The Blue-Eyed Prince Of Natlife (the first 5 chapters)


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A girl from Mexico City comes to Mumbai, discovers the joys of caring and sharing in a large house with seven other international trainees and falls in love with her suave Indian boss.

26-year old Mexican, Sara Velasquez, is the new international trainee at the corporate office of one of India’s top multinational companies, Natlife. Her blonde hair and good looks have always made most men treat her with benign condescension, unwilling to accept her managerial abilities. Experience has taught her not to trust men for this reason, but her tall and handsome Indian boss, the 27-year old blue-eyed Sid Oberoi, is different. He doesn’t question her intelligence only her impulsive nature. She finds herself battling a deep and irresistible attraction between them only to succumb to it whole-heartedly.

A past incident has shattered Sid’s trust in women. Whenever his girlfriends get too close or serious, he bolts. He’s not interested in commitment. So why does he harbour strong, unfamiliar feelings for the feisty Mexican? On learning about the bitter experiences of her past, he’s determined to ensure that she doesn’t get hurt again. Why does he feel so protective about her?

When misfortune strikes, it brings them both closer than ever. Sid offers her a job in his new business and room in his house. But, is he ready to offer her a place in his heart?

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The Blue-Eyed Prince Of Natlife (the first 5 chapters)

  1. 1. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE By SWARUPA N. OVALEKAR Self-Published Edition Copyright © Swarupa N. Ovalekar 2011All rights reserved worldwide. No part of this publication may be reproduced,stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission ofthe copyright holder.This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not bere-sold or distributed. If you would like to share this eBook with another person,please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this eBookand did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then pleasereturn to the author’s blog at and purchase yourown copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
  2. 2. Warning/DisclaimerThis is a work of fiction. Names, character, places and incidents are either productsof the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance of charactersto actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental. This book contains maturecontent that may not be suitable for persons under 18 years of age.This eBook is presented solely for entertainment purposes. The author/publishershall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect toany loss or damage caused or alleged to be caused directly or indirectly by theinformation contained in this book. Other titles by Swarupa N. Ovalekar: Discovering Mexico Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World A Guide To Mexican Cuisine
  3. 3. To my family
  4. 4. ABOUT THE AUTHORSwarupa got into book writing in 2008. This was four months after her return from Mexicowhere she had spent nearly nine months, some of them travelling solo across the country. Shededicated a year and a half to her labour of love – an epic book on Mexico – which she finallycompleted in June 2010. Hoping to get her book ‘Mexico’ published in the traditional way, shewaited for over two years looking for a publisher who could do justice to her hard work. Her book received warm appreciation from H.E. Felipe Calderón, President of Mexico. While she waited for responses from publishers, she wrote a romance fiction novel ‘TheBlue-Eyed Prince Of Natlife’ in 2011. In January 2012, she created a Facebook page for her book, got her book edited andconverted it into a three book series on Mexico titled ‘Discovering Mexico’, ‘Mexico: TheCountry, Its History & The Maya World’, and ‘A Guide To Mexican Cuisine’. In mid-September, she finally decided to self-publish all her books.
