Festival times. So I am not posting anything nasty, non-veg or negative. Thanks again to my good friend Asha Jacob who proof-read this story for me.
Martha and Her Friends
Lust is always immaculately dressed no matter where you see her. At all-important page-three parties, at the gala opening nights, at the curtain raisers, at the fashion shows, at the glitzy malls. She can be easily mistaken for a European fashion model. She is tall, small-breasted, and her hips swing with a deadly rhythm when she walks in her designer stilettos. She carries her long cigarettes and gold-plated monogrammed lighter everywhere, including her visits to a posh gym. Her personal trainer is amazed at her ability to punish herself on a treadmill. She is equally good at twisting her flexible body, be it for yoga or for aerobics. Very few people know that Lust has already celebrated her 37th birthday.
Greed has a chubby, round face, and feline grace of a pedigree cat. She prefers long flowing dresses and light, seemingly facile conversations at her club while playing cards with society ladies of her inner circle. She almost never talks about money but she can buy a dozen of Sultans of Brunei with her credit card. Her husband’s name is Power but no one has ever seen them together doing anything constructive or creative. Theirs is a marriage of pure convenience but nobody is supposed to talk about it.
Martha is on first name terms with her friends Lust and Greed. She fondly calls them Lusty and Greedy. They meet every alternate afternoon to play cards and have crisp, specially baked diet crackers and tall glasses of chilled mint julep. Sometime they just lounge about in the terrace and discuss local politics. But mostly they play bridge and indulge in clever match-making.
Their current target is twenty-three year old Benny–-an upstart software programmer who has shifted to the third floor of Martha’s building. The ladies do their home work diligently and know for sure that the girl is single, good natured and from an educated middle class family. They consider it their karma to pair her with an ideal match.
After evaluating various possibilities, they zero-in on YS (short for Yash Shetkar, but at in his office he is Young Stud). He is hot, healthy and lonely, they know. The only vice he has is the beer drinking binges on weekends. Otherwise he is a competent marketing manager in an FMCG company. They know all this because YS is the nephew of a friend of Greedy’s distant uncle’s close relative.
So three efficient ladies brainstorm hard and toss their ideas at each other. They plan a Valentine Day party with a hidden twist. Power uses his connections and subtle coercion technique, and effortlessly makes sure that YS and Benny commit to attend the party.
The big evening arrives on a cool, seductive, November breeze. Lusty is the official hostess. She introduces YS to Benny before the drinks start flowing. Greedy makes the Benny’s fancy handbag disappear for a while when the girl walks over to pick up her red wine. The purse miraculously returns on a sofa chair after a while but the car key is gone.
YS is a little drunk by the end of the evening despite the strenuous efforts of Lusty and Power, but that is a small card beyond their reach. The three ladies, Power-the male factor and their efficient work force maneuver hard, making sure that YS offers a lift to his new friend Benny. He is advised to drive slowly and carefully.
“They don’t call me Cautious YES for nothing.” YS laughs at his joke and yanks open the car door for Benny who is floating on the pink fluffy cloud of her first romance.
Once out on the road, Benny is charmed by YS’s shoulder length curly brown hair, his three-day beard and his weird sense of humour. She opens up now and convinces YS to let her drive his Santro.
“I always wanted to drive a gearless car,” she explains.
YS is sporty enough to pass the steering wheel to the young lady. They end up at Benny’s apartment at two in the morning “for a night cap of coffee liqueur and some crazy conversation.” Lusty smiles in the background.
Within weeks, the lovebirds are so thick with each other that YS cuts down on beer and joins a video library instead. Benny, on her part shifts her priority from her career to the home-front. They decide to sanctify their relationship with holy matrimony.
“We started it all, put in long hours, and now they have all the fun,” Martha, a mere human, mumbles in disgust. It is the time to claim their share of excitement from the couple’s happiness, Martha decides. She calls up Greedy and Lusty for an urgent meeting at her residence. Despite his busy schedule, Power too attends this time. They hatch another foolproof plan and execute it before the marriage date is finalized and invitation cards are distributed.
“I cannot marry a girl who is not pure in mind, body and spirit.” YS plays his ‘respectable family’ card. He has a point, thanks to some clever mechanization of by Lusty.
Benny laughs at the man’s hypocrisy, double standards, and his meager bank balance.
YS is a full-blooded Punjabi man and Power has already hinted to him about what to do under the circumstances. YS punches his fiancée hard on her pretty mouth.
Benny, an electronics engineer from one of India’s finest collages, is no fancy doormat. She screams murder and shoves the rogue lover out of the door. His car keys flies out from her window. She spends a week inside the apartment so that no one can see her split lips. But the rift is public and final for everyone in the building to witness. They don’t see YS’s red Santro in the reserved parking space anymore. It is a perfectly conceived, immaculately executed modern love tragedy.
Lusty, Greedy, and Power deiced to celebrate. They invite Martha too. But Martha is no airtight abstraction like her friends. She is human; has periods, hot flushes, quirks and weaknesses.
Martha feigns sickness and does not attend the celebration party. Instead, she calls up Benny the next day, and they meet at a nearby café. Martha spills the ugly beans now. She makes a hundred percent honest confession to Benny who is shocked to the bone. The wronged woman instantly wows a revenge on Lust, Greed and Power.
Martha smiles with an air of a tired philosopher and tries to placate poor Benny.
“You cannot touch them with a ten feet pole, baby. You cannot destroy them without destroying yourself and me. This is how it is, no matter what you do, where you go. Take this episode as a bitter pill and bid your time. Things happen sooner than you think.”
“That punk hit me in my own house; humiliated me. I can sue him for that. He doesn’t make enough to buy his own house. I won’t have anything to do with that loser anymore. And don’t forget your questionable role in this caper either.”
Martha is snubbed and speechless. Benny’s face has lost all color and resembles a ghost. She looks around at the chatty, cheerful evening crowd at the café and starts to fidget under the table, her nails digging into her palms. She is ready to do get back to her old, dry routine devoid of any joy or excitement whatsoever.
Martha and Benny, two women are about to leave the café, feeling confused, unhappy and terminally sad, when a middle aged waitress serves them a plate of assorted pastries and mugs of hot, frothing cappuccino.
“This is on the house. Sort it out sweetly, here and now, once and for all.” The waitress gives them her warmest buck tooth smile and points at a man sitting across the café, alone and forlorn, ready to make amends, his shoulder length curly brown hair covering most of his handsome face.
The tag on the waitress’s uniform says her name is Forgiveness.