‘So what do you think of my tie?’ He throws the question at her pinning her with a dismissive look.
Grotesque. She thinks. ‘It’s nice.’ She says trying to smile.
‘Nice? Nice! That’s a bastard of a word!’ He screams. She flinches involuntarily moving back in her chair. Creak. ‘It has no meaning.’ He continues. ‘Rain is nice. Icecream is nice. Sex is nice. Hmmm!’
‘I mean, Sir. It is pretty.’ She trails off, the last syllable inaudible. She thinks of their terrace at home where the ‘achaar’ is soaking the afternoon sun in the ceramic white and yellow jars. She doesn’t want to be in this room with a white haired balding man wearing a red tie with severed horse heads painted in black. He looks at her as one would look at a crawling bug before smashing it with the tip of the shoe. She has never felt so small. He bends towards her waving the tie near her face ‘Is that what you will say to our client’s customers? Buy this Sir. It is pretty?’
She holds the arms of her chair tight. She tries to wriggle her face away. But it is too late. She feels it gushing out. Aaachoooh! The horse heads are now wet and drippy like they were dropped in a vat of glue. He goes in a paralytic shock his mouth open and looking at what was once a tie. She gets up, pushes her chair back blindly and runs to the door. Three doors later she is on the street. Stops a passing autorickshaw and breathes for the first time after the splatter. That was her first job interview.
Should she head back to her aunt’s place? Her aunt is actually her mother’s childhood friend. She has sometime heard about her from her mother but had never seen her before. When she told her mother she was coming here for the interviews, she had resisted at first. Young girl. Strange city. High crime rate. Etc. But on her father’s insistence suggested that she stays with her old friend at least till she finds a job and a place to stay. ‘But Ma, I don’t know her. I can’t just barge in and expect her to keep me!’ she had protested. A budget hotel was her plan till she found a decent place to stay. ‘No.’ her mother had insisted. ‘In a new city, it is always better to stay with someone you know and trust. Besides, we were like family when we were kids. She practically grew up in my house. She hated her step mother and spent all her waking hours in our house. She will be happy to have you there.’ So it was final. Address given. Phone numbers exchanged.
After the initial awkwardness she found Bela mashi very pleasant. She was very different from her mother of course. Bela mashi stays alone with a maid for company after she lost her husband early in their marriage. She doesn’t have any children and has a whimsical, romantic view of life. Something that she finds immensely attractive and uplifting. Her mother would have never agreed to having ice-cream late in the night nor has she seen her mother ever wear a satin nightdress to bed. In the last three days since she got here she has been very well taken care of. But staying longer would be taking advantage of Bela mashi’s good nature. No, she had to find a place to stay.