Just when I had caught the first wink of sleep after a tiring days work, I was woken up by yet another phone call. In half sleep I tried to recognize the voice on the other end. It was Darshan, my elder brother.
“ You are coming for Arjun’s birthday party tomorrow, aren’t you?
“ Of course bro, how can I not come! In fact, tell me if you need any help with the arrangements” I said, sounding as ‘natural’ as possible and wondered if I had forgotten about the original invitation or he had forgotten to inform me earlier.
“Listen, can you please get a box of chocolate fantasy pastries for him. You know he is crazy about them and you've been promising to get him one since his last two birthdays..”
Being a chef at theLe Meridien Hotel, I was always loaded with an inventory of demands from children of all ages.
“Don’t worry, will not disappoint him this time”
I had thought of buying him a Lego set like always, because I knew Arjun , like most boys his age, loved to fangle semi imaginary tanks, destroyers and racing cars with them.
However I impressed myself by reaching on time (that’s before the last guest left) with the demanded gift in hand.
As Arjun opened the box, such was the sinful appeal of the delicacy, even I couldn't help drooling. Damn, we sell 100 packs of those every week and I haven’t tasted one as yet!
The wagging tongue was shoved firmly back into the cheeks by a non verbal from Alice, staring at me from across the table.
I decided to wait for the birthday boy to have one before rightfully asking for a helping.
“How did you like the pav bhaji, Nirupama has spent the entire evening perfecting it”…
The conversation drifted away and so did the pastry box… Darshan took me to Arjun’s newly renovated room. It was truly well done. Colorful walls, tasteful furniture and large shelves with at least 10 different lego sets ( the kind that most kids lust after), neatly packed in their original seal packs. They looked good, but unused.
The fear of Alice ’s stern gaze made me hold fast to my patience but soon it was time to leave. Arjun dear was busy finishing his usual supper with dislike evident on his face — and still no sign of his ‘beloved chocolate fantasy’.
“Wouldn’t you ask Arjun for a bite,” I tried to instigate the younger sibling — hoping to garner some vocal support for my covert desire.
“No use chachu” came a non challant reply..
This was it.
“Won’t Arjun eat the pastries I've got for him??!!” I exploded.
“Oh no, not so soon — Didn't I tell you he ‘loves’ to have them….”
“Exactly, if he loves to have them, why isn't he having them?”
“Oh he likes to be done with the regular stuff first. So he’ll keep them in the fridge and wait for the time when he can sit alone and enjoy them bite by bite, doing full justice to them.”
“Fine then, let me have one before I leave” I said and opened the fridge door — and lo and behold — the fridge was full of pastries, chocolates, sweetmeats and what not in varying stages of degeneration — exuding a cocktail of bad smells. Holy smokes! The need for an urgent explanation must have been evident on my face..
Darshan was quick to respond. I know, it’s appalling to see all his favourite stuff rotting. But we’re all helpless.. the boy simply refuses to eat the stuff he likes. He always wants to ‘be done with the usual stuff first and says he’ll save the good stuff for later or that he’ll eat it when he can sit comfortably and ‘enjoy’ it. Most of the time the stuff gets rotten before he begins to have it.” But since he ‘likes’ it, doesn’t even let us throw it! Do you see the jar of marshmallows there? They were his favorites when he was ten, but he grew out of that liking before even half were eaten.
This was the most ridiculously abnormal behavior I head ever seen!
That night, while driving home I thought.. was I being Arjun too. Spending my entire life doing things that needed to be done and stashing away all the delightful things away into a closet in the basement — hoping to find the right time, the right place, the right opportunity. Away in a rusty dusty formidable iron closet which I’m reluctant to open. Ally my chocolate fantasies are rotting there — out of sight, out of mind, and slowly out of the heart as well perhaps.
When I reached, I decided I’ll stop being Arjun and won’t put off doing my favorite things until tomorrow. So I sat down and started writing — and penned down my first story. You just finished reading it.