Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Part 10 : Chance Encounter

Finally the war came to an end when there was no food left for anybody to throw. Riddhima tried picking out the spaghetti strands from her hair, still looking daggers at Armaan while Armaan used a piece of cloth to wipe his face which wasn't helping in any way. There were still sounds of kids squealing and screaming as someone threw an odd piece of cake or a remaining piece of samosa or tried to hug each other with food stained clothes. Suddenly a loud voice boomed in the hall.

"What the hell happened here?"

 Armaan and Riddhima looked at each other and then gaped in horror as a couple of smartly dressed men entered the hall followed by half a dozen very well dresses ladies. The ladies were surveying the room with marked revulsion when one of them screamed.

"OH MY GOD! VARUN !! BLOOD!! ACCIDENT!! I, I am going to faint!" The lady seemed to have a fit and collapsed in the arms of the man standing next to her. A little boy, completely red from head to toe, stepped up timidly and tried to reassure,

"Mom, this is just ketchup, not blood. I, I am alright! I swear!"

The lady squinted her eyes and asked in a voice bordering on hysteria, "Ketchup?"

"Yeah Mom, see, taste it!" The boy offered up his red sleeve excitedly but dropped it back down when he saw the look in his mother's eyes. "Mom, I swear, its just ketchup!" he tried one last time.

By then, the rest of the mother's had identified their respective offsprings and similar shrieks and screams followed. Riddhima tried to remember when she had been more embarrassed than now and came up blank. She shared a glance with Armaan who looked equally uncomfortable. Riddhima tore her gaze away to focus on one of the fathers who gave her a look of deep loathing.

["Damn!" Riddhima thought, "He looks so clean! I wish I had a bit of pastry to throw! He wouldn't look so smug if he had chocolate cream all over his face! Riddhima!! What the hell are you thinking?! Have you completely lost it? Get a grip girl!!"]

Riddhima quickly looked down to quail her evil thoughts but not before she noticed that the man bore an uncanny resemblance to Hindi film, star villain Amrish Puri. He had the same large eyes and stern look, only he seemed about 20 years younger. Riddhima could well picture herself being punished in some ingenious cruel way while he sat in a large throne laughing and jeering.

 "Mogambo khush hua!"

Riddhima almost jumped out of her skin when she heard the well known Amrish Puri dialogue whispered close to her ears and then turned around to find Armaan grinning. The looked at each other and realizing that they were both thinking the same thing broke out sniggering. They quickly stifled the laugh but the damage had been done. The man, who had been surveying the battlefield, now turned his attention on both of them!

"Mr. Mallik? How did this happen? I thought I was leaving my son under your supervision, then how did you allow this to happen?"

"Mr. Menon, I can explain!"

"I am listening Mr. Mallik."

"Mr. Menon''.ummm,actually," Armaan fumbled, "Its just that the kids were having fun and well we just'. Don't worry, Riddhima and I were keeping an eye on them all the time, and we would have stopped them if anything went wrong!"

Mr. Menon looked from Armaan to Riddhima and then smirked derisively, "This from the man who is reeking of strawberries, and lady, you have spaghetti hanging from your left ear."

Riddhima quickly reached for her left ear and removed the erring piece of spaghetti. She tried to flatten her hair but gave up soon enough. A memory flashed through her mind of the last time she had been scolded in this manner. It was way back in the 3rd standard, when she along with a couple of friends had let loose a cockroach in the classroom. The punishment then, had amounted to her parents being called for a parent-teacher meeting. She wondered how her father would react if he received a complaint letter from Mr Menon.

Dear Dr. Gupta,

                        This is in response to your daughter's unruly behaviour in Mr. Gaurav Joshi's birthday party. I regret to inform you that she initiated a food fight and caused a lot of damage to person and property. I request your presence in a meeting tomorrow to discuss your daughter's misbehaviour.

                          Thanking You,

                                                 Yours sincerely,

                                                                          Mr. Menon.

She looked at Armaan and pictured both of them being sent for detention. They would be locked up in a room and made to lines, "I will not throw food again!"

Wait a minute, they would be locked up in a room? They would be locked up in a room together? Just Armaan and her! Not bad actually, they could'.

Her flight of fancy was brought to staggering halt with a nudge from Armaan. She realized that Mr. Menon was still talking and she had been staring at him with a smile.

