Love's Grandeur Continued From
Next day a Saturday
saw blue skies with a lovely breeze. Sandhya arrived at her friend’s
house at three in the afternoon to see if her friend was ready.
Barbie met her downstairs and took her to Selena’s room. “Hi! Selena,
ready?” “Yep, just about. Come on let’s go.” Both the girls ran
outside where Sandeep was waiting. “Oh! Sandy you didn’t tell me
he was coming too. I think I have a headache.” “Don’t be silly girl,
come on, otherwise we’ll be late,” said Sandhya pulling her into
the car. Sandeep seemed to glare at her but said nothing.
During the interval Sandhya spotted one of her friends sitting with
her family a few rows ahead and she excused herself to go and talk
to her. Selena felt odd alone with Sandeep. She glanced at his profile
noticing that he was looking tense. “I’m sorry Selena. I didn’t
know,” he seemed to apologize but his manner suggested otherwise.
“It’s alright, Mr.” hissed Selena.
The next week didn’t see much of the Srivastava siblings, both being
About ten days later Sabrina went to market with Barbie and Selena.
She wanted to host a house warming party which was due long back
but somehow got delayed. Around twenty guests were expected and
Barbie had made a long list of shopping items since she had been
allowed a continental meal basically with added attractions. They
returned home early evening to find Sandhya waiting in the sitting
room upstairs. She was thrilled to learn about the party and quickly
decided to wear her new sari. “No Sandy, this time you will be my
special guest and will wear one of my new dresses.” ‘Don’t be silly
Selena, it won’t fit me,” giggled Sandhya. “Oh! you don’t know dear
Barbie. She will fit you in no time, smiled Selena. “Well! If you
insist,” said her friend. The two girls went to Selena’s room who
showed her new dresses and asked Sandhya to try one. “Dear Selena
you are really generous. This is a wonderful dress but I really
think it would suit you more since it is the most gorgeous pink
I ever saw,’’ sighed Sandhya. “Come, come, now, don’t flatter me.
I had you in mind when I was buying this. I will wear the blue one.
Just try it in the dressing room Sandhya and show me.” A little
while later, Sandhya came into the room. “Oh! Sandy it’s looking
lovely and fits you fine. Barbie will make a few adjustments and
you’ll look divine. Barbie came into the room with iced lemonade
glasses for the girls and was instantly grabbed by her mistress,
“hey Barbie, just check out Sandhya’s outfit and mark the places
needing alteration. Better start work on it right away.” Barbie
managed to put the tray down before turning and twisting Sandhya
muttering to herself. ‘It needs very little work. I’ll do it tomorrow.
You’ll look fab Miss Sandhya,” and she went out of the room.
Sandhya returned home and regaled her mum with Selena’s plans. “How
nice of Selena to think of this, she really is a nice girl. We are
very lucky to have such good neighbors. I’m looking forward to this
party too.” The party was planned for Friday night and by Wednesday
Barbie had done a wonderful job on the pink dress, even ironing
it for Sandhya who would be coming over to ‘Sunshine Manor’ to get
ready. Preparations were going on in the kitchen with even kids
At last Friday dawned with a promise of lovely weather and early
morning Chameli got busy scrubbing floors while Bansi saw to it
that there was no speck of dust anywhere. Mr. Mohan had every thing
gleaming with polish and Nandu had surpassed himself with the flower
arrangements. Uma was huffing and puffing about for once obeying
Barbie completely. The chicken roast was smelling wonderful while
the lamb chops with garden vegetables looked really nice. There
was a heavenly aroma of Basmati rice while the fish fry was being
kept aside to be fried later. There was egg curry and vegetable
cutlets were being prepared by Mr. Mohan himself. Barbie had made
her special Minestrone soup with soft and buttery dinner rolls and
the soufflé (orange. Lemon and chocolate) was being supervised by
Sabrina who was an expert in this field.
All the maids’ children were running around on various errands and
Sandhya was already upstairs in her friend’s room getting ready.
