Loosely based on Bindu’s own personal experiences, A Nice, Doctor Son is about the heartbreak of losing your first love, the importance of giving love a second chance, and the hope that maybe, just maybe, the 3rd time will be the charm.
A Nice, Doctor Son (Excerpt One)
I glanced at my watch. It was exactly 7 o’clock. “Where are they?” I asked in frustration as I scanned the hall for Mani and Rakesh. The talent show was about to start, and there was no sign of either of them. I glanced longingly across the side railings at our seats—front and center. They were the perfect seats with perfect views. They were still vacant, but once the show started, they would be up for grabs by anyone. We were gathered in Jones Hall, celebrating the 50th anniversary of India’s independence, with a fashion and talent show. They had converted Jones Hall to a large makeshift auditorium, clearing out all of the tables and aligning the chairs into rows. The event was sponsored by our school’s United Indian Association to broaden Indian culture awareness. I had been an active member throughout my college years and even served as the vice president during my junior year and as president during my senior year. As an alumnus, I now had earned the right to sit back and enjoy the show while all the underclassmen did all the work.
“You know the guys,” said Reena, looking a lot less perturbed that I did. “They are always late. I think even when they were both born, they were running on Indian Standard Time.” We were supposed to have met Mani and Rakesh over 30 minutes ago before the show began, but they were their usual unfashionably late selves. We waited near the front entrance for 10 minutes and then walked to the side rails, glancing at the sea of seats below us. The lights flickered momentarily and then dimmed, indicating that the show was about to begin.
“Nope, no sign of either of them. Typical!” said Reena, beginning to feel as perturbed as I was. As we stood near the doors, right before the last row of seats began, the MCs began with their opening welcome. We scoured the entire hall for them from our vantage point but nothing. I glanced once again at our reserved, front-row seats, which we would soon lose unless we claimed the seats soon. I turned back to the main entrance for one last glance and then proceeded to glance at my watch. But before I could even glance down to see the time, I saw him, standing alongside the entrance towards the side wall.
All my life I’ve been searching…I could never explain what for…but searching…searching for that sense of completeness…that sense of purpose…that sense of fulfillment. I didn’t get it from school…from work…my personal achievements…and as ashamed as I am to admit it, not even from God.
And it was at that moment, I suddenly knew the answers to questions that I didn’t even know I had. In those few seconds of first seeing him, I knew what every person knows when they helplessly, mindlessly fall in love—that despite the fact that not one word had been uttered…that they didn’t even know who the other person was…yet, they felt a stirring within…almost a knowing…that somehow they had found the one.
As I stared at him, elation, excitement, and lust began exploding within me like a fireworks display—rising within and bursting with a range of exquisite emotion that I had never knew existed, let alone experienced—leaving me breathless, nervous, and nauseous.
Unlike the typical Indians guys in my Malayallee community, he was taller—at least six foot three. Broad shouldered, wearing a simple open collared white shirt with a fitted gray jacket, he seemed to command attention with his confident stance. His hair was the darkest black and his skin, although slightly tanned, was very light by Indian standards. He had a straight nose and defined jawline, and with his dark, roughish good looks, a lesser connoisseur could have easily mistaken him for Italian…but it was his eyes that were the dead give-away. Curved in the corner and defined by the darkest lashes, I had seen his eyes many times before in the painting of mughal princes as they lounged in the court with their prince consort. His lips were full and sensuous. As I stared at him, his smile curved into the most knee-weakening smile I had ever seen. He was heart-stopping, breath-stealing beautiful, and I knew on some level, I was undoubtedly responding to just that. But somehow even as he stood there casually, with one hand in his pocket while the other one rested lightly on the lapel of his jacket, he emanated a presence, an aura that drew me in, and I was as helpless and as hapless as a moth to a flame.
As unbelievable and as unrealistic as these feelings may sound to someone else, they were probably more unbelievable to me, the very one who was feeling this chaotic bliss. I was not the type of girl to react to someone so superficially—at least not before. Although I was surprised at this immediate, albeit over-reaction, I did know myself well enough to know that I had never responded to anyone like this before. And somehow I knew I never would again.
