How so, I was wondering.
"Oh", that was all I could say.
"You need a strategy Saira. You always need a strategy. And once you have it in place, you can get absolutely anything."
"Strategy. I've had no strategy in life. I owe everything I have to serendipity."
"Well, I don't I got everything I have after a great deal of planning and careful execution. Even Nabin."
"Yes, him too."
"How did you...."
"How did I? It wasn't easy. But it wasn't impossible. When I started college, like all the girls I too was besotted with Nabin. He was the perceived God. Wasn't he?" She took a break at this point, signaling the waiter was a refill of the coffee mug. "You have been sitting here for so long, and haven't had anything. What would you take?"
"Please refill my mocha, and a latte for my friend", she told the waiter and calmly turned to me "You don't agree?"
"I said anything was fine. I'm not too particular about my coffee"
"Not that. You don't agree about Nabin being perceived as a God?"
"No.... I don't."
"No?", her single raised eyebrow could put a tele-vamp to shame.
"Because God, is too big a title, and anyways, this is my opinion. I'm allowed to have one. Right?" I didn't want to get into a debate with her. The temporary lull had passed away and the rain was picking up momentum again. I wanted to go home, but I also wanted to hear her story. Getting into a debate would mean I get to do neither.
"Well, yes... but I saw him as a God then. He was far too above and I knew that to reach him, I needed a strategy. I observed him for a while, him and his friends, specifically his girl friends. He was always surrounded with those who were awed by him. All the girls he hung out with were pretty lasses. Spoilt little daddy's girls. Not one of them could converse intelligently for more than ten seconds. I guessed that that perhaps that was the reason he was so easily bored of them. That's when I decided my strategy. I was going to be this intelligent, independent woman, who is not awed by his looks, brains or social status. But before that, I had to get him to notice me. That's where the big debate helped."
"No Saira, it wasn't. Not one thing in my life do I owe to serendipity." Her voice was cold, devoid of all emotion.
"But how is that possible?"
"I arranged the debate. I befriended Sumita, the cultural secretary of our college and planted the idea of the debate in her mind. That is how I knew all the topics before hand. I prepared both sides of all the topics for fifteen days. I had to reach the finals. I had to face him in the last round. You see, I knew that the winner of last year gets a direct entry into the last round. So once I made it through the semi finals, I would be in front of him. And he would notice me."
"After that things were easier. He had not only noticed me, he was impressed by me. All along the next three years, I made sure that I was in every debate, in every sports event if Nabin was there. I always treated him with a cool regard. Not like a friend, just like a known acquaintance. I guess he had never been subjected to such treatment. He was intrigued. I knew he respected me, he was impressed with me, but that was not enough for me. I wanted to marry him, but I didn't know how to bring that about."
Our coffee had arrived. The fresh brewed coffee aroma reached my nostrils and I suddenly realized I was hungry. I glanced at the counter and scanned the menu display. Club sandwiches seemed tempting, and I asked her if she wanted them too. No, she said. She was trying to reduce. I asked the waiter to get one for me and turned to her.
"But you did bring that about."
"Yes, after graduation I was looking for a job and there was none coming by. So, I went and asked Nabin if he had a job suitable for me. He had just started working for his father and I told him that the only jobs available without any references were of secretaries and clerks. I knew I had the caliber for more challenging work, and if a reference was what it took to get it, I'd prefer getting a reference on my own rather than anyone else. Little did he know then that no one else would give me a reference. He gave me a job, and a good one at that. I worked very hard there and that's when we became friends. That's when I delved a bit deeper into his psyche and understood him a bit more. That's when I realized he thought that I was this intelligent, independent and steel-willed lady who could take care of herself. When Rachna's admission into a medical college did not come through for money, I was shattered, I was heartbroken. I broke down in front of Nabin, saying that being independent and intelligent doesn't pay. That I should have looked for a rich husband to support us rather than trying to support us on my own. That this world did not respect intellectuals, all it cared was for outer gloss. The words had their effect. Nabin went on to negate everything I said, trying to control me. Saying there were people who respected me and he was one of them and that whatever I had done was the right thing. And then I said you are saying all this just to console me. And he said no, I really do like you for what you are. That's when I said, if that is the case, will you marry me, and he said yes. So we went ahead and got married."
"But why did you ask him? Did you love him?"
"No. I did not. I married him for Progati"