6: She Can Do Magic
Khanak stopped smiling when she saw Shaan staring back at her as though he was studying a masterpiece in a gallery. She was unprepared for the directness of his gaze and seeing him in this state, alert and coherent for the first time, threw her completely off her moorings. She looked away to try and recoup. But when she turned back she found him gazing around the room with an utterly lost and bewildered look on his face. She glanced inquiringly at Nurse D’Souza who simply shrugged her shoulders. Khanak thought for a moment then smiled at her nurse and gave her a conspiratorial wink.
Nurse D’Souza promptly read Khanak’s mind. She said directing a pitiful look in Shantanu’s direction; “I think Mr. Khandelwal here needs brain surgery. His mentation has been fluctuating a lot. I’m afraid something’s direly wrong. Do you agree doctor?”
“No! I’m perfectly fine! I don’t need surgery of any kind!” Their patient declared loudly.
“So what was that you were doing just now Mr. Rajkumar? Pretending?”
Shaan flushed. He had been caught in the act again. He saw Dr. Agarwal looking at him, her beautiful eyes saying quite clearly; GOTCHA! I am smarter than you think!
You certainly are not as bholi bhaali as you look, he thought. There seems to be a wily brain floating around in that pretty skull of yours. Beauty and brains– a deadly combo. No wonder Dr. Deepak is crazy about you. Now why don’t I like that? Shaan pursed his lips sensing a pang of envy.
Meanwhile Khanak was back to being a bunch of nerves, her sensation of triumph short lived. She tried very hard to feel indifferent while examining Shaan but that was proving to be more difficult than she had anticipated.
Shaan observed that Khanak was barely touching his chest with her stethoscope. Surprisingly he could sense her discomfort. What? The smart and cool Dr. Agarwal suddenly uncomfortable? What’s going on? Were they playing a cat and mouse game and their roles had suddenly reversed so that now it was his turn to be the aggressor? He sensed he relished the idea especially since she made such a gorgeous mouse. He smiled to himself. It seemed his exceptional charm was finally having the desired effect. The unflappable Dr. Agarwal was showing signs of nervousness. He almost wanted to rub his hands in glee!
He relaxed and lay back on the pillow and watched her closely knowing she could feel his gaze on her. Her face in profile was exceptionally delicate and exquisite with each feature carved to perfection. Her smooth complexion glowed as if lit up from within. Her eyelashes fluttered against her cheek like a butterfly’s wings. He wished he could feel them on his skin, and those lips, hmm…kissably perfect.
Meanwhile Khanak was feeling irritated with herself. Her mind had gone a complete blank. His watching her every move was not helping much either. She was making a mockery of the examination. With her slender hand she pressed gently on his abdomen then traced his sutures with incredible tenderness hoping they wouldn’t scar badly. He fidgeted under her touch and she jumped as if stung by static. She looked at him and he grinned back unabashed. She did a cursory nerve check and he willingly followed her commands. She noticed that he gripped her fingers a little too tightly and then let them go very reluctantly, all the while staring at her face. It was flustering that she could not meet his eyes without blushing.
“Uh…Mr. Khandelwal is making great progress. He should be ready to go home in a day or so,” Khanak said to break the silence not knowing that she was repeating herself. Shantanu was amused while Nurse D’ Souza gave her a puzzled look. She had never seen her behaving like this before. Dr. Agarwal had always been the epitome of efficiency.
Khanak wanted to flee from this room before Nurse D’ Souza figured out what was going on. She was incredibly sharp. Besides she needed some fresh air. The room had suddenly grown very hot and she could feel beads of sweat running down her back. But her torturer looked as cool as a cucumber. “Do you need me for anything else nurse?” she asked.
Seeing Nurse D’Souza shook her head in the negative, Khanak turned to the door and was almost knocked down by a woman who barged in like a tsunami. Following behind her was another huge wave in the guise of Shantanu’s father. The woman whom Khanak presumed was Mrs. Khandelwal (Shantanu’s mother) seemed a little too overdressed for a regular day in the hospital. Without paying Khanak any heed she took out a can from her enormous handbag and started spraying around the room.
“There is so much badboo in here, Shaan beta how do you handle it?” she then inhaled deeply, “Now that’s much better. Don’t you think?”
Khanak eyes stung and started to tear up from the strong fumes. She blinked her eyes and looked at Shaan’s father and found him staring at her. Before he could open his mouth she said; “Mr. Khandelwal is doing very well, in fact he should be ready to go home tomorrow once we get the okay from the surgeons. I am in a hurry, if you had any questions don’t hesitate to give me a call.”
