Read part 1: The Lover, here.
Read part 2: The Ex-husband, here.
Read part 3: The Reporter, here.
Thursday, 4:15 pm.
“Ma’am, are you coming for the surgery next week?” The doctor’s receptionist queried.
“Yes.” Pari Palkhiwala replied.
“You’ve already had two postponements, ma’am. Dr. Mehta has a jampacked schedule. He can’t have repeat disruptions.”
“I’m sure this time. I’ll be at the clinic on Monday.”
“Okay, ma’am. Part of your payment is pending.”
“I know that,” her voice was starting to betray irritation.
“Payment in full before starting procedures is compulsory, ma’am.”
“Yes,” she paused, “I know. I’ll make the payment tomorrow.”
“Thank you ma’am. Have a good day.”
She hung up without replying.
“Nina Di, I need your help.” She wondered aloud. Her two assistants, Devika and Zoey, stole a glance at each other and then returned to poring over their respective phones, as if they were not there.
Pari Palkhiwala was in her salon in Kandivali, Mumbai. The salon was located at the edge of a busy crossroads. Now 36, Pari had been running this establishment for the last three years. At the moment, the salon was empty but for the three women. Pari’s lip job was pending for the longest time. Two of her last four boyfriends had remarked on the need for artificial intervention on them.
Pari got up from her seat at the counter and went out of the salon.
She dialled Nina Daruwalla, her cousin sister.
“Hi Paro, sup?”
“I’m good, Di. You say?”
“I’m fine too.”
“I need the twenty lakh, Di. I really, really need it.”
“Yeah, uh, I’ll give it to you soon. Right now, there’s some problem.”
“But you’ve been saying soon for so long.”
“You know how it is in this business. I haven’t got payments for a few events yet.”
“I will give you the money, kiddo. Don’t worry.”
“Even if you’d set me up with a big actor, I’d not have needed to ask you for this favour now.”
“We have discussed this, Paro. My answer hasn’t changed. You have to find and maintain your own contacts.”
“But you’re my sister. I’m turning to my family for help.” She pleaded.
“I don’t want to go over the ways in which I have helped you, Pari. But if I have refused something once, I’m not going to agree to it the second time.”
“We clear?” Nina asked.
“My surgery is scheduled for Monday, Di. I’ve been waiting for the money for three weeks now.”
“Look, why don’t you postpone it by a week? One week, please.”
“Postpone? I’ve postponed it twice already, Di. On account of you. Now the hospital says they won’t be able to postpone it again.” Her voice was rising.
“You know, Paro, you don’t need a lip job. Believe me.”
Pari took a deep breath before speaking. “I know what I need, Di, and what I don’t.”
“No, silly, yes. You know that, I know you do. But listen, think, why do you want a lip job? For those men who didn’t even stay with you?”
“I want it for me,” each word came out independent of the structure of a sentence.
“Aww, my baby. One more time then, please? You know my hands are tight.”
“I don’t know that.” Pari was bristling now.
“What?” For the first time, Pari could hear an edge to Nina’s voice.
“You’re such a miser. You make a shitload of money. You are with all these stars. And yet, you can’t spare twenty lakhs, a pittance, for your own sister.”
“Cousin,” Nina corrected, the sharp edge now clear in her voice.
Pari was silent for two seconds, before cutting the call.
“Bitch, bitch, bitch,” she yelled at the phone.
From inside the shop, across the glass walls, Devika and Zoey saw Pari being animated. They both got up from their respective seats. While one went to the loo, the other got busy with cleaning up the floor with a vacuum cleaner. This despite having done that an hour ago, since when there’d been just the one customer.
Pari was shaking with rage. She fumbled in her jeans trousers’ left pocket and took out a packet of cigarettes. She lighted one and took a drag, her right hand supporting her left, which was holding the cigarette and bent at the elbow.
She looked at the traffic passing by. The afternoon sun was still blazing somewhere up in the sky, and sweat was now trickling down in beads from across her forehead and neck. She took another drag, then unlocked her phone.
“If she won’t loosen her purse strings herself, I’ll make her do it.”
She opened the dialler, found the contact, and dialled the number.