I know Siddarth, Sid as I call him, well since he became my colleague six years back. You cannot fault him if he attracted a bevy of young women yearning for his friendship. Such was his god given magnetic charm. I would not say he was tall at his 170 cms or boast of a six pack abdomen that film stars invariably flaunt. In fact, he was dusky with an unruly hair on his head that defied any styling but his chiseled face, his aquiline nose, the twinkling eyes and the spontaneous laughter that he broke into even over trivial remarks, made him a heart throb of women who came into contact.
Add to that the facts that he was a qualified engineer with a Wharton MBA. He held a senior position in a renowned company drawing a fat salary. He had a swanky car with a compact rented apartment in a posh colony. On a rough count it could be a dozen young female fans whom he regularly met individually or collectively. He never hid his friendships with them.
But he had some principles that he strictly followed. He took special care to keep friendships with female colleagues in office strictly formal and professional with no hint of romance. He also kept them away from his external friends.
He met his personal friends only after his office hours, took them out to restaurants or movies individually mostly and on occasions three or four by turn. He was a fun-loving guy who threw a party at his apartment on weekends to all of them once a while when in mood. A tactful guy he never left anyone feel she has been ignored or made it appear as anyone special. He never shared personal information of one with the other. The women trusted him as each one was left to feel that she was closer to him than others. There was seemingly no envy among these young women but one could sense an undemonstrated rivalry among them to win his hand.
He had confided once in a weak moment that he had different boundaries for these ladies with a couple of them friendly with him even before their marriage. I suspect he was a smooth operator and ensured the women got the impression that he just enjoyed being among them and revel in friendly banter and hoo-has than with any ulterior motive. They felt safe with him.
When I prodded him, “Do you have fancy for anyone among this lot as a potential life partner? You must be having a special and romantic interest with one individual? Though you might not have expressed it, you must have conveyed in other subtle ways.”
“Yes, you are right. I love one Shreya very much and I feel she Is also pining for me. I came to know of her only recently less than a year and find that her interests, taste, and attitude complement mine. In fact, I am waiting for the right moment to tell her.”
Sid has told me more than once that his mom, who was living alone in the village but with relatives around, has been pressurizing him for the last three or four years to get married. She often pleaded with him that she was sick and getting old and would like to see him married before she passed away. Having lost his dad in his early age, it was his mom who brought him up in difficult circumstances selling the property to fund his education. He loved her as apple of his eye and was ever grateful for the sacrifices she had made for him. He sent her money generously each month.
But he liked the present unattached life and put off the marriage to the extent possible till one day his dad’s cousin rang up from the village a fortnight back and informed that his mom has been unwell with high BP and had fainted a few times. The town doctor has prescribed her medicines. They had fixed a poor lady to be with his mom all the time and cook food for a monthly fee and that the amount was not much especially for him. He suggested Sid to visit her once immediately as it may have a calming effect on her who has been uttering his name frequently.
I do not know what happened during the visit but he said one day,” Sudhir, I have committed to my mom that I will marry within three months and keep her with me. She was very happy but indicated firmly that she would continue to remain at the village only.
“How are you planning to go about getting the lady after your heart? Would she be willing after your inaction all these months or do you need any help from me in scanning the matrimonial sites?”
” Why should I go out when I have one already in view? I know her well including her family details. I intend to invite all of them for a party at my place the coming Sunday without telling the purpose and break the news there,” he said with a happy smile.
“Would you need me to assist you there in the party?” I innocently asked.
“No, you will be an odd man out there. I will introduce them to you later after my engagement, Anyway, thanks, I can manage the get together.” he rebuffed with his usual boisterous laughter.” I will be at my home. Call me if you need any assistance.” I told him in serious tone.
At 5 pm the next Sunday, the living room at Siddarth’s house was reverberating with Bollywood songs interrupted by peals of laughter, shrill screams along with clinking of glasses. There were fourteen women assembled there that included cousins of two invitees. The table at a corner had sweets from a nearby Bengali shop, Rajbog, Sandesh, Pantua resembling gulab jamoons and a pot full of misti doi. There were namkeens too like kachoris, samosas, dhokla, roasted cashew nuts and some other stuff. There were several soft drinks and a few bottles of other stuff.
The women were dancing to the tunes of latest Bollywood songs with total abandon. Seated from a vantage position, Siddarth, in denim and yellow Lucknowi kurta, was watching Shreya dance and sing on the sly without making it obvious. He announced after a while if they are willing they could start eating.
It was then one after the other, the women went to the only wash room attached to his bed room. As the door of washroom was not locking, they closed the bedroom door at his suggestion.
When the clock struck seven, he stood up and said,” I would like to make an important announcement soon. I will be right back. Please bear with me for a few minutes,” he said and went in after closing the door.
He went straight to the unlocked steel cupboard that had the key hanging there. He then opened the unlocked locker and took out a jewel box from under the pile of pressed shirts to see the Solitaire diamond ring he had purchased for proposing to lady of his choice. Lo, the ring was missing mysteriously to his great shock. It was not the outrageous amount he had paid for it that bothered him but the treachery of one of the assembled ladies that he could not stomach. He was certain as he had seen it just before they had arrived. It was obvious one of them had stolen it. Who could it be, he wondered but did not wish to embarrass all of them. He decided to explore further. He went out very casually with his trademark smile and announced that he had second thoughts about the news he wished to convey and would however meet them all again with in a week. There was a sense of disbelief and disappointment when they started dispersing especially from Shreya as Sid could see.
Without wasting time,I was there with a friend after I got the call from Sid. My friend is in a private detective agency. It was agreed that the mystery would be unraveled without embarrassing the innocent. Sid was prepared to lose the ring than miss any true friend. Agreed on that, the detective guy, started dusting the cupboard with chalk piece.
Suddenly he stopped the dusting and asked,” Do you have any friend in the group who is left-handed? Think carefully and tell as the prints indicate a woman who uses her left hand.”
“My God, how could it be Shreya? She is the only one who is left handed and whom I was to propose. It cannot be her. She is honest and I love her immensely. “he blurted.
“Let us call her and find out. Just tell her that you had wished to propose to her but the ring you bought for her was misplaced and hence you had to put off. Let us see her reaction,” I told him.
When Sid rang her up and conveyed her, she laughed and said, “I knew always that you had fallen head over heels for me and after this incident I wonder whether I should marry a blunderbuss to be my husband.”
“Shreya, I am serious. This is no time for frivolous talk. Please come out with the truth,” he said with some acerbity.
“Okay. Before you ask someone else to meddle with your cupboard further, put your hand deeper into the pile of shirts and report me back your findings, ”she said with a giggle.
Putting the phone aside, he ran his hand under the pile of shirts to find another shining box from reputed jewelers. He opened it to see in astonishment the Solitaire ring he had bought for Shreya along with another captivating platinum ring for man. My friend and myself could not suppress our laughter much to Sid’s annoyance.
The phone rang. “What did you find, my dear Watson? Was it elementary? Have you learnt a lesson? I have second thoughts on marrying you unless you make amends by calling the party again in the next two days and propose in front of all of them to signify you are no more a Romeo on the prowl,” Shreya stipulated.