  5. 5. Apart from her books, Swarupa is an intrepid traveller and a polyglot. She speaksEnglish, Spanish, German, French, Italian and Indian languages like Marathi and Hindi. She is apassionate foodie, a huge fan of salsa and ballroom dancing and a great lover of history,cosmology and world culture. She lives in Mumbai. CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR Facebook: Twitter: Blog: OTHER TITLES BY THE AUTHOR Discovering Mexico is Swarupa’s chronicle which began with her new life in the Mexican city of Guadalajara and her wide exploration of the country she lived in for nine months in 2007-08. Cosmopolitan Mexico City, world-class beach resorts, charming mountain resorts, beautiful colonial cities, amazing archaeological zones, mesmerizing Maya ruins, colourful indigenous markets…there is never a dull moment for her as she explores each place with immense
  6. 6. gusto. At each turn, new situations arise, requiring keen perception, quick thinking, andingenuity. When she explores new places and meets new people, she paints each of them withrich descriptions. Her incurable wanderlust leads her on a three-week adventurous trail coveringseven culturally-rich southern states of Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Campeche, Tabasco, Chiapas,Oaxaca and Veracruz, the first five of which fall under the region of ‘the Maya world’.Discovering Mexico is both a celebration of the joys and revelations to be found in thisinexhaustibly interesting country. This immensely pleasurable and entertaining eBook falls intomany categories…it is about Mexico, Mexican memoirs, Mexican travel, Mexican history andculture, Mexican food and drinks and of course – Mexicans!With more than 100 coloured photographs, black and white political and geographical sketchmaps of Mexico, a black and white sketch map of Swarupa’s three-week trip, black and whitesketch maps of the seven southern states and two extensive glossaries – of Spanish words used inthis book and their Mexican Spanish pronunciation – this thoroughly informative eBook is amust-read for everyone.Format: PDFPages: 422Price: 16.97 US$
  7. 7. Mexico: The Country, Its History & The Maya World is a comprehensive guide to the diverse aspects of Mexico, including its indigenous people, its long and colourful history and the mysterious Maya civilization. This excellently researched eBook offers a wide glimpse into the rich and varied cultural heritage of contemporary Mexico, detailing the country’s history, from the pre-Colombian period to modern times, and providing deep knowledge of the glorious Maya culture, including the much-famous end of their calendar. Withover 75 coloured photographs, and black and white political and geographical sketch maps ofMexico, this insightful eBook will appeal to every person interested in learning about Mexico –aficionados, travellers and scholars.Format: PDFPages: 140Price: 7.97 US$
  8. 8. A Guide To Mexican Cuisine is a small no-frills guide with a big purpose: to briefly describe everything about Mexican cuisine to the readers. Native Mexican diet, staple ingredients, foreign influences on Mexican cuisine, daily meals and customs, popular meals, regional meals, festive meals, drinks and beverages, desserts and candies, a few popular recipes…this eBook has it all! From native Indian cuisine to the current flavours, this guide tells it all like never before with more than 65coloured photographs, two extensive glossaries – of Spanish words used in this book and theirMexican Spanish pronunciation – and a few simple and easy recipes of popular Mexican foodand drinks.Format: PDFPages: 112Price: 5.97 US$
  9. 9. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTSThis is my first-ever romance book and required a tremendous amount of inspiration andimagination. I would like to thank my family for their love and support, without which this bookwould most definitely never have been born. To my parents, brother and sisters.Thank you to Juan Becerra for allowing me the use of his photograph on the cover page of thisbook. Thank you to Sahid Cervantes and his wife, Karina, for gracing the cover page of thisbook.Last but not the least, thank you to Writer’s Side for editing this book.
  10. 10. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Chapter One‘Damn it, Naina!’ Sid muttered angrily as his Blackberry buzzed for the fourth time. He jabbedhis finger on the reject button, his face betraying disgust and intense displeasure at the caller. Sid’s assistant, Rohit looked up from his laptop. He tensed when he saw the deep scowlon his boss’s face. Sid hated being disturbed by personal calls when there were important tasks to becompleted. He knew that if the matter was urgent, Naina could’ve just sent him a messageinstead of calling him incessantly – and that too of all days, on a busy Friday. Bloody bitch, he cursed under his breath. Sid had met the glamorous and upcoming fashion model three months ago at a high-society bash. As usual, there had been many beautiful girls around, but his attention was drawnto the sexy Naina, who was dressed to kill, in a blood-red figure-hugging dress that emphasizedher slender body. Tall and handsome, Sid always generated attention around him with the sandy hair andstunning blue eyes he had inherited from his beautiful English mother. In India, he was always 1
