Raghav looked at his Uncle and sniggered. Really, the old man had no guts. “Raghav don't do this Samir is here, Raghav dont do that Samir is here.” Really! He was not afraid of his half-brother at all and there was no way he was going to change his life style to accommodate anyone. He was a prince and he intended to act like one.
Amar Singh glared at his nephew. The boy was the image of his father, good looking, tall, but without the charisma his brother had, and now alcoholism and the drugs he had become addicted to were starting to show their effects on him. Frustrated with his nephew he looked down at his desk, gambling debts, bar debts, all over the district, in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangkok, payment for all sorts of services that he did not want to think about, designer clothes, cars, horses, jewellery.....the piles of bills were endless.
Raghav was the monster he had helped to create and now that monster was eating him alive and he could do nothing about it.
He had hated his brother for marrying Raani Saheeba, after all he had seen her first at a party and fallen in love with her. But his brother had decided she was going to be his and laughed at him. He had charmed his way into her heart with his good looks and charismatic personality and she had chosen to marry him, but once Samir was born his brother lost all interest in her and went back to his previous bad ways.
However hard Raani Saheeba tried, her husband just pushed her away further. Thinking that since as his brother had cast her aside now she may accept his advances, he had approached Raani Saheeba many times but she had always rejected him. Her rejection had been the final straw. It was a bitter pill to swallow to think that the woman you loved, only felt pity for you. To add to that his father had insisted that he marry a woman he could barely stand.
So when Raghav was born by one of his brother's mistresses he found the perfect tool to taunt Raani Saheeba with, presenting Raghav in front of her all the time, but Raani Saheeba had always risen above it and tried to do the best for both boys. He had encouraged Raghav's bad behaviour in front of Raani Saaheba and Samir. Creating all sorts of problems for Samir for which he knew his brother would thrash him. In the end Raani Saheeba sent Samir off to boarding school at the tender age of seven so that he could escape from the bitterness and vindictiveness in the palace.
Raghav's mother had cast a spell so deep on his brother that he forgot his beautiful wife and fell head over heels in love with her. She used him mercilessly to achieve her ambitions and cravings for the high life. She never loved her son but was not averse to using him to get more money out of his brother. She died a bitter woman suffering from alcoholism when his brother stopped going to her in favour of someone younger.
It was not as if he had not tried with Raghav, Amar Singh refelcted, but the seed for bad behaviour had already been sown so deep. Raghav had watched and emulated his father from an early age even down to chasing women.
When he had found that he could have no children of his own he had lavished all his attention on Raghav. He had sent him to the best schools but Raghav was invariably expelled after a month or two, in the end however much money he was willing to pay the school, nobody wanted to take him. So he had arranged tutors at home and yet again his bad behaviour had sent them all running one after another. In the end he gave up on trying to educate him, leaving him to run amok. His brother was not even bothered with Raghav at all.
On the other hand Samir had excelled in school going to England for his secondary education. When at fourteen his mother had died so suddenly and the boy had come home, Amar Singh saw that he was going to be the copy of his mother in his actions and thoughts. Raani Saheeba had only trusted Bahadhur Singh and thus she had made him a trustee of her estate. Bahadhur Singh had made sure that Samir's school fees were paid on time and he had not wanted for anything. Once Samir could, he had started working paying his own way using the annual sum from his mothers funds to donate to good causes on her behalf.
Now Samir was a billionaire with business interests worldwide in Software, Hotels and Resorts. His business acumen was legendary, he had become a man to reckon with. Now all the money he had sent for the repair of the Summer palace and the Tiger fund and other projects would all have to be accounted for.
He had thought he had plenty of time to make it up but his brother had died suddenly of a heart attack leaving him no time to sort it out. In-fact Bahadhur Singh had come and told him only yesterday that Samir would like to see the accounts for the money he had sent. Where was he going to get paperwork, there was no paperwork, because none of the money had been spent for which it was intended!
“Raghavbeta, you have to curtail your activities. I don’t have endless pots of money. We have to be especially careful now that Samir is here” he said waving the pile of bills at him. “Samir wants accounts for the money he has sent, where am I going to get that? You tell me?”
Raghav was busy looking out of the window. He could see the comings and goings on in Raani Saheeba's annex from his uncles office. There was an awful lot of activity, he wondered what his half-brother was up to. He had thought he would come back for the old man's funeral and high tail it out of this god forsaken place. But it looked like he wanted to play Maharajah for a while.