She was looking lovely in the pink dress which had a small bodice
with puff sleeves and embroidered roses on it. The slim waistline
flaired out to a pleated knee length skirt with huge pockets again
embroidered with roses. Selena surprised her friend with a pearl
pendant on a silver chain which she put around Sandhya’s neck, shooing
off her protests, saying, “I’m just lending this to you for this
evening. It doesn’t matter at all.”
Sandhya had kept her hair open and was wearing high heeled white
and pink sandals. Selena put make up on her friend’s face with pink
lipstick, blush on, eye liner blue eye shadow and mascara. At last
satisfied with her efforts, Selena hugged her friend. “Oh! dearest
Sandy, you look out of this world, somehow ethereal,” laughed Selena,
twirling Sandhya around the room. “Come on Selena, enough of me.
What about you? Have you seen the time? It is six already. If you
don’t hurry you’ll never be able to get ready,” said Sandhya pushing
her friend towards the dressing table. The guests weren’t expected
till seven thirty, but Selena wanted to be downstairs latest by
seven. She wore her blue dress, which was a long fitting dress,
plain with lemon and pink embroidery on the neck and hemline. With
it she wore blue sandals, a diamond ring, necklace and ear rings.
She put on light make up and kept her hair open. Sandhya was already
downstairs helping Sabrina with last minute details in the dining
room when Selena came down the stairs. She was half way down when
Mr. Mohan ushered the Shrivastava couple and Sandeep into the drawing
room. “Hello! Uncle, auntie. Hi! Sandeep”, mumbled Selena. “Hello
dear, where’s your mom?” smiled Lila. “Come auntie I’ll take you
to her,” said Selena taking Lila’s hand and pulling her towards
the drawing room. Just then john saw them. “Hey Suresh, Sandeep
come, come my friends. You are the first to arrive.” Together they
entered the lovely drawing room and while the guests took their
seats, John went to the bar. “What will you like Sandeep? Suresh
will give me company with whiskey.” “I think I’ll have beer uncle
and please I’ll help myself.” “That’s it boy. I’m making you the
official bartender as per now,” laughed John.
Slowly and steadily the other guests arrived. John’s office assistant
Mr. Ashok Sinha and his wife Sujata, his neighbors the Vermas, Guptas
and his good old pal Jacky (Jaikishan Prasad), a bachelor working
with John. A little while later, the other neighbors, the Kotharis
and Dalmias arrived. Shikha Dalmia was a very friendly and helpful
person. She quickly came to the dining room with Lekha Kothari.
“Hi there everyone! It’s so good to be attending such a wonderful
party at this lovely house. Do you need any help Sabrina? No honestly
we are game. Just tell us what to do.” Thanks but everything is
being managed well. Carry on upstairs, I’ll meet you in the sitting
room in two minutes,” smiled Sabrina warmly.
Jyoti and Nandu were
busy getting the guests’ cars parked properly and then entertaining
the drivers. While the men folk enjoyed their drinks and jokes in
the formal drawing room, the ladies gossiped in the sitting room.
Barbie and Uma served all sorts of soft drinks to the women folk.
“I’ll have the lichi juice Uma,” said Shikha going towards the tray.
Small pieces of kebabs, vegetable cutlets, paneer shaslik and dal
moth was also being rotated among the guests. Dinner was served
at ten. “I think I’ve eaten tomorrow’s breakfast too,” giggled Lekha.
“The food was simply divine Sabrina,” said Shikha. After dinner,
coffee was served in the garden with everyone enjoying the cool
breeze. Selena noticed Sandeep sitting on one of the chairs. He
looked very prim and proper in a dark blue suit, a light blue shirt,
black shoes and a navy and white striped tie. She went near him
and he got up. “Do I bite Mr.” asked Selena dazzling her shining
white teeth at him. “Not exactly maam but you never know,” replied
Sandeep with a half smile, which did not reached his eyes. He hadn’t
forgiven her for the first encounter.
