I woke up with a start next morning. I had a bad dream in which I saw Rajat’s and Meera’s kid puking on me. My confidence from last night was gone. I began to wonder about a possibility of Meera accepting Rajat’s proposal. No sane girl would accept a proposal from a guy whom she barely knew, but from my experiences I had come to realise that girls were fickle and unpredictable.
Rajat also seemed subdued. He checked his Orkut account and there were no messages.
“Dude, no messages... What does this mean?” Rajat asked. He was looking like a lost puppy.
“I don’t know, Rajat” I said and it was true. I was as confused and concerned as Rajat.
The bus ride to office seemed slower than usual for me. But for Rajat, the bus must have seemed to be in supersonic flight, because I noticed him look at our office building with pure dread when we reached our office.
He was already a bundle of nerves by the time we reached our cubicles.
We found Meera already in her seat. With a kick of her heels she revolved her chair around to face us when we approached.
My eyes darted to her hair immediately. I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw no flower in her hair. In fact she had not even bothered to tie up her hair and it fell on her shoulders making a lustrously black outline for her fair, round face.
She was looking past me and I followed her gaze to find my friend, Rajat, diving into his cubicle. I turned to look at Meera.
She was looking appraisingly at me. Her eyes were like sharp needles boring into mine without mercy. I averted my gaze and quickly sat down. I wanted to switch on my computer, but for some reason my hands were shaking.
“Did you have any part in it?” I heard Meera’s voice behind me.
I froze. I did not know how to answer.
After a long pause that seemed like a decade, I answered in a feeble voice, “I don’t know what you are talking about”
“Sure you do. You are his roommate and I am sure roommates discuss such things”
I searched my brain frantically for an answer that could paint me as an ignorant, innocent bystander, but I found none.
So I asked, “Are you referring to the message in Orkut?”
“No. I am talking about Obama’s election” said Meera in a mocking tone. She added, “Of course I am talking about the message and now I know that you are also involved since you identified the issue so accurately”
I gulped and tried to form some words but nothing came out.
“Will you please turn towards me and tell me what the meaning of that message was?” Meera asked. I could tell that she was angry because she had raised her voice to a high pitch. I was sure that Rajat was listening to the exchange, sitting in the next cubicle.
I slowly turned and even then I made no attempt to meet her eyes. I was suddenly interested in the way my shoe laces were tied.
Sensing that she would get nothing out of me, she said, “Come with me.”
Then she jumped up and swept past me and marched into Rajat’s cubicle. I followed her like a dutiful dog.
I found Rajat crumpled in his seat and he seemed to shrink under the glare of Meera.
Meera repeated her question, “What was the meaning of that message, Rajat?”
On any other occasion it would have been funny to see the sight of six foot tall, well-built Rajat cowering in front of a girl. But Meera was fuming and Rajat could be forgiven for his fear.
“Rajat, what century are you living in? What do you know about me to fall in love with me? We know each other for just three weeks. It is childish, you know that? I didn’t think you would be like this. I took a special interest in you thinking that you are a friend who did not know how to behave in a society. And yeah...that is what you have shown. A lack of understanding of how the society functions”
Rajat looked at me beseechingly to interject and stop the tirade. But I was helpless. Meera seemed to flare in anger and I was not going to get my hands burned. I had expected a negative reaction from Meera, but not such a forceful one. Neither had I thought that she would react in the cubicle. All my hopes of ever becoming Meera’s bosom friend were lost. I would have been glad to get out of that situation with all my limbs intact because Meera looked ready to rip Rajat and me apart.
A few heads popped from nearby cubicles, apparently interested to know the reason for the commotion.
Meera also seemed to notice the attention of others and lowered her voice.
She chuckled derisively, “It is typical, you know. A girl smiles and immediately you are making honeymoon plans. I feel sorry for you both.” With that she stormed out of the development bay, leaving Rajat and me staring at each other.
We were lost for words. Rajat looked ready to dig a hole and bury himself and as for me, I was quite willing to join him then.
I saw Bharath walking towards us and I thought I saw a glimmer of a triumphant smile on his face.
He came towards us and said, “Boys, what is all this? I heard some bits of the conversation. I am gathering that one of you gentlemen proposed to Meera. Bad, bad, bad business.”
