SPF: The Perfect Getaway

SPF 09-16-18 Anurag 1
Photo (c) Anurag Bakhshi

SPF: The Perfect Getaway

Words 205

 “Did you switch off the gas?” Shefali asked.

“Gas? I think so,” he mumbled.

“Dhruv!” she fumed. “I better ask Sushil to…”

“You left the keys with Sushil?” Dhruv was annoyed. “You know I don’t like him. And for God’s sake don’t text and drive.”

“Your darling Trisha was unavailable.” Shefali sniped.

“You could’ve left them with Mom.”

“Yeah right.” Shefali snorted. Her phone pinged. She turned to Dhruv. “The gas wasn’t on.”

“I told you so!” Dhruv gloated.

“But the iron was.” Her eyes flashed.

“How dare he go into our bedroom?”

“He saved our house from burning down dammit!”

“He’s lying! Deliberately trying to wreck our vacation.”

“That’s your boss, kicking up a fuss about leave.” Shefali gunned down the road.

“It was because of the deadlines!”

“Don’t push me Dhruv! I know what’s going on between you and her.”

Her phone pinged.

“Sushil again?”

“Just my whatsapp friends.” She giggled. “They are so jealous.”

“Why not send them photos?”

“Great idea!” She pulled over.

They cuddled and clicked selfies.

“Let me take some of you against the scenic backdrop.” He clicked. “A little to the left. A bit more to the back.”

That’s all it took to push her over the edge.

***

Written for the Sunday Photo Fiction – a story in 200 words or less. Thanks to Susan for hosting the challenge and Anurag Bakhshi for the photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

 

 

FFfAW: Achilles Heels

photo-20180730154706912
Photo (c) Yinglan

Achilles Heels

“Flowers? I hate flowers.”

“But…but all girls like flowers.

“And that is your first mistake. I am not ‘all girls’. Besides I am allergic to flowers.

“I am sorry. Next time I will get chocolates.”

“Chocolates are very fattening. They give me a migraine too.

“Umm so what should I get?”

“Why should you get something for me? What do you want in return?

“Me? Nothing. I was just…”

“Just what?”

“Why are you so suspicious?”

“Because no one ever does anything just like that?”

“You are such a cynic.”

“Yeah so? Got a problem with that? I didn’t ask you to stay.”

“Fine I am leaving.”

“Good riddance…”

“I heard that. And just for that I am not leaving.”

“You were looking for an excuse weren’t you? Why do you put up with me?”

“I also wonder. You are one the most annoying persons I have met.”

“I did warn you that I am a very difficult person.”

“One whom I cannot live without.”

“What do you know?”

“Let’s go shopping.”

“Shopping? I don’t much care…”

“Shoe shopping.”

“Shoes?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t need shoes.”

“Okay.”

“Well maybe I could just look at them.”

***

Written for FFfAW challenge – a story in 175 words or less (I confess to overshooting the mark this week to 194 words 😦 ). Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting this challenge and Yinglan for the beautiful photo. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – XI

The final part!

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

 

Chapter 11: Will She Won’t She

Sonu flinched but rallied.

“Fine.” He nodded. “I’ll wait until you know. But,” he shook a finger at her, “But be prepared to be pestered for the rest of your life.” He warned. “Once I get a bee in my bonnet,” he shrugged. “Anyway would you like to see a movie?”

“Movie?” She was thrown. “What movie?”

“I was thinking the latest Ant-man movie.”

“I don’t like these stupid action sci-fi type of movies.”

“Have you seen any Ant-man movie?”

“I haven’t seen any.” Lovely admitted. “But I don’t…”

“So how can you say you don’t like them?” Sonu challenged.

“That’s neither here not there,” Lovely was exasperated, “I am not interested…”

“That’s your problem,” Sonu leaned back, “you are a stick in the mud.”

“What!” Lovely was affronted. “How dare…?”

“But of course! Even though you haven’t never eaten something before,” he indicated the untouched plate of tortillas between them, “or seen something you already know that you don’t like it,” he mocked. “No spirit of adventure at all.”

“You have absolutely no idea of what or who I am!” Lovely shot back. “And don’t you dare question my spirit of adventure. Have you tried paragliding?” she sneered. “I bet not.”

“And you have?”

“Of course. River rafting, rappelling, kayaking and even jumping off the cliff.” She ticked them off on her fingers with a semblance of animation. “Adventure sports give me such an adrenaline rush! I still have to do the flying fox and bungee jumping.”

“That’s what I am giving you a chance at,” he slipped in slyly, “bungee jumping, in fact a whole range of adventure sports.”

She frowned puzzled. “Apart from being a wedding planner you are running an adventure sports unit or what?”

“Actually I am terrified of adventure sports,” he confessed, “I had a narrow escape during a school trip while river rafting. I fell off and I didn’t know swimming.” He paused. “I still don’t know swimming. In fact I am terrified of the water.”

“Then?”

“Isn’t marriage like bungee jumping? Or for that matter like any of the adventure sports?”

She looked at him resignedly. “Are we back to that?”

“Yes. And I will keep coming back to it until you agree.”

“And then what? Move on to another unattainable toy?”

“Oh so that’s your problem!” He said with dawning understanding. “You think once we get married, I’ll forget about you and ignore you.”

She looked uncomfortable. “Partly. Yes.”

“So how about living in?”

“Oh my God.” Lovely clapped a hand to her head. “You don’t give up do you?”

“Nope. Not while I am alive and kicking.”

“Fine.” She crossed her arms. “And I won’t give in. Let the battle begin.”

Sonu rubbed his hands in glee. “Shall we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

She laughed. “You are incorrigible.”

He scratched his head. “What’s incorrigible?”

“It means…”

“Does it mean you love me?”

“You are impossible!”

“Nothing’s impossible.” He grinned. “Except for me.”

“And you are insufferable and arrogant.”

“Rubbish!” He denied. I am very humble and down to earth. Should we begin with tortilla and Ant-man?”

Lovely shook her head. “That would be too easy.”

“What do you mean?”

“You’ll have to begin with learning how to swim and then graduate to bungee jumping.”

“Whew.” He moped his brow. “And if I do, will you marry me?”

She rolled her eyes and looked away.

“Fine!” He threw down his napkin. “I’ll do it. But on condition.” He put his hand on the table palm up. “When I jump off the cliff you’ll hold my hand.”

She slid her hands under the table.

