Changez was sitting up in his bed when Ranjit entered. The ward boy handed him his medicine and passed by Ranjit, who took his seat beside the bruised and battered patient.
“Ranjit, what brings you here?” asked Changez. Ranjit rolled his eyes and looked at Aamna. She did the same as she sighed at her brother’s chronic sarcasm.
“How are you, my friend?”
“Absolutely fine! Just decided to get a change of scenery and got myself admitted to this hospital.” Ranjit held his face in his hand.
“How did you get so roughed up?” he said from behind his hand.
“Retribution,” said Aamna. Changez turned his little head to look out the third-floor window, through which muffled sound of traffic filtered in as the room got silent. Her words made Ranjit present his face.
“Did he finally get his ass handed to him?”
Aamna smiled nervously. Despite her contempt for his behaviour, she was unsure of how to proceed without hurting her brother’s feelings. Elder sisters have that caring attitude. When things go bad, they promptly spread their wings and put themselves in the line of fire. The younger ones, though, take that as intimidation and eclipsing of any hint of escape. Context.
“You know how there are people who always want to prove they are superior to others,” she said matter-of-factly. “We were headed for a distant wedding last night when Changez overtook an SUV. It wasn’t as if he was reckless or that he flipped them off, but that’s not how it seemed to those gentlemen.”
“Gentlemen, ha! And they say I’m sarcastic!” scoffed Changez. Aamna took a deep breath and blinked slowly. She had her back to the streaming sunlight, but it was only now that her face became dark. Her rage was almost palpable. Ranjit gulped anxiously.
“They cut us off and blocked our path. Our Series 5 Mercedes produced a 5-foot individual, while the SUV produced three strapping six-footers. The mismatch was stretched further by the fact that my weirdy-beardy brother wore a more furious countenance.”
“What happened next?” Ranjit asked. His words turned Changez towards and on him.
“Well, we had a most cordial discussion where each side presented compelling arguments and listened patiently.”
“I meant what exactly happened. Gosh, you can get on my nerves even in that sorry condition of yours!” said Ranjit. To avoid another onslaught, Aamna handled the harness of the conversation.
“They asked rhetorical questions in a typical bullish manner, oblivious to how it wouldn’t take even a fraction of that attitude to elicit the kind of response they received. It was the end of discussions and the beginning of drubbing.” The sullen, blasé manner in which she spoke was akin to an old, radio broadcast. Ranjit was glad her anger had reduced to a certain degree, but her coldness struck him strange nevertheless.
“It makes my blood boil whenever I hear of such incidents! How can a person treat another like that?”
“Beats me,” said Aamna.
“Sarcasm and puns! And they say I’m the brash one. Oh, the irony,” said Changez, gesturing at his sister.
“Irony was Ammi and Abbu naming you Changez and you turning out to be a pipsqueak,” she spat.
“Napoleon was no giant either!”
“Do you always have to be like this? She didn’t mean it the way you think. Besides, you should just be thankful that those brutes didn’t do anything to her. It was dark and you were on a secluded highway; who knows what they could have done!”
“You needn’t worry about that, Ranjit. My chubby and grotesque appearance had me covered on that end,” said Aamna. It was the first statement that appalled Ranjit.
“Oh come on, Aamna. Don’t tell me his sordid sarcasm is becoming contagious!”
Aamna smiled wryly. “So you agree with what I just said.”
Ranjit locked his words behind his lips. He saw what she meant. “You’re not so fat,” he said, once again struck by the sudden change in her demeanour.
“I’m almost as fat as you are!” she said, throwing her arms up in protest. Ranjit sulked.
“Hey, don’t go about commenting on someone’s appearance!” said Changez. Four eyes and two incredulous faces turned in his direction. “What? I might go overboard with sarcasm at times, but I’m not rude. Now, apologize, you grotesque bitch!”
“Don’t make it any more difficult to hold myself back from making your condition even worse, Changez,” said Aamna through gritted teeth.
“Hey, I’m only repeating what you said.” He winked and smirked at Ranjit. For the third time in as many minutes, he saw Aamna go through another sudden change of demeanours. The elder-sister wings spread with murderous intent. It was his first time witnessing consistency in the context of both siblings.
Context note: Changez means ‘universal ruler’ or ‘conquerer’. Source -> The all-knowing internet