Jodhpur Diaries #4

A New Beginning
I skimmed through the report once again. I had not been paying attention. Mehek had been nagging me since morning. And she didn’t give it a rest.

‘I really don’t understand what you have to think so much about. Why can’t just take your baggage and land in the palace whose doors are already open for you? What is it that’s stopping you? ‘ she said moving that tiny head of hers to and fro.

‘They are strangers, in simple uncomplicated words. I don’t know them. Moreover, I don’t know him. How can I take it for granted that his behavior is real?’ I argued.
‘How are they strangers? They are the Royal family.. it is really childish and immature of you to say that actors living in posh areas are trustable, but royals are not trustworthy. Your ideas are… uff,’ she almost thundered, arranging her long black hair to a bun.
‘No, I didn’t mean that. They are true to their word, I know. But Shaan.. uh.. I mean, Mr.Chauhan…’

‘Ah, stop baby,’ she interrupted, ’whom are you kidding? I know you like calling him Shaan. You have already promoted yourself there, why hesitate anymore?’ She’s teasing me.

I ignore her and switch on my phone. 9 messages and so many missed calls. Have you decided yet? What have you decided? Are you coming? When are you coming? Tell me. I’ll pick you up. The last message was an hour ago. I read it again. And the realization hit me yet again, that all this was real, not a stupid silly dream. I recalled my conversation with Rani sa the other day, taking time to accept that the unusual proposal was real, and not a figment of my imagination.

There was a knock on the door. Mehek opened the door with one hand on her bun. I could see her eyes grow wide and mouth go agape. Before I could enquire, I heard the same velvety yet husky voice. ‘Sorry, perhaps I knocked at the wrong door.’ I hurried towards the door, in anticipation perhaps, and unconsciously hoping I was guessing right. And there stood Shaan, with a bouquet of white and yellow roses, perplexed yet his elegant charming self, whose lips widened with a smile on seeing me, making my heart go awry in many ways. ‘Ah, there you are,’ he said,’ I didn’t know you had company,’ looking at Mehek whose mouth was still open, surprised. He took out a white rose from the bunch and offered it to Mehek,’ For you Miss..’ ‘Mehek ,’ the girl had finally found her voice back, and would be blushing any moment now. ‘Nice to meet you Mehek.’ Manners. Chivalrous. ‘And this is for you,’ he brought the bouquet towards me, his eyes piercing through mine. Did I hear a ‘my dear’ trailing behind? Was I being serenaded? It felt like it. ‘Thank you,’ a minimal response.
** ** **

Shaan had come to pick me up, tensed as I didn’t care to answer the calls or the messages, and visibly excited. ‘Nandini is very excited to have you there during the wedding preparations. She’s eagerly waiting to meet you.’

‘But I have not yet decided. And I haven’t packed my belongings as of yet.’
‘Why,….. I mean, there’s no harm in sparing a bit of your time for me,’ he was a bit disappointed.
I couldn’t reply.
‘No I didn’t mean to say that,’ he continued, perhaps embarrassed of what he had asked of me. His eyes were intense throughout.
‘It’s fine. I want to go, but today’s not possible. There’s actually too much of pending works, reports to submit,’ I said what I thought was a befitting reply.
‘You can work from the palace too. Don’t they have the internet? You can mail it,’ Mehek joined in the conversation.
‘Ya. That would do, right. And about packing your belongings, you can do that now. I can wait for you. Don’t worry about me. I am comfortable. Take as much time as you want,’ Shaan helped.
I smiled and went to pack my things. Mehek had been signaling me for several minutes to hurry and get ready.
** ** **

Three hours later, after a quiet and a little awkward drive with minimum chats, we were in a very well decorated, spacious room with an awesome bed, and a beautiful view of the garden from the ornate window. This was my room for the following month. I adored the paintings hung on the wall while Shaan explained,’ Here’s the cupboard for your things. The bathroom is attached. You can just ring here, if you need anything. Nandini’s room is just across the hall, and mine is at the end of the corridor, Ma sa’s is at the other side of the balcony area. So, I’d leave you now to settle down and dinner’s at nine. So, be ready..,’ He just went on and on, while I was busy admiring everything that surrounded me.

He lingered at the door. Perhaps deciding what to say next. Was he nervous? Can a Prince be nervous? Then suddenly deciding against any more talks, he left,’See you at dinner, then.’ Just minutes after he had left, a young pretty girl in a kurti and balloon pants barged in. ‘Hi,’ she chimed happily waving her hand. She was younger to me but not very, perhaps two or three years. Pleasant, and perhaps a bit child like. ‘I just wanted to meet you now, I couldn’t wait. Hope you don’t mind,’ that was so sweet. I wonder why these royals have such unique and mesmerizing voice. ‘Not at all,’ I laughed, ’I’m always happy to have company.’ ‘Me too,’ she replied more merrily. Her enthusiasm was contagious. I liked her instantly.

‘Bhaiya talked about you so much that I really wanted to meet you. And you are prettier than he had described.’
‘O, did he? Thank you. And I think you are no less. You are lovely too, dear,’ I happily indulged in the conversation. The brother and sister had been discussing me in their secret talks perhaps, and it thrilled me.
I imagined sweet Nandini as a bride, in red and golden wear. She would be strikingly beautiful. We chatted a bit about my family, my job, and her relationship with her brothers. I wondered how the older brother would be. I hadn’t met him yet but descriptions told me that he was not as easy going as the rest of his family. Nandini blushed when I mentioned her marriage. She was so adorable.
**** *** ***
Later the dinner was very elaborate and delicious. It was like performing a ritual; perfectly one step after the other. And talks were very few, just curtsies and pleasantries. It was a very new experience for me. Shaan kept stealing looks at me, and then at the door, at regular intervals. It was weird. Why was he behaving so nervously? No, this was different. He was tensed. Visibly tensed. As if he was expecting someone.
Who was he waiting for?

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