I could almost taste the sweetness of victory over Suzy. But I was just hoping it wouldn’t be a sugar coated bitter pill*
I had to talk to Beautiful Eyes. He would probably know where I can borrow 20,000 Rs! But that was the main problem. Up until now he was the one who called me up. I never tried to contact him because I didn’t want anyone to know about us. I didn’t want to hurt Arjun and Caroline.
First things first. I planned my agenda, eat lunch, attend classes and then go to the canteen and sit there till he shows up. The last part involved wasting time at the canteen, instead of studying for the exams but I didn’t have any other choice.
Aparna was in the room when I came back after the phone call. Gangamma had kept my food on my table. I looked around for Shailaja. She wasn’t in the room and I knew she would have gone to the class with her friends. Some how, being dumped by a boyfriend is a sin and no one wanted to be part of a sinner.
“Aparna can you wait for me? I will eat quickly”
“Sure” She looked visibly relieved.
I ate the rice and the dhal quickly. Aparna kept looking at the clock
“Don’t worry Aparna, we have enough time. If prof is already in the class, we can always enter through the back door” I tried to calm Aparna
She shook her head
“How do you do it Nina?”
“Where did you get your courage from?”
“That is Methran Thambi’s genes!” I smiled and told her
“My grand father. He is reputed to be one of the most courageous men in our village”
“hmm” I nodded
“What did he do?” Aparna asked
Her question was like a lightning bolt that struck me. I realized, I knew nothing about Methran Thambi.
“Come, let us go, we will be late” I took my books and started to walk towards the door.
Although I boasted about Methran Thambi all the time, I knew nothing about him. Nobody ever spoke anything about him. I didn’t know anything about his family, his brothers, his sisters,his cousins, nothing. It was as though Methran Thambi simply sprouted from the ground.
I wanted to know more about Methran Thambi. I wanted to see my father and ask him about his father, my grand father. I was even more determined to visit my father.
The moment we entered the gallery, there was a pin drop silence. Everyone was looking at Aparna. All of a sudden there were loud cat calls and whistling and I looked up to see who was instigating it. Jacob John was sitting on the desk and whistling. All the other mallu monkeys too joined the frenzy.
I thought of asking Jacob John, how low can you sink?
I knew there was no point wasting my energy
For once I understood my mother was right each time she told me
ela vannu mullel veenalum
mullu vannu elel veenalum
kedu elakku thanney!
(if the thorn fell on to the leaf or if the leaf fell on to the thorn, only the leaf gets damaged!)
Getting a chance to speak to Beautiful Eyes was much easier than I anticipated. He was at the canteen when I walked inside and I mimed and told him to call me and walked out in the next second. Mission accomplished
He called up around 9 pm and I told him about my plans to visit my father and that I needed money to buy the ticket.
“How much money do you need?” He asked
“20,000. I can pay it back when I come back”
“No problem Nina, small matters. When do you need the money?”
“hmm” He mumbled
I wasn’t sure why he just said hmm
“Can you meet me tomorrow?”
“After clinics? Then we can go to the bank and get the money”
“Oh Thank you so much”
“You are welcome baby
“So see you tomorrow”
“Sure. I will meet you at the bus station”
“Nina ?” He spoke
“hmm” I answered
” You should know, I would do anything for you” He replied
“hmm” I mumbled.
After the phone call was over, I was just so relieved. His words anything for you kept repeating in my head and it felt so good and I knew.The pill was still sweet!
As I walked back to my room, I tried to think about what just happened. He has 20,000Rs in the bank?
Most of the medical students have a bank balance in thousands, not in ten thousands. He has that much money in his account? How did he get so much money?
There were seeds of doubts in my mind, but I just pushed it away. I had to see my father and the end justified the means!
After the clinics I took an auto to the bus station. I didn’t want to waste time by waiting for a bus. He was already waiting for me and when he saw me alighting from the bus, he started the bike.
“Hi baby” He greeted
“Hi” I replied. I wanted to ask him about the money, but I didn’t want to sound ungrateful.
Afternoon traffic in Bangalore was horrendous. There were too many cars and autos on the road. He weaved in and out of traffic and eventually I had no idea where we were going.
Then he took a left turn and I noticed a bank in the middle of a commercial building. There was a driving school, a restaurant and a bicycle repair shop next to the bank. We were far from MG road and other known places in Bangalore. I wondered how did he ever find this bank?
He parked the bike on the other side of the road. There was plenty of parking place in front of the bank, yet he chose to park on the other side. Why? I wondered.
He turned to look at me and I got off the bike. He got off the bike, removed his helmet and held my hand and started to cross the road.
Something was wrong, but I didn’t know what it was.
He opened the door for me, nodded his head at the security guy standing next to the door with a gun in his right hand and started to walk towards the counter.
I looked at the security guard. He wore an ill fitting khaki pant and a tight khaki shirt. His pot belly was in a constant stage of threatening to undo the buttons on the shirt and at one place I could almost see the yellow coloured banian.
He nodded his head when he saw me looking at him and I remembered what George told me once. That the security guys with guns at the banks were just a show piece. None of the guns were loaded!
Beautiful Eyes was already speaking to the bank manager and filling up some forms
“wait there Nina” He pointed to the chairs behind me and I went to sit down.
From where I sat, I couldn’t really see what was happening behind the counter and after a while, the bank manager came to the side door and opened the grill and let beautiful eyes in.
What is going on? Why is he going inside the bank? I had no idea
I must have waited for at least 10 minutes before I saw beautiful eyes coming out. He was holding a small plastic bag. He nodded his head again and said Thank you to the bank manager and looked at me and nodded his head
I got up and walked towards him. This time he didn’t hold my hand. He simply started to walk towards the door and I followed him.
“Come let us go”
He held my hand and we crossed the road silently.
“Can you hold this?” He passed the small plastic bag to me
“Could you tell me what is going on?” I asked him
“What is going on? What do you mean Nina?”
“Come on, I am not a fool. There are so many banks in Bangalore close to MG road, yet you have an account here in this bank? You didn’t withdraw the money from your account. You had the money in the bank’s locker”
“Come Nina, get on the bike, I will explain later”
“I want to know now”
“Not now Nina, not here. come let us go” I could almost feel the anger in his voice. I didn’t want him to get angry with me, so I sat down on his bike.
“Which travel agency did you use?”
“The one on St. Marks?”
He rode the rest of the journey silently and I had enough time to think. It was easy to put two and two together. I knew what was happening. All this was part of the war he was fighting! and suddenly the truth was more scarier than the fact.
The fact was he was fighting a war, the truth was, there was more to war than simply taking a gun and pointing at someones head.
*I remember reading a short story about a man who was getting retrenched from work and his boss gave him a gold watch as a gift and the man knew the watch was like a sugar coated bitter pill( ie the retrenchment order would come soon)..I just can’t remember who wrote the story.. Anyone here knows?
Update: Guys help me.. I have been searching the net since morning for the story I read. I just can’t find it. I read the story in India and it was written by an Indian author. It was written so well and I remember the story taking me to some part of the North India during the pre independence period, the old man coming home holding his bag and telling his wife that the boss gave him a gold watch…it was the first time I read about sugar coated bitter pill..