More Coffee? No thanks. Chapter 3.


There are two kinds of men in the world – those who know that they don’t know what is on a girl’s mind, and those who don’t know that they don’t know. On the other hand, there are two types of women in the world – those who are quietly satisfied about the fact that men know nothing about them, and those who get increasingly frustrated about the fact that men know nothing about them. I had my feet firmly planted in the first category of men, while Reva quite clearly belonged to the second category of women. So, it wouldn’t have taken an overpriced psychologist to predict that Reva and myself were never really on the same wavelength. Ever.

Priya was busy bestowing upon Gopal the customary hair rubs, cheek pulls and shin kicks. It took a little over a couple of minutes for the duo to realize me and Reva were subjecting each other to the blink-and-you-die look. Ok, more precisely, she was subjecting me to the look while I pretended to find the activities of a passing porter extremely fascinating. Priya stared at the two of us for a minute. “Wait, you two know each other?”

“I wish I could say that I didn’t” came the instant reply from her traveling companion.

Gopal obviously found the situation rather amusing. I silently wished he would stop gawking and come to the aid of his cousin in need. Instead, he walked quietly around the three of us, like a vulture circling a hapless victim. And hapless indeed I was.

Priya was paying no attention to the vulture-esque behavior of Gopal or the porter, who I must point out was balancing four inconveniently large suitcases on his head. If it weren’t for the immediate situation on hand, I might have taken a moment off to applaud his feat. Priya’s voice, however, snapped my senses back to more pressing matters.

“Oi. What do you mean you know each other? And even if you did, Reva, why are you glaring at him like he is an insect stuck in a bowl of pongal?”

I wanted to point out to her that it would be bowl of curd rice, not pongal, but Reva cut across my trail of thoughts. “Why don’t you ask him?”

She now had her arms crossed and, I could have sworn, hadn’t blinked from the moment she had stepped off the train. Merely looking into her eyes were making mine water. I wished she would at least take some time off to blink. All the staring was starting to make me feel uneasy. Instead, I had two more pairs of eyes focused on me, expecting an answer.

Anyone close to me would know, I am no good under pressure. Throw me into a gladiators’ arena facing a marauding fighter, assuring me that all will be well by the end of the day, I might actually put up a fight. However, send me in with no such words, and a thousand people watching my every move, and I couldn’t tackle a goldfish out of water. Reva was no less than a marauding fighter, and I had the vague feeling that every person on that train platform was beginning to take interest in our activities. A situation to rue, indeed.

A thousand well-prepared speeches vanished into an alternate dimension. All I could manage to get out was, “Oh, I know her from back in school.” I must have stammered in my statement, because Gopal emitted a sudden smirk and tried to hide behind Priya. Priya glared at her cousin who was now sweating in a steady trickle. With a move that might have made a ninja proud, she pulled out her other cousin from behind her and held him by the collar.

“From school?! That means you know too, Gopal! Will you fill me in or do you want me to smack you till you fill me in? This Hari is more useless than I thought.” I wished she wouldn’t dismiss me like that.

Gopal on the other hand, was grinning from ear to ear. “Priya, you don’t remember? Reva is the girl Hari hit on back in school.”

“Balls.” she replied. “If we took all the girls Hari has ever hit on and lay them down end to end, they’d stretch all the way from here to Chennai and back. How am I supposed to remember all of them? I bet Reva is one of those who gave him the finger.”

“The finger?”

“The middle one.”

“Oh.”

“Anyway, I’m glad you didn’t fall for this dork, Reva. Hari, you should just make the earth swallow you whole.” I told her I was trying to get the earth to do just that. “Well you aren’t trying hard enough.” came the reply. “Now that we have to put up with your presence, why don’t you make yourself useful and carry our baggage?”

There is not much that is scarier than a Priya on a rampage, so I meekly picked up Reva’s suitcase while Gopal lent his hand with Priya’s bag. “Are you smuggling lead into Trichy?” he asked, as he struggled to hoist it over his shoulder. He got a prompt kick in the shin.

The ride back home was largely uneventful. Priya had to act mediator between me and Reva as the latter refused to talk to me directly. Between the abuses that Priya hurled at me, I gathered that Reva was here to visit the temple as well as contribute to an NGO she was part of. She would also make it a point to attend the naming ceremony, of course, now that she was here. Priya complained aloud about the train journey and how she hated sleeping on the rock-hard berths. When the discussion turned to Gopal, he provided an update on his own business and also the fledging dog-breeding that his father was undertaking.

