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Recap - Khanak has verbally acknowledged her love for Shantanu. This makes him really happy and he wants to talk to her but gets diverted by seeing a column in the newspaper that she was trying to read.
Shantanu affirms to become more responsible and works towards it. Shaan asks Khanak if she trusts him and wants her to support him while he asks his dad to make his business project a completely independent venture. Khanak assures him of her confidence in his decisions. They make Sunil understand their point of view who finally agrees. On her way back home, Khanak goes to the temple where she loses her purse and meets Gaurav who tries his best to help her.
Contd. from here –
Gaurav turned around to go to his own car and smiled at this different, funny and strange experience, completely oblivious to the fact that She was Shantanu Khandelwal's wife.
After opening the main door of the apartment with his key, Gaurav locked it back and kept the key on the table just near the door.
"How come you are late?" it was a frail voice behind him.
"Oh, Ma….there was a lot of rush in the temple. And you know….a funny incident happened there. I met this strange girl who lost her purse. I was just trying to help her and it took some time to locate her driver.…..why do u worry Ma?"
"I was not worrying….I was waiting for the breakfast. Come…..have it."
At the breakfast table, Sharda asked her son about the incidence.
"Why did you say that it was a funny incident?"
"It was…..believe me…..and very strange too. She made me run from pillar to post in search of her black car, just because it did not strike her that she remembered her husband's number. I don't think she has gone beyond her school ever….looked like she was from a small city….but you know, she had come in a Mercedes !"
"So what?......her husband must be a rich man."
"Of course…some filthy rich businessman," he spoke, while trying to recollect the incident, "That is what intrigues me….…she was not as dim-witted as she gave an initial impression. In fact, I found her very intelligent…..then what made her fall in the trap of a middle-aged, fat, rich man from Mumbai."
"Did you see her husband?"
"Nopes………just imagined him……by logic," he smiled very confidently, looking at his mom, "A person who is rich….owns a Merc…..stays in Mumbai…….marries a less- educated young girl from a small city…or maybe a village…..can't be a hot dude obviously…..He has to be aging, hopeless, fat and very dull. I think it must be his second marriage. A complete loser……."
"She appears to be some poor innocent girl. Oh…I feel for her," Sharda said softly.
"Forget it Ma .……..I went to the temple because you told me to….now don't you ever tell me that I never listen to you….and now I think I should move fast…..or I'll be late for my meeting. Let's see, if something materialises." He had finished his breakfast.
His mom sat still with a dull expression.
"What happened?" Gaurav asked, while getting up from the table
"Gaurav….sit," she made him sit back, and continued, "I know you are not happy here. I should have been more understanding and co-operative."
"It's ok Ma..," he hugged her while speaking slowly.
"You had a good job and a promising career in Canada. You were well settled with a place for yourself and I made you come back just because I did not want to shift from India."
"It's fine Ma…..we have talked about it. And now that I have come here, I don't really think about it. My focus now, is to carve a niche for myself in this city."
"And get settled……get married," Sharda tried to complete it for him.
"Yes, definitely…….Shall I move now?"
He picked up his files and his laptop for the meeting. and almost rushed to gather things before leaving.
It was almost an hour since Shantanu came back home but he was not getting any chance to talk to Khanak. He tried twice but she was busy initially in the kitchen and then was around the dining table.
He wanted to know about the incidence at the temple and whether she was fine, but was not getting a chance. Finally he reached the dining table and sat on his chair looking at Khanak. She nodded in a subtle 'No', as she did not want to tell everybody about the morning incident.
As she served him, he gestured her to sit down. And after placing everything on the table, she came to sit on the chair near him. She looked at him and was moved with the concern in his eyes. He slowly moved his left hand on the table and before anybody could see it, he slid it over her right hand. She was startled at first and immediately out of reflex action, lowered her hand beneath the table but could not free it from his strong hold.
After a few futile attempts, she gave up trying to dis-entangle herself to let his hand hold hers.
Everybody was busy in their own conversations. Akshay and Sunil were discussing of Shaan's decision to be independent in which Madhavi also took interest and Shaan listened to all intently while caressing the back of her hand with his thumb.
"Arrey Khanak, why are you not eating?" noticed dadi.
"Dadi…..I am not hungry," she meekly replied, she again tried to free her hand from below the table.
"But you should eat beta…..you will become weak." said Sunil.
"No……..I mean I'll eat later," the more she tried to separate, the more his grip tightened.
"This is not done Khanak…..aisey nahin chalega," this time it was Shaan with a totally innocent face, and continued, "why later?......you have to eat with all of us."
She gave a weak smile to dadi and all and turned to give a stern look to Shaan….she asked him to leave her using her eyes, but he just kept smirking.
Finally she ate when Shaan left her hand after a lot of grave looks.
Khanak quickly finished giving the instructions to the three helpers and left them to clear the table and the kitchen. She smiled as she remembered that Shantanu had told her to give away her empire to the staff….
Shaan was sitting on the floor near the pool with some papers in his hand when he saw Khanak coming to him. She looked very pretty in a pristine cream coloured salwar kurta with a chiffon dupatta.
"I was looking for you all over the place, and you are sitting here." She said softly.
He looked deep in thought. She came closer and sat down near him.
They sat facing the pool and spoke nothing for a few minutes. The moonlight falling and scattering on the still water in the pool augmented the serenity.
Shaan kept the papers on one side and said, "batao…"
"Kya….?" She asked, turning to him. For a moment she had forgotten everything.
"Whatever happened at the temple," he said.
"Arrey woh….," and she started telling him about the incident in her own flow, making all sorts of hand gestures and face expressions, giving every minute detail, and how Gaurav helped her and saved her from being crushed in the crowd.
