ACT – I
SCENE I – The porch of SARANG and NANDINI’s residence
Enter SARANG and NANDINI (SARANG’s wife).
NANDINI: Aren’t you going a little early, today?
SARANG: Yes, dear, got a meeting with a client. Bye, honey.
NANDINI: Okay, bye, sweetheart.
(Sarang kisses Nandini and leaves for office.)
Exeunt SARANG and NANDINI
SCENE II – Bedroom of SARANG and NANDINI
(Two days later)
Nandini is standing beside the bedside table. Sarang’s cell phone chimes. Sound of Sarang’s singing comes from the bathroom.
NANDINI: (Thinks aloud) Sarang is still in the bathroom. What do I do? I’ll see what it is.
(Nandini picks up the cell phone.)
NANDINI: (Whispers to herself) There is an SMS. It is from someone by name Bhanupriya. It reads, ‘Meet me 10 A.M. Coffee shop. Taj Coromandel.’ Oh my God! What’s going on?
SCENE III – Drawing room of NANDINI’s residence
(The following week)
(Landline rings. Nandini picks up phone.)
SPEAKER AT THE OTHER END: Hello. May I speak to Sarang?
NANDINI: (Wonders) Sarang? (Speaks aloud) He hasn’t yet returned from office. Who is this?
SPEAKER AT THE OTHER END: Tell him Bhanupriya called. Have him call me, please.
NANDINI: (Hesitatingly) Okay. I’ll tell him.
(Nandini returns the handset to the hook. She is lost in deep thought.)
SCENE IV- Bedroom of SARANG and NANDINI
(The next day)
(Nandini is standing in front of the dresser. The bottommost drawer is open. She is holding a small square piece of pink cloth. The expression on her face is sombre.)
NANDINI: (Thinks aloud) A woman’s handkerchief! It’s rather old, crumpled, and faded. What is this? A faded maroon smear? It is definitely the lipstick imprint of a woman’s lips! So, our marriage of seven years has come to this! I must do something. Too early to confront him. Let me gather more information.
(Nandini is lost in thought)
ACT – II
SCENE I – Office of CHENNAI INVESTIGATORS
Enter NANDINI and MAHALINGAM (Private Investigator)
MAHALINGAM: We are known for our … ah … discretion, madam. He will not get even a … ah … whiff of what is going on. Our investigators will be … ah … invisible. (Chuckles)
NANDINI: Here’s the advance you asked for, balance, after conclusion of the assignment.
MAHALINGAM: Thanks, madam; I’ll contact you in … ah … a few days.
(Nandini nods and leaves.)
Exeunt NANDINI and PI MAHALINGAM.
SCENE II – Lounge of HOTEL TAJ COROMANDEL
Enter ALFRED (Investigator, CHENNAI INVESTIGATORS)
(He is sitting in the lounge pretending to be reading a newspaper.)
SCENE III – Hotel TAJ COROMANDEL
Enter SARANG, BHANUPRIYA, ALFRED
(Elevator dings. Sarang and Bhanupriya come out of the elevator. From the lounge sofa, Alfred watches Sarang and Bhanupriya)
SARANG: Okay, Bhanu, I’ll get along; getting late; will keep in touch.
BHANUPRIYA: Bye, Sarang, see you next time.
(They hug each other and depart)
(Alfred discreetly takes some photographs on his high-end mobile)
Exeunt SARANG, BHANUPRIYA, and ALFRED
SCENE IV – Office of CHENNAI INVESTIGATORS
(Two days later)
(Alfred is sitting at his desk, compiling case papers)
ALFRED: (Talking to himself) Hmmm…The case file is ready. This completes the assignment; spent a week on this. I’ll handover this folder to the boss. Bye-bye Mrs. Nandini.
SCENE V – Office of CHENNAI INVESTIGATORS
(The next day)
Enter NANDINI and MAHALINGAM
(Mahalingam and Nandini are sitting at his desk. Mahalingam is smiling)
NANDINI: Why are you smiling like a Cheshire cat? I don’t find this funny.
