Fun

Politically correct (a repost)

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Beer with Mamaji

The dark and nondescript exterior of the pub doesn’t prepare you for the blast of bright yellow light that hits you as you enter. Maybe it is the contrast that you are not prepared for, or maybe it is just too early for such lights. Mamaji is sitting at the largest table in the centre with his usual contented face. He gives you the impression that he owns the place, and maybe he does. It is difficult to tell with him, especially given the fact that lately he has been telling everyone, except me of course, that food sector is the safest bet in Bangalore these days. If you are an investor, that is.

My maternal family is very enterprising, very street smart to the extent that sometimes they appear to be crazy. They are the exact opposite of the scholarly, sensible and overtly mundane paternal side. Dad has a brother who is a senior professor. I don’t remember when I met him last, but whenever that happened all I remember is a discussion about the merits of studying science. And its not just him, none of Dad’s cousins would be comfortable in this glaring yellow light, which somehow, seems to have acquired an acceptable luster now. They would definitely object to the EDM playing, even though and surprisingly is not loud. But then, its early in the evening and this might be a test run.

He waves a hand towards the drinks counter and smiles at me.Two people, one with a tablet and the other with anticipation appear. They are given swift instructions and dispatched off.

So yeah, one could never be sure about Mamaji, he has tried his hands at anything and everything. The last business, which was also the shadiest was micro-finance and small scale funds, probably an euphemism. He doesn’t talk about it, but then he doesn’t talk about his other businesses with me openly, willingly. I get information from Dad, the reason being Mom doesn’t want him to influence me with his crazy business ideas, her fears are based on the transient nature characteristic of her family members, which apparently is showing in me, more so as I age. Mamaji is afraid of Mom for some reason that I suspect is not as simple as her being the elder sibling. As a consequence, like all kids who are kept away from an uncle who looks funky, and dazzles in the family, I have always been a fan. He likes me too, and says almost every time we meet that I might be the most intelligent man among all his relatives.

The beers arrive.

“Don’t tell about this to your mom”

“Oh but I have.” I had no idea this was supposed to be a secret, because when I told Mom that I am going to meet him in the pub she didn’t react.

‘Ok in that case, no questions about business and I am not giving you feedback on your weird startup ideas’

‘C’mon Mamaji, why are you so scared of Mom, she is so cute’

‘Says the only son’

‘Well, at least tell me if you own this place’

‘No, but then it depends,’ he acquires his signature glazed look every time he thinks of business, and future plans.

‘Depends on? oh but you wont elaborate, great! why are we meeting here’

‘To get you drunk and find if you are not gay’

‘How noble of you, are you going to use one of those waiters? and what makes you think I could be one, you of all people who knows of my past’

‘Yeah, but it could be a facade. If I was friends with M since childhood I would have proposed her at 10′

‘Now don’t bring M into this, she is a friend, always will be a friend, also she is short’

‘She is?’

‘I guess not very short, ok, she is like a friend and she has a boyfriend, remember D?’

‘Hmm. So what was wrong with the woman you met, the tall one, what was her name, I forget’

‘Oh she was good, a serious type,” I never liked the giggle girls, in more ways than her serious disposition, she was ideal, “but she was just too tall’
Also, she said she loves wearing heels, kind of her way to set the standards high, but that’s my pun which went only so far as to get D laughing.

‘What is it with you, one is too short one too tall. you sound like one of those guys who always see the glass half empty or half full’

‘But isn’t it how the world works. The glass, Mamaji is either half full or half empty, and you see how and what you choose to see.’

The beer arrives and he guzzles half of the mug as if he has been just rescued from a desert, maybe rescued from the dry conversation we are having. I know he hates these family matters, both he and I would have loved to discuss start-up ideas, his ideas and my pitching in with implementation details. I wish I could convince Mom, but moms are incorrigible.

There is a silence as he relishes the beer, sipping and trying out the chicken and cheese nachos. I drink slow, out of respect of course. The beer is good, not so much the food. People who come early to these pubs are either groups of guys, or are women who don’t care about their attire or looks. As the night builds up, fashion kicks in, both in terms of opulence of the cars they come in and in terms of economy of the clothes they come in.