He shrugged. “Fine. I’ll just change the rules then.” He scrolled through his phone.

“Rules? What rules?”

“Rules of the game.”

“Are we playing a game?”

“Of course.” He looked up from his mobile. “One of the world’s most age-less time-less games.” Her eyes dropped before his.

“Okay and done!” He put down his phone. “I just enrolled myself for swimming classes.”

“Good.” She made a move to get up.

“Do you dance?” He wasn’t finished.

“Dance?” she frowned. “Where did that come from?”

“Never mind.” He said impatiently. “Just answer me.”

“I learned some Kathak in school. I even gave a stage performance in school.”

“That’s great. So you like dancing?”

“I guess.” She said warily.

“While I learn swimming, you will learn dancing.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” Argued Sonu. “Dancing is a great stress buster. It frees you and relaxes you. And the best part? I will learn along with you.”

She stared. “You’ll learn Kathak?”

“Not Kathak! Western dance rumba jive salsa,” he coughed, “Waltz.”

“You think you are very smart don’t you?”

“I don’t think.” He looked modest. “I am.”

“Well I am smarter than you.” She picked up her bag. “Thank you but no thank you.” She stood up.

“All those questions you asked?” He didn’t look up from his phone. “The ones we didn’t have an answer to?” She dropped her bag and sat down. “I think they apply to you as well.”

“What do you mean?” She frowned.

“I think you are also part of this system, this society. Even though you are being given a chance you are refusing to take it. You also blame yourself. You also think you are impure and you are unworthy of marrying.”

She paled. “Rubbish.” She said weakly.

“Is it?” He pressed home his advantage. “If it was a broken bone, an otherwise kind of a physical assault would you have been so traumatized?”

“You don’t understand.” She spoke through stiff lips.

“Perhaps. Make me understand. Isnt that why you want to be an IAS officer? To help women get justice? To liberate them to free them? How will you do that if you yourself aren’t free? If you stop yourself from moving on, going ahead with your life…”

“You don’t understand…”

“Stop feeling sorry for yourself. If you want to change the world, first change yourself.”

“Change myself how?” Her eyes shot daggers. “By marrying you? You think marriage is the solution to everything?”

“Not everything. Something. And change doesn’t happen overnight.” He looked at her. “I am not asking you to marrying me tomorrow or next month or even next year. I am just asking you to take that one little step,” he paused, “with me.” He broke off a piece of the tortilla and held it out. “Try it.” When she hesitated, he insisted. “Trust me.” he paused. “At least in this.”

She accepted the gauntlet and popped into her mouth. She chewed experimentally even as he flashed her a confident triumphant smile. “Nice isn’t it?”

She downed a glass of water and shook her head. “On the contrary, quite awful.”

She almost laughed at his crestfallen expression. But he quickly rallied. “So fine you don’t like it but I am sure you’ll like tacos. They are…”

“Oh please Sonu!” Lovely raised a hand. “Could we have some decent old-fashioned Indian food? I am starving.”

“Sure.” He beamed. “But for dessert you must have their cheesecake. Have you had it?” She shook her head. “It’s out of the world.” He drooled.

“Better than jalebis?”

“Jalebi is your favorite?”

She shook her head. “No. In fact I don’t like them at all.”

He stared. “Then?”

“I was just trying to understand how bad this cheesecake would be.” There was a glint in her eyes.

“Very smart.” He gave her a resigned look. “Just wait until you try the cheesecake. You can change my name if you don’t like it.”

She tapped her cheek. “Hmm let me see…”

He leaned back in his chair. “No rush. Take your time. You have an entire lifetime to think up names for me.”

“Why waste an entire lifetime?”

His chair scraped. “If you think it would be a waste then may as well forget it.”

“Giving up so easily?” Her voice was low.

He stilled.

She drew in a deep breath. “I meant it for you.” At his puzzled look, she continued. “Why waste your entire life on a…a…a lost cause?”

His lips twisted. “You think I am doing this for you?”

She nodded.

“I am flattered that you think so highly of me.”

She frowned. “What do you mean?”

“That you think I could be so self-sacrificing and caring about others.” He shook his head. “Sorry to break your illusions darling, but I care only and only about myself and my feelings.” He leaned forward. “I am not proposing to you because I am concerned about you, your feelings your future. Nope. It’s all about me. What I will do without you.”

She looked at him helplessly, drawn despite herself. She stiffened.

“Big words.” She jeered. “Easy to say, easier to forget.”

“You are a tough nut aren’t you?”

“And difficult to be with.” She added.

“And selfish and self-centered.”

Hurt flashed in her eyes before blanking out. “I don’t get where you get that from.”

“From this.” He gestured between them. “You are just concerned about your feelings the possible impact if some eventuality happens in the distant future. What about me?”

“What about you?”

“What about my feelings? What about the impact of your rejection on my present?”

She rolled her eyes. “Stop dramatizing.”

“And you lack empathy too.”

“I do not.” She was cut.

“Just because you cannot see my broken, wounded heart, just because I am not crying, you think I am fibbing, joking.” He paused. “What else can I do when my life is slipping out of my hands right in front of my eyes?”

“I am not convinced.” But she was shaken at the look in his eyes.

“If you insist.” He nodded briskly. “I will wait until you admit it.”

“Admit what?”

“That you love me.”

Her eyes flew to his. She stiffened and glared at him. “Don’t you think you are presuming too much?”

He shrugged. “I am no fool madam. And neither are you. If you didn’t love me, you would have walked away long ago and I would be nursing a broken jaw.”

Her lips twitched.

“So,” he smiled, “I will wait until you are ready to say it.”

“What if I never say it?”

“There is no end to what ifs.” He waved his hands impatient. “Shall we go?”

She looked at her watch. “Oh. Yes it is very late.” She stood up.

“If we hurry we can still catch Ant-man.”

“Ant-man?! I thought we were going home!”

“Soon. Very soon.” His eyes were warm.

She blushed and looked away. “But I am warning you that I am not going to join any dance classes.”

“Hey! A deal is a deal!”

“Deal?” she was incredulous. “What deal? I never agreed to any deal.”

“You will.” He was confident.

“You are pushy.”

“So are we back to character analysis?” He waved a hand. “Be my guest, but let me warn you it is a waste of time if you are looking for shortcomings and faults.”

“And brash and audacious.”

“Perhaps just the tiniest bit.” He admitted.

“Overbearing and overconfident.”

