Rajeev is my neighbour in our hostel. He is an accountant and works in the Finance department of our company. Only thing that he does better than creating debits and credits is flirting.
He has good reason to (flirt). He is only 25, tall, dark and quite handsome with good sense of humour. Girls simply cannot resist his charm, and he doesn't want them to. He is an Aries and I am a Sagittarius. According to Western Astrology, both these signs fight for numero uno position in zodiac for flirting. We both try to live up to that (we can't have astrology proven wrong, can we?) and this common passion makes us friends.
Not that I can hold a candle to Rajeev. When it comes to flirting, he is in a league of his own.
Rajeev had a field day during the recent Pujas. I couldn't go with him much since I was on duty all days. I managed to go with him only one day and I could not but marvel at the felicity with which Rajeev flirted. His approach never fails to impress me.
Durga Puja is a 4 day festival that Bengalis celebrate year after year. There is not much 'Puja' as such. A pundit steeped in liquor doing puja with old men and women watching with holy light in their eyes. And young male Bengalis (with a few exceptions like Rajeev and me) chasing beautiful Bengali girls decked in dazzling dresses.
Rajeev's method is simple. There we will be, Rajeev and me, watching with holy light in our eyes, the pundit thinking that he is doing pujas. And after about 4 minutes we would have had our lifetime full of watching the pujas. Now we let our eyes wander. Our eyes always seem to stop at the female section of the crowd. Then we spot this beautiful girl looking at us (I mean looking at Rajeev. I am nothing much to look at).
Now that our tired eyes have found a resting place, they decide to rest on that sight for a while. It suits us fine.
I look at Rajeev. He is shamelessly ogling this girl. She is also responding. I feel like a guy in a lesbian get together. (that one is from the series 'Friends')
Suddenly Rajeev pulls my arm. "Come", he says.
I look at him quizzically. He silently points ahead.
I see that the girl and her friend have started walking. Frequently they look back. Rajeev is walking focused like a bloodhound after its prey. Finally he catches up with the girls and I hear that familiar jingle
"Hi, I am Rajeev Pandey"
That is his style. Rajeev's.
One day I came back from the plant a bit early only to see Rajeev sitting with a faraway look in his eyes. It is not often that one sees that kind of look. I was curious. I knew that he was supposed to meet ABC at that time.
"Hi, why are you still here?" I asked a bit ebulliently, "Shouldn't you be meeting ABC now?"
"To hell with ABC", replies Rajeev with uncharacteristic acerbity, "To hell with XYZ and JKL. To hell with all the girls of Bengal"
Even in his current state of bitterness, Rajeev is able to reel out the names of some of the most sought after girls in our community. One felt jealous of him.
But this is not the time for petty emotions. Rajeev is bitter. One need to get to the root of it
"What happened to you?", I asked, "Are you sick?"
"I was thinking", replied Rajeev with an Aristotelian touch. or something.
"What exactly were you thinking? How to win a Nobel Prize?", I was satirical, if you see my jest.
"Your attempt at satire doesn't amuse me", Rajeev replied seriously.
I was taken aback. Something has happened. Otherwise he won't be talking like this.
"I am sorry for my amusing tone", replied I, "but tell me what happened?"
"As you know, today was a holiday. I got up at 6.00 AM and was getting ready to got out for meeting LMN. Then suddenly something snapped in me. What is the use of living like this, I asked myself. In the eyes of society I am a successful flirt (his eyes gleamed). None of the girls take me seriously. Some girls avoid my tracks. It is all my image. I have decided to change my image", he paused.
"What are you going to do in that direction? Change your hairstyle?" I could not help my flippancy.
A pained look came to his eyes. Raising his arms, he told earnestly "I beg you to be less sarcastic. This is what I have decided. I have decided to stop flirting.", he informed.
I waited for him to continue.
"From today onward I am going to stop flirting and boozing. These are the two vices of life and they are inter related. From today onwards the people of society will see a new Rajeev. Whispers will be heard in various corners. 'What happened to Rajeev? I haven't seen him in the bar for some time. He seem to have changed', people will say. People will look up to Rajeev to hear his opinion on various issues. I am going to do 'Sanyas' from today. You will see me only in the library all the time. 'No boozing, no flirting, only reading' is my motto from today", he announced.
(Good that Pujas are not due for another ten months, I thought to myself. I did not tell him though. Wanted to see how far this will go)
I felt like laughing. But the guy was so serious and earnest that I suppressed it.
From that day onwards, a subtle but definite change was seen in Rajeev. He was always found in the library reading books like 'A Brief History of Time' and magazines like 'India Today'. To his credit, he faithfully and sincerely kept up his rigorous regimen. Those girls with whom he used to flirt, he now avoided. At the most, he wished them 'Good Evening' and vanished into the library like a lemming into its burrow. Rajeev started talking to me about problems in Gulf, the economical state of the country etc, which had me dumbstruck. This continued for over a month and I came to the conclusion that this guy had indeed undergone a lasting transformation.
One day I came back from the plant to see Rajeev sitting in his room with a depressed look.
"What happened? Are you feeling alright?", I asked, a bit concerned.
He didn't say anything. Simply stared ahead of him, the guy.
"What happened to you?", I persisted, now seriously concerned.
"That blasted Devan", he replied disconsolately
I waited for him to continue.
Rajeev took my arm and asked me fervently, "RS, tell me something. Haven't I stuck to my 'Sanyas' sincerely till now?"
I had to concur.
"Of course, you have. I have been quite impressed with the way in which you were carrying on", I responded
He hardly heard me.
"All these days I went only to the library. I used to read every bit of rot out there to distract my attention from the bar or the gaggle of girls giggling in the club house. I read about Indian' economy and gulf war and all the rot. To show them that I have changed, I used to go and ask them about deficit budget, balance of payment all all those terrible economic concepts (Rajeev winced at the thought..). I felt that I was making good progress." he paused.
"What happens? Today I am sitting in the library reading about the 'Use of computes in the education of primary school children - A study and assessment report from Kohima'. Devan comes in. With all of them setting there, you know what he did? He asked at the top of the voice, 'Rajeev, how is your affair with DEF progressing?'. That idiot. At that moment I saw my image - that carefully crafted new image -crumpling on the library floor. All due to that stupid Devan", he concluded the emotional outburst.
The next day as I entered the club hall, I heard the familiar jingle
"Hi, I am Rajeev Pandey'.