he had faced in his life, and there had been quite a few. But being the fighter that he
was, picking up his masculinity and raising himself to his full 5’4”, Ranjit came up with,
‘Umm. Hi, I am Ranjit, I know you are Geeta, and this was the Coke I was getting for you
(inadvertently of ering her the empty glass). I am sorry, I actually intended you to drink it
and not bathe in it. Can I get you another? And I do hope you won’t call the cops and press
charges?’ Ranjit cursed himself at his weak attempt at wittiness. You might as well just
come out and tell her what a joker you are, he thought to himself.
Then without thinking, he whipped out his handkerchief to offer her a means to dry off,
forgetting completely just a few minutes earlier, being the thoughtful son that he was, he had
placed two small serving spoons of sugar-crusted saunf in it to take for his mother, who was
very fond of the substance. The brightly coloured stuff went flying all over Geeta, with some
of it sticking to her clothes and adding topping to the dark stain and decorating it further.
Geeta looked at Ranjit incredulously. She saw the look of panic on his face and burst out
laughing. Her earlier aloof look dissolving instantly, she said to Ranjit, ‘This time, Ranjit,
please get me the Coke in a sipper with a straw.’
Ranjit looked at her and soon both of them were guffawing wildly. Those in their
immediate vicinity, who were keen spectators, joined in, clapping loudly. Then on, in spite
of being in different cities, they became good friends. In thinking about this instance, Ranjit
gratefully thought later, adversity had indeed changed to triumph.
The second and third occasions, which had not-so-happy endings, happened in Kolkata,
much before the aforementioned incident, and oddly on the same day.
The first one was when he was merrily travelling on his scooter, humming the latest Shah
Rukh movie song, Chamak Challo, and even doing an occasional body movement which he
called dancing but, those who had seen him dance called a spasm. While waiting for the
lights to change to green at the Park Street traffic lights, he saw a vision in the shape of a
woman, of small built and wearing a salwar suit (his favorite choice of dress for the
opposite sex). Involuntarily his hand went to the horn on his scooter and it went ‘peep’. He
was horrified. Two things happened simultaneously. He immediately regretted his action,
cursing himself in the most colourful Punjabi phrases possible, which is saying something,
and secondly, the girl gave him such a murderous look that he shrunk and tried to hide
behind the front panel of his scooter (which even for his small 5’4” frame was no mean
Later the same day Ranjit went to a small Udupi restaurant. His mother had failed to pack
him his usual home-cooked lunch and instead asked him to grab something wholesome. If
there was one culinary preference of his, it was South Indian food. Very unlike sardarjis you
might think, as they are voracious meat-eaters. But Ranjit’s liking for this kind of vegetarian
fare went well with his diminutive frame and, also suited him well since he suffered from
irritable bowel syndrome.
As he ate, he happened to notice a woman seated diagonally across his table. And then lo
and behold, he shivered, she was looking at him. Was she? He could not believe it. He
looked at his side tables—empty. Behind him was a plate glass window, overlooking the
park. There was no one else but him in the vicinity and line of her vision. What happened
next almost caused him to fall off his chair—she was actually smiling bashfully at him. The
first thought that came into his mind was that the years of charan sparsh had paid off. He
was being blessed now. And then the bubble burst. A huge burly dark young man about the
woman’s age joined her, proprietarily putting a hand on her shoulder. She looked up
lovingly at him, as he sat next to her on her side of the bench stuck to her. Women could be
cruel, Ranjit thought. She was playing him all along. He should have known. A puny
specimen like him and a gorgeous babe like her. Ranjit, if anything, was a true fighter and
believed that the speed at which a man bounced back from an impediment demonstrated the
true worth of a man. Paying his bill and without a backward glance at the woman, gathering
up his well-worn helmet, a sticker on the back which read—‘Super Ma’ (the N at the end of
the sticker had been disfigured and was essentially unreadable), he strode majestically out
of the small Udupi restaurant.
Sitting in his small cubicle at office at about 4.40 p.m. one afternoon in late November,
Ranjit was depressed. With no sales in the last two days, he was feeling terribly down.
They said it was darkest before dawn. Ranjit was in the ‘darkest part’ vicinity of that adage.
And then dawn loomed. Beautiful dawn loomed in the form of an email sent to his email ID:
He read it once and then read it again and would have continued reading it had it not been
time to shut office and go home, where he would no doubt reopen his mail and read it a few
hundred times more. It was not that it was an intricate mail, in fact quite the contrary it was
a two-line mail which read:
I have been posted to Kolkata. I am going to be working with you. I will be arriving tomorrow
and would be grateful if you could suggest some place to stay for a couple of weeks till I get
something permanent. More later.
The world was suddenly full of the sound of music. Even though it was 7 p.m. he could
see butterflies fluttering all around him. Or maybe they were just fluttering in his heart.
Geeta was coming to Kolkata and they were going to be spending most of their working
days together! There was a God in heaven and he was smiling down on him, Ranjit thought.
The angels were on his side. On his way back home, riding his scooter, he sang his favourite
song Chamak Challo with renewed vigour at the top of his voice, causing a startled dog
near his gate, calmly resting just a few seconds ago, to jump up and run away yelping.
