Saturday, February 13, 2021

A Valentine soup

(With no new stories to offer, I present a decade old one that is topical and sure to bring a smile).

There was always a riot of laughter in the common room for women in that office. The women employees often escaped the boredom of facing the computer monitor all the time  by rushing in here for some fun and  juicy gossip that were never in dearth. You could see clusters of ladies talking animatedly  or in hushed tones depending upon the explosive nature and the secrecy that shrouded the matter.

 It could hover around a plain topic like the new hairstyle of the staid Angela or the  plunging neckline of vampish Vanita or the stale smell of upma cooked with heavy dose of hing that emanated from Soundarya’s lunch box or just the rude behaviour of the manager Manickavasagam or the unctuous smile and double entendres of the aged Muthuswamy iyer.

But more often than not, the chatter revolved over the known  Romeos and stylish hunks  of the office whom they loved to flirt with  and guessing who could be their likely quarries. Some even boasted of their dates with them. There were a few prudes who pretended not to be paying attention to what is being said but their ears actually tuned sharp not to miss even one word. It is in this room that reputations are made or marred as nothing escaped their hawk-like eyes, sharp ears and wide mouths.

However, we are concerned now about Namitha in the same office who has fallen in love with Sekhar her colleague, a handsome chap who was quiet and deep. Very few knew about him as he kept his counsel to himself. Namitha was attracted to him when one day he offered to help her reconcile some discrepancy in her work. They stayed late and it took much effort to locate the mistake. That was about a year back and since then she has been dating him. Whenever she broached the subject of marriage, he was evasive and pleaded for some time till his younger sister got married. He never took her to his home and kept his love for her  away from his parents. The one thing that bothered her much  was his miserly  nature and whatever gifts he gave her were cheap stuff. Namitha’s parents were affluent and she was accustomed to use only classy things.

Even this, she did not mind but upset about what he did two weeks back. They took a day off from work and left for Mahabalipuram on his motorbike to spend the day amongst the rock temples and the beach. When it was lunch time he took her to an expensive restaurant for food. He ordered many items and it was a fabulous lunch. When the bill came Sekhar had quietly gone away to wash room. She then remembered he always did so making her pay and quite often pleaded that he had inadvertently forgotten his purse or the card. She paid for the lunch and when he returned he took no notice of her settling the bill nor did he mention one word of apology.

A few days later, Namitha pulled out Sajita another colleague from the common room to a corner  and said to her, “I wish to talk something personal in private with you.” She knew Sajita was an ex friend of Sekhar and that they moved away after a short but intense friendship.

“Tell me, Namith, what I can do for you” she asked

“It is about Sekhar. You are aware of my friendship with him for more than a year. There are two things that worry me. I wish to seek your advice.” Namitha said

“Proceed, I am listening” Sajitha replied

"Whenever I broach about marriage he recedes into his shell and tells about his sister’s pending marriage. I have a suspicion he just wants to prolong the friendship without any commitment. Secondly I find him tight fisted. He never opens his purse and makes me pay for all expenses. Though I can afford, I do not want to be tied to a stingy person. I am also not sure whether he is open with me as many times I find his mobile switched off for long time” Namitha said.

“I am not surprised. Let me take you to Sukanya who put me wise about that rogue before I broke away from him.”

Sukanya laughed when she heard from Sajitha and said with a smile  “So you are his current prey, Namitha?. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing and a scoundrel of the first water. He has no sister and it is all hogwash. He has had   fun with many girls at their expense and when he loses interest, he will go after new pastures. With his meagre salary he cannot entertain the many girls with whom he has had liaison. He should be thrown out soonest no doubt  but I have a suggestion before you ditch him”. She pulled Namitha close to her and whispered something with a naughty smile.

Three days later on the eve of Valentine day, Namitha took him to a five-star hotel saying she was in a mood to celebrate the Valentine spirit. She ordered a lavish supper and some costly drinks for him. She giggled and snuggled making  him think she was an easy conquest for the evening. Just before the last course she excused herself to the restroom. Sekhar happily and leisurely  enjoyed the drinks dreaming about the pleasant time ahead. When the server brought the bill, she was not to be seen. He waited for nearly 45 minutes squirming in the seat and there was no trace of her. The server had come to the table thrice already. This time, he truly, had neither his purse nor the credit card.  It is not necessary to relate in detail the unpleasant and humiliating outcome of his failure to settle the expensive bill.

The gossip doing the rounds ever since in the women’s common room was that he was in a real soup at the hotel that evening and that he was seen cleaning the dishes, sweeping the floors and wiping the tables till someone brought him  the money late in the night. They were jubilant that Namitha paid him back in the same coin before wisely ditching him as if he were a real plague.