“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 fixed her startling green eyes on each of the other three women in turn, as if each of them was personally responsible for causing the delay.
“Well, Revathi has been travelling almost constantly. Shefali had to take a couple of days off when her kids were unwell, and I ….”, began Malathi.
“Yes, you Ms. Sinha”, 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 please him. I never thought being a single parent would be so difficult.” She buried her face in 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.
Shefali put her hand on Malathi’s shoulder and squeezed gently. “Rohan’s at a funny age, Mala. 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, Shefali”, she said, running her fingers through her short, home coloured hair. “Just listening to you makes me feel better.”
A blush crept up Shefali’s fair cheeks, and she gave a nervous laugh. “Don’t be silly, Malathi. It is always easier to give advice than to follow it. You are going fine.” She looked around the table. “Come on girls, are we going to sit here chatting all day, or does anyone even want to order?”
“Yes, let’s order. I am famished.”
“Revathi Srinivasan, looking at you, anybody would think you starve yourself. And yet, you eat more than all of us put together.”
“Nazar mat laga, yaar/ Don't cast the evil eye on me”, drawled Revathi. “I’m just blessed with great metabolism. When I was younger, I actually used to swallow a spoonful of butter morning, 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.”
Revathi coloured slightly. “Oh come on. When was the last time you saw a supermodel in spectacles? Now, can we order? I’m dying for butter chicken and garlic naan. As long as you order that, I am indifferent to everything else.”