You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger

The pretty crewmember examined Meenakshi’s boarding pass and flashed her the mechanical smile she was handing out like candy to everyone, regardless of age and sex. “Have a good journey, Ms Nair”, she intoned and turned her attention to the next unit.

Meenakshi Nair fidgeted in the cold Delhi morning as she waited for the airport shuttle. Unobtrusively, she examined the boarding ticket of the passenger standing next to her. Seat 10B. How funny, hers was right next.

She transferred her attention from the boarding ticket to the passenger himself. One dark formal suit, one quiet tie, one copy of today’s Business Standard, one  laptop bag. Clearly a “corporate” type, the sort that she wrote 3000-word screeds about (and got paid peanuts  for – this man’s watch would probably cost her two months’ salary, she thought disapprovingly). Thankfully,  he’d probably just work on his laptop throughout the flight. Mind his own business.

Still, it was difficult for Meenakshi not to feel a certain shudder as she finally stowed her shapeless handbag and sat down. If he starts talking I will tell him I am a Communist, she decided. She wasn’t, but it would be amusing to watch his reaction.

She stole another surreptitious glance at him. He wasn’t, on the whole, a bad-looking young chap, she decided. But you can’t judge  people  by their faces, can you ? The man is probably responsible  for deforestation and atrocities upon tribals and all sorts of dreadful things.  And now he is going to Kerala to further increase the environmental degradation of that once-pristine state.  My state.

She opened her book and began reading furiously. About twenty minutes went by in peace.

“Have you read The Robber Bride ?” a voice asked.

“Yes, thank you ”, she said, absorbed in her novel. Then she put it down and looked up in confusion. That denizen of the corporate deeps was smiling at her.

She felt he had no right to know about Margaret Atwood, any more than she knew about LTRO or the outlook for emerging markets. But her anger was tinged with a pleasant surprise. So he wasn’t a complete philistine after all!

An hour later, while not completely thawed, she had enthusiastically talked to him about the well-known Canadian’s work. The plane landed at Thiruvananthapuram just as she had begun to state her poor opinion of Oryx and Crake – “her science fiction is not very successful, on the whole, but her grasp of society is sound.”

The conversation hadn’t been one-sided at all. He had responded quite intelligently. Maybe I really am too quick to judge people, she mused.

“Oh dear, my phone battery’s died. And I really need to call my parents and let them know I’m here.”

The handsome stranger courteously offered Meenakshi his cellphone.

She called her  family and assured them of her health. Then, in an uncharacteristic breach of etiquette, she peeked quickly at the browser window he’d left open on the tiny screen. Wikipedia entry for Margaret Atwood.  Her expression did not change as she handed it back to him, though she could almost hear her sudden generosity of spirit whimper and wither away .

“See you then. Was great talking to you, Ms Nair.” The suit was smiling at her.

“Thank you,” she smiled back, polite and stiff, like the crewmember.

 

( Inspired by the Daily Post challenge )

 

 

 

 

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