Category Archives: Rhythm & Blues

Rhythm & Blues Chap 22: Overture


Chap 21

22: Overture


“You took my heart and this time I’m not sure if I want it back…”

The words had emerged spontaneously as if from somewhere deep inside. Shan hadn’t planned anything. It was as if his soul had blurted out what he’d felt all along but didn’t have the courage to accept and now that it was out in the open, he couldn’t turn his back on it because it was the truth. Plain and simple.

But how would Khanak react? Would she believe him? After all he had tried so hard to show her he wasn’t really involved.

He waited with baited breath and a lump in his throat.

She stood silently in front of him with her head bent. Her shiny hair expertly coiffed lay fashionably askew (Diva’s a genius!) and it so enhanced the elegant lines of her lovely neck that his hand raised instinctively to trace them with his fingertips.

She looked up suddenly startling him. Her color deepened contrasting beautifully with the pale pink of her dress. Their eyes met and for the briefest moment he thought he saw a glimmer of understanding in those deep pools of ebony.

They appeared to be searching, probing as if looking for something. What? Sincerity? He’d have given anything at the moment for the ability to read her mind.

Khanak looked away feeling flustered. A strange heat was spreading through her body. There was something in those brown eyes she hadn’t encountered before nor had she dared to.

“Khanak I…”

“Yes?” she turned her face eagerly toward him.

But he didn’t speak instead kept looking silently at her.


The impasse was thankfully broken by a loud knock on the door.

“Hey Shan! Are you there laat sahib?”

Shan opened the door, “Rohan you?”

The chubby twin leered on spying Khanak in the background and laughed, “Just what I suspected! Bacchu…When will you lose your bad habits?”

“Rohan. Watch your dirty little trap.” Shan felt himself growing livid over something that wouldn’t have concerned him a tad bit in the past.

“Hold on my boy! I’m sorry. Did I say something wrong?” Rohan said without taking his eyes off Khanak who seemed to be looking for a place to hide.

“Rohan…! Stay within your limits,” Shan said tersely while trying hard not to lose his cool.

The designer was taken aback, “Hey calm down. I didn’t mean anything…nothing at all. I apologize if you felt otherwise,” he nodded at Khanak. “I just came to ask you both to accompany me to the stage.”

“Be sure to watch it in the future or else you can wish away your VIP passes to Jhankaar’s opening night,” Shan said offering Khanak his arm.

That was enough to frighten Rohan into behaving and genuflecting in front of Khanak as if she was the Queen of England.


“How can he?”

“How can who Tash?”

“How can Shan?! Look at him! Look at the way he’s flaunting that bimbo on his arm!”

Tarun turned to give his full attention to Natasha who looked like she had bitten into a particularly smoking chili pepper; one of the ‘Habanero’ variety. Her face bright red, ears steaming, her whole body consumed with a jealous rage as she glowered at the very handsome couple striding arm in arm down the catwalk.

He smiled, “You mean Ms. Khanak Mishra right?”

“Whatever her name is, I don’t care! He cannot dare to pay attention to another woman in my presence!”

Tarun wasn’t in the mood for sympathy, “Well Tash…she is his lead dancer and very lovely too I might add.”

What? What did you just say Tarun?”

“He said exactly what he meant to Tash darling!” Diva breezed by with a bright smile and placed a sisterly palm on her arm. “For once he has spoken the truth. I guess that’s the magic of true beauty…” he sighed. “By the way did you like my artist act? You think I can be a future matinee idol?” He arched his head and appeared to rearrange an invisible strand of hair.

She flicked his hand away, a vicious light into her eyes, “Yes but only as a confused fag…and I can assure you you’ll find plenty of people to laugh at your sob story, me included.”

Diva remained unruffled…”at least I’ll have an audience but my darling you…” he flicked her chin up with a graceful forefinger, “… can kiss the limelight goodbye. From now on your rightful place is in the back benches.”

“Diva! How dare!”

But he had his eyes trained to the ramp, “OMGeee! Look at my lovelies! Don’t they look gorgeous! A match made in heaven! Gosh I need a tissue…” He sniffed and blew a kiss at the dashing pair.

The crowd got into the spirit and began a unified chant—“DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!”

Shan grinned and whispered something into Khanak’s ear. She in response colored prettily and nodded.

The models stepped aside cheering them as the music cued in.

The entire theater gasped as Khanak unclipped her dazzling crystal ensemble and flung it away to reveal an uneven lyrical dress in plum and pink. Shan, discarding his evening jacket took his scarf and fashioned it like a bandana around his head.

