I had moved to Pune to start off my professional life as a sub-editor at a newly launched newspaper. It was a gamble I hoped would payoff — new job, new city, new everything! I had barely found a place to stay and was still trying to settle down, when my bestie called me up to ask me what I was doing that Saturday.
It was my first week in the new office and as far as newspapers are concerned, Saturdays and Sundays are weekly-offs which only the previledged enjoy. So I told her that I would probably be in office. My bestie then mentioned that a friend of hers was a cadet in the National Defence Academy (NDA) and was looking for a ball partner.
She asked me if I could be his ball partner, and reminded me that I had met him once during our school days. I vaguely remembered him and decided to meet him before the ball. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him — he looked worse than a toothpick! Tanned to the maximum possible extent, he looked like every ounce of life had been squeezed out of him. Don’t blame me because I remembered him as a chubby little guy with … err.. hair on his head.
However, the cadets look forward to having a ball that day as female presence in NDA is considered a treat. The poor guys slog their way through the course for three years. The NDA ball is held for the cadets of the passing out course (graduating class) and is one of the most happening dance parties of Pune.
So, I begged my boss to give me Saturday off that week and he agreed. On Saturday evening, off I went in the NDA bus which was full of girls almost half a decade younger than me, all going there to enjoy with their dance partners (the cadets). In fact, there were many who would meet their partners for the first time!
The NDA premises took my breath away and when my ball partner took me to the venue of the party, I was overwhelmed with the sheer grandeur. I was nervous about the whole thing, being unfamiliar with such a formal dance party. But as the ball was rolled and the senior officers waved to all the cadets to come to the dance floor with the partners, all hell broke lose.
My ball partner held my hand somewhat hesitantly and guided me as to which hand goes where in ball dance. This awkwardness was to be expected after all, as we were both in a relationship with other people. There was a good one and half feet distance between us as we swayed to the slow music, while a cadet was clicking our picture with a newly-launched point and shoot digital camera (oh yes, I am talking about that era). Sigh! terrible those pics were!
My ball partner introduced me to his friends, who all looked the same to me — too many tanned toothpicks for a party I tell you! We danced, talked, listened to cadets crib about their ball partners, then listened to some more cadets who did not have a ball partner, then danced some more. We had dinner in the magnificent cadet’s mess.
My ball partner was extremely courteous to me and thanked me for coming that day in the most gentlemanly manner. I think it was a big deal since no one in his squadron was expecting him to bring a ball partner. I wanted to give him a hug before leaving but then decided against it.
I should have. After 5 years, I married him after all.
And so, almost two years after our wedding, Capt Sa’ab took me to the IMA ball and held my hand firmly on the dance floor. The one and a half feet distance now shrunk to barely a few centimeters on the grand dance floor in front of the Vikram Batra mess in the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. As we ball-danced our asses off (and later progressed to the typical Bhangra dance), Capt Sa’ab whispered in my ears, “Where were you when I was a GC here in IMA?”
All in good time Capt Sa’ab, all in good time. 🙂