The dinner was a silent affair after which Keshav led the way to take her to a tour of what looked like an enormous house.
The entrance to the house led to the foyer which housed the shoe cupboard for outsiders and wall mounted key stands. There was a beautifully carved wooden coat hanger stand and she wondered if he entertained enough for its presence to be there and also what was expected of her whenever they had visitors. But then she knew Keshav would have well planned everything and she would definitely cross the bridge when they came to it. The foyer walls had couple of paintings of flowering plants and though beautiful, it didn’t make any sense why he would have them…nonetheless, she smiled as he led her to the drawing room which extended throughout the length of the house and ended into a French window on one side. The other end housed a dining hall which was further connected to a beautifully designed kitchen.
They walked towards the French window and she moved the heavy drapes and Keshav opened the window slightly. The cool night breeze hit her face and she could see the twinkling lights from the homes in the distant towers. She also had a slight view of the busy Sion-Trombay road where she saw the zipping of the lights of the speeding traffic. Her life too had just zipped by and now she was on the ambiguous threshold of marriage where uncertainty loomed above her head and she wondered if she had it in her to pull this through…
He shut the door and pulled back the drapes and they walked towards the kitchen each lost in their own whirlwind of thoughts.
“Avanti…do you like to cook…?” he asked her as she appreciated the intricately designed kitchenette
She nodded. “yes, I do… Um… I know you have a cook coming in…but can…can I cook as well…? Its cathartic for me…I mean…”
“…hey…Avanti listen…” He said softly. “…this is your house too now, Ok…? Do as you wish…got it…? The cook, Mrs. Sinha will guide you with the ingredients and anything else you need… she also shops for groceries and vegetables and fruits… you can just tell her what you need…”
Avanti nodded and they walked out of the kitchen. As they came back to the drawing room, she saw on one side were their rooms and the study all interconnected and on the other side there were two guest bedrooms as he explained and showed. Their layouts were exactly the same like her bedroom…but they weren’t connected. She wondered if his bedroom too had the same layout and why were their rooms connected… how many women did he bring here before her…? He had said he wasn’t a monk… She shook her head as if driving away apprehensions as he opened a third door that led to a home gym. It had minimal equipment alongside a treadmill and a couple of varieties of cycles, and now she knew how he maintained that gorgeous physique of his in spite of the workload. “…uh…if you ever want to exercise feel free to use this place… but there is something you must know Avanti…”
She looked up surprised as he started to walk towards the corner of the gym. She saw a wall mounted cupboard. He typed in a password on the keypad and the door slid open to reveal a wall mounted vintage dial telephone. What on earth was this…? not just the man but his surrounding too reeked of intrigue. He picked up the receiver of the yellow beauty and there was a circular dial right below. He turned to her and said. “Avanti…uh…I know you are curious…or surprised… uh… just listen carefully, Ok…? This is something only you know now besides me and Mrs. Sinha. In case… ever… if you feel threatened or in some kind of danger… come to this room and lock yourself in…then use the code 147823 to unlock this cupboard and then dial 900… it will immediately connect to my phone wherever I am, the nearest police station and also a couple of commandos I have hired to guard this place 24/7… you have to stay locked in here till any of us arrives… Understand…?”
Avanti looked wide eyed at the man who suddenly seemed like a stranger. Keshav looked worried as the frown lines marred the beauty of his handsome face. Suddenly he smiled his dimples making her want to plunge into their depths and she immediately looked away. “…Hey… I was just… preparing you OK…? You don’t have to get scared… actually this is a huge house so there are chances of burglars paying a visit and I … I just want you to be alert… that’s it…” She nodded smiling but somehow knew there was a lot more than what met the eyes.
