(CT) 7: Encounters

Arnav gazed at the painting. It was a scenic landscape of Chanderpur from the Chandravillas state. He knew the precise point in this sprawling estate where the painter must have stood to capture it – the jutting hillside on the west. He had stood there himself a number of times gazing at the scenery rejoicing in the feeling of beauty and belonging that coursed through him then. How lucky he had counted himself – to have found a home and a parent after his own had died in that accident.

Three years ago, those illusions had been destroyed. Baba had left chandravillas, their home, to a nameless girl, no one had ever seen. His daughter, Baba had claimed in the will. The outer estate was Arnav’s and the bungalow in Chanderprore Anjili’s. He had been fair, the lawyer said. But Arnav hadn’t been ready to listen. He had felt homeless, as abandoned as he had been when his parents died. It had told him clearly that though Baba might have adopted Anjili and him, they were still outsiders. Ultimately the wealthy stuck to their kind.  The house, their childhood refuge belonged to someone else.

As he gazed at the vivid colors of the landscape, Arnav felt all his misgivings return. He knew that by coming back he was inviting all that hurt all over again. But it was time to return. The three years, the time baba had himself stipulated for him to find his lost family was almost over. And in a few days that Chandravillas would go into the hands of a trust that worked for poor abandoned women. Only the estate, the land on the hillside would remain for him.

Over the last three years, Arnav had often debated if he should buy the house and give the money to the trust. But he knew that buying the house wouldn’t lessen the pain of abandonment. Instead, he would sell the estate he decided– the estate which the artist had captured with such sense of wonder and beauty on the canvas. Ms. Gupta was right. It was valuable – and a wonderful piece of art.

Arnav felt her tentative presence behind him in the gallery. She was waiting for him to turn around and pass his verdict. He felt strangely reluctant to talk to her now.  A feeling polar opposite to the anticipation of the morning when he had been looking out for her. She had not liked him. He had seen the surprise turn to disapproval in her eyes and tight mouth yesterday. But that haughty disapproval had been refreshing. At work – he had seen people eye him with pity and sympathy till he turned into a tough cold businessman. Only then they took him seriously, even disliked him for being made to feel inadequate by a handicapped man. Coming to Chandrataal, he had prepared himself for Anjili’s overprotective instincts, Raghav’s conscientiousness and Sheetal’s obsession with his comfort. But after meeting Ms. Gupta, he had a feeling that things might not be so bad

But now that was gone. He knew that when he turned around there would be sympathy in those hazel eyes. And he did not want to see it. So he took his time gazing at her painting.

‘I…I did not know. No one told me.’ He disliked the hesitation that replaced her cold voice.

‘Know what, Ms. Gupta?’ he turned around reluctantly

‘That…uh..your leg is….’ His fixed gaze flustered her. He pinned her down with a stare as she searched for words and then gave up and looked at him steadily. ‘that you are injured.’

‘It isn’t injured, Ms. Gupta. It was injured long time ago. The limp is permanent.’ He told her coldly and turned back to contemplate the painting. She had done good work. By rights, he should let her finish the task. But her discomfort was filling him with a strange sense of irritation.

‘So tell me, Ms. Gupta, what would you have done had you known. Got the painting for me in the dining room, right? Next time, remember that.’ He finished viciously.

The silence stretched and Arnav wondered he had been that mistaken about her. He had hoped for a feisty comeback. Had he got a silent acquiescence instead?  Another soul to pity him and his handicap.

‘Sorry, Mr. Raizada,’ the firm voice, caught his attention. ‘I don’t think so.’

He turned around, his eyebrow raised in inquiry. Despite the coldness in her tones, Arnav felt some of his annoyance retreat.

‘The gallery isn’t far off, and I didn’t think it was too much of a task to come to the gallery, was it?’ She said softly.

He was afraid he would smile with relief. So Arnav turned back to the painting and looked at it again. ‘Despite your shocking rudeness, Anjili was right,’ he told her. ‘You have worked wonders with this painting, Ms. Gupta.’

‘But I understand that it doesn’t matter to you much. You don’t really care about these paintings, do you?’  Arnav was starting to recognize her direct manner. Ms. Gupta didn’t believe in mincing her words.

‘No.’ he said firmly, with a nonchalant shrug. ‘I don’t care about what happens to these paintings or this house for that matter. This restoration is Anjili’s whim.’

‘I can see that,’ her tone was cold and clipped. ‘Well, at least one of you cares.’

‘ANd what do you mean by that?’ He didn’t like where the conversation was going. Despite his nonchalance, Arnav realized that he cared what Ms. Gupta thought of him.

‘Just that your father would be glad at least one of his children care for this old house and its heritage.’ He refused to let her words bother him. After all, in her characteristic directness, she merely stated what she saw.

‘Oh yes, she cares and I don’t. You have learned fast, Ms. Gupta. I don’t attach myself to things…or people,’ he looked at her once again.  ‘How so ever beautiful.’

‘Ironical, isn’t it?’ Khushi looked unfazed as she walked to the portrait of Arvind Malik. ‘If your father had thought the same way, he wouldn’t have adopted you or Anjili. He was a bad judge of people.’

‘And I see that you love to gossip. You have picked up the family history fast, Ms. Gupta.’ He returned coldly. There was something heartfelt in her criticism. She seemed had become attached to the paintings and his casual dismissal bother her.

