The woman he faced at the office the next day was not the woman who had cradled his head in her lap whilst he slept. Sunday had passed quietly; by the time, he had returned from his workout, Geet had vanished from the bedroom- she didn’t reappear till dinner time. He was too angry at her disappearing act to ask where she had been and by the time he made his way to the bedroom, she was asleep. It was only from something Nakul said the next morning that he learned that she had spent the day at the gurdwara.
On Monday, Geet was suddenly everywhere-- every project he dealt with turned out to require Geet’s involvement, every client he had meetings with insisted on seeing Geet. After the first two project meetings, it became clear that she had been involved from an early stage- he was first enraged and then intrigued by how well her involvement had been kept quiet by his own executive team- clearly at her instigation. It was as if she had been making a serious effort to stay out of his way and let him have time away from her. She had clearly now decided that the gloves were off- she had no further interest in hiding how involved in many facets of Khurana Construction she was.
If watching her had taught him a lot about her, then working with her taught him even more. Over the next week, he realised that she was no push over, a fact that annoyed him no end (and intrigued him too).
The first time she disagreed with him in the middle of a meeting, he glared at her, expecting her to back down the same way everyone else who faced one of his death-glares did. She didn’t. She smiled, as if amused, and stuck to her guns. Through another thirty minutes of arguing on his part and calm debate on hers- she didn’t back down. In the end, he gave in- he had to admit that she was right and that what she wanted fulfilled the client’s needs better than his original idea.
The second argument they had was more heated; he was convinced he was right and so was she. After a meeting in which the rest of the executive team were nothing more than spectators as Mr and Mrs Khurana ripped each other’s ideas (politely) to shreds, they came to a compromise. He was left with a strange feeling of recognition, one that he fought to suppress.
The third argument they had was explosive. Geet sat in on a meeting he had with Prashant Kelkar, a young industrialist who wanted Khurana Constructions to build for him. Prashant, as he insisted they both call him, wanted something modern, but he wanted to have traditional Indian touches so that it was clear that his company and his ethos were Indian at heart.
Prashant was friendly, down to earth and obviously liked Geet. When Geet smiled at him, her husband felt like standing up and pointing a spotlight at the sindoor in her maang. A moment later, he could do nothing but wonder where on earth that impulse had come from, but he couldn’t suppress it.
When Prashant suggested that Geet might like to come and inspect the site, it was all he could do to hold on to his temper. At the end of the meeting, he decided it was time to clarify a few things with his wife.
“Geet, zara aap mere office mein aayengi. Aap se ek do baatein discuss karni hain”
Her response had him grinding his teeth.
“Theek hai, main bas Prashant ke saath ek do details clear karloon phir mein aati hoon.”
As she turned back and gave Prashant her full attention, he could do nothing but exit the conference room; he didn’t want to stay where he wasn’t wanted after all.
By the time she arrived in his office, he was fuming. He refused to acknowledge, even to himself, what the real reason behind his anger was. Instead, his opening gambit was enough to make her blood boil.
“Geet, mujhe pata hai ke aap yahan kaam mein masroof rehna chahti hain, magar itne bade project ke liye aap ke paas na to experience hai, na qualifications. Site inspection agar aap karengi, to time bahut waste hoga, aap ko to pata bhi nahin hoga ke site inspection mein kya kya dekhna zaroori hai. Behtar hoga agar aap Mr Kelkar se kehdein ke aap kissi aur ko bhej rahi hain, main Adi se kehke arrangements kardeta hoon”
She was sitting facing him; he saw her look down at her hands before she spoke “You really do have a low opinion of me, don’t you. Did you really think I would go along to a site inspection on my own? I’ve made arrangements for an entire team to come with me; main to sirf jaake Mr Kelkar ko khush rakhrahi hoon. He needs to see that we’re giving his project the highest priority; agar Maan Singh Khurana ki biwi jaake unse milegi to unhein to yahi lagega ke hum unhe importance de rahe hain”
Finally looking at him, she said “Don’t worry, I won’t embarrass you. I know how to satisfy a client without promising him something we can’t deliver. Main itni bhi bewaqoof nahin hoon”
The phrase “satisfy a client” triggered an explosion in his mind, as he was assaulted by visions of what Prashant Kelkar might expect in return for granting them such a huge contract.
“Nahin, maine kehdiya to kehdiya. Aap nahin jaayengi. Jab team jaarahi hai, to aap ke jaane ki kya zaroorat hai”
She remained perfectly still for a moment then spoke in a voice he had heard from her once before, one as cold as ice “Mr Khurana, main iss company ki fifty one percent ki owner hoon. Agar main site inspection pe jaana chahti hoon, to main jaaoongi, aap ko chaahe accha lage ya bura”. With that, she left, closing the door quietly behind her.
