What is to be done with Farokh?
Mr. Daruwala was an interesting man. He was now forty, and he didn’t really do anything in particular. Well, he collected cuckoo clocks, cats, and carpets. He also liked playing the Wii with his cats watching, and teaching the kids in the neighbourhood how to do origami about once a week. Occasionally he cooked an elaborate meal but, for the most part, cereal, sandwiches and eggs constituted the ideal compromise between laziness and taste. He also spent a significant amount of time reading as many different kinds of books as he could, and with the recent acquisition of a Kindle, that was going very well indeed. Yes, he did all these things, but he didn’t earn money, support (or even have) a family, or watch the news, and he didn’t quite understand why having friends was something that everyone around him seemed to need to do. Luckily for him, he had a smart, driven and successful sister who happened to love him, and made his life that much easier. She sent him some money every month, and admittedly, he didn’t need that much, and both of them knew that. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t tried to get him onto his own feet. It was easier said than done. He loved his life.
He wasn’t at all unpleasant, nosy, annoying, intrusive, noisy, abusive, arrogant, or any such thing. However, he was incredibly, incredibly, incredibly forgetful and absent minded. He liked to believe that he was unlucky and misfortune just befell him more often than other people, but that was subject to argument, as his sister would say. This turned out to be a massive problem on a regular basis, until Natasha advised him to label with his name, address and contact number everything important and valuable that he owned.
“Look Fred, I do feel bad, but I can’t keep paying for the stuff you lose and misplace as well. Be more responsible. Put your details on everything you own and hope that people are nice enough to give it back. Also, in two weeks I’m going to be in town with a friend of mine, and he wants to see your origami collection. He teaches at a small private art school, and may be able to get you a job as his assistant. I feel like it may actually be something you would like. More about that later. Gotta run, be good!” she had said two weeks back.
That morning he decided to walk to the grocery store to replenish his supply of ‘convenient’ food. He had just gotten back, settled into his armchair, put on his reading glasses and picked up his twice-lost-but-later-found Kindle, when the phone rang.
“Hi! Am I speaking to Mr. Farrock Daah-roo-” a female voice attempted to inquire.
“You mean Daruwala? Daa..Ru..Waa..Laa.”
“Oh it’s alright. I wish there were someone in the country who could pronounce it right. Yes?”
“I happen to have your car keys. Your number was on them. I guess you dropped them in my shopping bag earlier at the store somehow. It was smart of you though… To put the label on them I mean!”
“Oo no… Fuck… Umm. Sorry for the language. Damn. I guess I need to come pick them up today itself, since I need the car.”
“It happens, I understand. Been there.”
“Not as often.”
“Aaah. Anyway, I should be home by about four in the afternoon. You can drop by any time after that. Don’t worry about it, it’s not a problem. Here’s my address. The last name is Vertonghen, in case you need it,” she dictated a long, complicated apartment and street name that he wrote down on his palm.
“Thank you, again,” he goodbyed.
He rested his forehead on his palm, a classic distressed position of his. Of course he had misplaced them. It was just as well they landed in that woman’s shopping bag and not the ground, or he might have had to visit a rat instead. Eventually, he returned to his Kindle, and not five minutes had passed when the phone rang again.
“Oh hello Nat.”
He had always called her Nat. What he really meant was gnat, but it was rude to spell it out like that in emails and letters.
“Stop sounding funny.”
“Come on snap out of it. Anyway, I land at four thirty so I should be out by five. You said you’d be there. You will be right? You better be. I have a friend with me and I don’t want to look stupid. Besides, I could probably rent a carriage pulled by unicorns for less than a cab.”
“I will, I will. Where is he going to stay by the way?”
“I hope you clean up a little. And please put your cats in order, they make me sneeze. They’re all over the place usually. How many of them are there now?”
“Four. How you even manage that many…” she trailed off, and then softened, “This is your chance alright? He’s a nice guy, and he’s willing to give you a chance. Please allow him to. I’ll see you tonight!”
And she hung up. He wondered where she got all that energy from. She was like this overgrown leprechaun. He had always imagined leprechauns to be extremely hyperactive, darting about in all directions, talking fast. Or maybe she was a cross between Speedy Gonzalez and a leprechaun. She had been like this as far back as he remembered. He hoped all was alright at her end. Unicorns seemed to be a bit of an exaggeration. It was good that she didn’t ask though, he would have had to tell her about the keys.
