None of my own board members had considered it necessary to fly over from Paris for these meetings so I was the accepted lead executive from our side. Not once did Mr Singh even suggest that given his stature and position, he would have expected our managing director to be present; and if he had suggested it, I would have agreed. When we settled down in the richly luxurious and clearly expensive settings of his room, he offered me a cigar and we lit up together. Our discussions were not focussed on work; instead I learned a considerable amount of the history of his royal family and the city of Jaipur.

We were back in the conference room a little after 2:30 pm. In half an hour, Mr Singh leaned over towards me and whispered as I bent forward, "Do you want to go back to Delhi 2019-10-29 (Tue) 19:40:26 I think our presence is not required till the next set of meetings which we will have in your offices." I was nonplused and looked at him with obvious surprise on my face when he smiled briefly and turned back to the audience. He told them that he had some issues he needed to discuss with me and that they should continue thrashing out the details. Then, with a hand on my elbow, he ushered me out of the room.

As we got into a waiting elevator, he said "I know you know that we will agree with most of your askings. And you also have a look as though you want to be with someone back in Delhi. Am I right?" I looked at his face and he had a mischievous smile accompanying the twinkle in his eyes. I couldn't help burst out into laughter. We walked across the foyer with his arm lightly on my shoulders, talking in soft undertones as members of his office staff looked on in awe; some even in open-mouthed wonder.

I thanked him profusely as we shook hands, and then he personally held the car door open for me as the driver stood aside in confusion. What a wonderfully charming man! He waved as the Maybach started its smooth ride back to the airport

Captain Jagjit and Ms Anjali were in attendance as soon I was driven directly to the tarmac at the airport. This time we took a little longer to get clearance for takeoff but were in the air by 4:30 pm. Ms Anjali, the flight attendant, provided me with a fresh wet towel and a drink of water. She then plied me with some un goƻter or quatre-heures as we say in French; like a small meal kids have in the late afternoon when they return from school. The flight was barely more than an hour but landing at New Delhi unfortunately was delayed because of heavy traffic at that time and we were put into a holding pattern for almost 40 minutes.

By the time I got home, given Delhi's evening rush hour, it was almost 8:00 pm and I hadn't informed my maid about the change in plans; she would be expecting me only tomorrow morning. On reaching my apartment building I thanked the driver, took the unused overnighter from him, and headed for the elevator. The sensor-triggered lights came on in the vestibule upstairs where I dug out the key card from my all-purpose portfolio and used it to open the penthouse door silently .

I entered my apartment to complete darkness and was reaching instinctively for the light switch when I wondered suddenly if my maid was at home, and if she was, was she asleep. Not wanting to disturb her if she was, I walked to my bedroom as my eyes grew accustomed to the darkness and I realised that there was in fact some dim lighting that helped me across the room. Shutting the door quietly behind me, I turned on a bedside lamp and laid my bag on the bed. I took a few moments to wash up and change out of my formal wear into a pair of jeans and a denim shirt. When I walked out, I left the door open a crack to allow some of the light to filter through.

Silently, I walked to the bar and kitchen area, found a tumbler, opened the refrigerator and scooped out a couple of cubes of ice. Dropping them quietly into the glass, I left the refrigerator door open and used the light to hunt for a bottle of scotch in the cabinet under the bar counter. Finding an opened bottle of Old Pulteney 21, I poured a generous amount of malt into the crystal, shut the refrigerator door and walked to the glass panelled wall that separated the room from the terrace garden outside. While I stared outside into the near darkness, I noticed a reflection in the glass of a long but dim beam of light escaping from the maidservant's room.

The door was open about two inches and I walked quietly towards it, thinking I had been right not to disturb Suni. As I approached, I discerned the soft and deep strains of a bass and drum rhythm emanating from her room, sounding very similar to tantric sexuality music I knew from YouTube. When I reached the opening, I was startled as the faint light struck my eyes and hastily stepped away. Staying in the shadows, I walked up to the doorjamb and peered inside as the drumbeats sounded clearer, though still at a very low volume. There was a table lamp on by her bedside, with an ochre yellow cloth of some flimsy material draped over the top, creating an ambient golden hue that bathed the room.

Taking a sip of the whiskey, I used my toe to push the door in another couple of inches so I could get a better view of the room and decide whether or not to disturb her, wondering whether she was awake or not. I had been longing for her all day and didn't quite understand why I was so concerned about disturbing her if she was resting or sleeping. My first clear view of the bed showed her lying down with her head on the pillow, legs stretched out. She was, as she did most of the time, wearing a saree; it was a powder blue dress with a darker midnight blue border that ran along the hem and the drape, or 'pallu' as it is known.

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Last-modified: 2019-10-29 (Tue) 19:40:26 (496d)