“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Arjun asked as we walked to the canteen
“Tell you what?”
“Everything Nina, you never told me anything. Why?”
Why? What should I answer? Besides I didn’t know what Amma told Arjun
“You should have told me Nina”
I should have. I could have. It is so easy for everyone to blame me. I had enough of people blaming me for everything. If it was something that I could share with another person, then I would have. But I couldn’t. There was nothing normal about my family and I didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. But more than all I was afraid I would be judged for the sins of my family. I didn’t want to be judged. I wasn’t Amma or Appa or Maria or Liza or Sally. I was Nina. I was different from them. I couldn’t be like them.
“Arjun, I am tired. I haven’t slept since I came back from Dubai. I will speak to you later” I started to walk towards my hostel
“Run away Nina, keep running away”
“What do you mean?”
“How long are you going to run away like this?”
“Arjun, I am not running away. I am just tired”
“Yeah” He sounded sarcastic.
May be it was the tone of his voice. May be because I never ran away from my problems, instead of turning left towards my hostel, I kept walking towards the canteen. I just wanted to show Arjun that I don’t run away from my problems.
“What do you want to drink?” Arjun asked
” Do you want egg Bhaji?”
“They don’t make egg bhaji in the afternoon”
“Nina, I didn’t ask you if they make egg Bhaji in the afternoon. I asked if you would like to eat egg bhaji”
“But they don’t make egg bhaji in the afternoon”
I was getting so mad at Arjun. Can’t he understand plain simple English? How many times do I have to repeat the same thing before he gets it in his dumb head?
“Yes or no?” It was Arjun’s turn get mad.
He was yelling at me? How dare he? What does he think of himself? Why am I getting yelled at when all I did was to tell him that they don’t make egg bahji in the afternoon? I was getting hopping mad.
But there was something that made me stop and think. What just happened between me and Arjun was very familiar. It almost felt like deja vu, but in this case it wasn’t deja vu, it was history repeating all over again.
How many times has my mother answered my father’s simple questions exactly the way I just did? How many times have I wondered why can’t my mother say a simple yes or no for a simple question? How many times have I thought my mother could have avoided all those silly fights my parents had if she just shut her mouth and not gave her opinions?
But I wasn’t Amma. I knew the canteen operator never made egg bhaji in the afternoon. If he doesn’t understand that, then fine, let him go and find it himself.
“Yes, I would like a plate of Egg Bhaji” I hissed.
Without another word Arjun walked to the counter and I saw him talking to the operator. I saw the operator nodding his head and saying something.
I knew the operator was telling Arjun that they don’t make egg bhaji for lunch. I knew I was right. Egg Bhaji was an evening snack and it was always made at 4.30 in the evening. I have never seen the canteen operator serving egg Bahji for lunch.
Arjun came back and sat in front of me.
“so?” I looked at Arjun victoriously and asked. Victory never tasted this sweet.
“So?” He was looking at me.
“Do they serve egg bhaji in the afternoon?”
“Yeah” Arjun shrugged his shoulder. He started to play with his bike key and twirl it on the table.
Yeah? Yeah What? Yeah, you were right Nina, they don’t serve egg bhaji in the afternoon? Yeah I am sorry Nina for yelling at you?
I wasn’t going to let it go that easy. He was screaming at me for no fault of mine. I had every intention to rub my victory deep in to his bruised ego.
“I told you they don’t make egg bhaji in the afternoon, didn’t I?”
“Stop chewing my brain Nina, he is making the egg bhaji for you” Arjun snapped.
“You heard me”
I turned my head and looked inside the canteen kitchen. The curtain separating the canteen kitchen from the counter was closed and I couldn’t see anything.
“What did you say?”
“I said he is making egg bhaji for you”
“He is making egg bhaji right now?” I asked Arjun
“How many times do I have to tell you that?” Arjun snapped.
I thought of telling him, may be it was yesterday’s left over egg bhaji and he was warming it up for me. There was no way he could have made egg bahi now. It takes 15 minutes to boil an egg!
I watched the canteen operator bringing our tea.
“You make egg bhaji in the afternoon?” I asked him. I had to know. I didn’t want to eat yesterday’s egg bhaji.
“Special order Ma’am” Operator answered
“Only for Arjun sir ma’am. We don’t usually make it in the afternoon. But because Arjun sir asked for it, we are making it for you ma’am. He knows how much you love to eat it. You are very lucky ma’am” Operator tapped Arjun’s shoulder and went back.
Arjun was looking at me. I didn’t know what made me feel so guilty.
Was it because I was simply wrong?
Was it because I was acting like my mother?
Was it because he cared for me so much and walked out of the exam hall with me?
Was it because the canteen operator told me how lucky I was to have got a guy who knew how much I loved egg bhaji and ordered it for me in the afternoon?
Or was it because I was two timing him?
I reached across the table and held his hand
“Arjun I am sorry”
PS:Edited the time disparity!!