Just then Sandhya
came and said, “Sandeep, dad’s looking for you. He wants you to
say a few nice words to Anju.” Sandeep made a face at her and went
past them to the small gathering near by. “Bhaiya is in a fix Selena.
Anju Kothari was complaining to my father that her favorite person
hadn’t talked to her at all. Dear bro can’t bear Anju and she seems
to have all eyes for him. Dad doesn’t want to ruffle feathers since
they are our next door neighbors too plus Kothari uncle has great
connections in the business world.” Selena watched silently as Sandeep
seemed to love talking to Anju who clung to his arm in a most annoying
way. She was pretty enough but Selena thought of her as a really
spoilt little girl with no brains at all. She hadn’t said anything
to Selena and ignored her throughout the party.
At last the guests departed and the hosts took to bed. Uma, Mr.
Mohan, Nandu and Barbie kept away the left over food in the two
A few days later Sandeep called at ‘Sunshine Manor’. He asked Selena
whether she would like to help him out with some editing he had
to do at home that day, it being a holiday. Selena was very surprised.
Of course she said yes. “I’ll be waiting in the park Selena. Come
as soon as you can,” said Sandeep walking out to the gardens with
his briefcase and a huge paper packet. Selena thought he must be
in a real fix for help otherwise he would never ask her. She quickly
combed her hair, put some light lipstick and rushed downstairs.
Sandeep was sitting on one of the benches. “Hi! where is Sandhya
today?” asked Selena sitting. “She has gone visiting relatives with
mom and dad. She’ll be back in the evening.” As Selena waited for
him to tell her what to do, she couldn’t help noticing how handsome
Sandeep looked in a sea green shirt and cream corduroy pants. He
had a preoccupied look on his face but smiled as he looked at her
and Selena’s heart did a somersault. Men did things to a woman’s
heart and they never even realized it. She had a few flings back
home but it was this Indian guy who was steadily making a place
in her heart and soul. “I want you to edit these reports. I have
a lot more paper work to do,” said Sandeep.
Selena took the pile from him and felt an electric shock go through
her as their hands touched. Her heart skipped a beat and she quickly
hid her embarrassment behind the paper work. She was looking over
at the reports when Sandeep interrupted, “is it alright Selena?
Can you manage? “Of course I can, I’m a graduate you know with lots
of secretarial experience.” “Oh how nice, I didn’t know,” teased
Sandeep. An hour passed and a half passed with both of them concentrating
on their work. Nandu who had come to water the flower beds near
by saw them and said “shall I ask Uma to get some tea for you saab?”
“Yes Nandu that will be nice I would love some tea and snacks,”
Selena didn’t say anything because she was too surprised to hear
both of them. She thought the way Sandeep was giving orders, it
seemed this was his house and his servant and Nandu too had agreed
to run errands for him with a beaming face. Twenty minutes later,
Uma arrived with a tray laden with tea and snacks. Chicken sandwiches,
fruit cake and hot tea was really welcome. Selena noticed that Sandeep
was gobbling up the sandwiches one by one. “Shall I ask Uma to get
some more Sandeep?” she asked sweetly. “Oh! did I eat your share
too? They are really delicious. Taste one,” laughed Sandeep. They
worked for another hour but still there was more to do.
Sandeep. We can carry on in the sitting room if you like.
It is getting dark here, suggested Selena. “Carry on what
Selena,” teased Sandeep. “Oh! come on. I don’t like jokes.”
“You don’t, how about a practical demonstration,” and before
she knew it she was inside a firm embrace and Sandeep had
planted a swift kiss on her lips. “How dare you Sandeep. Let
go of me,” hissed Selena. “Come on darling it was just a friendly
gesture which I think is very common in your country,” said
Sandeep catching hold of her hand and pulling her inside the
house. “It is in my country but not in India. Would you have
done it if I was Indian Sandeep? Isn’t it called taking advantage
of,” complained Selena. They were in the empty sitting room
now. Sabrina was resting in her room.
