The one fine day she entered a strange place called Junior college; where spectacles were a taboo. Contact lenses, especially the coloured variety, reigned. Nerds like her best locked up in the library and were allowed to crawl out during the quiz contests where their brains could be used to earn points for the college contingent.
Jyoti loved her spectacles. Unlike other girls who put them away the minute the teacher stopped writing on the blackboard, Jyoti would wear it with pride. She went through her Harry Potter phase, where she made her parents buy round spectacles and then got bored of it the day she set her eyes on the star shaped ones in a stall in Bandra.
Jyoti was convinced that her spectacles had super powers, whenever she wore them; she felt that she could rule the world. Her spectacles made her feel superior to the poor souls could not wear one.
Today was a normal day; she had got up early, finished reading her book and had travelled for an hour to reach her college. But something was eerie; it was the first day of second year and nobody had made a snide comment when she got up in the class to answer yet another question her professors had put up.
Pushing these thoughts aside, she entered her sacred place; the library. It was buzzing. Buzzing! Somehow library and buzzing did not go down well with her. She looked around to see a dozen of boys hanging around. A couple of them even said hi. She was so startled that she removed her spectacles to check if she wasn’t imagining the whole thing. She put them on again; for the last time in many years to come. Yep; they were still there. Shrugging, she sat down on her favourite table, which faced the garden and began to read.
“This will not do! I am not going to publish an article on how both of those idiots were caught on a hush hush vacation in France. I need a different angle! La Belle is not called the best women’s magazine for nothing! And you!” Jyoti barked at the trainee who had joined them , “Is that article on the BB cream read. I want it on my desk in 15!” She entered her office, called out for yet another cup of coffee and stared the PR and advertisement proposals in front of her. She had to decide the ones she was going to run and say a polite no to the others.
“Hmm…this one sounds interesting.” she thought to herself and kept on her right hand side. Soon the pile on her left grew as she sorted the gems from the junk. “Tomata ketchup in La Belle? This man is crazy!” she thought with disgust and she threw the proposal into the dustbin.
“Shit! Shit! Shit” she screamed in frustration. Her elbow had hit the steaming cup of coffee her receptionist had bought in and it had spilled all over her desk.
“Traditionally, people say, Good Morning, Pleased to meet you when the meet complete strangers, but I’ve heard that La Belle likes to break the rules. Still don’t you think mentioning bowels the first time you meet someone is a little odd?”
She looked up to see a bespectacled man standing in front of her. He was tall, quite tall by Indian standards and was currently wearing an amused expression on his face.
“Who are you and what are you doing in my office?” Jyoti asked
“I am your 11 o’clock”, he said with that same amused expression which was getting on her nerves.
“Your receptionist just called me that. It was quite refreshing I must say”
“I am sorry, she is new”, Jyoti apologized even as she mentally cursed Sneha for not updating her about her meetings yet again.
“Like, I said, it was quite refreshing.” he smiled, this time warmly. “Anyway, going by your startled expression at finding me in your office, I gather that you didn’t know about this meeting.” She cursed Sneha again but kept a smile on her face nonetheless.
“I am Avinash, Marketing Head of Platinum a Day of Love brand. I’ve come to discuss the marketing campaign with you.”
“Please do have a seat”, she said leading him to the small meeting room adjoining her office.
“Shall we begin”. Avinash inquired. She nodded her head and he began.
“We are going to have a three step…
He is handsome, she had to give him that and had a good sense of humour. And brains too, she thought grudgingly. Dressed well, was tall, but those glasses, hid his beautiful eyes. Remove your glasses please she mentally pleaded…
“I hope you agree, Ms. Jyoti”, his voice suddenly broke her reverie.
“Uh..yes…yes I do”, she was completely lost.
“Well, it was nice meeting you. Have a nice day” he said collecting his papers and left.
Jyoti never had felt this disoriented in her life. She ran after him and grabbed his elbow. He turned around and simply looked at her. Flustered, she let go of his hand and said, “Today’s not been a good day. I am really sorry but I did not hear a word of what you said and in order to redeem myself, I agreed to whatever you are saying. I hope that you accept my apology and maybe set up another meeting?”
Avinash’s face relaxed a little. “How about 6 in the evening? I will meet you downstairs and we can discuss it over some coffee?”
“Ok”, Jyoti said brightly.
“By the way what did I just agree to back in the office?”
“Will tell you over coffee”, he said with a grin and left.
“Did you just agree to go on a date with a client’s representative?” her heart asked, curious.
