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Monsoon Series 4: Nostalgia

posted Aug 6, 2014, 9:50 PM by Madhuri Sen

“Oye, stop, stop, stop…turn the paper upside down. Let me answer this call….it’s Valmik.”

“Hi. Wassup? ……no, no…not at home.  Out with Ryan….have to cover off something with him urgently. No, there is no one at home either…… I can leave in about half an hour and you could account for another half to get home through all this rain clogged traffic … wait, na…..theek hai. Can’t wait toh chal. Cya.”

“What happened?” Ryan asked. “Can we continue with the crossword?”

“Yeah, sure,” said Arzaan. “Arre, Valmik misplaced his wallet and wanted money to buy some NCPA play tickets. Ab bas kaam aaya toh he thinks of us, ever since he met Shruti…..he’s got only worse since they got married.”

“Anyway,” he continued, “I put him off saying we were doing something important. Why the hell should I run around in this rain just for him.  Not ready to wait either because he doesn’t know what story to give Shruti. What a joru ka ghulaam.”

“Hehehe, yeah of course…racing to solving the midday crossword whenever we manage to catch up is an important religious ritual, hai na?” said Ryan.

They returned to their crosswords and the unique extra sweetened coffees served in glasses that only Iranian cafés, sprinkled liberally across South Bombay, offered.

In a few mins, Ryan triumphantly put his pen down, “Done!” He was grinning ear to ear. “In 12 minutes flat. Is that like a new record for us or what?”

“What was 18 down….dikha ….besides you had time to think even if the paper was upside down while I was on the phone. So not exactly a record,”  Arzaan pulled the paper towards him to peek at Ryan’s copy of the paper. Ryan craned his head around to check 18 down, as well.

“Hey, remember the time that….,” Ryan started and stopped short. “…What happened?” Arzaan was staring over Ryan’s shoulder at the entrance to the café. He looked like he wasn’t breathing. Ryan turned around quickly almost over turning his chair in his haste. Those who could see him would have figured that his lips silently shaped into an “Oh my God!”

The subject of their shock pulled out the third chair at their table, grinning. “Stop staring at me guys, as if I were a hot chick. Folks around here will get the wrong idea.” Arzaan recovered first, “Shucks, dude. Where have you been?” “Out from where you left me last?” he replied. There was a brittle note to his voice now and the grin had turned a bit glassy.

“That was two years back! I thought you would have got out on bail,” Ryan exclaimed. “Not that lucky man, I was rapped the hardest,” the new addition at the table quipped.“   The bail posted was too large for Papa to even take a loan, with his retirement so close and Ishu’s wedding having anyway already dried us out. So I told him to chill, I’d take a holiday from life. Learn something new.”

“Anyway, I’m out now. Not so much worse for the wear, eh? ….Took a chance that I’d find you guys at the old adda…’ve you been?”

“You know, Dhiren, I would have stayed in touch, visited and stuff. Really did mean to. But then I got my job just then….,”  Arzaan said. Ryan was focusing intently at his glass of coffee.

“It’s ok, guys,” Dhiren said. “Don’t look so guilty. I wasn’t expecting you to give me company whiling my time away in the slammer. I may have moved on just as you did. Where is our fourth wheel? Valmik?”

“Interesting that you and Valmik surfaced back on the same day,” Arzaan said. “We haven’t seen him since his wedding. But he called today to ask if he could borrow some money. And you….,” he let his sentence trail off. “I still can’t believe what happened. One drunken evening to celebrate your sister’s wedding and two years of your life flushed down the drain.”

“Who did he marry? That same girl…what was her name…?” Dhiren asked. Ryan replied, “Yes….the same clingy one for whom he would have make up stories for every time we wanted to have a boys night out.”

“Well, how were we to know that he was a human rights activist when we picked that fight over a stupid car scraping incident, that night!” Ryan added.

“But tell me,” Arzaan asked. “Why did you say you were driving the car when it was Valmik?”

“Well honestly I didn’t think it would become such a big deal when it all first started,” Dhiren said. “But I knew that the driver would take the biggest rap. It was my sister’s wedding celebs and it was my idea that night to drink; besides which it was my car. If you recall, Valmik had insisted on driving only because he had hardly drunk anything as compared to us. So at the spur of the moment I just said that. Seemed wrong to get him into trouble for something which was more our fault. I swung at that guy first.”

“But you know, Arzaan,” said Ryan. “It’s not so much why Dhiren took the rap on himself but why Valmik didn’t protest, that bothered me.”