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Caught in an unexpected situation Shaantanu Khandelwal found himself on the road to unlimited questions again. Not something unheard of when he thought of Khanak, as we all know.
Should get out of bed and face her?
Should I ask who it is?
Is it really her?
Did anyone actually come in or am I hallucinating?
No no. Someone definitely came in. Should I turn and see who it is?
Or will my turning reveal my pretense of sleeping?
Act natural and turn around as if you're tossing and changing sides in sleep!
A slight but crisp sound told confirmed that someone was indeed inside his bedroom at the moment. And that someone was holding or doing something with paper.
Could it be Khanak dropping off a letter?
Shut up Shaan! Why would she do that?
The best option at this point in time seemed to be quite a simple one: keep still and concentrate on sleeping. Who was in the room and what was s/he doing here could be discovered later.
The alarm clock was super efficient at doing its job. Shaantanu woke up well in time to get ready, have breakfast and go to the airport. Chitresh had dropped him off at the airport and bade him farewell only after promising that the two families would soon meet each other. Shaantanu thanked him for his hospitality and said it would indeed be a pleasure to see the two families meet again.
On the flight back to Mumbai Shaantanu found himself incapable of thinking about the questions that were bothering him since last night. Who was it in his room? Why had s/he come? Was it Khanak? Was she there to talk to him? Had he been stupid to ignore her? And...and had he been wrong at the caf? Should he have talked to Khanak at least ONCE before leaving? Should he have given her a little nod to convey that despite their argument he was still open to talking to her? But she could've offered an olive branch too!
This line, Readers. This last line. Doesn't it always put a full stop in our hero's head? Well, it did just that again.
Our heroine, on the other hand, seemed usually calm considering the emotional turmoil she was going to. Perhaps because she had not yet accepted her want for the man who left her home today, she had made herself believe that since whatever happens happens for the best there was no need to worry. Isn't that what we all tell ourselves when nothing else seems to calm our anxiety?
It was after nightfall that the uneasy part of Khanak's mind- or heart, if you may- was awakened. What had seemed like an ordinary phone call turned out to be extra-ordinarily awkward.
Wait! Was that Shaantanu? Shaantanu Khandelwal? Of course not. Khanak don't think of him, you'll drive yourself mad without any need.
"Helloo?" the voice repeated itself.
"Uh..yes, hello." Replied Khanak.
Shoot! Is that Khanak? Damn! Ghar pe kyun phone kiya Shaan? Uncle ke cell pe text kar deta!
"Hello? Who is it, may I ask?" Khanak's voice rang in his ears.
"Shaantanu," he replied, "Shaantanu Khandelwal."
"Err..yeah..so..ummm..please tell aunty uncle that I've reached safely." came the awkward reply.
"Yeah…so….umm…bye then," said Shaantanu.
Before Khanak could reply, a click on the other end told her the conversation was over.
"Kis ka phone tha?" came Alpana's voice from behind Khanak.
Khanak turned around to see her mother standing behind
"Err…Shaantanu ka tha Ma. He wanted to tell you and Ada that he has reached Mumbai safely." Replied Khanak, fidgeting her shirt's corner.
A warm smile crept on Alpana's face as she moved forward to take Khanak's face in her hands.
"Miss kar rahi ho usse?" she asked.
Khanak quickly lowered her head and replied, "Nai Ma. Kya baat kar rahi ho aap."
Lifting her daughter's face up so she could see her eyes, Alpana continued to tease Khanak about Shaantanu until the latter had no option left but to scurry away to her bedroom door in a desperate effort to control the rising warmth in her cheeks.
Once safe in her bedroom, Khanak walked to the mirror on the dressing table and saw her flushed reflection. Was she blushing? Blushing on the mention of Shaantanu's name? No. That could not be it. She was merely annoying by everyone trying to link her to Shaantanu. Yes, that was the reason- she tried to convince herself.
Remember the time when your crush talked to you for the first time? Or walked past you and smiled? Or that random reason your best friend found to tease you about someone you liked, or at least s/he thought you like?
That time was the present for Shaantanu for the his next day at his Mumbai office saw Rahul showering him with questions about Khanak!
