Jake peered through his airplane window, moments before touchdown. A jumble
of psychedelic specks approached rapidly, like a moving kaleidoscope.
Yes, this was India. He could see it humming with colourful activity.
Soon he would be immersed in it.
A blast of scorching summer heat greeted Jake and
Samantha as they stepped out of the plane at the Indira Gandhi International
Airport, New Delhi. It felt like a stifling sauna, laden with humidity and high
Having cleared customs and immigration, the
twosome picked up their baggage and made their way out to the taxi-stand.
"Now what, Jake?"
"I'm not sure, but for starters, I'm going to
find us a five star hotel. I just hope they will accept cash without too many
questions. Credit cards will make tracking us down far too easy. Jake wiped his
sweat-soaked forehead into his sleeve and continued, "Once we are settled
in, I'd like to share what I've pieced together with you. We can then move
on to some concrete strategy planning."
Jake whistled down a black and yellow,
three-wheeler auto rickshaw, puttering and sputtering on a little scooter
"Best five star hotel."
"Yes, sahib. Me take you to the best. And if
sahib want tour or anything, me get it. Sahib rent me for day or whole week, if
The drive through New Delhi was quite an
experience. The main road was divided by a garden island throughout its entire
length. Flowers in an array of colours were intermingled with dancing fountains,
arranged in various patterns. The cabby mumbled in his broken English -
something about colourful lights doing nightly shows with the jets. Jake and
Samantha noticed that the burst of vibrant hues didn't just end there. It
extended to the clothing and jewellery that adorned the native women and
children - different in form, style and texture, but consistently brightly
The actual display of means ranged from extreme
poverty and destitution, to an obscene amount of wealth and grandeur. While the
rich areas boasted homes closer to palaces than residential units, the slums
showed dilapidated sidewalks, inhabited by children squealing and frolicking
amidst heat, dirt and squalor - right beside mutilated beggars. Despite their
living conditions, their bony faces displayed generous, toothy smiles.
As the road wound around the belly of India Gate
and made its way through repetitive city segments, Jake discerned that the
metropolis appeared to be divided into little communities - complete with
schools, housing, shopping and workplaces. According to the rickshaw fellow, it
was arranged to facilitate travel by foot, bicycle, or any other means of
transportation - all sharing the streets with equal rights. Jake found the
traffic density and chaos to be mind-boggling.
Being bombarded by the eccentric, Jake thought to
himself, so this is the city where the beautiful, enchanting and powerful
Princess Shanti Choudhry lives - the woman who holds the key to settling the
age-old feud between the last two royal Rajput dynasties. But her time is about
to run out - just as soon as her twenty-first birthday, or the recovery of the
infamous signet ring.
Jake resented Norman's involvement in such an
omnipotent game, since it had indirectly dragged innocent lives into it. But
knowing the thrill his own viscera were experiencing, he could certainly
understand why. At times, he almost felt envious of what Norman must have
experienced - an intimate involvement with Shanti, influencing history, and
being married to Samantha. A jolt of excitement made Jake's spine shudder when
he compared it to his own banal existence - up until now that is. Yes - he was
definitely going to enjoy the exhilarating ride, however perilous.
The little three-wheeler putt-putted its way into
the majestic driveway of The Oberoi Hotel. Flags from at least a hundred
different countries garnished its neatly pruned border.
Jake paid the fare, and a generous tip, and asked
the cabby to return at ten the following morning - for an entire day.
The cabby folded his hands together in a
prayer-like fashion, and said, "Namaste, sahib. Sunil be back
Sharply dressed bellboys secured Jake and
Samantha's luggage and piled it onto fancy brass trolleys. The duo was then
ushered into an opulent marble lobby - dressed like a tropical garden - with
waterfalls and flamboyant floral arrangements. Fine Tabriz carpets dressed the
walls and floors alike. Jake couldn't fathom the time and labour that must have
gone into such precise, intricate detail. While enjoying the Indian splendour,
Jake noticed that the hotel managed to be westernized enough for familiarity. It
certainly wasn't the pristine India he had hoped to travel one day. Then again,
plenty of adventure lay ahead of them, despite their comfortable accommodations.
As Jake arrived at the check-in counter, the
receptionist inquired, "Will that be a queen-size bed with a suite, or a
Right up until that moment, Jake hadn't even
contemplated the rooming situation. The very thought of asking his travel
companion made him cringe. Samantha saw his hesitation and bailed him out by
suggesting they take the queen-suite option - to conserve funds.
Following their speedy check-in and freshening up,
Jake knew that he needed to apprise Samantha of everything he had learned.
Ensuring a comfortable position on the couch, Jake
presented the extraordinary account of Norman's involvement in the Far East
The tale began with the recent tension that had
been plaguing the country, with various groups vying for prominence - the Rajput
royalties being a case in point. With the few regal families remaining, cohesion
had become a greater priority than competition - to keep them from becoming
extinct. Dynasties that at one time were constantly engaged in conflict to prove
supremacy one over another, now tried to establish harmony, using marriage
alliances and iron-clad betrothal agreements. Needless to say, they were taken
very seriously, with no viable options for nullification. But the late Mr.
