KB sat across the table where they had all assembled for the meeting. His lawyers, Mr. Mehta, and the lawyers for Sensation were all present. Everyone had been in a good mood given the successful shoot of the scenes in the first take after initial debacle.
“No one can beat you at that KB…” the director had chirped in. “… today’s performance was par excellence…”
But as he sat listening to legal jargon while the lawyers spoke and Shipra had joined on call, he saw a sullen-looking Kajal, sitting in a corner, staring at the floor. Her shoulders were drooped, and cheeks reddened. She had tried to patch up a bit using make-up, but the swollen eyes were a dead giveaway. She had been crying, and even now, occasionally, he saw her tear up and blink them away.
He had been a douche bag… he had royally used her. He wanted to kick himself. Of course, his punishment was due later today, but he wanted to uplift her mood at the moment. Just as he was wondering what he could do, someone came in. He recognized her as a studio staff, and even as the others kept the meeting going, she went directly to Kajal. What work did the studio staff have with Kajal?
Before he could think of it, Kajal nodded smiling and walked out with the woman. There was a slight bounce in her step as she left without even a look at them.
He had not been paying attention to anything so far, and he had conveyed his requirements to Mr. Mehta… all he needed to do was sign the documents once the conditions were resolved amicably. Then, giving an excuse to use the washroom, he walked out.
He saw Kajal walk towards the studio exit as he stealthily followed her. He saw they halted next to a an open vehicle… he knew whom it belonged to.
Rugved Choudhry got off the vehicle and walked towards Kajal. He spoke something, and Kajal was all smiles as she replied. Then, he removed his cap and signed an autograph as he gave it to Kajal. And Kajal was in a complete fangirl mode.
KB tightly fisted his palm. What the fuck was going on? How did that Rugved and Kajal know each other? What on earth was going on. Why was she fawning on the veteran actor? Without realizing he had walked towards them.
“Ok Kajal then you take care and whenever your brother wants to visit here he is welcome… Alright?” Rugved said but made no move to go back to his vehicle.
“May I know what’s going on here, Kajal? Being on my payroll, you are frolicking around… plan to change sides, do you?” He spoke starring daggers at Rugved.
“You watch that tongue of yours, KB… been wagging a lot off late….” Rugved drawled as he straightened to his full height, almost matching his own as they stood facing each other.
“I am not talking to you, Rugved… she is my staff and supposed to be in an all-important meeting… instead, she has been only shirking responsibilities. She came in late and now wants to rush away… What is it, Kajal?” He didn’t even know what he was blabbering but he couldn’t seem to contain his annoyance. “…I see that you had other commitments.”
“That’s enough KB…Stop tormenting the poor girl… do you even know what she has gone through…? But then you are a superstar who doesn’t look beyond his selfish blinders, do you…? You are lucky to have a hard worker in your midst… who got back to work despite being in a freak accident on the sets today….”
What? Had kajal been in an accident? He looked at her accusingly. “And why didn’t you say anything, Kajal? Need sympathies from other quarters, do you?”
“KB watch it already… you are crossing the limits of decency like some jealous boyfriend.”
“Just buzz off Rugved you are the outsider here” he muttered walking close to the big man.
“for the last time KB, WATCH it. Don’t forget I have my eyes on you. One mistake and I will take you down….” Rugved spoke with a lethal voice just for his ears even as Kajal and the other studio staff looked on wondering what was going on.
Kajal inhaled deeply, and he could see she was trying to hold on to her control. But she turned towards Rugved. “Thank you, Rugved sir, for all your help today. I don’t know what would have happened otherwise.”
Finally, the giant of a man relaxed his stance and made a move to the driver’s seat even as a fuming KB looked on. Rugved shook his head and turned to kajal. “Keep in mind, Kajal, my job offer stands. Right now though, you may rush to the all-important meeting which KB himself has left to follow you out…” He chuckled and waved as he drove away.
The other orderlies and staff left and Kajal turned to walk back to the ad set.
“Wait Kajal I am not finished.” KB caught up with her.
She stopped and turned towards him folding her hands close to her chest. She glared at him, her beautiful eyes reflecting the agony in her heart, and he knew he was partly responsible for it.
“KB sir, I don’t understand what your problem is or what do you think I am. For me, you are nothing… just nothing… except a job that I need to survive. This is our last meet. Henceforth if Shipra ma’am pressurizes me to attend any of your meetings, I will resign, come what may…” She was panting and stomped away.
He felt someone had taken a hammer and broken his heart into a trillion pieces. What if she never turned up? Did he ruin everything with his behavior? He couldn’t control himself around her… even now; all he wanted was to drag her to his bed and sheath himself inside her softness…… he wanted her with a fervor he never wanted anyone else before. What was wrong with him? Why was he acting like a horny teenager?
Later that evening he was seated in his grandparents living room looking at the walls filled with his mother’s photographs and paintings. There were a couple of his childhood pictures with his mother but nothing more than that. Even those were retained because his mother looked stunning in those clicks.
No one ever cared for him… his mother had died early and his father… well lesser said the better. His nana-nani only had expectations from him, which he had screwed up before they cut ties. However, he did speak to his grandmother once a year on her birthday. Though stern, he knew that deep in her heart, she loved her daughter’s only living memory. He walked towards the French windows overlooking the large lawn…
When he had stayed here after moving in with them, this was his favorite place. He hardly went to other places in the house, mainly to avoid his domineering nanaji . Also later the place provided him the solitude he wanted after the accident.