As soon as Sandeep
had placed his briefcase on the table, he pulled Selena into his
arms. “If you think I took advantage of you maam, I’ll take my kiss
back” and he kissed her again. Selena was now laughing uncontrollably.
“Stop teasing me Sandeep or I won’t do your dirty work for you.”
“No no divine princess you can’t do that,” said Sandeep. “Well then
let’s start,” smiled Selena. “Come to my arms and I will,” laughed
Sandeep. Selena made a face at him. “I mean work Mr.”
At bedtime, the events
of the afternoon and evening kept teasing Selena and she couldn’t
sleep. She had been angry with Sandeep when he had kissed her the
first time, but wanted more the second time. She somehow felt more
secure and at ease in his arms than in any of her English boyfriends.
Sandeep had made a small sweet gesture into a pure and simple delight.
She pulled her pillow over her face as she could feel her cheeks
going hot and red. Just then the phone rang. “Hello Selena, I knew
you would be awake, so am I. Am I forgiven for the amorous act of
before?” “You are not Mr. and I was sleeping,” laughed Selena and
kept the receiver back but not before she heard Sandeep gurgling
The next evening Selena went to ‘Cream Rose Cottage’. Sandhya met
her at the door. “Hi Selena, I was just about to call you. How are
you? Come inside.” After chatting for some time Selena asked “where’s
your dear brother? Is he out?” “Yes he left early for Delhi this
morning. He had to go for some office work. He’ll be back next week.”
They talked for some time more, had tea and chat pakora and then
Selena returned home. The next few days Selena seemed at a loss
not knowing what to do. The sun seemed to shine less and the flowers
had lost their scent. She was missing Sandeep more than she had
thought possible to miss someone.
The following Saturday, Selena decided to visit her friend and find
out whether her brother had returned. She met a worried Sandhya
who told her that Sandeep had returned last night but had high fever.
He had the doctor now in his room. Just then, Lila and Suresh came
down the stairs with the doctor. “He has viral fever, Mr. Srivastava.
Give him Paracetamol tablets every six hours. It will take a couple
of days.” The doctor left and Selena went up to Sandeep’s room with
Sandhya. Just then the phone rang in the sitting room and Sandhya
went to answer it.
Selena tiptoed to Sandeep’s bedside and saw that he was tossing
and turning in his bed and was mumbling something. She went nearer
and heard him asking for water in a very feeble voice. She lifted
his head and put the glass of water to his lips. He took a sip of
the cool drink and lay back exhausted. Selena put her hand to his
forehead and felt it burning. Just then Sandhya came back. “Sandy
do something. He is burning up,” said Selena. “I have to go down
for a minute Selena. Can you please wipe his forehead with the cloth
dipped in eau de cologne? I’ll come back with juice for Sandeep
together with his medicines.”
A worried Selena nodded her head and started putting the wet cloth
on Sandeep’s forehead. She stayed helping her friend look after
her weak brother for nearly an hour. Sandhya had gone down to the
kitchen to bring up a tray of light food when the patient slowly
opened his eyes. Finding Selena near his bedside he asked with a
feeble smile “when did you come Selena?” “Sometime back. How do
you feel now Sandeep?” “Much better. I seem to feel extremely exhausted
Selena.” “It will be alright Sandeep. It is just the viral thing
which is making you so tired and weak.” Sandhya entered the room
with Tara following her with a tray containing vegetable soup, toast
and a light custard with fruits. Selena got up to go. “Have your
food Sandeep and get well soon. I’ll come again in the morning.”
Sandhya came to the head of the stairs with her friend. “Come Selena
I’ll accompany you to the gate,” she said. “No Sandy you better
go and feed your brother. He needs nutrition and cheer very badly,”
smiled Selena, going down the staircase.
Next morning around ten thirty, Sabrina and Selena came over to
Sandhya’s place. The doctor was just leaving after assuring Lila
that her son needed to rest for a few more days as he had become
very weak. “How is Sandeep Lila?” questioned Sabrina. “Oh! hello!
