Both got little sleep that night. Both thought about each other. Both came down with for breakfast late. Both had puffy eyes. Both looked busy in a parallel world. Both were noticed by Alpana, who fortunately kept quiet and revelled at the progress the two were making. Of course, she knew little of what had happened less than twelve hours ago.
"Shaan beta I am impressed and meine tou Sunil se keh diya hai ke us ke larke ne mera dil jeet liya hai."
"Err..thanks a lot uncle but meine aysa kya kiya hai?" thought Shaan, wondering if this conversation had anything to do with Khanak. His mind refused to believe that was the case but his heart reiterated that it was still half asleep.
"I just got a call from Davidson and he says ke initial details sari complete ho gai hein. In less than two weeks you've done all this tou shabaashi tou banti hai nai?" said Chitresh.
"Thanks uncle but ab kaam ke liye aya tha tou kaam tou karna hi tha and I believe agar kaam karna hi hai tou ache se karo."
"That's brilliant beta."
"Aap ne kaha you talked to dad, how is he?" asked Shaan.
"He's well beta. And of course meine ussey batana tou tha ke I'm totally geared up for this project now. Initially I thought ke mushkil hogi since he himself couldn't come to make the preliminary decisions but tum ne tou us ki kami mehsoos hi nai hone di."
"Haha..and I'm sure uncle dad thore skeptical houn ge about the last comment. After all ye mera first project tha which I was handling independent of him."
"Hahaha" laughed Chitresh, "Haan. But meine usse ye bhi kaha ke all his fears were unwarranted. Baat kya hai na beta, ke hum dads bohat protective hote hein about our children, especially younger ones."
Shaan nodded. Protective or possessive, dads did seem to go overboard with their younger children.
Khanak was listening to the conversation intently. She didn't know why but she felt proud of Shaan and his capabilities. Somehow, when he had told her that his dad thought he was irresponsible and couldn't handle business alone, she had firmly believed he would prove otherwise. And he just did that.
"But Shaan, tum ne kaam pe itna dehaan diya hai ke I feel you've earned a holiday at least. Two ker lo." Chitresh continued.
"Err..nai uncle Saturdays and Sundays tou waise hi off hote hein. Meri holiday ho jae gi and then Monday se wapis office."
"Mhmm," said Chitresh, finishing off chewing his sandwich, "I meant thora London ghoomo yaar. Tum jawan ho ye ayashiyaan tou jawaani mein hoti hein. Sightseeing and tourism etc."
"Uhh...nai uncle I'm good. Mein kaam ke liye yahan aya tha and in fact last night hi I went out to have fun tou ..."
"Ek kaam ke liye thori na aye thay," cut in Chitresh, "Sab kaam ache se karne chahiye. And bhae who misses out a chance to see London. Tum batao tum khud dekho ge ya mein kuch bandobast (arrangement) karoun?"
Shaantanu couldn't help but feel a secondary meanign to this sentence. Ek kaam ke liye thori na aye thay?
Did Chitresh Uncle mean that there was more to do on this trip than just finalize all the business details? What else was there to do? Sightseeing? Is that a task? It hardly seemed important or relevant, now more so because Shaan noticed a twinkle in Chitresh's eyes. It signalled mischief and secrecy.
Secrecy which he should have uncovered all ago. Of course his dad was playing cupid along with his old best friend! Why else would he suddenly give Shaantanu, the irresponsible Shaantanu, just a huge responsibility? Why would this responsibility be in London? Why else would he have to live with the Jadejas? It seemed dumb to him that he had not thought more on his earlier insticts about this.
Obviously the other "work" was Khanak! Khanak, who was no doubt a task on her own. Sweet yet salty. Spicy yet mild. Warm as a winter's fire, yet cool as icy water.
What pagal ho gaya hai Shaan!
Dude tujeh bhook lag rahi hai. Chup kar ke breakfast kar!
Absent-mindedly, Shaan took a semi-circled brown bread from the plate in front of him and started apply jam on it.
"Shaan! Kahan kho gaye beta," Chirtesh snapped him out of his reverie.
"Err...kaheen nai uncle wo bread kha raha tha," replied Shaan.
Chitresh looked down at Shaan's plate and couldn't help himself from smiling. He then composed himself and continued:
"Tou kya socha tum ne?"
"Kis baray mein uncle?"
