17: The Anticipation
“Khanak beta? Khanak beta!”
“Yes? What happened mama?”
“Not me, you. You look so lost. Something wrong?” Sunita’s voice was full of concern as she addressed her daughter who had just walked in through the door.
“No I’m fine. Everything’s fine. Uhh. Daddy kahaan hain? Where is he? I wanted to ask him about his cough.”
“Khanak..,your father had said this morning that he was feeling much better? Did you forget already? Tell me why are you so late? Should I dial up Shantanu?”
Khanak jumped and flushed a deep crimson. “Mama! Didn’t I tell you I’m doing fine and stop taking his name all the time! I went to see his Dadima and that’s why am late.”
“Dadima? I didn’t know Shantanu had a grandmother? Is she okay?”
“Yes she’s fine and so is Shantanu.” Khanak said dropping her eyes to the floor.
Jhuki jhuki see nazar..
Bekaraar hai ke nahin…
Dabaa dabaa sa sahee
Dil mein pyaar hai ke nahin…
(The downcast gaze
Is it filled with longing or not
Repressed, tamped down
Is there love in your heart or not)
Palak came out of her room and gave her sister a knowing look.
“Mama please! Tell this Palak to stop making these direct and indirect implications. I’ve had enough of them!” Khanak exclaimed.
“Aww c’mon deeds! Me and my friends were trying to find songs that had the words ‘Aankhen’ or ‘Nazar’ in them and deeds thinks it is always about her and her dear beau. Please do tell her mom.” Palak pretended to look distressed.
Sunita nodded. “Yes, Khanak, Palak did say something to that effect. Chinky and Tanya are here too. They have a competition in their college tomorrow. In fact, they have even asked me for suggestions. Palak how about…
Zara nazron se kehdo ji
Nishana choot na jaye
Zara nazron se kehdo ji…
(Please say so with your eyes
May the aim not go awry
Please say so with your eyes)
Sunita sang dreamily. “Those were the days. Innocence with fun. Khanak you look very tired beta. Go and rest. Mom will make you a cup of her best adrak wali chai.”
Khanak sighed and decided it was best to obey Sunita’s instructions even as Palak giggled and walked back in to her room. As Khanak passed by she heard her sister leading her friends in to song….
Kabhi to nazar milao
Kabhi to kareeb aao
Jo nahin kaha hai
Kabhi to samajh bhi jao…
This provoked a loud peel of girlish laughter. “Deeeds! Aao na! Please come and share some words of love with us as well.”
Khanak didn’t take the bait. Instead she rushed in to her room and locked the door.
Sitting at the conference table with Sunil, Akshay, and a few other senior executives from his firm, Shantanu doodled on his notepad. Akshay who could sense his younger brother’s mind was not in the present tried to periodically nudge him to attention. He didn’t want him to become a victim of their father’s temper who demanded absolute attention and didn’t hesitate to publicly reprimand anyone be it employee or family.
Miss Kissmiss! I’ll teach her lesson! Shantanu smiled as he thought about Khanak and her bold invitation the other day. If Dadi hadn’t sent little Megha as her spy, maybe he could have had his first taste of heaven and their relationship would have entered the next phase. Well no worries. Next time he’d make sure there would be no interferences, no matter how cute they may be. He pulled his mobile phone out of his pocket to send Khanak another text then wavered; Don’t let her think you are eager. Play the game dude!
“Shaan are you listening?” Sunil abruptly raised his voice.
His son straightened in his chair. “Uhhh… yes boss. You were talking about the new project.”
“Yes. The state of the art resort casino, the first one of its kind in India that I want you to design. Time to show Mumbai you’ve arrived.” Sunil beamed.
“Yes sir of course. When do we start?” Shaan replied without enthusiasm.
“That is the premise of this meeting if you could just pay a little more attention. We are all here to figure out when and where. Kahaan build karenge jahaan sab se bada impact hoga. What do you think fellows?” Sunil turned to the rest of the room.
Then ensued a frenzied discussion where everyone appeared eager to pitch in, give their opinion and impress their CEO.
