Saturday, August 3, 2013

Flirting with friendship: Faith Consultants

Chapter 10: Faith Consultants

Sakshi was the only girl in the whole tour with full of enthusiasm. Shrushti newly broke up with her boyfriend and her wounds were still very fresh. She had come with us to get over it and her purpose was well served. Anusha was not the one who’d have fun openly with us though she had it all dancing in her mind, she wasn’t letting it out because of her Connubial leash she had in her neck. And of course, the presence of my parents made her feel much more conscious.
We all gathered our paraphernalia and loaded them on top of Tavera. Dad sat in his reserved front seat and I sat behind the driver’s seat near the window. Sakshi sat beside me and mom was on the other side, behind dad. Shrushti and Anusha took the back seat and sat comfortably stretching their long legs. As far as the attires for a semi-religious tour was concerned, dad wore his simple white cotton lungi and a half-sleeve cream coloured shirt. He looked super-normal and quickly made a note of the meter reading.
“All are ready?” He asked while looking at his 35-year old Citizen watch gifted by his best friend. He recoiled the knob of his watch and slammed the door of the car.
Mom was in her not-so-stylish pink floral nylon saree, and was decorated in all-gold ornaments including gold and black-beads Mangalsutra.
“Sakshi? Have you kept everything?” Mom whispered in her ears.
“Haan Amma. All’s good.” Sakshi replied. Her eyes were locked on my mom’s ornaments, not in greed, but in awe and sheer delight and mom looked very happy and beautiful even at this age wearing all those heavy things though reluctantly, but with pride. Sakshi was dressed in a simple khaki kurti with black leggings and she had some innovative designs made on her forehead with black eyeliner.
“So... Who’s in to play Antakshari?” Sakshi started with her usual ice breaker spell.
“Aey... Sushhhh....” dad yelled as he was offering prayers before leaving. Sakshi’s face turned pale, but I gripped her hand and consoled subtly placing my finger on her lips.
“Tour hasn’t started yet and you both did?” Anusha mildly punched me on my shoulder and was teasing me for consoling Sakshi. She was wearing a sporty yellow sleeveless kurti and denim jeans plus her big and loud flashy wooden bangles which looked quite fashionable with contemporary art. My parents usually never bother to comment on anybody’s dressing sense because they know very well how fashion changes with time. They too were very fashionable during their age and dad just loved his bell bottom trousers and safari suits. He still suggests me to get one stitched because everyone in my family tells me that I resemble my dad a lot. The only difference is the moustache which I don’t have.
Dad gave a green signal to the driver and he turned on the ignition. Sakshi released a shrill voice in excitement as her plan finally worked out and all of us had made it. I reeled down the window and the fresh morning cold breeze kissed my dry cheeks. The plan which was supposed to take off at 6 in the morning, took its sweet time and we were off to Murudeshwar around 7:30.
“Dada... Can you play some songs on the MP3 player?” Shrushti made a hesitant request to my dad. She called him dada because that is how she calls her father.
“Wait till we cross the city traffic putta.” He softly insisted and made his point that he was in control of the front-side operations. Shrushti leaned backwards, stretched her arms and legs, pulled out her earphones and got plugged in her mobile phone listening to old Kannada songs. She was dressed in a black polo neck full sleeves t-shirt, knee length tight jeans and a navy blue scarf. She pulled out her jacket from her small bag and slept with the hood on.
“Abhi. You don’t sleep.” Sakshi looked at me and gave me a romantic warning while she noticed all of them drooping back to sleep.
I was unmoved by the radiant sunlight strengthening its glow of the golden veil around the sky and making the clouds more incandescent. I was in love with life. With Sakshi beside me humming an unknown song in my ears, the wind blowing in my hair and the morning light bright enough to show me how beautiful the roads of the new Bengaluru looked on an early Sunday morning; the selective trash on the street being raked by a sweeper; an old couple holding each others’ hands and strolling on the footpath with their shawls, mufflers, and a monkey cap neatly worn; and a faint noise of Namma Metro running on the flyover rails of the MG Road. I subsequently wrapped my hands around Sakshi’s shoulders and she was soon asleep than others. She’d got up at 3 in the morning and had completed all the arrangements even before mom and dad got up. Usually, my dad wakes up early to finish the rituals and mom too wakes up to finish the household chores, but today Sakshi had taken over the tasks and finished all the chores well in time. She silently slept in my arms while dad continued reading the newspaper even in the vehicle. Anusha was getting really bored, and her fingers were continuously poking my shoulder. I pulled out a 5 Star chocolate and gave it to her.
