The same night after dinner, Somu called up Vicky and me at home and we decided to meet. We walked through a road; the surrounding area was so quiet that we could not hear anything apart from the sound of our footsteps. The weather in the green was so chilly that we were wearing sweaters and balaclavas that covered our head, ears and half of our face. The insufficient light coming out of the street lamps covered by the trees had turned the surrounding area murky. I decided to hold back the moments shared with Pooja from my friends.
“What’s the matter anna? Why have you called us out in this chilly weather?” Vicky asked tucking both his hands into his pocket. “And what are you carrying in this bag?”
I asked as I took the bag from Somu and checked what was inside it. “Rum, what is this for?” I said as I removed a bottle of rum from the bag.
“I got it from my appa’s cupboard,” Somu said as he rubbed his hands against each other.
“So, what are we supposed to do with it?” asked Vicky
The sound of an oncoming scooter disturbed the silence for a moment as it passed by.
“Let’s try it friends. I heard it makes your body warm. The British drink this during severe winters,” said Somu.
The result that came out of Somu’s survey was enough to convince us, and we decided to try it.
“That’s ok anna, but what if your dad searches for the bottle?” I asked Somu.
“Don’t worry Bryan, he is already through with enough pegs before dinner. Whatever amount we drink I will refill that much with water and keep it safely back in the same place,” Somu said.
Why was I worried? I thought, after all it was Somu’s dad who would worry after drinking it. I imagined Somu’s appa suing a case against the shopkeeper for selling duplicate liquor.
We found a suitable place unlike the last one when we had chosen a girl’s school. It was an old house, considered to be a haunted house in the area. We knew it was the safest place where no one would dare to visit.
The house was full with creepers; there was no roof, which allowed the sight of open sky with the partial moon accompanied by twinkling stars. We cleared the dust as we sat down in a circle. The very thought about experiencing a drink for the first time excited us.
“C’mon anna, make it fast, remove it,” Vicky said.
It seemed like Somu was fully loaded with the essential stuff as each item came one after the other out of the cotton bag. Three plastic glasses, two bottles, one of water and the other of rum were placed on the surface. He also removed a packet of peanuts. After opening the bottle of rum, I poured three equal pegs in each glass and then filled it with water.
“Cheers for our debut...” I said.
“Cheers for the chilly winter...” Somu said.
“Cheers for Somu’s dad…” Vicky said.
We raised our glasses. Different expressions with the same feeling reflected on our faces as we sipped the bitter taste of rum for the first time.
“It’s so bitter. How do people dink drink it?” I said as I completed the second sip.
“Leave that Bryan and tell me what you did at the club today? What about Pooja? Was she there?”
Was this Somu’s fishy plan to make me drink and reveal the facts? I contemplated for a while and opened the packet of peanuts.
“No anna, I didn’t see her. Yes, I saw Kapoor uncle sitting; perhaps he was searching for someone,” I said as I put a peanut in my mouth.
“Was that bastard there? I tell you Bryan, that beast is after my life,” said Somu as he quickly bottomed the glass and filled the new one.
Meanwhile we also finished one glass and started with the next. The effect of rum had slowly started to work on our brain.
“I tell you Somu, Pooja is a sex bomb.” Somu stared at me as I said so.
“Yes Bryan, you are absolutely right. She indeed is a sex bomb.”
Now both of us stared at Vicky as he said so. I thought the race was only between Somu and me. Nevertheless, one glass of rum had started to reveal the facts.
“See guys, let me make it simple. Now that the fact has come out from all of us, let us all try our luck, as we all are suspecting about her smile.” Vicky said.
“I agree to what Vicky says,” I accepted since I was pretty sure I was the lucky one. But Somu kept mum.
“What about you anna? Don’t you agree with us?” Vicky said as he placed his hand over Somu’s shoulder.
