Saturday, 13 November 2010

That Greek God...10b- The Grand Finale

“Oh!” managed Gautham, finally.
“Yes.” I agreed, secretly joyful to see Gautham utterly mortified. It was a feeling that even surpassed the relief of being able to scratch a persistent itch in an inaccessible place along the spine.
The rain poured down, heedless of the worldly knowledge being shared in the middle of a deserted road, God knew where. Gautham ran his fingers through his wet hair, slicking it back from his forehead. I shivered more in response to the sight of his chiselled face, than the cold precipitation all around. I turned hastily and proceeded to walk off from the place, determined to stop only when the stairway of my apartment complex came into view; I promised myself that I would take the elevator from there.
“Hey, where are you going?” he called out from behind me.
“I am going home. And I’m not coming with you on the bike.” I offered in rejoinder, without turning around.
Gautham sprinted after me, “Oh, no. You’re coming with me. You’re not walking home in this weather.”
I stopped for a fleeting moment and gave him an ugly look.  
“Watch me.” I murmured caustically and resumed my walk. The hemline of my expensive saree trailed miserably along in the dirty puddle on the road and I pledged retribution.
Gautham jogged forward, darted into my path and successfully stilled me with his solid presence.
“What?” I protested, extremely annoyed with his attitude.
“You’re not going anywhere. At least, not without me.”
On a whim, I pushed past him and trudged on, splashing water in all directions.
Suddenly, he caught hold of my hand and twisted me around. To my chagrin, I found myself nose to nose with him.
“You’re not going anywhere without me.” he repeated silkily, with a steely gaze.
And that was precisely what undid me.
With a superhuman effort, I pulled my hand free from his grip and pushed him backwards with all the force I could gather. Taken off guard, he fell down on his posterior end, and sat there for a second on the road, too stunned to react.
“How dare you handle me like that?” I hollered, indignant at being treated like a second-class donkey. In an attempt to reinforce my question, I quickly fell to my knees, felt around and located several numbers of what I wanted.
Aiming carefully, I sent one small pebble flying through the sheet of rain. It plonked on his head.
“Yeooww!” Gautham cried, rubbing on the sore spot, “What the heck are you doing?”
“You think you are God, don’t you. Let me clear matters for you. You are not God, alright?” I growled and threw one more stone at him.
Gautham had managed to haul himself up by that time and the small rock got him in his solar plexus.
“Aowww! You crazy fool. Are you trying to kill me? Stop it!!”
“Take that!”
“And that!!”
“Ouch. Arrrgghhh!!”
“And that!”
“STOP WITH THIS NONSENSE!!” Gautham bellowed, having had enough of it. He deftly caught the last of my geological missiles halfway through its trajectory and thundered again, “I SAID, STOP!!!”
Lightning streaked across the sky at that moment and lit up the whole street in a surreal fashion. A sinusoidal wave of luminosity flashed through, and illuminated Gautham in its wake. I stared, rapt with attention, as he stood, with the rain pouring down, his clothes plastered to his well toned body like a second skin, one hand held high in the sky with a stone clutched within its fist. It was the expression on his face that churned my insides and made the hairs on my nape stand up. It was a countenance that embroiled a mixture of infuriation, titanic rage and umbrage. His eyes held an unholy emotion and for a split second, I couldn’t recognize Gautham.
That Greek God…
Thunder clapped an opus of a high tenor in the skies and cognizance seized me instinctively.
Of all the things that complete a Greek God’s wardrobe- thunderbolts, tridents, spears, winged sandals, sickles, blah blah, mine had to have a stone for a divine weapon in his hand. A Stone, I thought wryly.
Gautham dropped the stone in disgust and moved toward me, “What the hell were you thinking? You lost your mind!”
“Don’t come any further. Or I will…I…will..” I stammered in fright.
He rose to the challenge in the blink of an eye.
“Or you will? What? What will you do?” he smirked.
“I will… I will tell Jahnavi that her boyfriend misbehaved with me.” I replied in a rush, heady with an unknown fear.
“Her boyfriend? Jahnavi, what?” he stuttered, confused. He halted midway and watched me warily as I bit my lip, willing myself not to cry. I brushed a lock of wet hair off my face and sniffled desolately.
“You’re in a relationship with Jahnavi. I know everything.”
“I am in a relationship with Jahnavi?” he echoed.
“Yes. You are.”
Gautham chose to remain silent and continued regarding me in an unnerving way.
“What?” I asked, uncomfortably.
“Tell me. What?”
“Well, it’s just that I am no more in love with Jahnavi than you are in love with Karthik!”
“You’re not in love with Jahnavi?” I confirmed stupidly.
He pursed his lips and shook his head in negation. I gaped at him, waiting for the sudden feeling of emptiness to fill my heart, the same nothingness that I felt for Karthik when he had validated about the non-existence of his love life.
