Home > When Dimple Met Rishi(5)

When Dimple Met Rishi(5)
Author: Sandhya Menon

She needed some caffeine in her system before she called home to tell her parents she’d arrived. Mamma was sure to have another litany of questions and warnings about American college boys. Dimple had to actually roll up the car window while Mamma was talking this morning so she could leave on time. Even Papa had given up and gone inside after twenty minutes. The woman was relentless, with the jaw muscles of a jungle predator.

The upside was that because she’d been so worried about being late, Dimple had driven ten above the speed limit the entire time, refused to stop for breaks, and made it early.

“An iced coffee, please,” she told the cute male barista with the septum piercing. The coffee shop buzzed, college students mingling like showy tropical fish with their brightly colored hair. The sheer scope and number of tattoos and piercings would have Mamma fainting. Dimple adored it.

Clutching her iced drink, she made her way outside and meandered over to a stone fountain of the SFSU gator (which was turned off; thank you, drought conditions). Dimple sat on the lip of the bowl and tipped her face up to the sky, soaking up the sunshine and thinking about how she’d spend the next hour. Should she go by the Insomnia Con building now or do that with Celia later? She wanted to stop by the library, too, to see if they had the new Jenny Lindt memoir. . . .

Man, the freedom made her feel almost drunk. She really did love her family, so much, but being at home was starting to feel like wearing an iron corset, painful and breathless and pinchy in all the wrong places. Although, she had to hand it to them: sending her here was unprecedented.

Dimple didn’t know what had brought on her parents’ sudden change of heart about Insomnia Con, but maybe she was having more of an influence on them than she thought. Maybe they were finally beginning to realize she was her own person, with a divergent, more modern belief system that renounced the patriarchal dynamics of their time—

There was a sort of scuffling sound nearby, and Dimple opened her eyes, startled. An Indian boy about her age was gazing down at her with the weirdest, goofiest grin on his face. His straight, jet-black hair flopped onto his forehead.

“Hello, future wife,” he said, his voice bubbling with glee. “I can’t wait to get started on the rest of our lives!”

Dimple stared at him for the longest minute. The only word her brain was capable of producing, in various tonal permutations, was: What? What?

Dimple didn’t know what to think. Serial killer? Loony bin escapee? Strangely congenial mugger? Nothing made sense. So she did the only thing she could think to do in the moment—she flung her iced coffee at him and ran the other way.


Oh, crap. Oh, no, no, no. He’d been kidding .

As Rishi watched the rapidly retreating back of his possible future wife, he realized he’d totally freaked her out because of his poorly executed joke. This was why he usually left the humor to Ashish.

Wringing out the cold coffee from his shirt, he considered running after her, explaining himself. But he knew by the mileage she was clocking right then that she was probably not in the head space to really listen.

Shoot. What if she called her parents to tell them what a psycho the Patel boy was, and then they called his parents? Rishi whipped out his cell phone and dialed home to warn Ma and Pappa.

“Hello?” His mom answered, breathless, anticipatory.

“Ma?” Hearing her voice made him feel even guiltier, more ashamed at how he’d handled the first meeting. All that hard work they must’ve put into arranging this . . .

“Haan, beta! Did you arrive safely?”

“I did, but—”


“No, no, it’s not.” Rishi hung his head, inhaling the smell of coffee wafting off him. He sank down on the sunbaked lip of the fountain where a moment before, his future had been perched.

A pause. “Kya hua?”

“You might get a phone call from Dimple Shah’s parents soon. I just met her.” Rishi’s voice was a croak. “And it didn’t go well. I totally blew it.”

He heard a scuffling sound and his mom saying something softly to someone else. Then his dad was on the phone. “Rishi?”

Rishi squeezed his eyes shut. “Pappa, I’m sorry. Vijay uncle and Leena auntie are probably going to call you, and they’re not going to be happy.”

“Tell me what happened.”

“I saw her; Dimple Shah. So I walked up to her and made a totally stupid joke about us beginning the rest of our lives together. And she . . . she threw her coffee at me and ran away.”

A lengthy pause. “I see. And . . . did you introduce yourself before you made the joke?”

Rishi’s eyes flew open. Dammit. Was he really that much of a moron? “No. No, I didn’t.”

“So a perfect stranger approaches her on the street, tells her he wants them to begin the rest of their lives together. It doesn’t seem to be much of an overreaction to panic, does it?”

Rishi’s heart lifted, just a smidge. Could it be that that was all it was—she’d needed context? Dimple hadn’t even known who he was! He smiled a little. “No, I guess not.” Then his smile fell again. “She’s not going to want to talk to me again after that.”

His mother said something in the background, and Pappa replied, “Haan , that’s not a bad idea.” To Rishi, he said, “Do you have . . . the special gift?”

Rishi frowned a little. “In my duffel bag in the car, yeah. But you don’t think it’s a little soon?”

“It might be in the usual circumstances, beta, but now it’s the perfect way to show her who you are. Apologize for your mistake. She’s probably a very traditional girl, Rishi, if Vijay and Leena are any sort of indicator.”

Rishi’s brow cleared. He could handle this. “Okay. You’re probably right.”

“One minute. Ma se baat karo. ” A scratching sound as he handed the phone to Ma.

His mother’s voice was eager, bright. “Tell me, Rishi, what did you think of her?”

Hmm. What had he thought of her? To be honest, he’d been too crazy nervous to really process everything he’d seen. He’d gotten out of the parking garage and was thinking about getting a bottle of water at Starbucks. And then she was just there , right in front of him, like some sort of huge cosmic coincidence personified. Sitting on that fountain, face upturned, drinking in the sunshine like a flower, looking completely beatific. Her curls had been wild, desperate for a comb. She’d been dressed in a kurta top, which he liked.

But the way she’d looked at him—at first aghast, then hostile. And after that, totally and utterly murderous.

Rishi was really lucky all she’d done was throw iced coffee at him. She looked like she’d be capable of much more, like breaking his nose or a brutal fishhook. “Uh . . . she seemed . . . spirited.”

His mother’s peals of laughter traveled down the phone line. “Spirited! Good, good. Pappa would have said the same thing about me twenty-five years ago.”

Sure, Rishi thought. But Ma’s spirit had a soft, tender underside. Dimple Shah he wasn’t so sure about. Something about the way her brown eyes spit fire behind those huge glasses . . . “Yeah. Maybe I should go, try to find her at the dorms.” The prospect made him uneasy, but the longer he waited, the worse this was going to be. Maybe once he explained himself and showed her what he’d brought, she’d be flattered. Maybe they could have a laugh about the whole thing.

If this was San Francisco, Dimple would have to invest in some heavy-duty pepper spray. She’d barely been in the city fifteen minutes and already she’d been accosted by a predator. Maybe she and Celia could take some Krav Maga classes on the side, learn how to use their attacker’s size against them. Not that that dude had been very big. He was sort of built like Chris Messina, on the shorter side and slim, but strong-looking. She wondered what his deal was. In any case, iced coffee or not, Dimple could’ve taken him. She was no delicate flower.

Adjusting her messenger bag, Dimple made her way to the coed dorms. She supposed she could bring her small suitcase in at some other time; she was too tired right now. (Thank you, psycho mugger, for the lack of caffeine.) She could set her stuff down, look into getting a map of the campus, and then head over to that pizza place to wait for Celia.

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