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A Story of Four Friends…

A Story of Four Friends…

Four Blades of Grass

Four bosom friends, four trampled young women… but four blades of grass… for grass raise its head every time it is trampled! But how? Read the excerpt from Sashi Sherpa’s fast paced novel Four Blades of Grass, which is a story of four friends living in Delhi, is their day to day life, their dreams, aspirations, mistakes and then the learning.

Chapter 1

Midlife Crisis

Well, a midlife crisis is a tough one. When I was in my early twenties and would hear this term from my older cousins, I would snigger at them, dismissing what I thought was blabbering in self-pity of miserable failures. These guys are just boring people who do not know the art of enjoying life, I was sure of that.

But of course, I refrained from vocalising it. I was smart enough to know that if I do that, I would be invoking the minacious flying slippers of my mom which would crash-land on me from the most unexpected corners. She was a champion when it came to ambush.

But seems Karma had kept a close count of all my sniggers as I got sizzled hard by the first wave of what a midlife crisis looks like. That happened in my early thirties. And though I have an endless list of reasons that were pushing me to the brink of a midlife crisis, let me narrate some of the more revolting ones.

First and foremost, of course, is my age, which shows no sign of slowing down and intends to move with the speed and surety of a Ferrari.

Adding to my woes are the cosmetic companies which launch an intriguingly vast range of patently questionable skin products on a regular basis. Each of these claims to do a Houdini on your face. Their hoardings and advertisements literally scream – “Try me, I can make you look like a Teenie bopper again.”

I feel like ripping off all those posters and scream back at them, “Pardon my dearies, not everyone is born with the genes of Benjamin Button!”

Of course, I was guilty of trying almost half a dozen of those products myself, until I realised that they gave me more anxiety than beauty, brought no difference to my face and created no ‘aura’ that the ads purported to show; I realised that nothing can stop those bags from making permanent residents under my eyes or iron out those wrinkles from my once charming face.

And let’s not even go to the moisturisation level of my skin, which did not even know the existence of a moisturiser five years ago. When you are pushing thirty, the damn skin starts competing with the Kalahari.

Secondly, health has started playing nasty tricks on me – if I am not careful with what I am eating then all the health hecklers like hyper or hypothyroid starts getting too cosy with my body. I have sadly realised that my immune system is no longer my body’s ninja, and the liver has lost its magic to live. It can no longer hold more than two glasses of beer without having to sit for hours in the washroom the next day, holding my stomach and making that futile promise to myself that I am never going to drink again.

I cannot dance in the club the way I could dance the whole night in my college days without a break, and still have the zeal to go on a date the next day, looking dainty as a just blossomed daisy. There are no familiar faces in the club anymore.

Sashi with her book "Four Blades of Grass"
Sashi with her book “Four Blades of Grass”

Naturally, people of my age group are busy attending family functions with their husbands (or wives) and kids – and here I am, trying to learn the lyrics of Billie Eilish and Cardi B so I can sing while dancing to look cool on the floor.

Thirdly, I don’t have a steady boyfriend, having been recently dumped by a guy who was actually cheating on me. Yes, since they publicly started going out instantly after I caught them – I guess I was kind of discarded right away. Don’t ask me the ordeal of going through the situation of catching the boyfriend and the other girl, merrily naked on the bed. I fall in that rare category of people who don’t like giving surprises due to this unsettling fear that I may be the one who’d be in for a nasty surprise. What I did that day was without any intention of catching him with his pants down, though that distinct woman’s instinct was telling me that something fishy had been going on for a while now. The way he used to hide his phone would beat even the sharpest cats trying to conceal their litter; my brain had started triggering warning signals.  If his phone started singing from a hiding spot in my presence, he would run to the washroom carrying that phone, like he belonged to some bomb-diffusing squad and that phone was a ticking time bomb and he is a hero trying to save me from it going off. I did not want to question him without any proof because I honestly never wanted to be an irritatingly ‘suspicious’ kind of a girlfriend. As I said, I had no intention of giving him a surprise that day either. I had simply gone to his room since he was not picking up his phone.

With his sister back in their hometown, Shillong, there was no one to cook for him. Like a dutiful girlfriend, I had cooked his favourite fish curry with lots of green chillies and vegetables, just the way he liked it. I had packed it neatly in a tiffin box and off I had gone to meet the love of my life.  It was a beautiful, lazy Sunday afternoon. I had put on my favourite light blue denim and a white round-neck top with the quote ‘cool chick.’ Little did I know that in the next few minutes, I was going to be the exact opposite of that.

I took the flight of stairs to the first-floor flat where he and his sister stayed. I pushed the doorbell switch and stood outside for a minute but no one came to the door. I tried once again but I heard no sound of any approaching footsteps or the excited barking of Nemo. Since the doorbell did not seem to be working, I tried knocking on the door. As I made the first attempt to give a quick tap on the door, it suddenly opened without a sound.

Sashi getting felicitated by the Honourable Chief Minister of Sikkim, Mr PS Tamang on 26th Nov 2021 at the event, Sikkim Sahitya Utsav 2021.
Sashi getting felicitated by the Honourable Chief Minister of Sikkim, Mr PS Tamang on 26th Nov 2021 at the event, Sikkim Sahitya Utsav 2021.

I walked into the living room. I saw clothes scattered on the cream-coloured leather sofa and his pants sprawled across the glass table in the centre. Given the fact that he was an unusually tidy person for a guy, such a scene there gave me goosebumps. All sorts of hidden fears invaded my mind ‑ what if he has fainted and is lying on his pool of blood? Or did the burglar come and ransack the whole house?

The entire house was dark, with just a wee bit of light streaming in from the door I had left open behind me. It was eerie.

