Friday, December 24, 2004

Kaya's story moves further..

The remainder of their journey was covered in silence, and Kaya reflected upon the happenings of the day, especially the incidents with Kajri. She now had an idea what had been going on around the lake when she had interrupted them. She could also perhaps understand the unwillingness of the villagers to let her in on a sensitive manner such as this, but what she could simply not comprehend was Kajri’s standing in the middle of the road. What was that girl doing, so far away from the village, in the middle of a deserted mountain road? Only one possibility came to Kaya’s mind, one that chilled her, one that she didn’t want to believe, and one that she hoped was not true.
Soon, they reached Kaya’s hotel, and when the car came to a halt, Kajri looked unsure of what to do. As Kaya began to alight, she noticed Kajri clutch a piece of paper that had been lying unnoticed on the seat of the car.
“What is that? “, inquired Kaya.
“This, nothing “, was Kajri’s timid reply. Her eyes were downcast and she put up little resistance when Kaya tried to take the paper from her hand. The paper was crumpled; the writing was smudged, but legible. As she read it, Kaya realized it was a letter – a letter written by her aunt to someone called Charulata. The name sounded familiar to Kaya, but she could not place it immediately. The letter was written in a very impersonal manner, and contained a recommendation. Kaya now remembered her aunt’s friend Charulata Bhandari who lived in Benaras. She was an accomplished singer, and discovering new talent was her passion. Kaya’s aunt had included in her letter, a generous praise of Kajri’s raw talent, and hoped that she would train under herself someday. Kaya handed the letter back to Kajri and persuaded her to join her in her room.

As the two of them made their way to the hotel reception, Kaya was more than ever aware of her familiar sensation. She looked around the lobby and was surprised to find Kailash Pradhan waiting for her in the lobby. He covered the distance between them with rapid steps and asked her what kept her so long. He had been in the lobby, waiting for her arrival for almost 30 minutes. This information surprised Kaya. Kailash Pradhan had always displayed the impatience of a busy man. He had always carried himself with the air of a successful and important man. This was supported by the fact that he had in one evening lined up a prospective buyer for the village. Why he should be waiting in a hotel lobby for Kaya’s arrival was lost out to her. Kaya said that she had not been aware of any particular urgency to get to the hotel, and had taken her time leaving Veena. This reply seemed to irritate the man, and he began to usher her towards the elevator. Kaya turned and called out to Kajri, who had been standing a few feet away while the exchange between her and her lawyer took place.

Kailash Pradhan immediately looked at the slightly disheveled girl and inquired who she was. On being told so, his irritation increased, and Kaya even detected a hint of anger on his face. He demanded to know her entire story once they reached upto Kaya’s room. That had been Kaya’s intention since reading the letter, but she did not like Kailash Pradhan’s highhanded manner.

There was an uncomfortable silence in the elevator that took them to Kaya’s fourth floor room, and it prevailed even after they had entered and settled down. Kajri’s story came out in a steady stream of words, Kailash Pradhan grim all the while.
“How did you meet Kaya?”, he asked when she had finished.
“She came near the pond when everyone was…”
“No, how did you meet her afterwards?”
“I hid in a truck, and got down when the driver stopped. I hid behind some bushes till they were gone, and then waited on the road for a vehicle to come by.”
“And if none had? That is not a well-traveled road. What would you have done alone on that mountain road?”
“I… I didn’t think of that…”
“You didn’t?”, the scowl on his face deepened, and with that, Kaya’s dislike for him. It was clear that the man did not believe her story. What he wanted to imply though, was lost out to Kaya. He would have gone on in his ridicule, had Kaya not declared time for lunch. She asked Kailash Pradhan to brief her about the meeting with his friend, and how they should go about will the deal. Her trick worked, over lunch, all they discussed was business. The lawyer was still vary of Kajri, and did not reveal any names or the amount of money involved.
After lunch, he asked for a private conversation with Kaya, and outlined the specifics of the deal. Apparently, the procedure would take three days, and Kaya would be required only at the time of the actual signing of papers.
As Kaya got up to leave, he said, “But, there is one thing you have to be very careful about”