For information on the project, click My Little Writing Project.
For previous chapters, click - Prologue, Chapter One, and Chapter Two.
For previous chapters, click - Prologue, Chapter One, and Chapter Two.
‘How do you know if he really likes you or if he is just not that into you?’
Priya threw her bag on the mattress, “I don’t know what to do!”
Mukti jumped up from the floor where she was sprawled across with the laptop placed precariously on her knees. Realizing it was only Priya, she exclaimed, “God Priya! You startled me. I gave you my house key for emergencies, you know.”
Priya strolled towards the kitchenette, “I know. This is an emergency visit only,” she came out with a bottle of water.
“Who is it today?” Mukti asked in a bored voice. She knew Priya too well to know that the latter only asked for her advice when she had some guy problem. It was a pattern with her and she was used to Priya’s tantrums concerning the matters of the heart.
“Ravi! That idiot! He has turned my life upside down! One day he is interested, the next day he is not. I don’t know what to do? How to react? And yesterday, he was flirting, pretty shamelessly I might add, with that new intern!!”
She took a sip from the bottle and stared at Mukti who was busy at her laptop, “Are you even listening?”
“Uh… huh… go on, what happened then?” replied Mukti without looking up.
Priya started walking towards her, “Then he took me in his arms and kissed me in front of the entire office.”
“Wow… that’s nice… then?” Mukti answered absentmindedly.
Priya tip-toed slowly and reached behind Mukti. She saw what she had been expecting all along, Facebook was open on Mukti’s laptop and she was checking some random girl’s photos.
“MUKTI!! YOU ARE ON FACEBOOK AGAIN?!” yelled Priya, from behind, in Mukti’s ear.
“OH shit!!” Mukti got startled and dropped the laptop that was already balanced delicately on her knees.
“What the hell is wrong with you Priya? I have gone deaf in one ear!” She then looked at the laptop, lying on the floor, which had switched off after the fall.
“And look what you have done?” she said gesturing at the laptop. “I was working on the article, it’s due today and I had not even saved it yet! I will have to start all over again! Damn it Priya… what is seriously wrong with you?” she bent down to pick up the laptop and tried to turn it on.
“What is wrong with me?! What the hell is wrong with you? You were not working on the article, you were not working on the novel, you were not even listening to me! You, as usual, were logged onto Facebook! You are addicted to that damn thing, I am telling you… you need medication… you need professional help!” Priya bottled the cap and slammed it on the dresser, the lone piece of furniture in Mukti’s house.
“Oh God, here we go again!” Mukti looked at Priya rolling her eyes, “Look at the pot calling the kettle black.”
“What do you mean? I am not addicted to social networking sites?” Priya replied, a little confused with Mukti’s insinuation.
“You might not be addicted to Facebook, but we both know you are addicted to something,” Mukti who was busy trying to revive her laptop missed the hurt on Priya’s face.
“First of all, I am not addicted to anything and second, even if I am, it doesn’t affect my career.”
“Oh! Stop over-reacting, will you! I was just taking a little break. I have been working since early morning. I get tired looking at words all day,” Mukti punched furiously at the power on button of the laptop, “Why?” she pressed the button, “Isn’t…” she pressed the button again, “it starting!” Punch, punch, punch.
“Whatever! Do whatever you feel like. I am done telling you what to do!” said Priya and walked out.
Mukti finally looked up to see Priya’s retreating figure and the door slamming shut. She started murmuring to herself while pressing the power on key furiously and banging the laptop with her other hand from all directions.
Sometimes I don’t understand her. She is just too wound up. She needs to loosen up a bit. Now what was she saying, office, Ravi, kiss… God knows! She doesn’t appreciate anything… she is drawing a nice salary, doesn’t have to worry about savings and still she is always complaining. Look at me, this freelance work-from-home thing is so unpredictable. One day I have loads of work and the next day I have nothing! But does she ever listen… NO! She just knows how to go on and on and on about her life and the fucking novel. I am trying, aren’t I? But who can tell that to her? She just comes and blows me and goes away. And she has such bad timing, whenever I decide to take a break; she miraculously appears by my side! I have got to take back the extra key from her. Now she has gone ahead and broken my laptop. I don’t even want to think about where I will get the money if I have to give it in for repairs.