They exited the gym and she followed him as he walked towards the last door on that side. He opened it and she saw there was a narrow staircase… He switched on the light and climbed upwards and they soon came to… oh God the most beautiful garden she had ever seen. There was a greenhouse at one end of it and a little double swing, in one corner. The rest of the area was filled with plants which were meticulously labelled. She couldn’t make out the strange concoction of the fragrances as each competed with other in intensity but she couldn’t deny the refreshed feeling that overcame her at that moment.
“Avanti… welcome to the favourite part of my home… my paradise… I come here whenever I have doubts of any kind and I get answers right away…” She looked around in admiration. The lights were strategically placed to light up the entire unit with minimal use of power and she saw the huge dome shaped roof had enough points to let the sunlight in. “…Can you see there…?” He pointed towards the green house. “…that’s the main part…the reason I have this place… its totally temperature controlled… the humidity too is measured daily…else the plants will fail to grow…Even I don’t go in there for days together… just observe the recordings on my phone…lesser the contact the better. that’s good in a way…if I have to travel for work. They don’t need monitoring by the maid…”
“…um… I don’t know much about plants Keshav… but what is in there…? Why does it need so much of care…?”
Keshav sighed and put his hands in his track-pant pockets. “…Just… just think that… it’s something too valuable to me… they are special medicinal plants… I have customised and synthesised the seeds and made the genetic changes in the basic combinations… That was the area I was always inclined towards and wanted to bring that study into pharmaceuticals… but circumstances were such that I couldn’t study botany in college… However… a few years ago as Novo Supreme settled, I started to focussed on this dream….I had never given up reading and trying my hand at various research parameters and I am still experimenting… I hope… someday I am successful…”
“…What… what is it that you wish to make…?” Avanti asked, all confused at what he had just told her.
“…Uh… there isn’t much I could tell you at this juncture except that I am working on this special medicine… which is extremely needed… for… uh… improving certain medical conditions. The existing ones are inadequate so far with side effects… so… I wanted to include natural ingredients more… Only your father knew about this…”
“…Really…? I didn’t know baba liked gardening or plants in general…” She wondered
“…Actually… Avanti… your father was my mentor… uh… more than that to tell you the truth… he was a father-figure to me… He was the only person who knew me well… In fact, when I had expressed a desire to do this experiment, he was the one who had supported me throughout… like what kind of equipment I needed or what kind of modifications I would need. He had even arranged for a horticulturist to help me design this. He believed in me…I had actually given up so many times considering all this as wishful thinking…” Keshav looked away lost in thought.
Avanti teared up remembering her father. “…Um…Baba… didn’t believe in the concept of wishful thinking…”
Keshav nodded. “…yes… he told me to turn wishful thinking into positive action and take a proactive stand… he said that would give me the ultimate joy… he also told me to keep my expectations realistic and derive pleasure from what I do…And honestly Avanti… I really enjoyed these five years of building this structure and getting it to this level… in a few weeks when the new blossoms come up, I will know if I have succeeded…If yes, then nothing like it but if not, then too nothing goes waste… I know how to make the best use of the failures as well…”
Avanti smiled in awe of this man before her who had this never to give up zeal. As she looked into his eyes with the mild late evening breeze gently patting her skin, she saw something flash in them, drawing her towards him… she mentally berated herself for her need to give in to her desire… but at that moment as he walked closer towards her, she stood rooted to the spot her breathing running a marathon. He came so close… there was barely any distance between them and they stared into each other’s eyes… she didn’t know what she was looking for, her heart overruling every rational decision her brain had made all this while. He slowly tilted towards her waiting every step if she permitted him and then his lips touched hers softly… he pecked at hers as she held her breath. His warm palm covered her cheek as he increased the pressure on her lips urging her to open them and she sighed… that was the invitation he probably needed and her held her hips by his other hand pulling her close as he persuaded her to open her mouth further. His tongue slipped into her waiting mouth and as it connected with hers, she gasped and moved away… his palm left her cheek and she missed his warmth immediately. However, he didn’t release her hip and placed his other hand as well. She looked down embarrassed but he spoke softly his baritone sending shivers through her aroused body. “…Avanti look up dear… I… uh… I am sorry… not about the kiss but about making you uncomfortable… I promise you; I won’t do that again… not when you aren’t ready…” She looked up at his face and saw his smile making him the most handsome man on earth…who set her heart galloping every time she saw him or spoke with him. He held her hand as they moved towards the stairs and he locked up after her. Facing her in the narrow staircase with barely any space between them as they almost touched each other he said. “Avanti… feel free to visit here as well… just stay away from the green house, ok…? It’s too important for me…”
“…Don’t worry Keshav I won’t… Can …can I ask you something…?”
