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It seemed like they had been friends forever and more. He watched her thoughtfully as she twirled around in the new skirt she had bought, keeping up a constant commentary on how it made her look just a little fat, and maybe it should have been an inch shorter and a deeper color of red. He agreed on the “I look a little plumper” statement, but wouldn’t dare do loud thinking like her. Then he would have to put up with her sulking for the next ten minutes till something else ignited her interest and she forgot about the skirt. She seemed content with his “Hmm”s and “Not really, yaar”s. So far so good, he grinned to himself and changed the topic to the burning issue on hand. His mom had started a bride-search for him, and it was pissing him off. He wasn’t thinking of marital bliss for another four years, not till he had crossed the three-o milestone and enjoyed bachelorhood for as long as he could avoid its antithesis. His job was crazy, but he loved it anyway and wouldn’t trade these carefree years for any amount of legitimate sex that marriage brought along with it!! And there was Tanya- his madder-than-a-hatter friend, his slap-on-shoulder-buddy who sometimes even beat him at arm-wrestling (he had challenged her she couldn’t, and had regretted it later) and understood exactly what he meant when he said nothing at all. He wasn’t about to let a wife mess up his well-ordered life. Not yet anyway.

Tanya was his neighbor who he had stumbled upon quite by chance. They both never could stop laughing about how they had glared at each other the first time they met. She had backed her car into his quite by accident and he had made his disgust plain and obvious for her as well as the amused onlookers in the parking lot. How they reached this strange comfort level and camaraderie was a mystery they hadn’t bothered unraveling. She was this child-woman who switched roles like he did channels on the tube. It was never boring with her. She could be waxing eloquent on Shakespeare one moment and dismissing new-age painting as ‘rubbish’ the next. Fast and furious movies thrilled her; the classics made her cry and her laughter drowned his guffaws in the comedies they watched. Sometimes she dressed like a gypsy and look hauntingly, wildly beautiful, at others she would wear salwaar kameezes and be the perfect girl to take home to mama. She cooked atrociously but with a passion that was overwhelming to observe, and never gave up experimenting even after strings of failures in the kitchen. She was a spitfire when she screamed, a five feet four inch storm flouncing around, charging everything she touched in a flash of lightning. They were rare, these outbursts, and he knew she didn’t mean a word of what she said in those moments of mindless rage. Her sadness was a strange medley of pain and resilience- a well-guarded secret that very few ever got to know about. His sunshine girl- that’s what she was- this mesmerizing enigma he had known for two years but felt like so much longer.

To her, Samarth was a teddy bear that wrote graffiti for a living and made amazing pasta in twelve minutes flat. He had something nasty to say about every guy she had dated in the last one year and had concluded she liked pansies who she could control and lord over. She had denied this charge vehemently and had stopped introducing her dates to him to avoid the mockery sessions later. He was the one guy who agreed to take her shopping (after about two hours of wheedling and begging) and grind his teeth patiently while she drove herself (and him) crazy choosing between the ‘blue peasant top’ and the ‘fuchsia tee’. To be fair to her, she never cribbed when he dragged her to silly parties as his date simply because he couldn’t stand the bimbettes his friends introduced him to. She didn’t nag him about his smoking, but got him to consider quitting so subtly he didn’t know how she managed without him even realizing. His ability to start an argument alone, carry it out alone and finish it alone with one grand flourish amazed her. There were times he would just talk and talk, and talk some more while she would quietly listen with an amused smile playing on her lips. Sometimes she felt his sole motive in life was to bug her and tease her till she was ready to pull her hair out, but he gave the best hugs in the world when she was low and even though he was pathetic at consoling, she knew he understood every fear that plagued her mind and would do what he could to wish it away. He admired her professionalism and the way her love for interior decoration glistened in all her work. In fact he was her biggest supporter for starting her own venture soon. He never let her forget her dreams-drawing them out of her closet every now and then so she could clear away the cobwebs and have them shining bright again. His touching concern warmed her heart and made her wonder time and again what she had done to deserve him as a friend.

They didn’t analyse their relationship much. She only knew that she adored him for all that he was and would not trade their special bond for anything on the planet. He could run away from everyone else in the world when he needed desperately to get his sanity back. But he knew she would understand and let him be while he stewed in his mess, and always be there for him no matter what.

She had spilled the milk on the kitchen floor and was mopping around with irritation. He couldn’t help but laugh; she looked so cute mumbling a stream of expletives under her breath. “Forget the recipe today, Tintin. The others are gonna be here soon. We are ordering pizza.”



------
Sakshi


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