22 March

I am wearing a dress I have finally chosen myself. A light grey satin sheath layered with sheer gauzy uneven lengths of pale grey, pale blue and the palest pink. It has a wide neck and falls to my ankles. It looks demure until I move. I have put my hair up to look a little more sophisticated than I usually do.

Of course, there has been no time to think about what High BP had said. Under Comma and The Prospect’s supervision, Ogre’s 50th birthday bash has taken on the proportions of a Big Event. I would hardly be surprised if the press turn up flashing their cameras.

Assembled are:

1. Dodo, who has been whisked off straight to the flat from the railway station.
2. The Prospect, now definitely the Intended.
3. Comma.
4. So-On.
5. 2x-y, bravely cheerful.
6. Neempatta and her husband.
7. Rummy and Subi.
8. A few of Dodo’s friends.
9. Some friends of Ogre.
10. High BP, once again playing the gracious host.

Etcetra guides in a perplexed Ogre. For a moment, I think she will burst into tears at the surprise. But she doesn’t. I don’t know what Etcetra has told her to make her dress up in the new sari that we had bought for her, but Etcetra has done her job, and Ogre looks formidable in rust and cream silk.

It was only after everyone has settled down, Nawaaz Aunty’s special cake cut and devoured, the presents given, drinks in hand, snacks passed around, music in background, laughter and chatter rising to the ceiling, that I have time to stand back in the balcony and watch all the people who make up my life gathered in the room.

So-On is smiling, talking to Ogre. He looks charming, like a young boy, relaxed after a long time, and yet distracted, his mind already in New York perhaps, waiting to fly away.

Etcetra, glamorous in a short teal-blue dress that seems to hang on her body only through will power, is cuddled up beside Dodo, her favourite man. Despite the sexy dress, she looks like a little girl, listening in to Dodo and Rummy’s conversation. Dodo strokes her hair absent-mindedly as he chats. He looks healthy and happy, and scrubbed and unrecognizable in a grey suit that Etcetra has unearthed from mothballed status and smuggled out of the house for him.

Neempatta is talking to The Prospect. Both seem at ease. Comma, all grown up in a mauve silk sari, clings to The Prospect’s arm unabashedly. He grins at her every now and then, and Neempatta looks at both of them affectionately.

High BP hands Subi a glass of wine. He smiles at her, and moves on to another group of people, checking whether they need another drink, some more snacks. He looks very, very handsome in dark brown jeans and a light yellow shirt.

Of course, I think of what he had said yesterday. I know then that I really like him, and am very attracted to him. I want love, but as I looked around, I know also that I want friends and a loving family, and someone who can be part of it all. Yes, I want it all.

Looking at him now, so gracious and completely at his ease taking care of people whom he barely knows, it seems to me that High BP could be that All. And yet, I am hesitant. I look at So-On again, and feel that familiar twinge in my heart. I look at High BP and wonder if love could happen over a period of time. I also wonder if he is not too wealthy for me. What will his family be like? Aren’t they very conservative? Do I want to be part of all that?

High BP says a few words to 2x-y who is talking to one of Ogre’s friends. Then, he moves towards me.

High BP: “You look worried as usual. Don’t be. The party’s going really well.”

Me: “Yes, it is. But I wasn’t thinking about that.”

High BP: “Me, then? I’m flattered.”

Me: “Don’t be. I wasn’t thinking flattering things about you.”

High BP: “I’ve known you to be a dull, boring, self-righteous girl, Appi, but never a liar.”

Me: “Dull, boring, self-righteous? Is that what appeals to you?”

High BP: “Oh, you don’t want to hear what appeals to me. At least not here in this crowd.”

I fight the blush. But it wins.

High BP: “But let me tell you anyway.  It’s that dress, like the sea. It’s your hair barely touching your shoulders. It’s your eyes that reveal more than you want. Should I continue?”

Me: “No, thank you.”

High BP: “But I want to,”

Me: “But I don’t want you to.”

High BP: “Why? Not now? Or not ever?”

Me: “I don’t know.”

High BP: “‘Don’t know’ is good. ‘Don’t know’ is better than ‘no’.”

Me: “Yes, maybe.”

High BP: “Is that a ‘yes, maybe’ to me, or a ‘yes, maybe’ to what I said? God, that’s enough. As if you don’t know how silly I am. I forgot you like sensible, mature men.”

Me: “Shut up.”

High BP: “I will. If you say something. Say something, please.”

Me: “I’m scared. I don’t know where it would all lead. Your family. Our backgrounds. All of that.”

High BP: “And So-On too, perhaps.”

Me: “No, that’s over. He’s going away to New York, to Sam, that girl in the play.”

High BP: “That doesn’t necessarily change anything for you. For us.”

Me: “There’s no ‘us’, right now.”

High BP: “OK, OK, Ms. Prickly. There’s no ‘us’. I’m just saying.”

I scowl at him.

High BP: “I know that look. That’s the look I like. Anyway, talking of backgrounds, family. This isn’t exactly a life-long plan yet. Not even a 5-year one. Hey, I’m just asking to see you. In a while. A few dates. Go around for some time. You know. Maybe you’ll come to like me.”

Me: “Hmm. So it’s nothing serious. You just want a fling, is it?”

High BP: “No, not a fling. But I’d like to be flung by you. Shit. I do talk nonsense when I’m nervous. Appi, OK, this is not to deny that I am serious about you. But I don’t expect you to be immediately. I know your heart still aches for So-On ..”

He lets out a loud guffaw, while I look at him appalled that he would dare to make a joke about my feelings for So-On.

High BP: “Sorry. But I just can’t resist pulling your leg. I can’t. It’s involuntary. Promise. Listen, before I say anything else to shoot myself in the leg, let’s just end with one question. Will you give me SOME time, a little bit of time to prove that I’m not a bad guy?”

His hand has crept up to mine a long time ago, and most of my protests are rendered ineffective by the fact that I haven’t shaken it off. I look at him, and he looks into my eyes. But before I can summon up an answer, he smiles and goes away. The clever guy. He would make a masterful strategist at war.


4 Comments on “22 March”

  1. desi-at-large says:

    Merely clearing my throat. An Appi, Appi scene.

  2. dipali says:

    The dress sounds fabulous.
    I’m almost holding my breath now 🙂

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