Kids Corner

Image: courtesy - Kenneth Cole.


Love Chakri
Part II -
A Prem Kahani





Continued from yesterday …



Together, instructor and pupil inserted the weapons into their rightful sheathes. They wrapped the ones without sheathes first in a thin cloth and then rolled them in a pile in a soft blanket.

As a gatka master, Razzy owned many of the blades and collected antique ones along with their stories, which he kept at home. For the gatka class, he locked the blades in a special closet in the multipurpose room so he wouldn’t have to haul them to and from the gurdwara for each class.

He set the blankets and the sheathed blades, the mace, the lathis and bows in their special corner, next to the dhol drums.

“I have to go, Veer-ji,” Manreet said. He could see the urgency in her eyes.

“We’re done,” he said, grabbing his backpack. “Let’s go get your Mom.”

Outside, no car with Manreet’s mom was waiting, and the child appeared alarmed.

“Don’t worry, Mini Mouse. She’ll come. Something must have detained her. I’ll wait with you,” he said, checking his watch. “Since you were late, we can practice the panta til she comes.”

Manreet nodded but he could tell the child was distracted by her mom’s lateness. “Would you be able to drive me home if she doesn’t come?” Manreet asked. He pulled his cell phone from his backpack and handed it to the child.

“Call your mom,” he said.

She did, but no one answered, and her expression sank.

“Don’t worry,” he said, trying to hide his irritation and his own fear that Mini’s mother may have forgotten her. Late to class. Late to pick her up.

“Do you have a brother or sister? Maybe your mom got delayed with a sibling?”

Manreet shook her head. “Just the two of us,” she said.

“No one else to call? Dad? Aunty? Uncle? Grandmother?”

She shook her head. “Aunty lives in another state.”

Razzy shut his eyes and rubbed his temples. Glancing at his watch, he saw that Manreet’s mother was already more than 15 minutes late. He wanted to be home where he hoped his sister’s best friend Josephine would be visiting for one of their mega-med-school study jam sessions.

Josephine and his sister Noor often piled their books on the kitchen table, studying, ingesting copious amounts of coffee, and compelling each other to stay at the top of the class. He admired their perseverance, but admired Josephine’s other attributes a lot more, her open smile, her earnest gray-green eyes, her golden hair that spiralled in all directions from her face like a starburst. He planned to ask Josephine on a dinner date.

 “She’s here!” Manreet yelled, relief in her voice.

A black Toyota Rav with darkened windows sped up the driveway toward them. When the car came to a stop, he couldn’t see the driver through the darkened windows, but he heard the doors unlock. He walked around to the driver’s side and knocked on the window, which slowly descended, and there with her long hair fashioned into a haphazard pony tail atop her head and cascading like a long pompom sat Naveen Kaur talking into her cell phone and holding up her index finger at him to wait, without looking at him. 

Still not facing him, she said, “Apologies. Had to work late tonight and got here as fast as I could.” She was focused on something in her lap, yessiring into the phone. Manreet climbed into the back of the car, shut the door, and strapped herself in. Naveen handed the child a pink and black cloth lunch bag.

“Naveen Kaur!” Razzy said, unable to keep the shock out of his voice. “You’re Manreet’s mother?”

She looked up at him then, said hasty goodbyes to whomever was on the other end of the phone. “Rasbir! What are you doing here? And yes, I’m Mini’s mother.” She smiled. “I just was signing the contract with Richard Sterling.”

“No way! Architecturals got that contract!”

“Oh, don’t go getting your panties in a twist. Sterling loved my rehab proposal but he also loved your aggressive questions about abatements and retail death valleys. Win-win. Every one wins. Architecturals gets some. I get some. Richard Sterling is happy. Looks as if we’re going to be working together on a project,” she said, offering a pained smile. “But what’re you doing here?“

“Hey, I’m Manreet’s gatka instructor! This is not a joke. Your tardiness is disrupting my class and now picking her up late, too! What if I had left?”

“Then she would have waited.”

“By herself?”

Naveen Kaur glared at him, but said nothing.

“It’s a challenge teaching children self-discipline when my best student is often late,” Razzy said, clipping his words.

“Mini’s your best student? Mini, you’re his best student! That’s awesome,” she said to the child, dismissing Razzy, raising the window.  Razzy knocked furiously on the window.

“What now?” she asked, lowering the window two inches so he could only see her enormous almond-shaped eyes.

“You owe me an apology for tardiness,” he said.

“O - M - G! Get over yourself already!” she said, her eyes flashing. Raising the dark opaque window, she said, “Later, Rasbir,” and drove away as if they were done.

Razzy had not finished his conversation with her, but she had dismissed him. Razzy’s heart thumped, adrenalin coursed through his body. Gawd, how infuriating and rude she was! He noticed how her eyes flashed and her eyebrows knit together when she was angry, and she didn’t back down. She owed him an apology!  He couldn’t erase the image of her oval face, her flashing black diamond eyes, her expression dismissing him. The more he thought about the exchange, the more irked he grew at her regal attitude, as if he didn’t exist.

At home Josephine and Noor were studying in the kitchen, his parents were out, and his mom had left dinner for him in the ‘fridge.  His thoughts of Naveen and her rudeness consumed him, as he cleaned up from the gatka class, as he combed and retwisted his topknot. While he micro-waved his dinner.

He failed to hear either his sister or Josephine address him as he stomped to his room, carrying his plate. He remembered Mini had called her mother with his phone. Knowing it was Naveen’s cell phone number, he saved it. Then dialed it.

“Naveen Kaur,” she answered with her name.

“You know what, Naveen, I waited with Mini until you arrived, and you didn’t even say ‘thank you.’”

“Rasbir? What the hell?” She sounded half asleep. “Thank you for waiting with Mini. You feel better now?” She hung up the phone.

