“Shhhhh….What are you doing idiot? Do you wanna wake my mum & dad up?” Shruti whispered frantically as I struggled to get on a ledge near her balcony. “I’m 30 feet high in dark, hanging on a cold wall with this stupid bag…why don’t you do it next time?” I reverted back with a sarcastic smile. “Like I haven’t done it…remember Kojagiri? Huh? If it was not for this damn Mehendi. I would have done it twice by now. HURRY UP! Watchman kaka is coming this way. ” she growled in a syncopated whisper.
I climbed over the balcony and we hid beside the wide charcoal coloured sofa which was complementing the beige interior of the balcony. I was little perspired as watchman flashed his torch onto the balcony. “Don’t worry, it’s 2.30 am. He does that out of habit. He can’t see us” Shruti comforted me as she was scoping him through the surrounding ferns.
“You little psycho, fact that you know this, worries me a little,” I whispered as I scooted over to make room for her in our corner. She smiled teasingly at me and pinched my cheeks “Awww Batsy, Batsy, Batsy. You have nothing to fear. This is our spot. This is our night”. “Ummm Harley ki Bacchi, it hurts…let it go or you know my next move…” I said smiling devilishly. “You promised no tickling. OK, that’s not fair. I will wake up the whole colony,” she started giggling already. I shushed her with a wave and she hugged me. “I can’t believe you came. I was freaking out!” she said in a broken breath.
Chilly wind of December was teasing the violet flowers surrounding us. The dark night was warming up with warmed dimming lights on the wall. The silence around us was melodious with the symphony of crickets and harmony of our breaths. Finally, we were alone, away from hustles of the world in our own little dimension.
“Come on! We should sit inside. You are freezing! Wait! There is no one inside right? Manu? Friends? Minty or monkey...whats your nephew’s name?” I asked her cautiously. “Relax Dumbo! Not my first rodeo” she replied candidly “Manu is in her room backside. I told you my friends are in the hotel. And Monty is sleeping downstairs. Just don’t make noise we should be fine.”
She rolled those big doll-like eyes at me while she closed the door. She was rocking greyish white sleeveless top with ‘Vixen’ written on it in the wavy font like she was making the statement; which cross-matched perfectly with cherry red pyjama which was having white designs of little flowers all over. As she was turning and tying her hairs with her henna laced pinkish palms, I lost myself.
“Oye Hello! Are you fucking high? Or you are sleepy?” she snapped her fingers and continued while opening my bag pack, “Did you get corona as I asked you specifically? FUCK! Kingfisher seriously? Dude I told you specifically…Ugggh...F-U-C-K it yaaaaar. You ruined the plan. And what is this crap in your bag ...chips? Didn’t you have dinner? Don’t talk to me. Ok” She was furious.
“Shruti, I tried but corona was not available in this small ass town. I’m sorry. I will make it up next time”
“What next time? Tomorrow I’m getting married yaar. I’m stressed as hell. From morning to evening everybody was yapping around me. My head hurts with all the fucking rituals and my cheeks hurt with this smiling bride shit! First, you said you are not going to come, now this! You should have told me na…I would have asked my friend to bring…” she was ranting.
“I get it yaar…I’m Sorry ” I interjected apologetically.
“You don’t get shit! This marriage thing was a terrible idea. Everything is gonna change. It will be a disaster” She burst out with frustration. She sat down as a tear rolled down her cheek.
“Shruti, listen up hey…don’t be like this please.” I wiped that tear off her cheek and continued in a comforting tone, “I get it. Tomorrow is your big day…rituals…relatives…responsibilities can be overwhelming. I know you will be great because nobody knows you better than I do. I remember when you were a little girl in a yellow frock who used to steal flowers from my home even with a dog in the compound. I remember when you used to play cricket in all boys team. I remember when you teased Thakrey sir in 10th class. I remember how you helped me in meeting my first girlfriend…what was her name Saadhanaa? I remember my first beer with you after my break up. I remember how you handled your shitty relationships. You are strong, independent and beautiful you can handle everything, what life throws at you. Anybody will be lucky to have you in his life. Trust me! Now please stop crying otherwise I am not gonna give you your wedding gifts.”
“What gift?” her eyes sparkled like a lil girl in the kinder garden.
“Ok Close your eyes and no peeking. Otherwise, our friendship is over.” I ordered. She nodded like a kid.
I kept wrapped up present in her hand. And she smiled like rolling pearls on a rose bed. She tore the wrapping paper and looked at it. She smiled nostalgically and slowly the tears dropped onto the photo frame that I had given her. “You kept it?” she asked.
“It is our first picture together. Look at us kids, life was simple back then.” I sighed.
“But I remember I tore it up when we had that big fight. Remember? You had a problem with how Sanket was treating me.” She looked at me with confusion.
“I tracked down Sunil Uncle…that old photographer…I found the negative he had!” I smiled.
She hugged me tightly as I carefully kept the frame away.
“Promise me even after my marriage you will be there for me as a friend. Promise our friendship will never change.”
I was all choked up. There was a lot I wanted to say. Keeping it all in, I replied in heavy heart “Yes, Promise.”
“Hey, you forgot about your second present!” I tried to break the emotional tension in the room. “Again close your eyes…No peeking.” She obliged.
“Now open,” I said jovially. “JOINT….Yessss….” She was ecstatic “You rock…seriously…you are the best friend I have. Thank you so much.”
“Wait this is the last time. Ok? Take lite… you have to wake up early tomorrow. I’m gonna light it up now” I offered the joint to her. “Congratulations babe.” Finally, she was relaxed, we both were. We were beyond the limitations of space and time. She was enjoying herself, I was happy. I forgot about everything else. She was near me. Suddenly I felt like this is it. This night was all I had. I didn’t care about time, place, marriage or anything. I looked into those deep stars tucked away that nosy hair on her cheek behind her ear and I kissed her. She didn’t stop me. We were lost in each other.
While we were getting high we forgot the smoke from the room travelled across other rooms. And…
Before we realize what happened people gathered outside the room. And they pushed open the door as we tried to hide everything in the bag pack. It was Shruti’s sister Manu and her cousins. They were looking all confused and angry. Before I could say anything Manu asked “Jiju? What are you doing here?”
I was too high to formulate a valid reply, so I smiled at her and turned to Shruti, kissed her on the forehead and whispered in her ear “See you tomorrow Wifey!”