A Mid-Summer's Day Dream
The secret meeting convened. In TV's room, under the clandestine light of a forty watt bulb. Three glasses were poured. The falling booze-level in the bottle of Scotch borrowed from Dilli's dad was commented upon with regret. The glasses were raised and quickly emptied. "Best before 60 seconds" was inscribed on each glass, the enthusiastic effort of a Saturday some time ago.
They would have liked to linger over the whisky of course, on the familiar wing cot or under the terrace moonlight. But that risk could not be taken. Everywhere, in the shadows, thirsty throats lurked.
TV looked unenthusiastically at his plate - bland cholas with oily, 'unbreakable' bhaturas. More to come were sickly sambaar and boring buttermilk, if you excluded the rainy rasam.
Sitting with him making chompingly sloshy noises, however, were Mannu and Chammo.
Mannu was tearing away at his bhaturas enthusiastically, dipping them gingerly in his chicken gravy. He pinched away stingily from his chicken, wanting the one leg piece to last the entire meal - longer if that were somehow possible.
Chammo had made a nice, big, white, heap of hot, steaming rice. At the summit of this mount perched his
chicken leg. Hot, thick, gravy trickled down the slopes. A snow covered volcano had just thrown up a plate of masala-chicken. Chammo dug in carefully and sighed his satisfaction with every mouthful.
TV longed for a nice gult meal with pickle, papad, dal-powder, thick dal-fry, curd and three kinds of vegetables each having taste. This dream meal was just a few minutes walk away, in the gult mess just outside campus, where they would have all gone if today were'nt Thursday.
TV wondered at how the mess cooks screwed up everything in sight. Yet, presumably, they cooked excellent chicken.
They sat drinking on the terrace. This time cheaper stuff and paid for out of their own pockets.
Mannu drank faster than the other two. So he was the least sober.
Chammo winked mischievously at TV. TV winked mischievously back.
"Eh TV! Sometimes Rani looks sexy, right?" Chammo asked TV conversationally. Rani was one of the sweepers employed in the hostel. TV smiled and did not say anything. The question was not meant for him.
"All the time man. All the time" Mannu said. It was easy to get Mannu to talk when he was drunk. "What a complexion, man. What a complexion. Purest Black. Purest Black. The naturally curling hair that she ties in a plait as thick as my arm...as thick as my arm. And those large gold-plated jhumkas of hers. Oh God. She wears them all the time. I don't know why all those posh ladies are not following her fashion example. And the paayal, too. God. And she goes around with that intense unyieldingly belligerent look complete with that dark lipped pout! That dark lipped pout. Can you imagine how it would be to try and seduce her. Can you imagine..."
He took a large gulp and fell silent.
"And her..er..bust..." TV prompted, using the word that Mannu liked to use.
"Her bust. Her bust. The shape her bust makes her dupatta take..." Mannu stopped suddenly. Another train of thought had arrived at his Junction. "I know what you guys are thinking," he said stoically, " Mannu spills everything when he's drunk. Not true. Not true. The drink is only an excuse. I say what I say because I want to - I need to say it...I say it to you
because I need to say it to someone
Chammo was stunned, escpecially at the tones of the 'you' and the 'someone'. His face showed his hurt. TV chuckled good naturedly and took another sip.
Dilli was lying on the swing in the garden, under the shade of the Mango trees, approaching the end of The Fountainhead with increasing pleasure and relief. He could see no way the book was going to change his
life, or for that matter Chammo's even.
When only fifteen pages were remaining, a steady honking started at the gate. Dilli had read a couple of pages inspite of the din when the honking suddenly stopped, the front gate was thrown open and a very attractive girl walked in straight to Dilli.
"Are you deaf as well as heartless?" she asked Dilli. Dilli was sorry and mildly irritated at the same time. "Shhh..I have only thirteen pages left. Sit down, let me finish and then we can talk the whole day."
He had not even looked up from his book though they were meeting after two months. Divya, for that was her name (changed, ofcourse, for confidentiality:-), sat down on the lawn. For the next ten minutes she caused vicious damage to the grass with her right heel.
At last Dilli put the book down, looked at her, smiled, "Okay. I am done. Where do you want to go?"
"Shopping. I need the services of your excellent taste"
"Sure. Anytime. If I am not close to finishing a book that is."
They went out. Dilli got into the passenger seat.
"When are going to learn to drive?" Divya asked "I am dying to have you drive me around."
"Last time I tried there was disaster. The trauma of that accident has'nt worn out yet."
"What trauma. It was just a fracture. Be a man!"
"It is'nt the hurt. I could'nt play for a month. That means a lot to me." He regretted saying it even as he said it. He preferred not to say serious things when something frivolous would do just as well, or better. But what were these 'regrets' he was feeling these days? He was'nt used to regrets. What is happening to me!
"Besides," he said, as if to compensate for the seriousness, "I like being driven around by a girl. There is some kind of hen-peckedness to it that I really enjoy."
"Ha ha ha" Divya half-pretended to laugh, "Hen-pecked? you? Ha ha ha."
They joined the main road.
"Lots of new releases" Dilli said as they passed a cinema hall.
"All crap" Divya said.
"I am glad you think so." Dilli said. He really was glad. He thought they were crap too. He noticed that his approval had made Divya's lips twist in slight smile of pleasure.
"I heard that Chennai girls are ugly" Divya said suddenly with feeling. The traffic light had just gone from red to green, waving some flag, as it were, in Divya's subconscious.
Dilli wondered at this malicious turn to the conversation. "That is not true," he said lightly, "Besides I don't care for looks. Or I would'nt have gone around with you." He always managed to say smooth stuff without sounding too smooth.
They arrived shortly but Divya announced she did'nt feel like shopping anymore. "Lets have coffee first."
Divya unendingly stirred her coffee, not looking up from her cup. Dilli became aware of the stirring of strong sentiments.
At last the words were out. "I heard you have a girlfriend in college. Yeah. I found out. Never mind how." It was Dilli's turn at the coffee stirring "I know Sandy (Dilli's original name is Sandeep) that I am not..not worthy of you..whatever that means. I am not as clever as you and I don't even care if I never finish the books I read. I have spent my life doing nothing but having a good time...But I lo..like you Sandy. I have liked you for three years. I just wanted to remind you...to tell you that.
"I am going now. I would have left the car behind for you, but you don't know how to drive."