The following is a song from the Hindi movie Kisna

Hum Hain Iss Pal Yahan,

Jaane Ho Kal Kahan
Hum Miley Na Miley,

Hum Rahey Na Rahey


(We are here at this moment

Know not where we shall be the next

Though we may meet or not

Though we may live or die)


The rhythm of the song seemed to be in tandem with the beat of the heart as the pair split up and moved to the opposing ends of the stage.

Both appeared displaced in a melee, their eyes flitting around as if in search of a lost love.

Khanak stood on tip toe, her feet bare and assumed the arabesque where she stood on one leg while extending the other straight back then fluidly moved it up in the air and pointed it higher as the front of her body bent low in balance. Then beginning slow in adagio and picking up the tempo as in allegro she began doing quick pirouettes and jumps around the stage…her movements effortless almost as if she was suspended in space. Meanwhile Shan complimented her adding high leaps in the air leaving everyone enthralled.

Rahegi Sadaa Yahan,

Pyar Ki Ye Dastan

Sunengi sada jise

Yeh Zameen Aasmaan


(The story of our love

Shall remain always

Resonating forever

Through this earth and sky)

Both of the dancers looked distressed seeming unaware of where they really were.

After a great deal of effort they spotted one other. Smiling with relief they sprang into motion. Khanak leaped high doing an aerial split. Shan caught her by the waist and lifted her straight up above his head. Holding his gaze Khanak relaxed her body and draped herself over his shoulder as he gently lowered her to the ground and they ended in a tight lover’s embrace.

The crowd roared jumping collectively to their feet. The couple on the stage seemed taken by surprise then smiling with embarrassment they split apart and took their bows.


“Calm down Tash…you look like you are going to burst an artery!” Tarun’s voice rose in concern.

“Make way! Make way!” Diva appeared as the uppity crowd jostled with each other seeking to be introduced to Khanak.

She was riding high with a near perfect ballet/contemporary routine and Shan was by her side. It felt as if she had already met most of her goals.

Therefore when her gaze fell on Natasha who looked ready to make a meal out of her, she didn’t feel particularly threatened. Instead she schooled a pleasant smile on her face and extended a gracious hand—a gesture that was bluntly ignored by her rival.

Tash jumped to Shan’s side and clung to his arm; “My poor dear. How odd you must feel in the company of strangers. Don’t you worry, your favorite Tashu is back and I promise to never leave you alone again!” She said while aiming toxic barbs at Khanak who responded with a graceful smile.

Shan priced Tash’s fingers loose, “I prefer strangers to so called friends who are just waiting for the moment when they can pull the rug from under my feet.” He smiled at Khanak, “…besides Ms. Mishra is not a stranger. Rather she has become someone infinitely more precious.” At that something intimate appeared to pass between him and Khanak causing Diva to burst into a merry giggle.

So you may think but not for long! Tash thought spitefully before she declared with a dazzling smile— “I hope everyone, old acquaintances and new are going to join me in my welcome back bash tonight!”


PS: Excuse me for the delay in posting. I’ve been caught up in a lot of things– including putting the final touches to the manuscript of my upcoming novel MILAN to writing Book 2 of INCONVENIENT RELATIONS. I hope to make the intervals shorter in the future 🙂


Rhythm and Blues Chap 21: Lights


Chap 20

21: Lights

“Damn where is she?

“Shan I’m really pissed that you find your watch more attractive than your companion!” Natasha pouted.

You got that right, he mused while shooting off a text to Diva hoping Khanak would be with him.

“Shan I’m talking to you!”

“Where is Ms. Mishra? Wasn’t she supposed to be here tonight?” inquired Rohan Khatri, one of the designer twins who had opted to let his brother organize the entire show tonight, while he watched from the side lines.

“Ms. Mishra? Who is she?” Tashu asked casually.

Shan didn’t care to enlighten her, sure that she knew already, but was putting on an act of ignorance.

“Rohan is talking about Ms. Khanak Mishra, Jhankaar’s new lead dancer, isn’t she Shan?” Tarun drawled directing a sly smile at him.

“Yes she is!” Shan snapped back pretty sure that Tarun had a hand in Khanak’s disappearance tonight. I need to get to the bottom of this! He resolved but didn’t have time to act on his intentions as the show had already started.

Khatri’s summer collection was on display. Tall, thin dead pan models swayed their bony hips down the cat walk sporting various articles of clothing in bright summer colors.

