Love Is In The Air-Conditioner
An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will turn the whole world blind. Most people inhabiting this planet, though, don’t realize it. They all fight till the bitter end. And it isn’t ever a happy ending.
Samples of this accustomed behavior are never enough. Occurrences of it are endless and far reaching. It enveloped its wrath over an address that read E-45, Narang Vihar.
Behind the dark tinted glass of the office, sat a perplexed and obsolete girl. Behind her, there was much tension brewing. Surprisingly her curiosity is aroused. She looks through the transparent letters that reads the company name on the fog glass, which separates the front desk from the workstation of the office.
“Where is the final report on the ‘honest confessions of a gay designer’?” asked Samyukta. “I couldn’t get in touch with Rohit. Apparently he’s a hard person to get an interview with unless someone’s willing to zip down on the spot. And I, Manish Rao, will never succumb to such an act for the mere pleasure of the twisted minds of the omosessuales that we cater to every month” He finished his statement with a wide grin on his face.
“Unless, of course, it meant getting introduced to some purty li’l 18 year olds”. “That would make a do-able exception” his grin got wider.
She hated his sarcasm, his self serving small mindedness. And it was really transparent on her body language. She just walked off with his snicker reverberating between her ear drums. “I don’t like this guy!” she said after landing her bottom on the chair with a subtle thump. “He’s the best we have. You just got to deal with his ways and settle with a compromise somewhere”
She was wrong to think her boss would offer any consolatory advice here. “Anyway, what do you think of this pen name I had in mind….Jamal!” he said it proudly. “You’re not even moslim! And it has the remotest relation with Jaswant Khanna” She was beginning to doubt the credibility of the guy she worked for.
“There are no ground rules for using a pen name!” he retorted. After about a second’s pause, “forget it now, you’re just getting on my last nerve” She silently left before hearing his last say. Her legs were tired following the half hour witness of vexatious vocals and cold vibes. She had no hope for a renaissance but couldn’t bear it any longer. Minerva decided to straighten this out, once and for all. Few miles from the office, stood a small, enchanted house. Little did people care about its resident. She worked underground and kept an awfully low profile, especially from the commoners. Minerva knew her by chance.
She entered the house through the rustling draperies. Madame Tanzinia was alert now. Minerva called out her name. She recognized the voice. Not that she knew her well. She just had a gift for it. “Well, hello Minerva! What brings you to my humble home?” “A motive that requires a favor from you” she quickly replied.
Madame gave her a look of wonder. “And just what this motive is?” “Not important for you to know. The favor, which really concerns you, is if you could give me a bit of that love potion you spoke of in our last rendezvous? I’m ready to pay any price for it” “You know that isn’t for sale, yet you ask for it. Lonely are we?”
Madame was intensely interested.
“I think I made it quite clear that’s none of your business. Just quote your price” Minerva clearly resented Madame’s intrusive curiosity. “Then it’s none of your business to even ask for it” a little angry, Madame became. “Okay, I’m sorry for my rudeness. I promise you it’s for the better of some people. I’m using it to inspire not conspire” Minerva’s face reflected honesty and sincerity. “Now that’s better. Alright I would let you have it, even free of monetary costs. But I hope you know what you’re doing” Minerva nodded.
On her way out, the rattling of the draperies caused by Minerva’s exit reminded Madame of something crucial she needed to add about the potion. She shouted,” There are side-effects to this potion, if you must know!” Minerva, in her own world, did not heed the last warning. Next day Minerva entered before the others. She sent the guard on an errand to carry out her proposed plan. She was a humanist, by nature. She believed in the innate tendency of humans to love.
She opened up the central air conditioner, took the filter out and reluctantly poured in small doses of the potion. “What the hell!!” She shrugged and poured the whole goddamn liquid into it. God!! Another day wasted!!” grumbled the cover page photographer, Vivan. Hearing him from a distance, Minerva quickly dashed to the restroom.
