Posted: 11 April 2010 at 4:23pm
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Sorry guys i was typing up the update yesterday night, the whole day i was walking around in the Vasakhi parade!! i was so damn tired...walked around for 5-6hrs, but i was trying to type it up and i did even leave a note (sorry rosie and others who were waiting) that it was coming in a few mins....i fell asleep on my laptop! so BIG SORRY!!!
here is the next part!! Plz leave a comment ...thank you! =)
It was already Monday morning. Kiran had the house in order. Every dust bunny and cobweb had been eradicated, the carpets professionally cleaned, and the guest bed had fresh sheets and pillows and a brand-new blanket and bedspread.
Lunch had been prepared and waiting on the stove. Bani stood in the kitchen doorway and watched her mom scrub the pan in which she'd made the ghee. Her nostrils still were disgusted with the smell of the clarified butter...yuck!
The June looked overcast. It suited the Dixit household, except Bani's father. He was in a jubilant mood. His eyes shone with anticipation to see his brother after 5 long years.
Bani walked up to the pantry, poured herself some cornflakes and a glass of orange juice. After setting the pot aside, her mother dried her hands, and studied Bani. "You were out late last night." Bani didn't know if that was a question or a statement.
"Yeah...I...went with...some friends...to talk." It surprised Bani how lying came so easily to her these days. After her return from seeing Tarun, she had tiptoed into her room. She had tried to convince herself that she wasn't hurting anyone. Both Tarun and she were single; they were free to enjoy each other with no strings attached. And this was America, where consensual sex between responsible adults was the norm. However, sleep had still eluded her. She looked tired.
Kiran got up and walked toward the foot of the staircase to call out to her husband. "Nishi, do you want a cup of tea?" "Yes," replied Nishi from upstairs.
Moments later he strode into the kitchen, shaved, showered, dressed, and smelling of his favourite cologne- some inexpensive brand bought at the drugstore. Bani could sense an air of expectancy.
Kiran placed the mug of tea before him and got one for herself. "What time are you leaving for the airport?" she asked him wearily. He checked his wristwatch. "In about fifteen minutes." Lowering his newspaper, he peered at Kiran through his gold-rimmed glasses. "Don't worry too much; Jeevan-bhai has changed a lot since before. Plus he is almost seventy-seven now-more flexible than before."
Kiran took a slow slip of the fragrant spiced tea. "Jeevan-bhai's not likely to change."
Nishikant quietly drank his tea, perhaps to avoid any confrontation with his peeved wife. A little while later, he put on his shoes and went out the front door. Bani and her mother exchanged a silent look. The curtain was finally lifted and the show was about to begin.
An hour later, the sound of the car pulling into the driveway alerted Bani and her mother. Bani seemed surprisingly anxious all of sudden, and her stomach tied into knots. It wasn't the first time she would be seeing her Uncle, yet it was a strange feeling.
She smiled inwardly when she noticed her mother fleeting a look in the mirror prior to rushing to the door. Somewhat nervous Bani wore a sensible pastel blue salvar kameez that covered most of her arms and legs. The kameez was a loose shirt that below her knees, making her look shapeless. The salwar pants and the chunni, were modest too. That was in direct contrast to her usual form-fitting slacks, shirts, dresses, trendy blouses, and snug sweaters.
Her father didn't approve of her wardrobe because she was a woman on the wrong side of thirty-three, and her marital status had to be considered. But that didn't stop her from enjoying her slim and youthful figure.
People often commented on how she looked ten years younger than her actual age. Besides, being an owner of a sophisticated boutique, she had to dress elegantly to set the tone right for her business.
As the front door opened, her dad walked in, his face aglow. "Bani, Kiran, Jeevan-bhai is here."
As if they needed reminding.