While the women oohed and aahed and their men ogled at the skimpily clad girls, Shan didn’t see anything because Khanak had completely taken over his mind.

Just then…

“Ladies and gentlemen!” A widely beaming Roshan Khatri had taken the mike seemingly unable to contain his excitement. “We are indeed privileged that Jhankaar has chosen our venue to show off their latest acquisition…. their new lead; the gorgeous Ms. Khanak Mishra!”

Shan sat up, his blues abruptly driven away. She’s here! She didn’t let me down!

“I’m so sorry Shan that you have to make do with someone who is well below your usual level of expectations! Hope you’ll forgive me but you see I couldn’t help it..;” Natasha pouted.

“You better reserve your judgment for after you’ve seen the performance! You may be unpleasantly surprised!” He didn’t hear another word.

The curtains on the grand stage drew slowly apart unveiling a scene that resembled an artist’s studio. Canvases, paints and other paraphernalia lay scattered all over.

Shan was surprised when Diva appeared wearing a smock splattered with paint. But he wasn’t acting his usual happy self, instead he seemed in agony as he paced around like a wild man. He trashed the canvas he was working on and pulled at his hair, seeming utterly deranged. He was brilliant, he had captured the audience’s attention.

Appearing unable to handle the situation anymore, he finally went and stood in front of a shrouded canvas that occupied center stage. He pulled away the sheet revealing an unfinished painting of a girl in a veil. He hugged the canvas and broke into tears. It was clear he had fallen in love with his own creation and as a result was suffering the consequences. He collapsed on the floor in misery.

Then perhaps as if by the force of his incredible passion and love, the painting seemed to come to life.

The scene transformed into a dreamscape.

A slim graceful figure emerged slowly from the fog–her face hidden by a veil of gossamer blue.

The audience moved as one, their eyes glued on her, instinctively knowing they were about to witness something extraordinary, as her bell clad feet struck the floor, effortlessly keeping pace with the rhythm.

Shan smiled—Khanak was back where she belonged.

Glancing around him, he saw all eyes without exception were trained on the lone figure on stage as if bound by an invisible thread. Even Tash’s curiosity seemed perked.

He too moved to the edge of his seat, his pulse racing. Anxious. He did not want to miss the moment when her face would be revealed.


There was a collective sharp intake of breath as the danseuse, tossed her veil away revealing a visage that was exceptionally beautiful not only due to its exquisitely etched features rather more so for an untouched, untainted quality rarely encountered in showbiz.

Her loveliness was of a substance that dreams are made of. Something remote and unattainable.

She was like an ‘apsara’–a heavenly maiden who held in thrall not just her creator but each and everyone who laid eyes on her. With the allure of her wonderfully expressive face and the smooth elegant movements of her hands that moved seamlessly with her lithe body, she cast her spell.

The memories of the first time Shan had laid eyes on Khanak came flooding back when as Shakuntala, she had enchanted and held him captive. Yet this time the magic was reinforced several fold.

He had fallen head over heels and he fell again. This time quite willingly, offering little resistance as she interpreted the simple yet profound words of the song.

‘’Lat uljhi suljha ja baalam..’’

His eyes followed her in a trance as she danced down the catwalk and catching his gaze smiled mysteriously and motioned to him if he would care to rearrange her wild untamed tresses. He was urged to rush on to the stage and run his fingers through her hair. But was the very next moment he was swamped with envy when she turned toward someone else and asked him to set right the awry vermillion dot on her forehead.

‘’Maathe ki bindiya bikhar gayi hai..apne haath sajaa ja baalam.’’

Such was the power of her ‘abhinaya’ or art of expression that each member of the audience felt that she was personally conversing with him or her.

The rhythmic part of her dance was equally mesmerizing illustrated by her dynamic footwork and lightning quick pirouettes that made her skirt swirl around like a floating galaxy of glittering stars.

There was a pin drop silence in the auditorium when the music ended and Khanak held her finishing position.

Everyone let out a collective sigh. It was followed by a deafening roar as they all stood up to give her a standing ovation and inundated her with flowers.


Khanak collapsed into a chair in the green room. Her feet that had been flying across the large stage seemed now unable to hold her up anymore. She trembled with hands clasped over her flushed cheeks and said; “…they appeared to like me Diva.”

“Like you?!” Diva grasped her shoulders; “My dear, they loved you. Theyadored you! Didn’t you hear the clamor?”