“Hungry?” I asked without looking back. There was no reply. And nobody snatched it from me. I turned behind to have a look, and everyone was asleep. It was such a wonderful day, if they were nature lovers. Anyways, I just made the crumpling sound of the chocolate wrapper and still there was no sign of anyone making a move.
“Appa. Play hanuman chalisa.” I slowly poked dad with the chocolate. He kept the newspaper aside and turned on the MP3 player. We usually take our collection of songs to our every tour and he inserted the flash drive in the music system.
jai hanuman gyan gun sagar... the MP3 player began to play the bhajan in a very soft mode. Sakshi’s head on my shoulders began to immerse much deeper and she tightened her grip on my arms while the vehicle was taking sharp turns on the highway. Anusha too had her hand firmly holding my right side of the jacket collar while the ghats made them swerve in their sleep. Shrushti seemed unaffected as she was the Snoring Princess and I’d seen a teaser too. She totally sacrifices her senses in her sleep and scares the hell out of those who watch her sleep in such a lethal condition.
mahaveer vikrama bajarangi.... I suddenly raised my voice getting in sync with the bhajan and caught hold of Anusha’s hands.
kumit nivaara sumit ke sangi... Anusha slightly chorused.
“5 star?” I asked her again.
“No thanks.” She went back to sleep.
Sakshi too woke up when I sang loudly that instance. She had her head blissfully resting on my chest and when she lifted her head; her hairdo was all messed up making her look more beautiful with the wind swaying her long shoulder-length hair. My face was covered by her smooth and silky hair that smelled olives and orange. I closed my eyes and raked the hair from my face, and figuratively unveiling her face from the dark curtains of night. I cupped her cheeks and softly murmured, “You get back to sleep putta.” And she smiled.
“I am feeling hungry.” Shrushti started howling.
“Shhhhhh.... Take this.” I swung the 5 Star at her. Finally I cleared the stock. I said to myself.
Shrushti mindlessly started gobbling the chocolate and made those orgasmic sounds all over again. I felt so awkward, I was afraid if mom or dad would wake up and suspect me and Sakshi doing something. I suddenly closed my eyes pretending I was fast asleep while Sakshi was already sleeping. Luckily, nobody woke up and we still moved silently on the highway. My parents had utmost faith in me and Sakshi and knew very well that we’d not indulge into anything immoral before getting wedded and they knew how much flirtatious I was with Shrushti and Anusha. My behaviour though was intimidating, but nevertheless, was harmless too.
“Amma.” I woke her up with a slight concern.
“Haan.” She jumped up from her seat. Mom too had a similar reflex as that of Sakshi and that was why I woke her up from a Sakshi’s distance.
“Do you have something in your bag to eat?” I asked. By then, even dad woke up with sound of some heavy trucks and we’d reached Chitradurga.
Chitradurga is very well known for its bold rock hills and picturesque valleys and huge towering boulders in different shapes. The people call them Kallina Kote (Stone Fortress), and Yelu Suttina Kote. It comprises a series of seven enclosure walls. There are 18 ancient temples that can be found inside this fort and this seemingly impregnable fort has 19 gateways, 38 posterior entrances, a palace, a mosque, granaries, oil pits, four secret entrances and water tanks.
Astounded by the history this place is living in, I requested dad to make a stop, at least for the sake of brunch. Mom and dad were used to fasting and none of the ladies really bothered to ask about food. It was only Shrushti who’d graciously eaten ten bucks chocolate and I was busy admiring the beauty outside the window and the one sleeping beside me.