For an inkling of a moment, I considered telling him about where his father was planning to do business over the next couple of days, but I thought it would be best not to say it aloud in the presence of company. How bad a mistake it was. Over the course of the next couple of days, I was to realize, life would have been so much simpler had I not faltered at that moment.

Gopal dropped us to my grandparents place and stifling a yawn assured us that he would pop in, first thing in the morning. Aunt Sreeja greeted them with all the enthusiasm one could wish for before handing them the customary filter coffee. I grabbed a seat halfway across the room from Reva in order to avoid any more unwelcome conversations. However, my joy was short-lived as Priya called me over to where the duo were sitting. “

What da? What have you planned for tomorrow?” she asked, as I cautiously walked over, sipping on the steaming hot coffee.

“Nothing much, I thought I’d pay a visit to the temple in the morning with Gopal. Then maybe head to Saravana Bhavan for some breakfast. It has been far too long since I’ve had a Ghee Rava Roast. What about you guys? You want to tag along?”

“Oh, no. We have to campaign for our NGO. So we are heading to the center of town, first thing in the morning. Gopal has promised to drop us there.”

“You are part of the NGO too? And what do you mean campaigning?”

“Of course, dumbass. Where do you think me and Reva met?”

“Ah I see. So, what’s this campaign all about?”

Surprisingly, Reva chose to respond to that.

“We are having a competition between NGOs to see who can raise most funds for their cause in a month. The winning NGO gets sizable funding from the Tamil Nadu Government for two whole years. And of course it’s representatives get to meet the Chief Minister to promote their cause.”

“Wow. Sounds like a big deal.”

“It is.”

Priya was the first to finish her coffee. “It is actually a two horse race. Between us and this other NGO called Sakti. And the cut-off date is in three days. We are leading comfortably, of course. Me and Reva are here for some last minute campaigning. Just to make sure we win.”

“Fair enough.”

With that and a kind word wishing them all the best, I lapped up the last few drops of coffee and retired to my bedroom. I wouldn’t say I was having a sound sleep – I was having a dream that I was being chased through a medieval forest by a dragon. It’s facial features seemed to resemble those of Cleo’s. What seemed like mere moments later, I was awoken by a hissing noise. I woke up with a start, half expecting a fire-breating Cleo by my bedside. Instead, it turned out to be my cousin, who looked quite capable of breathing fire herself.

“A little late to exchange pleasantries, don’t you think? What time is it?” I tried to locate my mobile phone to check what unearthly hour it was, but in vain.

“How does it matter, smartass?” breathed the cousin. “You have to help me out.”

“Oh but of course, how may I be of service?”

“You need to lend me money. And if you don’t stop talking like an English prick, I’ll pawn your organs for the cash I need.”

“Whoah, easy there. How much do you need?”

“A couple would do nicely.”

“Thousand?”

“Lakhs, you cheapshot!”

I was reclining on my bed throughout the conversation thus far, but her last statement made me sit bolt upright.

“What? What in the name of Merlin do you need it for?”

“Those bastards at Sakti managed to gather 5 lakhs out of nowhere. Now we need 2 lakhs just to catch up with them.”

“Why are you asking me then?”

“Because you need to help out a person of kin and blood. Consider it an act of charity. I won’t pay you back of course.”

“I don’t even have that cash! My clerk called me up a week back to tell me I have nothing but buttons left in my bank account.”

“Don’t you understand?! You HAVE to help me out here!”

“Cousin, I wish I could, but I can’t. Now, if you would leave me alone to sleep, I will be eternally grateful. I’ll help you think of something in the morning.”

She conveyed her displeasure clearly via a raised finger, the middle one, and then stormed as noiselessly as she could back to her bedroom down the hallway. I, in turn, returned to dreaming about being chased by dog-headed dragons. What vile person would breed these, I wondered. But, the intentions of those persons were are pure as honey and roses when compared to what my cousin was plotting while she lay awake in her bedroom.

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1 Comment

  1. Laughed hard at the first two lines of this chapter. So true! Can’t wait for the coming chapters. Characters look oddly similar 😛

    Reply

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