All my people on the floor, party all night
We want some more, some more
We're about to turn it on, under the light
We never stop, we rock, we rock, we rock, we rock!

Beats blared out of the speakers, while people swayed and moved to them. Bright coloured lights flashed and hovered around in the darkness, while carbon dioxide smoke hazed vision, obscuring the dance floor. On the left of the dance floor  four men mixed and poured cocktails, serving the tired and thirsty customers. Right opposite the bar, across the dance floor, ladies waited for their partners and suitors to bring them drinks, lazing cross-legged on the red sofas.

 

Ishan and Shoaib entered the ballroom of Hotel Oberoi, now transformed into nightclub, for the inauguration party of the Indian Premier League (IPL) 2012.

 

"Whoa! This looks fab! It's like a real nightclub!" Shoaib gasped.

"Like you ever go clubbing!" Ishan laughed. He practically had to drag Shoaib to the party, as Shoaib, being a believing Muslim, wasn't too keen on clubbing. Ishan had to assure him again and again that not all drinks had alcohol and mocktails were available, and halal and vegetarian food was available as well. Then he even helped Shoaib choose what to wear to fit in: jeans, dark button-down shirt and Adidas sneakers. Ishan wasn't sure why he was bothering so much for Shoaib, maybe because he didn't want to be all by himself at the party, as he had not many friends, even in his actual Indian team.

 

"Dude, do you mind if go meet my team-mates over there. I still can't believe I will have to play against them!"

"Go ahead", whispered Ishan, "But don't give any of our team-secrets out!" Ishan added laughing. Shoaib smiled and walked off to meet his 'twin-brother from another mother' Yasir.

 

Ishan looked around, trying to spot anyone he knew. The dry ice fog made the entire dance floor a faceless mass of arms and legs octopusing around, while the hovering lights made it impossible to recognise anyone who was not part of the human octopus. Ishan's gaze moved towards the only well lit-up part of the room, the bar. The bartender was pouring out an unique mix of gin into a tall cocktail glass, and by garnishing it with an olive, turning the drink into a tempting Martini.

 

Ishan had promised Shoaib,that he wouldn't drink, before the party and had decided to honour the promise. "You are too young to drink!" Shoiab had said. (No one cares! They will serve me if I pay, Ishan had thought, and some extra bucks meant no ID needed as well.) "And it is bad for your health; plus you will wake up with a hangover. It will ruin practice tomorrow and make us lose our match." Although, Shoaib was over-reacting, Ishan knew he had a point. So he had made the promise. But the lure of the Martini weakened his resolve. Ishan walked towards the bar.

 

On his way to the bar, Ishan's eye caught a flash of electric blue on the dancefloor. The same blue as that of his eyes. His eyes met the sight of a young girl, in a short blue party dress, swaying to the music, enjoying herself thoroughly. There she was! He couldn't stop staring. Dancing in the middle, her long black hair flying around her, her tiny dress fluttering, her tall frame bent slightly at the knee due to the high heels, she was a breathtaking creature. Her angelic face made her almost glow in the middle of the otherwise unanimous dancefloor.

Jameen pe jaise falak se pari utar ayi hain!

As if a fairy had descended to earth from the sky!

 

Ishan's spell broke. He saw Shoaib reciting a 'shere', a short poem to his friend Yasir. Ishan turned around and started to walk towards the bar again.

 

Shreya heard her phone ring. Walking away from the dance floor, she picked up the call from her assistant Fahtima.

 

"Where on earth are you? Maddy's called you three times already. No answer!" Fatty shouted. "I told her you are sleeping, but you most definitely aren't, not with that din in the background! Where are you?"

 

"Party!" Shreya told her, before ordering another 'Shreyz' at the bar. "Why are you all looking for me?" she said, before looking at her watch and adding , "that too, this late"

 

"You have a meeting tomorrow morning. With Lux! It's very important, and we need you looking your beautiful best!" Fatty was fuming, the momentary excitement in her voice with the word 'Lux' also seemed feigned. "You leave the party right now!"

 

Shreya grabbed her drink. "Just one last dance --"

"NOW!" screamed Fatty.

"Calm down! Ok I am going now. Call Dado and check if he is here or not. " Shreya instructed.

"You call him; he's your driver, not mine." Fatty told her.

"And I pay your salary. Obeying orders is your duty, not mine!" Shreya laughed.

"Fine!" Fatty cut the call, slightly angered. Shreya knew Fatty hated Shreya's constant bullying based on money, but she didn't care, as she was the boss. Fatty and her entire family earned a living through Shreya: her father Dado was Shreya's driver and her mother Rehana Bi was Shreya's housekeeper. Although, they all tried to act like family to Shreya, she always made it clear that they were inferior to her, and that they needed her to survive, not the other way round.

 

Shreya paid 150 rupees for her drink and started walking backwards, while talking to the bartender.

 

"Madame, why do you pay so much for that drink? It is just pure water in a cocktail glass. You can get that for only 30 rupees a bottle. Why pay 5 times more?"

 

"Come on, Dude! It is about being served. In a ballroom-turned-club. The 120 is for service" Shreya joked.