“I don’t agree with this. You both have an edge over me. It is easy for Bryan to approach her as she talks to him. Vicky is good looking and can write well so it will not be hard for him to impress her. Considering my looks and the way I’ve been treated by my father in law, do you think I stand a chance?” asked Somu.
One and half glass of rum had changed Somu’s perspective from beast, bastard and what not, to a father in law.
“Listen anna, I’ve been talking to her and I know she loves a good laugh. So you won’t have difficulty impressing her,” I told Somu.
“Bryan is right Somu. And don’t you worry about our father in law; we will find some way to convince him,” said Vicky as he kissed Somu on his cheek.
Draupadi had five husbands in Mahabharata but here Pooja had three.
Eventually, after completing two more glasses, Somu agreed. However, we were not in a state of listening to it as we had emptied the bottle by utilizing even the last drop in it. We tried hard to get up. After three four attempts we finally got up holding each other.
“You bastard Kapoor. Fuck off!” said Somu as he kicked the empty bottle hard, visualizing it as Kapoor uncle. The father in law again had turned into a bastard.
“Wait Somu. This bastard deserves something else,” I said as we all unzipped our pants and pissed on the bottle.
“This is for bossing my father,” I said.
“This is for getting a beautiful daughter,” Vicky said.
“And this is for making my life hell,” Somu said.
We emptied our bladder with as rapid a force as possible.
“Come guys, I will show you where Pooja stays,”
I said as I tried to balance myself.
“So do you know where she stays?” asked Somu as he swayed while trying to walk.
“Sorry Somu, Sorry Vicky. Actually, I met her at the ground today. She asked me to accompany her for a jog. So what I advice you both is that stop wasting your time on Pooja as I am the one she is smiling at,” I told them.
“What are you saying Bryan? You fooled us,” said Somu as he removed his specs which was about to fall.
“Did she say that she was smiling at you?” asked Vicky.
“No she did not say that but I could make out from her behaviour,” I said.
“Then it is too early to say, Bryan. Now, let’s go to meet the beast,” said Somu as he carefully lifted the bottle, “or Kapoor uncle I should say,” with the help of a leaf and kept it inside the bag.
What was Somu up to? We were not sure whether he was going to refill the same bottle and keep it back in his father’s cupboard, but one thing was quite sure that, if he did so, then Somu’s father would undoubtedly appeal for a death sentence against the shopkeeper.
We placed our hands on each other’s shoulder, unknowingly. Was it a friendship signal or was it to support each other from falling? We sang the famous Sholay song, ‘Yeh dosti hum nahi todenge,’ as we walked gripping each other tightly on the road. In Sholay, there was Jai and Veeru who sang the duet but here we had Thakur as well to accompany us. Somu walked as if he was on a rope fighting against the gravity trying to help him as well as the bottle.
“Shhhh… wait, this is your bhabi’s (sister in law) house,” I said as we stood in front of Pooja’s house. It was a beautiful bungalow, the kind of houses allotted only to the top employees. A nameplate placed outside the gate read ‘Kapoor’s’. Kapoor uncle’s new car was parked inside while the other two were outside the gate.
“Hey Bryan, mind your words. Let Pooja herself decide who will be her brother in law,” said Somu as he tried hard to open the gate which was locked from inside.
I picked up a pointed stone from the ground and wrote ‘BEAST KAPOOR’ on the car.
Somu could not open the gate, so out of frustration he threw that bag of bottle inside the gate. Luckily it did not break but produced enough noise to alert the beast.
“Who is there? stop, stop…” Kapoor uncle shouted as he came out tying his nightgown. Her wife followed behind him complaining that in hurry he had wore her nightie.
“Run Bryan, Run Somu. The beast is out,” said Vicky and ran away.
Vicky said ‘run’ and we heard ‘rum’. Before we could understand, it was too late. The rum had killed our swiftness. Before we could take any action, Kapoor uncle held us by our neck and dragged us inside the house. Half the effect of the rum went down as we saw that beast from close; he looked like a horror in Ramsay’s movie wearing a ladies gown. He then went outside and brought the bag, which Somu threw.