As I stared at my newly discovered beloved, my imagination took over and I began starring in my own Bollywood film. The music began, and like the popular dance numbers for which Indian films are known for, the talent show guests in choreographed unison parted like the Red Sea, creating a distinct path to my beloved. Even the main talent show only served as a backdrop to us. And then on cue, my beloved suddenly turned to me, his arms outstretched as he began singing of his immediate, intense, and never-ending love for me. “Dil churale…oh…me” Unlike the Bollywood stars who typically just mime a song, my beloved could actually sing! But in keeping with the Indian film tradition, I act the shy, innocent ingénue as he boldly walks towards me and pulls me into his embrace. I, after a nervous giggle, sidestep his advance, just narrowly missing his kiss. Everything was perfect in my Bollywood fantasy until I was rudely interrupted by my best friend Reena.
“Sarai…Sarai…Earth to Sarai!” My best friend Reena had arrived next to me. I heard her calling my name repeatedly, and I saw her hand flashing like a windshield wiper in front of my gaze, but even then, I could not focus on anything but the beautiful specimen who stood just a few feet in front of me. When I continued not to respond to her, she followed the trajectory of stare.
I knew the moment her eyes settled on him. First, she said nothing, but seconds later, she stammered out a “Ohhhh——my—–G-O-D….Who is that? He has got to be the hottest guy I’ve ever seen,” she whispered loudly to me. I smiled for Reena was as cynical as they come, especially since just six months before, she herself had gone through a breakup after an intense two year relationship. This was the first time since the breakup that she had looked at another male without rolling her eyes or wanting to throttle him.
For a few seconds, neither of us said anything as we just unabashedly drooled. And just at that moment, his eyes moved from the stage and directly right at me, as if he knew who I was. Our eyes locked. My knees immediately weakened, and I had to lean back and grab the railing behind me so I wouldn’t fall. Like a deer caught in headlines, I was unable to turn away. It was as if he could see right through me, deep into my soul. I, too, became aware of something deeper and even more beautiful inside of him that just seemed to emanate through his intense dark-eyed stare. And then suddenly there it was. The faintest scent of familiarity. Had we somehow met before? A thousand past images, thoughts, crushes, and fantasies all flashed before my eyes, colliding, merging, culminating now into the composite of this person who now stood before me. He seemed to be everything I had dreamed but never thought possible. It was as if in that very moment, God breathed my fantasy into life. My body reverberated with recognition. No wonder he had seemed so familiar…I had been dreaming of him my whole life.
The seconds rolled by as we were unable to tear our eyes off each other when the sudden screeching pitch of the sound system startled us both out of our trance. I winced and covered my ears as the MCs apologized for the technical difficulties. The moment was gone and suddenly I was just another over-eager Venitian drooling over a very desirable Martian.I turned away, embarrassed that he had caught me staring. I stared back at the stage…or at least pretended to as I grappled with those seconds of searing intensity. Had he stared back at me or was I still wrapped up in my initial Bollywood fantasy? I, of course, made the mistake of turning around too soon, only to find him still staring straight at me. His lips turned slightly upwards as if he were amused by something. Beet-red, I jerked back around, gripping the railing even tighter. My heart was racing quickly. Breathe, breathe. Get a grip, Sarai, I told myself, trying to speak reason and common sense into my head. He’s a guy…a very good looking guy, yes…but in the end, just a guy. When did I ever get so quickly worked up over a pretty face? I was acting like a teenage fan drooling over a boy band. And, I, Sarai, was not a boy band groupie!
But like a magnet, I was drawn back to him once again. I turned my head ever so slowly..and there he was, looking as gorgeous as he did 5 seconds ago…his eyes were still focused on mine as if I had never taken my eyes of his. But this time before I turned back around, I did something that surprised even me. I smiled at him. And he did something that surprised me more. He smiled back at me.
Reena had been watching this entire exchange without saying a word. To my horror, I realized that her whole body, in fact, was still facing directly towards him. Aghast at the lack of her subtlety, I said, hiding my clenched teeth beneath a smile, “Turn around, Reena, you’re staring! It’s so obvious!”
“Yeah, you’re right. Because you turning around to stare at him the last two times wasn’t obvious at all…”
I winced. She was right. I was so obvious. But then again, so was he! Unless, he was just staring at me because I was staring at him. Was that all it was? Was there no connection like I had thought? Was it all in my head? Oh, God! Maybe he wasn’t the least bit interested and just thought I was some psycho, wack job. But Reena’s next words dismissed my immediate fears.