"Romeo! Ab batae gab hi ke nai. Tab se ullu ki tarhan chup kar ke baitha huwa hai tu," complained Rahul.
"Kya yaar. Kuch nai hai batane ko kaha tou hai. Tang mat kar na," was Shaantanu's annoyed response.
"Kuch nai hai? Are you kidding me? Tu itne hafte raha hai uss ke saath. Ek hi city mein. Ek hi chatt ke neechay and you me to believe ke kuch nai huwa?" exclaimed Rahul.
"Haan beghairat. Kuch nai huwa. Shayad tu bhool raha hai ke wo chatt uss ke Ma aur Ada ki thi!" Shaan retorted.
A loud clap sound was heard, resulting from Rahul slapping his forehead. Looking up at Shaan, he gave a I-don't-believe-you expression and said, "Beghairat tu hai, pagal! Cheap insaan, I meant ke koi baat shaat, hello hi, how are you-I'm good…kuch tou huwa hoga? Aur ye Ada kya cheez hai?"
"Bas kar Rahul yaar. I DON'T want to talk about her. And Ada is her dad." replied Shaan.
"Dad? Ada is her dad? Wow, interesting name..Ada," said Rahul, laughing a bit as if out of disbelief.
The papers Shaan was holding were thrown on the table as he himself sat down to face Rahul.
"Ada. Ada as in father. Gujrati mein father ko ada kehte hein. Khanak Gujrati hai. Family bhi Gujrati hai. So obviously wo Gujrati language bolti hai. Stop being ridiculous Rahul!" he said impatiently.
"Okayyy.." said Rahul, unsure of the reason for Shaan's foul mood.
"And can we please stop talking about her. Masla kya hai tujhe. Chor de uss ka peecha." exclaimed Shaan, putting an end to the conversation.
Shaantanu Khandelwal was impulsive and stubborn, that we all know. Even Rahul knew this. He disliked women. That we all know too. But there was something more that we shall learn from Rahul today. His observant nature had caught on to something in the weeks that followed Shaan's return to Mumbai.
Our dear Mr. Junior Khandelwal seemed more involved and interested in office work than he had ever been. He partied a lot less and drank even lesser. His cheek bones became more prominent as his appetite suffered. The arrogance in his expression gave way to a hint of seriousness and determination whilst talk about marriage seemed to put him off. As a comrade, Rahul thought he knew the reason for this change. It was the same reason which had sparked his curiosity once he noted that Shaan now seemed to be irritated and affected at the mention of women rather than being sarcastic and indifferent as earlier. No doubt, it was because of Khanak.
A dear friend and an unknown accomplice. Rahul indeed found himself in an uncomfortable position. Who was Khanak? The girl who seemed to be simple and plain now seemed to be an enigma. The London trip had affected Shaan but business could hardly have been the reason. No, the reason was Khanak. Rahul was sure of that. But, who was Khanak? He had to find out.
"Shaan," Rahul hesitantly approached the subject that had been worrying him for quite a while hanging out at the Khandelwal residence one night.
"Yaar tu ne Khanak ke barey mein Aunty Uncle ko apna final decision de diya hai?"
"Yaar aaj I heard Aunty Uncle talking about Khanak while coming to your room. Uncle was saying ek you two need time but Aunty was adamant ke Khanak tere type ki nai hai…tout u confusion clear kyun nai kar deta. Tell them about your decision."
"That you aren't going to marry her?"
"WHAT? Meine kab kaha ke I'm not marrying her!" exclaimed Shaan.
Jackpot! thought Rahul, and congratulated himself on his brilliant strategy.
"Nai tu ne kaha tou tha na.." Rahul reiterated.
"Kab kaha tha. Pagal ho gaya hai tu?"
"Nai as in..you didn't say it in black and white but obviously tu usse shaadi nai karey ga."
"What's so obvious about it? Dekh, tu rehne de Rahul. Mujeh jo karna hai mein kar loun ga."
"Tou you are going to marry Khanak?" asked Rahul.
"Of course not! Pagal ho gaya hai?" shouted Shaan.
Noting his friend's confused-yet-amused look, Shaan continued "I …I mean…pagal mat ho yaar. Khanak is the last thing on my mind abhi. Why are you bringing her up? Mom dad have their views and confusions tou wo un ka masla hai. Not mine."