“Tell me when you decide boss. Make sure it’s a decent place though I don’t really get why this city needs a high class gambling arena, I’ll play along and make sure it’s the biggest jewel in Mumbai’s crown.” Shaan addressed Sunil with a veiled smile.
Sunil understood that Shantanu wasn’t happy about his decision of building another big hotel. But then he shrugged and dismissed the thought. He decided he was still inexperienced and naive when it came to thinking on terms of profits and losses. But he was brilliant architect. He was sure he’d learn with time and toe his line just as Akshay had always done.
He turned to look proudly at his elder son and was puzzled to see him busy in earnest discussion with his brother who was seriously taking notes. The topic was certainly much more exciting than this project. That was for sure.
Jhuki Jhuki see nazar
Bekaraar hai ke nahin
Dabaa dabaa sa sahee
Dil mein pyaar hai ke nahin
As Khanak lay in bed waiting for sleep to fold her in to its loving arms, the words of the ghazal that Palak had chosen to tease her with returned to haunt her. Her sister in her innocence had declared the truth. She had forced Khanak to reconsider her life. It wasn’t that long ago when she would fall asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. But things had changed now and they would never return to where they were. Not until she found answers to the questions that had been plaguing her.
Ever since she could remember she had wanted to shine in her parents’ eyes. She had wanted to be the ‘son’ they had never had. Not that they had ever let on their disappointment. They had never let her or Palak feel they were ever any less. They had always catered to their every need and encouraged them in all their endeavors. Her mother had even given up her life’s dream of opening up her own restaurant so she could devote her entire time to them. Khanak remembered the wistful look in her beautiful eyes when she would watch a famous chef on TV.
As for her father, he had always said that the happiest day in his life had been when Khanak had bagged a seat in medical school closely followed by the day she had worn her graduation gown. She had seen his face glow with pride as she had walked down the aisle. He had always told her to be truthful to her profession; everything else was secondary. She had always kept his words as her guide.
She had made up her mind long ago, unbeknownst to her mother and father, that she would never marry. Rather she had made plans to devote her life to her profession and caring for her parents. She also knew that eventually her mother would start talking about her ‘settling down’. Yet she trusted in her ability to dissuade her, being very stubborn and willful and her father’s laadli beti.
But since a certain Shantanu had made his appearance, she had been forced to wish for something else. How, rather what had made her ask him to kiss her? Had she lost her mind? Or was she human after all, sharing the same desires and emotions that unite the entire race.
Khanak sighed and closed her eyes. She accepted what she had refused to admit so far. That she felt something very close to love for Shantanu.
The following few days went by so quickly that they felt but like a few hours. Khanak’s work refused to give her time to relax and think about him. Though she often would spontaneously draw her mobile out of her pocket and look at it, in anticipation of finding a certain text message then would be dejected to find her inbox empty. By midweek she became quite concerned. Was he having doubts about her? Had Dadi warned him off? No, that wasn’t likely as she had received only positive vibes from her. Then what could be the matter?
Then her worries temporarily vanished when she received an invitation to Megha’s birthday party in the mail. It was a beautiful pink card, embellished with gold tassels and glittered lettering.
INVITING YOU ESPECIALLY
TO THE GRAND 8TH BIRTHDAY PARTY
OF PRINCESS MEGHA
DARLING DAUGHTER OF AKSHAY AND KHUSHBOO
THERE WILL BE KINGS AND QUEENS
PRINCES AND PRINCESSES
BEASTS AND CASTLES
AND FUN GALORE!!!
Venue: Khandelwal house
When: Saturday 1st May
PS: Pleaze pleaze bring Teddy with you Doctor aunti! LovU Megha!
“Wow! That promises to be exciting! What say sis?” Palak peeped over her shoulder.
“It’ll nice if you could come with me.” Khanak said with some anxiety.
“Me aur kabab mein haddi? No way Shantanu jiju will never forgive me! So deeds what are you going to wear? How about like a princess for your prince charming?”
“Shut up Palak! Don’t be so childish. Its Megha’s party and she is the only princess there, alright?”
“Whatever you say deeds but I know otherwise.” Palak winked then walked away laughing loudly.