Author Archives: Simi K. Rao

Romance Chap #2 The Inescapable Truth

Thank you for the wonderful comments. Here’s the next chapter.

chap 1

2: The Inescapable Truth

-0-

A girl should be pretty, fair, demure,

Educated but not too much

Her only ambition should be to serve her family

And once she weds– her husband and his family

A divorced woman is a woman without morals

As for love–well leave it for the movies

It probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the following few weeks were some of the worst of my life. While I occupied my days struggling to fill the void left by my favorite companion, my nights were spent chasing away visions of his naked body entwined with my double-crossing best friend’s in varying degrees of nauseating intimacy.

I found my mood vacillating between extremes—an all-consuming jealousy and a soul sapping depression. My ego was wrecked beyond salvation. I was done. I, me, myself—all of us were done. Finished. Kaput. It was a foolish notion yet very real. At last I could empathize with what many of my patients often told me—When it comes to matters of the heart, the mind simply loses it.

I believed I was ready to call it quits. I began attending keenly to the plans some of my more miserable patients had concocted so to do themselves in. It came as a surprise at how creative some of them were. And easy. Damn easy. But a couple of things barred me from taking the conclusive step. Fear for one. I hate to admit I am a coward. While the other was fulfilling my life’s greatest ambition of becoming a full-fledged doctor of medicine. I didn’t want to die without obtaining the rights for the title of ‘Dr.’ in front of my name. In the least that would give my parents something to speak about with pride and regret at my funeral. I couldn’t give that up. Not even for Rohan. Fortunately or unfortunately it’s a curse I have learned to live with. I abhor leaving anything half-done. My life revolves around a perennial check-list.

The finals were looming just around the corner. I aced my exams, secured my degree, then packed my bags and moved back to my gaon as they say in my land. Though gaon was no tiny hamlet rather it was a sheher; the biggest in the country—Mumbai.

Continue reading

Romance Chap #1

One of the two stories I’m currently writing (trying to) is called Romance. And no it’s not what you think 😉

Here’s a teaser. I will continue depending on the response.

ROMANCE

In a world where society defines everything, a woman seeks to define herself

I’m a woman
Not a heroine
Or a celebrity
Just a regular woman
From a regular family
With regular feelings
And this is my story

1: I thought I had it all

Bangalore, India’s Silicon Valley:

The scene in the hotel room resembled the aftermath of a mini tornado. Fortunately the occupants had been left unscathed. Or had they? I sat on the king size bed in the few inches of space I could find and fidgeted with the pallu of my expensive sari. Spun from the finest silk, in the lightest shade of peach with a green and red wedding procession marching along the edge—it was undoubtedly a fine work of art. As I twisted and untwisted the richly embroidered fabric, I saw the men and women drift apart then come together, often in quite compromising positions. It was fascinating.

“Aanch, what are doing there? I thought you had pitched in to help me and give me advice. Come here, tell me how I look.”

I left my seat and gingerly picked my way through the obstacle course on the floor and went over to where my friend (my best friend) was preening herself in front of the lighted mirror.

“You are looking very pretty Rosh,” I admitted albeit reluctantly and readjusted her exquisite gem-studded jewelry; a slight tug here, a gentle nudge there. Her parents had spared no expense.

Rosh turned to me with a bright smile, “You think so Aanch? Thank you.”

Continue reading

A Perfect V Day Gift

Rihaan didn’t get one thing. He looked at Anna. “Can you tell me why everybody is wearing red or pink? Is there some kind of dress code you didn’t tell me about?”

“It’s Valentine’s day, silly.” She laughed giving his shoulder a playful shove.

“Is it?” he muttered under his breath.

“Oh, I’m so sorry! You should be with your wife. It completely slipped my mind!”

His lips drew into a thin line. “Never mind that. Get to the point. Why did you call me here?”

She hesitated, taking a sip of his unfinished drink. “The idea is to make my boyfriend shit in his pants with jealousy. He’s been taking me way too much for granted.”

