There's Something About You (Releasing July 15, 2015) is not a typical love story. It's about a 28 year old girl called Trish who finds herself in a lot of trouble - she's unemployed and has two dependent parents to take care of in the fast-paced, unforgiving city of Mumbai. She's also snarky and overweight and fiercely independent - she certainly doesn't feel the need for a man in her life. Never did. But then along comes tall-brown eyed Sahil, who of all things, claims to be psychic and won't seem to give up on her. Trish finds herself writing an anonymous column that becomes wildly popular, and her life seems to be spinning out of control on all fronts...
'Well, thanks for coming down. We'll get back to you.' Trish looked up at the beaming face of the HR girl who had been sent to tell her that she was done for the day. The week. The month. Forever. 'We'll get back to you.' Of course they wouldn't. She had learnt to read the signs now. After all, it was the sixth interview she'd had in the last two months, each culminating in that phrase. Never to be actually followed through on.Trish slowly rose from her seat in the small conference room while the puny HR girl continued to beam in that unnatural fashion so popular with HR people. Oh, well. At least the coffee had been good. The last guy who had interviewed her - who had been so cool and senior that he hadn't bothered to introduce himself, naturally assuming that Trish should recognize him on sight - had clearly been unimpressed with her. They had been the same old painful questions, which she knew indicated that the guy was just going through the motions because his team had falsely led him to believe that this lady was perhaps worth his time. Even though she had tried to answer sincerely, his disdain had made her so uncomfortable that her words had rung false in her own ears and she was just glad it was all over for now.
'What are your strengths and weaknesses?' Puke. 'What have been your biggest achievements?' Gag. And the most annoying one, which usually set her babbling. 'So. Tell me about yourself.' Double-puke-gag-slide-under-the-table.
What Trish really dreaded even more than these questions was the inevitable, 'So why did you leave your last organization?' The honest response, 'They sort of made me,' was always on the tip of her tongue, but she usually ended up with a one-liner about irreconcilable ideological differences, which usually left the interviewer looking unconvinced.
No one actually mentioned it, but she knew it was possibly this lack of clarity on why she was out of work that was doing her in. And also her non-MBA-ness. And her looks. She had tried to make herself presentable for these interactions by taming her thick curls into a ponytail and by not wearing her glasses, but she knew that her plus-size wardrobe, consisting mostly of loose kurtas, didn't make for smart, formal dressing. Akanksha had repeatedly suggested that they go shopping together, but Trish had put her off obstinately, digging out and dusting off a couple of formal trousers and shirts from several years ago. They weren't in the best of shape, and neither was she, so it was a real squeeze getting into them. She had really allowed herself to balloon up over the last few years, she realized. She'd got too comfortable in more ways than one.
She smiled a wan goodbye at the puny HR lady and then walked out past the reception to wait for the elevator. This was just yet another organization that had called her in only to dash her hopes. Well, it wasn't like she had harboured that much hope anyway. After the fourth interview, she was pretty much just going through the motions herself.
Still, it was important for her to get out of the house occasionally and these interviews served as an excuse. It had been bad enough having to deal with her parents in the mornings and evenings while she was working, but being cooped up with them the whole day was too much. Ba had become even clingier and more dependent on her now that he had figured she wasn't leaving for work. And her mother was just being herself, which was enough to drive anyone crazy.
The basement where she had parked was dark and dingy, but she was in no tearing hurry to get back home. She let herself in and sat behind the wheel for a while, doing some mental calculations. She had been avoiding the thought for a couple of weeks, but she knew that her money was running out, and she was going to be in serious trouble. Her assumption that she would have a new job within a few weeks, with at least the same level of pay as her previous job, had proved to be grossly untrue.
Medical bills and treatment for Ba, plus rent for sea-facing matchbox, including the hike of ten per cent due in four months as per the lease, plus regular grocery expenses plus ...
