Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Wolf Whistle

The alarm went off. Yet again.
I sat up with a start. I was late! I had overslept… that too on a day of a very important meeting with a venture capitalist. I stumbled across the room, stubbed my toe on the bedside, burnt my tongue on scalding hot tea and rushed out of the house in 20 minutes flat, giving up my breakfast in favour of a clean shave. I was angry. Livid. At myself. The world. And everything in between. Right now at the lift which seemed ages to come to my floor.

As a young man who had decided to go ‘all entrepreneurial’ as my friends put it, it was difficult to get out of a regular job profile and try to set up and run my own business. It had been almost 18 months since I had started out on my own. I had a few good ideas that needed the right kind of push… and of course the very right kind of funding. It was an uphill task but I was not one to give up. I was touching 30 soon and somehow thought that this would be my watershed year. I had to make it or break it.

I got into the car and stepped on to the pedal. The watchman at the gate must have just seen a blur, but I really did not want to be late for this one. Not every day do you meet Venture Capitalists who are actually asking for ideas with their cheque books on the table. My heart was pounding with excitement; I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Absentmindedly I flicked to the one radio channel that I listened to, mainly because they played good music. Being late and hyper was not a great combination while driving in peak hour traffic and I was hoping some good music would calm me down or at least occupy me so that I did not swear at every vehicle that came remotely close to me.

After a few minutes I was reasonably in control of myself and it finally looked like I was going to make it pretty much on time for the meeting. My blood pressure which had reached medically impossible numbers seemed to be coming close to normal as I still inched forward in the traffic. As the song ended on the radio, the RJ started droning on and on. While I loved the music on this channel, the radio jockeys left much to be desired. Considering the sonorous monotone with which today’s RJ droned on, she probably had been deprived of her morning pick-me-up. Then in an attempt to be funny she talked about some needless research that had been done in some part of the western world.

Apparently 8 of 10 women were actually flattered when men wolf-whistled at them. I smiled. She continued. Further research had shown that 3 out of 4 men did not whistle at women for fear of being labelled cheap or freaks. I smiled even more. My mathematical mind quickly opened up an excel sheet to see how many flattered women were out there considering only 25% of the men actually whistled. I laughed out aloud. Already I was in a pleasant mood.

So much so that I did not see the car in front of me lurching, the next minute the hazard lights were on and before I knew it the car came to an abrupt halt.

Screeeech! I slammed on my brakes just in time! Just when I thought I was in control.

Fuming I got out of my car, slammed the door and went to the driver’s side of the car in front. “What the….!” I said, but regretted it immediately. Before I could even finish, she gracefully got out of the car and said, “Look I am sorry, I’ve been trying to change lanes but no one ever gives way in this city. My car’s been giving me trouble since some time; it’s just that I could not move to the side to stop. Sorry…“

I breathed out audibly, looked at my watch and stared at her, really not knowing what to say. I looked behind at how close my car was to hers. There was no way I could move my car without the 10 odd cars behind backing up. I just shrugged my shoulders helplessly.

She however continued,” I’ll just get a cop to help me move it to the side… I know… I am holding up peak hour traffic… I’m late myself. But there’s nothing I can do.”
I looked at her clear honest eyes and sighed. I was not one of those who fell for the damsel-in-distress stances. Funnily though, here was, technically speaking, a damsel in distress, who was pretty much in charge of herself. Impressive, I thought.
Before I could react, she had walked across to the traffic policeman. From a distance I could see her explaining her plight to the policeman who was nodding sympathetically. In moments he had rustled up a band of motley street guys and before I knew it she was leading them back to her car authoritatively.
In my mind, the honking of the cars behind faded into oblivion as I stood enthralled by her car. She had left the car open, and the window open (and true to all women) even the radio on. As I came back to myself I heard that same sonorous monotone of that RJ! Funny I thought, she listens to the same radio channel. I smiled.

“Oh, I see you find humour in the situation. Give me a minute and you’ll be well on the way. I love the fact that people do help in this city.” Saying that, she nimbly stepped in. The motley gang took their stance behind her car, the policeman shouted instructions and her car was slowly wheeled to the side. I watched for a moment. Then looked at my watch again. All this had taken only about 5 minutes but to me, I had gone through a rollercoaster of emotions. The worst was the one I felt now. A sense of loss. I did not have her number.

I shook my head as I got into the car, almost in a daze. I stopped for a moment to make a quick call to the person I was to meet. I was going to be ten minutes late. He was surprisingly most accommodating.

I reached my destination. Somehow the whole presentation did not seem important. My mind was on that girl I had met. In some perverse way I wished I had actually crashed into her car. At least we would have exchanged our phone numbers.

The receptionist asked me to be seated.
A few moments later, she said, “They’ll see you now… follow me.”
They? I wondered.
I was expecting to meet only one person. I asked the receptionist who the other person would be. “His partner, of course,” she said as she opened the door.
I walked in to see two people sitting across a large table. As I stared openly, Mr. Gupta came around the table and shook my hand.
“Welcome, I was looking forward to this meeting. Meet my partner Ms. Sengupta.”
I smiled. So did she.
“We’ve met” , she said smiling as she shook my hand. “This morning.”
We both laughed.

Months later as we sat one lazy evening in a coffee shop overlooking the sea, I held her hand and confessed.
“Did you know, the first time I saw you, I actually wanted to let out a wolf whistle? “
She smiled, “But you didn’t. Because you would have been labelled cheap or a freak?”

We both laughed. We were both on the same frequency!