“I got you something.”
“What? Ooooh, that’s my favorite brand, how did you know?”
“I didn’t know, I just liked the color of the packet. Don’t some famous people smoke Camel?”
“And what’s this written on the pack?”
“That’s a little poem for you,” I smiled.
“Yeah, lemme see how you flirt with your women. With poems, huh?”
She reads the short poem . . .
“I’m very much a prose person, and hey, wherefrom did you get the notion that I flirt? I gottu find out who’s responsible for all this damage.”
She is taller than I expected. When I first saw her, it was from a distance, and from another perspective. Tall, with her hair falling on her forehead and eyes, she made a pretty picture. Sharp eyes, I noticed. Why did she say I would find her unwomanly? I was already pretty conscious of being in the presence of a strong, beautiful woman, who probably likes to call all the shots in a relation. But we are not friends yet. We are gauging the possibility of a friendship in this. I am. Maybe she isn’t even thinking.
“Okay, so every time there will be something that burns out? Hmm, candles, perhaps?”
“Hey, guess what, I wanted to get you aromatic candles. Only didn’t find time to go to Forum. They have some nice candles there.”
“But good you got the ciggies, Manas. Do you want to smoke a joint?”
“That’s what I’ve come for,” I lied. I had come to meet a woman, perhaps watch her out of the corner of one eye, or maybe even stare. I can look at beautiful women for hours on end. But so can you all. I have stared at these stills on my desktop for hours. I am exaggerating . . . not hours, probably a few minutes.
She meticulously filled her bong with some exotic weed. From Kerala, she informed. While she was at it, I lapped up all there was to offer in her room. There were these acrylic paintings that she told me about. Very vibrant colors, and some of them were worth a second look. Almost all of them, in fact. I think, out of the seven paintings displayed on the walls, I didn’t like one. One that I, with my limited levels of art appreciation, couldn’t make any sense of. She calls it Blue Women.
"You know what, one Suraj Mansukhani wanted to buy Blue Women. He offered an absurdly high price."
"Yeah, I know him. He is obssessive, people say. He can go to any length to get what he wants. Have you ever met him?"
"No, man . . . in fact I have an exhibition coming up. My paintings are never for sale. If I am not driving a merc, who cares? I paint for myself. For some friends too at times."
Will she ever paint something for me one day? I will wait, perhaps. Perhaps not.
After the smoke, everything became lighter. I realized I was rather stiff till then, sitting across the breadth of her living room, facing her, watching. What is she thinking? The intros are over, as in mine is. I never wanted to know anything about her. Somehow I find it difficult to ask too many questions for the sake of a conversation. I also realize that the weed has opened some valve in my brain that was bringing out words from Babel.
So I talk, looking into her eyes. Her intense, piercing eyes. What is she thinking, I find myself wondering again. We are talking about short stories now.
PTI 22 March, 2005: The famous painter Arundhuti was found dead in her condominium yesterday. The police suspected suicide but the post mortem report found poisoning as the cause of death. The police found some foreign cigarettes laced with poison among her belongings. They found no fingerprints, just a short poem scribbled on the pack. The investigating officer refused to comment.
Tomorrow there is an auction of Ms Arundhuti's paintings.
The phone rings.
"Hello, Manas speaking . . ."
"Hello, Mr Mansukhani? There's some good news for you," it was my agent Vinod, "we picked up Blue Women."