Translated By Priya Arun
It was a tastefully done up two-bedroomed apartment. She quickly changed into pyjamas and a casual T-shirt. The few droplets of water that still remained in her hair gleamed as they caught the lights in the room. She disappeared into one of the rooms and came back with a towel and some clothes. “Go, change. They are my brother’s clothes. He stays here when he comes to India.” I kept looking at her without moving. As if to stop me from saying anything more, she pressed the clothes into my hands and nudged me into a room nearby, “C’mon, go,” she said. By the time I changed and got back, the living-room was filled with the most pleasant aroma of coffee. The coffee was comforting in the heavy rain, which just didn’t seem to stop.
“Alright. I’ll get going then,” I announced.
“Now? In this pouring rain?”
“What do I do? Doesn’t look like it has any intentions of stopping.”
“Why don’t you stay over?”
There was a burst of excitement at the suggestion but I acted cool, “That’s okay. I wouldn’t want to trouble you.”
“Not a problem at all. You can sleep here in the living room. And me inside. You can watch some TV if you like.” And she got up to leave. I suggested we watch TV together for a while. She sat down next to me and turned the TV on. She impatiently flipped the channels, not even pausing to see what was actually playing. “Damn, so many channels and not one good show to watch,” she cursed under her breath. I told her to try some channel that might be playing good Tamil film music at this hour. She grunted and settled down with a movie on HBO—just as she was wont to do!
The way we sat close to each other sent my senses reeling. I’m sure she felt that way too. The TV was on but neither of us watched it. We were busy looking into each other’s eyes. She took my arm and put it snugly around her shoulder. We shifted closer together. Surprisingly, I realised, her mint fragrance which I should have got accustomed to by then, continued to tease me mercilessly.
While I was contemplating if I should make the first move, she came really close and gently bit my lower lip. Though a little shocked initially, I felt my body flush with warmth all of a sudden. We had kissed before but this felt completely new. The pouring rain, our being locked up so close to each other in this room must have encouraged Shraddha, who as such a bold person, to make this move.
With her taking this wonderful first step, I couldn’t control myself anymore. I pulled her really close to me and started kissing her passionately. I don’t remember everything clearly but I do remember nibbling her ear...her neck...And when I was trying to tug her T-shirt off in a hurry, like a bolt from the blue, she pushed me, no...kicked me away like a raging bull. In a flash, I found myself stupidly on the floor.
In what felt like a blur, I heard myself asking, “Hey! What’s with you?”
“Nothing. Please leave.”
“But darling, it’s pouring outside!”
“I’ll fall sick if I go out now.” Assuming she was playing on, I pouted, "Why don’t you come here and see for yourself? Looks like I’m already running a temperature.”
“Listen. This temperature is different. It might be contagious. So Shankar, please leave.” She firmly pointed her head towards the door.
I was fuming inside! This was so unfair. Does she have to decide every damn thing right from the TV channel to this, especially having made the first move herself? What did she think? Start and stop as she pleased?
While I was grappling with my bruised ego, she quickly stood up, straightened her clothes and looked at me as if she was waiting for me to leave. This made me more furious.
“Hey! It was you who started it all and now...alright, I can sleep in the other room, if it makes you feel better,” I offered.
“Can you please leave?” she repeated, now glaring at me.
“Babes, do you realise how unfair this is? Fine, you don’t want to do anything now, its okay. But do you really have to suddenly act all coy and ask me to go out in this lashing rain?”
I had barely said this and she gushed out her fieriest temper that I’d ever seen. “Oh my God! What a jerk you are! What did you just say? ‘...acting coy’? So, what really have you been thinking of me? Just because I grew up in the West, you thought I’d be easy to get?”
“Hey Shraddha! Relax okay? Don’t take it to heart.”
“Ha! How can I not? Do you even realise what you just said? Don’t I have any self-respect? I’ve been in love with you. That’s the only reason I kissed you. It just felt good sitting in this room, just the two of us...and that made me kiss you. I did it just out of love and I had nothing else in mind. I didn’t think you’d get so perverse. I guess you were just waiting for the ‘opportunity’. Now that it hasn’t happened, your frustration has brought out your true self. Just get lost okay? I don’t want to have anything to do with you ever again,” she screamed.
I was dumbstruck. Did the word ‘coy’ connote so much? I never expected her to get so offended. Having been led-on this way and to be kicked out high and dry...how’s one supposed to react? If she kissed me out of love, what about me? My reason was love too. Isn’t lust the progressively logical thing to feel? How unpredictable women can get! They kiss, it’s out of love. We kiss, and it’s lust. What the hell?