(She waves a sheaf of photographs at his face)
MAHALINGAM: Sorry, madam.
NANDINI: So, my husband doesn’t know about … this …
MAHALINGAM: I told you, we are quite … ah … efficient and … ah … discreet.
(Nandini is lost in thought for a few moments.)
NANDINI: All right, Mr. Mahalingam, here’s the balance of your fees.
(Nandini hands him a thin wad of hundred-rupee notes. Mahalingam receives it with both hands, gives her a receipt, and greets her.)
MAHALINGAM: Namaste, madam.
Exeunt NANDINI and MAHALINGAM.
ACT – III
SCENE I – Drawing room of NANDINI’s apartment.
(The same night)
(Nandini is awake. She is pacing the drawing room floor with a cup of tea in her hand. By dawn, she comes to a decision.)
NANDINI: (Thinks aloud) Yes, I must. I don’t have a choice.
SCENE II – Drawing room of NANDINI’s apartment.
(The next morning.)
Enter NANDINI and SARANG.
(Nandini is holding two fully packed suitcases.)
SARANG: Darling, are you going somewhere?
NANDINI: (Does not answer the question.) (Thinks aloud) See, how innocent he looks!
SARANG: Sweetheart, are you …
NANDINI: (Viciously) Cut the bullshit, Sarang.
(Sarang is taken aback.)
SARANG: Darling, honey … what’s wrong? What happened? Where are you going?
NANDINI: To my parents’.
SARANG: Why so suddenly? Are they okay?
NANDINI: They won’t be, when they hear what I have to say.
(Sarang stutters in panic.)
SARANG: Wh … what …ddo you … you mean, dear? I don’t understand.
NANDINI: You will, soon.
(Nandini looks outside the window.)
NANDINI: Here comes my cab. Bye, Sarang. You will hear from me, and don’t follow me or call me tonight.
(Sarang stands petrified.)
Exeunt NANDINI and SARANG.
SCENE III – Drawing room of NANDINI’s parents’ house.
(The next morning.)
Enter SARANG, and NANDINI’s parents.
NANDINI’S MOTHER: Will you have some coffee or tea, son?
SARANG: No, I don’t want anything. I didn’t go to office. I didn’t sleep the whole night. I called Nandu dozens of times but she wouldn’t answer. I am going crazy. Did she tell you anything?
NANDINI’S MOTHER: No, she didn’t speak to me or her father.
NANDINI’S FATHER: She is in her room. Why don’t you go … and sort it out with her? If you need any help …
SARANG: I’ll do that.
(Sarang rises shakily and walks towards Nandini’s room.)
Exeunt SARANG and NANDINI’s parents.
SCENE IV – NANDINI’s bedroom in her parents’ house.
(A few minutes later.)
Enter SARANG, and NANDINI.
(The room is dark, silent, and sombre like a graveyard. The curtains are drawn. Nandini is lying on her bed with an elbow covering her eyes.)
NANDINI: Shut the door, Sarang.
(Sarang shuts the door, sits beside her, and places his hand on her midriff. Nandini pushes away his hand.)
SARANG: What is it, Nandu darling? Why did you come away leaving me all alone?
(Nandini lifts her elbow from over her eyes.)
NANDINI: (Angrily) Don’t you know? Really?
SARANG: What, tell me?
(Nandini pauses to get composure.)
NANDINI: (In ice-cold voice) Who is Bhanupriya?
(Sarang grins broadly.)
SARANG: Bhanupriya … ha, ha, ha … is that what’s bothering you?
NANDINI: You are laughing, you bas**rd! Who is she? Since when is this going on?
SARANG: She is my childhood friend … hey … what do you mean how long? What do you think is going on?
NANDINI: I don’t think, Mr. Sarang, I know. Now, tell me, honestly, at least now.
SARANG: Are you crazy? Nothing is going on. We were classmates until high school. We parted ways for college and jobs. We met after a decade when she came to our office on business …
SARANG: What do you mean whose? Whose what?