“I mean, no model means no photoshoot which means no work for me and yet I have to show up!” Cheer up, buddy! Even though there isn’t any reason to!” comforted Anand, his fellow bickering buddy. These were the only two co-workers who weren’t up against each other’s throats. But the soundness of their relationship was based on everything that was unsound in the office. That wasn’t the way it was supposed to be, believed Minerva. “Minerva…Minerva…!” shrilled someone. Yes, I’m coming in a second Radhika!” “Miss Shukla. Did you sign in the register?” enquired the guard. “Of course I did! You think I wanna come to this wretched, underperforming place without getting my commission? You’re so wrong if you do!” “Sorry Mam! I didn’t mean to offend you”
Radhika madam is worse than a hot air balloon, kept the guard to himself. “Yes Radhika, what can I do for you?” asked Minerva, sounding a little exasperated. “Well you could start with fetching me a cup of coffee and once you’re done, then for hell sake’s clear up my desk. All the documents that you sorted out yesterday lay scattered here” “Oh, I’m really sorry! I’m on it, already”
Well she could use an entire gallon of that potion for herself, grumbled Minerva. Later in the day, Raj (in the administrative department) announced something bitter to every one’s taste bud. “Since you guys got free show passes and an all accommodated trip to Mussoorie, I’ll be cutting a day’s wage from your monthly income. Sorry guys, we’re a little short of funds!”
He was met with a loud grunt from all ends of the room. Being a financial manager ain’t easy, after all. “The entire day has gone past and I do not see the slightest bit of effect on anyone. I should’ve known better than to believe phony Miss Madame Tanzinia” Minerva wondered, grinding her teeth while resting her cheeks on her fists. While Minerva sat in impatience and despair, the slow-but-sure effects of this mystical drug began to evidence its authenticity. In the boss’s cabin, Samyukta and he were going through a list of final articles for the next month’s issue. “It’s our anniversary special, so we should give it a distinguished name aside from, “the queer eye”. I mean, you know…a celebrated anniversary title! What do you say? How about a statement? Something that expresses accomplishment with a tinge of humour. Like…we survived a year without law suits or moral/religious fatwas! Yea that should kick ass!” Samyukta excitedly suggested.
“No..its too much! I would prefer a two word title”
He thought for a while. His head right below the air-conditioner. He took a moment to relish the cool air emitted from it. And finally said, “I liked what your idea is based on though. But it’d be safer and less provoking to go along with a ‘short & sweet’ title” Samyukta widened her eyes. She couldn’t believe her ears. He conceded (somewhat) to her better and brilliant ideas for once.
Just outside the office, the regular duo was taking their regular cigarette break. “I condemn those who say cigarettes are bad for you. These things are bloody lifesavers. Especially when and where you got a lot or nothing much to do, wudya say?”
As always, Anand said, “I couldn’t agree more!” “We should get back to work”, he proposed with the sarcastically effective air quotes. Vivan groaned and followed as the glass door closed behind him. Both felt the gush of moist laden air when they entered. They spontaneously exchanged looks of subtle happiness. As they moved towards their respective workstations, their hands accidentally collided. It went unacknowledged. But they turned their heads towards each other. Anand reached out for his mate’s forehead with a handkerchief. Let me get that for you” he said as he wiped the glistening sweat off Vivan’s broad forehead. Vivan didn’t seem to mind, which was surprising. He was averse to the remotest homosexual gesture.“Hey, thanks man!” he simply said. An unprecedented rain shower cooled the city atmosphere. The heat was getting to everyone’s head, anyway. At times like such, one’s faith in a supreme power is affirmed. Just as unexpectedly, music flowed through the corridors of the office after a long, dry spell of monotony. It was none other than Jaswant (aka Jamal) who initiated the mood. Switchfoot was played. Not his usual pick.
That was the first apparent sign for Minerva to know better than she thought. A broad smile strained her face. Suppose sometimes, she didn’t mind eating her words. The day was well over. It was recorded, by Minerva, as the day that shall go down in history when there were minimum quarrels, even disagreements. A better day awaits tomorrow.
One of the many sides of the potion was that its effect lingered on, on the infected host. That following night, each one of them dreamt of a hazy yet beautiful being. The feeling that seemed so distant from them was now close enough to embrace its trunk. All, surprised to wake up with their pillows hugged tightly across their chest. All except one, who wasn’t as much as the others.
