Meena’s big date

“She’s heard enough for today ” Pata had stood up. Her sari flowed like milk around her as she ran a hand over my head; “Go on, off to work girl. There’s plenty of time to talk without us losing you your job. And be nice to Vaughn; he needs it.”



Diva offices

“How’s that piece coming along Meena?” Deb’s dry tones scratched over my hair.  I know she was hoping to hear an excuse, another mark in her little black book of meena’s misdemeanours, but I was ready for her. Deb barely held her surprise in check.  A strangled “Excellent”  escaped her before she fled for her office and the scotch.  I sniggered. Some days you are the fly, and some days you are the windscreen. I shook my head and promised to stop thinking in other people’s irreverent platitudes.  And concentrated on making my keyboard and brain work together through the magic of my fingertips. But Strini was all I could think about.


I couldn’t wait to see him again tomorrow night. And on Saturday. This guy was balsamic vinegar to my olive oil, fresh vanilla pods to my crystal sugar; he made me feel like I’d mainlined saffron through my skin and was a goddess. An admittedly short goddess; but a goddess nonetheless.  I changed my Facebook status to minigoddess.


Hey, if you’ve got it, flaunt it.




Subject: Minigoddess?


You’re short; you can be pretty cavalier and capricious. But goddess? Surely it’s not megalomaniac day just yet?




Subject: Re: Minigoddess?


Sticks and stones little man, sticks and stones.




Vaughn didn’t look quite as flippant as he sounded. In fact he looked like he’d lost his truck, dog and girlfriend. If I didn’t know he didn’t have any of those, I’d have bought him a billy ray cyrus CD and sent him home.


“You look like shit”.

“Really, and here I was thinking this new hairdo made me look like Jean Claude Damme”


He got that out without stammering. He’s whiter than Hugh Grant in a London winter. Something is definitely up.


“Save the bravado kimosabi. What’s going on?”


“My dad’s in hospital.”


There’s no snappy comeback for that one.


“Shit, dude.  And it’s not good?”




“need something stronger than coffee? “




“Need a hug?” I can’t believe I’m saying this.


“no. Maybe. No.”


Sigh of relief.


Elachi’s rough voice commanded: “hug him Meena”


I hugged Vaughn, and he hugged back. I felt like a life raft.




“Yes please”.


We smoked our last fags for the morning quietly together, before I went back to my desk, and Vaughn retreated to his studio.

“Later Meena”

Later Nordic Boy”


“Don’t mention it”


He didn’t.


Chapter five

Dinner with Strini!


After the grilling I got from the mithai mothers when I got home last night, I was looking forward to this. Elachi “hmphffed” when she saw me: “idiot girl, must we tell you to be nice?” I suppose she was right.


Inji grinned and Pata just offered me some tea.


“So who’s this Strini boy?” Inji ventured.


I should have known.  You can’t leave three Indian aunties alone without a grandchild to occupy their minds unless you’re extremely brave, or extremely stupid. Guess which one I was.


“No-one” Schoolboy error.


“Really?” Then why you seeing him tonight?” Elachi with her incisive intuition made the first deadly move.


“Yes. Really” The eye avoidance behaviour was getting me nowhere.  So was the topic avoidance behaviour. I should have known they were lying about their superpowers. Indian aunties can spot a budding romance from two provinces away while frying onions and garlic. These three where right here when it started.


“OkOk” what do you want to know?” knowing full well they’d want to know what he does, if he earns well, if he comes from a “good” family.


“What do you talk about?” Pata asked.


Caught off guard I stumbled; “Mm.. well… work, books, other people. He’s a copywriter, so we both love books…”


“And where you going tonight?” Elachi interrupted.


“Out for supper… to the Loft.” This was the weirdest grilling I’d ever had. Where was the “nice boy Meena” bit?


“And after” Inji asked smiling.


I had been trapped. My after dinner plans were somewhat vague but did involve me being not entirely chaste, or dressed even.


“Ok grilling over ladies, my prince awaits.”


Inji laughed me out the door.


By the time I’d reached my car though the cringing embarrassment had faded and my toes were tingling in my red heels. Copy boy was mine.


He’d booked our table and was waiting, and bless him; a bottle of red was breathing on the table. “Hello gorgeous”.


“Hey yourself handsome, been waiting long?


“Nope, just enough to order the wine and make sure the waiter knows we’re hungry”.


I scanned the menu; ordered the lamb, and my stomach appeased, turned my attention to my number one hottie. “So, come here often?”


