First day of the eighth month of the year. Summer showed no signs of breaking down as the heat was still at its peak. I, for once, was not in some scorching factory with no air conditioning. I stood inside a room in Raj Gupta’s mansion. Despite the fact that it was Sunday, I was still at work. After all, it was a special one week where Shakkar Raj Gupta would be in Japan. This is what I had been waiting for for the past month and a half.
With that said though, there was an obstacle right in front of me. A neat, white dress shirt, black pants, a tailcoat and a bowtie. It was my work uniform.
“No matter how you look at it, it’s a butler uniform isn’t it?” I had been tricked. Mr.Tsumihara clearly said that I was being sent due to my efficient work in the kitchen. So, why had I been given a butler uniform. This was not what I signed up for.
*Knock* *Slam* there was violent knocking on the door, followed by a crude voice, “Hurry up! You’ve been in there forever. The master is coming.”
I guess I had no choice at this point. I Changed into my uniform and went out. All of the other butlers and maids had lined up along a red carpet. I also positioned myself at the end of the butler line.
What I did not understand was that, no one was coming despite our wait. We were just standing there in the same posture for five minutes. And then finally, a car pulled up in front of the main gate. The gatekeeper practically ran to open the door of the car. What came out of the car was a little girl in a green frilly dress, followed by a dark skinned lady in golden sari, complemented by her chestnut hair curling down to just above her exposed midriffs, stealing everyone’s stares, as no one noticed the person that came out after her. Except me of course, because he was the whole reason why I was working here in the first place. The wheat skinned man, with red hair and mustache in a white tuxedo, Shakkar Raj Gupta himself.
The little girl was about to run in when the lady, obviously her mother, stopped her as the owner got out and linked arms with his missus.
“Welcome, Master,” all of the butlers and maids announced simultaneously as the family slowly treaded the red carpet into the mansion. I would’ve died rather than saying that so all I did was lip sync with the others.
As they entered the mansion, the queue of servants behind her symmetrically followed them inside and then back to their stations. Thankfully, I was now free of that torture as I headed towards the kitchen.
“Hey, what are you doing here?,” a loud voice hit me as soon as I stepped into the kitchen. At first I thought it was someone else getting scolded, but I realized it was me as soon as that hit me again, “Why are you standing there with a stupid face. I asked, what are you, a butler, doing in the kitchen?” A large man with a chef hat approached me.
His demeanor clearly branded ‘head chef’, the boss in the kitchen.
“I am Negai Hoshino. I was sent here by Manager Tsumihara.”
“From the Tokyo branch. I see, that explains your attire.”
“(So, Tsumihara knew about the butler job all along.)” I wanted to be angry, but there were more important things to worry about.
“Anyways, get to work. Don’t bother changing, just get an apron,” head chef ordered me before going back to supervising the other cooks. Unlike the cafe, this was a very large kitchen. Because there weren’t only desserts, but other meals also being prepared. Thus, a number of chefs occupied the kitchen. For a moment, I thought ‘was I even needed?’ but soon found my answer. As the number of chefs working on the desserts were scarce. In fact, there were only two and one of them was the head chef so essentially, only one.
So, it was true that Raj Gupta only ate desserts from Mithaas, otherwise he could’ve just hired pâtissiers from other places like all the other chefs. But I was more concerned about Mr.Tsumihara’s choice of sending me, knowing full well that I was not the main chef, Mr.Fuji was. But he still sent me even if there would be a chance that I could not provide the owner with the desserts that he desired.
Despite my lack of skill, I approached the dessert chef with confidence.
“Please tell me whatever you want me to do,” the chef looked at me with confusion.
“Oh, are you the one sent from the branch?”
“Ahh, good. So you can finally take over here,” his expression immediately turned into that of relief.
“This is your position. I was just covering for you until you arrived. Now I can get back to my position.” with that he left with an ecstatic face.
“(Wait a minute. What is happening. I am just an assistant. Why am I being put in charge all of a sudden.)” logic had already left my mind, as I had no idea what was going on anymore. I was at an unknown place with no one telling me what I was supposed to do. Only bombshells being dropped one after another.
“Why are you standing like a statue,” the head chef’s frightening voice didn’t even let me process the situation, “Get to work.”
“Yes.” I didn’t want to do it.