I find him looking at me quizzically.

‘I don’t think you are gay, look at how you are checking out the women’

‘Great, glad that it is settled, no tests then. Can we order that single malt?’ I wink.

‘No, we are not, we are discussing your marriage. So where were we,’ he stifles a yawn.

I cant help smile at him, out of sympathy.

‘Yeah so either the woman is short or tall, is it? Do you realize how shallow you sound’

‘No I am normal, and unlike yours my glass is empty, do you see’ I wave it with flourish, just to cheer him up.

He waves in turn for a fresh round and continues, ‘yes I remember, and it is not the glass that is half empty or half full my boy.”

He pauses, a little too long, as if trying to remember the rest of the sentence and giving it time to come back.

‘The glasses that we keep looking at don’t matter, it is the bottle that matters. And more often than not, the bottle is quite full, look at the bottled up energy, bottled up potential within you young people. You waste it by talking about philosophy and politics on social media’

‘I want to talk about business, my job sucks’

‘But it pays well, business is done by people who cannot get such jobs, people like me’

‘Ok, fine. and it’s not just philosophy and politics.’

‘I know your generation are gung-ho about nationalism, Modi is your savior’

‘Mamaji, are you a leftist, liberal?’

‘No, neither are you right-wing. It’s just academic speak, deep down you know that if you stick to a left or a right at every step or thought, you keep going in circles.”

‘So you are a centrist’

‘No, a realist. There are many things to commit to in life, besides the right, left and centre, sometimes you need to follow a hyperbole, sometimes you have to carve your own path out of nowhere. That’s why you should just marry the next woman you meet. It’s always more about yourself than others.’

‘So you are saying there is no right woman or wrong one, no black or white, and the world is gray’

‘Yes it is but it can’t be taught, takes us time to realize that, and then we start forgetting,’ he ruffles his unruly hair as if lost in thought.

I know this routine, he does it to impress his clients and funding people, to convince them that he is wise, and very thoughtful.

‘Look at hair for example,’ he continues, ‘we start black, as if we are in the dark, when everything matters, right or left, empty or full, and then we end up white, the other end when everything is just white noise, and nothing seems to matter’

‘In between we have gray haired wise uncles,’ I chime in with self congratulatory glee, ‘the gray cells overflowing from their brains coloring their hair’

‘Yeah,’ he laughs heartily when he does, ‘except some color their hair black proving they are still the kids they were, like your Dad’

We both laugh. But I think he does it because of Mom, the ubiquitous mom. I would have consulted with her on the topic of women rather than wise graying Mamaji, but she keeps coming back to M.

Related: Waiting for Ms Godot

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The mission

I was chosen after a lot of deliberation.

It must have been a difficult choice, and most likely a choice made out of compulsion, not unlike choices that we all make. Convoluted deception is no different than delusion and the freedom we seek, that we fight for is not for free will but for an exoneration from our mediocrity.

This confidence with which I proclaim that I wasn’t a willful choice stems from my lack of interest in the scheme of things and in every endeavor that I find myself pushed into. My indolence conveniently translated to my silence during the crucial debate. The candidates, that is my brothers who like to call themselves comrades, without any inkling to the sinister connotations of the word, were as interested as I was to go on the mission. However, interest is as subjective as the perceived object on which it is intended, mine didn’t overcome the barriers of my doubts, regarding speech, at the least.

So why was I chosen, you might ask.

Not that you are compelled to but you shouldn’t mind since I am already answering the question. The biggest deterrent to asking questions is the pause, that knowing look you hate, or in the worst case counter questions that you have to go through. I suggest blinking. It usually works, blink now and read on.

So the answer is consensus. It always favors the silent, that non-committal underdog who you would love to evaluate but you know you would get only so far. I didn’t intend to be that insufferable underdog though. Everything I am and everything I do is driven by one quality, that defining quality of nature, of the universe, and of every sentient being that we lovingly call ‘laziness’.

It is inertia and not thought that defines existence, for if we take an initiative we run the risk of straying, the natural tendency therefore is to go with the flow or not move at all. It is the basis of society and civilization. But everything around us, including our Gods, our ethics, sciences and arts conspire to show us glimpses of a brilliant horizon, almost within reach, a temptation that is as vile as sin.