“I…I did,” she replied. Her eyes were shining. “…and it was such a relief! I was worried as it was a fashion show with a western theme…would they accept an all Indian number?”

Diva broke into a loud guffaw, “if you are talking about the pretenders, then yes, there is no dearth of the kind. It is laughable when you see how they try to outdo each other trying to exhibit their…” he gestured with his fingers, “…phorenness and look down upon anything even faintly ‘Indian.’ But deep inside they cannot deny their roots and after all art does not have a language nor a country. If you are good at what you do, you’ll have no trouble finding people who will appreciate your work wherever you go, and that’s what it’s all about!”

Khanak nodded seeming relieved.

“You have arrived lady! Ms. Khanak Mishra has arrived! Just beware the likes of Tash, Tarun and co!” He had a broad beam on his face as he removed her new dress from the hanger.

Khanak’s face fell, “I saw her. She was sitting next to him, looking like a doll…so beautiful.”

“Yes. A painted doll! Khanak…!” He exclaimed in apparent frustration, “…how can I explain to you? Please don’t waste time comparing yourself with her or for that matter anyone else! I see it, the audience sees it and most important of all Shan sees it! You are different and hence unique! You’d stand out in any crowd! While most of them out there are engaged in pretending to be what they aren’t, Natasha included, you are comfortable in your own skin! With your abundance of talent and energy, you don’t have to fear anybody, rather they need to fear you! Did you get that?”

“Yes I got it. You don’t have to repeat that again. May I recommend you to anyone who needs a pep talk?” Khanak said giving Diva a tight hug.

“Oh..C’mon don’t make Diva blush!” But he looked pleased.
A loud banging on the door made them both jump.

“Khanak are you there? I need to see you!” They heard Shan yell.

“Diva! What will I do? How will I behave?” Khanak asked anxiously.

“My dear, you don’t have to do anything. Just follow his lead and trust your instincts.” He chuckled and walked over to the door and threw it open.

“What’s going on here?” Shan demanded barging in.

“Girl talk. Now she’s all yours.” Diva said cocking his head sassily to one side. “I think I better say hi to my old friend,” he winked suggestively at Khanak before sashaying out but not before blowing Shan a kiss that made him blush.

Khanak giggled nervously.


“Khanak I…” Shan began but had to stop as he felt an odd sensation of movement, as if he was about to fall. He almost staggered back against the door.

No girl ever before had had this effect on him.

In a halter neck antique rose Versace dress of silk tulle and georgette embroidered entirely in crystal Khanak looked so radiant and ethereal that he feared she’d disappear at any moment.

Her cheeks burned under his gaze. He found his voice at last, “you…”

“Were you pleased?” she asked, her brilliant eyes laced with anxiety.

“Pleased? By what…” He repeated before the implication of her words dawned on him. Damn! Only she can pose such a question! “Khanak! You better wipe off words like that from your dictionary” He continued approaching her, “I don’t know how to say it. You were phenomenal! Perhaps one of the best if not the best dance debuts on the Mumbai stage…” Then he dared to venture further as she shyly lowered her gaze—-“You took my heart and this time I’m not sure if I want it back.”


Below is my favorite rendering of this beautiful song—


Liking it so far. Please leave a few words in comment. 🙂

Rhythm & Blues Chap 20: A Special Night

special night

Picking up from where I left off after a long time—-

chap 19

20: A Special Night


A blinding flash of light followed by another and yet another then several in succession.

Shiny limos plying equally shiny bodies that disembarked and gave the paparazzi their much needed glamour and gossip fix.

But Shaan didn’t realize that he too was one among them—a willing player expected to read his lines from a script repeated and rehashed so many times that it had become second nature. So much that sometimes it was hard to distinguish the real from the put on.

But this acting and role playing had become boring and stale. He wished he could fling the cloak away and scream—This is not me!

And that urge was particularly pressing today as he stood there all alone on the red carpet acutely missing his new associate and partner.

He wasn’t flashing his usual heartbreak smile nor paying heed to the earsplitting screams of jostling fans leaning over the fences with their arms and bodies stretched out, wanting to touch, to get a piece of him.

He appeared totally unaware of it all and that infused his persona with a uniquely mystic and attractive aura.

Where is she? Should be here by now. Not a peep from her since she left in a hurry this afternoon! Is she not coming? She said she would be here well in time. Khanak isn’t one to shirk from her professional duties. He racked his brains; Did she take that blabbermouth Trish seriously…or did something happen between her and that loser?

