Friday, August 29, 2008

Serendipity

When had the equation changed? When had she become this sloppy, tired-of-life woman, who rushed from one day to another, without time to look at her gradually bloating self? And when had Sim become, this chic urban woman, who clicked her heels in perfect rhythm, matched her designer bags to the expensive labels of her clothing, even sighed with the right balance of elegance and grace?

There is one truth about the existence of women in this competitive world. They scrutinize objects of their own species, with much more attention and critical detail than they observe the specimens of the opposite sex. She squirmed in her seat, equipped with the knowledge that Sim had definitely noticed the thin layer of soft flab around her waist, through the thick cotton of her pink kurta.

Who wears a kurta to a lunch at mainland china anyway? Sim was sitting elegantly across her, one leg draped stylishly over the other, manicured fingernails skimming through the extensive menu. Under the pretext of studying her own menu, she was actually studying Sim’s profile. Were those swarovski’s dangling from her ears? Unconsciously her hands reached out to touch the silver rings adorning her own ears. Did Sim think they were a cheap stunt at appearing chic?

Why was she suddenly so self-conscious? In her daily run, she didn’t have time to care what people were thinking about her. So why should today be any different? She knew she did not exactly look ‘unpresentable’ at any given point. So why was she letting Sim’s very prim and proper presence unnerve her to this extent?

“Don’t look now,” Sim said leaning forward, eyes still on the menu and whispering conspiratorially. Anybody would have thought she was discussing something on the menu with her. “Two handsome guys and potential dates just walked in through the door and are seated three tables behind you.”

Saying this she leaned back in her chair, hunched her shoulders slightly such that without quite appearing to do so, she was displaying her cleavage to a very tempting advantage. Don’t look now! She would never look, not today, when she was feeling her lowest best. Anyway she was here to tell Sim that she had found someone and was quite happy to be with him, so how did the presence of those two guys matter.

Sim would no doubt laugh at her and sympathise with her boyfriend, saying what on earth did he find in a slob like her, etc. All these thoughts were running through her head a she feigned interest in the menu, of which she still had to read one single word.

“Ok!” Sim said smiling at the menu, as if she had decided what to order, “Those guys have looked at our table like five times in the past five minutes!” She informed; unable to keep her increasing excitement out of her voice.

Obviously all those showers of attention were for Sim. Those guys couldn’t even see her, as she had her back to them. She just smiled a polite acknowledgement and sank further into her baseless depression.

She was quite startled, when the waiter suddenly appeared at their table with two flutes of white wine.

“But we didn’t order any?” Sim protested.

The waiter bowed his head, politely and smiled, “With compliments from the gentlemen,” he said signaling with his head in the direction behind her. As he set the glasses on the table he added, “For the beautiful lady in pink!”

Completely taken aback, she whirled around. Sure enough there were two gentlemen seated three tables behind her. Both dressed in crisp shirts and elegant ties with well-fitting suits, looking handsome. One of them, raised his own wine glass at her in a silent toast across the room and smiled a devilish smile.

She smiled, picked her own glass and returned the toast. She turned back to a startled Sim and leaned back in her chair with a smug smile. God bless boyfriends! She suddenly did feel like the prettiest woman alive…

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Seven Years

She stepped out into the torrential showers, holding her umbrella tightly, so that the strong winds didn’t carry it off with them. She had waited all of forty five minutes for the raging gray clouds to calm down. But today, they had an agenda of their own. The sun was there behind them somewhere, had to be, it was just noon. But it was evidently fighting a losing battle against the thickening storm.

Clutching at the pleats of her crimson saree, to prevent the lapping muddy waters from devouring them, she waded in her strapped heels through ankle high flowing waters. A squint through the silver slashes of raindrops, revealed no taxis or rickshaws in sight. She sighed inwardly and kept plunging on. The cold winds wrapped the thin fabric of her saree more tightly around her, highlighting her curves to a tempting advantage and the occasional lightning made her look like an ethereal beauty struggling for sustenance.

Giving up, she finally climbed onto the slippery pavement and pushed open the doors of the nearest café. The already crowded café had no empty table to offer her. She took another glance outside, they rains were still stingy with mercy. Her shoulders slumped in despair. She cast one final glance at the people seated and that’s when she saw him. She had almost not recognized him. He looked different.

Yet he was the same.

She almost fled right out into the rain, when he turned and looked straight into her eyes. Confusion paved way for recognition right within his eyes. She stood rooted to the spot. He gestured with his hand, asking her to join him on his table. She moved of her own accord. She seated herself on the hard wooden chair opposite him. She gave a tentative self-conscious smile.

