What should be said about a man who throws an axe at his own feet? Careless, impulsive, irrational or plain Shaantanu Khandelwal? The moment he realized the parathas he had so strongly declined to have were made by the very lady whose approval he sought. And, whose friendly countenance was invaluable to testing his theory.
If Shaan had expected Khanak to say "lejiye na" in a typical bhartiya nari fashion, he was in for a rude surprise. He was sure the look in her eyes had been one suggesting hurt because she wanted him to taste her cooking but what he didn't know was that Khanak wasn't one to wear her heart on her sleeve. She had conveyed whatever was the maximum she'd let loose from her heart and now she was busy with her own breakfast.
Shaantanu wondered whether he should taste the parathas by making some excuse.
No, it would not do.
Aunty uncle tou pehle hi cupids hein.
Khanak bhi mujeh cheesy samjhay gi.
Manya aur Harshit bhi no doubt kuch aysa hi sochein ge.
Let the parathas be Shaan. Waise hi itney oily hotay hein.
And you never eat them.
Khanak is no one to make an exception for.
As expected Khanak and Shaan did not exchange any words at the breakfast table. Random talk was carried out and soon Shaan left for office with Chitresh.
Since Shaan wasn't working full time and was only in London to finalize the initial details and plans for Chitresh and Sunil's new business venture he came home late in the afternoon. When he entered, he heard a manly voice talking to Alpana in a very casual way.
"Tou phir done hai. Aap bas thori easy ho jaein na mere Khan sahib ko relax karne dein."
"Kaise easy ho jaoun. Ye cheezein zaroori hoti hein," was Alpana's reply.
Curiosity got the better of Shaan and he took a few step closer to the two voices so that now he was standing near the sofas in the main living room to which the front door opened.
"I agree zaroori hein but the person in question is not immature. Aap hosla rakhein, sab timely fashion mein theek ho jae ga."
"Chalein see you tomorrow then, bye!"
The two hugged and as the man turned around to leave Shaan got a good look at him. He was fair, cute looking and seemed to be in mid-20s. Well dressed and self-assured were two words that fit him perfectly. A well toned jawline and sharp eyes completed the look. When the man noticed Shaan he halted in his tracks. Alpana noted Shaan's presence as well.
"Arrey Shaan beta, meet Sameer. Sameer yeh hai Shaan." She gestured the two interchangeably, introducing them to each other.
They shook hands cordially but before a conversation could be started, Sameer took leave promising to meet Alpana tomorrow.
The meeting seemed a bit odd to Shaantanu, but he thought it best to not question anything. After all this wasn't his home and Alpana could speak and meet with anyone she wished to without telling him. If he was curious, he wasn't in a position to ask anyway.
So, Shaan thought the only safe thing to do was to go up to his room and freshen up. Next step would be to think about what he should do about Khanak's letter and the paratha incident in the morning.
Should I talk to Khanak?
Should I apologize?
Haan apologize kar leta houn.
Kyun mein kyun apologize karoun. Agar nai khata mein paratha tou nai khata. Iss mein apologize karne wali kya baat hai!
But agar wo mind kar gai?
Tou kya huwa..I'm not here to please her.
But ullu you're here to get to know her. How will you get to know her if you tick her off?
He was halfway through the staircase when Alpana called from behind him.
"Beta Khanak terrace pe hai."
Startled at this not-so-indirect encouragement, Shaan turned around.
"Meine kaha: Khanak terrace pe hai. She's having coffee, why don't you join her? Warna pooray coffee pot ki coffee thandi ho jae gi. You like coffee, right beta?"
"Err...jee aunty. Jee. Umm..I'll go have coffee then. Thanks!"
"Anytime beta," smiled Alpana.
When Shaantanu reached the terrace door he saw Khanak sitting on a cane chair, holding a warm cup of coffee between her delicate hands. She seemed to be deep in thought but she seemed at ease. Whatever she was thinking about, was certainly something she liked.
"Ahem ahem," Shaan cleared his throat.
Khanak turned around and gave him her full smile.
"May I join you? Aunty said there would be coffee..." Shaan trailed off, not sure what to say next.
"Haan sure. Aao na. Coffee is right here."
Shaan took the chair just opposite Khanak and noticed that she sat with her legs underneath her in a typical desi fashion.
"Tumhein India ki bohat yaad aati hai?" Shaan questioned her.
"Shaantanu, jo jagha dekhi nai wo yaad kaise aye gi?"
"Oh! Sorry I forgot."
"But then..why are you so traditional? I mean, only if of course you don't mind me asking. You've never been to India and phir bhi you seem to be so Indian in everything that you do."
Khanak smiled again, this time at her coffee mug.
"Shaantanu sanskaar apni jagha rehne se nai aatay. And India nai but I've been to Pakistan."
"Same thing, right."
"Haan same thing hi tou hai. Ek west pe ek east pe."
For some reason, Shaantanu's words did not please Khanak.
"Ek cheez kaise hein Shaatanu. Karoroun logoun ne jaan di hai apni khud ki pehchaan hasil karne ke liye not so that 60 years later koi bhi aam aadmi unhein "ek hi cheez" kahay."
"What do you mean?"
"I mean ke Pakistan and India are not one thing."
"But abhi tou tum ne kaha ke tum India nai Pakistan gai huwi ho. And that, I felt, implied ke is a reason for why you're so traditional."
"Partly, it is. Because principally ye dono desh conservative hi hein. They are progressive but kuch kaiday kanoon hein jo generations se inhein in ki mitti se jor ke rakhte hein. Doesn't mean ke koi difference hi nai hai."