“Appa. Please let’s eat and proceed.” I asked. He then instructed the driver to find a good restaurant and halt there. It was 10:30 and we’d reached the place pretty early. This Michael is a Schumacher, my conscience giggled. While all of them were gorging on the hygienic food, I took out my Nikon D500 and started taking pictures. I had this photographer in me alive and kicking, trying to get out of the academic skin and being totally crazy. I saw tired faces, busy faces, ugly faces, beautiful faces and cute faces too.
“Let’s just go to fort.” I just announced in the air, not knowing what dad would say.
“There are 18 ancient temples in there. You knew that?” I continued to talk like a guide, just googling about Chitradurga from my smartphone and trying to motivate the team to get up and keep it moving.
“How long will it take?” Dad asked without looking at me. His eyes still stuck on the newspaper.
“About 2-3 hours?” I said looking at my brown leathered fastrack gifted by my best friend.
“You guys go and come. We’ll be here itself in the vehicle.” He asked us to move our lazy butts and finish the visit soon. I asked our Schumacher to quickly drop Sakshi, Shrushti, Anusha and me to the fort and get back to the restaurant. He dropped us at the fort and I was fully charged to be the kind of photographer I wanted to be. With three gorgeous ladies on my side, I was bit urged to give my best shot at clicking the best pictures for their facebook profile pictures (as they had instructed me) and I also had to cover the seven-circles fort.
Built in the 18th century, the ruins of the granite stone are now the UNESCO World Heritage Site and I was wondering, from where I make a start. Shrushti was in her crazy mood and suddenly hugged the wall like a lizard and called me out,
“Abhi... Take a pic.” She kept smiling until she heard the clicking sound of my camera.
“Show me, show me, show me...” She came running towards me.
“Not now babe.” I refrained. “My battery will get drained more in showing than in clicking.”
She gave me a sexy frown and we moved towards the inside of the fort. The huge 2-feet high steps exhausted everyone in the first-circle of the fort itself.
“Hurry everyone. We’ve to go back soon.” I urged them. Anusha was totally off the track and feeling lonely without Vikram. I signalled Sakshi to go and talk to her and I turned back admiring at the impeccable carving of a 7-hooded python approaching in a zig-zag way towards a bull seated on the left. We didn’t have much time to relish the place completely as mom and dad were waiting for us. I could take as many pictures as possible of the fort and candid pictures of the ladies because that is when they look naturally beautiful.
“Shall we go Abhi? Kaka and Kaku might be waiting.” Anusah asked me with a faint voice.
“Haan Anu. Why don’t we girls take a picture together?” Sakshi tried to cheer Anu and I quickly clicked their picture. Say cheese. Click.
“ABHIIIII....” all the three ladies screamed in unison.
“Girls.” I simpered. Anusha was all charged and she came out of the picture posing mode.
“Abhi. Now you go and stand between them.” She said. “I’ll take your picture.”
I went and stood in between Sakshi and Shrushti with my arms around both of them and Sakshi tightly hugging me. We then tried all permutations and combinations and got ourselves clicked. While Anusha and I were posing for a duet, Sakshi looked quite surprised that Anu was in such an intimate position with me, but then, Anusha was married, and that gave Sakshi some breathing space.
“Vikram would be regretting for not coming.” Anusha whispered in my ears.
“Sakshi is still watching us.” I replied.
Shrushti was trying to find the ‘click’ button, adjusting the focus.
“Got it... Got it...” she said and clicked finally.
I called up dad and asked our Schumacher to pick us up from the fort.
“We’ll leave from there itself.” Dad said. “We’re on the way.”
“Abhi. You’re looking handsome today.” Anusha winked at me. There was nothing so handsome-ish about my attire. I was wearing simple jeans, with a red colour round neck printed t-shirt which had a statement “tu 13 dekh” in bold and scary font written on it.
Sakshi watchfully smiled at me and Anusha while the vehicle arrived. The seating arrangement was still the same and this time Sakshi kept her eyes wide open. Sakshi tried to comprehend my behaviour with all her clairvoyance, but all she trusted me. I tried not to be shamelessly myself while on such a congenially devout journey. I had my chances before and I used them to the optimum level, but now wasn’t the time.
