I didn’t post the update last Sunday, as promised. One of my projects ran into a problem and I had to travel urgently. One of my phones was hacked too and it took me hours to retrieve a social media account. Phew!!
I will try to continue to post the updates on Sundays. Afternoon 12:00 pm 🤞
I don’t want to make the updates private right now as I don’t want to trouble you. But I may do so in future. I’m still thinking about it.
People who wanted to know about Spark and Spice: Book 2 – It was the second half of the book posted on Wattpad and this blog previously. It will be published as a sequel to Spark & Spice in paperback and ebook format.
I hope I have cleared the air 🙂
Lots of love 💖
“She must be stressed about something, bro. You have given her too much work, it seems.” Samir stopped running and added his 2 cents while catching his breath.
When Virat called Samir to meet him for a jogging session, early in the morning, Samir instinctively knew something was troubling Virat.
“No, no, you don’t get it,” Virat stopped too and raised his foot on a small platform to fasten his shoelaces. Tying the knot, he said, “Niyati is never stressed about being overworked. In fact, she is so accustomed to pressure and chaos that I’m sure she’ll continue to work unbothered even when the entire planet is falling down. So, it isn’t only work-related stress. It’s different this time. She believes we’ve lost our spark.”
“What does that mean?” Samir twisted his lips.
“Whatever!” Virat huffed and stretched both his hands in the air, walking away.
“And you agreed with her… obviously!” Samir confirmed, keeping his usual sadistic, funny face aside and donning the role of both a wise ear and a sage advice for Virat. He had to do it whenever Virat needed him, especially, during his confusions revolving around Niyati. Samir had seen their relationship grow from the first moment they met at the airport and he had been a witness to Niyati’s ability to knock Virat off his senses. At different times, Samir had been a silent witness, or a patient listener, or even a thoughtful advisor to their budding relationship. Sometimes, he was all of them.
“Gawd! I’m such an idiot,” Virat sighed, wiping the sweat off his face using his palms, and combed his fingers through his hair. “That was my biggest mistake. I shouldn’t have agreed with her. Now she considers the issue more serious than she earlier believed it was. She’s geared to do something about it.”
“Exactly, what?” Samir jumped a few tiles on the running track of the central park.
“I don’t know. And that is scary. Trust me.”
“Relax. I don’t think she will come up with a weird solution.”
“You have no idea. She has receded into a full contemplative mode, is always thinking deeply, and goes into long phases of silence. I’m so worried, Samir. What should I do?”
Samir thought for a long moment and stretched himself backwards, until he could see the crown of the tall, lush trees in the park. He struggled to curb the itch to tease Virat but couldn’t. Pushing his tongue against his cheek, he sighed. “Dude! You don’t have much in your hands, at this moment, to be honest.”
“Really, now?!” Virat glared at him. “I didn’t call you at 5 am in the morning to listen to this.”
“So? Come to the point. What did you want to hear?”
“Think again. Think deeply,” Virat spoke in an investigative tone. “If only I could get to know her flow of thoughts, I’m sure I can prepare myself to manage the situation in a better manner. By any chance, can you guess what is going on in Niyati’s mind? I need to know.”
“Start running!” Samir chuckled.
“What!” Virat shrugged.
“When you run – the fresh air will enter your lungs, and your blood flow will increase, thereby taking more oxygen to your brain. You will be able to think better…”
“Sammiiiirrrr! Come on, yaar. Be serious.” Virat growled.
“Fine! Let me think again… deeply, this time,” Samir followed his cue, and squeezed his eyes narrow, trying to think in the way Niyati would. He walked away a few steps, turned around mysteriously and said, “This is Niyati Reddy we are talking about, right? Don’t we know how unpredictable she is?”
“Yeah, man! We definitely do. When I asked her about it, she said she will divulge at the right time. She didn’t say anything else. I tried so hard to get her to reveal something.”
“Virat…listen,” Samir spoke in a grave tone, fixing his eyes on Virat’s face, “I hate to tell you this…but when women think their relationship with their man has changed, they are mostly thinking about two solutions.”
“What?” Virat had a bit of a clue and he dreaded Samir was going to spill out exactly that.
“I said ‘mostly’ but not always…however…it is possible she is thinking about…” Samir let his sentence trail slowly.
Virat filled in the blanks with a dreadful murmur, hating the sound of the word, “Divorce?”
“Or maybe…err…a baby?” Samir added.
“Goodness!” Virat almost gasped. It wasn’t like Niyati and he had never discussed this before but whenever the topic of having a baby arose, both of them had felt it was too early. They had been working towards their goals and were so full of each other that the thought of kids was always pushed to the back burner.
