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"Where is the prodigal?" Mitalee asked the two men and a young woman in that room.
"It's only eleven in the morning Mitalee. He must be waking up in some strange place surrounded by half naked woman, half empty bottles of alcohol and a massive headache," Vikram replied in disdain.
The family of Khurana was gathered in their ancestral home outside the city for the customary weekly breakfast and an update meeting with their father. Vikram was the eldest son and looked after Khurana construction which was the oldest company in Khurana conglomerate. The forty-four year old Vikram had severe gambling problem; only that he gambled on the company funds using Dalal Street as his poker table.
"I am sure he has his reasons," Varun said wiping his forehead. "Why is it so hot in here?" He asked. Everyone ignored his question.
Varun, forty-one year old, was the second child and much meeker than his older brother Vikram and his younger sister Mitalee. His weakness was film wannabe starlets and it had cost him two marriages. He shadowed his brother in Khurana Constructions hoping that one day his father would entrust him with a company of his own. That and produce a film for his latest lover. The market didn't pay much heed to him as much as Vikram or Mitalee given his sniveling appearance but the family knew what the second brother was capable of; viciousness was in his blood.
"I am sure he does; like open bar in his favorite club or a party at a farmhouse," Mitalee commented dispassionately.
When Mitalee called for a press conference about an acquisition or a merger, Dalal Street groaned while the media and investors crossed fingers. Couple of months ago finance magazine had called her a beautiful mercenary when she had turned thirty eight. Though Vikram didn't show it in open she knew that he was weary of her existence. He was worried that she would be the thorn in his path of success. Given her persona, he was completely right in his worry.
"Where is Maan?" Venkat, head of the legal and the senior Khurana's closest aide asked.
"I am right behind you," Maan said coming in. He didn't bother to greet his family. There was no need because he knew that with in next ten seconds, one of his siblings would taunt him.
"You are late. Not that great things or even decent things are expected out of you, can you at least show up on time? Not everyone has time to spare like you do," Vikram grumbled. When Maan didn't answer and simply picked nails, Mitalee interjected.
"Who are you expecting decent things from Vikram? What can you expect from the son of a mere concubine?" Mitalee said casually thumbing through a magazine. When there was no response Mitalee looked up and saw Maan still in the same position as before. She frowned at the lack of response.
"Mitalee, why do you bring the same topic again and again every week?" Varun asked.
"Why the f**k are you defending him Varun? He is twenty eight for god's sake and he still thinks that he is just out of college by partying like crazy and dating every other girl he meets. I don't know why father provided him with all those shares when they should have been given to us logically." Mitalee fumed. The cool and calm ice princess lost all of her cool when Maan became part of the equation. His existence was unbearable for her.
"Who cares a shit what you think sister. I think it's time you stop acting like a spoilt twelve year old little girl who didn't get to be daddy's little favorite girl all the time. Seriously Mitalee, when I heard that you were dating that investment banker from that foreign bank I didn't expect that it was the daddy complex that was driving you to do so. Nice to now," Maan said cheerfully. Mitalee's face contorted in cold anger.
"You bloody bastar*d. And I mean that literally little brother," Mitalee sneered and climbed the stairs leading to her father's room.
"They are here sir," Venkat said to the man who was playing chess. The man continued to move the black and white pieces without acknowledging his children who were in his room. He paused form his game and looked at Maan.
"Checkmate in twelve," Maan said glancing at the board. When his father turned back to the board he saw Mitalee watching his and his father's interaction discreetly. He didn't miss the scowl in her face and the thin veil of disbelief in her eyes.
Fifteen minutes later, Dileep Khurana, chairman of Khurana group of companies stopped his game and walked where his children were waiting. Like the routine, the first three siblings spoke about their progress, hits and misses during the week.
"Do you have any plans to go to work?" The chairman asked Maan finally. Maan had preferred to stand, leaning on a wall.
"No. I am happy the way I am," Maan said casually.
"You are not a boy anymore. Mitalee take him with you starting tomorrow." The words had a ring of finality in them.
"No." "No." The brother and sister answered at the same time.
"Why can't you?" His father chose to ask him rather than his daughter.
"I told you father. I am happy the way I am."
"Is this the way a man of your talent lives? Is this how you want to live for the rest of your life?" His father was slowly losing his temper.
"What's wrong with the way I live? I am happy, I am out of everyone's hair and I mind my own business." Maan retorted.
"You want to spend rest of your life chasing girls and drowning in alcohol?" His father shouted.
"Why not? You did the same when you were my age, didn't you? At least I don't bring random women home and screw them right under my wife's nose. I am smart enough not to be married." Maan retorted cruelly.
Maan didn't even wince when the crystal ashtray made contact with his right eyebrow and shattered in to pieces. But it was Vikram's slap that made him lose his footing and crash on a small table that constituted of ornate glass. The pieces of glass stuck on his left arm, wrist and palm as they bore the maximum exposure to impact.