“Confident not overconfident.”

“Overconfident.”

“Confident.”

Their voices faded into the distance.

*** The Beginning***

Thank you for reading and especially for sharing your thoughts 🙂

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – X

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

Chapter 10: Unanswered Questions

Lovely spent a sleepless night reliving the horrors, which she had pushed away to the dark recesses of her mind. She was glad when it was morning and she could forcibly pull on the mask of normalcy and go back to work her still raw and bleeding wounds tucked firmly away out of sight – even her own.

The day dragged.

There was no sign of Sonu, not on phone or outside her office.

Just as well she thought as she reluctantly trudged back home and as expected.

But at home she was taken aback to see Sonu along with everybody else, including Ghasitaram. The animated discussion gave way to silence at her entry. Lovely stood at the doorway defiant and questioning. Ghasitaram walked up to her and met her eyes for the briefest moments before looking away.

He drew a deep breath and said. “What happened wasn’t right.”

Her lips twisted. “You mean I should have kept my mouth shut.” She cast Sonu a sneer. “I told you he wouldn’t believe me.”

“It’s not that.” Ghasitaram spoke before Sonu could.

“You believe me?” She was skeptical.

“When Sonu told me, I…I confess I didn’t. But…but like he said why would you say such a thing. So I confronted Lallan.”

“He admitted that he…?”

“No.”

Lovely flashed Sonu another accusing glare and walked away.

“But I saw guilt written on his face.” Lovely halted. “He is alive only because he is bedridden.” She turned around. “I am sorry beta.”

“Why are you apologizing?” She choked.

“Because he is,” Ghasitaram paused, “he was my friend. I feel responsible. But forgive him beta, he is not right in his mind. He is sick. Forgive him and let yourself heal.”

“It’s not just he who hurt me,” Lovely managed to say.

A hushed murmur ran through the room. “Who…?”

“Everyone,” she pointed an accusing finger to her family, “Dadi, Chacha, Chachi. They knew everything but said nothing. Did nothing.” Her voice became stronger. “Instead they told me to keep quiet, behaved as if it was my fault. That it would be better if I just killed myself out of shame and disgust and spare them the bother of having me on their conscience. What kind of society do we live in? Why must the victim keep quiet? Why is the victim shamed?”

Only questions and no answers…

“Why are questions always raised about the girl’s character, her intentions? Despite knowing everything why do they risk their own daughters’ future? Why is everybody so hell bent upon hiding the reality? Why is everyone so afraid of speaking the truth? When will the focus shift from the victim to the rapist?”

A thick silence pervaded the room.

She put a hand to her throat. “I feel suffocated, strangulated because of this enforced silence and the hypocritical lives that we have to live and hold up the image of a perfect family man.”

Eyes burning she faced Sonu. “If a goonda comes and slashes at you, breaks your leg, do you keep quiet?” Her eyes scorched Titu. “Do you hide your face in shame? No! Then why are we forced to do so? Why? Why? Why?” She screamed but again there were no answers.

She shouldered past the gathered crowd and ran to her room. She locked and bolted herself in.

The next day after work, she found Sonu waiting for her outside the bank. She froze him with a blank stare and disappeared into a waiting auto before he could move. But he was waiting for her again the next day and managed to catch her as she got into the auto but she urged the driver to speed away. After five days, Lovely gave in and took the bull by its horns.

“Yes?” she was cold. “What do you want?”

“I…I want to talk to you.”

She crossed her arms. “About what?”

“Things.” He said vaguely. “Many things.”

“I don’t think we have anything more to talk about.”

“You are wrong!” he jumped in. “I have a lot to say.” He looked around. “Please can we go somewhere private?” He quailed at the expression on her face. “A public place,” he clarified. “Like the mall?”

Lovely shook her head resignedly. He really was like a dog with a bone.

“So? What’s the problem?” Lovely asked the moment they were seated in a quiet little café at the nearest mall.

Sonu looked at her with troubled eyes. “I…I just…”

Lovely unbent. “It’s okay Sonu. It’s not your fault. You don’t have to feel guilty and over-correct for someone else’s crime. I am fine.” She swallowed and looked away. “It’s just that I have this huge wound inside of me. It doesn’t hurt if I don’t poke or prod it. But even the slightest of touches inflames it and all the pus comes gushing forth proving again that it hasn’t healed and probably never will. But,” she inhaled sharply, “I repeat it’s not your fault. So don’t feel obliged to explain, justify or even,” her voice wavered, “do a repeat telecast of your avowals of love and what not. Don’t worry I won’t hold you to it.” She smiled mirthlessly. “You can walk away and forget that we ever met.”

He shook his head. “But I can’t forget you.”

“You can and will. Just give it time.” She advised. “Trust me.”

“You can. I can’t and…and I won’t.”

“Oh please Sonu! Don’t be the drama king.” She flared up. “Don’t be so childish and stubborn. You don’t know what you are saying.”

“I know perfectly well what I am saying, if you will let me speak.” He held her eyes. “I love you and I want to marry you.”

“Even after all this?” She looked at him with shock.

“How does that change anything? One evil man hurt you wounded you and I am terribly sorry for that, but that doesn’t change my feelings for you. And why are you so surprised? Isn’t that your angst? Why blame the victim? I don’t think any of this was your fault and so it doesn’t change my feelings. If anything I love you more for having overcome this and come back to save your sister.”

“Don’t try to play the hero Sonu,” Lovely was shaking. “It will backfire on you. The novelty will wear off and…and…and besides I can’t I can’t stomach the thought of,” she broke off.

Sonu draped his jacket over her shoulders.

“Let’s have some coffee or would you prefer tea? You’ll feel better. And they make absolutely delicious tortillas. Have you tried them?”

She didn’t answer and neither did he push her. He took out his phone and flicked through his gallery. “What do you think of this?” He showed her the picture of Goan sunset at the beach. She stared at the colors lighting up the clouded skies. She cleared her throat. “It’s of course beautiful. Why do you ask?”

“The Dhoodhsagar falls was particularly spectacular.” He showed her another picture. “What do you think?”

She nodded.

He scrolled through the pictures holding out the phone to her. “Which do you prefer? The sandy beaches or the rocky beaches?”

“Why do you want to know?”

“I don’t know anything about you, your likes dislikes.” He shrugged. “I am just trying to get to know you.”

“Is this anyway to know a person? By playing twenty questions?” She threw up her hands. “Besides what does it matter?”