His nanaji had worked hard to remove all traces of the accident from the media and never forgiven him for ruining his reputation and political relations. Gyan and Ruhaan’s parents hadn’t pursued the case as the high levels of alcohol and drugs in their bodies would taint the family image if the facts came out. That’s how fucked up their folks were.
He heard a screeching sound of metal on the floor and saw the maid push his naniji’s wheelchair towards the window. Naniji had aged beyond her years and her back was further hunched, making her look older and frailer than her 82 years. She gestured him to sit while the maid locked the wheelchair and walked away.
“Krishiv, I am glad you could come today.” The tremors in her voice were more evident than last time, and he felt guilty about not spending time with her.
“What is it nani…I mean ajji?” He corrected. She hated him using Punjabi terminologies and insisted on using Maharashtrian ones, given that his maternal home was a Marathi one. That was again a bone of contention. He was used to a bit of Punjabi culture, or rather no culture at all. Suddenly, at 17 his grandparents wanted him to ingrain the Marathi culture, which wasn’t possible for him… he didn’t want to do it either. He had been angry forever… his anger not directed at anyone in particular and it had taken him years to curtail his rage.
He barely lost control in the last few years, till that brown-eyed beauty came into his life recently.
“Krishiv…” His grandmother cleared her throat. “…I will not mince words. But its just that there is this question of inheritance and …”
“Ajji… I have said I don’t want a penny… I am doing reasonably well for myself, and I have mom’s trust fund, too, right? That’s enough to last me a lifetime…”
“Its about that trust fund that I wanted to talk to you.”
“What about it… just a few months more as per the clause put forth by nanaji… I mean ajoba…my thirtieth birthday…”
“There was something you didn’t know to date Krishiv, there was an all-important point in that clause.”
“What is it now ajji…?” he was getting irritated. His grandfather left no stone unturned to get him under his control. “…It was my mom’s trust, wasn’t it? Yet instead of handing it down to me eventually, ajoba put in clauses since he was the one who made the trust… I accept that… now what is it ajji? What else is there?”
“Krishiv… how important is that trust fund to you? Since you are already doing well?” she asked him
“Ajji, you know how badly I want to buy back that property in Madh island. That entire area I grew up in? I want to spend the rest of my life there, away from the showbiz, away from everything….” He rubbed his eyes as he continued. “…I have been buying a few plots, but for this one where dad’s house once stood, I can’t buy it even if I put everything on the line…it was auctioned away to a big shot guy and now the prices have inflated like crazy. I have to buy him out, then establish the fishery business…so this trust fund matters a lot.”
“In that case, you must listen to the clause Krishiv.”
“Fine ajji…” he sighed.
“Krishiv listen carefully. The clause is first you have to complete thirty years of age, and the second, you have to get married before your thirtieth birthday and remain married for a year before the trust money can be encashed.”
He stood up abruptly, disrupting the glasses placed on the center table and a few side pieces. “What the hell ajji…? Why wasn’t I aware of this one.”
“…Sorry, child, I got to know of it recently when I spoke to the lawyers. I want nothing more than you to be happy, whether you believe it or not. Even your grandfather placed the clause with your best interests in mind.”
“FUCK…” he looked away. “… its all nonsense ajji. its just ajoba’s way to not let me go… he had done that to mom… so she had run away with dad.”
“Enough Krishiv, you don’t know what you are saying…”
“So ajji… tell me how this is helping…? I have to get married…? No ways…” he declared. “…you know what ajji you can keep all that money or just give it away… I don’t care anymore… my dreams will take a lot more time to materialize… or maybe they will never. But I will never visit you, people, ever again…” he began to walk away.
“…Wait Krishiv… just listen to me.” His nani began to cough violently, and he halted and moved back to her, offering her a glass of water. He took in a few deep breaths and spoke, holding his hands in her tremor-filled wrinkled ones. “… please listen to me Krishiv… I have not told you but… your ajoba is in a coma. For the last six months…after a stroke.”
He felt someone had slapped him.
“…he may… may not recover at all… and though the business is safe in the hands of the strong team he had built up, so your Subodh mama wont get anything however he tries. But you know the political connections he has and he plays dirty. The trust will go away as unclaimed. I want what is your right… to come to you my child. Let’s think this over… it’s a matter of one year… just stay married for a year and then go your separate ways if you both don’t want to continue the marriage…
…but Subodh is watching, and he now knows about the clause. We have disowned him ages ago and he cant have the business so he now eyes the trust fund. He will try everything under the sky to destroy your credibility to get the trust control…
…eventually you will be the signatory in the business as well. What you do with the money is upto you. You can continue with the admin team or sell it off… its your decision. But the point is the board of directors will decide and they may go against you if this marriage fiasco becomes public… so do you understand child? If all goes well, you can fulfil your dream. It’s the business built by your ajoba from scratch, and he gave his life for it… would you like it to go into stranger hands just because you aren’t interested?”
“But Ajji…? Marriage? I don’t know anyone…” he was surprised he even said that.
“Don’t worry about all that… I have found the right girl for this. She is related to our estate manager. I just spoke to her folks, and they are willing to our conditions…”
“What conditions…?” He didn’t believe this was happening
“Conditions for… a year-long contract marriage”