Sunday, July 15, 2012

Walk the Line: Chapter - 15 - In the Past

The lighted path stretched in front of her, darkness on both sides, hiding the people watching out there. She stepped out into the light, resplendent in her olive green and red lehenga slowly walking down the center, eyes downcast, hands to her side, a golden veil half covering her face, her up done hair giving her added height. Half-way down the path, she stopped and lifted her eyes, and gazed out into the darkness looking for her prince. She smiled. The crowd sighed. Chin high, she completed the rest of the walk with confidence, one step in front of another, one hand on hip, the other swinging by her side. The crowd cheered. Khushi Kumari Gupta was dancing with joy inside.

Ann and Shashi Gupta applauded with the rest, their faces shining with pride. They had all moved to Delhi a year ago, when her father decided to move his business to Delhi since Khushi had enrolled in the Delhi Fashion Institute. He was worried about her living alone in a big city. Fiercely protective of his daughters, he wanted them to feel safe no matter where they were. So the entire family moved to Delhi. They were a close knit family and this was his way of taking care of them.

It was the night of the fashion show at the Delhi Fashion Institute – the day before graduation. Each of the students had to design a wedding dress, which they would have to then either model themselves or get someone to model for them. The catch was that each student had to pair up with someone, so that one person designed a bride’s dress and the other person the groom’s. Khushi had teamed up with her new BFF – Anahita – and the two had decided that Anahita would play the groom, while she would play the bride, which tickled their funny bone because Anahita was short and plump and Khushi was tall and slender. The crowd loved it!

In a shadowed corner, a small, red glow moved up to a pair of lips that took a long, slow drag on the cigarette. Through the smoky haze, narrowed eyes watched Khushi walk the ramp and then widened in surprise as Khushi’s smile broke through the nervousness. She was gorgeous! The thought was there. The desire came after. This girl was something. There was something a little un-Indian about her, something unconventional. Her body, the lithe, long-boned body was a treat for the eyes. Long fingers stubbed out the cigarette. The shadow moved away from behind the wall and went to sit down next to Shyam Manohar Jha.

The show ended and all the girls headed back to the dressing room where their instructors awaited. There had been a formal panel judging their effort. The results would be announced the next day. But for today, it was party time.

The next day, Khushi was sitting with the rest of her class in the auditorium. They were going to announce the winners of the fashion show. Anahita and she clutched each other’s hands as the dean walked to the podium.

One by one each of their dresses were critiqued. Finally the moment came. Khushi and Anahita were the top scorers! Their ill-matched Jodi had just won the best Jodi. The judges had loved the humor in the concept and rewarded them accordingly. It was amazing.

‘Khushi, this is awesome,’ said Anahita, hugging her friend.

‘I know,’ she was laughing in wonder. ‘I have to call Mum and Dad and Jiji and tell them.’ She was making the call when one of their classmates, Debolina walked across to them. Typical, spoilt brat though she was, Debolina also had a heart of gold. She was also from a filthy rich family; which perhaps explained why when she was in the class – as her talent as a designer was highly questionable.

‘Guys,’ Debolina said in her usual languid way. ‘My parents are throwing a party this evening. I do want you’ll to be there.’

‘Sure thing, Debs,’ Anahita replied, still super-happy about the results.

‘Khushi? How about you? Are you coming or not?’

‘Sorry, Debs, on the phone with the parents. Hang on, lemme ask them,’ she responded, covering the phone while she spoke. ‘Mom, Dad, Debs’ parents are throwing a party this evening. Can I go? Please?’

Debs rolled her eyes, ‘Momma’s baby!’ she said jokingly, punching Khushi on the arm.

On the other side, her parents laughingly agreed to let her go. ‘Sure, why not?’ They had met Debs’ parents before and didn’t mind their daughter going to their house.

‘Yes!’ She turned to Debs. ‘I can go. What time?’

‘Seven, be there,’ Debs turned and walked away.

‘Oh my God! What’ll I wear, yaar?’ Ananhita looked worriedly at Khushi.

‘One of your creations, dumbo. You’ve got some awesome clothes in your wardrobe now. Designed by Anahita Malhotra,’ she finished with a flourish. ‘Wear one of those!’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Absolutely. You’ll look gorgeous!’

Khushi dressed for the party in one of her creations. Her own idea to Anahita was good for her, too, she’d decided. It was a floral creation, white with deep red roses, that was almost retro in look. The deeply plunging neckline showed off the blood red lacy camisole inside, while her white arms and shoulders were shown off in the off-the shoulder top. The bodice was latticed in white fabric. The flared uneven hemmed skirt stopped just below her knees. A spritz of perfume, dark red lipstick to match the roses, and long dangling silver earrings completed her look. Silver high heels and clutch bag were her only other accessories.

