If Khanak Jadeja was anxious, Shaantanu Khandelwal was fidgety. If she was hesitant to write, he was eager to read. If she was awaiting enlightenment, so was he. So were they then similar or different? Only time would tell. Time and their letters.
Of course both of them knew this.
After a few days had passed since he had posted his reply, Shaantanu Khandelwal- the so-called carefree dare devil- was once again found pacing in his office. Jaws taunt, eyes focused deep into a thought known only to his mind, lips pursed as if they speeded up the thought process.
Khanak would have received his letter for sure. Then why hadn't she replied yet?
Had she taken his point of the use of overseas quicky mail the wrong way?
Was she not going to post by quick mail?
And make him wait longer?
Damn! Suffer ka bacha. Koi suffer wuffer nai kar raha tu. Control rakh Shaan. Ek larki hai. Bohat normal hai. Shayad normal to the extent of boring bhi. Ziyada bhao denay ki zaroorat nai hai.
Haan. Yes, exactly! Mein bhi kya pagal ho raha houn. Likhna hoga tou likh le gi yaar khat. Aur jab post karna hoga tou post kar de gi. Aur postman ne jab deliver karna hoga tou wo delivery bhi ho jae gi. Tu kaam pe concentrate kar.
Meanwhile in London Khanak was faced with a much more serious dilemma as she sat down to write Shaantanu a reply, soon after she read his letter. A part of her wanted to open her heart to the man she had met a few weeks ago. A man who seemed from another world, but a man who seemed perfect for her little world. A stranger whose intrusion was welcome. But another part of her felt she would be naive to follow her heart blindly. He was after all a stranger. One whose world was not as small as hers.
And this thought made Khanak reluctant to follow her heart. For a moment, it even proposed to her mind that she should stop this superficial conversation with Shaantanu and reject the proposal outright.
Primarily, as most of us would know, there are two main aspects with are crucial to judge when one is considering a marriage proposal: social and economic. On the economic front their families were adequately matched. The Jadeja Group of Companies might not be as huge and diverse as the Khandelwal Group but they were nonetheless well-to-do, respectable and progressive. The social front was not that bad either. If the Khandelwals were prominent and respectable socialites in India, the Jadejas were so in England.
Humara tou standard bhi international hai! Khanak laughed at her own pompous remark.
And to top it all Khanak and Shaantanu's parents knew each other well. There was little doubt about the superb camaraderie that Sunil and Chitresh shared and when the Khandelwals had visited the Jadejas on their recent trip, Madhavi Khandelwal seemed to getting along well with Aplana.
These were societal and family matters. On a personal level, Khanak knew she and Shaan were as different as chalk and cheese. Their brief meeting had proved so.
After all the namastes had been said and everyone had been seated in the drawing room Sunil took the floor.
"Khanak beti, ye hai mera chota beta Shaan. I mean Shaantanu. Ghar mein hum sab issey Shaan bulate hein." said Sunil, waving his hands towards a tall man dressed in black trousers and a red shirt.
"Aur Shaan beta, ye hai Khanak. Meri bari beti." explained Chitresh.
Khanak nervously raised her eyes to meet Shaan's as both tried to realize they had finally met the mysterious person who was apparently a great choice for their spouse. Khanak blushed at her eyes met Shaan's chocolate ones and then travelled down his red shirt, noticing his jet black trousers and charcoal shoes. The chocolate orbs were not to be outdone. They immediately caught the pink flush that crept up the cheeks of a petite woman standing before them. Glossy straight dark chocolate hair, doe eyes, long lashes, plump rosy lips, a white chiffon long flowing anarkali frock with embroidery and light stone work at the hem and bodice. The embroidered roses were perhaps the most beautiful red roses Shaatanu had seen in his life, but of course he wouldn't admit that to anyone. The woman had impeccable fashion sense and seemed no less impeccable herself.
