Rohan scratched out the line he had scrawled a fifth time, and was about to give up when his phone rang.
‘Rohan, how’s the song coming along?’
Rohan simply groaned in response.
‘I’m an investment banker now! This isn’t my cup of tea!’
‘Please, just ask Bhabhi to make you some of her adrak chai, and get to work!’
Before Rohan could protest, Parul added, ‘You remember what I said about the theme? It has to be about loneliness and despair.’
Parul had been like a little sister to Rohan since her first day in college. The bespectacled, bashful teenager who had lost her way in the enormous campus had fallen prey to the derisive stares of the infamous bullies Varun and Sohail, who had soon started mocking her.
Parul had stood there frozen and wide-eyed until Rohan, her super-senior had arrived, dealing with the bullies and leading her to her classroom. He had met her later and shown her around the campus also managing an apology from Varun and Sohail.
Soon, Rohan, Parul and Varun were inseparable, and in six months, they had started a rock band named Shab. Two years later however, Rohan and Varun had quit to pursue their respective families’ dreams, and Parul had taken over the reins as lead vocalist.
Rohan was brought back to the present by a drop of water that fell on his notebook. His wife, Vishakha, with her long ringlets dripping, was leaning over his notebook.
‘Whatcha writing?’ she asked.
Upon hearing his plight, she immediately offered to make him some adrak chai.
As the aroma wafted through the kitchen, Rohan was taken back to the days when the only tea he knew was the one brewed at Raju’s shack opposite the gates of his university.
It was where he smoked his first Milds in the morning; gulped down his tea irately and asked for more when he had been thrown out of class; where he went when he was homesick and where he spent many a rainy Saturday afternoon, much like this one. It was also where he had first exchanged notes with Maya.
One Sunday morning as he was munching on his usual buttered toast and sipping his tea, Maya called out to him and introduced herself, requesting his economics notes from the previous week.
Since then, meeting Maya at 4 pm at Raju’s became a ritual for Rohan. One day she donned a floral dress looking prettier than usual. He frowned asking her why she was so decked up, to which she only smiled. He decided to take her to Starbucks for a change and then, to the movies.
‘So, you didn’t tell me why you’re so decked up’, he asked again.
‘No big reason. Just that I was born on this day, she said coolly.
Rohan felt like an idiot but as the movie ended and they got into a cab, he gave the driver, Parul’s address.
‘Aw! Thank you, guys,’ Maya had gushed at the surprise, and Rohan, seeing the beguiling Maya, in childlike wonder, had felt something that he only wished he could fight.
After Maya’s birthday, all four of them started spending more time together. Raju’s shack witnessed heated discussions everyday at 4 pm, which ranged from movies to books to politics to crumbling hedge funds. Although not officially a part of Shab, Maya hung around with the band whenever they rehearsed and attended all of their gigs.
Meanwhile Rohan had fallen hook, line and sinker in love with Maya but had not confided in anybody but Parul.
‘I can’t wait to start calling her Bhabhi!’ she exclaimed.
It was all set. The convocation was due to take place in a week. Since Maya was fond of blue, Rohan would propose to her not with a diamond but a sapphire.
He could barely sleep the night before the convocation.
After the medals were distributed, Varun got up on stage.
‘I have an announcement’, he hollered. ‘Maya and I are getting married!’
There were claps, wolf whistles and several others cheering them with words like ‘Congrats!’, and ‘Who’d have guessed?’
Indeed. Who’d have guessed? Amidst the hullabaloo, nobody saw Parul with tears in her eyes rushing towards Rohan. And nobody saw Rohan flinging away a small velvet box and heading outside – nobody but his mother. She wasted no time and found him a match within six months.
Four years had passed, and here he was, married to Vishakha, the gorgeous girl his mother had cherry-picked for him. His love, Maya, was now his best friend Varun’s wife and the mother of his son.
Rohan wondered what was taking Vishakha so long when he heard her explain in an excited tone over the landline.
‘… Yeah, the sale’s gonna last only two more days!’
Just as he was about to call out, demanding his tea, Vishakha’s cell phone rang. He got up to take it to her when he saw that Varun was calling. He decided to pick it up.
Before he could greet his friend, the voice on the other end began –
‘Hey, Vee! There’s been a problem. Maya read one of your texts on my phone today. When she confronted me about it, I laughed explaining that it was for Rohan and that you’d mistakenly pressed 3 instead of 2 on your speed dial. The bimbo bought that. So babe, don’t text me for a while now, okay? Anyway, Maya’s coming. Later.’
He hurriedly added, ‘Love ya’ and hung up.
Reflexively, Rohan went to the sent items folder in his wife’s phone. The first message had been sent to Varun twelve hours ago. It read:
‘I hate it when you’re away from me. See you soon!’
Rohan silently placed the phone back and peered into their bedroom. His beloved wife was still on the phone and had moved on to discussing the latest designs in someone’s fall collection.
Rohan’s world however, had just come to a standstill. Varun had had the last laugh. Yet again.
He picked up his phone and dialed Parul’s number.
‘So, my writer’s block has cleared.’
‘That’s wonderful!’ came her enthusiastic reply. ‘Was it Bhabhi’s adrak chai that did the job?’
‘Nope,’ he paused and then added ‘It was Bhabhi, herself.’