Virat wondered if Niyati was now thinking of extending their family. But would she? Without discussing it with him? She was aware of his and her plans related to work for the next year. Kids needed time and commitment. Were they really ready for this? Also, is having kids a solution to a couple’s problems?
By the way, did they even have any serious problems between them? Their only problem, according to her, was that they were too comfortable with each other. They behaved like one unit. Was that a red flag?
Virat tucked his lower lip under his upper one. “What do I do now?”
Samir sat down on the bench, thinking deeply. Virat followed him, looking at his face hopefully.
“Listen… before she comes up with a silly solution, I think you should tell her that you’ve been thinking too and you should give her your solution first.”
Virat liked the idea. “Hmm…okay…but what solution?”
Samir shrugged. “Do something she likes. Take her on a holiday…plan it thoughtfully. Ask her out on a date…maybe?”
“Interesting!” Virat finally felt relieved. He was sure he could think of ways to distract Niyati.
“Anyway, Arpita is going to meet Niyati at the office today. So, there are high chances she may discuss it with Arpita.”
Virat didn’t know his sister was going to their office to meet Niyati. “Why office?”
Samir shrugged. “I wish I understood women better. But I don’t. Take Arpita. She wants Niyati to design a dazzling gown for her.”
Virat gawked at him for a second before a soft chortle escaped from his lips. “Man! I don’t want to sound mean but ‘dazzling gown’ and Arpita don’t go together.”
“This was mean!” Samir glared at him. “You can’t crack jokes on my wife.”
“Sorry! But you know that it isn’t her style. Arpita has always been unconventional, individualistic, and straight-forward. That’s her style. She attends grand parties in a cotton kurta and denim jeans. She didn’t opt for designer, gawdy stuff even for your wedding or my wedding. So, it’s hard to imagine her in a flashy dress.”
Samir nodded. “I thought so too, the first time she mentioned.”
“Any special occasion?”
“God knows!” Samir twisted his lips cluelessly, “I was about to ask you if there is any special occasion in the near future that I might have forgotten.”
“I’m no good with dates either.” Virat raised his hands in the air and grinned. Swiping his tongue over his lower lip, he teased Samir, “But looks like you are in the soup too. I’m feeling so much better now…aahaaa!”
“You are laughing?” Samir spread his hands in the air, “Seriously, man! I’m doomed. I need to know what’s going on in Arpita’s mind. ASAP!”
“Start running!” Virat chuckled more.
The advice wasn’t entirely a tease. It had been their mantra for dire situations. Whether they were underprepared for exams in school, missed university deadlines, had teen break-ups, or were caught doing mischief at home, when nothing made sense, Virat and Samir would always, by default, resort to sports, jogging or exercise as a coping mechanism. They believed it helped them think better due to the rush of blood flow to their brains. It didn’t matter if it worked or not but physical activity did keep their mind distracted from the troubling situation.
Niyati appeared pleasantly surprised to meet Arpita in her office. She ordered coffee and sandwiches for them and took Arpita’s measurements.
“Finally! Can I now say I’ve managed to earn my sister-in-law’s confidence in my work?” Niyati chuckled.
“Come on! You know it was never like that.” Arpita was embarrassed.
“Why not? I’ve been making dresses for the entire world but you never asked me for one. I never offered for I didn’t know if you even liked my work. But yayyy! I’m so thrilled to have you here today.” Niyati said, writing the measurements and Arpita’s preferences in the diary.
Arpita walked around, looking in the mirror. “You’re the best, you know. I wouldn’t have come to you if I didn’t think so. Just that…before today, I’ve never wanted to get into designer wear. But this time, I want to look perfect.”
Niyati stopped writing in the diary. Something in Arpita’s tone disturbed her. But she didn’t know what it was. Or maybe she was overthinking.
“Any special occasion?” Niyati asked.
Arpita turned around to face Niyati and smiled. She didn’t reply. Niyati didn’t ask again.
Arpita elaborated on how she wanted her gown in layers, frills, lace and brocade, studded with sequins and diamonds. Once again, she left Niyati wondering about her choice. It wasn’t her style. It was just not her.
“By the way…” Arpita distracted Niyati out of her thoughts.
“Hmm? Yeah?” Niyati smiled, trying not to judge her and picked up a water bottle.
“Do you know a good doctor… I mean, a good plastic surgeon. I’m unable to get rid of this tire of flab.” Arpita marked a layer of thin fat around her belly and made a helpless face. “Do you know someone who can cut it away.”
Niyati coughed on the water she just had and struggled not to spill it out. “What!!”
