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Chapter 18: Knock, Knock, Whose There?
I knock on the door and wait. The name plate reads Ahujas. He is not just a rental tenant then, I deduce.
This morning we had exchanged a quick hello and smile but that was all. It would be nice to befriend the new neighbour. After all a stay-at-home dad also needs some friends to keep him sane. I am quite confident of finding a friend in this Super-Model. His smile was very genuine too. The eyes weren't vacant like they usually are when someone is giving you that fake smile. I'm proud of myself at this moment as I attribute this keen sense of observation for my great writing skills.
How casually Aryan Ahuja, a Pg.3 Super Model, had attended Roohi's birthday party last month, just at the little one's behest. And he also brought her that lavish present which was totally uncalled for. What a friendly gesture! Who does that nowadays? We didn't get a chance to share much the other day, the conversation revolving mostly around Roohi.
Now only if he opens this damn door! I grunt, getting a bit impatient after ringing the doorbell for a second time.
Finally I hear footsteps from behind the door and it swings open after a little clicking of locks. Atleast three, I am still busy making mental notes. It seems to have become a habit now. Almost like a spy.
You have been reading and writing too many murder mysteries, Shekhar. I chuckle.
"Yo! Dude, how have you been? " Booms the tall and muscular Aryan Ahuja. He's quite the happy-go-lucky kinds I see, laughing and hugging people. His PR skills seem to be very strong.
" Aah! I just thought I'd drop by to say Hello! And Oh! Yes, your courier had arrived yesterday when you were probably out. So yeah! here it is." I hand over the packet, I've been holding all this while. Seems quite heavy and soft. I'm sure he's shopped for some more clothes, online.
" Oh! Dude thanks a ton man! I've been waiting for these. Come on in, I'd love to show you my latest buy. I'm quite crazy about apparels. Do you have a term that too? You must know. You are a writer aren't you?" He's patting my back and pulling me in.
As I step in, I am taken aback by the swanky interiors of his flat, quite contrasting to my next door humble home. Just hoping my face doesn't reveal too much of what I'm feeling right now. It's a great big mix of awe, envy and a hurt feeling rising up from my empty pockets and tugging at my heart.
I pull myself back into the now and think up an answer to his question.
" Oniomania is the term for the compulsive desire to shop. I'm not sure if you fit that bill. I will have to research what apparels crazy people are referred to as." It sounds like I'm rambling on in a desperate attempt to break my awkward silence.
Fortunately, it looks like he hasn't noticed. He returns back from his bedroom, already changed into the brand new Shirt, Jacket and Trousers.
" What do you think? Fits me well?"
The luxurious Prussian blue shirt is well teamed with a Slate grey formal trousers and a matching Mandarin collared detailed waistcoat. As a freelance commercial copywriter I've learnt to recognise the myriad hues and colours, unlike most men. And I'm also able to appreciate the evolving Men's fashion. This also comes in handy when I'm building my characters in my book.
" Wow! Aryan, your choice is impeccable, my friend" I begin to shower compliments generously.
" I'm to attend an exclusive Premier night, tomorrow. You think, I can wear this dude?" Aryan Ahuja is too kind, asking me for my opinion on fashion.
"I am the happiest lounging about in my Track Pants and Tees for you see I have nowhere to go." to hide the slight exasperation that has entered my tone, I hurriedly add, "You have made a tremendously good choice there, I must say."
Aryan Ahuja is preening before the mirror while my expert opinion has almost fallen on deaf ears . Aah! These models are so tiresome. I am already beginning to get a bit bored with all this playing along.
"May I take your leave now Aryan? I can see you are busy. I didn't mean to disturb you." I'm heading towards the door again when he makes these clicking noises with his fingers.
"Oh! Come on, dude, you leaving without a drink? Sit down, make yourself comfortable, let's have a beer or two. The weather demands it!" Aryan's welcomed me with flailing arms and an animated voice, to his small bar counter in a corner of the living room. An invitation far too difficult to resist. The in-built refrigerator looks like a Pandora's box of alcoholic goodies. The plush Sofa and a chilled beer in hand I've just stepped into a Mind Spa!
From here this friendship is growing. We are both sharing a lot about each other. Him and me, taking turns at telling our tales, shuttling between the past and the present. I have told him much about myself but also successfully managed to go right about Tara. I don't wish to let him in on the strain in our relationship, just yet.
I have learnt that Aryan Ahuja, hails from Delhi, hates books, is the average Metro-sexual male of today's times, is very straight in his choice of mates and also in his way of speaking. Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, the Industry has welcomed this son of a liquor baron and has immediately propelled him to Super- Model ranking. However I am happy that despite his influential background, he has no qualms in befriending me, an obviously middle class writer who hasn't been able to make much out of my career.
"And Aah! Yes, dude I love travelling." He's now risen to fish out his digital SLR from the adjacent cabinet and is showing me all the fantastic pictures from his recent blogging tour organized by the Mumbai metropolitan government. The glint in his eyes as he shows one fantastic click of Mumbai's beautiful glimpses after another, says that he loves Photography too as much as he loves travelling, blog-hopping and shopping.
"Very interesting!" I observe and just then, as one frame switches over to the next, I suddenly remember we have been invited to Jenny's home in Kochi.
"Hey, Aryan have you ever been down South? Kochi, have you been there? My family and I are planning to go on a trip soon. Have been invited by my wife's photographer friend who runs a home stay there." I inform.
"Oh! Cochin? Dude, I just love the coastal areas. It's going to be an adventure, dude. Don't think twice, Go for it!" Aryan Ahuja has sealed the deal for me.
Little did Aryan Ahuja know what an adventure it indeed was to be for Shekhar Dutta, just as he had unknowingly, predicted. Sitting there, beer in hand, chatting with a new found friend, Shekhar had not imagined even a wee bit of the ugly episodes that were to unfold. If he had had the slightest inkling that they would be doing everything other than staying at Jenny's Kochi home, Shekhar wouldn't have gone ahead and confirmed the plans with Tara.
Shekhar stood at his favourite spot in his apartment balcony again, reminiscing the sequence of all the bitter episodes from his recent past. He took a deeper puff at the cigarette held between his forefinger and thumb. He always felt like he had a certain connection with the Dusk. It was like the coming of age, at twilight. He was thankful for the view his flat granted, given that rarely a Mumbaite got to see a piece of the open sky, suffocating between the skyscrapers.
Each swig from the bottle of Beer helped him get over the most harrowing days of his life. His days were laden with memories that he would have to fight till new happier memories were made. Stronger memories that could wipe out the pain from those dark days at the beach somewhere between home and Kochi.
The last phone call from Bangalore had suddenly brought everything gushing back. Why was his past knocking at his door again? He'd thought he'd left it far behind. Was he to let him get to him again?
Shekhar debated with his fears." ...but what had Jenny and poor Cyrus got to do with how things went on the trip? Poor Cyrus Daruwala was just another kid trying to help. And Jennifer was only being kind. In fact she was a victim too, after all, wasn't she?"
"I'll call and confirm the plans with Cyrus right away. Tara will get a chance to make amends with her dear old friend Jenny while Cyrus puts up with Aryan. His flat has ample space to accommodate the Parsi Bawa. It will be brilliant actually." Shekhar made up his mind and cheered himself up.
Shekhar picked up his smart phone and typed into Cyrus Daruwala's WhatsApp window, " Bring it ON!"
You can read the next Chapter 19: Midnight Mysteries by Sarath Babu