Monday, 8 February 2016

Short Story: 10 Most Influential Under 35

The television was a mite too loud, Sangeeta thought and she reached for the remote control, which was not within easy reach. Sachin saw her reach out and warned, ‘don’t change the channel.’

‘I won’t. Just the volume, too loud,’ Sangeeta muttered through her samosa.

‘Didi, I’ve kept your saree on your bed,’ the maid told her from behind and vanished.

‘What’s the time?’ Sangeeta asked, even as she turned around to look at the timepiece on top of a large bookshelf which groaned under the weight of her book collection.

‘Plenty of time,’ her mother commented. ‘Eat well. They won’t give away your award to someone else even if you are late.’

Sangeeta groaned not just because she was trying to lose weight, but also because it was five thirty and she had to be at the venue by seven.

‘We must leave by six. Daddy, what are you wearing today?’

‘Don’t worry about me. You go get dressed.’

Sangeeta finished her samosa and ran upstairs.

‘Daddy, I’ve picked a shirt for you. It’s on your bed. Wear it with anything black,’ Sangeeta shouted from the top of the stairs before disappearing once again.

When Sangeeta reappeared in the living room, her father was still in front of the TV, flicking through the channels, scratching himself through his loose pajamas. Sachin sat nearby, immaculately dressed in smart casuals and a serious professional look on his face which belied his playboy lifestyle.

‘Ghosh, Daddy, why aren’t you dressed already? Please get dressed. We need to leave in five minutes.’

‘I don’t need much time to get dressed, don’t you know that?’

There was something wrong, Sangeeta sensed. For one, Sachin stared woodenly ahead.

‘Mummy, are you ready?’ Sangeeta directed her voice upstairs.

‘Coming. Where is your Daddy?’

‘He is still here. I’m asking him to get dressed.’

‘Damn! This isn’t working. I think the batteries need to be changed. Do we have any batteries in the house?’ The remote control was being subjected to some harsh third degree treatment by her father.

‘Daddy, for goodness sake, forget the remote. Get dressed. We will be late otherwise.’

Her father continued to stare ahead. ‘I just need a minute to get dressed. Don’t worry about me. Actually, why don’t the three on you go on ahead? I will take a taxi and get there just in time for’

‘What rubbish! We are all going together.’

Sangeeta’s mother appeared. ‘Mummy’s what’s wrong with Daddy?’

‘I don’t know. If he doesn’t want to come, he can stay here. Let’s go.’

Time stood still for a few seconds. ‘But why?’ Sangeeta blurted out.

Everyone was silent. ‘Come on Daddy, 10 Most Influential Under 35. Not a mean achievement. You know, Suja was lobbying so hard to make it to this list.’

‘What’s the big deal? You were influential when you were under thirty and you will be influential when you cross forty. In a few years, we’ll have 10 Most Influential Under 40. I can attend that.’

Sangeeta slowly sat down, tears in her eyes. ‘But this is important to me! Why aren’t you’ She choked on her own words.

‘Why couldn’t you make it home last week when that boy and his family came to see you?’

Sangeeta’s tears flowed freely now. ‘I really couldn’t. I was stuck in that meeting. I just’

Surprisingly Sachin came to her rescue. ‘Sangeeta don’t cry. This isn’t the time for that. Let’s go. Let Daddy stay here.’

‘Why is it that you haven’t liked any of the boys we showed you? What do you think you are?’ Her father’s voice almost broke with emotion.

‘Daddy, if I meet someone I like, I will marry him, I promise.’

‘Fine, after you marry someone, I’ll start attending these functions.’

‘Daddy please, please come. I need you.’

‘You don’t need me. You don’t need anybody. You are very selfish. Go to hell!’

Sangeeta started sobbing uncontrollably. ‘You made her cry,’ her mother accused her father.

‘Like hell I did.’

‘We’ll be late. Who’s coming?’ Sachin asked.

‘Okay, stop this nonsense. I will come, but you people go ahead. I will join you.’ Sangeeta’s father had a grim look on his face.

‘I can’t not go for this one,’ Sangeeta explained through her tears. This is so very important.’

‘I need five minutes to get ready. Do you want to wait for five minutes or do you want to’

‘We’ll wait Daddy. Let’s go together.’

Sangeeta’s father smiled and said, ‘give me two minutes.’ However, he continued to look very unhappy.

‘Hurry up Daddy,’ Sangeeta urged him. ‘we are going to be late, but don’t worry.’

‘We won’t be late. I’ll get you there in 40 minutes,’ Sachin promised them all.

‘Like hell. You will drive carefully or I can take a taxi,’ her father warned Sachin.

‘Don’t blame me for Sangeeta not getting married!’

‘I’m not blaming you for Sangeeta not getting married. I’m warning you against driving recklessly.’

Sachin threw the car keys to the table and plonked down on the sofa. ‘You could have allowed her to marry that Bengali guy! Then we wouldn’t have had all this’

Sangeeta sat down and buried her face in her hands, sobbing silently.

‘Are all of you happy?’ Sangeeta’s mother demanded.

‘Sangeeta, honey, I’m so sorry. Let’s go. You are my angel. I only want you to be happy. Give me two minutes, I’ll be right back.’

Sangeeta continued to sob for another minute before she straightened up. ‘Why is everyone doing this to me?’ she demanded through her tears.

‘You go get dressed,’ her mother ordered her father who hesitated for a second before going upstairs.