By Neel Anil Panicker


Why was everybody on ‘insist mode’ today.

First Puja, and then, now Eric Clapton.

She wasn’t expecting ‘Eric darling’ to show up, and that too today, tonight, of all nights.

And that too after all that she had found out about Aman.

Only hours earlier Puja had dropped in, typically unannounced, minutes after Shefali had cut short the conversation slamming the phone down into pieces.

She had been insistent.

“It’s my party dear. And I am not going anywhere without you. Besides, I want to meet your lover”.

From across the table Shefali looked at Puja. She had put on weight, albeit a wee bit, just around the waist.

The sight brought her to break into a thin smile.

She knew Puja only too well. Relationships for Puja were but a ruse.

Every hook up and (as with her) the inevitable breakup thereafter, was a cause and occasion for her to hog to her heart’s (and stomach’s) content on what else but her favourite  Singh’s Triple Spread Amritsari Butter Chicken along with heavily lathered Tandoori naan. And this later to be dissolved with at least three extra toppings of Sundae Choco Fudge.

The smile brought a response.

“Hey, stop looking at me like that. Guess what! I am hitting the gym. There is a new one that’s opened two floors below our office. Have just signed for a year’s membership. It is little pricey, though.”

Hitting the gym. What a joke! thought  Shefali. A waste of money and time. Within no time she would be hitting on the next available hottie that catches her eye and the circus as well as the cycle would begin all over again.

The flip side of staying best friends for long is that one gets to know not just if the other is serious or not but also is able to gauge the level of that seriousness.

Shefali caught the intent in Puja’s voice. The latter’s naturally bubbly face was now in full glow; there was a glint too in those kohl-lined cat eyes.

She knew it was a battle well lost.

“Ok, go attack the fridge. Grab a Coke… whatever …I will be back in two minutes”

Minutes later as she joined Puja and the two headed towards town, Aman and his ‘indiscretions’ came back to haunt her.

 ‘God, what is he upto. That too now, after all these years. I must call Rishi. He must have an answer and possible a way out.’

Shefali flipped her phone open and the chrome lined screen came alive with his name __Rashi, a deliberate mix-up. He was on speed dial. In no time, the Oppo smartphone ( her first and only exigency instrument that she had extricated from the secret chamber of her almirah) came alive with his sexy voice.


At least not today; definitely not now.

But the man with the flaming red hair was insistent. Three hours on (thankfully interspersed with two quick bathroom breaks) and he was at it again. He was now crooning in that achingly mellifluous voice of his; when his fingers lingered ‘oh so slowly’ over the guitar strings, the notes it produced succeeded in tugging at her heart strings.

He was playing numbers that Shefali’s heard for close to twenty years or more:

“Blues Before Sunrise”

I have the blues before sunrise,
Tears standing in my eyes.
I have the blues before sunrise,
Tears standing in my eyes.
It was a miserable feeling, now babe,
A feeling I do despise.

I have to leave, leave you baby,
Because you know you done me wrong.
I have to leave you baby,
Because you know you done me wrong.
I’m gonna pack up and leave you darling
And break up my happy home.

Shefali’sparked with her back to Mcdonald’s brightly-lit parking lot; all she can see are the shadowy outlines of the revelers, some seated but most others on their toes, heads swaying, their arms waving, the grounds blocked and the skies above taken over by lipstick smeared rectangular placards, the oblongular ringed stage that almost hides out among several concentric circles of screaming adrenaline pumped fans.

Way back when they were still living their tween dream, all happy and eager, she and Puja used to sneak out in the middle of the night, and gave Eric encouraging fist pumps every time he came close to where they stood transfixed among the salivating crowds and belted out

“ I am gonna pack up and leave you darling”.

‘Oh my God,’ Shefali reminisces,

‘How long back in time was that? One, two, ten years at the most.’

She coudn’t bear to hear him again, not now, surely not in the mood that she was in.

As the so obviously heavily drugged long haired lead singer waved his arms around__his silver bracelets glittering as they caught the crazily rotating fancy lights__, and worked the crowd into a slow trance crooning
                            I’m gonna leave you all alone.
I’m gonna leave you baby,

Shefali turned away, her eyes shooting and searching over the heads of the drunken mass.

She lip synced,

Rishi baby, don’t leave me alone

 Because I done you no wrong’.



(to be continued- chapter 14 of fiction series A FAIR AFFAIR)

5 thoughts on “

    1. Thanks. Tell me sis, and honestly so, is this continuing series that I am doing A FAIR AFFAIR good enough to go to print as a novella?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I think with a little editing uou could definitely do something with it Bhai!

        Liked by 1 person

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