Norman Fairchild tried to challenge the very core of such an arrangement -
perhaps the most compelling one at that, because, if unfulfilled, it could
The contract in question was initiated for the
unification of the last of two equally powerful purebred Rajput dynasties - the
Choudhrys and the Ranas - who had always locked horns in proving sovereignty
over each other. Their age long dispute had continually disintegrated the
blue-bloods - secondary to mixed marriages with non-royalties - because neither
was willing to put aside their differences and marry into the only other family
in their class. That is, until twenty years ago, when Princess Shanti Choudhry
and Prince Ranjit Rana were born to their respective lineage, on the same day.
It was seen as fate reaching out her hand, to give the ruling class Rajputs one
final chance at self-preservation.
A decree proclaimed that on their twenty-first
birthday, Shanti Choudhry and Ranjit Rana were to be married. Grand festivities
celebrated the betrothal that was to unite the two progeny.
The National Museum of History honoured the
importance of the occasion, by pledging the royal Rajput seal to the bride and
groom, in the form of a signet ring. It was to culminate the joining of the two
royalties into a single imperial realm.
The colossal agreement further outlined that if
either party was to back out, they would inadvertently give over to the other
all rights to dominion - as designated by the signet ring - thereby completely
aborting their own status, and future claims as royalty. For obvious reasons,
nobody remotely suspected that either child would selfishly go against it.
The betrothed couple was not allowed to as much as
see each other until their wedding day. The elders believed that matters of the
heart were bound to stand in the way of proper upbringing and education, not to
mention compromised standards. They felt that there would be time enough to fall
in love after the wedding was a fait accompli.
Samantha interrupted the tense story by inquiring
as to how Norman's article fit into any of it. Jake
explained that the article had nothing to do with the enraged reactions against
Norman or Allen. It was one of several like it that continually dress the papers
- written by various journalists - in the altruistic hopes of using exposure as
a weapon to free people from bondage. There are so many of them that they don't
even flinch an eyebrow anymore, least of all motivate murder. Jake concluded
that the article was merely a cover-up to keep her innocent to the lethal
Jake went on to describe how Norman met Shanti -
meaning `peace' - while working on his doctorate on Indian studies. Norman's
path repeatedly crossed Shanti's, who was trying to familiarize herself with the
history of the Rajputs.
Norman's fascination with Shanti grew intensely as
he discovered the woman who was brighter than anyone he had ever met, but still
naive and innocent at heart. She could win any debate and quote history and
politics with an unmatched zeal. Yet she remained totally unaware of the sensual
power she possessed over any man who laid eyes on her.
Despite the various women who fancied Norman, he
fell hopelessly in love with the one forbidden fruit - a woman betrothed to
another man. This carried grave implications.
At first he loved her privately, from afar. But
then his unrequited love almost became an obsession. He had to have the virgin
who was being saved for another.
It wasn't long before he became unable to keep it
to himself. He made his love known to her. He toyed with the impressionable
princess's feelings in trying his best to convince her to leave the barbaric
bargain behind - in favour of sailing away to a life of true love and passion
with him. Knowing she couldn't really do that to her people, Norman went as far
as promising to steal the signet ring for them, exchanging their sovereignty for
her hand in marriage - something they themselves had done, in a manner of
Samantha inquired about what made Shanti
the kind of woman who had the power to change the future and make men lose
Jake replied that Norman had characterized her as
having the wit of Solomon, graceful moves of a jaguar, timidness of a kitten,
and the charisma of Cleopatra. Physically, he described her as having long,
shiny, brown hair that gave a hazel reflection to her light green eyes - cat's
eyes, as they're known in these parts. Norman also talked about her straight and
dainty nose with a brilliant diamond shining off it - almost as attractive as
the dimple on her chin.
Jake paused to look at the freckle on Sam's nose
and the dimple that graced her chin. As he gawked at his object of desire, he
couldn't help but notice the fear that plagued her eyes. Jake decided to break
away from the story, to give Samantha a brief distraction.
Holding her chin gently in his hand, he kissed her
dimple and smiled. "Sounds kind of like this little gem." Jake noticed Samantha's face flush. But in as much
as he wanted to scoop her up in his arms, and make love to her right then and
there, he didn't dare make the first move - in light of her response to his
previous advance. It was up to her to make it happen.
Samantha's full lips started to tremble as she
pressed them against Jake's sensual mouth. Feeling her desire, his tongue began
tracing them delicately, whetting her appetite. Samantha responded by reaching
down to feel his pelvis. Her exciting touch shook his spine as he realized that
his unfulfilled dreams were about to transcend into a satiated reality. The
thrill of the moment closed his eyes and sent shivers through his body as he let
out a big moan, tilting his head backwards. The undulating movement through his
body pushed his erection harder into her hand.
"Are you sure about this, Sammy?"
