Joined: 14 October 2006
In the next few days things started easing up for Maan at the hotel. The loan was disbursed and his dues were settled. He could channelize his energies on implementing his innovative ideas rather than do fire fighting on a daily basis. He decided to re-orient and repackage his hotel as a home away from home. He believed that things don't need to be larger than life to be beautiful. Small can be made beautiful too. It was all in the presentation and personal attention to the guests. He got his guests to fill in forms as soon as they checked in. In it they can indicate their preferences in food and beverages. If, for instance, there is a guest with hypertension or diabetes, his meals will be accordingly modified for the duration of his stay. He needn't keep asking for less salt or less sugar every time he orders his meal. They can also indicate any special needs they may have. For instance, if they had to take their medication, they can indicate the timings of these medications. If they are at the hotel during these timings, they will be personally reminded. If they are out, they will get reminder calls/SMSes on their cells to take their medicines. If their spouses or children are celebrating their birthdays out of town during their period of stay in the hotel, the hotel will arrange to have bouquets and cards delivered to their houses for a nominal charge. Apart from that, the guests will be treated to free massages or herbal treatment if they were staying for 4 days or more. With such small gestures, Maan hoped that his guests will not only remember their stay at his hotel and keep frequenting it when they visit the city but also recommend it to their friends, relatives and acquaintances. His ideas were slowly catching on and business was beginning to pick up.
Four days after Christmas, he came home earlier than usual in order to take Geet to a movie which had released that day. He had got two free tickets from one of his friends and decided to surprise his wife. However, when he reached home he saw that it was locked. He was frustrated to return to a locked door. Opening the door he went in and waited for Geet impatiently. After half an hour Geet returned and was flustered when she realised Maan had already reached home before she could return. She stammered out that she had gone to visit some friend of hers but Maan did not seem too keen to hear her out. He brusquely asked her to get ready for they were going to the movie theatre. Geet was excited, for this was the first time they were going to a movie together. She eagerly asked him what movie they were going to watch but he did not respond. She realised that he was sulking because she wasn't home to greet him when he came. He had told her earlier that he hated to come home to locked doors and always looked forward to seeing her beautiful face at the door the minute he rings the bell. She always ensured that she was back well in time from her engagements but today unfortunately she got delayed because there was a bus strike. She also did not expect Maan to be back so soon. She felt bad that she had to lie to him about where she had gone but it was all for the good. She hoped that he would forgive her if and when he comes to know the reason. For the present, she decided to let him cool down. So she did not ask him any more questions as they got on to the bike and rode to the movie theatre. Sitting on the pillion she tentatively held his shoulder expecting him to ask her to hold him by the waist. Maan ignored her and sat rigidly on the bike.
On reaching there, he presented the tickets at the entrance and they took their seats. The first half of the movie, which starred Arjun Rampal, was passable, but the second half was positively boring. Maan's mood which was already bad only got worse. He whispered harshly to Geet that they better get going since the film was giving him a headache. Geet decided to push his buttons to get him out of his sulking mood. So she pretended to drool over Arjun Rampal's good looks. She went ga-ga over his physique and his greek god-like looks. Maan was getting more irritated by the minute and when it became too much to bear, he dragged her by her arm and pulled her out of the theatre. He took her to a secluded corner behind a pillar and burnt a scorching kiss on her lips as if to say she belonged to him and no one else. Although Geet was initially stunned by his extreme reaction, she sort of enjoyed his possessiveness. She teased him about being jealous of a screen hero when her entire life revolved around the real hero standing before her. Maan looked ashamed of himself and apologised for his crude behaviour. She smiled at him and lightly kissing him on his lips, she asked him to take her to some place which was not so dark and depressing like the interiors of a movie hall. He smiled back and asked her if she would like to go to the Juhu beach. She nodded excitedly and got on to the bike. This time when she put her hands on his shoulders, he lifted them and pulled them around his waist. Geet felt glad that things were back to normal and she slid her arms across his chest, pressing herself against his back. Maan felt thrilled to be embraced like this by his wife and that too in public. He would have never thought that was possible. 'She is turning to be quite a bundle of surprise', he thought to himself.
When they reached the beach, he parked his bike and they walked on the sands with their fingers interlaced. Geet looked longingly at the bhel puri stall, prompting Maan to get her a plate of bhel puri and they fed each other the stuff. Maan looked admiringly at her innocent face which glowed under the moonlight. He pushed back the strands of hair which were flying across her face in the breeze. As the night wore on, the chillness in the air increased and Geet hugged her shoulders to keep herself warm. Seeing her shivering, Maan put his arms around her and embraced her to his warmth. Geet closed her eyes and cherished his closeness. Later they returned home, cooked dinner together and had their meal before calling it a day.
