An excerpt from the book, Not Really Indian by Subhashini Prasad.

The rooftop of the Indian School of Business is as clandestine as it can get. A lover’s paradise. An introvert’s haven. A student’s Zen zone. Located above the fifth floor of the Atrium, the rooftop is circular and is central to the crosswinds of Hyderabad. With a view of Golconda Fort on one side and the city skyline on the other side, sitting on the window sill of the rooftop would make time tick as quickly as Schumacher’s car with the quietness of a cheetah waiting on its prey. Provided you are with the right company.

Kalindi found out that Arjun was the youngest in the family of two brothers and one of those brilliant ones that cleared IIT JEE in the first attempt and travelled from Rajasthan to Kharagpur to become a Mechanical Engineer.

Kalindi slowly stepped onto the rooftop, not knowing what to expect. And there he was, brown eyes still glittering in the city lights-Arjun Saxena. Kalindi wrapped her shrug around her; they hadn’t even touched, but she felt a jolt of electricity up her spine. She made a fist with her thumb pressing the engagement ring to keep reminding her of Robert in Singapore.

“Hello, stranger!” Arjun said with the signature dimpled smile.

“Hi, there!” Kalindi replied with a lopsided grin.

“You have a beautiful smile,” Arjun said, not even batting an eyelid.

“Well, thank you,” Kalindi said, putting a strand of hair behind her ear, unsuccessfully hiding a blush.

It was almost midnight when Kalindi set foot on the rooftop, and by the time she rechecked her watch, it was 3 AM! Kalindi found out that Arjun was the youngest in the family of two brothers and one of those brilliant ones that cleared IIT JEE in the first attempt and travelled from Rajasthan to Kharagpur to become a Mechanical Engineer. Very popular in college with both males and females, having dated a professor’s daughter (very Three Idiots-like) and having been elected as General Secretary of Sports by five thousand students. Raised in a middle-class family, grounded with humility and brought up seeking the right opportunities. Yet, he had never travelled outside India.

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“I should go. It’s 3 AM, and we have an 8 AM class,” Kalindi said, stifling a yawn.

“Stay, the sun will rise in no time, and we can have breakfast together before class. Also, I have a game I want to play with you.” Arjun said, bravely not taking his eyes off Kalindi.

“What is it?” Kalindi asked, still sleepy.

“I will give you a word, and you have to say the first word that comes to your mind,” Arjun said.

“Ready!” Kalindi said, straightening up.

Arjun: “Favourite actor”

Kalindi: “Leonardo DiCaprio”

Arjun: “ISB”

Kalindi: “Growing opportunities”

Arjun: “Love”

Kalindi: “Complicated”

Arjun: “Favourite sportsperson”

Kalindi: “Michael Jordan”

Arjun: “Favourite music”

Kalindi: “Bhangra”

And finally…

Arjun: “Arjun”

Kalindi: “A connection”

And there was a gentle breeze as Kalindi looked outside the window and Arjun smiled at her.

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“Who is the lucky guy?” Arjun asked after a long pause, pointing to the ring, the pink elephant in the room.

Kalindi looked down at her ring, and while on most days the shine would make her happy, today it felt glaring.

“His name is Robert, my fiancé. He is studying MBA in Singapore right now. We get married in a year,” Kalindi articulated matter-of-factly.

There was no point in hiding the truth. Kalindi had no intention of finding distractions or hurting her relationship. Robert was the right man for her. Yet, her heart had never raced this fast. She had never felt shy or had goosebumps around a stranger. Dating was so hierarchical and transactional where she grew up in America that Kalindi just counted number of dates and certain key gestures (Does he pay the bill? Does he make the moves on a third date? Did he make it romantic? Does he make you laugh? Did he get down on one knee?) before concluding Robert was the one for her. Not once had she asked herself ‘does he make the hair on my arms stand and my heart beat faster?’

Kalindi’s phone vibrated restlessly on the rooftop counter, “I miss you and love you, Kal. Love, Rob.” Kalindi looked up, and Arjun was looking at the bluish-orange sky.

Kalindi’s fingers itched, and she messaged back hesitantly, belying the thumping in her chest and the guilt in her throat, “Me too, Rob. Miss you.”

Image Credit: Subhashini Prasad/ Notionpress

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Excerpted with permission from Not Really Indian by Subhashini Prasad, Notionpress.

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