It was eight in the morning and the skies had opened up. I sat looking at the newspaper in my hand and the little water droplets forming and rolling down the window pane, when suddenly I realised that I had written a string of words and they were sitting there on the screen watching me.
I stared at them, examining them and my own feelings at seeing them. I read them again. I got the distinct impression they were smirking.
It wasn’t quite what Kunal had wanted to say, so he was surprised that he had just said it. He watched her face and he fancied he saw her lips curl, an almost imperceptible tremor at the right upper corner.
He leaned back and ran his hands through his hair.
“Kunal, have you ever considered the fact that you may be an idiot?” Reena said.
“It’s probable. One can never rule out anything that hasn’t been tested and proved one way or the other. It’s what I used to do at work, remember? Write down hypotheses and create experiments to prove or disprove them. Things like ‘We believe that good control definitions are directly responsible for quality of the delivered product.’ And then, I would settle down to create surveys, build a couple of prototypes, a test bed, then get down to the real thing that every one actually wanted – a 110 slide Powerpoint deck to convince upper strata of executives that they were justified in their whims.”
“Oh god, Kunal, can we please not go off into a rant about Powerpoint?”
“You don’t get it, Reena. It’s not poor Powerpoint I have an issue with. It’s the executives. They’re weak, indecisive little children needing safety blankets to gather the courage to do the simplest things, like making the decision to eat, drink or take a leak.”
Reena drained the last inch of the claret from her glass. She placed the glass on the table and Kunal refilled it and topped up his own.
He said, “Ok, look. I don’t think I am particularly clever. I do watch and learn and observe and try and work things out. It works, after a fashion and it’s kept me going so far. Could I do better? Sure. Everyone can.”
Reena eyed him over her glass and said, “I agree. You’re not very clever.”
“Yes. As I said, you’re an idiot.”
Kunal finished off his wine in one swallow and got up.
“Excuse me. I have to go now.”
She watched him go. He turned at the door and waved at her and left. She sipped her wine and waited.
There was the sound of the key in the latch and the door opened.
“I forgot this was my house”, Kunal said.
“So we can conclude that the hypothesis that you’re an idiot can be upgraded to a fully tested Theory, then, right?”, said Reena.
“What would you like for dinner? Thai takeout? Chinese takeout? Indian takeout? Lebanese takeout? Have you ever wondered that nobody does pasta takeout? Unless, of course, we consider that pasta is actually a bastardized version of noodles that Marco Polo brought back.”
“I ordered kebabs, three types, from that new Turkish place.
“I love that food! And you, of course, I mean, that goes without saying, right? You know that!”
“All I know is that you’re an idiot, but, I guess you’re my idiot.”
“On that note, consider who’s a bigger idiot. The idiot, or the lady who married the idiot?”
The doorbell rang. He answered the door and came back with a bag of food.
Sunshine flooded the street. Reena parked the car and walked down to the Cafe Delice. She waved at Sujata, who was dressed in a pink floral dress with spaghetti straps, matching pink shoes and a matching pink handbag with a gold chainlink shoulder strap. Sunglasses with iridiscent blue lenses were perched on her head.
After the usual hugs and air kisses were exchanged, and coffees and croissants ordered, Sujata siad “It’s a lovely day to be sitting out. I was quite annoyed last night.”
“Why? You’d gone for dinner and the play, right? So what annoyed you? The dinner, the play or Ramesh?”
“He is really the most frustrating man! The dinner was ok. He complained throughout that he hated pasta.”
“So why did you go to an Italian restaurant?”
“It’s rated so highly! All the stars go there!”
“Do you like pasta?”
“It’s ok. But that’s not the point. This place has the best reviews and is endorsed by so many famous people. Why should I not choose to go there?”
Reena stopped, with an effort, her eyes from rolling, her eyebrows from twitching and the deep sigh that threatened to escape. She picked up her bag and rifled through it as is searching for something.
“Well, tell me about the play! How was it? I’d heard mixed reviews.”
“Oh, it was a romantic comedy they said. It was good in bits, a few smart dialogues. Enjoyable in parts. It doesn’t have anybody famous who has reviewed it yet, so I don’t know.”
“Ok, tell me something. Did you like it? Forget about the celebrity endorsements. What about you, Sujata, the person who was top of her class in English, what do you think?”
“I think it was clever. It had a sort of an open ending and I liked that. But you know, it’s been running for a while, there’s no buzz, it just somehow keeps running. I’m not sure how it does and why nobody important talks about it.”