I felt nothing… nothing at all… nothing…
…BUT an incredible feeling of elation and absolute liberation. I panted for breath as a thousand different species of butterflies flew around inside me, casting light spells of exultation and thrills of joy. Helpless and at a loss to understand any of the emotions, I burst into tears abruptly, startling both Gautham and myself.
“Damn, are you okay? What happened?” Gautham enquired, shocked and bewildered.
I shook my head and sobbed louder.
“Hell! Okay listen, yes… I’m not in love with Jahnavi. Please don’t cry. Please. But… but if it makes you feel any better, I’m in love with you!” he admitted sincerely, hoping to calm me down.
I stopped, gazed at him incredulously and then burst into a fresh batch of tears.
“Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh…” I howled to the heavens, not quite recognizing all the alien sentiments enveloping us both in a thick Scotch mist.
“What happened? Please don’t cry. I really don’t know how to handle it.”
“It’s raining all around me,” I bawled and panted for breath, “My face is probably streaked with water-proof mascara. My saree is ruined and my shoes are drenched. And you tell me you love me? How can you be such an insensitive jerk?”
“Anu, I really am in love with you. I wasn’t kidding.” he confessed earnestly.
I peered into his eyes and saw his trademark honesty. He had not been teasing me at all.
“Yes. Really.”
I sniffled morosely and glanced at the ground. The rain was relentless; it was as if someone had forgotten to shut off some water faucets high above.
“Well?” Gautham pursued hesitantly.  
I looked up at him and wiped my eyes with the backs of my hands.
“So, you are not going to say anything?”
“Should I say something?” I asked lightly.
“Anu…” he warned.
“Alright! Yes, I love you back.” I shrieked ecstatically. That was the first time, I had even admitted it to myself, and it felt amazing to be able to share it with him.
As Gautham wrapped his arms around me in a monumental hug, I sighed and revelled in the moment. I had been friendless, boyfriendless, soggy, tired, tearful and angry with the whole wide world a few minutes earlier. And then my best friend (okay, ex-best friend) deemed it necessary to change his position in my life. In his arms, I felt a sense of insanity which struck me as absolutely perfect. I was in the safest haven, a truly astounding place to stay. Explanations could wait until later…
And then…
“Wait a minute! Where’s Jahnavi by the way?” I gazed at him curiously and then realization dawned on me, “Did she plan this rendezvous?”
“In a way, yes,” he said mischievously and continued, “She knew how I felt about you right from the beginning and wanted to help me out. She’s in an important meeting with Veerappan right now.”
“Yes...” Gautham agreed and dropped a light kiss on my head. I snuggled further into his sopping wet arms and closed my eyes contentedly.
Seriously, Veerappan?
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
In Some Other Dry Part Of The City…
Veerappan shifted awkwardly from one foot to the other not knowing how to explain to Jahnavi. She leaned on the ledge wall and stifled a yawn surreptitiously.
“I don’t know how you will take this, Jahnavi.” he ventured timidly.
Jahnavi rolled her eyes and then twisted around to face him.
“What are you talking about, Veerappan?” she asked, coating her stance generously with a faint twinge of alarm.
“Jahnavi, I know how much you like me.”
She sighed theatrically and clasped her hands under her chin, “Yes, Veerappan, yes. I like you so much. I am glad you understood that.”
“I am under an obligation to marry someone from my own town. She’s my relative.”
Jahnavi cuffed a hand to her forehead in a dramatic pose and groaned regretfully, “Oh, Veerappan, Whatte Kodumai. I had dreamed so many dreams, of us together, of our wedding and our life.”
“I know. I know. But I am obligated to marry this girl.” he lamented.  
“Veerappan, I have an idea,” she snapped her fingers mock-excitedly, “Let’s elope. We will get married and meet your parents. They cannot do anything after that.”
He appeared so scandalized and petrified that Jahnavi nearly felt sorry for him. Swallowing down a sudden burst of hysterical laughter, she batted her eyes and looked expectantly at Veerappan.
“Jahnavi, I really cannot do that. They are my parents. Such things are possible only in movies. Not in reality.”
She gazed at him, pretending to understand and blew her nose exaggeratedly into her handkerchief.
“I understand, Veerappan. Sacrifices are important for the perfect love story. I will always remember you here.” she patted sadly on her heart and tapped on her temple with a finger, “And here.”
Veerappan’s relief was profoundly tangible. Jahnavi could almost see it develop tiny wings and fly around victoriously.
“Jahnavi, can I leave now? I have an early morning bus to catch tomorrow.”
“Yes, of course.”
He got on to his two-wheeler and kick started the engine.
“Veerappan, can I ask you just one thing? Please do not say no.”
“Yes, go ahead.” he croaked nervously.
“What’s her name? The one you are going to marry.”
He declared it quite proudly, “Oh! Her name is Kothamalli.”
