The Millennium Batch

By Piyush Roy

Part 4 / Series 1

“So, you are an American born?” questioned Anisha, as more of an already decided answer.
“Yeah, but then I did my schooling in India,” Manish replied, with a hint of hidden miss.
“Is your mother a phirang (foreigner), cause your dad seems to be very much desi (local). Just curious about this pink-ish complexion, of yours,” she quizzed on.
Manish blushed, turning a shade pinker, missing the apparent sarcasm.
“No… Actually, you see… Just like that…” he decided to postpone the answer in a shrug, for the moment.

Not many knew that Mr. Shah had adopted Manish, as his second son after the death of his younger brother’s American wife, and Manish’s mom, in a car accident, in the USA on the streets of Philadelphia. The sad demise had so surely shaken off the junior Shah, and Manish’s father, from home affairs, that he sought succor in work, immersing himself full time into ex¬tending the Shah pickle and restaurant business abroad. Naturally, Manish was flown back to India, where he grew up in an over-protected and extra-pampered environment at the elder Shah’s home, doted to moronic perfection. The motherless child soon became the apple of the elder Mrs. Shah’s eye, and even Manubhai spoiled him thereafter. Actually, calling Manish a moron would be unfair to him, though not a minor overstatement. He was all of that and yet, was also simultaneously perched on the brink of a delicate psychological balance that was desirable. Not to discount his sugary sweet manners, with a gullible intellect to boast. And definitely never to forget, his mastery with the guitar and a great singing voice. This was one guy who was to truly ‘grow’ through his experience at the B-School in rapid, visible leaps of personality evolution.

Anisha let go of him, though surprisingly too soon. Perhaps someone crazier had arrested her restless eye, me thought, surveying her every move from two tables afar. She seemed a pleasant mix of being bored to life and kicked to sleep. She eventually joined the last three benches of a near-vacant classroom and went off to sleep. Until Rahul walked in, with his trademark casual saunter, to pause and move his fingers through her unkempt cascades. Slowly, surely, steadily…

Left alone, Anisha had all the makings of a spoilt brat in her. But she never cared two hoots as to who thought what about her. Appearing a cosmetic beauty in casual perceiving; she surprisingly, hardly cared for any finesse in her personal dealings. Probably, she loved rattling others the wrong way. Probably, to repeat her favourite cliché, she literally did care ‘two hoots about all!’ But then why didn’t she ever come down her ivory tower or so-called circle of indifference to mix with ‘we,’ Adam’s country cousins.

Not that it bothered others in any way, but yes, it always prevented me from going beyond the casual hello whenever she crossed my way. I just couldn’t strike a conversation, and if I tried, the travails of the effort was writ large on the process. I don’t think she felt comfortable with me around, though she never let me feel the same. Still the heights of my hidden infatuation saw me join her gang for a trip to the neighbourhood disc, an adventurous option as alien to me as a cocktail is to a teetotaler.

It so happened that when Rahul proposed the idea, I too was around and Anisha, who was going through one of her regular bouts of enacting Miss Goodness Gracious, spilled over an invitation at my end. Under normal circumstances, I would have refused point-blank, because the whole company, Anisha et al, was alien to me, despite my surreptitious fixation. But then, I agreed, to Rahul’s utter inconvenience which splashed large in his disdainful confirmation of the same. Though he might have mentally showered me with the choicest expletives for daring to share the limelight in his perfectly crafted one-man outing with the girls, his fears of a rival attention-grabber though, were brought to naught by my non-cooperative, shy and inhibitive, small-town refrains to all the invitations for joining the gang on the dance floor.

So, while Rahul dazzled with the babes and Anisha, little wonder, I blew up a week’s pocket money in exchange of one of the most boring evenings of my life. And much to the chagrin of the company of me being with myself, I would have also been voted the perfect party foil, if Tamanna wouldn’t have saved my reputation by serving up, the perfect embarrassment for us all, through her tearful alcohol-influenced public tirade against Rahul.

Tamanna or Tammy, the precocious child, rather child-woman, hailed from a nouveau riche Muslim business family. The youngest to happen, after a good gap post three doting elder brothers, she also had an indulgent father, who prided in claiming that he had never ever,not fulfilled any of her demands, however farfetched they might have been! Her parents had made it big in their lifetime, an achievement Tamanna had always heard of, but never witnessed unlike her elder brothers. So, for her, life was all about fast friends and a faster lifestyle that started at the beauty parlour and ended with a party. But one thing was for sure; she was a severely independent girl with a strong and decisive mind of her own.

The writer, a national film award winning critic, has authored three published works of fiction and non-fiction. Website: www.piyushroy.com

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