'We're coaching each other about what to say and how to behave.'
'We're hoping to ace the girlfriend test,' says Kishore Singh.
Illustration: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com
Three days ago, surprised to spot my son on a rare morning when he hadn't headed for the gym, I couldn't help saying, "Nice to meet you. Do you live somewhere close by?"
These past few weeks, our son has been more absent than present, a migratory creature increasingly difficult to locate on the premises.
My wife confirmed that he did, indeed, continue to cohabit amidst us because his dirty clothes could be found in the laundry basket.
There were other clues that established his presence: The geyser would be switched on (but never off); his office driver would arrive home to carry off his packed lunch; hastily scribbled notes requested that his credit card payment be cleared (he'd settle these "when convenient"); his mail and courier packets continued to arrive at the same address.
At first, we put it down to work -- he had been functioning steadily longer hours -- but even lawyers need to come home sometimes.
Occasionally, he'd call to say he had "meetings", but they were, suspiciously, in the "GK II market", or at any of the several pubs at Khan Market.
We'd catch a glimpse of him when he stopped by to change into club wear.
He shaved more often, wore a lot of aftershave, and his mother confirmed he was using face-packs oftener than he used to.
Nor was he spending time at home over weekends, or when the court was in recess.
Since he returned home late at night, his mother was loath to wake him in the morning, but inevitably when he did, we'd find him attached by the ear to his phone, whispering urgently into it.
"Work," he'd explain sheepishly, but my wife as well as his sister were convinced it was a recently acquired girlfriend.
He'd taken to going out for breakfast, or brunch, or lunch.
He'd be out to tea, for a drink and over dinner.
He took to leaving when summoned over mysterious calls that came at all hours, sometimes even when, on the unusual occasion when he was home, he'd already had dinner with us.
"Going out again?" his mother would ask. "Yes," he'd reply tersely, clearly not wanting to explain the purpose of these surreptitious rendezvous.
"Who are you meeting this late?" his sister would demand to know.
"A friend," he'd respond.
"Anyone we know?" I'd butt in. "No," he'd say shortly.
His replies grew briefer the more we became curious.
Till, finally, I decided it was time to bell the cat.
"Is it a girlfriend?" I ventured to ask. "Don't know yet," he continued to be cagey.
"Does she have a name?" his mother wanted to know. "Obviously," he retorted.
"You might want to share it with us," his sister suggested. "Not yet," said my son.
In the days since, he hasn't divulged any more details, though I have found out her name, and that she's in the same field of work as him.
His mother has asked him why he hasn't brought her home yet, but I suspect he's prepping her up before she's allowed to meet the family.
Meanwhile, the pressure is unbearable.
My wife has taken to ensuring there are always fresh flowers at home; the cook is ready with an interesting menu every day should he spring a surprise on the family; my daughter has been fussing with table linen and living room cushions.
We're coaching each other about what to say and how to behave. We're hoping to ace the girlfriend test.