The laptop finally started and she heaved a huge sigh of relief. She folded her hands, looked up and mouthed, “Thank you God.” She opened the word document with her half-finished article and started referring to her notes to figure out how much had been lost.
“Damn it! Everything since morning has gone!”
Well, no point crying over split milk. Let me get started again on the stupid article about kitchen designs… if Priya had to write about such rubbish topics then she would understand!
Mukti had just begun to type when the phone rang. She picked up the phone, quite delightfully, glad to postpone working for another couple of minutes, “Hello?”
“Hey Mukti. What’s up? How are you?” said a female voice.
“Sonali?” asked Mukti tentatively and looked back at the phone screen.
“Who else would call you?!” Sonali laughed.
“Whose number are you calling from?” Mukti asked, confused.
“A friend’s. My phone is getting charged in the other room. So, what’s happening? What are you up to?”
“What friend? Where are you?” Mukti asked suspiciously.
“At a good friend’s place and he is someone you don’t know. Okay, if your interrogation is over, mom,” Sonali teased, “Can I ask you something? Actually I called you because I need advice,” She added hurriedly.
“What happened to you now?” Mukti drawled.
“I met this guy…” Sonali began.
“Whoa! Stop right there,” Mukti cut in, “I don’t want to know. Between you and Priya, I just don’t want to know.”
“Between Priya and I? What? Do we like the same guy?”Sonali asked faking innocence.
“I hope not! Honestly though, I don't want to know because I know what you are going to say,” Mukti said matter-of-factly.
“Really? Is that so?”Sonali asked incredulously.
“Yes. In the last five years I have come to know you pretty well. So, I know you are going to either sing his praises, or analyze his every move and conversation, or what really happens most of the time-- you are going to whine because he has not been returning your calls after a night of passionate love-making.”
Sonali laughed, “If I was not in such a good mood, I would have been quite offended by that statement.”
“So, number one it is then. Praises?”
“Mukti he is so wonderful.” Sonali, as if on cue, whispered in the receiver.
“Why are you whispering,” Mukti sat up a little straighter, “Don’t tell me you are with him right now?”
“Yes. I am at his house.” Sonali replied nonchalantly, “And before you make any assumptions, let me tell you we are just hanging out.”
“So, you haven't… ?”
“No, not yet. I have just met him.”
Mukti could hear mischief bubbling in Sonali’s playful and flirty voice.
“When has that discouraged you before?” Mukti said before she could stop herself.
“What? Are you calling me a slut?!”
“You know what I mean. You are the one who keeps saying that when you love someone, they have an absolute right on your body, mind and soul which means you need to share everything with the guy, and by everything I mean everything.”
“So, you are my best friend and I love you and care about you and I can’t see you get hurt time and time again. You can’t see it but you have this cycle… More often than not, you sleep with every guy you date. Although I have nothing against pre-marital sex, I do have a problem with what comes next.”
“And what is that? Please enlighten me.”
“Well, one sleepover later you create these fantasies about moving in with him and wedding arrangements and picking out baby names, while all the time he is making plans to move on to another woman.”
“Okay, that might have happened once. Or maybe twice…” Sonali walked out to the other room so that her companion couldn’t hear the conversation.
“Five! That has happened five times in the last two years.”
“Come on Mukti, don’t be so negative. You are killing my hope, sister! All girls meet indecent guys, but that doesn't mean you stop believing in love. You have to kiss a lot of frogs for your Prince Charming and I have a feeling he is the one, my prince! This one is different, I can feel it.” She was positively gushing trying to explain herself to Mukti.
“You say that every time but inevitably, he turns out to be like the last one – a frog, and bolts as soon as you mention anything about the future.”
“Will you at least listen to me?!” Sonali whined.
Mukti gave in, “Fine. Go ahead.”
“Okay, so I met him online--”
“Wait.” Mukti interrupted her again, “You met a guy online? What are you? 15?! I don’t even want to hear the rest of it. Please dump him.”
“Oh ho! Will you stop reacting like my mother all the time! I met him on your Facebook… he is from IIM Lucknow. I have checked out his profile and he doesn’t seem like a creep.”
IIM Lucknow? I am online on Facebook all the fucking time and she is meeting guys from IIM L! What have I done wrong God?! Why can’t I meet someone from IIM L? Why does it have to be Sonali?
