Saturday, July 13, 2013

Between the Words and the Picture

After college, I went to the city for a job interview. I stayed with some relative’s acquaintances, a friendly nice young couple who seemed old to me then. The man received me at the railway station, very early on a chilly Sunday morning. They lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in a crowded market area. Their bedroom, which had a flimsy curtain for a door, and the bathroom were to the left of the drawing room, where I slept on the sofa-cum-bed, and the kitchen was to the right. The man talked to me about cars and mutual acquaintances. He told me that I should not study the day before an interview. He was a math teacher in a private school. She taught English in that school and was a lovely cook. After lunch they retired to the bedroom. From my seat on the sofa, I saw the man remove his t-shirt over his head, and at the same time reach beneath his mundu, tug down his underwear with one acrobatic swipe. He threw both items onto a cloth-stand. The t-shirt landed correctly but his underwear did not. Through another gap in the curtain, I watched his wife carefully fold the bedspread before placing it on a stool before a dressing table. She then unhooked her bra at the back, slipped the bra straps down her arms without opening her sleeveless salwar blouse, and reached within at the front to remove her bra, like a magician pulling out a rabbit from his hat. That too landed on the floor. Even after siesta, those stayed on the floor, discarded, forgotten, undisturbed. At tea-time, when I seemed distracted, they asked me if I was feeling alright. I assured them that everything was perfect. Later, when the man was in the bathroom and his wife was cooking dinner, I slipped into their bedroom. I picked up both items, the underwear gingerly pinched at its waistline with left thumb and forefinger, and the bra in my right hand, delicately held with caressing fingers over the cups. I was about to place those properly on the cloth-stand when the couple appeared at the bedroom door. They said nothing. I should have said something. And, truth would have stood on a step on that devil’s staircase between the words I said and the picture they saw. I had an awful dinner, hardly slept, performed miserably in the job interview on Monday, left the city that night and never met the couple ever again. 

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