Tuesday, July 22, 2014

How Well Do We Know Our Best Friends?

Chapter Eleven - My Little Writing Project

To refresh your memory about previous chapters, or to know about My Little Writing Project, click here.

‘Is life really an open book? Or does everyone have certain chapters that is for their eyes only?’

5th July 2012

Priya and Mukti were sitting at QBa - a swanky lounge in CP waiting for Sonali. They were celebrating Mukti’s almost book-deal. All of them were supposed to meet few days before but since Priya had to go on an out-of-station trip and Sonali was flying to Dubai, the festivities were pushed ahead. Today, after a wait of ten days, all three friends were in the same city. Even though Mukti and Priya were seated right next to each other on the plush couch, both of them were lost in their own thoughts… Mukti was thinking about Anurag and Priya about her new boss.

A few days earlier… 1st July 2012

Mukti, giving up, had made the first move and added Anurag on Gtalk. She was, however, still pissed about his Facebook profile. Whenever she looked at the picture, she could feel her blood boil.

Why is she standing so close to him? Why is her head resting on his shoulder? Who the hell is she? Is she that ‘other’ Mukti?

The fact that she couldn’t talk to her friends about this issue that pestered her constantly didn’t help either. She continued making up stories trying to calm herself down.

Maybe she is his sister. Maybe a distant cousin? Maybe just a touchy-feely friend!

“She obviously is not that important for him that he would talk to me about her,” she tried to comfort herself.

Or maybe YOU are not important enough for him to tell you about her.

After a week of this constant speculation, she decided it is about time she asked him who was she? She was chatting with Anurag and he was telling her about some trip he had taken recently to Rishikesh.

I did rafting for the first time. It was so much fun! Have you ever tried—
Who is that girl with you on your Facebook profile picture.
Mukti pressed enter before she could stop herself.
What? Anurag asked.
What am I supposed to tell him now?

“Uh . . .” Mukti stalled trying to come up with a conceivable explanation as to why she was checking out his Facebook profile. She glanced at her minimized Facebook window and instantly knew what to write - Your profile came up as one of ‘people you might know’ notification. That’s when I saw you hugging that other girl so I was just curious who was she? then added as if to appear nonchalant, your girlfriend?

She waited with bated breath, staring hard at the Gtalk window for his response. He pinged back with just a smiley - :D

What the hell is this supposed to mean now?

She was about to type in another question when Anurag replied back.
Are you jealous?

“Obviously” She said out loud and typed - Ha! You wish.
Well you are certainly acting like a jealous girlfriend. Stalking my profile, questioning me about who I get clicked with? Don’t you think?

No. I am not. I was just curious if that girl was the ‘other’ Mukti.

That’s it? Nothing else is bothering you?

Yes. That’s it. Will you just tell me already who that bimbo is?!

In that case, that girl in the picture is just a friend . . . she was a little high when the picture was clicked. There is nothing going on between her and me.

Oh thank God!

Okay. And even if there was something going on between you guys, I don’t mind.

She replied back.

Really? You don’t? And then he sent a sad smiley. L

Mukti smiled broadly. She was thinking about something witty to type when Anurag pinged back again.

Let’s meet.

Mukti stared long and hard at the words – Let’s meet. She didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. She knew this was supposed to be the logical next step to what she had started a couple of weeks before, but now that the inevitable was staring at her right in the face, she didn’t know how to respond. She was too shocked to reply. She was a little taken aback at the ease with which Anurag had typed them out – Let’s meet.

I wish doing it was just as effortless as typing the words out.

Without replying anything she shut down the laptop.

I’ll make up an excuse about some problem with the internet connection. I can’t handle this conversation right now.

She started chewing on her nails, staring at the closed laptop. Even when it was shut down, she could see the two words floating around her. Let’s meet. She got up from her mattress and stood near her window staring at the hovering clouds. It had rained a couple of hours back. A pre-monsoon shower. She inhaled the intoxicatingly sweet fragrance of the moist soil. God! I love rains.  It was just the beginning of the famous Delhi monsoons and she could see cotton like clouds gliding over the horizon playing hide and seek with the sun. She stared at the distance and thought about Anurag.

Enough of this hide and seek. It’s time I take matters in my own hands. This is an opportunity of meeting the love of my life. It is just a date. I have been talking to him for almost a month. I have seen his pictures. He is smart, funny, and intelligent. There is no harm in meeting him.

