It might have surprised her that she almost dropped the pen allowing it to roll in her little black dairy where she’s always scribbling something or the other.
“Are you talking to me?” She asks and I make an effort to not roll my eyes. She notices my predicament and gives a small smile.
“Too many jokes flooding in there” she says tapping the side of her head “Isn’t it?”
I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I did smile at her now as I take a seat beside her.
Samanvitha Bhargava and I weren’t friends in true sense of word. In fact she and I weren’t meant to be even acquaintances. Our circumstances almost put us in the roles of antagonists, almost but if there was one thing common between us it is that we both toe our lines just for the heck of it.
Samanvitha moved to Delhi with her parents when she was all but ten. It was a tricky age. She wasn’t too young to blend in with other kids, not too old to be wary to not try and be friends.
She assumed that she would be welcome. That assumption got her to come along with her mom to our home on Kunal’s birthday.
Kunal, my little brother was roughly her age and hence both the moms assumed they will be friends. It was a bad assumption on their part.
I still remember the little scene my brother created on his birthday when he was sitting with his friends and studied Samanvitha Bhargava’s eccentric dress up. The little bindi on her forehead caused distaste and scorn as Kunal and his friends regarded her dusky form.
“What’s your name?”
Kunal looked troubled at the complexity of the name and didn’t want to be weak by showing he couldn’t pronounce it without stuttering over it.
“South Indian” somebody mumbled and giggled and Kunal got back some of his confidence.
“You’re Sambhar” he said laughing with delight and his friends joined in.
“Sambhar” he repeated pointing a finger at her as the kids laughed at her.
I stood quite afar and was walking by to quieten the bullies half expecting the little girl to start crying. Only that she hadn’t.
“You sir, are a stereotypical dog” she said and walked away with her head held high and it took me all my resolve to not burst out laughing.
Kunal burst out into tears for being called names by a strange girl on his birthday, and that too the names he didn’t quite understand. So I couldn’t go behind her and give her a much deserved pat on the back. Instead I had to deal with my brother.
She lived two blocks away and went to the same school as I. She was also friends with my best friend James’s sister Lara so I saw her more often than expected.
Seven years to that incident and nothing much changed.
Samanvitha never tried being friends with Kunal or his friends again and those kids were open about showing their distaste. Kunal however had more reasons to dislike her. He got a “I’ll kick your ass if you hurt her” speech by Samanvitha when Kunal started dating Lara.
If Kunal knew anything about her, he knew she stood by her word.
Though he wouldn’t admit it, Kunal does respect her for being there for Lara.
While her relationship with Kunal is twisted, she and I’ve a different set of dynamics altogether.
From when she was young, Samanvitha or Sam as she was called now; was a genius. Nobody ever saw her without a book. It might be a text book, a novel or even her black diary she was now carrying. Naturally she was a part of quizzing club.
Our little band in school wrote many nerdy songs and played at least one as a toast to the nerds who had let us use their club to practice when the music room was going through a renovation. Surprisingly or not, our band and the quizzers got along famously and they attended all of our gigs which also meant it became a tradition of sort to see Samanvitha at every gig, sipping her orange punch, mouthing the lyrics of the song along. She doesn’t know I notice her do that on every performance and I let it be that way.
As I sit next to her in the love seat in the waiting room of a beauty parlour, where she was waiting for Lara, and I, reluctantly waiting for my little sister Roshni, leaning back against the wall, my eyes slip back to her diary and a smile crack up on my lips.
She shut her book with a bang as she looked at me with her dark eyes, slightly narrowed. The ease in her was replaced with defensiveness. Her bronze skin glowed, her eyes highlighted with Kohl looked bigger and darker, her wavy curls cascaded on her shoulders, she looked like a fantasy.
“Of all the things I know about you, you being a voyeurist is a news”
“Romance and voyeurism are different for your informarion” she said in a clipped tone and I looked even more surprised and did nothing to hide my laugh.
“You could’ve told me you’re a murderer. You and a writer of romance? What’s wrong with the world!”
She narrowed her eyes further and stood up. In a move surprising us both, I catch hold of her wrist and pull her back next to me. She was taller than most girls at 5’8″ but she was still tiny before my 6’2″ and maybe that’s why, I tell myself, maybe because she’s lightly build I feel sort of protective. Not that I’m going to tell her that ever.
“Sit down” I say and though she shows her displeasure she obliges and sits down crossing her legs over her knee, her arms crossed across her chest with her little diary tucked against her.
“What” she sounds almost defensive and I grin.
“Your journal li’l voyuerist. What did you think?” I raise an eyebrow.
“Over my dead body” she says ignoring the latter part altogether.
I grin at her and let her off the hook, or at least pretend to.
“So how’s it going”
She shrugged. “Same old”
“Not into dating scene yet?”
