One week, that was what they told me when they brought me here.
“Just wait for one week. Things will simmer down. Then you can go back,” I could still feel the grain of Shiv’s voice. He looked troubled. He did not want to let me know that he was troubled. But as I was more anxious than him I could read out what had been going on in his mind.
I knew the gravity of the situation. I knew what I had done. But I never thought things would come to this passé.
Ishaan and Alok were standing near the windows. Perhaps they were remembering some scenes from a detective thriller movie. Their bodies were tensed. Though we were just four people in the room and all of us knew each other well, Ishaan and Alok exchanged glances loaded with doubt and fear.
I found the whole situation quite funny despite the fact that my life was in danger. Looking at Ishaan and Alok, I felt now they would draw pistols from their imaginary holsters and would smash open the door before overpowering the invisible attackers waiting to pounce on me out there.
“I don’t think someone would find this place,” Ishaan whispered. Shiv nodded his head in affirmation.
I looked at Shiv. He looked absolutely different from Ishaan and Alok. They could easily pass for college drop outs or the kind of cool guys who hang out at music stores and coffee shops. Their stubbles were a few days old and both of them wore low waist jeans and check-shirts.
Shiv was different; different in every sense. Like any other software engineer in the city, Shiv also wore a blue shirt and a pair of black trousers. The IT guys generally wore highly polished pointed shoes and Shiv was not different. Only thing that made Shiv different from the stock of software engineers was his moustache, a handle bar one, which he sported as if he were revolting in his own fashion against the norms and customs of the industry he was enrolled in.
“Hey, look at that,” Alok called Ishaan over to the windows. Both of them leaned over the sill and looked down for quite some time. I too wanted to go and see what they were looking at. But then I thought it was not good to give more tensions to those young men who wanted to protect my life at any cost. I smiled at them. I could see their thighs tightening and biceps bulging.
I sat comfortably in the bean bag and looked around. I should be happy for the arrangement that Shiv had already made for me. He had done everything so meticulously. A lap top with an Aircel modem was already on. There were a lot of books in the shelves that ran along the walls. There were hardly any books that betrayed Shiv’s profession as a software engineer. Most of them were literary works of high merit and biographies. I could see a Picasso etching, a Campbell Soup print by Andy Warhol and a small Ravinder Reddy head in that spacious drawing room. The music collection was quite impressive.
“Your taste is excellent,” I told Shiv. Startled Ishaan and Alok turned their attention from park below and stared at me. I smiled at them. They went back to their vigilance. They were playing out their roles very well, I told myself. I really wished they had a pair of pistols with them and some background scores for effect, they would have then and there got my stalkers.
From the bean bag, I looked at Shiv who was standing a few paces away from me near the counter of the kitchen attached to the huge drawing room where I was sitting. I could see Shiv towering over me from that angle.
“This is a great pad man. I think, those guys have given me a much needed vacation,” I tried to joke with him.
Shiv returned a pale smile. Had Ishaan and Alok been detectives on duty, Shiv was their commander. Things looked absolutely cinematic.
“Look man, the fridge is full. Even if you splurge, the stuff will last for a week,” Shiv opened the double door-ed fridge and told me as if he were a sales executive in a super store. “Here, two crates of beer and over there you have the bar at your disposal. Feel at home. I will stay with Simrin for a week and anything you need just give me a buzz,” Shiv told me things as if I was his junior executive in the company.
“Sounds good, but I don’t know why I should from them. What are they going to do with me? Are they going to knock me off?” I asked Shiv. I wanted to control the growing frustration in me. My voice, though controlled was now tinged with irritation. “Okay Shiv, I understand it is dangerous out there. They are after my life. But how long? Are things going to cool down after week?”
Ishaan and Alok now looked more at ease with their assumed duty. They started chatting with each other, which showed that their tension was over.
“Hey, Shiv, buddy, this fourth floor pad is fabulous man. Look over there you have a swimming pool. Nice views when babes are in, right?” Alok slurped and Ishaan high fived with him.
Shiv went up to them and handed over two cans of Tiger beer to them. Ishaan looked at his can that came straight from the freezer. Alok had already opened his can.
