He was an asshole… One of the greatest order for making Avanti cry and it broke his heart. Keshav stared at the pretty docile woman sitting across him in the café. While most of the time he sat putting on a charade of being an epitome of serenity and calm, he was suffering too. He hated himself for what he was doing to her but Arpita…the idiot had left him no choice. She knew right from the beginning what she was getting into. He needed her for securing his business deal and she needed him to quench the wanderlust in her. He knew she was anything but a devoted wife… she was a vagabond, a commitment phobic, self-centered woman who didn’t care anything beyond her own personal gratification. Her myopic views on life angered him very often, even when he had dated her in the past but that was brief and years ago but even today nothing had changed. He had always wondered how someone like Dnyaneshwar Rane could sire an offspring like Arpita. Dnyaneshwar Rane had been a father figure to him when he was the new director of his company. He had just taken over the command of the sinking ship and if not for the trust induced by Dnyaneshwar Rane in his abilities and the constant guidance in setting him afloat, he would have lost the company years ago.
His late father had just left him a bankrupt company founded by his grandfather and to add to it the mounting debt. He had student loans to pay off too. His father always bled the company dry because of his alcoholism and womanizing demeanours. One such encounter got him a step- mother Rohini Jaiswal and eventually twin half siblings whom he didn’t know about till his father passed when he was barely seventeen and still in junior college. Their names had only popped out in his father’s will where he had left the only untouched family heirloom, the family home in Hisar in his name. His father had saved a few infrastructure bonds he had purchased before going bankrupt, probably when he was sober and that he had left for the twins who were barely a year old. Initially it had enraged the teenager in Keshav to know about the other woman in his father’s life who he felt betrayed his mother’s memory… He had gone on an angry rampage and had almost been taken into police custody if not for Dnyaneshwar Rane who was working in the R and D department in their company. He had rushed to Keshav’s rescue and had taken him for a drive around Mumbai. They had spent the entire night chatting on the simple nothings and for the first time in his life Keshav had felt wanted. He had even cried his lungs out as Dnyaneshwar Rane had held him… probably again a first since he hardly remembered his mother who was depressed till she committed suicide after overdosing and he always blamed his father’s wayward ways for her untimely demise. Kamya was only three years old then and he had grown up overnight at the tender age of seven. He never ever remembered his father being there at home or having spoken to him or even lambasted him for mistakes… nothing. He had grown up with a stream of nannies who came and left like they changed clothes and he and Kamya never had any kind of stability except for the last nanny who stayed for a long time till she had to give time to her own family.
That evening spent with Dnyaneshwar Rane changed him for good. Mr. Rane advised him to focus on his studies and build a career in the company which needed him in a couple of years. It was a family owned organization which was currently taken over by a board of directors and each of them was trying to take their piece of pie and jump the ship. On Dnyaneshwar Rane’s counsel he met them and promised to repay them for their hard work once he took over. Meanwhile Dnyaneshwar Rane sold his village plot and village home and also ran pillar to post to arrange funds to be pumped into the company and managed to keep it afloat as Keshav struggled through college in the next two years. Every evening he would visit the company and meet up with Dnyaneshwar Rane who explained the working and other functions… even... the perils the company faced, without mincing words. Keshav had always known since the time he was a kid that he was expected to take over the company some day and was mentally prepared… he loved the pharmaceutical field and working too. He had hoped to study pharmacy and further do an MBA before he took over… however fate intervened and he had to quit his dreams. Kamya was inclined towards a career in Medicine since early days and he vowed to fulfill her dreams even if his remained…. Just dreams. Dnyaneshwar Rane coaxed him to do a diploma in Pharmacy and the last year of the diploma was the toughest as he had to join the company officially at the helm of things as well as study… here too Dnyaneshwar Rane came to his rescue. He helped him in the smooth functioning and solved every problem for him even before he knew he had one.