Sabrina, come come. He is much better thank you. Do come and meet
him both of you. He really needs company.” All of them went upstairs
to the patient’s bed room. “Hello Sandeep, how are you son?” Sabrina
said going to his bed side and fussing over him. “Oh! auntie I’ll
be fine now that you have come to see me, Sandeep spoke with a weak
smile. All of them sat chatting for sometime. Tara brought them
tea and snacks and Sandeep had to have horlicks which he disliked
immensely. In a few days Sandeep was fit to go to office.
One afternoon, Selena was sitting in the garden writing a long letter
to Emma. She was disturbed by a whispering sound. She looked around
to see Mina and Mukesh, children of Bahadur their chowkidar, smiling
at her. They wanted to give her something. It was a model of a ship
which both had made for her. She thanked them and promised to keep
it in her room. Just as she was finishing the letter, Sandhya arrived
to tell her that she and her mom were going to New Market for shopping
and tea at Flury’s. “Why don’t you and auntie come along too,” asked
her friend. Sabrina was ready and Selena was only too happy to go
to Flury’s which she liked very much. They returned in a happy mood
late in he evening.
Next Thursday was Sandhya’s birthday. She came over to her friend’s
place to decide about a party. It was late afternoon on Monday and
Selena met her friend near the garden path. “So what have you decided
to do on your birth day Sandy,” asked Selena pulling her friend
towards the garden seat. “I think I’ll have a nice party. “I’ll
invite a few close friends and neighbors and Sandeep can call his
friends if he likes.” “Well what about the menu Sandy? Have you
decided what all will be served?” “The cake will be from Flury’s
ofcourse. The rest of the items will be decided by mum and Tara.”
“I’ll send Uma to help Tara Sandy.” “That’s good. Now tell me are
you free to come shopping tomorrow morning? I want to buy a silk
salwar kameez from one of the boutiques on Russel Street.” “Oh!
I would love to come Sandy,” smiled Selena. “Well come and sit down
and help me make the guest list. The neighbors will all come, that
is four families including you all. Then about two to three friends
of Sandeep, our cousins from New Alipore and Camac street, my friends
Shalini, Chitra, Mamta and Shobha and mummy’s friends, Sadhna auntie
and Jalpa auntie.” “That’s quite a big list Sandy. Now what about
the menu? “Well the final choice will be mum’s but we can make suggestions.
Chocolate cake and cheese patties from Flury’s. Chole, tikki, sandwiches
and bread rolls can be made at home. Anything special you’d like
to eat Selena?” “Yes why don’t I ask Barbie to make some kebabs
and Mr. Mohan can make Shaslik.” “Won’t that be too much to ask
of them Sel?” “No not at all. I’m sure it can be managed.” “ Well
thanks a million dearie. I’ll have to leave now. Be ready at eleven
tomorrow for shopping. Bye sweetie, laughed Sandhya giving her friend
a warm hug.
Shopping took two hours the next day but the result was very rewarding.
Selena bought a South Indian silk sari for her friend though with
great difficulty because of Sandhya’s protests. “You have wasted
good money on silly me Sel,” Sandhya had cribbed but had been silenced
by a determined Selena who said the gift was also from her parents.
The sari was a lovely sea green with baby pink zari border and buties.
Sandhya had bought a navy blue raw silk salwar kameez set with a
lovely magenta dupatta with zari embroidery.