She had almost made up her mind when she suddenly realized.

But what if he turns out like Prakash with some really annoying habit or maybe with an obsession of collecting pictures like a stalker? He doesn’t seem like that, but you never know . . .

“Hey, where are you lost?” Priya asked bringing Mukti back to the present.

“Huh?!” Mukti glanced around and noticed she was seated comfortably in Qba. “Nowhere . . . uh, you tell me? How was the trip? You went with your boss right?”
“Yeah, it was great. We had so much fun.” She said smiling broadly with a faraway look in her eyes. Mukti stared at her for a minute and noticed that Priya had the same dreamy look in her eyes that she gets every time she is attracted to someone. She also observed that Priya had started blushing slightly.

“Oh my god! You like like him, don’t you?!”

“What?” Priya’s head snapped into attention, “No, I am not in love with him!” She stammered slightly, completely unlike her personality, “I told you before. He has a fiancĂ©.”

“Well, I hope you both remember it before something bad transpires, which I think will ensue knowing the goofy expression on your face! And I said like, not love.”

Priya closed her eyes, “Nothing will happen. I just like his company that’s all. He is fun to be around. I promise, nothing will happen between us . . . ever,” said Priya, then added in a whisper, “He loves his fiancĂ©.”

“I believe you. Don’t prove me wrong,” she took a sip of her water and asked, “Where is Sonali?”

At that same moment, they saw Sonali walking up the stairs smiling and waving at them.

“There she is.” Priya said waving back.

Mukti looked at Sonali and saw a tall lean guy sporting a stylishly short spiked hairstyle walking hand-in-hand with her. He was dressed meticulously in expensive brands to boot. He walked with a swagger and was smiling lazily as if aware that all eyes were on him and his gorgeous companion. 

“Who the hell is he?” Asked Priya.

 “Oh God no!” Mukti said at the same time.

“You know him?”

Mukti nodded and mouthed Kshitij.

Sonali came to their table and made the introductions smiling.

There goes the girly talk session!
“Ladies, this is Kshitij and baby, these are Mukti and Priya” she said pointing them out.

Mukti rolled her eyes at Sonali’s term of endearment. Kshitij shook their hands and Mukti noticed that he had perfectly manicured nails, unlike her chipped ones.

I knew I should have saved to get that manicure this month.

Priya squeezed next to Mukti and made some space for Kshitij and Sonali.

“If you would have told us you are brining a guest, we would have taken a bigger table,” Mukti said straightforwardly.

Sonali gave her a dirty look, “Kshitij is not staying long. He has another party to attend.”

Priya intervened, “So, Kshitij, we hear you are a consultant,” She asked in her attempt to make small talk.

“Yes, I am. I got placed right after college,” Kshitij replied in a drawl. Mukti noticed that he kept glancing around at other tables. She thought he seemed more interested in other people than in knowing them.

She whispered to Priya, “Why does he look so bored already? He has been here for like ten minutes?!” Priya simply shrugged her shoulders.

The conversation went on at a snail’s pace with Sonali trying very hard to make everyone comfortable.

“Mukti has just been offered a book deal.” Sonali said animatedly.

“Nothing is finalized yet.” Mukti replied trying to be modest. Kshitij just smiled tightly. As much as Priya and Mukti didn’t want him to be there, it seemed Kshitij also just wanted to run away. Mukti noticed him staring at other women and made a mental note to share that detail with Sonali when alone. The party drank in silence. Priya tried once again to make small talk and asked Kshitij about their Goa vacation, “Sonali was telling us you guys had loads of fun.”

“Yeah. It was great. I loved spending time with Sonali. She is a great gal.” He squeezed Sonali’s hand. Sonali beamed with this small PDA.

“You guys should come next time if we plan to head out. Sonali would have some company. I tend to get a little lost with the guys forgetting that I have invited guests.”
Mukti looked at Priya and mouthed guests?!

Sonali saw the supposedly discreet interaction between the ladies and kicked Mukti below the table.

“Ow!” Mukti yelped in pain.

“What happened?” Kshitij asked.

“Nothing. Mukti just banged her toe with the table. Right Mukti?”

Mukti simply nodded. Finally, after what seemed like hours, Kshitij excused himself and left saying he had another party to attend. Sonali also got up and accompanied him till the door to say goodbye. Mukti and Priya made use of her absence and began their discussion of the alleged The One.

