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Page276-293 - 39 Enough enough,’ I said as the tenth...

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Unformatted text preview: 39 Enough, enough,’ I said as the tenth student fed me cake. We had assembled in'the foyer of themain campus building. The staff and students had cometo Wish me. The faculty gave me a tea-set as a gift. The students sang a prayer song for my long life. ‘Sir, 'we hope for your next birthday there wiil be a Mrs Director on campus: Suresh, a cheeky first-year student, announced in front of everyone, leading to huge applause. I Smiled and checked the time. It was two o’ clock. I thanked everyone with folded hands. I left the main building to walk home. Happy birthdoyl: Aarti messaged me. Where-ore you? I asked. Double. shift ioét started. @, she senther response. Vinod called me at 2:15. My heart raced. ' Hi, I said nervously ' V The girls are in a white Tata Indica. 'Ihey are on the highway, will reach campus in five minutes. iI’ll inform the gate: I said. ‘You will pay cash?’ Yes Why, you take credit cards?’ I said. ‘Vie do for foreigners. But cash is best,’ Vinod said I asked my maids to go to their quarters and not disturb me for the next four hours. I called the guard- post and instructed them to let the White Indica in. I also told them to inform me if anyone else came to meet me. . r The bell rang all too soon. I opened the front door to find a creepy man. Two girls stood behind him. One wore a cheap nylon» leopard-print REVOLUTION 2020 e 277 top and jeans. The-other wore a purple lace cardigan and brown pants. I could tell these girls didn’t find western clothes comfortable. Perhaps it helped them fetch a better price. ‘ The creepy man wore a shiny blue shirt and white trousers. ‘These are fine?’ he asked me, man to man. I looked at the girls’ faces. They had too much. make-up on for early afternoon. However, I had little choice. ' ‘Theyare okay: I said. ‘Paynient?’ , . g . . I had kept the money ready in my pocket. I handed a bundle of notes to him. - ‘I’ll wait in the car,’ hesaid. ‘Outside the campus, please,” the girls-to follow me.1nside, we sat on the sofas. ‘I’m Roshni. You are the client?’ the girl in the leopard print said. She 1 said. The creepy man left. I nodded at seemed more confident of the two. ‘Yes,’ I said. _ I . ‘For both of us?’ Roshni said. ‘Yeah,’ I said. Roshni squeezed my shoulder. ‘Strong man,’ she said. ‘What’s her name?’ I said. ' ‘Pooj-a,’ the girl in the hideous purple lace said. _ ‘Not your real names, right?’ I said. I Roshni and Pooja, or the girls who called themselves that, giggled. ‘lt’s okay: i said. Roshni looked around. ‘Where do we do it?’ ‘Upstairs, in the bedroom: l3aicl. _ ‘Let’s go then,’ :Roshni said, very focused on work. ‘What’s the hurry?” I said. a was the quieter of the two but wore a fixed smile as she Waited P00)" for further instructions. 2 ‘Why wait? Roshni said. 278 9 CHETAN BHAGAT ‘I have paid for the entire afternoon. We’ll go upstairs when it is time,’ I said. , l I What do we do until then? Roshni said a tad too aggressive Sit, Isaid. , fCan we watch TV?’ Pooja asked meeldy. She pointed to the screen. I gaVe them the remote. They put on a local cable channel that was playing Salman Khans Maine Pyaar Kiya. We sat and watched the movie in silence The heroine told the hero that 1n friendship there is no sorry, no thank you, whatever that meant. After a while, the herome burst into song, asking, a pigeon to take a letter to the hero. Roshni started to hum along. No singing, please,’ I said ' Roshni seemed offended I didnt care. I hadnt hired her for her singing skills - Do we keep sitting here? Roshni said at three- thirty. “Its okay, didi,’ Pooja said, who obviously loved Salman too much I was surprised Pooja called her co- worker sister, considering what they could be doing in a while. ‘ V ' The mOVie ended at 4 pm. p‘Now what?’ Roshni said. ‘Switch the channel: I suggested. ‘ The landline rang at four~thirty. I ran to pick up the phone. Sir, Raju from security gate. A madam 15 here to see you: he said. “Whats her name?’ I said. "She IS not saying, sir. She has some packets in her hand ‘Send her in two minutes: I said I calculated she would be here in five minutes. ‘Okay, sir,’ he said. I rushedout and left the main gate and the front door wideopen. I turned to the girls Lets go up: I said. What? You 111 the mood now? Roshni giggled ‘Now!’ I snapped my fingers. You too, PoOja, or whoever you are? The girls jumped to their feet, shocked by my tone. The three of us went up the stairs. We came to the bedroom the bed REVOLUTION 2020 a 279 ‘So, how does this work?’ I said. ‘What?’ rRoshni said. ‘Is it your first time?’ ‘Talk less and do more: I said; ‘What do you do first?’ Roshni and Pooja shared a look, mentally laughing at me. . ‘Remove your clothes; Roshni said. ‘ I took off my shirt. » . 7 _ ‘You too,’ I said to both of them. They hesitated for a se left the door Slightly ajar. ‘Nobody’s home: I said; The girls took off their clothes. I felt too te e heavier, bustier frame. Pooja’s petite frame made cond, as I had nse to notice any details. Roshni clearly had th her appear malnourished. ' ‘Get into bed,’ I ordered. The two, surprised by my less than amorous tone, creptinto bed like ' ' scared kittens. ‘ ‘You want us to do i "Lesbian scene?’ ‘Wait,’ I said. I ran to the bedroom win car with a red light park outside. Aarti stepped out, and rang the bell once. When nobody answered, she came on to the lawn. She had a large _ scrapbook in her hand, along with a box from the Ramada bakery. i lost sight of her as she came into the house. t?’ Roshni asked, trying to grasp the situation. dow; I saw a white Ambassador 40 You are a strange customer: Roshni commented. ‘Shh!’ I said and slid between the two naked women. Roshni quickly began to kiss my neck as Pooja bent to take off my belt. ' . I started to count my breaths. On my fiftieth exhale I heard footsteps. By now the girls had taken off my belt most expertly and were trying to undo my jeans. On my sixtieth inhale came the knock on the door. 011 my sixty-fifth breath I heard three women scream at the same time. ‘Happy birt Oh my God!’ Aarti’s voice filled the room. Roshni and Pooja gasped in fear and covered their faces withthe bed~sheet. I sat on the bed, looking suitably surprised. Aarti froze. The hired girls, more prepared'for such a situation, ran into the bathroom. HGopalI Aarti said on a high note of disbelief. ‘Aarti,’ I said and stepped out of bed. As I re~butt0ned my jeans and wore my shirt, Aarti ran out of the room. I followed her down the stairs. She ran down fast, dropping the heavy . gifts midway. I navigated past a fallen cake box and scrapbook to reach her. I grabbed her elbow as she almost'reached the main door. ‘Leave my hand,’ Aarti said, her mouth hardly moving. ‘1 can explain, Aarti,’ I said. ’ ‘I said don’t touch me,’ she said. ‘It’s not what you think it is,’ I said. ‘What is it then? I came to surprise you and this is how I found you. Who knows what I haven’t seen anything, anything, more sick in my life,’ Aarti said and stopped. She shook her head. This Was beyond words. She burst into tears. I I ' REVOLUTION 2020 0 281 ‘MLA Shuklasent them, as a birthday gift: I said. She looked at me again, still shaking her head, as if she didn’t believe what she had seen or heard. ‘Don’t get worked up. Rich people do this: I said. Slap! I _ She hit me hard acrosSmy face..More than the impact of the slap, the disappointed look in her eyes hurt me more. .I . ‘Aarti, what are you doing?’ I said. She didn’t say anything, just slapped me again. Myth went to my cheek in reflex. In three seconds. she had left the house. In ten. I heard her car door slam shut. In fifteen, her car had left my porch. I sank on the sofa, both my knees useless. L ' . Pooja and Roshni, fully’dressed, came down-by and by. Pooja picked up the cake box and the scrapbook from the steps. She placed them on the table, in front of me. ‘ , ‘You' didn’t do anything with us, so why did you call a third girl?’ Roshni demanded to know. i ' ‘Iust leave: I told them, my voice low. They called their creepy protector. Within minutes I was alone in my house. _ I sat right there for two hours, tillit became dark outside. The maids _ returned and switched on the lights. They saw me sitting and didn’t disturb me. ~ . The glitter on the scrapbook cover shone under the lights. .I picked it up. , _ ‘A tale of a naughty boy and a not so naughty girl,’ said the black cover, which was hand«painted in white. It had a smiley of 'a boy and a girl, both winking. I opened the scrapbook. ‘ ‘Once upon a time, a naughty boy stole a good girl’s birthday ‘cake,’ it said on the first page. It had a doodle of the-teacher scolding me and of herself, 'Aarti, in tears. ‘ I turned the page. 282 1' -CHETAN BHAGAT‘ "Ihe naughty boy, however, became the good girl’s friend. He came for eyery birthday party of hers after that,’ said the text. The remaining album had pictures from all her seven birthday parties that I had attended, from her tenth to her sixteenth. I saw how She and I had grown up over the years. In every birthday party, she had at least one picture with just the two of us. Apart from this Aarti had also meticulously assembled silly memorabilia from school. She had the class VIl timetable, on which she drew horns above the maths classes. She had tickets from the school fete we had in class IX. She had pasted'the restaurant bill frorn the first time we had gone out in class X. She had torn a page from her own slam book, done in class VIII, in which she had put my name down as her best friend. . She ended the scrapbook with the following words: ‘Life has been a wonderful journey so far with you Looking forward to a future with you ~ my soulmate Happy birthday, Gopal!’ I had reached the end. On the back cover, she had callig1 aphed G St A m large letters. ‘ I wanted to call her, that was my first instinct. l wanted to tell her how amazing I found her present. She must have spent weeks on it. I opened the cake box. The chocolate cake had squished somewhat but I could make out the letters: ”Stolen My cake and then my heart,’ it said in white, sugary icing, with Happy birthday Gopal inscribed beneath it. I pushed the cake box away The clock struck twelve. Your birthday is over, Gopal,’ I said loudly to the only person in the room. 10 Even though I had promised myself l wouldn’t,'1 called Aarti the neXt day. However, she did not pick up. I tried several times over the course of the week but she wouldnt , answer. Once she picked up by accident. ‘ ‘How are you?’ I said. REVOLUTION 2020 0 283 ‘Please stop calling me: she said. ‘I am trying not to} I said. ‘Try harder: she said and hung up. I wasn’t lying. I was trying my best to sto ad a few things left to execute my plan. I called As‘nok> the Dainik editor. ‘Mr Gopal Mishra?’ he said. ‘How’s the paper doing?” I said. ‘Good. I see you advertise a lot wi ‘I need to ask for a favour: I said to the editor. ‘What?’ the editor said, Wondering if I would ask to suppress a story. eone,’ I said. ‘He’s gOOd.’ p thinking of her. Anyway, I .h us. So thank you Very much? ‘I want you to hire sorn . ‘Who?’ ' I ‘Raghav Kashyap.’ ‘The trainee we fired?’ the editor said. ‘Your MLA Shulda' made us fire him? . ‘Yeah, hire him back? ‘Why? And he started his own paper. He arry it. Everyone did.’ e him? Don’t mention my name? n. But he is a firebrand. I don’t want ' did that big Dimnapura plant story. Sorry, we had to c ‘It’s okay: I said. ‘Can you re-hir The editor thoughtit over. ‘1 ca you to‘be'upset again? ‘Keep him away from education. Rather, keep him away from scandals for a while? ‘1’11 tryith‘e editor said. ‘His paper is almost ruine ‘Okay, I will call him,’ the editor said. , ‘I owe you one. Book front page for GangaTech next Sunday: I said. ‘Thank you, I will let marketing know? "Will he join? He has his paper? d. He has no job,> I said. O my office with two other consultants. A week after my birthday Bedi came to Bachelor of Management Studies They had a proposal for me. to open a course. Dean Shrivastaya also came in. 284 4“ CHETAN BHAGAT ‘MBA is in huge demand. Hewever, that is after. graduation. Why not offer something before?’ Bedi said. 'Ihe consultant showed me a presentation on their laptop. The slides included a cost-benefit analysis, Comparing the fees we Could charge, versus the faculty costs. ‘Business Management Studies (BMS) is the best. You can charge as much as engineering, but you don’t need facilities‘like labs,’ one consultant said. . . ‘Faculty is also easy. Take any MCom or CA types, plenty of them available, said the other I drifted off I didnt care about expansion anymore. I didnt see the point of the extra crore we Could make every year. I didnt even want to be in office. ‘Exciting, isn’t it?’ Bedi said. . ‘I-Iuh? Yeah, can we do it some other time?’ I said. ‘Why?’ Bedi said. Then he saw my morose face. ‘Yes, we can come again,’ he agreed. ‘Let’s meet next week. Or whenever you have time.’ , Bedi and'his groupies left the room. ‘Director Gopal, are you not feeling well?’ the dean said. ‘I’m okay: I said. ‘ . ‘Sorry to say, but you haven’t lOoked fine all week. It’s not my business, but I am older. Anything I can help with?’ ‘It’s personal, I said, my voice firm. You should get married, sir. The Student was right, he chuckled ‘Are we done?” I said. 1113‘: cut his smile short In an instant, he stood up and left My cellphone beeped. I had an SMS from Sailesh, marketing head of Dainik: Roghov accepted‘the otter He ioins‘ tomorrow. Great thank you very much, I replied. Hope our association becomes even stronger. Thank you for booking Sunday, texted Sailesh. ' ll The arrival of a black Mercedes in the Daim’k oflice caused a minor flutter among the guards. A big car ensures attention. I stepped out and glasses. l'went to the receptionist in the lobby. put on my new sun r my business ‘I amphere to meet Raghav Kashyap,’ I said, and gave he card. The receptionist couldn’t locate‘him. Sailesh saw me above, and came running down the steps. ‘Gopal bhai? You should have informed me. from the floor What are You waiting here ‘for?’ ‘1 want to meet Raghav,’ I said. ‘Oh; sure: he said, ‘please come 'with me.’ _ We walked up to Raghav’s cubicle. An IT guy crouched under his desk, setting up his computer. Raghav had bent down as well to check the connections. ' ‘You rejoined here?’ I said. Raghav turned around. ‘Gopal?’ he said and stood up. ‘1 had comepto the marketing department and saw you? I turned to Sailesh. “lhank you, Sailesh.’ ‘ fOkay,’ Sailesh said. ‘See you, G0pal bhaif. After he left, Raghav said, ‘It’s strange; The editor called me himself. I had no money anyway. "lhought I will rejoin until I have enough to re- launch Revolution 2020.’ ' l ‘ ‘Can we go for a cup of tea?’ 1 said. ‘Su-re,’ he said. . We walked up to the'stafi canteen o of old newspaper issues adorned the wa n .the second floo r. Framed copies lls. Dozens of journalists sat with 286 * CHETAN BHAGAT their dictaphones and notebooks, enjoying evening snacks. I could tell Raghav felt Out of place ”1111 used to a small office now Dainik is huge, he said He bought two plates of samosas and tea I offered to pay but he declined Cog in the- wheel feeling, eh? Isaid. Not only that. The stuff we did at Revolution 2020, I can never do that here: he said. The stuff you did at your paper, I wanted to tell him, led to premature bankruptcy However, I hadnt come here to put him down HIts nice to have a job. Plus, you like journalism, I said. ‘That’s why I took it. A six—month trial for now.’ ‘Only six months?’ ‘They want me to edit other people’s stories. It is supposed to be more senior in title, but 'I like being a reporter Let’s see.’ ‘A job pays the bills. Of course, it helps to be employed 1f you want to get married, I said Raghav laughed. We hadnt talked about personal stuff for years However, he didnt doubt my goodwill Thats the thing with Raghav. He could unearth the biggest scams, but at another level he trusted people I so easily. HWhos getting married? Raghav said, still laughing. You and Aarti. ,Arent you? I said. Ireminded myself I had to smile through this. ' Raghav looked at me. I had never discussed Aarti with him. In fact, I hadn’t discussed anything with him in years d I hope I can talk to yOu as a friend? We were once, right? I said. I I took a bite of the sa‘mOsa and found it spicy as hell. _ RaghaV-nodded on a sigh. Things arent gOing so well between me and Aarti.’ , _ ‘Really?’ I faked surprise. I I ‘I haven’t spoken to her in weeks.’ ‘What happened?’- I said. RaghaV-squirted tomato sauce over his samosa. REVOLUTION 2020 * 287 paper startled,‘l didn’t give her'enough ‘It’s my fault. When the last couple of months She seemed so time. Soon, we drifted apartaThe disconnected; Raghav said. ‘Did you guys talk about it?’ I said. ‘No. we planned to, but didn’t: he said. ' ‘She loves you alot,’ I said. _ ‘i don’t know: Raghav said. He twirled his samosa in the sauce without eating it. ‘She does. I know her from to 'her.’ Raghav seemed surprised. ‘Do I?’ <She wanted to marry you, isn’t it?’ ‘At the wrong time. Look at me, I am nowhere with respect to my career: ‘ Raghav said. ‘Your. career is different from 0t In terms of helping people, you are doing quit ‘I blew that too,’ Raghav said. ‘You are fine. You are a sub~editor at a big paper. And if you marry Aarti, you can go far.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You know there’s pressure 0 Ragh‘av kept quiet. ‘You do, right?’ ‘I heard: he muttered, ‘So, Aartifs father can’t and Aarti won’t. Son-indaw, maybe? Raghay looked up, intrigued. ‘How you think, man!’ . I rolled my eyes. ‘I’m not smart. So, I have to make up for it in other childhood, Raghay. You mean everything hers. You can’t measure it in money. e well? n Aarti’s family to enter politics?” I said. ways? ‘You are not smart?’ he said. ‘You do love her?’ I asked. ‘Things aren’t okay between us,’ he admitted. ‘You can fix them I am sure. After all, your charm worked onher the first time,’ I said. Raghav gave a shy smile. 288 0 CHETAN BHAGAT ‘Don’t call her. Go meet her at the hotel. Take an entire day off for her. That’s all she wants, yOur time and attention. She’ll return your loVe ten Itimes'over,’ I said, looking sideways. I Raghav kept quiet. V Promise me you will go, I said and extended my hand. ‘ He shook my hand and nodded. I stood up to leave I repeated Shukla—jis lirne Life may not offer you the saine chance twice.’ Raghav walked me to my car. He barely noticed the car though. ‘Why are you doing this for me?’ he asked. _ I got into the car. I rolled down the window. ‘Aarti is a childhood friend; Besides ' ‘Besides What?” Raghav said. ‘Everyone has to do their bit,’ I said as-the driver whisked me away. 9 I didn’t keep in touch with Raghav after that. He called me'many times. I either didn’t pick up or pretended to be busy. One of the times I did pick I 1 up, Raghav told me he and Aarti had started talking again. I told him I had inspectors in my office and hung up. I had sworn on Baba’s soul that I would never call Aarti. She didnt either, apart from a single missed call at 2 am. one morning. I Called her back, since technically'l had not initiated the call. She did not pick it. The missed call and call—back drama between men and women almost deserves its own user manual. I-gathered she had made the call in a weak moment, and left her alone.- I . I invited the boring Consultants back for the BMS programme talks. The plan made a lot of sense. _We started the process to expand into business studies. We had a new set of government people who had to approve our plans, and thus a new set of palms to be greased. We knew - the business would be profitable; Millions of kids would be tested, rejected and spat out of the education system every year. We had to keep our net handy to catch them REVOLUTION 2020 * 289 I spent more time with the college faculty,- and often invited them home in the evenings. They-worked for me, so they laughed at my jokes I and...
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