That was the last straw. Jahnavi choked on her laughter and somehow managed to convert it into fits of coughing.
“Please say hello to the future Mrs. Kothamalli Veerappan, on my behalf” she said, wiping the tears off her face.
Veerappan nodded and hastily made his exit.
Jahnavi watched on until he was out of sight and then gave in to the cackles of laughter. After effectively convincing the startled crows around, that she had indeed lost her mind nevertheless, Jahnavi started walking toward the main road.
She mentally blew a kiss to Reverse Psychology.
Five minutes down the road, a car pulled to a stop next to her and a young man stepped out.
She looked at him, puzzled, and waited for him to say something.
“Hi. I am sorry I had to barge in on your thoughts like this. You don’t know me. But I know you.”
“Yes. I know this might sound like a cheesy pick-up line, but I have seen you before.”
“Okay, that definitely did sound like a cheesy pick-up line.” Jahnavi said scornfully.
“I am sorry,” he laughed self-derisively and smiled into her eyes, “I have seen you yell at a guy some months back. I assume it must have been some random stalker. This was near T. Nagar, I guess. I don’t even know if you remember it.”
That was the Veerappan episode, right after the Diwali shopping trip.
“Yes, I kinda remember it now. So… what’s this about?” Jahnavi posed curiously.
“Oh, well, I actually admired your guts, the other day. But I didn’t get a chance to talk to you about it.”
“Okay…” she urged him to continue.
“Umm… I know this might sound like another cheesy pick-up line. Would you like to have coffee with me sometime?” he put forth, hopefully and smiled again.
“Hmmm… so what’s your name again?”
“Oh, yeah. I totally forgot. My name’s Bhargav. Hi, pleased to meet you… err...”
“Jahnavi.” she supplied helpfully.
“Ah Jahnavi, nice name. Umm, about that coffee…?”
“Let me see… Unless you have a ready-made fiancée named Karuvepellai?”
“Huh, sorry?”

The End

That Greek God... Part 10a

It usually takes a Wednesday to bring the chaos of the entire world to my doorstep. The rest of the week is just crammed with adhering to emergency protocol from the Damage Control Rule Book.
It was one such Wednesday when I fell asleep on the couch while watching the Abominable Bear-man share unsolicited wisdom along the lines of “Thangachi! Vendaikka saapta improve aagum Kanaku. Sundaikka saapta disprove aagum Vazhakku…” on TV. When a niggling sensation deep in the recesses of my sleep woke me up abruptly, I knew something was wrong. I winced helplessly as a stinging crick froze my neck in an awkward position. Turning my whole body with the dexterity of a one legged Barbie doll, I squinted at the clock.
And it started right from there.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I am going to be so so late. I shouldn’t have slept off like that and I can’t believe no one woke me up either.
I hurriedly applied some kohl to my eyes and stepped back to see the overall effect. The mirror never lies, I agreed, running my eyes up and down over my reflection. All I could see was a puffy-eyed, white-pallored Amazonian woman excluding the resplendent war-gear and a powerful stallion. I narrowed my eyes and turned sideways, attempting to strike a pose. Pouting dramatically, I blew a kiss to the mirror, twirled around and successfully tripped on the complex hemline of my saree. I caught hold of the window lattice just in time, to prevent from falling flat on my face and breaking my already-samosa nose. Taking a deep breath, I steadied myself.
Okay, there’s no time. I have to leave now. I will indulge in the histrionics later.
“Ah, you actually look kinda pretty.” acknowledged Jahnavi, as I walked into the living room.
“Yeah, right. Hey, you’re not dressed yet?”
“Oh, wait a minute. This is a pair of sweatpants,-” she said plucking at her cottons, and pointing to her shirt, she continued seriously, “- and this is my tee. If your question meant, why I haven’t dressed the palms of my hands yet, that’s because I don’t enjoy wearing mittens in Chennai’s heat.”
“Okay, you lost me after ‘sweatpants’. Now, answer my question. Aren’t you coming to Vichitra’s wedding reception?”
“Hmmm, let me see. Okay, I don’t think so. I have got some work.”
“But I thought you were coming with me. Why didn’t you tell me earlier?”
“Oh, I got reminded of it just now.”
“Yeah, whatever. It’s actually pretty obvious you just don’t want to come with me. Anyway, I’m leaving now. I’ll see you later!”
Tearing down the stairs with whatever flexibility my saree could allow me, I made quite a racket with my clippity-cloppety designer footwear; I really had no time to take the elevator.
I just hope the heels don’t break!
Unlocking the car, I got in behind the wheel and shifted to the first gear.
An hour later, I finally had to admit that I was not particularly good at carrying myself through shortcut routes as an alternative to the main-stream traffic. It was a reluctant acceptance, but quite inevitable from where I stood- bang in the heart of a maze of back streets, trying to comprehend whether to take the left turn or the right.