  11. 11. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAmistaken for a white-skinned foreigner. His hot looks and cool charm made sure that women,more often than not, fell for him. Naina had wasted no time in getting introduced to him through a common friend. Sincethen, they had spent a lot of time together, sometimes sneaking out of the city on weekends whenhe wasn’t travelling on work. Sid had made it very clear from the start that he wasn’t keen on a commitment, and heknew that this arrangement suited Naina as well. Her glitzy career left her no room for seriousrelationships. Lately, though, she had become demanding and possessive. His proximity to beautifulgirls seemed to make her insecure. She called him up so often that it made him think that she waschecking up on him; this irritated him no end, and they had argued over it many times. Her latestdemand was to accompany him on Natlife’s annual international trip to Maldives. She wasadamant about it, despite his arguing that he didn’t want their relationship to be open to thescrutiny of those at Natlife or their distributors. Distracted by thoughts, Sid left his cabin for the coffee station located around the cornerof the sprawling floor of the commercial area. Each floor in the office, except for the ground floor’s reception area, was more or lesssimilar in design. All the cabins and meeting rooms were built of transparent glass. Three arraysof well-designed tables occupied most of the floors. The tables were arranged in a way that twofaced each other but were separated by a thick green-tinted opaque glass partition, thus making 2
  12. 12. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAsix long rows of ten tables each. The ladies’ and men’s restrooms were at two opposite corners ofeach floor. One end of the floor housed the cabins of the Commercial Director, Vijayraj Singh;the Director of National Operations, Daljit Ahluwalia; the Director of International Operations –Asia, Randhir Bhatia; and the Director of International Operations – Europe & North America,Deepika Kapur. Sid, the Brand Manager of Natlife, had his cabin at the other end, near themeeting room and the elegantly designed staircase. The coffee had a soothing effect on Sid. He had made up his mind. This evening, I’ll havea serious talk with Naina and will tell her that it’s over between us. Then, I’ll be free again, hethought. ‘Any calls for me?’ he asked Rohit, on returning to his cabin. ‘No, Sid’ was the quick reply. The answer eased off few lines from Sid’s broad forehead. Looks like she still has a bit ofsense left in her, to not call on my office line, he thought. A wry smile graced his handsomefeatures as he remembered his strong warning to her against making calls to his office in theearly days of their relationship. Placing his coffee on the desk, he got back to work. A stack of papers lay before him.“Relay”, one of the two major annual events of Natlife was going to start in two weeks’ time,and he had yet to finalize the presentation for it. As Natlife’s Brand Manager, Sid had excelled himself beyond expectations, winning theconfidence of the Chairman of the US$ 8 billion Natlife Group, Dev Maurya, and Natlife’s 3
  13. 13. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAManaging Director, Gautam Doshi. This was no mean feat for anyone to achieve at the age oftwenty-seven, but then there was a little something extra in this charismatic young man thatdistinguished him from the others. He was extremely dynamic and professional, with a strategicyet creative mindset, and keen business acumen. Siddharth ‘Sid’ Oberoi had been only six when his mother, Samantha, had died of cancer.He studied at the famous Doon School in Dehradun before proceeding to London to graduatefrom the Oxford University. From there, he went to the USA to pursue management studies atthe Wharton School of Business. Upon graduation, he was flooded with lucrative job offers fromthe topmost international companies. He was all set to enter the exciting world of high-payingsalaries when a chance meeting with Dev Maurya at a business conference, changed everythingfor him. Maurya was impressed by what he saw in Sid and invited him to join Natlife, one ofIndia’s largest conglomerates that manufactured and distributed nutritional supplements, herbalremedies, and beauty and personal care products. So, Sid threw aside the most sought-afterposition at a top American Company, to return to India and work for Natlife. Based in Mumbai, Natlife’s operations were widespread throughout the country and ineighteen other countries including Asia, Europe and North America. The company’s businessarrangement was very simple just like any other direct-selling business. People joined thecompany as distributors by paying a small fee that gave them the right to purchase the companyproducts at wholesale prices from its conveniently located distribution centres, and then, sell toothers at retail prices. If they bought and sold enough, they got bigger discounts on their 4