With nothing to say, I left immediately. Within no time, I was soaked again in the rain. I started my bike. From the corner of my eye, I could see her watching me from her window. I moved a couple of blocks away and lit myself a cigarette. I blew out a huge puff of smoke with all my might. Doing something that she disliked, gave me immense pleasure at that moment.
We didn’t speak to each other for the next two days. I don’t know how she managed to keep away but I found it extremely difficult. Initially I thought she should call me first. But I couldn’t hold back my resolve for too long. I started missing her. At the same time, I couldn’t gather the courage to talk to her in person or even over phone. The tug-of-war in my head tore me apart. When I thought of that night from her point of view, it all made sense to me. Any girl would have done that to protect herself. I convinced myself that she wouldn’t have wanted to complicate things. Perhaps I was wrong in reacting the way I did.
Or was I over-thinking all of this? Did she think of me at all? Unable to hold the reins to my racing thoughts, I called Meera.
Meera sounded as chirpy as ever. I asked her about Shraddha. She said Shraddha was in a meeting and that she would pass on my message. Not one to lose a chance to rag me, Meera asked me mischievously, “Hey! Looks like you guys had the most romantic time the other day! Shraddha has been glowing...looking gorgeous!”
“What? Glowing?” I thought to myself. “That woman!” I immediately checked myself in the rear-view mirror of my bike. I looked like the original prototype of a dumb idiot. I quickly finished my conversation with Meera.
I realised in those two days that though I didn’t actually think of her, I had started associating a lot of things with her. Everything I saw reminded me of Shraddha. The clothes that girls wore, huge earrings, curly hair...such small everyday insignificants caused a new kind of pain. Should I just pick up the phone and talk to her? I had used up two full packs of cigarettes...a rarity these days. If this continued for another two days, would I have become the famed Devdas with a bottle and a faithful dog for company? I couldn’t take it anymore. I resolved that I would talk to her, no matter what. I was prepared for anything. Just as I was getting ready to go to her office, my phone rang. It was Meera.
“Hey! Shraddha wants to talk to you.” Shraddha! What would I tell her? What was she going to tell me? My thoughts were interrupted by her voice, “Dude! What’s up? Long time. Too busy to even phone me? Yeah...I guess you’d have more important things to do.” She spoke on, as if everything was normal between us. Her tone melted me. I felt a lot lighter. Wasn’t she upset with me anymore? As simple as that? Wow! So, it was me who blew it all up in my head!
“Hey! Are you there?”
“Uh...Yep, I’m right here Shraddha. Go on.”
“Err...can you come over...to my office...if you have the time?” she requested with such sweetness, that no one could say ‘no’.
I was there in a jiffy. I hadn’t seen her for two full days. She looked prettier than ever. Her lovely curls cascaded with a force from the grip of her hairclip. The baby-pink shade of her lipstick floored me completely. Her lips reminded me of the other night. She flashed the broadest smile, waved Meera goodbye and hurried me up. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” We rode very quietly for a while. I sat a little farther than usual.
“My chest isn’t your backrest. Move it, Mister! You’re going to throw me off the bike.” she would often chide me.
I felt her move closer to me. She slowly put her arms around my waist. It felt good. But I pretended to be unaffected. She tried to tickle my ear with her tongue. I shook my head as if to shoo her off. Damn! She knew my weakness.
“Hey! You’re cross with me?”
“No darling, why would I be? I’m only too happy to be at your beck and call. I will be present when you need me. I will kiss you when you feel like it. And will disappear when you don’t. At your service Your Highness. No questions asked.”
“I’m really sorry Shankar. I was getting quite out of control the other day. If you’d stayed on another two minutes more, I really don’t know what would have happened. Yes, I do understand what you felt then. But somehow, I felt the moment wasn’t right. You know...that gut feeling one gets? It was me who provoked you...led you on and then forced you to go out in that terrible rain. I’m really, really sorry...” she trailed off.
I sensed a tremble in her voice. Was she crying? I peeked into the rear-view mirror but couldn’t see much. We had reached her apartment. Neither did she speak nor did she get off the bike. I turned back and looked at her in askance. She quickly hopped off the bike and ran into her flat without saying a word.
I hung around for a few minutes more. She beckoned me from her balcony. As I entered the flat, she slammed the door shut. She quietly came to me, pressed me to the door, looked at me and said, “I’m all yours darling.”
There wasn’t an inch of space between us as she held me close. She looked up at me, pouting her lovely lips. I bent down and very gently kissed her. I released myself from her grip and confessed, “That’s all I need Shraddha.” I opened the door and ran down the stairs. As I started my bike, I could sense that she was looking at me from her at her balcony, a new habit.
The days that followed were sheer bliss, until her brother had come to India and seen us.