Posted: 04 April 2010 at 1:57pm
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For the second time in ten years her life was beginning to come apart. Bani Dixit stood still for a minute, trying to absorb the new. Could it be a mistake? She desperately tried to curb it, but the initial shock wave refused to ebb. The harsh, ruthless information had all it took to shatter the image of a continuous promising career and lifestyle. She paced back and forth in the length of her tasteful and sophisticated boutique. Her boutique-her baby-her artistic skills put into use.
Technically the business belonged to her parents and her equally, but it was Bani's vision and creativity that mounted the business to a different peak. The boutique stood like a maharani, a queen amongst the plain, vanilla sari shops in New Jersey's "Little India". It was like a breath of fresh air in the clamped shops of the "Little India". The quaint neighbourhood smelled of pungent curry, fried onions, ripe mangoes, incense. The stores name was also Bani's brainstorming. The names of the other stores and shops were dumpy and ugly and amongst it stood "Silks and Sapphires".
Where had she gone wrong? How?
Could she be kissing her business and dresses good-bye? Being graduated with fashion degree, Bani couldn't help but feel anguish and sorrow filling her from within. Why on earth was this happening to her? She turned on her heels and caught a glimpse in the mirror. She looked completely frustrated and menacing. Darn it! She hadn't let herself feel this way since the time she cremated Ranveer. She turned to look at her parents Nishikant Dixit and Kiran Dixit. How could they hide such a significant truth from her? Moreover, how could they even dream of such a preposterous solution to the problem? Didn't they know that they could be jeopardizing her career as well as with one phone call?
Turning back, she trudged towards the long glass counter behind which her parents stood. They had been watching her pace like a caged panther all this time. The distress was still spiralling in her like a January blizzard. She raised her troubled eyes to them.
"Why didn't you tell about this earlier?"
"We didn't want to upset you, besides we thought we could handle it on our own?" her father sighed and told her.
"But we are equal partners in this. I'm not a child anymore dad. I'm 32 years old for god sakes" she was really miffed with him"
"I'm sorry Bani, I should have told you about this earlier but it's really hard to admit to ones child that her father is...a ...failure" He sounded visibly upset.
Bani felt guilty for bursting out at her father like that. "I know I'm not a great businessman Bani, but I don't know how this problem escalated so much" her father, a wiry man with glasses and a heavy mop of graying hair, sat crouched down.
"Dad, you are not a failure. We are all in this together and we will get through this. I should have kept an eye on the finances" She mentally kicked herself hard as she clenched her teeth together. She could feel a headache coming on. "Dad, why did you go to Jeevan out of everyone?"
"Jeevan is my elder brother Bani. And on top of that, he is a marvellous businessman. I had to contact him child. He is the only one who could help us."
Jeevan was the oldest of three brothers and never let his siblings forget it. In his eyes, he was only small step below God. At the mention of his name, their family either trembled with fear or it proceeded by "Oh God".
"So, instead you called Jeevan?" She couldn't make sense of her parents' wacky decision.
"He is a dictator"
Her mother, trim and elegant in a shell-pink chiffon sari, and tiny pearls at her throat and ears, threw her a scorching look.
"Bani, Jeevan's your oldest uncle. Show some respect to your elders. Stop referring to him as Jeevan. He is your Jeevan kaka and for us he is Jeevan bhai".
"I'm sorry mom" From her mother's tone, Bani seemed like a teenager or a young adult.
Nishikant shook his head. "Jeevan bhai is a bit on the strict side, but that doesn't mean he's unkind".
"Little bit strict?" Bani groaned. Was her father living on the same planet as she? She looked at him. The shape and deep brown tint of their eyes were similar, and the thick black lashes were definitely something she'd inherited from him. In fact, most of her sharp features were her father's, but her complexion and straight black hair were genetic traits from her mother's side of the family. "After the beating you took from him as the middle brother, you still choose to defend him, Dad?"
"Whatever my brother's faults, he has the knowledge and money to help us", said Nishikant, picking up his calculator and gathering up the day's receipts. "And his advice is free".
Bani mulled over the issue for a minute. There had to be another, less drastic solution than the insufferable Jeevan. "Can't you call him and tell him you were wrong?"
"I can't. He's arriving here next week"
"What?" A dull thud jolted both Bani and her father. Kiran had dropped a box on the counter and turned, accusing eyes on her husband. "You didn't tell me your brother was coming here"
"I thought I did." Her dad's tone was mildly apologetic. Poor him, he has had to go through a lot, thought Bani.
"No true Nishi. This morning, you said you were taking little advice from him, and nothing more. You didn't say anything about him coming to New Jersey."
"Slipped my mind...I...guess."
Bani watched the angry color rise in her mother's amazingly unlined face. "Slipped out of your mind? Something that important?"
"But...but he wanted to come. How could I have said no?"
"Exactly when is Jeevan-bhai coming?" Kiran demanded to know everything like a cop who wanted to fish out every little detail from her suspect. "Or were you planning to tell me after he arrived at Newark Airport?"
Bani had a feeling her father had deliberately kept his brother's visit a secret. She felt a twinge of sympathy for her dad.
"But there's one week more. He is coming next Monday."
"Next Monday is only five days away, not one week," reminded Kiran.
Nishikant ran his fingers through his hair yet again. What little hair had been lying flat now stood at attention. "Jeevan-bhai is family. Why are you getting upset?"
