16 March

High BP almost kissed me yesterday.

Yes, that’s true.

I don’t know how it happened.

Then, maybe I do.

He had come to the office to drop by some documents. Whatever that means. Because they were not really important documents. And he could easily have sent them across with a peon from his office or couriered them.

He comes in while I am winding up work just after noon. We work only half-days on Saturdays.

He says: “Want me to drop you home? I’m going that way.”

Never one to refuse an air-conditioned drive home, I say: “Yes.”

He waits patiently for the few minutes it took me to pack up for the day.

In the car, he says: “Would you like a coffee, somewhere?”

I say: “Not really. I don’t feel like sitting in some noisy place right now. I’ve been filing and writing reports all morning, and my head’s swimming.”

He say: “I know a really lovely place. Very quiet. Tiny. But it’s a drive. Want to go there?”

I say: “OK.”

I don’t really need the coffee. But I don’t mind a drive.

The drive turns out to be all the way to Khandala. I could slap myself for being taken in like that. But it would seem gratuitous on my part to crib about the distance, considering he is driving.

The place is lovely. A little old-world coffee shop run by a young, new world couple. Who have given up their corporate jobs for this romantic fancy.

We sit alone in a small garden, enclosed by hills and hedges. We speak of this and that. We leave for the drive back home.

On the way home, we stop near a field of yellow flowers to watch the big, round pink sun about to drop on the road before us.

He says: “Your face has the most lovely light on it. I wish I’d brought my camera.”

I brush a nervous hand across my face. He reaches out and follows the movement of my hand.

He says: “Shy girl.”

He pulls my face gently towards him as he moves forward. I feel his breath. As he hovers over my face, suddenly I pull back.

He is flustered too.

He says: “Sorry. I don’t know what happened.”

I mumble: “It’s fine.”

He puts on some music as soon as we sit down in the car. I shut my eyes, and for some time, I actually go to sleep. Perhaps I am really tired; perhaps the confusion of that moment is too much for me.

I hope my mouth was not open or my chin lolling while I did that. Nice thing that would be to see just after an averted kiss.

OK. I have been kissed before. Just to set the record straight that I am not exactly the dull, boring, drab person I seem to be. To be exact, I have been kissed thrice. Details as under:

1. At 10, by a distant cousin Momo who was visiting us. He was 9. And we got along really well. And the kiss was an integral part of the ‘Mummy-Daddy’ game that we were playing.

2. At 16, by a date that I went out with, in the aftermath of Cockroach and So-On’s smart-alecky comments about the lack of a boyfriend in my life. I’ve forgotten the name of my date. But he seemed to think that a kiss on the doorstep was mandatory after an evening out, as in Hollywood films.

3. At 20, by So-ON. YES. Bit of experimentation, that. It was after a play. So-On was a little drunk. The group had decided to move from a pub to its rooftop restaurant to eat. Everyone took the lift; So-On and I decided to run up the stairs. On the 8th floor, as we stood laughing, gasping for breath, he suddenly leaned towards me and kissed me. For So-On, it was just one of those things that happened, something that he had forgotten by the time we reached the table where the others were waiting. For me, you can guess. I wrapped up the memory in muslin, and took it out every once in a while, and looked at it and caressed it, until I had to put it away again when it began to disturb me too much.

Yet today, in the train, I was not thinking of So-On but High BP. Despite all my efforts, I have spent not less than 13 hours, 47 minutes in imagining what THAT kiss would have been like if it had been. Would his lips be dry, clammy, soft, firm, hot, cold, what would they taste like?

I wonder how things would be between High BP and me, after yesterday. I hope they won’t be awkward. It is going to take another 2-3 months at least, before the case is finally closed.

So-On is not at home. He knows I was coming, but has just gone out to run an errand for his mother. For the first time, she beckons me into her room and directs me towards an armchair.

While I sit there bemused, wondering at the strangeness of it all, So-On’s mother says: “I think Uncle will have to agree to let him go. It’s useless keeping him here against his will. He’s just becoming intolerable.”

She does not seem to want any response from me because she continues: “Personally, I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Both father and son are just stuck with their egos. Uncle can easily carry on the business without So-On for another 10 years. It’s not as if he is planning to retire. Thank God for that. It would be terrible having him under my feet all day.”

I don’t know what I am expected to say to that, but luckily I am not expected to say anything. Only listen.

So-On’s mother: “And So-On. He’s going on about Sam as if he’s just met her. I mean, he has been going around with her for years, and they’ve been friends for more years than that. And he discovers that he can’t do without her, just before she’s going to New York? Unbelievable.”

I maintain my stoic silence unnoticed by her.

So-On’s mother: “I don’t even understand what he sees in her. She’s beautiful, OK. But so? There are 1000s of other girls like her. She’s a snob, and arrogant, and hardheaded. She’s going to tie him around her with a noose. Hmmmph.”

That is funny coming from her, as she doesn’t do too badly herself in the snobbery, arrogance and hard-headedness departments. But I don’t have time to either laugh or choke back my laughter,

because So-On has entered the room with an infallible sense of timing to hear his mother’s opinion of Sam. She has the grace to look embarrassed. So-On turns and storms off into his room and bangs the door behind him. I sit in the chair in his mother’s bedroom, wondering what to do with myself.

I know I have hankered for some signs of friendliness from So-On’s mother all these years, but now that she has decided to have a tête-à-tête with me, I wish she would go back to being her unfriendly self.

A few minutes later, I knock on So-On’s door.

He screams: “Go away.”

I say softly: “So-On, it’s me.”

So-On: “Go away, Appi.”


One Comment on “16 March”

  1. desi-at-large says:

    Lovely Appi – all nice Indian girls back off at the nth moment. Kiss ko pyar kare (of course I think I know the answer to that one). And she has smooch stories to tell!
    So-On’s mother talking to Appi – I hope she doesn’t create complications by suddenly realizing how suitable Appi would be.
    Yeah, how will High BP and Appi meet, once this case winds up?
    Long drives that end up in Khandala – great!
    What a generous chapter!

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