“Besides, I don’t think he would have noticed me even if I were stark naked. He hasn’t taken his eyes of you.”
I smiled at the thought that he was no more immune to me than I was to him.
“So any idea who he is?” I asked.
“Do you know anyone who might know him?” I asked.
“Nope,” said Reena.
“Maybe we should just go up to him and introduce ourselves,” I suggested. As soon as I said it, I realized how silly that sounded. How could I just go up and introduce myself? It would come across as too eager…too desperate, even though that’s exactly how I felt. I shook my head and immediately took those words back.
“Actually, I think that’s a great idea,” Reena said. I stared at her expectedly, waiting for the punchline. When I realized that she was not joking, I was horrified.
“You can’t actually be serious?” I asked.
“Why not? It’s obvious how attracted you are to him and he is to you. Why not just go up to him and say hello?” Reena asked.
It sounded so simple, but I just couldn’t do it. Something deep in me rebelled against making the first move. I couldn’t help feel that as the guy, he should be the one to make the first move. “I can’t, Reen, I’m not bold like you.”
Reena sighed, shaking her head. “Yeah, don’t worry ‘bout it. Besides, that would be way too straight-forward and simple. We gotta drag this out for every ounce of melodrama we can squeeze out of it,”
“Stop teasing. I’m sure there is a more dignified way of introducing ourselves. Something not so obvious.”
“Not so obvious? I think it’s a little too late for not so obvious,” Reena said. I longed to turn back to stare at Mr. Beautiful, but I resisted the magnetic force that seemed to surround him.
“Maybe Rakesh knows him,” Reena suggested. “He somehow manages to know everyone.”
That was true. Rakesh did know most people, especially if they were Indian. However, there was a caveat to that and I reminded Reena of that. “I think he somehow manages to know all the females…the males, he cares less about.”
“Very true…” she said.
“So what do you think?” I asked.
“What’s there to think about? He’s not created for deep thought…he’s created for our scenic pleasure.” She said and then sighed. I just laughed. Well, if that’s what he was created for, he was certainly fulfilling his destiny.
Although we were facing the stage, neither of us were paying any attention to Taj Mohan perform a classical Bharatanatyam Indian dance.
“Hellooooooo, ladies!” Two familiar voices crashed our private interchange, momentarily distracting me from thoughts of Mr. Beautiful. Rakesh and Mani.
“Sorry we’re late. But Rakesh here couldn’t figure out which color underwear best matches his Nehru suit.”
“Shut it, punk!” Rakesh warned, his index finger wagging ever so ominously. “Or I’ll tell them how we had to make two pitstops at a gas station and then at a drugstore due to all your gastrointestinal issues tonight.”
Ewwwwwww…Reena and I exchanged disgusted looks and then before I could say anything, Reena spoke for both of us, “I cannot believe you two. First you keep us both waiting for 30 minutes, we lose our front-row seats, and then you finally show up and start talking about gastrointestinal issues!” Her nose crinkled up in disgust she repeated Rakesh’s words.
Rakesh and Mani smiled sheepishly, looking all of five years old as they wavered between embarrassment and pride. Our glares quickly helped them realize the former and not the latter was the better choice.
“Okay, sorry, laaaadies, you’re right. Tell us what can we do to make it up to you.” He proceeded to wrap his arms around both of our shoulders and leaned in towards me. “A dinner and a movie, maybe? We’ll even take you to see a chick flick… or maybe skinning dipping in the moonlight is what you’d prefer. Anything you guys like…you choose.”
“Anything, huh?” Reena glanced me, raising an eyebrow. “Anyyything?” she asked coquettishly, taking Rakesh by the elbow.
Rakesh, narrowed his eyes, realizing that Reena already had something in mind, and it might not be to his liking. “Well, almost anything, but I won’t make out with you no matter how much you beg.”
“Ha, ha, ha, ha! Not! I wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself, Rakesh. What I wanted to ask is very simple. Turn around slowly,” Reena instructed, but she quickly had to grab him by the shoulders when she realized he was about to jerk his body around. “I said slowly. There’s a guy there in a standing there in a dark suit. All you have to do is go up to him and introduce yourself and then invite him to join us.”
