Dinner Time (By Ankit)

Rohit was setting up the plates when Mahesh walked in.

“Ah, finally you are here. No, no, don’t you dare sit. Care to help me out a bit?” Rohit said.

“Ah, darn it,” Mahesh complained as he paused in the mid of crashing on the black leather sofa, and looked stupidly at him. “You know that I have just come from work. Let me take a breather man.” Mahesh complained.

“Of course, I have what, just conducted my online classes, and cooked, and managed everything else around the house,” he said as he walked back into the kitchen where all the food was.

Mahesh followed him, “Hey, you were the one who chose to be the house husband.”

“So while you were driving, I was cooking. The score is zero. So now, would you, my liege, be kind enough to help me lay the table, before our fair maiden arrive from their frolickings?” saying this, Rohit handed him a big bowland pointed towards the cooker with lentils.

Mahesh grumbled as he transferred the items from the cooker to the serving bowl. “This is the exact conversation I have every second day, and heck, you are not even my wife!”

“Be thankful,” Chirag laughed, “It would have been worse. Plus, I can’t even imagine being married to you. How can any woman bear you in bed?” and he walked out of the kitchen.

“Oh, believe me, Ranjani is very happy with the deal she has received.”

“Yeah,” Rohit called out from the hall, “spare me the details please.”

The banter carried on as the guys completed the preparations. Once done, they both grabbed a can of beer and sat in the small garden behind the house.

“Say Rohit,” Mahesh asked between swigs, “have you ever had an extra marital affair?”

Rohit coughed and spluttered, and turned to look at Mahesh, as if trying to comprehend the reason for such a question.

Mahesh handed him his handkerchief, “You know, a fling, a tete-a-tete…”, and was trying to find more phrases to describe the event.

“I know what it means stupid,” Rohit wiped his face in irritation, “but why do you ask? I mean, no, I haven’t had one and don’t even intend to.” And then with a pause, “Why, are you into one currently, or planning to do so?”

Mahesh swung his head, indicating a no, as he drank the remaining beer in one go.

“There’s this guy at work. Has an affair with the receptionist. Typical,” he said waving his hands, “but yeah, it is so. And somehow, maybe a jealous colleague, informed his wife. They are going through a divorce now, and it makes me wonder. Is it really a big deal? I mean, if I knew that Ranjani was into such a situation, i would forgive her. I don’t really know how would I react in that exact situation, but I guess its not something as grave as people make it to be.”

“So you say,” Rohit said, “but are you really that open minded?”

“I would like to think so,” Mahesh said, nodding more than was required seeming lost in his thoughts.

Their conversation was interrupted with the ring of the bell, indication the arrival of their spouses. Ranjani had to go to the outskirts of the town for some meeting, and had agreed to pick up Chaitra, Rohit’s wife, from the town library where she worked.

Dinner was a success. While the arrangements had to be redone, as the boys had underestimated the time it would take the girls to reach, and everything had to be reheated. Now, after dinner, they all sat around, wine glasses in their hands.

“Hey, you guys want to see my new paintings?” Chaitra asked.

Mahesh jumped up, almost spilling the wine from his glass. “Why didn’t you tell earlier? Come Ranjani, lets go.”

She looked reluctant. “You guys go ahead, I will join immediately.”

There was immediate silence as both the chatterboxes walked upstairs to Chaitra’s makeshift studio.

Ranjani and Rohit looked at each other from across the room.

“Thanks for helping out with the cooking,” he said softly, with a slight hint of embarrassment in his voice.

Ranjani didn’t say anything, only twirled her glass slightly, and finished the wine. Getting up, she slowly walked up to where he was sitting and went around, scraping her long nails at the back of his neck the way she knew he liked, and then walked out of the room in that same slow pace.

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