“I also find these annoying fine lines and wrinkles on my face. Do you see them?”
Niyati nodded. “Aren’t they natural lines?”
“You are in your twenties,” Niyati reminded her. Once again, she was surprised. Since when did Arpita care about looks and physical appearance. It wasn’t wrong, thought. Niyati even had some clients completely obsessed with their looks and she didn’t judge them either. But coming from Arpita, it felt like a new and strange development.
“Do you know ageing begins as soon as twenties?” Arpita replied.
“Arpita… wait…what are you talking about? Ageing?! God! No…in fact, you look pretty… and you look great!”
Arpita smiled again. Niyati had loads of questions in her mind but she put them off for a later time. Niyati had never probed anyone about their personal issues and choices. For the first time, she wanted to do this. But at the same time, she sensed a discomfort in Arpita’s attitude. Pestering her to divulge more would push her in a shell. Niyati decided to stay quiet for now and support Arpita silently while she found a way out of her mess. If there was, any!
She didn’t tell Arpita that the design she wanted wasn’t her style. Instead, Niyati assured Arpita that she would do her best if Arpita promised to be there during the entire process of making & fitting of the dress.
Virat moved his finger on his phone screen, scrolling through the list of best restaurants in Paris for a dinner date. None of them appeared suitable for the purpose.
‘Should I take her for a midnight boat ride, under Pont Marie, or Pont Alexandre III … tell her how much I love her?’ He speculated. The next moment, he took a laboured breath refuting the idea. ‘Naah!’
‘Too much work, eh?’
‘Too formal, as well.’
‘She’s going to laugh. And will also tease me this time.’
‘We’ve grown beyond that stage.’
He started scrolling again and found a few restaurants they had visited during their courtship. Many precious memories were connected to some of the eateries where they once sat for hours and spent time together.
‘Sounds like a workable plan!’
“Are you coming to my cabin? We’ll leave for home together.” Virat called her in the evening.
Niyati switched on her wireless headphones and replied, “Hey! I’m not in the office. I’m taking Maya chachi’s diamond ring to the jeweller. She asked me to get the missing diamonds fixed while I watched it. Then I’ll go to Dadi’s doctor. She has asked me to meet him and understand her new medicine regimen from him.”
“Aren’t you tired?” Virat rolled his eyes. “And why do you have to do everything?”
“Because there are some things which secretaries and assistants can’t do.” Niyati smiled, “Anyway, after this I’ll be going to the factory.”
“Why factory? The system was rolling smoothly, the last time I checked.” Virat switched off his laptop and picked up his aviators.
“Yeah, I know. But I just wanted to make a random visit. I need to ensure that the new winter collection reaches the stores at least four weeks ahead of Christmas.”
“Do you need to go? Should have called any manager.” He suggested.
“Yeah, I want to go… why? You don’t want me to go?”
“I want you to take a rest. You’ve been working too much.”
“You’ve become so chill, na?!” Niyati chuckled, “You were the one who would be on the front foot before every launch, every new collection… you taught me to be there and supervise things first-hand…”
Virat smiled. “Hmm. I realised that you don’t need to be on high alert at all times. We have good managers. They can take care of basic stuff like this. Things eventually go as planned.”
“Yes, they do… mostly… but we need to be there for times when things might not go as planned. You always said this.”
“That has never happened.”
“And will never. Keeping fingers crossed.”
“Amen! By the way, what time will you be back home? I need to talk to you about something.” Virat asked.
Niyati glanced at her wristwatch and replied, “Around 2 hours?”
“Virat, I want to talk about something too.”
Virat frowned. “About what?”
“I’ll come back and discuss. It’s better to talk in person.” Niyati said. She wanted Virat to know how she felt about Arpita and that they should ensure all was well with her. At the same time, she didn’t want Virat to be worried over her random musings on a phone call.
Virat could feel his heartbeat rising. Was Niyati going to discuss what he had been dreading? For once, he wondered if he should follow Niyati to the factory visit. But then, he gave it a pass for he had to make reservations for the dinner table.
Virat’s phone rang while he was on his way home. As soon as he parked the car on one side of the road and answered the call, Dadu started speaking on the other end. “Virat, is Niyati with you?”
“No Dadu… she is not.”
He was about to tell him more but Dadu quickly called Niyati too and included her in the conference call with them.
“Good evening, Dadu, is there anything urgent?” Niyati asked.
“Virat, Niyati, I want both of you to drop everything you are doing and reach the Paris Club. Right now.”
“What happened, Dadu?” Both Virat and Niyati spoke in unison.
“I’ll tell you when we meet,” Dadu declared, “It’s regarding something very important.”