The plane hovered over Mumbai international airport, slammed by monsoon winds. Dhara tried to ignore the nausea rising from her belly. She looked out her window. The bluish black Arabian Sea gave way to a sprawling carpet of lights. “I want you to forget this city,” her widowed mother had told her. “I want you to create new memories. And stories other than the survival game.” “I’ll create new memories for both of us, Ma.” Dhara had said. “I promise.”
The crew captain’s voice blared on the intercom. “We hope to begin our descent in fifteen minutes. Please keep your seatbelts fastened.” The plane had been circling over the city for about an hour now.
On hearing the announcement, passengers fidgeted in their seat. Sixteen hours of flight nonstop from Newark to Mumbai, not counting the connecting flights to Newark.
Dhara’s neighbor resumed their conversation. “Now, with that McKinzie offer, you can travel first class in future. On company expense,” she said. “Even after recession, I hear big MNCs pay really well.”
“They’re not bad, aunty.” Dhara straightened her back, still sore from her last evening in Chicago. She had typed nonstop for fourteen hours on that annual performance report, her final responsibility with Wills Consulting.
“Chalo. Few minutes more. One year vacation then. Your family will pamper you so much. When my children visit from Singapore, we do same. You’ll see.”
“I hope so, aunty.” Dhara forced a smile, not repeating her apprehensions on a sabbatical in Mumbai. She folded the Bollywood art director’s job offer in her hand and put it back into her purse. Of course, her family would pamper her. After all, she hadn’t been home for seven years.
“Besides, you could easily meet someone. One year is a long time. My son met his wife in Bombay too. Before, they met on Shaadi.com. These days with internet, marriage so easy.”
Dhara nodded, looking at the seat rows ahead. A pair of long arms stretched up in the air. On the left sleeve of an orange sweatshirt, Caltech printed in white. She saw a head full of gelled black curls.
“Even in Bombay these days, people getting married late. All becoming professionals. Women want to work too. Like you. Job first, marry later.”
“I’m hardly ready for marriage, aunty.”
“But why? Thirty-two age, not that late. Your family must worry about you.”
Dhara looked at her hand on the seat ahead. Empty ring finger. The smell of Pete’s hair and a drill in her chest. “Just not … the right time.”
Her flight neighbor said nothing else. Dhara appreciated her backing off.
The crew captain requested the passengers to switch off electronic gadgets. A runaway had opened up and they were to descend. Aunty and the rest of the passengers began clapping. Dhara found herself craving pav bhaji with chilled masala Pepsi. Just the way Ma would make it.