My house was slowly getting set. The sofa-set had finally arrived, so did a new dining table shining with a glass top. The bedroom was complete with a bed and the cupboard. Well, that was almost … what more could be a requirement for the decent living? Still the house felt empty, may be it wanted a few living soul to live in or it was just for her.
She had wanted to come but got stuck with work.
Poor me! I sometimes feel that way. She could have had work some other day, why did this have to happen to my dear weekend?
The setup for a new house couldn’t do a trick. How could they be the constant companion for a lonely man on a dry weekend? There was a shower the last evening, after around two months or more. Roads were wet. I had gone for an office outing the day before … to a resort on NH4, a day filled with fun, activities and so much more.
She had come too, how couldn’t she? And that’s where she promised to visit me during the weekend. She wanted to talk …
But she did not turn up. Though she called a few times from work, appearing disappointed for not being able to turn up. Still I have this habit of not trusting feminine assurances, they appear too decorative, a bit fashionable at times.
During the afternoon my folks called me at Parihar Chowk. A session with drinks and dinner was indeed inviting. I decided to take the invite.
Smell of vodka came back to me after months, haunting amidst the smell of the wet sand on the chowk. Water from the rains hadn’t seeped too much into the sand. The session appeared entertaining, yet the discussions were mostly on friends, family and frugal matters of life. These days even guys have become smart, they don’t open their minds up with drinks.
I had to finally take a bus back to my home. They wanted to drop me at home, I refused. This mind wanted some time to relax on my way back.
When I reached Hadapsar, the time by my watch was around fifteen minutes past midnight. I could have also taken a rickshaw. One such rickshaw was parked just opposite to this pub at Parihar Chowk. In this city, an auto-rickshaw is less an ‘auto’ more a rickshaw.
Reminded me of a German colleague my father met who wanted to buy a cycle rickshaw for his family back in Berlin … just so that he could have an entire family with less pollution.
I never saw a reason for this German thought! Guess China had rickshaws even before independent India had them. Why couldn’t he buy these pedal-wheeled vehicles from China? My reasoning had critical political overtones from the early seventies. Cold war across the borders, Berlin was more than a companion to the Soviets, so were the Chinese.
This bus had another drunken person as a passenger. He spoke his language, I spoke mine. The conductor asked for the ticket. A ticket is so universal, so is the money. Where does the language come in between? I got one without a hitch, but the other passenger kept questioning the fare. The conductor appeared to give up after a while, he had to appear sober.
Forty five minutes past midnight, the medical college of the armed forces was the only building that had lights on. The classes may have concluded hours back. I kept looking for my stop … for now there were only two more people inside the bus - the driver and the conductor.
The drunken passenger had got down somewhere, I wasn’t attentive then.
My stop came, and the conductor indicated me to get down. Not that I would have preferred staying back, but he thought it was his duty to help a man who seemed indifferent.
From the stop to my apartment, it’s a walk of seven minutes. May be the vodka had started the trick! I tried to keep a count on my watch. There were a few people on the road. A lady sped with her face covered riding a scooty, the mini version of the scooter. It looked as if her deadline to be at home had passed. In India, women must be on time … it’s the prerogative of men to stay away for long. She did notice me, I was briskly walking though. May be her scooty got a feeling of the Indian woman rushing back.
Are scootys in this part of the world feminine too? Even she rode one. May be she was back at home by now. I decided to call her, talking the walk back from the bus stop.
‘lemme know when u r bck’ was the small message appearing on the screen of my cell phone. She may have typed it a while back. It was I who missed it at the pub. Now I should let her know. She may have already retired to bed, after a tired day at work.
Interestingly, the call lasted an hour or even more. We talked, just like two children who are lost in their worlds but can’t get to play with themselves. This fanatic world of work, where we honour our ‘professional obligations’ by the clock, or may be these odd ‘commitments’ to be with the team for the occasional session or two by the bottle. A work life gets so boring at times.
She had known by that time that I was drunk. My words were incoherent. The vodka had finally played the trick. I wanted to speak less, but she understood.
‘You know’ she said, ‘if I could be with you tonight, it would be even more intoxicating’. I was thrilled for a moment, may be, since the very thought of her with me was so filled with love.
And love is indeed intoxicating, more than the vodka.