 

"Oh really! you pay me my whole day's food allowance as tip. Yes, madame, I can eat a hearty meal for 40 rupees at an eating house. Bet you never heard of one? Yes, three meals for less than the price of your one-glass of water," he clicked his tongue in disapproval. "What is wrong with you kids? In this country, there are many people who go to bed with no food at night, yet you rich-types pay more than a whole day's food for a glass of water. Mothers abort their own babies, fathers sell their own daughters, fighting poverty; yet you kids waste money like it has no value..."

Shreya possibly would have replied explaining that she did not steal or beg or borrow her money. It was all her own, hard-earned. But the reply it never came out, as she bumped into someone while walking backwards without looking.

Shreya's 'drink' spilled on Ishan's GAP hoodie. Shreya, too, nearly toppled backwards, but Ishan held out his right-arm, holding her.

In Bollywood films, and even Indian tv serials, time would have frozen in the moment. The background sounds would have dissolved into the soft whispers of wind.Their eyes would have met, electric blue meeting molten chocolate. Fire meets ice. Sugar meeting spice. If the director was a believer of zodiac, then some sort of reminder of the clashing properties of Sagittarius and Pisces would be shown too, while the moment would elongated through slow-motion movements of the camera into different angles. Slowly, the background sound of Rihanna singing: Don't it mean "I love you"? Think it means "I love you" would fade in to add to the atmosphere.

That is, if it was in a Bollywood film, which it isn't. Thus, time didn't stop when their eyes met. Instead, it flowed in the most natural of ways, not stopping for anyone to hear Rihanna. So naturally that, in fact, the moment Ishan caught Shreya, he had pushed back to her feet, before shouting: " Oh Sheep! My favourite jacket! "

"I am so sorry!" Shreya apologised almost instantly, leaving her purse and phone on the counter and wiping the drink off Ishan's jacket. "I am honestly very sorry!. Trust me, it won't stain, I promise."

Irritated, Ishan quizzed the bartender pointedly, "Does vodka not stain?"

Shreya cut in before he could reply, "It's not vodka," still wiping Ishan's jacket.

"But of course, it is a Martini," eyeing the olive resting at the bottom of Shreya's now-empty glass.

"No, it isn't --" Shreya saw Dado waiting for her at the door, "I got to go."  She grabbed her purse and walked away. Ishan rolled his eyes, before noticing the Blackberry resting on the counter. Clearly, Shreya had forgotten her phone. Oh come on! Ishan thought. She is so clumsy! . He picked up the phone and followed her.

Shreya was about to get into her car, when Ishan called her. She turned, stumbling again, and he caught her yet again, his sporting skills subconsciously moving his muscles. Pulling her to her feet, Ishan silently handed her phone to her, and before walking away, whispered in her ear, "If you can't handle a Martini, why drink? You could have broken your neck if you did fall."

"Try a Shreyz, tonight," Shreya called behind him, "it's far better than a Martini, " before getting into her car, shaking her head.

Ishan rolled his eyes again. He entered the faceless, nameless 'club' of darkness, while behind him, Shreya's black Volkswagen Polo sped off into the brightly lit streets, taking her home.

It is universal knowledge that the biggest part of male identity is their ego, and nothing satisfies the male ego more than being able to 'protect' a fragile female being. After all, since the ancient times when humans inhabited trees, women came to men for stability and protection for themselves and possible off-springs, and the strongest men gained the most beautiful and desirable 'companions', and were thus treated by other men as of holding the highest status. Although the world may have changed, making us achieve not just proper housing but, like Shreya's 17th floor studio apartment, homes where even the temperature of air and water could be stabilised according to our will, yet, that one little part of the male brain still craves a female to protect, or at least, save her from breaking her neck, when she stumbled.

And as for Shreya, we all know that good girls like bad boys. The thrill of a one who constantly breaks rules and paves his own roads to success, possess an indescribable lure to them. With their strength, their recklessness and their determination to win, they are that welcome escape in 'Miss Goody-Two-Shoes' life from being good, chance to take a risk, to challenge one's personal parameters and to pay heed to nothing.

Lastly, all a Sagittarius man ever wants is someone who will listen to, understand, and believe in them and their dream, they want attention, and a Pisces girl would go any lengths to give him that trust.

Time may not have stopped in any moments of this evening, but, the moments had their own revenge planned. All that is left to see is whether fire can thaw the ice, or will it, too, be extinguished in the chill.

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Comment by sara selznick on November 24, 2012 at 8:58am

Syeda, would you be willing to "friend" me? Or how do we exchange emails--don't put it here, as it will be posted in the internet. I don't think this is the right place to really give all that feedback. Also, are you writing for an American or is it an Indian audience? I sense you are living somewhere near there. My feedback would differ drastically for an American audience or one in, say, Pakistan. 

Let me know. 

I am very taken by the narrative voice--the sense of the person writing the story. She is vivid and funny and has unusual insights. That's the hardest part, is finding the who of the writer, and you've already got it going. Good for you. 

Comment by Syeda Tasmia Tahia on November 23, 2012 at 4:44pm

Hi Sara,

Thank you so much for reading this. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on the way you feel towards the characters, their interaction or the setting in general. Is the imagery strong enough and what you would as reader want to find out next...most of all, any suggestions and criticisms would very very useful and welcome. 

Thank you so much again, and if you ever want a beta reader, just message me! :) I would love to return this favour! :)

Comment by sara selznick on November 23, 2012 at 7:14am
Hello, Syeda. I have just read this chapter. What kind of feedback would you like? What are you looking for?

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