Rakesh looked at us skeptically. “That’s it?” First, he looked surprised at the simplicity of our request. “But why would you want—” And then it dawned on him. I could almost see the lightbulb that made a sudden appearance and hovered just above his head, “Ohhhh, I get it…one of you ladies likes him.”
The guys turned in unison and not so subtly they gave Armaan the once-over, looking at him slowly and thoroughly like he was their adversary in battle and like they were assessing him for a flaw or weakness. Luckily, he was engaged in a conversation with someone standing next to him and didn’t notice that a group of four people (two who were scowling and two who were drooling) had all turned around and were assessing him from head to toe. Rakesh’s face retained a frown as he turned back and dismissingly said, “oh, that’s Armaan Shah,” as if that should be sufficient and I should then drop the matter entirely.
Shah…the name not only confirmed to me that he was Indian, but that he was probably either Gujarati or Punjabi, which also meant he was probably Hindu, making him (as far as my parents were concerned) completely off limits for anything other than friendship. And even the friendship would have to be hidden from my father. As I stood there, silently grappling and justifying what I knew I was going to do, I heard the voice…
Sarai…what are you doing? Mom and dad are going to KILL you! If God doesn’t strike you with lightning first! It was that voice of conscience…of reason…of obligation in my head…that voice that had held me in check most of my life. The voice that I had heeded since I was little when I chose homework over watching television or going out or when I had said “no” to a drink offered to me by a cute stranger at a club or when I volunteered to be the designated driver whenever we went out for a night on the town. But as I stood there with Reena, staring at my dream come true, I ignored the little voice I had listened to all my life. Besides, I reassured that little voice, it’s not like I wanted to marry him…maybe just be friends….and a date or two wouldn’t hurt, right? Right, I assured myself.
But after Rakesh confirmed he knew handsome stranger, neither Reena and I were ready to drop the matter. “So how do you know him?” I asked incredulously. “And if you know him, how come we don’t know him?”
“Okay, what’s up with these chicas,” he asked Mani, holding is hands up like he was fending off groupies at a rock concert. “You two don’t know everyone I know…you’re not around me 24/7. Anyway, what’s the big deal?”
I looked at him incredulously because he could be dense. “The big deal is he is the HOTTEST guy on this planet, and we somehow missed be informed of his existence,” I said. Rakesh and Mani exchanged looks again.
“I see…so you’re the one who likes him!” Rakesh said, cocking his eyebrow as if challenged me to deny it.
“We’re both admirers,” Reena said, quickly coming to my defense. “And I’m very sure we’re not the only ones in this room either. So spill it…what’s the 4-1-1 on Mr. Shah?”
” Not much…he’s a chill guy…but not your type…”
“What do you mean ‘not my type?’ What makes you think he won’t be my type?” I demanded, wondering how Rakesh could be so evasive sometimes.
“‘Not your type’ unless you’re interested in a guy who is already engaged,” said Rakesh.
I could feel the joy deflating out of me quicker than air out of an overfilled birthday balloon. At first I said nothing and just stared back blankly at Rakesh, wondering if he hadn’t just made that up. But I could see he was serious. Then the words started sinking in, “Engaged? What? He’s engaged?” I said, truly upset. “But he can’t be engaged, he’s…”
“He’s too young to be engaged!” exclaimed Reena, saving me from embarrassing myself.
Rakesh and Mani briefly exchanged brief glances, no doubt surprised as to how strongly I was reacting. Reena was right. They would never be able to understand how I was feeling and would probably think I was crazy for saying that he was my soul mate. Well, I didn’t know for sure if he was my soul mate…but he made me believe, for once, that all my Bollywood daydreams were more than just a silly fantasy.
But Reena didn’t miss a beat. “Okay, since we lost our seats, you owe us now…now you’ve got to introduce us to him!”
“And what do I get out of this?” asked Rakesh, always the bargainer.
“You’ll get my…our,” I said grabbing Reena by the shoulders and holding her close, “eternal gratitude.” We then smiled coyishly, batting our eyes in our best Betty Boop impersonation and gave him our sweetest, cutest, most adorable puppy eyes.
Rakesh crossed his arms over his chest and looked us over unimpressed. “You’re gonna have to do better than that…”
When Reena realized the begging Betty Boop technique was not working, she quickly changed tactics and resorted to guilt. “Either way, you guys OWE us for being so late and for causing us to lose our seats. Now go chat with that guy and then invite him to join us…” Well, guilt, Reena style, which is a combination of demands with a veneer of guilt.
