16 February

I have deliberately asked High BP to meet me at Prithvi just a few minutes before the play. I do not want to hang around the café with him, and be teased about my ‘regular boyfriend’. I’ve had enough of his nonsense on the phone.

When I arrive, there is already a crowd near the entrance. High BP cannot say much in the nature of personal-and-private stuff, though the mischievous smile keeps hovering on his face until we are engulfed in the dark, cool auditorium.

I whisper, as we sit down: “Do you have your cell phone off?’

He switches it off, with a great play of gestures, as if it is something that would never have occurred to him.

He turns to whisper in my ears, with too close a proximity: “It’s off, Appi. Thanks for telling me.”

I whispers back: “You can’t talk while the play is on.”

He whispers back, in a mock serious manner: “Oh really? Thanks. I’m such an oaf about these things.”

I feel a little foolish for having been so patronizing. But I think it best not to apologize because that will mean some more teasing on his part. Anyway, the seats at Prithvi don’t allow for much intimate conversation. And the players will soon be on stage. The third bell has gone off.

After the play, I say: “I’m going to the green room.”

I am hoping that High BP will be polite enough to say: “OK, I’ll leave, then.”

But that is hoping for too much from him. He follows me up the tiny, winding stairs.

So-On turns from the mirror, and exclaims: “Appi, you’re here!”

Then, he sees High BP behind me, and his smile becomes a little formal. I can see that So-On is confused to see a man with me. And for a moment, he has lost his customary panache. But High BP makes up for it, and goes forward with an outstretched hand, saying the things one does say to someone after the opening of their play.

Sam enters wiping the make up on her face with a big cotton wad. Her face glows with the surfeit of cleansing cream. So-On puts an arm around her shoulders, and with a pleased look on his face says: “Well done, well done.”

I watch them standing close to each other. For a moment, I forget High BP is standing there watching me.

So-On asks if we would like to go out with them later. But I refuse. I know that So-On and their theater group will be full of:

1. Their play and the show.
2. Their mistakes.
3. The audience reactions.
4. What they ought to do or not do, during the next show.

I have sat around them quietly often enough at other times, but I don’t think I should subject High BP to it. Nor do I want High BP to sit around So-On and Sam and me, looking at us with sharp, amused eyes, and gathering more fodder to tease me with later.

I decline dinner with High BP too, even though I can see how disappointed he is. But I want to make it clear to him that this is NOT a date. And anyway, I am tired, and low as usual after seeing So-On and Sam together. High BP too, for once does not protest much at my refusal to go out for the night, and quietly drops me home.

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