This is a long ass post. Don’t complain later that I didn’t warn you.
I don’t know how I got back home after my weird encounter with Bhel Pathan. I felt a lot better after drinking my mother’s filter coffee and smoking a couple of beedis on the terrace. It was the end of the month and I had no money. I didn’t even have money to buy her a New Year card. My dad promised to break my neck if I asked for more money. I had pawned my silver chain to pay off debts. My brother hid his piggy bank and I could not find it even after searching for it for a week. I was broke. My girl was about to disappear from my life, thanks to me. And, I was hooked to beedis now.
I sat on the terrace wall watching the stars appear and as the light gave into the allure of darkness. I felt stranded and estranged. I had instructed my mom not to let any of my friends know that I was home. I heard a couple of them talking to my mom at the door and leaving. They were organizing a party. We wanted to try Gin on that New Year’s Eve. I decided to spend the evening alone. The grapevine had it that the girl went mute after listening to AH’s snitching. I knew what it was. Whenever she was incensed, she would shut the world out and stay silent. What was I going to do? I was exasperated. I lay on my back on the terrace, as I had nothing better to do and before long fell asleep. I don’t know how long I was sleeping but someone was screaming at me and slapping my head, when I woke up. It was completely dark and the terrace light was not on. The bulb blew a fuse I guess. As sleep wore off, I realized to my utter delight that it was none other than the junior: my witness and savior!
I hugged him and almost cried. He got caught in Hyderabad because his train ticket was not confirmed. He was acting weird though. I ran down the steps and dashed into the bathroom to wash my face. My heart was racing. If I confronted her tonight and the showdown happens, I can have my witness to make a delayed entry and tell her that AH was lying. The plan was on track! But, as I was drying my face, for some strange reason, I heard the Pathan’s words again,
‘Lies and lack of faith!’
I felt as if a tiny steel hand caught my heart and gave it a mighty squeeze. The witness was staring at me when I said, ‘do you think I am doing the right thing? I mean all the lies and drama etc you know?’
‘It is too early to worry about all that, don’t you think so?’ He said. Sarcasm and Brahmins are inseparable I guess. I made a mental note to take care of the bugger after I was done with my love issues. I gave instructions.
‘I am going to meet her now. She must be playing badminton under the lights in the colony ground. I am sure of it. When she sees me, she is going to pounce on me and tear me apart. I am going to walk away, sad face and all that. I will walk away from the badminton court, out of earshot you know, when you will stop me and pretend talking to me. Say some nonsense. Count from 0 to 135 or something? I will shake my head. You have to be animated as well. Then you will walk up to her and ask her to step aside. And you will tell her that AH lied and that you were right next to me when I spoke to AH in the Cricket ground. You leave. She will run to me in slow motion. I will finally give her my love letter. We will live happily ever after. Okay?’
He nodded like a humping dog and we ran out.
I stopped near the slope that leads to the badminton court. It was lit up with those lights that they use in lawn parties. There was a sizeable crowd that had gathered that day. I saw her sitting in the shadows, with her best friend. They were watching four losers play Ring. I made another mental note to tell the colony secretary to ban playing ring in the colony. What kind of a loser game is that anyway? You throw a rubber ring across the net and your opponent catches it and throws it back. You score when your opponent drops the ring… god! Why do some boys thing it is a cool sport? Anyway, I asked my witness to stay in a place where no one could spot him. He chose to squat at the foot of the slope. The streetlights were on vacation anyway. I paused to take a deep breath. This was it!
I walked up the slope and after what seemed like ages, I entered the badminton court. Out of the corner of my eye I saw AH and his cronies. I thought he sniggered. I turned towards her and waved; an innocent wave, as if I was unaware of the controversy. She rose to her feet and came right at me. I closed my eyes for a moment and said a little prayer.
‘I am sorry that I have been troubling you with my silly greeting cards and my proposals!’ She hissed. She started walking down the slope. I tried to catch her best friend’s eye but she turned her face away.
I ran down after the girl, for I did not want her to find that moron witness of mine squatting on the road, in the middle of the night.
I overtook her and stopped her in her tracks.
‘What the hell was that!?’ I said.
‘You should know. You have been talking to your friends.’ She said. She looked hot when she had her hands on her hips.
‘What friends? What is this cards and proposal thing all about?’ I said.
‘Did you tell someone that I was after you?’
‘After me? What do you mean?’
‘After you as in after you.’
‘Oh that after you?’
‘Crazy! Why would I say something like that?’
‘So you did not?’
‘No. I did not. I swear.’
‘Swear on me?’
‘Swear on me that you did not mention it to anyone.’
