She had a choice. Either she diets or she embarks on some sort of exercise regimen. Rukmini went for a physical to discover that her cholesterol was high and although she considered her lifestyle sufficiently active, the doctor did not. Grudgingly, Rukmini had to admit that she could make the time to exercise, no mean mental victory.
So she bought a pair of walking shoes, dismayed that from the last time she went to buy shoes, the choice had exploded and the salesman kept asking her how she walked. One just did! When did people start having the time to analyze their gait, figure out if they put their feet heel down first, or if they pronated? A whole science seemed to have passed her by. After a few minutes Rukmini had got her bearings and snapped the salesman to attention. She gave him a budget and told him she didn't care about colour, just comfort. These turned out to be a pink nightmare with a garish blue band, but how comfortable they felt.
Rukmini had not ventured out in the evening at this time before. Her focus having been the 7pm bar opening time, the evening was spent making sure all the snacks were prepared and glasses cleaned. Now, her staff having discovered her achilles heel had ganged up to make sure that she left at 5pm for a walk. It was an irony to Rukmini that she had to drive to take a walk, the closest park being a few kilometers from the bar.
At first she felt stiff; she was walking without an immediate end, not to get anywhere, or to meet anyone, but for herself. She began her perambulation of the park crossing old men sitting like birds in a row wearing identical white kurta pajamas heatedly discussing politics, two memsahibs bemoaning the antics of their maid and young mothers with strollers. An urban evening tapestry. A man flashed past. The first runner she saw. A nice light, yet muscled body, the legs spanning long regular strides and arms moving in sync, lycra shorts outlining his posterior. It was on her second round that she noticed he was balding, a shiny spot radiating like a galaxy on his head.
There were many fixed items during her evening walk and he became one of them. After a few weeks people started to casually acknowledge her with a nod or a smile. Rukmini used the runner to monitor the pace of her walking, counting the times he crossed her and where she had reached. At least he kept her distracted. Their first conversation happened in the parking lot; his car had a flat, which she helped fix.
He called her, "Ma'am". They smiled when they saw each other from then on. A juice shop catered to the visitors of the park by offering healthy juices, their only unnamed vice being that sugar constituted about a third of calorie content. Nevermind, it was fresh and healthy. Rukmini gave into temptation once and stopped by. So did the runner. They smiled at one another.
"Those are the hottest pink shoes in this park ma'am" he grinned. Was he flirting with her? Rukmini returned the smiled indulgently and decided not to make a repartee although she did say to herself, "Not as hot as your lycra shorts!"
He brought his juice and sat next to her. "Vikas" he introduced himself and then went on to describe who he was and what he did: a consultant for a software firm. There was no mention of family or children. Odd, thought Rukmini. Vikas was sensitive enough not to ask her questions in return. This was good, because as usual Rukmini would have to make a call about her profession, having to choose between caterer and interior decorator.
On this occasion though, she didn't have the opportunity to elaborate a fantasy career. As she was walking out of the bar one evening heading out for her walk, she heard a car horn toot and it was Vikas. The pink shoes had given her away. He offered her a ride and something propelled Rukmini to accept. Their conversation was natural, about nothing in general, besides Vikas was a witty man who liked laughing and making other people laugh. After many years, Rukmini felt a faint trickle of attraction. She was surprised and flattered by his candor when a few minutes into the general chit chat he said, "I am single, and if you are too, would you like to have a bite to eat with me?"