Mayura was in trouble.
On the surface, things were progressing smoothly. Ashwin’s father had asked her dad all the right questions about his health, his business, India’s prospects in international cricket, and so on. Her mother, in turn, had praised his mom’s choice of sari. As a bonus, even the woman’s stylish bob and her recent promotion to Head of Department had been greatly admired. The two sets of prospective in-laws were making all the right noises, poised to fall in love (or at least, cheerful tolerance) with each other.
Below the surface, however, Mayura felt trapped. Literally. Her right foot was caught under the horizontal metal rod holding up the base of the table. Try as she might, she just couldn’t get it free. As everyone dug into their dessert, she kept the bland half-smile on her face and wriggled her butt this way and that, working all the while to keep it subtle.
Over the rim of her spectacles, Ashwin’s mother watched Mayura. The girl was an MBA employed with an MNC. A topper throughout her academic life, she was beautiful, intelligent, a charming conversationalist. Or that’s what her Shaadi.com profile had said.
‘She could pass off as pretty, but she is definitely no beauty,’ the older woman said to herself. Given that Mayura had, thus far, volunteered nothing beyond her first ‘Hello’, there was no reason to consider her either intelligent or charming. ‘And look at my son so deep in conversation with her parents – people he met barely 20 minutes ago!’ she thought, allowing herself just a tiny moment of pride in her offspring.
Cursing the stupid slingbacks she’d worn, Mayura slid down in her chair. With a little more manoeuvring, she managed to hook her left foot over the rod and held on tightly. If she pushed at the rod hard enough with her left leg, hopefully that traction would release her trapped right foot. Taking a deep breath, she flashed a polite smile at the table, and pushed. Hard.
Ashwin felt the table knock up against his chest and looked at the girl opposite him. His mother was sure to advise him to reject Mayura. Almost done with dinner and not a word out of her yet. Nothing but the most perfunctory replies to their polite questions. To make it worse, she just wouldn’t sit still. All through dinner, she’d fiddled with the food on her plate, and once, she even held an empty glass to her lips and made as if to drink from it, until he’d pointedly asked the waiter to refill it. What the hell was wrong with her?
Mayura’s foot was still stuck. Now, to her horror, the pleats of her sari too had started to come loose. Desperate, Mayura stared down the table, hoping to catch her mother’s eye. At that moment, Ashwin looked up. It was nothing more than a glance, but the fork slipped from Ashwin’s fingers less than a minute later.
His mother watched as Ashwin nimbly hopped off his chair and dived under the table, ostensibly looking for his fork. The new HOD of Psychology smiled to herself. This girl was smart. She would do.
And boy! Was she a good conversationalist! 😉