This is the twelfth part of a long story.
First part of the story: Long Story 1
Second part of the story: Long Story 2
Third part of the story: Long Story 3
Fourth part of the story: Long Story 4
Fifth part of the story: Long Story 5
Sixth part of the story: Long Story 6
Seventh part of the story: Long Story 7
Eighth part of the story: Long Story 8
Ninth part of the story: Long Story 9
Tenth part of the story: Long Story 10
Eleventh part of the story: Long Story 11
Vishva and Prabha; India; 2001
He’d always known Prabha was a strong woman. She never really depended on him. Devyani was different. She wanted, needed his approval for everything that she did. He liked it. He had been part of the cultural committee in his college for the past 6 months now. Devyani was a first year ECE student. She stayed in the hostel because she was form a village near Tirunelveli. She was beautiful.
“Anna! Can I get violet drapes for the makeshift temple?” Devyani asked Vishva.
“Sure! But, don’t you think red would be more appropriate. It is after all a temple,” replied Vishva.
“I’ll get red!” Devyani said, turned and walked away. Vishva smiled and continued to pass the cellophane tape strips to his friend, Natraj. Natraj raised his eyebrows in question. “What?” asked Vishva and gave a piece of the tape to him. Natraj got the tape and said, as he pasted the poster, “Dude! You have a girlfriend.”
“So? I am not flirting with Devyani man!” snapped Vishva, removing yet more tape from the coil.
“You are not. But she is. And you are letting her. She is like a puppy dog who needs you all the time,” said Natraj with irritation-laden voice.
Vishva smiled subtly, ‘puppy, eh?’ He liked that. He turned to look at Devyani. She was talking with another girl and giggling. She was wearing an orange and yellow salwar kameez (Indian traditional dress). She always wore salwar Kameez and dupatta. He liked that. A very homely girl with a simple mind.
Prabha kicked the starter in her Scooty again. She checked whether the choke was on; it was. She sighed. She got down from her bike and started to push it. She was wearing black jeans and a lose shirt. She regretted wearing jeans. Chennai’s summer was slow-roasting her. There was some problem with the brake in her Scooty. It was difficult to push the small vehicle. “Hi!” Prabha turned to see who it was.
“Can I help you?” the handsome guy asked.
Prabha shook her head and kept walking and pushing the vehicle. “There is a mechanic shop in the end of the road. Give the scooter to me. I’ll help you,” he insisted. Prabha stopped to look at him. He looked good and wanted to help, but she seldom got help from anyone; especially men.
“No thanks! I’ll take care,” said Prabha and kept walking.
He did not leave. “I’ll walk with you. Just in case.” And walk, he did. All the way to the mechanic’s store. Prabha told the mechanic what the problem was and he started to work on the Scooty.
“I am Amit.” The handsome stranger said. “Hi” Prabha replied.
“I stay in Anna Nagar. Have seen you sometimes on the bus, in the morning. Where do you study?” Amit asked. Prabha threw a look at him and got back to staring at her Scooty.
“I am sorry if I am prying. Just wanted to know. I study in Madras Christian College. I do my Phd in Sociology,” he said. Prabha kept staring at her Scooty. Amit gave up and started to stare at the Scooty too.
After half hour, her Scooty was ready. Prabha started the vehicle with just one kick. Amit put his hand on the handlebar and said, “Look! I do not want to spook you. I like you. Just wanted to let you know–––“
“––– I have a boyfriend.” Interrupted Prabha, “Sorry! Bye” and drove away. She smiled in the privacy of her helmet. She liked Amit. She also liked belonging to Vishva. Getting hit on was nothing new to Prabha. Answering with a ‘I have a boyfriend’ was very new and wonderful. Now that she was wearing her helmet, she blushed away happily. If Vishva was with me, I can give the Scooty to him and just go home, She thought. And blushed more. Thank God for helmet! She thought.
Vishva; USA; Now
Vishva went to the kitchen and took 4 boiled eggs out of the vessel. He started to peel them when Jaya walked in. “Hi!” she said, in a testing-the-water way. “Hi!” replied Vishva without looking up.
“Dad! Look at mom and say hi!!” scolded Rohit, sternly.
Vishva looked at the little tyrant, placed the peeled 2 eggs on his plate and asked, “Sir! I heard that you do not want to go to Karate classes. Why?”
Rohit looked at his mom and she shrugged. “When did you guys talk about that? You hardly talk now.” Rohit said. “Look buddy! Karate is good for you. You might not have interest in it now. But later on, you will definitely develop interest.” Vishva said.
Rohit sighed and said, “Fine!! Whatever!”
