That Crazy Secret
‘Monika…. Monika!’ Chintu called out as he quickly headed toward her, pushing his way through the crowd.
Monika looked over her shoulder. She felt her lip inadvertently curl up into a broad smile. ‘Chintu!’ she beamed. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘Oh, Mon! It’s so good to see you!’ he grinned as he wrapped his long arms around her. ‘Tonight is the night! Mon, it’s Friday night!’
‘Umm… Chintu … Meet my husband, Satish,’ Monika interrupted.
Satish smiled a cordial smile, putting his right hand forward. He was trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. ‘Who is this guy?’ he thought.
‘Chitravendra Singh,’ he smiled. ‘But everyone calls me Chintu. Are you guys heading out? I would love it if you could stay back and enjoy the show. I guarantee it’s going to be totally worth it.’
Monika and her better half exchanged looks. Before she could say anything, her husband took the lead.
‘Our daughter is kind of tired,’ Satish admitted. ‘Actually, we’ve already had dinner. We just dropped by for a nice cup of coffee.’
‘And hot chocolate,’ Aavya added softly, fluttering her eyes.
‘Oh, hi there!’ Chintu said, looking behind Satish. ‘What’s your name? And how old are you?’
Aavya was her usual shy self … daddy’s little girl. She hid behind her father, holding his hand tightly, but at the same time, was eager to be a part of the conversation.
‘Her name is Aavya,’ Monika added. ‘She’s going to be seven soon.’
Chintu admired Aavya and then turned to Monika.
‘Don’t expect her to say hello,’ Monika rolled her eyes. ‘She’s awfully shy.’
‘I can’t believe you’re a mom!’ Chintu blurted. ‘And I can’t believe you’re married!’
Monika giggled. ‘Yeah, I get that a lot…. but it’s so good to see you after what … umm… how many years has it been since we last saw each other?’
‘I think… during our last year of college,’ Chintu replied. ‘So that’s about … fourteen years.’
‘Oh, wow! That is a really long time! Are you in touch with anyone from college?’
‘Obviously!’ Chintu chuckled. ‘You know me.’
‘Oh, yes. How can I forget our social butterfly!’ Monika laughed.
‘Daddy, can we go home now?’ Aavya yawned, tugging on her father’s sleeve. She rubbed her sleepy eyes.
‘I think we should make a move,’ Satish interrupted.
‘Okay… okay… let’s go,’ Monika said hurriedly. ‘Mommey duty calls!’
‘I’ll ping you on Instagram. Let’s catch up sometime,’ Chintu smiled hopefully.
‘Yes!! And good luck for tonight. I’m sure you’ll be great, just like you were back in the day!’ Monika said as she headed off.
‘Mon! Next time I’m performing, you better be there!’ Chintu called out.
Monika looked over her shoulder and gave her old college friend a wry smile.
After reaching home and tucking Aavya in bed, Satish and Monika sat face to face in the living room. The husband was engrossed, scrolling through his phone. And the wife had her nose buried in a book.
‘What’s with this mon - mon and chintu - chintu?’ Satish exclaimed. ‘Who is this Chintu guy anyway? And how come you never mentioned him before?’
Monika looked at Satish, at his temperament, at furrowed brows. His anxiety was leading him on. She could sense his insecurity. She paused and took a deep breath.
‘Chintu was a rockstar. He was the lead singer in the band in college. He was a popular guy and a social butterfly. The girls were flawed with his good looks and sense of humor. He knew how to work that charm.’
‘Did you also…? Because you know you can tell me,’ Satish said slowly. ‘We’ve been married for a good nine years now. And I feel we share a strong bond where we can talk about anything. But …’
‘Oh, God, no!’ Monika laughed. ‘I could never think of Chintu like that. That would just be really weird!’
‘Well…. I’m just asking. I mean, you know about my ex-girlfriends,’ Satish uttered, shrugging his shoulders.
‘Oh, dear, there was nothing between me and Chintu. We were just really good friends. And we used to jam together. It used to be a lot of fun,’ Monka said.
Satish went quiet and continued scrolling through his phone.
Monika took a trip down memory lane… back to her fun college days. She used to play the piano. Chintu was the lead guitarist. She thought about Anju, who played the drums and smiled, recollecting Dheeraj’s quirky jokes. Chintu’s voice was deep, soulful, and euphonic. They used to make the crowd go wild.
Monika closed her eyes and played the piano’s imaginary keys on the sofa’s arms. Smiling to herself, humming a tune, her fingers gracefully danced. She recalled the first time when she sat in front of the piano. She was only six years old. Her father was keen that his only daughter must learn music. She was regular at her music lessons; eventually, her piano became her best companion. She would spend hours playing and practicing. She even wrote her own song when she was ten. Her own little world of music made her life complete. Monika was never the popular one at school. Neither did she have any friends. She hated school. The only thing Monika’s only desire was to play the piano.
Monika’s life changed for the better after she met Chintu in college. They had that instant connection. She suddenly opened up and bloomed like a flower. She had found a friend she had never had. She laughed and smiled more than usual. The guitar being Chintu’s first love and the piano for Monika soon made the two inseparable.
Monika was smiling to herself. She didn’t realize Satish was watching her every move.
He frowned, let out a long sigh, and got off the couch. ‘I’m going to call it a night.’