  14. 14. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPApurchases. The long-term gain was in forming an organization or distribution network by recruitingpeople interested in the business or interested in consuming products at a discounted price. Forevery purchase that the newly recruited distributor made, his sponsor or recruiter distributorreceived royalties for life, as long as his recruited distributers continued to buy. The more onerecruited distributors, the more his or her royalty increased. Not only did the distributor havecontrol over their income but they also got incentives. Based on points awarded for sales volume,star distributors got qualified each year to win grand prizes like cars, national and internationaltrips, luxury cruises and even houses. The top echelons of distributors operated their own supportcentres and training sessions, presiding over networks that could extend to thousands of people.Maurya encouraged his leading distributors to participate in Natlife’s annual events and travelabroad as his representatives, with the objective of establishing his business in new countries. More than fifty-percent of the company’s distributors were women, for they foundworking at Natlife a convenient way to balance their time equally between earning a living andcarrying out household duties. At the woman’s training workshops, they were taught to becomeself-confident and, independent thinkers. The far-flung Natlife enterprises, most of which served its distributors and employees,acted synergistically and reinforced each other. Before launching new products or services,Natlife tested them on its employees, then on the distributors. Financing for employees’ anddistributors’ housing and automobiles was tied in with insurance policies. Natlife’s Bollywood 5
  15. 15. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAbox-office hit, Suhana Safar, was seen by thousands of their distributors in hundreds of theatresbefore being released to the general public. Natlife’s strong national distribution structure, with more than 4000 distribution centres,innumerable mobile–store vans and home delivery systems, allowed the channelization of all itsproducts, from a music CD to a rose bouquet. Marketing expenses were non-existent as Natlifedistributors independently marketed the products. Maurya wanted his distributors to feel cared for and protected, to the extent of making hismobile number public and getting it printed on every welcome letter sent to the new distributors.He liked to be kept in constant touch with his employees and distributors. His ability to identifywith the common man of India played a key role in Natlife’s success story. Like a true alchemist,he sought profits out of every business he conceived and his Midas touch ensured that he alwaysmet with success. Sid was glad that he had accepted Maurya’s invitation to work for Natlife and had noreason to regret his decision to move back to India. As a new recruit, he had started by workingin the Events Department which was responsible for planning and organizing the companyevents including meetings, presentations, conferences, national and international trips. One day, in the course of a discussion with the Events Director, Debbie Garcia, he cameup with a concept of a prepaid rechargeable card with mobile-banking functions. It would enableNatlife distributors to shop for Natlife products at their distribution centres as well as make otherpurchases at shops affiliated with Visa. The objective was to reach out to the segment of 6
  16. 16. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAdistributors who didn’t have a bank account. With the mobile-banking function, the distributorscould place their orders for Natlife products by simply sending a message from their cellphone.The total amount of their purchases would get debited instantly from the card and the productswould be delivered at their doorstep. This would avoid carrying cash or standing in long queues.Not only could they withdraw the card’s balance amount at any ATM, but they could also makecash transfers to other card holders merely by sending a message from their cellphone. Impressed by Sid’s ingenious idea, Debbie advised him to present it to Gautam, who inturn found it interesting and called it to the attention of Dev Maurya. The proposal was given ago-ahead, and Sid was placed in charge of executing the entire project. He was given theindependent position of Brand Manager for Natlife’s strategy development and promotionaldevelopment and was asked to report directly to Gautam. The financial product was called“Goldfinger” and was developed by a leading company that had pioneered the development ofprepaid debit cards for online purchases in the country. Goldfinger was launched during “Extravaganza,” Natlife’s biggest annual event, amidstgreat fanfare and intensive publicity promotions. Sharing the stage with Maurya, Sid explainedto his 16,000-strong audience how the entire process of Goldfinger worked. A Goldfinger loyaltyprogramme entitled the distributor to receive reward points for mobile purchases beyond aspecified amount. The accumulated points were to be exchanged for free gifts or front row passesat company events. The strong hard sell worked and the concept was a resounding success withsales increasing by more than 15% after the campaign. 7