Unlike my so called comrades, I resist this seduction with the only weapon I possess, the one that I don’t need to brandish, or sharpen or even apply on the opponents. Optimism defends laziness in a way that is so elegant that we cant help not to overlook. Perfection, though very virtuous never gets our attention. It is too academic to appeal. Baboons over ages have developed a keen sense to detect imperfections, the blemishes and aberrations which are the biggest weaknesses of men, the only competing species left after years of global warming, and cooling and the whale wars and…well, to sum up much has happened that you may not remember, neither would your great grandspecies. But like us, men have learnt to harness the outliers, it is not the perfect but the mutants that are their biggest strength.

Given the state of the world, you would assume that there would be conflict to reach the apex, but you would be as wrong as the wolves are. These preparations, carried on both sides is not to outdo each other and reach the apex, but collaborate to reach the moon. With the moon worked up day and night, the howling never stops. We tried killing these pesky wolves but they reproduce with a libido that is proportional to the rate of decimation.

The prevalent notion in the ghettos is that they are trying to tell us something, but after careful study of Howlish and the EM waves from the moon it was proven that wolves alphabet had no consonant and that the source of the waves lies on the moon. We just hope it is on the surface of the moon and that they continue to communicate with vowels. It is not so well established however if the emitter was always there on the moon, our records show no readings till the age when men used to be those annoying apes.

If you scavenge for achievements of men in history books, you would find their obsession with moon, both in their arts and in science. This scouring for moon in men records is mostly carried out by the irritating standup comedians who never tire of the moon mission jokes. But, one cant be sure. Maybe they did plant the device, at least thats what my dad used to think. He compensated his obsession with conspiracy theories by his equally weird and unbaboonic sense of humor. Carrying a human name, that too Neil Armstrong must have had an effect on me, not that I am aware of but then awareness is a lot of work that gets you nowhere.

I wait in this circular white paneled room for my human comrade and the mission briefing. I know how it would go, that slow and steady simulated voice which will drone on and on. There is a white table in the center with a single banana, shining and tempting like a joke you like but would rather not laugh at. I hope my name when announced will have the same effect. What I wish for is that you, the commiserating alien, or a more evolved species would read this note and try to locate the abomination and destroy it. I feel sleepy already, fighting the urge to eat the banana is tiring.

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Lightning strikes in Moby Dick and South Carolina

I have been reading Moby Dick for the last few months and making unbearably slow progress. Unlike people who read many books at a time, and finish off enough in one week to publish reading updates on Goodreads and blogs, I take months to finish a book. This might be because reading time comes at a premium when you have a job that occupies your not just your day time but also the evenings with dawdling meetings, or it maybe because there are just too many distractions in everyday life in the form of socializing offline, socializing online, multitude of video streaming subscriptions that keep flashing new content in phone notifications, and last but not the least, the 100 overs of each ICC Cricket World Cup matches.

This book came as a recommendation in the form of a comment by Masercot when I published a review of Wuthering Heights, a book that took me ages to read because I read it twice. This is another reason why I take longer to finish a book, and unlike what I might have said in my review, my rereads are motivated by the fact that it takes me longer than an average reader to absorb new content. Wuthering Heights, in spite of its cold, dreary outlook has the content that is very intriguing.

Anyways, coming back to the book in hand, or rather in my Kindle which has somehow managed to creep into the cupboard filled with washed but un-ironed clothes and needs to be found. Instead of spending time to search for it, I sit and wonder if Kindle with a ringer that can be activated by the phone will be a good feature in the next version. I don’t understand why they made it waterproof, no one reads in the rain and readers are a species which have not evolved enough to spill their drinks. Coming back to the book again, it has been a testing experience to say the least. Melville is a chronic rambler, putting my claims of being a rambler to such a shame that I feel I should change the title of my blog.

‘Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street..’ – Chapter 1, Loomings.

‘And still deeper the meaning of that story of Narcissus, who because he could not grasp the tormenting, mild image he saw in the fountain, plunged into it and was drowned. But that same image, we ourselves see in all rivers and oceans. It is the image of the ungraspable phantom of life; and this is the key to it all.’ – Chapter 1, Loomings.