The elders had hit it off with each other but soon realized that the only thing Shaan and Khanak were doing together was listening to their conversation. As soon as this was realized, the two were ushered to the terrace where they were told they should spend some time with each other.
Moments passed. Then minutes. Neither of them spoke. If was obvious that neither was comfortable. Shaantanu, being "the man" as he often spoke so, finally took the initiative.
"Pretty weird, huh? Meine tou kabhi nai socha tha ke mein ek din youn kisi se milney aaoun ga arranged marriage ke silsilay mein and I'm sure tum ne bhi nai socha hoga, right?"
Shaan turned to his right and saw that Khanak was staring at the floor, crumbling her dupatta with both her hands, probably out of nervousness. Then, she raised her head and spoke, mesmerizing Shaan at the first syllable.
"Pata nai. Hum ne bohat kuch socha tha. Arranged marriage ke barey mein bhi socha tha, par haan iss tarhan hoga ye sab ye humein maloom nai tha."
"Tumhari age kya hai?"
"I mean, I know larkiyoun ki age nai poochni hoti par I mean...umm...I mean tum ne iss umar mein shaadi ke baray mein socha huwa tha pehle se hi?" Shaan completed his sentence.
"And you sure na ke tum mujh se choti ho? I'm 26."
"Okay great. So tum ne kya socha tha shaadi ke barey mein? Because seriously if you ask me tou I've never given a thought to this whole shaadi business."
"Maaf kijiye Shaantanu, magar mein aap ko jaanti tak nai houn. Mana ke humaray walidain (translation: parents) humari shaadi karwana chahtay hein, per kya aap ko nai lagta ke humein ek doosray ko as a person janna zaroori hai before we can talk about our thoughts on marriage?"
Shaantanu was stumped. The girl who until a moment ago wasn't speaking more than a "jee" had stated her view point blank in perfect English!
Of course idiot. Lagti typical suljhi huwi simple larki hai but London mein palli barri hai, English tou aati hi hogi na- Shaan's mind jolted him back into this world.
"Err...haan. Yeah, you're absolutely right. Tou kya janna chahti ho tum merey baray mein?"
"Kuch bhi bata dijiye. Kuch bhi tou aap ko lagta hai aap ki potential patni ko pata hona chahiye."
"Dekho Khanak, to be honest I don't know anything about patni-patti rights. Frankly speaking, I think humaray dads hum dono ke saath unfair ho rahay hein. I have a set lifestyle in Mumbai and I'm sure you have yours in London. You have your hopes from your Prince Charming and I have mine from my damsel in distress-"
"Damsel in distress?" Khanak cut in.
"Haan, of course damsel ki hogi because I'm straight..and kyun ke wo damsel hai tou distressed hogi."
Shaantanu stopped talking as soon as he realized his words had sparked something in Khanak. He waited for her to speak and motioned with a raised eyebrow that he wouldn't continue until she had spoken.
"Kuch nai aap bolein." Khanak replied curtly.
"Nai tum kuch bolna chahti ho. Bolo."
"Fine. Tou sunein. Firstly, I'm disappointed to know you're straight-"
"Haan. Because aap ne mujh se ek reason cheen liya hai jis ke tehat mein Ada ko kehti ke mujeh ap se shaadi nai karni-"
"Are you serious? What nonsense is this?"
"No I'm not serious. Obviously mein apney Ada se aysi koi baat nai keh sakti. But still, mujeh nai pata tha ke Sunil uncle, jin ke baray mein meine itna suna hai aur jin ki mein itni respect karti houn, a beta a damsel tou hamesha distressed hi consider karay ga. Shayad aap ko pata nai Mr. Shaantanu Khandelwal but ye soch pichli saddi mein tark (translation: dispose off) kar di gayi thi. And agar aap aysi kisi thought pe chaltay hein tou kamazkam aap ek "damsel" ke saamney tou diplomatic ho hi saktey hein. But oh I forgot, chivalry tou barh mein chali gai hai!"
