I sighed, wondering to myself-just where did the time go?
The awkward silence loomed around us for a moment- none of us sure how to proceed with this conversation- until she asked me, “Sujoy, right? Your husband?”
“Yeah. Five years this December. What about you?”, I asked, pretentious.
That’s the thing, though. She knew who I’d married, she knew where I worked, which college I’d graduated from, and who I was and was not friends with- and she knew it damn too well. Even though we’d not spoken to one another, she knew. Why? Because I know her, damn too well. She’d have stalked and stalked me on all my social media- reading my funny statuses, browsing through the pages and pages of pictures of me pouting and laughing, therefore realising how AMAZING my life had been sans her, or at least I hoped she had. Because I certainly had.
Vikram Mainet, I answered my own question in my mind.
“Vikram”, she pointed to my far left, as I craned my neck to see him, and then gave her an appreciative nod.
“And you’ve been together since..?” I enquired.
“Well, we’ve been together since college. But, got married two years ago.” She answered, and went ahead to drink all the wine in her glass, all in one go.
I fiddled with my pallu, not sure what to say now. She proceeded to sigh and look at me waited for a response, “That’s great, Aari- uh, I, Aarti..”
Damn it, she’s not Aari anymore, I scolded myself. She didn’t seem too happy about this, but chose to ignore it anyway.
“How’s your Mom and Dad?”, I quickly added to cover up the obvious discomfort. She raised her eyebrows.
“Well. They both are doing well. Dad had his bypass last month, and you already know about Mom’s arthritis- well, doesn’t seem to stop her from doing whatever the hell she wants.”
I laugh, as she continued and asked me, “What about Kumar Uncle and Deepa Aunty? What have they been upto…Ma-li-ni?”
I comprehended the obvious stress on my name- and how wonderfully she’d worked its way in- and her smile turned smug.
My mouth widened into a tiny ‘O’, and smirking at her, I proceeded to answer, “They’re fine. No surgeries or ailments, thank goodness. But, you know how it is- they’ve gotten increasingly…well, annoying. Dad, especially- keeps criticising me for one reason or another!”
She laughed, “Same. Guess our parents can’t accept the fact that we’re grown ass women.”
“Amen.I’ll drink to that”, I sipped the remaining drink.
She laughed some more, ” Hey, you remember that..Amisha from school?”
“Amisha? Amisha…Roy? Your nemesis!” I marked, “How can I forget? The two of got into public word-offs, a wrestling match and numerous taunting sessions, if you will. Tall, played basketball? Didn’t she kiss Suresh Khanna at the Christmas Party, 2003?”
“Not just kissed,though, remember? She was drunk at the time, too!”
I nodded enthusiastically, ” Remember how red, Headmistress Khatri got? God! The woman already looked terrifying as is. Didn’t she cancel all school parties that year?”
“Yup! So, anyway, Amisha came up to the clinic last week for a…for a procedure, ” she bent forward to whisper it in my ear, as the bartender gave us a condescending look- and I burst out laughing,” expecting she’d be meeting my senior Dr Ratan. Little did she know, I had taken up half of his cases for the month! And, oh my god, Malu! The look on her face was priceless! She kept referring to me as ‘an old friend’ and whatnot! And get this, after we were done she looks me square in the eye and says, ‘I can sue you for violation of doctor- patient confidentiality, you know?'”
“Holy cow! Really?”, I exclaimed- the roaring of laughter so loud and clear, that the couples dancing about a feet away had begun to notice.
“Shhh.” I motioned to her, as she stuck her tongue out.
“Refill, ladies? “, bartender asked.
“Yes, please.” She and I said together, and grinned.
We sat in silence for a moment, before Aari patted my arm and said, “Doesn’t the bartender remind you of-”
I finished her sentence,” Gaurav Patnani? Yeah. That was the first thing I thought of when I saw him!”
She nodded and said in small voice, ” How do you think he’s doing?”
“I don’t know, I mean the last time I saw Meena, she told me his orientation is all messed up. He’s still alive, though. In the end isn’t that what really matters?”