meal had been outstanding. jean pierre couldn't get over the salad and
its roasted garlic and coconut gelato served on a bed of crunchy greens
including the very asian four angled beans, sliced thinly. he was
talking about the food and the great wine she'd chosen as they strolled
along. it was a lovely evening with clear skies and a balmy air...
had been intrigued by the blooms in agung concept when jp explained it
over dinner. it was different, seemed like a big enough idea and one
could explore it in many ways. she was eager to find out more and start
talking to buyers,
promote the collection... it was never too early to start in this
they turned toward the car park by the adjacent beach, she noticed a
couple out on the sands. they
were in each others arms, obviously kissing. the girl was completely in
the shadows, but in the light from a nearby bar you could see the man's
back, his shoulders, bent of body, dark straight hair, ... he looked
familiar to lavanya.
isn't that...? a thought began to cross her
mind. but then she said to herself, no, it can't be. lavanya shook her
head, the wine is
making me see things, she thought as she giggled to herself and walked off chirpily
toward the car.
he was driving too fast for the narrow winding roads of ubud.
pierre grabbed the handle on the passenger door as asr drove to
the meeting with a couple of designers. they wanted to discuss
accessories and materials for the project and had set off quite
early in the morning as ubud was at a distance of almost an hour and a
half away from their resort.
looked straight ahead and grimly changed gears, negotiating the tight,
practically single lane alleys and roads, pretty balinese homes and
gardens skirted their way. jean pierre tried to concentrate on them and
not fret about the speed.
what's wrong with me, dammit! asr cursed under his breath.
and how dare she... how dare she not take his call! he swore again inaudibly.
was he doing thinking of her anyway? why couldn't he stop it! this was stupid. stoopid stoopid, in fact.
he hit the accelerator hard, his grip tightening on the
some reason his thoughts went to his parents. how miserable they'd been
together really, he grimaced. his father cheating on his mother all the
time. his mother never ever saying a thing about it, at least not in
front of di and him.
anguished look on her face he caught at times, when she had no idea he
was looking at her. he cursed and slammed on the brakes as a little dog
came running out of nowhere onto the street. what he'd give to take that look away from maa's face.
he knew she loved pita ji, she couldn't live without him... and yet, pita ji did what he did.
lancing pain streaked through his head, he felt his hands going cold, then a
rush of heat somewhere. that look on his maa's face, he'd never forget.
and then one day it was all over. he could do nothing about it. nothing.
was the point of this thing called love? all it gave you was hell and
a helplessness, a terrible lack of control over your life. till one day
it was all done... over... finished.
grew up knowing there was no place in his life for this destructive
thing. never. he would never let anything or anyone do this to him.
watch di read her romances, some infernally dumb series called mills
and boon was her favourite, its endless books were devoured by her on a regular basis.
how could his clever, funny, smart sister even look at those things,
he'd wonder. but di was unstoppable, and she'd giggle and say, "you'll
see, one day that girl will come in your life... the one for whom you'll
forget everything, and you'd wish you'd read these very silly books so
you'd know what to say to her..." di was impossible.
but why was he thinking about all this now? what was the matter with him...
this had nothing to do with her... miss gupta! no! khushi!
khushi kumari gupta.
did he feel like holding that wretched khushi kumari gupta in his arms
suddenly! when she'd opened the door and stood before
him with blobs of white foam on her shimmering hair, he'd wanted to
pick her up and take her straight back to his villa and make love to her all
night. he'd walked away instead, completely shaken by the force of that
girl with wide hazel eyes was staring up at him, shocked and dazed.
sticky syrup was soaking through his expensive black silk shirt, custom
made in new york with the finest italian silk. he could feel the impact
of the collision where she'd hit him... just where the syrup
spread and caught crunchy orange jalebi bits, by his left breast pocket,
right where his heart was.
since that day... everything was strange.
he'd been restless,
his mind going again and again to
that face. his ears recalling her voice... such things didn't happen to
arnav singh raizada. women were a part of his life, of course... in his
matter of fact, intelligent way, he knew he was an attractive man and
women were drawn to him. the fact that he was successful and wealthy no
doubt added to his attractiveness, a slight sneering smile touched his
although he had very little time for things other
than work, he had had a few simple and strictly temporary relationships. none
of them made him restless or angry. he did not feel like doing
irrational things. in fact he didn't feel anything much at all.
he'd lifted her out of the car after there flight from lucknow, that's
where her head had landed... his thoughts had again pulled him where they wanted him. damn.
and now he could feel something there.
what. the. f...
concentrated on the road... he was not going to think of this any more.
accessories were what he wanted to think about. and materials. sheaths
of orange, red, chestnut, maroon, sienna chiffon floated... and a lissome,
smooth young body gleamed within the swirls.