He listened to her patiently and then reached out to her to bring her closer. He took her in an embrace and held her with her back leaning against his chest. She slowly slid her hands over his forearms which were holding her from the back and caressed him.
He kissed her hair and spoke in an unhurried tone, "Please take care from now on, whenever you go out on your own……just cram the home and office addresses, all the numbers and emergency numbers," he spoke in one breath, "I'll ask you tomorrow."
The concern touched Khanak.
But she was also surprised, "I was scared that you'll get angry and I thought you will tell me not to go out on my own anymore…."
He was amused at the way she spoke.
"I know you count me among 'burthals' but I am a lot better, you know," he said, teasing her, "On a serious note, it won't help to sit at home. I wish to see you as an independent woman……..so in fact, you should go out alone more often, just take a few precautions and slowly you will learn the ways of the city. Thousands of women move around the city alone, even by public transport….and you are no less."
She got up to sit and turned to look at him.
"What happened?" he looked at her surprisingly.
"Shantanu, main aap par bahut 'proud' hoon…."
"Proud?" he chuckled, "who told you this word?"
"Bhool gaye ? yesterday morning you read that article from the newspaper and told me this word….remember?" she tried to remind him.
"Wah…..you are so talented yaar," his naughty tone was back, "Itni acchi student ?.......tumhaari classes phir se shuroo karni padengi…"
"toh kariye na…..mujhe bhi bahut saare shabd poochne hai….jo maine TV par sune hain."
"TV par?....,"he faked a frown, "Kaun sa channel, Hmmm?"
She just grinned and hit him lovingly on his arm making a fist.
"Ok let's go to our room and from now on…no more carelessness….especially at public places. Be more alert. You are lucky to have met a nice person by sheer co-incidence."
"Arrey…." She jumped, "I said the same thing to that man and you know what a beautiful reply he gave...he said 'there is no such thing as co-incidence, and we meet only those people who we are destined to' that means nothing happens like that…."
For a fraction of a second, Shantanu was stunned by the words.
Exactly what Gaurav used to say. He thought.
But in the same breath, he just shrugged and discarded the thought.
"What happened? Why did you do like that?" She was perplexed to see him lost in his thoughts for a second and then shrug.
"Nothing significant….actually I had a friend in college who used to say this sentence every now and then and we used to pull his leg." He tried his best to act indifferent.
"Who was he? Tell me more about him."
"Later Khanak….I am very sleepy right now. Let's go." He said curtly and stood up.
"But….I like to sit here." She did not get up.
He made a hand gesture for her to stand up.
"No…..I am not going." She still kept sitting.
He bent down a little and started tying his shoe laces,
"Agar tum yeh soch rahi ho ki aisa karne se main tumhe utha kar le jaunga…..toh…"
"Toh bol do….."he said bluntly and then smirked, " maine tumhe kabhi na kaha hai kya?"
"Main kyon bolun…..aapko khud se hi utha lena chahiye na?
"Mujhe kya pata ki tum kya soch rahi ho…….ho sakta hai ki tumhe accha na lagta ho…"
"Nahin nahin Shantanu…….mujhe toh bahut accha lagta hai……..balki jab aap….,"she went on speaking in a flow…..realised and stopped herself only when she saw him laughing and reaching out to take her in his arms.
Shantanu took longer than usual in the shower. It was normal for him, when he had something disturbing him and since last night there was a sense of uneasiness that he constantly felt.
All this while he was thinking about the college and his friends especially Gaurav, his once best friend. Hundreds of thoughts crossed his mind within a few minutes.
The Gaurav I knew will never go to a temple….at least I had never seen him in all those years…..definitely it can't be Gaurav. The statement Khanak told is a very common and generalised one….can be used by anyone in this world. This doesn't mean that I should derive something out of it. And anyways Gaurav Khanna is settled in Canada….the last news I heard of him….He kept thinking.
He wore a blue checked shirt that was one of the favourites of Khanak. While putting the buttons on, he impulsively left it halfway and picked up his mobile from the bed and started searching for the incoming call that had come on his phone, the day before. After a few minutes, he found it. It was a local number.
"Khanak….," he turned to look at Khanak who was making the bed, and asked, trying to make sure that he didn't look eager, "Do you think, for courtesy sake, I should call that stranger to thank him for being helpful to you?"
Khanak stopped the work for few moments, looked straight at him and said , "Yes Of course, you should call him and tell him how thankful we are. There are very few people in this world who do this for strangers….we are indebted in fact."
Shaan still had the phone in hand with Gaurav's number on the scroll. Khanak left her work and came to stand beside him.
"At least ek baar to phone karma chahiye," she said.
"Did he tell you his name?" Shaan looked into the phone and started fidgeting to avoid her sharp eyes.
"Yes….," Khanak tried to remember,"it was a nice name………haan…..it was Gaurav."
For a moment Shaan was dumbfounded. He couldn't believe what he heard.
"Haan………..Gaurav naan tha."
"How did he look like?" He asked and without waiting for the answer, rushed to fetch his laptop, "wait a second…….." he said down on the bed with his laptop.
"What happened to you suddenly?" she was clueless to his attitude.
"One minute Khanak….give me some time…" he said while waiting for the laptop to boot and then get connected.
Khanak nodded and placed herself on the bed to sit beside him, though she did not understand one bit.
He connected to the 'facebook' and logged in….Khanak was amused to see all this…but decided to observe without being much vocal unless he asked her as she did not want to disturb him….
He typed 'Gaurav Khanna' in the search box and within a second got the account….
There were many photographs of Gaurav, which he showed Khanak.
"Oh My God……" Khanak could not resist opening her mouth.
Shaan touched her chin to lift it up so as to close her open mouth, and asked, "Yeh tha?"
Khanak nodded heavily in a 'Yes' still shocked to say something and widened her eyes to look at him.
To be continued……
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