“For god's sake uncle, just get your old accountant to make some papers up and get some workers to look busy at the summer palace. Really! I don’t know why you are getting into such a frenzy, don’t be such an old woman!” Raghav laughed sarcastically, his uncle was getting old he thought.
Amar Singh rose and slammed his fist on the lacquered walnut wood desk. “Dont make the mistake of taking everything as a joke Raghav! Samir is not a two-bit official you can bribe or befuddle with false paper work. He runs a Multi-Billion Dollar empire. His brain is faster then his supersonic jet, and he has that Bahadhur Singh, his mothers old retainer by his side. It seems Bahadhur Singh has been keeping a tab on all our activities. I should have done something about him years ago!”
“What's going on here?” Choti Raani questioned walking in in a hurry “If you are having a meeting why did you not call me?” she said with a worried expression on her face, her paranoia clearly evident.
“Nothing is going on,” Raghav rolled his eyes. “Uncle is worrying unnecessarily. Samir will soon get fed up of playing Maharajah in a few days and leave. Now lets not worry about it all, we have a party tomorrow night, Aunty tell me who is on the guest list? Anyone interesting? ”
This was a topic Choti Raani could cope with, she loved entertaining and being seen and this kind of occasion was becoming far and few in between now.
“There are people coming from the British Consulate, The French Ambassador and his wife, now she likes to gamble I hear. There are also some young royals coming from Gwalior and Tripura, who also enjoy gambling and hunting, your friends, a woman who wanted to take pictures of the palace, she is an author and also is looking for film locations for a small film company. We could charge them for the shoots of-course.”
“Has Samir invited anyone? After all the party is in his honour.” Amar Singh interrupted.
“No, he has not told me to add anyone to the list. Also, as usual there will be our high society friends, local politicians and journalists.”
Amar Singh nodded. Each one of the invites had been sent out because the person could be of some use to them in the long run. They had to keep the image up that they still were royals to contend with. Gambling was one of Amar Singh's passions and he was excellent at it he knew. That was one of the ways they kept the coffers full but sadly just as he very good at it, Raghav was just as bad. Raghav drank too much and lost all sense when he was gambling. He would have to keep a close eye on him in the next few days whilst there were guests in the palace.
“Has everything been arranged?” He asked his wife, satisfied when she nodded. That was one job at least she was reasonable at. “Now tomorrow I want you to keep an eye on Samir make sure he is kept busy, whilst we interest our guests in a little side game of cards.”
His wife nodded, her eyes a little fearful, Samir was sure to be hard to keep busy. She had already tried to talk to him several times, he had always been polite but had hardly talked to her always busy with his Blackberry and other phones. She cast a fearful eye on her husband and nephew, how long would they be able to keep this pretence up before they were caught she wondered. How long before Samir finds out how broke they really were and how long would it be until he found out all their other secrets. She shivered as a wave of fear swept through her.
Samir ran a frustrated hand through his black hair. All day he had been seeing people from the area, farmers, land owners, politicians, local people, they all had several lists of complaints about his uncle and half-brother. Outstanding bills, complaints about bad treatment from Raghav and his cronies and that he had been after their daughters and sisters. The list was endless. His uncle was bad enough but it seemed Raghav was even worse.
He paced his mother's office wondering what he had landed himself in, stopping in front of her portrait he looked up at her, looking deeply into her eyes. They smiled down at him lovingly. All the holidays she had spent with him in England had been the best years of his life. Her sense of fun, her passion for life, she had always come to him and they had gone on driving holidays or camping, or sometimes she had taken him to very posh hotels and taught him etiquette and dancing. How she loved to dance he remembered. Sometimes she had brought along Bahadhur Singh so he got to know him telling him that Bahadhur Singh was the only person he could trust if she was no longer around.
She never took him home to the palace ever again. And when he had asked, she would say, you are better off staying away from that horrible place, my darling. Stay away, work hard and make me proud, my baby. Make your people proud and then one day you will be able to win a place in their hearts. She had been so extraordinarily beautiful, he thought. Her skin had been so fair, almond in colour and her eyes so blue. In the portrait she was wearing a simple blue saree that matched her eyes, her jewellery always Sapphires, set very simply in intricate gold patterns. His mind immediately conjured up an image of another woman on whom these stones would look just as beautiful.