“It matters to me.”

“You are crazy.”

“I think you are right.” He nodded thoughtfully. “Do you know I fell in love with you at first sight?” he grinned at her expression, “Despite your protective gear,” He paused. “Or maybe because of it.”

“Sonu…”

“God woman! Will you let me speak?” He shook his head. “Boy you are such a chatterbox.”

She glared at him. “That’s rich coming from you.”

“Exactly. So please don’t keep trying to snatch the mike or the center stage from me.” He rebuked her. “So where was I? Yes, when I confessed my feelings to Titu after our third meeting, he also thought the same thing.” He looked into her eyes. “And he promptly whisked me away to Goa for de-addiction and rehabilitation. We had a blast but yet all I could think of was you. How you would have liked the sunset, whether you would have found it romantic or dismissed it with some scientific explanation, whether you would have liked to walk on the beaches or grumbled about the sand that got into everything, whether I could have convinced to try the feni or dance to the music on the ferry…”

“Sonu please,” her voice was raw and cracked. “Please don’t do this.”

“It’s already done. I can’t undo it. I can’t get you out of my system. Not then. Not while I was struggling to cope with the physical pain of the accident. Not now.”

“You’ll regret it.”

“Maybe maybe not. But in this,” he gestured between them, “I don’t have a choice.”

She blew her nose.

“Let’s not talk about me.” Sonu said earnestly. “Tell me what you want.”

“I want you to leave me alone.”

“Are you sure?” He asked.

Her eyes dropped before the intensity in his eyes. “I can’t marry you. It wouldn’t be right. I can’t…can’t,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “I don’t think I can have a physical relationship…”

“Okay so we won’t. Any other thing? You don’t dislike me do you?”

She shook her head dumbly.

“Great. So maybe you even like me a little bit?” He grinned engagingly at her.

“You are too much.” Her lips twitched.

“So you are saying that you too love me?”

“When did I say that?”

“Your eyes did.”

“Nonsense.” She looked at her watch. “I think I better go.”

“Look I am trying to cut a deal here.”

Lovely sighed. “What deal?”

“I want us to live together as friends, as partners,” he raised a hand, “and if we have to marry for that,” He shrugged. “So be it.”

“It won’t work out…”

“Well then it won’t! We’ll go our separate ways. What’s the problem?”

“You are the problem Sonu. You are oversimplifying things.”

“No. You are over-complicating things. I just want to share my life with you. Besides, Titu will get married soon and then what’ll become of me? I’ll be all alone.” He made a tragic face.

“You should also get married.”

“Excellent suggestion.” He beamed at her. “So when should we get married? Would you like a destination wedding? How about Goa? Or we could go after the wedding…”

“You aren’t listening to me!” She snapped.

“We’ll have separate rooms. For as long as you want. We can draw up a pre-nuptial and have it written down if you like.”

“It won’t work Sonu it won’t.” She said in despairing tones.

“Why will it not? For centuries people have gotten married for sex, for procreation, for political and strategic reasons so why not for friendship and companionship?” He argued. “You want a career right. Go ahead and make your career but wouldn’t it be nice to have someone at home waiting to eat your head?” Encouraged by her expression he gathered steam and waxed eloquent. “While you are busy at work who will take care of our daughters? Somebody has to be home for them right?”

“Daughters?”

“Weren’t you planning to adopt them? Children need both mother and father.” He paused as a thought struck him. He fiddled with the cutlery. “Or don’t you trust me?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered.

***

Click here for the Final Chapter: Will She Wont She

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VIII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

Today was the day!

Exam over, she was rejoining office after a week’s leave. As she dressed her heart thudded with anticipation and nervousness. She dithered over her dress and changed thrice before settling on one. Stop it she scolded herself, you weren’t this nervous before the exam!

Yes, but he was sure to be there waiting for her after work. She wanted to make sure she was well armed with a thick shapeless drab dress and a severe bun topped with her forbidding spectacles.

But to her dismay he wasn’t there. Nor did he turn up the next day. She checked his last updated status. He was online! She hurriedly exited her app. She was relieved she told herself firmly. This was for the best. For him.

“Miss me?” Once again he popped up when she was least expecting.

“I thought you’d gone back to hell.” She stilled her leaping heart.

“I tried,” he fell into step beside her, “but they threw me out.” He grinned engagingly.

She couldn’t help smiling back at him.

“Oh! Hurry they are going to tow away my car!” Before she knew it she was in the car with him.

“Where’s the tow truck?” she craned her neck.

“Must be coming.” He slid the car into motion and winked at her.

“You think you’re very smart don’t you?” she seethed. “Fine. Let’s talk.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.

“Not now.” He focused on the road. “I don’t want to to have an accident.”

She pressed her lips together. “Where are we going?” she asked stiffly.

“To my office. We can have privacy and your sensibilities won’t be offended either.”

She looked away. She yielded the battle and asked. “Are you okay enough to drive?”

He shrugged.

“I mean your leg was broken, so it must hurt?”

“Not as much as it hurts when you rebuff me.”

Sudden tears clouded her vision. She looked out of the window and blinked rapidly. It wouldn’t do to breakdown so easily. She re-bolstered her defenses.

“What do you want?” she demanded aggressively as she faced him in his cabin.

“I thought I had made it clear.” He threw the car keys on the overloaded table. It slithered over the plastic folders and dropped down through a crack in the middle. Lovely sighed and picked it out. Unable to find a reasonably safe place she slid it into the pen stand making sure to keep the distinctive key chain hanging out. “I want to marry you.”

“That’s the trouble with you Sonu,” she faced him with a stern face. “You don’t have vision.”

“Vision?”

“Yes.” She nodded. “You just care about the present. Instant gratification, with a complete disregard for the future, which trust me, will come, sooner or later.”

“What are you talking about?” Sonu was clueless.

She pointed to his messy table. “You threw the car keys without a thought for how you have found it later. All you were concerned about was getting rid of them. But you will leave this room sometime? You will need the car keys? Better to keep it somewhere you can easily find it?”

“I always throw my keys there and I have never ever had any had trouble finding it.” Sonu declared.

Lovely threw up her hands. “That’s neither here nor there. It just proves what I think – that you have no vision and have not spared any thought for the future. Can you seriously see us together? For decades?”

“I can’t see it any other way.” His eyes were soft and warm as they rested on her.

