Storm in a Tea cup
by Kiran Jhamb
Vikrant’s laconic hello became degrees warmer when he realized who was on the other end. “Is that you?”
“It depends upon what do you mean by ‘You’. I am female - my voice gives only this much information.”
“Come on Juhi, how many females are there in my life?”
“Only you can enlighten me. Do tell I am dying for such enlightenment. Or rather I was born for it.”
“Hey, hold on. Why all this talk of birth and death? Why so serious?”
“What else can one talk about to a doctor and such a good conscientious doctor who takes personal interest in getting his patients well?”
“Why are you damning me with praise?” By now even the slow Vikrant had picked up Juhi’s caustic note.
“Same time, same place and do me one BIG favor. Please bring all my letters, photographs and cards.”
The phone went dead. Vikrant was stunned. That Juhi was volatile by nature he understood. In fact, that is what had attracted him to her at first. Everybody had said the usual stuff about attraction of the opposites etc. Now which bee had she got under her bonnet? Meanwhile his patient's parents were discreetly admiring the walls of his chamber. He will iron out her misunderstanding in the evening but her childish squabbles amused him no more.
Vikrant was a busy pediatrician. In the evening, dog-tired he presented himself before Juhi. He was badly in need of a cup of tea and some snacks since he had been too busy to spare time for lunch. But Juhi’s hello was dark with decorum. She forestalled him and came straight to the point with an absolutely no nonsense manner, “Please give me my letters and photographs. I want to finish with you. I don’t believe in beating about the bush. I’d have thought you more of a man if you had had the guts to own it up to me yourself.”
“What are you talking about?” a bewildered Vikrant wailed. “Oh, Juhi hold your steam. Cool down. You will burst an artery.”
“A fat lot will you care!” was the emotive response.
“Now tell me in a rational manner why you think me to be less of a man and what I haven’t owned up to you,” said Vikrant.
“You better delve into your own heart. Soul searching is supposed to be good for everyone…”
“For God’s sake Juhi, what are you getting yourself into such an uproar about? You have shredded me enough. Only my clothes are holding me together at the moment,” Vikrant tried to infuse a sense of humor.
“Poor you! It was unlucky for you that one of my friends saw you and has chucked a spanner into the works.”
First glimmer of the picture appeared. So a bit of a feminine gossip was involved. Heavens, he was in need of that cup of tea but if he tried to order now, Juhi would screech at him all the more about ignoring important matters. He patted himself mentally, “Come on Vikrant. Buck up.” Meanwhile Juhi was going on and on about two timing men and what she thought about them in general and about him in particular. He couldn’t blame her for the first part because her rat of a father had left her mother for another woman but he objected to the latter part about himself. The way Juhi was going on Vesuvius would have looked like bagatelle beside her. Suddenly the word ‘fidelity’ caught his attention from Juhi’s tirade.
“You know how much importance I give to loyalty, fidelity and trust. Does she know about me? Or is she unaware of my existence as I was of hers?”
it, hold it. Just hold it. What are you accusing me of? I gather it is about another woman?”
“Thank god, you have caught it.”
“And your friend saw me with this other woman?”
“Not saw you. I am sure you are smart enough not to be caught red handed.”
“Then from where did your friend pick up this story?” was Vikrant’s perplexed reply.
“Did you or did you not visit Medipoint on Wednesday?”
“I don’t remember exactly. May be I did. I am a doctor, damn it. And moreover that drug store owner is a good friend of mine. So what’s the big deal about it? Why make a song and dance of it?”
“Try to remember Vikrant what did you buy there?”
“What did I buy there? What can I buy there? Let me think, jewellery?” he said with mild sarcasm.
“I’ll help you to think Vikrant. You bought a pregnancy test kit first and then met your friend. Sneha has recently joined that store. She recognized you from your photographs which she has seen in my room. I have brought them back to return. Sneha confirmed from her boss that it was indeed Dr. Vikrant…Oh how could you do this to me”…The floodgates had opened and she was using her sari’s palloo because a small handkerchief wouldn’t have been of much use.
Vikrant let out a big sigh. What a storm in the tea-cup! He waited patiently for the sniffles, which were bound to come when weeping abated.
“Juhi look at me. Yes I did go to the store last Wednesday. Yes I did buy that pregnancy test kit also.” He had Juhi’s full attention. “But it was for my mother. Juhi I don’t have to tell you about menopause. Ma is going through that phase. She had been looking very peaky. I tried to talk to her and explain to her that women feel topsy turvy because of hormonal changes.”
Vikrant’s gentleness to her mother had always held great fascination for Juhi. It had been the strongest deciding factor in his favour. His father was posted in Goa for the last two years and Vikrant had been acting as the man of the house.
“Ma admitted that of and on she had been missing her periods. This time she had already missed them for three months. That’s how long father hasn’t been back home from Goa and she was worried sick that she might have conceived during his last visit. Juhi, Ma was always there for me when I needed her. As a son, as a doctor I tried to set her fears to rest. The test was negative. You should have seen Ma’s face when we were on the topic. She was blushing like a young girl and kept on saying that mothers and sons never talk about such things. In a way her naivety was amusing. But what you concluded was not at all amusing.” There was anger and harshness in Vikrant’s tone.
“Oh, Vikrant I’m so sorry. I am so impulsive. Forgive me, please”, Juhi was the picture of contrition. Next moment she was back in stride and her impudence flashed, “Quits. See the logic. If I was being a New Woman you too were being the New Age Guy.” Vikrant refused to smile.
“Next time you won’t jump to such hasty conclusions”, he still looked solemn. Juhi nodded earnestly and crossed her fingers under the table.
“Shall we order the tea?” asked Juhi tentatively after a rather long silence in which they had sat staring at the table.
“Yes, let’s use the cups for what they are meant to be used for since the storm created by you is over.” ****