“Amma. I want to tell you something.” I sat beside her this time. And Sakshi was sitting on the window side.
“Anusha is missing Vikram.” I whispered in her ears. Mom got to know the reason why I mentioned this to her and why I sacrificed my window seat.
“Don’t worry Abhi. I’ll talk to her.” She held my hand and gave me a firm relief.
I slept like a baby this time on my mom’s shoulder as everyone had completed their quota in the morning. Sakshi was now in full swing and she finally convinced Shrushti, mom and Anusha to sing along and play Antakshari with her. While I was trying to sleep, I could hear an assortment of vernacular songs right from Enrique’s - I can be your hero baby, to Tamil song, kangal irandal from Subramaniapuram. It started slowly and the sound grew intense as we neared the shores. The stench of fisheries on the shore and the roaring beach of Murudeshwar’s grand entrance woke me up in an elegant fashion. My fastrack ticked 3:15 in the afternoon and the sun was furiously gracious.
Welcome to Murudeshwar Resorts. The signboard at the entrance read in a glorified script font embossed on a steel panel. I got down from the Schumacher’s time machine and was revelling at the nostalgic scenery all around.
“Pick up the bags and take them to room 203.” Dad shouted from the reception counter while I was still standing outside partially hypnotized with the enhanced beauty of the place.
“Haan Appa. I will.” I said unconsciously. When I reached out on top of the roof, there were no bags. I suddenly started scanning everywhere for the bags and the resort service boys were taking them to the room while the ladies followed him. I too joined the line and moved ahead to get back my camera bag. I don’t let anyone hold it, unless they know how to handle it.
“Abhi. I want to show you something.” Sakshi had a grin on her face.
“What is it?” I wondered. She took out my camera and showed the pictures of me while I was sleeping. DAMN! These girls used my trick on me.
“Very funny.” I said with a fake smile and grabbed the camera. I didn’t delete the pictures though. I knew how much trouble Sakshi had to take to get it out of my bag, and set the focus right and stuff. She wouldn’t misuse the pictures anyway.
“Appa. What’s the plan now?” I asked dad with a tired look.
“I’ve booked for a mahapooja at 5:30 in the temple.” He said. “Till then you’re free to go anywhere.” I wasn’t in a mood to rest anymore and so were others.
“Let’s go to the beach.” Sakshi leaped in enthusiasm. She had never seen a sea in her life. She was born and raised in Bangalore and her relatives lived in Mandya. So, most of her excursions used to be around places like Tumkur, KR Pete, Mysore and Ooty was the farthest she’d been.
“Sure.” Anusha too changed her clothes and was in her knickers. Shrushti just changed her full length t-shirt and wore short tees which had elephants and snakes in a weird Chinese design.
“Amma. Are you coming to the beach?” Sakshi asked mom while I was getting dressed up.
“I will not enter the water. I’ll just sit at the shore.” Mom said with a concerned voice. Mom has always been hydrophobic and this has been with the rivers in Sringeri and waterfalls at Jog Falls too.
“That’s fine Amma.” Sakshi consoled. “We too are just going for a walk on the beachside.” She said with a smile staring at me while my leg got stuck in my boxers and I was dancing on one leg.
“Who’s walking? I want to go for a boat ride.” Shrushti screamed out of her chair while Anusha blankly watched us argue. It came to my notice that Anusha and Shrushti weren’t formally introduced to each other by us, but they’d got introduced themselves and were getting along well.
“Are you ready Abhi?” Sakshi called me out as if the sea would dry out by evening. Now she knows how I feel when she’s getting ready while going out for a movie. I sneered.
“Yes. I am ready.” I came out in my grey shorts and a sleeveless white tee, and a cheap sunglass bought from a roadside at Commercial Street.
“Hahahahahahaha....” all the girls broke out in a loud laughter.
“Your post-office is open.” Shrushti turned away and continued to laugh. I quickly pulled the zipper and said, “What! Never seen a zipper open?”