Rude again. Razzy stared at his silent phone.

Later that night his irritation prevented him from sleeping. He instead argued with Naveen Kaur in his head, practicing all kinds of things he wanted to say to her at the first chance. 

At work the next day, he learned the Ball Hawker got the best of the contract. Razzy’s engineering expertise represented the sole participation of Architecturals.

“That woman gets under my skin in the worst possible way,” he told his boss.

“Richard Sterling thinks she is the bee’s knees, so better keep that sentiment to yourself when you are around the property owner,” his boss said. “No question, she’s talented and a formidable opponent. But Richard Sterling also identified you as the Architecturals person he wanted on the contract. He said, ‘the guy in the turban who asked about the abatement costs.’ If Sterling hadn’t fixated on the abatement issues, Naveen would have had the entire contract and Architecturals wouldn’t have any of it. So You’re the Man, Razzy!”

His boss tossed Naveen’s artsy looking business card onto Razzy’s desk. “She has 15 days to come up with a schematic,” he said. Razzy slipped the card into his wallet.

Two days later, a courier delivered the schematic, all the project’s details precisely delineated. The quality of Naveen’s work impressed him. She must have had this thing in the works before she got that contract to submit the plans within two days, he thought. Now he had to get to work, making sure changes proved structurally sound.

Determined to find serious flaws, he examined every detail, but by the end of the week, the effort proved futile, and he signed off.

He learned that Naveen had moved ahead with the demolition phase of the project’s interior, this from a series of emails with photos she sent to his supervisor, leaving Razzy peeved that she had omitted him from the communications.

By the week’s end, he was sick of Naveen Kaur, her precision, skills, and overachieving ways, and he wanted her out of his mind for the weekend.

Saturday night at the Latin Palace, the upscale restaurant nightclub in Fells Point where Razzy took Josephine on their first date, couples and foursomes occupied the round tables near the dance floor and in the areas surrounding it. Even more couples packed the dance floor, some newbies watching their feet and some long-together couples in simpatico. A musical group -- four men and a woman wearing a tight cocktail dress with a thigh-high slit that accentuated her hour-glass figure -- performed predominately salsa music with other Latin dance numbers like the rhumba and mambo and Latino pop hits tossed in for good measure.

Razzy, who had never been to the Latin Palace before, had accepted Josephine’s suggestion. They participated in the dance class Latin Palace regularly offered around 8-ish, before the club became too busy so that they could dance a few numbers, and Razzy would know the moves.

Now they were finally seated at their table waiting for dinner and watching the graceful couples already cha-cha-ing on the dance floor.

It was then that he spotted her: Naveen Kaur in a black evening dress with an open back, her hair in some kind of updo with corkscrew strands falling strategically, and small white roses inserted in the back. She wore gold and pearl earrings, a pearl necklace, bangles that offset her steel karra, and beneath her dress, which fell just to her knees, she wore strappy, high-heeled black sandals and her tiny feet danced with confidence.

Razzy couldn’t believe how stunning she looked with crystal chandelier earrings. More shocking, her date looked like nobody’s uncle. She was dancing with a dude whose surfer-blond spiked hair looked as if it required an entire tube of gel to remain standing. His body-builder biceps strained against his shirt sleeves, and he moved around the dance floor as if he were a dance show contestant out to win.

Razzy stared at them, his adrenalin intensifying. What was she doing at Latin Palace and with Muscle-Man? he wondered. And who’s watching Mini?

“What is it?” Josephine asked.

He didn’t want to take his eyes off Naveen. Reluctantly, he glanced at Josephine with displeasure before returning his gaze toward Naveen, so lithe on the dance floor. His stare proved so naked Josephine couldn’t help but follow his line of vision.

“Wow! There’s Dr. Lewis! You know Dr. Lewis?” she asked. “We call him Beach Boy. You’d never think of him as an expert hepatologist, but he’s at the top,” Josephine said. “Look at him dance! Who knew?”

“Hapatologist?” Razzy asked. “He’s a snake expert?”

Josephine laughed. “Liver. He’s among the top ten liver specialists on the east coast. He’s one of the faculty members at the med school.”

“No kidding!” Razzy said. “I know the woman with him. Mini’s mother. Mini’s my best gatka student. I just never expected to see her mother here,” he said, careful not to mention Naveen’s name.

“You think a woman’s life ends after she has a child?” Josephine asked.

“No, no no, nothing like that. Made me wonder who’s home with Mini,” Razzy said, considering how Naveen hadn’t spotted him, the sole man in the place wearing a turban. It irked him that she failed to acknowledge him if she did.

“Babysitter. Wait ‘til I tell my classmates I saw the dishy Beach Boy here with a gorgeous woman. Such a cute couple! Don’t you think?” Josephine’s tone proved too enthusiastic for Razzy.

Shaking his head, he agreed with her, but in truth, he did not think they made a cute couple at all.

Continued tomorrow … Part III

July 9, 2013


Conversation about this article

1: Harinder Singh 1469 (New Delhi, India), July 09, 2013, 9:07 AM.

I have found from personal experience that the biggest ice-breaker world-wide is our turban, in any country or society you go to. When we wear it, we must know its worth and understand its meaning and significance. I salute my parents, friends and teachers for helping me make it an integral part of my life.

2: Arvinder Singh (New York, USA), July 09, 2013, 5:31 PM.

Read both Part 1 & 2. Very intrigued by the characters and the subject. Great use of language and highly descriptive. Well done. Looking forward to Part 3.

3: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), July 13, 2013, 4:32 PM.

The suspense of where this story was going has keeping me thrilled! And Ms Scalia is coming across as a crypto Sikh herself!

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Part II -
A Prem Kahani"

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