At times in melancholic secrecy he even wished Dnyaneshwar Rane was his father… the man had been his rock during the turmoil in his life. He never gave up and stuck to Keshav and most of all believed in him. Finally, five years after joining the company things started to stabilize and a couple of super products spearheaded by Dnyaneshwar Rane and their vigorous tie ups and marketing by Keshav himself at the driver’s seat brought up the company financials from the red zone… this attracted a lot of investors who were inquisitive about new research as well as the young dynamic Director of the company. The company stars were now favorable and profits had started to make their way onto its coffers.
The only blot in his happiness were the constant reminders of his half siblings and their mother. One day a few years after his father’s passing, a frail woman landed at his doorsteps holding a little twin in each of her hands. Rohini Jaiswal had sold the bonds and had nothing to fend for herself and her children. Though he was angry at the woman, he couldn’t let the little kids suffer for their parent’s mistakes and he took them under his wing. His only condition was she would be a mother to Kamya and take care of the household responsibilities while he worked his guts out. In turn he would take care of her and the twins financially. Dnyaneshwar Rane had been proud of him and had patted him on the shoulder with tears in his eyes. For a few years the arrangement had worked well and seeing Kamya well settled psychologically, he didn’t regret his decision and true to his word he encouraged the twins. The fact that they respected him and idolized him thrilled him to no end and he had come to love them too. But he never trusted their mother and true to her nature she had made a grave mistake three years ago. He was forced to intimidate her and put up clauses to banish her back to Hisar… He hated what he was forced to do but he had a legacy to protect for which he had given his life and sweat and blood… and he wouldn’t allow the woman to damage anything.
At a time when all his illustrious relatives had given up on him and turned the other way round, Dnyaneshwar Rane had stuck and pulled him out of quicksand. A few years later when Dnyaneshwar Rane decided to start his own company dedicated to prepare the formulae for rare medicines, Keshav had been his first investor and Novo Supreme had been Vedshastra’s first tie up for producing the medicines as well. It was a huge decision which brought in a lot of other investors.
Dnyaneshwar Rane and Keshav were not just bonded in humanity but also because Dnyaneshwar Rane was the only one who had an answer to a major predicament Keshav was facing and time was ticking. Dnyaneshwar Rane believed in soul talk and always told him, the soul welcomes the bluest nights always aware that the light will return. Ten months ago, Dnyaneshwar Rane had almost got the formula for the special miracle drug Keshav had desperately wanted and Novo Supremo had poured in special funds for its research. His life and the company’s growth surge depended on that miracle drug literally and ever since he had received the news of the special legacy from his father, he had become distraught…
He had struggled all his life and lived for his sister an eventually the twins who had come to respect him. He was the father figure for them and he had thought he had got the company’s fortunes in order. But the Almighty was probably not yet satisfied by his turmoil and had dropped the time bomb a couple of years ago. As usual Dnyaneshwar Rane was the one he had turned to for advice and he had immediately got the wheels in motion. Kamya had been at the helm of things as well and as she was finishing her residency, she had got attached to the research wing of her medical college where she finished her post graduate studies in Neurology. He was glad to have her on his side but she had had a hard life too and he didn’t want her to be involved in their collective research more than what was needed. Dnyaneshwar Rane was the best in the field and if there was someone who had the remedy for his affliction it was him.
He had got hope ten months ago and then Dnyaneshwar Rane had run into murky waters. For the first time since he had known the man, Keshav had seen him panic. Initially he hadn’t known but then he found out about the threats Dnyaneshwar Rane had received over emails with regards to the new formula he was developing. The danger was multi-fold and suffocatingly scary… It was on his insistence that Dnyaneshwar Rane had speeded up the process… age notwithstanding the man had pulled an extra mile. He would visit the bungalow regularly to help his mentor out. Dnyaneshwar Rane was a perceptive man… he probably had an intuition about something being amiss and probably had some kind of a premonition about the end being close. He had requested Keshav to tie the knot with his older daughter. Given his situation Keshav had been hesitant and also, he knew the kind of woman Arpita was. Not that he wanted her to take care of the family or anything of the sort but she just wasn’t a wife material… he didn’t have a right though, to be wishful.