The guys glanced at me and then looked at Reena. “Go! Now!” she said as she forcefully turned them around and pushed them towards Armaan who was still engaged in conversation with someone else.
As much as I was grateful for Reena’s intervention, I knew it didn’t matter. My Mr. Wonderful was engaged…and therefore, as far as I was concerned, he was very off limits.
As I watched the show, I pushed him out of my mind, but he didn’t get any farther than my medula oblongata. The damage had been done. He had opened the floodgates of what I had systematically damned up since junior high. For so long, I was fine being Ms. Single and Independent, but seeing Armaan stirred up feelings of longing and loneliness that I indulged only in my most vulnerable moments. My attitude had always been that it was better to be single than to settle. But lately that occasional loneliness was now burning in me. Here I was…my first year out of college, and I still had not experienced having a boyfriend. I finally met someone whom I thought was worth getting to know, and he was unavailable. What made it worse was that he seemed just as interested as I was in him…and why did it have to be so magical? Why did it seem God had read my mind and custom-made him just for me? Why would he look at me like that if he were engaged to someone else then? What was I doing?
Armaan Shah. The name alone told me he was probably from the Indian state of Gujarat, which meant he was probably Hindu. My parents would kill me. Not just kill me. But skin me alive and then kill me. Well, it was way too soon to worry about anything more than just friendship. I just wanted to hang out with him…as friends…maybe if I were lucky, just go on a few dates, live out my Bollywood fantasy, and then get over it and him and just move on with my life.
“Are you okay?” Reena asked me, probably surprised at my unusual reticence.
I nodded my head and focused once again on Jaya’s dance. Her movements were methodical and precise. It was like watching a one person opera. Each hand movement was a study in storytelling. I envied her ability, even though I knew it was a result of 3 to 5 hours of daily practice since she was 5 years old. But it was an opportunity that I never had. Like many overly strict Malayallee Christian parents, mine had been opposed to me studying classical dance, which they saw as a worship of the Hindu gods. While all I could see was graceful, artistic form, all my parents could see was a form of worship to a Hindu god. Dancing, like many things of my own culture, was forbidden to me.
Rakesh and Mani returned to us and stood by us as we watched. I glanced at Rakesh, attempting to give him a half-hearted smile. Rakesh’s eyes were on the stage and he said, “So your boy Armaan isn’t engaged.”
My head whipped around to Rakesh, waiting for him to continue. “He’s not?” I asked incredulously. “How can you be sure?”
Rakesh’s tone was devoid of his usual pep, “Because I asked him how his fiancé was doing…turns out he was never engaged.” I didn’t have time to dwell on Rakesh’s glumness or what that meant. All I could think about was that Mr. Armaan Shah aka Señor Gorgeous was single, and he was available. Maybe there was hope if he was still interested…or maybe I had I imagined all that.
Before my mind could run away with that horrible thought, Rakesh continued: “He asked about you…what your name was…who you were…and if you… “ he quickly mumbled the rest incoherently.
“And he asked ‘if I what’?” my voice barely a whisper, afraid to assume what I thought I heard.
Rakesh cleared his throat and reluctantly added, “He asked if you were single,” He looked me straight in the eye, almost as if he were trying to gauge how I really felt.
“And what did you say?” I asked. I hope he hadn’t made one of his typical Rakesh comments and ruined my chances.
“I said you were single,” and then he looked away again before somberly adding, “But good luck in trying to date you…many have tried, and all have failed.”
“Ha, ha! Very funny,” I said, mockingly. I had no time to decipher Rakesh’s mood or his comments. All I could focus on was that Armaan was available and wanted to know if I were available.
Surely the angels were singing…for my heart was singing. I felt light on my feet. Just like that, with a few simple words, a renewed energy force seemed to flow through me. Somehow I knew this would be the beginning of it all. And it was. It was the beginning of my Once Upon a Time.
For most of my life, I have been a writer in one form or another. Through high school and college, I worked on and contributed to the school literary magazines as well as the school newspaper. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science in English and Mass Media and a Master of Arts in English Literature with a specialization in technical writing, I have been working for the past 15 years as a business analyst/technical writer in various fields, from IT to healthcare. While I have written a few short stories, A Nice, Doctor Son is my first novel.