Ruchi Vadehra belongs to a family of writers from both sides of parentage. Writing is thus homecoming to her. She began with conceptualizing and co-editing a neighbourhood community newsletter which inspired her to take forward her zest for words, people and travel through fiction. Ruchi lives with her husband and two children in New Delhi. Great Textpectations is her first book. Read the review here. Below you can read an excerpt from her book, Great Textpectations. Courtesy: Rupa Publications.
Excerpt from Great Textpectations
‘Yeah well, you’re right about men being bitches here. Let’s try and find some who make the cut and then we can take a final decision.’
They spent the next two hours brainstorming over the names. Amaya was keen on Virat Bakshi as she felt he was the most representative of the archetypal Delhi male. That guy epitomised the ‘male of one city’ and how! He was so selfobsessed, in all probability, he wouldn’t be able to crack the subtle pun. Of the six women they zeroed in on, they would select three, and two male celebrities featured in the book. After giving a few suggestions and unanimously agreeing on Gaurav Sharma as one, Amaya left the Mumbai lot in Zahira’s hands giving her carte blanche to go with the team she wanted. They decided to meet again in a week’s time and finalise the list once and for all.
Amaya’s team was excited about the new book as they knew that once again they had a bestseller in their hands. Bookshops all over the country were clamouring to get their advance stocks and most had promised to give the book a special display that had been put together by Amaya’s marketing team. Leading bookstores in both Delhi and Mumbai—as the book centred on the two cities—had affirmed to put up hoardings at prominent places and pitch in with advertising. It would be showtime soon!
Amaya was looking forward to her date night with Tarun; it had been a while since she had gone for one of those. Even before she could fathom a reason for her eagerness, she was punching a text to Rohan.
‘About time. And who is the lucky one?’ ‘
A writer friend…’
‘His new book is going to be a bestseller, btw.’
‘You would know, that’s why you’re publishing it.’
‘It’s a brilliant read. Totally sold on it.’
‘And on him, eh?’
‘Not quite, but I’m working on it. Hoping tonight will be a starter…’
‘Hell, I hope it’s a main course and dessert as well! Add a nightcap to it too! Where are you guys meeting up?’
‘Nice. A favourite of mine.’
‘What you wearing?’
‘You my date supervisor or what?’
‘Why not? I’m making sure you give the guy what he wants. It takes one to know one. I’d say, you’re going with a pair of jeans and a hot black top. Less fuss, more flair.’
‘I must say, your study on me is progressing well. Soon, you’d have achieved a Master’s.’
‘Long way to go, and I have my own modus operandi on how to get there. Inshallah, some day! But for now, you have a nice eve. Look good, feel better and be the best!’
‘Thank you! You have plans tonight?’
‘Yup…planning as we speak! Later, then.’
A chat with him was always a riot. And easy! He was nonjudgemental, concerned just the right amount, and not overly curious. It was good to have him in her life, not that without him, she had been missing much. But with him around, she was getting a bonus she had never thought she needed
She gave instructions to the household staff as she had been doing for the past week since her folks were travelling. As she was getting dressed, she laughed to herself as she recalled Rohan’s advisory
Jeans, fitted black sweater top, high heels, kohl-laden eyes and a light lipstick with her hair falling straight—pretty much the basic look. Amaya was good to go. She would meet Tarun at the restaurant; he had offered to drop her back home. She reached the restaurant, tucked away near Qutab Minar. The outdoor seating was inviting during the winter months with a crisp nip in the air. Tarun was waiting for her when she walked in. Clad in jeans, a white T-shirt and a casual navy blue jacket, she noticed that he was dressed differently from his usual look.
‘You look ravishing,’ Tarun said, greeting her.
She thanked him and they ordered their drinks—vodka for Amaya and red wine for Tarun.
‘Thank you for accepting my invite.’
‘Oh, come on. You needn’t be so formal. So, tell me, how does it feel to be on the verge of a new book?’ Amaya said, deftly changing the topic.
‘Calming! I’ve done my job. The rest will follow,’ he said self-assuredly. They chatted about many things, including the new writers in the scene. They discovered that they both had a passion for travelling.
‘If only one could spend one’s life in travel mode, seeing and soaking in the sights,’ said Amaya.