As Khanak stopped her ranting and took a deep breath, Shaantanu digested all that she had said. He hadn't anticipated this deer would have her moments of being a lioness. All said and done, Shaantanu thought he deserved a chance to clarify his position.
"Wow. I didn't know you'd gear up at such a thing."
"Gear up nai, mein bas surprised thi ke aap aurat ko itna kamzoor samajhtey hein." Khanak spoke in a mellow tone, surprising Shaantanu once again.
"I don't know ke mein tum se ye kyun keh raha houn. Meine kabhi pehle kisi se ye nai kaha. But Khanak I know tumhein pata hoga ke insaan ke opinions hamesha uss ke experiences se aatay hein. And merey experiences mujeh yahi batatey hein. Agar auratein kamzoor nai hein tou woh kamzoor honay ka dekhawa karti hein. Either way, 0.99999999 probability hai ke agar meri kisi se shaadi hogi tou woh, technically speaking, koi damsel in distress hi hogi."
Khanak was surprised at Shaantanu's reply. He was obviously more of an extrovert than her. After her unexpected outburst, which took even her by surprise, she had believed he would've match his speech with the vigour in hers. But he had proved her wrong. The man seemed to be indifferent to other people's sentiments but here he was explaining his views to her. Clarifying his position. Since he was being considerate- for a change surely, thought Khanak- she decided not to take up any more arms for the moment.
"Agar meri kisi se shaadi hogi matlab? Kya aap ne decide kar liya hai ke aap ne mujh se shaadi nai karni?" she laughed, trying to lighten the atmosphere.
She laughed and she looked beautiful, thought Shaan.
But just then, Manya came up to call the two downstairs for dinner. As Manya turned to leave, Shaantanu started walking behind her, leaving Khanak behind.
Just at the door of the terrace, Shaantanu turned and addressed Khanak.
"I don't want to keep you in the dark Khanak. I don't know if I'm ready for marriage. I don't know if any girl is the right girl. And as far as you are concerned abhi you don't seem to be a damsel in distress but zindagi ka kya pata. Ye humari pehli mulakaat hai-"
"Kya aap aur mulakaatoun ki tawaqqo (translation: expectation) rakhtey hein?"
"I don't know Khanak. All I am saying is, I don't know what marriage means, I don't know if I'm ready and I don't know if I'm willing to find out."
From the corner of her eye, Khanak saw Shaatanu turn around to leave.
"Marriage is one word that binds two souls into one for eternity. One life beats in two hearts. One worry is shared by two minds and a happiness reflected by two smiles. It's a system of ones and twos that no accounting equation can explain Shaananu. There is a reason hum marriage contract sign karney ke saath saath saath pheray bhi letay hein. Ye wo khushi hai jo har koi chahta hai per har koi pa nai sakta. Har achi cheez ko panay ke liye mehnat karni parhti hai and apnay dar ko kabu karna parhta hai. Bohat si dunyawi interpretations sunni hein is ek shabd ki meine. Kuch sahi hein, kuch ghalat. Par ek cheez bilkul sahi hai Shaantanu: kuch log itni khushi se dartey hein, ussey paanay se pehle hi ussey khonay se dartey hein."
She turned around; found him standing at the door- one hand holding on to the door frame, back towards Khanak, ready to go downstairs. She waited for a few seconds before crossing his still figure and leading the way down to the dinning room.
Okay guys, here's another looong update for this weekend. Your comments really motivated me to write another one though I had absolutely no time but something inside just insisted that I should post an update today. I planned for it to be a short one but I got so engrossed that I wrote an update more than twice the usual size of my updates (except the last one of course). Hope you guys like it and would love to know your thoughts about our Shanak's meeting. I thought ke long update ke saath saath iss cheez ka bhi surprise de doun Thank you all for your comments, love and support!
Here's a picture of what Khanak was wearing when they met for the first time:
Edited by ABlank90 - 22 June 2012 at 10:53am