SARANG: Yes business.
NANDINI: That’s what I asked. Whose?
SARANG: Oh…oh… You mean whose business? Of course hers…wait…it isn’t what you think. She is a good married woman …
NANDINI: Of course, you’d say that …
SARANG: Oh…don’t interrupt…where was I?
NANDINI: Meeting her on her business.
SARANG: Yes…no…okay. She came to submit some quotation to our tender inquiry. She asked for the Sales Manager and she was brought to me. I was surprised to see her after so many years, after high school, you see.
NANDINI: You must have been very happy at meeting her.
SARANG: Yes…no…God, it isn’t like that. Of course, we were happy to meet after so many years, after high school, you see.
NANDINI: Will you leave the high school and get into the college, ever?
SARANG: I was coming to that but you are interrupting again and again.
NANDINI: When was this … reunion?
SARANG: About two months ago. Hey, wait don’t use expressions like that…reunion…and all. We just met, that’s all.
NANDINI: You just met…hmmm…only once?
SARANG: Yes…no…on that day only once.
NANDINI: Oh God…so, afterwards, you met her more than once in a day?
SARANG: Yes…no, no, no. We met a few times … only on business, mind you.
NANDINI: Of course…officially…right?
NANDINI: Had lunch…es?
NANDINI: In hotels…Taj Coromandel…
NANDINI: And hugged each other?
(He realises his folly and bites his tongue.)
SARANG: Hey, Nandu, that’s not what I wanted to say.
NANDINI: The truth comes out, at last. So, this wasn’t official.
(In a deliberately slow movement, during which Sarang bites his fingernails to the cuticles, she produces a photograph from her attaché case and slips it towards him.)
SARANG: No. I mean, yes. God, I am going crazy. We were old friends. We just hugged, that’s all, , after high school, you see, just as you would hug your friends, too.
NANDINI: True, but I wouldn’t send cryptic SMSs or have secret rendezvous or …
SARANG: Hey, it is true, I didn’t tell you about her but there was nothing to it. We had to meet on official business a few times. She sent SMSs about the place and time, that’s all.
SARANG: Yes, nothing?
NANDINI: She didn’t give you a gift, a very personal gift to you?
NANDINI: A long time ago?
SARANG: Long time ago? I met her just two months ago, after high school, you see. What personal gift are you talking about?
NANDINI: Very personal gift … a loving gift, actually.
SARANG: Loving … God …I’ve always loved you and only you, Nandu. You know that.
NANDINI: I thought so, too, until recently.
SARANG: Until recently? What do you mean? You think I don’t love you anymore?
NANDINI: Any doubt about that?
SARANG: I mean no doubt that I love you…I mean I love you and no doubt about that.
NANDINI: You are lying. You are having an affair with this…this…high school friend of yours…this Bhanupriya or whatever.
SARANG: Not whatever, dear.…whoever.
NANDINI: And now, grammar lessons, too!
SARANG: I was just saying.
NANDINI: This affair must have started long ago…years ago…right?
SARANG: No, no, no … you are wrong, not years ago.
NANDINI: Started recently, you mean?
SARANG: No, no, no…again you are wrong, not recently.
NANDINI: Not long ago; not recently; so since when?
SARANG: Since…never, darling.
NANDINI: Can you prove it?
SARANG: Hey, how can anyone prove it?
NANDINI: Not anyone; you.
NANDINI: Yes, you.
SARANG: Okay, I.
NANDINI: So? Prove it.
SARANG: Prove what?
NANDINI: What you said earlier.
SARANG: What did I say earlier?
NANDINI: That you never had any affair with Bhanupriya.
SARANG: Hey, how can anyone prove it; I mean how can I prove it? You accused me; you prove it.
SARANG: You can’t because there wasn’t any.
NANDINI: Do you want me to? I can, you see. I have the report and photographs from a PI; photographic evidence.
SARANG: You had a Private Investigator shadow me? And what’s this about evidence? Why do you need evidence?