Kiran's look of annoyance turned into disbelief. "Your brother is not some ordinary family member like the others; he is a god. Once he is here, everything has to be perfect, from homemade vegetarian food cooked in clarified butter and spotless white sheets to his newspaper available at a precise time. And don't forget hot masala chai five times a day."
Though Kiran was a good cook, she preferred to work at the store and feed on the restaurant food. There were plenty of Indian restaurants nearby their store. They barely had any energy left after closing time to cook dinner.
Bani couldn't think of living any other way. She'd had her own home and a career separate from her parents many moons ago, while she'd been married to Ranveer Bali. But, after Veer's death, heartbroken and depressed, she'd decided to pool all her savings with her parents' and upgrade their struggling shop.
Now the boutique was everything to her, a place where she'd buried her grief and more or less resurrected herself. It had helped to have a challenging business to keep her mind occupied, the best kind of therapy for a grieving young window.
Her brother, Pushkar, a sophomore at Rutgers University, had always distanced himself from the clothing business. Nearly 8 years younger than she, he could be a bundle of joy and annoyance. He was both her brother and her baby in so many ways. Ofcourse, she never had any children of her own, so she considered Pushkar as her baby. There'd been no opportunity for Bani to think of babies, not when Ranveer had died of brain cancer within two years of their marriage.
"Bani." Kiran's voice forced her thoughts back to the cold reality of their present situation. "Could you come here and finish this display for me? I have to get busy cleaning up the house." She threw her husband a meaningful look. "Since Jeevan-bhai is coming in Five ...no...Four and a half days, I have to clean, shop, cook and laundry ...and iron.
Kiran strode away in a huff to the back of the store. Bani and her father watched her disappear into the parking lot whilst exchanging a troubled look.
In about two hours her mother would have shopped for the essentials, stored them away in the kitchen, cleaned and vacuumed the house, and aired the guestroom matteress. Kiran Dixit was a tornado when she was on a mission, especially when she was angry or upset. In this case she was a mix of both.
The last time Jeevan had visited some five years ago, her mother, had nearly suffered a mental breakdown. After a four week visit, it had been the most blessed relief to put the chubby Jeevan and his wife on a jet bound for India.
She thought about life again. Her parents had relocated from New York City when Bani was merely eight years old. From the old shop on NYC to the new shop in Edison, Bani remembered everything. Somewhere in the ninth and tenth grades, she'd decided to try her hand at dress designing and it hasn't left her since. She had planned to join her parents' business someday, but fate had some other plan for her. Soon after graduation, she'd met Ranveer Bali, fallen for his boyish good looks and sunny nature, and then married him. His career was in New York, so instead of working for her parents she'd found a job at a designing company in the city. Back then, she had big dreams about owning several elegant boutiques all over country maybe some other countries too.
Although Veer was an electronic engineer by profession, he had encouraged her retail dreams. And just when they'd thought of making those dreams come true, Veer had collapsed at his office and died soon after. His only symptom was waking up with a headache. He had swallowed a couple of aspirin and gone to work despite the acute headache. All her dreams had died with him. So much for drawing a neat blueprint of her life thought Bani.
Seeing get drowning in grief, her parents had encouraged her to quit her job, sell her condo, live with them, and help them with the store, which was best suited for training and disposition anyway. Even Veer's parents saw the logic in that. Little by little she'd overcome her sorrow and made her parents' business a success.
They still lived in a decent home and drove late-model cars. Going from relative middle-class comfort to possible bankruptcy was inconceivable to Bani. What in heaven's name were they going to do if things got really worse?
Maybe the old curmudgeon would be some use after all.
Placing the last sari in the cabinet, Bani looked at her wrist-watch. It was nearly closing time. She needed to get her mind of things. Maybe she'd call Tarun and meet him over a drink. He'd help her relax.
For lack a better term, she thought of Tarun as her boyfriend. He was sure her friend, a patient pal, her lover, and her comfort to have at times. But he wasn't a boyfriend in true sense. It was just friendship with some sex thrown in when it was mutually convenient. She'd been seeing Tarun Rowling secretly for a year, mainly because widowhood was lonely and frustration. All her Indian girlfriends were married with children enjoying their married lives. She had some non-Indian girlfriends- women she'd gone to college with. They were single live her, but they'd never been married. She got together with them for drinks once in a while.
Although she was a mature woman, in charge of her own life. But, if her parents ever found out about Tarun, a half Indian and half white guy, who owned a bar and lounge in the heart of New Brunswick, had a little formal education, and wore an earring in one ear, she'd be in deep trouble. She was lucky to be born and raised in the U.S. If this was India, she'd probably have to live the semi-reclusive life a window. Even though Indian society has revolved in so many years, widows still had a rough life over there.
And there also was time when her parents wanted her to settle down again, but Bani couldn't even think about betraying Veer. So, they'd given up, hoping that Bani would change her mind soon. Besides, all the guys she'd met were bland and some even widows but nothing compared to Veer. She had yet to meet another Indian man with a self-depreciating sense of humour like Veer's.
And now there as Tarun Rowling-a fun guy. He could make an idiot of himself and then laugh about it. She liked that about him, and not to mention he was sexy as hell and made her bones melt into a puddle of warm soup with a single touch. She hadn't experienced that kind of sexual high in years. At that moment, she really needed a good belly laugh. And a roll between the sheets sounded good too.
Noticing that her father was still busy with the receipts, she quietly slipped out through the front door out into the parking lot. She dialled Tarun's number.
PS- do leave a comment =)
Edited by chander992 - 04 April 2010 at 10:05pm
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