“Hmm…” Rihaan looked at her, as if seeing her for the first time.

“Will that bother…uh…your wife?” she asked.

“My wife? No, absolutely not. She’s generous to a fault when it comes to matters of philanthropy.”

And while Anna wrinkled her forehead over his statement, he mused; Wonder how it’ll affect Naina if she sees me with Anna right now?

“Dr. Mehta…” Anna began.

“Call me Rihaan.” He grinned. “We’ve certainly been working together long enough for us to be casual with names. So, what did you tell your boyfriend?”

“I told him I was going out with my boss who’s a regular dish. He’s seen you so he knows I’m not lying.” She giggled. “I also texted him this club’s address.”

“You did. And what does he do, this gentleman friend of yours?”

“He’s an amateur boxer and a pretty good one at that.”

Rihaan wondered what mess he’d got himself in.

Right then he heard something which consigned everything else to oblivion. Her voice—Naina’s—as radiant and light as a summer breeze, that his ears were tuned to detect even in the noisiest of clubs. He swung around on his barstool.

Yes, there she was, looking unbelievably fetching in a crochet blush pink shift that admirably complemented her flawless complexion, and with her silky hair knotted casually at the base of her neck. She was sitting at a table, with a few other companions, but his eyes focused on only one, the villain of the piece, her lover, the buffoon who looked even more despicable at close quarters.

“Let’s dance,” Rihaan said, standing up abruptly and forcibly pulling Anna by the arm to the clearing in front of the small stage where the saxophonist had gone into a prolonged, flamboyant solo, egged on by a cheering crowd.

Keeping his mouth close to his partner’s ear, as if carrying on an intimate conversation, he swung deliberately close to where his wife was seated so Anna would brush against her arm. Naina glanced up, and her eyes widened with the shock of recognition. Then, as he looked on, her lovely face flushed red with indignation, including the tip of her pretty little nose. Rihaan felt a wonderful sense of achievement. He inclined his head slightly to acknowledge her presence before swinging away.

But the very next moment he saw her get up and walk away. He gave chase, after hurriedly transferring Anna over to a stocky young man, who’d been glowering silently at them for some time, and whom she nervously addressed as Ricky.

“Why did you leave?” he asked his wife, spotting her on the sidewalk. She looked frantic.

“I was just bored. And tired. It’s been a long day. So now if you’ll excuse me.” She stepped off the curb and waved at a taxi. It whizzed by.

“You left because you saw me dancing with Anna,” he snorted.

She pretended not to hear him and took off down a side street at a brisk pace.

He was equally quick to pursue. “You just couldn’t stomach it. You were hopping mad. Isn’t that right?”

“Why? Why should I feel anything?” she retorted over her shoulder. “You are free to do what you want…dance with whom you like…whenever you want.”

“Am I? But I’m sorry you are not!” he exclaimed, grabbing her arm and holding her back before she could cross the road. “That man…that buffoon whom I saw you invite into your apartment? Who’s he and what’s he doing with you?”

She seemed nonplussed for a moment. “What…? Oh…so that’s why you didn’t show up that night. I’d been wondering. By the way, his name is Farzad and he’s not a buffoon. He’s my mentor at work. A very nice and kind man who happened to let me rent his place for practically nothing, because he rarely gets to use it. He was there to pick up some stuff before leaving on his next tour, and he was so excited since he’d get to see his wife, who is in Cairo. But anyhow, I don’t think I owe you an explanation.” She glared fiercely at him. “When I know that you don’t care about what I do with my life or who I choose to spend it with.”

“I do care.” He gripped both her arms, compelling her to look into his eyes that burned with a flame she’d never encountered before. “I care because you’re my wife and you belong to no one else but me.” He jerked her closer. “Only me.”

And then his lips found hers.

She struggled, but when he didn’t let go, she gave up. Letting out a long relaxed sigh, she wrapped her arms around his neck. Naina leaned into him, keeping her body flush against his. He supported her weight, holding her in a snug embrace, as they continued to kiss while Anita Baker crooned out of hidden speakers on the sidewalk.

