Raghu was elated. He instinctively knew there was something being planned for him. Nobody had wished him since morning which surely meant a party in the evening when all would try to surprise him with it. It was impossible for anybody to forget his day. He wasn’t a fool to have pushed his way out into this world on the 1st of April 1976.
He too decided to pretend. All the others were doing so, why not he! Last year his family had arranged for a get together at the Palm Beach resort and celebrated the special day. Some of his colleagues had joined in too.
‘I will maintain a sullen face and not eat throughout the day till I am wished.’
Shweta passed by in the office. Raghu lowered his face further.
‘Sir, are you fine? You look pale.’
‘No, no, I am absolutely fine. You carry on.’
Even Shweta is pretending!
The daily office chores continued monotonously. Raghu’s mind was not here. He had pretended sickness and lack of appetite before his office staff. By noon, pangs of hunger began hurting his senses and the pitch of his stomach’s growling sounds could be heard easily.
‘Funny stomach! I must eat something.
During lunch, he decided to take the road towards Nathu’s Canteen situated a kilometer away from the office. This would help him have food in plenty in unfamiliar surroundings without being recognized, thought he. While parking the car upon reaching Nathu’s, he spotted Amit, a subordinate of his.
Raghu recalled telling him about his stomach being upset in the morning when the latter had offered some chocolate. Amit was there at the resort too last year.
‘Damn, I cannot get down here! Amit would tell all that his boss was here at Nathu’s eating heartily despite heavy stomach!’
In frustration, he put the car in reverse gear and drove out of the parking lot.
‘Where to go now?’
The weather was lovely. Dark clouds had started hovering over the sky out of nowhere. When the gentle breeze started blowing, he couldn’t resist a long drive.
‘Yes Amit, I am going out to meet a client. Will be back by four.’
It was a scenic route via tea gardens on both sides of the road. He switched off the air conditioner and let the breeze fill in his car.
‘Perfect weather, oh, what do I see!’
There was a road side food vendor under a patio umbrella standing at some height from the ground in front of a tea garden. He was serving steaming hot something to two people. Raghu stopped his car on the road and climbed the little height to reach the empty bench, it seemed, specifically meant for him. The brilliant aroma inundated his hungry senses.
‘Serve me some.’
The baked beans and American cheese corn were unusual items available that day on the road side. He had never spotted these earlier.
‘Wow, even street food vendors are getting smarter these days!’
The meal on an absolutely empty stomach had an intoxicating effect on him. He ordered Chilly garlic Chow Mein too and gobbled up till the last morsel. Not even an iota of food was left on the plate by the time he finished and rose up lazily to pay for it.
Pay for it! Indeed.
That his digestive system was so full and unable to function without obstruction by now was clear. The process of metabolism within his body was immediate. The least said about it, the better. He realized he could not go back to office and that home was the safest place to be.
He called up Amit
‘I will not be able to come to the office. Am heading home. Not well.’
At home, there was nobody. He used the spare key to open the door and rushed towards the bathroom.
When he opened the bathroom door, he saw his wife standing like a guard.
‘Where were you? You were not here when I returned’, asked he.
‘With Saroj aunty. Her bitch gave birth to a litter of six puppies. ’
‘And you were assisting the birth’, said he irritatedly.
‘Oh, come on, I was there because she had called up and wanted me to come over to her house. What is wrong with you and how come you are home so early?’
Raghu thought- ‘what kind of wife is she who cannot even remember her husband’s birthday and then has the nerve to ask what is wrong!’
‘Nothing, just like that’, said he.
She ignored his tone and informed she was invited by her friend Shreya in the evening for celebrating her promotion.
‘Shreya has become Manager, can you believe it!’
‘Oh, good’, uttered Raghu feebly. He was disappointed by now. It seemed people had indeed forgotten his day. Even his wife.
After she left, he went off to sleep but within an hour or two, he got up with a start at somebody fondling with his head. He found himself blindfolded. It was Shreya.
‘So she hadn’t left! Now comes my birthday surprise, ha-ha’, thought Raghu.
Shreya said lovingly, ‘sweetheart, I have a surprise for you. ’ She held his hand and led him to a chair at the head of the table and made him promise not to steal a look. Unexpectedly Raghu felt a fart coming on.
‘Damn, the beans and noodles!’ He desperately tried to control and at last succeeded and heaved a sigh of relief.
Just as Shreya was about to remove the blindfold, the landline phone rang.
Whirlpool of movements within his belly. He again felt it coming.
‘Dekhna mat, please till I return, don’t spoil my surprise’, she again made him pledge not to peep and went to the next room to answer the phone. While she was gone, Raghu held the chance. He lifted one leg like a dog pee-ing and let go. It was loud and bad. The culprit himself had hard time breathing, so he felt for his handkerchief, got it out of the pocket and fanned the air about him. He felt better. But he had another urge come on.
He repeated the earlier process and tried swaying the smell away with his hand, hoping it would disperse. Moment he was calm and started gaining a false sense of security, he felt another and yet another. While keeping his ears focused on the conversation over the phone in the next room, and keeping his promise of staying blindfolded, he carried on like this for long time, letting go and then fanning each time with his handkerchief.
Now he heard his wife’s BYE over the phone; he sat still and pretended as if nothing happened when she walked in. Saying ‘sorry’ for taking so long, she asked if he had peeped at the table and upon being assured that he had not, she removed the blindfold and said loudly:
Raghu nearly died. There were five dinner guests seated around the table and the rest on other chairs in that room.
Amit, Shweta, Dheeraj, Nayan- his office people; family, few relatives, some friends…