“Hello madam!”, Sriram’s voice sounded husky over the phone.
“Her name is Meena and she is a 2009 pass out”, I replied back curtly.
“What??!”, he asked, genuinely confused.
“You usually call when a new girl enters our ODC, so I assumed…..”, I was grinning sheepishly.
He was amused and I knew this was going to be the news of the day. By lunch, it would reach faster than our Indi café services. Who in the right mind said girls conveyed messages faster?
“PM came to my cubicle now. He asked me if I was ok with travelling abroad”, he explained yawning. Guess, trying to show off like it is not a big deal.
“Hmmmm..that doesn’t convey anything”.
“I know. Was just updating you. Okies, I am going for coffee. Catch you later”. He hung up.
I was wondering if Sriram had a chance of an onsite opportunity. The competition in the team was very tough and everyone had visas.
As I was wondering about this, suddenly everyone started clapping; including Venkat who all this while was sitting glued the PC.
“A tribute to Subha’s intelligence!! She gives valuable information even without being asked”,shouted Sriram raising his hand as a sign of triumph.
“You have any clue why you are clapping?”, I asked Venkat.
“No!”, he replied even without looking in my direction and started clapping with such vigour that his spectacles fell on the ground. I slumped into my chair. ‘I under-estimated Sriram’.
4 days later,
I was adjusting my bangle when ‘plonk!’ someone hit my head. I turned to see Sriram dressed in light blue shervani and worst, looking very comfortable unlike me, who was clad in the most colourful saree that even Jyothika dared to advertise. “You look beautiful!”, he said and colouremerged on my cheeks. Even before I could acknowledge his compliment, I heard my sister say thanks. Sriram gave his award winning grin looking at her and colour returned on my cheeks-blood red fury and embarrassment.
“Rammmmm…!!”, his mother called out from the other side of the marriage hall and our hero rolled his eyes . She was dressed grander than the bride and strode with such an elegance that added more ‘grandness’ to the silk saree. The sound of mirudhangam seemed to complement the scene and was like the background music.
“Sasi aunty is looking for you. She says she wants to meet you. She saw you when you were just 5 and it has been a very long time”.
Sriram didn’t say anything and searched for Sasi aunty in the crowd. His mom turned towards me scanning from top to bottom.
“Did Ram tell you about his onsite offer?”, she asked like it wasa general knowledge question.
“What onsite?”, I asked perplexed and looked at him. He just shrugged his shoulders.
“You don’t know va?”, she questioned like I didn’t what came after A in the English alphabet. “Ram is going to US in few weeks. His Visa is under process”.
I was annoyed that I didn’t know and made sure not tell him anything in future. “He just told me that his PM asked if he was willing to travel outside country”
“Yes ..yes!! that only”, she said. “It means he will go to US soon. His clients are in Houston . So,my son is going there pretty soon.
“What?! Oh..but..I mean..his PM just asked”.
Aunty glared at me and deferred her look for some time. “You are just jealous that both of you joined company at the same time and he is the one going”, she plainly accused and left the place before I could say something.
“Don’t give me that look. I am not responsible for that”, he gave an innocent look.
Sasi aunty came in with full enthusiasm. There was so much rose powder on her face that could paint the whole marriage hall pink. Her daughter trotted behind her and she could paint the guest rooms.
“Ramuuu!! You have grown so much!! And how thin you have become!! Don’t you eat well??”
I noticed Sriram tuck in his belly as she said that.
“I heard you were going to US. Nice ! All my brothers and their sons are there only. You can ask any help from them .”
Sriram just smiled as she went on with her blabbing.
“Hey, meet Shruthi. She will be finishing college this year. She wants to go to US too!”.She held her daughter’s hand like it was made of diamonds.
Sriram was as astounded as I was at the statement and I was enjoying this.
“She knows to cook and sing”, she went on while I was imagining just that – Shruthi singing while cooking and feeding Sriram like in Tamil movies. I laughed. A bit loud, I guess.
Sasi aunty gave me that disgusted look again. I wondered what it was with women and their expressions. It seemed to come with the age.“Who is she?”, she asked looking at me. If looks could kill, I would have been dead then.
“My colleague, aunty, and she is related to the guy’s side”, Sriram explained.
“I have heard many of these corporate stories! Marrying their own colleague! What a disgusting thing! You better be careful Ramu. My daughter is not like them”, she said in a proud tone.
I took a deep breath as she left the place.
“Are you not too young?”, I asked.
He gave a blank expression.
“For marriage?”, I asked again.
He just laughed . “It is like the movie ticket. Advance booking , you see”.
“Crap!”, I retorted back.
“You are just jealous!”, he claimed giving an expression just as his mother did.
An hour later,
“Hey Sri! Why is that I have a feeling that all your family folks are staring at me?”
“Cough cough..actually they are.”, he said looking somewhere else.
“Because I told them that I was in love with you and going to marry you”, he explained while fumbling with his dress.
I stood frozen in the place and found my head spinning . “That is an indecent proposal!!”, I screamed.
“Hey, my would-be shouldn’t shout at me like that”, he said.
“Idiot! You are committed to someone else. Dont you realize that?”, I screamed again.
“So what?”, he asked. “That can be sorted out later. This is for time being”.
“Time being?? What do you mean? Wait wait! Is it because you didn’t want to be caught with the rose powder? Escaping from Sasi aunty, is it?”
Sriram smiled agreeing to every word.
“You are completely out of your mind ! Seriously! “, I said laughing at his expression and admiring his knack of managing the situation. “Your mother would have been hysterical!”
“Ya ya! She actually didn’t like it either”
“So what did you tell her?”, I asked out of curiosity.
“I just asked her one thing- Subhashree or Vellakari?”, he said in a low voice.
I laughed loud.
Sasi aunty came to us with her ‘looks could kill’ expression.
“Ram! You are just like others. All spoilt and bad. Marrying your own colleague……”.
She was stopped by Sriram’s mothers who came to save me. I didn’t know what to say.
“What Sasi are you talking? My daughter in law is going to IIM next year”, she said adjusting her saree.
“IIM..who?”, I looked around, “me?..how?..”
Sriram’s mother put her finger on the lips and I became quiet. Sasi aunty looked at three of us and left the place.
“I am going to IIM?? I am just giving CAT this year!!”, I explained with pauses.
“Yes ..yes!! that only”, she said. “It means you will go to IIM soon.”
Sriram laughed his head off while his mother looked at him like she was looking at an extinct species in a zoo.
I pulled up my saree slightly and ran for my life!