Expecting to see her round and chubby Jeevan uncle, Bani was shocked to see a slim man walk in through the door. Her mother also drew in a sharp breath. Who was this man? He had Jeevan uncle's eyes, his shaggy, squirrel tail eyebrows, and bulbous nose, but that's it. He had lost most of his hair and his once perfect skin looked wrinkly. Talk about age catching up. Five years had made an astounding difference.
"Ah, Kiran...how are you?" It was her uncle alright. The slim figure had no effect on the still robust and commanding voice. Whatever happened to make him loose weight? Maybe he'd gone on some diet and exercise program? Bani watched her mother flash her most cordial smile and bend down to touch Jeevan's feet. She did the same. It was best to play the passive little Hindu woman-for the moment at least.
Jeevan uncle caught Bani in an exuberant hug which nearly left her smothered. He held her away from him for a second and studied her, his shrewd black eyes seemingly taking in every inch of Bani whist she tried not to squirm. "Bani, how big-big you have become. Looking lovely-lovely also, huh?"
Well, at least he thought she looked lovely. And thank goodness, big in his vocabulary meant all grown up. Just as she thought the surprise and official welcoming ceremony were over, and they could now settle into the routine of having her Uncle around for the next several weeks or months, another shock followed. A strange man came in through the door, a giant suitcase in each hand.
Bani's head snapped up to study him. He certainly didn't look like the average cab or limo driver. He was tall and broad-shouldered. With her eyes for fashion, the first thing she took in was his attire. He wore an open-neck tan shirt and tobacco dress slacks, both beautifully tailored and very expensive looking. The shoes were glossy brown wing tips and he had smooth white skin. His hair was dense, dark, and neatly groomed. A scar was visible beneath his left eyebrow, making the eyelid look swollen. His eyes were...gray.
He couldn't be Indian-not with that complexion and those eyes. And yet, there was something very Indian about him. "Come inside Jai" Jeevan-kaka ordered the man, beaming at him. Jai?
It was an Indian name, Sanskrit for victory. "Put the suitcases down, and greet everyone son." Son? Jeevan uncle's sons were about the same age as this man, and one even younger, but none of them this fair or impressive looking. And none was called Jai either.
Then another thought struck Bani's mind. Could this man be Jeevan's love child? The man was even more puritanical than her father. She couldn't see him fathering an illegitimate son. Although, his wife was unattractive woman, and there were a remote possibility that he could have strayed. The stranger put the suitcases on the floor with a thud, which brought Bani back from her thoughts.
"Namaste," he cordially folded his hands towards Bani and her mother. He had an accent which she couldn't quite place. He had an interesting baritone voice.
Who was this man?
He looked like none of her cousins. Maybe he was a friend of Jeevan uncle's. Bani kept on guessing.
Her dad solved the mystery to some extent. "This is Jai Walia. He is Jeevan-bhai's business partner from London." Then he dropped another bombshell. "He will be staying with us."
Bani's mind went into a tailspin. Wasn't it bad enough that her uncle was going to stay with them already? And since when did Jeevan start having a side kick? But, as good hosts, Nishikant and Kiran welcomed Jai Walia and Jeevan Dixit into their home and ushered into the living room. As Bani followed them, she couldn't help but notice the man favour his right leg a little-an almost imperceptible limp.
Jeevan kaka glanced around the room before settling down on the old black couch. "You need new paint on the walls, Nishi." He'd been only for two minutes and he was already voicing out criticism.
"How about some hot chai Jeevan-bhai?" asked Kiran obviously trying to steer his attention away from the walls.
"No, Kiran, chai does not agree with me these days. You can make me a hot cup of masala doodh- nonfat milk with saffron, cardamom, a little bit clove, and almond paste."
Her mom's brow settled into a troubled frown. Jeevan's crazy demands have already begun. Thank goodness there was skimmed milk in the fridge because of her mother's strict diet.
"What would you like to drink Jai?"
Jai Walia was busy checking out the house, his gaze wandering over every painting, pillow, and carpet fibre. He looked up when addressed. "Something cold would be welcome, if you don't mind, sir"
Then she recognized the accent. British, very clipped and proper- the Queen's English. How interesting was that?