“No, it’s going to be completely professional!”, her brain replied sharply
“But he does seem interesting.” Her heart decided to offer an opinion
“He is off limits!” Her brain screamed.
Suddenly she realized that she was standing in the middle of her office with her staff staring at her as if a halo had replaced the horns on her head. A few of them were even smiling.
“Get back to work. This instant!” she hollered and they all scampered away to their desks.
Dressed in a severe business suit and a pair of sensible heels, she made her way towards Avinash who was waiting at the reception. She, very professionally, shook hands with him and said a stern hello. Congratulating herself on establishing an appropriate relationship, she asked him, “Where would you like to have the meeting Mr. Avinash? We could always go back to the office and continue it there.”
“Please call me Avinash, Jyoti and I thought you may be able to recommend a Cafe or a restaurant nearby?”, he said with a smile.
“Umm… there is a Cafe nearby. We can go there.” she said, flushing slightly. What’s wrong with you? She scolded herself mentally. You were supposed to have this meeting over coffee and that’s what he is doing. No need to get overexcited.
After crossing the road, both of them started walking towards the cafe.
“So Jyoti, why are you here?”, Avinash asked
“For a meeting?” she said with a questioning look
“No I mean at La Belle.”, he said
“Why? I don’t deserve to be here?” Jyoti said, narrowing her eyes
“I don’t mean that. Just that when I think of you, somehow La Belle doesn’t spring into my mind. Don’t you think you would be better off in a serious magazine?” he asked.
“I must’ve have had quite an impression on you for you to be thinking about me after a 30 minute meeting, where I wasn’t even paying attention to your words. Secondly, men have a misconception about magazines. Especially women’s magazines. It is ok for your magazines to have semi naked models sprawled across cars and bikes and pages devoted to gadgets which you have no use for. But a women’s magazine cannot have a section on make up and clothes. It’s just too frivolous for you, isn’t it? La Belle, strives to be different. Instead of recommending cosmetics which no middle class house wife can afford to buy, we offer quality alternatives. Our models are beautiful but real. Most of them are professional women and even home makers. We rarely hire models. Yes, we give our readers a dose of gossip but with some food for thought, too. But sadly, people like you cannot see them. Maybe because your eyes are fixed on our models and they cannot bother to turn the page and look for quality features.”
Jyoti took a deep breath to steady herself. Why did she believe that he was different?
“I shouldn’t have…I just think you are…I am so sorry”, Avinash said finally.
“It is all right”, Jyoti replied softly.
“Um”, he said clearing his throat, “It’s late. Shall we meet tomorrow in your office?”
“You can be my 11O’clock again.” she said smiling slightly.
Avinash mentally kicked himself as he turned around to leave. First you offend her and then you run away. It’s late? What were you thinking? You just spent 15 minutes together! Tomorrow it will be better, he said trying to calm himself down.
She was still thinking about Avinash as she entered home. She never forgave people this quickly. But somehow, his apology seemed genuine.
This is not good her brain warned her. You are falling for the wrong guy again. She was 36 and had her own share of flings, each of them ending badly. On her 30th birthday she had vowed to keep away from men and focus her energy on becoming the youngest editor of La Belle. On her 34th birthday she had succeeded. But no amount of professional success could fill that little hollow in her heart. She ached for company but somehow men never understood the real her. She had given up her super power in college to turn into a beautiful doll, which helped her open many doors. Her work at La Belle made her feel proud; especially when her readers would tell her magazine was in sync with their thoughts and aspirations but she still longed to be that anonymous little geek who had no sense of fashion.
“Oh God here we go again”, she muttered to herself as she again managed to lose her contact lens while cleaning them. They itched and irritated her eyes and had to be washed often.
“Not happy to see me Ms. Jyoti?
She looked up to see Avinash standing in front of her. She noted that he had called her Miss.
“I am sorry Mr. Avinash”, she said stressing on the word Mister. “I managed to lose my contact lenses and was cursing my luck when you walked in. I will ask Sneha to find me a pair. Till then, I have to survive with vision in only one eye.” she smiled.
Both of them made their way to the office again.
“Let’s start the presentation?” Avinash asked.
Jyoti nodded and he began. After an hour of discussion, they finally decided how they were going to run their ad campaign.
“Can I get some coffee?” Avinash asked suddenly.
“Sure” replied Jyoti “I will just call for some”.
“I was hoping that we could go to that cafe we were headed to last evening”, said Avinash suddenly feeling nervous.
“I must say you are quite forward Avinash”, Jyoti replied with a smile.
“I am sorry, I wasn’t thinking.” He flushed.