Frustrated (partly because of the way her heart leaped), Lovely almost stamped her foot. “Uff. Please none of this romantic drivel please. Marriage is no child’s play and it’s for a lifetime. Think about it. More than fifty years of commitment to the same person. Can you do it?” He nodded. “I don’t think you can.” She shook her head.

“How can I convince you I am serious? I don’t know about the future but I do know I won’t be able to live for very long without you.” She opened her mouth to give him a dressing down but he forestalled her. “For the past two months as I lay on the bed battled pain and agony of physiotherapy and learning to walk again,” his eyes bored into hers, “all I could think about was you. That you were there waiting for me or worse slipping away from me, kept me going. I pushed myself harder and harder, ignoring the pain. I had to get back on my feet as soon as possible, before someone else snapped you up.”

Lovely’s eyes dropped. She clamped down on her rising answering emotions and rallied. “I am glad I could be your inspiration but this doesn’t prove anything. In fact it seems to me that I am a toy, which has been denied to you. And the novelty of it has you hooked. Soon this craze this obsession will wear off and there would be nothing left.”

“You don’t understand! If I had the slightest doubt that this was an infatuation, I would have never asked you to marry me. I would have wooed you made love to you, got you out of my system and gone on my merry way.” His lips twisted at the shock in her eyes. “Been there, done that,” he gave a self-deprecating cough. “But,” he hastened to reassure her, “With you I don’t feel like that. I just want to be with you.” He looked at her helplessly. “I can’t understand it myself. It’s a weird feeling, uncomfortable and disturbing. Yet exhilarating.” He ran a hand over his hair. “God! I am not making any sense am I?” he groaned.

Unfortunately only too well.

Lovely clenched her fists and forced her jumping nerves to calm down.

“Look,” Sonu got up from his chair and drew up one across her. He leaned towards her, “there’s nothing to worry. I’ve got it all sorted. I…I mean we, Titu and I talked to everyone and they have no issues with me being the groom instead of Titu. Even Ghasitaram has no problem, in fact he has already sounded out your grandparents.” He smiled triumphantly at her. “They have no issues.”

“What about me?” There was just the faintest tremor in her voice. It cracked and she automatically raised her pitched to cover it. “Have you got me sorted too?”

He looked blank which served to fuel her anger.

“You didn’t think about me, my feelings at all did you? Why would I say no to such a brilliant catch isn’t it?” she jeered. “Why can’t you get it through your thick head that I don’t want to marry.”

“But why not?” Sonu stared. “I am financially sound, reasonably good looking and from a decent family, no in-laws to worry about, what’s the problem?” He looked irritated and frustrated.

“The problem is that it is all about you, the others.” Lovely said. “There’s nothing in it for me. My feelings what I want doesn’t matter at all.”

“Okay. Okay.” Sonu raised his hands and backed off. “Okay fine. We’ll talk about you, what you want. I just thought of removing any concerns regarding familial opposition or hurting Titu’s feelings etc which may have bearing on your stance. If you have any other concerns, we can sort it out together. I promise. So let’s see,” he counted on his fingers, “Titu doesn’t have any problem, my family, your family don’t have any issues,” he grinned, “neither do I. So only you are left.” He tapped his chin. “You are worried, I won’t let you work? But of course I will! I already…”

“You know what galls me?” her tone was conversational as she interrupted him.

“What?” he asked warily.

“This thing about you will let me work. Why would you say such a thing? As if I were your bonded laborer or something. Male chauvinist,” she swore under her breath.

“Hey come on!” Sonu protested. “It was just a figure of speech. I didn’t mean anything other than I fully support and respect your decision to work. Like I was saying, I have my heart set on being IAS officer’s househusband. You go out and set the world right and I’ll keep your home sparkling clean, fresh and welcoming. I’ll look after the children, send them to school, make them do their homework…”

“What if I don’t want children?”

“Every woman wants children!”

“I think you know by now, I am not every woman, at least not your idea of every woman.”

“But you like children!”

“How do you know?” she crossed her arms.

“You told us, that you wouldn’t marry, but you would adopt a child, maybe more.” He shrugged. “But if you are getting married, may as well have children and have fun trying,” he winked.

Her lips quivered and firmed. “What if I don’t want to try? Or have fun?” Angry with herself for allowing the bitterness ooze out, she walked to the window.

***

Click here for Chapter 9: The Ugly Truth

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VII

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

Chapter 7: To Hell and Back

Where the hell are you? She wished she could call him up and blast him as relief flooded her but there were too many customers around.

Where you told me to go. Hell.

She called him up. “Where are you?” she asked peremptorily.

“He’s in hospital.” Titu picked up the phone.

“Hospital!” she screeched. “Which hospital? Text me the details, if you are lying, I swear I’ll murder you both.” She disconnected the phone and packed up for the day.

At the hospital she surveyed a battered Sonu with horror. There were multiple scratches and bruises on his face, one eye was almost shut because of swelling and his right leg was in a cast. “What happened?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Snapped Titu. “He had an accident because he wasn’t looking where he was going. All because of you.”

“Titu.” Sonu’s voice was thin and scratchy.

“If anything happens to him,” Titu angrily brushed at his eyes, “I’ll make sure you rot in hell.” Her threatened.

“Titu!” His voice was stronger. “I’m fine. And it’s not her fault. Let her be.”

“Yeah right.” Titu flounced off.

“I am sorry.” Sonu said. “Don’t mind him. He’s just overwrought.”

Lovely stood there, her throat working unable to say a word.

“Please just ignore him and,” Sonu cleared his throat, “and any text that he may have sent. I asked him to charge my phone and check for any messages. He must have seen our chat and he just flew off the handle.”

“What happened?” Lovely was stiff.

“I had gone for a morning jog as usual when a bike crashed into me. I wasn’t carrying my phone, but luckily a neighborhood Aunty called Titu who brought me here.” He smiled. “Don’t worry I look worse than I feel.”

“How do you know what you look like?”

“From your expression.” He grinned. “Though I have to admit,” he added slyly, “it gives me a lot of hope.”

“Sonu please!” Lovely began. She drew a long breath. “We’ll talk later. Get well soon.”

“You’re leaving?”

She nodded. “I think it’s for the best.”

“Okay.” He lay with his eyes closed.

Worried (and slightly cut), she looked at him.

He was letting her go.

Without a protest. 

“Are you alright?”

“I will be.”

“Shall I call the Sister? Titu?”