  17. 17. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA A gentle tap on the glass door made Sid glance up to see Vijayraj Singh. ‘Are you busy, Sid? Dev wants to have a word with you,’ he said with a friendly smile. Sid was surprised. He wasn’t aware of Maurya’s return from his European trip. Maurya was always on the move, travelling in his private Boeing 737 around the world,to meet his distributors at various scheduled events, leaving him with little time at the office. Hehighly trusted Gautam Doshi, who was an old hand of his; so, the few days that he spent in thecorporate office every month were mostly occupied in meetings. ‘He came in today morning,’ said Vijayraj, answering Sid’s unspoken question. ‘But I’m still working on the final presentation for Relay.’ ‘Don’t worry, it isn’t about the presentation,’ Vijayraj reassured. Sid’s curiosity was aroused. The two climbed down the stairs in silence and entered the reception area. The glass facade of the two-storied building of Natlife was beautifully designed,contrasting with the rest of the building that was painted in white, like the other small buildingsthat housed the various departments within Natlife’s sprawling premises. The striking andluxurious red leather couch near the staircase was the centrepiece of the simple yet classyreception area. One end of the hallway led towards the conference room, ‘Crystal Salon’, outsidewhich there was an ATM and a restroom. Another end led towards the inner ring of the companybuilding, which accommodated the second conference room, ‘Blue Salon’, the yoga room, thecafeteria, the Japanese mini-garden and the offices of Dev Maurya, housed within the cosy 8
  18. 18. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAcollection of small buildings that looked more like ski chalets than a corporate centre. They walked past the tropical patio, graced with ferns and palms, and pushed open theglass door to enter Maurya’s office area. The smiling receptionist quickly called up Maurya’s secretary, Sheena Singh, informingher of their arrival. They climbed up the stairs and reached another reception room where Sheenawas waiting at her desk with a smiling face. After exchanging pleasantries with her, they enteredMaurya’s meeting room and took their seats at the huge rectangular meeting table. Gautamjoined them a few minutes later. ‘How’re things going on with the presentation, Sid?’ Gautam enquired with a warmfatherly look. He had a soft corner for the young man, who had endeared himself to everyone atNatlife since he first stepped into their offices three years ago. Sid was about to reply when the door connecting Maurya’s room to the meeting roomwas pushed open. A deep and assured baritone commanded their attention and they immediatelyrose to their feet. Dev Maurya was overpowering in every way. His superbly tailored clothes emphasizedpowerful shoulders and long legs, the white shirt contrasting with his tanned face, black hair andcompelling eyes. An unconscious air of command and hard-edged authority had always madehim stand out in the presence of well-dressed, sophisticated men, while a potent charisma madewomen swoon over him, sometimes even forgetting their own husbands. The gossip magazines were always full of stories of his various affairs and dalliances 9
  19. 19. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAwith women, wherever he travelled, while envious men described him as a buccaneer and anarrogant billionaire far too smart for his own good. Sid had found such adverse comments to be distasteful and lacking in wisdom. He pridedhimself on being close to such a wonderful person, who had brought about economic and socialwealth as well as joy and happiness in the lives of more than ten million people all over theworld. *******‘How was the Paris trip, Dev?’ Gautam asked. ‘Fabulous, as usual,’ Maurya’s eyes sparkled. The conversation in the meeting room was centred on Maurya’s recent tour to Europewhich included a week-long trip to Paris with fifty lucky young Natlife distributors. ‘After the trip, I asked them to draw what impressed them most about the city,’ Mauryabegan, ‘and you know what? Instead of the Eiffel Tower or the Seine, most of them had depictedthe Mona Lisa and the paintings at the Louvre.’ He sounded immensely pleased. ‘They were the first-ever paintings that they had seen in their lives. Doesn’t this prove thestrong impact of art on people’s mind?’ 10
  20. 20. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Maurya considered the extensive travelling that he had done with his father, a Mumbai-based businessman, during his childhood as his greatest inheritance. It had broadened hispersonal horizons and taught him certain values, which he liked to share with his family,employees and distributors. For Maurya, youth were an important part of Natlife, and he had always supportedprojects encouraging their growth and progress. There were three virtues that he loved to see inthe younger generation: passion, sensitivity and fearlessness. Looking at Sid, his eyes twinkled. ‘You must be wondering why you’re here, right?’ Sid responded with a slight nod and watched in silence as Maurya exchanged secretsmiles with both Gautam and Vijayraj. Squirming impatiently in his seat, he waited to hear whatMaurya wanted to share with him. ‘We’ve received Deepika’s resignation letter,’ Maurya said shortly. Sid reeled under the impact of the unexpected news. So, this explains Deepika’s week-long absence from work, Sid thought. He recalled her worried face when they had last met. Theuntimely death of her two-year-old son, her only child, about three months back, had made herdepressed. ‘Gautam put your name forward for the vacant position,’ Maurya’s clear voice cutthrough his thoughts. ‘We’ve already seen how valuable your impressive work and abilities havebeen to the company. So, I personally wanted to give you the news.’ Maurya stopped for a while and then smiled, ‘Congratulations, Sid. You’re the new 11
