2 MarchPosted: August 12, 2011
The smell of mushroom cheese omelettes means Etcetra is in the kitchen. No one makes a mushroom cheese omelette like her, and since that is all that she does know how to make in the kitchen, no one else in our house is allowed to make them except her.
I walk over to the kitchen, still sleepy-eyed. Etcetra greets me with a bright smile.
Etcetra: “Good morning.”
I mumble some response back. I don’t know whether shock is a good thing in the morning, but I guess since I am still young and healthy I am able to withstand it without any undue damage to my system.
After the eggs and 7-grain bread and the coffee are consumed, I stumble back into bed, still clueless, not sleepy but wanting to rest and THINK. Etcetra follows me there. I consider closing my eyes, and pretending to sleep. But I know I will never be able to carry it off with the required impunity.
Etcetra: “Are you still annoyed with me, Appi?”
Me, pretending to be cold and haughty: “What about?”
Etcetra: “The other day. Me not turning up home at night. All that.”
Me: “Yes, I am. Not about you, staying out all night. But the fact that you don’t care at all, that Ogre and I were worried. Or that we deserve any answers from you.”
Etcetra laughs: “ Of course you deserve answers, Appi. And Ogre, more so. It’s just that you made me so mad with your prying around. If you hadn’t done that, I would have come home that day, and told you everything anyway.”
Me, disbelieving: “Oh yeah? And even if I did pry around, why didn’t you tell Ogre? And anyway, I don’t think I was prying around. And even if I was, I don’t think it was wrong. It was just concern on my part.”
Etcetra comes and falls on me, squashing me under her weight. Then, she topples over and puts an arm and a leg around me.
Etcetra: “OK, I’m sorry. I can take things too far. Ogre and you are so sweet, and I’m a scumbag. Fine?”
Me: “That still doesn’t answer my questions, Etcetra. Where were you that night?”
Etcetra: “I should have told you when I came in. But you saw how shaken up I was that day. Also, I was not sure whether I should tell you. Because it was not my story.”
Me: “Then whose? What happened?”
Etcetra: “You know that girl, Lithe Gamin in our troupe? She tried to commit suicide. I found her in the studio in a cold sweat; she had fainted. There was no one else around. All of us had left after late rehearsal. At the train station, I rummaged in my bag for my wallet. To take out my train coupons. And discovered that my wallet was not there. So I went back to the studio, sure that it had fallen out of my bag there. And that’s how I found her.
I ran out to the main road, found a taxi, took her to the hospital, filed an FIR, all of that. So. In all that panic and rush, I forgot to call, Appi. And when I came home and saw Ogre and you with those worried faces, I suddenly realized what a mistake I had made.
But I was too tired to say much at the time. Later, you were asleep. I woke up and rushed to the hospital. Lithe Gamin was up by then, and I talked to her. Again, what she told me was so horrid, that I came home not wanting to share it. So there’s my big secret.”
I keep quiet. I can understand her reluctance to talk now. But still.
Me: “When you live together, it’s hard to give each other complete freedom, and space however hard you try to let go, as Ogre says.”
Etcetra: “But you don’t need to let go, Appi. At least, of me. I was being insufferable, as usual. Anyway, aren’t you curious about why Lithe Gamin did what she did?”
Me: “Do you want to tell? You don’t have to. I can understand if you don’t want to.”
Etcetra: “It doesn’t matter now. She’s fine, and she’s gone off home to Guwahati. I think she’ll come back from home, feeling stronger.”
Me: “Good for her.”
Etcetra: ” She got involved with someone who didn’t deserve her at all. And then, she … she had to have an abortion. It shattered her. Plus she had no one to talk to.”
Me: “Was the guy someone from your dance group?”
Etcetra: “No, thankfully not. She’d had a soft spot for Sir all along, but realizing it was hopeless, she got involved with someone she met at some pub.”
Me: “For Sir? I thought …”
Me: “For a long time, I thought that you were involved with Sir. Or at least wanted to be. Or some such thing.”
Etcetra laughs loudly: “What me? However did you get that idea, Appi?”
Me, vaguely: “Don’t know.”
Etcetra becomes solemn.
Etcetra: “Look, I won’t lie. I did have a crush on him. All of us did at some point or the other. You know how it is. Sir and all. But I’d never get involved with a married man. I mean, Appi, do you seriously think I am that stupid?”
Me: “How should I know? And it’s not about being stupid. You can get carried away. You can’t always control your emotions that carefully, can you?”
Etcetra: “Of course, you can. If you are clear about what you want from life. And that I am. Don’t we have a disjointed enough life the way things are with the collective absence of Dodo and The Beautiful One? Why extend those problems into our love lives as well?”
Me: “I didn’t know you were that mature.”
Etcetra: “You do know that I am 18, don’t you? Not 7 anymore?”
We laugh and chat some more. It is like old, old times again, when she followed me around everywhere, when she used to be thrilled if I went to meet her at dance school. But better, in fact. Suddenly, it is so easy to be intimate with her.
I suppose you can’t send a ‘RSVP please’ invitation to someone to come and share confidences with you. It just happens one day, in a lucky moment. And when it does happen, it can make a relationship so much easier.