The beginning was poetic as quoted above, but then he goes off on tangents. There are elements of whaling, religion, homoeroticism, chowder, the list just goes on creating a medley of diverse topics and themes. He comes out as a writer who wants you to understand the topic as thoroughly as a professor of physics would do. The sentences keep getting longer, along with the hyphens he uses to punctuate. There seems to be a deliberate attempt to obfuscate, making you wonder why he didn’t keep it short and sweet as is the norm of our age.

A short and crisp sentence, or a paragraph, gives a finality to the thought being put forward. It is about committing to a point of view. With people struggling to manage time between the multitude of activities, our age demands such crispness. Read and then move on is the mantra, but Melville with his antics slows you down. It is frustrating and yet you read and then reread the sentence. Rereading forces you to stray, and makes you think if he was saying something totally different than what comes off at the face value. Even the most cursory reader will be forced to evaluate if there is an allusion every now and then, especially when you see those hyphens.

If you have reached to this point having carefully read the post till now, you might be wondering why am I writing this when I am not done with the book, nor am I claiming to have understood it. Luckily for you, I have a satisfying answer to this question, satisfying to me that is.

After having given up on newspapers, I have been relying completely on Google feed for my daily news. Google, with its algorithms keeps feeding me more of what I am interested in, so these days it is filled with news about the Cricket World Cup and Disha Patani’s midriff. It was therefore a shocker when they inserted a news item: lightning strikes a tree in South Carolina in the middle of cricket and navel sightings. I have never expressed interest(Google-wise, which is not so wise it seems) in South Carolina or lightning strikes. The only relevance I can figure out is because I have recently read Chapter 28. It is one of those interesting, allusive chapters that makes you read between the hyphens, if not the lines. There is a reference to lightning striking a tree in the most unscientific way that puzzled me.

‘It resembled that perpendicular seam sometimes made in the straight, lofty trunk of a great tree, when the upper lightning tearingly darts down it, and without wrenching a single twig, peels and grooves out the bark from top to bottom, ere running off into the soil, leaving the tree still greenly alive, but branded.’ – Chapter 28, Ahab.

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Waiting for Ms Godot

“How can he keep calm and listen to the lies,” M says looking at her hands.

She is talking about her dad, whose life as far as we have deduced is a slideshow of all the ‘keep calm’ memes.

“Who is telling lies,” D asks without interest. He is always on autopilot when talking to M, or even if he is in her vicinity.

Bhai of course, he and his wife,” M seems to have moved on to examining her fingernails, they are painted blue, but not immaculately. M has never been the type who cared for her looks, maybe because she is genetically endowed with looks that cannot be improved upon. I say this with authority because M and I grew up together, with playing the doc memories and all.

“Oh no, don’t start with that again,” I say when I find her looking at me quizzically because I am examining her nails too.

“You know what your problem is, you cannot be friends with anyone.”

“Especially not women, because you don’t listen,” D says, earning a glare but ignoring it, continues, “you lack the necessary patience.”

“And you listen to me because you are patient?” Under M’s scrutiny D as usual takes refuge in his smile and looks at me for rescue.

“C’mon it’s not like that and I have patience when the topic is new. We all know the reasons why M is upset and why her dad avoids conflict. People get polished as they age, the ragged edges of their thinking or their behavior get sandpapered with the grains of time. I have seen the transformation in my dad, not sure of mom though.”

“Mom’s are different,” D agrees.

“I don’t think so,” M shakes her head at us, “my mom is exactly like him. Sometimes I think they prefer Bhai being devious rather than being honest with them. Maybe you are right, they do seem like they want to avoid conflict. I can’t stand it.”

“Of course you don’t. It’s the optimism, we still believe in the inherent virtues of humanity as we have been taught by others. Life on the other hand teaches pessimism, especially to the ambitious.”

“This is another problem why you can’t get along with women, you say more than you listen, and you say such things that they either have to agree with or risk appearing less wise.”

“D is right, you need more humor and less of pretending to be a philosopher.”

“She means,” D says with wise eyes, “you act like an old man, philosophy when used as a word in conversation is always an euphemism.”