“I’m fine.” He opened his eyes. “Is it okay if I call you sometimes?” He moved his fingers, “until I can begin texting again.”

She fiddled with strap of her purse and nodded.

“Thank you.” His face lit up. “Go and study.” His voice faded. “Make the most of now until I’m back on my feet.” It was a threat and a promise.

Lovely fled.

Titu wandered back in to the hospital room. “You okay?” Sonu looked pale and exhausted.

“You shouldn’t have texted her.” Sonu said without opening his eyes. “It wasn’t her fault.” For all his bravado and show, his heart was heavy. She didn’t care. What did you think that she too loves you? That she would collapse in a flood of tears upon seeing you, like the other girls had? The pain in his body was easier to bear than the anguish that tore through his heart.

“She told you to go to hell!” Titu snapped. “She has a black tongue and you better stay away from her.” He warned. “Don’t get taken in by her tears and sweet talk.”

“Tears? She’s too tough to cry. And what sweet talk? All she said was a dispassionate clinical what happened.”

“The way she was crying outside I thought she would flood the corridors.”

Sonu perked up. “Really?”

“Yeah.”

So she did care! A beatific smile lit up his face. “I’m glad you sent that text. You are a true friend.”

Titu grunted. “That was not my intention. I wanted to cut her out of your life before…”

“It’s too late bro. Too late.”

And all was not lost.

.

.

.

Unless she was the kinds who cared about injured rabid dogs.

 

The next two months passed with agonizing slowness. The road to recovery and getting back on his feet was an excruciating process but an unfinished agenda a lovely end to his budding love story was a high that kept him going, pushing him, keeping him in good spirits (most of the times).

For Lovely it was another story.

She withdrew from herself and threw herself into her books and systematically demolished the piles of pending claims left by her predecessor like a woman possessed. Strangely her family members didn’t pester her about formalizing her engagement with Titu. Perhaps he had asked for more time in view of his friend’s accident, whatever the reason she didn’t care. She only knew there was no place for marriage in her life or weakness in this regard. That way lay disaster.

Brick by brick, she bolstered and steadied her defenses and nerves. She refused to entertain any thoughts about Sonu and kept her conversations with Sonu to the bare minimum. Sonu tried to get her to text him but apart from a good morning or a good night, she maintained a tight-lipped silence while avidly listening in on any conversation that might give her clues to his well being or casually interrogating her Chachi.

She was just doing what any decent human being would do. Other than that, she wasn’t interested in him. Period. Besides who knew who all were reading their messages? She still went hot and cold with shame and horror at having allowed him to breach her barriers and respond to his texts. How could she?! Already Titu had read it. What if Mrs. Sharma or some other family member had read it! What would they have thought? What if Titu told them? What if Sonu and Titu laughed at her behind her back? She agonized over each word of her text. No she hadn’t said anything that could be misconstrued or held against her. But she wasn’t about to take any more risks. And it was for the best. She wasn’t marrying Titu so where did that leave her and Sonu? Nowhere.

Then the dreaded and yet most anticipated day came.

I am back on my feet.

Can we meet?

I need to talk to you.

Please?

I don’t bite.

Fine. Be that way. I will meet you outside your bank this evening.

No. I am busy

You need feeding.

You also have dark circles.

Are you stalking me?

I thought of surprising you yesterday.

But you caught the cab before I could make a move. 

Not completely recovered yet.

How about celebrating my return to life? 

Or would you have preferred me to die?

Stooping to emotional blackmail?

 

Just checking if you have any emotions

None whatsoever

Liar

 

Why do you say that?

 

That day after you left me at the hospital?

What?

The entire corridor was flooded.

Rubbish.

Come on! I wont take much time.

Besides you owe me.

You told me to go to hell

I went and came back

Don’t I deserve a pat on the back?

 

 

 

 

Exams are around the corner.

You can’t hide behind exams forever.

Go study

Make sure you clear the exams

All the best

Thanks

I have my heart set on an IAS wife

She switched off her data. She scrolled through the messages over and over again.

If only

Bitter bile rose up and choked her. She switched off her phone.

***

Click here for Chapter 8: A tête-à-tête

 

 

 

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – V

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

 

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Back home, he had another task cut out.

“What?! Why!?” Titu was annoyed. He had been quite sure Lovely would veto Sonu’s plans and save him the bother. Dammit now he would have to spend time in her company. What if anyone asked who she was? He couldn’t very well say fiancé could he? She was downright ugly and a blot on his standards. “I don’t want to get to know her better!” He echoed Lovely’s sentiments. “What’s the point?”

“What will everyone say?” Sonu asked. “We did put off the engagement saying that you needed time to get to know her didn’t you? And if you don’t meet at least a couple of times, they are going to get suspicious. Even her own Aunt and Uncle.”

“What a bore.” Titu grumbled. “And what a waste of a perfectly good evening.”

“If you were so dead against going, why didn’t you say something before I went to meet her?”

“I did! But you didn’t listen,” Titu pointed out. “Besides I thought she would refuse. I am still surprised that she agreed.”

“She had no choice.” Sonu smirked. “Plus she also has a vested interest,” He pointed out smugly, “She needs to keep up appearances of this engagement.”

“Makes sense.” Titu nodded, “but,” he shot Sonu a keen look, “what doesn’t make sense, is your interest?”

“My interest?” Sonu got up to pour himself a glass of water. He drained it. “I don’t know what you mean.” He picked up his car keys. “Okay then see you at around 7?”

“What’s going on Sonu?” Titu stood in front of him.\

“Going on? Nothing.” Sonu shrugged. “I just remembered, I was supposed to meet a caterer…”

“Don’t lie Sonu!” Titu interrupted, “If you know me, I also know you. So out with it.” He insisted.

“I really don’t know what you are talking about!” Sonu stuck to his story. “I am just trying to help…”

“How are you helping me by forcing me to meet this girl? She doesn’t want to marry me and even I don’t want to marry her….”

“Exactly,” Nodded Sonu, “We need a valid reason to break off isn’t it? The sooner we meet and the oftener we meet the earlier we can convince Ghasitaram that you aren’t suited.” Seeing Titu’s unconvinced expression, he added, “You do know Ghasitaram is hell bent on this alliance?” Titu nodded glumly. “It’s not going to be easy to break this one,” Sonu warned. “We have to find a solid reason one that even Ghasitaram wont be able to overlook.”