NANDINI: For divorce proceedings, what else!
SARANG: Divorce? Oh my god, what are you saying, Nandu? Divorce from whom?
NANDINI: Of course from you. I am married only to you.
SARANG: I know. But why? I never had any affair with her or anyone else. You can’t prove it.
(She reaches into her suitcase and dramatically produces the pink handkerchief that she found in his dresser. She spreads it in front of his eyes.)
SARANG: (Murmurs) It looks kind of familiar.
NANDINI: Of course, it would. That’s her handkerchief. That’s her lipstick. Those are her lips. Right, Mr. Sarang?
SARANG: Maybe. How would I know? How did you get it? Did she give it to you?
NANDINI: She gave it to you.
SARANG: Me? What gives you the idea?
NANDINI: I found it in your dresser, Sarang.
(Sarang stands dazed and speechless.)
SARANG: My dresser!
NANDINI: Yes, your dresser…bottommost drawer. QED. That was when your affair with her started, didn’t it?
(Sarang examines the handkerchief minutely. Suddenly, he starts laughing.)
SARANG: Ha, ha, ha … you dolt … ha, ha, ha.
NANDINI: Now, what drama are you enacting?
SARANG: Ha, ha, ha …
NANDINI: Have you gone mad?
SARANG: (ROFL. ROFL. ROFL. Literally.)
NANDINI: Sarang, Sarang…are you mad? What has gotten into you? Get up.
(After several minutes, Sarang rises from the floor and stands in front of his wife.)
SARANG: My lovable fool, my adorable dolt, this handkerchief is not hers.
NANDINI: You are lying.
SARANG: I am not.
NANDINI: Then, how was it in your dresser?
SARANG: Because (he pauses for dramatic effect) it is yours.
(Nandini is speechless.)
SARANG: Yours; you gave it to me.
NANDINI: How? When?
SARANG: Do you remember the days when we were engaged, for nearly six months?
NANDINI: (Cautiously) Yyyyes.
SARANG: Do you remember that evening? In the park? You and I?
(The entire scene from the past dawns on her.)
SCENE IV – A park somewhere.
(About seven years ago.)
Enter SARANG and NANDINI.
(The park. The solitude. The darkness. The love in the air. The hug. The kiss.)
SARANG: Not sufficient.
NANDINI: What else?
SARANG: A memorabile. Something to remember this moment. Something I’d cherish for life.
NANDINI: Hmmm…what can I give you?
(She thinks for a few moments.)
NANDINI: I got it.
NANDINI: Wait. Take this.
(She pulls out a handkerchief from her handbag. It is small and pink in colour. She smooths the wrinkles and places it on her lips, for several seconds. She plants the lipstick imprint of her lips on it. Touched by the gesture, he kisses her.)
SARANG: I’ll cherish this for life. I love you.
NANDINI: I love you, too.
Exeunt SARANG, and NANDINI.
SCENE V – NANDINI’s bedroom in her parents’ house (continues)
(A few minutes later.)
Enter SARANG, and NANDINI.
NANDINI: I love you, my sweetie pie, my peach, my Tom Cruise. I am sorry, darling.
SARANG: It’s okay, dear, but please don’t ever give me an encore of it.
NANDINI: Never… Hmmm … So, what are you waiting for?
NANDINI: Come to Nandu, darling.
Exeunt SARANG, and NANDINI.
SCENE VI – Drawing room of SARANG and NANDINI’s house.
(A few days later.)
Enter SARANG, NANDINI, BHANUPRIYA, and RAMESH (Bhanupriya’s husband).
BHANUPRIYA: Dinner was out of the world, Nandu. You are an awesome cook.
NANDINI: Thanks, Bhanu. Please visit us again.
BHANUPRIYA: Sure, Nandu. You, too.
(The four of them bid goodbyes to one another. Sarang and Bhanupriya make to shake hands. Nandini smiles impishly.)
NANDINI: You can hug each other, you know, personally.
(All of them laugh.)