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It was 6.00am & she was already heading for the gym. She grabbed her iPhone, keys & closed the door behind her. She turned ON her ipod  while pressing the down button for the elevator. It was one of her favorite song that came up as she entered the elevator. She pushed the button for  lobby & was watching the countdown on the LCD. 15, 14, 13…..8, 7…2, L & the elevator door opened. At the same time, she received a call & was surprised looking at the name on the caller id. Instead of picking up the phone, she started thinking of all the reasons why her mother was calling her at this time. None of her family members knew that she woke up so early to go to gym. They did not like their girls being skinny. They wanted them to be plump & chubby. But, Ayushi was very health conscious. She had seen the effect of no exercise & oily food in her family. Lots of examples. So, after coming to Chicago she had started going to the free gym in her school & now in her apartment while working. She stepped between the elevator doors just when they started closing & the doors hit her. She felt a jerk, a little pain in her shoulders & a bit of anger all at the same time. She picked up the phone standing in the lobby area.

She greeted her mother with her sleepy voice. Her mother was apologetic for calling so early in the morning but said that she couldn’t resist the good news. Her “Hello Ayushi beta” had given away the enthusiasm. Ayushi started wondering what  news could be so exciting to her mom. The next thought cleared her doubt and mother spoke her (Ayushi’s) thoughts aloud “We have found the perfect guy for you beta”. Ayushi was speechless for a few minutes. While she was digesting this information, her mother conveyed the whole story.

Mother said “He is your father’s friend’s son. His name is Karan & he is doing his PHD in Purdue university”.  They had met Karan’s parents at a wedding of another friend’s daughter. This was her father’s close friend from college who had shifted to Bangalore for work. They were now back to Mumbai & their son was 1year older than Ayushi. They were happy to hear about Ayushi’s graduation & her working in Chicago. Karan was to finish his PHD soon and  after a few old times catch up meetings they all thought that it would be a good idea if their children would tie the knot.

So, Ayushi’s mother was to discuss this idea with her & Karan’s mother with him. They were also open to Ayushi & Karan meeting each other in USA since they were in neighboring states. “Ayu…are you listening to me beta? I will hang up now if you want to sleep. Just wanted to convey this wonderful news to you. I am very excited Ayu.” mother said. Ayushi was filled with mixed feelings & couldn’t deny her mother’s request to meet the guy. She said she would think about it & they both hung up.

Her favorite song started again as soon as she was off the phone & she felt a bit relaxed. She entered the gym and went to the treadmill. She started with slow walking exercise at her usual start speed & tried to listen to the next song. Her mothers words were clouding her thoughts. Her mind started repeating words like Karan, PHD, Purdue University, Ayushi weds Karan and she screamed “Stop it”. The American guy who was entering the gym half inside & half outside stood motionless looking at her. She stopped the treadmill & got on the floor unaware of the guy at the door. She shook her head from side to side a few times, switched on the television & came back to the treadmill. After being sure that this girl was not a lunatic, the american guy entered the gym. Ayushi upon seeing him close the gym door realized that she had frightened the poor guy. She apologized, increased her walking speed and tried concentrating on the lyrics of the songs.

After an hour of walking, running and cycling exercises she came back to her apartment that she shared with Aabha, her roommate. Aabha was pouring tea in a mug when Ayushi entered. Aabha was Ayushi’s closest friend in America. She sat on the dinning table while Aabha was making a sandwich for breakfast. She waited patiently for Aabha to join her & tried to organize her thoughts for the story telling that was about to take place. Once they were both seated, Ayushi  started narrating everything that had happened in the morning to Aabha. Aabha was smiling from the moment she heard the word perfect guy & Ayushi knew that a hell lot of teasing was about to start.

After hearing the whole story, Aabha was quite for sometime. Ayushi was feeling anxious at what her friend was thinking. Then surprisingly, Aabha who was a protestant of arrange marriages &  a feminist by nature said “We are to get married one day or another. Why not give a chance to this guy that your parents like so much. He might be perfect for you as they say.” Ayushi realized that this day was going to be full of shock & surprises. But she had to agree with Aabha. After all, how can you judge someone without knowing them.