[Oh my God! He must think I am an imbecile or mentally deranged or an idiot of the first oder!]

"This is so not what I expected Mr. Mallik," Mr. Menon finally ended his monologue. "I think we should be going now, its getting late and the boys will have to have a thorough bath. Thank you anyways." Mr. Menon extended his hand for a handshake but drew back. "See you."

The guests left one by one and as the last of the guests left, Gappu came to stand beside Riddhima. Suddenly the 'little-red-ketchup-boy' Varun came running back.

 "I told my parents that I left my specs here," Varun said, out of breath. He came running towards them and gave Gappu a hug, "Gaurav, the party was awesome. Absolutely, the coolest. Thank you so much! See you in school!"

As Varun ran out of the hall, Armaan, Riddhima and Gappu looked at each and started laughing. They collapsed on the floor and continued laughing. Finally they stopped laughing and Armaan pulled Gappu onto his lap.

"Mr. Gappu, happy birthday!"

"Thanks mama!this was the best party ever!"

"Okay, enough now. Let's go get you changed and also get your hair shampooed! It looks as if someone cooked chicken stew on your head!" Armaan picked up Gappu and headed upstairs. "Riddhima you come too, the guest bathroom is the second door on the right."

Riddhima got up happily and headed towards the bathroom.

In the bathroom, Riddhima washed her face and combed her hair as straight as possible. Her churidaar was beyond repair and she couldn't do anything about it. She felt like kicking herself for not carrying a change of clothes but then reminded herself that nobody carried a change of clothes to a birthday party. She looked at herself in the mirror critically. She looked far from clean but atleast now she didn't look like something that the cat had dragged in. She sighed and came out of the bathroom and went to Gappu's room. Gappu was sitting on the bed playing with his football. He had had a bath and was wearing his pajamas.

Riddhima smiled, "All clean, Gappu?"

"Yep! Riddhima didi! The party was amazing! It was the best party ever. You had fun, Riddhima didi?

"Of course she had fun," Riddhima turned around quickly to find Armaan standing at the door and grinning, "She was the first one to throw cake, remember?"

Before she could retort to  Armaan's teasing, Riddhima saw that Armaan had had a bath. He was wearing a crisp white shirt and his hair was still wet from the shower. Riddhima looked at Armaan's clean clothes and tugged self consciously at her dirty churidar. That little action didn't go un-noticed by Armaan and before she knew what was happening he had pulled her into a tight bear hug.

She was in Armaan's arms, again! He was holding her, again! That was the second time that day, or was it the third time? She forgot to count, infact all rational thoughts left her. All she could think of was that she was in Armaan's arms and he felt warm and smelled like ''..

Armaan pulled back abruptly and smiled at her.

"There you go Dr. Riddhima. Do I look alright?"

Riddhima's brain was still not functioning properly. All it registered was that Armaan was talking and Gappu was giggling. She looked form Armaan to Gappu and then back at Armaan and realized that Armaan was pointing at his shirt. As her mind focused, she noticed that Armaan's shirt didn't seem all that clean anymore. There were brown and red stains all over which she realized belatedly, were imprints from her own churidar! She was so shocked she didn't know how to react. She just kept staring at Armaan.

"Not happy?" Armaan frowned, "Actually you are right. I look way too clean. Just a sec."

Armaan went towards Gappu's table and as Riddhima watched, he picked up a tube of yellow paint and smeared it all over his shirt. He grinned at Gappu who was clapping and cheering him on.

"Thanks Gappu. So, mademoiselle Riddhima, now am I fit to be seen in your company?"

Riddhima looked at Gappu and Armaan smiling and finally smiled.

"Armaan, you are mad! Completely insane!"

"Thank you, senorita!" Armaan bowed, "That is such a, ummm, such a 'happening' compliment!"

"You are welcome, kind sir, and now would you care to stop dramatizing and drop me back home?"

"At your service m'lady!"

"Armaan! Stop it, and let's go. Bye Gappu," Riddhima walked up to Gappu and kissed his forehead, "Good night, sleep tight!"

"Bye Riddhima didi, good night! Good night Mama!"

"Good night Gappu, go to sleep. I'll be back as soon as I drop Riddhima back home. Okay?"


