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(CT) Chapter 6: The Man

Here is another update for Chandrataal. I would write and finish this one soon. (perhaps by May end) and it is going to be my last on this blog. But if you have liked by stories – Unforgettable, It could happen this way and Chandrataal, then I hope you would want to read more.  I really hope you do.

So ‘It could happen this way’  that you could read ‘Don’t fall in Love’ coming out this month with Juggernaut books 🙂

You could visit my facebook page and hit a like for the updates on both.

Here is the link : https://www.facebook.com/1857ARomance/

go on, hit a like and we can keep in touch. I would be running some contests and you can even get a free copy 🙂

And the interview with Juggernaut, right here: http://community.juggernaut.in/how-writers-write-vandana-shanker/

And I am on twitter too!!! – @Vandanashanker or India in Colours.

So see you on FB

Two books in three months….let’s build the momentum

 

(CT) Chapter 6: The Man

stick strap

 

The next day Khushi woke to sounds of bustle. Even in the bed, she heard sounds downstairs, doors opening and closing, faint sounds from the kitchen, dull thuds, and footsteps. She freshened up quickly. Everyday she waited for Anjili’s time of arrival to go down, have her breakfast and coffee with her before she began the work.

But today something in the air called out. She freshened up quickly and got ready to go down. A crunch of the gravel and joyful skrieks of the twins indicated that Anjili too had arrived early. As she stepped out of her room, Khushi smelt the warm aroma of food. The chill of the night nowhere in evidence. Not a hint of silence or loneliness. The old mansion had come alive during the night.

Khushi walked towards the dining room. The excited chatter indicated that the family had gathered together in the room. For a moment, she hesitated wondering if she would be intruding in the family get reunion. The event of last night was still fresh in her mind. Something about Mr. Raizada puzzled her. Perhaps she would ask for her breakfast in the gallery. Khushi was on the verge of stepping back when Anjili spotted her at the doorway.

‘Khushi, why are you there? Come in. let’s eat togehter.’ Anjili called out. She was next to her brother, Arnav Singh Raizada, in the process of serving the food. The sun streamed from the window behind them, lighting up the entire family in warmth and sunshine. On the either side of their uncle sat the twins, with an exuberant smile fixed on their faces. One of them turned to look in her direction.

‘Khushi aunty, look its our mamu,’ one of them called out. Aditi, decided as she smiled and walked in. out of the corner of her eyes, she saw Nisha look at her dismissively before turning back to her uncle and then seeing a look on his face, she turned back to look at Khushi speculatively.

Arnav Singh Raizada was watching her with the same mocking smile that she had found so irritating last night. He leaned back silently absorbing all the attention, as if it was something due to him.

She shrugged mentally as she took the chair near Aditi. It was none of her business, she told herself. But with every passing day, she found herself getting mired deeply with the life in Chandrataal.

‘Khushiji, meet my brother, Arnav Singh Raizada. He returned last night,’ Anjili smiled affectionately at her brother.

‘I…hello, Mr. Raizada,’ Khushi smiled, more for Anjili’s sake than anything else.

‘Hello again, Ms Gupta. Hope you slept well after our…little tryst in the night.’

Khushi felt the colour rise on her face at his suggestive mocking tone. She sat up and forced herself to meet his gaze. ‘Of course, Mr. Raizada. Hope you did too.’

An eyebrow rose on the high forehead as if surprised by her response. What had he expected, that an innuendo would reduce her to a blushing stammering idiot? Khushi matched the stare.

‘Last night?’ Anjili’s voice brought her back. ‘You met last night?’

‘Yes, Ms. Gupta was nice enough to have stayed up for a warm welcome,’ the smile widened. He was teasing her.

‘I woke up,’ Khushi answered shortly as Anjili’s questioning gaze turned to her. ‘Was difficult to sleep in the storm last night.’

‘Oh, were you afraid?’ Anjili, filled up glass of milk and passed on her brother who took it and placed it next to his plate. ‘Don’t worry. Arnav is here now. He is in the same wing. Just two doors from your room.’

Was that supposed to be reassuring? Khushi remembered the way his eyes had watched her last night. They watched her once again, their amusement evident as he turned to her sister and back to her.

‘Arnav, you must see Khushi’s work. She has just restored one of the paintings but she has done wonders.’

‘I am sure who so ever gets them would appreciate the efforts.’ Once again he sounded less than enthusiastic about her work. Khushi was irritated.

‘But must see…’ Anjili sent her an apologetic smile.

‘But first tell us, Mamu,’ Aditi interrupted, eager to claim attention.

‘Yes, what did you get for us,’ Nisha followed her sister’s lead.