Their coming together seemed inevitable.

He whispered into her ear, “We are just two blocks from my place.”

Want to read more? Get the book at the links below. HAPPY VALENTINES. 

USA

INDIA

AUSTRALIA

BRAZIL

CANADA

FRANCE

GERMANY

UK

ITALY

JAPAN

MEXICO

NETHERLANDS

SPAIN

 

Read My #Novels #Free on #KindleUnlimited

For Your Reading Pleasure

Read all my books for #Free on Kindle Unlimited 🙂

LINKS BELOW

USA

INDIA

AUSTRALIA

BRAZIL

CANADA

FRANCE

GERMANY

UK

ITALY

JAPAN

MEXICO

NETHERLANDS

SPAIN

Liberty

Freedom to speak, to choose, to read, to love

I have everything

Still, I’m trapped

In a closet of noise, worry, anxiety

And perception

My wrinkles and lack of beauty

My aging mind

My cancer

Acknowledgment

For

My ordinariness that remains

I need liberty

From my big house and smart kid

From the constant urge to scale a summitless peak

From fatigue

I need detachment

Not from the world but me

I need peace

 

‘Now and Forever’ Blog tour, Free download and Giveaway!

Hi Friends!

A very Happy New Year to you!

Now through Jan 6th you can download my latest novel Now and Forever (the sequel of Inconvenient Relations) free on kindle worldwide! Plus get a chance to win a $10 Amazon gift card by entering a giveaway here! Also follow the blog tour below and read excerpts and get to know more about my books. How’s that for a New Year gift?

Prism Book Tour

Feel free to share the joy!

Happy reading!

PS: A request to those who have read and enjoyed Now and Forever– please drop a few words in review on Amazon and Goodreads.

Personality Talks, It Walks and Rocks!

Inconvenient relations Cnow-and-forever

The statement is absolutely true. At least it is for me. For example how often have you come across someone who’s gorgeous to look at but then they start talking and you realize they aren’t so hot at all. You almost wish they hadn’t opened their mouths. The opposite also holds true.  

Its personality or character that makes or breaks a person. The same goes for a good novel too. What I’m getting at is character development. I may get drawn to a book by its attractive cover and plot summary but if the characters are insipid, if they don’t talk to me or get under my skin my interest dissipates rapidly and I will usually dump the book.

I’d like to say the characters in my books usually have several dimensions (they aren’t necessarily schizophrenic), with subtleties that are revealed slowly or kept hidden similar to many people we all know and acquaint ourselves with. I cannot write my characters unless I know them or I am them. Often I live them and dream them. They are my friends and I talk to them. I ask them how they feel then jot down what they say.

Inconvenient Relations and its sequel Now and Forever have some interesting characters.It is vital to read book 1 to enjoy book 2 because in essence this story is a study of a relationship and its various phases.

An imperfect yet perfect couple—

Ruhi or my chile dulce (sweet chili pepper) as her spouse Shaan likes to call her, starts of as a young woman from a cherished background, with dreams of building a future with her one-in-a-million husband who has been carefully picked for her by her parents. But her hopes are challenged right from page one. She is coerced into taking on a role that is quite alien to her or maybe had been held back and didn’t have the chance to manifest so far. It isn’t uncommon to see certain traits reveal themselves only under times of duress. Instead of bowing down and mutely accepting what destiny has doled out to her, Ruhi chooses to stand up to it. She shows her husband the mirror by turning the tables on him. She disguises her vulnerability in a bold and brazen avatar, She is a novice hence rash in her ways and often undiplomatic in her conversation yet she is also coy and secretive. All in all she is a maddening bundle of fun and mischief who adroitly twists her willing hubby around her little finger and exhibits no qualms about it. She loves him with a passion and won’t stop at anything to get him what is rightfully his.She is a woman to be reckoned with.

