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"Is this what you want?" Dileep Khurana asked Maan glancing at the contract superficially.
"Yes. You can get it checked with Venkat and get approvals from all concerning parties," replied Maan. He had ensured that he was given free reign over Khurana Capital and unrestricted access to information. Primarily he didn't want his father to butt into business every now and then and force his decisions in. Unlike Vikram and Mitalee, he didn't have any ulterior motives to do this job.
No, actually he had. But his father didn't have to know that now, did he?
"I am sure your expectations are quite reasonable," Dileep asked his son.
"I can assure you that they are not. So consult Venkat and give me a call," said Maan getting up.
"You are leaving?" Dileep asked, surprise in his voice. Maan looked confused.
"The meeting is over, isn't it?" He asked running a hand on the back of his neck, a subconscious gesture he exhibited whenever he felt awkward.
"Yes...it's over." Dileep stalled. Maan raised an eyebrow. "I thought we could have lunch."
Maan didn't know how to respond. It wasn't as if this was the first time his father had invited him for lunch. Previously Dileep Khurana held an authoritative voice when he asked him for a meal. But that day, there was something holding him back.
"I mean...it's okay if you are busy. We can always do it later," Dileep added hastily noting Maan's silence. Maan then realized that he had delved into his thoughts for too long a duration to make his father uncomfortable.
"We can have lunch together." Maan said casually. He wondered if it was desperation in his father's voice or simple awkwardness.
-- o00o --
"Venkat will bring you up to speed as soon as possible," Dileep said taking a sip of coffee.
The lunch had progressed without too much of discussion however Dileep had indulged himself in small talk which made Maan to be terribly self-aware. He was a brilliant charmer, had natural with and his overall smartness made him pull off any conversation in most creative fashion. But with his father, he found himself nodding to the things he was being told and gave short answers whenever his input was needed.
"Why?" Maan asked.
"Venkat is Khurana Group counsel and he knows more about Khurana Capital than anyone else," Dileep replied.
"Venkat will not be working in Khurana Capital," Maan said in a final tone. Dileep did a double take.
"Why not? He has tremendous amount of business acumen and not to mention he is completely loyal to the company given how long he has been with us," Dileep reasoned.
"I don't disagree with the business acumen part but I have problems with his loyalty," said Maan.
Dileep gave him an unblinking stare. "I don't know why you think that!" He exclaimed finally.
"Venkat isn't loyal to the Khurana Group or Khurana Capital," said Maan putting down the drained coffee cup. "Venkat is loyal to only you," he added and stood up.
"How can you say something like that?" Dileep whispered.
"Loyalties are supposed to be built between two people over the period of time. And frankly, I don't think Venkat and I are there yet." He replied.
"But that would mean..." Dileep Khurana trailed.
"That would mean Venkat has nothing to do with any legal matters of Khurana Capital. I know that he has enough people in there to get whatever info you or he needs but I don't want him to be there officially, that's all." Maan said flatly.
"Why?" Dileep's tone had a hint of panic.
"He knows things about the company that I, as one of your sons, doesn't. What kind of a CEO will I be if I take legal counsel from a man whose decision is influenced by parameters that aren't even known to me? I don't like working with people who carry secrets that are like ticking time bomb. If I am to explode, then I will do it all on my own," slowly Maan explained. Dileep didn't know how to respond to that.
"Like I said before, you should take a look at that contract first and start talking about the change in management," Maan added when Dileep didn't reply but continued to stare at him.
"I am sure we can come to some sort of agreement," said Dileep and stood up to see off his son.
"The choices you have at the moment with respect to this contract are - Take it or leave it." Maan said with a wan smile. Dileep's smile faltered. He didn't say anything further and sat back on the sofa as Maan bid his goodbye and left the house.
Dileep Khurana stayed that way for a long time.
When did Maan become so ruthless?
-- o00o --
"So? How did he take it?" Emily asked as soon as she saw Maan's face appear in doorway. Maan, Emily and Satya had holed up in Satya's apartment and it had now turned to their temporary office.
Officially, the three of them were unemployed and Satya decided that it would be best if they all met up on a regular basis at his apartment. He had panicked when Emily arrived with a small bag with clothes in it. Satya had totally panicked and Maan started giving him knowledge about live-in relationships. They whispered to each other like girls which got to Emily's nerves quite soon.
"I always have a pair of clothes as back-up, just in case. I had the same bag at office too." She scolded them, hands on her hips. She rolled her eyes when Satya let out a sigh of relief and Maan looked positively beaming.
He had revised contract several times and Satya had reviewed each and every line at least two dozen times.
"It went alright. He first agreed to everything." Maan said removing his jacket.
"He read the whole contract so fast? It's one hundred and seventy nine pages document," said Satya surprise evident in his voice.
"He didn't read it. He glanced through few words I suppose. I think he initially assumed that it was simply a formal handover and transition document wrapped in a contract to save my ass," he said chuckling.
"When did he realize then?" Emily asked.
"When I told him that I am not going to have Venkat anywhere close to Khurana Capital, he paled." Maan said.
"Did he say why?" Satya asked. Maan shook his head.
"I think I know why," said Maan moments later. Emily and Satya looked at him motioning to continue.