Samantha replied by unfastening his shirt buttons
and blowing on the perspiration that glistened his erect nipples. She then
proceeded to lick his firm, muscular chest. Her tongue travelled along the thin
midline of hair - leading the way to the generous mat of curls that announced
his phallus. Her hands shook as she tried to undo the buttoned fly on his white
linen shorts. Their soft texture and loose cut revealed the excited member that
rippled within. Samantha's arousal peaked as the fabric fell to the ground,
making Jake's vulnerable organ available to her - to do with it as she pleased.
Samantha indulged it by consuming it like a melting ice-cream on a hot summer
Being totally taken by her ravaging lust, Jake
untied the little straps that held up her sundress. As her garment also fell to
the floor, her soft sumptuous breasts got perky, her nipples darkened, becoming
taut with excitement. Jake took them, one by one, into the moist cavern of his
mouth, teasing them with his strong tongue. He remembered the day before when
she brought her body to complete gratification, and hoped he would not fall
short of satisfying her with the same intensity.
muscular arms, with veins throbbing within them, carried Samantha to the firm,
queen-size bed. He placed her across its width, her hair dangling off the edge.
Every inch of her body was covered in goose-bumps, despite the obvious heat.
Jake began devouring her - licking, sucking, kissing everything that came in his
path. His mouth finally landed at the bare film of cotton bikini that clung to
her seat of throbbing tension. One swift pull and the obstacle was torn off her
flesh. There lay the exuberant split fruit, liberally framed by soft, dense
coils of hair, displaying its desire to be partaken of.
Jake salaciously indulged the little soldier that
stood firm, guarding her gates of paradise. As he felt her tense and vibrate
from the excitement of the upcoming rapture, he entered her. Slowly and
rhythmically he thrust into her - trying to give her the unhurried pleasure of
tantric sex - alternating focus between the yin and the yang. His staying power
amazed her. He had the vigour of youth made for hours of enjoyment, but without
the initial delirium that ends things too quickly. Jake persisted in satisfying
Samantha's hunger until she couldn't hold off anymore. She lifted her hips
against his, engulfing him deeper -and allowed them to convulse into a
For the next hour, Jake and Samantha lay
undisturbed in each other's arms, relishing what they had just experienced,
drifting in and out of the inevitable delicious exhaustion.
Samantha finally broke the tranquillity and
giggled, "You have got to stop telling me bedtime stories, Dr. Alexander.
One never knows what the tension can do."
Jake pulled her closer, wishing to melt their
bodies into one, evaporating the gap that could identify them as two.
Intoxicating kisses punctuated his loving pillow-talk, capturing the tenderness
of the moment. But as luck would have it, the venomous intrusion into their
otherwise perfect relationship returned to overtake Jake's mind.
Jake stared at Samantha's beautiful eyes that
looked up at him in awe, and said, "Shall I complete your story now?"
"I really wish that there were no story at
all, but since that's just wishful thinking, we might as well finish with it. We
need to move on to figuring a way out of this mess."
Jake continued, "Since Norman was a very
bright man, and an obsessed one at that, he convinced Shanti that he would do
whatever it took to bring them together. Being a man of his word, driven by a
major goal, he somehow managed to steal the signet ring from the museum. It was
the only way he knew to get her to betray her ancestors, since the ring would
ensure they were not robbed of their royal lineage on her account. Norman had
hoped to keep it hidden until after the negotiations had been completed, but,
unfortunately for Romeo and Juliet, they didn't even make it that far.
"An informant told Norman to get out fast,
knowing that the Choudhrys were after his blood. Allen convinced Norman to take
the advice, since Shanti had already disappeared without a trace. Rumour has it
that she is still locked up somewhere within the Choudhry mansion... As for
the Ranas, they are enraged over the missing ring - ready for war, if need
"How did Allen get involved in all of
"The smell of adventure and justice drew
Allen from thousands of miles away, under the pretence of helping his best
friend and his charming love, Shanti."
"But why did he have to get me mixed up in a
selfish one-man feud against an amicable, benign arrangement?"
"Sammy, the taste of living on the edge can
make any man's head spin. We do things without thinking, and sometimes screw up
- not knowing how to get ourselves out of potentially lethal situations. Allen
probably just made a poor judgement call, under intense pressure and acute time
restraints. I don't think he himself appreciated the magnitude of the ordeal he
had stepped into. To him, it was probably just a silly arranged marriage."
"What happens now?"
"Now, we both take the rest of the day to
read Norman's memoirs, to figure out where he might have hidden the omnipotent
signet ring... because I strongly believe, that is the purpose behind us
being scared off, half way across the globe."
"And if we find it ?"
"We'll worry about that if and when it
happens. My hunch is that the only way out would be to get the Ranas and the
Choudhrys together, and hand over the ring to the police in their presence -
absolving both dynasties of culpability. Any other way could backfire and make
their animosity worse than ever, with them deflecting blame on each other. I
just hope it works - freeing us."
With that statement, Jake walked over to his
briefcase and removed bundles of paper - neatly separated by ribbons wrapped
around them like gift packaging. He handed half to Samantha and kept half for
Raising the thumb of his right fist, Jake
declared, "Here's hoping we get lucky."