Translated By Priya Arun
“Don’t you touch my hair!” I yelled out, rather angrily. With their mirthful peals of laughter abruptly cut short, they stared at me looking shocked.
I enjoyed the look on Shraddha’s face for a few moments before bursting into a hearty Ha Ha Ha. They saw my laughter and joined in, nervously. “Come on, what’s a man to do?” I said, mildly.
That was it.
She threw the half-eaten sandwich on my face and erupted like a volcano, “Idiot! Can’t you take a joke? Is this the way you scream at people? Don’t you know how to behave with women? I wonder who hired you for a Marketing job! Nee ellam enna kizhikke poraai?” With a quick “sorry” muttered at Meera, she left in a huff.
I watched her storm out. Man, such spite! This was the first time a woman had spoken to me so harshly, the first time my own “yelling” tactic had backfired so badly. Whenever I knew someone was pulling my leg, I loved to flare up dramatically like this without warning, only to burst into laughter at the shocked expressions a moment later. This was one quirk of mine that even Meera hadn’t seen. No wonder she seemed annoyed as well. Before leaving, she merely said, “Sorry. Couldn’t say anything in your favour… Bye.” Out of nowhere, this strange new feeling of guilt started creeping into me.
I didn’t know what to do with this new feeling. I stomped out of the office, kick-started and revved up my bike with all my might. I stopped at a nearby shop and bought myself a fag. My mind was racing with thoughts with every puff. Shraddha’s outrage and the things she said kept ringing in my ears, as if on a loop. Who was she after all? How could she be so nasty to me? She poked fun at me and I gave it back in the same coin. Fair and square. What the heck does she care what I do with my life? Bloody hell! Lady, you just wait and watch if I screw up or not! I dragged a long, angry puff at my cigarette and burnt my finger. I threw the cigarette down in reflex and winced.
Shraddha’s anger, Meera’s indifference, now this stupid cigarette burn...all of this together made me really furious. I hopped on my bike, kicked it into life with just one stroke and zipped away.
As my mind and the bike wandered aimlessly, I found myself stuck in the horrible Anna Salai traffic. This enraged me further, making me pick up a totally uncalled for squabble with someone at the signal. As soon as the signal turned green, I flew past the traffic only to stop at the Marina. As I got there, I watched the slowly gathering evening crowds. I sat down near the Gandhi statue. My eyes were clouded by hazy visions of Shraddha, Meera, the cigarette, my burnt fingers...Soon, the haze gave way to a clearer vision, the only images that were repeatedly playing were Shraddha’s face and the cigarette burn. As I sat there grappling with my thoughts, I felt a cool, soft touch against my cheek. Nudged out of my reverie, I turned around to find a cute baby smiling innocently at me. Just a few paces behind this baby was, an older child - the baby’s mother, who came running towards us shouting out half-smilingly, “Deepu, hey, come on here,” and to me, in a softer tone, “I am sorry!”. She scooped the baby in her arms and walked away. As I sat there suddenly feeling a little lighthearted, the baby kept turning back to smile at me.
I walked over to my bike and started it, this time using the electric starter though. I parked the bike, headed straight to the elevator and reached the seventh floor. I told the lady at the reception desk, “I’d like to meet Shraddha Reddy please.”
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