Sona munda Shaan Ahuja (heat factor to the power of infinity) is a gorgeous nerd who falls for the wrong woman and ends up paying for it dearly. He quashes the dreams of his brand new bride by announcing on their wedding night that he loves another and then is forced to eat his words. Shaan is a sensitive man with an arrogant streak who is devoted to his wife and his job. He is a jealous lover and possessive husband. He falls for his wife at the outset and doesn’t recognize it or is kept from acknowledging it by his ego and maybe his insecurity. Regardless, she drags his feelings out in the open after a cat and mouse game and they have a wonderful time until life tests him again. But then he has his trump card at his side.

I cannot conclude without talking about Sunshine, who happens to be my favorite character in the books. A frail septuagenarian, she is the catalyst in Ruhi and Shaan’s bonding. But don’t be deceived, this little old lady has a zest for life that rivals even those a quarter of her age. Enough said, I have to leave something for my books. Happy reading!

BUY LINKS

Human After All Chap 23: Baat Pakki (Done Deal)

ghunghat

chapter 22

23: Baat Pakki

-0-

Shantanu woke the next morning to realize he had fallen asleep in the rocking chair. His body ached all over. He saw Megha was not in her bed and the bedside clock read 9 am. He got up to stretch then suddenly grew anxious for today Dad was going to make him aware of his decision. He walked over to the window and looked out to see the sun was already well into its journey across the sky. It was going to be another beautiful day, and he hoped it would bring him luck.

Chaachu!”

He turned around. His niece was standing at the door all dressed up and ready for school.

“What is it honey?”

“Everybody is downstairs waiting for you. Mama asked me to call you right now!”

“I am coming. Give me a couple of minutes.”

As she skipped away, Shaan hurried into the bathroom and shut the door. His pulse was racing. He didn’t feel quite as bold as he had in front of his father yesterday. He opened the tap and splashed his face with cold water then examined himself in the mirror. He saw doubt and hesitation in his eyes and he looked like a loser with the day-old stubble on his jaw. That won’t do, he thought. He took a deep breath and drew himself to his full height. “Come what may, I will keep my side of the bargain. I’ve done nothing wrong. I’ve just been straight up and honest. I deserve to be happy, don’t I? Shantanu Khandelwal is a trustworthy man Khanak, you can bet on it.” He gave himself an assertive nod and then headed downstairs.

~~

The extent of Madhavi’s excitement was such that her fingers felt like spaghetti on the keypad of her cell phone. She emitted a loud shriek as soon as she saw her son climbing down the stairs. She rushed over and enveloped him in a hug, “OMG! My bacchu, akkal ka kacchu! Why did you hide it from your own Mama that you had fallen for the petite Doc and wanted to make her yours forever? Afraid I won’t approve?”

When she sensed a mixture of confusion and embarrassment in her son’s face, she pinched his cheeks and said, “Sweetheart, remember Mama is always on your side, no matter what anyone says! You can always depend on your Mama!” She cast a pointed glance at her husband who was lounging on the sofa trying to appear nonchalant.

Haan bro! You made me proud! You did what you said you would!” Akshay walked up to his brother and clapped him on his shoulder.

Shantanu closed his eyes and mouthed a thank you to heaven as Dadi ma and Khushboo also came up to congratulate him. Megha ran into his arms with a scream of joy and as he hugged her, he couldn’t resist walking up to Sunil and saying, “Don’t you want to congratulate me too, Dad? Your bachelor son is going to get married.”

“Congratulations son, you’ve made a great choice.” Sunil shook his hand while smiling reluctantly.

“Thanks Dad.”

“So, when are we going to meet our new bahu? I just can’t wait to meet her and her family.” Dadi Ma had tears in her eyes.

“Yes! When are we going to Doctor Auntie’s, I mean Chaachi’s house?” Megha said bobbing up and down like a spring toy.

