The decent proposal

The decent proposal

I could never have imagined such an outlandish proposal! It happened many years ago – when I was single and comely (if I may say so myself). My parents lived in a town involving an overnight journey from Bangalore, where I worked. My mom was admitted in hospital for a surgical procedure. She was anxious that I visit her. As we were perennially short-staffed at work, I had to visit my mom on my weekly off and return the same day.

Some festival was around the corner. When I reached the bus stand, all the buses were jam-packed and it did not look like I could travel that night. My eyes scanned the bustling bus terminus, looking for buses headed towards where I had to go. I spotted a luxury bus about to leave. Its destination was an hour’s travel from my home town. I ran to it and found it was full.

As it was a state government-run bus, standing passengers were not allowed. I pleaded with the conductor, who was also the spare driver, asking him to allow me to travel. I told him about my mother’s surgery, that I needed to see her and that I didn’t mind travelling without a seat. He thought about it and said that he was allotted two seats so that he could sleep while the other driver was driving. He said if I didn’t mind sitting beside him, I could travel. I would’ve sat next to a porcupine if that got me to my destination. I readily agreed.

Night had fallen. We had left the city behind, when the conductor started a conversation and suddenly said that he would like to marry me. He was in real earnest. I was lost for words but my brain was racing. I needed to talk this guy out of his crazy proposal. At the same time, I couldn’t risk antagonising him as he could ask the driver to stop the bus and leave me stranded on the dark road, in the middle of nowhere.

If ever there was a time for diplomacy, this was it! I thought of myself as a hostage negotiator. I had to negotiate my safe passage without offending him.

I composed my face so that it did not reveal my inner turmoil and gently smiled. I spoke softly and sincerely. I told him that he must have seen a lot of movies where the hero tells the heroine, “I love you” as soon as he lays eyes on her but real life is different from reel life. I told him that I was sure he was a good person but he was not the one for me.

He assured me that he would look after me very well. I said I was sure he would do so but I was not looking to get married just then. I assured him that he would find the right girl soon. I even told him a filmy dialogue that I recalled, “It is better to marry the one who loves you rather than the one whom you love.” 

I kept talking. He was not fully convinced but saw my sincerity. The bus halted for dinner. He told me, “Reconsider your answer. When I come back from dinner, I will give you a sweet. You must accept it. I will then accept your answer, whatever it is.”

I had a new dilemma. What if the sweet was drugged? My heart was racing. He came back with a mint. I bravely popped it in my mouth and told him my answer was still, “No.” He accepted it stoically and didn’t disturb me for the rest of the journey. It was God who gave me the gift of the gab that night and kept me safe. I am sure my unlikely suitor found a suitable match as did I.

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