Selena wore a dark blue salwar kameez for her friend’s birthday
bash which she had purchased from the same boutique her friend had
gone to. Selena looked ravishing with jewellery, a bindi on her
forehead and matching bangles. On her feet she wore silver anklets
and Kolhapuri chappals. She was looking sweetly Indian with mehndi
which both she and Sandhya had got on their palms. She was finding
it difficult to keep the silvery odhni round her neck and it kept
falling. In the end she got Sandhya to fix it on one side with a
peacock brooch which belonged to Lila. “You look out of this world
Selena. I think you will make a beautiful bride for me,” whispered
Sandeep offering her a soft drink as soon as she entered the Srivastava
drawing room. Selena slapped him playfully. He introduced her to
his friends, Ranjit, Shekhar and Raghav. Sandhya’s friends were
very friendly and talkative. She introduced Selena to her cousins
Megha, Shambhavi, Alok and Amarendra. The food was excellent. Selena
danced with Sandeep and his friends and also with Alok and Amarendra.
Everyone liked the kebabs and shashlik very much and Mr. Mohan was
preening like a peacock with all the praise he received from the
guests. Uma was like heaven’s blessing to Tara and Barbie was busy
supervising. After food, music and dancing, everyone played antakshri
and dumb charade and it was nearly midnight when all the guests
left. “Thanks a lot for a wonderful evening Lila,” smiled Sabrina.
“Good night buddy,” guffawed John shaking Suresh’s hand. “Bye Sandhya
and happy birthday once again,” said Selena. Sandeep was bidding
goodbye to his friends. He waved at the departing neighbors and
so did his pals.
The following months passed with Sandeep and Selena getting to know
each other much better. They talked for hours about this and that.
Selena found him to be the most caring, comfortable and loving man
to be with. He never embarrassed her with more intimacy than she
wanted and Selena found staying locked in his arms with the occasional
kiss and caress most satisfying. They loved walking for miles with
Sandeep’s arm around her shoulders and it was during this private
time that she got to know how intelligent he really was. His general
knowledge was superb and he seemed to be interested in every aspect
of life and living. He always had a knack for solving any of her
problems and his ready smile and laughter always cheered her up.
He had a wonderful sense of humor and was very kind and generous.
The best thing Selena liked about him was his courteous manner even
towards the servants. Both of them loved nature and its beauty.
At last December arrived with cold winds and no sun but the thought
of her first Christmas in India really excited Selena. Barbie had
started shopping for the Christmas eve dinner and Christmas day
meals already. Plum pudding, turkey and all types of goodies were
being prepared in the kitchen. Sabrina had given orders for plum
cakes to be made for all her neighbors and the servant families.
The Christmas tree had already arrived and Sandhya and Sandeep had
volunteered to help in the decorations. The Christmas shops in New
Market had been raided by Sabrina and Selena for the tree’s decorations.
Selena gave Sandeep initial handkerchiefs and a silk tie while he
got a silk scarf and pearl earrings for her. Sandhya had bought
a book and a DVD of the old classic ‘Gone With The Wind’ for her
friend who gave her a lipstick and nail polish together with a box
of chocolates. Mr. and Mrs. Srivastava gave a crystal vase to Sabrina
and a box of cigars to John. In turn they gave a silver bowl to
them. Selena danced with Sandeep and when he whispered ‘I Love You’
the magic of Christmas was magnified. The food was simply made in
heaven and everyone seemed to laugh a lot. ‘Sunshine Manor,’ looked
sunny true to its name and all the kids of the servants were really
happy with their presents, cake, food money and merry making.
About a month later, Sandeep walked in and surprised Selena by proposing
marriage to her. He said, “darling I can’t live without you anymore.
Marry me tomorrow.” Selena was quite shocked. “What’s your hurry,”
she giggled. “Well auntie and uncle have agreed to a February wedding.
What do you say Selena?” “I’ll marry you any time you want Sandeep.
I love you very much, more than I thought possible,” smiled Selena
with stars in her eyes. That night while the two walked in the garden
hand in hand under a beautiful sky, the stars and the moon seemed
to smile down at them. The magic was in the air and Selena was thinking
how Emma would get a shock when she wrote to her about her marriage
plans. Emma would come for her wedding and maybe fall in love and
marry one of Sandeep’s friends and then both of them would live
in India forever.
Contributing Story teller
: Amita enjoys writing stories and poems.