Amita and I were walking down the promenade at the Gateway of India, after hustling through shops and hawkers at the Colaba causeway. She didn’t spend hours buying things she would never use, which is why I had the courage to go there with her.
It had been a few weeks since we were hanging out more frequently than we used to. I guess it meant we were dating, but she didn’t want to call it something. She didn’t like tags on people, except for mild swearing at painful colleagues at work. That’s the kind of countenance a girl from a middle-class Gujarati Brahmin family living in humble conditions has, I guess. She was the eldest child and had two young sisters to be a role model to. She couldn’t be seen with her middle finger in the air, or for that matter have ‘bad habits’ like alcohol or smoking. Or ‘making out’. Absolutely no place for love-shove. No PDA, no holding hands, no fun in cab and well – no sex before marriage. (Hope keeps us alive.)
So while on the walk, we admired the sun-kissed yachts and fishing boats bouncing on the tide. That’s when my phone rang – AB was calling.
A batch-mate from college, super busy AB calls back only when you leave a message saying “I am dying. Need blood. Please call.” I had forwarded him a friend’s CV for a role in his team. Clearly, filling the position was more critical than me needing blood.
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Since I was with Amita, my hands were free to receive the call. So I did. And after some pleasant expletives that guys usually greet each other with, we got down to business. He would fix an appointment tentatively confirmed for the next morning at 10 a.m. I was happy. “Thanks a lot, mate! Love you for this! See you soon!” I said before hanging up. I turned to look at Amita. “Sorry about that! Important call from outer space.” But couldn’t see her. Instead I saw someone faintly like her but with smaller and redder eyes, wrinkled forehead and a tight pout (which was the closest we would get to a kiss that evening). Someone visibly shocked and angry.
“What did you just say?” she asked with the same look but her small lips held tight together like her temper.
“I said, ‘Sorry I had to take the call.’” It’s best to edit out the cocky stuff at such times.
“No. Before that. What did you tell your friend?”
“I told him thanks for his help.”
“No. After that.”
“See you soon.”
“No. Before that.”
“…what did I say?”
“Did you say ‘I love you’?”
“Oh. Yes…because he is a very dear friend. He is a guy! What are you thinking?”
“You say ‘I love you’ to friends? It does not mean anything special to you? Doesn’t the word ‘love’ mean anything to you? Do you use it so freely – with everyone? Am I not special to you?”
I don’t remember what I said to get out of that scenario, but I do remember that we didn’t meet as often after that.