I parked my car mechanically in the usual space and shuffled out dejectedly. It had been quite a long day and all I wanted to do was just flop on my bed face down and sleep the whole thing off. I walked into my apartment complex and pressed on the button, beckoning the elevator down. Half way through, it emitted a horrible wrenching noise and suddenly stood still in the shaft. I peeped in through the collapsible gates and groaned aloud. No… this can’t be happening to me. Five whole floors… OMG, I might as well die right here. Do I really have to go home? Gathering the last of my failing strength I dared to climb up one floor. By the time I reached the front door of my flat, I was gasping and wheezing as if tuberculosis decided to have its way with me in the final stage after all. I reached for the calling bell and didn’t take my finger off it till its incessant peal brought a very angry Amma out.
“Couldn’t you be a bit more patient? Don’t you have any sense at all?” she bit out irritated. I walked past her without answering and kicked my shoes aside. Marching determinedly into the living room, I threw my bag and dupatta on the couch and slumped down beside them. The TV stared back sourly at me and scowling, I switched it off with the remote control. Paati had sauntered into the room by then and set the evening on fire.
“Yen di, ipdi dhaam dhoom nnu guthichindu irukkai? Naalaiki maapillai veetukku pona enna pannuvai?” (Why're you jumpin' up and down like this? What'll you do when you get to your husband's place tomo?)
“Phew, Theriyadhu Paati. Neengo konjam chumma irungo.” (I don't know. Please don't tell me anything right now)
I halted for a minute; the whole thing sounded maniacally hilarious and I burst into high-pitched laughter.
“Sutham. Leela, avalukku konjam coffee kudu. Paithyam thaan pidichirkku unnoda ponnukku.” (Leela, your daughter's gone mad. Give her some coffee)
Amma gave me a thoroughly disgusted look and walked off to the kitchen. I leaned back and settled comfortably in the couch. Switching the TV on, I resorted to my usual stance- flicking through the channels. Up and down…up and down… up and down... I yawned hugely and the startled hippopotamus on National Geographic gawked back. Amma pushed the coffee mug under my nose and I took it from her gingerly and switched the TV off. The breeze from the terrace was soothing in its wake and I decided to sit under the trellis for some time. I sipped slowly from the mug and stared unseeingly past the parapet wall. The person on the terrace of the next block kept pacing the length of it, with a palm attached to his ear. My brain dimly registered and assimilated the fact that he was probably speaking on his mobile phone. Suddenly, I got up with a jerk. No person was allowed to speak on a mobile phone on that terrace. I shook my head and clicked my tongue. No person was even allowed to be on that terrace. The flat opposite was supposed to be empty because its owners were abroad.
I squinted through the darkness to grasp as much detail as possible of the trespasser and then huffed back into my living room.
“Ammmmmaaa… Amma… come fast,” I hollered above the Endaro Mahanubhavulu playing in the BG on the music system.
“Yenna aachu di? Edhukku ipdi katthare? (What happened? Why're you yelling like this?)” she retorted, annoyed. Paati looked up from the Ananda Vikatan that she was reading.
“Amma, Paati, both of you… I have to tell you something. There’s someone walking on the terrace in the flat across ours,” I finished hurriedly, expecting Amma to scream and Paati to faint. They gaped back, clearly not knowing how to react. Must be shock, I reasoned and I repeated my discovery again. I was literally jumping up and down with sheer adrenaline pumping through my veins. I imagined the police entering the apartment complex in several large vans, ganging up the entire force against that brazen intruder. I frowned a bit at the image of a Bullet Pushpa, a Dubai Kanchana, and a Revolver Rita gazing back at me, ready to be synonymous with my name. Maybe, I’m better off imagining just one police car. Shouldn’t that be enough? I pulled my mind back to address the current situation.
“Amma, konjam react pannu, please, (Mom, please react..)” I begged her and looked at Paati helplessly.
The bell rang suddenly and shook both of them out of their reverie. I let them answer the door and wandered back to the terrace to see if he was still lurking there. There was no one to be seen and the terrace opposite, wore nothing but an enigmatic silence. He must have gone inside. I think I should call Vidya. Her neighbor is the S.I at E 1 police station. He will know what to do...
I heard voices from the living room and stilled. I listened quietly and could hear a male voice answering Paati’s questions patiently.
“Amaam Paati, ippo dhaan vandhen. Athai athimber innum California la thaan irukka." (Yes Grandmother, I came jus' now. My aunt and uncle are still in California)
“Appo thaniya irundhu samaichika poriya? Parava illiye.” (Oh, so you're going to cook alone is it? That's impressive) (That was Amma, by the way)
His strong, measured voice was somehow familiar. I couldn’t trace it. I walked back into the hall and crossed over to the doorway. I got the shock of my life.
“Oh Anu, vandhuttiya. Karthik, meet my daughter Anuradha. She’s just finished college.”
Karthik smiled at me and I managed to curl my tight jaw muscles. It was Karthik, the RJ at Radio Mirchi!!
Mirchi Karthik… mirchi Karthik… oooh… Hot Karthik!!
“Hi Anu. How’re you doing?” he said genially.
I promptly fainted…
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *to be cont...