“Whatever, you’ll go?” asked Vishva.
“Yesss” Rohit replied deflated.
“Come on sweetie! Let us get you to school. And don’t keep that face.” Jaya said and playfully hugged Rohit. Mom and son laughed and played. Vishva smiled to himself, stuffed an egg in his mouth and walked away with a heavy feeling. Every time he saw Jaya with Rohit, this has been happening. He went straight to the washroom and took a shower. He will be meeting the vendor company’s leads today. He took his time to dress up. He went full on formal with a formal shirt and formal pant. As he searched for his watch on the bed, he could hear a muffled ringtone “Bolo tara rara”. He stood still for some seconds to let the tone stop. It did. He continued to search for his watch and it started again. “Bolo tara rara…” He sighed and searched for his phone. He knew it was Parvinder Singh calling him. “What Parvy?” snapped Vishva.
“aaammm… aaaa hey! Aaaa. You picked up.” It seemed like he was talking with a mouth full of food.
“What is it?”
“I… “ Sighed Parvy. “Vishva! Please man, let us meet and talk.”
“Parvinder–––“ started Vishva, and Parvy closed his eyes in pain. The last time his friend called him Parvinder, they were studying MS in Chicago Tech and Parvy had screwed up pretty bad.
“–––– I have a meeting at 10:00. I cannot do this right now. I need to get to office. Bye.” Vishva said and cut the call.
Parvy put the phone down and turned his attention to the omelette. Parvinder Singh had the metabolism of a pre-teen kid. He could eat anything and easily digest them. And he took full advantage of that. His usual breakfast contained loads of protein or steaming hot Paratas. He was eating alone in a café near Vishva’s office and trying to figure out what to do with all the problems in his life. He was absent-mindedly staring at 2 Indian women having breakfast. One of them looked familiar. But his thoughts were elsewhere.
“That guy looks very familiar.” Prabha said and Shalini turned to look. It was a white guy, who looked like an Indian. “Nice looking guy.” Shalini commented and went back to her salad, “Looks like he is waiting for someone. Has three more plates of food on the table.”
Prabha finished the last piece of her omelette and sat back. ‘where have I seen this guy,’ Prabha thought. The white-looking Indian was stuffing an whole omelette into his mouth.
After 15 mins, Parvy called Mitch, “Hey! I am waiting in the café. You bringing him?”
“Yes!” replied Mitch, with tension-filled voice.
“You’re in the car with him?” asked Parvy.
“Yes!” replied Mitch again.
“You are nearby?” asked Parvy.
“10 mins” replied Mitch and cut the call.
Parvy looked out the window and sat back. This is a public place and he was banking on it to not get beaten up. Parvy turned his attention to people inside the café and spotted a bejeweled pouch on the table the Indian women were having breakfast in.
Shalini, Prabha and the Internet; USA
Prabha and Shalini were on the first floor of the Pacific building of New Bank. Prabha frantically searching for her wallet in her bag and Shalini was enjoying the super-fast internet.
“Dude, it took me 1 min to download the PPT here. It is a humongous 105-slide giant. God the internet is fast,” Shalini said with child-like excitement. “What is it? Prabha.”
“Shalu!! I think I left my wallet in the café. I’ll be right back” Prabha said and got up to leave.
“Which one yaar?” Shalini called out after Prabha.
“Don’t worry, the dollars-only one,” replied Prabha not turning back to look at her manager come friend.
Mitch, Parvy and Vishva; USA
“Are you kidding me?” Vishva asked the visibly scared Mitch.
“Look dude! You guys have been friends for years. Just talk it out. You never know when you will need friends. And I can tell you from experience –––“
“––––He slept with my wife.” interrupted Vishva.
Mitch stopped dead and looked at Parvy, “You bastard!!” he said, “You tricked me.”
“What do you want Parvinder?” Vishva asked, in a scary-calm voice.
“I am sorry! I really am. And hear me out. No matter what you decide, I am on your side..” This got a are-you-kidding-me stare from Vishva. “I am” continued Parvy, “Look! Jassi and I are divorced.” This caught Vishva’s attention, “She moved out 2 days ago.” Parvy looked down like he was bracing himself, “and I love Jaya.” He said, for which Mitch replied, “Fuck man!! Parvinder, it’s like you’re asking for a beating.”
Vishva closed his fist and asked, “Look! I have a meeting at 10:00. Unlike you, I do not depend on my father’s money. So, speed it up. And Parvinder! Don’t ever tell me you love my wife again, because I will push your face up your ass next time you utter those words,” said Vishva and sat back. Mitch mirrored Vishva’s posture and kept a stern expression.
