They were just about to leave for Breach Candy when the telephone rang. Cook who ruled the home frowned as driver made a move to answer it. He backed off and Cook picked it up answering in her best Marathi. She switched to English when she heard the voice of Memsahib on the line. There was a brief conversation and she went to the minivan to tell Bruce his mother was on the line. Bruce indicated to Curt he’d be back quickly and went to see what his mother wanted. Then beckoned to Curt to join them.
“Mom wants to welcome you to Mumbai!” Curt took the phone.
“Hi Aunt Victoria!” He listened for a while then laughed. “It was quite a culture shock on arrival, but I know I’m going to enjoy learning about this place. You guys have told us all about it on your visits but being here and seeing it happen is quite different. Bruce is taking me to a swimming club this afternoon and I’m looking forward to seeing you in the evening when you get home. My Mom has sent you lots of stuff from home.” He listened again and smiled, then said goodbye and hung up.
Turning to his cousin he said, “Let’s go!” and raced to the minivan.
An hour later sitting in deck chairs and relaxing after their swim Bruce looked at his watch. “Veena should be here soon!”
Curt opened his eyes and looked at his cousin. “Who is Veena?”
Her Dad is an industry big shot in New Delhi who does regular business with my Dad’s international bank. He’s loaded with money and stays with us sometimes when he can’t get a booking at his favourite hotel. I need to show you the mini-conference room Dad has at the house. We were in too much of a hurry to get here for me to have taken you around.”
“So Veena is a her, and just what would Veena be doing meeting you here?” Curt sensed a potential to tease his cousin.
Bruce understood what his cousin was up to and laughed. “Veena and I went to the international school here in Mumbai and she stayed at our place while Sis was home. It was my delegated job to see none of the guys troubled her at school and I took it seriously. She’s something like a sister to us. My sister Anita used to hang around with her before she went to France to hone her French language skills this year, so Veena’s Dad decided to place her with relatives while Anita is away. Veena works at my Dad’s bank now.”
Curt’s mind raced into gear. “This is the Veena you wrote to each week? You told me it was a guy? Hey, you’re a sneaky fellow. I’m certainly going to keep this one in mind.” He chuckled in anticipation while Bruce ignored him staring out to sea slightly flushed.
Curt focused on the entrance waiting to see what kind of woman would absorb his cousin’s time letter writing each week while they were in New York and further attempts to pry information out of Bruce ended abruptly. Bruce had been heavily into sports during his college years and had no time for girls. Could this be the reason?
Jet lag was catching up with him and the pleasant atmosphere of the outdoor pool and sun soon had him nodding off again. He awoke to find the chair beside him empty and studied the grounds then the pool standing as he did. On the second sweep of the pool he noted someone standing on the raft anchored in the middle of the pool waving and talking with a woman sitting with her feet dangling in the pool. Both dived in and swam toward Curt.
Veena reached the poolside first and turned to wait for Bruce who was making a leisurely dog paddle back. Eventually he arrived and both lifted themselves up over the side.
“Namaste Curtji,” Veena’s voice was musical and her brown eyes danced. Curt’s knees wobbled and he managed a muffled greeting trying to imitate the folded hands in return greeting. No wonder Bruce had been faithfully writing all that time, who wouldn’t? He caught several male sunbakers viewing her wistfully.
Veena towelled herself slowly studying Curt. “So, you’re the cousin who teased the life out of our poor Anvit during college years? You’re in our territory now yar so watch out!” She laughed pleasantly and then noting Curt’s embarrassment followed through. “We’ve all been dying to meet you as Anvit says he really had a good time with you.”
Curt smiled. “Sorry I’m still enduring jet lag so probably won’t make much sense for a couple of days. However, despite your warning I’ve sworn an oath to the tease gods to continue giving Bruce a hard time.”
At this Veena doubled up with laughter. I’ll join you in that then!” She departed laughing toward the dressing rooms finishing towelling off and putting on dry clothes, to present soon in jeans and cotton blouse with summer flower prints.
As she emerged in the distance Curt remarked, “She’s spectacular!”
Bruce looked at his cousin and laughed. “That’s the most sensible thing you’ve said all day.”
Veena spoke as she reached them. “Anvit are we meeting at your house this evening still?”
“Yes, I contacted our old gang from High School days and they’re coming over to meet cousin Curt.”
Veena nodded. “That’s good, because I’m planning on coming to your place with you now and I’ll see if Curt has messed up the room I stay in when Anita’s home. That room is on loan to you Curt so treat it with respect!” She laughed as she saw Curt trying to process whether she was serious or not.
Collecting their things Bruce and Curt headed for the dressing room to change while Veena chatted animatedly with the people checking members in at the entrance.
When they appeared at the exit their driver Ramesh who’d been chatting with the watchman sighted them and rushed to get the van while they stood waiting at the entrance. Soon they were retracing their journey up Malibar Hill to the bungalow catching glimpses of lights beginning to twinkle over the city with a brilliant sunset fading over the Arabian Sea.
Veena was the first out of the van and ran around the house looking for Victoria who was found giving cook directions for the evening event in honour of Curt’s arrival. The two emerged from the kitchen area with Veena’s arm around Victoria. It was obvious they were very close, and Curt wondered at their close relationship. Was there something more to Bruce’s letter writing than met the eye? He determined to quiz his cousin when everyone had left after the party.
To be continued.
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