“My job takes most of my time – deadlines, meetings, mentoring the juniors and organizing events, I have absolutely no time for a vacation,” I said, to myself. I love to explore new places. I used to solo travel once in three months – take a short break from the city life – this was my way of rejuvenation. During my self-exploration trips, I met a lot of new people, got to know a lot many cultures and traditions, ate a variety of dishes whose names I still struggle to pronounce and saw a lot many beautiful places. From dense jungles to wildlife to architectural marvels, my solo travelling took me to places that were too good to be real.
But that is all a story now. Ever since I was promoted, forget vacations, I hardly get any ‘me’ time. I was sitting on my couch on a friday evening, sipping a glass of apple juice and nibbling on a piece of leftover pizza from last night when I got a call from my HR.
“Hey Rekha, Can we talk?” said Lalita.
“Sure, tell me,” I said, half-heartedly, hoping that it was not another weekend meeting at the office.
“I see that you have not taken any leaves from past year and a half. It’s time you go on a vacation,” she said.
“You know my schedule, Lalita. I hardly get any time to eat lunch, forget vacation.” I said
“I am not going to hear any of your excuses now. I have accepted your 5-day leave request,” she said.
“I haven’t applied for any leaves,” I protested.
“You might not have, but as HR I can do as I please. Go take that much-needed vacation. Don’t you dare login to your office mail or receive any phone calls. I am blocking your phone and mails for the next 5 days.” she said, authoritatively.
I did not know if Lalita could actually block my phone and mails, but then with Lalita, you never know. I said okay and disconnected the call. Now I had to plan my “vacation”. I was not a believer in sudden plans. In fact, sudden plans put me off track. Even team-discussions were a pre-planned affair. “Stop thinking about work!” Lalita’s voice echoed in my head. I wondered if Lalita was telepathic. I was soon distracted by a chime in my phone– it was an email notification. I opened the inbox – the mail was from someone called Mr.World. Mr.World? ‘Is that even a name?,’ I thought to myself. I was amused by the name so I decided to open his mail. It read :
I know you are amused by my name. You must even be smiling now. This might sound funny, a tad bit suspicious too, but I want to take you out on a date. I know that you are granted 5days of leave and I want to take you on a surprise date. All you have to do is say yes. I have attached your ticket in this mail. I have booked a cab to drop you to the airport. Be ready by 5, tomorrow morning or you will miss your flight.
Looking forward to meet you. I promise that you will have a wonderful time.
Was this some kind of a joke?? Going on a blind date was not my idea of finding “the one.” And who sends tickets and books a cab on a first date?? I was hesitating to open the attachment containing the ticket. What if it was a hacker trying to steal my identity? “Go ahead and open the attachment,” Lalita’s voice echoed in my head. I clicked on the attachment.
It was a ticket all right, but the destination column was blank. “Who sends air tickets without destination stamped in?” I thought. I ignored the mail and the ticket thinking of it to be a prank and hit the bed.
I woke up hearing my phone ring. Who would call in the middle of the night, I thought. I saw the screen and it said ‘private number’. I received the call. “Ma’am,” said the voice at the other end of the phone. “Good morning. This is your wake up call. Please get ready, I will be coming at 5 to pick you up.”
“Huh?” was all I could manage to say. “Hello, hello. Are you there?” I said, but the caller had already disconnected the call. I was more amused than scared at this hilarious prank. How far can one go to play a prank on me?, I thought. Anyways, there is no harm in packing a suitcase and waiting for the imaginary cab that will not come at 5. So I packed my suitcase and got ready for my ‘date’. At sharp 5, I saw a light through my window. I peeked through the window and I saw a cab at my gate. I received a call again from the ‘private number’ – “Ma’am, I am at the gate. Do you want me to carry your suitcase to the car?” he asked.
I was speechless. So this was not a prank after all. I locked my door and dragged my suitcase to the steps. The driver came running towards me. A tall and good-looking fellow he was. “Are you World?” I asked him. It sounded stupid and funny when I said it. How can I ask if someone is World? I laughed at myself.
We reached the airport, the driver carried my luggage till the door, wished me luck, stuffed an envelope in my hand – “your ticket,” he said, and walked away. One hour of transit from my house and the guy hardly spoke. And now he wishes me luck! I rolled my eyes and walked towards check-in. I saw the ticket – destination was now printed on it. Amsterdam! So I was going to Amsterdam! Amsterdam was in my bucket list! Looks like Mr.World knew my secret wishes!