“That will be tough,” admitted Titu, “the way he waxes eloquent about his friend. In fact he said until college they were like you and me. It was because of the partition they lost touch until now.”

“I know. He told me that as well. And that’s why we have to meet Lovely and find some solid reason that would convince Ghasitaram.”

“What if he doesn’t get convinced?” The dreadful possibility gave Titu the jitters. “I am not marrying that girl and that’s final!”

“Okay fine! I’ll think of something.” Sonu reassured him.

“I know!” Titu snapped his fingers. “You could marry her.” He said slyly. “You seem quite taken in with her.”

“Rubbish.” Sonu hedged. “It’s just that she’s piqued my interest. She’s so…so different and refreshing from the usual girls, that’s all.”

That’s all. Titu grinned to himself. This was getting interesting. He made no more objections until he saw Lovely.

“You do know we aren’t going to the temple for bhajan kirtan?” Titu said as Lovely got into the car.

She paused in the act of shutting the door, the only indication that the barb had hit home. “Yes.” She slammed the door shut and pulled at the seat belt.

“Then why are you dressed as if you are?” Titu deliberately rubbed it in ignoring Sonu’s glare in the rear view mirror.

“What’s wrong with what I am wearing?” Lovely said stiffly looking down at her sober full sleeved salwar kameez. “Besides, how does it matter what I wear?”

“Of course it matters!” Titu didn’t start the car. “We are going to a friend’s engagement party. What will everyone think? That my fiancé is a behenji?”

“Shut up and drive,” Ordered Sonu from the backsat.

“As you wish,” Titu slid the car into gear and zoomed off. “But for your kind information we are going to a discotheque. So don’t blame me if everyone stares at you or makes fun of you.”

“I thought it was a formal function.” Lovely said stiffly. “Not some half-naked dance party at a discotheque.”

“Call it what you like but we people like to wear clothes which we are comfortable in and not what society expects us to wear.” Titu tapped his fingers on the wheel one eye on Sonu’s black expression. He laughed to himself.

“I am comfortable in these clothes, thank you very much.” Lovely sat stiff and composed as Titu gunned down the road.

“Whatever.” he looked at Sonu through the rear-view mirror, “She can be your friend, fiancé whatever. I refuse to be associated with her.” He screeched to a halt. “Here we are.” He got down from the car. Sonu leaped out and accosted Titu. “How can you be so rude?”

“I had to be rude to be kind,” Titu was unfazed. “If she went in looking like that they would demolish her in no time.” He shook his head. “What were you thinking? And what the hell are you playing at?”

Lovely exited from the car. She slammed the door with finality. “I’ve booked a cab. I am going home. Thank you for a fine evening.” She glared at Sonu.

“Hey no!” Sonu went to her. “Don’t do that! If you don’t want to attend the party,” he looked behind where Titu was already deep in conversation with a couple of girls in bits and pieces of garments, “I’ll drop you home.”

“No thanks.” She raised a hand. “I’ve had enough of your hospitality.” She raised a hand to hail her cab.

Sonu walked up to the cab and dismissed him with a 100-rupee note. He turned to face a fuming Lovely. “If you don’t want to attend the party, I won’t insist. But please let me drop you home. Please.” Lovely glared at him before looking away. Taking it as tacit acceptance he went to Titu. “Give me the car keys. I’ll drop her and come back.”

“Sure.” Titu said affably and handed over the keys to him.

“Please,” Sonu held open the car door and waved her in. She looked up from her phone where she was hunting for a cab. Pursing her lips, she got into the car with a regal swish.

Sonu hurried over to the other side and started the car. “Sorry.” He said. “It’s all my fault. A misunderstanding. I should have warned you about the kind of party.”

“Yes you should have. They you wouldn’t have had to waste your time picking and dropping a behenji.”

Sonu winced but rallied. “Titu said that! Not me. I would never say that to you. Not in a million years.” He swore.

“Wouldn’t matter even if you did.” She dismissed his avowal rather rudely. “I just find it weird that all their lives girls are constantly nagged to dress properly, cover properly sit properly and then wham one fine day she is supposed to drop ALL her inhibitions and along with it everything else! She’s not supposed to draw any attention to herself; She should blend into the background and yet be attractive engaging and forward enough to catch a rich handsome husband. Idiotic double standards.” She ranted.

“Yes I suppose the mixed signals can be confusing,” he slowed the car and slid in to the parking.

“Confusing? They are dizzying and oh so frustrating!” She looked around. “Why are we stopping here?”

“I thought it was only good manners to at least treat you to dinner.” He unstrapped himself and got out of the car. He opened her door where she sat mutinously.

“I don’t want dinner. And definitely not with you.”

“Ouch.” Sonu winced. “No one has ever been so rude to me ever in my life and definitely not a beautiful girl.”

Lovely snorted and crossed her arms.

“Please. Look the guard is coming. Please don’t make a scene. Please!” he begged. The security guard had begun to stroll towards them. Rolling her eyes, Lovely got down from the car. “I don’t like these blackmailing tactics.” She warned. “And it’s the second one tonight. One more and you’ve had it.”

“Yes Ma’am.” He said meekly shutting the door behind her. “I wasn’t very sure what kind of food you’d like so I chose Indian. Is it okay?” He asked worried. “Would you have preferred Chinese or Italian? We can go to another joint nearby if you like.” He waved his hand.

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m not here to ‘enjoy’ my food but only to fulfill my years of ingrained societal niceties, to complete a formality and sooner the better.” She looked at her watch. “I have to study.”

“It will be a quick meal I promise.” Sonu looked at the hovering obsequious waiter. “Anything special you would like me to order?”

She didn’t even deign to reply. Sonu quickly gave their order and dismissed him. “Your ingrained good manners don’t extend to me?” He half-joked half-complained.

She looked at him with a puzzled arrested expression. “You are different.” His heart leaped. “You and Titu. I feel like banging both your heads together.” She said conversationally. “You especially get my goat.” She looked at him thoughtfully. “And I don’t seem to feel the need to censor my words with you.”

Pleased, Sonu leaned back as the waiter served them their drinks. “Cheers!” He raised his drink in a toast. “May you continue to be honest and frank with me.” He indicated her drink with his glass. “Don’t worry, that’s non-alcoholic.”

“So,” she raised an eyebrow, “Yours is alcoholic?”

“Yes.” He took a sip. “Alcohol keeps me focused.” He grinned.