Great. A whopping amount already, and she hadn't even factored in other expenses like the maid's salary, gas, electricity and petrol. She absent-mindedly rubbed the steering wheel. She had bought this Opel Corsa secondhand three years ago largely on the basis of its price and aqua-green colour, and it had served her well, but it sure guzzled up a lot of petrol. She stopped musing when she noticed that a couple of guards were staring at her rather suspiciously. Just as one of them began to approach her, she turned the key and started the car. She revved up and drove out of the basement, feeling furious with herself. Why on earth hadn't she invested in anything? Why hadn't she built up sufficient savings? What had been the point of living just within her salary, assuming that she would continue to earn that much and more forever? She remembered the various times she had turned a deaf ear to her mother's advice about planning for the future. But then her mother was one to talk; she never planned for anything in her life herself, and had always left all important household matters to her husband. Now look at them - her father had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's and couldn't do a thing, slowly losing his memory and his grip on reality, while her mother stood by, watching helplessly and doing the only thing she could now, which was blaming Trish for everything that had gone wrong. Trish had been determined that she would do better than her mother, but it didn't really look like it any more. She barked a short laugh at herself as she waited for the guard at the exit gate to amble over and press the switch to raise the security barrier for her. The bright light of the outside world after the cool darkness of the basement made her blink, and she reached for her sunglasses on the dashboard. She caught a glimpse of herself in the rearview mirror as she headed out on to the main road. Her hair was already loose from the ponytail and some curly locks had stolen out of it to stick out behind her right ear. Her cheeks were chubby and the sunglasses, a purple pair which she had bought on a whim a couple of years ago, looked too small on her face. Ridiculous, actually. She hated them. She tore them off her face and tossed them to the backseat. No. She hated herself.
She drove moodily along Marine Drive. This company had its fancy-ass office in Nariman point and now it would be at least an hour's drive before she got home. She soon wouldn't have the luxury of driving in Mumbai. The local train was going to be her only option. The very thought made her feel suffocated. She remembered from years ago what it was like, even in the ladies' compartment, being jammed together like that, like sardines in a can. Even the memory was making her breathless and dizzy now. Whoa. Her head was spinning. She quickly decided it would be better to pull over. She stopped the car on the side of the road adjacent to the beach.
Why was she feeling so dizzy? Hunger. That's what it was. She hadn't eaten all day. First her mother had made some remark about her clothes while she was sitting down to breakfast. It had only been an innocent 'Are you wearing that?' while staring at Trish's tight flowery blouse from the summer of 2009, but the question was loaded with meaning. It had caused Trish to lose her appetite. Her nervousness about the interview and her irritation with her mother caused the toast to turn to cardboard in her mouth and she had gruffly risen from her chair, saying, 'I'm late,' and brushing past Ma's attempt to push one stray curl behind her ear. She hated that about her mother, her ability to make Trish feel like an unkempt teenager ... when, really, she was an unkempt fully- grown woman.
She wished she had packed a salad or something. It was already lunchtime. Her windows were half open since she was trying to cut down on air conditioning in the car, and the inviting, smoky smell hit her nose right on cue. Aaah.
She rolled up the window and got out of the car. The bhutta-waala saw her coming and grinned in welcome. It was a yellow, broken-toothed smile, but it struck her as the most genuine smile she had seen all day, and her mood lifted. She said to him, 'Ek, please,' and then watched him expertly toss the corn on the cob over the hot charcoal. The smell of the nimbu and masala and corn was tantalizing, and her mouth watered in anticipation. She paid the man his fifteen rupees, tossed her purse back into her car and went and sat on the ledge overlooking the rocks leading out to the sea. She took a deep breath and bit into the corn, savouring the spicy taste as she stared out at the waves, which were an attractive shade of blue in the light of the afternoon sun.
That was when she saw it.
She squinted against the glare of the sun on the water. A stick? Or one of those rods implanted in the seabed near the shore as a guide for the fishermen? A wayward branch? But how come it was moving like that? Curiosity compelled her to get up and walk a few steps closer to the ledge.
She strained her eyes again, wishing she had taken her glasses out of her purse after the interview. Her eyes adjusted after a moment or two, and she suddenly realized that what she was currently gazing at looked an awful lot like someone drowning.
