Book Excerpt: ‘Cold Blooded Love’ by Girish Dutt Shukla

Book Title: Cold Blooded Love
Author: Girish Dutt Shukla
Publisher: Rupa Publications India
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-9357020060
Date Published: Feb. 14, 2023
Price: INR 217

Cold Blooded Love by Girish Dutt Shukla Book Cover

Book Excerpt

Chapter 5

Last night was a painting in velvet and black, which blended into a constellation of stars. It was this softness that steadied the rhythm of my heart as I kept my eyes fixed on my neighbour’s house. Ovya appeared first, followed by Aadit. Ovya had a fluffy towel wrapped around her hair. It was possible that she had just come out of the shower. Arranging and rearranging different items in the house does make you dirty.

She was wearing a nightdress, while Aadit was in pyjamas. Nothing seemed out of place. They looked like the quintessential young couple who were focused on their professional goals, but in a way those goals didn’t impinge on their married life. Although no one else but me is as aware and experienced in knowing that there’s always more to things than what meets the eye. Still, I am not sure that Aadit has a dark side.

What was I looking for and why did the letter say that Aadit isn’t who he seems to be?

Just like the other night, they sit on the sofa and turn on the television. The sounds emanating from the television were just a way to fill the room as they were engrossed in their own conversation, though their eyes did not waver from the screen. I am not sure what they were watching. Maybe they loved watching old classics, just like me. A mild smile surfaced, one that only I could see. At that moment, I saw them as mirror images of Omand myself from a decade ago, back when our love was still innocent and innocuous.

Suddenly, Ovya got up from the sofa as if the fire alarm had gone off. Aadit, who had been lying comfortably all this while, straightened his back and caught hold of his wife’s hand. He kept a firm grip on her hand as she tried to release it. As he pulled her closer, she fell on her side, on the couch. The two held a steady gaze. He kissed her gently—the way they do it in the movies. Then, as if a match was struck, he leaned on her and smooched with the sweetness of passion, and that ignited a fire in Ovya. She reciprocated and brought her lips around Aadit, letting the tongue show its deft movements. It was a real kiss—a promise that bound them together the day they would have met for the first time. I saw the primal desire that lives in each one of us manifest in the moment, marked by a million thoughts of love. I, thus, became aware that Ovya and Aadit were, indeed, connected by an invisible cord. They were just a normal couple, and there was nothing to indicate that Aadit was anything other than who he appears to be.

I wonder who sent me that peculiar note and what the intention behind it was. How many people even know that Ovya and Aadit have shifted to the house opposite me? I haven’t yet spoken to him properly, apart from the solitary ‘Hi’ and the smile that followed the day he shifted with his wife. Could it be a prank? But, who would want to trick me like this? I barely spoke to anyone. I look at the note again. It is Gotham font size 16. I might not have designed anything credible in the last few years, but I still know my fonts.

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My eyes are fixed on the note. It had made me think about ten different things at once, but I had not one clear, coherent thought. The couple had spun a web around me with their erratic mannerisms. My head spins as my innate desire to know everything overwhelms me. One moment I’m absorbed in the note and the very next moment my eyes search outside for a possible explanation. There are always more questions than answers. I strain my ears for the voice within me in the hope to find clues. Maybe there is no need for me to obsess over the note. It could be just a bad joke. I glance upwards, my mouth pursed but slightly open. The sound of my mobile ringing breaks my rumination.

It is Osheen. She speaks brightly. ‘I sense you have forgotten your old friends just because a certain neighbour has moved to the house opposite yours.’

I almost laugh. ‘I sense your intuition has failed you again.’

In a calm voice, she reiterates something she has been maintaining over the last few years. ‘My intuition is as accurate as the predictions by your favourite app—Daily Horoscope.’

Osheen stresses on the last two words to mock me as I did have a habit until last year of checking the app before starting the day. I believed whatever shit the app spewed with all my heart and spirit. Mostly flawed, all my actions for the day were governed by the fallacious beliefs imparted by it. The only resolution for this year was that I’d uninstall the malicious trickster and go about my days in ways that felt right. The result is that I have found a great fondness for letting my whims and desires run wild and for not doing things that need to be done.

I always neglect my priorities. I still haven’t enrolled and paid for the online course that was supposed to keep me abreast of contemporary design methods and techniques. I still haven’t taken an appointment with the dentist for a check-up, and that reminds me—a visit to my gynaecologist is long overdue.

Both of us are aware of how wrong she is to assume that her clairvoyance is spot on. ‘Whatever happened to those canonical instincts every time you venture out to meet people of the opposite gender,’ I say jeeringly.

She gasps. ‘That is monstrously rude of you.’

I, of course, have no right to say anything of the kind to her. I am amongst the rare 1 per cent falling under the category of failed marriages in India, while Osheen has never been married. She has had a string of relationships, yet not one has lasted more than a year. Osheen has a strong disposition that makes her incredibly stunning to talk to. Her chiselled features and twine-thinness is a testament of her love for working out. She is snow white, but with a burnished complexion and curvy eyebrows that look down on a set of enticing brown eyes. Her dainty ears frame a button nose. Her calamine pink lips cover a set of dazzling white teeth. Her midnight black hair tumbles over her shoulders. Her presence in a room lingers long after she leaves.

I say, ‘Of course, I know that.’

She chuckles. ‘You’re so evil. How are you doing? Any luck with any freelance opportunities?’

‘Have been feeling much better since the last couple of days. No luck as of yet, but I’m hopeful something will happen. I reached out to Sasha as well.’

She says, ‘I’m so glad to hear that. That was smart.

With all her connections, Sasha will surely be able to help you.’

I nod as if Osheen is sitting right in front of me. ‘I miss you.’

‘I thought with Ovya around you, rather opposite you, you don’t miss anyone any more.’

I fall on the couch, roll my eyes, and say, ‘Not yet… but she did come over and brought me a present. I’d be lying if I told you I don’t like her. She seems nice but…’

‘But you need more time to judge conclusively,’ she completes my sentence.

‘Of course, I need more time. Like I always say, there are three layers to each of us. What we pretend, what we present, and what we preserve. Can’t know anyone properly without knowing all of them.’

This excerpt is taken from the book Cold Blooded Love by Girish Dutt Shukla, published under Rupa Publications India.

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