For half an hour, he fumed and raged- how dare she throw that at him? What had he been thinking, giving her the controlling interest in the company? His first instinct was to phone the lawyers and try and find a way to reclaim his property. He rejected that as leaving him open to ridicule, then came up with his next plan- he would phone Prashant Kelkar himself and explain that he was taking over the project- surely if having MSK’s wife along for the site inspection was a good thing, then having MSK himself would be even better.
As he took his phone out of his pocket to phone Mr Kelkar, his gaze fell on the photo sitting on his desk. It was of Geet and him; he was looking at her as if he could eat her alive, as if he wanted to keep her for his eyes only. His phone forgotten in his hand, he froze as he realised the real reason he didn’t want her spending time with the client. He wanted her to spend time with him. He quickly corrected his thoughts- he didn’t want her to spend time with him, he just didn’t think it was appropriate for his wife to spend time with another man, especially one who might not respect the appropriate boundaries.
Realising he would appear ridiculous if he changed the plans at this point, he decided against phoning Mr Kelkar, but he couldn’t contain his anger at the way she had defied him. Who cared if she owned fifty-one percent of the company; he was still the boss and she should do what he wanted. (He refused to think about the fact that he was fanning the flames of his own anger simply to avoid thinking about what else he might be feeling).
The lingering anger between them ensured that the drive home was tense and silent; he made his way straight to his home office, leaving her to make her way to their room. By the time he came upstairs, she had fallen asleep. He was almost able to completely ignore the tear tracks on her cheeks. Laying down, he pointedly ignored her lying next to him until, after a moment he turned as if compelled to look at her as she lay there. Something inside him longed to draw her close and hold her as she slept, some part of him craved the feel of her in his arms but as always, he fought down the unruly thoughts; no matter what his body wanted, he wasn’t going to allow her to gain any sort of hold over him. As he crossed into sleep, he couldn’t help wondering if she already had.
When he woke in the morning, he found his unspoken wishes fulfilled; she lay in his arms. Her face was buried in his neck, her legs entwined with his, her right arm wrapped around his chest. The scent of her wafted temptingly in the air making him shiver with need; he froze when she mumbled sleepily when she felt him move.
“Maan, sone dijiye na, aap hamesha itni jaldi jaagte hain”
Forcing himself to draw his arms away from her, he said “Geet”
She snuggled herself closer to him, rubbing her nose into his neck, moulding her body closer to his.
He spoke again, his voice sounding like it was scraping his throat as it emerged “Geet”
She was so close to him that he actually felt her eyes pop open, her lashes caressing him as they moved. He felt awareness hit her, then she was scrambling away, pulling her dupatta around her as she stood. Expecting confusion or embarrassment, he got neither; instead she said “Good morning. Aaj mujhe zara jaldi nikalna hai, site visit pe jaana hai; agar aap mind na karein main driver leke nikalti hoon, aap khud aajaiyyega”
Scrambling to make his voice work, the feel of her still lingering in his mind, he said “Nahin, aap jaaiyye Geet, main aajaaonga.”
She moved towards the wardrobe, seeming not to give him another thought. With the feel of her warmth still tormenting him and the scent of her lingering in the air, he didn’t want her to leave with anger still between them.
She stopped moving but didn’t turn to look at him.
“Geet, dekhiye, maine shayad kal kuch zyada kehdiya tha. Mera matlab yeh nahin tha ke aap ko kaam nahin karna aata hai. Mera sirf yeh matlab tha ke aap ke liye site inspection pe jaana zaroori nahin hai. It’s very tiring, it’ll be a long day and you don’t have to go there”
Perhaps she recognised his olive branch for what it was, because she turned and looked at him before she spoke “Aap ko meri chinta karne ki zaroorat nahin hai. Main itni aasaani se thakti nahin hoon.”
She sighed, recognising the truth of his words “Theek hai, dekhiye main bas Mr Kelkar se milke aajaati hoon. He’ll be expecting me and it wouldn’t give the right impression if I just didn’t turn up. I’ll go and meet him and introduce him to the site team, then I’ll come back to the office”
Turning back to the wardrobe, she pulled out some clothes then turned towards the bathroom; she stopped when she found him blocking her path.
He put his hand out as if to touch her then stopped, saying simply “Thank you”.
As he made his way to the gym as he did every morning, he couldn’t suppress the feeling of satisfaction at the knowledge that his wife would only be spending a very limited amount of time with Prashant Kelkar.