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.”
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.