She crossed her arms. “After you finish dinner, I’ll take a cab.” She said pointedly.

“Just one drink,” he promised. “So,” he leaned forrd, “Do you actually like studying?”

“Yes.” She nodded.

“Strange.” Sonu looked at her with concern. “Since when do you have this disease?”

Lovely threw back her head and laughed. He stared at the transformation it brought to her face. She glowed and he was the moth to her light.

“No I am serious.” He insisted wishing he could keep her animated and alive always. He hated the pained withdrawn look that she often wore. “Were you fond of studying even as a child?”

“Yes. Studies came easily to me.” She shrugged. “My parents, especially my father encouraged me and I always topped my school.” Her face clouded. “Until they passed away.”

“I am sorry.” Sonu cursed himself. That dreaded look was back. “It must have been very tough. I lost my mother and that was so difficult to cope with but to lose both your parents.” He shook his head. Surely that wasn’t why she appeared to wear a mask to cover the real her? “How did you cope?”

“I was shifted to the hostel soon after they passed away. It was the best solution for all concerned. Dadi had taken the loss of Papa badly and Chachi had her hands full with two young children and my tantrums alternating with bouts of depression were too much for them to handle.”

“Hostel must have just worsened things for you.”

“No actually it didn’t.” She toyed with the cutlery wearing a far away look. “Hostel was the best thing for me. There was no time to mope or mourn. Life was too busy and hectic with sports and extra-curricular activities. They put me into theater, which was very therapeutic for me. I got the chance to forget myself, become somebody else and also give me perspective and helped me to cope with my loss. Plus while in hostel I could pretend everything was fine, that my parents were still at home, I was just studying.” She swallowed. “That’s why I often refused to go home during vacations.”

“You aren’t taking your drink?” he asked. “Should I order something else?”

“I don’t take drinks with strangers.” She said baldly.

He stared. “I am sitting right here! How could I have laced your drink?”

She shrugged. “How do I know you aren’t in cahoots with the waiter? He seemed to be pretty paly with you.”

Giving her a resigned look he reached out and poured half of her drink into his now empty glass and downed it. “Happy? Convinced?”

“One can’t be too careful.” She refused to apologize.

“I am surprised that you actually agreed to have dinner with me.”

“If you remember,” she pointed out, “I didn’t agree. I have a horror of creating scenes and drawing attention.” She admitted. “But,” she warned. “I am a black belt in judo and karate.”

“Oh.” He was impressed. “I am glad you are on my side.”

She just raised an eyebrow. He grinned cheekily. “So where did you learn self-defense? In school?” He attacked his food.

“I wish.” The brooding dark look was back. “I learned it in college.”

Something had happened in college?

“You studied from DU right?” she nodded. “You stayed with you grandparents?”

“Initially. Then I shifted to the hostel.”

Definitely something in college.

“What did you study?”

“Math. You?”

“Math!” His eyes widened. “Don’t even ask!”

“Did you even go to college?” She mocked.

“Good question!” He grinned engagingly. “I only remember the college canteen.” He looked at her empty plate. “Aren’t you going to eat either?” He pointed to his plate. “Look I’ve been eating and drinking and am still alive.”

“There are worse things than death.” But she helped herself to a piece of naan and some dal.

What he dearly wished to ask but wisely held his tongue. “How’s your grandfather?”

“Not well.” She said shortly.  She took a cautious sip of her drink and put her napkin on the table. “How soon can we go?”

“Once you finish eating.” He promised. “You’ll have to go home and cook dinner for yourself.”

“I already cooked before coming.”

“You cooked?”

“But of course. I get the children ready for school, pack their tiffin serve breakfast, make lunch for everyone and do it all over again in the evening.”

“What does your Chachi do?”

“She oversees everything, decides the menu, controls the purse strings, manages her in-laws, husband kids…”

“But I suppose the children’s homework is also your headache?”

She softened. “The children are no bother.”

“You should thank me.” He asked for the finger bowl

“Why?” she frowned.

“At least you won’t have to serve dinner tonight.”

She laughed. “Actually, honestly that was also one of the reasons I got down from the car.”

“Is that also the reason you are so against marriage? Because you have to cook clean and serve?”

“Partly.” She shrugged. “I don’t mind the work so much as the skewedness of the relationship. Why is everything just her responsibility? Why should she only cook…?”

“That’s not true! Even I know how to cook.” Sonu claimed. “In fact I make a mean biryani and often on weekends when the mood strikes, I cook for everyone.”

“Good for you,” she applauded. “But can you do that everyday not just when the mood strikes you? Four meals a day, every day regardless of heat, the humidity, health and mood?” He was silent. “And listen to complaints and criticisms?”

“That shouldn’t be enough to put you off marriage,” he argued. “You could keep a cook, an army of helpers. And what about children? You do like them don’t you?”

“Yes of course.” She nodded. “Later, when I am better settled in my career and have bought a house of my own, I intend to adopt a child, or as many as I can afford. But I have no intentions of being a slave to someone else’s moods and dictates.”

“No place for men?”

“No.” She stood up. “Can we go now? Or should I book a cab.” She scrolled through her phone.

“Let me pay the bill and we are out of here.” He promised. “How about an ice-cream on the way. Then you won’t have to scrounge for something in the kitchen.”

Her lips twitched. She nodded. “I do like ice-cream.” She admitted.

“Finally!” He pumped his fist

“Can I have your phone number?” he asked as he dropped her off home after a companionable ice-cream binge topped with arguments and discussions over the best flavors and brands.

“You can,” she said, “but you may not.”

“Damn.” He banged on the wheel setting off the horn. She frowned at him and got off the car. “Why not?” he wasn’t giving up so easily.

“Why should I? You do have the landline number don’t you?”

“I thought we could chat sometimes?”

“I don’t have time to chat.”

“Okay fine.” He surrendered. “At least take my card.” He thrust it into her hand.

“Why would I need your card?”

“Who knows?” He shrugged. “Perhaps to plan a wedding?”

He was rewarded with a laugh before she disappeared inside.

He looked at the time on his phone. Just 11 pm. And four missed calls from Titu. He looked up at the dark sky and the moon stared back at him. He suddenly cherished the silence, the loneliness. He couldn’t stomach the thought of going back to the blaring thudding music the gyrating mass of bodies. Not when he was in a different world altogether. He wanted to savor the evening, every gesture, every nuance every expression.

***

Click here for Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat