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Duplicity: Chapter 1

The name of my team is "Writers' Express"


    Chapter 1: Pawan Hegde 
    Chapter 2: Partha Sadhukhan
    Chapter 3: Sujata Tawde
    Chapter 4: Shilpa Halwe
    Chapter 5: Manjulika Pramod
    Chapter 6: Shazneen Pathak
    Chapter 7: Anuradha Pentapalli
    Chapter 8: Anuradha Pentapalli 
    Chapter 9: Anuradha Pentapalli
    Chapter 10: Partha Sadhukhan
    Chapter 11: Shazneen Pathak
    Chapter 12: Manjulika Pramod
    Chapter 13: Sujata Tawde
    Chapter 14: Pawan Hegde
    Chapter 15: Pawan Hegde

    Shekhar woke up lazily, rubbing his eyes, as the rays of the sun flitted through the thin curtains and fell on his face. He stretched his legs and noticed that they were aching from all the tennis the day before. He stretched his hands and let them fall on the bed.
    Tara was not in bed. She was already up, getting ready. He looked at her standing in front of the dressing table and smiled. She looked just as beautiful to him today as she had when he’d first seen her. She combed her short hair and cupped it to make sure they were bouncy. He loved how particular she was about getting ready.
    “Hey, sunshine,” he said snuggling under the duvet.
    “Don’t you ‘hey-sunshine’ me, idiot,” she said, looking at him through the mirror, still combing through her hair.
    “Woah… there,” he said sitting up. “Someone’s grumpy today,” he said chuckling.
    “Sheetal called me up yesterday,” she said and kept the comb away.
    Shekhar hid his face under the sheets. “And?” he asked in mock fear.
    “She told me that you refused to write the sequel.”
    “I did refuse to write the sequel.”
    “Why, moron? Didn’t you say that some characters had not been explored enough and that you wanted to write a sequel?”
    “C’mon honey,” he said running his hand over his head, fingers gliding over his bald head, trying to come up with words to explain. “They have this… this… very strict idea of how the story should proceed. I can’t work like that.”
    “I’m sure they would have agreed to your conditions if you had tried!”
    “I tried! They didn’t listen. I didn’t want to get into explaining why my idea will work. And etcetera etcetera… yada… yada… yada… .” He threw up his hands in the air.
    “You’re stupid.”
    “And a nincompoop,” he added.
    She smiled. She always did when he made a face like that. “Okay… I’m getting late now,” she said taking out her mobile to check the time..
    “Late for what?” he asked getting out of the bed.
    “McPhearson wants to have a video chat with all of us. He’s calling from Honolulu. I have to be in the office by eight in any case.”
    Shekhar was standing up now, yawning and stretching himself yet again. Standing besides her, he didn’t look a lot taller. They looked like a rather odd pair. “Sure, madam. Enjoy your meetings.”
    “You remember about Roohi’s colour pencils and brown co…”
    “Brown covers. I know. I’ll take care of it. Don’t I always?”
    “And don’t get her candies again. You know they are not good for her. I don’t again want to be the one who has to take them away from her”
    “Yes, madam.”
    Tara rushed to the shoe stand and picked up her high heels and strapped them on. As she turned to leave, he called her.
    She turned back.
    “Your ID card.” He tossed it to her.
    She turned to leave again.
    She turned back.
    “Love you.”
    She smiled. “Love you too,” she said with a laugh that showed in her eyes. She turned around and click-clacked out of the door.

    Shekhar collected the newspaper and locked the door of their flat. He walked to the other bedroom and slowly pushed open its door. Roohi was still fast asleep on the bed. He closed the door slowly, careful not to wake her up early on the last day of her vacation.
    Soon he had cooked up breakfast for both of them. He entered Roohi’s bedroom and woke her up. He picked up the soft toys strewn on the floor and kept them away.
    After breakfast, Roohi went away to play with the other kids of the apartment complex. Shekhar sat in front of his computer screen, trying hard to write another page for his novel, but every few minutes he kept finding himself on facebook.

