This is the first day of the rest of our lives and I want to spend it with you. We need to begin nurturing our relationship. There is absolutely no time to lose.
Mili smiled as she read and reread the note that Ahaan had handed her last night, OMG! He is so eager. Is he like this all the time, I wonder.
It is amazing that just a few days ago, he didn’t even feature in my thoughts and now… he is the only one! … Good Lord Mili! Hadh hai yaar (This is the limit.)
She burst into a fit of giggles, and pulled the thick embroidered quilt over her head. Thank heavens Ahaan isn’t here, or he wouldn’t hesitate to change his mind!
Then she sat up straight frowning. Really? Would he change his mind? And if so, would that bother me? She fell back flat on the bed. Yes, it would…it would bother me quite a bit.
She grabbed a pillow and curled herself around it, “damn you Ahaan! Who asked you to come into my life and mess it all up when I was doing just fine by myself? Who asked you to be so charming and smart and cool? Who asked you to drop down from the sky like the perfect Godsend son in law?…Who..?”
Her rant was interrupted by a knock on the door.
“Guess what came by special delivery bright and early today?” Kiran was standing at the door holding a bunch of fresh and colorful wild flowers. “I’m really starting to like Ahaan’s style of wooing!” She said seeing her daughter’s face light up instantly.
“Of course you would! You would like him even if he turned out to be Osama Bin Laden’s nephew!”
“What are you muttering about?”
“Tell me mama. Are you going to miss me or not?”
“Of course I am, Mili. We both are!”
“Then I’m not getting married and that’s that!” Mili said plummeting face down on the bed.
Kiran pulled her up and wiped her tear stricken face with the edge of her palloo, “My darling. Enough with all this fuss! I know exactly what is going on in that little head of yours and it bears no resemblance at all to what you say.” She smiled… “Now get ready quickly. Ahaan is waiting impatiently for you!”
“He is here?!” Mili exclaimed as her heart did a cartwheel in her chest.
“Yes he is!” Kiran laughed, “Who else do you think brought the flowers?” Placing a gentle kiss on her daughter’s soft cheek, she said. “my silly little Mili…” then abruptly turned and hurried away.
Mili stood at the entrance of the dining room, inhaling the aroma of hot spicy sambhar (a type of South Indian lentil soup) and fresh filter coffee and silently observed what was going on inside. It was a scene one may find in any normal household. Everybody was there, including both her parents, Ramu kaka and of course Ahaan and they were all doting on him.
She saw Ramu kaka blush with pleasure when Ahaan praised him and said that he wished he could kidnap him and take him to Delhi, when her father and mother screamed in unison, “No way!” and they all burst into merry laughter.
Mili was glad to see the smiles of happiness and contentment on her parents faces. At least I am able to give them something in return for what they have done for me.
And to say the truth, she couldn’t find anything to complain about either. Ahaan seemed to value and respect her feelings and that meant for a lot.
“Mili!… her father said noticing her, “Beta, Look who’s here!”
Ahaan swung around in his chair…
“Yes, I know. Hi Ahaan.” She smiled, drawing herself to her full height of 5’7”. She knew she looked good in a simple flared sunshine yellow cotton kurta (long shirt), crushed scarf of forest green and tight leggings to match.
“Uh huh… Hi..Mili..”
Gosh Ahaan! Close your mouth. You look like a startled frog!
“Careful son!” Jai exclaimed with concern when he saw his future son in law dissolve into a violent coughing spell.
Working hard to suppress a giggle, she ran to his side. “Paani?” she asked with a straight face.
“Are you having second thoughts?”She asked later, when the pair escaped the house without her fiance sustaining any significant damage.
“Second thoughts? Whatever for?” Ahaan asked while closing the shutter of the iron gate.
Mili scowled irritably, “I mean due to what happened in there!” Glancing towards the house.
“Ohh.. ” Ahaan’s eyes brightened. “I get it. But for that I should thank you.”
“Yes..” He replied leaning back against the gates thrusting both hands into the pockets of his faded denims and sporting an inscrutable smile . “Because you saved me from falling off the chair and making a fool of myself in front of my future father in law. Though he probably wouldn’t have disapproved at all, if he’d known the reason why.”