Mukti composed herself and said, “So what?! Being in IIML doesn’t guarantee that he is not a creep?”
“I am willing to take that chance. Mukti, he is so sweet. I think I am in--”
“Don’t even say that!” Mukti cut her off again, “You are not in love with him, alright?”
“But I am.” Sonali said dreamily, “This whole thing is so romantic. You won’t believe how we met.”
“You just told me, you met on Facebook.”
“No, actually he was a guest on the flight from Mumbai to Delhi. You know it’s so funny, I had become an air hostess to see the world but I never thought I would find my Mr. Right on a flight.”
“Can you come to the point please? He was on a same flight you were working on. Then?”
“So, he saw me in the flight; I don’t even remember serving him. He noted down my name from my badge and found me on Facebook and sent me a request. I accepted and we started chatting. Then after a few weeks, we met for a cup of coffee…”
“Hold it right there, you have been chatting for a few weeks?! You never told me then, why are you telling me now?” Mukti was irritated. She didn’t like being told these things in the past tense. She immediately opened her Facebook window, which she generally kept minimized, and went to Sonali’s profile. She checked her recently added friends and found a guy. She remembered seeing his profile a couple of weeks earlier and was meaning to ask Sonali about him but it somehow slipped her mind.
Kshitij Thakur. IIM Lucknow. Not bad. He is a little thin, but nothing a fat pay check can’t correct.
“Because I knew you would get upset and give me a moral lecture and most of all, I told you now because I need a favor…” Priya was saying.
“I thought what you wanted was advice?” Mukti added sarcastically while browsing through Kshitij’s profile on Facebook again. She checked out his photos and saw that he was the athletic type. He had posted many pictures of himself indulging in various adventurous activities with his many guy friends.
“Well… he has asked me to accompany him on an out-of-station trip to Goa, so I was wondering if you would like to come along…?” she asked tentatively.
“What will I do there while you two are canoodling together? I have no intention, or any kind of inclination whatsoever, in witnessing your PDA, thank you very much,” Mukti replied, minimizing the Facebook window. She had seen enough to conclude that the guy was good-looking, well-dressed and, after reading some of his posts, not an imbecile either. He was a distinct departure from the kind of guys Sonali had dated in the past.
“We are not going alone. His friends are also coming with us. So I thought that maybe you and Priya can come too. See this way, you won’t be alone on the vacation and we all can have a nice little break! We have been talking since forever about going out somewhere together.”
Hmm….Goa does sound tempting. But--Realization hit her, “I don’t have any money to go out. I am broke.” It took all her strength to mutter those words out loud.
“Oh… uh, you can take some from me and give it back later, whenever you have it.”
“That’s ok… you know I don’t like taking money from anyone.” Then, to hide her embarrassment she added hastily, “And also, even if I had it I would not go. You shouldn’t either. It doesn’t sound safe. I mean, this guy will be with all his friends. God knows, what they can do? Don’t you watch the TV? So much crap happens all the time… you have got to be careful.”
“I think you watch too much TV. Nothing will go wrong. Trust me. These are educated, MBA graduates working at MNCs! They are not illiterate unemployed youths! You worry too much. Anyway, if you don’t want to come, that’s okay, I’ll ask Priya. You take care, bye,” and she hung up.
Girls!! Now where was I? Yeah kitchen designs. She typed a few letters when I think I should talk to Priya. She picked up the phone and called her up.
“Yes,” said Priya in a cool and indifferent voice from the other side.
“I am sorry. Tell me what happened?” Mukti asked.
“Maybe you can find out about it on Facebook when I update my status!”
“I am saying I am sorry. Now please tell me what happened? I remember vaguely something about Ravi, some kiss and your office? What happened? Did he kiss you in your office?”
“How I wish… But no. He was flirting with that new marketing intern that has joined. I really don’t understand him. One day, he is all caring and the next day he just sees through me to that Miss Chandni! I think there is something seriously wrong with me.”
