“Are you out of your mind?” he spat angrily.
Zoya straightened herself quickly, and grabbed her stole from the back of her seat, which had fallen from her shoulders during her sleep.
Their driver had already hopped out of the vehicle after parking their SUV in the enormous lawn of the haveli (manor).
“Get off now, everyone is waiting at the entrance,” Shahzeb stated in a rough tone.
She hopped out from the SUV in nanoseconds. Covering her head with her net dupatta, she wrapped her stole tightly around her shoulders as the chill air hit her warm body. She accompanied him to the big arched entrance of the manor which was beautifully covered with bougainvillea shrubs, whose pink small flowers had blossomed into bunches, making the whole arch alluringly beautiful.
As they reached the open arched entrance of the indoor chambers, Saba apa was already waiting for them there with Nawaaz veerji. Their faces were shining with delight and full blown smiles were playing on their lips.
“Salaam,” they greeted them in unison. Saba and Nawaaz both answered their salaam. Saba apa came forward and embracing them in a warm hug placed a soft kiss on their foreheads. They turned towards Nawaaz veerji, who enveloped Shahzeb in a brotherly embrace and patted on his shoulder.
“So sahabzade (endearment for son), what took you so long to come back to the haveli this time? Didn’t you miss your parents?” he asked Shahzeb as they proceeded to the hallway.
“Well veerji, you know the ongoing project is becoming a hell of a lot hectic for me. At least I was not expecting any complaint from you,” he told him accusingly.
“Yes my love, I know that you have been working really hard on this project. But always remember one thing; family comes first. Anyway, you haven’t started your family life yet, so let’s drop it for the near future,” he manifested ardently.
Saba apa and Zoya were following them as they reached the diwankhana (main lounge). A servant took their minimum luggage to their rooms while they sat down on the big diwans, made of the finest brocade silk and plush leather sofas. The entire manor was the symbol of luxury and antique architecture. Although they had renovated it with modern amenities, it was still elegantly decorated with ancient wooden and copper artistic furniture and show pieces.
A servant brought refreshments and pleasantries and set it on the glass-top lounge table.
Zoya stood up to meet amma, but before she could leave for amma’s private chamber to meet her, amma herself appeared through the open arch of the corridor.
“Salaam,” she ran towards the older lady who was smiling affectionately. She opened her arms for Zoya after answering her salaam, and took her in a warm joyous embrace. The older lady kissed her forehead.
“I missed you amma,” Zoya told the older lady, and made her sit with her on the diwan (couch). She was still holding her arms in one of hers. Amma was so occupied with her beloved daughter-in-law that she forgot her only son. Or was she doing it purposely?
“Is there any chance for me to present my apologies?” Shahzeb bent his knees and squatted down on the fluffy Irani carpet in front of amma, as he placed his hands on her knees and took her weak cold hands into his large warm ones.
“Who is he, Zoya? I don’t know him,” the older lady sarcastically queried Zoya about her handsome son’s identification. Anger was visible in her tone as she tried to snatch her hand from his firm grip.
Saba, Nawaaz and Zoya just smiled at her childlike anger. Shahzeb placed a soft kiss on her knuckles and brought the older lady’s hands to his eyes. He knew he had to face her temporary wrath as he was coming back to the haveli after two months. But he had no other option, as he was in the process of establishing a factory in Japan which was a merged venture of his leather export business with Japanese associates. It needed his undivided attention to complete it on time, although it had been almost two years now since the endeavor had started.
“You know I was busy, or else I would have never taken two months to come back to you. And I was connected with you through the phone anyway,” he told his beloved mother, resting his head on her knees.
Zoya was looking at him like an awestruck puppy. He was always like this; like an ocean full of love; like the first rain drops of cherished adoration for his family. She was the only unlucky person in his family, or to be precise his only family, who had been deprived of his love.
“You surely know how to fade my anger away,” amma told in a bit shaky voice due to her emotional state, kissing his luxuriant silky jet black hair which were proudly spread on his head.
She took hold of his hand and made him sit beside her. “How many days do you have here?” she asked Shahzeb.