‘Hi Ranjit! How have you been?’ asked Geeta. Ranjit had been expecting her all morning
and here she was, a dream in cream (the colour of her salwar suit) standing at his desk.
‘Hi Geeta!’said Ranjit. A simple enough greeting and the logical rejoinder to her ‘Hi,’
one might think. But no! Ranjit had been practising the saying of these two words in a
million different ways since even before he had brushed his teeth that morning. But when he
actually said it he forgot everything and could just about get the two words out, her beauty
tongue-tying him instantly.
She looks even more beautiful than I remember, Ranjit thought to himself. He instantly
stood up with a jerk, hitting the back of his knees to the rim of his chair and sending it flying
behind him. ‘Clumsy, clumsy, clumsy,’ he told himself, ‘I am just confirming how gawky and
bungly I am,’ he said, continuing the conversation with himself. Geeta turned around to say
hello to another colleague, turning back in time to see him picking up his chair. It was a bit
of a funny scene, Ranjit struggling to pick up the big executive chair, almost lying prone on
Geeta could not help remarking tongue in cheek, ‘What’s the matter Ranjit, wrestling
match with your chair?’
‘No, Geeta, just trying to murder it for putting me in this embarrassing position,’ Ranjit
And once again both burst out laughing, recalling the Coke incident that had brought them
Over the next two months Ranjit and Geeta had been working together and spending a fair
amount of time together. When two young souls are thrown together in the cauldron of life
like this, both unattached and both outgoing, things are bound to happen. Geeta was
unattached and was looking for opposite-sex companionship. She was a sensible girl, who
had long decided that the two qualities she would be looking for in a mate would be honesty
and a big dollop of humour to make a partnership faithful and fun. In Ranjit she realized
early on that she could find both. She could see he was scrupulously honest and this
endeared him to her. His sense of humour was also becoming increasingly apparent. In fact
it was linked to his honesty. His responses were so genuine and from the heart that, in this
world of appearances and display, she found them endearingly funny. It was true he was
small built, and was not putting stock in the world’s accepted standards of good looks, but
she found him adorably attractive. She wanted a solid man and she now after two months of
pretty regular association, believed she had found her soul mate.
In between their work, Ranjit had found her a room to stay, in Rashmi Auntie’s flat which
was in the same building as his house, on the floor above his. The close proximity fostered
regular visits to his house. She had become very close to his father and mother, with his
mother telling Geeta one evening, ‘Arre beta, no need to go out and get dinner or to cook
your own, you eat her with us from now on. Apna ghar samjho.’ She felt more comfortable
here, than she had felt in her own place in Mumbai, as her parents were so busy most of the
time, either working or socializing, she barely saw them on a daily basis.
Ranjit too was having the time of his life. His dream girl was becoming his girlfriend.
This was so unreal. At one time he had thought she was totally out of his league and now he
was not only spending time with her socially but when they went to see the movie—The
Dirty Picture, the storyline of which he did not remember at all—all he could think of was
holding her hands and what happened in the few minutes before intermission.
He had kissed her.
Her constantly squeezing his hand had emboldened his resolve and he took off his glasses
for the hundredth time to clean them (they kept fogging up possibly due to the fact that his
body temperature was in the early hundreds and his BP had shot up dangerously). Putting his
glasses back on, he decided to take the plunge. Puckering up his lips he leaned across and
almost reached her flawless cheek when she excitedly turned to him to say something and he
landed the kiss square on her mouth. It was more than he could handle. Her cheek he was
prepared for, her mouth he was not. He almost fainted and would have, except suddenly the
loud dialogue on the screen jolted him into wakefulness. ‘Kutte main tera khoon pee
jaoonga!’ Nasseruddin Shah bellowed at the villain and Ranjit did not know what effect it
had on the receiving screen persona but it kept him in the present moment. Geeta tenderly
kissed him back, that too on his lips and he knew then—baat ban gayee!
Geeta and Ranjit resigned from their jobs and had opened an agency to undertake turnkey
assignments to clean houses and offices on a contractual basis. A natural progression one
might say, from selling vacuum cleaners. Both loved each other and were thankful for the
abundant blessings the heavens had showered on them.
Exactly a year after Geeta came to Kolkata, they were married at the Bhawanipur
It was a smallish affair with only twenty invitees. It was how both Ranjit and Geeta
wanted it. Geeta’s parents found time from their very busy hectic Mumbai schedules to be
there for their only daughter. Ranjits parents had invited only close relatives.
The reception held at the Punjabee Bradree hall was another matter altogether. There
were 200 invitees and it was in true blue Punjabi style—full of pomp, glamour, food, music,
balle-balle dancing and the common denominator liquor. Geeta and Ranjit both danced till
the wee hours of the morning as did most of the guests. It was a night to remember.
Sometime during the evening, Ranjit picked up a tray of drinks to offer his aunts. However
before he could even take it to them, Geeta gently put a hand on his shoulder and said,
‘Ranjit, it’s safer for your aunts if the waiters take them the drinks, especially after the
couple of beers that you’ve had.’
Appreciating that there was truth in what his wife had said, Ranjit willingly handed over
the tray to the waiter who had suddenly materialized. Geeta smiled adoringly and gave her
husband a warm loving kiss.
All was well in their world.
Have you noticed the way men make complete idiots of themselves around women? It is not