Sunday, September 30, 2012

Walk the Line - Chapter 32

Commissioner Bhardwaj was busy with some papers when a policeman came in and smartly saluted. He nodded at the new entrant and expectantly at the file in the man’s hands. It was sealed. The man handed over the file to him, saluted, turned around crisply and exited the room.

Bhardwaj unsealed the file and began reading. A frown appeared on his face, deepening as he continued reading. This was not good. About half an hour later, he had finished reading, and shut the file. Thinking deeply, he picked up the phone and hit the line for his secretary. ‘Get me Arnav Singh Raizada,’ he said, getting up to pace the floor.

Fifteen minutes later, his extension beeped. It was his secretary. ‘Sir, I’m afraid I can’t reach him, sir. His phone keeps going to voicemail. I tried his office, he’s not there either. I tried his home, but they said, he’d gone shopping for the wedding. I did leave him a voicemail to call you back, sir.’

Damn, thought Bhardwaj. He looked at the clock, almost lunchtime. Well, he would try Arnav again in a few hours. He should be back by then.

****

Back in Raizada Mansion, Anjali put down the phone and looked at her husband. ‘I don’t know why Chotey wouldn’t pick up his phone,’ she said, worriedly. ‘He’s never without it. He knows I call him and he always picks up.’

‘My sweet,’ her husband put his arm around her and said, ‘did you try his office?’

‘Of course! I’ll call Aman and see if he knows where Chotey is,’ she hurried back to pick up the phone. Dilip smirked. If he knew his brother-in-law, he’d done a wise thing keeping his phone away while he was out with his... girl friend? He didn’t know that Khushi was Arnav’s girl friend or anything like that. But he’d seen the look in his brother-in-law’s eyes when he’d looked at the girl, and it was definitely a look that he’d never seen on his face before. The man was in love. The million-dollar Question was: did he know it? He sighed. He wasn’t going to do anything about it. He also knew that if he told his wife about this, she’d probably be busy planning the wedding menu. No. Chotey always made his own decisions. This time too, he would take his time and if he asked for Dilip’s help, he would give it to him. He loved his wife, but he wished she would let her little brother do his own thing, without giving him unwanted advice all the time - especially the ones about love and life.

Anjali came back with a strange look on her face.

‘What?’ he asked.

‘Aman said Chotey was out shopping while he was in the office, but it sounded like he was outside, too. I asked him if he was helping Chotey and he said, no. Strange.’

He tried to keep a straight face. Knowing his brother-in-law, he’d probably handed the list to Aman and then taken off for some time with the girl. ‘Did you try calling Khushi to see if she reached safely?’ he asked innocently, just pushing his wife along the right train of thought. ‘Perhaps she might know something?’

‘Yes, of course,’ she brightened up. ‘Let me call her.’ Once again she hurried over to the phone. Two minutes later she was back. Dilip lay back in his chair, keeping his amusement to himself. ‘Chotey and she went shopping, her parents said,’ she looked at him, perplexed. He raised his brows. Really? Interesting. So his guess was right. His brother-in-law was out romancing his girl. Good for you, Chotey, he thought. Smart boy. A full day without his sister looking over his every action was probably what he needed. He loved his wife to death, but sometimes she could be a bit... dense, he thought. He leaned over and held her hand. ‘Let Chotey be. Come sit with me for a bit. Your pregnant and you shouldn’t be worrying yourself like this.’ He gently pulled her forward and seated her next to him, wrapping his arm around her and pulling her close with a kiss on her forehead. She smiled and relaxed, basking in the glow of his love. Mission accomplished, he thought. Her mind was completely diverted now.

*****

Anna put down the phone and turned to look at Shashi. He looked at her questioningly. ‘It was Arnav’s sister,’ she said, with a worried look. ‘She wanted to know if Khushi had arrived safely. Evidently, Arnav was supposed to drop her off. I told her what Khushi had told us, but why didn’t he tell his family he was taking her shopping?’ She dialed Khushi’s number and it rang before going to voicemail. She looked at her husband and said, ‘she’s not picking up her phone.’

Her husband gave her an amused smile and said, ‘probably didn’t hear it in the din of the market or something. May have left it in the car, for all you know. She’s pretty scatterbrained sometimes.’ A thought struck him. 'What’d they say about Arnav’s phone?’

‘That he wasn’t picking up the calls either,’ her voice trailed off as realization dawned in her eyes. He smiled at her and she smiled right back. ‘Oh my god, you think the two of them decided to play hookey?’

‘Looks like,’ he chuckled.

‘Oh dear,’ she laughed. ‘The poor boy. Does he even know what he’s getting involved in?’

‘No, but at some point he’ll figure it out.’

‘Does she?’ Anna sobered suddenly. ‘Shashi. She’s not been in a relationship. Ever. To me Arnav has so many qualities that I would want in the man she chooses, but the thing is, does he want more from her than just some time running away from the world?’

