I had no clue where he was going and I didn’t want to lean over his shoulder and ask him. suddenly I was getting paranoid about physical contact!
Still I wondered what aftershave he used.
Appa was an ‘Old spice’ fan. He always smelled like a freshly baked Christmas fruit cake!
I smiled when I realized that I was comparing my father to a fruit cake.
Ok lah, may be not like a fruit cake but fresh and cinnamonish!
I wondered again about Arjun’s aftershave.
Is he using Old spice?
I gently leaned over Arjun’s shoulder, making sure that I didn’t touch him and sniffed and savoured his after shave
A part of me was embarrassed with my own behaviour and a part of me was trying to act innocent.’ hey, it isn’t a crime to sniff someone’s aftershave.. I am not sniffing glue you know!’
Arjun parked the bike in front of a huge building and I checked the sign board outside. It was written in some script that I assumed is Gujarati or Marwari.
“Come” Arjun
Ok, Now I trusted Arjun, there was no doubt about that. But I still needed to know where he was taking me to. He can’t just expect me to follow him without knowing where exactly we were going. How can he do that?
“Where are we?” I asked again.
The fence was too high and I couldn’t see what was inside. There were few scooters and bikes parked outside and I noticed some Marwari women were standing near the entrance. They all wore expensive clothes and Jewelry.
Is there some sort of party going on?
“Oh Nina, Everyone is leaving, I hope we aren’t too late” Saying that he started to walk and I was sure he expected me to follow.
Oh Nina!, aventey ammentey thala!
Doesn’t he know yet how much I hate him saying ‘Oh Nina’
To hell with him. I stood next to his bike. He can go inside and do whatever he wants. I had no intention of following him. I simply would wait for him to return.
I would have, if his sister had not come out of the building holding a box full of stuff. She was wearing a beautiful turquoise colour gagra choli. She saw Arjun and yelled
“You are too late” Then She saw me standing near the bike.
“Hi Nina how are you” She looked at me and at Arjun who was atleast 15 feet away from me. Arjun saw the look on his sisters face and he turned to look at me.
Only then Arjun realized I wasn’t walking with him.
He looked at me bewildered.
“Is everthing ok?” Preetha asked
“yeah, everything is ok. I was just wondering if it was ok for me to come in. I am wearing jeans.”
“So? what is wrong in wearing jeans? It is only a food fair! We are raising funds for our school. Didn’t he tell you?”
Preetha was struggling with the box in her hand and she yelled
“Hey moron, Can’t you see that I need help”
Arjun ran to help his sister. He took the box from her hand and looked inside
“You sold everything?”
“yeah, everyone loved the pav bhaji “
“You didn’t leave anything for me? How could you?”
“hey, you were late, who asked you to come late?”
I had no idea what the two of them were fighting for.
I saw Arjun putting his hand inside the box and Preetha shrieked
“don’t you dare touch it. It is mine. I bought it with my money.”
“ha!” Arjun kept the box on the ground and I watched the brother and sister pulling, pushing and shoving each other. Arjun threw a small plastic bag with something pink inside towards me and shouted.
“Take it and run”
I caught the plastic cover and in seconds Preetha was in front of me
“Give it back Nina, it is mine”
Arjun was standing right behind her and he waved his hands and I threw the cover to him, he caught it, opened the plastic bag quickly and started to pull a handful of pink stuff out.
“Give it back” Preetha punched her brother on his arm.
“Ouch, that hurts” Arjun screamed. “Ok, ok, here, take it” He gave the plastic bag to his sister.
“You took half of my cotton candy. I promise, I will make you pay”
She turned and looked at me. I thought she was angry with me for not giving her the packet. But she was smiling
“You too! Watch out. I will make you pay too! Both of you will get it!”
She turned to her brother, who was busy eating cotton candy.
“Now help me with the box, will you?”
Arjun still had cotton candy in his hand.
“You hold one side, I will hold the other side” he spoke while trying to swallow a mouthful of cotton candy.
“Come, I will help you” I lifted one end of the box
Preetha stopped an auto and together we carried the box and kept it inside.
“You are coming home, right?” She asked
“I think so, depends on your brother”
“Arjun, bring Nina home” She ordered her brother. “See you soon, ok.”She spoke to me
As the auto was about to leave, Preetha pulled something out of the box
“Hey bhaiyya, see what I got?” She waved the box and shouted “Kesar Shrikhand! I will save the empty container for you!”
Preetha looked out from the moving auto and grinned.
“Damn” I heard Arjun mutter.
“Come Nina, let us go and see if they have anything else left”
It felt weird, the fact that Preetha didn’t hate her brother for stealing her cotton candy.
They fought, she even punched her brother. But not like my sisters and I. We always said, nasty mean things to each other and we pretty much showed each other how much we hate each other. We returned all the pinches and punches with added interest! Arjun was stronger than his sister, yet he didn’t punch her back.
Where did we go wrong? How did we end up hating and hurting each other so much? How did we have this much of hatred?
I didn’t know the answer.
“You want some?” Arjun opened his hand to show me the squashed remnants of cotton candy in his hand.
“Here” he pinched some and gave it to me.
It was the first time I ever ate cotton candy. I have always seen people selling cotton candies in parks. Amma never allowed us to buy cotton candies. She called it “thuppal muttai”. She named it so because apparently she had seen the seller wetting his hands with his saliva while mixing the candy!
There was something special about doing things the first time.
first bus ride, first boat ride, first this, first that..
“Want some more?” Arjun asked
I took some more candy from his hand and together we walked around empty tables in empty booths, while eating cotton candy. There were few people sitting down on the grass field and eating.
“hey Divya” Arjun called when he saw his sister sitting with other ladies. As soon as she saw him she got up holding a plate and walked towards us.
“Did you guys get anything to eat?”
He shook his head
“Here, there is some aloo tikki and channa. You both can share! I was keeping it for Rajashree. You guys can have it. Rajeshree won’t mind.” She looked at me and spoke
“Sorry Nina, I didn’t know you were coming, otherwise I would have surely kept something for you”
“Wait here, I will find spoon for you”
She went to one of the ladies sitting in the group that she was in and got two spoons from her.
She gave the spoon to us and spoke pointing to the two empty chairs in one of the booths.
“Go, sit down and eat”
The golden rule at home was ‘Girl and a boy are not supposed to be together and they certainly need to be kept away from each other, so nothing untoward happens’.
Yet here we were, eating from the same plate and no one batted an eye lid.
Trust came as it should.
I had even forgotten I was angry with Arjun few minutes ago. I knew it was time I got over my ‘Oh Nina’ Phobia. There were more important things to do in life than getting someone to stop saying Oh Nina.

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