Kismet - Excerpt
Tanvi took a deep breath and inhaled the sweet, floral scent of the many flowers crowded into the garden beds. Peacocks strutted around the grounds, the lone male’s tail feathers splayed proudly, showing off the beautiful green and turquoise plumes in his standard courtship ritual.
She was sitting in her usual spot, under a shade canopy provided by an Indian rosewood. It was her custom before her weekly meeting with George Benson, the Totally Five Star New Delhi Finance Manager. She loved coming to the hotel. It was like an oasis in the desert, providing her with much-needed respite from the sweaty heat and bodies of the city. A large kidney-shaped pond provided a tranquil vista. Fat gold and white koi drifted lazily, hiding under the water lilies then darting out to gulp down unsuspecting insects. The beautiful garden was her sanctuary, a peaceful haven that she used to think. She gazed around at the few hotel guests also taking refuge in the serenity, some reading, others just sitting and relaxing. She always allowed herself half an hour in the koi garden. It was enough time to recharge her batteries and shake off the grime of the city.
Tanvi looked at her watch, sighed and rose to her feet. She strode into the magnificent Totally Five Star foyer and took a moment to appreciate her surroundings. The air conditioning immediately provided a cool, crisp reprieve from the cloyingly hot outside temperature. Large bamboo ceiling fans rotated slowly, dispersing the cool air. Patchouli incense burned discreetly in brass burners spotted around the vast lobby. Large, ornate wall hangings of peacocks adorned the white walls. She’d determined some time ago that when she finally moved out of the suffocating environment of her family home, she was going to invest in one of the elaborate embroideries for herself. They were true works of art, particularly when one imagined the hard-working ladies of Rajasthan hunched over the black velvet fabric, needles strung with rich thread as they hand-sewed the birds in beautiful detail.
Handmade red and blue silk rugs lay scattered across the marble floors, giving a traditional look and feel. She glanced to her right and ran her hand admiringly across the highly polished surface of the sheesham wood side table. She loved the fact that the Totally Five Star had contracted Indian craftsmen to make all their furniture but had also ensured that the wood had been sustainably sourced. The grand foyer was dotted with lovely Indian-inspired sheesham furnishings, adding a decidedly authentic impression. She loved it.
She took a seat on one of the cotton-upholstered armchairs. Again, she’d been impressed by the hotel’s support of local employment and skill. They’d commissioned a not-for-profit organization to create the fabric using the traditional block printing technique. She smoothed a hand across the lush fabric and imagined the ladies hand-stamping the cotton in the traditional Rajasthan way. She looked at her watch again. George was running late. They generally met in the foyer first then decided if they would move to George’s office or the lobby restaurant. Tanvi hoped he’d opt for the restaurant. It overlooked the lovely grounds and she preferred it to George’s chaotic office.
She heard his telltale English accent and looked up. He was striding across the lobby, a pile of paperwork in one hand and a mobile in the other. His ruddy complexion was even redder today and he was breathing heavily, the Indian heat obviously getting to him. When he saw her, he broke into his usual good-natured smile. He hung up his mobile and tossed his paperwork on a nearby chair.
“Tanvi, my dear. How are you?”
Tanvi rose and smiled at the affable Englishman. She liked George and seeing him always made her day brighter. “George, I’m well.” She grasped his outstretched hand and indicated his paperwork with a nod. “I see we have some work ahead of us.”
He chuckled. “It’s not as bad as it looks, I assure you. Just some taxation matters to go over.”
“Shall we sit in the restaurant?” Tanvi proposed. “I could really use a cup of tea and one of your divine pastries.”
George gathered up his paperwork. “Of course. I could use a change of scenery. I’ve been dealing with payroll all morning.”
Tanvi looked at him in surprise. “Where’s your assistant?”
“Isha had some family matter to attend to.” He shrugged then chuckled. “She’ll be back soon and it’s good for me to get my hand in every now and again. I get rusty with the processes otherwise. It just means that I’m incredibly busy. I would have canceled our meeting this morning, but I need to go over these issues with you.”
“Are you sure you can take the time? I can come back when Isha has returned. Surely the tax can wait a few days?”
George winked at her. “Not at all, and besides, I too am looking forward to one of our fabulous pastries.” He rubbed his substantial belly. “Although my wife would have my head if she knew. She has me on a strict diet.” He gave a heavy sigh. “Cholesterol.”
They’d entered the lobby restaurant where the hotel guests were finishing their breakfasts. Tanvi gazed at the delicious spread of food—exotic fruit, yogurt, pastries and the famous South Indian pancakes, dosas, served with every imaginable accompaniment.
They found a vacant table by the window overlooking the koi garden. Tanvi glanced at the pile of paperwork in George’s arms, an idea popping into her head. She could fill in for Isha. It would give her some time out of the office and a much-needed change. She mentally checked her schedule. There was nothing urgent and she knew her father would approve of the idea—the Totally Five Star was one of their best clients, after all.
“George, why don’t I fill in for Isha? I have nothing that can’t wait and you look like you could use the help.”
George scratched his chin in thought. “It would help me out tremendously. Would your father mind?”
Tanvi smiled. “I’m sure he would be more than happy for me to assist. I’ll call him when we’ve concluded our meeting.”