Five minutes after this self realization, the engine stalled and the car wheezed to a stop.
Complete silence ensued.  
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The dark sky stretched endlessly beyond the silhouettes of the trees, occasionally lit up by streaks of random lightning. The subdued light from the sodium vapour lamps only served to make the road even more cheerless. A swift gust of wind had my saree flapping like a mad flag on a stormy night. I leaned against the car, the warmth of the bonnet offering little comfort, and wrapped my arms around myself, trying to think of happy thoughts.
I walked about the vehicle, fretting over why Jahnavi had not made an appearance as yet. It had been over an hour since I had called her, tearful and panic-struck. My car had turned ballistic at having to chauffeur me round and round with no sense of direction and had finally broken down.
And so there I stood, on a deserted road, playing the part of the proverbial victim in a Friday horror movie. I half expected a flurry of bats down the road any minute, eventually sealing my fate.
All of a sudden, a beam of light turned into the street from around the corner. It followed the bumps, potholes and the three whopping speed breakers, steadily blinding my dilated pupils as it approached nearer and nearer. When it finally stopped a few yards away, Gautham got off my rickety two-wheeler with as much style as he could muster, most probably borrowed from a 1970s movie star’s Bullet antics. As he walked toward me, with a rugged jauntiness, I could clearly perceive a glittering gold jumpsuit (bell-bottomed, of course), complete with a gold bandanna and a vintage microphone in hand, everything illuminated and enhanced by floating disco lights, mirror balls and the DJ’s screeching interruption of the record. I tipped my head slightly and smiled dreamily as he jangled the microphone in front of me. I wondered what he wanted to sing to me. He rattled the mike again.
And I blinked, mystified at his unexpected, a rather more earthly appearance, a persona clad in a pair of faded jeans, a white tee and an open shirt on top. Gautham jangled the set of keys in front of my nose again and I pulled back, dismayed and embarrassed.
“You!?!” I spat, not entirely thrilled to see his mortal self.
“Yes. Me.” he confirmed sardonically and went on, “Unless you were expecting Karthik here; in that case, I’m sorry to have disappointed you.”
“I was expecting Jahnavi to pick me up. Why’re you here?” I enquired hotly.  I really was not in a mood to be grateful and gush about his good will.
“Jahnavi had some work. That’s why she sent me. So, let’s go.” he finished with mock patience.
“I am not coming with you. I’d rather die in this street all alone than ride on the bike with you!”
“In another circumstance, I’d have left you here to die all alone, as you put it. But I had promised Jahnavi that I’d bring you back home, safe and sound. You have no choice.”
“I am not sitting on that bike with you.” I huffed vehemently.
“Oh, yes, you are.” he stated as a matter of fact.
I took my bag out of the car and announced as casually as I could, “I am walking home.”
Suddenly, fuelled by an impulsive spark of temper, he leaned forward, roughly banged the car door shut for effect and continued with nonchalant indifference, “You’re not walking home.”
“What have you done, you idiot! The keys were still in the car.” I yelled plaintively.
At that moment, the heavens parted as if on cue and a shower of water poured down without any mercy or concern for the tiny crumb of my dignity.
“OMG!” I wheezed in shock and looked down at my ex-beautiful saree. It seemed as if an ancient washing machine had wrecked its spirit and wrung its life out. “Damn you Gautham, it’s entirely your fault! You have ruined everything!!” I screamed tearfully and stamped my foot in the rapidly gathering puddle of water.
“What’s my fault? Geez, grow up kid!” Gautham retorted, clearly annoyed by my tantrum. And that really served to rile me up even more.
Kid!... Kid??!
“Everything’s your fault! Everything! You, your superior-than-thou attitude, your amateur psychology sessions regarding Karthik! Everything!!” I burst out, regardless of the pitch of my voice or the location of my paroxysm.
“Aha! I knew it. It’s about Karthik, isn’t it? Seriously, how many times should I tell you to stay away from him?” he swooped in.
“Why the hell should I stay away from him? Who are you to tell me about what to do and what not to do? We are not even friends anymore!!”
“Yes, we are not friends anymore. But there are certain things that I am required to do, for greater good.” Gautham completed smugly.
“Who died and made you King? What I do with my life is no one’s business but my own.” I shouted over the heavy roar of the downpour.
“Karthik is a decent guy. He is better off without you adding complexity to his life. It’d help you a lot when you realise you’re not in love with him any more than you’re in love with me!” he snarled menacingly.
“Love? You are talking about love? You don’t even know what happened, you egocentric brute!”
There was a moment’s silence, as I tried to catch my breath. He stared at me.
“What happened?” he enquired, torn between curiosity and an acute urge to hit me; I could see.

An Hour Earlier…

I sat in the car, trying to restart it again and again. It neighed pathetically in response and burred to a silence. Every time.
My phone rang then, taking me by surprise. It was Karthik.
