(This post is very context specific. You might not get it. But Lover Boy most definitely does. Guahahaha.)
Don't tell anyone. Not a soul. Nope not even your girlfriend. Parents are completely out of the question. Social networks are too strong to take lightly you know. (Orkut! Egads!) I dont trust any of you. So shush! Listen up. This is between us.
I am not sure. Well I AM 99.99% sure. But not completely. You know how it is. You are really sure but you must see it with your own eyes and spy camera before you can be sure. But anyways. Back to crux of the issue. The filling in the puff: I really really think a very close friend of mine is seeing someone. We are very close. Almost like roommates. But not quite. He lives in his office at Prabhadevi most of the time. Otherwise you can find him in the gym near his office. Or so he wants us to believe. By us I mean our friends circle.
In fact that is where this story of deception, subterfuge, perfumery, personal health advancement and clandestine lurve begins. The gym. Ah yes. Gyms. Wonderful places that suck out all your money and in return gives you torn cruciate ligaments in the right knee. But I guess I was an exception. In our friend's case (after all my friend is your friend) it all began all too suddenly sometime last November. It was another muggy evening in Mumbai and the author felt like a quick trip down to the local Cafe. Not one for solitary socializing the author reached out to Pastrami and Lover Boy. Pastrami was too busy in the office. There was a new secretary and Pastrami wanted to show her some spread sheets. (He he.) That left only Lover Boy. Ring ring click.
You want to do coffee?
What? But you always do coffee...
Err... I need to... you know
Oh I didnt tell you?
Tell me what?
That I am going to the gym now. Everyday. After work.
What? Why? You are a pipsqueek. (He is. Thin. Scrawny. Completely insubstantial. A shrimp.)
I need to put on some weight man. Get those muscles working.
Hmm. Good for you. Just tell them to keep their protein-shakey fingers off your cruciate ligaments.
Will do Sid.
At the time it seemed like a reasonable thing. He really could use a little muscle all over. He was really very very thin. Not that he didnt eat or anything. Oh no, he worked through a stack of rotis and a bucket of Palak Paneer like a lumberjack. (The ones who like Indian food.) But he doesnt gain an inch. I know him from business school and he hasnt put on a bloody nanogram. In sharp contrast I merely need to walk by a the jalebi maker who stands outside my building and my buttons start to pop. Zippers screaming and all. Lover boy must have astronomic metabolism rates, we all assumed.
That night he came back home at midnight. Worked late and then the gym, he said. I nodded. The next day I nodded again. And again. And again. After a week I began to smell something fishy. He was gymming on the weekends too. For several hours. Finally I came to know that he had come back home one Monday at three in the morning. A rough back of the envelope calculation revelaed that he must have gymmed between three and five hours that day. "What crap?!" I told myself. Next day I dropped in after dinner at his place. Lover Boy warranted some careful observation. He came back at four. And not with his shirt ruffled, eyes dropping, hair tousled and pants crumpled as most overnight MBAs return. No siree. He had a twinkle in his eye, a spring in his step and a song on his lips. (Saat Samundar from Vishwaatma. The remix version. Beats and all.) Only his hair was tousled. And was that a rather too conspiratory crumpling of the collars? My spider sense began tingling.
The weeks that followed threw up even more clues. A most casual user of deodorant till then he suddenly began using Tommy Hilfiger and such premium fragrances. And lots of it. Once, in the course of a chance meeting at Phoenix Mills, he hugged me and I passed out after having run into a block of solid Fahrenheit.
He then began to buy new clothes. Till then he was a conservative dresser with a particular penchant for downmarket t-shirts made in assorted South East Asian nations. The types that had lines like: 'Fashion Star 2003. Total Impact Garment" or "Looking Good. Emergency Style Attack." emblazoned on the back. Overnight he became a high-priority customer at Charagh Din. Everyday he was in a new shirt. In a mist of premium scent.
All the while his dedication to the gym hit Limca Book of Records levels. By my back of the enevlope calculations he should have by now at least begun to look much fitter like, say, Brock Lesnar or The Rock. But he still looked the same. Shrimp. My spider sense tingled like a dab of Itchguard after an all-day football game in the Mumbai summers.
At this point you might ask why I was so curious. Why should I be bothered? Why should I poke my mallu nose into his personal affairs? What was my problem? Did I not respect his privacy? Would I have enjoyed this scrutiny myself had I been in the same position? But then considering you have read this post till this point you have no right to ask me such questions. At all. Nosey you.
But due to the same joys that one gets when someone leaves their email open in a netcafe and saunters off, or gives you there cellphone wrongly assuming you will not read their SMSes, I kept persisting in my quest to uncover the "Mystery of the Gym" as the affair was being called by a select group of friends by then.
Then one day Lover Boy made a slip up. He asked me to join him with "some of my office friends" for an evening out in town. We left in his car and picked her up from near his office. Did his eyes just shoot her a quiet message through the rear view mirror? I may have been mistaken but I swear I saw him say: "Hey Baby! I am really sorry about the water buffalo who is with us today. I had no idea he would agree to come. I was just being polite. You look so beautiful." Hmm. Tingle. Tingle.
However the rest of the trip was uneventful. They shared no private jokes, did not stroll away into private corners and he did not seem to mind me talking to her with my natural charm and animal mallu magnetism. After a movie and dinner we were on our way back and we were back outside her house to drop her. In a moment of weakness, perhaps one of subtle indication, my friend spoke up: "Let me drop her at her place. Be right back." They walked away. TINGLE TINGLE.
So that brings us to last week. By this time several close friends have heard about the Gym Affair. The circles are rife with rumours and conspiracy. And our friend is pumping iron like never before. And then last week several things happened together. Lover Boy bought a new cellphone and I was inspecting it when I came across several well-taken portrait shots of the fair maiden. Later while out driving around he refused to play the usual CD, a combination of the best Govinda and Manna Dey hits. "Too crass this music. Lets play this Kenny G CD." I looked at him in shock, my eyes smouldering. His eyes, on the other hand, seemed to be focussing away into the distance. Dreamy. Romantic. TINGLE. Ah... Songbird...
And now, the final straw, I come to know that he has gone to a certain city in India to attend a certain friend's certain wedding. And who has accompanied him? Yup fair maiden herself. And how long is he there? Six days. But what is clincher? Drum Roll... Fair maiden is from the same city herself!!!
What are the odds? What are the chances that something romantic is afoot? Do you think Lover Boy is actually in love? Yeh sach hai ya sapna? Is it all just a misunderstanding? Are they just friends? Platonic ones? When he said "I am going to the Gym" did he actually mean "I am going to meet Jim"? Does that make the whole thing more disturbing? Who is this fair maiden? What does she see in him? Can anyone else hit on her? Will he get angry? (Remember he has now accumulated seven thousand manhours in the gym).
I am puzzled. But please dont tell him I told you. That was just between the both of us. Completely secret. Shush.