“Funny. So, how was your day? Any more exciting office gossip?”


“Oh the usual; Deb’s just mad and the rest of the office just keeps their heads down. I must have a death wish for even letting her see me. And you?”


“Well; let’s see; I got in and thought of you, and then emailed you, and then doodled and made myself a cup of coffee and looked at your Facebook and then considered emailing you again, and didn’t. I didn’t have much to do today and I don’t know if I could have done it knowing I was going to see you tonight.”


“Got me on the brain then have you?” I grinned.


“You could say that.”


I’d never met a man so honest with his feelings. The first few dates, if it even got to that, had always been spent playing those ridiculous oh my god can’t let him see that I like him too much or he’ll get scared off game. Strini came to the party on day one with. “You’re great. I want to see you again.”


And now the “I can’t stop thinking about you” was making my head spin. He was fucking up my play it cool radar and I could tell my deprecating cynicism was fucking with his. Boys weren’t usually so keen on me, and girls weren’t usually so wary of him.


But nonetheless I played it cool. I’d travelled this road before and if I let it, my heart would come along for the ride. I didn’t want it to be thrown too soon.


Our meal arrived just before the silence got to the awkward stage; “Mmm…I’m jealous; you ordered the prawns! I bag a share”. When it comes to food, I’m shameless.


He speared a prawn on a fork, and held it out to me; “Come and get it.” And cocked an eyebrow.


My melty place  warmed, and I knew what came next. I leaned over my plate, and grabbed the prawn with a deft finger. “Oh no buddy boy; I’m saving the porn star antics for …later.”

He had the grace to blush.


Dinner finished at midnight; and I was tired. Happy, feeling girly, but the red shoe diary end to it was rain chequed to another time. “Walk me to my car?”


“How about I drive you home?”


“And I’ll get to work tomorrow on my magic  flying carpet I assume?”


“I could pick you up?”


“It’s alright; besides, I like my drive to work; nothing like swearing at taxi drivers to get my day started. “


“Ok; but if you need me…”


“Really. I’m a big girl darling.”


“Ok. But can I still kiss this big girl goodnight then?”


My toes didn’t curl. But my melty place still thought it wasn’t that bad.


“See you tomorrow?”


“Tomorrow” he breathed against my hair. I felt like brushing him away.


I can’t be PMSing already can I?


Nevermind. My bed seemed a million miles away.


That night,  I dreamed Vaughn’s dad died.

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Our heroine, Meena, finds fairy dust



Subject: It’s a girl thing


So I made this online date and he wants to see me today not Saturday. Desperate or should I stop overthinking it?




Subject: Re: It’s a girl thing


Stop over thinking. Go. Meet public.


I went. But first, I went home. This is my first date in almost six months. What do I want to say? Easy, with red heels; frigid with glasses on; desperate for attention, with plunging neckline. I had a shower, washed my hair, frizzed it out, and put on a pair of black boots with blue jeans, a T-shirt, and a jacket. Ma would have been proud. I looked in the mirror. Something was missing. “Try earrings Meena.” I heard ma in my head, but she doesn’t sound like an extra from Monsoon Wedding. “No, no, she should try a shiny hip scarf, the magazine she works for says so.” Another extra, but this time more like Aunty Kanthi. “MmmF! In my day girls never wore pants!”


I grabbed my handbag and ran, but the cacophony of voices followed me to the kitchen. “Meena wait! Don’t be afraid!” Bugger this for a laugh. I’ll go out and have a whiskey thanks. Ghosts need more than sobriety, or else my mind warped by midweek drinking is now channelling the entire cast of Bend it Like Beckham.


Meena’s apartment:


I use my finger to find the keyhole; and fall over something as I enter my flat. Fuck doesn’t quite cut it so I light my twentieth fag of the night, and remind myself that I may have just met “The One.”


Strini. Strini. His name rolls off my tongue and into my midnight babbelas-avoidance burfee snack. Ma will be so happy. Finally a nice Indian boy and I won’t have to compromise! He’s smart and funny and sexy and works at an ad agency and isn’t a doctor, or an accountant and doesn’t drive a GTI or a BMW! I can see our children already!


“MMf. One date and she got children. What next?” I haven’t passed out, I haven’t had that much to drink and I know the TV is off. I look around, as the disembodied disapproval hangs in the air around me. “OK, who’s here and why do you sound like a bad SABC advert”?


