CHAPTER 1

It had been a while, since Subodh moved in to the new city and the new apartment, but still, the suspicion and curiosity of the neighbors seemed, unquenchable. The irritation those pesky neighbors had caused him, had really no limits. As he moved to the door of his apartment around midnight, he felt a few pairs of eye piercing his back.

“Come on guys get a life!” blurted out of his mouth, while opening the door.

It was almost Wednesday and due to his Tuesday fasts, hunger was killing him. The welcome committee included stale air, scattered daily journals and thick layers of dust deposited everywhere. Even in the pitch black darkness, his hands automatically reached for the switchboard, just to the left of the entrance. It merely caused a fruitless flicker of the tube-light at the other end of the hall, which eventually died.

Those few final flashes of light were enough to see the path to the kitchen, in midst of newspapers and magazines lying on the floor, unattended for about 2 and a half weeks this time. The kitchen was pretty empty. And so was the refrigerator, except a few, completely dehydrated slices of bread, an almost finished can of jam and a few rotten eggs.

Hygiene and guys gel with each other but just in the rarest of cases, naturally. Anyone sensing the conditions around the apartment could have easily figured it out that the guy living in this house was an actual nomad.

Hungry as he was, he literally pounced up on the can of the mixed fruit jam. That’s when it caught his eye.

Among the heaped printed rubbish all over the floor, he was able to point out a postcard. A white postcard, without any other thing written on it except the address. He picked it up and turned it around. It had a cartoon sketched in black on it.

There was no doubt! He could have identified it anywhere! But what in the world was it doing on that blank postcard?

The sketch was of a boy with messy hair, looking at the heavens above, a silly grin drawn on its face and a t-shirt with ‘B’ scribbled on it.

Hardly believing what was in front of his eyes, he scanned it from top to bottom. He wasn’t mistaken. After-all he was the one who first drew it. It was Subodh’s signature sketch. His symbol.

With his eyes fixed on the postcard his mind wandered off in the past where suddenly a conversation echoed across his head.

“From today onward, we’ll call it ‘shani maharaj’. If you don’t like it, then better start searching a good name with this good brain of yours.”

“What about.. Buddhijeevi??”

“That’s the name we gave you. You won’t get rid of it that easily!”

“Like ever I could with the likes of you! But its like a cool name for a cartoon character.”

“Chal theek hai. Have it your way then. Its buddhi ka buddhijeevi.”

“buddhijeevi..” he slowly muttered as he recalled it and the voice inside his head died.
Suddenly, a wide grin, same as of that ‘buddhijeevi’ floated across Subodh’s face.

“Am I dreaming or what???”

Nodding his head in disbelief again and again, he reached for his cell phone in the pocket. While flipping through the list of contacts in the phone-book, the screen flashed the name he was looking for.

Anshul Jain 7.4

“He wouldn’t be keeping that old number till now?” He paced down the hall, staring at the mobile screen for a few minutes.
“But what if he did? No harm in trying.”

It rang!

“What would I say if the call is answered?? What if I have saved the wrong number??” As soon as these questions were shot in his brain, a sweet female voice on the other end of the line made him panic a bit more.

“Hello.” answered the ‘sweet female voice’.

“Anshul Jain??”

“Wait a sec..”

And after a few muffled voices of changing hands by phone, a very familiar voice ringed Subodh’s ear.

“Anshul speaking.”

“You were the last person I ever expected to use number portability service. You always wanted to get rid of your number just because you got bored of keeping same number.” I remarked.

“Some habits are borrowed from people close to you as a reminder of them. I think you borrowed mine too.” Anshul shot back.

“Does it matter? I contacted you didn’t I? And who was that chick anyway? Picking up your private number? Pretty close to you I guess?”

“Dog!! You can never change! You call me after 5 years and start questioning me like my dad? Didn’t you call me because of the postcard?”

“So you indeed were behind it. Yup, I got it. But..”

“Sending an invitation card to you felt weird. It’s like sending it to my.. mom!! It’s an informal invitation” interrupted Anshul.

“Invitation for what??”

“My wedding dumb-ass.. I am getting married. So you better move your lazy ass here asap.”

“Marrying??? When?? With whom??”

“Again questions. Like in hell you’ll ever change. It’s a long story. I’ll be waiting for you. By the way, the marriage is this Thursday.” and he cut the call.

Now that’s what you call ‘surprise’. Anshul was getting married in just 2 days, which has shortened to 1 day just a few moments ago, and I had to reach there, as he told me, asap. I checked out time again. It was 12:10 of midnight, which meant Wednesday already started. I took my already packed bag and left my apartment once again. As soon as I entered my car my cell phone rang.

“So beta, how was your trip this time?” It was Maa.

“What do you say if I tell you about it during tomorrow’s breakfast? But I’ll have omelets and parathas.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am coming home Maa.”

“Where is my bachelor party?? You do this to me just a day before my wedding day?? How dare you ruin the last few hours of my freedom like this?? I mean, just look at this. Why the hell am I having just a beer and the good thing is with you? And what happened to my bachelor party anyways??”

“Okkk.. This confirms that the damage has been done. I think beer was pretty much ok choice for your first and probably last drink.”

“But my bachelor party…”

“Shh.. You should be delighted that I made it in time for your wedding, let alone crying out loud for a party for just two of us. Finish your beer up. And you mister, made the decision of tying knot. So stop being a wuss. By the way, when are you going to tell me how you proposed?”

“You see I had this whole thing planned! There was this great…”

“I didn’t mean her. Her family. Her Mausi.”

It was pretty scary. But that was all left to do! I confronted her family and confirmed their suspicion. There was some tension in the air and to make the matter worse, her mausi showed up.

“Seriously??”

“Yeah! Sometimes I wonder if she even has her own house or is just a freeloader.”

“A pretty commanding one at that!”

“You bet. But suddenly she was the sweet mausi who supported us!”

“You are kidding??”

“Nope! It is all thanks to her that this wedding is going so smoothly.”

“What happened to that Jurassic mentality and orthodox stuff and all??”

“Don’t know! Whatever that was, worked in our favor right. Why the hell is this bottle not empty yet?”

“You have to drink it all for it to be empty. It’s not magic. You were the one who wanted to do this in the first place.”

“Yeah, but like 5 years ago! Not just a day before..”

“Ya ya… Your wedding day. I know. Still, you got what you want, right?”

“Hmm… But you couldn’t fulfill your dream of helping us elope.”

“Aah… Yeah! But the purpose is being served. I am happy!”

“But why were you so ready for us to have a runaway marriage?”

“Well, I just wanted to make sure that my two closest friends have a fairy tale ending.”

“And yet you went away.”

“Come on! It wasn’t forever.”

“You made us think it was.”

“Even I believed it for a while.”

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