Riddhima and Armaan put out the lights and walked out of Gappu's room and headed for the car.



Armaan started the car after both of them had settled inside. Riddhima looked sideways at Armaan. He was driving but with a smile on his face. Seeing him smile, Riddhima's lips curled into a smile on their own.

"Armaan! Thank you!"

"Oh God, Riddhima! Not again!"


"Not that 'Thank you' lecture again! You start once and you don't seem to stop. You go on and on and on, forever. Please Riddhima, give me a break!"

Riddhima scowled, "Fine! Go to hell! Why do I even bother to be polite with you?"

Armaan turned away to hide his smile, it was way too much fun irritating Riddhima. After about 10 seconds, Riddhima spoke up again,



"I am sorry!"

"Seriously Riddhima! Are you some kind of a polite-o-maniac?"


"As in, suffering from a compulsive desire to be polite."

"Armaan! Be serious and listen to me. I am sorry, I shouldn't have thrown the cake. I started the fight and ruined the party. I am really sorry!"

"Wait a sec. 'Ruined the party'? Riddhima, the party was a grand success! I can't remember when I had more fun. Didn't you see the kids? They were having the time of their lives. I am sure, Gappu is going to be quite the star when he goes back to school. I guess I should thank you, without your help I would never have been able to throw such a rocking party! Thank you, Riddhima!"

Riddhima grinned. "Well if you put it that way, I am willing to accept your gratitude. I have to confess, I really did have fun. The party was awesome!"

Armaan grinned back, "Now that we are confessing, even I have a confession to make."


"I am hungry."

Riddhima was incensed at once. Her face turned a flaming red in about a heart beat and she glared at Armaan, her eyes spewing anger.

"Armaan! Enough is enough! I know what I did there in the balcony was stupid and immature. I don't even know why I did it. I am sorry, okay? But, it doesn't mean you keep bringing up that topic to tease me. Seriously Armaan, if you bring up that topic once more, I am, I am going to'.," Riddhima looked around frantically for something, anything to threaten Armaan with, "I am going to bang your head against the steering wheel!!"

Armaan moved as far away to his right as possible, apparently scared at Riddhima's outburst. He raised his arm defensively and shouted,

"Easy, easy, lady, I am driving! And in my defense, I wasn't bringing anything up. I just said that I was hungry, which I am! You threw all the food, remember? I didn't get anything to eat!"

Riddhima blinked at Armaan a couple of times as his comment sunk in and then harrumphed back into her seat.

"Oh, I thought'"

"I know what you thought. Jeez, you almost made me have an accident! Tell me, are you always this violent or do I bring out the best in you?"

Riddhima narrowed her eyes while Armaan winked.

"Okay, now that you have calmed down, I return to what I was saying. I am hungry!"

"I know Armaan. We shouldn't have thrown all that food. Thankfully the kids had eaten something before we started the fight. It would have been really embarrassing if they went home hungry! But, you are right, I am hungry too."


"Great? What's great?"

"The fact that we can now go and have dinner somewhere."

"Armaan! No way! I am not going anywhere dressed like this! And even if we go, I'm sure, no respectable place will let us enter. Have you looked at yourself? We look like a couple of vagabonds who live on the streets."

Armaan looked at both of them critically, and frowned, "I guess you are right. So what do we do?" Suddenly his face cleared and he looked up smiling, "I have an idea!"

"What idea? Armaan, where are we going? Armaan?"

Armaan took a left turn and drove into a petrol pump.

"Armaan, the tank is full. Why are we at a petrol pump?"

"Hang on a sec, Riddhima, I'll be right back."

Armaan left a bewildered Riddhima in the car and rushed into the '24 hr grocery store' adjacent to the petrol pump. He was back in a couple of minutes with his arms laden with odd assortments of cakes, biscuits, chocolates, chips and cola. He beckoned Riddhima to open the door for him and on entering the car, he dumped all the food items on Riddhima's lap.

"Armaan, what's all this?"

"Food, edibles, provisions, nourishment, something to satisfy hunger," Armaan said, as he started the car and drove out of the petrol pump.

"I know Armaan, but," Riddhima gave up and laughed, "Fine! By the way, where are we going?"

"For a picnic," Armaan turned and smiled at Riddhima, "To my favourite place."


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