Joined: 18 March 2012
Joined: 18 March 2012
Surrender is the path to freedom through our unique
where we experience the flow of life not through the narrow lens of the mind,
but through the vast refuge of the heart.
She turned her head at the sound of the gate. Someone had come in…a man. She tried to come out of the mist of her memories as she saw the man stop and give her a long look before he began to walk toward her, his eyes on her as he took out something from his pocket and held it in front of him….A phone. For the life of her, Aarti couldn't understand why he was coming toward her. If he had come to meet naanimaasi, he should have gone straight on to the main door. As far as she remembered, she had never seen this man…he had on a faded black shirt and worn-out jeans, was clean shaven with just the hint of a stubble, and had swept-back hair. It didn't even occur to her that for the first time in her life she had actually noticed a man's appearance.
Aarti scrambled to her feet as the man came and stood in front of her and smiled, "You didn't recognize me, did you?"
And, that's when she knew. The same penetrating gaze, the same deep voice, as Aarti looked wide-eyed at his face, "Mr Scindia??" He looked so different, all neat and bathed and fresh; most significantly, the beard was gone.
"So you do remember me?" He sounded pleased. "And you remember my name too."
Aarti fidgeted under his direct, amused look and mumbled, "I recognized your voice and your..." She was going to say eyes but stopped herself in time…..(a pause…as he waited) "You look different from last evening."
Yash smiled at her bowed head. Having seen her again, all the doubts plaguing him since the previous evening just disappeared, and he was glad he had extended his stay. He just needed some time with her to completely erase any lingering doubt, which meant he had to continue playing the charade of a poor, downtrodden man for some more time.
Yash remembered how disappointed he was the previous evening after seeing her take that casanova's gift. He had found out about him as soon as he had checked into his hotel. Sameer Singhania….He was a typically spoilt rich playboy and a womanizer to the core. As he stood at the balcony of his hotel room, looking out at the night and pondering over the events of the evening, try as he might he couldn't visualize the quiet, kind, generous girl in the company of such a man. Something told him she was as genuine as she came across to him…..that wealth was inconsequential to someone so transparent as Aarti…that there must be a perfect explanation to why she had kept the jewelry. But then his thinking was proven wrong earlier also….How could he forget how perfect Arpita had seemed? She had even fooled dadima. And then there was Deepa? First him, and then Aman: they both had been taken in initially by her disguised intentions. Ever since he had met Aarti, his heart was giving him all the positive signals, but they still hadn't clouded his rationality. The reason was putting up a stiff fight against these hitherto unknown, overwhelming feelings that had deluged him. Up there in the mountains, he had a lot of time to contemplate and reflect about his life's priorities…Payal, family, and business, in that order. Not once had he thought he needed someone for himself. Well!! He was not so sure now. A chance encounter with a gentle, beautiful shop girl had changed all that…made him acutely aware of his lonely self.
Yash faced a dilemma for the first time: He found himself being pulled in two opposite directions at the same time. After Arpita, he had vowed never ever to get involved in the matters of heart. In Bhopal, he faced almost a proposal a day from some woman or the other…some subtle and some overly inviting. But no one had even come close to knocking at the closed doors. He was happy spending time with Payal and his family. Out of nowhere this girl had entered his life like a gentle breeze and had wreaked havoc on his senses. And, now, he was consumed with her thoughts, while all that he needed to do was be practical, pack up, and leave tomorrow as per his original plans and forget he had ever met her. After all what reason could he have to stay back? To test someone just to prove to himself that what he envisions is no illusion…not a figment of his imagination…not unreal? Set himself up for another disillusionment? Another heartbreak? Yet, he wanted to do just that. He wanted to stop running. He wanted her to hold him back. He wanted her to prove him wrong. He only had to close his eyes to see her….her stubborn generosity, her exquisite beauty, her nervousness, and the vacant, forlorn look that hid some great trauma. He put his head down and sighed, running his fingers through his hair in agitation. He admitted he wanted to find out more about her…know her…understand her…He wanted to see her smile, laugh, and be happy. He wanted to see those eyes dance with life, with joy, with mischief. If only he had a valid reason to stay put and make sure what he felt was not a chimera in his mind, but was as real as the air that he breathed in. If only….And the battle raged on….
Yash thumped his hands in frustration on the wooden balustrade, just as the phone rang. He turned around and stomped into the room, picked up the phone without looking at the number and barked into it, "HELLO!!"
Silence….."WHO IS THIS?" Again silence…He brought the phone in front of him and saw the number: It was from home. Dammit!! He closed his eyes in consternation and held the phone back to his ears again, saying softly this time, "Payal?"
"You shouted at me…I am angry….very very angry."
"No, darling! Please…I am so sorry. I didn't shout at you."
"You did…you did," Payal was almost in tears.
"No, princess…papa was angry at himself….very very angry."
A pause…and then, "Why papa? Were you naughty?"
"I don't know, princess…It's just that I want to do something and I don't know if that is right."