He had always known her to be a self-confident, charismatic woman. So this new shyness surprised him. The pull was still there though. She could still draw you to her without quite intending too. Her black eyes were sporting a sheen of tears, or maybe it was rain-water. Her damp her fell in soft tendrils on the nape of her neck, striking an erotic ebony and ivory contrast at her throat. Seven years later, she still made his heart skip a beat.

“Coffee?” he asked initiating a conversation.

“Thanks. Latte without sugar, please?” she almost whispered.

What was with the thanks and please? Seven years ago, they had been closer than close, seven years later they were sitting across a coffee table, thrown together by chance, strangers once again! Was there anything left to say? She was married, wasn’t she? She had left him for some other guy, hadn’t she? He was just being as civil to her, as he would have been to any other woman under similar circumstances.

And she was aware of that. She was aware that she was no more than another woman to him right now. Seven years later, it shouldn’t hurt, but it did. She didn’t no why, she didn’t want to know why. She was cold and his cool attitude chilled her further. She had left him all those years ago, so he was justified in his demeanor, but she still felt cold. She shivered.

And he could feel his hackles rise. He could sense her chill and something inside him wanted to do something about it. Offer her the blazer of his suit perhaps? Anything! But he just sat there and stared outside at the pouring rain. She was rubbing a hand against her bare forearm; a minute attempt to ward of the chill. She was not looking at him. She was looking out of the window.

Their eyes met once again, in the shaky reflection of the dark, rain-washed windows. For eternity neither could pull away. The arrival of their coffees snapped them out of the trance. She averted her gaze first. Something inside her coffee mug seemed to captivate her interest more than he did.

“Bad rains,” he said trying another attempt at conversation.

“Hmm.” She agreed, wrapping her cold fingers around her mug, stealing the warmth form the coffee.

He wanted to ask her a million questions, seven years ago. Seven years he still sought answers to those questions.

She didn’t have answers to his questions. Not yesterday, not today. She prayed he wouldn’t ask. But she could sense his glare on her, silently probing, burning with a desire to bring forth all things left unsaid.

The absence of words was made up by chatter from the tables around. She refused to look at him and nothing else around him was interesting enough to look at… but for her. Some equations never changed, seven years ago, he was trying too hard to hold her to him, seven years later he was still willing her to look at him and she was still looking for a place to run.

She looked up then and was startled to stare right into his brown eyes. She looked out of the window, the rain had mellowed to an active drizzle.

“I should be going,” she said reaching for her umbrella.

He wanted to say something to stop her, he just watched her collect her umbrella and head to the door. She paused there, turned looked at him and smiled a watery smile. She then stepped into the drizzle of a lazy afternoon, the gentle breeze lifting her hair off her face. She looked beautiful.

He watched her walk away and melt into the horizon.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Sunday Aternoon

The popcorn crackled in the microwave. She was conscious of him moving in the background, collecting beer mugs, opening the fridge to pull out two chilled pints and transferring them into the frosted mugs. The microwave pinged, announcing that the popcorn was done. She scooped out the fluffy kernels in a glass bowl and headed towards the hall.

He followed her with the beer mugs. She curled up on the sofa, tucked her feet under her, adjusted her soft pashmina rug on her bare legs and smiled at him. He had placed the beer mugs on a footstool and was pulling the CD drawer open.

Yes! It was that time of the weekend! They would both cuddle up and watch their favourite movies together, on a lazy Sunday afternoon. It was perfect!

“So what’s it going to be?” he asked rubbing his hands together, like some connoisseur about to pick at his priced collection.

She pulled the popcorn bowl on her lap, “I don’t know …. How about…Never Been Kissed?”

“Not again!” he said settling on haunches.

“What do you mean by not again?” she asked picking up a dainty popcorn between her fingers and scrutinizing it, as if it were a jewel.

“You know what I mean by not again. I mean not again!” he said half turning to look at her. When she just raised one elegant brow at him in response, he added, “Come on! We saw a romantic comedy just last weekend! One fine day?”

“And you didn’t enjoy it?” She asked putting the popcorn bowl back on the floor.

“Of course I did!” he said turning back to his CD collection. “But why cant we watch something like Superbad or High Fidelity?”

“Because they are guy flicks!” she said sitting up straight. He looked at her long bare legs peeping from beneath the folds of the pashmina, and looked right back at her petulant face.

“Well, we did watch Sex and the City the weekend before the last, which I remember was a chic flick! So if I can watch a chic flick to indulge you, why cant we watch a guy flick?” he tried reasoning with her.

“Because.. you LIKE watching chic flicks! You get to ogle all those women with perfect bodies and what not?” she said waving her hands in the air for emphasis.

He ran a finger down the spine of his CD collection, “Oh please! Sex and the City had old women wearing push-up bras and despite that effort you had to strain your eyes to catch a glimpse of what could have been boobs! And I still watched it… for you!”

“Ugh! Ok!! Your guy flicks don’t even have dehydrated… thingies to offer!” she added exasperated.