Arnav turned to look at the twins, the smile turning warm and indulgent. He frowned as if thinking about question, as he turned first to Nisha and then to Aditi. ‘Let me think. Now…was there anything pink in my luggage? Nah…nothing pink. Sorry, girls.’

The girls shrieked at once. ‘Now girls…’ Anjili began.

‘But how can mamu do that?’ Aditi wailed.

‘Are you lying, Mamu?’ Nisha asked

‘Girls, let him have his breakfast in peace. You need anything, chottey?’ Anjili hovered around the three.

‘An apple, di. And Raghav.’

Khushi watched as Anjili rushed at once to do as he had asked. She went to the door and called for Raghav. On the way back to the table, she picked up an apple from the sideboard. At the head of table, Arnav Singh Raizada continued his banter with his nieces, not making any effort to move from his chair. How arrogant, lazy and crude could a man be. And what was wrong with everyone? He just had to ask and they ran around to do his bidding. First Raghav and then Anjili.

Raghav entered the room and cleared his throat.

‘Raghav, the two things that I asked you to put in garage in the night. Did you….’

‘The pink bicycles, chottey saab. They are still packed and kept in the garage.’

‘Mamu,’ the girls cried and rushed forward to hug their uncle.

‘Can we see them now?’ Aditi turned from her uncle to her mother. ‘Please can we, can we, can we?’

‘Ok Ok. Go with Raghav?’Anjili waved away Aditi and girls ran to Raghav who ushered them out.

‘You pamper them a lot, Chottey. You must not..’

‘Arnav!’ Another voice from the doorway interrupted the exchange. It was Sheetal this time. She looked pretty, extremely so, in a red suit. She was always beautiful but today she had taken special care. From the kohl lined eyes to the dangling earrings and clinking bangles – today Sheetal was perfection personified. ‘When did you come back?’ she rushed in the room.

‘Yesterday. Was waiting since the morning for you to appear!’ He remained seated as he raised his arm. Sheetal rushed in for a quick hug. Khushi watched in astonishment. Another person running while he remained seat on his throne.

‘Its nice to have you back,’ Sheetal smiled as she took Nisha’s chair. Khushi remembered Anjili telling her how close Sheetal and Arnav had been.  ‘Even at a time like this.’

Silence followed the words as if they had cast a pall around the table. Khushi wondered what she meant and once again told herself it was none of her concern. She would just finish her breakfast and return to her work.

Sheetal looked around and spotted Khushi, seeing her for the first time since she entered the room. ‘Hello, Khushi. Done with the breakfast. Perhaps you can show your painting to Arnav and then get on with the work you have been stalling for days waiting for his decision.’

Khushi felt her anger rise. She hadn’t been stalling. She needed his decision over the budget and which paintings he wanted restored. She also wanted to talk to him about wall in one of the bedrooms where her friend suspected was a mural. Now Sheetal made it seem she had been shirking work. Khushi was about to retort when Arnav Raizada intervened.

‘Ms. Gupta, could you please fetch the painting you have worked on?’ he asked.

Fetch the painting! He expected her to bring it here. Like the way he had been commanding the rest of the household! He thought she too would rush around as he snapped his fingers. The anger which had risen at Sheetal’s words now shifted onto the man sitting next to her.

‘Mr Raizada,’ she began ‘since you are don’t think it worth to come to gallery, I suggest we stop this project right here. I understand that you are not interested in the paintings and would not care one way or the other if they are restored or left to rot. I would cost a fortune restoring them. I would suggest that you let them be instead of spending so much on things that youo don’t care about. I would not even charge for the one that I worked on.’

The two surveyed each other through narrowed eyes. The amused twinkle in eyes was still there, albeit undercut by the seriousness of the expression. Neither was aware of the Anjili’s discomfort or Sheetal’s cold expression.

‘You are right, Ms. Gupta. I should come to the gallery.’ He stretched back to pick up something.

Khushi watched him flabbergasted. He drew a walking stick, strapped the leather strap on his wrist and stood up slowly testing his weight gingerly on his left leg while the right side leaned on the stick. Then he limped out, leaning heavily on the stick and walked towards her. Khushi watched him with dismay and astonishment as he passed her, the musky smell of his cologne wafting in the air around her.

Vaguely she became aware of Anjili’s restlessness and the cold anger on Sheetal’s face. She stood rooted on the spot as the familiar tapping of the walking stick reached the door and stopped.

‘Chalein,’ he turned at the door to look at her.

‘yes. Yes of course Mr. Raizada,’ Khushi shook herself and followed him out of the dining room.