The party was scandalised.
A fat man!
The hosts were appalled! How come the intruder got in?
But the real suspect was indifferent to the combined horror and gasps. He was cheerful, bearded and portly---typical fat man! He stood as a contrast in the roomful of anorexic persons. The chandeliered ballroom of a five star hotel where the young and bold predators of the corporate world were assembled for a power trip. And lots of drinking and binge eating.
"He is too heavy!" Somebody commented, sneeringly.
"Look at his paunch!" another suggested. "Looks like a sack full of rotten potatoes!"
They heehawed. The racket caught on and travelled down the large hall. The men in their 30s and 40s were notorious killers and they could murder with smiles and looks as well.
"This man does not care for his looks!" A woman pouted. Her glossy lips were painted red for catching male attention, but were drawing the ire of the other bejewelled women in satin.
"He is ugly!" another said drily. "Who would love this slob?"
"Right!" chirped in another woman drinking wine. "His belly is a complete turn-off!"
"My Vivek is still obsessed with trim looks. Daily gyms for an hour and then plays lawn tennis in the evenings. Saturdays are off but not for him. He swims and walks. A fitness freak."
"Then why do you lust for other guys?" The woman with wine blurted. The slim women giggled at the discomfiture of Sweta, the legal custodian of Vivek.
But Sweta recovered and said, "Why not? When men can covet women, why not we, the Indian wives?"
"The bored club of domestic slaves?" said another woman in black in a fake American drawl.
Meanwhile, the fat man with a glass and a twinkle in eyes approached the group from the other end, his eyes lit up.
"Hi Sweta!" he exclaimed.
Sweta was puzzled – for a second.
"Is it you?" She exclaimed, face breaking into a smile.
"Yes. Me. Hundred percent!" He answered in a booming voice.
"Oh! My Gawd! How much you have changed!" Sweta exclaimed, unable to hide her disappointment.
"How much ,my darling?"
"Is it?" He pretended to be offended.
"Yes. You do not believe?"
"Naw." The fat guy rolled his eyes and then replied, "Others say I have changed two hundred percent! That is why!"
They both hee-hawed.
Others around shrank by this display of loud bonhomie.
"You buddies?" asked the woman with the wine glass, sneering at the obese gate-crasher.
"Yep. Hey girls meet my class mate from the Delhi University – Sid of the famous Malhotra clan."
"The Malhotra Empire?" somebody asked, disbelief clear.
"Yep. The super-rich spoilt brat from the empire. The one that does not care."
They all laughed. This time, more respectfully.
"Real money!" whispered a woman to her companion that was always on the hunt.
"You have put on weight!" Sweta said.
"You must care. Not good!"
"Who gives a damn! Anorexia kills too. You are all bones!"
"Well…hmm…this is upper class…getting anorexic. Everybody is into the lean and hungry look."
"Oh, shit! He flared up."
"What happened?" asked an alarmed Sweta.
"This national obsession with slimness. This fad imported from the West. I hate it. Are not fat guys good? Do they not have a right to live?"
"Well…hmm. I did not mean it that way." Sweta pouted her lips.
"Then? Wherever I go, people notice my weight, paunch, beard. Damn it. Why you guys want to convert to this impossible notion? Slim as sexy?"
Sweta kept quiet.
"Am I not beyond my vital statistics? My fat looks?"
Sweta did not say anything. The conversation was heading in an unexpected direction. She did not know how to control it.
"Ok. What is your idea of beauty?" Sid asked, tone challenging.
Sweta demurred. Then she answered: "Lean and hungry look. No belly. Only muscles. My kind of man. A turn on."
Sid laughed uproariously. "Ok. One second."
He whistled and beckoned the tall and slim waiter.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Showing you the real handsome man. As per your idea of male beauty."
"Are you crazy?" She hissed. "Nuts? He is UGLY! This thin starved server! Why creating a scene? To embarrass me – as you often did?"
The waiter came with a tray loaded with drinks. Sid smiled and replaced his empty glass with a full one and said, "Thanks." The waiter left. Sweta felt easy.
"I never thought you are as crazy as you were in our college days!" exclaimed Sweta.
Sid laughed. "You are as hypocrite as ever!"
Then he spun around and left her alone in the corner – more confused, bitter and angry.
Few seconds later a brawl followed. Involving Sid and athletic Vivek.
"Hey fatty! Come here!" Vivek drawled, voice tipsy, eyes red, lip snarled. The corporate killer instinct bare. His left eye twitched. Tell-tale sign of coming violence and murderous rage!
Sweta heard the blurred speech over the din and began moving towards the counter to stop the mayhem about to be staged by her husband.
Sid ignored, but Vivek shouted at the top of voice: "Hey fat ass! Why were you teasing my pretty wife there in the corner? Who allowed you in? You fat devil! Do you know this is a five star property? A fat man in shabby clothes stalking the rich women as their prey?"
"Calm down! I did not know she was your sole property?" Sid said quietly, eyes level.
"What?" Vivek snarled. "You obese ruffian! Hey everybody! Look! Here is a guy who looks like the notorious Delhi molester. I saw the sketch released by the cops two days ago and the sketch and description match."
A hush fell on the guests. Sweta froze, Vivek showed around a sketch on his WhatsApp.
"A passing resemblance!" somebody said. Others peered.
"Look closely," Vivek commanded the company. They all looked closely and nodded in agreement. "Yes bass! He is the suspect."
"Wait!" said Vivek to the bunch of roughnecks. "As per the cop version, this molester walks into pricey pubs, accosts drunken females, strikes up friendship with them and later on…"
"STOP!" Sid snarled, voice booming. "Hold your tongue, you dirty bastard!"
Vivek was stunned. "You calling me, a CEO, bastard! Come on, you rapist…"
And he rushed screaming, "Criminal. Call the cops."
Both men began punching each other, forming a circle, egged on by the powerful men, turned on by this fighting match of two unequal men.
The adversaries eyed each other, stalked carefully and then advanced. Vivek was aggressive. Sid was calm and agile, despite his weight. Vivek sent a hook. Sid dodged it easily. The audience moaned in public orgasm. Women cheered on wildly. Even the hosts joined in. The deadly combatants watched each other, closing in cautiously. Vivek jabbed, his legs a bit wobbly. Sid expertly evaded the hook. Both assumed the classic stance of the prize fighters minus the gloves.
Women held their breath. Sweta watched in frozen fascination the impromptu staging raw and naked aggression in this territorial fight.
Everybody was getting thrilled. For Vivek, there was no going back. He charged screaming like a Roman gladiator.
"Fatty! Fatty! Criminal!" He shouted madly. The crowd took up the chant. Vivek missed, out of practice for long. A composed Sid's solid punch floored Vivek and drew first blood.
The red stream started flowing down his broad nose and stained his white shirt. The blow staggered the CEO. He almost toppled over.
"Call the cops!" somebody shouted. "Get this fatty arrested for the assault."
Sid said nothing.
The blood had galvanized the company. Vivek's pals shouted, "Come on! Viv, hit him hard. Get up fast."
Sweta did not flinch. Sid landed another punch on his adversary's face and cracked up his lips.
"A good fighter!" A woman screamed. They all screamed. The men were mortified. They closed in and began hitting viciously the fat man.
A man in suit called up his cop friend and urged him to come fast.
"We have got your suspect," he declared. "The serial killer. The fat man."
Meanwhile, chanting of war cry and bloodbath continued unabated in the ball room…
Issue 65 (Jan-Feb 2016)