Astonishingly, I was not surprised to the extent I thought I would be. I knew it was coming. The only surprise element was it came much too sooner than I expected. I saw a fleeting expression of envy in the eyes of Bhaskar when he heard Mohan. But he recovered too quickly to let anyone know he was jealous.
“She must be telling the same thing about you in the girls’ hostel now!” was all he could say.
“And more effectively than you,” Vijay added somewhat spitefully.
“Let’s go to our room, I want to listen to his exploits in detail,” I suggested successfully keeping my voice steady.
All of us came to our room and lit cigarettes. Vijay opened all the windows, for he didn’t like the smell of the smoke.
“Last evening I asked her if we could go out. She said we could if I liked. I told her that I would pick her up at 8 in the morning from her hostel,” Mohan began with what seemed to me like a victorious smile on his glowing face.
“In fact, I didn’t know where I would take her to. I had considered taking her to the hotel room, but dropped it because I thought she would be offended by knowing that what was on my mind was only frigging her.”
“You mean to say you let her believe that you are in love with her? Or did you really tell her that you love her?” Bhaskar asked with an indignant tone.
“Do I look like a fool? I neither told her that I loved her nor asked her whether she loved me. Yes, I gave her a lot of attention and she insinuated several times that she was in love with me.”
“But then…” Bhaskar was about to say something but I intervened, “Bhaskar, let him finish his story.”
“Ok. It was she who suggested that we could go to Neersagar Lake,” Mohan said.
“I knew it. She must have known the place very well. She must have taken many guys over there,” this time it was Vijay who rejoined.
Mohan ignored the remark and continued, “We reached there at about half past nine. She had brought some samosas and idlies. We had the breakfast and then started walking into the thick growth of trees and shrubs. There was another couple. They were huddled in a bush and were kissing. When she saw them, she gave me a naughty smile and I pressed her arm. She responded sharply and patted on my cheeks. Then it all started and we ended up in another bush. There I couldn’t control myself and I went on and on till it was all over.”
“You better have a medical check up to clear any doubts,” Vijay said playfully, letting out a laugh.
“Surely he must have used some protection,” I said.
“No, I didn’t. I was not expecting it to happen today,” Mohan replied.
Bhaskar, however, said grimly, “You should be careful about her next move brother. May be she wants to marry you. I feel it was a bait and you nibbled it. For her reputation, she must ensure that some damn fool must marry her.”
“Nothing of that sort is going to happen brother. I have not promised her anything. I have not even promised her that I would meet her again,” Mohan replied with aplomb.
“Now, if you all will excuse me, I want to have some rest,” with these words, Mohan rose from the chair and was gone. It did not escape my notice that Bhaskar did not follow him. He stayed back, looking puzzled, amazed and also worried.
“What is eating you man?” Vijay asked him.
“You know, how Nirupama is and what family she comes from, Mama, since you have spent quite a few years in the same place as her. I am a very close family friend of Mohan’s. I know his dad and mother as well as he himself knows them. His dad is a highly principled man. If something goes wrong, I will also be called to explain. That’s why I am a bit worried.”
“It is too early to worry Bhaskar. Your knowledge about Nirupama’s past is all based on rumours and hearsay. Don’t you think you may be wrong in assessing her?” I asked him. He shifted uncomfortably in his chair and after thinking for a while, said, “One person may be wrong. What about hundreds of people? I am yet to meet a man who thinks she has a spotless character. What is worse, I have heard from some guys who have slept with her.”
“Who claim to have slept with her, probably,” I said.
“Why should they make false claims?” Bhaskar countered me.
“Well, we live in a very rigid society. If a girl is bold enough just to talk to a guy, she would be noted,”
“What you say is true, but I am sure not in her case” Bhaskar said conclusively.
“Alright, it may be so. But Mohan has been a starved man. It was like a rain to him in times of famine. It was like our government sponsored calamity relief work.”
“But the consequences?”
“Let us cross the bridge when we approach it,” I said.
Late that evening, when we were all together once again in my room, I asked Mohan, “Pal, you should throw a party for what you have achieved today.”
“All you need is some pretext to drink,” Vijay said.
“What are you going to achieve by being a teetotaler? You will have only regrets in the end,” Bhaskar teased him.
“I remember a joke about a teetotaler, man,” I said, “Once an old man told a young boy drinking beer in the park early one evening, ‘Young man, all my life I have never touched the booze or tobacco. Today I am going to celebrate my eighty-fifth birthday!’ The boy simply asked him with astonishment, ‘How?’”
It took a while for Vijay and even Bhaskar to understand it. But they burst into laughter. “Everyone has his own way of celebrating. Harsha,” Vijay said after the laughter died down.
“Ok guys. Let’s go now. Party from me!” Mohan announced.