“Yeah I get it, though I think we are approaching my problem from the wrong end. You guys forget I am here to meet a potential wife, not make friends.”

“There lies your third and the biggest problem, more than anything else you need to be friends with a person you are going to spend your life with.”

M is right, D nods.

“Well the evidence doesn’t support your claim, I have more friends than you, mostly women too, including you.”

D nods again.

“We are not talking about your Insta friends.”

“No, he has more on Twitter.”

“Ah Twitter is for the old, the tired or smoothened ones as you say. Why won’t you act your age.”

“A woman on Insta is better than two on Twitter,” D adds seriously.

“Shouldn’t you be on Tinder if you are looking for women?”

“No, not that I tried. Not Tinder but TrulyMadly. Women using dating apps are the ones who are either filtered out of the girlfriend race or are there looking for prospective husbands because matrimonial sites are being handled by their parents, uncles and aunts.”

“Haha I don’t believe that”

“No really, the first question I was asked on TM was where I work and do I have a LinkedIn account. It was such a shock when I had been debating on how much I should fudge the height and length stats.”

“I hope the executives on the matrimonial sites realize their true competition is from dating apps,” M says giving me that knowing smile.

“I hope Tinder executives in India realize their clientele are not sex craving women, but brides to be who want to choose for themselves,” D seems scandalized.

“Where’s this one from, the one we are waiting for. Dating app or Matrimony site.”

“Matrimony, a discovery of Mamaji‘s account created for me. He has called me five times already to give the same instruction. I should behave because she comes from a renowned family.”

“So you could misbehave if she didn’t come from a renowned family? What is a renowned family anyways.”

“Mafia! Bride Corleone.” D likes his joke and goes for his infamous hahaha.

“He means caste, most likely. He was telling there are very few women profiles from our caste on the site, says most women are going for love marriages and why cant I find someone myself instead of giving everyone a headache. I never asked them to.”

“I hate this caste thing, at one point mom said she would be ok with me marrying a boy from another religion rather than that from a different caste. How the fuck does it matter, even Modi and Shah have removed caste equations from politics.”

“Oh, where do I stand,” asks D anxious, “higher, lower or am I from a caste at par.”

“Haha very funny, you stand in the friend zone,” M says acting coy and then adding, “for now.”

She overcomes the awkward pause by turning towards me and asking, “were you not dating that NIFT woman.”

“Two”

“Two what”

“Two of them. But they don’t want to marry him.”

“Why, is there something wrong with you,” she winks, that knowing smile follows.

“There must be,” D chimes in, “though I guess he over played the boyfriend role, now can’t even cameo as a potential husband, not even in roleplay.”

“Funny, what makes you so sure. In any case I don’t want to get married.”

“Married in June, you mean,” they laugh together.

“I think it is her,” I say pointing to a tall woman who is coming towards us, she fits the photo I have been sent. D and M look at the pic on my phone and at her with suspicion. I am not so sure myself, always been bad at faces.

“She looks taller than you.”

“Yeah that’s what Mamiji said, not a good match. But Mamaji was insistent, he says I can either ask her to stop wearing heels or buy myself high heels.”

“Are there shoes with high heels for men”

“Thick soles”

“You must not talk about height with her”

“Assuming, he wants to marry her”

“Well if she is tall, I won’t mind her as a friend. Never dated a girl taller than me. Do gimme more tips.”

“Look at her eyes when you talk”

“I am sure he knows that,” M says frowning at D, “my tip would be to ask her questions that have answers in affirmative, if she lets you that is.”

“Ok here she comes”

“And she is not the one”

“What do you mean yes questions”

“When you ask a question that makes the other say no, you are forcing them to commit to something, to take a stand and that makes them critical, and by inference illogical. I read it in a book.”

“So you never tried it yourself”

“No of course not, it sounds too philosophical”

“Hence, applies to you” D adds.

The women in heels takes a U turn and comes back to us, with a question in her eyes. I try to answer her in a yes, with my eyes that I never trust.

