Raju, a marketing executive was frantically looking for a small apartment. He did not like working men's hostels that go under the name of 'mansions' though they bear no relation to the word. He never liked the ambience, the noise even at unearthly hours and litter of beer bottles outside each door and the foul smell.Where ever he went on hearing about a vacant apartment or one with a To Let board, the owners turned him away saying the accommodation is for small family. There is a resistance to letting out to singles. It is almost three months since he has been hunting.
In most places he visited, he found the same young lady in her twenties also approaching the owners. Either she had preceded or followed him. The result must have been the same for both as she always came with along face. He had heard that it was more difficult for single ladies to get accommodation in apartments or working hostels. Many work in far away IT offices on the outskirts and may be in shifts.
One Sunday afternoon as he came out of an apartment after rejection on ground of being single, he saw the lady climbing up the stairs to the apartment. He smiled at her and wished her good luck. She smiled back and said “Thanks though I am sure the outcome would be the same”
He said “Who knows?” and smiled back.
He was sipping a coke at the pan shop on the road and he saw her coming out soon with the same long face. He called her “Hey, come here and tell me what happened? What is your name by the way?”
When she came near him, he offered her a coke and said “You don’t have to tell .I know the answer. I have been trying for quite some months and lost hopes.”
“Me too. I am Lochana.But I need a place immediately. I am in a distant relative’s place and they have indicated clearly that I leave their house. Frankly I don’t know where to go and what to do. I cannot resign and go back to my village”
“Oh, oh.I am sorry but no solution seems to be in sight unless we lie to them we are married and spouse is expected shortly. But then they will ask after a month or two where the spouse is and throw us out when the bluff is known. Hey, I have one weird idea. If you agree we may succeed and our problem will be solved. Why not we pose as married couple and live in the separate rooms. I promise you no harm will come to you.I am in marketing and will be away for about 15 days a month. Some days I may return late in night. But you will have no cause to worry, I promise.”He then told her about his job, family and other details.
Lochana said”Wow, What a brilliant idea? I agree and it is no big deal” she replied and gave all details about her. They shook hands and exchanged mobile numbers.
Within a week they had occupied a two bed roomed beautiful apartment. She made early morning coffee if she got up earlier. They had cereals bread and fruits for breakfast. On holidays a caterer supplied them food. The landlady took a liking for her, non interfering and everything went fine. In fact the close proximity and the outing to restaurants and movies brought them together for tender feelings to blossom.
One Sunday as he was coming down the side staircase to get some magazines, he heard a booming voice from inside landlords ground floor space”Raju, how come you are here? I know you are in Chennai. When I met your parents two months back at the village they were talking about you.”
Raju was shocked. It was Kodandam uncle of his village, a kind hearted man but given to much talking.
“Uncle, I am a tenant here. Glad to meet you. How is your health?”
"How come you are a tenant here.Kalyani, my niece, who is here, told me that a young couple is residing here. Your mom did not mention about your marriage. Is it a love marriage?”He giggled and added “where is your wife? Let me come up to your place and bless you both now that I am here”
“Uncle, she has gone to her mother’s place and will return in the evening only.”Luckily Lochana had gone to work.
“Oh.oh.I am leaving for Mumbai in a shortwhile.I will visit you both next time. My best wishes to you.” he said
Raju went out and did not return till in the evening.
In the night, he recounted what had happened and said “I am sure Kodandam uncle would talk to my mother someday and the cat would be out of the bag”
Lochana sat silent a bit worried but spoke later with a sparkle in her eyes”Raju, you are imaginative and always come up with bright ideas. Think of one even out of box thinking”
Raju let out a guffaw and said “I can think of only one and if I tell you, you will beat me”
“Hey, don’t be a meek one. Come out boldly. I am open for any good and attractive ideas” she winked
“Eureka, the only option is to legitimize our tenancy agreement with landlord’s requirements. I am all willing. What about you?”
She extended her hand and said “Accepted. It is a deal” only to be surprised by the tight hug she got in return from him.