He laughed. A rich laugh which shook him. “I get your point. Ok. So lets watch Wall.e. ok?”

Subdues by his laugh, she sank back on the sofa and frowned at him sweetly, “ Who’s wallie?”

“A Robot? I haven’t seen the movie yet..” he was already hunting through the collection for the wall.e CD.

“Your idea of a romantic Sunday afternoon is, watching a sci-fi movie about a gay robot called wallie? I mean who has a name like wallie?” She said getting worked up all over again.

“Its not wallie!!” He protested. “Its Wall full stop E. And how do you know if he is gay or not without watching it?”

“I don’t want to watch robots!” she said folding her hands across her chest and pouting.

He looked at her and sighed. He then smiled to himself. “Umm.. its actually a love story between two robots, rather cute…”

“Really?” she asked interested but not wanting to show it.

“Uhuh!” he said pulling the CD out. He now had two CDs one in each hand. “So what’s it going to be?” he asked again. “Never been kissed?” he asked raising his right hand which held the CD of never been kissed. “ A movie you have seen at least five times. You know all the dialogues. Its cute. Its old. Or…” he raised his left hand which held the CD for Wall.E “Wall.E! A new love story you have never seen. You could probably love. And maybe you would want to watch again?”

She looked at both the CDs. Settled back and said, “Wall.E it is!”

He smiled and inserted the CD in the player. Picked up the beer mugs, handed one to her, settled beside her on sofa and tucked her in the nook of his arm. Sunday Afternoons had no choice but to be perfect!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Marriage Madness

The traffic was crazy. If her exasperating day at office wasn’t enough to have her pulling her hair out, the traffic would certainly accomplish this feat. As speed dropped to a halt, she tapped her impatient fingers on the steering wheel of the car, sub-consciously synchronized movements to the “Can’t get you out of mind” blaring on the car stereo. An elegant flip of the wrist, another check on time and another frustrated jolt of realization that the dinner guests would be arriving in the next hour!

Why do women marry? She thought, as she watched drops of rain trickle down her windscreen, blurring the red tail lights of the car ahead of her. For all the shackled freedom that marriage imposes on men, what do women really get out of a marriage?

Her mobile began screaming for attention. She fumbled in her bag. It was her husband.

“Hey love.. umm its almost seven, you know..”

“ I know! And I am on my way… just stuck in a crazy traffic jam five minutes from home!” she said, willing herself to stay calm,

“They said they’d be here by eight!” he reminded her.

“I know! I don’t need reminding! Like I said, I am on my way…”

“Sweetheart, he is my boss in the end you know…couldn’t you have just… like left a little early? Just this once?”

She banged a fist on the horn to vent out her piling fury, “I left as early as I could ok? How is an unpredicted traffic jam suddenly my fault?”

“Ok! Just get here as quick as you can ok?”

“No! I wont.. I will take the longest detour to home possible, just because I want to be present on the doorstep right when Mr. Makra shows up! Ok?” she yelled, unable to hold on to her temper any longer. She hung up, banged another fist on the horn and pushed back against her seat.

She worked equally long hours as he did. Sometimes longer. She had bosses to report too. She had deadlines and presentations. She had maids to haggle with, a house which needed to look the best, most of the times, cooking to do. Something which he was happy not looking into. So how did this qualify as he being on the receiving end of the pitfalls of a married life?

Why did they marry? Last evening had been a disaster. He had come home late in the evening and over dinner just announced that his boss would be coming over the next day.

“But honey.. it’s a week day!” she had protested.

“He kind of said he was coming, I could not say please do not!” he had argued.

“Why cant we meet him out for dinner?”

“Oh please! He wants to see the new home!”

“Well then why cant he come over the weekend?”

“What’s this about?”

“I have the Oberoi’s presentation tomorrow, I have no clue when I get off work!!”

“Once! That’s all I am asking of you! In fact I haven’t ever asked anything of this sort of you before!”

“This is so baseless.. the presentation is not in my hands!”

“Fine! I’ll tell him to not come.. ever!”

“Its not what I am saying…”

And it had blown into a full scale fight. She had in fact spent the better half of the night contemplating whether women marry for some masochistic joy. Why would one want to spend the night staring at the back of the man she loved? Why would she stay awake with the remnants of a fight making her stomach sour, while he snored right beside her?

She looked at the watch again. Seven fifteen. The traffic, as if sensing her panic, began to slowly move. Vexed, she veered her way and made it to her doorstep by seven thirty. She would never get the dinner cooked in time. Let alone set the house and groom herself to be presentable enough to his boss. She let out a long sigh at the door and braced herself for another flare up. She inserted the key and pushed the door open.