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Fun, Poetry

Poetryman or better a woman

Men need food, drink, shelter and internet to live,
but they need the myths and mythology to be men.
The god though is abstract and the holy books
are filled with instructive stories instead of heroes,
with the stars losing their sheen in the movies,
big names failing to make as much as their pay,
the world needed heroes who were more than human.

Enters marvel, making even the reluctant become a fan,
as its teams put the nordic and greek god-makers to shame
and when they ran out of ideas included the gods to the game.
What we have now is more superheroes than men,
myths to choose from alphabetic lists that goes over pages
and if not sure you may go for the never ending avengers.

Not trying to be terrible here, I am anything but sincere.
This’s the best I come up with, read my posts if you care,
my friends and followers do, going through this rhyming pain.
Poetry is the damsel in distress, all over wordpress,
what we need is a poetryman or better a capered woman,
a superhero to save it from assaults in the name of prompts.

This post was written as part of the prestigious
The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

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The affable huggables

The coffee I have just sipped is unbearably bitter and I am midway into making a face when I see that boss has stopped writing garbled letters on the board and has turned to look at me. Why does he seek me out, I wonder as I swallow the poison without a grimace. Geeta says he is gay but she adds that wink which makes you smile and forget what she had just said. I would die to acquire that wink, because everything I say seems to offend someone or the other. Sometimes that other could be even a bystander. If my offending quotient wasn’t already bad enough, my wink adds the last straw. Geeta is wrong though, I have seen boss checking out babes at the dinner parties. However, he never does that in office. Rahul says the mantra for success at work is to treat every person as units of work, something he doesn’t practice himself. He sees women as units of crush, which change every quarter like the company results, maybe there’s a connection. I don’t care about such connections or success by equating people with joules, I consider them human and myself as half a unit, the other half being lost in dreams of becoming a well published writer.

Sonal looks attentively at the board, and unlike the sycophants she doesn’t laugh at every PJ boss throws at us. Some say he googles over the weekend for fresh ones, and therefore by Wednesday we are already into the rerun season.

But presently, he is giving me the usual look, of disappointment mixed with sarcasm. My brain switches to turbo as I analyze the situation, am I being conferred with the look because:
(a) I didn’t follow the first half when he discussed the weekly work breakups, or is it because
(b) I didn’t listen to his last pj, or
(c) other reasons including my not being able to complete last week’s tasks and such trivialities.
Turbo mode comes in spurts and discards the reasons that may require more than 2 s to evaluate properly. So it picks (b) and to compensate, I laugh.

Everyone turns towards me, they are either surprised at me joining them or maybe the choice was wrong. I kill my grin with my forefinger, there is an impulse to make a finger gun and shoot the bugger looking smug in his sarcastic smile. I resist.

“Mr efficient and attentive finds it funny, so you will be done before Friday, is it?” he mocks, looking around. For applause of course, but to my satisfaction all he gets is some sporadic snickering.

“I will try my best, can’t promise Friday though,” I say with characteristic confidence, one that gets me into trouble because it is based on absolutely nothing.

The meeting proceeds with assignments for the week and PJ torture that might put Ramsay Bolton to shame. We disperse like a herd of Wilderbeest from the waterhole when we realize the predator will now choose one for the infamous Monday one on ones.

I am on my way to cafeteria on first floor where the coffee machines are never tampered with. But Sonal blocks my way with a defiance that makes her look cute.

“Why do you act stupid when you are not,” she asks.

She looks beautiful in her yellowish orangish Kurta, not the sexy beautiful but the behenji or dateable beautiful.
“I have no interest in all this subservient work.”

It’s true but she disagrees. She disagrees because, and here is the surprise factor in this tale, we apparently studied together, at least that’s what she claims. Unlike my engineering institute, my school had more girls than boys. I mean in my pre grad class, or to be more specific section A. She claims to be in the same section and that we studied together for five years. The girls I remember from school are either married into anonymity or are not engineers. I remember those because they must have looked pretty, I have no qualms of being shallow as some of you might have guessed. There are perks of having simple shallow outlook when judging others, here for instance I look at the now beautiful Sonal and I am convinced humans are still evolving.

“C’mon the work’s not so bad, you are just lazy,” she says in an irritated voice and I agree with her. Her irritation stems from the fact that she has been teamed up with me again. After the great November debacle, she had gone on the record to declare that she doesn’t want to work with me in future.

