Posted: 14 July 2010 at 3:42am | IP Logged
okay its kindof a boring update...but promise things will heat up in the sometime!!
Bani prepared herself for the ride to the store. They were all piled up in her father's van which usually was used for merchandises. But right now, it served as a passenger vehicle.
It was typical New Jersey weather in summer- hovering on hot and just turning mildly humid. Despite the AC being on, the ten minute ride felt stuffy and long.
"So many sari shops!" commented Jeevan-kaka as he looked out of the window.
"Yes Jeevan-bhai. Competition is very excessive here" Usha said to him.
Walia was quietly surveying the neighbourhood, his dark stormy eyes hidden behind his sunglasses. Bani was curious to know what he thought of the landscape and how different was it from Britain and other cities he had visited.
They reached the store in some, but to Bani it felt like a long drive. She noticed how everyone except Walia walked towards the store. He went around the sidewalk ignoring the door opened by Bani's father. Her curious gaze followed him but he disappeared around the curb. Bani felt anger rising in her throat, but she followed her father and went into the shop.
"How rude!" she muttered.
She stood inside the shop whilst Jeevan looked around the shop. She felt like every nook and corner was being scrutinized by her uncle and his so called friend. She was waiting for them to say something about their shop but Walia was just standing outside their shop, looking or rather staring at something. She turned around and looked towards her uncle. He was still looking around as well.
Just as Bani was about to ask Jeevan-kaka something, she heard the front door open and Jai Walia finally walked in. Bani turned around thinking Walia would have something to say but when he just kept a steady stare at Bani, she turned right around to face her father.
"Ahem, so Jai what do you think?" Jeevan said. "You know, Bani does all of the designs. She has studied in fashion designing and has many years of experience. She custom designs everything herself. She is very good nah?"
"Yes, they are nice kaka". Jai was surprised and somewhat pleased with the fact that Bani custom designed everything.
Bani turned around to see Jai and Jeevan talking amongst themselves. She couldn't hear them, so she moved a little closer to get better access. Walia did not look impressed. But, she could care less. It was her store, and she wondered what they were talking about. Probably talking about how they could transform the store, or worse make it theirs. Her uncle acquired business at the same frequency he bought an underwear. She had to save what was left of hers. This store was everything to her. Her dreams, her loss, her pain, her love...everything pooled into this store.
The two fellows hadn't moved an inch from their spot. Still standing near the doorway, they were in a deep conversation.
Bani's mother came close to her yet her eyes were glued at the door. "What could they possibly be talking about till now?"
Bani shrugged her shoulders as if not wanting to know their conversation yet her insides leapt towards Walia and Jeevan. She took the saris from the box and started arranging them properly.
She could care less but she knew she was lying. "Have you cleaned the back room Bani?" her mother whispered.
"No, I haven't gone there yet, maybe I should go". "Yes, Bani we should clean up everything that we can before they come and start inspecting the store".
Bani's mother and she left towards the back and cleaned up anything they could in the given time. By the time they came back, Walia and Jeevan had moved closer and were now audible.
"But what if that fellow refuses to sell, Jai?" her uncle asked.
"We'll offer him a fair price. No one refuses a good offer." Bani heard cool confidence in Walia's voice. "You know that as well as I".
And what exactly they meant by that, Bani wondered. Her mind was racing to conclusions so ghastly, she couldn't even think anymore. A sudden headache was starting to form. Was Walia talking about her father? Were they planning on buying this boutique from them? But they were mentioning about some fellow.
She couldn't take it anymore and trudged towards them to question their intentions regarding her boutique. They were carefully studying one of the displays. It was Bani's latest bridal wear. She had the mannequins pose under a wedding mandap. The bride was wearing traditional gold and red while the groom wore a cream silk, tuxedo-style jacket over matching trousers. The bride's dress was designed somewhat like an American bridal gown, with slightly puffed sleeves and a low neckline and showcased the ruby and pearl necklace to perfection. She had at least three bridal couples who had fallen in love with the particular design and ordered similar outfits in recent months. She was particularly proud of her designs.
Itching to hear the men's comments, she hid behind one of the tall clothing racks to eavesdrop on their conversation. Walia still had his dark glasses hooked over his shirt pocket. He touched the embroidered sleeve on the brides outfit. "This is good, Jeevan-kaka, elegant...clever."
"All designed by our Bani, Jai. She is very talented in these things you know."
A brief smiled touched Bani's face.
"Everything here is quite impressive...infact the clothes and designs aren't the problem! We have to come up with a plan to expand this business. Maybe, make it a one stop, one of a kind type of store".
Bani was shocked. They were thinking of turning it into some kind of a run of the mill departmental store!
She was furious beyond words. Her anger was at a high point where she almost yelled from where she was hiding. She then noticed both of them coming towards her, she hid behind the display as they passed her.
"You can come out Miss Dixit?" Jai came out of nowhere and caught her off guard.
"Oh" Bani gasped and stood still without any explanations.
"Were you spying on Jeevan-kaka and I? He perturbed her with a questionable gaze, his accent more clipped than ever.
"Well ...I..I was looking around my store, and it's my property and I can go where ever I wish to on my property."
Bani told me as if threatening him indirectly to not cause chaos in her life. She was a wounded tigress trying to protect what was left in her life.
"Seems to me like you wanted to know what Jeevan-kaka and I were talking about" Jai said in a as a matter of fact statement.
"Not at all"
Walia looked enviably cool. He was standing so close she could see the scar on his eyelid clearly, and the thin black rims of his steel gray irises. Steel gray-that's what the shade was. And just as cold and hard as the metal. She shivered a little.
"One of the drawbacks of having mirrored walls is that one can see everything around in a single glance," he said. "I saw you emerge from the office and stop when you spied on us".
"Maybe. Besides, it's my store and I have a right to know what you are planning to do with it"
A hint of humour appeared in making the steel gray turn into a softer gray, more like pewter.
"Since you eavesdropped, you heard it all"
To give her shaking hands something to do, she picked up a scarf and started adjusting it on the mannequin. "All I gathered was that you were planning on turning my boutique into a departmental store"
He became silent for a moment before answering with a bemused smile, "Department store? Where did you get that idea?"
She realized something. The flash of humour in his face was like a mantle lifting away from him. A human being existed underneath that cold, granite-like facade. And she wasn't sure if she like or disliked the discovery.
Her uncle saw them approaching. "here they are." He motioned to them to step inside the office.
"Jai, I was waiting for you so we could tell them together what you and I were discussing about."
Bani looked at her parents. It was hard to judge what her father was thinking at that moment. Her mother looked tense, brittle enough to shatter.
Perhaps the earth shattering news was now approaching them.
"Jai, tell them, son," said Jeevan, looking rather pleased at his so called son. "He has a brilliant plan, Nishikant," he assured his brother.
Jai stood with his hands in his pockets and surveyed the room for a moment, once again seemingly studying every detail. "You have a marvellous store here, Jeevan-kaka and I are really impressed with the designs and everything".
"But?" Bani spat it out.
"But.... I think it needs something more."
"It could use some upgrading...I mean considerable upgrading.... My recommendation is a complete overhaul—an expansion, if you will"
"We are up to our eyeballs in debt. The last thing we need is to sink more money into the business," Bani said.
He offered her a reassuring smile. "You don't need to worry on that count, Miss Dixit. Jeevan-kaka and I are planning to finance this operation."
"You are loaning us the money?"
"Actually... we are going to be your partners...fifty-one percent of the debt".
"That means you will own fifty-one percent of the store". Bani felt the carpet being jerked out from underneath her.
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Edited by chander992 - 14 July 2010 at 3:45am