Samyukta was the first to be greeted by the guard in the morning. Last night’s adventure had left her a little disturbed. This wasn’t a usual encounter, even if it was just a mid-summer night’s dream. “Yes, Snehanshoo I’ve been dying to hear this from you. Just tell me when and where, you know I’ll be there!” Radhika had walked in. she just disengaged the receiver of her cell phone. She was grinning from ear to ear. The guy she’s been longing to patch things up with had made the much awaited call. No, it wasn’t the enticing drug. It was just a matter of coincidence. “Hey someone’s on cloud 9. You wanna tell me who is it relating to?” Snehanshoo” she replied coyly. “Hey, I’m happy for you!” she gave her a “winning” hug.
“Gee, so am I! Let’s go out for lunch today and discuss this over a bloody Mary” “I’d love to but I’m stuck with Jaswant today as we have to sort out a billion to-do lists. But hey, we’ll find time alright?” “Sure”
Minerva pushed the slightly jammed glass door. A bit sun beaten, she was. But it waded off as soon as she noticed (and felt) the gleeful environment in the office. At last! She gloriously sighed. Jaswant was in unusually high spirits today. The last that he ever fussed about his outer gear was probably graduation day. His “dressed to kill” attire composed of John Players trousers; collar T-shirt by Lacoste and the final touch of Polo by Ralph Lauren. “Good morning, Jaswant! You look….great….today!” stuttered Minerva as she gradually drew in the visuals. Minerva had never been this taken aback. The guy who went past her was not the usual draggy, sloppy mess that did every morning at 10. This one had something else about him. Something that caught her attention and interest longer than most ever did.“Oh no! This shouldn’t be happening to me. I mean, I can’t possibly…no, I must shun it away” she now realized why.
Enter user name: manish_maniac Enter password: *********** (girlsgalore) Welcome, manish! (Computer speaks)
“Good morning to you too, m’lady. Now only if you were one, for real!” “Hey Manish, I need your help here….eeeewwwww!! That’s way too graphic to be the wallpaper on your desktop” Samyukta almost puked in her mouth.
“Hey hey, our tastes are unique to each one of us. So let’s not question or condemn.” Rolling her eyes, “please wrap up the article on ‘pantyhose for men’ by today, will ya?” “For you, Madame…anything!” “Aargghh..a simple yes would have been fine”.
No amount of any drug could change her feelings for him. The same couldn’t be said for him, though. He had already charged up the imaginary engines in his head and found the rudeness in her tone to be somewhat appealing and arousing. Could she be the “beautiful being” he dreamed of?
Inside the owner’s cubicle…“Beautiful!!” Jaswant exclaimed. “Huh?” a bit startled. Samyukta shot a puzzled look. “The day, the weather” It indeed was. “Even you!” he said, sounding confident. “Uh, well…thank you!” she tried to keep a straight face but was failing miserably. Admit or not, she was flattered and couldn’t help the flustered face. While on the other side of the office… “When did you walk in?” enquired Anand. He found Vivan resting his back on the reclined chair. It was just the both of them in that room.“Long back. I came in like a thief evading everyone in the office. I don’t know why I did that. Perhaps, just for some kicks. What’s good with ya, man?” “Nothing…nothing at all. I’ve been procrastinating over each assignment and my girlfriend won’t talk to me anymore coz I didn’t call her for two days. But funny, it doesn’t feel so bad after all” Vivan nodded as he listened on. “To be really honest, I kind of know the reason why I haven’t called Sheetal for two days. Somebody else has sort of caught my fancy” “Yeah?” Vivan spontaneously wanted to ask, who, but something held him back. “Yea, I dreamed of him…err…her last night. Felt so real” Anand flashed an embarrassed grin. “Tell me more….about this dream”
“Well, it began with…with this person caressing my palm. Obviously, it felt ticklish. But it was stimulating too. Um…then this person started caressing my cheeks. Now that felt really good. He (eeps!) reached down my neck and affectionately smothered it… *Chuckle* you know I woke up to find my shorts soiled.” “Whoa man! Quite the dream you had out there. And did you just say the person was a ‘he’?” “Uh….I may have” “But funny, you know, I had the exact same dream” A moment of silence fell across the room, duly followed by an overt outburst of emotions. How the longing for each other was now over!
“What?! You’re not showing up today for work. But your services are highly required here. What is more important, anyway?