“Karthik!” I gasped in relief, rushing on to say, “Thank God, you called..-”
“Anu, I have got to tell you something very important. There’s no time to wait anymore.” he interrupted quickly.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
“Where are you now?”
“I am on my way to the convention centre. I will be there soon. Don’t worry.” I said, concerned and confused.
“There’s no need for you to come over. I am sorry I couldn’t call you before and let you know.”
“Is everything alright?”
“The wedding’s been called off!” shouted Karthik, almost maniacal in his euphoria.
“Oh my God! What the hell happened? How’s Vichitra? Why was the wedding called off?”
For a moment, I imagined Vichitra, a red cloth tied around her head in a Phoolan Devi style, stalwartly refusing the unreasonable demands made by the groom’s family. I envisioned her holding the tip of a huge musket at the groom’s throat, ordering him to keep quiet, the noncompliance of which would provoke definite likelihood of being coerced into watching all the movies listed under the Vettaikaaran’s exclusive almanac. Alone. And with a loop count of a hundred and thirty three.
“She’s fine. Okay, now listen. You are the first person I am telling this to. I mean, apart from her.” he said, bringing me back to the present.
“Right. Go on. I am listening.”
“I am in love with Vichitra.”
“OMG, What!?!!”
“What are you saying?”
“It was that question. You’d asked me when I was going to marry Vichitra. I never had any idea till then. Well, and that question triggered everything.”
Oh, that question certainly triggered a lot of other things as well…
“I realized how much I was in love with her and that it was too late. She was engaged to be married to someone else.”
“Wow...” What a turn-around!
“So, I confessed about my feelings today afternoon. Apparently, she feels the same way about me, but didn’t know how to tell me. It would have been so awkward if either one of us didn’t feel the same way.”
“Awesome! This is such a nice surprise. I am so glad that you guys have got together. Congratulations!” I said, extremely happy to hear him sound like a normal person at last.
A lot of things started to come into place in my mind then. Now I knew why he had been roaming around like a bear with a very bad toothache all the while.
What a climax! I never even imagined it could take a twist like this.
“Okay, Anu, I have got to go now. There’s stuff like press conference; routine things. I’ll finish off with all that and we’ll all meet up tomorrow.” he promised fervently.
“Hey, take your time. This is a big moment. Call me when you are free; no problem.”
Disconnecting the call, I sat in the silence, smiling in the dark. I could not believe what had happened. That was by far the best news I had ever heard and I was enormously pleased about it.
Phew, history, actually, has a very uncanny habit of repeating itself. And I’m so glad that it does…

Thursday, 8 April 2010

That Greek God... Part 9

“Awesome! So when do you have to leave?” enquired Jahnavi enthusiastically.
“The letter says I’ve got to report to the Mumbai office on the 21st of April.” I replied, taking a look at the letter again. I couldn’t believe they remembered me. The campus placements had happened eons before and I had lost all hope briefly when the recession period seemed to last longer than the previous ice age.
“That’s like just two weeks from now. Oh no! There’re so many things to pack. We need to get you new stuff to wear.” bemoaned Vidya.
Trust Vidya to get down to the basics. I smiled and sneaked another satisfying look at the appointment letter again.
Ahh..Bliss…At least, some things in my life seem to have sorted themselves out.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I sat amidst my entire wardrobe strewn down on the floor; on Vidya’s insistence. She wanted me to see what clothes were good enough to be used as cleaning fabric and which ones were good enough to be chewed by the neighbourhood dog. As she kept tossing all my clothes to her left and right, trying to categorize them, I realised it was going to be a lucky day for that mutt. Jahnavi watched on, from the queen’s position on the bed with a rather bored expression. I wondered how her cell phone was actually several yards away and certainly not glued to her ear.
Gautham must have probably taken a loo-break.
I brought myself back to Vidya’s stringent instructions. She promised me that she would drag me kicking and screaming to shop for my ensemble and that she would not take no for an answer. Her ‘thick-skinnedness’ has every possible tendency to put that solitary buffalo in the algae-choked lake to intense shame.
It was my cue to smile gratefully at her and throw myself into her arms, bellowing out a thousand blessings to the God who brought us together in holy friendship. But I chose to just smile nervously as I imagined Appa’s pressure cooker head turning brilliant shades of purple, when presented with a wad of shopping bills.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I banged the car door shut and trudged morosely toward my apartment building. I dragged a zillion shopping bags in my trail, looking more like a Neanderthal woman with a bizarre wedding train, rather than an Anu who has had a complex shopping trip with an off-the-rocker friend.
The neighbourhood kids were creating a ruckus over a horribly torn, flattened excuse for a football. Looking past them, I saw a familiar figure in the distance.
