This is the second part of the saga, the first part of which ended with the young, innocent (and incredibly stupid) hero allowing himself to be persuaded to make a prank call at 5 in the morning.
The phone began to ring. I began to have second thoughts.
The little voices in my head whose wise counsel I had so often ignored began to whisper.
To digress for a bit; recent medical research indicates that alcohol injects a little bug into your brain. This bug – let us call him Idi Amin for want of a better name – is not happy to merely traipsy around nerve endings and leave you pleasantly high.
Instead, he speaks to your brain. Most of what he speaks may be twaddle, but the brain unfortunately listens to him – rather like the American electorate listens to George W Bush.
Idi Amin convinced me that the little voices were drunk and didn’t know what they were talking about.
And so I waited till a hoarse voice piped up at the other end.
‘Uh, hello, Lakshmi, er, how are you?’, said I, rather affably.
At this point, Gandhi slapped me on the side of my head, and spoke in a penetrating whisper.
‘Dai bastard! Druggies don’t say hello Lakshmi! How are you? Did you do the AI assignment?. Haven’t you watched Devdas, you prick?!’
‘No…Do you want me to sing or something?!’, I asked him exasperatedly, remembering that Shah Rukh Khan seemed to be doing a lot of that in the trailers.
Gandhi gave me one of his patronizing looks.
‘You SOB! Sob!’
I was befogged.
‘Uh?’, I said, perplexed. I could hear Lakshmi’s increasingly hoarse voice screaming down the other end.
‘I called you a son of a bitch, and asked you to sob as you speak – like so!’, said Gandhi, and gave a passable imitation of a pig’s mating call.
I would have, under normal circumstances, refused to behave like the Empress of Blandings. But Idi Amin had other ideas, and so I continued.
‘Lakshmi’, I said, with a sob that sounded a little better than Gandhi’s, ‘I’m dying for you. I am on dope as I pine for you!’
‘Aeey? Enna, dopeaa? Shiva shiva!’, she screamed, nearly busting my eardrum.
‘Yeah, da! My unrequited and unspoken love has driven me to that plant that was made by god (as Axl Rose once said)!’
‘Axleaaa, what are you saying?’
‘Oh let it pass!’, said I, impatiently, ‘The nub of the issue is I’ll soon be in rehab if I don’t express my undying love for you.’
At this point, Gandhi began to give a very accurate imitation of a swine barfing into his feeding trough. Looking at that, I sniggered.
Silence at the other end. The game was over, I thought, and was about to hang up in disgrace.
‘Siddhu, you are crying for me?’, said she, a mixture of pity (the kind that is generally reserved for stray dogs on the street, and chimps locked in cages) and condescension in her voice.
‘Y..yeah, that’s it!’, said I, and began to laugh uncontrollably.
‘Oh my god! I know I’m very attractive and all that, but you shouldn’t do drugs because of this!’
At this, the eggs, beans and crumpets who were listening in on the extension began to convulse in mirth.
She continued, blissfully unaware of a room full of drunk, laughing hyenas.
‘Listen, I’ll meet you at Qwikys in the afternoon. We have to talk this out! Bring money…’
‘Because you can’t haunt an establishment like Qwiky’s unless you pay! It’s not your Nayar tea kadai’, said she, in a stinging rebuke.
‘Doesn’t the Nayar tea kadai at the beach sound wonderful?’, I pleaded.
‘No, it doesn’t! Pick me up later – I can’t get my bike, petrol’s bloody expensive these days’, she said firmly, and hung up rather haughtily.
I cast a malevolent glance at Gandhi.
‘Fine mess you’ve got me into! Hope you enjoyed the show…’, I said.
Scathing sarcasm, yes, but the remark was meant to scald.
But Gandhi had all the sensitivity of a hippopotamus, and wouldn’t recognize sarcasm if it were served to him on a plate with watercress around it.
‘Oh yeah I did…’, said he, sounding sinfully cheerful.
‘And now what do I do?’, I asked him desperately.
‘Even to one of your intelligence, it should be clear! Go meet her…’
‘Who’ll pay for that? That place is run by daylight robbers!’
Gandhi waxed eloquent for the next fifteen minutes, and in conjunction with the Idi Amin in my brain, convinced me that continuing to pull the prank was a pippin of an idea.
