Karthik was apparently acquainted with Mr. Murugan, the fat traffic policeman. Oh, don’t ask how. I don’t even want to know. A few shoulder thumps, handshakes and a million grunts later, Mr. Murugan finally let us go.
“Always, carry a license with you.” he advised seriously.
We nodded in acquiescence and pulled our bike out. Jahnavi seemed to be in a hurry to get out of the place. I had changed my mind. I mentally gave Mr. Murugan permission to catch me how many ever times he wanted to for violation of traffic rules, as long as Karthik bailed me out of trouble.
I gaped at Karthik dreamily. It was a criminal offence for a guy to be this handsome. He abruptly came into my visual focus.
“Anu? Are you girls okay?” he enquired gently.
“Huh?? Uhh.. yeah. Of course. We are okay. Thank you so much for helping us out. I don’t know what we would have done without you.”
“Ahh, that’s nothing. Anything to help my athai’s two beautiful neighbours.” he teased.
I blushed on cue and could feel my feet develop tiny wings; ready to let me glide a few inches above ground.
Jahnavi started the vehicle and looked worriedly at me.
“Anu, I don’t think I have time to drop you back home. I am already late for my extra class. Can you take an auto rickshaw?”
“Why do you have to take an auto rickshaw? I am going home right now. I’ll take you.” Karthik intervened.
This time my heart soared, breached the cosmos and levitated at an infinite distance.
“Oh, that would be great. Thanks a lot Karthik. Is that okay, Anu?”
“I will be absolutely fine. You carry on”
I could hear A. R. Rahman’s romantic medley in the BG.
I waved Jahnavi off and walked over to his car. He opened the rear door for me and I got into the sleek machine. The BG reached a crescendo and teetered on the edge, when it suddenly crashed.
Vichitra, who had been sitting in the front turned around to smile at me. Karthik got in behind the wheel and introduced us to each other.
“Vichitra, meet Anu, my athai’s neighbour. Anu, meet Vichitra; she is with Sarvam, the theatre group. You must have heard about her. She’s one mean director, trust me.”
“Karthik!” she protested, “He’s just trying to make it sound bad. I am not that stringent.”
Their playful joust brought a smile to my face even though I was feeling weird inside. Karthik keyed the car to life and we started.
We stopped at Vichitra’s house to drop her off.
“Karthik, would you open the car boot please? I need to get all those bags out.” she purred.
I got out of the car for courtesy’s sake and watched as they both hauled gigantic shopping bags out from the boot. Vichitra dropped several and I bent down to pick them up. Somehow, we managed to take them all inside and Vichitra thanked me profusely.
“Wow, that was some shopping.” I said without thinking.
“Yeah, it’s my wedding. I’m allowed to, right?” she giggled and winked at him.
I suddenly lost all sensation. The place around me was abuzz with activity and yet I felt so unconnected. It was as if someone threw a massive bubble-wrap around me; enveloping me in its vacuum.
Handing over a few bags to Karthik, she reminded him, “Those are yours Karthik. How can you forget?”
Karthik and I strolled back to where he had parked his car. Somehow I don’t remember the rest of the journey home.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
To be cont…