“Wow Mr. Superstar talking to me about my non-existent love life. Why, you’re trying to set me up?”
“Better. I’m going to ask you out on our farewell prom”
She looked at me as if I’m being ridiculous. Some how my heart started to beat fast at her reply. Even though I was used to her flippant way of answering, for once I wished she wouldn’t do that, for I could take rejection but not if abhorrence to the mere idea of going out with me.
“As if you can take juniors” she said rolling her eyes.”
I left a breath I never thought I was holding in.
“You can” I said laconically.
“Then why has your darling brother not asked Lara yet” she said fisting her hands. “Do I need to be concerned?” She said tilting her head and I didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or kill myself.
“I was browsing through books the other day and one such book reminded me of you”
“Really? What’s it?”
“Seven ways of not being daft”
She narrowed her eyes at me. “Very funny”
“You think Lara and Roshni had a divine force tell him to get a make over the same day?”
She looked surprised for a moment and then smiled. “Oh” she said, part relieved and part embarrassed. “So it’s the prom thing that got the parlour busy? Good for their business” she said and if it was somebody else but me, she would’ve gone back to writing whatever she were. But since it was me, she just fondly touched her diary but said nothing else.
“Do you want to bet how long would Lara and Kunal last?” I asked and she looked at me in that look of part surprise and part abhorrence.
“You’re such a devil” she said “Two years tops” she added as an afterthought.
Her family and mine got along well despite of the kids having a twisted relationship. Hence, we are used to sit next to each other at every wedding, we attended, at every function, like two awkward strangers. At one such meeting, I was too drunk to be polite and asked her if she would wager who would embarass themselves in the dance floor the most. In a shocking response, she simply sipped her orange punch and pointed at Mrs. Aggarwal, the plump aunt from the groom’s side, while I had my bet on the girl’s younger cousin. Needless to say, Sam won and Mrs. Aggarwal’s famous step emanating Aishwarya Rai from Khajrare song had still been a fond and horrifying memory to most of the youth present there.
By now Samanvitha, in all probability had made a small fortune from all the bets she had won.
“Wow, just two years?” I asked surprised.
“Higher stake than usual. I bet quite the opposite” I told her to which she raised an arched brow.
“Sweet Jesus. Don’t tell me you think they’ll end up marrying”
“Might be. Who knows”
“Since when had Mr. Superstar started believing in young love staying strong?”
I shrug, and she looks at me for a second. If it were someone else, they would have bought up how I broke up right before my big break with our band performing outside the city, when I caught my girl friend in the arms of the then bass Guitarist. It’s been a couple of years, and although I haven’t dated anyone hence, I’m fine.
If it were someone else but Samanvitha sitting next to me, they would have placed their hand on mine, whispered how it was her loss, but it was Sam and in her usual way, she bumped her shoulders with me and asked if I want to read her recent story.
And thus, she let me read the story of boy meeting girl, but not a young love. She made the boy suffer, goddamn much, and the girl, well she suffered too and honestly if I were in a situation of either of them, I would have killed myself.
“What’s with you and torturing people”
“Just” she shrugged.
“Will they end up together”
“Aw romantic mush, you’re concerned about happily ever after?” She says pulling my cheek to which I narrow my eyes at her.
“There got to be a ray of hope in life”
She shrugged. “Ray of hope is bullshit Parth. There are people who dwindle away all their life waiting for a miracle, waiting for that ray of hope and sometimes it never comes. If I ever believe in that ray of hope or if I see a miracle happen to anyone around me, I’ll give these poor couple a happy ending”
“Cynical much” I tell her although I take her in my arms in a side hug.
“Let’s make a wager. The father of all wagers. In Lara and Kunal’s wedding when I put all my commitments aside and come play the band, you and I will sit next to each other making a wager again and if that happens, you give the couple you wrote a happy ending”
“Okay, what’s the wager” she asks.
I grin “I don’t know, just a dance. You’d dance with me that day”
She laughs throwing her head back.
“That’s it?” She asks laughing. “That I would give you anyday, why a bet?”
“Anyday? So you would come to me with prom if I ask and dance with me?”
“D’uh, yeah” she says rolling her eyes.
“Good. Eight’o clock, Saturday night. I’ll pick you up” I say, and when she was looking at me still surprised, I press my two fingers to my lips and touch her cheek.
And I leave her surprised form in the lobby as I see Roshni and Lara arrive talking to each other, as both I and Sam get ready to go back.
I turn back to look at Sam once I walk a few steps away, and although she looks in a busy conversation with Lara, she catches my eye and in a surprising gesture, smiles.
And as my heart skips a beat, I smile back even as I like a romantic mush, wonder ask myself “How long would this last?”
“Pretty long” I hear Roshni quip, and realise I asked that question aloud.