"what the!" he swore aloud and swung the car to a halt in front of the artist's bungalow. work. he needed work. jean pierre let out a long breath, they had reached in one piece.
khushi and payal went out to see a little of the island after lunch.
khushi and payal had wanted to watch the kecak dance, which was based on the ramayana, at the famous uluwatu temple.
the girl on the beach
who made millions of plaits with your hair and strung beads on them for you if you
wanted, had said the temple was lovely and the view of the sea from
there breathtaking. she'd also warned them about the monkeys that roamed
around free all over the temple area... and told khushi not to eat
anything in front of them or carry food, they'd be all over her
otherwise in no time.
staying away from all food was a grave challenge for khushi, she'd
managed to empty her bag of chocolates, ber, and other hazardous
things. and after spending a few hours in the artisan's village and a
cup of tea and a lot of crunchy salted peanuts, they set off for uluwatu.
khushi squealed when they reached the temple, "bandar... look look! so
many monkeys!" the first thing she saw was a gang of the primates, led
by clearly a leader with a brooding, threatening air. they were sitting
along the low walls of the temple and on the branches of the many trees, waiting to pounce on things of interest.
three of them managed to find a nice spot on the floor for the
open air performance. khushi sat next to payal, while akash sat beside payal on
the outer edge of the row. the colourful and noisy dance started...
large groups of dancers took over the space in the centre, all men.
wore white sarongs and a red hibiscus behind the ear, they made a
peculiar, repetitive, and rhythmic sound with their mouths. jagga jagga jagga jagga... it went. they
created a whole melody with different beats and pitches, the feeling of an orchestra filled the air high above the sea.
then the main dancers, each doing a role, whirled onto the stage. fire blazed, the fantastically costumed
performers leaped around and told a tale which khushi and payal would
have understood in any language.
sitaharan. the abduction of sita
by ravan was the story of the evening. when ravan revealed himself in
his vicious looking mask and sita simpered and swooned at the sight
horrified at the mistake she'd made, khushi wanted to cry. why did such
nasty rakshases come into good people's lives? like that horrid one who was
making her life so difficult.
she sniffed and wished she had some ber to chew on. or chana.
out of nowhere a monkey with a long tail... hanuman... jumped into the
middle of the viewers, looking for a way to enter ravan's lanka.
ravan had spotted him and he came rushing in after him, then seeing a
pretty girl sitting in the crowd, he lost interest in the tailed
offender and swooped down on her instead.
"khushi!!!" yelled payal as ravan twirled away onto the stage holding khushi by the hand.
was a regular feature of the dance set up mainly for tourists. made for
a bit of fun and audience participation. the audience cheered and took
but khushi had no idea of this whole thing. she was
terrified and screamed "arnav... ji!! arrrnav... jiii!!! bachhao
baccchhhao! arnaaav jiii!"
the reverberating hum of the
kecak song drowned her desperate scream. how she wished he'd also come
out of nowhere right now and save her from this scary place and that
beastly ravan. she completely forgot that the last time she'd mentioned
ravan, it was a very sharp nosed handsome face she'd seen in her mind.
devilish glint in chocolate brown eyes, dark thick arched eyebrows on a
high straight forehead, thick black hair brushed back from a classic hairline which incorporated a perfect widow's peak, fine lips with
an asymmetrical downward tilt on the right side making him look even more
she shut her eyes tight and tried not to see the face. while she longed for it.
the way out as they stood by the edge of the grounds looking out onto the sea below, the monkey who was the leader of the gang came loping
swiftly and disappeared with akash's specs.
it all happened so fast, no one had time to react. poor akash had a befuddled expression
on his face. without his glasses he was practically blind.
his hand and led him to the car, worried for this decent and
thoughtful man. she was glad when he said, not to worry, he had another
pair at the hotel. he was the sort to think of safety, back ups, things
like that. payal liked that, she was of the same bent of mind.
walking away from the viewing point, khushi noticed a man and a woman standing to one side, also appreciating the sea. he had his arm around her shoulder, her head rested on his... and... oh.. he looked familiar.
khushi looked at the two with scrunched up brow... wasn't that... arnav ji's brother in law, shyam ji?
yes! it was him. khushi began to smile, maybe it was anjali ji and her husband, come here to surprise arnav ji?!
just then, the lady turned to fix her saree pallu and khushi saw her face.
it was not anjali ji.
but the way shyam ji was holding her...
khushi turned sharply and walked toward akash and payal. "chup, khushi, chup," she told herself, "no need to think anything fanciful and filmi... i'm sure there's a very good explanation for this."
akash couldn't see much, and payal was too focussed on akash to notice the couple.
she paced up and down in her room, praying to devi maiyya... but why had she not seen him at all today? what was the matter? was he planning to throw her out of her job again? really, she needed to let him know he couldn't do that. she would call him. no, she'd go and see him. no. "stop it, khushi, you are not going anywhere," she muttered... she was going to sleep, that's it.
he finished his whisky sitting out on that patio. good thing, he hadn't seen her today. he would go and get some sleep now, last night he hadn't slept too well.
about an hour later, and after much tossing and turning khushi decided she needed to go out and see the stars. that would make her calm, bring sleep. she came out of their villa and resolutely walked in the direction away from his place, out toward the clump of trees where she'd sat a few nights ago, speaking to her parents up their, shining down on her.
at their thought her breathing eased, she could feel her mind beginning to relax.
when she reached her spot, she looked at the sky and found her stars, then she sat down and leaned against a tree and let her head flop back and closed her eyes.
he found her asleep there as he walked up to the trees. he had tried his best to sleep but hadn't managed to get even a minute's rest. finally, he'd come out, thinking a walk might help.
he looked at her sleeping out here in the dark all by herself. he wanted to shake her awake and shout at her... had she any idea how dangerous this was!
his jaws clenched, he leaned down to awaken her brusquely.
but all he could manage to do was reach out, pick her up very very carefully so as not to awaken her and take her to her villa. when he reached, he set her down on the patio chair, knocked on the door, waited till payal came out, then left with a curt, "good night".
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