Chap 1B: A Proposal
“At last…I feel human again!” Mili said, pausing to take a sip of the steaming brew that she held in her hands.“Ramu kaka…nobody can make better chai than you!” She called out, looking back over her shoulder, while stepping out of the kitchen. Ramu was their servant who had been with them ever since her father had been a little boy. He was practically a part of the family and everybody fondly called him kaka or uncle.
“But no one can ever top you mom, no one!” She said with a wink directed at Kiran.
Then gazing out of the window at the blooming passion flower vine which hugged the entire left side of the house, she exclaimed joyously,“It is so wonderful to be back home!”
Kiran smiled, secretly observing her daughter, as she settled down at the table and began working on some pea pods. Yes, her husband was right. Their little girl had indeed blossomed. The sloppy, rambunctious tomboy, who used to bring the entire house on its knees with her exploits had disappeared giving way to the beautiful and elegant young woman who sat in front of her. The transformation had come about so quickly that it appeared almost miraculous! Yet, she was still her Mili, her precious little child, whom she wanted to cherish and keep in close proximity all her life. But Kiran knew that would be asking for too much.
“So… Did you have a good time with your friends yesterday?” She asked, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her daughter’s ear.
Mili nodded, “Yes, it was like old times. First we went to the bazaar, then to the movies and then back to Annie’s place where we chattered each other’s ears off!” She laughed. “Yet there was something odd about it all…” She paused in her task, her large jet black eyes taking on a wistful look. “Some, like Sonia and Jess, were only there physically while their minds were engaged elsewhere. Probably worried sick about their husbands and their babies.”
“Thank Heavens! That is something I don’t have to be concerned about for a long long time,” she concluded brightly.
You may be surprised my dear…Kiran thought. I should not procrastinate anymore.“I have some news..” She said.
Mili perked up, “What news? Has our neighbor run away with her driver? I sensed something shady there.”
“No!” Kiran said laughing, “Our neighbor is quite happy with her husband as far as I can tell. You have to stop letting your imagination run wild. It is something else. Do you remember Dr. and Mrs Sharma?”
Mili frowned, shaking her head.
“Perhaps you don’t. You were very young when they left. But you should recall their son, Ahaan. He was three years your senior in school.”
“You mean Mr. Times of India? Of course I remember him!” Mili said, bursting into a peal of laughter.
“Times of India…?”
“Yes. Because he was the biggest political junkie! While the rest of us were talking about the latest movie, he was waxing eloquent on the state of world affairs. While we were smuggling Sidney Sheldon in our satchels, he was walking around with a book on Churchill or Lenin in plain sight! I used to tease him so much about it…”
“Why, because he was different?”
“I guess you could say that…” Mili’s brow drew together in a frown. “ And all he did was stare at me with those serious bespectacled brown eyes and walk away. I sometimes wished he would shout back. His silence was getting on my nerves. Then one day he did. He lectured me on respecting my peers —how dare he?!” Her face grew red with indignation. “Another time, he caught me playing truant with a couple of my classmates and told me off, saying that it would affect my grades! Big deal!…… Oops!” She bit her tongue and managed to look appropriately chagrined.
Kiran smiled. The cat was out of the bag. “That was very sweet of him. He was just looking out for you.”
Mili was glad that her mother didn’t berate her on her bad behavior, “Perhaps he was. But the manner in which he said it all, I wanted to punch him in his smug face..I nearly did!”
“Thank heavens you controlled yourself Mili!” Kiran managed to look shocked, though she was enjoying this recount of her daughter’s school days, which she hadn’t been privy to. “I had a different opinion of him, though..”
“Remember the day when it was raining heavily and all the power lines were down? The phones weren’t working either. You had stayed back for a school play rehearsal and I was worried sick. Your papaji (father) was out of town also. I was about to leave the house with kaka to look for you, when I heard a knock on the door and found you standing there with Ahaan. He was holding his coat over your head while getting soaked to the skin himself. And then he left right from the door, even when I asked him to come in. A very gentlemanly thing to do.”