“Do you believe it needs a celebrity endorsement? You’re a celebrity yourself. You frequently show up in magazines inaugurating art galleries or fashion boutiques. You could endorse it.”
“Oh, I don’t know.”
Reena looked up as a shadow fell over the table. She looked up to see the middle-aged, greying figure of Vijay standing there.
“Oh hi, Vijay, we were just talking about you! Sit down and have a coffee with us! This is Sujata, a bit of a fan of yours. She was just telling me about the play. She saw it last night. I told her I was at university with you and so we set this meeting up. So there we are. Sujata, this is the guy who wrote the play. Now you can tell him what you thought and Vijay, you can get at least some feedback from a member of the audience.”
Vijay said, “Oh, thank you for coming, Sujata. I hope you enjoyed your evening.”
He pulled up a chair and sat down.
Reena said, “She was just telling me about her evening. It seems it went off as expected, if not better, right, Sujata?”
“Yes. It was good. I… quite liked it”, said Sujata.
Vijay grinned at her and said “Well, I’m delighted you liked it. I’ve seen you in the media. You’re very popular.”
“Thank you, I do get invited to a few openings and things. I run a boutique of my own and have many famous clients, from here and other parts of the world. It does quite well. Your story was a good story. I think some of the dialogues were really funny and thought provoking. Have you considered making it into a movie.”
“Thank you! You’re as charming as you look. To answer your question, no, I’m still trying to get people to see it for what it is, on stage, where it belongs.”
Reena broke in, “Hey look at the time, I’m supposed to meet Kunal at 2. I gotta rush and anyway, the idea was to introduce you to each other. Bye guys, talk later!”
Sujata and Vijay sat there talking.
Six months later, Vijay’s play was running to packed halls. Sujata’s appearances in the media included Vijay by her side, smiling, looking quite debonair in carefully trimmed beard and moustache and beautifully fitted suits.
Reena and Kunal were having breakfast. Kunal was rifling through the magazine.
He said, “Have you noticed a change in the way Vijay looks these days?”
“Eh, what?” said Reena.
“Hang on, I have to test this hypothesis out. Be right back.”
He was back ten minutes later.
“I was right. Look at these back issues. You see?”
“No, what am I looking at?”
“See his expression. See here this is shortly after they got together. See his smile is wide, his shoulders relaxed. Now look at this latest one. He’s not smiling, his body language is one of tension. Now if you look at these in sequence. Hang on I need a pair of scissors.”
Fifteen minutes later, he had a line of twelve photos cut from magazine, all of them dated, laid out in chronological order.
“Kunal, I see the pattern. I’m not sure what that means, if it means anything”, said Reena.
“It may not mean anything. Maybe, the first flush of romance is wearing off. But I definitely see a lot of tension. How well did you know him in college?”
“We were aware of each other’s existence. He wasn’t really a member of any of the little gangs we had there. Just kind of hung out at the periphery. Of course, we spoke a few times and ended up at the same parties. I’m making bhindi for lunch. It’s Saturday, so we can watch a movie after?”
“Oh yay! So you didn’t know him that well. I was hoping you had some background on him.”
Lunch done, they settled down and turned the TV on. The headlines came on.
BREAKING NEWS: Fashion icon and playwright found dead!
The news reporter with the mic was talking fast. “Police are investigating. At this point very little is known. Sujata is, as we know, a well-respected couturier, her boutique has dressed some of the most famous people here and abroad. Vijay’s play has been a major success in theatre circles and a movie deal was being discussed. There are unconfirmed rumours that this is a case of murder and suicide. The fashion and theatre world have both lost two amazing talents.”
Reena turned to Kunal and said, “You’re an idiot, but quite an intelligent one.”
“I won’t smirk or act smug. I will crack open a beer. You want one?”
He came back with a beer in each hand and handed one to her. He settled back into his chair, cracked open the can and took a swig.
“The question”, he said, staring straight out in front of him, “is – who shot whom?”
Reena threw her head back and sighed.
“Can we just watch a movie please?”
Kunal said, “Sure. But the question remains. Will we ever find out?”
I read and read that through a few times. I updated all the categories, tags and SEO settings and read it again. I checked the prompt again. It said “It was eight in the morning and the skies had opened up. I sat looking at the newspaper in my hand and the little water droplets forming and rolling down the window pane, when suddenly …”
I checked the preview, gave up thinking and hit Publish.
Now it’s your turn to do something or the other….