At the arrival terminal of Amsterdam Airport Schipol, there was another driver waiting for me, with a plaque that said “Rekha”. I have never had such VIP treatment before. Business class seats in Lufthansa and now a limo, woohoo, I was already enjoying my date!
As I got into the limo, the driver introduced himself. “Alan’s my name.” he said. “When will I meet Mr.World?” I asked. “You will see him soon,” he said, smilingly.
Alan dropped me to my hotel. The receptionist gave me my room keys – a lavishly decorated suite with a jacuzzi and a mini snack-bar. After a long and refreshing bath, I was just about to call room service when I heard a knock. A tall and handsome man in a crisp black suit stood in front of me. “Rekha! I am happy that you decided to accept my date,” he said. “Mr.World?,” I blurted. “Call me World,” he said. “Let us go downstairs for breakfast. After that, I have a surprise for you,” he added.
After a heavy and delicious breakfast, World drove us in his Lamborghini to The Van Gogh museum. After spending three hours in the museum, I was famished. We went to a nearby restaurant for lunch.
“I know that you love to paint,” he said, smiling.
“The musuem tour was a pleasant surprise, World. I have always wanted to see the maestro’s art work and I am lucky that I got a chance to see it.”
After lunch, we took a stroll to the nearby market and shopping center. World seemed like a nice and kind guy. Although I do not believe in love on first date, I must say that I was falling in love with World. I retired early that evening. World said that he had another surprise planned for me the next day.
The next day started on an exciting note. We went to Anne Frank’s house! “Lunch is again another surprise,” said World. “I am loving this!,” I said. World had booked us a canal cruise. The whole cruise just for the two of us! We had lunch on the cruise, overlooking the wonderful waterways of Amsterdam. After lunch, we sat basking the warmth of sun. We saw the sunset and had an early dinner on the cruise. World dropped me to my hotel and again spoke of another surprise waiting for me the next day.
Back in my room, I was thinking about the past two days. I have never had so much fun. Blind date with World was one of the best things that had happened to me so far. I had lots of memories to take home from this date-trip.
The next day, we went to Rijksmuseum – a 19th century building housing Dutch Golden age paintings and vast European art collection. I purchased few souvenirs at the gift shop. World had a large package in his hand. “For you,” he said. I opened the package to see a beautiful imitation of Van Gogh’s Cafe Terrace at Night. “Thank you so much,World,” I said. I was so happy that I just cannot explain it in words.
“Rekha, I know that you have only 5 days of leave, and my next surprise is …,” he said.
“What is it? Tell me, tell me” I jumped like a small child who wants a chocolate ice cream.
“Tulip fields! There are just 30-minute drive from here. We will leave early in the morning. I will pack us some breakfast. It is going to be an enriching experience.We can sit and eat our breakfast in the midst of tulips.” he said.
Was I dreaming??? Was this all a dream? Tulip fields, a handsome man called World – it was all too good to be true. I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming or if this was all happening in real. Ouch! It was all real!
Do I really have to talk about the next morning? The colorful tulips and the first rays of sun on the fields was a sight that even God wouldn’t want to miss! I was immediately transported to another world – the world where everything was colorful and nice. I felt like a unicorn on a rainbow. Too fairy-tale-ish? World and I had our breakfast in a windmill-turned sitting area in a field nearby. We spent the afternoon visiting even more tulip fields. By evening, all I could see was tulips and more tulips. World and I clicked selfies with the fields behind us. It was once in a lifetime experience for me.
As we returned to my hotel, World slipped an envelope in my hand. “Your return tickets,” he said. “Do I really have to go?,” I asked. “Yes. Your flight leaves Amsterdam at 9am tomorrow. I have already booked a cab from here and another one to pick you up from Bangalore airport so do not worry about anything.” he said.
“When I am with you, I have nothing to worry, World,” I said. I was feeling sad that my trip was coming to an end. But I had many memorable experiences to take with me. “Will we ever meet again?,” I asked him. “Of course we will, Rekha. All you have to do is take a vacation, haha!” he said, laughing. After dinner, World and I said our final goodbyes.
The next morning, as I was checking out of the hotel, the receptionist handed me a package and said “Compliments of World”. I opened the package and smiled seeing the contents. The package contained a photo album. The photos of me that World took during this trip were all in there, like a beautiful collage. I knew that the blind date with World was the best thing that had ever happened in my life.