A voice hailed him from behind—“Someone is looking wickedly distracting tonight!”

He didn’t have to turn around to figure who it was. He cringed; “Natasha…you here?”

She was checking him out in her usual pose—perfectly coiffed head slightly tilted to one side, a slightly amused smile playing on voluptuous red lips and a svelte figure wrapped in deep sea green that perfectly offset her eyes. She had mastered the art of snaring attention.

Yet it did nothing for him. He stared blankly at her.

“Are you so overwhelmed with happiness that you are struck speechless?”


He heard one of the Khatri brothers’ high pitched laughter in the background. It was their show and she was the guest of honor.

He flashed her his usual smile; “think what you will Tash.”

“Won’t you walk with your dear old friend? Or have you forgotten your manners?”

Shan offered her his arm though he’d have preferred to seem uncouth and walk away. The news hounds didn’t need any more scoops that night.


Earlier at Diva’s–

Khanak had rushed over following the prompts of her instinct knowing that he was probably the only one most likely to provide the peace and comfort she so desperately desired.

“Now look at yourself!” Diva said turning her around to face the mirror.

Khanak’s stared at her image wide eyed, “Do I look okay?”

“Okay? OMG girl! Get real!” Diva exclaimed in exaggerated surprise. Today he had on a purple do with sweats to match.

“You look sensational! Stupendous! Kya kehte hain usko… Item! Yes you look like an item! And in that shade of blue you are bound to send the whole audience to the hospital–the men with hearts attacks and the women in a raging jealous hysteria!”

Khanak laughed; “Oh please leave it Diva! Don’t flatter me! Tell me the truth!”

“You hurt my heart!” he looked woebegone.

“Oh I didn’t mean that! I’m so sorry!” She jumped up to console him; “You are so sweet. I’m just not used to so much praise.”

“Girl get this straight!” he said tapping her shoulder lightly with his beautifully manicured fingers. “What Diva says Diva does! He speaks his mind–showering praise or critiquing when and where it is deserved. I don’t believe in keeping people in the dark!”

She nodded waiting expectantly.

“All right,” he smiled gently holding the point of her chin between his thumb and forefinger; “Let me put it simply. You possess a special kind of beauty, a rare hypnotic mix of innocence and charm. It is so powerful that it can even make a gay man wish he was straight.”

Her cheeks grew warm when she noticed that he was quite serious.

He then laughed and blushed himself, “But if that were to happen my Shaan wouldn’t like it at all! And Diva cannot afford to infuriate one of his best customers can he? Uske biceps dekhe tumne? Did you see his biceps? Mein toh mar hi jaoonga! I’ll be dead for sure!”

“That’s where you are wrong,” Khanak said solemnly turning back to the mirror.

“Diva wrong? Never! And that Shan is an open book for me. I’ve seen the way he looks at you sweetheart! Haven’t you?” His face wore a fond smile.

Khanak pursed her lips and shook her head not wanting to acknowledge what her heart so eagerly wished to believe.

“Eyes speak a lot…and I know exactly what Shan’s say.”

Khanak made a valiant attempt to steel herself, “He is a very nice man, kind and generous. It’s just his compassion that you see.”

“Okay. So be it. But why should you let that bother you?” Diva asked watching her closely for her response.

Khanak dropped her gaze; “I…I…”

Diva chuckled; “There! So the flame burns equally on both ends! Wonderful! I can’t wait to dress you up for the wedding!”

“Diva please don’t!” Khanak exploded in anguish. “… that can never happen!”

“But why?”

“Shan is meant for Natasha. They complement each other perfectly. They are the eternal couple!’”

“What utter rubbish! Who has filled your head with such bakwas?” Diva appeared genuinely surprised.

“I see it everywhere…in the news….magazines…even Tarun…”

“Tarun!” Diva spat out, “…that slimy SOB! His only job is to create malevolent mischief! Don’t you believe a single word he says! As for the magazines, Khanak hon… I didn’t think you were so naive! Don’t you know the only way the media keeps itself in business is by feeding the frenzy and fanning the rumors?”

She wasn’t convinced; “Yes you may be right. But I believe it in my heart to be true. She has been Shan’s friend and partner for a long time and he has relied on her. The only reason I came into the picture is due to the accident.”

Diva nodded, “Some of what you say is true but not everything. These eyes have seen a lot.” He laughed, “You can call me a walking behind the scenes encyclopedia! If I get my memoirs published I’ll become an instant millionaire! But then who’ll trust in me?” He said wryly.