But all that had changed when he had got to know Avanti… Dnyaneshwar Rane’s pretty and coherent younger daughter. He couldn’t take his eyes of her when she had smiled coyly at him for the first time…. Not because she was extremely beautiful…in fact he had met and dated super models who were ready to give up everything to be with him… it wasn’t physical beauty… but she was extremely caring and the way looked at him with trust in those beautiful innocent eyes… he was fiercely attracted to her. For the first time in his life he had lamented about his situation and he couldn’t do the injustice of asking for her hand in marriage. He had accepted everything that had come into his life… the bright sunny skies along with the dark forlorn clouds and he had always been hopeful of that silver lining. Avanti, whenever she met him brought along with her a strange freshness that had lit up his life. He wasn’t a monk but in comparison to the select women he had dated Avanti was different…there was no pretense, she was an open book and straightforward. Her beautiful eyes the striking feature on her face, unblemished by any make up, they were a direct reflection of her pure heart.
And then Dnyaneshwar Rane had died…He felt he was orphaned all over again but seeing a courageous Avanti holding things from falling apart had given a grit to his dwindling spirit. It was as if she revived him as well…. He had got to know her and had gradually begun to fall for her… and when she had sung for him on his birthday, it was as if he was hit in the solar plexus. He had a pathetic day at work resembling his crappy life and Arpita not showing up or even texting him had only increased his loneliness… though he hadn’t expected her to do so. But then Avanti had arrived and she had remembered… No one ever had shown any kind of a special gesture towards him… without expecting anything in return and here was this woman with kohl adorned astoundingly alluring eyes, dressed in a simple cotton outfit… a total misfit in that resto bar…and the voice of an angel while the world had faded away and he had been mesmerised. He had often heard her sing and there was some kind of a strange melancholic touch in her voice which helped him get rid of his stress that only threatened to mount up with every passing day.
He had almost kissed her that night when she had taken care of him during one of his episodes. He had been guilt ridden especially when he had realised, she reciprocated his feelings. No…he had no right… So, he had avoided her from then on, though it killed him within. The marriage had to take place or else Vedshastra was gone for big time and the creditors would have a field day with these women. He couldn’t bear to see Avanti suffer more than she already had in her plate and he knew first-hand how it was when everything collapsed around like a pack of cards. He owed Dnyaneshwar Rane at least that much… So, he had paid the mortgage for the bungalow and had decided to hand it over to Avanti on the day of his wedding to Arpita. He yearned to see her smile and wanted to see her expressions first hand.
However, Arpita deserved to know the truth about him… the entire truth and he had done just that three days prior to the wedding. He had threatened her with dire consequences if she revealed it to anyone especially Avanti. He knew the righteous Avanti would never allow the wedding to take place … even though she knew about the aftermath of the fallout. So, he had to hold his cards close to his heart. He had a gut feeling that Arpita would pull some stunt out of her kitty, the woman had done just that. She had texted him in the vee hours today morning that she wasn’t interested in tying herself with someone like him and she valued her freedom too much, she had run away. Instead of being angry, he had laughed and had got on to his plan B. He hadn’t come that far in his line of work without back up plans… and here he was.
Today, as he sat across Avanti dressed in her simple full sleeved t shirt, starring blankly at the agreement, the uninhibited tears flowing from her sublime eyes, his heart broke. He was the reason she was at crossroads but he had no choice. She didn’t know the reality… He had recently got a detailed report from his investigator friend Akshat Chaudhury who specialised in corporate frauds and crimes and Avanti didn’t know how deep they were in…especially with the black bound notebook missing. He had to be a monster who broke her kind heart for he had to save her from the repercussions of not just bad loans and a falling apart business but also, possibly a greater threat looming over their heads which he was yet to find out. As he straightened up on his chair to play his role further, he looked up towards the sky and said a mental prayer for Dnyaneshwar Rane… He apologised but knew the man would eventually forgive him. After all he was his mentor and this was just an arrangement for a year…he didn’t have a right for anything beyond that…
He held a pen towards Avanti. “…Here… sign it… it’s for the best…”