He was not in sight. But the hall had been set up. Cleaned, tidied, the lights dimmed … slow, mellow music filled the room. It was perfect. She walked to their room. He wasn’t there either. But the door to the bath was open, and the light flicked on. She walked inside, to a bath tub filled with warm water, her towel hung invitingly, and her spa kit rested elegantly beside the tub.

She found him in the kitchen. He had just finished placing the lid on one of the porcelain severs. Sensing her presence he turned around. She was standing, leaning against the door frame, looking a crazy mixture of love and confusion. He smiled at her, walked to her and pulled her in his arms. She leaned against his chest.

“Food’s taken care of,” he informed her, “ ordered in. Now you go and freshen up. When Mr. Makra shows up with his ‘oh-i-am-so-perfect-wife’, I want to introduce them to the woman I love. The woman who has the most dazzling smile in the entire wide world, who can charm conversations with her rich laughter, who is beautiful. Now you cant be all that when you are tired and snappy, can you? So go…”

He pulled her away, turned and gently pushed her in the direction of their room. She took a step, then turned back and looked at him. Not quite knowing how, a fraction of a second later they were kissing like two hungry lovers, who had been forced apart.

She didn’t know why women married… But she definitely knew why she had! She had married for this…

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Freshly Break -ed

The male species, the very male species famous for having an affinity for one-night-stands and being able to detach emotions from sex, are the very ones who attach uncharacteristic importance to casual flings.

Now, while some might be against the entire concept of casual flings, nobody can deny the importance of their existence. It always begins with the primary reason of passionate infatuation. You are just so strongly attracted to the other person that you become blind to everything else, till some piercing moment opens your eyes and you find yourself staring into the eyes of the partner, wondering what on earth were you doing there.

The other reason is to boost your self-esteem. That blonde or bloke is perfect arm candy! Being seen with them increases your social acceptance. And you know as much as them, that sooner or later one of you is going to move on!

But, in my experience, men treat the termination of a casual fling with the seriousness of a break-up! Women on the other hand – move on! They don’t go get drunk in a bar (they might go to a bar but not to wallow their sorrows in mugs of beer) and they don’t sit back and launch into big theories of self revelations! In a best case scenario, five years later, when the women get together with friends again, conversations could go like:

“Hey do you remember that other guy?”

“Who?”

“Ugh! The one you told me about… you had this fling with him sometime back…”

“WHO?”

“The one who had a mole on his ass!”

“Oh right! That one… do you know he gave me the ‘why-me’ call?”

“Oh no! He didn’t…”

“He sooooo did!”

So when my bud’s sizzling hot date, didn’t want to see him anymore, we found ourselves once more at the bar. Alcohol is the perfect catalyst to keep profoundly senseless conversations going. Four scotches down came the eternal

“Why me?”

I looked at him, nodded my head in gestures of extreme sympathy and patted his shoulder. What else could I do? The only thing that kept banging against the walls of my head (my brains sometimes look similar to a squash court) was that he was with her because he was on a rebound from a really pathetic, emotionally fungal, parasitic relationship. So if it was a rebound, which he said it was, which she knew it was too, why was he so upset if she had moved on!?

“I mean I really gotta be this … loooosher..”

I signaled to the bartender to refill both our drinks. The night was just coming alive.

“If I am this .. this nice guy..”

I raise an eyebrow. He pauses midway, looks at me and says, “I am a nice guy, ok?”

I shrug my shoulders in a ‘but-of-course!’ way and let him proceed.

“Sooo.. IIIIIF … I AM.. this NICE guy.. WHY are women walking AWAY from me ALL the time?”

We silently swigged our respective drinks. I could see he was lost deep in contemplation. I was more than happy to let him reach his own conclusions. I definitely had no answers for him. Why were women always walking away from him?? Heck?? How would I know??

“Maybe.. its because.. I am not.. sooo good at.. IT…’

“It?” I asked my drunken mind clouded with too many thoughts was working slower than a 286 processor.

“You know, the in bed.. bit .. of it…” he mumbled and looked straight into his glass.

I just looked at him. I cant even begin to count the number of times he has mentioned words like sex, porn, horny etc. Yet now he was … he was shy mentioning them?? Had to be the booze. Or maybe it had to do with the fact that he was talking about a shortcoming in himself. I had no clue.

I had no answer either.

“Do.. you.. ummm.. maybe.. see if I am right about myself?”

Definitely the booze.

“You are asking me to sleep with you, so that you can check if you are good in bed?” I asked, quite not offended. It was rather amusing to see the male mind stripped to the bare insecurities of such sorts.

He nodded. I nodded. Patted his shoulder again. Slid my hands through the sleeves of my jacket and said, “I am not looser enough to sleep with a man, who has just confessed, that he aint no good in bed!”

As I walked away, I heard him say, “ See? Women walk away from me ALL the time!”