Khanak gave his hand a tight squeeze; “I do Diva…”

He smiled, “I know you do darling. That’s why I love you. You are pure of heart and you don’t pass judgments just because…”

He paused before going on; “…as far as Natasha is concerned… she too used to be like you at one time… fresh, talented, hardworking, eager to make a mark. But then she changed, she became a victim to fame. She became self-centered. She couldn’t tolerate anyone better or even as good herself…she couldn’t let independent talent thrive. So instead of working on improving herself she began to resort to crooked and devious ways. She made herself indispensable to Shan; started producing his shows… took on some of the hiring and firing in the pretense of helping him out. It was a way of making sure that nobody in Jhankaar could challenge her position and then even got him to give her an exclusive contract.”

Diva looked at Khanak, “I could see Shan’s frustration build. He wanted to break free from her. But she had accumulated a lot of powerful ‘friends’ in the industry who always managed to convince him otherwise. Then all of a sudden out of the blue, I don’t know what occurred in that twisted mind of hers that she decided to break her ankle…”

Khanak broke in, “Break her ankle? What do you mean? Which dancer would want to do such a thing on purpose? You must be mistaken!”

“Exactly, no dancer in her right mind, but Tash isn’t sane! When she saw Shan unwilling to toe the line, she took it upon herself to teach him a lesson. So just before the new season began she faked an accident and broke her ankl, sure that he won’t find anyone else good enough to take her place thereby making him undergo a major loss and ultimately enslave him for the rest of his life. But…” Diva smiled, “…she made a mistake. She failed to figure you in to her calculations.”

Khanak stared unblinkingly at Diva, stunned at the revelation.

“Unbelievable isn’t it? But this is how showbiz works…talent isn’t enough anymore. You need a mentor…and fortunately you’ve found the best one in Shan.”

Khanak was at a loss for words; all this information was too much to absorb. It was difficult to fathom that evil could reside behind such a beautiful face.


Diva glanced at his phone and cried out, “OMG! Talk of the devil! You have been summoned!”

Khanak eyes twinkled, “Then we should get going!”


Rhythm & Blues Chap 19: Ironic

R and B

Chapter Links

19: Ironic



A peal of insane laughter. “Gotcha! You and your dirty little secrets!”

Yes it was Shan’s neighbor, who having designated herself as his unofficial girlfriend had conveniently pocketed a set of his house keys.

She was looking at both of them right now with a wily smile plastered on her painted face, standing, no leaning against the studio door seeming at any moment ready to tip over and land on her face.

I need to get those keys back! Shaan thought.


Horse had her pinned to the ground in a jiffy and appeared to be wondering whether she would make decent breakfast material.

“Get this bloody monster off me!” She shrieked.

Shan ignored her. Horse needed to polish his aggression skills. Lately he had become too soft after being overly babied by Khanak.

“What in Hell are you doing here at this hour?! He demanded while reluctantly letting go of his dance partner. Kabab mein haddi had to drop in at this time! Just when I felt I was attaining  a different plane with Khanak.

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Rhythm&Blues Chap 18: Love is in the Air


Chapter Links

18: Love is in the Air




Khanak turned just in time as a huge fur ball flew across the roof garden and hurtled itself on top of her nearly knocking her over.

“HORSE!”  Khanak laughed struggling to maintain her balance as the overgrown pup placed his forepaws on her shoulders and proceeded to lick her face clean with a very wet tongue.

“Horse…I missed you.. and looks like you missed me too! How have you been?” She cried burying her face in the warm thick coat hugging the furry body which shook from side to side along with the happy tail.

Shan watched silently as girl and dog met like long lost friends even though they had been apart a bare couple of days. He made no attempt to curb his pet’s enthusiasm. She needed the distraction as well as the unconditional affection that she was willing to accept.

I don’t think she’s ready to accept mine..not yet.

“Hey Horse! Down boy!”He shouted when he saw Khanak bulldozed to the ground.

She convulsed with laughter holding a hand to her stomach when she saw Shan roll around on the flagstones floor wrestling with his Akita for control.

“That’s enough alright!” Shan yelled at the point of being overpowered..

“Phew! Bless my stars that he still recalls some of the training he’s been through.” He said getting up and embarrassedly running a hand through his hair.If he was trying to impress her by a demonstration of his machismo he had failed miserably.