‘Its hardly a secret – from the taxi driver to the Raghav – I have heard this story from almost everyone this month.’

‘And you encouraged it and passed your judgments based on these pieces of gossip.  Unfortunately, Ms. Gupta, though you can restore paintings, you can hardly restore feelings. And I don’t feel anything for this house or these paintings.’

‘I gather that. I shall leave tomorrow.’ Her shoulders slumped and she moved back as if trying to disentangle herself from something she loved.

‘Leave? Who said anything about leaving?’ Arnav asked. ‘I thought you were here to restore these treasures as you call them.’

‘But you said …just now that don’t care, Mr. Raizada.’

‘Oh but I do care about the money they might fetch. So please use all your skills and restore each of these relics of past so that when the house goes, they too shall be a part of its antiquity.’

She opened her mouth as if to say something, and then snapped it shut. Perhaps to give him a piece of mind for being so mercenary. Good, she thought better of it. For Arnav realized it was time to retreat. He discovered that though he enjoyed sparring with Ms. Gupta, she had had an uncanny knack of playing his emotions. Within a course of half an hour, he had moved from amusement to annoyance and some more disturbing ones that he did not want to name.


26 thoughts on “(CT) 7: Encounters

  1. monalisaa1 says:

    Woow you took so long to update. I almost forgot abt this story. But am glad your back with an update an hope u will keep on updating regularly

  2. Who is his daughter ? That owns this place .and what a twist that arnav has a limb and is not perfect ..I like that it makes it more interesting.i glad you updated.looking fwd to more

  3. VivaceReveur says:

    Hi Vann,
    Welcome back! It’s heartening to see you are progressing with the story. The chapter was a hearty read. 🙂

    Arvind Malik seems like a magic maker. He adopted two kids and turned them into the finest of people. I remember one of the twin sisters had seen Khushi in a painting in the attic. He strummed his instruments to bring the ‘daughter’ together with the rest of the family, it seems. And they will be a family, won’t they? Except, not brothers and sisters! A careful orchestrator! The story is lovely! The paintings, the havelis, the names of the houses! It is so exotic. I am enjoying it thoroughly!


  4. hailstorm464 says:

    Loooong time. Now I need to read the story first.

  5. tabs2016 says:

    Finally. An update. I think Khushi is the daughter. Can’t wait for more

  6. P says:

    Yippeeeee!! Thank you for updating!!

    Loved the way the characters and story plays out….

    Pls do continue..

    Thank you once again!!

  7. anu1017 says:

    Awesome update!!!! Loved it!!! I think Khushi might be the daughter of the dead owner, don’t know what will Arnav do once he finds out. Please update soon!!!!

  8. jasbinji says:

    After a long time
    Loved reading
    Will wait for the next

  9. anamika says:

    Does that mean khushi is related to that person??…

  10. fermeen30 says:

    Loved the update, brilliant. Who is the daughter, eager for the mystery to be unveiled. Eager for the next part.

  11. rabiabegum says:

    OMG, you’re back😳👍😊! Please update regularly! I’ve loved and missed this story so much. I think Khushi’s related to Mr. Malik. I think Arnav is attracted to Khushi. Can’t wait to read more🤔! Please update soon 😊.

  12. mahrusweety says:

    Thank God u r back.
    Was missing this story.
    Loved arnav and khushi conversation and happy that khushi didn’t felt any sympathy for arnav link.it was just shock.
    Love it

  13. mrieshka says:

    Welcome back dear. Beautiful update. I love this strong Khushi and war of words between lion and lioness. Hope you decide for regular update now as this is too beautiful to leave incomplete.

  14. priya300 says:

    Mind blowing update
    Loved it
    It’s very interesting and different I like it
    Is khushi related to arnav

  15. athiyam says:

    glad to see your update… superb 🙂 and Thanks

  16. ranogill says:

    Loved it and to see you back ..

    • Vann says:

      And love to see you back too. 🙂 would love to hear your views on Dust of Ages, since you have been on this journey of writing from the very beginning 🙂

  17. amus5 says:

    welcome back…….will she be able to restore normalcy in Arnav’s upturned life at chandravilas???? would be interesting to find out……

  18. jyothim78 says:

    Oh..so that is the reason behind Arnav’s bitterness…, it did not seem unreasonable though. It’s Arnav’s attachment to the place and his adopted father that brought out the bitterness and pain. In fact, Khushi and Arnav are similar in this aspect, Khushi’s bitterness seem to stem from the abandonment and lack of Mr. Malik’s searching of her and her mother, while Arnav’s from abonment after treating them with so much love..Ironical how neither of them will end up with the Mansion. Khushi would have no chance of knowing that her mother were the only wife Mr.Malik had and she the aforementioned hieress of the mansion, but she wouldn’t care for the ancestral property responsible for her never knowing to know her father nor Arnav care for the money or grandeur..

    • Vann says:

      Yes, and taht is the crux of its all. Your comment illustrates all that I was trying to put it in. That is the conflict for both of them. Thanks a ton for writing in. BTW, still waiting for your comments on 1857 DOA vol 2 😉

  19. ndb63 says:

    welcome …..am really looking forward to this story….
    thanks for continuing…will be waiting for next update

  20. asha519 says:

    Seems like Kushi is the daughter to whom the house has been willed. Would be interesting to see Arnav , Anjali and most of all Shettals reaction

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