Parvy sighed and said, “Vishva! I love you…”
“You know Parvinder! You are nuts! This is like listening to some desperate comedy.” Mitch said.
Parvy looked at Mitch and continued, “I love you Vishva. You are my oldest buddy. I do not want to lose you. I know we can’t go back to what we were before this. I know!! But please try and forgive me. Because, I need you. Please man!” begged Parvy.
“You done?” asked Vishva. “Yes!” replied Parvy dejected and beaten. Vishva got up and walked to the exit. Vishva walked till the entrance of the Pacific building and stopped. He was too wired and too annoyed. He turned and walked towards the café again. “Hey!! Vishva… hey!!” Mitch called behind him.
“Mitch! Go on in. I’ll come in some time,” said Vishva and kept walking. Mitch saw his friend go and turned to go inside the building. ‘Parvy fucked Vishva’s wife’: this fact was over-powering Mitch’s mind. He was officially spooked.
Vishva went to the café and searched for Parvy. He wanted to shake the bastard. Atleast throw some abuses at him. Anything to get his anger in check. Parvy was not on the table they’d met before. And then he saw him. He was talking to a woman. They were laughing. Parvy moved to let someone else pass. Vishva saw the woman. It was Prabha. She was giggling at something Parvy had said. For some seconds time stopped for Vishva. He heard a ringing in his ears. Prabha was wearing a blue top and grey pants. She was touching her hair and pushing the strands behind her ear. She looked beautiful. She was gesturing and talking. She had pink nail polish on. She was wearing lipstick. She was wearing makeup. When did she start wearing makeup? A group of office-goers wanted to go to the table behind Prabha. She moved. Parvy touched her hand and lead her near the refrigerator.
And Vishva lost it. He walked straight to Prabha and pulled her towards him. Prabha was too shocked to react and just kept staring at Vishva. “Stay away from her!” Vishva said to Parvy and walked towards the exit still holding Prabha. “Vishva!! Vishva… let me go.” Prabha said in a calm voice. Vishva stopped just before the café’s exit and let go of Prabha. He turned to look at her. He looked at where he was holding her hand. He turned to look at Parvy who was shocked too. He let go of Prabha and said, “Hi! What are you doing here?” Prabha raised her eyebrows and asked, “I was having a nice conversation with your good friend,” she gestured at Parvy, “Now! I am being dragged out of the café. By you!!”
Vishva put both his palms into his pant pockets to stop himself from touching her. Prabha was here. Near his office. What is she doing here? Is he dreaming? Did Parvy drug him? Did he hit his head? Why was she talking to Parvy? I touched her, he thought. That’s right. I touched her. I can smell her. The same, familiar, heavenly fragrance. God she smells good! I am married. She is too. I should just walk away. God! I want to hug her. She’s gotten chubby. She looks good though. God! Her face is expressive when she talks. Should I tell her not to talk to Parvy. Would that be inappropriate?
“Vishva!!” Prabha said, “say something.”
“Welcome to America!” Vishva said, and after a few seconds both started to laugh. Parvinder was looking at these two laughing. He was amazed at the speed at which Parbha cooled his friend’s head. He had been quite surprised when he finally realized that the familiar face was Prabha. He had found her wallet. She was thankful. The last time he’d met her, it was Vishva’s wedding. The moron had invited his ex. to the wedding. He’d been amazed at their chemistry. So was Jaya. Parvinder smiled to himself. He was just happy to see his friend laughing heartily after a long time.
“I have a meeting at 10:00 Vishu. See you” Prabha said and looked at her phone.
“I do too.” Vishva said and something occurred to him. He asked, “Hey!! Do you work in XMR now?”
Prabha looked at him with a startle, “Yeah! You are Vishvanath, the BA?” asked Prabha.
Vishva smiled with genuine, wicked fondness. “Yup!” he said, “Come on we’ll be late for the meeting” and lead Prabha out of the café. Prabha turned and waved a bye to Parvy. Instinctively Vishva’s hands went to the small of her back and he nudged her towards the exit. He turned just a little bit to throw eye-daggers at Parvy.
Parvy was shocked, amused, awkward and happy at the same time. The same guy took it much better when he knew Parvy was sleeping with his wife. Jaya had told Parvy that Vishva had been a different person with Prabha. “You know how pragmatic and cool he is all the time? Well! he was not with her,” Jaya had told Parvy once. He got to witness it now. He definitely was a different person. Was Prabha married? He wondered. If not, hopefully, that would clear his way to Jaya. Baby steps Parvy, He thought, Baby steps.
Thirteenth part of the story: Long Story 13