It took me a good number of moments to finally perceive the figure’s identity. Karthik could have easily passed for one of those metrosexual men working their posterior-parts off, toward achieving man’s best creation since the wheel & the axle- Size Zero. As he approached closer, the size-zeroed metrosexual man got replaced by a Robinson Crusoe image in my mind on account of Karthik’s unshaven face and a rather unkempt appearance coming into sharp visual focus. I waved to him wondering if he was planning on acting in a movie. Well, in support of my theory, sporting facial hair (bordering on being infested by lice and clinically-declared dangerous by the Dandruff Society), by the lead actors in movies, has become the fad of the day. (On an askew note- Acknowledging a brief stint of corporate social responsibility, Gaya Skin Clinic is offering you guys free skin grafting treatment for what is left of your faces and SBS- Stylized Beard Solutions.)
By the time he stood in front me, brief images of Karthik’s tree climbing and harpooning on a lonely island halted and vanished from my mind, as to my horror, I saw how much he had changed in a fortnight’s time.
“Don’t say anything. Just answer my question.” he said, before I could open my mouth.
“Huh, what?” I managed to croak.
“If it is true that I may not get another chance to say something, shouldn’t I actually seize this one and be done with it?”
“Huh? I don’t understand. What chance?”
I was utterly bewildered and to be honest, a teeny bit scared of the intense look that he was giving me at that time.
“They say, we might get only one chance, just one opportunity to do something in life. We should take it up, shouldn’t we?”
“If this is the best option, I think we should take it up.”
Is someone short listing probable candidates for ‘Makings of a Swami’ workshop in the Himalayas? The only things stopping him from making that trip are orange robes and a Silk Smitha scandal!
Suddenly he smiled, making it impossible for me not smile back. Underneath all that beard and rural intensity, he still was a charmer.
He pinched my cheek lightly, surprising me for a moment.
“Thank you so much. I will call you soon. Stay good till then!” he said, sounding much happier than he had been a few moments before.
“Take care!” I said after him, as he sprinted across the parking lot.
Grabbing all the plastic side effects of my shopping agenda with renewed energy, I made my way home.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It was about 6 in the evening, when I finally settled down for a cup of coffee; making tediously long lists of things-to-do having sapped up my entire energy. To add to it, Gautham was home to help Jahnavi out with her project, his presence jangling my already overwrought nerves. I had avoided him so far, keeping to my room while they worked at the dining table. But the call of coffee transcended everything, as it always does in my life and I found myself sitting at the table along with them, while they chattered on enthusiastically.
I sneaked a peek over my mug at Gautham and my heart beat raced, tripped suddenly on an abrupt breath of air and landed with a dull thud, after several somersaults. Sssss!!
I yowled when a hasty gulp of boiling hot coffee burned my mouth.
“Anu, what happened? Are you okay?” enquired Jahnavi anxiously.
I nodded hurriedly, mumbled some excuse and nearly ran to the safe haven of my room. I groaned in pain as I rubbed my tongue repeatedly on a cool towel, trying to quell the burning sensation down; rinsing my mouth with cold water didn’t help either. Finally I sat in front of the air-conditioner, hanging my tongue out sadly like a dehydrated dog. That was how Gautham found me, when he opened the door and walked into my room.
“That wouldn’t help, you know?” he drawled amusedly.
I yelped, utterly mortified and angry that he had come in instead of Jahnavi, following the knock on the door.
“Who asked you to come? I thought it was Jahnavi!” I shouted.
“Impressive set of manners, I agree. But don’t make it more difficult for both of us by screaming. I can’t holler over your shrieks.”
“I don’t want to talk to you now.” I muttered ungraciously, simmering inside.
“I saw you both by the parking lot. Pretty picture!”
“What? Who?”
“You do great injustice to your intelligence by pretending to misunderstand whatever I say. You know what I am talking about.”
“Maybe, I’d understand if you stop with your smartass attitude?”
“I saw you talking to Karthik earlier. Now do you understand?”
“What am I supposed infer from this information?”
My patience was wearing thin. I thought he had just accused me by chance the other day. I could not believe that he was tagging another confrontation to that incident now.
“Let Karthik go. You are only leading him on like this.”
“I am not leading Karthik on. Why are you constantly accusing me of that?” I hissed.
“It seems like that. That’s why.” retorted Gautham, calmly.
I stared at him and felt like shaking him out of his controlled stance. I was quaking inside with his implications like dull thumps on my brain pitch. I took a deep breath and commanded myself to stay calm.
“Why do you bother anyway? It’s my life and what I do with it is none of your business!”
“Trying to act smart won’t help you at all Anu. Why don’t you make a smart move instead and stop leading him on.”
“You know what? Maybe you should be careful with what you’re saying now. I might think you’re even jealous.” I finished recklessly.
“Huh, jealous? Of what? You must be kidding me!” scoffed Gautham and I fisted my hands on my sides to prevent from slapping that grin off his face.
