How I met Natalie

Harshvardhan L. Pande.
S.Y.B. Tech [Computers]

I was traveling alone and had completed the security checks at the domestic airport. The new millennium had ushered in a lot of changes, one of them being a quirk of fate which made traveling by domestic airlines cheaper than a long train journey from Delhi to Pune.

As I struggled to push my suitcase and bag, I reached the passenger lounge. It was surprisingly empty except for the sole seat occupied by a young and attractive blonde woman.

I stopped to check my appearance and arrived at the conclusion that there was nothing that could make me look worse than I already was; a very positive thought! I started walking again, but with a bit of style, the way a hero walks in a slow-motion scene in Hindi films. She was reading a magazine and was about ten feet away when, I stumbled and fell [this time nothing was in slow-mo!] My bag fell open, just to add to my misery, the blonde woman was looking straight at me!

Why God, why? I asked myself, why didn’t she look while I walked stylishly like Robert Redford and Sean Connery, and why was she staring now when I was on all fours? Where was my “dudeness” and machismo when I needed it? Anyways, moving on; I quickly got up and collected my stuff. I walked upto her and said, “May I sit here please?” “Sure”, she replied without even looking away from the magazine.

My flight was still half an hour away, which gave me time enough to at least talk to the very attractive (as I realized with a closer look) blonde. What should I ask her? Should I ask her name or which country she came from? Nah, that’d be too personal. Maybe I should start with… “So you’re an engineering student?” the blonde asked, suddenly breaking the silence. How the hell did she know? “Yeah” I said… dammit, why’d my voice crack? “How do you know that?” I asked, this time my voice was firm, almost to the extent of overcompensating. “I read the title of one of your books, Engineering Mathematics III, when you fell down” she said. “Stupid question”, my brain said to me. Five minutes passed by and not a single word was said. Well, I thought, there’s no way I can be more embarrassed than I already am; so why not make some conversation?

“My name is…” I introduced myself and told her in which college I studied. Finally she put the magazine away and said, “I’m Natalie Schneider, I work for Reuters.” We shook hands.

Reuters??? Reuters??? Reuters??? Where have I read that word?

“I was in Jaipur, to see the forts and do some research on them, now I’m headed to Mumbai and from there, I’ll be going back home” she continued talking.

Reuters??? Reuters??? Reuters??? God, I know it’s something important! Oh, please God, help me out here! She must not think that I’m stupid and that I don’t even know what Reuters is! The seconds were ticking away and I had to say something. “Reuters, huh? Must be great working for Reuters?” I said, trying to bide some time. “Yeah, it’s really exciting. This is my first outdoor report, you see” she said. “So where are you headed?” she threw another question at me.

Reuters??? Reuters??? Reuters, got it! “I’m headed for Pune, you know, Oxford of the East. How long have you been working for Reuters, the great French news agency?” I said, emphasizing the last part of the sentence. “Just about a year” she said and then smiled.

What a great smile… stop… maintain eye contact, my mind said to me. Reluctantly, I obeyed. “What about you and your college?” she asked. I told her about my family and about my college, COEP. I harped on the fact that it was one of the top ranked colleges of India! She gave me an appreciative look and then smiled again. Thank you God, for putting me in COEP! I thought as my mind drifted onto “day-dream-land”. “Tell me more about engineering in India?” she asked as she shifted her position to face me. Maintain eye contact! Those three words kept replaying in my head. Then I started narrating my engineering experiences like some wounded soldier recounting his wartime stories. I added a lot of humour to increase the interest value, she laughed a lot at the standard engineering jokes; a very good sign.

“… and after the submissions come the vivas! Somehow, the external examiner always asks questions that have no answer. It’s only after the viva is over, that you feel prepared for giving a viva!” She laughed again. I would’ve patted myself on the back for doing such a great job.
“You’re a very interesting guy” she said. Don’t blush, you’re a guy, don’t blush… its not as though you haven’t been complemented by a gorgeous French woman before… actually, it is the first time… alright, just don’t embarrass yourself! Once again I was talking to myself, but I realized soon enough, my cheeks were as red as apples. Lets face it, I was having a great time. But as usual, good times aren’t very long lasting for engineers… my flight had landed at the runway. “Its time for me to go” I said, trying to hide my disappointment. “Have a nice flight” Natalie said. We shook hands again. All of a sudden, her cell phone rang; she got a notepad and a pen from her purse and scribbled something. I saw what she was writing. She wrote…Hotel Le Meridien, Room No. 607, COEP – 2 miles. “My boss just called. He wants me to do a story in Pune, focusing on student exchange possibilities with colleges in India and France. I’ll have to stay in Pune for ten days. Which college did you say you’re in?” she asked.

Ten minutes later I was on my flight, I had her cell number, she had mine. She was going to get in touch with me the next day. I had agreed to show her around the city. Thank you Reuters and I love engineering!

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