Two Years

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Chapter 23

And Some Old Friends

Pratap calls me in half an hour for the meeting. Vijay has finally made his appearance. I am curious, and detached. Too much expectation kills the joy of anticipation.

I go in first. Madhuri joins me.

“Where is he?” Pratap asks with much reverence and affection in his voice. She indicates he is coming.

The much awaited customer, the king, arrives.

I blush in my seat. This was the man in Madhuri’s room. She was trying to get me into trouble, and I fell for it hook, line and sinker. I wonder if I had expressed myself strongly or had shown some characteristic restrain!

Well, it was going to be a make or break situation now. I couldn’t care less. I just want to leave. My headache has become more pronounced, and I cannot take any more stress.

Pratap introduces the two of us. Vijay looks amused and I manage a brief smile. Pratap lets Vijay take over from there.

“I think you guys can start work now,” he says.

Pratap waits for him to go on. Then, realising nothing more was coming, he says, “Well, Vijay, we have been getting feedback from you almost daily, so I thought I must have understood some things wrong. Why don’t you tell us what it is that you are looking for now that you have seen so many versions of it.” Oh that darling man, insinuating without seeming to!

Vijay looks at me again before he says, “Err…yes, that is right. I had wanted something, which I told Madhuri. But I liked your option 2 very much.”

We wait silently, not knowing how to react – each trying to come to terms with this meek acceptance from a man who seemed bursting with ideas. Then Pratap prods again, “Yes, but you wanted to mix the best of both the ideas…so what you have now…you are okay with that?”

With a twinkle in his eyes, Vijay says, “What I have now is apparently what I had the first time – version 2.” He chuckles. Pratap looks lost and turns to Madhuri for help. Madhuri sulks. I am amused and embarrassed.

Finally, as all are silent, Vijay explains the confusion. Pratap looks at Madhuri and asks, “Is this one of his pranks?”

Madhuri shrugs and leaves abruptly. Vijay runs after her, “Hey, wait!”

Pratap looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I reflect, not knowing what next. Then Pratap laughs.

“Did the real side peep out?” I ask.

Pratap frowns. “What’s that?”

“You said he sometimes showed his real side. I wanted to know if that was his real self.”

Pratap chuckles. “I am yet to understand him fully, honestly. But he is brilliant, very brilliant.”

“Who is he?” I ask finally, trying to understand the ropes.

“He? Why, didn’t I tell you that? He is my cousin. A self-schooled geek…” he explains. “Madhuri and he are classmates, I believe. Same school. In fact, even Subramanian is Madhuri’s classmate.”

“Oh!” I say, surprised. “He is a nice man,” I say with feeling.

“So is Vijay!” Pratap says, smiling. “But is confused, that is all. If he wants to use your version as it is, then it is best that you work on this alone. Madhuri is a possessive person – very good at work. But I have other, bigger projects for her,” Pratap says. He is so kindly about it, it is almost as if he is doing it for her good and means no offence to me.

I would be glad to have her out of my hair.

I step out, relieved. Even if Vijay is a geek, confused one at that, at least he has a sense of humour.

My cell rings. Shelley! “Hi, how are you?” I ask. I have not met her since my shifting into the new house.

“I am fine… Karthik wanted me to inform you that your tenants want to vacate,” she says.

“Oh! So, what am I supposed to do?” I ask, not sure of what the deal was.

“There is the matter of advance. And after they vacate, you will have to go and check the place out and fix a new tenant…or whatever you want to do.”

As I hesitate, she adds, “If you want don’t want to do it alone,” she swallows here, “I can help you,” she volunteers.

I thank her. “I will manage.”

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