How do you disown something which isn't yours? How do you claim something which others have disclaimed for you? Shaantanu Khandelwal knew not, so thought it best to say, "Newspapers tou kuch bhi kehte hein Khanak." After all, it was his reputation at stake.
"Hmm...but there is no smoke without fire they say," continued Khanak, adamant not to leave Shaantanu until she felt like she was transgressing boundaries.
"Sometimes your eyesight is hazy. You hallucinate the smoke and prematurely predict the fire," replied Shaan, not realizing how Khanak-like his statement was.
Khanak of course, caught on to the unusual tinge of terseness in Shaantanu's speech. The similarity made her smile from within.
"There will always be difficulty as to what degree one could ascertain the truth of a claim made by a third person. But how would you disprove what is largely accepted as fact?" asked Khanak.
At this point, Shaan stopped playing with the spoon his nervous hands had caught and looked up to meet Khanak's penetrating gaze. He was met with mystery, eagerness and wit, beckoning him to meet the challenge Khanak's words had implicitly relayed.
But was he ready yet?
"Not all alleged facts are worthy enough to warrant a disproving explanation," Shaan replied curtly.
So playing games is the option you'll choose Mr. Khandelwal? thought Khanak to herself.
Let it be so then!
"Maybe. Though it's more about risking to bear yours soul to someone whose approval you seek. The question is: Who do you think is worth trusting yourself with?"
The spoon was dropped and the man holding it was caught off guard. He had been noticing the lady in front of him growing bolder by the second. Bolder and saucier. As much as her playful side appealed to Shaantanu, they resurfaced an anxiousness that had been forgetting for some time now.
It was time.
Without a doubt in his mind, Shaan understood what Khanak was asking for. She was asking him to trust himself with her. She was asking him to open up. She was asking him to make her believe she had a place in his life.
But was he ready yet?
Khanak held his gaze as if to show she was determined to get an answer this time. Alpana's words rang in his mind.
"Khanak, like any other girl, needs to know she's not making a mistake. She needs to know you. Like anyone in your situation, Shaan, she needs to know- as you businessmen would put it -what lies in the future if she makes his investment."
But was he ready yet?
"You are awfully philosophical for someone who is interested in Managerial Economics," remarked Shaan, a futile effort to lighten the mood accompanied by a sheepish smile.
Khanak wasn't impressed. "There are more things in life which one has to manage Shaan."
Two things: she called him Shaan and she seemed disappointed. Which one would a rational man choose to address first? The former hit on an emotional string of curiosity whilst the latter infused a practical sense of guilt within the man who had to choose his reply fast. Though not all rational as an individual, Shaantanu thankfully chose the more pertinent issue.
"More things?" he asked, unsure of his decision.
"Yes. Things other than monetary returns, business ventures and insecure egos." Khanak replied calmly.
"Oh so that's what you think I do?" replied Shaan, temper rising and the eloquent mischief-word war forgotten.
"Oh! Do you see familiarity in what I say?" taunted Khanak.
"Shut up Khanak! You are way out of line here."
"What line Shaan? From where I see things, no line has been established. No rules have been set. No promises have been made and no bond has been strengthened. What line do you want me to respect?" cried Khanak, anger surfacing increasing in every word she said.
"Lines set by society, Khanak." Shaantanu replied a bit more calmly than before, "Don't you always believe in following norms."
"Norms? Social norms? And the most socially aware person in the world is remind me of them?" questioned Khanak.
Shaantanu's eyebrows raised on their own accord, implying he was about to speak but Khanak continued, not letting him interrupt.
"So these social norms and conditions you so respect Shaan- what a convenient way to 'shut up' someone who actually gives a damn about tradition and conventions. Such a chauvinist method of commanding respect and authority. Where were these 'lines' when you stepped into my home and refused to reject me? Where were these 'lines' when you so boldly wrote to me and asked for us to correspond? Where were these 'lines' when you thought it perfectly alright to interrupt my private coffee time on the terrace each evening? And where were your favourite 'lines' when you barged in on my night out with my friend? Is all of that perfectly acceptable for tradition does not demand answers from a man nor questions his actions?"
