Admiring the flowers ( Part 1)

July 10, 2013
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Mr and Mrs. Chopra lived in the bungalow, four houses left from us. Their pink bougainvillea hedge was always meticulously cut and the lawn was always free from dog turd. Mr Chopra was a stock broker, a rich one if the aunties were to be believed. Mrs. Chopra had been a daughter of an affluent business man and had never forgotten that.
I had always thought of Mr. Chopra as an underdog. Maybe it was his hunched shoulders, or his continuously shifting eyes which never really met yours, but whatever it was , the first impression was of a nervous temperament.
Most of this story revolves around a park. A park, you say? Yes, a park.
There was nothing extra-ordinary about that park. In fact, the likes of it can still be seen all around the city. The up keeping was financed by the local politician (who happened to live right next to it), and no dogs were allowed. Aunties could be seen jogging in the morning, with their flabby arms and thunder thighs , and the youth of the neighborhood, the rich and the servant's children, all played blissfully together.
That summer things had been particularly tensed at home. I was a single child and slightly eccentric,if I may say so, and the park had been my refuge. It was directly in front of the Chopra's, and Ashish( the Chopra's son) and I had spent many hours in it. Back then, Ashish did not chase any short skirt that came his way and I was not a loner but one of the cool ones.
Anyways,(cause this story is getting slightly out of track), it all started with Rita's arrival.
And who is this Rita?
Allow me to explain.
Rita was a distant cousin, as most Indian relatives are, but my mother apparently owed something to her mother so we were obliged to respectful and hospitable when Rita came to stay at our house. Rita was fair and pretty, and like many other naive village girls, quite unconscious of her pulchritude. She was sixteen, an year older than I was, and the sweetest person I have ever met. My mother, who was quite sick of my smart-a-- mouth, always started the day with Rita's praises and my implied failures. But routine takes away flavor, and soon I stopped paying the slightest attention.
Every boy who came within Rita's proximity because instantly enchanted. Rita, new to this urban perverseness, basked in the attention until my father forbade any boy to enter our house. My father was an excellent shot; to emphasize his point, he started sitting in the veranda, cleaning his gun and looking at
passersby with narrowed eyes.
The effect was immediate; Rita could go outside with me and sit in the park without any disturbances of the male kind.
Around this time, the neighbors started talking about the loud late-night arguments at the Chopras. Apparently, Ashish had started staying out late and returning back home in the wee hours of the morning.
Ashish had the killer mixture of his mother's looks and his father's money , and Mr. Chopra, who seldom, if ever, raised his voice, and started threatening him with a whiplash. Mrs. Chopra usually took her son's side, and this resulted in shouting matches between the couple. Everyone knew about Ashish's night exploits with beautiful girls, so the surprising thing was Mr. Chopra's response.
Their were other changes in his behavior too. Mr. Chopra started going to the gym( although it added no kilos to his wiry frame), started wearing what suspiciously looked like Ashish's clothes and began having more and more frequent arguments with his family.
Vacations started. Rita and I started sitting in the park everyday. It became a routine; me with my sketch-pad and she with her embroidery. Indian summers inspire laziness and everything seems to slow down. Rita now had become bored of her admires and except of a few hard-core ones, the feeling was mutual.
After a few days, I started observing a strange thing. For inspiration I had began looking around my surroundings and had thus noticed Mr. Chopra. He always seemed to be in terrace at the same time that we we used to be in the park. He had his laptop with him, but I never seen him glancing at the screen. He probably would have seen me staring if he had not been looking at Rita so intently.
To test my hypothesis, I asked Rita. She replied, " Why, he does it all the time. I thought he just looks here to admire the flowers. They are very pretty, aren't they?"
I affirmed and the conversation followed on other pretty things (Rita wasn't very bright).
It wasn't only the flowers who were pretty.

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