Ayushi went for a bath while Aabha finished her breakfast & read the newspaper.  As soon as she was out, Aabha inquired if her mother would be sending Karan’s picture and was disappointed since Ayushi hadn’t asked for it. Even Ayushi was curious now to see his photograph. But how to get it? She did not want to ask her mother. Then, brilliant Aabha suggested using Google search to find him. She said “I am sure we can get his facebook profile at the least and that should have his picture.” They switched on Ayushi’s laptop and eagerly waited for windows to start. For the first time they were feeling that her 64bit system with 4gb of memory was slow. Ayushi opened her preferred browser & it loaded the Google search page which was the home page. They first typed “Karan Sanghavi, USA” and it returned a lot of pages containing twitter pages, facebook pages, businesses, tv show synopsis etc. They clicked on the facebook link but there was no picture and no access for most of the profiles. Then they tried the twitter link but even that was a disappointment. Again, Aabha suggested putting the word purdue university along with his name for the search. That did it! And they found his page with his credentials, reasearch interests at the university & a photograph. Ayushi’s first reaction was “I don’t like him. He has a french beard”. Aabha thought he had decent features & her roommate would actually look good with him. She also started teasing Ayushi with the perfect guy.

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An overwhelming smell of Onions & Garlic hit him as soon as he entered the house. A thought of entering a wrong apartment occurred to him but he soon realized that his wife was already home & cooking. He left his bag on the couch in the living room and walked towards the kitchen. There he saw Anita standing in the kitchen with her long curly hairs tied in a braid, wearing a Saree, mastering the art of vegetable cutting with left hand supporting the onion being cut by the rapid moving knife in her right hand. He asked her if he could take a look at his sweet & loving wife. She stopped cutting & looked at him with eyes closed. He saw that tears had filled her eyes & she was pressing them to remove the water. He wiped her eyes & hugged her. For a moment, they forgot where they were standing. The whistle of the pressure cooker reminded Anita of the upcoming dinner guest. Yes, her father was coming for dinner alone today since her mother had gone to her aunt’s place where all her sisters were going to cook & dine together. Usually, when visiting them, mother would make father’s plate & serve him. She recalled her mother saying that he liked Okra. So she had decided to prepare samosa for appetizer; Okra vegetable, potato vegetable, lentil soup, chappati & rice for main course & Gulab Jamun for dessert. She gave Akash the ginger tea she had prepared for him & got back to her chopping. Next in line were tomatoes, chillies, okra & potatoes.

Akash took a sip of tea & feeling refreshed already, removed another chopping board & knife from the cupboard & started cutting the potatoes with Anita. He knew how tensed she was regarding this dinner & wanted to make things easier for her. After a while both were competing against each other on who cuts most veggies. To him she was the cutest person to compete with. In the end, he won in-spite of she getting the head start and him drinking his tea all along. She pushed him out of the kitchen to concentrate on the cooking.

Exactly after an hour, Anita came into the living room & crashed besides Akash. Thankful that the food was cooked well before her father’s arrival & that she could rest now. She had already made appetizer & dessert the previous day. Akash was watching “Friends” on TV. It was his favorite TV show. He saw Anita fall asleep on his shoulder & tried not to move. It felt silly to him that she was tensed about her father visiting. He had found her old man to be a calm & knowledgeable person. He liked to be in his company discussing the recent cricket matches, stock market & technology.

With a soft voice & a kiss on the forehead, Akash woke up Anita after half an hour. She looked refreshed after the nap & he did not want to let go of her. She went into the bedroom to get ready for the dinner. She wore a white golden border Saree, braided her hair and also put a small red dot on her forehead. She looked simple but elegant. Akash also got dressed in white kurta pajama.

The door bell rang at sharp 7pm. Anita opened the door with Akash standing behind her to welcome his father-in-law. Anita’s dad was very happy to see both of them. He entered the house feeling a bit weird being alone and handed Anita the box of sweets that his wife had asked him to take. He entered the living room after removing his shoes & sat on the couch. Akash sat with him while Anita fetched a glass of water for him. They all chatted for a while & then Anita left them to reheat some of the food. Upon entering the kitchen, she again started feeling tensed & anxious. She concentrated on the task at hand & tried to shut the nervous thoughts out of her mind. After all, it was her father who loved her immensely.

She set the table for three & asked Akash & her father to join. Akash asked for the honor of serving his father-in-law & was granted the permission without any protests from Anita. Her father was astonished & delighted. Okra vegetable bought a wider smile on his face. Anita was already feeling ridiculous for being so worrisome.

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