9 December

Comma is already in her cubicle when I reach the Neem office after my morning in court. That’s a bit unusual because Comma likes to take off for long lunches with one or the other of her friends after she finishes at court, and lands up at the office only around teatime.

She seems even more fidgety than she is usually and keeps looking at me impatiently, while I deliberately take time to settle down. I can sense she wants to come over and start chattering, but it is good fun to tease her a bit.

She doesn’t play along though and ignoring all my attempts at looking busy, she walks over, and jabs me on the shoulder. Ouch!

“Why are you so late? I thought you’d be here an hour ago!”

“That’s you talking, is it? Why are you so early? I thought you’d be here an hour later, and I’d manage to get some work done before you turned up.”

“Oh, forget work for a minute. Will you come out to have some tea? I really need to smoke.”

“What? We’ve just got in and you want us to go out again? Neem’s a flexi place, but not that flexi, haan? Anyway, I’ve to talk to Neempatta, if she’s around.”

“No, she isn’t. Won’t be till much later this evening. Have already asked. I want to talk to her too. But I need to talk to you first. Come now, or do I have to drag you?”

As if I have a choice! Her face is all puffed up, as it gets when she has to say something important.  And it’s not as if I really have anything to do. I’ve just spent hours listening to the peons of the Family Court call out a litany of names:

1.    Sushil Deshpande v/s Smita Deshpande.
2.    Rahul Patel v/s Nishi Patel.
3.    Farukh Baig v/s Shabana Baig.
4.    Savio Fernandes v/s Loretta Fernandes.
5.    And so on and on and on. Hundreds of names v/s hundreds of names per day.

I can do with a dose of bubbly Comma.

We walk to the teashop around the corner. We don’t get any curious glances there now, even when Comma lights up a cigarette. Everyone knows us around here. And Muttu, the owner even lets us hang around for an hour or so, though it’s strictly not allowed for anyone else.

We settle into a corner of the little stall, squeezing ourselves onto the narrow benches stuck to a narrow table. Comma pinches me. She can’t seem to have any conversation without nudging, shoving, pinching, punching. I pity the poor man who chooses to live with her.

“I’ve got a proposal.”

Gasp! That is, a double gasp. She gasps herself. And I gasp too.

“What? How? From whom?”
“You know that wedding I went to? Well, it paid off. This guy I met there, called me yesterday. We spoke for 3 hours!”

“Which guy? Who’s he?”

“Oh, he’s not a relative or anything. He’s my cousin’s friend. Anyway, he lives in Bhopal and works in the Cultural Department there. Government job!”

“Oh! And? Did you accept?”

“Come on. Not so easily, babe. You don’t know a thing about men, do you? Anyway, I’m not sure. That’s why I wanted to talk to you, talk to Neempatta.”

“Do you like him?”

“Oh, we got along fairly well at the wedding. He’s funny, and easygoing, it seems. Likes to have fun. You know, like me. The type who’ll dance at a wedding, and sing, and crack jokes. Not just moon around.”

“Good! That’s a big point, for sure.”

“Yeah, maybe. But then, who knows what he’s like in real life, no? I mean everyone’s showing off at weddings.”

“Well, you are the expert on that. I wouldn’t know, since I never go for that type of thing.”

“Yes, you don’t know. But even if I assume that he’s as nice a guy as he seems, do I want to go and live in Bhopal?”

“Do you?

“Well, I don’t know. I mean it’s SUCH a quiet place. I’d probably just wither away with the silence.”

“More probable that the silence would wither away as soon as you landed there. But yes, after living in Mumbai, it may not be great fun living in Bhopal.”

“But Mumbai is not great fun either, is it? I mean Bhopal is a nice place. I’ve spent a lot of time there. I have an aunt there. And it’s not far from home, from Indore.”

“Right! Sounds good. It will be nice to be near family.”

“But then, you know, it would be terrible to go back into that entire family thing again, you know uncles and aunts and all that? I mean Mumbai is good that way, no fuss.”

Me: “Right!”

Yes, you’ve guessed right. There is no point in me saying anything to Comma, she doesn’t want to hear what I think, all she wants to do is to talk and for me to say, “Yes, right!” to her. It’s always that way with her. And she can keep going back and forth, again and again. This side, that side, pros, cons, cons, pros. No wonder she makes such a good lawyer.

“And then, what about my work? I don’t want to start up an independent practice. I’d be fiddling around with small cases, and going back home for a siesta, and then packing up early because I need to make tea for the husband and all that. I want a proper job.”

“I’m sure Neempatta can give you some advice on that. She knows a few people in Bhopal. Plus you have the training institute for judges there. Maybe you can get a job there?”

“No. I’d die in an institute job. So, there’s all that. But then, he’s cute. And there aren’t many other options.”

“So what, are there a few at least? Other options, I mean?”

“NO, you know that.”

“Big deal! So you don’t get married. What’s the hurry?”

“No hurry. But you have to check out whatever comes your way. You can’t just take it for granted that something better will turn up later.”

“Wow! I didn’t know you were such a pessimist.”

“I’m not. I guess I just need some excitement, and a change. And to shut up my parents in Indore, always going on about finding a boy.”

“Hmm! But please don’t go about marrying someone because you need a change! Take a holiday, instead.”

Comma nods glumly.

She really surprises me. I’ve always thought of her as a fun loving, loud, happy-go-lucky person, and here she is so anxious and tense about letting a marriage prospect go by. This, when she’s only 24!

I’m glad I have no one nagging me to find a boy. Ogre wouldn’t dream of it. And Dodo must have barely noticed that his girls have grown up, and are of “marriageable age”.


One Comment on “9 December”

  1. […] Continue reading Appi’s story at 9 December […]

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