Culture & Society

Hymn For The Weekend

Author Vibha Batra writes a short rom-com story for Outlook

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I step into Gizmo (the swanky nightclub at St Aegis, which happens to be the most happening place in town) feeling like an atheist at a kirtan kitty: a total impostor. It’s under-lit, overly loud, and overrun by underfed twenty somethings. What am I doing here? I should be back home. A tsunami of panic sweeps over me. 

I’m about to turn tail and run, when Sabah - my home girl/wingwoman/self-appointed stylist cum shrink - bellows, ‘Hey, Mythili! Over here, at the bar!’ She looks red hot in a crimson one-shoulder dress and sky high stilettos, perched on a high stool, one long limb crossed over the other. 

I wave back and start making my way towards her, sucking in my tummy, which is giving the proverbial finger to the body-shaper and happily protruding.  

‘Jameson, double, on ice for the lady, please,’ Sabah tells the bartender, before turning to greet me. Bingo! How well she knows me. 

‘For a second there, I thought you didn’t hear me,’ she says as I make an unsuccessful (and rather humiliating) attempt at hauling myself up the stool. 

‘Sabby, everyone in the five mile radius could hear you,’ I mutter, focusing on the task at hand. But I’ve already lost her. Her attention’s back on her cell phone. 

As I rest my back against the stool and try to hoist myself up again, several parts of my body – boobs, butt, tummy, arms, double chins - jiggle in an ungainly fashion. 

I look up and my eyes collide with a get-into-his-pants gorgeous guy leaning against a table right across from us. He’s watching me with a faintly amused look on his face. 

I blush to the roots of my blow dried hair. 

He winks and raises his glass to me. 


Not the first impression you want to create on a hot stranger in a bar. Or anywhere else, for that matter.  

I groan, making Sabah look up from the dating app she’s hooked on to. She extends a hand, I clutch it with the desperation of someone hanging from a cliff, and haul my ass up the stool. I’m convinced that the only reason they make them so tall is to make good, decent folk feel like total hobbits. 

‘So glad you’re doing this, Myth,’ Sabah says as I swivel around to face the bar counter. She gives me a critical once over. ‘Love the bag and shoes. But what the fuck are you wearing?’

‘It’s an LBD. A Little Black Dress.

‘It’s black all right, I’ll grant you that. But it’s not little and it’s not a dress,’ she says witheringly. ‘Jon Snow called, he wants his cloak back.’

I decide to come clean. ‘It’s the only thing in the wardrobe that still fits me.’ 

She hmpfs, and goes back swiping left on her cell.

The bartender places my drink in front of me. I scoop it up, do a bottoms-up and slap it down on the counter, while his fingers are still on the glass.

‘Easy there, tiger,’ Sabah cautions. ‘You’ve got the whole evening ahead of you.’ 

‘Nope,’ I say, feeling a sense of urgency. ‘A couple of hours, tops.’

‘So, how do you feel?’

‘Super guilty,’ I confess. ‘As though I’m committing a crime-’

‘You are, Myth. By wearing that dress.’ 

‘Which reminds me,’ I squeal, bringing my cell phone out of my sparkly clutch. ‘I better check on-

Sabah snatches the offending gadget and stuffs it right back. ‘You’re on a well deserved break, remember?’ She drains her glass, flails her arms to catch the bartender’s attention and mouths ‘Repeat’. ‘Please don’t tell me you’re wearing that hideous eyesore, that front open thing you call a bra. It’s a disgrace to lingerie everywhere.’ 

I flash her an unrepentant grin. ‘Okay, I won’t.’

‘It’s official, you’re hopeless.’ She glares at me. ‘This, when you’re hoping to get some action-’ 

At that, my stool swivels of its own accord and my eyes fly to the smoking hot guy. He flashes me a smile that positively makes my spine, toes, and everything in between, tingle. 

Frankly, that’s the closest I have come to action in a long, long time. I hurriedly look away, swivelling back to face the bar. 

I force myself to listen to Sabah, who’s listing every fashion faux pas I’ve ever made. 

‘Woohoo!’ she exclaims suddenly. ‘We have a match,’ she woots, swiping right. 


The bartender places another drink in front of me. ‘Compliments of that gentleman over there.’ He gestures at the table behind us.

‘Ooh, that’s a slick move,’ Sabah smiles lasciviously, swivelling around to mouth ‘Cheers’ at him.  

‘Go on, give him a come-hither look...’ she wheedles, on to Uber now.

I do, praying it doesn’t come off looking creepy. 

‘Or maybe not,’ Sabah says. I’m guessing it does come off looking creepy.

I feel a fizz of anticipation. 

‘Gosh, feel them,’ I murmur, clasping my cold hands and thrusting them at Sabah. ‘Just feel them.’

She recoils, raising her hands up as if I’ve pointed a locked and loaded gun at her. ‘I don’t think so.’


I roll my eyes. ‘They are just hands, Sabby.’

‘Yes, your hands. And I know exactly where they have been. When was the last time you sanitised them?’

‘Right before leaving home,’ I tell her. I’m about to go into TMI mode, when a deep masculine voice whispers ‘Hello’ in my ear. Gooseflesh alert! I don’t need to turn around to know it’s the hottie. 