    The day went by like any normal day: he did his yoga; they had lunch; he played Tennis; they went to the supermarket and bought the brown cover and coloured pencils. In the evening when they returned, Tara was already back, sitting on the sofa with her head resting on her hands.
    “Mumma…,” Roohi ran to Tara and hugged her. She hadn’t seen Tara in two days.
    “Your head is paining, mumma?”
    “Yes, beta.”
    “Should I press it for you?”
    “No, beta. It’s alright.”
    Shekhar kept away the grocery bags and took off the bandana. “Do you need an aspirin, Tara?” he asked.
    “I just took one.”
    “Okay. I’ll quickly cook us some dinner. Eat a bit and go to sleep.”
    “I don’t feel like eating anything. I had some starters at the party.”
    “Okay. I’ll make the bed then,” he said and walked into the bedroom.
    Roohi sat down on the sofa slumped against her mother.
    Once the bed was ready, Tara changed and went to sleep. It was still quite early. Shekhar and Roohi had dinner, watched some television and then Shekhar tucked Roohi into the bed.

    At around midnight, Tara woke up, hungry. Shekhar was still reading.
    “I’m hungry,” she groaned.
    “I’ve kept some biryani for you in the fridge,” he said, not taking his eyes off the book, his thin specs perched perfectly on the nose.
    “Darling, you’re perfect.”
    “I know.”
    Tara got a plate full of Biryani and sat on the bed.
    “Weren’t you supposed to be the kind who sleeps before midnight?” she asked mocking.
    He kept the book away, took off his specs and looked at her. “It’s been ten years of keeping awake for you, darling. Even my sleep cycles have changed.”
    “Sometimes I wonder how I even landed a great guy like you.”
    “Pure luck!”
    She giggled, trying to hold on to the Biryani plate.
    “Darling,” he said softly.
    “Shailesh called up tonight after you went to sleep.”
    “The one with the lisp?” she said munching on a piece of paneer.
    “Yes, that one. He asked me for a favour. He knows some guy called Cyrus Daruwala who is searching for a place to stay in Mumbai. He asked me to have him as a paying guest. I said yes.”
    “You said yes?! You didn’t even tell me” She kept the plate away.
    “You were sleeping.”
    “You could have woken me up!”
    “I couldn’t have said no to Shailesh anyway.”
    “Couldn’t have? He asked you to let a stranger live in our home. You definitely could’ve said no. And you didn’t even think of discussing such a huge decision about our home with me?”
    “We’ll manage, Tara. This is temporary anyway. Just a month. He’ll move soon.”
    “We have a young daughter, Shekhar. I read all these news about…”
    “Don’t be absurd, Tara. He’s a friend of Shailesh. And I’m always at home with Roohi. Don’t be such a drama queen.”
    “Shekhar, please call him up right now and tell him that we can’t have a stranger living in our home.”
    “He’ll live with us. I’ve promised Shailesh.”
    “Just tell him that Roohi doesn’t want to leave her room and so there’s no room for a paying guest”
    “Tara, I have already promised to let Cyrus stay. He’ll be arriving on Saturday evening. I’ve given him our address. He’ll be staying with us for a month. I don’t want any more arguments on this. Give him a chance. If you still don’t like him after meeting him, I’ll ask him to vacate. Is that enough?”
    “I want him gone in a day”
    “C’mon honey. At least give him a month to find a place. He's not some low-life; he's a college student. He studies law! And he's a Parsi. Ever heard of a Parsi criminal? They're all good. You're making a fuss about absolutely nothing. Just go to sleep.”
    “We’ll see. And what room will you give him?”
    “Tara… I need to sleep now. We’ll talk about this in the morning”
    Shekhar switched off the table lamp on his side and closed his eyes before Tara could speak again. Tara finished up her plate and went back to sleep powerless against her husband's whims.

Read the next part of the story here
“Me and my team are participating in ‘Game Of Blogs’ at #CelebrateBlogging with us.”
This is the first chapter of a possible novella. Every day this week and hopefully for the next two, there will be at least one chapter every day.
The copyright for the sketches lies with "Manjulika Pramod"

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