"Not yours?" asked Rahul.
"Haan yaar. They put me into this whole thing. Meine tou shaadi karni bhi nai thi. They tricked me into seeing this girl and now they expect me to make a prompt decision."
"Wait, wait, wait!" said Rahul, standing up, "Tou you are saying ke you're not at all interested in her. You've been stringing her along all this while?"
Running his hand through his hair, Shaan said "Ab don't use such words ke mujeh guilty lagay okay. I wasn't interested to begin with. But then I met her and she seemed nice. Not my type, like mom said….as in, I don't really have a type…but not the kind of girl I ever imagined myself to spend the rest of my life with-"
"Not the kind of girl you imagined to spend the rest of your life with? Shaan, are YOU saying this? Have you ever..at least in the last 5 years…thought about spending your life with a girl?" interrupted Rahul.
Caught off-guard, Shaan conveniently ignored the piercing question and continued, "But then a month ago she suddenly shows a lot of interest in me, my values, my ideals and…..matlab kya yaar…itni interfering ho rahi thi. Either she was mad and was hiding it ya I failed to see her obsessive side from the start. You know, thank God meri theory mujeh yaad rahi warna tou she'd have driven me crazy! Shukar hai I stayed away from her!"
The anger and frustration in Shaan's voice was rising with every word that left his mouth. It seemed that the two, after initially hitting it off really well, later on had a fight or a huge disagreement which had not yet been resolved. Was Khanak actually that overbearing? Something told Rahul that his friend's judgmental qualities had overpowered his rationale. He didn't know Khanak, but the change in Shaan's behavior plus his analysis of their first meeting made Rahul feel that even if Khanak was at fault, the fault couldn't entire be hers. If not the best person around, she at least hadn't seemed like a bad person to begin with. In a world full of human prejudice, how could one ever know the circumstantial truth?
When Shaantanu retired to his bedroom that night, he subconsciously moved towards the dressing table and started observing his face. It definitely looked more serious than he remembered it to be a month ago. And in the darkness of the night and isolation of the four walls, he accepted that it reflected his mental state of being.
Just as he was moving away, his eyes caught a few small chits of paper lying idle on the dresser's top. He picked them up and started reading.
"As soon as you trust yourself,
you will know how to live.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe"
God help those who do not help
"Faith is a knowledge within
the heart, beyond the reach of proof.
"Action may not always bring
happiness; but there is no happiness without action.
"Fear cannot be without hope
nor hope without fear.
"Men should only believe half
of what women say. But which half?
Odd, thought Shaantanu. Clearly, these pieces of paper weren't his. But what where they doing on top of his dresser.
"Hari Laal!" he shouted, going out of his room and up to the sitting area above the stairs, "Hari Laaal!!"
A tired Hari Laal rushed out from the kitchen and went up to Shaantanu.
"Ye parchiyan apne paas rakho aur subha hote hi sab se pooch lena ye kis ki hein. Mere kamrey mein parhi huwi then per meri nai hein. Theek hai?" said Shaan, handing over the chits to the butler.
"Jee Shaan baba. Sorry humein pata nai tha ke aap ki nai hein warna hum aap ke kamrey mein na rakhte." replied Hari Laal.
"Kya matlab? Kis ne di hein ye tumhein?"
"Wo baba Madam jee ne kaha tha ke aap ke London waley suitcases store room mein shift kar doun aur agar suitcase mein koi samaan ho tou wo kamrey mein hi rakh doun. Ye parchiyan peechay wali pockets se nikli theen tou meine socha aap ki houn gi." Explained Hari Laal.
This struck as strange to Shaantanu. What would a few small papers with English mumbo-jumbo be doing in his suitcases? He tried to remember if he had put them there but was sure he hadn't. As he nodded at Hari Laal and proceeded to go back to his bedroom, a shocking thought entered his mind.
His first response was to turn around and get the small slips of paper back from Hari Laal, telling him they might be his and he might have forgotten about them. Securing the six paper slips in his right hand, he ran to his bedroom.
Joined: 25 May 2011
Joined: 01 February 2012
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