Continue reading

Human After All Chap 22: He States His Case

Happy Deepawali  everyone! Here’s some holiday reading for you!

chapter 21

22: He States His Case

-0-

“Score!” Sheila, Shantanu’s secretary, muttered. She had been keeping rhythm with her boss’ steady pacing and he had just made it to a hundred in fifteen minutes. At this rate the carpet would soon need replacing, she thought making a check list in her mind, or else she would be. It had been tough but she had managed to make it through to this far. She had done so by doing her job and keeping out of his way. His absent mindedness had not helped much. It became her prerogative to find excuses for his sudden disappearance acts. He frequently skipped important meetings, then when asked why, he would say he had more important things to do than attend silly chat clubs.

She admired him for being completely out of the norm. Despite his unorthodox habits he had already gained a foothold in the market. He had established a name for himself separate from his father and brother as a thinking man’s architect, who designed buildings keeping in mind multiple aspects including aesthetics, ecology, the environment and sustainability. All his buildings were powered by at least 50% solar power and used recycled rain water. He had also been using locally available materials and was willing to accept all kinds of jobs. Nothing was too big or small for him.

Sunil Khandelwal had let his younger son contract out his services as an architect and hadn’t insisted on building those designs. This had broadened their presence in the business and more and more people including the government had begun seeking out Shantanu Khandelwal’s expertise. Sheila was smart enough to realize he had become a major asset to his father’s business and he knew it very well. He could probably call the shots if he wished but being his father’s obedient son he hadn’t done it yet. He’d simply exhibit his defiance now and then by doing things his own way and not toeing the line of tradition as he had done earlier today by skipping the weekly morning meeting headed by his father, which his brother had never missed in all his ten years with the company.

But Shantanu Khandelwal was Shantanu Khandelwal.  A man who made his own rules and lived by them alone. He was a mystery and an alluring enigma, thought Shiela dreamily as she counted rotation number one hundred and six, his handsome head visible above the wood paneling, immersed deep in thought. But one whose heart was already taken as he had made very clear during her interview.

She sighed and waited for an opportunity to interrupt him. There was a lot of work to do.

***

It had been exactly three days since Shantanu’s tryst with Khanak when he had told her they would be engaged and wed in a week. And here he was, yet to take it up with his father, the almighty Sunil Khandelwal.

Hell! He banged his hand on the wall. People usually hesitated while approaching their future parents ‘ in- law but here I am shying away from approaching my own father! He knew the news would probably not be to the great man’s liking but he had to get it out in the open. I don’t care if he blesses our union or not. My mind is already made up and there is no going back, come what may.

Shantanu rang for his secretary. Sheila found him standing and staring out at the panoramic ocean view with his hands in his pockets and his lean back facing her. It was a standard pose that he adopted whenever he wanted to talk on a serious issue.

“Can you call Mr. Khandelwal’s office and arrange a meeting with him for say about 1 O’clock this afternoon?” He said without turning around.

He always addressed his father as Mr. Khandelwal, not Dad or father, whereas his brother was always Akshay. She wondered if it was his American education but instantly dismissed the thought. All Americans she dealt with insisted on addressing her by her first name, a practice they believed put people at ease. No, there was some other reason. There appeared to be an unspoken distance between father and son.

“But sir, you could just walk in. Why the need for a formal appointment?”

“Ms. Sheila, I know what I’m doing and I don’t need any pointers. Please do as I say and don’t ask questions.”

“Will do sir.” She turned to leave and then paused. “This morning’s meeting sir that you forgot to attend on the naming of the new resort casino… Your father was very disappointed when he didn’t see you there. I thought you may want to know.”

He turned around, his face stern. “Thanks for the FYI. It’s all just bullshit. Why the hurry to find a name for a place which is yet to see the design board? There isn’t even a site in the horizon and I can’t begin without any info about the location, views etc.” He shook his head. “Buildings, buildings, and the business of construction, that’s all he cares about. How about building lives and the foundation for a solid family?” Shantanu became pensive. Then he suddenly looked up. “But why am I talking to you about all this? You may go Ms. Sheila and please let me know when you’ve made the appointment.” He turned away dismissing her.