Jahnavi peeped into the room at that minute and I wondered if she could feel the thick tension that was so tangible, in the room. I could cut it with a knife and even help myself to two or three servings. Except that I wanted to stuff all of them down Gautham’s throat.
“Are you okay Anu? The coffee was supremely hot.” she said, worriedly.
“Yeah I am okay. Gautham was just asking me if I was fine.” I replied back.
“Veerappan had called. You know how he is. He would not let me go, till I take his call. So I sent Gautham inside to check if you were okay.”
Jahnavi and Gautham exchanged smiles.
At that moment, a searing emotion erupted from somewhere in the pit of my stomach, and spread potently through my whole body, almost making me scream in agony. Waves and waves of that feeling lashed through till it became a physical ache in my heart.
I have shared so many things with Jahnavi over so many years. I have never resented doing any of that.
Numbly, I realized that I was insanely jealous of my sister because she had something that I could never have.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To be concluded...

Friday, 5 February 2010

That Greek God... Part 8b

Cursing irritably, I moved to answer the incessant peal of the door bell. I opened the door with a glare which immediately softened to a bewildered gawk. Jahnavi was giggling over something that Gautham had said, and both of them turned around to face me then.
“Hi!” Both of them chirped cheerfully. Too cheerfully syrupy, I could have gagged from the sweetness of it.  
“Hi!” I chirped back, absolutely joyful in having them over. I love cursing people mentally, especially when they decide to grace the occasion with their actual presence.
Letting them inside, I wondered what was going on.
I mean, Gautham hardly ever drops by unless accompanied by his entourage who love to gorge on Paati’s murukku and carrot halwa, apart from complaining about girls in between mouthfuls.
Presently, Jahnavi threw her bag on the couch and went into the kitchen to get some cold water. Gulping down thirstily from the bottle in turns, they both slumped down on the sofa, clearly famished. Jahnavi caught my eye and cleared her throat lazily.
“We were just working on my project- the one that I have to submit next week. Gautham’s helping me out with that.”
“Oh, okay.”
So how does a mechanical engineer, currently studying MBA, help you out with something related to clinical pathology?
“We had just started working on the presentation, when the watchman shooed us out. He had to lock the doors.”
Before I could speak anything, Gautham interrupted.
“My God, I understand now. Is that the guy who you keep talking about? All those jokes about me looking like him; Jahnavi, you need a huge pair of glasses.”
“I need glasses? Ha, look at yourself. Streak your hair with a few whites here and there and you look exactly like that guy.”
Suddenly, I felt horribly out of place as they continued with their playful banter. It was as if I was invisible or just smothered with the same paint as the walls of the living room, expediently camouflaged. I cleared my throat, more in an attempt to clear my thoughts.
“Anu, do you need some water? Here, have some.” said Jahnavi concernedly.
The doorbell rang then and I offered to go, glad to be able escape from there. I was surprised to see Karthik outside, waiting to be let in. Apart from the ghost of a smile that he offered, his whole persona seemed like that of a hero’s who, although at fifty years of age, is quite capable of portraying the role of a tenth standard kid bringing home some bad news- “Aathaaa… naan fail aayitten!!”. (Mom, I flunked!!)
I smiled and invited him in, wondering what was wrong with him. I introduced Karthik and Gautham to each other, and moved to the kitchen to get some fruit juice for all of us. Soon we had a light conversation reverberating between the four of us, although Karthik volunteered lesser vocal input comparatively and resorted to just nodding most of the time. When the other two got into one of their “private” conversations, I seized the opportunity to talk to him personally.
“Karthik, are you alright? You seem low. Bad day at work?”
“Huh, yeah I’m okay. It’s just been a long day.” he said with an adorable wink.
I felt a little better and smiled back at him.
“Oh, I almost forgot the reason why I came over. Just a sec.”
He rummaged in his bag and fished out a big envelope. On a closer look, it looked like a wedding invitation.
“It’s Vichitra’s wedding invitation. She wanted to invite you personally. But, you know how it is at a bride’s place with so many last minute shopping trips and ceremonies. She really wants you to come.”
He smiled and handed it over. I opened the invitation and read the words, ‘Vichitra weds Aaditya’ aloud. Jahnavi turned around and looked at the invitation in my hand.
“Whose wedding is it? That’s a lovely card.”
“It’s Vichitra’s wedding.”
“Isn’t Vichitra the famous playwright? She has her own theatre group, right?” asked Gautham.
“Yeah, she is Karthik’s best friend.” I said, glancing at Gautham.  
“A lovely person.” I added, grinning at Karthik.
“By the way, she really liked the script that we worked on. She’s got a few minor changes. But I guess we can work on it after her wedding.”
“Oh, wow, she liked it? I am really glad. We can work on it anytime Karthik. It’s fun working with you.” I said happily.
I sipped from the glass and looked at Gautham accidently. A big mistake. Although there was an amused curve to his mouth, his eyes held a steely glint.