  21. 21. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPADirector of International Operations for Europe and North America.’ Sid couldn’t control a surprised blink. The incredible blue of his eyes deepened as hethanked Maurya and Gautam. ‘As you know, we’re launching new operations in Mexico very soon. With it, we’reslowly planning to enter the vast Hispanic continent,’ Gautam informed. ‘You’ll be in charge ofoverseeing the Mexican Operations.’ Sid responded with a confident nod. ‘When is the new trainee from Mexico arriving, Gautam?’ Maurya asked. ‘On Monday,’ Gautam replied. ‘Hema has told me that the girl will be reaching Indiatomorrow.’ Hema Salgaokar was Natlife’s Human Resources Manager. Her department took care ofrecruiting international trainees through the international internship programmes run by IYI, arenowned international students’ association. Presently, Natlife had two international trainees:Sandra Singh from UK, who was with Natlife for the past year and a half and worked in theHuman Resources Department, and Shivani Kumar from the USA, who had joined just a monthback and was placed in the International Expansion Department. Gautam turned to Sid, ‘The Mexican trainee will be working in your department in thearea of Mexican Operations.’ Then, as if he was reading Sid’s mind, he added, ‘The StrategicOperations Department will take over your current responsibilities.’ Maurya was in a hurry to end the meeting. ‘All the best to you, Sid,’ he intervened, ‘and 12
  22. 22. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAwe hope that you’ll continue to rise above our expectations, as always.’ ‘Thank you very much, Dev. I’m truly very honoured by the deep trust and faith that youand Gautam have placed in me,’ Sid acknowledged his gratitude. Maurya smiled along with the others. ‘You deserve it, Sid.’ He rose to his feet. ‘Well, gentlemen, I’ll have to take your leave now. I’ve to give a couple of interviews tointernational TV channels this afternoon.’ He shook hands with the men and left them immediately. 13
  23. 23. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Chapter TwoIt was a bright and sunny Friday morning when Sara Velasquez left with her family for MexicoCity’s Benito Juarez International Airport. She sat beside her older sister, Laura, in the backseat of the car while their mother wasseated in the front, as their dad drove them all to the airport to see her off. Laura’s fiancé,Miguel, was going to meet them at the airport to wish her goodbye. ‘Sara, are you sure you’ve carried your passport with you?’ Jorge asked his youngerdaughter for the third time since they left home. ‘Yes, Papa,’ Sara groaned. ‘I’ve told you a million times that it’s right here.’ She pulledout her passport from her handbag and showed it to him. ‘I’m not a baby anymore, you know.’ Jorge snorted, and this made Sara pout like a child. ‘You won’t have to put up with mefor much longer,’ she grumbled. Everyone in the car went silent as they realized the truth in her words. Sara would be inIndia for God knew how long, and they would all miss her. ‘Mi niña...’ her mother said softly,twisting around in the passenger seat to give her a broad smile while Laura put an arm around 14
  24. 24. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAher. An hour after leaving home, they reached the airport in what should have only been atwenty-minute drive, thanks to the snail-paced traffic. Sara’s flight was at 2 pm, and it would take her to Paris, from where she had to catch aconnecting flight to Mumbai. In total, she had to cover twenty-one flying hours till she reachedMumbai. They arrived at the airport and piled out of the car while Jorge hauled Sara’s suitcase outfrom the boot. Miguel, who was already at the airport, greeted them with a smile. ‘You’ll be careful now, won’t you?’ Jorge asked Sara worriedly, ‘Don’t do anythingstupid over there.’ ‘Papa, of course I’ll be careful,’ Sara said, mildly frustrated. Jorge ignored her. ‘Because it’s one thing messing around over here but you can’t act likethat in India, you know.’ ‘Papa,’ Sara said, wrapping her arms around his neck, ‘It’s not like I’m going to liveabroad for the first time. I’ve spent more than two years in New York and a year in London,remember?’ She gave him a kiss. ‘So, you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll be perfectly fine inMumbai.’ ‘Preciosa, keep in touch with us a lot more this time, won’t you?’ Rebeca pleaded withher daughter as she hugged her. ‘India is very different from the other countries that you’vetravelled to so far.’ 15
