By Piyush Roy
Part 6 / Series 1
Rahul had been as direct and politely curt as permissible. He didn’t want a scene in the library; the fluctuating decibel of their whispers behind the racks had already thrice attracted the librarian’s reprimand. This time, he came over and asked them to leave immediately. As Tammy left in a huff, Rahul continued working on his notes amidst curious glares, making a simultaneous mental jotting on taking her out that coming weekend. It would also mark the completion of their third successful project in a row, together.
Their combined efforts paid a rich dividend, but a richer appreciation for the face of that painstaking research. Tammy just stopped short of walking away. She stood by Rahul, like a detached mantle doing nothing else, thus compelling him to do all the talking after her grudging introduction. He also faced the questions, some irrational and even vicious like Pam’s aimed directly at downing his confidence levels, with canny aplomb. Rahul proved that when egged to seriousness, he could actually emerge the best on his own. There was definitely more to the playboy; he too after all was in the institute, also to make a career. The ego clashes apart he personally turned up at Tammy’s home in the evening, even waiting for an hour as she got ready taking her own vengeful sweet time. He kept his promise, as they joined us all at the disc’s entry trifle late, for the same outing for which Anisha’s invitation had seen me tag along too. The evening had started with me positioned as Anisha’s escort for the night, though the unfolding action held a different tale in its malicious kitty.
Tammy’s discomfort with the company was palpable right from the beginning. An overtly friendly Anisha, the architect of the whole programme, wasn’t any elevating either. Tammy did a few routine jigs with Rahul on the dance floor, with signature disdain that made her every move seem laboured, tired and artificial. Eventually she withdrew herself from the “drink influenced aerobics tuned to some rocking mumbo jumbo,” to come back and sit by me, the only known face that wasn’t on the dance floor. Taking to the bottle from the word go, Rahul was already on a high, or else why would he keep insisting on dragging me, of all the accompanying beautiful people, to the dance floor. I had never experienced that warmth or miss-you buddyship from him ever before, at least not when in his senses, within or outside the class. Anisha eased my apparent discomfort, by stealing him back to the scene of action, with a gentle tap and a come over invitation, that he tagged on to like a ‘dog-on-heat’. Not my words, but Tammy’s who turned to me and said, “And there he goes like a dog-on heat,” gulping down another Tequila shot, before suddenly turning too stoic, for comfort.
Meanwhile, few pegs down Rahul, threw a caution to the winds and began painting the dance floor wild with Anisha. Because while Anisha, a born chameleon had modified her tastes to the trappings of contemporary life, Tammy still diligently honed that typical middle-class hangover in her attitude and outlook towards life. That was something that prevented her from going there – but not all out.
‘Di di da da,’ sounded that familiar call to the rising ‘Saturday night’ fever, as the stormy duo got sizzling to the glares of a jealous Tammy. Spitting fire, as her eyes glowed in that extra shine of the rotating disc lights, I queried with a mock surprise, “You don’t dance?”
“I don’t feel like…,” she continued muttering a lethal ‘Rahul’s going to pay very dearly for this,’ to herself.
“Pardon me,” I interrupted.
“Oh, just shut up, Avi.” I kept quiet.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean it that way, but you see I am bored to death.”
“Me too… by the way your presentation today was really great, for once I really regretted my luck for not being your teammate.”
“You seem to have mastered the art of how to make a conversation seriously boring. Moreover, I hardly spoke, it was Rahul’s show all the way.”
“His capabilities are not unknown to anyone…” I left the comment dangling midway for her to gloat in that belated appreciation.”
“Yes, behind every successful man there is a woman, who goes unnoticed, unheard and unappreciated.”
“So, you seem to be on a sacrificing mode…”, I had started opining, when she rudely interrupted, “Sacrifice my foot! For that unscrupulous flirt!”
Rahul and Anisha had just finished a whirl to the cheers of their swaying audience. As the others in our group continued the clapping, except me, Tammy too gave a politically correct mock clap, raising a toast their way, which went unacknowledged. Shaking, jostling, touching, holding, the blithe duo continued uplifting their dance to a magical experience that perhaps had to be seen to be believed. They looked good, happy and inviting. Only a dogged determination could stop one from being a part of that infectious frenzy or perhaps few inhibitive fears of a slip, as in my case. Could I match those steps, and if not, would I be laughed at?
Dancing in public, this way would be a first time endeavour for me, I revealed to myself, suddenly realising how I had skipped experiencing those abundant joys of naughty elasticity my body had been born equipped with. How come I had never done that before in those numerous marriage processions my family attended, in those boisterous school functions celebrating the little intra-school victories, during those restrained giveaways with my nine to five college buddies or just like that in moods of pure lonesome ecstasy, anytime ever. Not one of those born with the nimble foot, I consoled myself with a, ‘Well I too have USPs, exclusive to me. If dance wasn’t one of them, so what? Tammy too wasn’t into that prancing juggling either,’ I explained to myself drawing consolation in her aloof company.
The writer, a national film award winning critic, has authored three published works of fiction and non-fiction.