“Well Raj is going to meet his Simran today. I’ve been ignoring my love for too long now. And you don’t worry, I’ll handle Jaswant tomorrow myself. Just inform him of my deliberate absence today. Thanks, Minerva. Bye!” Click. Why do I always have to be the bearer of bad news? On her way to his cabin, she was rehearsing her lines to say to him. This was utterly unnecessary, she thought. And…
“Hey Jas…Jas…Jaswant! I…yai…I just had to say that uh…that…that Raj has taken the…the day off.f” What did you just say, woman? What about Raj?” I think she said that he won’t be coming today” Samyukta interrupted. “Oh well, people act as they wish around here. It’s cool. He needed the break” “Wow! That’s awfully sweet of you!” “Well, psalms. You know I am a large hearted person and I have a special place for each in my heart” he eyed at Samyukta very suggestively.
Minerva sensed the warm vibes and felt an instant pinch of jealousy. The green eyed monster she became. “Uh, I think Vivan wanted you to see some samples of his last assignment” “Yeah? Thought we already went over ‘em. Anyway” shooting a last glance at Samyukta, he strode off. Minerva, almost spontaneously, passed a snide remark. “The two of you are unusually cozy, huh?” “We are on better terms, I would prefer to say” And it’ll only get better if this goes on…“Did you say something?” Samyukta snapped Minerva’s introspective moment. “No, nothing. I’ll get back to work” As Jaswant made his way to Vivan’s desk…“Hey Jaswant! Seen Samyukta?”“She’s in my cabin. Why? Anything important?” “Just have to…go over this article with her…you know…the review of that movie, coffee date” “Oh you know…she’s tied up with too many other things today. Maybe you and I can discuss it. Let me go and check in on Vivan first. Give me a moment, will ya?” “Sure!” Manish convincingly managed to form a genuine smile of affirmation but in his heart of hearts, he was containing the fume! Jaswant walked into something he least wanted and expected.
The black leather couch stood in the middle of the room. Anand had comfortably parked himself on it. His bare skin felt the cool, hard skin of the couch. At this moment, his bliss knew no bounds. Click click click. “Yeah that’s perfect man. Or maybe lower your eyes a bit and let your hair strands cover your left eye. Oooh! This is a total turn on!” Jaswant just blankly stared. A sudden scenario comprising of a complete nudity of anatomy, love and passion would be hard for anyone to instantly digest. The irony here that strikes the most is in the way he received it, or even accepted it. Such an outright display would have outraged him, if not for the infectious air. Au contraire, it invoked this dormant spirit in him that he never believed even existed. But he was glad it did. Kind of like the way one would feel if told a unicorn was spotted grazing in some far grassland in Western Europe. Without breathing a word, he immediately moved his heels out of the door with only one place in mind and a girl, who resides there. He went past Manish, breaking his promise to get back with him at the earliest. He can wait, he decided.
“Oh you’re back. So I was thinking…mmmmmmmmmmm…???” All, that was unspoken, was now conveyed with all clarity. The name plate that read “editor-in-chief” hung loose against the door that was gently slammed.
“Oooh! Now I know why Samyukta won’t come with me for a drink. She has “business” to take care of” Radhika couldn’t help but giggle as loudly as she possibly could. Save it, Radhika. Minerva smirked.
“THERE’S GOT TO BE SOME WAY. TELL ME, HOW DO I DE-HYPNOTIZE THEM FROM THE EFFECTS OF THIS DRUG?”
“Watch that tone, lady. You’re not helping yourself in any way” Madame Tanzinia grew highly distasteful of Minerva. Minerva assumed a desperate plea now. “Please. I know all of this is my fault. I shouldn’t have come to you in the first place. But things have gone out of control” she winced at her intentional lie. Madame saw through her. “You mean things are not in your control. Poor li’l Minerva…doesn’t realize that you can’t have your cake and eat it too”
Guilt was written all over her face. Minerva couldn’t help but admit the person she had become due to the drug. But the sensuous and lingering effect of the drug wrestled her prudence and sucked her back into narcissistic temptation. “I did tell you of the side effects but you were in such haste to act swiftly. Honey, your heart was in the right place but you should have looked before you leaped” Minerva grew impatient and irritated of the unsolicited advice. She retorted, “I did what I did and it was futile coming to you for any help. Now I’ll do things my way, for a change”
Minerva stormed off with great determination leaving Madame a little apprehensive of what could possibly happen.
