Curiosity is like an ageing woman with a warped sense of humor. She keeps nagging you with a million possibilities, of what possibly could be, until you shut her up with a dose of facts. I remember this one incident, where my dog had run away and this old neighbour of mine, painted with vivid words possibilities such as being frisked away to the dog pounds; trampled under a fast moving car driven by a crazy young man, who didn’t even pause and look at the crushed dog; tied to a tree by the street kids and beaten into whining. Thankfully my dog had just run to the backyard, in search of a new place to pee and came faithfully back.
So as she sat at the coffee shop with Raina, waiting for Lav Kulshreshtha to show up, the old lady called curiosity played havoc with her mind. Concentrate! She told herself. If on nothing else then do concentrate on the rich aroma of the frothing latte and meditate in its sensuous pleasure. But Raina couldn’t let it be. She was going on and on about how mr. perfect ought actually to have some flaws and how she, her trusted friend, was ‘entrusted’ with the responsibility of finding flaws in him. Nagged beyond endurance by Raina on one hand and curiosity on the other, she blurted, “Isnt being married, flaw enough?”
Raina looked like Tom (from Tom and Jerry), who had actually finally caught a mouse and couldn’t believe his own luck! She stared at her, with her huge eyes widening into perfect circles and she breathed on a whisper, as if speaking out loud will undo the fact, “He is married?”
She just shrugged her shoulders and continued walking her spoon in aimless circles through the thick froth in her cup. Raina’s hand flew to her open mouth in a very theatrical move. She clutched her wrist, with her free hand, putting a stop to the growing whirlwind of coffee, “How do you know?”
“Because I attended his wedding!” she said finally letting go of the spoon and unwrapping Raina’s hand from her wrist.
“What?” she screamed loud enough to turn heads. Then looking around to assess the damage she had caused, she leaned in further and asked, “When and why didn’t you tell me?”
“Well, about a year ago!” she confessed, “I didn’t tell you because, if you have heard about him from your parents, he obviously somehow managed.. to.. get unmarried!”
“That’s impossible!” Raina exclaimed, “You cant get divorced till after a year of being married! What a b******!! What is he going to do with his first wife?”
“Maybe she died!” she said behaving quite like curiosity herself. “Maybe he is a widower. Which would explain why he needs a wife again!”
“Bull shit!” Raina said shaking the contents of a sugar sachet into her sweetened coffee. “I am sure he murdered her! How vile is it to keep a first marriage a secret?” she picked up her spoon with renewed energy and noisily stirred the melting sugar.
“You know what?” Raina added squinting into some far off image. “ It shows lack of character. It shows the need to hide behind secrets. And I am telling you,” she said pointing a coffee dripping spoon at her, “ I am marrying no such widower!!”
She could see that Raina had worked herself up into quite a state with this piece of information. She was digging inside her preoccupied mind to come up with something soothing to say, when the doors of the café swung open and in stepped Lav Kulshrestha!!
The past year had done absolutely nothing to him. His black hair still curled adorably behind his ear, his jaw still had that firm look, his eyes could still melt rock hard hearts. As he scanned the café, his eyes alighted on hers and glinted with a faint recognition. He walked towards their table.
Raina had her back to him. So when he whispered, “Raina?” she almost jumped out of her chair.
“Yes?” she frowned at him.
“Lav,” he said, waiting to be invited to join the table.
Raina frowned at him as if he were same alien. It was evident her mind was elsewhere. Slowly the frown gave way to the dawning of his identity and she hastily urged him to join them for coffee.
Leaning towards her she whispered, “ If the widower is this handsome, even I am bound to make some concessions!” Saying this Raina turned her prettiest smiling face to Lav.
She was fuming. Raina, didn’t even know that Lav was a widower! It was just abstract hypothesis! But just because he was heart-breakingly handsome, she was about to overlook the fact that he was married.
“And wont you introduce me to your friend?” he asked, ever the gentleman. “In fact, I think we have met before… I just cant seem to remember where!”
She was seething by then. The coffee had set her insides on fire and the pseudo smiles were grating on her nerves. Before Raina could say anything, she looked straight in his eyes and said, “ Of course we have met before! At your wedding? Or don’t you remember being married?”
Raina kicked her hard under the table and scowled at her. Lav just let out a rich laughter that turned more than one female heads.
“My wedding?” He asked reigning in his laughter, “ You met me at my wedding?”
Completely shocked by his callous pretense and overwhelmed with the idea of defending her friend against the deceptive clutches of this handsome criminal, she added, “ Hutchinston gardens? October 2007? Rings a bell?”
He sobered up quicker than a bucket of cold water on fire. “Yes, in fact it does! Shaina’s wedding?”
The way he said it, confused her, “yes.. shaina’s wedding.. to you…”
This time he frowned, a very unpleasant emotion flickered in his black eyes, “ If this is a joke, its in horrid taste. I am equally un-keen on getting married as probably you girls are. I am here to just indulge my folks. Does not mean I have to take character slights from anybody!”
“ No.. no.. “ Raina was hastily plunging into conciliatory explanations.
“You didn’t marry Shaina?” She asked confusion evident in every pore of her face.
“No!” he declared, “ Shaina married my best friend Akshay!”
She turned a deep red and looked down into her coffee. There was silence around her. She looked up and she said, “ Sorry! I so apologise! I so thought it was your wedding I was attending!”
Damn! There she had just put her foot in her own mouth. She gave him a panic-stricken look and was already working up excuses to flee.
“And you thought so because?” he almost demanded.
“A week ago I saw you in the lawns of the Moor Manor, on a nice romantic moonlit night.. with.. well.. Shaina!” She said thinking he had a right to know.
Raina gasped audibly. He said nothing. Silence stretched. Raina cleared her throat drawing two lost attentions back to the table, “So now that we know that you are not married, and definitely single…”