But Khanak wasn’t paying him any attention, instead she was thinking aloud as she scratched the Akita’s throat. He had slunk away to her seeking consolation. “Only Horse loves me for me. He never wanted to know my name..nor was he curious about where I came from. He could care less if I was an escaped convict on the run from the law. He just decided that he likes me..that’s all. He didn’t judge me..nor did he publicly humiliate me. Then why..why does everyone else?” She cried out before bursting  into tears.

“Oh my poor Khanak!” Shan rushed to her side. He pulled her into his arms, rocking her gently as she sobbed.

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Rhythm and Blues Chap 17: Tangled Chords

Tangled chords

Chapter Links

17: Tangled Chords


My heart is a butterfly

Drifting aimless in the breeze

Floating without a care

Fluttering my wings

Of resplendent silk

Those who lay eyes upon me

Watch in wonder

As I dance, in a trance

To the song of freedom

And the music of love

It was a gorgeous piece of artwork–a tiny yet pristine butterfly arrested in mid-flight, so precious and fragile, handle with care or it’ll never fly again. Turning her hand this way and that, Khanak admired the way the ring caught the light. Surprisingly it seemed custom made for her finger.

How could something so small be responsible for such havoc and chaos in my life? She closed her eyes as the thing in her chest contracted in raw pain. For just a moment she had wanted to believe in what the cold piece of stone and metal implied. That’s what it is,just a symbol, an empty hollow symbol.

And it has served its purpose. She stole a glance sideways and caught him watching her. Her nerves came alive tingling in a flurry of excitement. It was his invariable effect on her no matter how well she thought she’d prepared herself.

Against her better judgment she felt drawn toward him; like  fish  to bait or  mice  to cheese; a surefire path to self annihilation.

His gaze didn’t falter, rather she was being perused with singular intensity.

I have my eye trained on the target, and it’s you!

Breathless, she felt trapped, ensnared. She turned away desperate for a way out, unsure if he had gauged the depth of her feelings mirrored in her face.

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Rhythm&Blues Chap 16: Sweetest Taboo


Chapter Links

16: Sweetest Taboo


Anand was true to his word. At the hastily constructed mandap in the backyard of the Mishra house, he took over the responsibility of Shreya from her father in his own highly capable hands.

The bride glowed as she and the groom were showered with blessings. And at the auspicious hour to the thunderous sounds of the nadaswaram and drums, Anand tied the mangalsutra around Shreya’s neck. The knots were then reinforced by his cousin sister and the bride became officially a part of his family.

Khanak eyes shone bright through a veil of tears as she watched her best friend grasp her cousin’s hand and take the seven vows around the sacred fire.

She felt at peace despite her sorrow. Shreya wouldn’t have found a better husband and perhaps Anand wouldn’t have found a better wife. It was time for her to move on.

“Anand is one lucky guy.”

The tiny hair follicles on the nape of her neck pricked and stood erect as she felt his voice drip like rich honey into her ear.

She closed her eyes, letting the warmth seep throughout her being. She had missed him, oh how she had missed him.

Trying not to let her tone belay her excitement, she said, “Yes, anyone who marries a girl like my cousin is very lucky indeed.”

“I didn’t mean to say that. He is lucky because he has you for a friend.”

The one who makes your pulse race..makes your heart sing with joy..’

“He was more a friend to me than I was ever to him.” She mused then said abruptly. “Let’s go..we are done here.”

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Rhythm&Blues Chap15: Fragile


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15: Fragile


“I am willing to marry you Anand.”

He looked up and stared disbelievingly at Khanak. “Did I really hear what you just said?”

Her lips attempted a bright smile but her facial muscles refused to cooperate. “Yes..I will marry you if that’d make you happy and ..and Shreya would be free to lead her life the way she is supposed to.”

He got up to his feet and stepped up close crowding her in. “Leave Shreya out of it! I want to know about you! Would it make you happy?”

False words couldn’t cover up the anguish brewing inside. “Of course! I will be happy..after all I’ll be spending the rest of my life with my best friend…right?”

All at once Anand threw his head back and burst into a fit of merry laughter and it filled Khanak with trepidation.

“You will never grow up will you Khanak? Though we have all graduated into adulthood, even your precious Shreya…you still remain a little girl of eleven whose favorite pastime is playing hide and seek with her chums. No Khanak! I won’t let you off this lightly, you can’t deceive me..I can read you through and through!”

His smile vanished as his hands clamped down on her arms, and she felt his fingers mark her bones, yet she didn’t squirm. There was something in his eyes she had never encountered before and it scared her. “I don’t want you to be just a friend, I want you to be much more than that…I want you to be my wife, my lover..Someone I can share my sorrows and joys with..I want to be your everything. Can you see me in that guise Khanak?”

