Home > When Dimple Met Rishi(9)

When Dimple Met Rishi(9)
Author: Sandhya Menon

“I woke you up? But why you’re not already awake? It’s the first day!”

Dimple squeezed the phone tighter. “Because the seminar doesn’t start at the butt crack of dawn! Besides which, that is not even the point. Can you please focus, Mamma? What the heck is up with Rishi Patel?”

“Up with him . . . ?” Mamma feigned ignorance to slang, which just infuriated Dimple more. Seriously, where did she get this stuff? “I don’t know what you mean, Dimple—”

“Mamma, please! Why did you and Papa do this? Why are you trying to set me up with some dude I’ve never heard of before in my life? You know that’s not why I’m here! You know how important this is to me!” Dimple felt tears rising, pressing hot and furious against her eyelids. For once, why couldn’t her parents just be on the same page as her?

“Dimple, beti, math ro .” Mamma sounded genuinely upset now. “Don’t cry. We just wanted you to meet him. He is a good boy, from a good family. You have a lot in common.”

Dimple swiped at her eyes, ignoring the looks of a couple of early risers probably headed out to coffee. They were all blurry to her anyway, without her glasses on. “Don’t you see? I. Don’t. Care. He could be crafted from unicorn dust and jelly beans, and I still wouldn’t want to have anything to do with him. I’m not interested in a marriage partner, Mamma, now or ten years from now!”

There was a shuffling, like Mamma was holding the phone away from her. She heard her mumble in Hindi, “Vijay, you talk to her.” A pause, and then, “I don’t know. Something about unicorns. I don’t understand.”

Dimple rolled her eyes and sighed, waiting for Papa to come on.

“Dimple beti ?”

His voice, deep and soothing, comforting and familiar as a cotton T-shirt, made the lump rise in her throat again. How could two people who loved her so much simply not get her on such a basic, essential level? “Haan , Papa.” She drew in a shuddering breath. “I don’t understand why you lied to me. Both of you. You pretended you were agreeing to Insomnia Con for me, but this is . . . it’s ridiculous, Papa. I’m not getting married.”

“No one wants you to get married now, Dimple. We just wanted to know if you and the Patel boy would be compatible. Down the road, who knows what might happen? It’s not easy finding a good Indian family here in the States, na .” He paused, and a hard edge had crept into his voice when he spoke again. “Usne kuch kiya?”

Dimple sank down against the wall, the fight going out of her. Papa’s voice, his gentle, calm, reasonable demeanor, often had that effect. “No, he didn’t do anything bad. He was perfectly fine, a gentleman.” The truth was, her parents had done a good job picking someone who wasn’t a total douche nozzle. “But, Papa, I’m just not in that place of thinking of him—or any boy—in that way. Can’t you understand that?”

Papa’s breath crackled down the line. There was no judgment or anger in his voice when he said, finally, “I understand.”

She blinked. Was it going to be that easy? “Really? What about Mamma?”

She heard Papa’s footsteps as he walked somewhere, likely away from Mamma. “She will understand also. We just want your happiness, Dimple. That is the most important thing.”

The lump was back. Dimple had to swallow a few times. “And what about Insomnia Con? Can I still stay even if there’s no chance of me and Rishi becoming a thing?”

She heard the smile in Papa’s voice. “Of course. When I said I think it’s a good career decision, I meant it.”

Dimple hung her head, relief and love and joy overpowering her. “Thank you, Papa.”

“Mujhse bas ek vada karo , Dimple. Promise me just one thing.”

Warily, Dimple said, “What’s that?”

“Win the Insomnia Con.”

She grinned. He must’ve really read the website she sent him. “Oh, I plan to,” she said. “Don’t you worry, Papa.”


Dimple felt a weird energy pulsing through her as she and Celia walked to the Andrew G. Spurlock building, where Insomnia Con was hosted every year. In spite of the heavy fog rolling in, it was like some filmy gauze had been cleared from the atmosphere, or like a particularly nauseating stench had been done away with. Everything felt fresh and bright, swept clean. There were no expectations on her anymore except to conquer the heck out of Insomnia Con. And that was exactly how she liked it.

So she hadn’t exactly spoken to Mamma again; she was sure that wasn’t going to be a fun conversation. And whenever she thought of Rishi—whom she hadn’t seen at all today, in spite of being hyperaware and spotting about a dozen different guys of his same build and height—she felt a twinge deep inside her. Because he wasn’t a bad guy. In fact, he seemed to be really nice. There was an easy flow to their conversations; a sort of instantaneous shorthand, maybe because they came from similar backgrounds. If they’d been introduced under any other circumstances, they might’ve been friends. Maybe. Even with their similarities, they were just different enough that things could’ve been interesting. Or, you know, totally annoying. Whatever. Why was she even wasting brain space on this?

“Look at them,” she whispered to Celia, refocusing her attention on the dozens of other Insomnia Con students milling in the same general direction as her and Celia, 98 percent of whom were male. “We can totally take them, right?”

Celia made a sort of grunting noise from behind her Starbucks that sounded like “toma,” but Dimple was fairly certain was meant to be a “totally.” It was eleven o’clock in the morning, and the girl was barely awake. Dimple got the impression that Celia was even less of a morning person than she was. Celia blinked and looked around, a little bit more animatedly. “Hey, I don’t see your friend Rishi.”

Dimple didn’t want to admit it, but she’d noticed that too. “Me either.”

“Huh. Maybe he dropped out.”

Dimple wondered why that thought sat like a ball of lead in her stomach.

He’d watched her go out the front doors with Celia, waited five minutes, and then headed out after them. He didn’t want to be a pain in the ass; Rishi knew when he wasn’t wanted.

Ma and Pappa had called for an update, and it had been so difficult to tell them the truth: that it probably wasn’t going to work out with him and Dimple. She just . . . wasn’t where he was. He could tell they were disappointed, but they’d tried to put on a brave front. And when they’d asked if he wanted to go back home, he’d seriously considered it. But then he’d decided to stay. It was too late to get a refund anyway, and besides, he didn’t want Dimple Shah to think he’d come all this way simply for her. Even if in a way he had. So his plan now was to go to Insomnia Con, learn a bit about web development, and then head off to MIT . He had nothing to lose.

He walked in the weird misty fog listening to the students around him chatter like mockingbirds. He wondered how it could be that he just never fit in with his peers. It had always been that way; apart from a few friends in the comic book fan community, he’d never really been able to relate.

And it wasn’t just that he took things so seriously when it came to being a good son or following the path his parents had so carefully laid down for him. It was something inside him that felt different. Off. Like he never truly showed the world who he was except when he was making art.

But he’d known since the beginning that being an artist was a phase. It had to be. Creative pursuits had no place in the practicalities of real life. That’s just how things worked, and Rishi was fine with it. Perhaps it was the burden of being the first son; Ashish certainly didn’t have similar compunctions about his sports. But the thing was, there was already a framework for athletes to make it. Ashish could use his skills to put himself through college, to really make a name for himself, to open more doors. He was that good. Rishi was good too, but who really took comic book art seriously? People didn’t tune in en masse to watch comic book artists sketch on TV , did they? They didn’t have Super Sketch parties. Exactly.

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