‘I s-swear I d-didn’t…’
I couldn’t swear on her. For all the fantastic schemes that I hatched, I could not lie to her. I was disgusted with myself. The breeze whistled through the trees and the Crickets took a break. The silence had just settled down on us and the Crickets started their chorus again.
In the feeble light from the badminton court, I saw tears running down her face.
‘Lies and lack of faith.’ The Pathan’s words echoed in my head.
I took her hand and she threw my hand away. She looked away and she controlled her sobs. She wiped her face with her handkerchief and cleared her throat. ‘Here we go.’ I told myself.
‘I hate you.’ She said.
I knew that she meant it. Somehow I knew that my witness was not going to help me too much. I decided to end it right there. By telling her the truth. I walked up to where the witness was hiding and told him that we were aborting the plan.
‘What the hell? I practiced all night on the bus! How can you do this to me?’ He said.
I slapped him and asked him to buzz off. I walked back to her and said,
‘Can we go for a walk? I need to tell you something.’
She started walking. We walked towards her home.
‘Listen, I love you.’ I said and I felt a huge boulder fly off my chest.
She stopped in her tracks and stared at me.
‘All that happened was because of the fact that I love you.’ I said. I told her everything. From the love letters in blood to the grand plan with AH.
When I finished, we had reached her place. She sat on the steps below the gate. I sat next to her. Somewhere, screams of ‘Happy new year!’ erupted. A strand of hair fell across her face. She blew it off.
The Bhel Pathan was right. I didn’t know what her answer was, for I didn’t ask her any questions in the first place. I didn’t want to too. I checked my pockets and found some beedis. They will see me through that tough night, I thought. I rose to my feet and stood facing her.
‘Happy new year and… good luck. I am sorry for being such a dick.’ I said. She just nodded.
‘And, I will miss you I guess.’ I said and choked on it. I looked away as a teardrop flew off on a tangent and found freedom in the womb of the night. ‘Girls don’t like men that cry!’ erupted in my head. That’s what Suri said all the time. He cried in all the movies invariably. I thrust my letter in her hand before I walked away. After nearly a year of writing it (in normal ink) the letter finally found its home. It was a simple letter, no blood or anything fancy. No perfumed paper and all.
She never spoke to me after that for six months. Six long, excruciating months. I tried moving on but I couldn’t. I tried dating other girls but found them really stupid. Some, under the pretext of having a meaningful conversation, asked me what I thought of Yendamuri Veerendranath. I told them ‘Yendamuri writes like a 70 year old guy that never got laid.’ So, there. I was on a destructive spree.
She insulted me at the tuitions by not talking to me, or responding to my earth shaking ‘Hi!’ She just looked away as if I never existed. When the Colony gang went for a movie, she made sure that she did not end up next to me. The whole world came to a tacit agreement I guess that no one would bring my topic when she was around or talk to me about her. When you cry, you cry alone. I prayed everyday that all those bastards failed in their exams and that their girl friends should dump them.
One of her cousins from Bangalore came down to Chittoor. My younger bro and I were returning from the provision store when we bumped into the girl and the cousin. She introduced the cousin to my bro and the three of them spoke like long lost friends, while I watched from the sidelines. I smiled at the cousin, who was quite hot herself, when she looked at me. She just nodded and winked at me. It was a message. I nodded back as if I understood. Before the cousin left for Bangalore she left a note for me. I got the note from the girl’s best friend. The note read ‘Patience pays.’
That day it rained quite heavy. The Gulmohar tree lost a branch. There was a power-cut. The evening was hazy and the cooking fires from the huts in Ed’s farm sent beautiful columns of smokes to the skies. The pungent fragrance of burning firewood permeated the place. Velan the milkman waved as he pedaled hard on his bicycle on his way home; the empty milk cans banged against the bicycle creating a Buddhist monastery feel. I stood in the Verandah and observed the mist clad hills far away, behind the Arts College. I was alone and had no smokes on me; no money either, as ever.
Our neighbor, who lived in a tile-roofed house behind us, started his blow-the-nose-to-hell routine. I never quite understood why he did it. I initially thought he was trying to blow his lungs out through his nostrils but later found that he suffered from OCD of the nose: he wanted them clean. As his nose blowing reached a tremulous crescendo, I heard the gate open.
There she was, shiny beads of rain adorned her long, curly hair. She took a step and asked coyly,
‘May I come in?’
‘You may. What took you so long?’
‘Convincing myself that you are not a dick?’
I laughed. It was one of those moments. One of those moments, that reveals life is going to be good. One of those moments, that announces that your ass is all right.
She stood next to me and joined me in my hill gazing. The neighbor stopped for the day after a mighty blow of the nose. Peace limped back into the evening. And I started thinking about how to convince the girl that making out is all right. I mean she thought French kiss meant kissing in Paris. That is a story for another day I guess.