‘I don’t know, Anna,’ Shashi had become serious too. ‘He’s a good man. I don’t think he would deliberately play with her. He doesn’t seem the type. But then.. I like him. So I might be biased,’ he said thoughtfully.

‘Ever since I heard about the calls, I’ve been worried sick,’ said Anna. She sat down next to him on the sofa. He placed his hand gently on hers.

‘Our daughter has a good man looking out for her. One that will not let her be harmed. I know he will keep her safe.’

‘For how long? Once we return to the States, she’ll get those calls again, and her life will fragment again.’

‘We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. At least we know that Shyam will not be able to touch her there. It’s a few thousand miles away.’

They sat in silence contemplating how they could keep their daughter safe once they had her back.

****

Aman had been running around all morning. He didn’t know where his boss was. He wasn’t answering his phone. The police had called looking for him, and he had no clue how to give his boss the message. They wanted him to call back. He tried the number again.. and again... nothing. It wasn’t like ASR to not call back or even pick up his phone. Aman was starting to get worried about his boss. But he knew one thing, if he didn’t finish this long list of chores, he was going to be in for it in the evening when his boss came back, and the tasks were not completed. With a sigh, he hitched the bags in his hands and went over to his car. He looked at the list, and got in the car. Next stop - Connaught Place.

****

His boss meanwhile, was contemplating the lovely figure of one Miss Khushi Kumari Gupta, just as she saw him and started walking over to him. As she came into the courtyard, she heard Uttam calling to him from the kitchen.

He turned around and walked over to the side door. She came into the courtyard and could smell the food cooking in the kitchen. She suddenly realized that she was very hungry. She stood in the courtyard, uncertain about where to go. He came out, saw her and veered towards her. ‘Khushi,’ he said in that tone that always made the hair stand on her arms. A little bit of a question, a little bit of statement, a whole lot of ownership in that one word uttered in that husky tone. She looked at him with a question in her eyes. ‘Come,’ he said. He led the way out of the back of the house towards a long, low building. As they came near, she could smell...horses?

He led the way into a dimly lit stable. She could see about five horses in the stall. He led her to a tall stallion who neighed as he came close. It was taller than him. A big beast with chocolate skin and a white blaze on its forehead.

‘What kind of horse is it?’ she asked.

He held out an apple for the horse and stroked its nose. ‘A mustang,’ he said with a lop sided smile.

Her head turned to him in surprise. ‘Yep,’ he nodded, ‘this is my mustang. I bought him after I got back from the US the last time.’

She looked at him - the implications of his words just starting to sink in.

‘His name is Shelby.’ She burst out laughing.

He grinned ruefully. ‘I know, bad joke, huh?’

She sputtered and nodded, then sobered down.

‘Come on,’ he said, ‘I want to show you one more.’ He led her to a stall with an equally tall horse in it. It was sleek, with pied coloring in grey and black and white. ‘This is Mirage.’ He looked at her.

‘Why Mirage?’

‘Most of my life has been a mirage. Running after things that don’t matter. And when the real deal is in front of you....’ he stopped abruptly, as a man walked in through the door. He was obviously a stablehand.

‘Do you know how to ride?’ he asked her instead.

She shook her head. ‘No. Never had the chance,’ she replied.

‘Saddle up Mirage,’ he told the stablehand, who nodded and got to work.

They came out into the bright sunshine. A few minutes later, the stablehand led the horse out, saddled and bridled. He took the reins from him and swung into the saddle. Leaning down, he held out a hand to her. She took it. ‘Put your foot in the stirrup, and swing the other over the back.’

She did as she was told, feeling his strong arm pull her up and behind him. ‘Hold me,’ he instructed. She put her arms around his waist. He kicked the horse and it moved out in a gentle canter. ‘You okay?’

‘Yes,’ she said.

He moved it into a trot and kept the pace slow, knowing she was not used to the rhythmic rise and fall of the beast’s back. They took off towards the distant hills. There was a peace in Arnav’s heart that hadn’t been there before. The sun behind him, the hills in front, her arms wrapped around his waist, the faint smell of her perfume in his nose, the wind lifting his hair and the feel of a horse under him. Arnav Singh Raizada was content with life.

5 comments:

  1. OMG!!!! i m thrilled now
    The pressure mounting n in we are lost on our
    World,, loving it,,, exlihirating
    Brilliant, loved the pace length & invowen characters

    Looking fwd to more

    Jhalak

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  2. Wow!!!!

    waiting for more.....eagerly....

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  3. i have a huge grin on my face ,.. & u know the reason why ... do i even have to say it .. it was SUPER .. but .... cant wait for the "ride" to progress .. move .. & climax ...

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  4. Superb Madhu.... Loved it !!! Can we please have the update soon !!!

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  5. :D so happy! Just them and the horse. I lovd the reasoning to the horses names. Maybe its time he realised, that Khushi is no mirage, he has to tell her his feelings, if she replies in kind fine, if not he'll wait. He needs to realise he cant lose her.

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