‘Hi,’ I say breathlessly, squinting up at him. 

‘Jas,’ he says, offering his hand.

Mythili, I almost blurt out, before remembering something in the nick of time. ‘Meghana.’ I grab his hand with both my hands and give it a good pumping. Gosh, what’s wrong with me? Embarrassed, I drop his hand like a hot potato. With that, Proper Handshake Etiquette meets a swift end.


‘I wanted to apologise...’

‘I wanted to say thank you...’

We say at the same time.



‘Ladies first,’ he says chivalrously. 

‘Let me know if he follows that principle in the bedroom as well,’ Sabby drawls in my ear, before sliding off the stool with the grace of a fireman. 

‘Hey, you’re leaving already?’ I protest half-heartedly. 

She holds her cell up. ‘My Uber’s here.’

She downs the contents of her glass, leans forward on the pretext of hugging me and whispers, ‘And your ride is here as well.’ 

I blush furiously. Gosh, what’s wrong with me? Why am I acting like a cross between a coy Hindi film heroine and a Victorian vestal virgin?


Sabah wiggles her fingers at us and sashays away.

He swings himself up the bar stool with the ease of a gymnast. I use the time to discreetly check him out. He’s even more gorg up close. Close cropped hair, wide set eyes, angular jaw, sensual lips. He’s wearing a formal blue shirt and dark trousers that suggest he’s hit the bar straight from work. The flatness of his belly suggesting that he hits the gym, too. 

It’s not fair, I think crossly. We are almost the same age – give or take a few years – but he looks fit and fab, comfy in his skin, like a man in his prime. Why do I look like a senior citizen and feel way older?  


‘What did she say, your friend?’ Jas asks, halting my thoughts in their tracks. 

‘N-n-nothing that would be of interest to you,’ I stammer.

‘No?’ He teases. But tactfully, very tactfully, decides not to pursue it. 

‘Thanks for this,’ I say, raising my glass. 

‘I hope it wasn’t too forward of me.’

‘It was totally forward.’ I soften the statement with a cheeky grin. ‘But hey, life’s short. And youth,’ I exhale, ‘is fleeting. It melts away like a slab of chocolate in a pre-heated oven.’ 

My stomach growls at the mere mention of chocolate. Did he hear it? I steal a quick look at him. His face doesn’t give anything away. 


‘Let’s drink to that,’ I say. 

‘Let’s eat to that,’ he says at the same time. 

So he did hear it. I cringe. For once, I’m glad about the poor lighting in bars. 

He orders short eats. I toss back another drink. I feel it making its way down, scalding my throat and my chest. Boy, it feels good. Nope, I am not an alcoholic. No such luck. Just that I’ve been off drinks for a while now, so I am just making up for lost time.  

‘So, tell me, Meghana, what do you do? When you aren’t charming the socks of strangers?’ The way he says it, he may as well have said “pants” instead of “socks”. 


‘Points for flattery.’

‘It’s the honest to god truth.’ His gaze is like a long stemmed thorny rose on my skin. It titillates and torments as it roams boldly all over me. ‘So?’


‘Are you going to tell me what you do for a living? Or is it a state secret?’

‘I-’ I lick my lips. What do I do again? It’s like my brain is functioning only at half its capacity. ‘I’m a teacher,’ I invent. ‘So you better be at your best behaviour.’ I waggle a finger at him, doing my best stern-teacher imitation. 

‘Or what? You’re going to spank me?’ he asks, dropping his voice a notch. 


‘Hee hee hee.’ I let out a high-pitched giggle. Why blame the giggle? It’s just me. I’m high. 

‘That makes you a local.’

‘That’s right, Captain Obvious,’ I simper. ‘Are you from around here?’

‘I wish.’ He gaze drops to my mouth, making my toes curl. ‘In town for work.’

Even better, I think to myself. No one will ever know. 

‘Aren’t you going to ask me what I do?’

‘You mean, apart from picking up mysterious young women at bars?’ 

He flashes a lopsided grin. ‘That’s not my day job.’

‘Whew! Glad to hear it.’ Gosh, I’d forgotten how awesome it feels. The attention, the flirting, the banter. ‘You look like the creative type.’ 


He looks impressed. ‘How did you guess? I’m a writer.’

‘Anything I might have read?’

‘Depends. Do you read erotica?’

My face betrays my surprise. I wouldn’t have guessed that. 

He leans forward and gives me a look that melts my insides. ‘Admit it.’

‘Admit what?’ I parry. 

‘You’re totally judging me right now.’

‘Actually,’ I drawl, faking nonchalance, ‘I was just wondering if you’re using me as a guinea pig for your next book?’

‘What do you think?’ He answers my question with one of his own.

That’s the problem. I can’t think. Of course, I don’t tell him that. 


‘All that hot stuff you write comes from imagination?’

He gives an easy laugh. ‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’

I would. I so would. 

I don’t realise I’ve spoken aloud. 

He slips a hand into his pocket and brings out...I blink...a credit card? A room key! 

He places it on the counter. ‘You did say life’s short.’ 