“Do you want to go to the cafeteria, for a wonderful Monday morning coffee,” I ask hopefully, if only to cut her off from the incumbent threats and desperate appeals for me to get serious.

“Fuck your coffee, I know you will never change. I am going to the boss!” She storms out, her ponytail swinging angrily and in negative at me.

I don’t worry though. She is diligent, and brilliant. So from the boss’ perspective, if there is anyone in the team that can compensate for me, it is her. The only problem in this whole situation is that she thinks high of me. You would never guess why, I couldn’t, till she told me it is because I was very studious during my school days. I have been trying since but cannot yet convince her that I have changed.

~~

“I am in love,” Rahul says blowing out the smoke with relish.

“No one in love smokes like this.”

“Oh, now you are an expert at smoking styles of people in love? Are you still writing poetry?”

“Ok, who is it this time,” I ask irritably.

“Your friend Sonal, gimme some tips.”

“My advice would be to steer clear, she is a weirdo in a suit.”

“Yeah, why is she never in any other dress. You are right though, she is a little difficult to ask out. Why don’t you try?” He gives a conspiratorial look that ends my part of the conversation.

~~

“I don’t feel like working today”

“Isn’t it too early in the week to be making this statement,” she looks at me without emotion.

“..wouldyougooutforamovie”

“What the fuck was that, was that a gaali,” she looks furious, which makes her nose red.

“Never mind, can you do this freaking bug fix for me,” I ask with the most charming smile I am capable of.

“Only if you tell me what you said just now.”

“Ok”

“Out with it,” she sounds impatient.

“Will you go out for a movie this weekend”

“Which movie”

I didn’t anticipate this reaction, and now I couldn’t just say that any movie was fine without appearing to be desperate. So turbo mode kicks in and comes with the best match in terms of being neutral and most suitable to the situation at hand, “Dumbo.”

She laughs, that unchecked unassuming laugh that is getting rare these days, especially in women, especially the ones I talk to.

“But only if you do my part of the project too,” I add as an afterthought, because I had planned to do it over the weekend. The week is devoted to Moby Dick, which I have started reading. It seems to be huge and an ominous read and I hate the Jonah chapter.

“Ah, sexual harassment! I am going to report it”

“How is this harassment, you do my part of the project and then you get to go out with me for a movie. At most it would be termed as female colleague takes initiative to reap more rewards”

She looks at me with consternation, but with a friendly smile.

The pervert within, oh yes there is, I am not just shallow – “look at her, she won’t mind a little harassment.”

But it is cut off by the pessimist, the one with a humdrum tone – “she might refuse to both and might even register a complaint if only to get a different person to work with”.

The romantic voice, with a jingle, chimes in – “you are in love with her, she loves you too, propose! Now!”

“Ok, but not Dumbo. Let’s go and watch Kalank, the visuals are beautiful”

Pessimist – “told you, something was wrong.”

Movie reviews reader, or gimme-anything-to-read-as-long-as-it-has-new-content voice – “it’s like a Sanjay Leela Bhansali movie but made with Karan Johar gayness, abort the mission!”

Logical aka. sly-calculating voice – “You have been through worse with prospects without promise or matter. Kalank seems to be a reasonable price to pay for securing a good asset if you want to continue on this job, that is.”

Perv – “most of the theatre will be empty, imagine all that you two can do, I am already imagining”

“Ok”, I say, convinced, “but the next movie is going to be of my choice.”

“Sure, when you do my part too,” she giggles but I keep a straight face because I fight an urge to check her out, surprisingly for the first time.

~~

She is wearing a pair of ultra tight leg cramping jeans and a red top that says something in Hindi or Sanskrit and she looks stunning. She has put on lip color and kajal for the occasion but what stands out is her neck, it is long slender and delicate. It evokes some kind of protective feeling in me that I discard immediately. She finds me in the crowd and seems delighted.

“I thought you were going to ditch me. Even the girls I stay with don’t want to watch the movie”

“Hahaha ok anything for you, by the way what you did for me was just two hours of work. Who gives these estimates to boss, they are always so bloated”

“And you, of all people, want to change that?” she laughs, the same disarming laugh.

