She looked younger in real life. Younger, not better. At least, in the photograph on the website she was smiling.
“Sandeep? Hi. Sharia.”
He was already on his feet, shaking her hand. Then he stopped, hoping it wasn’t too vigorous a handshake and that her fingers weren’t hurting. He settled his fears with the thought that a business handshake should be firm.
“Yes. Well, I have a copy of your resume here, somewhere.”
She was rummaging through the glossy leather bag now. He was unsure whether to sit or not. Then feeling foolish, he sat down. She looked up and in her soft tones, said,
“So tell me, Sandeep, why do you want to work for a women’s website?”
“Women work in male-dominated workplaces all the time. A successful one stands out even more than her peers, because she’s a woman in a man’s world. So I say, why not?”
She didn’t say a word but a faint ripple moved horizontally across her eyebrow line. It was the minutest of eyebrows-raises. The burst of confidence that had spattered across his insides after his first bold move dried up, leaving grimy marks on his self-esteem. He managed to stay silent even though his gulp sounded deafening to his own ears. It would probably be like this every day, never knowing for certain but pretending confidence all the time.
“What do you know about women?”
“I know how most of the world looks at them.”
he began. Sharia shifted slightly in her seat, a movement he might not have caught were there an imposing office desk between them. So he changed gears and continued, without a stop.
“Most women probably know that. But they don’t all know why the world sees them that way. They don’t see themselves the way men see them.”
And he already knew what her next question would be.
“It’s a woman’s website. Why would they want a man’s point of view?”
“Because both the genders perform for each other. A man is their audience and also their favorite performer.”
Sharia was smirking.
Twenty minutes later, the conversation had settled, just like the coffee that had sunk to foam rings at the bottom. She excused herself and walked to the door next to the counter. He watched her hips beat time to the clack of her heels on the wooden flooring.
What should he do now? Was he supposed to wait for her answer? No, she would probably need some time before getting back to him. It seemed rude to get up and leave.
The bill. That might be a good next step. Except should he pay or not? She was a modern woman and a successful one; the chief of a woman-centric business. She might be offended if he did so. But she looked like a classy lady. Even the heels of her shoes had no mud on them. She was probably used to a lot of attention and luxury. She looked…high-maintenance. And didn’t those women usually expect the man to be ‘chivalrous’?
He would probably write an article on the confusion around that word. That is if he could pass it through what might be a formidable editorial team. The entire team would probably be like her. The very thought made him feel a little sick. But the bill was still unpaid and she hadn’t come back yet. What if he was supposed to leave and she came back and found him still there? She might think he was desperate for the job, or a creepy stalker type or something.
He let out his breath in a loud whoosh and made up his mind. He stood up, stepped over to the counter and tapped on the marble top.
“Did the lady ask for anything else?”
The man behind the counter looked at him blankly and shook his head. From the corner of his eye, Sandeep saw the door next to the counter open. Sharia walked up to him and stopped, holding out her hand.
“Welcome to Woman’s World, Sandeep.”
And the first man in a woman’s world smiled back.