"He wanted to know what I would be doing there and ensure that I wouldn't take any decision that would shake the very foundation of Khurana Group," replied Maan thoughtfully.
"Is it like digging up the past?" Emily asked. Maan nodded. "But Maan you won't have time for any of that," she said.
"I know that Emily. But from his perspective, it's still possible and it can be potentially dangerous."
"Or it could be as simple as father looking out for his son," the ever optimistic Satya replied.
Emily and Maan stared at him. "Or maybe not," Satya sighed.
"I would however..." Maan trailed as the caller on his cellphone caught his attention. Emily and Satya displayed equal surprises on their face when he tilted the phone to show them the name.
-- o00o --
"I am sorry for calling you from out of the blue Maan," Maya said handing him a glass of cold water.
"It's fine Maya aunty. In case you haven't heard, I don't have a job," he grinned as he accepted the glass. Maya smiled.
"What are you doing here?" Geet asked as she came in.
"Nice way to welcome guests Geet," Maan said cheerfully. Geet gave him a blank look.
"I called him Geet. I had something to talk to him," her mother answered on behalf of her boyfriend. She looked at her mom to continue but Maya didn't offer any more details.
"Is something wrong, Maya aunty?" Maan asked slowly when he saw that Maya wasn't meeting his eye but was looking down at her clasped hands on her lap. Maya wasn't a woman who hid behind walls of emotions; she was practical and dealt with things head on.
"I have something to give you," she said. Maya took the wooden box that was placed on the coffee table and handed it to him. Maan took it and look at it questioningly. He looked at Geet hoping for an answer but all he received her from was a shrug. She didn't know either.
"Who is it from?" He asked.
"It's from Pratap. He wanted you to have this," she replied. Maan was shocked. He immediately looked at Geet who was fighting tears. He clasped her hand in his free hand and turned back at Maya.
"Why didn't you give this to me till now?" He demanded.
"It wasn't time for you to have it yet." Maya replied.
He hated this Yoda-styled answers. He took a deep calming breath and kept his temper in check.
"How did you decide upon that Maya aunty?" He asked.
"Pratap wrote it in a letter to me Maan. He asked me to give it to you when you become a part of Khurana Group and get close to becoming CEO of Khurana Capital - the building block of Khurana Group," Maya said softly. Maan nodded.
"Thanks for safekeeping this all these years Maya aunty," Maan said sincerely. Maya shook her head.
Maan opened the box a moment later to find a pocket watch. The trinket bought a pleasant memory in his head.
-- o00o --
"Why do you carry that in your pocket Pratap uncle?" A ten year old Maan asked the older Maan.
"This one? It's a gift from my father who received it from his father. When I hear the sound of tick-tock-tick-tock, I feel more alive," Pratap replied.
By looking at the young boy's face he knew that he wasn't making much sense to the little boy but he had answered the question honestly.
"Can I touch it once?" Maan asked earnestly. Pratap chuckled.
"Of course you can," he said and handed it to Maan.
"It's so pretty," said Maan holding the pocket watch in both his hands.
"Isn't it? It doesn't show numbers like other digital watches do. It isn't like a wrist watch - displaying for the entire world to see. Pocket watch is more personal and is private from the world's eyes. The beauty and the time belong only for the owner to see and not to anyone else. You develop a close bond with it, though unwilling at first. It stays close to you, the gentle clicking sounds reminds you of the past that was, future that is going to be and the present that is." Pratap replied, serenity taking over the two men.
"Do you understand what I said Maan?" He asked. The little boy shook his head.
"I don't uncle Pratap. But I will never forget the words," Maan said fervently. His eyes had a tinge of sadness when he handed back the watch to Pratap. Pratap knew about Maan's excellent memory retention thus he was sure that Maan would one day understand what he truly meant.
"You know what Maan? Once you grow up and become the man that you are capable to be, I will give this watch as a present."
"Really?" Maan asked joyous. As Pratap nodded, he ran and jumped into his arms and hugged his Godfather tight.
-- o00o --
"Thank you Maya aunty. You have no idea what this means to me," Maan said, his voice thick with emotion. Maya ruffled his hair and left him and Geet alone in the living room.
"Dad promised that he will give it you one day, right?" Geet asked remembering the story that Maan had once told her.
"He told me that he will give this to me when I become the man that I am capable of; at least as per his standards," replied Maan. He ran his fingers on the cold and smooth surface of the watch.
"What is it?" Geet asked when she saw Maan frown as he looked at the watch.
"This should belong to you," he said suddenly. Geet looked at him in surprise. "I mean your father got it from his father and his father from his grandfather. You are the true inheritor of this watch," he said.
"Don't be an idiot Maan. Dad gave it you."
"He saw you like his own son Maan. Don't insult his feelings by uttering this 'I don't deserve this' nonsense," said Geet in a no-nonsense tone.
"Thanks Geet," Maan said after moments of comfortable silence.
"Everything," he replied, smiling.
"Eh?" She looked baffled.
He chuckled at her expression.
Kicking out all the rational thought away from his mind, he pulled her close and swept her in a kiss.
Who said he had stopped being impulsive? He simply hadn't found anything he could lose his sanity for; until he saw her looking at him with baffled expression.
Fu*k rationality, he thought as he deepened the kiss.
To be continued.
Music companion of the day: You get what you give by New Radicals
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