"But papa, how will you know that it is not right if you don't do it? You know what dadima says when I don't want to eat something and say I won't like it? She says, "Gudiya, how will you know whether you like it or not if you don't taste it?" "
Yash was stunned as he stared at a painting of ocean waves on the wall. Did his daughter just make the decision for him? Payal's innocent comparison had shown him the way. He knew what he had to do. There was now a clarity that he was struggling to achieve just moments ago. He suddenly realized Payal was saying something.
"Did you find her? Did you?" All anger forgotten, she was all excited now.
"Find who, princess?"
"Uffo, papa! The mountain fairy….How many times do I have to repeat?"
He could just visualize her….slapping her forehead and making a face…a gesture of exasperation copied to the last detail from her dadaji. Yash smiled….he had missed her so.
"Yes sweetheart, I found her…but there is a problem. You see…she is from the mountains, so she stays here only. I will have to convince her to come with me to Bhopal."
"Can I come there and co..co..covins with you?"
"Hmm! I think we can do that. Let me see. What do you want to ask from her anyway?"
"That's a secret……Papa, can I come tomorrow? I miss you."
"I miss you too, princess. OK let me plan this….Is Chachu there? Give him the phone."
"Yes papa…Wait, I am going to him. Good night! I love you."
"I love you too."
Prateek came on line. After the usual notes exchange, he said, "Bhaiya…I wanted to talk to you regarding that land we were bidding for in Nainital for the hotel we spoke about."
"What about it Chote? Is there a problem?" Yash wanted to build this hotel in Aman's name and have a complete Adventure Sports package going with it, including trekking. Prateek had some contacts in Nainital, so was able to go after the project almost as soon as they had decided, which was a week after Aman's demise.
"Not really…but there may be. A local bidder has moved court against the outstation bidders, giving some sentimental reasons. I am stuck here with that new Spa opening in Scindia Shereton. I can go to Nainital only on Thursday. That's still five days away. Bhaiya, I know Payal and you have been separated for long.…Would you…"
"Don't worry. I'll stay back and handle it till you come. Get Payal with you when you come. Both of us need a vacation together."
"Right bhaiya…You solved a huge problem for me. Thank you."
"Actually Chote…you solved a huge problem for me….No, never mind….I'll tell you later. Goodnight! Tell princess, I'll talk to her tomorrow morning."
To say she was surprised was an understatement. The man who had such an unkempt appearance just last evening looked all rejuvenated to face life this morning. Along with his appearance something else too seemed changed, Aarti noted…There was something different in the way he was looking at her now. Last evening she remembered feeling a little awkward under the scrutiny his eyes had put her through. Now they reflected a congenial friendliness.
She looked up at him, "Last evening you left without finishing your sandwiches. Maansi told me. I hope everything is fine."
"Everything is perfect, Ma'am…just perfect. You seem to have brought good luck to me."
"How is that?" At the moment she wasn't so nervous, he noticed. Maybe the familiar surroundings of her home were the reason. He wondered who all were there in her family.
"My old employee paid me my dues today…and I have a new job. I shall be working on a land." He beamed. "I found out where you live from Brownies….and here I am. I told you I shall pay you back."
He was about to extract his wallet when Aarti stopped him, "No..no…please. You don't have to pay me."
"But I must. Yesterday I couldn't pay, but today I have money, which…"
"Which you need to save for now…." She completed for him. "Please Mr Scindia….it's OK."
She saw he looked a little crestfallen. Did she just hurt his self-respect? Aarti berated herself immediately.
"Mr Scindia if I ask you to do something instead of the payment, will you do it?"
"Yes, of course. I don't have to begin my job for another two days. I can take up any work till then." Yash was careful not to sound too eager.
"We have a swing in the back lawns. It's come apart from the hinges on one side. If you could…"
"I will see to it immediately, Ma'am."
Yash followed Aarti. He looked around as he walked. This was a beautiful house….cozy, bright, with lot of character. He glanced at the girl walking beside him. When he had come in through the gates, she was lost elsewhere and had a distant, melancholic look on her face. Dressed in white, with her dupatta flying behind her, she looked so pure and angelic. Before he realized he had taken out his phone and clicked her just as she turned to look his way. However, the moment he had approached her, she had hurriedly got up, and when she looked at him, she had managed to conceal her thoughts. It had immediately struck Yash that this must be a long-drawn habit.
Aarti left him to work on the swing after giving him the tool box from the garden shed, saying she had some work to complete. She was about to sit down on the lawn when she heard a shout, "Hey, Aarti."
She looked up to see Sameer Singhania stride up to her with a big grin. Before Aarti could turn and take two steps toward the house, he stood in front of her, "C'mon baby…quit avoiding me. Did you get my gift? I called but you didn't answer the phone, so here I am."
"Please let me go, Sir." Aarti tried to side step away from him.
"Why do you keep running away from me, sweetheart? I have been such a help to you…telling everyone about Brownies and bringing in the customers. In return all I ask is your company. Here, I have something for you." Saying he dug out another jewelry case from his pocket.
Aarti shook her head and tried to walk away, but he grabbed her hand, "So, you are trying hard to get, eh! Girls die to be with Sameer Singhania, and here you…"
"LEAVE HER ALONE." Aarti and Sameer both looked up in surprise…he toward the garden shed, and she toward the house, as the owners of the two voices who spoke those words strode toward them angrily.
To be continued………
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