Chataka Birds part 10
That settled it. Now I am outside, I might as well take a walk, she proceeded.
She walked a few blocks and turned around. Walked a block; it looked unfamiliar. She turned left, turned right, went back, and turned right …
She realized she was lost. Oh, God, what am I going to do now? She looked around, hoping to find somebody to guide her in the right direction. Amid fast-moving cars and bicycles, she found none. She started walking again, hoping she might stumble upon her home by chance. After all, she did not go too far, she thought.
She kept going round and round without a clue where she was. Then she saw a gentleman walking toward his car. She quickly approached him and asked if he could tell her where the Rennebohm store was.
“There are half a dozen stores in this area. Can you tell me which one you were referring to?”
“The one closest to Randall.”
“Randall court? Randall street? Randall blvd? Which one?”
“I don’t remember.”
She needed to be more specific. She had no idea how to be more specific. He understood that Geetha was new to the place; he sincerely wished to help her. He asked her a few more questions but got nowhere. Finally, he asked if she was staying with a family? Friends? Or, any other person she could name?
“I am married to Harinarayana Murthy Pullabhatla. He works here.”
Ah! he was stunned by the name but did not show it.
“Is that the name in the telephone directory?” he asked.
“I don’t know.”
“Does he have any other name he goes by?”
“No, um, I don’t think so.”
The gentleman played with different parts of the name, and finally found one, Bhatla, HNMP. He noted down the address, and said to her, “You’ve come long ways. Come on, I will drop you at your place.”
Geetha hesitated for a few seconds. She remembered all the warnings Hari had imparted to her dutifully. He is sure to go bonkers if he knew that she accepted a ride by a total stranger. But then, this is not the time for dithering. Her anxiety to get home was greater than the fear that her husband might get mad at her. This gentleman was her only hope at that point. She got into the car and put on her seat belt.
That gentleman dropped her at her doorstep. She thanked him profusely. He said, “You’re welcome,” and drove away.
Geetha took a deep breath, walked up the stairs and stood by the door. No keys to go in. She saw the building manager in the front yard. She quickly went to him, introduced herself as Hari’s wife, and explained her situation. She asked him to open the door for her; she was desperate.
The Manager felt bad for her but he was not in a position to open the door; the rules do not permit him to open the door except for the lessee and emergencies.
“This is an emergency,” Geetha argued.
“No, ma’am, this does not come under the category ’emergency’.” Fire, plumbing problems are emergencies. This is just an unfortunate situation.”
“I am his wife, ‘better half’ as you put it. I swear I am married to him. I think I have a right to have your service,” she tried to persuade him.
“I am glad you are married, ma’am. Congratulations. But I cannot open the door except for the person who has signed the lease. If I do, I will lose my job.”
“Thank you. I understand. No, I don’t want you to lose your job.”
Thus, they both spent some time feeling sorry for each other, and hoping and praying to find a way to resolve the situation.
Their prayers were answered. Hari showed up. He said he called home a few times to see how Geetha was doing. Nobody picked up the phone and he got worried, and came home to find out if she was okay.
He was relieved to see Geetha at the door. Manager conveyed his best wishes to both of them and left.
“What happened? Why manager is here?” Hari asked as he opened the door.
Geetha was delighted to see Hari. Her fear was gone. She was even amused. He recounted the entire story and laughed, “I must give it to you, your name is a great story in itself. That gentleman said even the FBI would not be able to find you.”
Hari also laughed. “True. My colleagues at work call me A to Z Harry. Anything to eat? I am hungry,” he said.
“I can make rava dosa.”
“No, not much time. I’ll have rice with pickles, and go.”
Geetha was getting in the groove, almost imperceptibly. No plan, no logic; things were just happening to her, and she did not resist to the change.
She began to go to the nearby store alone to get milk and vegetables. One day, she saw a Telugu face in the store. Geetha looked at the woman keenly. She was fairly tall, of captivating complexion, striking facial features; impressive stature and demeanor. That lady also looked at Geetha. For a few minutes, both played with the thought of saying something.
“New here, I suppose,” the lady said.
“Yes. About 4 months,” Geetha said.
“I thought so. It takes sometime to acquire an NRI face,” she smiled.
Geetha was not sure what that meant, but let it go. She wanted to continue the conversation though. “I am Geetha,” she said.
“Oh, okay. My name is Tapathi,” the other woman said, as she handed her credit card to the checker. On her way out, she said, “Nice meeting you.”
Geetha kept thinking about her all the way home. She told Hari about her encounter with Tapathi.
“Tapathi garu? Strange, she never talks with anybody,” he said.
“I don’t know. She was fine with me.”
“It must be your charming looks.”
“Ha, ha,” Geetha said, squinting playfully.
Bhagyam garu called Geetha to invite the couple to a puja at their home on a Sunday, two weeks from now. She added that it was their wedding anniversary.
Geetha congratulated her, told her she would tell Hari about the event, and let her know whether they could attend the puja.
“Yes, tell him, please. I hope you two will come, I look forward to it. You can meet other friends, too.”
Later that evening, Geetha told Hari about the invitation. She added that she does not believe in puja.
Hari smiled. “I don’t have such beliefs, either. But her Pulihora and Vada are talk of the town. Most of the people don’t want to miss her cooking. Frankly, it is just a get-together. You will find out soon enough this is the only way we get to see each other, I mean our Telugu folks. Tell her we are coming. You can see for yourself how it goes,” he said.
Geetha called Bhagyam and told her that they would be attending the event.
(July 15, 2022)