“Stop! Aren’t you the Dr. Khanak who saved my son’s life? Isn’t she Sunil? Aww I never had the chance to thank you properly! Thank you Dr. Khanak;” Mrs. Khandelwal gushed through her perfectly painted mouth.
Shaan who was watching so far in silence was taken aback. What? Saved my life? Dr. Khanak? And my mom thanking someone? Impossible! She’s usually manic but never delusional. She has never made such weird statements and heaven forbid has never thanked anybody in her life! She must be high on something. I wonder if she is smoking pot.
Shaan tried to catch his Dad’s eye but found him looking at Dr. Agarwal with what seemed almost like awe. He couldn’t believe his eyes. Something was gravely out of sequence here. He and his mom may be pushovers but not his father who he counted among the leading contenders for the title of the world’s foremost MCP. This innocent looking doctor was definitely a practitioner of witchcraft. For she has achieved something that no woman had ever achieved before—Sunil Khandelwal’s undivided attention! He swallowed and looked keenly at Khanak’s head to see if she had sprouted any horns. Just then she excused herself and walked out.
There was an unusual silence in the room after Khanak’s departure. It was unusual because it happened in the presence of Madhavi who loved to hear the sound of her own voice. Shaan admired her for being able to carry two sides of a conversation on her own. One of his earliest memories was sitting in the car between his father and mother. She’d be talking and his father either staring out of the window or at his newspaper ignoring her completely. Shaan guessed she was lonely. Lot of people did weird things when they were lonely.
“Shaan my dear you are awake! How wonderful! How are you feeling?” But before Shaan could reply she said, “But of course, you feel awful! And in those hospital clothes! Who could feel good! Nurse who designs these things?”
Nurse D’Souza didn’t bother to answer. She just waited, she had caught on really fast. She was soon rewarded.
“Shantanu! Did you know that Dr Khanak actually saved your life? No don’t look at me that way! I am not making it up! You were actually dead and she brought you back to life! Tell him Nurse!”
Nurse D’Souza explained briefly what Dr Khanak Agarwal had done, about she had prevented his lung from collapsing in the nick of time.
So it is true. She did save my life and her first name is Khanak and my mother is not on something. Shaan sighed and closed his eyes. Khanak’s face floated into view but now with a halo around her head.
Dr. Khanak Agarwal–super smart, dedicated to her job, breathtakingly beautiful, with a quirky sense of humor and now his angel of mercy. What a CV! He would have hired her right away but she was not available. He sighed again.
He was discharged home the following evening much to his great disappointment and his mother’s too for she thought he would stay till his stitches came out. It took a while for Khanak to explain to her that they didn’t do so any more and he was better off at home than in the hospital. Shaan barely had a chance to see her as she rushed in and out of his room as if she had a plane to catch. He hoped but then shook his head–No idiot. She’s done with you. Besides she has other patients who need her. But how can she abandon me? I need her even more.
The following few days went by slowly. Gradually Shantanu felt his strength return. Though he couldn’t yet run a marathon, he knew that day wasn’t too far away. There were occasional mishaps when overcome with hunger he had a big dinner and spent the night moaning in pain. The doc on call reassured him and asked him to take it slow. He wanted to go back to work but Akshay and his father ruled it out until after his follow up appointments so he was practically home bound.
In order to keep out of the way of Khushboo and his mother he’d pretend to be asleep or he would go for a walk either on his own or with Megha who always brought a smile to his face. And his thoughts would inevitably turn to Khanak—what a beautiful name for a beautiful face like the dainty tinkle of bangles. She was the reason he couldn’t relax and take it easy. Even if he succeeded in distracting himself she didn’t fail to check back in.
She had become his mother’s favorite topic of discussion though for all the wrong reasons. She wanted to give her a makeover. He longed to tell her that Khanak was perfect in every sense. That she didn’t need any embellishments. But he held back for fear his feelings would be revealed.
Dadi ma considered Dr. Agarwal a reincarnation of some ancient heroine; a healer with divine powers who had taken birth in this kalyug to remind people like him and his dad that God did exist. He believed that sooner or later she would erect a shrine in Khanak’s honor and make her a living saint. Even Akshay never failed to drop her name in his presence. Was he aware of his feelings? After all he was his brother.
One evening Megha found him sitting on a bench in the park with his head in his hands; “Chachu are you okay?”
“I am fine sweetheart. Was just trying to figure out a riddle.”
“Chachu you don’t have to pretend you have a headache. Dad told me you don’t go to school anymore.”
“I wasn’t pretending Megha…,” Shaan said and then smiled. The little girl’s innocent chatter had provided him with an idea of how to solve his dilemma. He broke into a laugh and clasped her tight in his arms.
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