“I didn’t say no” Jyoti said with a smile playing on her lips. What’s wrong in having some fun she thought.
One coffee date and several meetings later, they finally decided to go on a real date.
“I’ve always wondered why don’t you wear glasses? You seem uncomfortable in your contacts” Avinash asked as he saw Jyoti wiping her eyes.
“They make me look like school teacher or a librarian and in this world, looks matter the most”
“This world? You talk as if you are an outsider.”
“I was. Right now, I am not”
“Because you don’t wear spectacles?”
“In my second year of college, people, guys actually started noticing me. I was apparently an ugly duckling who needed to be spruced up a little. A nice bag, some make up and shoes made me look nice. I liked writing for women, too. My looks did manage to get me an interview and the rest, as they say, is history. Spectacles are just symbolic. Along with them I got rid of other things too.”
“Like your comfort? I am sure nobody gave you a job just because you look pretty. They would have seen your intelligence, too.”
“It is something minor. I’ve got used to it”
“Is giving up your comfort worth fashion? You say that your readers are real women and they read your magazine because it is a reflection of who they are. Yet, their editor is so caught up trying to be someone who she is not”
“Are you trying to say I cannot match those women”
“I am not saying you can’t. All that I am saying is that you needn’t. You are beautiful and smart and funny. I like you. But I don’t understand your obsession in trying to behave like a stiff and uptight person when you are not. You are a wonderful girl. I just wish people saw you the way I do. And I don’t understand why you don’t wear your spectacles when you are so uncomfortable.”
“Did you just call me uptight?”
“Was that all you gathered from what I’ve been trying to say all along. If yes, then God save you.”
“I need to leave. I am late”
When waiter returned with the desserts menu, all he saw was two plates which were left untouched, the payment and a generous tip.
His words hurt.
Maybe because they were true, a little voice in her told her.
But she had built up this wonderful cocoon around herself. Nobody looked at her intelligence when they saw her face. A smile here and a nod there was all she required to get the management agree to her proposals for the magazine. Her magazine had grown from strength to strength because of its content; but the management still saw her as a beauty queen. She didn’t mind as long as she could get her own way. Her cocoon kept her safe. Why was he trying shatter it?
She made up her mind. Men were not for her. She was safer alone.
The spring in her step and the smile in her eyes had just vanished. She immersed herself in work and sent her assistant editors for all the meetings. She did not want to meet Avinash or anyone from his company.
They were rolling out the ‘Platinum Day of Love’ campaign and she signed the final copy of the magazine to be sent out to the press. An assistant came running in, “Jyoti, Mr. Avinash has sent over a new ad. He says he wants to run that instead. The dimensions are similar to the old ad, so we just have to replace it on the page.”
“All right, send it in. Ask Rahul to come along too. He needs to make the changes”
The assistant handed her a pendrive and the hard copy of the ad.
“What?”, asked Jyoti when she saw the assistant still hanging around.
“Uh… He wants you to read it. Said it’s important.” And she quickly left the office.
Jyoti sighed. She had been trying hard not to think about him but work was work. She opened the folder and started reading the copy.
“Platinum is unique, rare and precious. If it had gender, it would’ve definitely been a woman”
Beneath it, a little post it read, “I don’t know what I was thinking letting you slip away from my hands”
Jyoti heard someone enter the room and she looked up.
“Hi Avinash”, she said hoping her voice sounded normal.
“I wanted to say sorry”
“As you shoul…”
“Not for what I said that day. For something I didn’t say”
He just walked up to her and placed a small velvet box in her hand.
Trembling, she opened it. Inside it was a small platinum brooch in the shape of spectacles. She looked up enquiringly.
“I wanted you to have something unique. Something that will stay close to your heart, literally and figuratively.” He said with a twinkle in his eyes.
He continued, “Rings are overrated. Don’t you think? These spectacles will remind you that with me you can be your true self. They will give you the strength to be yourself in front of other people, too. I want them to know what a wonderful person my partner is.”
“Are you asking me to marry you?”
For an editor, you are really stupid you know”
“And you are too cocky for a guy who is proposing. But then if you weren’t, I wouldn’t have fallen in love with you. Would I?”
She hugged him tightly.
“I really thought you would call the security and have me thrown out”, he breathed into her ears.”
“I am sorry. You were right. I’ve been trying to be myself in office. They were surprised at first, but I think my staff likes me.”
“You are first women in the world to accept that a man can be right. I am going to savour…”
“Shut up and hug me”, she said pulling him closer.
That he did. That day and every day for the rest of their life together.