The following Friday, Monika received a message from Chintu. He was performing that night and hoped that his old friend would be able to come. Unfortunately, Monika had to turn him down as they already had other commitments.
Chintu didn’t lose hope. He pinged her every Friday, hoping she would join in. He just had that gut feeling that would come.
One morning, Monika and Satish were at the breakfast table.
‘How come there is no news from the Mon-Chintu duo?’ Satish casually asked as he took a sip of coffee.
Monika burst out laughing. ‘Mon-Chintu duo?’
‘What?’ Satish chuckled. ‘He seemed pretty wacky!’
‘Yes! No doubt about that. He is wacky. But he’s really good at heart,’ Monika said. ‘That guy had been through my thick and thin throughout college. Monika then narrated her childhood days and her love for her piano. She spoke highly of Chintu and of their special bond of friendship. We kind of lost touch after college when he left India.’
‘So, was that night just a one-off event for him?’
‘No! Just to fill you in, Chintu has been texting every Friday, wanting us to come for his live band performance. So do you think we can go this Friday? As long as it’s okay with you.’
There was a long pause.
‘You know what, darling. Let’s go. It’ll make a change. I’m not much of a live band music type of guy, but I know how much it would matter to you.’
‘You’d you that for me?’ Monika smiled.
‘I’ll do anything to see you happy,’ Satish smiled lovingly.
‘So it’s done. I’ll tell Chintu we’re coming tomorrow,’ Monika said excitedly.
The following morning, Monika woke up with a sense of thrill and excitement. She was so looking forward to an evening filled with music, dance, and laughter. While driving down to work, she received a frantic call from Chintu.
‘I need you to back me up tonight! We need to jam just like we used to,’ Chintu explained.
‘Have you lost your mind? I haven’t played for donkey’s years!’ Monika replied.
‘What? Why? Why would you do that so yourself?’
‘Well, after Dad passed away, I just couldn’t get myself to play anymore. And then I got married and…. I’ll tell you the story later.’
There was a long pause over the phone.
‘Are you there?’ Chintu asked.
‘Yes! I’m thinking.’
‘Pleeeeease, Mon. You need to do this for me. I’ve heard this big-shot producer is coming… and I really feel that tonight might just be the night! The guy who played the keyboard can’t make it. He’s had an accident.’
Monika listened while Chintu pleaded.
‘Okay! Let’s do this!’
By early afternoon, Monika took a half day at work. She spent the rest of her time practicing with Chintu, preparing for the night. She got her mother to pick up Aavya from school. Satish hadn’t the foggiest of what was going on. She had just informed him to reach the venue with Aavya by seven. Satish assumed she was held up with work.
In due time, the little family entered the rooftop restaurant. Satish was worried as Monika was nowhere in sight.
‘Where is Mom?’ Aavya asked, looking confused.
‘I don’t know. And I can’t seem to get through to her number either. She told me she would be here by seven. Maybe your mother is stuck in traffic.’
Shortly, both father and daughter found a quiet corner and made themselves comfortable. They ordered some drinks and a bite to eat while they patiently waited for Monika to arrive.
Just then, Satish spotted Chintu in the other corner of the restaurant. His height made Chintu stick out like a sore thumb. He looked excited and peppy. Chintu did a mic check and wore his guitar strap over his shoulder.
‘Wow! Monika was right. He really does look like a rockstar,’ Satish thought. ‘But I wonder where my wife is? It is very unusual for her to be late.’
Soon, the show was about to begin. Chintu welcomed the crowd and introduced himself. He then introduced the rest of the band and announced Monika’s name. She appeared out of nowhere and acknowledged the crowd. She spotted Satish and Aavya at the back and waved at them. Satish’s jaw dropped, and his eyes popped out.
‘Daddy…. There’s MOM!! What is she going to do?’ Avaya asked excitedly.
‘I have no idea,’ her father replied slowly. Satish couldn’t take his eyes off his better half. She looked stunning.
Monika gracefully took a seat in front of the keyboard. Her big curls sat beautifully on her petite shoulders. She had that glow of excitement on her face and a million butterflies fluttering in her stomach.
Chintu started with his usual song, followed by many other favorites. He kept the crowd entertained and also accepted song requests from them. The evening ended with a duo sung by Monika and Chintu, just like they used to back in the day.
After the show was over, Monika walked up to her husband and daughter. Aavya couldn’t control her excitement and jumped on her mother, wrapping her arms and legs around her.
‘Who are you?’ Satish said. ‘Are you my wife?’
‘You were superb, honey! I had no idea you could sing so well. I always thought you were just a bathroom singer.’
Monika rolled her eyes.
‘Have you met the star of the show?’ Chintu announced as he walked up from behind.
‘I…I hadn’t the foggiest that you could play like that.’
‘Thank Mon… for tonight. So, are we jamming next Friday?’
Monika looked at Satish.
‘Of course she is,’ Satish replied. ‘There’s obviously no turning back now. Monika! You’re a star. And we’re going to buy you a brand new piano tomorrow itself.
Monika beamed and shuffled her feet. ‘Well… to be honest. Playing the keys again was just mindblowing! Thanks, Chintu.’
‘For what? I should be thanking you for sticking with me at the last minute.’
‘Well, what else is the Mon-Chintu duo friendship all about?’ Satish smiled.