Raj paced the length of the conference room. He was more anxious than I was.
"Arre, you're the one who comes up with such great ideas and today, when you have such a big task at hand, kaise sad ideas de raha hai (What sad ideas you are coming up with)."
He gave me a hopeless look. I burst out laughing, more at the irony of the situation than my best friend. The situation, through Raj's eyes, is very grim. I am going to propose to the love-of-my-life, Diya, and Raj is more critical of all my ideas of what gift I should give her. In fact, this very moment, he is giving me a very disapproving look, at my outburst. He just won't let me make light of the situation. Raj, being him, needs to make meticulous planning, going down to the granular details of exactly what colour ribbon should be used to wrap my gift... Oh yes, coming back to the present (pun intended)... we are still yet to finalise the GIFT! He has mercilessly shot down roses (Forever type ka kuch dena chahiye - You should gift something that lasts her forever), jewelry (Agar usse pasand nahin aaya toh! - What if she does not like it?), greeting cards (Kanjoos!!! - miser), bunnies and teddies (Arre, kuch toh original sooch! - Think of something original), chocolates (Har time khaane ki hi soochta hai! - All you can think about is food). I was about to suggest my most wonderful idea of gifting 'Myself' but, seeing Raj's fierce face, I decided to keep quiet.
Hey, I'm the protagonist here but as usual, Raj is hogging up all the limelight. What was I feeling while Raj was making the Perfect Plans? I was in my own world - in fact, I felt on Cloud Number 9. I didn't want to come down tonight, just like Bryan Adams had crooned. And why should I not be happy? Diya was a wonderful girl. She was just I had always dreamt my girl would be - simple, full of life, witty, charming and understanding. I had known her for a little over a year and she had filled all those times with laughter and sunshine. In fact, that's what I called her - my Sunshine. And as I had started spending more and more time with her, I had started feeling I understand her as well. Her silences, her sudden giggles, her sparkling eyes on seeing gol-gappa, her shrieking when a cockroach dared to approach within ten feet of her. And there were those times as well, when all she said was 'Nothing' and my repeated asking / begging / pleading would not budge her out of her silences. Those were the only times I wondered whether I actually understood her or was she an enigma as I had heard all women are, to men.
But the best thing about her was her incessant conversations. She loved to talk about every little detail of her day. I sometimes wondered whether some one's day could really be filled with so many teeny -tiny days in them. When she would ask me how my day was, all I would say was 'Fine', 'OK', 'Great' or 'Lousy' depending on what mood my boss was in. I mean, what more is there to talk about?
And then there was the time we both were at Juhu beach, hand in hand, walking through the white, frothy waves. There was a gentle breeze blowing and the sun was about to set. If you have been to Juhu, you would know the large number of crowds the beach attracts. Suddenly, her eyes lit up. She left my hand and skipped towards this old, wizened man selling balloons and blow-bubble liquid. She bought a bottle and turned towards me, her eyes bright and the smile of a kid on her lips.
"Look what I found!", she said in a loud, excited voice.
"Baby, grow up!" I didn't know whether to give an embarrassed smile or laugh indulgently. People around us stopped to look at her and some of them smiled at her.
"Why should I?" Her laugh finally made me laugh with her as bubbles drifted up, towards the sky.
This was on our first date. Over time, as I said, I have started understanding her and her innocence. But, more than understanding her, I have begun to understand myself and my feelings. I now see myself responding to situations and later thinking about them. I may not need to share my boring work life with her but I know I need to give her a patient listening when she wants to speak. I need to show as much enthusiasm in her little joys as she does. I know she understands the fact that we are different and we need to work towards our relationship. I love basketball and know she hates sports and yet she doesn't complain when I disappear for my weekend games - the only real time we can spend together. But all she needs from me then is to know that she is in my thoughts and the one SMS telling her I miss her. I don't mind doing these for her. A few years ago, I would be very surprised if I were to consider changing myself for someone else. Today, it comes naturally to me.
"So, what are you going to get her?" interjected Raj into my thoughts, "Yaar, I think I know what you should buy her." I smiled. I know Raj would say it but it didn't matter. I no longer wanted to know. This special occasion would be ours. Just Diya's and mine. I was going to propose to her. The setting would be perfect. And I was going to take a bottle of blow-bubble liquid for her.