Two Years

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Chapter 33

Caught in a Flurry

Uma called me to clarify what Vijay meant when he asked her if “she was interested,” but I wanted to hear it all first hand. So she came home that Saturday for lunch. I hurriedly bought a couch and was gratified to see her eyes light up when she sank into the cushion with deep green covers. “I just love it!” She bounces and loves the luxury. She puts her feet up on the stool that serves as centre table too.

After exchanging general pleasantries, I work up the courage to broach the topic when the bell rings and the Devil himself appears in person. “What are you doing here?” surprise lending bluntness to my tongue. He has never come to meet me without a reason, and I could think of none just now.

“Wow, thanks! I feel totally welcome!” he replied with equal bluntness.

“I am sorry, you are always welcome, of course…” I hurriedly assure him and make way.

Uma joins me at the door and Vijay looks at her over my shoulder doubtfully.

She looks flustered. “Oh, hello…”

“You can join us for lunch. Uma and I were just catching up after a long time,” I say. I notice he has coloured visibly as he glances at her before slowly shaking his head. “Another time, maybe…”

“Have tea at least,” I insist and he enters the house. I leave them in the drawing room to make tea. My stupid hands are trembling. I take longer than needed to make the tea.

“Can I borrow your laptop?” Vijay peeps in suddenly and asks.

I go past him without answering and hand him the laptop bag. When I serve them tea, the two are staring intently at the screen. I place the tea in front of them and go back to the kitchen, wondering what could be so interesting in there.

When I join them again, Uma is grinning and Vijay has a reluctant smile on his face. “What you did was intelligent and unconventional and not a result of what they taught you at the institute,” he says firmly. She pooh-poohs it and says that what matters is that she was able to solve it. The relief that flows through me makes me feel ridiculous.

Seeing my puzzled expression, Uma explains, “Madhuri introduced me to Vijay last evening because Karthik had told her that I was looking for a job and she thought he, I mean Vijay, may know of something…” Her flustered manner makes me look at her keenly.

“Is he here to give you a job?” I ask incredulously.

“I just happened to talk to him yesterday and mention that I was meeting you here…”

I look at him puzzled. “You are always welcome… You could have told me you want to meet her… about a job.”

She comes to me and puts a hand over my shoulder. “It’s not Vijay’s fault, really. You know I have no experience and just one stupid diploma… I am sorry, I could think of no other way of, I can’t always live off Karthik… When we met at the party, he asked me about my experience and I had none! I hoped in an informal set up…” She looks at Vijay and me shame-facedly.

“And did her deviousness work?” I ask Vijay.

He remains thoughtful. “I don’t know about that. Unless you do some live projects, it is hard to say.”

“And how can I do live projects if I don’t have a job?” she asks heatedly.

He inclines his head, “Indeed.” And he continues to weigh her words carefully.

“What?” he asks in pretend innocence as the two of us stare at him expectantly. Laughing, he asks Uma, “Will you work for me?”

Uma’s eyes widen and then she looks confused. “I’ll pay you!” he assures her.

She looks at me for help, and then jumps with a whoop of joy.

Vijay raises his hand to stop her and adds a caveat, “Only provisionally, mind you. If what you did now is a flash in the pan, then you will be out.”

She makes a face but accepts the challenge. I look at her in surprise. “Don’t you have to check with…I mean check out at home?”

She frowns and asks me, “Why? I am not a baby, Kalpa!”

Vijay intervenes, “If you need to check with your brother, please do that. Or, I may be liable to injury… If I take you in, then I don’t want any disruptions. Training a person is the toughest.”

Uma tosses her head. “Anyway, Karthik will be coming here to pick me up, I will inform him then.”

I stare at her wide-eyed. “What!”

Uma looks at me embarrassed. “I am sorry! I should have told you.”

“You are in a mood to spring surprises, aren’t you!” I ask, not sure how I should react to this latest news. There is anger, and longing, and apprehension.

Uma pleads, “He wanted to know where I was going and became suspicious when I tried to evade. When I mention I was visiting you, he offered to pick me up whenever I was ready…”

Realising Vijay was listening intently, I try to compose myself. “You need to warn me, don’t you think so?”

“It slipped my mind because of Vijay…sorry. Please believe me.”

“Okay, that’s fine. Just that Vijat and then Karthik… What about his lunch? Should we wait?”

“No, he is meeting Madhuri for lunch,” she says, her eyes fixed on my face. I stop breathing for a second. “What about you, Vijay? Why don’t you also eat with us?”

“No, I’ll get going,” he says and takes leave.

She starts to talk about Karthik, and my heart hankers to hear more. But I gently guide it back to her new job, discussing this good break and how much she can expect.

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