“How did you get here?”
“I came riding a bicycle”
“A cycle”, she stressed on the word cycle. “A cycle. All the way, up and down, its four kilometers. Don’t you have sense?”
Mathan let out a smile and said, “If I had had sense, I’d not have loved you!”
“Oh! Really...? I’d have been more happier, then, without much of obsession”
“Now that’s enough! These idiots say there is no ticket at the 8:30 or 9:30 buses. So, get ready to go at 7:30. No much time left. It’s already 6:15”
“Yes!” Anuradha told it with a finality.
She got her tickets reserved and then asked Mathan, “Now tell me. What is that you got to talk to me?”
“It is three days since we talked as in older days. What is happening? Why is this so?” Mathan really cared about Anuradha not talking to him.
“Do you remember a year back, I told you regarding writing an e-magazine regularly? Going on telling that you want to be a writer will never make you one.”
“Yes”, Mathan knew where she was arriving at.
“But, then you said, you have lots of work to do. Didn’t you?”
“I came here to have supper with you! Don’t chase me out”, Mathan tried changing the topic.
“Didn’t you? Answer me first”
“Yes I said so. But, I had a…”
“You had nothing. I know. What was that holy work?”
Now Mathan went speechless! Anuradha continued. “You can sleep at one at night and wake up at six to play online games. But go for a jog? No. Why are you..?” She left the sentence incomplete. But before he could react, she started again. “What is in this f…facebook? You can’t even log out of it? Are you doing something useful in it? Are all your works over now? Now, you are free enough to waste 24 hours a day, and even more if required”
Mathan warned her. “Talk softly. Why are you shouting?”
“I can’t lie. And when truth is spoken, it must sound good”, Anuradha said it with a smile escaping her lips.
“Oh my, thamizhachi. Sound good doesn’t refer to the raise in your voice. Bizzare English”, said Mathan and smiled.
“Now what is your problem?”, she went rigid.
“That’s the question I had in mind. And, telling a lie isn’t new to you”, Mathan said mockingly and hid his smile with great effort. In-fact Mathan loved her lies. Only he could identify, a lie from her, on earth.
Anuradha was a normal girl of a middle class family, just above the poverty line. She had to tell a lot of small lies, even to get out of her home. She had to tell lies for very small things.
Now, Anuradha filled her eyes with tears- the water droplets with power greater than nuclear weapons. “I don’t lie to few people. And, you know who they are”
Mathan wiped her tears.”I know. Come. Let’s eat. I’ve a restaurant in mind.”Mathan knew, he had talked too much.They went to the restaurant. Anuradha was sobbing. Mathan consoled, “Cool Anu… It’s ok”
All the while they were in the bus-stand, outside the restaurant, Mathan’s heartbeat was well above 72. They entered into the restaurant. Anuradha stopped sobbing and was wonderstruck. There were tables for two people to sit, three people and in all such numbers till seven. The dim yellow light gave them enough illumination to check if their food had any spider or cockroach.
The restaurant had no one at 6:45. There were only, those wealthy tea drinkers, who were single.
As they took seat, another group of people came in. They were four in number- all male.
“It’s very cold here”, told Anuradha.
“Talk softly”, warned Mathan. The hotel room didn’t play any music, and any sound was louder than a lion’s roar.
“It’s very cold here”, Anuradha adjusted her voice.
“More… Why are you shouting?” The word shouting was a little longer.
Now Anuradha giggled. Mathan loved Anuradha’s giggles. Mathan smiled. Anuradha stopped her giggles and by then ‘Romaali Rotti’ came and they both ate.
Mathan had the habit of not talking, while taking food, but Anuradha changed him in the near past. They talked about their good old days; lost pencils; spilt ink.
“I’m very happy you are going home. For four days, I will not have any problem. Really happy and…” Mathan made it sound mocking.
“Oh! Then I’m not coming. You’ll be happy forever!” said Anuradha. By then, Anuradha’s Romali Rotti was over. “I’m first”, said Anuradha.
“Talk softly”, said Mathan.
“ssss… I aam sorrrrr…” as Anuradha pulled, Mathan completed his rotti too.
“Talk softly”, said Mathan again.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
Cigarette burned his fingers and the bit fell down. He blew in his fingers to make the burn cause less irritation.
Padmavathy was standing beside him. “Coffee”, said the humble, caring wife- who didn’t get a word of love from Mathan.
Mathan told, “Why can’t you be a little louder?” and filled his eyes with tears.
Padmavathy asked, “What happened?”
“I knew a girl named Anuradha. It was not just a ‘know’. It was more than…”