Something inside me gave a sudden leap. I decided to put to test what I had discovered in his eyes.
Giving Karthik the full effect of my smile, I positively purred, “So, Karthik, tell them about this new stuff that you’re going to introduce in your show. The one about prank calls.”
As Karthik relaxed and started explaining about the new addendum to his show, I shifted closer to him and stole a glance at Gautham. He sent me a look which promised something sinister if I didn’t behave properly.
Ah, so we’re talking about manners are we? Well, two can play at this game, sweetheart.
Throwing caution to the winds, I focused all my attention over Karthik after that and hung on to every word that he said. My ears could have been inside his mouth, literally speaking. For some strange reason, that irritated the hell out of Gautham, I could see. Although I didn’t understand why he seemed bugged with me, his annoyance somehow added fuel to fire, and I glorified Karthik with my eyes.
Sometime later, the doorbell rang for the third time that evening. This time, Jahnavi answered the door and brought back Veerappan in tow.
“Hi Veerappan, how’re you doing?” I enquired politely.
“Anu, it’s my birthday today. I actually wanted to spend it with Jahnavi. I tried calling her, but couldn’t reach through. So I came over.”
We wished him before he could say anything else. I decided to give him an Aadi Thallupadi  that day, since it was his birthday and chose not to tarnish his fragile reputation in this particular blog episode.
“Veerappan, I had left my cell phone at home. That’s why I couldn’t take your calls. I’m really sorry.” said Jahnavi apologetically.
Wait a minute. Did something utterly change between the last time I blinked and now? I couldn’t believe it. Jahnavi actually apologized to Veerappan?
The only thing, Jahnavi is synonymous with in this whole world is the sentiment that Actor Vijaykanth shares on screen- “Ey, Enakku pudikaadha orey oru vaarthai- Sorry!! Ah…”. (The one word that i don't like is Sorry!! ah...)
“Jahnavi, please don’t say sorry. There should be no sorrys and thank-yous between us.” Veerappan proclaimed abashedly.
Considering Jahnavi, I was sure she had an ulterior motive behind the whole sappy set up. I hid a smile and looked at her; she was trying really hard not to pounce on him and tear him to shreds.
At that moment, Karthik got a phone call and he excused himself to take it. I watched on anxiously when after a few minutes of conversation, Veerappan got impatient. He wanted to speak to Jahnavi and pulled her aside. Suddenly to my chagrin, I was left alone with Gautham and I was so petrified he would say whatever he had in his mind. It just took another extra second to prove my thoughts right.
“That couch is big enough to hold four people comfortably.” he began without a preamble and continued, “But you had to squeeze in close to him to prove what? That it’s 18 degrees in Chennai and is an extremely cold winter?”
“Gautham! Are you crazy? What are you saying?” I spluttered, completely embarrassed.
This was the first real conversation that we had had in months and I wasn’t particularly a great fan of the topic of talk.
“I am talking about what I saw and you know what it is. Don’t act obtuse.”
“I’m not being obtuse. I was just playing an active part in the chat previously. I don’t understand why you need to have a say about where I sit and what I do.”
“He’s a nice guy. Leave him alone, Anu.” he growled.
My jaw dropped open as the implication of his words bumped on my head with a dull clang. Retrospectively, I realised then that I had been suffering from quite a good version of ADD earlier. I wanted Gautham to notice me and I understood that it was possible if I showered Karthik with attention. I grimaced mentally, not comprehending how I could have been so reckless. But I was not going to let Gautham see that.
I will bawl my eyes out privately, but now I have to hold fort.
“What? How dare you imply something like that? You have the audacity to…”
Karthik chose that precise minute to interrupt my angry hissing and came over to tell us that he had some work and had to leave immediately. As he was saying his goodbyes, the other two guys got some Gnana Oli, and decided to get going as well.
“Jahnavi, I will help you with your project tomorrow. I will call you.” said Gautham.
He reserved a look of scorching hardness for me, gave a slight nod to his head and moved towards the front door. Veerappan, surprisingly, didn’t cling to Jahnavi at all and made a graceful (by his standards) beeline for the door.
I put all the glasses for wash in the kitchen sink and sat in the terrace for a while, trying to reflect on the events of the evening. A while later, Paati asked me if I wanted to have some coffee and I could have cried out of sheer gratefulness.
“Anu, enna di, nee oru boyfriend varuvaan nnu thaane sonne. Moonu peru vandhirdhaale. (Anu, you were talking about one boyfriend weren’t you? But there were three of them at home today.)” she said with a twinkle in her eye and went inside, leaving me dumbstruck.
Paaaaaaaaattttttiiiii…. Oh, someone kill me. Kill me, right now!
That day, in my life, I had a Karthik whom I didn’t want, a Veerappan who had made a stage exit a couple of episodes before and a Gautham who was in love with my sister.
That’s the truth Paati… that’s my love-life.