“MMf! What advert!” The disembodied voice reveals itself as belonging to a jumble of bright green silk, resolving into a short, plump woman in a sari, with far too much jewellery and a moustache.  “Do I look like a advert to you? Bloody stupid girl.”


I feel my forehead again. No fever. No drugs in my drink, no LSD in my tame youth; why is there an Indian aunty in my kitchen?


“Stop it Elachi. The child is confused. This is no way to help her.” The second voice is sitting in my kitchen, in a white sari, hair as black as her tarmac eyes and no bling whatsoever. It hits me. Ma has sent an intervention. This is her local women’s group and she thinks they’re going to make me behave, but how did they get in my flat and will the police arrest two Mother Indias on breaking and entering charges?


“Sit down Meena. Let us explain.” A third voice is cooking at the stove. She’s thank god not wearing a sari but looks like Mira Nair on her way to work. “We’ve been terribly rude and have not introduced ourselves.”


“Here, have a cup of tea, and some Jellebi.  Made it myself.” She smiles so sweetly I can’t help but accept and sit down.


“I’m Inji, this is Elachi (another “Hmff”) and this is Pata. We’re not sure how to explain this, but we’re your fairy godmothers.


Riiiight. And Angelina Joli is the sugar plum fairy and Brad Pitt is going to leave her for me. Pull another leg sister, that one jingles. But I didn’t say it out aloud. Pata’s presence if anything demanded I simply believe. And I was already getting hives from Elachi’s hmpfs.


“Before you say anything, we know you won’t believe us just yet. So here. Try this, and have some tea and get some sleep and we can chat in the morning.


I had some tea, got some sleep, and we chatted in the morning. And when I get up from this dream I’ll have eaten all my mithais and be in a diabetic coma.


Chapter four

“When I grow up I want to be Padma Lakshmi, when I grow up I want to be Padma Lakshmi .” This and “I must increase my bust” courtesy Judy Blume were my morning shower mantras. A girl’s got to have some inspiration but oh my fuck do I have a headache. Two hangovers two days in a row is not going to impress the Wintour. And I still can’t get the smoke and whiskey out of my hair. I lurch out of the shower and into a pair of jeans, grabbing the least offensive t-shirt I can find. Thank god it’s summer and I don’t have to bend over to tie up shoelaces. My brain slidng out of the end of my nose isn’t my idea of fun.


“Breakfast Meena”. WHAT!? Who the hell?


Oh my god it’s not a dream, or a hallucination. I’m going to go through to my kitchen and find three short Indian women lurking disapprovingly among my meagre mug collection.  Oh jesus.


“You’re late already darling, have this slice of toast and egg and some coffee and you’ll feel much better.” How does a demure nani ma know about hangover cures? And Christ will Elachi stop glaring at me! “you’re still here. How. Why. My imaginary friends didn’t last this long.”


“You sent for us my dear. We couldn’t ignore your call. Besides, every girl needs a fairy godmother or three.”


“OK, Explain how, firstly I have FAIRY GODMOTHERS, and secondly exactly when did I put a request in to the department of Indian affairs for you three spice fairies to come rescue me, not that I need rescuing you know.”


Another “hmpff”.


“What? You prefer the fish fairy?” Even if sushi was a favourite food, there’s no need to be mean Elachi.


I looked into my coffee; the outburst making my head spin and last night’s last whiskey threatened a repeat performance.


Inji guided me to a chair and sat me down. “Well. You know your rather inordinate affection for the mithais? I nodded, not adding that food was a reason for living in my little corner of life. “Consider that each mithai you’ve eaten in the last two weeks is a little letter, a plea, an SOS to us, your godmothers, the essences of your favourite spices Cardamom, Ginger and Cinnamon.  Elachi, you’ll have gathered, is like cardamom, smells great but don’t bite her, she bites back. Pata is quiet and unassuming to look at but a little of her love, like cinnamon, goes a long way. And me, I’m the frontwoman, sharp and full of, well, ginger.” And when you called, we came, because it is what we do.”


“So do you have special powers? Can you make me tall and pretty? Are you going to give me an extreme Bollywood makeover?”

Cynicism comes easy to me when I’m hung over.

“Well; no. We’re not the wand and magic dust variety. It’s more like cooking really. We try to find the missing ingredient that makes everything taste perfect. We’re still working out what it is for you, but in the meantime, we’re company, and no we’re not going anywhere. You called. We came. We leave when we know it’s time to go. And it hasn’t happened yet.”

I sighed. Great. Just what I need; overinvolved houseguests.

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