Pooja came out in her nightdress; even in a nightdress she looked beautiful. She rubbed her eyes twice unable to believe it was us who threw the bottle at her house.
We both stood in front of Kapoor uncle, aunty and Pooja in other words Father in law, mother in law and wife who sat on a sofa which otherwise was for guests. No way, we were there to decide whom finally Kapoor uncle approves as his the son in law but we stood like criminals to be hanged in minutes.
He opened the bag and removed the bottle from it.
“Oh god! See this Manpreet, a bottle of rum. Verma was right that day. The standard of RCF boys has really come down,” Uncle said as he smelled the bottle.
“Does not smell like rum but the odour seems to be well known.”
‘Why it wouldn’t be?’ I thought of helping uncle to recollect the incidence in the marriage.
“And this tiny fellow, he is the same guy who kicked me in the pool, hit me with a stick, pissed on me and now they have dared to visit my house and throw a bottle of rum,” Uncle said as he stood in front of Somu .
“What is your name?” He asked.
“Someshwar Swaminathan Iyyer,” Somu replied.
“You mean Swaminathan Iyyer who works in RCF’s accounts department is your father?”
“Yes sir,” Somu replied with his head down.
“And what about you? What is your name?”
“Bryan Albert D’costa.”
“What did you say? You mean you are Albert’s son.”
“Oh god! Manpreet did you hear that? He is Albert’s son. You know your dad is one of the most sincere and hardworking persons in my department, and he is my good friend.”
I stood confused unaware about how I should react to this. Shall I be happy and thrust my hand to shake with uncle or shall I cry, pleading to give us a last chance by not disclosing it in front of our father. We found the second option as the most common which all the criminals in the world adopt.
With tears in our eyes, we pleaded in front of uncle to forgive us. We convinced him that we found that bottle fallen on the roadside and out of curiosity, we drank it.
Our acting was much convincing than our tears, finally not uncle but aunty was trapped by our crocodile tears as she uttered the golden words of wisdom.
“Ok, ok stop crying. Listen Pooja’s father, let us forgive them. How innocent these boys look, especially that short one with thick glasses and I am sure innocent faces cannot be wrong.”
I felt like falling on her feet as she said so, not as her son in law but to thank her for trying to save us from disaster.
“You call them innocent, Manpreet! You don’t know these boys, and especially that Swaminathan’s son. Don’t trust them; I am sure they won’t change.”
Kapoor uncle had made his mind to roast us for next morning’s breakfast, but what about Somu, who was already overcooked.
“We promise you uncle; we will never do it again. Please don’t report it to our dads.”
Without thinking about the present night’s consequences, I jumped on the most important rescue operation as the worst part was to be attended at home, if ever Kapoor uncle reported it to our fathers.
“Let them go dad.”
We lifted our face towards Pooja as she uttered those magical words. The magic of those words was such that we were happily ready to sacrifice our life. Then we moved our face towards uncle, expecting some mercy.
“Bryan, I am feeling queasy,” Somu whispered to me putting his head down.
“So am I, Somu.”
The last thing we tried not to do was mess up Kapoor uncle’s house by vomiting. However, one thing was sure, if uncle did not set us free within the next five minutes then he would rather blame himself for the consequences.
“Ok, if you all are insisting, I am allowing them to go, but I ensure that this is for the last time. By informing your parents about this, I do not want them to feel ashamed of themselves.”
Kapoor Uncle’s point was right. Out of excitement we had performed some sin’s, unknowing of the fact that it could affect our parents’ esteem. As of now, the most important thing was we had to run outside and find some safe place to dispose the intake. Without wasting any more time, we apologized to them and ran outside the house. After running for a couple of yards outside the gate, we vomited in the drainage line that flowed outside the house. In short, we had vomited out all the evil sin’s we had injected unknowingly out of curiosity inside our soul.