Bharath shook his head from side to side so much so that I hoped that it would just unhinge from his neck and fall down. But nothing was going my way that day.
He was revelling in the moment. He continued, “You both should just hope that Meera doesn’t take this issue up with the HR. If she does, I will have no choice but to support her. Anyways, I am having lunch with Meera today. I will try to put in a good word about you both. Ease things off a bit, you know”
He went back to his cubicle. I envisioned him giving Meera a pen to write a complaint to the HR.
I went back to my place and slumped down in my chair. All my plans were down the drain. I was devastated. I stretched back in my chair and remained staring at the ceiling for a long time.
I must have remained like that for over twenty minutes when Meera walked into the cubicle. Seeing her, I quickly sat up and switched on my computer.
Meera hesitated for a moment and then said, “I am sorry for the earlier outburst. I don’t know what came over me. I had come in the morning thinking that I would talk to you people calmly and make you both understand my situation. But then after coming to office, I called my fiance and he got very angry and that got me also all riled up and...”
“Your what?” I cut her off.
“Yeah, I am engaged and getting married next month. I should have told you before. But I did not want to say anything without the invitation card” She took out an ornate cover out of her bag and extended it to me.
I was lost for words and looked at her with a hapless look on my face.
“His name is Sujith. We were schoolmates. Now both our families have agreed. We were waiting for him to get a job. He still has some back papers from engineering college. But he got a job with a bank last month. He interacts with the people who default on the loans. He has such great convincing skills. He is doing pretty well in his new job.” Meera was beaming with pride while she was talking about Sujith.
“Oh? He is a collection agent?” I asked while praying in my mind for it to be not true.
“Collection agent? Yeah, I think that is the title of his job. Isn’t it great? He is just perfect except for his temper. You know, he was going to come over here from Kerala when I told him about the message that Rajat sent yesterday”
I gulped and asked in a squeaky voice, “You told him about Rajat only right? You would not have mentioned anything about me, right? I mean, why would you? Did you?”
“Yeah. I told him about you also. I told him that you would have helped Rajat in the whole business”
I just hoped at that moment that I would be alive to see my next birthday.
“Meera, I would like to apologise for all our mistakes. We did not know that you were engaged. I don’t blame you for getting angry. And know that I am truly sorry. Please tell Sujith also that I am sorry.” I was genuinely apologetic.
Meera smiled and said, “Apology accepted. Please tell Rajat also about my marriage and both of you should come for my marriage.”
“I think I am going to be busy that day”
“But you don’t even know the marriage date”
“Oh. What is the date?” I asked.
“18th of next month”
“Yeah, I am busy that day. Sorry. May be Rajat will be able to make it.”
Meera decided not to push it. She said, “Please explain the situation to Rajat. You are a good friend to him. One in a million”
She went to her place and started off with her work. My mind was too agitated to work.
I was merely going through the motions when I saw Bharath coming to take Meera out for lunch.
“Hey Meera, May be you should invite Bharath to your marriage during the lunch.” I suggested.
“Yeah. Good idea. I need to talk to him about my transfer also.” Meera agreed.
After I saw Bharath and Meera walk away for lunch, I went over to Rajat’s cubicle. I gave him the invitation card, patted his shoulder and said, “She is not angry anymore. And let it go. It is too late.”
I saw genuine sorrow on Rajat’s face then. I stayed with him and soothed him for a while. We finally got up to leave for lunch when I saw Bharath and Meera returning from lunch.
Bharath looked at me and I saw an invitation card in his hand. I did not feel elated. I felt a kinship with Bharath. We both were losers in the battle. I nodded at Bharath and he returned it.
Meera came forward and shook Rajat’s hand and said, “Sorry”
Rajat stood staring after her for a while.
I finally took his arm and guided him towards the elevator.
Meera eventually got a transfer to the Trivandrum centre of our company.
She got married to Sujith and as far as I know, is still happy in her marriage. I did not attend the marriage, neither did Rajat.
Rajat moved to Chennai and he found someone interesting, who found him also interesting. I hear that they are planning to tie the knot soon.
Bharath never invited anyone ever again for lunch. He eventually got married.
As for me, well I continue to be a damn good professional...