'Oye! I mean, hello! Bachao koi isse ...' She reached out and caught hold of the arm of a random passerby. She spun him around and pointed at the drowning man. He peered suspiciously in the general direction Trish was pointing at with her bhutta and then shrugged himself free and walked away. Trish shot him a furious look. Maybe the idiot might have stopped to help if she had been thinner and hotter. But she barely had time to complete the thought because when she looked out into the ocean again, the arm had disappeared.
Had she just imagined it? Her heart was beating fast. She was still disoriented from hunger. Yes, perhaps that was all. Just her imagination.
She dropped the bhutta as she climbed over the low boundary wall that separated the road from the shore and then made her way towards the water tenuously. Stupid high heels she had worn in a bid to look taller for the interview. She could barely carry these things off on regular flooring, and these were rocks, slippery and wet. She lost her balance and almost fell. The tide was coming in now, and the dark grey, treacherously smooth rocks were dangerous. People probably drowned here all the time. It was stupid to be doing this. She couldn't even remember the last time she had gone swimming - wasn't it as a kid? Not that she intended to go into the water or anything. She just had to check and make sure it was nothing.
She was dimly aware, from the sound of warning shouts from behind her, that there were a few curious eyes following her progress. But no one seemed willing to step forward and help. She knew she made quite a sight, an overweight woman in a tight flowery blouse and trousers and high heels teetering towards the waves. Yes, she supposed it was all very funny. Trish, the big joke. She slipped again and, with a growl, bent down and whipped off one sandal, then the other. She carried on barefoot, feeling the hardness of the slippery rocks, the lukewarm waves already lapping at her ankles.
Where had it been? Around here? Or a little farther on? Now the water was up to her knees. This was beginning to feel more and more like a fool's errand. There was nothing here. She looked hard at the water around her. She sensed that going any further would be dangerous.
A movement that she saw out of the corner of her eye made her whip her head around to the right. And there it was: an arm, a definite arm, full-sleeved. There was a man in the water about fifteen feet ahead of her. He currently didn't seem to mind drowning all that much, given the limpness of that arm and the rest of his body, of which she now caught a sudden glimpse. He wasn't struggling at all, it was more the motion of the water that was throwing him up to the surface. He appeared to be unconscious.
Shit. Shit. And shit.
'Hello, sir? SIR? Listen to me, sir. You have to wake up now and ... SWIM ... I mean ... hello, BOSS!'
There wasn't anyone around who could actually hear her, but Trish's panicked instructions sounded idiotic even to her own ears. She turned around towards the shore and saw that there was now a small crowd watching her. She waved frantically at them and was supremely frustrated when a few of the people automatically waved back at her. Luckily, a few of the more intelligent or foolhardy souls appeared to take it as a call for help and began to slowly advance towards her. Too slow, though.
Trish whirled back around towards the sleeved arm and her heart sank when she saw that it had moved a few feet farther. Oh god. She felt more helpless than she ever had in her whole life. All she could do was stand there and wait and watch. Big, dumb, useless woman waiting on the sidelines.
The water was up to her hips and then her waist. The tide was coming in too fast. She found herself wading towards the man. There was no point to this, of course. Her sandals floated away from her. The people behind her would never make it in time.
Could she swim? She couldn't swim. She was swimming. Oh, good. Swimming was apparently something you never forgot. Like riding a bicycle. Except that her clothes felt like they weighed a ton, which didn't happen on a bicycle. Unless you were cycling in the rain or something. But you'd have to be brainless for that. She was pretty brainless herself, come to think of it.
The water was murky and not as blue as it had looked just a few minutes back. It was brown and dull and dangerous and sucked you in and pulled you down. But she was near the man now. He had two arms, after all, it was just that one of them appeared to be currently wedged in between two rocks. Trish was drowning now. That was what it felt like as she swallowed water while attempting to free him. She tugged at his shirt and managed only to tear it. He was face-down in the water. She caught hold of his hair, gasping and barely managing to keep her own head above the water. A wave came over them and Trish's mouth was filled with some more salty and sandy sea water. It was too much effort to stay afloat now.
'Wonderful,' was her last thought as the blackness closed in around her with another treacherous wave of deathly brown-grey water. A useless life, rounded off nicely with a useless death.
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