For the rest of the day he had planned everything out to perfection. Nothing would go wrong. He had made sure of it. He had (without being able to help it) let his sister down so many times in the past, he didn’t want to again. And perhaps teaching Origami wouldn’t be that bad. He would have more money as well. At half past three he showered and by four he was dressed up and ready to go.
It was after he walked a few steps from his apartment that he realized he hadn’t thought about where he was going. He looked at his palm, only to see it blank. Frowning, and panicking a little, he stood rooted to the spot confused for a while. Finally, he went back up to look up the woman’s name in a telephone directory. But he only knew her last name, Vertonghen. And thank god it was something like that. There were two listed down, an Anne Vertonghen and a Julia Vertonghen. He decided to try Julia, he had a better feeling about it. Half an hour later, he was knocking at her door, hoping it was the right Vertonghen.
Julia Vertonghen lived alone in her cozy house in a quiet, little lane lined with trees. It was sufficiently out of the way as far as traffic and cars were concerned and yet close enough for her to drive to downtown and back and not really bat an eyelid. She didn’t consider herself unhappy, what with her regular routine and generous devotion of time to hobbies over the weekend. She just wished she had someone to settle down with. She was now thirty two, and it was getting pretty late. She dreamt of a married life with a husband and children. In fact, she thought of it so much these days that she had resorted to online dating sites and blind dates suggested by her friends.
She stood in front of the mirror in her pink and purple bathroom tidying her hair. Today was a big day. She had been promised she would like this guy. Her friend had refused to reveal much about him though, simply promising that Julia wouldn’t be disappointed. After a little nagging, she did find out that he liked books and origami, and that was all she could extract. Good enough. She was excited. If not anything else, she’d convince him to stay over. The doorbell rang then, interrupting her musings. She glanced at the clock. He had arrived sooner than expected! She opened the bathroom door a little and shouted out, “Be right there!”
Looking at the mirror one last time, she adjusted her revealing dress, smiled, inspected her teeth, touched her hair, admired her behind and strode out, leaving behind a more than subtle trail of jasmine.
A few moments later found her standing, looking a little bewildered, at the man before her. He was certainly not what she’d expected. He looked slightly ruffled, his hair a touch unkempt and his clothes certainly not looking up to the mark. He had none of the confident air she had been dreaming of, and he most certainly smelled of cat. Regardless, she thought she’d give him a chance and trust her friend’s judgment. He was kind of tall and lean after all.
“Hi there,” Julia smiled as she lead him into an ambiance she had worked hard on over the past couple of hours.
“Hi, hi. Hello.”
“It’s nice to finally meet you! Would you like something to drink?”
“I’ve actually heard a lot about you.”
“Yes! Come on, after I found out you like books and origami too, I was intrigued!”
“Really?” he looked up, “But—”
“You’re a curious one! Come here,” she winked, and poured him a glass of wine.
As the minutes passed, Julia gradually liked him better. He was certainly a surprise, but there was something endearing about him. He was quiet, courteous, and submissive, and she found it cute. Maybe he wasn’t the alpha male she had wanted, but she guessed it wasn’t strange for people to not know what they really wanted. It probably happened to most of them out there. Besides, it was likely that it was just her libido speaking earlier. She watched him browse through her library with almost childlike interest.
Fred ran his eyes across the volumes of books. He couldn’t help but notice that the house was tastefully decorated. There were actually a couple of carpets he would have loved to have himself! He watched her reflection in the cabinet glass. It had been a long time since he had enjoyed speaking with someone, especially someone who well… Looked like that. She definitely seemed too animated and confident for him, but he liked the way she flirted with him, the way she winked at him and rested her palms on his thighs. It evocated in him a feeling of nervousness and excitement he hadn’t felt for years. It had always been his intention to pick up the keys and leave eventually, but he soon lost all track of time.
Natasha stood at the arrival terminal of the airport, looking at her watch exasperatedly. She was furious.
“I’m sorry John! I should have seen this coming.”
“Don’t worry about it. I had plans to meet someone around now anyway. Maybe I should call her.”
“He doesn’t even have a fucking cellphone! What a… UGH! I’m going to kill him.”
“It’s okay! Here, just give me a moment,” John whipped out the scrap of paper he had scribbled both name and number on the previous day while on the phone, and dialed.
Farokh Daruwala had been so content with his life he never knew a woman could make him any happier. Julia Vertonghen was sailing far into the future in dreams of perennial happiness, not bothering to give herself a reality check. Certainly they had both found a wonderful and unexpected path to walk down in their lives. As fate would have it, Julia Vertonghen’s phone rang at that moment.
It was easier said than done to land Farokh Daruwala a job.