“Put your arm around my waist.”
They were seated on Shan’s bike and Khanak as usual was keeping at least a foot’s distance.
“Why? I don’t see anyone…” she said taking a quick glance around.
“Darling… I mean Khanak,” Shan said quickly correcting himself. “You never know. There could be people hiding anywhere, behind trees, bushes, pillars etc. Last night made us famous. I’m sure all of them will be out in force to get some more meat. The story isn’t dead yet.” Shan was relieved when she relented to his request but with just one arm. He quickly fixed the situation much to her chagrin and was pleased when she didn’t release herself. He then said; “May I ask what persuaded you agree to this campaign?”
“Someone who helped set my priorities straight;” she replied with a smile. It was her turn to be secretive.
Yet she had no clue why their forty-minute ride turned out to be so bumpy.
Shantanu extended his hand to Khanak, “Now for the big test.”
She nodded. Yes, they were about to take their show on the road. All eyes would be on them and there would be no room for slip ups. Absolutely none.
They walked inside arm in arm and at once were aware of quite a few raised eyebrows and surreptitious whispers. Yet no one dared question them. Who would of the Boss?
Shan drew Khanak closer to his side and then walked into his office. There he was surprised to see a couple of people who were from the venue where Jhankaar was going to stage its shows. They had come to discuss some arrangements.
In answer to Shan’s concerned look Khanak gave him a reassuring nod; “Go ahead. If you want me just holler and I’ll come running.” She said so in a way that conveyed a lot more than the words. Then flashing a gracious smile at the bemused guests she made her exit.
Khanak stood outside the glass door of the studio and took in the scene. Most of the dancers were already there, but except for a few who were doing their warm ups, the rest were all standing huddled together in groups obviously engaged in something much more worth their while.
Without allowing her nerves get the better of her, she strode in briskly. But just as she sat down to change into her jazz shoes, she sensed a hush descend. Then a loud murmur erupted alongside a few titters.
As Khanak had guessed already, it was she who was their object of discussion. Yet she didn’t let the discovery cower her. I won’t let anything intimidate me now; she thought. I have to live my dream no matter what happens. And I won’t let Shan down either.
Trembling inside yet schooling a serene set to her features, she hopped onto the stage and announced to all and sundry. “Let’s get on with it!”
Grudgingly, the group joined her and went through their moves in a lackluster fashion, some to the extent of making a mockery of the entire dance.
Khanak felt her ire rise. She was not going to tolerate this anymore. “What’s going on?” She demanded.
The dancers stopped and turned to her as one. She could tell that none among them was even the least enthused to carry on with the routine.
She didn’t hesitate, “Does this have to do with whatever happened last night? If so, don’t expect any explanations from me. Where is your professionalism? What are you lacking here? If you count yourself on par with international dance groups of repute, then you are in for a major disappointment! Do you think that this is the way they would behave when a major show is just around the corner?” she berated.
A few of the members had the grace of looking embarrassed.
“C’mon! Why are you all twiddling your thumbs? If you wish to gossip you are free to leave. Only hard work and dedication are welcome here. Then if you get fired, don’t tell me I didn’t warn you!”
That did the trick. No one was eager to add their names to the unemployment scrolls or become faceless and nameless Bollywood backup artists.
Thereafter everything seemed to proceed smoothly until Diya, Shan’s office manager, started popping in and out at regular intervals, taking with her one dancer after another leading to considerable disruptions.
“This is too much!” Khanak blurted out. “Diya, can’t you leave us alone for some time? We are practicing the opening act.”
Diya turned an innocent face to her, “I’m just taking them for their final fitting…”
“You can do that later at the end of the day or during a break. We have scarcely any time left.”
“I will do what I want. Costumes are important too and the tailor doesn’t have time either.”
“Crap! He does and I will talk to him. Good costumes can never replace a bad performance!”
“Who are you to tell me so? I’m Shan’s second-in-command. He listens only to what I say;” Diya retorted.
“And Khanak is my partner, my equal;” Shan remarked from the studio’s doorway. He had been standing there listening quietly to the exchange. He walked over and placed his hand familiarly on Khanak’s back and gently massaged her tense muscles. She responded almost immediately with a lovely smile. Nothing could have seemed more natural.
“Khanak is my fiancé,” he said articulating each word clearly. “Besides she has plenty of experience in such matters. I stand behind everything she says.”
Diya was stumped; “How did this happen, and…and so suddenly?”
Shan turned to her sharply, “Damn it! You see the truth in front of you and it is the way things are going to be from now on!”
“Yes;” Khanak said placing her hand possessively on his chest. “And I am going to do most of the planning around here in order to take some of the load off poor Shan. You can see how stressed he looks.” She then looked up at him; “You need a break. Why don’t we go somewhere for dinner? Somewhere romantic?”
“Home?” He asked, giving her waist a tight squeeze.
“Yes;” she replied blushing deeply.
He smiled and looked fondly down on her head as it relaxed on his broad chest. It remained that way even after their audience had receded well out of sight.
Now and Forever (Inconvenient Relations Book 2) coming soon!
check out my other novels HERE