“I didn’t like him.” Mukti began, “He seemed so bored. And I saw him specifically stare at a woman.”
“I think he was staring at the waiter,” Priya observed.
“What?! Why will he stare at the waiter?”
“I don’t know,” Priya shrugged her shoulders.

Both of them saw Sonali heading back to the table and went quiet.
“So, what do you think?” Sonali asked barely hiding her excitement.
“He seemed nice,” Priya said diplomatically.
“It seemed he didn’t want to be here,” Mukti proclaimed bluntly, massaging her toe.

Priya looked at Mukti and then back at Sonali.
“Well, you didn’t make him feel very welcome,” Sonali replied stubbornly.

“That will teach you not to spring such surprises on us. Today was supposed to be about us. First you walk in late and then you have IIML tagging behind you---”

“His name is Kshitij. He also didn’t want to come, but I brought him because I thought that maybe my two closest friends might want to meet the guy I am in love with? My mistake,” She said getting up to leave.

“Sonali, don’t go. Let’s . . .” Priya tried to hold Sonali's hand.
She shrugged it off, mumbled that she is not hungry and left anyway.

“Look, what you did now,” Priya said looking at Mukti with anger.

“I didn’t do anything. That guy is not good for her. You spoke to him today, he is such a snob! Did you see the way he was replying to you? And he called Sonali a guest? A guest?! I mean here is Sonali planning their wedding and he is calling her a visitor!”

“I don’t want to hear it. I know you think you are an expert on relationships and guys but you can be wrong. We can at least give him a chance . . . for Sonali?”

“I can try,” she said sulkily.

That night, they both got the food packed and went to Sonali’s place. Mukti apologized, Sonali didn’t listen, Priya intervened, Mukti apologized again, Sonali started laughing and Priya felt relieved. The gossip that couldn’t happen at the restaurant happened at the house.

“So, there I was walking towards the podium to conduct a training session for the interns and I tripped on the carpet and fell! Right there in front of almost seventy five interns!” She ate a forkful of spaghetti and amidst gulps added, “I was lying flat on my face on the floor. Thank God for Shantanu. He came and helped me stumble back to the podium. He even shared an anecdote about how he had tripped to lighten the mood. I’ll be eternally grateful to him.”

Mukti raised her eyebrows, “Really?”

Priya blushed and dived back down into her Spaghetti Bolognese.

“This is nothing!” Sonali interceded, “On this flight to Dubai, I had this passenger who seemed eight months pregnant. So naturally I alerted the pilot and asked for the lady’s passport and doctor’s recommendation.” She paused to take a bite. “It turned out that she was not pregnant at all!” She started laughing.

“Oh my God! You made that inexcusable faux pas. You asked a fat lady if she was pregnant?!” Mukti doubled up with laughter.

“That’s not the end of it.” Sonali said wiping tears of laughter, “she was not a she, she was a he!”
“What?!” Priya giggled.

“Yeah. He was a clean shaven sheikh.”

All three girls were laughing so hard they were in danger of falling on the floor from Sonali’s luxurious queen size bed where they were perched at. It took the girls a while to sober down. Priya nudged Mukti to tell Sonali about Prakash. Mukti made a face and described hurriedly about her pictures on his desktop, “And he had a whole folder with my pictures that he had, no doubt, copied from my Facebook profile.”

“Wow! I am so glad Kshitij is not that obsessive. He gives me my space. He lets me be.” Sonali said getting up and putting the plates back in the kitchen.

Priya and Sonali exchanged knowing glances. “Yes, because for him you are an expendable guest.”

“Ssshhh . . . Sonali will hear you.”

“She should. Don’t you think we should tell her what we think of Mr. IIML? She is setting herself up for heartache and you know that. He was staring at other women for God sakes.”

“Men. I still think he was staring at the waiter.”

“Whatever. But she needs to know, right?”

“Yes. But not right now, not today. We will tell her soon enough.”

Mukti nodded and the girls continued with their gossip session discussing everything from the impending rise in metro fares to the ill effects of fizzy drinks . . . From debating about Kiran bedi’s new welfare scheme to deliberating about the rejection of bail plea of Jaganmohan Reddy. They even talked about the imminent arrival of rains. However, none of the girls told the other about the secrets that they actually wanted to share . . . Priya didn’t let out that she had actually fallen for her boss; Sonali didn’t discuss that she is contemplating taking the relationship to the other level and Mukti didn’t disclose her secret online affair with Anurag and how she had decided to merge the online with the offline!

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