She didn’t think he’d like her answer..but they’d always been honest with each other. “Perhaps I could.”

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Rhythm&Blues Chap 14: Shattered Dreams

shattered dreams

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14: Shattered Dreams


“Hello there!” Called out an authoritative voice while a strong hand grasped Shan firmly by the shoulder stopping him in his tracks.

Irked at the interruption, he turned around and was confronted by an imposing specimen of manhood… tall, slim, and square of shoulder, it was obvious this guy hailed from the armed forces…and after a careful perusal of the distinguished features marred by a linear scar on the right temple, Shan figured that he was a close relative. Khanak’s brother or cousin perhaps? Gosh..I hardly know anything about her.

He smiled and shook the proffered hand, concluding that it wouldn’t be prudent to cross any of Khanak’s relatives, particularly if he wished to form closer alliances in the future. Heck! What am I thinking about?

“Hi! I am Shyam..the bride’s brother! Am so sorry to startle you, but you see mom has given me the task of making myself familiar with as many guests as possible. Being away stationed on the border for months on end, I hardly know my own family..let alone anyone else! You must be one of Anand’s college friends’. I’m assuming so, because I know all his school ones!” He roared laughing out loud as if finding the thought quite funny.

Shan guessed Anand was the bridegroom.

“He must have sent you to spy for him. That chap has very little patience. Has been that way ever since he was 5 yrs old. I don’t know how Khanak handled him. Both of them always got along very well.”

Shan felt a sudden chill as Shyam’s voice trailed off and a look of pique settled over his jovial features.

“Hello? Neengal yaaru? Who is this Shyam?”

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Rhythm&Blues Chap 13: Hearts of Glass

hearts of glass

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13: Hearts of Glass


Tongues wag. They do so for various reasons but the most substantial among them is because they don’t want to adopt a state of dormancy–that’d be akin to ringing a death knell!

Over the past few weeks the busy tongues along a serene and conservative street of the upscale beachside Chennai neighborhood of Besant Nagar were having the time of their lives. They were reaping a golden harvest. From dawn to dusk, in the courtyard of the Ashtalakshmi temple along the shores of Elliot’s beach, even under the Banyan tree of the renowned Kalakshetra Academy you could eavesdrop on the following prattle:

‘The elder Mishra girl has run away and wonder of wonders she has shunned the match of a lifetime- Anand Vaidyanathan! Now who in her right mind would even consider flirting with such an option?!’

‘ The girl is definitely not all there!’ This was the foregone conclusion accompanied by a sympathetic head shake.

‘Poor Srinivas and Komal Mishra.. They have committed no sin by coming forward to take care of their orphaned niece. How were they to anticipate the ungrateful girl would pay them back this way?’

Therefore on a pleasant Spring day in April when a brand new shining ‘phoren’ sedan came to a screeching halt in front of this  infamous Mishra household, the aforementioned tongues wagged and twisted themselves into a feverish frenzy.

Dressed in a simple yellow and green raw silk salwar suit with the crinkled shawl drawn over her elegant head and across the lower portion of her face so to appear as innocuous as possible, Khanak entered her former home and rushed at once to find her cousin.

She stood outside the room which not so long ago had been to her as familiar as her very own and hesitated. She felt like an unwanted intruder.

It was packed with women talking in loud voices creating a happy din, one that is so prosaic in a house preparing for a wedding.

She stood there for several moments and listened, catching random phrases enunciated in lilting tones.

Ahhh Savitri amma..aapke haathon mein jo jaadoo hai..Dekho…Dulhan ke kesh…kitne khoobsoorat lag rahe hain na? .(there is unique magic in your hands.. Behold..the bride’s lovely they look..don’t they?)

“Kya? What..? Tamil mein (speak in Tamil)..I don’t understand!”

A trill of amused laughter. “Never mind! You are the best Savitri amma!”

Khanak smiled too. Yes, Savitri amma was the local expert on hair design, especially when it came to braiding it with fresh flowers. She inhaled deeply, the sweet aromatic fragrance of jasmine, rose, and marigold, fresh from the fields and it brought back bittersweet memories.

“Look! The Henna’s color shows up so deep! Shreya beti, don’t you worry , you’ll have no problems holding your husband’s interest.”

So it was true, her cousin was indeed getting married. She needed to talk to her.


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