Two hours later, at the Shimla airport Kaisha saw Maan Singh waving to her. It was a freezing afternoon. She kept rubbing her palms to keep herself warm as he dumped the luggage into the car. “Madam Ji would you like some tea?” asked Maan Singh. Kaisha looked at her watch. It was 3:30 in the afternoon. She gestured a no and asked to start for Chail immediately. She sat back and relaxed to enjoy the drive. All along the winding road on the Sadh Tiba, the hill on which the township of Chail is located, Kaisha could see the majestic soaring deodars and oaks flanking the valley and the massive snow clad Himalayan ranges spectacularly gleaming in the scanty sunshine. It seemed nothing less than a paradise to her. Dusk was about to cast its orange spell and Kaisha was beginning to doze off when she suddenly felt the car slowing down and halt near a kothi. She came out of the car and as Maan Singh started pulling out the luggage she started strolling near the gate. The house was nothing less than a huge palace carved in wood with slanting roofs patched with snow. Kaisha was wondering how Beeji managed to live alone in this colossal abode. She saw her waving from the window, her wrinkled face with a spectacle on the nose barged against the iron grill. Kaisha waved back and entered the kothi.
“How was your journey? The drive must have been good. Chail is a heaven this time of the year. Even when there is snowfall there is unusual featured warmth”, said Beeji with a smile widening across her lips as she came walking towards Kaisha with a little struggle, taking the support of the giant furniture kept in the hall way. Kaisha glanced at her. Her hair was all white towards the end with a tinge of black on the parting, plaited and tied into a tiny bun touching the back of her neck. She was dressed in a crusty white Kashmiri salwar-kameez and a grey knitted cardigan. As she came close to Kaisha, she removed her glasses, cleaned them with edges of her kameez and wore them again. “Oh! You look so similar to Simmi, my granddaughter. Thin and tall with pretty eyes just like her” exclaimed Beeji. “Glad to know that Beeji” said Kaisha. Beeji held her hand and asked again, “I hope you didn’t find it difficult. Young girls are an enormous responsibility and they are so vulnerable these days.” “Absolutely not Beeji. I am fine. I am used to travelling alone. I am graduating in documentary and film making. I keep travelling for my term work” comforted Kaisha. “Yes. I know. Your mother told me. Simmi also keeps telling me that time has changed. When I was young my parents didn’t even allow me to go to the market alone”, sighed Beeji. “Nandu keep Kashu’s luggage in Simmi’s room and ask Bindiya to get the snacks onto the terrace”, she called. “Who is Nandu?” asked Kaisha. “He is our housekeeper and Bindiya is our maid. She has been with me since I was a child and came with me after I got married. Come, I will show you around the house now” said Beeji and started narrating the stories about the kothi of how ancestral and lavish it was and how expensive it had become to maintain it. Kaisha tacitly deciphered that it was going to be a loquacious encounter with Beeji.