“You are looking pretty,” I say with a little hesitation, still coming to terms with the fact that she is not a colleague right now.

“Check out her boobs man,” perv voice adds.
Thanking the heavens that its not audible and to avoid doing as suggested, I start walking with her trailing behind me saying thanks.

We find ourselves in the middle seats of a row quite away from the screen, but it is completely empty.

Reader voice – “told you so”

Perv -“you know what to do”

The pessimist voice – “these movies have many songs and stretch beyond three hours”.

The romantic – “she loves you, did you check the twinkle in her eyes”

“What twinkle,” I ask, almost aloud and curse the voices.

The movie trudges on as expected but the row is full and for that matter the whole theatre seems full. I buy a bucket of cheese popcorn in which they have somehow put some of the abominable caramel ones. For the rest of the first half I spend trying to time my dive into the bucket at the same time she does, she figures out the game after a while and abandons the popcorn. I spent the rest of the rest of first half feeling around each piece to guess if it is caramel with a success rate of 30%.

The second half is equally boring, except I try to put my arms around her which I realize immediately that it wouldn’t work. Then I try holding her hand for which I get a playful kick and the promise of a slap for any recidivism. I love the word.
The writer voice, on hearing the word, comes alive – “you could write about this, people love to read miserable love stories, remember? P said so.”

Reader voice, “yeah but there is no love or a story here, only misery for the readers.”

Pessimist -“Oye reader, don’t you think you are overstepping, stay within your limits. This whole episode is doomed, even without your negativity.”

“Unless something wonderful, something radical happens at the end” the optimistic voice speaks startling everyone for no one knew it existed.

“Alia is anything but sexy,” sighs perv and I agree.

We come out and Sonal says she will buy me coffee as I have been a good boy. We walk silently. I am fed up of the voices and she seems to be lost. After my questions go answered in monosyllables and I am down to the last quarter of my mug, I give up and start thinking about whether to go to gym or to go to Rahul’s for some beer.

“I will tell you something that you have to promise to keep to yourself,” she says abruptly waking me up from my reverie.

“Yeah sure,” I feel excited.

“I am getting married in July” she waits for reaction.

“You break my heart,” I say feigning heartbreak.

Romantic voice – “well done!”

“Cut it!” She looks serious, “I am not telling anyone in office because I will quit in a month and don’t want boss to know because he would then assign me trivial work.”

“What you work on is not rocket science,” I say forgetting my broken heart, “and why do you care about what you do in your last month.”

“Yaar I need a good resume, need to find a job in US.”

“Hmm ok, I will keep this a secret in exchange for a kiss”

Perv – “wtf! a kiss? Is that the best you could come up with”

Romantic – “leave him alone, he is wistful, I need to sigh”

Writer – “nothing radical is happening, yet”

She laughs, “you are a very nice guy, are you on Insta”

“No on WP, there is an Insta account that I hardly use. I will follow you though, if you put up sexy pics”

“I know we all read your blog posts, they are good.”

Writer – *beams*

Reader – *scoffs*

Pessimist – “it’s evident she has not read any, question her about why roses turned orange”

Perv – “focus! don’t forget the kiss”

She shows me the pics of her fiancee who looks like a typical Maggu with specs, but a honest smile. I am not interested in her wedding plans. I can’t even attend her wedding since she is not inviting anyone from office and none of the classmates I know of.

“I would have proposed if you weren’t getting married,” I say cutting her wedding prattle.

“I doubt that, you never showed interest in me.”

“Tell her it’s because she was not interesting in her office wear,” the perv voice quips.

“Well I did, you know that,” I say almost convincing myself in the process, “So do I get the kiss.”

“I know, but some people are just meant to be hugged,” she says and hugs me tight. I hug back, thinking. She might be right, also thinking that I should have spent more time with her.

“Just grab her ass man” says the perv.

“Shut the fuck up” growls the romantic turned emotional and friendly voice.

“Yeah shut up you are ruining the mood” the writer joins in.

“Oh fuck off guys” the reader cuts them out, “you are just full of pathetic words and no content. At least he is honest”

***

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