And suddenly, there are two things that have sprung up between us. Instant attraction, pregnant – not that word, not that word, any word but that word – suggestive pause. Three, if he’s really that turned on, if you know what I mean. 


‘Am flying out tomorrow morning.’ He raises the stakes. ‘We’ll probably never see each other again.’

Not like this, I agree silently. 

‘If you want to see where this leads...’ He asks a leading question.

‘I know where it leads,’ I say softly. ‘To Room...’

The corners of his eyes crinkle, making him look even more devastatingly handsome. ‘603.’ 

Next thing I know, we are tucking notes under our coasters, leaping to our feet, and making a mad dash to the exit, to the elevator, to Room 603. 

Our mouths fuse before we are fully inside the room. In one fluid motion, I toss my clutch, my heels, my sanity (whatever’s left of it, anyway) away. Our hands are all over each other. And then, it happens. What I have been dreading all evening. My cell phone rings. Breaking the kiss, the moment, the spell. 


‘Ignore it,’ he lifts his head and orders, pinning me to the wall. 

I can’t. I shouldn’t. I mustn’t. But he’s such a phenomenal kisser that I do.  

He slips his hand under my knees, literally sweeps me off my feet, and carries me to the bed. 

And wonder of wonders, I don’t feel self conscious at all, I don’t worry that he’ll hurt his back, or worse, drop me on my head. 

He deposits me on the bed and starts kissing my neck. ‘Do you know how long I’ve waited to do this?’

‘I have a fair idea,’ I rasp. ‘Ever since I walked into the bar?’


‘Think again.’

My cell phone rings again. 

My hands, which are somewhere in his chest region, still.

He lifts his head. ‘Do you want to switch that thing off?’

I draw in a shaky breath. I know what I have to do. I flatten my hands against his chest and push lightly. He gets the hint (or more than that) and stops weaving magic on my body. 

‘I-I’m sorry,’ I say wretchedly. ‘I have to get that.’

He looks how I feel. Fully frustoo. ‘Can’t it wait?’ He bites out. 

I slide down the covers with undignified haste and go looking for my clutch. ‘Where did it go? Where did it go?’ I panic, looking around wildly. 


And then I remember. I’d tossed it away. 

I drop down on all fours and start sniffing around for it like a sniffer dog. 

‘What are you doing?’ he asks from the bed. He sounds super annoyed. Can’t say I blame him. I don’t need to look at him to know that it’s gone. The mood, that is. And maybe the other thing too. Answering the cell phone in the middle of a heavy duty make out sesh is a buzz kill, no two ways about it.

‘Hallelujah!’ I exclaim, as my eyes fall on the cell, peeking from under the bed cover.  


I snatch it up, sending a silent prayer skywards. Let it not be home. And goggle at the screen. Sunny Stores is flashing on the dial. My friendly neighbourhood departmental store is ringing me at this time of the night. My mind races as I try to recall the last order I had placed. Just before leaving home… 

‘Are you quite done?’ he asks. 

I snap out of it, reject the call, and dive back on the bed.

‘Sorry,’ I say in my most earnest voice, dropping the cell phone on the side table. ‘Where were we?’ I shoot him what I hope is a sultry look. 


It works. His expression changes instantly. So maybe the mood (and the other thing) is not a goner yet. 

We pick up where we had left off.   

My head is hitting the headboard when it goes off. The cell phone. 

I cast a cautious glance down at him. He looks, ahem, quite busy at work. I decide to go for it. I stretch my arm out, languidly, casually. My fingers close around the cell. I’m about to sneak a peek, when he mutters in an incredulous voice, ‘I don’t believe this. You’re checking your phone?’

That, unfortunately, brings our tryst to an end. Not a second interval, a decisive, brutal end. 


He swings himself off me, off the bed, and starts picking up his clothes.  

I check my phone. It’s Sunny Stores again. Damn damn damn. 

‘I’m so sorry.’

‘Forget it,’ he says, pulling on his trousers. ‘We’re not going to get this chance again.’

I look miserably at him for a few seconds, willing him to change his mind. He doesn’t. I give up and start getting dressed. 

‘I had a lovely time,’ I say quietly, turning to go. 

‘Wait, I’m coming with you.’

‘But, Jas-’

‘The name’s Jagjit,’ he snaps. ‘No more games. I’m done.’

My face falls. 

We walk in silence to the elevator, to the lobby, to the portico. We wait till the valet brings the car around.  


Not a single word is exchanged on the way back. Primarily because I promptly pass out. I do that when I’m exhausted. Which is every single day for the last one year or so.   

I wake up with a start the second the car draws up outside the house. I turn the key in the lock and am letting myself in, when the door swings open.

My Mom is standing there, rocking my thirteen month old in her arms. ‘Look, Sonu, mommy and daddy are home.’ She looks at us quizzically. ‘Mythili- Jagjit, why are you back home so early? It’s Friday night. I had everything under control...’ 


Vibha Batra is an author, poet, adperson, graphic novelist, lyricist, translator, playwright, scriptwriter, travel writer, columnist, speaker and mentor. She has published twenty-seven books—many of which have won prestigious awards, bestseller tags and readers’ hearts