Reviewed by Aanand Vasu.
I was shaken up, only to find out that my bath coat was still over me, and I was not lying in bed, but in the drawing room’s couch. The door bell rang again.
‘Thank heavens! So for all this time, I had been in a dream.’ But that was one hell of a dream.
The bell rang again. I was now shivering, not just shivering, but also sweating. The sweat drops moved like pieces of ice over my skin.
I was shaking. The steel door knob was ice cold. It passed streams of electricity through my palms to all parts of my body. I opened the door.
Shantanu was standing there. I let him in, and closed the door behind. He silently walked to the couch and sat. I stood there, in the middle of the hall, clueless about anything. I was yet to get out of the shock the dream had given me.
I was looking at the floor like an accused convict in a courtroom. I sensed Shantanu was about to say something. It was high time I made a decision. I made one.
“Dear, I am sorry. Hmm..”
“I mean, like; see; as you already said we have a lot of time. So may be..”
“Hmmm like..” I stretched the line searching for words. I gave a break to take a deep breath. I knew I had tempted him. He was a good guy, but not a saint or anything. To say ‘no’ at this point must be bad on my part.
I just tried to forget the past and the future, and started speaking, “As you used to say, we neither have America’s riches, nor Europe’s economy. We don’t have China’s infrastructure or Singapore’s life style. But one thing, for which the whole world respects us, is our culture.”
I knew I made no sense. In fact he was the one who had initially talked about culture. I, in my clueless desperate attempt to justify my last moment decision, was blabbering something. As there was still nothing but silence from the other end, I continued, “Our social structure is one of the oldest and the most respected one. The one thing that keeps the entire 100 crore population running is that, though we have different cultures basically we have this social structure that is basically the same in all the myriad cultures in the country.”
“We need to respect marriage, and…” I was standing there like a grade 3 girl who had forgotten the speech she had memorized for the speaking competition. The guilty consciousness, the nightmare of the consequences everything drove me mad.
I saw Shantanu get up. I wondered what he might reply. ‘What do you think of yourself?’ or ‘Do you think I am your slave to say yes for whatever you order?’ or ‘Am I looking like the little teddy you sleep hugging to play me as you wish?’
He walked towards me. I started sweating heavily, and got wet all over like being in a shower. He came closer, and he was a couple foot away.
His hands came near me. He touched my chin with two fingers, and tilted my head up. I was unable to look at him, but I managed to look at him with half opened eyes.
He gave a weird smile. I couldn’t make out the meaning of it. “That was one hell of a speech. I will go get ice creams for the both of us.
He left the house, and came back with a family pack of ‘Mixed fruits’ ice cream, his usual favorite. He went straight into the kitchen, and got two glass bowls and a knife. Divided the ice cream into two equal halves, or may be 55:45. He never used to be just in sharing ice creams, and the vice versa applies to me, when it came to chocolates.
He gave me the 45 bowl and suddenly got it back and said, “Will you please change to a better dress than this bath coat?”
I just obeyed; I ransacked the wardrobe and found a big loose night Frock that was more like a wedding gown. I came back, and stood there before him like a school girl.
He pushed the ice cream bowl towards me. I just started having it like I had been famished for years, as I really felt all my inners got dried up with the turn of events. I was finishing the ice cream on par with him. After all he had 10% more.
He switched the TV on and was flipping through his usual NDTV Profit and CNBC live. “Nothing new.” He flipped through the music channels 9xm, V, MTV and list went on. He stopped at a channel for the song, ‘Baby I love you’ from the Hindi movie Race.
He was humming along knowing very well that I wouldn’t approve of that. Little annoyed, I looked up at him. He gave a sarcastic smile, and suddenly burst out, “Heyyy”
I looked at him puzzled, and a bit horrified.
“You look gorgeous. As in..”, He was searching for a metaphor.
“Yeah like Kate in Titanic. Why don’t we dance?”
‘Kate!!! Dance!!! What a weird idea?’ I continued to look at him with the pink plastic spoon still in my mouth.
“Hey I am not asking for a ballet, or something complex like in RBJ, just soft moves like in that song.”
I finished the last little part left in the bowl, and stood up. “Give some thought about wiping off your lips.”
‘What’s so wrong with me? Am I still scared?’ or at least I was confused. I washed my mouth, and came back.
He put the disc with Yanni, Mozart etc into the player. If I was a movie freak, he was a music freak. He chose some arbitrary song, or may be he chose it for the mood and the dancing.
He put on his left hand around my waist, and caught my left hand with his right. “My lady will you please put your right hand on my shoulder” sounding like a knight in a classic English movie. He always had this taste of middle aged European style.
The warmth of love was hallucinating. In no time I was in a different world, and I bet neither getting stoned by dope nor getting cockeyed by vodka could take you there, though I had no idea about the former. We were dancing for sometime till we realized that the time was almost 8PM.
“Oh shit! You have to get into the hostel”
I realized it only then. “Oh no, but it’s already late.”
“May be we can take an Autorickshaw”
The beautiful night was coming to an end this soon. I half heartedly went to change into a Chudi and came out. “Why do you girls take so long to change even when it’s an emergency?”
I wanted to retort, ‘Because I don’t want to go back to the hostel. Because I don’t want to leave you. Because I want to stay with you, in your arms.' But I couldn’t. What if he thought I was getting back to the same stupid thing?
I didn’t know why. I felt like crying. It felt like the first day of school, when mom and dad dragged me to school. I was rolling on the floor crying, and making a really good struggle to go back with mom. Dad had photographed it, and that was one of my childhood pictures with which they used to enjoy making me embarrassed.
We walked to the road. Fortunately or unfortunately there were no autos available in our range of sight. Then after some 10 minutes of painful waiting, all my prayers had become useless. An auto came in our direction.
I wanted to tell him, ‘I don’t want to go.’
How many types of friends are there?
5 days ago