“I’ll just be back.”
She stopped midway into her packing, grabbed a duppatta and rushed out. Her roommate had hardly enough time to react.
She came to room A-4 and stared at the door. Two hand prints stared back at her. One blue, big and sprawling, and another orange, a little smaller and a little distorted. The two thumbs overlapped each other. She hesitated and then knocked.
She knocked again
“Come in...it’s not locked.”
She pushed the door a little and slid inside. He was lying tummy down on his bed, his head hanging out and was reading The Hindu. A mug of coffee stood beside, and what remained of a pack of Hide-and-Seek biscuits. She stood there looking at him. He was reading the sports section and dint look up. When she dint speak, he looked up.
His hair had grown longer, and brown-er. He’d changed his specs. The frame was thicker now, and she noticed, the glasses too. He was growing a beard, and as usual, the two tiny places at the crook of his lower lips were uncovered with hair.
“They just don’t grow there. It is irritating. I can’t have a decent enough bulgan”
She remembered a conversation with him earlier. She was sipping coffee in his room and he was examining his new goatee.
“you know, I saw an old Malayalam movie yesterday where there is a boy who applies karadi neyyu to grow moustache. Do you think it works? Is it even available?”
“I’ve heard that it works.” She grinned.
“sigh. But knowing me, it would probably take the rest of the hair on my face away. I’ll just grow my moustache longer. It might just cover the stupid hollow”
“Abdu told me he saw you around yesterday near Sagar.”
His voice took her back to the present.
“I had to meet ma’am”
“You submitting your thesis?”
“Nope. Haven’t been working much. Wanted to get out of home. And had things to take back....”
“hmmm...sit down. Don’t stand. The chair is clean enough. Just shift the newspapers.”
She heaved about 30 newspapers and wondered where to put them. While she was contemplating the bed he jumped up.
“Here, give me”
He took them from hers, and pushed them over on to his cupboard. Something else fell through the crack between the cupboard and the wall, and by the sound of it, broke.
He turned around to face her. And grinned a little sheepishly.
“I have no clue what that was”
“Do you never clean up? Unless I am here?”
She remembered asking him once, folding his shirt.
“Well I do. I clean the table when I want to paint. I clean my bed to sleep. But I like the floor better. And yeah the cupboard. I have 3 decent shirts and 1 decent pair of jeans. I keep it folded. Yes folded means folded and not opened. Your method of folding is too complicated, serves no purpose. Those are wrinkle free shirts anyway.
And yeah. The rest of my cupboard holds paint brushes and paint, and paper and books. They are clean.
My desk holds books. I read them. So they are neat. That corner table is where I work. But as I hardly ever do that. So it is ahem..a little dusty.
The maid sweeps the floor every day. So I sleep on a clean floor.
So you see, am basically a clean person.”
He stared back defiantly. And she laughed.
“You have beautiful hair.” He’d said.
“It’s a little messy”. He said. Hunting about behind the cupboard to see what it was that broke.
“Ah! Forget it.,” he said giving it up and seated himself on the bed.
“You look good” he told her.
Normally she would have retorted with “one of us has to” but today she just smiled back. “Thank you,” she said.
She looked at the calendar flapping about near the window. He’d furiously marked almost all the dates. She tried reading it from the chair.
He saw her looking at it and said “random things. Calendar makes up for a diary”.
“I got new specs.”
“I guess I’ll leave then. Your coffee is cold.”
“It is. Meant to be that. I usually have it like that now, like...” he left it at that.
“I like cold coffee more than hot ones. She had told him. One heaped teaspoon of Bru coffee. 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder. 1 ½ teaspoon sugar, 1 mug of milk. Heavenly.”
“My flight is at 7. Its 3. Have called taxi.”
“...hmmmm. I’ve been accepted at Notre Dame. Will leave in October....meant to mail etc..but....hmmmm...... “