4 JanuaryPosted: February 28, 2011
Pink Ponytail is standing at the corner of the street, near the paan-shop. He looks incongruous, as if a pink flamingo has forgotten its migratory path to the Sewri mudflats and landed up at Mahalaxmi station instead. But none of the people around him seem to find him special. Presumably they must see him every day, smoking a cigarette on his way to the dance studio.
Sir is with Lithe Gamin, in one corner of the vast studio. He seems to be scolding her. Much to my consternation at discovering a hitherto-unknown-streak-of-malice within myself, I feel pleased at her predicament. I cannot see her sniggering for now.
Etcetra sees me in the huge mirrors, standing uncertainly near the door. She turns with a smile and comes towards me.
Etcetra: “Hey. Come on in. I’ll finish rehearsing in a few minutes, then we can go and have idlis at that place we went to last time. You liked them, didn’t you? I am starving.”
I sip on my water beaker slowly as I watch Etcetra go through her dance steps. She is so graceful, dances so effortlessly, I love watching her whenever I get the chance. Which is not very often.
I do not that I notice anything untoward in Sir’s and her behavior. Sir gives her a couple of glances while she is dancing, but only in a critical way, checking if she is getting the steps right. She looks at him a couple of times too, but only for an affirmation of her technique. No lustful, longing looks on either side. Perhaps my suspicions are unfounded.
At the idli shop, before I can bring up the subject, she does.
Etcetra: “Are you here to talk about yesterday? About what happened with Ogre?”
Me: “Yes. Why are you being so mean to her?”
Etcetra: “I didn’t mean it. You know, I didn’t.”
Me: “It’s not just about yesterday. It’s the way you behave most of the time, now. And it’s just built up to this. She keeps getting hurt, and smiling about it. That’s why, yesterday, she just lost it. Then, you didn’t go to her and pacify her either.”
Etcetra: “Why should I have to go and pacify her? She’s the one who said something so unforgivable.”
Me: “And haven’t you said several unforgivable things yourself to her, heaps of times? Come on, Etcetra, you know she was hurt. She has never, never said any such thing before.”
Etcetra: “But she must have felt it all these years. That’s why it came out yesterday. It can’t be ‘nothing’ at all.”
Me: “And the things you say? Do you feel them too?”
Etcetra: “Yes, I do. You know that. I always say what I feel. At least I am honest. But she has just kept on pretending all these years that she cared for us, when all along she didn’t want us at all. It’s not fair. She should never have done it. At least then Dodo would have had to take care of us. We wouldn’t have been deprived of his attention, too.”
Me, wearily: “Etcetra, Dodo was not there to take care of us, whether Ogre was there or not. You can’t genuinely believe that all these years of care and love that she gave us, mean nothing. It’s just convenient for you to say all this, because you don’t want to apologize. As usual.”
Etcetra: “Whatever. I don’t feel so good about her right now. And I can’t pretend otherwise. And I can’t be sweet and diplomatic like you. I have to go now. Will you pay for the idlis? I’m a bit broke. As usual.”
She goes off, leaving me with:
1. An unfinished plate of food, which I don’t feel like eating any more.
2. And the bill, for a measly affordable amount.
3. And a feeling of helplessness.
Etcetra’s stubbornness has often defeated me. But until now, I had thought she was rebellious and hotheaded. I hadn’t realized she could also be so insensitive.