Nothing. Absolutely nothing in the world could have prepared her for what walked in through the door. Although grammatically speaking it should be ‘who’ walked in through the door. He was the most gorgeousman she had ever seen in her life. And not just good looking, he was tall, lean and impeccably dressed. He must be around thirty four – thirty five years of age. The minute he entered the tiny, cheerful little office, he seemed to dwarf it. Oh yes, he really was something. Stunningly gorgeous thought Radhika. Right from his sharply tailored grey suit, open necked pale blue shirt and shiny black shoes. He should have been standing in a men’s fashion magazine instead of the office of a play school. Just then he looked straight at her and she became aware of this strange sensation that felt like she was falling……….falling through thin air. Her stomach swooped and she surfaced to find herself staring into unfathomable molten brown eyes.
“Madam ji”, Gopal, the security guard spoke just then. How come she hadn’t even noticed him? And he was standing at the elbow of the man! But thank God he had spoken. He had helped break the strange spell she had fallen under and she couldn’t thank him enough!
“I told him that it was long past the scheduled time but he insisted on coming in.” he was now informing her in a harassed tone in Hindi.
Before she could respond to that he spoke. And his voice matched the rest of him, dark, smooth and arresting.
“I am sorry for arriving late and for any inconveniencethis is causing but I am here for the Parent Teacher meeting.”
Finally she found her voice and her composure and turned to Gopal, “Theek hai Gopalji, thank you. I’ll take care of things.”
As Gopal exited she turned to the other man and said, “Actually sir the Parent Teacher meeting got over about an hour ago and almost all the teachers have left so I am not sure I can help you.”
Although if you sit down I can spend all day looking at you……..
She could feel the blush climbing up her cheeks. Which was ridiculous because he was a Parent for God’s sake!
“Like I said I am sorry for being late but if I could just see the teacher concerned.” He pressed. “This will only take a minute. Please?” his eyes pinned hers.
She felt a fizz going through her entire body. What was happening here? And why did that ‘please’ sound like an order? But nevertheless he had said ‘please’. Any way it would be best if she got it over with. His presence was playing havoc with her nerves. And now that he had deigned to arrive he actually thought it would ‘only take a minute’? Which rarified world did he live in?
“Please take a seat Mr………?”
“Madhav Dewan.” He filled in.
“Thank you”, he said taking a seat on the other side of the desk from her. Whoever she was, she was pretty. Very feminine, very pretty. For a minute there when he had stepped in to this charming, sun-washed room he had been taken aback. She had been standing behindthe desk sifting through a folder of some sort. She had looked up at him and immediately captured his attention with her beautiful honey brown eyes lined with black kohl. The attraction had been instant. And he could bet his last Rupee, mutual. She looked fresh and alluring in a pink and white churidaar kurta. Her hair, tied in a high pony tail fell to her waist in a glossy black mane. He was sure she wasn’t a day older than twenty – twenty two at most. Somehow this instantaneous flare of attraction disturbed him as it was not only unexpected but also unwelcome.
Madhav Dewan……on hearing that name Radhika felt a vague sense of foreboding. She cleared her throat, “and you are here for……..?”
As he spoke somehow she already knew the answer.
The restless sparks of attraction were now instantly replaced by sparks of anger. She sat down on the chair across from him.
He spoke again a little impatiently this time, “may I speak to his teacher please? Her name is Miss RadhikaKapoor. I had a note from her in his diary.”
“A third note.” She said frostily.
His eyebrows rose fractionally before he said, “yes. So may I? If you could just find out if she hasn’t left….?” His deep voice bordered on the impatient again.
“I am Radhika Kapoor, Aditya’s class teacher Mr. Dewan. And yes you got yet another note from me because you wouldn’t respond to the general circular which is usually sent.” She had to force herself to speak calmly.
“But now that I am here can we get down to it please? I haven’t really got that much time.” For a pretty little thing she had quite a firm tone of voice, he noted.
“You haven’t got that much time?” she asked incredulously. “You have not bothered to attend a single parent teacher meeting to find out about how your child is progressing and now that you have turnedup after three reminders is that all you can say? Don’t you even want to know how he is doing?”
“Well isn’t that why I am here? And I am sure you can’t wait to tell me.” He drawled.
