It was an extra ordinary Saturday. For one, it was the election day here. A day to decide whether once again the aam janta would be held at ransom by shared arrangements of power and the subsequent ‘betrayal’ during the post election horse trading. Anyway to move on with the day, the honest, hard(ly)working me worked as usual. Then decided to catch up with my best bud over lunch who incidnetally had exercised his franchise but didn't know who he voted for. Too much pressure he said. Yes, I believe him. The lunch proved to be an exercise in patience since we realized a tad late that most of the eateries serving alcohol were shut. Now, I don’t understand this but I shall leave it for later. We managed to find a table at the over crowded Only Place thanks to my charming ways (hmm!). And yes, there were the red checked table cloth, the afternoon heat, the whirring fan that did nothing for the heat, the kissing couple who fed each other morsels from a plate (yes, morsels), the man at the next table who wanted fresh butter on his steak(!) The meal turned out decent including the blueberry cheese cake, which, those who eat out with me know, is my current favourite dessert.
Lunch done, we decided to head for Blossoms and try our luck. (Blossoms is this cult book store on Church Street that usually gives fantastic deals on new and old books). So we went in to hunt, completely swathed with the smell of fresh and used books. I got lucky with one each of Ishiguro, Garcia, Kafka, Tolkien (promised myself I shall initiate someone into it) and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. No, I am not giving away the titles yet. I wanted to pick up Anjum Hasan’s Lunatic in My Head but the lady was helpful enough to take down my request with a promise to call me when it arrives. (update: she kept her promise and I am picking it up today!) My buddy picked up a few old Grishams and the adorable “Marley & Me” We reach the counter to pay for our loot. Before Buddy Boy can grab his wallet I shove my plastic at the man at the counter. Buddy Boy protests, but the supercilious I say ‘Owners keepers!’ Buddy Boy goes quiet and starts to look uneasy. Oh, how silly, I think, gloating at my instant wit. The POS machine emits funny sounds and gives up. ‘Disconnected’ it flashes. While I am convincing counter guy to try again Buddy Boy slips his card to the man and keeps his eyes away from me. This time a smooth swipe and the machine obviously likes him and prints the slip for signing. I feel a smile slowly creep at the corner of his mouth. The counter guy hands me the packet. Buddy Boy slips in his hand and coolly takes over the parcel from the man and turns towards me and whispers, ‘What did you say just now? Owners keepers…eh?’
We don’t speak till we reach the neighbouring Beer Café and order coffee (no alcohol service remember!). Then he bends close to me and grins ‘But there’s a lesson in this.’ Flushed with embarrassment I run my eyes over the fat packet of books that he now gets to take home. He says slowly, drawing each word so that there is no wayt I miss a single one, ‘Remember, there are many a slip between the swipe and the sweep’ followed by a cheshire grin. So, you are going to hold this against me for the rest of our lives. It was a statement. Yes of course, he says. And rest assured your grandchildren will know about your foot in the mouth wit ha! He is right. I know he would do that to me. Please can I have some of the books? But he has already moved on to other things. Life, lovers, parents, friends, property, travel plans pass us by till dusk appears. Time to go I say. He too had to meet up a friend from out of town. As we walk down to our cars we talk shop some more. No, I have no books to take home. We say bye and I get into my car. Before I slam the door, he hands over the book packet with a smile. Grin. Thank God for best buddy!
Later the same night, I get an urgent call from Buddy Boy who proclaims eternal love in exchange for a promise that I wouldn’t refuse a request. Ok, what is it now? We are having a boys’ night out and we do not have any booze. We scanned the entire city but nothing. Can you please sneak a bottle from your dad’s bar cabinet? We are waiting at the entrance of your apartment block. Fantastic! Not only will I be a thief in my own home, but a bootlegger too! I can go to jail!!!! Fine, I will see what I can do, but gimme some time! Finally, wrapped a Red Label in a lingerie store bag (to deflect suspicion) and met them downstairs. The gents thank me profusely and head off to the party. So now I am hoping my dad doesn’t find out and neither the cops. But as someone says, ‘It’s your good deed for the year and you are absolved of all sin that you may commit this year’. So I am taking it in the right spirit. Wait a minute did I say spirit?