“Good. The master is leaving for his next appointment, so he won’t be eating right now. All he needs is milk tea for now. Get it prepared for all three of them.” His words sent a vibe of relief down my spine.
I dodged the bullet for now. Tea was something anyone could make. If that was just it, I could do it. Though sooner or later, there would be an order to prepare proper desserts.
I prepared the tea, put it in cups and then put it in a decorated tray with some biscuits and it was done. Now, I just needed someone to pick and serve them.
“What are you doing? The tea is getting cold,” once again it was the head chef with his loud voice.
“Yes, please call someone to take this.” I asked him since I could not see a window or anything to call the servants like there was in the café. But the head chef was preparing to drop the next bombshell.
“What are you talking about? You are here as the personal aid for the master. Why else are you wearing that butler uniform? Loose the apron and get going.”
Of course. I started pushing the serving trolley outside. I really needed to have a conversation with Mr.Tsumihara about the ‘kitchen duties’ that I was going to do here.
The Raj Gupta family was sitting in the veranda chatting. I served them their tea. One sip of his tea and Raj Gupta put it back.
“What’s your name?” he asked me in an ominous tone.
“From the Tokyo branch, I presume.”
“No wonder,” his face lost his tension, “You see, I like my tea with choco-cubes instead of sugar,” he told me with a smile. I could only wonder what would’ve happened if I was not some part timer.
“I would bring you some right away.”
That was a weird way of drinking tea, to say the least. I brought them a jar of packs of choco-cubes. Shakkar Raj Gupta put two of them inside his cup. While the little girl put one. That was understandable, she was a child after all. And children like chocolate in basically everything. Her mother on the other hand did not put any. Finally, someone who was normal.
“This is nice. You make nice chai,” she also complimented me the best she can. Clearly she could not speak the language very well.
Seeing that they had no other say, I slipped away.
Shakkar Raj Gupta left for his appointment. Apparently, he had an interview at a TV show. The show itself would air at night. He was going for the recording. And now, there wasn’t much for me to do. It was the first day, so there wasn’t really much to do in the kitchen for me. Everything was prepared. In the mansion, there would be different tasks from time to time but there were already enough servants that there wasn’t really a need for me to do anything.
And hence I found myself surprisingly free. My daily work routine had become so packed that this much free time felt wrong. But I had to change that mindset. In hindsight, this was better. Because I could investigate the Raj Gupta family easily now. I had only eight days to execute my plan and take down Shakkar Raj Gupta. And it would be best if I could do it without him realizing my identity.
I was sitting at the podium outside the mansion when suddenly, the little girl came running, “Mommy. Mommy, look. Such a big garden.”
I immediately stood up. The little girl ran past me without even noticing.
“Don’t run or you’ll fall, dear,” the mother came after her.
“But Mommy, there is such a big garden, let’s play,” the child in all her innocence just wanted to have fun. But the mother was very wary of her attire and her safety.
But then she saw me. It looked like she was picking her words in her head to talk to me, so I instead said it myself, “I’ll go with her.”
Seeing that I volunteered myself, she bowed. “Much gratitude. Please look after Aroma.”
I went after the little girl, Aroma. She was a normal little girl. And normal people were just what I needed to observe. There are no better faces to read than the normal innocent faces of children.
She was an active kid that liked to jump and run around like any normal kid. But was that normal? Definitely not. Shakkar Raj Gupta was the owner of a multinational company, yet her daughter was still fascinated by large gardens and big houses. And then I noticed her dress. The ribbon on her back was tied in a weird shape.
“Young mistress,” I stopped her as she was jumping around. At first, she looked confused whether I was addressing her or someone else. But ultimately, there was no one besides her there. I took her inside and asked a maid to fix her dress. The maid took Aroma into a room.
“(So, did you learn something from her?)” Dee asked.
“(She is a little child. What am I supposed to learn from her?)” I teased Dee a little.
“(Oh stop playing dumb. That weird brain of yours can extract information from the dead. She is still a child.)”
“(Haha. You’re right.)”
“(So, what did you learn?)”
“(She isn’t used to this at all. Neither she nor her family. She gets excited by almost every little thing. She acts like any kid from the neighborhood. Because she is in fact one of them. Raj Gupta was a nobody, even back in India. In fact, he could’ve been beyond poor.)”
“(What makes you think that.)’
