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...