We all reached the beach and it was heaven. Though not many people were around because we’d come during an off season and that was the reason we got the rooms so easily. The sun was still bright and it wasn’t a perfect time to go out for a walk. Mom removed her slippers and sat on the beach, while our Fantastic Four gang kept walking.
“Amma. Don’t go anywhere.” I instructed. “We’ll come back soon.” She tends to keep wandering and in many cases, we’d to go to the reception of the temple and make an announcement to call her on the mike. I half-heartedly came out with Sakshi because this was her maiden experience of being at the seashore and most importantly, I was on her side.
“This is the best moment of my life Abhi.” She said with fervour.
“I am glad you are having a great time Sakshi.” I matched her footsteps.
Shrushti and Anusha were talking their girly stuff and giggling while they slowly walked behind us. I didn’t bother to look behind and listen to what they were discussing, but Sakshi had drawn me into her eyes filled with incessant love and invincible magnetism. I was sweating like a pig in such heat, but still I preferred close to her with help of my Kama Sutra Rush deodorant. We didn’t walk too long and I asked Sakshi to turn back.
Anusha and Shrushti were missing from the scene when we turned back. Sakshi and I started scanning in the not-so crowded beach and there they were; on a speedboat. Shrushti and Anusha were riding without an instructor.
“I will take them to task.” I resented.
“Don’t be so silly.” Sakshi tried to convince me. “They are grown up girls and both know to swim very well.”
“How do you know about Anusha so much?” I wondered. “You didn’t even talk so much with her recently.”
“Come on Abhi.” She smiled. “We girls talk less, but mindless, reckless and baseless stuff.” She jeered. I knew where the conversation was taking its turn.
“Okay. Let’s go and see mom.” I said. “I hope she’s still sitting and waiting for us.”
We both walked hand in hand while the tides were constantly touching our feet and sending a cool sensation to our burning feet on the sand. When we reached the spot, mom was still sitting in the same place, watching the girls playing like unleashed mermaids.
“These girls have gone insane.” Mom uttered. Sakshi and I sat beside mom on the hot sand.
“I know; BOLD and INSANE.” I added.
When Shrushti and Anusha stepped down from the speedboat, their clothes were sensuously wet and suddenly my heart began to beat faster. My mom was on the left and Sakshi on the right. These girls inched towards me like Bond girls popping out of the beach and seducing me to death. Mom and Sakshi got up and started giving lecture to these two in their own way.
“Come Abhi. Let’s go.” Sakshi said. I wasn’t able to stand up and walk.
“In a minute Sakshi.” I said. “You ladies get moving.”
Sakshi came and sat beside me and said, “I know what’s happening with you.” She was extremely conscious of my situation and sat beside me.
“Shrushti. You take Anu to my room and get your clothes changed. I’ll join you later.” Sakshi sent them both and started staring at me blankly without speaking a word. I too tried to reciprocate the same, but couldn’t do it for long and we both broke into laughter.
“What to do Sakshi. It was so instantaneous.” I confessed.
“It’s okay. I know they are very sexy.” She too seconded my thought.
“I am sorry.” I said and got up finally.
Sakshi scanned me completely from top to bottom and said, “Now everything is fine. Let’s go.”
That evening my dad was totally looking like a groom ready for his second marriage with mom and mom too looked the same. I quickly took out my camera and captured this look of theirs.
“May you both live for hundred years.” I said and we all moved to the temple.
“Enough enough! We’ll be done soon.” Mom said. “No need to butter us so much.”
Anusha was totally metamorphosized from her earlier hot and sexy babe look to a typical South Indian housewife look with the jasmine garland in her hair, neatly placed vermilion in the middle her scalp, and her flashy golden Mangalsutra. Sakshi always envied Anusha and mom for this special ornament and pinched my cheeks every time she saw them flaunting it with pride.
“Sakshi. Don’t worry. Your time will come soon.” Mom teased her with a persuasive smile as the pooja proceeded. Sakshi prayed hard that day and I could hear her prayers in my heart. She wanted me to tie those three heavenly knots and make her mine by heart and by soul.
Our balls are in your court. I smiled on my own blasphemous pun and prayed harder for forgiveness and for making Sakshi’s come true.

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