26 January

Comma says she will pay for my flight ticket to Bhopal, since she needs my Second Opinion.

Neempatta says she will pay for my flight ticket to Bhopal, since she has suggested I go with Comma.

Ogre says she will pay for my flight ticket to Bhopal, since she thinks I deserve a holiday.

Dodo says he would have liked to pay for my flight ticket to Bhopal, but he needs to buy more medical supplies before he goes back.

I say I can pay for my own flight ticket to Bhopal. I am earning enough. Thank you very much.

Etcetra does not offer to pay for my flight ticket to Bhopal. She is surprised that I am going to Bhopal. No one has told her that I am going to Bhopal. She has heard none of our conversations about my going to Bhopal. She has just registered that I am going to Bhopal. Why AM I going to Bhopal?

At the airport, we have waiting for us:

1. The Prospect’s elder sister.
2. The Prospect’s brother-in-law.
3. Big smiles.
4. A car.

But no signs of:

1. Garlands.
2. Coconuts.
3. The Prospect.

The Prospect sent his excuses. He is at the office:

1. Hoisting the national flag.
2. Singing the national anthem.
3. Belting out patriotic songs on a mike that hummed alarmingly.
4. Feeding up his sleepy, reluctantly present staff members with samosas, gulab jamuns and tea.

The Prospect’s sister suggests dropping in to meet him, and join the Republic Day celebrations. Comma does not exactly jump with the enthusiasm The Prospect’s sister is expecting from A Prospective Bride. We are dropped off home, with a considerable reduction in big smiles.

Comma would have preferred an anonymous rickshaw. She knows her Bhopalwali Aunty’s predilection to wait at the window for expected guests. But much as The Prospect’s sister and brother-in-law may have been let down by Comma’s big-city coolness, their small-town warmth would not permit them to leave us to fend on our own in a strange city. We are after all guests, and who knows but Comma may display more warmth when The Prospect is in sight?

The Prospect’s sister and brother-in-law have been warned that we are here on a secret mission. They whiz away as soon as we have grabbed our bags out of the car trunk. Bhopalwali Aunty hurries up to the gate. But even as she hugs Comma, and exclaims welcomingly over me, her eyes follow the receding car. Her brow is furrowed with worry about who has dropped off her precious niece.

Comma begins the visit with an inauspicious lie about an official car that had come to fetch us at the airport. Bhopalwali Aunty pretends to look suitably impressed with our importance in Neem. But I have my reservations about her doubts having been quelled effectively.

Comma however, has no time to think about her suspicious aunt. She is not a little displeased at The Prospect’s absence from the airport. She keeps up a continuous harangue about The Prospect’s negligence while I:

1. Shower.
2. Powder.
3. Brush.
4. Make my face up, in honour of our visit to Bhopal.

Comma’s multi-tasking abilities are being used to make vocal complaints to the room and sending The Prospect rude text messages.

She pretends to be irked by his good-humored teasing answers, but her smiles and blushes are getting more sickeningly sweet by the minute. I am just going to puke with an overdose of sugar when The Prospect threatens to come over to her aunt’s unless Comma meets him for lunch. Comma pretends to give in under pressure.

All the social networking this early in the morning has given me a headache. I would have liked to stay home in the darkened room by myself while Comma lunches with The Prospect.  But I know Bhopalwali Aunty will rip my guts apart within minutes of getting me alone. I don’t trust myself not to give in if tortured and lay Comma’s lies bare.

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