"Okay fine. As you say so. Waise bhi mujeh koi history and politics mein interest nai hai."
"I can see that. But phir bhi.."
"Kya yaar. Ye politics kyun discuss kar rahay hein hum Khanak? Kuch aur baat kero."
"Politics nai Shaantanu, ye zindagi hai. One should realize ke other people can have a different yet logical view about the same incident."
"Fine. Maan liya."
Khanak just rolled her eyes. At this point in time, there was no point in pursuing the matter.
"I shouldn't even have brought the topic up," she said.
"But I was genuinely asking ke tum aysi kaise ho. Sometimes tou even Alpana aunty se ziyada traditional lagti ho tum mujeh."
"Shaatanu, it's not ke mujeh London ke highend lifestyle ke baray mein nai pata. It's just that I have my own rules. I have my own comfort zone. I am spiritual and religiously inclined."
"Haan I know, but why?"
"Because that's my view about life. Acha kero and agay jo hoga dekha jae ga. Doosroun ki madad kero, apnay kaam se kaam rakho, jo bhi kero dil laga ke kero, doosroun ke points of view ko tolerate kero...all of this Shaantanu. I believe in micro level habits making a macro impact."
As Khanak was speaking, Shaantanu was observing her closely. There seemed to be no pauses to measure what she was saying, no sign of any coerced mental activity to fabricate her lines, no frown to concentrate on making up her words. Everything seemed genuine. She seemed genuine. But could it really be so?
"Aap bataein Shaantanu, kya aap ko nai lagta ke hum sab insaanoun ki zindagi juri huwi hai? That we aren't just here to take advantage of each other but to benefit each other too?"
"Err...pata nai Khanak I've never been the philosophical type you know."
"But still. Kabhi tou socha hoga aap ne?"
"Umm...honestly Khanak I can't remember."
Khanak shut up. After all what could you expect to say to a man who said he couldn't consciously remember the last time her cared to think for someone else? After a few moments of awkward silence that passed between the two, Khanak reminded him that his coffee was getting colder.
"Did I offend you?" Shaan asked thoughtfully after taking a sip of his coffee.
A few seconds passed before Khanak replied.
"Nai. I guess that's who you are. At least I can thank you for being honest."
She gave a silence-filler smile, the one you give to ease the tension, and got back to her coffee.
"So how was your day at the office?" she asked, not wanting to be rude.
It was true that she and Shaantanu had a lot to learn about each other but a cold shoulder would not be appropriate. She had always believed in tolerating differences so long as they were logical, and she would do the same with Shaatanu. After all there must be some reason why he held such beliefs.
"It was good actually. Site maps and stats dekh ke analyse ki hein aaj. I've sent them for further analysis and a cost-benefit-analysis so let's see kya banta hai."
"Tumhein kabhi business mein interest nai huwa? Dad told me you did your undergrad in economics."
"Well, not really. I mean, I like the whole idea but dad ki companies mein se nothing interests me. And waise bhi I'm thinking of doing a Masters."
"Masters without any hands-on experience?"
"I have experience Shaatanu. Dad ke liye quarterly financial analysis karti houn mein."
"Impressive. But why don't you join the main business. Surely kuch tou hoga jo tumhein interest karey ga?"
"Not really. I wanted to be a fashion designer once but sab yahi kehte thay ke straight A's student ho ke darzan hi banna hai tum ne. And after a while I developed interest in econ tou bas that's how I got where I got."
"Fashion designer? No kidding. Kaheen se tum fashion designer type nai lagti Khanak."
She smiled a warm smile this time, understanding what Shaan meant but not taking offence. Shaantanu made a note of this implicit sign of understanding from her side.
"Yeah. But Shaantanu, why does everything have to be about showing legs and arms and bas shorts aur mini skirt pehnna? All that is fine. If someone wants to wear it tou it's their choice. Such things are all over the market. But agar koi larki full-sleeved shirt ya full length shalwar pehnna chahti hai tou why does she have to search markets all day long to find one decent piece of clothing she likes?"
"Hmmm...I never thought of it this way."
"See. And that's where our society needs to open their minds. Ye darzan wala kaam nai hai. And agar hai bhi tou what's the problem. Agar darzanein na hoti tou hum kya pehntay?"
Sensing rightly, that Khanak was going to go in another one of her philosophical sermons, Shaan crafted his way out of it.
"So then why didn't you do anything about it then?"
"Well..when I figured ke Ada isn't going to be happy about it and when I found I liked econ tou I stuck to the latter. Tension tou avert huwi."
"But it's your life Khanak."
"Phir bhi Shaantanu. Parents are parents and saath saath rehne mein ye sab tou chalta hai."
"And that's why hum aaj yahan youn baat kar rahay hein?"
"Kya?" asked Khanak, not fully understanding what Shaantanu meant.
"Kya kya?! Clearly Khanak you're only giving us a chance because iss mein tumhare Ada Bai ki khushi hai. Khud tou you clearly think we're too different to ever get close."
"That's where you're wrong Shaantanu. True, I'm giving us a chance because of my parents but the last line was all wrong."
Shaan rolled his eyes.
"And your philosophical explanation for that is, Khanak..?"
"It is the harmonious amalgamation of two individual's differences that makes a perfect bond. Both chemical and emotional."
The last four words were added to lighten the mood but one thing Shaan knew for sure: Khanak was not joking.
Guys, I don't know the forum rules about touching sensitive topics so I thought I'd best leave things as how I've left them. Plus, I didn't know whether you'd be interested.
This update is a prelude to some interesting moments coming up!
Edited by ABlank90 - 05 July 2012 at 3:43pm