Last time we talked about Michelle, she was a young girl who unwittingly become the cause of torment in my life. But because it eventually resulted in some weird entertainment, I consider hisaab-kitaab to be baraber.
Allow me to explain.
Michelle grew up into a beautiful young girl. She maintained her grace, acquired a jhakaas Sridevi like body and developed a dreamy gaze. When she took her dog for long evening walks, boys threw themselves at her feet willy nilly begging for Love or Death. Michelle's fame grew - first in our neighborhood, then the surrounding ones till it reached the point where it wasn't unusual for someone from some far reach of Vadodara to tour our neighborhood just to check out Michelle's house - fondly called The Oval Office (the reality is close enough to this fake moniker).
Surrounded by all this madness, Michelle retained a sweetness that was beyond my understanding. When she turned down offers for friendship, coffee or palm readings she did it with a wistful look bordering on regret. She knew how to smile without mocking the suitor du jour. And this drove the boys double deewana.
Rejects - who would quickly go about finding fault with the girl who rejected them ("yaar, woh kabhi kabhi bhengi dikhti hai") - continued to speak fondly of Michelle. They would even offer helpful tips to any reject-in-waiting who looked like he might take the plunge and make an approach. It was unlike anything I'd ever seen in my life (or since I might add).
Amidst all this I changed schools and buried my secret. The Maal Ka Bhai pain would have been insufferable otherwise.
I also started spending a lot of my after-school time with my neighbors. There were two brothers - and we'll give them names based on their 24x7 obsessions back then. Sanjay Dutt was the older brother - a happy jock - and Viv Richards was the younger introverted couch potato.
Both were madly in love with Michelle although neither had mustered the courage to get within fifteen feet of her. Often they would day dream about her - much to my amusement.
"What will our kids look like?" Dutt would wonder wistfully.
"Talking about your bhabhi again?" Viv would shoot back.
Their sister -a Amber Tamblyn type - would position herself with a bowl of peas a safe distance away from us and occasionally look up from her shelling, twirl her forefinger around her temple and jab the finger at us. This routine was part of her 50 peapods stretch.
Over a period of time, this backyard alpha male competition for Michelle became intense. During particularly hot and boring summer afternoons, I would fan the flames to entertain myself. Occasionally Dutt and Viv would even come to blows.
Then one day, something really weird happened.
Dutt, Amber and I were watching something on TV. Viv walked down the stairs from his room and announced in a clear ringing voice: "I've decided to make Michelle my sister!"
We all looked up not quite comprehending.
Viv continued (in Gujarati): "From this point on, anyone who talks about my new sister in any lascivious way will be dealt with severely!" For effect, he paused to glare at Dutt.
Amber and I chuckled. We were quickly silenced with a dirty look.
This incident resulted in some hilarious scenes at the Dutt-Viv residence. Dutt would come home after having gallivanted around town with his friends.
"Man, I saw Michelle today!" He'd say. "And that maal..."
This would be interrupted by a swift whack to his head by Viv. "No one talks about OUR sister like that!"
"She's NOT MY sister!" Dutt would holler holding his head.
This was even more amusing to me than before. But somehow - I can't remember the specifics of how - as a result of this newly minted fake sibling relationship my secret was outed. Viv couldn't believe it. And Dutt entirely stopped talking about Michelle in Viv's company.
This would have been the end of it except that several months later Viv started insisting we take a walk around the perimeter of the neighborhood. This was unusual - we never took walks, preferring instead to either play cricket or read through a new copy of The Sportstar. Yet I would indulge Viv.
I didn't make the connection at first, but Michelle would usually be walking her dog at roughly the same time. And me being her social brother and all - if Michelle could peer over the mounds of majnus strewn at her feet she'd wave and walk over for a quick chat.
During one such roadside conversation with Michelle I said something to Viv. "Isn't that right, Viv?" I asked turning to him. And horrors! Viv had this expression of puppy dog love frozen on his face. He was staring right at Michelle. I must have said "Viv!" about three times before he snapped out of it. Both Michelle and I turned red. I made some excuse, grabbed Viv's hand and high tailed it out of there.
This creepy incident ended our walks around the neighborhood. Viv barely realized what had happened. He was cut up for a bit about me turning down every walk he proposed.
I saw very little of Michelle from then on. And at that point in life - it was fine by me.