Her father dropped her off at Debs’ house. ‘Call me when you need to get home,’ he said.

‘Dad,’ she protested, ‘I’ll cab it. Not a problem. Besides it’s not that far either.’

‘Khushi,’ he father said gently but firmly, ‘I’ll pick you up.

‘Okay, Dad,’ she always gave in when he used that tone. She stepped out of the car and went into the party.

It was in full swing when she arrived. Soon she was sipping a fruity punch and chattering with all her friends. There were a lot of people that she didn’t know, but she didn’t care. Most of the students were there, nobody missed a bash at Debs’. Her parents threw the most awesome parties. Good food, good music, good conversations, their parties had it all! And Khushi, being Khushi, was enjoying herself thoroughly, her outgoing, bubbly nature making her the center of every conversation that she was in.

She was unaware of the pair of eyes that followed her every move. Dark eyes that rarely let her out of their sight.

She stepped away from her friends to go the bathroom. That fruit punch was really getting to her, she thought. The bathroom was down the hallway, and it was relatively empty. She felt refreshed when she came out, having touched up the lipstick just a tad. She was putting her lipstick in her bag, when she collided with someone.

The tall lady in front of her was elegant, so say the least. Khushi made her out to be in her mid-thirties, about five-ten, and a body that was to die for, draped in a red sari that revealed more than it hid! Long fingers, with matching blood red nails steadied Khushi. The face matched the body – mature, flawless, perfect!

‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ Khushi stammered.

‘No, don’t be. Is that the bathroom?’ the lady asked. Her voice was deep and husky.

‘Yes, it is.’

‘Oh. Thank you,’ the lady stepped inside. Khushi looked at the closed door and shrugged before walking away.

Ananhita, Debs, Khushi and a bunch of their classmates were chatting in a group, when Deb’s mother came up to them. With her was the Lady in Red – as Khushi was mentally starting to call her.

‘All of you, I want you to meet Ms. Gauri Virdi. Gauri, these are my daughter’s classmates,’ she announced. They shook hands with the woman, most of them in awe of the name. Gauri Virdi was the owner of the best modeling agency in India. She had a commanding presence and was known to be a hard task master and a hard-nosed business woman. In a man’s world she was the Queen.

‘Good to meet you all,’ she said. ‘And you’re Khushi,’ she bestowed a smile upon her.

‘Yes I am. Sorry, ma’am, I didn’t recognize you before’.

‘That’s okay,’ graciously shaking the hand that Khushi extended. She paused and said, ‘can I talk to you for a moment?’

‘Sure’, Khushi was a little bit nervous.

They stepped aside and Gauri turned to her. ‘You’ve got potential, you know. You carry yourself well, good bone structure, flawless skin, you’d make a great model. Have you thought about it?’ Her eyes were appraising the astonished girl in front of her.

‘No! I… er .. Actually I never gave it a thought.’

‘You should. You’d do well,’ she opened her purse. ‘Think about it. And if you do decide you want to try your hand at modeling, give me a call,’ holding out a small business card.

Khushi took it, stammering out her gratitude, and placed it in her purse. Gauri reached out and lightly touched her cheek, then she turned and walked away.

Weird, thought Khushi, a vague uneasiness settling into her stomach.

The week passed by uneventfully. She had been interviewing with a number of companies, but nothing was popping at her yet. Not that she didn’t have offers, she did, her portfolio guaranteed her that much. It was she who was looking for just the right fit. There was a new company on the horizon, AR Fashions; she had seen their work and their direction was one she had felt most in tune with. She felt that if she started with a new company, she would grow with it and be established in a few years, as opposed to starting small in a big company. She had so wanted a job there, but there had been no response from them so far.

Tired and hungry after a long day, she was coming home in the cab when her cell rang. She answered automatically, ‘Hello?’

‘Khushi?’ She was puzzled. She didn’t know this voice. It was almost a whisper. And she couldn’t make out if it was a man or a woman.

‘Yes?’

‘Khushi, how are you, my angel?’

Her eyes widened in surprise. ‘Who is this?’

A short burst of breath, almost like a laugh held in, floated down the line, ‘it’s me,’ said the whisper.

‘Who’s me?’ She was getting nervous now.

‘Someone who loves you dearly.’ Shocked, she held the phone away from her ears.

‘Shut up, you asshole!’ she almost shouted. ‘Who the heck do you think you are? If you don’t tell me your name I’ll..’

‘I’ll what, Khushi?’

She didn’t know what to say. She hung up.

3 comments:

  1. This Gauri does sound weird... What her story???? So the calls have started!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh oh I take it this Virdi woman is Rani Sahiba...and Shyam is just the front.. her gofor.s
    She doesn't like the idea of of people saying no to her . Eww creepy

    ReplyDelete

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