“And what exactly am I supposed to do?” Fredrick asked, aware of the film of sweat on his brow. “For starters, relax?” said Ika, wringing her hands nervously, inspiring very little confidence.

“Relax? When I am about to lie my way into the most important day of a stranger’s life?” Fredrick asked incredulously, rubbing his sweaty palms against one another.

“We’re being a little bit dramatic, no?” Ika squinted her eyes at Fredrick. She crinkled her little button nose. The dimple appeared. A bunch of hair fell across her forehead.

“I don’t think so.”

“Then we shall agree to disagree,” said Ika resolutely, and Fredrick looked at her amazed and amused. They had crossed the shiny lobby laden with chandeliers and were walking into a reception hall outside where a beautiful formation of red and pink roses spelt “Asmi weds Arjun”.

A steady stream of handsomely dressed people were entering by the door, which was being minded by two men in suits, barcode scanner in their hands.

Dad must be turning in his grave. “Bad idea. Abort. Let’s get out of here,” tried Fredrick again, gulping with some difficulty, but Ika grabbed him by the elbow. He stared at her hand holding his elbow and then his eyes flew to her face. She now stared at her arm grabbing his and then let go like she had touched a hot pan. “Too late to abort,” she hissed instead, “just follow my lead. We will stick to the plan.”

“And what exactly is ‘the plan’?” Fredrick hissed back, leaning over so that they could whisper.

Ika seemed to ponder on this very important question for but a moment and then she shook her head dismissively. We will figure it out,” said Ika not looking at him.

“Are you kidding me?” Fredrick mouthed.

“Sorry Sir, Ma’am, invitations please?” said one of the burly men at the door.

Ika flashed a very wide smile, presenting to Burly Man the side of her face that held the dimple, Fredrick noted.

“I think we misplaced it,” Ika was saying sweetly to Burly Man who was visibly melting in the face of Ika’s charm offensive, “my memory is so bad these days, you know,” Ika added with a silvery laugh. And then she shrugged her shoulders and clasped her hands to her chest.

Fredrick shook his head.

“I cannot let you in without an invitation, Ma’am. I’m really sorry. I need the barcode.” Burly Man looked like he was going to start crying.

Ika’s face fell, and Fredrick had to smile.

“Let’s go,” he said softly to Ika. “Another day, perhaps?”

Ika looked undecidedly first at Fredrick and then at Burly Man. Was their adventure going to end before it even started, she thought dismally.

“The Sweeeeeetttyyyyyyy?” came a shrill voice and a plump arm laden with a million shimmering bangles landed on Ika’s shoulders. Ika turned around to see a lady in a bright blue saree, her hair done up like a bejewelled high-rise building holding her at arm’s length. Thick makeup hid her real face. The lady looked at Ika and then Fredrick.

“The Sweety and the Sammie? From the London? The Preeti ji’s daughter and her boyfrand? First time in the India?” the lady asked in a shrill voice, her chest heaving with excitement.

“Yes,” Ika heard herself say, “I am Sweety and this”, she looked at the mighty Fredrick James Heisenberg, “is indeed the Sammie.”

Fredrick glared at Ika, who shrugged. Just trying to be authentic.

“I am the Pushpa Aunty. The Preeti ji’s cousin sister from the Ludhiana. Your Aunty,” said Pushpa fondly placing her palm against Ika’s cheeks. “I recognised you in a second. One minute.”

“Wowzers, Aunty. AMAZING,” Ika said, shaking her head like she could not quite believe how good Pushpa Aunty was at recognising people. “Sammie, Pushpa Aunty. Pushpa Aunty, Sammie.” Ika helpfully did the introductions.

“Pushpapa?” Fredrick tried. Why were all Indian names such tongue twisters?

“Why,” said Pushpa Aunty to the world in general, checking Fredrick out from top to bottom as he squirmed under the older lady’s gaze, “look at this Chikna munda! What a handsome man!”

Fredrick watched bewildered as Ika threw her head back and belly-laughed, mouthing “Chikna munda” on loop.

“The Sammie,” Pushpa Aunty purred, ‘take the papa and push him off. But not full papa. Just push half the papa,” she said, and when Fredrick continued to look dazed, she explained, “My name. Just pa. Push-pa. Don’t push full papa, just half the papa,” she said, wiggling her index finger, “Push-pa. Will you remember now?”

“I scarce think I will ever forget, Ma’am,” Fredrick said weakly.

Fredrick’s eyes fell on Ika, whose shoulders were shaking with silent laughter.

Excerpted with permission from An excerpt from Her One True Love, Ruchita Misra, HarperCollins India.