It was a typically warm summer evening that particular Friday. I was sitting in the office of a lawyer. No, I had not done anything illegal – the lawyer was a friend, who was waiting patiently for me to complete drafting whatever it was that I was drafting.
“Hurry up,” he said, massaging his stomach in an exaggerated gesture. “I am hungry.”
“Five more minute,” I mumbled, typing away furiously at my keyboard.
“That is what you said at seven,” he replied in a despondent tone, “it is now nine-thirty.”
I looked at the clock and saw how wrong he was; it was actually 09:48 PM. I had already missed the deadline that I had promised to the client, and it no longer mattered if I sent him the document in the next minute or on Monday morning. I sighed, closed my laptop and stood up to leave.
That is when the phone rang. The ominous, sinister ringtone that I had, in an inebriated state found transcendent, rang out its harsh chords within the confines of the clinic.
“Why do you still have that ringtone?” the impossibly named Shiromani Kautilya said, wincing to let his displeasure become apparent.
“Too lazy to change it,” I replied, taking the phone out of my pocket.
“Well, at least pick it up, or silence the bloody thing. My eardrums were not designed to survive sustained aural assaults.”
I, on the other hand, did neither, choosing instead to stare at the screen with my mouth wide open. The number on display was horribly familiar, and for a second a certain feeling of apprehension took over. Did Mani know the kind of trouble that was coming to his doorstep because of me?
“Pick up the damned phone,” Mani prompted. This time, I complied.
“Where are you?” asked the gravelly voice from the other end of the phone.
“Outside,” my reply was non-committal.
“Have you decided yet?”
I hesitated. This decision for me was like a double-edged sword. On one hand, I might be bringing trouble to the doorstep of a very good friend. On the other... well, let’s not even talk about what happens if I say no.
“Be quick about it,” The person on the other side had sensed my hesitation, “or it will be too late. If I do not receive a reply from you within the next three minutes, I will take my own decision, whether you like it or not.”
The call was promptly disconnected. Time, it is said, is the most precious thing of all. And when the clock is counting down on you, second by relentless second, you know you have to take some tough decisions within moments. Like what booze to order for a house party, when you know all the government approved liquor shops shut down at 10 PM.
“Mani, it’s my brother,” I said. “He’s throwing his birthday party. What do you want, beer or whiskey?”
“He’s coming here?” Mani looked up from his laptop, his face taking on a concerned expression.
“Yup, the pubs are too costly,” I said, looking at the watch, which told me we were five minutes from having to purchase the liquor in black at 1.5 times the price.
I could almost see the lawyer’s internal conflict rage like a wildfire inside by the very neutral look on his face. He loved his practice, which was freshly inaugurated, and detested any kind of human company that could disturb the peace of his sanctuary. As it stood, he barely tolerated me. Having my brother throw an alcohol-fuelled party within his clinic was probably not his idea of a good time.
“We can have a party here,” he conceded. “Not inside the office, though.”
“Oh, no. Never that,” I said shamelessly, not mentioning that he and I got drunk on warm beer inside the office and hurled many abuses at a certain guy who Fished like a King in better times.
I dialled the number for my brother and told him to pick up four beers. Two each, same as last time; I figured the doctor could clean off two despite his hesitation. After all, how bad could you get on two beers?
I was just fucking about to find out.