Bahadhur Singh came in and saw Samir Sir looking at his mothers portrait.
“Sir, she was a very beautiful woman and so bright and clever.”
Samir turned, his eyes bright with the sheen of tears. “You don’t have to keep calling me 'Sir', You are more family to me then they ever will be.” Samir declared angrily.
Bahadhur Singh acted highly affronted even though he was very pleased. Samir was his mother's son. “ but that would not be proper Sir!” He replied.
“You will not let me call you your highness so 'Sir', it will have to be.”
Samir frowned at him. “Bahadhur Singh all that went a long time ago, the only thing left now is ruins.”
“But Sir,” Bahadhur Singh contradicted, his voice full of encouragement “even now people remember your mother so fondly. When they know you have come to stay they will welcome you with open arms. You will have a chance to put right some of the wrongs that have been going on for such a long time. It was your mothers wish.” he declared firmly, looking up at the portrait of his beloved Raani Saheeba.
“That is why I am putting up with all this!” Samir replied, his dark eyes filled with frustration as he looked at the piles of paperwork in front him, thank god he had a superb teams in place that dealt with his own business interests otherwise he would have no time to come here and sort everything out.
“Sir, I have sent one of the servants to return the camera and other items to that lady.” he would have happily gone himself, but Samir Sir had needed him today in all the meetings.
Samir was just about to ask him something when one of the doormen knocked on the door saying “Sir, Choti Raani Saheeba would like to speak to you I have shown her to the reception room.”
“Wonder what she wants now?” Samir muttered “probably more money” he said shaking his head.
Bahadhur Singh chuckled as he followed Samir into the reception room.
Choti Raani was standing with her mouth open staring at the room. Samir noted she was dressed to the hilt, designers saree, designer handbag, she was dripping with gold he wondered how she managed to carry all that weight, she was quite a tiny woman.
“Udayveer...” she started in her girly fluttery voice.
“Call me Samir,” he growled, he hated the name his father had given him choosing only to use the name his mother had chosen for him.
“Err.. Samir is there anyone you would like to invite for the party tomorrow, you have not given me any names.”
“No, I do not have anyone I would like to invite. Thank you for asking.” he said politely, his dark eyes assessing her. She looked worried he thought.
“Err well I have seated you next to an author, a Dr. P Gupta, I thought you may find someone who writes books interesting, apparently Dr Gupta has written books on Greek Mythology and Indian Palaces” she said distractedly, looking around with interest at the opulent furniture in Raani Saheeba's annex, practically drooling as she recognised priceless pieces of furniture and original paintings. Even one of these chairs she was standing next to could keep her in good money for months she thought. Damn Bahadhur Singh, he had never given anyone access to her apartments and now she knew why.
So she wants me away from all the other more illustrious guests Samir surmised. Bahadhur Singh had already given him the list earlier but he had barely glanced at it. He had also been enlightening him about the card games and gambling his uncle and Raghav like to play on the side, and told him that in the guise of entertainment they liked to empty the pockets of their guests.
Samir watched her eyes as they looked around his mothers room, he could practically see her putting price tags on everything. He did not want his mothers rooms contaminated any longer by her greedy stare, so he said “if that is all, I still have a lot of work to attend to.”
“Yes, yes of-course.” she said dragging her eyes away from a exquisite Louis the XVII double chaise lounge, it was in such beautiful condition and she knew exactly the person who would pay a fabulous price for it.
“Errr...please come early Samir after all the party is in your honour.” she said looking at him with hard bright, bitter eyes, changing to a giggly goodbye as she saw his dark eyes watching her carefully.
Samir felt like counting all the pieces of silver in her wake.
As soon as she left Bahadhur Singh said “you have to be careful of that one, she acts all confused but underneath that all lies a heart of pure hate and avarice. Sir, I am sure she hated your mother with a vengeance.”
“Hmmm,” Samir said distractedly not really registering what Bahadhur Singh was saying. Walking back to the office, he picked up the list from the desk again, he wondered what the name of that redhead was and who she was sitting next to, maybe he could change places, at least she would not be as boring as sitting next to some dry, dull author he thought with a devilish smile.
© Jane Meme Copyright 27.02.2012