Aditya sat in a corner, feeling out of place and bored. He and Abhi had arrived at Shyam and Vina’s house at six and had been ushered into this room. It was a large room which was already full of people the same age as Abhi and Aditya had immediately felt out of place. He had found a seat in a corner and Abhi had stayed at his side for a while before Aditya told him to go and have fun. Abhi had resisted for a while more before gravitating towards his friends. There were a lot of Aditya’s students among the guests, and they came over to greet him before going back to mingle with their friends. Abhi was dancing with a girl whom he remembered having seen once or twice around the campus. Vina was flirting with one of the boys from their class named Aakash and Shyam was nowhere to be found.
He was wondering if it might be polite to leave and was looking around to see if he can spot Shyam anywhere when a stranger came and sat down on a chair next to him.
“Hi,” the man said. “You are Abhi’s brother, aren’t you?”
Aditya looked at the man. He had never seen him before. He was tall, with a pleasant open face, and pair of very keen eyes.
“Yes,” Aditya said. “But how did you know?”
The stranger chuckled. “Easy to spot the resemblance. I’m Savit, by the way. I’m not from the college. I’m a family friend of Shyam. That’s how I met Abhi.”
Aditya nodded. “Nice to meet you,” he said, before relapsing into silence. What did one say in situations like this? He had never had any skill in making small talk.
“You’re a professor, aren’t you? What do you teach?” Savit asked.
“Economics,” Aditya replied, nearly suppressing a groan. It looked as if Savit wasn’t going to leave soon.
“I’m a total ignoramus where that is concerned,” Savit grinned. “Just scraped through with pass marks in school.”
Aditya smiled faintly, not knowing how to answer or if any answer was expected.
“You’re not drinking,” Savit observed.
“I have to drive home,” Aditya answered.
“Hmm… and your parents are on holiday, I heard.”
“Not exactly. They have gone to visit our grandparents.” Aditya wondered how Savit knew about their parents not being home, but he did not explain that his grandmother was ill and his parents would not be returning in the near future, not till she improved anyway.
“I see,” Savit said, smiling. “Well, nice talking to you, Aditya. Be seeing you around.”
Aditya heaved a sigh of relief as Savit disappeared into the crowd of dancing youngsters. But the sigh turned into a groan as Aakash sat down onto the vacant seat with an ingratiating smile.
“Here you are,” an unknown girl with a bright smile grabbed hold of Aakash before he even greeted Aditya. With a muttered apology, Aakash went with the girl.
“Enjoying yourself?” Shyam took the seat Aakash had vacated.
“Would you feel offended if I say no?” Aditya was tired of trying to make conversations. At least with Shyam, he didn’t have to pretend.
Shyam shrugged. “Not really. Abhi did warn me you were kinda anti-social.”
“I’m not, but I’m not comfortable with people I don’t know.” Aditya was offended. He wasn’t anti-social. He just liked his own company or those of his books more.
“Sounds anti-social to me,” Shyam teased. “If you’re tired of the party, go and have dinner. Buffet is arranged outside. You can go home afterwards.”
“Abhi planning to stay here tonight?” Aditya asked.
“I think so. We’ll be glad to have you too, you know.” Shyam said.
“I think I’ll go. I dread having to make small talk to people I don’t know.” Aditya hadn’t meant to have said it, but he wasn’t regretting having said it either.
Shyam laughed. “Well, Saina saved you from Aakash, didn’t she? You didn’t have to make any small talk.”
“Not with him. But there was no one to save me from that Savit guy.”
“Savit?” There was a slight frown on Shyam’s face.
“He said he was a family friend.” Aditya said.
“Oh him! Yea. He’s a bore. Come to think of it, he wanted to stay the night too. And so did a couple of others.” Shyam frowned. “I’m beginning to realise that we don’t have enough room. Abhi will need to go home. How am I even going to explain that?”
Aditya chuckled. “How fortunate l did not take you up on your invitation!”
“I’m bad at organizing,” Shyam grimaced. “I’ll probably need to sleep on the couch too. Never mind. You go have your dinner. I shall bring Abhi too.”
“He won’t be happy,” Aditya muttered.
“No, he won’t. I’m hoping he’ll…” Shyam’s brow cleared. “I got it! I’ll come with you two. I just need to throw a few things in a bag. How lucky tomorrow is a holiday!”
“What? But it’s your birthday! You can’t just leave your guests and go like that!”
“Vina will manage them. She owes me one anyway. And mum and dad won’t mind too much. You did meet them today, didn’t you?”
“Yes, when we came in. Why do you ask as if they’re strangers to me?”
“Just ‘coz they’ll be asking me later if you and Abhi had dinner and all. They’re not familiar with most of this crowd, but they know and like the two of you.”
“Well, I haven’t seen them since I came in.” Aditya couldn’t really make head or tail out of Shyam’s explanation.
“Oh, they’ll be around somewhere. They don’t enjoy this crowd, but they enjoy parties. I’ll just go and tell them I’m coming with you, and we’ll all have our dinner and we’ll go.”
“Well, if you’re sure, you’re welcome to come with us.” Aditya gave in.
“Thanks big bro.” Shyam flashed him a bright smile.