She took a deep breath in an effort to control her rising anger. Was this man for real?
“Are you his father?”
“Excuse me? What kind of question is that? Of course I am his father.” He snapped.
“It’s a valid question Mr. Dewan. You finally deign to turn up because you feel you can’t avoid it any longer and what about his mother? Or didn’t she have time either?”
He made to speak but she was just too agitated to let him. “Your child Mr. Dewan is very reclusive.” She went on. “He is quiet, withdrawn, unfriendly. Hemakes no friends and does not interact despite all efforts. He is disturbed about something Mr. Dewan.He’s barely a little over three years old and he is lonely. Are you even aware of any of this? Is his mother aware? Is anybody in your family aware? Is anybody even interested enough?”
“That’s enough Miss Kapoor.” His hard voicepenetrated through the thick fog of anger she was feeling. “Spare me the lecture. You can save it for your students.”
Radhika felt her cheeks go red as he continued, “And I am not here for a character sketch of my son. His progress at school will do.” He said in a clipped voice.
She couldn’t believe it! Her anger was back with a bang.
“But how can you separate the two? It’s who he is. He has a problem Mr. Dewan.” She tried to entreat.
For a crazy moment they stared at each other and then they both looked away and spoke at the same time.
“Look Mr. Dewan, maybe if I could speak to your wife instead - ?”
“Aditya lost his mother a year and a half ago.”
The shock of his words was suffocating. Her head snapped up to look at him. He met her look with a level gaze. His eyes revealed nothing, his expression was completely blank. She swallowed. This was awful just awful. She thought of little Aditya and how heart wrenchingly alone he always seemed to be. Tears rushed up to clog her throat. She cleared her throat and spoke past the lump in her throat, surprised that her voice managed to sound steady, “I am deeply sorry to hear that Mr. Dewan, but if someone had just mentioned it……”
He looked away and then back at her, his expression carefully blank again. He nodded imperceptibly.
“I….um…” she turned away and fumbled behind her and picked out a folder from a side table. She used the time to quickly blink back the tears that seemed to be prickling the back of her eyelids. Turning around she opened the folder and passed it across the desk to him and managed a small smile, “he is very good at origami.”
He reached out and took it. He looked down at the open folder and then back at her with a questioning look, “at?”
“Origami. Paper folding” she explained.
“Oh” he nodded flipping through the sheets in the folder.
What a time to notice what beautiful hands he has…….
“You could encourage him to do a lot of that at home.” She said. “Probably ask him to teach you …………..”
He looked up and her voice trailed away, suddenly realizing how foolish she sounded. The image of him doing paper folding activities was completely incongruous.
“I meant is he usually this reticent at home too?” she quickly asked.
He turned his attention back to the folder and shrugged, “he seems a little okay with my mother.”
“Well with the summer break coming up, you might want to enroll him in one of the activities here at the summer camp.” She said brightly.
He looked up and closing the folder placed it back on the desk.
“Sure. Whatever you suggest; you are his teacher.”
For a moment she just looked at him and then, “Ok. Sure.” She quickly gathered herself. She dug out the form from inside a drawer and passed it on to him.
“Then this is the one I think he should go for. I am sure he will enjoy it. It has pool activities, the sand pit, dance, drawing and of course origami.” She smiled at him.
Madhav took in the smile. Her tone of voice suggested a no nonsense ‘teacherly’ smile but it hit him like a wave leaving him momentarily breathless. This was what he was sure, was called a ‘thousand watt smile’.
“You can fill it up and drop it at the main office anytime within this week. It’s a two week programme starting on the fifteenth.” She said primly.
He nodded, “Sure “, he said, his expression giving away nothing. Certainly not an answering smile in return.
And then just like that he stood up and extended his hand across the desk, “if I may take your leave nowMiss Kapoor? Thank you for your time.”
She stood up and extended her hand and felt it engulfed in his firm grip as he towered over. She felt a current go up her arm, the kind she had read about in romantic novels. It left her breathless.
6.2, she decided.
And before she could just barely murmur, “you are welcome”, with another nod he turned and strode out of the room leaving behind a faint whiff of tangy cologne and a warm tingling sensation in her arm.