“Cool...it brings me the memories of Bangkok...bang bang cock...” Ishaan laughed and kissed the beer can.
I did not like drinking from cans as the young guys did. Shiv knew this. He had already poured the beer in long glass and handed over to me. I smelled it and sipped once.
This is one liquid that tastes absolute bland when drank in room temperature. From a freezer it tastes heaven. It reminds you of tropical forests, beaches, sun shine, music, wild parties, dreadlocks, candle lit rooms, fluffy duvets and the soft fingers moving along your legs.
The door bell rang. I jumped up and hurriedly went to the main door. “May I come in,” a young girl with Mongolian features stood there at the door. I looked at her intently. She laughed and again said, “Sir, may I come inside?” I realized that she had a nasal intonation while she spoke.
“Yes, yes...” I said.
“But you are blocking my way,” she laughed again. It was then I saw myself standing at the threshold of the room, my mouth partly open as if I had seen an apparition. She pushed me aside and walked inside.
“Remove your shorts and T-shirts,” while lighting some incense and a little candle in a glass bowl she told me. It was a sort of order that any man would like to hear and appreciate from anybody other than one’s own wife or girl friend for quite some time. She order me to my primitive self.
“Hey hey...hold on...not here in front of me. Go in there and wrap it around your waist,” she threw a fluffy white towel at me and showed me the door of the bathroom. When I changed and came back she had already prepared the room. She dimmed the light, lowered the temperature of the air conditioner from 25 to 18 degree Celsius. The room now filled in with some kind of fragrance that you thought only existed in your memories.
I sat down on my bed. Then she bent down to wash my feet with a hot wet towel. Once she finished cleaning my feel, she looked up to my face and folded her arms in reverence. “Namaste,” she said in a nasal tone.
I did not know what to say. I had forgotten my place of origin, my state of being and my whereabouts now. I was just there with a girl who spoke to me through nose and showed me all the symptoms of submission. “Lie down on your back,” She ordered again. I loved the way she ordered me around.
Nimble fingers touched my weathered toes. A shiver passed through my body. Each pore of my body opened to a new wind and fragrance. She opened a small kit that she had brought with her and took out two small plastic bottles. Once contained a cream and the other contained some oil. She poured the cream into her left palm. I saw the cream helplessly oozing down in slow motion. She massaged my tired feet, then the shins and the knees. I closed my eyes and transported myself into a land of imaginations.
Oil followed the round of cream. It was heaven. I feel into a deep slumber.
“Hey man..you are sleeping,” the nasal voice woke me up. She was sitting on my knees and smiling at me; a manicured smile. To my shame suddenly I realized that my little man was standing erect. Her image over my knees was symmetrically divided into two by my erect manliness. I felt ashamed of myself.
“Look, he is asking for something,” she leaned over me and touched my nose. Then she touched her own nose. She repeated the act two three times more. Some kind of code, I thought myself. I knew that now she was asking whether I was ready to pay for a massage with a happy ending.
“Come on man, you have not even finished half a Tiger. Have you passed out by then?” Shiv was standing over me and shaking me up.
I jumped up and sat erect in my bean bag. Beads sweat appeared on my temples. I looked at Shiva, then Ishaan and Alok vaguely. They looked distant and disoriented.
“Don’t worry man....You look a bit tired. Brace up ....None is going to touch you. I have my plans,” Shiva touched my shoulders. For a moment I felt a sort of irritation because I never liked somebody treating me like a child.
I smiled at him feebly.
“Okay, now we are going to leave you alone. Relax. Ishaan and Alok are going to be around downstairs. I have arranged their stay. Anytime you can call me. But you please do not venture out. Anything you need, you just give me a buzz. Don’t open the door for anybody other than Ishaan and Alok,” Shiv took his bag, the usual leather lap top case, threw his blazers over his shoulders and walked out.
Ishaan and Alok followed him, exactly the way the deputies followed their commander.
I was left alone now. I knew that the girl would not come back again. It was a short lived visit in my memory. Still I hoped against hope. I thought someone would ring the door bell.
And it did ring.