“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.
“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. 🙂