When he raised his eyes, he saw his father's standing by the window looking at the ocean and his oldest brother had wrath in his eyes. He spared a cold smile to his siblings and he was gently lifted by the house helps.
-- o00o --
"Why are you here?" Geet asked looking at Maan who had a cut near his eyebrow and various lengths cuts on his left arm. She had had a very long and a hellish day at ER and now that Maan was here, she knew that there was someone out there who had cursed her really bad for something like this to happen.
"This is not a hospital? I swear I saw the big boards with white neon lights saying so. There must be something wrong with my eyes. I am sorry ma'am," Maan said. Geet rolled her eyes.
"I meant why here in ER and not in VIP ward?" Geet asked again silently praying God to FedEx her extra kilogram of patience immediately.
"I have an emergency. So I am in ER. Are you going to treat me or not?" Maan asked slowly getting annoyed.
"Get him a wheelchair please," Geet said to the nurse who was standing next to the bed where Maan was sitting on.
"But what's wrong with me being in ER? Is it because there is no privacy for you and me here?" Maan asked her without blinking an eye.
"If the director comes to know that I have treated you in ER and not cajoled you to the VIP ward I will be thoroughly lectured and probably be given too many night shifts in coming weeks. So please stop acting like an immature five year old, cut the childish act and do as I say. Don't make me smack you," Geet said and heaved a sigh. Maan was looking at her thoughtfully.
"I didn't know you were into dominatrix Geet. No, am not judging you but am just saying. But a little kinky, if you ask me." Maan said seriously.
Geet mentally counted from one to ten in eleven different languages. 'God, I need that patience FedEx, like right now', she thought feverishly.
"You know what needs to be done for VIP patients correct? If you don't then talk to the resident there and they will be able to help you. I will come there in thirty minutes." Geet said to the nurse. The young woman nodded.
"And you - behave," she said glaring down at Maan who was comfortably seated in wheelchair and left without a word.
"What's got her panties in a twist?" Maan asked the nurse who was standing next to him. He rolled his eyes when the nurse giggled at his rhetorical question.
-- o00o --
"Let me guess. A woman's husband saw you with his wife and you both fought?" Geet asked.
"Did you lose your imagination before you hit puberty or studying medicine has made you creative part of your brain sterile?" Maan was being exceptionally creative in insulting her. She had asked him about the cuts and bruises on his arm and forehead for which he had asked her to guess the reason. It was ten minutes into the game and she was nowhere near winning.
"You tripped and fell," Geet said bandaging his forehead.
"My amazing and imaginative insults would be wasted if I answer this. So I am going to maintain silence," he haughtily said contradicting his own words.
"This is going to sting a bit," Geet said and started removing glass splinters from his arm. She was surprised to see his eyes focused on an abstract painting on the wall and his face didn't reflect pain. The look on his face was unsettling and she hurried in her task so that he would be relieved from this pain as soon as possible.
"Geet, why are you wearing a man's shirt to work? Had a looong night yesterday, did we now?" Geet looked murderous.
"I am not wearing anyone's shirt let alone a man's. This shirt is mine. My sister gave it to me yesterday." Geet didn't know why she was defending herself.
"That is a man's shirt," Maan replied looking up and down her torso.
"My face is up here jackass," Geet said pulling a shard of glass without mercy. Maan yelped and glared at her. She smiled sweetly at him in response.
"How can you say so confidently that it's a man's shirt?" Geet asked cleaning the cuts once more and looking at his arm for any leftover piece of glass.
"I know it because I am a man and I have been wearing shirts all my life and also that I removed shirts from women for at least a decade now," Maan said as if he was talking about coffee and pie.
"And the big lesson that came out of this laborious activity is..." Geet trailed.
"A man's shirt has buttons on the right side of the shirt while the woman's shirt has buttons on the left side. That's how I know whether it's a man's shirt or a woman's." Maan said. Geet's hands stilled and she looked up and stared at him.
"It's creepy how you know things that most of the human population wouldn't even observe," Geet said shaking her head.
"So Nayantara bought you this shirt huh?" Maan asked. Geet nodded.
"She saw this shirt and bought it for me as it's a good brand and was on sale. I think in her hurry she didn't notice what she was picking up," Geet shrugged and replied. "There, all done." She added and gathered the scrap bandages blood soaked cotton.
"She has always been the clever one when compared to you. She gave you a present that was wrapped in thinly veiled insult to your femininity and the naive idiot that you are, think that she was in a hurry to pick up a shirt from the men's section." Anger laced his voice. Her face held no emotion and it was as passive as it can get.
"Good night sir." Geet whispered harshly and walked out of the room in a flash. Maan stared at the door for a long time before falling asleep.
To be continued.
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