Since NaNoWriMo is the primary reason I have been neglecting my blog (work is the primary reason, but NaNo is what is sucking up the little available time I have), I guess it makes sense to share an extract here.
This is the foreword, and to all of you who do not know Hindi, I apologise in advance for the sprinkling of Hindi words I have used- the words may be unintelligible, but the context gives the meaning.
Lipsticks in the Conference Room - Prologue
“Ridiculous, isn’t it? We work in the same office, have lunch together in the cafeteria almost every day, yet find it so difficult to schedule a girlie afternoon out!” Udisha’s striking green eyes glared at each of the other three women in turn as if each of them was personally responsible for ensuring the delay.
“Well, Revathi has been travelling almost constantly. Sonia had to take a couple of days off when her kids were unwell, and I ….”
“Yes, you Malathi”, interrupted Udisha brushing back a stray curl that had worked itself loose from her ponytail. “What about you? Why have you been so grouchy and distant lately?”
Malathi frowned, deep lines creasing her once smooth forehead. “You have no idea what Rohan puts me through. He just gets more and more demanding every day, and nothing I do seems to have any impact on him. I never thought being a single parent would be so difficult.” She buried her face into her palms for a few moments, then looked up. “Frankly, I have no idea how much longer I can take this strain. I feel like I am walking on the edge, and the slightest push will send me tumbling down the cliff.” The dark circles under her eyes were darker than usual, and her nails were bitten short.
Sonia put her hand on Malathi’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Rohan’s at a funny age, Malathi. He’s starting to discover himself as a person, and the way he can do that is by testing the limits. Don’t let him bug you. And even if he does, don’t show it. This phase too will pass.” Serenity seemed to ooze out of those huge brown eyes, and Malathi gradually felt her confidence returning.
“I really don’t know how you do it, Sonia”, she said, running her fingers through her short, home coloured hair. “Just listening to you makes me feel better.”
A blush crept up Sonia’s fair cheeks. She gave a nervous laugh, “don’t be silly, Malathi. And it’s always easier to give advice than to follow it. Are we going to sit chatting all day, or does anyone even want to order?”
“Yes, let’s order. I am famished.”
“Revathi, looking at you, anybody would think you starve yourself. And yet, you eat more than all of us put together.”
“Nazar mat laga, yaar”, drawled Revathi. “I’m just blessed with great metabolism. When I was younger, I actually had spoonful of ghee every morning, just so I would fill out a little and look less stick like. Now… ”
“And now, if you were just a couple of inches taller, with your figure and all that gorgeous hair, you could pass for a supermodel any day.”
Revathi coloured slightly. “Oh come on. I haven’t seen any supermodels who wears spectacles. Now, can we order? I’m dying for butter chicken and garlic naan. As long as you order that, I am indifferent about everything else.”
“Poke vindaloo?”, asked Malathi with a grin.
“You know I don’t consume anything that has four legs. Stick to the creatures that swim or fly.”
“Come to think of it, I feel like having butter chicken too”, said Udisha after scanning the entire menu. “How about a butter chicken full and Amritsari fish curry? Reckon that would be enough for the four of us?”
“Order something veg for me, please. Maybe a tadka dal or a paneer dish.”
“And since when did you turn vegetarian, Ms. Sonia Bhasin? Have you suddenly turned religious, or is it a new diet?”
“Neither, Malathi dear”, smiled Sonia. “Just that, after their latest bout of jaundice, the kids are only allowed to have steamed or grilled stuff, and it seems selfish of me to hog when they can’t eat any of their favourite stuff.”
“How will they ever come to know?”, asked Udisha. “What they don’t know doesn’t count.”
“They may not know, but I will”, insisted Sonia. “And that is something I can’t live with. Food’s not all that important, is it?”
“It is to me”, said Udisha. “Though I wish it wasn’t. Don’t think I enjoy struggling to control my weight as I now have to?”
“Be like me, Udi. Give up”, said Malathi with a wry laugh. “Things are easier for you after you accept that you are overweight and there is nothing that you can do about it.”
“You may have given up, Sweetie. But I can’t. When I take the saath pheras, I want to walk around the fire, not roll around it.”
