“Do you know that famous chikkiwala?” Shamita asked inquisitively.
“Yeah re” I replied taking a painful bite of my Medu-Vada.
“You are sure na?” one more query.
“And you know the Resort near it na?”
“And you know its main gate na?”
“Yes of course….and if we don’t find it…we will ask someone” I said firmly.
“Ask??...why do we need to ask when you know it??...are you sure you know it??”
“No” I felt like saying aloud enough to shatter the glasses of the place, crack the walls and break the furniture into pieces. But I control myself. I don’t want to make her go berserk in this hyperemotional state. A liitle high pitch and I know she would break into tears. This is one of the time when she is happy, sad, anxious, guilty and excited at the same time. Humans are supposed to behave panicky at such times and then break into a pang of extreme happiness or extreme sadness. I couldn’t handle any of her state in that matter.
I politely said “Yes dear…don’t worry…put some more ice in the juice!”
“Shut up!” she said playfully and dissolved it into laughter. I thank god for it.
“I can’t believe that I am going to meet him again…..when he said that he will coming to the hill station…I went crazy…” She began speaking. I nodded after her each line. To take myself away from her blabber, I look outside the window at the bike stand. The bike is safe. But my ears aren’t. She keeps talking. I keep nodding looking outside the window. I see some shady moments near the bike. I look more intently. I see someone familiar looking at Piyush’s bike’s number. He turns and sees another person on the bike. He too looks at Piyush’s bike. They look at the hotel board and then they look at each other. It’s the moment I recognize them. It’s Rahul and Gaurav. Harshad’s roommates. The one whom I call Aditya Panscholi and the other who is always flabbergasted when I visit their room with beer. I am surprised to see them here at the moment. For a moment I have an instinct to wave out to them. I am about to raise my hand and something stops me. I see them looking at Piyush’s bike particularly out of the entire lot. And they don’t seem to be surprised by it. They look as if they are probing into something. Like cops investigate a murder. Staring at some evidence. Taking close looks at it. Discussing something amongst themselves. Something strikes me hard.
“Behenchoad!” I say to myself in revelation. Bastards are following me! Bloody shit! Damn the arseholes. They are following me.
“Shitholes” I blurt in a hearable tone.
“What happened?” Shamita asks me.
I take a long pause as if to say something and I say “Nothing!”
I look out of the window again. They settle down on their bike near the exit of the restaurant. Below the tree where the exit meets the Highway.
“What are you thinking then?” She asks.
“I am thinking of having one more tea…” I want to spend some more time here. I don’t want to leave as long as they are there. That will give them a clear opportunity to follow me. I stretch out in my seat.
“Are you in a hurry?” I ask Shamita.
“Not as long as I am not late” She says.
“We’ve left early…you won’t be late.” I reply confidently.
“Then have another tea…”
I ask the waiter to get me another tea. My eyes are still on them. They are smoking a cigarette. They stare at the hotel board time and again and discuss something amongst themselves.
My tea arrives. Shamita keeps talking. I keep humming and nodding. She actually doesn’t need me as an audience. She is talking to herself. Telling herself how things are, were and will be. I don’t really care about them. And she doesn’t really care if I am listening or not.
Another tea arrives. I sip it idly. Trying hard to stretch the passage of time. And they don’t seem to budge.
I am done with my tea. Having another one would look stupid. It’s funny that humans even in their moments of distress care about how they present themselves. Or maybe it is an attempt to show that everything is normal.
I think of a way to extend the stay in the place. As I fondle with this thought, the waiter comes with the check. Sometimes people read your mind. And Ticket Checkers and Waiters top the list. They rightly know what you are thinking and they know when to assault. We should consider their consultation while planning our distant strategies. But the problem is that they would have to serve them before. However, that does not take away the honor of sending them as spies into our enemy territories.
I pay the bill. Leaving the place becomes inevitable. I keep thinking of ways to keep us within these walls. I find a strong one.
“Do you need to go to the loo?...go now if you want to…we won’t be stopping anywhere on the road now ” I tell Shamita. There was the idea.
“Yeah re….I will go and come back quickly!” she assures me. I don’t need it.
“Take your time” I say.
She rushes into the loo. I take a position behind the gate to keep an eye on them. They keep sitting there. Shamita doesn’t come back from the loo.
They smoke two cigarettes each. One after another. Then they share a cigarette amongst them. Maybe the last one they had. They finish it. They throw away the box and prepare to leave. They both look at the board of the hotel, say something and nod. Gaurav starts the motorcycle and they leave. I keep looking in their direction to assure that they won’t return. They don’t.
I feel relieved. I have a strong urge to go to the loo. I wait for Shamita to come out. She doesn’t. It becomes difficult for me to control the outburst of my bladders. I drop her a message on her phone and leave for the loo.
As I pee, a thought encircles in my mind. What if Shamita stands there alone and they return with a new pack of cigarettes. What if they see her. I pressurize my entire urinary system to finish the task faster and rush back to the point where we separated. Shamita isn’t there still. I wait for some time. I have a crazy thought of her being abducted by them. I call her up. She doesn’t pick up. Instead her stupid caller tune keeps going on in a loop. I keep trying. She picks up the 287657896th call. And all she says before cutting it again is “Coming baba coming!...one sec!”
And she comes.
I am taken aback. Shamita is different now. Her top and denims have transformed into a yellow Punjabi suit. Her earrings have changed to yellow hanging stones. Yellow bangles congregate in neat lines on the wrist and a yellow ring on her finger. I wonder how her bag didn’t transform into yellow. He walks up to me.
“What’s this?...yellow metamorphosis?” I ask.
“He likes to see me in yellow!”
My face broadens into a smile. I make it appear like an appreciation. I am actually finding it ludicrous. I smile in appreciation of the effort.
“Sorry….I took a bit of time…but you know…I want to surprise him!!!”
Yes! Yellow will surprise him. In fact it will surprise anybody.
And I do forgive you for the time taken. You saved us from spies. But they won’t be able to forgive you. Because they finished an entire box of cigarettes because of you. And they were prone to have nicotine lungs because of you.
We walk back to our bike. I start it. As I turn it towards the road, the board of the hotel catches my eye. I connect with the minds of the spies. The last line was an epitome of doubtraisers.
The board says:
Hotel Rajat Kaksha
Lodging & Boarding