“Nothing is wrong with you. Maybe he was acting all sweet and caring because you guys work together. Maybe he just thinks of you as a friend?” Mukti continued in a softer tone “Whenever a guy, especially the one you like, says two nice words to you that doesn’t mean he has fallen for you. Don’t you remember that movie? ‘He Is Just Not That into You’… in that movie, they also show that when a guy genuinely likes you, he will make the effort to be with you. Guys don’t play silly mind games… at least mature guys don’t. I think, at the risk of sounding absolutely cheesy, he is just not that into you. I am sorry but that’s the truth.”
“What if he is just flirting with that intern to get my attention? To make me jealous?” Priya asked hopefully.
“Priya, guys don’t do that. And even if they did… do you seriously want to be with a guy who in his late twenties is playing such childish games? If he is actually doing all this, he is such a baby! You should definitely stay away from him then!”
“I guess you are right,” she said in a resigned tone. “So, what are you doing?” Priya asked trying to change the topic.
“I was just talking to Sonali. She is going to call you--”
“About the Goa trip. I know. She texted me about it two minutes back and I have refused. I don’t have the time to take a break and go to Goa… especially to see her joined together at the hip with another random guy. I am sure, we will be privy to that show right here in Delhi. I don’t think she should go either but I know there is no point in telling her.”
“Yeah well, that’s Sonali. I have to go. I will talk to you later. I have to rewrite that assignment, which thanks to you, has been erased.”
“If you think I am going to apologize for that, forget it! You deserved it for slacking off during work hours.” She said jovially and hung up.
Mukti got back to work. It took her almost two hours to finish the article and sent it. After shutting off the laptop, she went and made Maggi for herself. She stood by the window and had a forkful of noodles. Her apartment was in a posh lane in Saket. She loved the view, especially in the mornings. The kids would be laughing and stomping their way to school. The men would be driving off to work. The women would be seeing off their kids and husbands. The street dogs would be running around barking. The maids would be reporting for work. The newspapermen and the milkmen would be cycling around delivering their respective goods. Doorbells would be ringing, birds would be chirping. In the mornings, the street itself felt alive and pulsating with the cacophony of sounds. She took another forkful. She could see a huge Gulmohar tree in the veranda of the house right across the street from her. It was in full bloom and the ground below was littered with red flowers that had fallen from its branches.
It was three in the afternoon and not the favorite time of the day for her. All was silent. It was a sleepy afternoon. The wind had stopped rustling the leaves. The birds had stopped chirping. A dog was lying lazily on the ground in the shade of the tree as if lifeless. The street looked and felt dead. She pictured all the housewives and the kids lying on their beds with the ACs on full blast taking their afternoon naps after consuming a hearty lunch. She had another forkful of her noodles and looked up at her rusty creaking fan. She smiled sarcastically. Such is life. She took out her phone and clicked a picture of the blooming tree with the sleeping dog underneath it. She posted it on Facebook with the caption – ‘Sleepy dog, sleepy street and sleepy me’ and waited for the likes and comments to pour in. She finished her lunch and washed the utensils.
She sat down to work on her novel. She opened the word file and stared at it…long and hard. No thought, no idea, no words came to her mind… she was blank. She shut down the laptop angrily. She stood up and went towards the wall of pictures. It always calmed her down. She looked at the photograph that had Priya and Sonali, hugging each other.
Why don’t these girls understand? There is Sonali who has fallen head over heels in love with someone she has met online and then there is Priya who is in the hopes that the guy who is openly flirting with someone else might be doing that to make her jealous! Or maybe I am too skeptical? Maybe Mr. IIML is a nice guy who genuinely likes Sonali and wants to spend some quality time with her and maybe, just maybe, Priya is right as well and Ravi is just acting like that to get her attention which he did manage to get. So, mission accomplished. But my point of view can be correct too, right? Or am I just a cynic?
She remembered the last time she was with a guy around six months previously, but that was not serious enough. After two months she had realized that he was not meant for her. She hated to admit it but she absolutely loathed the fact that he couldn’t speak in English!
I am not a superficial bitch. It’s just embarrassing that in today’s day and age, he can’t speak two sentences in English! How could I ever have been serious about him when every time he spoke, I cringed!
Mukti realized that it had been long since she was serious about a guy.
Too long, in fact.
Her last serious relationship, if you can call it that, was almost a decade back. After that she had dated guys, but no one made her feel the way Sagar used to.
I will not think about him. She thought resolutely.
A ping on her phone informed her that she had got a notification on Facebook. She smiled and checked her phone.