Too Much, Too Soon
He is home earlier than I expected. I show him where I intend keeping the laptop and he says, amused, “It’s a laptop, not a PC. You can keep it anywhere you like. Modem…wireless, right? So what’s the problem?”
“Comfort,” I point out, though I must admit that I was still viewing it like a desktop.
He gets down to work as I pace between the rooms, trying to be handy and realising I am totally redundant. I abandon all pretense and sit in the drawing room with a magazine.
At some point, my stomach bell rings and I ask him about dinner. “Yes, we should be on our way, or Madhuri will murder you,” he says.
“Why only me?” I ask, surprised.
“She will blame you for holding me back,” he says frankly. Right enough, his cell rings and he tells Madhuri that we are on our way.
As we move towards the door, Vijay says, “Good I didn’t see your place before I asked you to do the interiors for me! I can’t imagine how you can have such drab stuff here and do a wonderful job at my place.”
The backhanded compliment embarrasses me, but it also reminds me of Madhuri’s offer. I mention it to him, “If you want her to do it, please don’t hesitate to tell me. I will not recreate what she has done, but if you want it, I am sure she will be happy to do it for you and I will…let her.” I knot myself as I say this without sounding as if I had to give the permission or that I would feel bad about it.
He is silent for a moment and then says simply, “It is not my style.”
I concentrate on the steps, walking down to his car, unsure of how to react. It was not a compliment to me, and yet the fact that he chose me over her is a moment to rejoice. He seems untouched by it as he focuses on the road.
The silence makes me feel awkward and I fill it up with an explanation about the state of my house, “I am more at work, in any case. So I suppose this is utilitarian.”
He shrugs. “But don’t you want comfort when you return! This looks like a transit accommodation, not home!”
I am startled. I realise that though I have now lived here for almost two years, I have not made this my home, as if expecting to vacate at short notice. Uma had commented the same way. I shrug as the thought seeps in.
“I am happy with what you are doing. It suits me.”
“Thank you. That is heartening.” I wish he would be more explicit in complimenting me. But he seems to have had his say. “So Madhuri and you go back a long way, I heard?”
“Since pre-kg,” Vijay replies.
“That’s nice!” I say with a pang. “And you are… just friends?” I ask, curious and hesitant to probe.
“She seems possessive of you though…”
He looks at me thoughtfully. “I don’t think this is about me. She resents you. I wonder why. Maybe because you are all that she wants to be.”
That throws me off-balance. I myself have wanted to be someone else all my life! Even a bit of Madhuri – her confidence, her style. And today, after seeing her work, to be as creative. I chuckle and shake my head.
He looks at me earnestly. “Pratap can play dangerous games sometimes. I think he loves teasing her, and doesn’t realise that it is causing problems between the two of you.”
I purse my lips and nod. “There is nothing I can do about it.”
“Think about it, and maybe you can find a way.”
The atmosphere has become too heavy. “So,” I search my mind to see if I can lighten up and ask, stupidly, “what about marriage, or are you waiting for your parents to find you one?”
“That can never happen! I haven’t met anyone I like, and my parents and I don’t see eye to eye! Confirmed bachelor I think?” he says chuckling. “What about you?”
I shake my head.
“Yes, if you bury your head in your work so much, then how are you going to find your partner?” he laughs.
I try to turn the conversation back to him, “Look who is talking!”
“Why, I have a life! I have friends, I socialise…go to parties, meet up with friends. But you, I don’t know…but you come out as an introvert.”
I respond indignantly. “That I am, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a life?”
He shrugs. “Fair enough. But…” he shrugs. “Lord!” he exclaims. “Sorry. I am being presumptuous…” he turns to me.
I gesture for him to focus on the road and he does, though he keeps glancing at me for the rest of the drive. I remain staring outside, his words holding up a mirror to me.
He parks the car on reaching the hotel. As I open the door to get out, he lingers a second and says, “I have a disease…”
“Oh, really! What?” I ask frowning.
“It’s called foot-in-the-mouth disease,” he says so earnestly that it takes me a minute to understand. I chuckle, he smiles. He extends his hand for a shake. I take it and he says, “I like to relax when I am with friends. So maybe a settee where I can stretch my legs and have cushions to lean on will be nice…”
I laugh when I realise what he means, glowing warmly. My eyes mist up and I turn away, away from his lingering look.
I decide that the next day, I will hunt for something suitable, at least for the drawing room. I will not overdo it, but making it a home is what I owe to myself.