“Listen…” Shanthi said, wrapping her arm around mine as we crossed the road towards the brightly lit house. “Relax, don’t worry, it’ll be fine, it’s just a couple hours.”
“Yeah, I know”
“So; ready??” she said and without waiting rang the doorbell.
Faint tunes of a familiar melody rang within the house. A few heavy steps and a second later, the door swung open.
“Hello, hello, welcome.”
Shanthi’s father, Pankaj Verma was a striking figure, six-two with a neatly trimmed French beard, square rimmed glasses, a deep baritone and a noticeable limp that he tried to camouflage with a walking stick. He squeezed my hand with a vigour and gave it a couple of firm downward tugs before finally letting it go. I wiped my nervous moist hands on my pants.
“Hello, I’m Anuj” I muttered as I shuffled inwards, back towards the wall.
Shanthi meanwhile already in a warm embrace of her father, barely registered my discomfort.
“Hello, Anuj, come; come inside”, Neelu Verma, a matronly aunty with a sallow thin face and an even thinner smile gestured inward into the depths of this unfamiliar home. The passage from the door led into a lavish living room and taking a seat on the roomy four-seater sofa, I drank in the room; the bookshelf crowded with medical texts, the framed photos of family trips, the neat centre table placed square in the middle, symmetrically dividing the entire room, and finally, finally the painting. The painting hung on the wall opposite the sofa was squarely opposite me and it was formidable. It was a face, except it wasn’t.