It was the perfect moment, she passed by my side…went further, turned back. Our eyes met for the first time…there was a connection, it felt special…and the current went off. The next moment she was gone, and yet again the lights played spoilsport. The current in Pune, I tell you!! At a distance it was Mrs Chaturvedi, the neighbourhood aunty, walking towards me
“Beta kaam kaisa chal raha hai”? London se vapas kab aaya?
Kal hi aaya aunty, kaam sab tikh takh hai, Anu kaisi hai?
Tikh hai beta, aap hamesha uske bare mein poochte ho, kabhi kabhi ghar bhi aaya karo
Haan aunty, zaroor aaonga
Accha beta, abhi mein chalti hoon
Anu, short for Ananya, we were together right from our play school day’s up to the 5th standard in Bharathi Vidyalaya English Medium School. She was the chipkoo girl, or as I would refer to her as-she was always a part of our boy games from pen fight to cricket, she would want to play a part in it. Always the bully of the group, and somehow the boys enjoyed her company…I seemed to be of a different view of ‘an all boys club’ with no membership to girls. She was taking over my friends, playing our games and at most times she would be captain-that would piss me off to no limits. My friends would always say;
‘abhi jaane bhi do A.B, ladki hai’. That’s what I was called A.B, it was short for Abhimanyu. I was always the dude around my friends, I was the one they looked up to, until the day Ananya became a member in what was to be ‘an all boys club’, she ruined everything for me. Though I did not hate her in any way, I believed she was the obstacle to everything I looked forward to.
“Abhimanyu”? someone tapped me on my shoulder from behind. It was Richu, the owner’s daughter whose boring party I have accompanied mom to.
“I think your mom is trying to attract your attention, she has been waving out her hands frantically for the past 5 minutes”
“Huh!? Sorry, my mom…yeah!! (smiles) …she has the habit of doing that. It’s a little embarrassing at times.
(Moms could be a real pain when they mother you around even at a party, come ‘on im 30 years old now, she never seems to understand that)
This is Anu aunty, she is a member of our kitty party group and this is her daughter Riya
“Where is your daughter Anu”?
“She was just right here, these young people-I don’t know where they go all the time”?
“Mom, not here!! You don’t waste any time in looking out for girls for me. I can look out for a girl myself”
“Beta, you are already 30….I shall find a good girl for you. Anu’s daughter is good for you. You will also like her”
“Mom, you said that about the previous 7 girls too, nothing ever happened then…why again? I am going”
“nahi beta, don’t go”
“Hi, I am Riya
“There you are (panting)… Riya, this is Abhimanyu, Abhimanyu Singh (Riya’s mom, after searching almost half the quite-a-massive-hall for her daughter)
(I turned back, it was her….the moment was back, and the current didn’t go off this time. Yesssss!!)
I stuttered and said “Hhhhiiii Hi Riya” after all these years
“Hi Abhimanyu, Abhimanyu Singh”
“It’s just Abhimanyu Singh” just the one time (laughs)
“let us leave the children alone to talk”
“We are going to get something to eat beta, you both can talk in the meanwhile” (and the mothers go away to give the children a little privacy)
“So Abhimanyu, 30 years old huh”?
“No I’m not”
“Aunty would not be lying if she said you are 30 and that you were not able yet to find a girl”
“So, you have been eaves dropping”
“I was around; it didn’t take much of an effort anyways to hear it. O’ come on ya A.B, it’s not like we are meeting for the first time right
Riya, nobody calls me A.B but for my club boys and yes of course Anu (his face lights up, just saying her name, and suddenly starts wondering whether he should ask Riya where Anu is)
Nooooooooooooooooo waaaaaayyyyy!! You are still hung up on Anu even after all this time?? Your darling Anu…. of course, how could I forget?
(in a low volume) “Riya is Anu married? Where is she? I have not seen her ever since she left.”
“She left?? Aren’t you the one who left…? Forget that; by the way aunty is really sweet; it’s really surprising she does not recognize me, and she hasn’t changed much, the bubbly self, always looking out for her son….you are still ‘the apple of her eye’”. Give her a break ya, tu ab tees saal ho gaya hai, kuch toh sharam kar”
(laughs) “I’m really thirsty, let’ go and get something for us to drink”
(At the bar)
“What will you have Riya?”
“one chilled beer for me”
(to the bartender) “one chilled beer for the lady and one coke for me”
“seriously dude!! coke!! still!!”
(turns to the bartender) “yaar uske liya ek doodh ka glass dena”
(bartender [smiles]) “she’ll never change – Miss attitude”
“Excuse me!” (looks at the bartender) you said something?
(bartender) relax girl, don’t you remember me? Ajay? ….from college?
(thinks a while) “Ajay Daruwala? The guy who always wore his heart on his sleeve? Give me five”
They all exchange phone numbers. “Let’s all meet up over the weekend, it would be great to catch up on old times. I’ll tell Anjali, Jotsna and Priya to join us”
“Are you in touch with any of the college guys from college Ajay?”
“yup, a few of them, will contact them thru facebook and let you know”
“I have a question guys…interrupted Abhimanyu. What’s the dress code?”
(Riya is taken back by Abhimanyu’s question) “OMG dude! You have seriously lost it…haven’t u? Didn’t London teach you anything besides wearing suits and attending office parties”
“I know it’s a kinda stupid question to ask”
“Anyways, it’s so great to meet you guys, totally unexpected said Abhimanyu, wishing how much better it would be if he also met Ananya. He again began to wonder, where could Ananya be? Is she in India? Is she married? Does she still remember me?
(Snapping her fingers in front of Abhimanyu’s face, bringing him back to reality) “Where are you lost? Let’s go dance…”
“I’m not really in the… (Before he could complete his sentence, Riya pulled him towards the middle of the hall. Being amidst prying eyes and Riya’s strange behaviour, he began moving to the beat of the music and in no time was in full flow and stole the show by the time they finished)
A.B’s mother watching from the outer circle, clapped after they finished and kept saying “my son, my son”
He blushed as people clapped for Riya & him; it was a long time since he really took to the dance floor, but getting back felt really good.
(Riya remembered that Abhimanyu had always been a great dancer in college and all the girls wanted to be his partner, but if only Ananya tired, which never happened. When people saw Ananya and Abhimanyu dance, it seemed there were in perfect sync, just the perfect couple) He surely hadn’t lost his expression when he moved on the floor.
“Thanks Riya, you dance well”
Riya looked at him and gave him a tight hug. Abhimanyu did not know how to react but put his arm around her waist.
The clocked chimed 10, it was time to go home. It was going to be a long drive back as Abhimanyu and his mom lived in the other side of Pune, a good 3/4 hours’ drive back considering the city’s traffic problems. It was too much for Abhimanyu to take, he had just landed to India, Pune yesterday and today he was here amidst very strange people, an over-protecting mom who wants to see him settled, thoughts about Ananya, and that hug from Riya…what was that all about? Now this drive back home…phew!
He ignited the car engine and began driving with Shreya Goshal’s melodious voice playing in the background from his flash drive connected to the new Kenwood car stereo he just fitted earlier in the morning and his mother sitting by his side. He could sense his mother’s anxiety, it happened before too, when she introduced him to the previous 7 girls. Before she could ask her first question…
He said “Mom, not now. Can you hold on for tomorrow morning”?
“But, beta only one question” and continued “How did you like Anu Aunty’s daughter…what was her name I forgot…”
“Riya” he replied.
“Wow, beta…you still remember her name. You like her no?”
“Mom, maybe you have forgotten but this is not the first time you have met her, you met her before too…much younger, Riya remembers you.”
“do you like her beta? I saw her squeezing you”
Abhimanyu gave out a loud laugh “mom, squeeze is what you do to lemons in the kitchen, she hugged me”
“yes, yes I know, Mr London return, so did you like it…the hug?
(Suddenly Abhimanyu fell silent, he did not want to answer that question, it brought back too many memories. He revved up the engine and sped along the roads of Pune to reach destination ‘Home’ and some much required sleep and quiet time.