‘Yeah, living by the “life is a journey” metaphor, quite literally.’
‘San Francisco,’ pat said Amaya when he asked her about her favourite city. ‘It’s got the perfect balance of creative, contemporary, liberal and scenic. I could go back there any number of times. What about you?’
‘I’m not a huge fan of the American dream and the country’s non-existent culture. For me, it’s Prague.’
‘Oh! That was sharp. Prague is on my wish list too. Is that why Adil is based in Prague?’ Amaya asked, referring to the protagonist of his book. ‘Is Adil you? Semi-autobiographical?’
Well, I like to actualise a bit of my own self in my creative expressions. It is the one familiarity I can rely on while weaving stories with imagination.’
‘Eloquent, indeed! No wonder people love to read you. This one’s going to be a sellout, Tarun, and I’m going to be one happy woman.’
I’m certain there are other ways too, to make you a happy woman.’
‘There’s a whole list!’
‘You really are something, Amaya. And the effect you have on me is far more intoxicating than this wine.’
There goes the eloquence! Amaya thought to herself. Coquettishness had never been her forte. After two more rounds of drinks and a sumptuous meal, they left the restaurant and got into Tarun’s car. Amaya could sense a vibe between them during the drive back home and when Tarun pulled up in front of her house, she invited him in for a nightcap with her thoughts involuntarily deflecting to Rohan’s allusion of the same.
‘C’mon in. Let’s see how serious you were on your bid to make me a happy woman.’ She was a bit high and well, it had been some time since she’d hooked up. Tarun was a willing partner and once in the house, Amaya led him straight to her room.
They started making out almost as soon as he was next to her on the bed. He ran his hands over her back and hesitated for a second before he nuzzled her breasts. During all this, he kept cooing her name every now and then. It was distracting; she liked lovemaking to be silent and intense. Tarun’s cheesy liners continued to punctuate his moves as they undressed each other. ‘I’ve wanted you since the day I met you…’ he said, sounding besotted. She tried to ignore his words, she was driven. She needed him and that’s what mattered. She played submissive, letting him move the way he wanted to. He did and she responded. She climaxed before him. And then they both did it again.
After it was over, he was lying next to her, heaving with satisfaction. Amaya lay quiet, rested on the inside and the outside. Tarun turned to her side and cooed in her ear, ‘You have me spellbound, Amaya…’
Spellbound! Another one! She couldn’t indulge more schmaltzy declarations made by him. If only his words would emulate his writing. She smiled back at him, ‘Tarun, stop paying me these tributes.’
‘It will be an uphill task, but I’ll try…only because you want me to.’
The ardent admiration was freaking her out and she hoped he’d leave before she said anything uncomplimentary.
‘I hope I gave you all you wanted and I promise to compensate next time for wherever I was lacking.’
Compensate! Lacking! What was it with him? She wanted to scream but held herself back. All she could come up with was, ‘Don’t be so hard on yourself, Tarun.’ He gave her a sheepish smile, and was soon off.
Okay, so that had turned out different than she had fancied. Tarun’s words had always allured her. But it was one thing to be in awe of what one perceived of a person and another to then see the same person with his sheen stripped off. Sex with the writer may have satisfied her immediate urge, but it had been a little too less to evoke a desire for more. Maybe she could attribute it to the fact that it was the first time with Tarun. There was a possibility it would be better the next time, but she was quite certain there wouldn’t be one. Shaking away her thoughts, she wrapped herself up in the duvet and checked her phone, only to see that there was a text from Rohan about an hour ago.
‘R’ber what I said…nightcap!’
Amaya messaged back.
She immediately realized the idiocy of her actions. She had barely finished having sex with one man and was texting the other! Her phone buzzed with his reply.
‘Don’t know about nicely, but done…yes!’
‘Ooooh! Don’t tell me the prolific writer couldn’t perform as eloquently!’
‘Yep! Some things ARE better left unsaid. Have always told you that you’re a tough one to please.’
‘What are you doing up so late?’
‘I’ve got a life too, albeit not as active as yours! I was just about to turn in, but a text from you is irresistible at any hour.’
Rohan had shown no surprise or amusement at her candid texting. He had taken it as a given. It was bizarre how unabashedly they were willing to confide in one another and accept each other’s confessions.