While her parents escaped into the kitchen to the drink orders, Bani sat stiffly in one of the chairs.
The man across the room looked at her, his assessing eyes intense beams of gray that rattled her a little
He would've been a good-looking man but for the unsmiling mouth that made him seem cold and remote, like a monolith standing alone, distant, watchful. Intimidating. She could tell nothing from his expression.
Thankfully her father arrived with a glass of soda for Walia, who accepted it with a word of thanks. The awkward silence was broken by her dad starting a conversation with her uncle. She made a convenient escape to the kitchen to help her mother.
Kiran turned her troubled eyes to Bani. "Not only does he bring enough clothes for a year, he brings a guest in the bargain," her mother whispered.
"Hmm. Who is he? I mean what's he to Jeevan kaka other than a business partner."
Shrugging, Kiran stirred the milk with a long-handled spoon. "How should I know? I just met him. Did you notice how fair he is?"
"And the eyes- they're a rare shade of gray." Those eyes were amazing. Bani brought out cups and saucer and placed them on the tray.
"Since he's planning to stay with us, which room does he get?" Their house wasn't big and guests always created a problem.
"Pushkar's room. Where else can I put him? I'll have to ask Pushkar to move down to the basement, on the sofa bed."
"That's not fair to Pushkar." Bani protested. Pushkar's room was next to hers. That meant some stranger was going to be sleeping in the bed some ten feet away from her- separated by a wall, of course. But the thought itself was unsettling.
In the living room, her dad, Jeevan-kaka, and Jai Walia were in a deep conversation about the store.
Jeevan-kaka lifted his cup and sniffed suspiciously. Then he took a single sip and grimaced. "Uh oh Kiran, did you sugar in this? I am a diabetic now. I can't take sugar."
"Oh, I'm sorry Jeevan-bhai. I had no clue; I'll make you another one."
Jeevan shook his head. "I will finish this, but next time, remember no sugar in anything."
Bani stared at her uncle. This was unexpected. The old Jeevan would have had a minor fit if he was given something that didn't meet his criteria. Her mother, too, was looking strangely at him. Was age catching up with him?
Bani focused back on the conversation happening between her father and her uncle.
"Jai is a genius in solving business problems. He has an MBA from Oxford University and he specializes in saving failing businesses. He travels to different parts of the world for doing this type of consulting. He knows everything."
So Jai Walia was offering his advice to them for free? Why?
"How did you and Jeevan-bhai hook up with each other?" asked Bani's father.
Walia cracked his first smile of the day. His gray eyes lost the barrier of coldness and thawed somewhat. "Jeevan-kaka had known me all my life. He had taught me everything."
Finishing the last of his soda, Walia nodded. "Uncle I would like to freshen up a bit and then maybe we can go to see the store."
Bani's father jumped up to grab his suitcase. "Jeevan-bhai you can take the guest room, and Jai you can go in Pushkar's room."
"Uncle, Auntie, I'd hate to impose..."
"Oh no son, you are not..." said Bani's father.
Great now he is getting Pushkar's room. He will be pissed off, thought Bani.
It was always the case, whenever some guests were over; the first person to get kicked out of their room was her brother.
After some brooding, Bani went upstairs to change. She couldn't wait to get out of the shapeless salwar kameez into some slacks and a T-shirt. If her uncle had a problem, so be it. Besides, he was going to be a long term guest, so better get used to it.
In the hallway outside her room, she came across Jai Walia who looked a lot less travel weary. His wide shoulders seemed to take up the width of the hallway. "I beg your pardon, Miss Dixit," he murmured and stood aside to let her pass.
As she went past him, she smelled his cologne. Very masculine and pleasant.
She went inside her room and shut the door. Miss Dixit. Last time someone called her that, she was an undergrad.
How long was Jai Walia planning to stay with them?
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