He nodded as they continued their way back to the living room and as he locked the door for the staircase she spoke. “…I don’t know how to put this… um… what was baba working on in the last few months… I know it was something very important… but what was it…?”
Keshav stopped what he was doing and then slowly turned towards her. “…Avanti did your father share his work with you…?”
She shook her head. “…No… since I wasn’t from the same or related field… but he did share success stories with me… Kept me updated with general information… but somehow last few months… he stopped that totally and he was always tensed and worked up… he didn’t even listen to me sing… so I wondered…”
“…Avanti…” Keshav abruptly interrupted her. “…If your father had wanted you to know anything, he would have told you himself… the very fact that he didn’t, meant he didn’t want you involved at all… so I think we should respect his decision and leave it at that…”
Avanti felt like he had just slapped her. She was annoyed…how dare he undermine her curiosity. “…I am not asking you for the details…I only want to know why he was so upset… why did he change so suddenly… you came home regularly… you should definitely know…”
“…Avanti just let it go…it’s for the best…” He spoke clenching his jaw and she moved a step back reflexively. “…I suggest you go to bed now… we have a very busy day tomorrow at Vedshastra…” He turned around and started to walk away.
She held his arm. “…No Keshav…its important… I have a bad feeling about…his… I have to know Keshav… he never prioritized his work over us… then why now…? Please tell me…”
Keshav who had halted turned and stared her down…his eyes shining with veiled anger. “…Avanti let-it-go… Got it…? Just don’t keep hanging on to some fictitious notion of truth…” he was mildly panting.
“…that’s precisely the point Keshav…the truth… I just want some kind of closure…I hate not knowing what my baba was going through… in … his last days…” She forcibly rubbed the tears with the back of her palm. Her subdued annoyance starting to resurface. How dare he keep information from her…?
“… It is NOT my place to give you any kind of closure…” His vocal intensity had raised higher. “…its time you accept the decision made by your late father… DO YOU UNDERSTAND…?” She saw his nostrils flare as he stood with his hands on his hips.
After what seemed like ages, he turned around and strode to his room shutting the door behind him as she still stood there trying to make sense of what had just happened. The man was an oxymoron in itself where he showered passion one moment and the very next instance, he turned into this cold unyielding businessman… What was he hiding…? Of course, he was right… they had to think about Vedshastra… that was the reason for their wedding in the first place…wasn’t it…? But then what about the waves of doubts thrashing her soul…?
She walked slowly towards her room and as she settled for the night sleep miles away she wondered what was in store for her in this entire marital fiasco…did she expect too much…? She was literally coerced into this marriage, given the situation. She didn’t have a choice… as she stared at the circular movements of the ceiling fan… she remembered what her baba always told her. ‘it’s better not to expect anything from anyone since expectations only paved way for regrets…’
Would she regret marrying Keshav…? Time would tell… Given what had transpired, she knew what she had to do tomorrow after her morning meeting in Vedshastra where they were going to make Keshav the joint holder of her percentage of shares. Her mother had signed off her percentage of shares to Avanti few days ago and that made her the majority shareholder. Hence Keshav would get to be the majority decision maker and have the final say. She knew her baba would have wanted it as he trusted Keshav. But unease crept into her heart… not willing to leave its clutches. She picked up her phone and sent a text…
She had to meet Rahul.
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