The anger inside Shaan was still there but Khanak's words hit him like thunderbolt.
Part of him fumed at her audacity whilst a meek voice tried to convey the hurt in her words to his heart. But although he could not hold Khanak absolutely unjust, his ego refused to make him accept that Khanak could be right.
"Is that how you view me Khanak? Do you think I am hypocritical and insensitive? Would you actually claim that I propagate patriarchal dominance and am partial towards basic personal rights?" Shaan demanded an answer from Khanak.
"What I believe has no importance. It never has had any significance, that I am well aware of Shaantanu. The best thing would be to go home. This conversation will bear no fruit to a closed mind and has no suitability to the place where we now sit." replied Khanak, her voice less agitated now.
She promptly paid the bill and stood to leave.
"But I want to know what you think." said Shaan, stressing on the word 'want'.
"It is insignificant." was her curt reply.
"I think you are scared, self-obsessed and bordering on being a bigot." replied Khanak and started walking. Shaan followed her.
The journey home was quiet and uneventful. The two people we so wish to be embracing in each others arms asap felt appalled at the existence of the other. In their minds, they went over and over against the points which made them believe the other had wronged them. Never once stopping to think whether they had overreacted.
Once home, they were greeted by a smiling face who they were both fond of- Alpana- who asked them how come they were home so early and whether or not they had a good time. While Khanak put on one of her best "everything's okay" smiles and hugged her mom, Shaantanu managed to pull off a sheepish smile accompanied by a "Mein thak gaya houn aunty so I'll take a bath and rest for a while."
We have to realize that it takes strength to do what our favourite two people did next. To an outside viewer, dinner was the usual everyday affair. There were talks of business, stress about studies, questions about how the day went and plenty of pretty smiles all around. Pretty, of course, if you can't separate the fake from the real ones.
It was towards the end of the dinner that things got a bit more interesting. Chitresh initiated the conversation which would build up to a startling revelation.
"Sunny se baat hui thi aaj meri and he was saying ke meine uss ka beta rakh hi liya hai," joked Chitresh.
Shaantanu managed a small laugh and replied, "Jee Uncle, Mom bhi keh rahi thi ke unhein bohat yaad ati hai. Actually it's the first time I've been away for so long without family. Apart from my MBA of course. But ab tou mom ko aadat ho gai hai having me around the house."
"Yahi hota hai beta," Alpana chipped in, "Parents are so fond of their children ke humari aadatein jaldi bigarti hein," she smiled.
"Haan bhe. But ab tum itne weeks se kaam mein itne busy rahe ho tou thora relax shelax kero London mein hi and then think about going back." said Chitresh.
"Err...actually uncle mein soch raha tha ke wapis India chala jaoun," Shaantanu paused to judge Khanak's response but she head was bowed down to take the next morsel so he continued, "Waise bhi kaam tou khatam ho hi gaya hai. Jo karne aya tha it's done."
"Arre, Sunil ko koi bataye yaaar ke uss ka beta kitna responsible and mature hai. He was wrong perceptions about you! Tum tou kaam mein itne focused ho and he thinks otherwise." said Chitresh.
Khanak semi-rolled her eyes at this, noticed Shaan. It irritated him to no extent.
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy! Suna hai kabhi ye?" Chitresh's voice jerked Shaan out of his thoughts.
Half smilingly, Shaan replied "Kya karein uncle. Kabhi aur sahi. Abhi mom bhi miss kar rahi hein and there is a pending project I have to attend to in Mumbai. Balke jab tak aap ki evaluation fresh and recent rahe gi tab tak I'll have a chance to convince dad to let me work solo on that project."
"Hmmm...ye baat hai tou bhai I can't argue. Thore din ruk jao phir chale jana beta."
"Jee uncle, I'll see ke tickets kab ki milti hein."
Really looking forward to your feedback on this one guys! Was it unexpected? In a good way or a bad way? Lemme knoww!
Edited by ABlank90 - 30 August 2012 at 12:32pm