Cut to: Qwikys
It was not with a song in my heart that I watched Lakshmi pick the most expensive items on the menu. I tried pointing out to her the dangers that Banana soufflé le ice cream la frenchie posed to the heart, the liver and the pocket, but all to no avail. Plugs for a nice, steaming cup of filter coffee met with the same fate.
She spoke first.
‘I understand what you’re going through. It’s happened to lots of boys before. They just can’t help it. I guess it’s just something about me…’, said she, a smirk playing on her face.
‘Your modesty, maybe?’, I said, trying hard not to smirk myself.
‘No…its not entirely about my personality da. I guess I’m physically attractive as well, naa?’, said she, and paused for a second.
I figured it was my cue to speak.
‘I guess that’s how the dope came about!’
‘Anyway, now I shall speak to you. So you can come off dope…’
I thought of suggesting that a bit more than speaking would help me get off it a lot quicker, but decided it was dashed injudicious.
‘Oh wow, you’ll actually SPEAK to me!’, said I, lacing each word with the sarcasm that stings, and trying to feign a look of delirious joy on my face.
‘Yeah I shall speak to you when I have nothing else to do. But try not to look like this. Oh, and don’t wear those yellow t-shirts of yours – they’re awful! Burn them if you can! And yeah, when you speak, you’ve got to stop that irritating habit of dabbing your nose and mouth with a handkerchief. And cut your toe nails – they’re hideous.’
I was flabbergasted. My toe nails were a product of love and affection. I had carefully allowed dust and mud to accumulate on them, so as not to interfere with its growth. It had taken me months of care to grow my big toe nail to the length of three whole inches. But I nodded in assent.
‘Okay, my birthday’s on the day after. Though I guess you would know that…’, she said, sounding so hoarse that I was reminded of that old Vicks jingle.
‘Oh yes, I do! I mark birthdays of people like Mahatma Gandhi, Pamela Anderson and yours in red ink on my calendar’.
She didn’t get the subtle barb, and continued, ‘So get me a present! Something nice, something furry would do. And yeah, some of us may go for a movie. You can come if you bring your car along.’
‘Yes,’, said I, too stunned to say anything else.
‘Okay, I’ve got to leave now. Drop me home’, commanded she, pleased at the thought that she’d spread so much happiness and light into my life.
Cut to: The next day
I espied Gandhi in class – asleep in the last bench as usual. I walked over to him. Machiavelli or not, I needed his advice.
‘Dai Gandhi! Big trouble, machcha!’, said I, running towards him.
Gandhi bestowed upon me a beatific smile, and tried to look as much like Mata Amritanandamayee as he could.
‘Don’t worry, my child… I shall work around it.’
I told him of the latest twist in the kahaani and asked him if it were time to reveal all.
Gandhi convinced me that getting her something for her birthday would be exactly the kind of thing that would lead to something he called ‘an inherent belief in the suppression of the male ego, which is the alpha female’s ultimate desire’ (whatever that meant!), and that all could be revealed after more fawning on her birthday.
‘What do you mean by all that ‘suppresion’ shit you said?’, I asked, puzzled.
They wouldn’t have let me in on those Princetonian mettings I was talking about either.
‘That means, my dear retarded imbecile, that she’ll think she’s got a sniveling, slimy, subservient, love-crazed little retard of an admirer. Which is what we want her thinking.’
I did not like Gandhi’s description of what I was supposed to be, but let it go.
‘We want her thinking that?’
‘Yes! The higher the mountain she is on, the greater the fall shall be – Newton’s second law or something’, Gandhi said pompously.
I highly doubted if Newton would ever have spoken of how to push women up on pedestals and also pull them down. I also had grave doubts as to whether a luminary like Newton would have anything at all to do with Gandhi’s ilk. I was about to state that when Gandhi spoke again.
‘And don’t worry about buying something expensive. You can get her one of those little twenty five buck teddy bears who look like gangsters from the hood.’
I walked away, pleased that things were going according to plan. The little voice in my head appeared to have forgotten all about the lurid past as I browsed a store for the cheapest (and ugliest) teddy bear I could find.
But it was with the faintest of suspicions that I drove toward her home on the fateful day…
To be continued…soon