25 December

As I shiver in the rickshaw in the not-hot-and-muggy air that passes off as cold-and-chilly in Mumbai, I wish:

1. My dress provided more adequate protection to my body parts.
2. I had allowed High BP to send me a swanky car.
3. I had ensured that my hair wouldn’t be so flyaway. With varnish, if necessary.

The watchmen in the glitzy lobby look at me a bit suspiciously. I suppose they are not used to girls in short dresses, arriving unescorted in rickshaws. Or perhaps they ARE used to girls in short dresses, arriving unescorted in rickshaws. The flat at Juhu is High BP’s ‘party flat’.

He had said, over the phone: “I get it as a perk for being a good son, and joining in the family business. And for living with my family. And for marrying someone of their choice.”

I had retorted thoughtlessly: “And doesn’t it get taken away, now that you are getting divorced?”

He had said in hurt tones: “And is that my fault?”

I had kept quiet, a little ashamed. Even though I had not yet made up my mind whether it was his fault or not, I didn’t need to be that tactless.

I expected to be greeted with a burst of loud music and voices when the lift door opened. But the lobby on the 13th floor is quiet and neat with no traces of a party.

I stand hesitantly, for a moment in the corridor, when High BP called out: “Here, Appi!”

The snooty watchmen must have buzzed him. He stands at an open door. There is a healthy and reassuring noise level inside. Muffled because of a double door.

High BP looks at my relieved face and says: “I bet you thought there was no party. I bet you thought I had conned you into coming here. With dishonourable intentions.”

He laughs loudly. I make an annoyed face, even though I am not. But I do marvel at his ability to hit the mark. Some such scenario HAD crossed my mind. Beautiful (hardly) heroine trapped by suave (certainly) villain. Lured into his den, with lies about a party. At that, even I had to laugh at myself. The idea was so filmi. Something that Comma would have thought up.

Me: “You can’t blame me. I’ve seen enough of your smooth operations with girls in college.”

High BP: “But you don’t belong to that category.”

I blurt out: “Oh, so I’m not your type, is it?”

Before realizing what a goof-up I have made. I sound as if I am flirting with him. Oh God!

High BP, not one to let go of an advantage, teasing: “No, you are not. Does that bug you?”

Me, firmly: “No. Just relieved. Because you are not my type, either.”

High BP: “Well, since that’s settled, shall we go inside? My friends will wonder what we are up to at the door, for so long. And I’m sure you don’t want to give them any wrong ideas about us.”

His friends are in comfortable possession of the large apartment. A couple is dancing, oblivious to everyone else, in one corner of the living room.

There is:

1. A big Christmas tree. There are even small gifts scattered on the floor, under the tree.

There also is:

1. Food. A bewildering variety of tiny things on tooth picks. Vegetarian, non-vegetarian, organic, inorganic, recognizable, unrecognizable.
2. Drink. Bold colors and combinations, alcoholic and non-alcoholic.
3. Laughter.
4. Music. A lot of the techno that Etcetra listens to. But also, some of the older, softer numbers I like.
5. Noise. Accompanying childish party games. Thankfully, none that involve stripping or kissing. (Oh yes, I had heard tattlers tell tall tales in college.)
6. Teasing and chatting, much like any other party.

It is not as wild, or loud, or alien as I had expected. I do get some curious looks though, from High BP’s friends. Even with my purplish-black dress and black stilettos, I seem different from all of the other girls there. I am just not as glamorous, or glossy, or shiny, or sleek, or languorous as all of them seem to be. Or well made-up. All of them look like they stepped out of the covers of a fashion magazine, airbrushed to perfection.

After a while, I am content to stand in the balcony, and watch the moonlight rippling on the sea. And the sinuously moving glitter of car headlights far below.

Thankfully, High BP does not give me any undue attention. Though he does make sure that I have eaten, and my wine glass is filled, and someone or the other is talking to me. But I can see he is courteous and attentive with all his guests, making sure everyone is looked after. I am beginning to understand why he always had a coterie of friends around him in college.

When I say I would like to leave, he doesn’t keep me, but does insist on his driver dropping me home. Chivalrous.

And yet. And yet. The evening has been so different from what I had imagined. And WHAT had I imagined?

1. High BP would ‘take advantage’ of me.
2. He would flirt with me, shamelessly.
3. He would drop me home. And flirt with me some more, on the way.

And what has actually happened was:

1. (Ha, ha.)
2. Apart from that conversation at the door, he did not make any special effort to speak to me.
3. The driver drops me home. And doesn’t say a word all the way.

What I do not understand now about myself was – HAD I wanted those things I had imagined to happen? I should be relieved that I had been proven wrong, as I certainly did not like High BP flirting with me. Then, why do I feel a little disappointed and lonely in the car, going back home alone? I clutch the little gift High BP has given me, when he saw me off at the door.

When I had looked at it doubtfully, he had smiled and said: “It’s only some chocolates. Everyone gets them. Not only you, particularly.”

I had suddenly felt that I wanted to go back inside. Stay for a bit longer. Instead, I had smiled, and said: “Thanks.”

And left.


2 Comments on “25 December”

  1. dipali says:

    He sounds quite decent!!!!

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