Joined: 04 September 2011
It was past midnight when Shaantanu heard his bedroom door creak open. A familiar whiff of lavender crept through the air whilst Shaantanu kept standing still with his back towards the door, studying the file he had been studying for the past ten minutes.
He heard the door shut, and his senses told him that whoever had opened the door was still in the room.
"Tumhari adaat hai kya? Aadhi raat ko logoun ke kamroun mein ghussne ki?" he asked, seemingly talking to himself.
To say Khanak was shocked would be an understatement! How did Shaantanu find out she had crept into his room on his last night in London? Anyone could have put those slips of paper in the sidepockets of his suitcase. And even if he guessed it was here, she could've put them in anytime of the day! Plus, he was asleep when she entered his room! Or was he?
These thoughts, of course, stumped Khanak and made a bit late in replying. As could be expected, Shaantanu continued, "Kya huwa Khanak? Chup kyun ho? Why aren't you responding?"
Pausing for a brief second, he continued, "Or are you giving you standard response? The one I obviously can't see from the back of my head?"
Shaantanu turned around only to see Khanak standing with a poker face, and thank God for that! It was one thing to be stumped but quite another to demonstrate yourself caught surprised and being embarrassed into silence.
"Oh..you aren't smiling!" said Shaan, mockingly.
And there Khanak saw it. The smirk which gave her courage and strengthened her resolve to confront Shaantanu Khandelwal. We know, readers, that the modern woman possessed unparalleled determination, especially those who carry compassion along with their ambition. Our hearts may, knowingly or unknowingly, have a soft spot for someone of the opposite gender, but our minds alert us when that someone needs to be shown his rightful place.
Khanak stepped forward so that now she faced Shaantanu, looking directly in his eyes. Her eyes were full of purpose and her tightened jaw told Shaan that he was not speaking to a woman who would succumb to his language even if it was the same woman who had not rebutted his statements at the breakfast table.
"Yes, Shaan. I am not smiling. Do you see in yourself any reason why a person of sound mind would smile seeing you?" asked Khanak.
Her serious tone unnerved Shaantanu, if only for a second. He was used to taunting her and being taunted by her, teasing her and being teased in return. But Khanak's present voice seemed aloof, devoid of emotion. Devoid of any feeling of association. To say he wasn't talked to like that by women was one thing. But to be talked to like that by Khanak seemed no less than an anomaly itself.
Finding his voice, Shaan spoke up "Tumhara matlab kya hai?"
"Yahi ke aap ko apne high horse se neechay utarna chahiye. Sar badloun mein ho bhi tou ye mat bhooliye ke paaoun zameen pe hi rakhne parhte hein."
"Tum kabhi seedhi tarhaan baat nai kar sakti kya?" he asked, annoyed.
"Kar sakti houn. Magar wo seedhay logoun ke liye hota hai. Aap un mein shamil nai hein. But khair choriye, mujeh ziyada shok nai hai aap ke saath dimagh larane ka. Mein bas aap se ye poochne ayi houn ke aap ne apne ghar waloun ko humare barey mein kyun nai bataya?"
"What rubbish! Kuch hai hi nai tou kya batayoun. I'm sorry if it breaks your heart Khanak," replied Shaan, as if Khanak's world depended upon being with him.
Khanak gave a short laugh. A short, mocking, sarcastic laugh.
"And I'm sorry if it hurts your ego Shaantanu, but I'm glad ke kuch nai hai. And that's what you should've told your elders. It is irresponsible and highly disrespectful of you to keep everyone hanging in the air."
"Irresponsible? Disrespectful? Are you kidding me, unhein hi shok tha iss shaadi ka and I've never given them any reason to believe I might be interested."
"Then why not come clean? Why not tell them that both of us have no interest in each other?" asked Khanak.
Shaantanu had no reply to Khanak's terse question. He turned around and ran his fingers through his hair, rubbed his eyes, sat on the bed and looked up at Khanak. She raised her eyebrows as if saying "speak up, idiot!" And an idiot he felt when he said, "Because it's just awkward yaar."
"What's awkward Shaantanu?"
"Yahi..ke you don't know someone and you go to your parents and say ke meine iss se shaadi nai karni. So illogical. Shaadi karni nai hai tou why know someone? And if you don't know someone tou shaadi kyun karni hai? Twisted logic!"
"The only thing twisted is your brain Shaantanu. Mujeh nai lagta aap ke aaj ke breakfast table pe nafees kalaam se logoun ko thora sa bhi doubt raha hoga ke hum dono ek doosre ko jaante nai hein-"
"Nafees what?" interrupted Shaantanu.
Khanak closed her eyes, sighed and reopened them as if to calm her rising impatience.
"All I am saying is firstly, you tell everyone that there is nothing between us and there never will be so they should not get their hope's high. Secondly, you start behaving yourself and mind your language when you talk to me warna I'll reply with equal rigour. Phir aap sochna what hit you. That is, if you're not too busy handling a bruised ego."
Saying this, Khanak turned around and started to walk out when her steps were halted by Shaantanu's voice, "Acha, so you think you have courage enough to have a battle of wits with me?"
She turned around, "Not only that, but I think YOU don't have the courage to have a normal conversation with me and risk everyone thinking Shaantanu Khandelwal is finally paying attention to a woman."
And with that, she made a sorry face for him and walked out.
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