“Hi big bro,” chorused the two in unison as they plopped in front of Aditya. Aditya looked up, somewhat bemused, from the book he was reading. Shyam and Vina gave him identical smiles.
“Big bro?” He asked. “Where did that come from?”
“When we’re in class, we do call you professor,” Shyam replied with a cheeky grin. “But here, I think we should be allowed to call you what we want.”
“Besides,” Vina chipped in, “We’ve known you for far longer before you ever became our professor, and we always called you-”
“Well, we can’t call you that now,” Shyam intervened hastily. “So, big bro it is.”
“I’m not foolish enough to argue with your generation,” Aditya said, his lips quirking in a half smile as he thought of the twins’ nickname for him when they were younger. Big bro was good; at least it wasn’t something to make him cringe.
“Ooh! Gramps!” Vina exclaimed, her eyes alight with laughter.
Shyam and Vina were alike to look at though not exactly identical. Shyam was slightly shorter though that could be because of the inch high heels that Vina wore. He was also stocky with a round face, broad forehead, small eyes and a snub nose. Vina was leaner, and had an oval face, though her eyes and nose were the same. They both had the same stubborn chin and thin lips, though Vina’s clever application of lipstick made hers look fuller.
“Ha ha,” Aditya said in a bored voice. “So, why have the terrible twins chosen to honour me with a visit?”
“To invite you to our birthday party,” Shyam replied. “Coming Sunday, evening 6, our place.”
“Tomorrow is Sunday,” Aditya pointed out.
“Yea, we know. That’s why we’re inviting you today,” Vina grinned.
“Afterthought? I should be flattered.” Aditya said drily.
“Come on, big bro,” Vina pouted. “Don’t be like that. You don’t have to bring anything. Just come.”
Aditya sighed. He hated parties. He hated crowds. He preferred books to people. But there was no getting out of this one. He had known them since they were children, had visited their home and they had visited his, their parents knew each other, not to speak of the bond Abhi had with them.
“Okay,” he said. “I’ll definitely come.”
“No gifts,” Vina said, rising. “And if you really want to bring anything, I’m not at all choosy, anything would be fine.”
“I’m picky,” Shyam said. “Just reminding,”
“I’ll keep it in mind,” Aditya replied.
He watched as they walked away and shook his head, looking regretfully at the half finished book on the table. The cafeteria at the college was always deserted at this time since classes for the day were over. Aditya always stayed an hour or so after hours in the cafeteria reading unless he had grading to do. He did most of his grading in the staff room after hours, but he also took assignments and papers home for the weekend. He glanced at the watch. It was barely thirty minutes after classes had ended, but if he was to go shopping for gifts, there was no way for him to finish his book today.
While Aditya went shopping, Shyam didn’t waste any time in calling Abhi and telling him about inviting Aditya to the party.
“You what?” Abhi was surprised.
“Invited your brother for our birthday, so be sure to bring him when you come.”
Abhi looked at the phone, wondering if Shyam was pulling his leg. “I was planning to come over early, and help you with all the arrangements.”
“Nah, you relax, we have it all under control. You be on time with our professor Aditya.” Shyam sounded amused.
“Is this some underhanded trick to get on his good side to improve your grades? If so, I must warn you that you’re wasting your time.”
Shyam laughed. “Don’t impute underhanded tricks, Abhi. Not to your best buddies anyway. Would we do something like that?”
“Without any shame and without any doubt,” Abhi snorted. “Besides, you’ve known him forever, and this is the first time you’ve ever invited him to your birthday. Something’s definitely fishy.”
“This is just an attempt to have a social contact with your brother.” Shyam said in an injured tone.
“Yeah, right.” Abhi scoffed.
“I’m serious.” Shyam sounded offended now.
“My brother hates social occasions. Just thought I’d let you know.” Abhi said, grimacing a bit as he thought of how much Aditya was going to hate this.
“Why the hell did he become a teacher, then? Not that he’s bad at it, but it’s hardly the kind of job for an introvert.” Shyam sounded surprised.
“Why don’t you ask him?” Abhi asked. “I don’t know how you couldn’t know when you’ve known him as long as you have.”
“Well, I wasn’t, I mean, we weren’t the most observant of children and once we grew older, he was so- grown up, you know, and it’s not as if we ever hung out with him.”
“Fair enough,” Abhi said, sighing. “He’s going to hate this, is all I’m saying.”
Shyam chuckled. “Sounds like you didn’t like us inviting him.”
Abhi sighed. “It’s not that. It’s just that Aditya is really, really, uncomfortable in social gatherings. He avoids them like the plague. I know the kind of games you guys get up on your birthday. I don’t want Aditya embarrassed.” Abhi could never explain how protective he was of his elder brother who was a full ten years older than him.
“Oh,” Shyam said. “Point noted and taken. Don’t worry. We’ll see to it that your brother has a good time and nothing else.”
“Where’s Vina?” Abhi asked, changing the subject. It was pointless expecting Shyam to fully understand. He’d just have to keep an eye on Aditya.
“Gone to invite boyfriend number-I don’t know, what is the number right now?”
Abhi laughed. “You’re asking me? She’s your sister!”
“Yea, and I do have better things to do than count the number of boyfriends she’s had till date.” Abhi could hear Shyam’s eye roll and he chuckled again.
“She does run through them, doesn’t she?”
“Yes, and she’s quite happy doing it. As long as that remains, I don’t care. Bye for now, Abhi. I need to make a few other calls.”
“Bye,” Abhi said as he hung up.