Swati Sensarma

Unknown | 5/09/2014 |
Promises and pepperoni pizza
Pepperoni pizza and Miles Davis. Madhu had vowed to stay away from both for the rest of her life. If she had to get Joyee out of her mind, life and system, she had to get rid of everything that Joyee stood for. After all, it was the pint-sized devil-may-care Bengali dynamite who had introduced the tall goody-two-shoes submissive TamBram to them.

Five months short of two years and Madhu had almost made the ten-year old friendship fade. Of course memories still returned- when a passerby talked in Bengali. Or when she involuntarily let out one of those choicest Bengali cuss words Joyee had taught her!

In her thirty years, Madhu had never met a girl as bad-mouthed as Joyee. Bad-mouthed, opinionated and stubborn. Neither had she met anyone as caring, perceptive and kind. They had met on a day when Joyee promised her they were changing the world.

There was a students’ rally on the Jadavpur University campus. Swayed by Joyee’s passionate words, she first walked in a rally that day. It was also the day that marked a beginning of firsts in both their lives- the pizza and the Jazz being the most prominent for Madhu. In some way, they symbolized her desperation to embrace newness in all forms. A desire she knew to exist inside but was too scared to acknowledge.
Joyee shouldn’t have betrayed her trust so unexpectedly. She shouldn’t have gone blurting to Madhu’s folks that their precious daughter was contemplating quitting her well-paying job as engineer to pursue Journalism- a secret she had only told Joyee. 

Today, stepping out of her South Delhi flat for her evening stroll, Madhu realized she was thinking more than normal about the old days. The article on Uttarakhand survivors was shaping up well. Her parents had long since made peace with her choice of career and kept visiting her. The Manali trek with friends was in March. Life was good.

She clutched her shawl tightly around her. It was a bitter cold and windy winter evening just before spring came. A purple pepperoni scented evening, she mused. Wait- what? Madhu stopped dead in her tracks with such abruptness that her head reeled. She needed air. But as she inhaled, it was the same pepperoni scent in her nostrils. What was happening? As the blood returned to her head, she thought more clearly. Someone was burning waste somewhere or lighting up wood to keep warm. Yet each time she breathed in she smelt pepperoni pizza! 

Madhu’s stomach rumbled. It was ages since she had last eaten it. Her friends ate it around her but she never felt a thing. She didn’t even remember liking it that much. Right now though, Madhu wanted to devour pepperoni pizza so badly that she was stunned by the sheer intensity of her urge.
Somewhere in the corners of her mind she could hear a patiently built wall of resolve crumbling. She could visualize veils of carefully imposed resistance falling away to reveal a glorious shrine of melted golden pizza. A tiny voice whispered Joyee’s name softly and Madhu panicked for an instant.

But then- she reasoned to herself-it wasn’t like anything major was happening here. This wouldn’t even qualify as a poignant cinematic moment when Madhu’s life took a new turn. Many a great soul had sacrificed a lot more than a promise at the altar of pizza, she thought poetically, so it wasn’t a big deal.

Turning around, Madhu began to walk briskly towards the main road. There was a pizza place in the mall there. She would order the largest size and then sit and enjoy it. Uncertainty followed her like a faint shadow for a few steps but it vanished soon as Madhu kept walking. Life was too short to not eat pepperoni pizza. 

While she ate it she would perhaps allow herself to think of Joyee a bit and might even consider finding out where Joyee was these days. But all that was for later and not really significant. What mattered now was laying her hands on delicious pepperoni pizza and giving in to the tantalizing juiciness.


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