The next day being the second last day of an eventful year in their lives, Geet decided to surprise Maan by taking lunch to his office. She knew he will be too busy the next day as it was New Year's eve and may forget to have his lunch. So she prepared an elaborate Punjabi meal and carried it to his hotel.
Maan was busy making elaborate arrangements to celebrate New Year's Eve at the hotel, wanting to make up for the low-key Christmas Eve celebrations. He arranged for dance performances by a troupe of Russian and Indian dancers who will showcase the rich cultural heritage of Russian and Indian folk dances. He also planned various competitions and games amongst the guests and the staff of the hotel. The culmination would be a ballroom dance involving all the couples staying at the hotel. He had just finished addressing a meeting with his staff about the upcoming celebrations when Geet entered in with her tiffin carrier. He was pleasantly surprised to see his beautiful wife and his eyes brightened when she told him she has brought him a special lunch. He guided her to the sofa on the corner of his cabin and ordered for a couple of plates. Geet serve the food on the plates. Seeing the number of items she had prepared for him, he was astounded.
"Geet, you took the trouble to prepare all this for me?" he asked her.
"Trouble? Doing things for you is a pleasure, not a trouble. Tell me, do you like it?" she asked eagerly.
"Mmmm... how can I not love anything which has your touch? I know I will love it," he said and delved into the food with great enthusiasm.
Looking at her, he realised that she was hardly eating anything as she was too absorbed in observing him satiate his appetite.
"Hey, are you not eating?" he asked her and taking some food from his plate, he fed her. As she delicately chewed the food, he noticed that a small morsel of food was stuck to the corner of her mouth. Taking it in his index finger, he sucked his finger.
"Can't afford to waste even a single morsel of such scrumptious food, especially after it has made a trip to those delicious lips," he said by way of explanation.
Geet blushed at his blatant flirting. Soon they finished their lunch and washed up. Geet took leave, saying she did not want to disturb his busy schedule.
"Honey, you already have disturbed me by coming here in the middle of the day. Now, I will be distracted for the rest of the day thinking of my stunningly beautiful wife," he joked.
Geet patted his arm and waved to him. Not being satisfied with just a wave he dragged her into his arms and gave her a wet goodbye kiss.
As Geet was leaving the hotel, she overheard a couple of his staff discussing their boss amongst themselves.
"Have you noticed that our boss has not changed one bit after taking over this hotel", said one.
"Yes, he is as down to earth as he was as a mere employee. He still comes in ordinary shirts and pants and not in business suits or tuxedos. He does not even wear a tie."
The first person said mockingly, "That is because he cannot afford one. I heard he is still living in a rented apartment in a chawl. The man is a star hotel owner only in paper. He is barely managing to make both ends meet."
"Is that so, Mr.Bansal?" asked the second one, sceptically.
"Yes. I wonder whether you will get your salaries next month. He seems to be splashing a lot of money in this New Year bash. Start looking out for jobs elsewhere before the hotel closes down for good," said the first guy scornfully, leaving the second guy confused and worried.
Geet was pained to hear such office gossip which spoke ill of her husband. She quickly hurried out from there. That afternoon she made a trip to the Raymond's Showroom and picked up a black business suit for around Rs.9,000 and three ties for around Rs.300 each. She paid for the purchases in cash.
After she reached home she wondered how she will explain the expensive spending and also find a way to convince Maan to wear the suit for the New Year's eve party. Maan was very sensitive to the dress issue. He believed that clothes do not make a man. While she agreed with his view, she also knew that it is not how the world perceived people. In fact in the hospitality industry and entertainment industry, the clothes one wears make up more than half of one's personality. She also has to impress upon him to talk to his people about the financial position of his hotel and assure them that things have started to improve so as to instill confidence in them. She was not sure how she was going to achieve all this without him losing his temper but she was willing to take the risk, for at the end of the day his well-being was paramount to her. Moreover, she has to slowly steel him up for the big secret she will be revealing to him later.
That evening she got a call on her cell.
"Yes, I'll be there by 5.45 p.m. tomorrow evening but you need to promise to let me leave by 7.00 p.m, even if your programme does not finish by then. I have another engagement to attend after that."
caller assured her that he will allow her to go well on time. She then waited for Maan's return apprehensively.
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