Looks like he wants to discuss his marriage, she thought and sighed again. There goes the most eligible bachelor in Mumbai!

***

In his massive corner office, Sunil Khandelwal sat preparing the company report for the upcoming quarterly shareholders meeting. Though he could designate the task to any of his very able staff, he insisted on doing it himself. Being always hands on and keenly involved in the day to day running of his company had been one of the key reasons of his success. Everyone knew nobody could fool Sunil Khandelwal and there were very few who would survive if pitted against him. So, instead people chose to join forces with him and keep him on their side.

There was a knock and he saw Shantanu peep around the door. “Can I come in?”

Sunil smiled broadly and waved his son in.

“Come on in! I don’t understand you young folks nowadays! All this formality to talk to your own father while on the other hand you are absent from an important meeting without even a courtesy call!”

“I’m sorry about that Dad,” his son said ambling in. “I guess I should have called come to think of it. But as you probably know by now I’m not interested in frills and fancy stuff. I care about substance and the soul. Most importantly I don’t like to count my eggs before they hatch.”

“You are absolutely right my son. And I appreciate knowing your POV. But I’ve learnt my lesson the hard way. Sometimes you must take a gamble and place the stakes high if you want to win. I mean if you are hungry enough.”

“Dad!” Shantanu shook his head. “But I’m just a simple guy. I play straight and let my work do the talking for me. Nobody need strain any grey cells here!” He laughed.

“All right son, you’ll learn with time. Now I don’t want you to waste any more of your half an hour.  Any new ideas for expansion, some big deal around the corner?” Sunil said with an indulgent smile.

“Yes I do have an idea for expansion but it’s not what you think.”

“Then?” Sunil raised his eyebrows.

His son hesitated. “What I’m going to say now may make you happy and not so happy at the same time. I want to get married.”

“What? The confirmed bachelor getting married! That’s the best news I’ve heard in a long time! So Khushboo was finally able to persuade you. Is it someone we know? Is it Krishnakant Sharma’s daughter? The one you danced with at your comeback party? Say yes! This marriage will mean a great deal to us. I’ve always wanted to buy KK out but now I wouldn’t have to. His daughter will bring all the goods with her! Yes, that’s like my son!” Sunil was jubilant.

Shantanu didn’t seem to share his joy. “Well it’s not as you think,” he said. “Don’t get me wrong, I wish Mr. Sharma’s daughter all the best. She will make some lucky man happy. But I don’t like to mix personal life with business, too complicated.”

“Then who is it?”

“It’s someone you know and I think like as well. It’s Khanak, Dr. Khanak Agarwal.”

What? Dr. Agarwal? But…you must be kidding me son! When, how?”

“Dad I’m quite serious.”

“But…!”

Sunil then recalled Megha’s birthday, the pretty doctor’s unexpected arrival, her bonding with the family, Shantanu having eyes only for her, then his driving her home despite Dharam being there and available. “Perhaps it’s an infatuation that would pass?” he said with some hope.

“Dad!” Shantanu burst out laughing. “Now you are kidding me! Nope, this is the real thing. She is your future daughter-in- law!”

“Does she know?” Sunil saw his house of cards come crashing down.

“Of course, she does! Didn’t I tell you that I play straight? She knows, her parents know and everything’s hunky dory!” his son said confidently.

“Her parents? What kind of people are they?”

“Just regular people. Her Dad works in a bank, Mom’s a housewife devoted to her two daughters. She has a younger sister who is still working on getting educated. Overall a warm loving uncomplicated family, perfect for me in every sense and I have a feeling that they already like me a lot.” Shantanu beamed.

“You are a fast worker.”

“Well, I don’t believe in wasting time when it’s quite clear what we both want. Besides we aren’t growing any younger. Don’t you want some cousins for Megha?”

His son was at his best charming self and very hard to refuse. But Sunil tried.

