2. The Known Stranger
"Aspire Medicals Pvt. Ltd.” was a pharmaceutical medical company. It had two divisions, one division dealt with pharmaceuticals and the other dealt with Medical devices.
Arya had completed her PhD in Medicinal Chemistry from University of Michigan, US. She was pursuing her research under her mentor when she got the call of her father’s demise. She had planned to join the pharmaceutical division of Aspire Medicals on returning home but, looked like fate had a different plan for her.
She had spoken to her mentor who had assured her that she could continue the research from home, as she had access to the laboratory and equipment in her company. Arya was relieved to hear that. Her work was her passion.
The shares of their company showed a dip after the news of her father’s demise. But, Arya was not worried; she knew that it was just a bump and it would recover. After all, she and Samir were there to take care of the company. She trusted Samir to take care of the financial part.
Arya had known Samir from childhood i.e. from the time they moved to the city. Samir’s father, Kishan uncle, was a stakeholder in the company and a sleeping partner. Samir had joined the company after he completed his engineering followed by MBA in finance. He had been working with her father as a financial consultant for a few years now.
That is what her father also wanted, isn’t it? She recalled her conversation with her father over the phone a few weeks back. His words didn’t make sense then and nor did they now.
“Arya beta, you have to take care of the company. You need to choose wisely. I know you have the capability to distinguish between foes and friends.”
“But papa, Samir is there to take care of finance, right? I can work on my research.”
There was a silence over the phone. Her father didn’t answer her question. Instead, he told her about his friend Devan Saha.
“Arya, do you remember Devan Uncle?”
Arya had a vague memory of Devan uncle. She had met him in the village when she was a kid.
“Yes, I have seen his photograph in the family album.”
“Arya, if any day he comes for any help, promise me you will help him. And if any day you need any help, go to him, he will always welcome you with open arms.”
Arya was not sure where this conversation was leading? Why was her father talking about his long-forgotten friend? And…. Why would she need any help? And, if the need arose, Kishan uncle would be there for her. She knew better than to argue with her father. Her father thought Samir was a friend, didn’t he? Somehow she felt her father wanted to tell her something more.
Arya’s mother had passed away when she was young. She had few memories of her. She had seen her in the photographs and had imagined all the stories her father had told her. She had heard the stories so many times that now it felt as if she had actually lived them.
Her mother was a very beautiful and educated woman. Some real memories of her mother were that she had long hair, and she used to wear them open. Her smiles were so pleasant that it would brighten up the place. She was from a well to do family and chose medicine as her career. She was a medical practitioner in their village. Everyone respected and loved her. Arya had the happy memories of her father coming back from work, kissing her mother and picking her up in his arms. All she could feel was that she was happy; they were happy.
Few months after her mother’s demise, they had moved to the city. Bhanu kaka had come along with them to take care of her. At first, she thought they had moved because it was easier for her father to run the business from the city. But, later she understood that it was too much for her father to stay in the house where every nook and corner reminded him of her mother.
Arya came out of her thoughts when she heard Bhanu kaka calling her again. Someone had come to meet her. It had almost been more than a week now, Arya was now used to attending to the guests. Arya got up and went down to the visitor’s room.
As she entered the room, she saw a man earnestly looking at their old photographs on the wall. She could see his face from the side; he was tall and well built. His hair was in shambles. The way he stood, gave out an essence of authority. His presence seemed to have filled the room. There was something about this man that made Arya curious. She had never met him, but he looked very familiar. She felt that she knew him from somewhere.
“Ahem.” Arya cleared her throat.
The man turned to look at Arya. His gaze resembled a hawk assessing its prey. He shamelessly stared at her, and when Arya looked back at him challenging his gaze, he smiled. It amused him to see her meet his gaze and challenge him. His eyes then changed colour; they changed from stern to soft. He covered the space between them in two strides. As he came to stand in front of her, Arya felt like her personal space was being invaded and she found herself holding her breath. He was too close for her liking. She took a step back. She heard his warm but firm voice.
“Hi, I am Rudra. You must be Arya. I am sorry to hear about the demise of your father. I have come to pay my condolences.”
Arya looked at him questioningly. Rudra understood that she had never heard of him.
“Arya, you don’t remember me?”
Arya was still staring at him, and nodded her head in a no.
“I am, son of Devan Saha, he and your father were best friends.”
He saw Arya’s expression change to that of recognition. Yes, she remembered his father. But he was not sure if she remembered him.
No, he couldn’t tell her the truth just yet. The truth had to wait. She would not accept his words for it. After all, he was a stranger to her now. She had grown into a beautiful, self-dependent woman who would challenge everything thrown at her without any proof.
Arya asked Rudra to take a seat and asked Bhanu kaka to get tea. There was a deafening silence in the room. When the tea arrived, she poured a cup and handed it to Rudra.
Arya was having trouble composing herself. She had many male friends and had even dated some of them. But, none had this kind of effect on her. He had the capability of challenging her with a glance and that brought out the worst in her. It was a relief that he was there only to pay his condolences and this would be the last time she would see him.
But then, the future had other plans for them.