"Chitresh khanay dein na Shaan to araam se nashta," Alpana put in a helpful word for the clearly zonked-out Shaantanu.
Chitresh gestured her not to interrupt and address Shaatanu.
"London dekhne ke baray mein beta."
"Oh..umm...wo uncle actually mujeh tou London ka kuch pata nai hai. I've been to Manchester once but this is my first time in London so I can't do anything. But koi zaroorat nai hai I really don't want to see..."
"Tou bas phir done hai," Chitresh cut in Shaantanu once again, "Tumhein London dekhana meri zimmedari."
Before Shaantanu could protest and prove that he really wasn't in a mood, Chitresh dropped the bomb.
"Khanak tum Shaantanu ko aaj London dekhao gi!"
A split second of silence was followed by the reaction to the bomb in the next split second- Khanak dropped her fork and it clanked on her plate and fell down.
"Mein? But Ada.."
"No buts beta. You know the city inside out and you love touring it as well. Tum se behtar guide tou koi ho nai sakta."
Khanak looked at Shaantanu, hoping to see a response which would help her decide what to say next. But Shaantanu wasn't looking at her. He was staring down at his plate, chewing his breakfast. He was thinking about this plan, she was sure, but his expressions told her nothing of what exactly he felt. She then had a flashback of last night and decided she should irk him no further. If they were to decide upon whether or not to accede to their parent's wish of seeing them together, she had to make sure she gave as many opportunities as she could. At the same time, however, she felt it would be disrespectful to herself if she completely threw herself at him or gave him the impression that he was important enough to be always given priority in her plans.
"Theek hai Ada. I have no issues. Hum dopeher ko chalein ge." she said.
Shaantanu looked up to meet her eyes but she wasn't looking at him. Seconds later when her eyes left her dad's and travelled to his he tried to read them. A confident and emotionless gaze met him, giving to sign of why she had agreed when her immediate first response was to reject this plan. Yet, he felt a warmth in her smile that hadn't left her face ever since she had announced that she would indeed take him on a tour around London. A warmth, he felt, was also meant for him.
"Dopeher ko kyun? Subha se hi le chalo na. Shaan has a full day off tou let him make the most of it." Chitresh reasoned with his daughter.
"Wo Ada, Sam and I had a movie plan at noon, iss liye."
"Tou beta Shaan can accompany you guys too. Iss mein kon si bari baat hai," chipped in Alpana.
"Jee Ma," Khanak replied.
While everyone got busy in finishing their breakfast, Shaantanu found himself back on the verge of irritation, annoyance and frustration. The knowledge that Khanak and Sameer had a movie plan together and Khanak had not been keen to invite him was getting to his brain. Somewhere, he started believing that Khanak felt he was coming between herself and Sameer and she didn't like it. It was as if the two had a bond so strong and significant that they, or at least, Khanak didn't want a third person to come in between them.
Khanak had said that they were just friends and somewhere Shaantanu believed her. But he couldn't understand their friendship. He couldn't fathom the importance both had in each other's lives. He didn't want to believe that anyone except from family could be that near and dear to Khanak. Anyone except him.
He, who was chosen by her parents for her. He, who had come all the way from India on business but had spent every other minute otherwise with her. He, who now felt that Khanak had indeed enchanted him into thinking she was different. He, who now started being critically analytical of every moment spent with her. And somewhere, though he didn't want to ever accept it out loud, he wanted to be the person standing in between Sameer and Khanak.
As he finished raging up a storm inside his brain Shaantanu noticed that he had yet to finish the last bite of his breakfast. Picking up the "brown bread" he looked carefully at it and found it to be unusual.
"Aunty, ye brown bread bohat different hai. It's nice but different. I've never tasted anything like this in India," he said to Alpana, who had started to laugh a bit.
"Beta, ye brown bread nai hai. Khanak ne aaj nashtay mein parathay banaye thay," replied Alpana.
Shaantanu stopped chewing the last morsel of paratha midway and looked at Alpana's retreating figure into the kitchen. Jealousy, care, fondness, parathas, evolution of a theory he felt was final- what hadn't he experienced thanks to Khanak?
Here's part 28 guys! Hope you like it.
Tried to make it a bit longer. Next up: Tour de London!!
Edited by ABlank90 - 31 July 2012 at 4:28pm