“Do you think she would be able to carry out the responsibilities of a Khandelwal bahu? You know she and Khushboo are as different as night and day.”

“Like chalk and cheese, yes. But you don’t make sense, Dad. She’s beautiful, educated, a brilliant young doctor for crying out loud! I want someone who I can talk to and make decisions with. I want my marriage to be on an equal footing and not a one-sided affair like, like yours and Mom’s or for that matter Akshay bros!”

“Shantanu you are overstepping your boundaries!” Sunil exclaimed but couldn’t deny there was a ring of truth in what his son had said.

“Dad, as I said, I don’t mince my words. Khanak will not be like Khushboo bhabhi, no offence. Nor will she be like any upstart socialite. She will be what she is and that’s the reason I love her. Yes, I do and I have already given her my word and I won’t go back on it, no matter what you say.” Shantanu stood up from his seat. “This is just an FYI, I’m not asking for your permission, though it’ll be appreciated. This is the most important decision of my life and I’ve already made it.”

“Then what’s this charade of asking me? You could just as well go ahead.” Sunil leaned back in his chair.

“Well, I wanted to follow certain traditions and norms. I don’t want people to point fingers and wag their tongues.” He then spoke in a quieter voice, “Dad, I respect you and Mom tremendously and I am sure you will soon love Khanak as much as I do once you get to know her better. Please say yes and make me happy.”

“I need time.” Sunil said his mind was racing.

“All right, then till tonight or at the latest tomorrow morning. Enough time to discuss with mom, for Dadi ma has already given her okay. Bless her, maybe you should talk.” Shaan smiled.

“Okay I’ll let you know tomorrow.” Sunil said, hoping his wife would see his way.

Shantanu nodded and walked out leaving Sunil wondering why he had spoiled him so much.

***
That night at Khandelwal House:

Sunil looked at his wife Madhavi sitting as usual with her faithful companion, her mobile, sending one of her innumerable SMSs to god knows who. For all he knew she could be talking to aliens and soon may even get kidnapped by them, he thought hopefully. But right now he had to speak to her.

“Madhavi?”

“You’re talking to me?”

“Yes, I have to ask you something.”

“Okay, so what have I done now?” She said, continuing to plug away at her phone.

“Well…”

“Well what? Have I taken you to the cleaners? Or did I forget to send a thank you note to Mr. and Mrs. Whoever!” She said without looking up.

“I didn’t say that.”

“Then what else can it be? Every time you need to talk to me it’s for one of those reasons. Madhavi! Why did you have to buy another diamond set, are you planning to get married again? For God’s sake, do I have to have an excuse to buy jewelry for myself? What else do bored rich business tycoons’ wives do anyway?”

“Do whatever you want to Madhavi but please listen to me now. I have something to say which is much more important.”  He paused for effect, “Shantanu wants to get married.”

Madhavi gaped at him as if he had announced they were leaving for Timbuctoo. “Say that again!”

“Our son wants to get married.”

“Pinch me! No, not that hard, you’ll give me a bruise! Oye my baccha! Bless him and bless you for giving me the good news! Now I can put those diamond sets to good use. I knew he won’t be able to resist his bhabhi’s wicked ways any longer! So what stinking rich dad’s beti has agreed to be handcuffed to my laadla?” She asked with a bright smile.

“It’s not like you think. He wants to get married to…” Sunil took a deep breath, “Dr Khanak Agarwal.”

Madhavi swayed in place and placed a hand to her forehead. “OMG! Am I dreaming?”

“It’s true, Madhavi. I know, it’s a terrible shock.”

“Sunil, yes, shock it is but not terrible! It’s the best news I’ve heard in ages! Thank god!” Madhavi clasped her hands together. She was beaming from ear to ear. “At last! I knew it! Shaan would be the one to take a stand, to make his mama proud. To defy the rules! I knew it! He fell head over heels for that cute doctor who saved his life! I saw the signs, that naughty boy! What a lovely couple they’ll make!” She said dreamy eyed. “Sunil, thank you for giving me this wonderful news.” She blew him a kiss. “OMG a doctor in the house! Dadi ma wanted to light a thousand diyas if her living saint came home. I’ll be the envy of my friends! Oh there so many things to do! I’ve to plan the trousseau, poor girl, she has a heart of gold but no dress sense. I have to inform Dadi ma right away!”

