“Valentine’s day should be on Mar 1 and not on Feb 14,” said Pankaj with a dreamy look in his eyes, not acknowledging if he had heard Rishi.
“I also think you have a point” said Rishi promptly “It does make sense to have it after you have got your salary!”
“You know what I am talking about!” said Pankaj with a frown. “That was the day on which…” he appeared to now choke with emotion.
It was quite obvious to Rishi and me what Pankaj was talking about. I went back in time – precisely to 1st March of last year.
I was clearing my desk, and preparing to leave for the day. Me, Rishi and Pankaj travelled to work together. Rishi was already waving impatiently to us. Pankaj sat near the window looking out with a forlorn look on his face. I tapped him on the shoulder signalling for him to move.
He looked up at me and returned to inspecting the scene outside the window. I sighed – Pankaj was in one of his moods. I signalled to Rishi to come over – we were not leaving immediately.
As Rishi came over, he said “Hey, what’s up?” I pointed to Pankaj who continued to stare outside the window. He suddenly turned towards us and said in a voice loaded with emotion “What meaning will life have if she does not accept?”
“Who? What are you talking about” I asked though I knew exactly what, as this was turning out to be an everyday conversation these days.
“Shilpa” said Pankaj. “I hope she agrees to marry me”
“But I thought she has already said no” said Rishi.
“She has not!” said Pankaj irritatedly.
“But you said she returned the necklace you gave her” said Rishi.
“That does not mean she said no,” said Pankaj hotly.
“Why else would she return the necklace?” persisted Rishi.
“She could have been conscious of what others would say or she might have also thought it was too expensive. There could be so many reasons!” said Pankaj.
“Maybe she didn’t like the design” I offered more as a way to end the debate and head for home.
“Ok, but then she would have told you the reason, had that been the case. She could have said - I don’t want the necklace but I like you or something like that” said Rishi.
“Rishi, you simply don’t understand the way women think. It is not as simple,” declared Pankaj in desperation, clinging to hope.
“I think you would be taking a big risk in persisting despite the necklace episode” said Rishi solemnly “It could be construed as harassment”.
“What? Are you serious?” exclaimed Pankaj, looking concerned. He turned to me for solace.
“You can always talk about your feelings more openly and give it a shot, I suppose” I said doubtfully.
At this point unexpectedly we turned hearing footsteps, and Shilpa was walking towards us. “Hey folks, what are you talking about?”
“We were talking about Pankaj’s life,” said Rishi.
Pankaj suddenly pretended to develop a coughing fit, bending forward to hide his face, which had sported a decidedly guilty look.
“What about his life?” asked Shilpa puzzled.
“Oh, this and that” I said.
“Hmmm” she said, looking sternly at Pankaj. “Rishi – we need to talk about all this,” said Shilpa drawing Rishi away.
Pankaj suddenly recovered from his coughing fit and looked up. Shilpa was speaking something animatedly and Rishi was nodding his head. After a few minutes, she waved Rishi away and started speaking on the phone. Rishi joined us and looked grimly at Pankaj “We are in trouble. She says none of this is acceptable. In fact she wants us all to accompany her to her house. She has apparently told her parents about what you have been up to”.
“What?” said Pankaj horrified, his face turning a distinct shade of red. “But why did she have to tell you that? She could have spoken to me alone on this instead of drawing you also in this”.
“You had embarked on a coughing fit,” Rishi pointed out. “And who knows, maybe she does not want to talk to you”
“I think you should apologize and close the matter,” I suggested to Pankaj.
Shilpa walked up to us and said, “Let us go”. Pankaj’s face continued to remain red and his eyes now had a wild look.
“Pankaj is willing to apologize, let us close the matter,” I said.
“After all that has happened, this cannot be settled that easily”, said Shilpa. “Let us go – my parents retire to bed early. They are waiting.”
“Ok, Pankaj – I think you have to go” I said quickly.
“All of you come,” said Shilpa. “Since you were all talking about Pankaj’s life with such seriousness, you should come as well”
I was trying to think of an excuse when Rishi said, “Ok, let us get this over with quickly.”
We travelled in two batches to Shilpa’s house - one batch being the three of us and batch 2 being only Shilpa. We were greeted at the door by Shilpa’s dad Mr Kumar. One look at him told me this was going to be more difficult than I thought – he had a grim look on his face. As we took our seat, her mother joined us as well.
“There has been a misunderstanding, and we can easily resolve this matter” I said.
“Misunderstanding?” Shilpa’s dad appeared confused and looked at her.
“No, there is no misunderstanding, Dad. I am very clear in my mind”, said Shilpa.
“Ok, good. This is obviously an important matter and in fact I wanted to talk to your parents but Shilpa felt that would only delay things,” said Mr Kumar.
Pankaj mumbled something about his parents being in Varanasi, and their not being needed for this.
“Uncle, does your house always have so many mosquitoes?” asked Rishi.
Shilpa glared at Rishi, while a startled Mr Kumar went to get a mosquito coil and set it to burn.
“Now, let us get down to business,” said Mr Kumar.
“Well, it is like this – Pankaj is definitely a funny guy. But he means well, please understand and appreciate that,” said Rishi.
“Yes, he definitely wants to move on now after all that has happened” I continued and looked at Pankaj.
“Yes, yes,” said Pankaj taking the cue, but still remaining largely tongue-tied.
“Ok, go on,” said Mr Kumar.
“Shilpa, can you sing?” asked Rishi next suddenly.
“No, I can’t” snapped Shilpa.
“What about your cooking?” asked Rishi next.
“Only passable, and may I ask why you should care?” asked Shilpa.
“The girl we met the other day could both cook and sing well, isn’t it, Pankaj?” asked Rishi in a loud whisper.
“What other girl?” said Pankaj weakly and then again developed a coughing fit and bent over.
I nudged Rishi – I was now worried that due to Rishi’s wisecracks, we were going to end up in worse trouble than originally anticipated.
As if in response to my nudge, Rishi looked at Pankaj and said “Maybe that can be overlooked?”
Shilpa stood up at this point and disappeared into the house. There was a pause and then I asked for water, hoping amnesia would strike and the recent conversation would be forgotten. Shilpa’s mother arrived with some cups of tea, and Shilpa also returned and sat down.
As we sipped the tea, Rishi spoke up “Very good tea, Shilpa did you make it?”
“No, I did,” said her mother looking surprised.
“Ok, let us get to the point now” Mr Kumar said, “Look, in many ways I am an old fashioned man”. He stood up and took a stroll to the window and back.
He looked at Pankaj and said, “When I heard about this from Shilpa, I had my worries. However, our family and Rishi’s have been friends for a long time. And when he told me that he thought you would be a perfect match for my daughter, I had no further worries or questions. Rishi tells me your parents already know about this, but you must let me know when we can meet them to take this further and make the necessary arrangements for the wedding”.
So the entire event was staged! As we left Shilpa’s house, Rishi looked at Pankaj and teased, “I wanted this to happen when I am still young! If it were left to you, I am not sure if that would have been possible”. Yes – Mar 1 was a memorable day for Pankaj!