Mili closed her eyes and trembled when he leaned forward and whispered against her cheek, “Shall I tell him the reason his future son in law was reduced to such a helpless state?”
“No! You won’t do anything like that!” She exclaimed alarmed.
“Alright. If you say so..but I thought..”
“Stop trying to embarrass me please… I..I…” She didn’t finish because she saw Ahaan break out into a broad grin. God help me! He’s being a tease!
“Hmmph!” She turned and strode down the path which led into their tea estate.
Ahaan hurried after her, “Mili… forgive me.” He said. “I guess I got carried away..”
She glanced at him and smiled. His rueful face looked boyish and incredibly charming. I need to watch myself. Why? She wasn’t sure.
She tried to enforce a semblance of calm upon herself which was proving to become harder with every passing minute that she spent in this man’s company. “So tell me, how do you plan to nurture our relationship?”
Tilting his head to one side, his deep brown eyes studying her keenly, he seemed to get exactly the machinations of her mind. He grinned slyly when he saw her lower her gaze.
“By getting to know each other better.. by spending time with one another. So that when the D Day arrives, you won’t run screaming!”
“What?” She stared at him appalled, “That sounds ominous Ahaan.”
“You don’t really know me that well, Mili.” His eyes twinkled with abundant mischief.
“You are scaring me now. Do you have any odd habits. Are you a serial murderer in disguise?”
He broke into a loud guffaw, “No,… nothing that sinister.”
“Then… do you snore like a pig?”
Shrugging his shoulders, “I don’t think so. You’ll know soon enough. but then..unfortunately you’ll be stuck.”
“I won’t, I will run! I can’t do without my beauty sleep.”
“If you get any more beautiful, I will die!”
“Shut up Ahaan, enough of your lies!” She retorted though his words filled her with a wonderful happy warmth. “C’mon! Let me show you what makes my family tick.”
For the next hour or so, Mili took Ahaan around the lush tea plantation, the dark green leaves sparkling bright in the sunlight.
She paused running her fingers through a thick shrub, “This is not just a business, it is the only life my father has known…he’ll be lost without it.”
Ahaan came up to stand close behind her, “I understand what you mean. He is like my father, who killed himself working because he couldn’t turn a single sick person away. He ignored his own symptoms of cancer till it was too late.” He squeezed her shoulder, “Don’t you worry, Papaji has both of us by his side now. We won’t let him call it quits.”
She smiled, drawing comfort from his words. “It’s nice to know that I can rely on you.”
“Of course, anytime. Now what is next? This fresh air is making me hungry.”
She laughed gaily, “Just a little more wait. There is something else you don’t want to miss.”
Mili led Ahaan into a small group of buildings which housed the tea processing plant. “No visit to our estate is complete without a tour of our factory and I am going to be your very own personal guide!” She announced.
“I must say that I feel terribly flattered your highness.” He said making a grand low bow.
She giggled, then taking his arm, walked through the different parts of the building carrying on a continuous chatter explaining each and every process in detail while Ahaan observed silently and asked relevant questions.
Meanwhile Mili felt a her heart swell with pride when she observed how the workers’ initial curiosity turned into admiration and approval when they met Ahaan. He carried himself with dignity and treated everybody with respect and consideration. He even conversed with everyone in Tamil (the local language,) which endeared him to all present at once.
He is a dangerous seducer, no less.
Later as they walked out sipping tiny cups of the warm brew, Mili looked up sideways at him. “Would you believe what one of the ladies in the factory told me about you?”
“I am all ears.”
“She said that you are too good looking for your own good and that I should be on my guard because girls find guys like you irresistible. What do you have to say to that?”
His demeanor turned solemn, “I guess it is supposed to be a compliment but I can tell you one thing that there has been and will be space for only one girl in my life and that is you. On the other hand I’m the one who should be worried.”
He turned to her, “because any man who beholds you is in danger of losing his senses. What if someday someone is able to persuade you to run away with him… will you leave me then? Will you Mili?”
She placed a finger on his lips, “I will never leave you Ahaan and don’t ever dare let such an idea cross your mind again!”
He’d kissed her palm before she realized what she had said and ran down the path in an abashed hurry, leaving him gazing after her, with a gentle smile on his face.
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