[This is a work of fiction and any resemblance to persons, places, etc is purely imaginary]
I was hurrying home from work as I usually do on Saturdays looking forward to kicking back my legs and enjoying the rest of the short weekend when I got a call on my mobile. I had just turned onto my street and could see my house down the road and I debated whether I should stop to answer the call right away or would it wait till I got home. Would it be a call over from work asking me to report back to duty for any emergency? I had just crossed over half the city from easternmost end to the westernmost end, with all the traffic hassles with various city-improvement destruction of the roads, to finally reach home and now I have to go all the way back?
Cursing, I pulled out the phone and was startled to see it was from Preethi. What did this mean? I had an off today from my consultant duty and she was supposed to take on the slack. Was she as usual trying to wriggle out of her commitments by passing it on to any unwary prey she could reach? Most of the other male colleagues of ours had fallen victim to her wiles, her “I have a sudden emergency at home, my grandmother is sick” routine which was all pure balderdash. As I knew for a fact that on those very same sick-leave days, she would be hanging around various malls and theatres with her boyfriend. She knew and she knew I knew that there was no way I was going to fall for whatever story she spun now. I was too old a pro for that. Courtesy a Tamil proverb – only a Snake knows other snakes’ legs…
Anyways I switched the phone on reluctantly and said “Hello”. Preethi started talking fast as she usually did “hi! Where are you right now? Remember you were talking about watching titanic in 3-D? Well, I have an extra ticket for the movie with me, my boyfriend can’t come and I don’t want the ticket to go waste and so I am on my way to Satyam theatre”. It took me a few seconds to process all this information and understand that she wanted me to go a movie with her. Travel halfway back the city again to the theatre? As I was puzzling it over, she started screaming in my ear in her rapid-fire staccato way “if you are not coming tell me now, I thought I would call you first, before I call any other guy, don’t want to waste the ticket, so you coming? Or should I call someone else?” Well, that tore it, I was first on her list? Can’t turn her down now, can I. So, I dutifully said yes, even though I had just 40 minutes to make my way to the theatre.
I hurried home to change from my work clothes, unbuttoning my shirt in the car and by the time I had rung the doorbell and my mom had opened it, I was out of my shirt and was about to unzip my pants. “Just in time mom” I told her as she had prevented me from doing a strip on the street. I raced through the house scattering clothes all the way to my room, where I pulled on some casuals and ran back to the front screaming “lock the front door, I am going to a film” and escaped before further questioning.
On the way to the theatre, I reflected on this sudden consideration of Preethi. Why me? As far as I knew she hated my guts. I was the last man standing, the only one between her and the post of chief in the department. When she had joined, an year ago, there had been three others between her and me, in hierarchy and in matter of months she ate them all like a great white shark and was now snapping at my heels. I knew she was unscrupulous, devious and cunning, but hey, I was all the same and more. I had fended off her challenge and had shown her place to her. Was this some elaborate trap she had planned for me? Some sort of sexual harassment, the movie “disclosure” type of complaint in the offing? Hmmm!!! If so the prudent part would be to cancel and head home. But the reckless part of me, wouldn’t allow me, it wanted, craved the thrill, the danger – of walking into the trap and busting it on her face. Well, let’s see. On the other hand this might just be a friendly overture to watch a film, a way of not wasting the ticket money. By this time, I had reached the theatre.
Preethi was there by the ticket counter and she waved me over. A lot of guys there gave me dark and dirty looks as they turned around to see who she was waving to. She looked stunning as usual, the perfect example of the cliché, that all that glitters is not gold. As everyone around us, wallowed in jealousy, we went in to watch the film. Titanic in 3-D was exactly as titanic had been in 2-D all those years ago. I really felt sad for myself, when I reflected that I was watching such a beautiful love story with an enemy instead of a friend or lover. But I consoled myself with the thought that at least she was beautiful and no one else in the theatre would guess we weren’t a couple, especially as we were sitting so close together with her leaning on my arm.
After the movie got over and we walked out of the theatre, I offered to pay her for the ticket, but she refused and said she wasn’t going to let me off that easy. She wanted a treat instead. So we trooped off to ID, the specialty restaurant at the theatre, and I decided that I was going to make sure that I wasn’t going to be fooled into sticking to my diet while she emptied my purse. For someone who looked so petite, she had a damn fine appetite, ate like a horse and I had seen her rip off the other guys in those early days before everyone learnt her ways.
As we sat there eating, I asked her “so what happened to your boyfriend?” and she told me “he couldn’t come to Chennai this weekend as we planned, there was some kind of strict deadline at his company and he had to stay back”. Preethi’s boyfriend was currently working in Bangalore and he used to drop over into Chennai most weekends to meet her, spend time with her and bed her (as the wags gossiped) before heading back. The other girls bitched behind her back, that being available to him, was the only way she could retain him this long on such a long distance relationship. But as I have often found, women can be the cruelest critics of their own sex when they are jealous.
“So tell me again” I asked “how you two met?” “Well, Preethi drawled as she disposed off a masala-dosa at top speed “he is the son of our downstairs people, our house-owners”. I enquired “So you have known him long then?” She said “For years and years, ever since we rented their house. But I wasn’t interested him at first, it was only when he got that IT job in Bangalore and went off to Bangalore that I first realized how much I had been loving him and told him so” I nodded my head and refrained from asking “so, your sudden love didn’t have anything to do with the fact that he had suddenly got a job with a MNC and started earning a lakh or so every month?” but I couldn’t help smiling at this thought.
She must have seen my sly smile, so she candidly went on “His parents were very irritating house-owners, they were always putting new rules for us tenants, I decided then I would get back all the rent my dad paid them over the years by marrying their son”. “So they have agreed?” I asked. Preethi said, “Not yet, but if they don’t they would just have to leave the house to us and go away, its ancestral property and he is fully entitled to it”. “Ha, ha” I thought to myself , “all parents of sons with houses beware, somewhere a tenant is planning to marry your son and chase you away in your old age, if you don’t behave as reasonable owners”
Meanwhile, something happened which disturbed our intense secret-sharing session. Preethi had been squeezing some tomato ketchup over her noodles, she had all this while, maintained a steady stream of food traffic, and she squirted some ketchup over to the next table, on the white duppata of a girl sitting next to us. This was a raucous party of four, dad, mom, and what looked like two (yummy/good-looking) sisters and they had been making a lot of noise all the time. They looked like they were celebrating someone’s birthday, the mothers, I guess, so despite the disturbance the other patrons of the restaurant had looked on indulgently.
But when the girl beside us said something derogatory about people’s lack of concentration, the tigress opposite me snarled and waded into her. Very soon, a full-fledged female-on-female fight was going on. I would have enjoyed watching it, but it was getting late and I had to get home by at least five P.M. as my mother had warned me that we were going out around Seven PM that day, to go see a girl for me, for an arranged marriage, the very reason I had taken an off-duty from work that day. And Preethi was delaying me, with this catfight. So I neatly stepped in and pulled her off from the other girl and we departed posthaste. After seeing Preethi off on her bike, I went back home to face the inevitable music from my mom.
Two hours later, freshened up, neatly dressed, we reached the girls house, were we were welcomed by the bride’s father and asked to step inside. From the dim lighting on the veranda, as we went into the bright light of the drawing room, I glanced over to see that the gentleman was the father of the fighter-cock I had seen that afternoon and the very girl, I had pulled Preethi off was standing there in front of us. I knew everything was finished in those first few seconds of meeting that family. So how was I gonna explain this to anyone?
By the way, from the title if you are wondering about who the sauce was for, it was ME, the goose.