Love over Coffee by IT professional and first-time novelist Amrit N Shetty is the fictional story of Anup, a misfit in a software firm, who is head-over-laptops in love with his co-worker Rajni.
We bring you an excerpt from Chapter 2, Of Potatoes and Onions:
Priyanka was a tall, dusky, ravishing beauty and Parag thought she would give Bipasha a run for her money if she were to set foot in Bollywood! She had long, jet black hair that she always let hang free and from time to time she used her hand to brush the hair away from her face, an action which transfixed all the men.
I felt a little guilty standing there and adoring the beautiful Priyanka. I wondered what Rajni would think if she read my thoughts.
Then again, I was annoyed with her for not having replied to any of my mails, it served her right!
I looked at Subbu. He was standing still; he did not blink his eyes even once. I personally did not have a problem with that, but for the fact that it was hard to stand up while Subbu continued standing like a pillar behind me.
Priyanka and the new employees walked up to KK. They stood there watching the beautiful Priyanka run the introductions, followed by some questions directed at the manager for their benefit. They also got an opportunity to resolve their queries. We noticed KK was smiling from ear to ear while replying to the questions. I had never seen him so cheerful. Given half a chance he would have loved to run Priyanka through all his innumerable spreadsheets. I was sure.
Bhau had learnt from KK that one of the new employees would be joining our team. KK always confided in Bhau. This was in a way good for us, because Bhau shared all the big and not so big changes in the organisation and team with us, before they were revealed by KK in the team meetings.
KK loved to surprise us with his updates during team meetings. He took great delight in watching how uneasy we got when he announced these changes. He was like the fisherman who loves to watch the fish squirm and fight when they are pulled out of water, entangled in the net. The more helpless we looked, the happier he got!
I had come to dread KK's team meetings.
Priyanka turned suddenly, having finished her discussion with KK, catching me and Subbu unprepared. I fell back into my chair, disturbing Bhau from his stupor. He looked up momentarily, before going back to his green and black screen.
Priyanka had noticed us and was well aware of the effect she had on men, sometimes using this knowledge to her advantage. Subbu, however did not stop staring at Priyanka. It made me uneasy but Priyanka smiled and waved at him before heading off with her flock of slaves to the next manager.
Subbu stirred for the first time since Priyanka had made her appearance.
'Lunch?' piped Parag, smiling at me.
I checked my e-mails, hoping that Rajni had replied, before walking along with the rest to the cafeteria.
There was still no mail from Rajni.
I walked ahead, leading the way, lest Bahu had other ideas about taking the shorter route.
I reached the lift and stood there waiting for the others, knowing well that Bhau would insist on taking the steps.
My plan did not escape Subbu, who whispered into my ear, 'Oh, she is still not at her desk, we could have taken the shorter route.'
I continued walking, ignoring Subbu's comment. Rajni was not at her desk. My heart sunk, not spotting her since morning. I wondered if she felt the same about me. As we walked past the coffee machine, I noticed Payal.
Payal was Rajni's best friend in the office. They were inseparable. For a moment I considered walking to Payal's seat to ask her about Rajni's whereabouts, but dropped the idea soon enough. It was so hard to understand Rajni. She had not even told her best friend about our relationship!
Rajni did not trust anyone.
Rajni also got furious at anything I did to jeopardise our secret.
Over the months I had built a list of things that I wasn't supposed to do, according to Rajni. Had I maintained a spreadsheet, I probably would have put KK to shame.
1) I was not permitted to talk to Rajni's friends about the relationship.
2) I was allowed only one call per day to Rajni's desk phone.
3) A few extra calls were allowed on special occasions but even then the number could not exceed four.
4) I was not to discuss anything I and Rajni did on dates with my friends.
5) I should never be seen alone with Rajni by any of our colleagues at work.
6) I was not allowed to call her home phone unless Rajni gave me a missed call first.
7) It was a given that Rajni would never call my number because of the risk involved if one of her family members spotted my number on the telephone bills.
The list became longer with time.
I sometimes wondered how I still managed to continue loving Rajni; but I did.
I loved Rajni and abided by all her rules.
Excerpted from Love over Coffee (Rs 150) by Amrit N Shetty, with the permission of publishers Penguin Books India.
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