“I don’t roll”, protested Malathi, but the timely arrival of the waiter prevented the conversation from degenerating into a minor disagreement.
“I’m seeing someone tomorrow.” Revathi’s voice was almost a whisper.
“How do you expect us to hear you if you mumble?”, demanded Udisha. “What was it you said? Sounded like you said you were going to see someone.”
“I am going to be seeing someone tomorrow”, replied Revathi. “Rather, someone’s parents and brother are coming to see me.”
“What?! Seeing as in meeting someone with thoughts of marriage?”, asked Udisha. “I didn’t even know you were in the market.”
“I’m not exactly ‘in’ the market”, said Revathi, emphasizing the word with her fingers. “It’s just that I am not getting any younger, and I don’t exactly have anyone in mind, so I did not disagree when my parents suggested meeting this boy’s parents.”
“But how can you ever go in for an arranged marriage? I mean, how?”
“Nothing wrong with arranged marriages, Udisha”, said Sonia softly. “For all practical purposes, mine was an arranged marriage too. I may have known Hemang and his family for years, but we would never have got married if someone else hadn’t taken the trouble to fix the match.”
“And mine was not an arranged marriage, and we all know how it turned out”, said Malathi.
“Okay, I give up”, said Udisha rolling her eyes. “So, Revathi, when is the wedding?”
“Don’t be silly, yaar. I’m just meeting the family informally tomorrow. It’s not as though anything has been fixed up.”
‘Say whatever you like, Revs. But I know you’ll be married by the end of the year”, predicted Udisha. “Unless someone is both mad and blind, they would snap you up in an instant.”
Revathi hugged her friend, and teased. “Let’s then have a double wedding in December. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
“For you maybe, not for me. I have no intention of getting married so soon.”
“But Udisha, you know Rohit would marry you in a jiffy and you too love him. Why are you being so stubborn about not marrying him?”
“Because I know Rohit better than any of you. If I marry him now, he will insist I move to the US to be with him, and before I know it, he’ll take up a job and settle down there. Now that he knows I will marry him only after he comes back to Bombay, he will take up a job in India after he finishes his course.”
“You may have something there”, admitted Sonia. “Equations do tend to change for the worse after marriage. But are you sure the strange arrangement you have reached is conducive to your relationship?”
“What’s so strange about our arrangement?”, demanded Udisha. “It is extremely practical if you ask me. We are both young and attractive, and it is ridiculous to expect that either of us would lead a monastic existence for two years. Might as well agree that we will each go out with other people if we want to, without getting emotionally involved with them.”
“You are having a good time, Udisha. But is Rohit?”
“That, Revathi, is not the point. The point is that Rohit could have a good time too, if he wanted to. If he chooses not to, that is his problem, not mine.”
“I’m not sure if I would be too happy to know that my partner is screwing around, even if he claims to be emotionally loyal to me”, said Malathi.
“With due respect, Malathi, this is not about you. This is about me”, said Udisha huffly.
“In case you have forgotten, I have been through something very similar. And I can tell you it is not sustainable in the long term.”
Udisha made to answer, but Sonia put a restraining hand on her. “Udisha, whether you want to accept it or not, you are playing with fire. Relationships are fragile things, and anything can happen in a situation like the one you have got the two of you into. Just take care, that’s all we’ll say.”
“Thank you, Sonia Aunty”, said Udisha stiffly.
“Most welcome, Udisha beti”, replied Sonia with a smile. “Bhagwan tujhe sad buddhi de.”
Malathi grinned. “A more un-Aunty looking Aunty I have yet to see”, she said. “With that gorgeous figure and the flawless complexion, who’d say you are a mother of two almost grown up kids?”
“Start coming for a run with me in the morning. I guarantee the years will drop off in no time at all.”
“No way!”, the other three chorused. “I value my sleep far too much to ever put myself through the torture of getting up a minute before I need to.”
 - Litrerally, 'don't cast the evil eye on me."
 - clarified butter, needless to say, incredibly fattening and addictive
 - Hindu marriages are sanctified when the couple goes around the sacred fire seven times- term used for the act of marriage
 - literally, "may god grant you sense."