Just then, I heard strange, muffled sounds drifting out from one of the bedrooms as if someone was being choked or was breathing heavily. I realised that it was coming from his sister’s bedroom, which was at the end of the corridor that connected with the living room.

I put down the container of fish curry on the table without making any noise and cat-rushed towards thebedroom. I pushed the door with such force that it was more than just a jar. The room had enough light that seeped through the gaps between the curtains on the left side of the bed. And at a single glance, everything was crystal clear.

Even today I feel nauseated giving a detailed description of that frenzy of Priapus.

I had heard of people being cheated in a relationship, but I had never suspected that I would be a victim myself, forget about encountering it live. The ground underneath me seemed to have disappeared, and I thought if I don’t get anything to hold on to, I would faint anytime now. I quickly clutched the handle of the door but even then, at the back of my mind, I did not want to come out as the loser. They both would have to go down at my feet.

The most annoying part that was not happening: they did not even make an effort to cover up their naked, bumping bodies. Frankly, I wasn’t bothered about seeing my boyfriend naked because I knew his flaws ‑ his pimples sprinkled back, protruding belly and many more such eyesores. But seeing that girl with her almost perfect body, just the right size of breast, tiny waist and ample curve below… her sheer sexiness made me madder than I was. I am sure I would not have acted crazy if the girl wasn’t that attractive. I launched the attack on them with anything solid that I could lay my hands on. I was strictly following my heart and it drove me to break their faces if possible. But I could not bear to stand there and keep watching them. Even my continuous physical attack on them gave no respite to my burning heart.

I turned my back on them, dashed out of the room, slamming the door as hard as I could. I did not want them to see me crying. With my eyes clouded with tears as I walked down the stairs, I saw Nemo happily climbing the stairs, his leash held by a girl I had never met before. Of course, it did not take a spy’s mind to figure out that the whole afternoon was perfectly planned by Abiral, and had also roped in one of their friends to take care of Nemo while they enjoyed their shenanigan without any kind of interruption.

“This is my baby,” I said, not looking directly into the eyes of that girl as I was fighting hard to avoid my tears from running down my face. I think my voice was hoarse and anger-filled that seemed to frighten her, or she definitely knew who I was. She just threw the leash on the ground and ran past me, entering Abiral’s room in barely two steps.

I picked up Nemo, maintained a straight face as I made my way back to my room, carrying over-excited Nemo who was licking me all over my face.

I did not realise the damage I had done when I walked away. It was only the following day when my ex (I had conferred him with the title of ‘ex’ by now) called me up to say that he’s going to report my assault to the police. In my fit of temper, I had thrown the glass statue of a unicorn at his face, leading to his broken nose; and the wooden astray which I had flung with my maximum strength had cut the girl’s right temple. I had thrown many kinds of stuff at them, but God! I was so disappointed with my aiming skill; barring those two missiles, all the rest had missed their targets. I vowed that I will be more accurate if I ever get the chance again. At the same time, I was also scared that they might report me to the police for being violent. My fear heightened, even in the fit of my temper, I could hear that girl’s squeaky voice instigating Abiral that they should call the cops.

I immediately reincarnated to that pussy cat from the movie Shrek. Remember, the Puss in Boots with those big, innocent and pleading eyes when he gets into trouble? Of course, they could not see me but I tried my best to garner his sympathy by making the most pathetic voice asking for his forgiveness for my brash act.

I hated myself to the core for doing this but who would want to get involved with the police. I had no way out but to do this play-acting. But Abiral knew my game and he was not buying it. After all, dating him for four years had also given him the advantage of knowing me, and he could anticipate my move too.

Just then, an idea struck me, which I thought was brilliant. EB, as we girls call it. Blackmail. Emotional blackmail.

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You see, we both were crazy about dogs, so two years ago, we had shared the cost and bought a golden retriever puppy and named him Nemo, inspired by the name of the cute fish from the eponymous movie.

Our arrangement was thus: He stayed with his younger sister, who was appearing for a distance master’s course. While I was on day-time duty hours in my office, Abiral worked nights, and besides, his sister too was present at home mostly. So, we worked out that Nemo would stay with them in the daytime. In the evening after my work, I would pick Nemo from his place and take him to my pad which I shared with my roomie and my best friend, Pranita. She too was as crazy as me about dogs. She and I would fightin the nights sometimes, arguing over who Nemo would share the bed with. And our darling pup would marvel at the attention that he would get from both of us and would sweetly bark at us, asking us to stop our stupid arguments. Pranita, as stubborn as me, would not back down and on such nights, we would end up sleeping either in my room or her room, with Nemo in the middle.

As the phone call proceeded, with him firmly insisting on taking me to the cops, these thoughts shaped themselves up into a sinister gameplan. As Mario Puzo’s Godfather would say, “I made him an offer he could not refuse.”

“Look here, if you don’t report this incident to the police, you get to keep Nemo forever, but if you go ahead with the complaint, you will never get to see him again. And don’t think this is an empty threat.” This worked, though I just could not bear the thought of parting from Nemo. My mind was already planning something though when I made him the offer. But at that moment, I was more worried about cops showing up at the door.

He was silent on the other end ‑ I had gotten him by his short and curly and I knew it. And he knew it too that he had been done.

 

***

 

I knew his obsession with Nemo. I remembered an incident when Nemo was just four months old and had disappeared for about a few hours when his sister had accidentally left the main door open by mistake. He did not eat until he found Nemo strolling in the district park with some auntie who had already givenhim the nickname of ‘Tommy.’

“Okay! I will not report to the police,” he said in one breath. He would not want to let go of this opportunity.

That girl was screaming at him in the background, spewing fire like a dragon, but he paid no heed to her. I also heard her calling me a bitch in the background, acting like I was the one who was messing around with her man.

So basically, along with the midlife issues- the last two days had also ripped me of everything that was close to my heart.

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