  25. 25. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA ‘Of course I will, Mama,’ Sara said, and gave her mother a warm kiss. A lump formed in Laura’s throat and she fought back the tears. She would miss her sistervery much, but she understood that Sara wanted to go to India to work for the company that hadcaught her fascination. There was nothing that she or her parents could do or say to make Sarachange her mind, especially after the major setback she had suffered six months ago, when shehad lost her job as well as her fiancé in a span of two days. ‘Miguel, look after my big sis,’ she said, smiling at Laura. ‘Ooh, I’m going to miss youso much,’ she then added, sadly, squeezing her sister’s arm tightly. ‘Me, too,’ Laura’s voice shook. She knew it was best that her sister went to India, but apart of her wished she would stay back. ‘Okay, I’m leaving now, before you all make me cry,’ Sara said, trying to sound cheerful. ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t want you to do, Sara,’ Jorge warned, but with deepconcern. Sara laughed, kissing him and her mother on the cheeks again. ‘Don’t worry, I’m sureyou’ll want me to do something very interesting in life,’ she teased. Laura stood in silence, with her parents and her fiancé, and watched Sara walk into thedeparture lounge. They all waved her goodbye as she walked on, as Sara looked behind at timesto wave back at them, they waved till they could not see her anymore. Jorge held his wife closeto him as she waved, while tears rolled down her cheeks. Laura held onto Miguel’s arm. Sara paused as she entered the departure lounge and took in a deep breath. She could 16
  26. 26. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAsense a feeling of anticipation in the pit of her stomach, as if she were about to do somethingexciting. She loved the atmosphere at airports, as people walked around happily, tugging theirluggage, looking forward to their holidays or to heading back home. Queuing at the boardinggate always felt like waiting to go on a roller coaster ride at a theme park. The arrivals area alsoexcited her, for she loved to see people being greeted by their families, people welcomed backwith a big cheer, followed by emotional hugs and kisses. As usual, the alarm went off as she walked through the security scanner, and she wasthoroughly frisked. The metal button of her pants or jeans always ensured that she passedthrough the ritual. She was proceeding towards her boarding gate when the unexpected sight of a familiarface made her freeze in her step. It was Ricardo, her ex-fiancé. She felt as if she were going to have a heart attack. She quickly dived into the neareststore she could find. The man in question was accompanied by a tall, blonde beauty witharistocratic features – his new fiancée, Liliana, Sara thought, as she saw the huge diamondsparkling on her ring finger. Assailed by an emotion closely bordering on jealousy – no,corrected Sara herself, envy – she took in the other woman’s beauty with a deep sigh. Six months ago, she had couriered Ricardo’s engagement ring back to him when she hadreceived an apologetic email from him, breaking off their year-old relationship. His ex-girlfriend,Liliana, who had dumped him to pursue her acting career in the US had returned to him after two 17
  27. 27. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAyears and had wanted to settle down with him, much to his delight. So he had dumped Sara just aday after she had lost her job. When she had read his email for the first time, shock and disbelief had engulfed her, hadmade his words dance crazily on the screen before her. Dear Sara, I’m so sorry, I’m a complete coward for doing this by email, but I don’t know how else to tell you that Liliana is back in my life. It’s not your fault, and I feel terrible about it, but I can’t help it. Please forgive me. I wish you all the happiness for your future. Regards, Ricardo She had fought back tears and told herself that she was fortunate that Liliana had returnedto him before they gotten married, that things could’ve been worse for her. To relieve hersorrow, she had taken up a job as an English teacher at one of the city’s reputed languageschools. One day, she had come across a post on the school’s bulletin board that announced that 18
  28. 28. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAan Indian company called Natlife was looking for English-speaking trainees for their corporateoffice in Mumbai. She had been instinctively drawn to the post, but had then noticed that theinternship programme was routed through the IYI association, which meant that the applicanthad to be a member below twenty-five years of age. She was twenty-six. Still, hoping for thebest, she had emailed her CV directly to the Chairman of the company. After two weeks, she had received a reply from Natlife’s HR Manager’s assistant as wellas an email from the IYI association in Mexico City: the company was interested in taking her asa trainee. It had taken over four months for her to get the visa. In the meantime, she had brushedupon her Hindi skills, a language which she had learnt as a hobby during her student days inNew York. ‘Can I help you, ma’am?’ Sara turned to see the store’s sales assistant at her side. She quickly realized that she hadbeen staring for a while at the selection of chocolate bars displayed in front of her. ‘Thanks, but I’ve made up my mind,’ she replied, smiling sweetly at the young girl. Her arm sprung up to the shelf to grab four king-size chocolate bars. She began adding afew more chocolates, packets of crisps and sweet goodies into the proffered basket. ‘Anything else, ma’am?’ asked the sales assistant. ