Another romance. I’m just starting to warm up to the genre and as with all fiction writing, I start with what’s closest to me. So I’m writing the kind of love stories I’d like to be in, the sort of romance that feels romantic to me.
I’ve always tried to write for a gender-neutral audience so I hope the men reading this will not be put off by what may seem to be a ‘girly’ direction my writing is taking. Love happens to both the sexes so I want to write stories that entertain and touch both men and women. Tell me if I’m succeeding.
It’s not that Arunima had poor taste. She couldn’t, possibly! With an English lecturer for a mother and publishing mogul for a father, refinement was a given. But she did like things apart from Dostoyevsky and fine wine. A culture gypsy, is how she liked to think of herself. Gypsies go wherever their fancy takes them. Her father would probably argue about the overpriveleged reference that, that was but never mind all that.
She yawned and closed her cupboard. Today, especially she’d like to go crazy with that egg yolk yellow stole with pink peacocks border, draped over her purple skirt and mismatched earrings. Instead, she put on the maroon silk salwar kameez she had taken out and pulled on silver bangles. The Baneerjees would like that, as would her parents. Dinner would be one overcaloried dish after another worn-thin Amar Sonar Bangla reference.
“So what are you doing these days, Arunima?”
came Debjani aunty’s voice, even though Arunima had answered that question every single time they’d met in the past four years. Which was all too often, she thought to herself, gritting her teeth.
her mother nudged her from the side, while expertly continuing a conversation about the recent banned book, with Ratin uncle.
Arunima cringed but she obeyed nevertheless. She needn’t have bothered, though. Debjani aunty had already launched into a glowing description of her son, how early he got his wisdom teeth and so on. The dental references are probably what made Arunima tune out completely so she was taken by surprise when the molar giant was presented.
Nilanjan was really more a beanbag than a giant, Arunima surmised. And he looked every bit his over-degreed, well-employed self. No sign of said wisdom, though, Arunima was tempted to point out. But again, she held her reserve and eventually made her way to the kitchen for a drink.
All there was, was cold drinks and water on the counter, of course. She looked out of the window, enjoying the brief break from the cacophonous intelligence in the hall. Outside the window, she spotted a wisp of smoke and realized that there was an unmistakable whiff of tobacco in the kitchen too. She turned, looking for the source.
Next to the fridge was a door, which she had taken for a cupboard earlier. She pushed it open and found a little passageway going into the balcony. A guy was standing at the end of it, leaning almost all the way out. It was his cigarette that was puffing smoke into the kitchen. Idiot. He’d be spotted in a minute.
Arunima turned just in time to see a flash of Debjani aunty’s saree border kick into the kitchen. She was speaking on her phone though, facing the window so she didn’t see Arunima.
“Hain. Yes, she’s here. She doesn’t look very confident, but. Minu was saying she’s self-composed but I think she’s just unfriendly.”
That was all Arunima needed to hear. There could only be one reason Minu (her mother), the traitor, was building her up to Debjani aunty. That coupled with the molar giant – oh the very thought!
Suddenly a hand slipped over her mouth and she was pulled into the alcove. The smoker held up his other hand up and raised a finger to his lips. He let her go and gently shut the door. Then he turned and strolled back to the window.
The alcove widened into a passage that curved around the room and ended in a little balcony. Probably for drying clothes, Arunima realized, spotting the glint of a metal frame in the corner.
He pulled in a long drag and exhaled before replying.
“Rescuing you. You’re welcome.”
“Rescuing??! You mean kidnapping.”
“So you do speak after all….RUNI?”
Arunima narrowed her eyes at him, though she realized later he probably couldn’t see that as she was standing in the shadows.
“Didn’t look like you knew how to when pishi was interrogating you. ”
Arunima snorted and joined him on the balcony.
“Pishi…who’s going to discover you any second now. You’re blowing smoke right into the kitchen. Why don’t you stand there and smoke comfortably? Or are you scared?”
That got him. He stubbed out the cigarette immediately.
“You’re that Sudhanshu, aren’t you? The molar giant’s cousin.”
It slipped out before she could catch herself.
His eyes turned into slits and he laughed, a deep chuckle.
“She told you about the tooth fairy’s gifts too? Poor Nilu. He’s never going to get laid this way. But maybe you’ll like a man with strong teeth, Runi?”
“Don’t call me that. My name is Sim.”
“Sim?? What, you’re actually a two-dimensional virtual avatar online?”
Arunima rolled her eyes.
“It’s short for Simran. Do not ask.”
The smile never faded from his face as he turned to the balcony again and said,
“Call me Vijay.”
“Vijay? That’s got nothing to do with Sudhanshu.”
“I suppose Simran is a good abbreviation of Arunima.”
She laughed, inspite of herself, but also because she had a retort to that.
“Big Agneepath fan, are you?”
Like anybody at this party would even know that reference.
“Haan. Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. Aaj maut ke saath apna apinment hain. Haainn.”
He droned, much to her surprise. She grinned, this time a real one.
He turned, his voice back to normal.
“But you probably think stammering Shah Rukh Khan is da God. S-S-S-Simran.”
And he turned and walked away. She followed him as he checked the kitchen and stepped out. In the hall, Ratin uncle was pouring out a glass of whiskey. The argument had moved from banned books to the degradation of lyrical expression.
Sudhanshu (a.k.a. Vijay Dinanath Chauhan) audibly sighed. Arunima paused behind him and began singing in a very faint voice.
“Main to tandoori murgi hoon yaar
Gatkale saiyan alcohol se.”
The short couplet done, she moved back to her mother’s side. Across the room Vijay Dinanath Chauhan raised his glass to her, and popped a chicken tikka into his mouth.