Next morning, she woke up with a dazed feeling. Recollecting the occurrences from yesterday, namely her stiffness with Jaswant and her cold and curt behavior with everyone else, she found herself wallowing in self pity. This had happened to her several times before. The exact same inner experience of dejection as when others exclusively reaped the benefits of her good will efforts. She swore to cater to her needs from now on.
“Where is she? She’s never been this long! Did you try her number, Raj?” “Twice already! Who knows, she might be taking an off today. And if the reason is what I think it is, then I suppose we could spare her for once” Jaswant shot a highly amused look at Raj. He did understand, though, the possessiveness of that elated feeling. Just then…
“I hope I’m not too late!”
“You look….great….today!” exclaimed Jaswant, half expecting to see or say what he did. “Huh?” “He says you look good today. Anyhow where were you all this while? You’re an hour late!” “I had to collect some important documents from somewhere” From the corner of her eye, Minerva noticed the way she was being intently examined. Half the battle was won.
“I have some job for you. Meet me at my desk in ten” commanded Jaswant as quickly as possible. Aye aye, boss!” said Minerva with all eagerness. Meanwhile…
“I had a great time last night. The motel charges were a bit off the roof though” “So was our little tete-a-tete” Vivan stroked her long tresses that reached down till her lower back. Not realizing that he was visible from the other side of the one way mirror, he cuddled up to her in the comforts of his car. And from the other side, Anand watched in disbelief.
*sob* *sniff* “Radhika, is that you in there?” “Go away!” “I wont unless we talk this through” pleaded Samyukta. 10 minutes before she had seen Radhika dashing towards the loo, her cheeks wet. The door unlocked. Samyukta saw a washed out Radhika sitting on the commode.“He’s getting married tomorrow. Can you believe that? He called me only just to let me know” “MEN!! Asses…all of them are!” (Except maybe one) “How stupid and gullible I feel to actually believe in our common destiny” “Hey! He made a promise which he completely disregarded so this isn’t in any way your fault”
Radhika remained silent. She was in loss for words. She couldn’t feel like herself anymore. Her only console, now, were Samyukta’s bony shoulders. Exactly 10 minutes later… “How come you decided to wear black today?” “Its actually dark grey” “Yeah yeah. But skirts really flaunt your suave figure. And that brooch really adds a nice final touch”
“Gee thanks” she smiled while making an effort to be as coy as she could be. Hey Jamal!” “Yeah Psalms” “Jamal? Psalms?” Minerva shot a confused look. The discrete friendliness between them disturbed her.
“Oh! We just pet named each other” She faked a smile to please him. “Oh Samyukta, did my eyes deceive me or did I see you last night with a handsome gentleman outside Ego Thai in NFC?” asked Minerva with a sadistic glint in her eye.
Samyukta’s face turned numb. She lost the ability to respond. Jaswant, on his part, was impatiently waiting for a good comeback from her. “He was…just a friend!” Samyukta tried to reply most confidently and hoped that she won’t be asked any further.
“Or potentially more than one. I called your home last night coz I needed to get in touch with you for some urgent work. I mean, I did try your cell phone but it was switched off. So I spoke to your mom and she told me that you were out for dinner with someone she seemed to be highly excited about. I don’t blame her for not being able to contain her excitement about a highly prospective suitor for her only daughter. And incidentally I was around the corner too…oh…I’m sorry…did I speak out of turn?”
None of them could answer that. Samyukta chose to walk away. Behind, she heard Jaswant say, “Do you want to grab some lunch in 10 minutes?” He said it loud enough for her to hear. He wasn’t addressing her, but. She slumped onto her chair, wishing unrealistically. Beep Beep. A text message on her cell. “Darling, I had a great time last night! Love, Manish” An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth will turn the whole world blind. – Makepeace Sitlhou.
Contributed By: Makepeace Sitlhou is a Post Grad student of Psychology at the University of Delhi who enjoys sublimating her neurotic thoughts in thoughtful expressions. firstname.lastname@example.org
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