“(They came here straight from the airport. Means they got ready at their homes. The dress Aroma was wearing was most likely done by her mother. But if she can’t even tie a ribbon properly, then it clearly shows that she had never seen such a dress before. Also, did you look at how confused Aroma looked when I called her young mistress.)”
“(No doubts there.)”
“(These points only solidify my theory about Shakkar Raj Gupta being a wisher.)”
“(Glad to know that the preparations we did were for the right man.)”
“So you are not at the café anymore?” Myra’s intrigued voice came from the other side of the phone.
“Yes, I will be at the mansion this week,” I replied into my phone, sitting on my bed.
“It is supposed to be much easier work but to be honest, I felt much more hectic than usual.”
“Working for the owner is a great position at a workplace, but for a part time job, I don’t know.”
“Un huh,” again. She has been giving me these verbal nods. So, this time I remained silent, demanding her to speak. “So,” she said, finally telling me what had her mind occupied, “you wore a butler uniform.” Of course, any real problem I might have is pointless before a butler outfit.
“I have been telling you about my serious work life and that’s what caught your attention.”
“Sorry, but a butler outfit is much more interesting than your work life. Ah, why is it Sunday today? I wanted to see you in that. Will you wear it tomorrow, too?”
“I am not wearing it outside the mansion at all.”
“Eh? Why?” she sounded extremely disappointed, “Can’t you for one day only?”
“Then how about I come to yo-”
“Jeez, why are you so antsy all of a sudden. It’s not like it's a confidential thing or anything. Everyone at the mansion sees you so why can’t I?” She was right, everyone in the mansion did.
“Fine, you can.” so it was only fair that she could too.
“But! Only if you wear a maid outfit.” But it would really be fair when she would qualify as a member of the mansion.
“Because, as you said, everyone in the mansion sees me. Everyone in the mansion, wearing either a butler or maid uniform. Do the same and I’ll allow it.”
“But, that’s not fair.” Of course it was not and one-sidedly forcing me to wear one was extremely fair. “Can’t I be like your boss. Whatever his name is?”
“No, the owner.”
“Oh, Raj Gupta.”
“Yup,” then as if she realized something, “Isn’t he on TV tonight?”
“He is.” And I wanted to see him too. I didn’t know the time or channel, so I had planned to watch the video online but if it was airing right now, then why not.
“I don’t know actually. Why not cycle through the channels,” I said as I went down into the living room and switched on the TV.
“Found him,” Myra reported.
“That was fast.”
Myra told me the channel and I switched to that channel. He was wearing the same tux he was during the day. The interview had been going for some time now where he explained his obsession with sweets and his inspiration to start this company.
“You see, I had always believed that the sweets I made were one of a kind. But I never got the breakthrough until the board finally came to India. It was a funny story, because those people wouldn’t even let me near their camp. But all I wanted was for the dish, not me, to get to them. And when it did, look where it got me.”
The audience clapped in the background.
“The important part is to keep yourself down to earth. To stay connected with your roots. And hence, there will be special discounts on cakes in general for this week. Whether it’s your birthday or any other celebration, we are launching six special cakes for you.”
As the audience clapped, the screen transitioned into a still shot of the ad. The new variety of cakes on display with the Mithaas logo and address on the display.
“(Negai stop here.)” For some reason Dee started acting uneasily.
“(Stop the video. I want to look at that poster.)” But obviously it was a television broadcast, I had no control over it. And soon the ad faded. “(Where is it? I told you to stop it.)”
“What’s the matter with you?” I said.
“Is something wrong,” I had forgotten I was still on the phone.
“Sorry, I wasn’t talking to you. Something came up, I need to hang up.”
“Okay. Bye.” And the line cut. Good thing she was so obedient sometimes.
“What is it? Why are you being so fidgety?” Now I could give my full attention to Dee.
“(That ad. I want to see it again.)”
“Ok,Ok.” I took my phone and pulled out that feed on the web and paused the video on the poster. “Here. What is it?”
“(What is that on the bottom corner,)”
“That is a cake. I am sure you know what that is by now.”
“(Not that. What’s on the cake?)”
“On the cake?” I zoomed in on that cake. All the cakes had example messages written on it. The last one said, “‘~Sood.’ What’s Sood? Some Indian wishes or greetings I suppose.”
“(I am afraid not.)”
“You know what that is?”
“That’s the name of the tenth Jinn.”