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  You could have a big dipper   

The Rule by Ananya Chakraborty

Mark needed to be on his best game tonight. It was his first ‘first date’ in two years. Sometime last month, he had decided he was done moping about Amelia. He did not want to give so much power to someone who respected him so little.

He had matched with Julia last week, but they had started texting only the day before. In little over half an hour, Mark had ended up asking her out. Even while doing it, Mark knew he was making a mistake. He would come across as super eager, and she would say no. He even wished he could take his message back. But to his surprise, she readily agreed to the date.

It was almost ironic that he was meeting someone off the internet. Amelia believed online dating was for losers. Mark chuckled at the thought. He personally quite liked it. Besides, considering that at any party, one of his so-called friends inevitably “revealed” what he did for a living, dating apps were the only place where he could connect with women these days.

Mark had chosen to leave his job description blank on the app. And he had made a Three Dates Rule about telling anyone what exactly he did at Canin.

Mark remembered the time he told Amelia he was a dog food tester. She had burst out laughing. He had to reiterate it for her to understand he was not joking. And then she had looked at him with such sad eyes before going off on a monologue about capitalism and human dignity and all that jazz!

Mark did not really get what the big deal was about. After all, it was just a job! It gave him a stable income, and left him with enough free time and energy to take good care of his terrace garden, his own pet dog Roxy, have the occasional gaming tournament with his friends, and even visit his parents, brother and nephew on most weekends. He hardly saw any of his friends - the engineers, the accountants or others lead such a balanced life!

All of them just worked 80 hour weeks, and told themselves stories about how they were pursuing their passions, or even saving the world. Ben in fact thought that having distributed a few hundred food packets in a village in India one summer made him a better person than the rest of them. The food that Mark tested at least kept dogs healthier and happier for longer than that!

Also, unlike what everyone thought, Mark did not exactly have to taste dog food. At least not most of the time. And when he did, it was always human-grade and freshly prepared. And he got to spit it out. Most of his time was actually spent preparing nutrition reports, conceptualizing new lines of food, and just playing with the adorable dogs at his office.

But he knew he could not expect anyone to understand all that on the first date. Hence the Three Dates Rule.

Mark had just finished with his hair and was choosing his cologne when he received a text from Julia. She was running a few minutes late. He booked an Uber.


The restaurant that Mark had chosen was at the heart of the city. Mark hoped it was the right amount of classy. He did not want to go over the top again. But then he did not want to come across as a slob either. He wondered if the lighting could have been a little brighter. He was considering asking the steward to change their seats when he saw her approaching. She was wearing a bright blue cotton dress and an even brighter smile. He could see her talking to the steward, him smiling and leading her to the table. He knew she would have brightened up the steward’s day in those few minutes.

I am so sorry I could not respond to your texts earlier. I spent most of the last week jetlagged. She said while taking her seat.

Mark could not believe this beautiful woman was apologizing to him. Were you travelling before?, he managed to ask.

I was in Chengdu for a year.

Mark had no idea where Chengdu was. He knew this was the point his luck would run out.

But she sensed his confusion and explained, It’s this place in China. I actually took a year off my job to be a panda nanny there.

Mark knew he could chuck The Rule with her.


Ananya is a 27-year old woman based out of Kolkata/Delhi. She is the quintessential Indian engineer-turned-banker-turned-consultant, and has recently taken to writing in her free time. Twitter: @ananya_chux

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