“But Madhavi…” Sunil couldn’t believe his ears.

“Eat your heart out Sunil Khandelwal!” His wife rushed out leaving him stunned.

***

It was close to 9 O’clock that night when Shantanu sat with Megha in his lap, in the comfortable rocking chair in her room. He had offered to baby sit her while his brother took his wife to the movies for the first time in many years. They had asked him to come along but he had refused mentioning pending work while in fact he wanted to brood over what had transpired between him and his father earlier that day.

What will Dad do? Will he be able to get the entire family to vote against me? No, Akki and Dadi are on my side. I can probably count in bhabhi too; her behavior has changed considerably since Megha’s birthday. But Mom I can’t predict. She has always been a hard nut to crack, Shantanu thought as he twirled a lock of Megha’s hair around his fingers, It was so different from Khanak’s, lighter in shade and finer.

“Stop doing that Chachuu! My hair will get all matted like Mom says.”

“I’m so sorry!” Shantanu raised his hands in defense.

“Can you tell me a story? I can’t sleep.”

Shantanu sighed. “Please excuse me this once honey. I am tired, long day at work.”

“Okay. Do you want me to tell you a story then?” Megha asked innocently.

“Of course. I’d to love to hear what my baby has to say.”

Megha smiled appearing pleased and after making herself more comfortable in his lap enunciated in a dramatic voice, “This story is what Mom tells me all the time and it’s really true!” Her brown eyes opened wide. “There was once a beautiful girl just like Mom who lived in the biggest castle in the whole world ever! Are you listening?”

When Shaan nodded, she continued, “She was so happy, playing and laughing, but one day her Daddy married again and that woman was very bad and she hated mama and sent her to the forest. I hope my Dad never marries again!”

“I’ll make sure he won’t! What happened then?” Shantanu was curious to hear Megha’s interpretation.

“A witch in the forest gave poor Mom a bad apple and she ate it and died!”

“Died?”

“Yes, she was dead like really dead but then Dad was riding by and he saw her and kissed her and she woke up and then I was born. So, I am a real princess!” She said with a broad smile.

Shantanu guffawed at how she had managed to mix fiction and reality. Then he asked, “So you were born after they kissed?”

“Yes! Mom did not want to tell me but when I asked Grand Dadi how babies were made, she said by kissing. Is that right chachu? If you kiss Doctor aunty she may get a baby?”

Shaan laughed again and shook his head, “No my sweetheart! It’s far more complicated, something you won’t understand right now. I will talk to Dadi ma to stop filling your ears with ridiculous stuff!” So it was Dadi who sabotaged our first kiss, he thought.

“I miss Doctor Aunty!” Megha’s mood had undergone a sudden change. “I wish she was here with teddy and me. Can you ask her to come tomorrow?”

“I miss her too.” Shaan sighed closing his eyes.

“Can she come here and live with us and tell me stories every night?”

“Yes, if I have my way she will come here soon so you can play with her but she can’t sleep with you. Well may be occasionally.” If I let her that is, Shaan smiled.

“Yeah! That’s awesome! Did you hear that Teddy? Doctor Aunty is going to stay with us!” She addressed Teddy who was lying on the floor.

“I love you Chachu! You are the bestest!” Megha flung her arms around his neck.

Shantanu hugged her back hoping her wish would come true.

Later. after she had fallen asleep he laid her gently on the bed then sat down at her side and watched her with wistful eyes.

“Khanak, if you were here with me now, you’d know how much we all miss you.”

He covered Megha with her blanket and settled back down in the rocking chair and closed his tired eyes. He knew he wouldn’t be able to sleep.