For an unusually hot and dry July evening, amidst clear skies, I set off for my usual weekend visit to Crossword. With most of my friends now having been married, or settled abroad, or busy with their respective girl friends, or a bit too out of touch that they are not even a single phone call away, this crossword window shopping has been a favorite pass time of mine since last numerous weekends.
The security person with his bulging belly gave a blank apathetic look to me. I somehow have started fearing that these guys will one day throw me out for continuous peep INS and no purchase.
Nevertheless, the fully blowing air conditioner inside provided much needed respite from outside heat. There were a handful of people around meticulously flipping through pages. I adjusted my thick glassed specs and advanced towards a new arrivals section, and started looking for some eye catching stuff. And suddenly, I was disturbed with an elated but equally soft voice.
“Chaitanya, is that you?”
There she was, almost after four years, wearing a bright red top and jeans, hair let loose on shoulders, and smiling as effervescently as ever. Last time, I remembered seeing her when our entire project team in my first organization had bid her an adieu when she had got married to an US settled geek and was leaving for good. I must accept the very news of she getting betrothed had broken many hearts on the floor. I guarantee she had given many raging hormones in our team , a lot of sleepless nights. I remember many guys on the floor trying to be extra friendly with me just because she used to sit opposite to me and work in my team although I had hardly seen her working. After all it was highly difficult for her to find time from constant blabbering on mobile phone. One killer smile to manager and she was all set to go home by 6 P.M. bus and nerds like me were always there to work extra time and yet get spanked by client, lead and manager.
“Ohh my my, Aarti. Indeed a surprise madam!” I exclaimed.
“Ohm gosh, look at you, you haven’t changed at all”
“But, you have changed and changed for better and prettier.”
I wasn’t lying at all. Although she seemed to have put up a little more weight and obsequious fat around her waist, she looked a lot fairer than what I remembered her. Her complexion was close to flawless. The faint lipstick was enhancing her thin lips. The three years of stay in west had done her features a world of good.
“Forget about me, I must say you haven’t changed a bit. Still, that lazy stubble, under-grown moustaches, uncombed hair, thick framed specs and almost de-colored T-shirt”
Well, I knew I was as ugly now as I was at birth. I did not need her to remind me that again.
I gave her a helpless smile.
“Tell me, how’s life? how come you are in Pune?”
“Well, Rahul had a couple of dealings to crack here in Pune. We also hadn’t taken vacation for a year; you know being a vice president, it demands a lot from him. So, decided to club our India visit and here we are. You know they allowed both of us business class, cool, no?”
Well, well, I guess, I spotted where it was going to now, VP, doing dealings for his company, travelling by business class, what’s next?
“What do you do now a days, tell me”
I stressed the word ‘you ‘a bit more.
“I am enjoying being a Home maker now. I badly want to work but Rahul just doesn’t want me to. He says that he earns more than enough that he can feed a poor African island so why do I need to go for a job hunt”
Yes, he was right, I thought. I didn’t know about any poor African island but whichever place she would go to work must be rendered impoverished as she hardly knew what was meant by actually working.
“That’s good no, just enjoy the life then...”
“Nawww, it’s boring at times. Anyway, good that I met you, just needed to tell you that we have bought a specious 3 BHK in Baner. Rahul wants to sell it off, he says now the prices are at the highest. Can you help and find if any one of you colleagues or friends are interested. Rahul said for a genuine buyer, he can reduce the price upto 1 crore, but yes buyer has be genuine.”
I started counting how many zeros would be there in 1 crore.. I imagined prospective buyers to be either scorpio chaps or local politicians. And, what the hell was I supposed to do here. I am not a property broker.
“Hey chaitanya, what are you thinking?”
“ohh yes, I will post an ad in my company’s portal”
“That’s so nice of you”
Then she continued about how lovely the weather is there in US, how good the roads are and how pathetic Pune has become since she left. How Rahul hates it here in India, how hard he worked to get there at this position, how much he loved to drive his Audi, how he enjoyed baseball game on weekends, on and on and on..
By that time I had started imagining Rahul as a combination of Bill gates, Dheerubhai Ambani and Super Man.
To much of my rescue, my mobile phone rang, I had never loved to hear the ringtone more than I loved this time.
“Yes, I am coming in next 15 mins”, I disconnected.
Aarati was giving me a questioning look.
“Mom’s phone, she’s waiting for dinner” I said.
“No need to clarify. No wonder that you will get only Mom’s calls. Come on Chaitanya, go and get a girlfriend for yourself.”
Now, this was a lot more than humiliation. Since last 20 minutes, I had got enough reminders of how miserable my very own life is here and she was just relentless in repeating the blows.
As she was once again about to comment on my appearance, once again our very old friend cell phone came to my help. This time it was hers.
She delicately took her iphone 4 out of purse,and chuckled..
“ohh, Rahul’s phone”
Her voice was actually oozing honey. I could not stop myself from staring at her immaculate lips.
“ohh yes darling, I am on my way, just caught up with an old friend in crossword. Arey, don’t worry baba, I am not staying here forever, will be there in a flash. Bye, love you”
“Well chaitanya, it was great seeing you after so long. Will catch up with you on FB later. But, please remember about our flat in Baner. I have to leave now, Rahul gets worried too much about me. bye, see ya”
She gave her killer smile and turned back.
Phew, I heaved a sigh of relief and something interesting caught my eye. There was a book called ‘LOSER – Life Of a Software Engineer’. Curiously, I picked it up and flipped some pages. One page gave the comparison between quintessential poor Software Rameshs and ever aristocratic software Richas. I read one or two lines and burst out in a laughter. I guess, I never needed to find out who the Ramesh was and who the Richa was!!!!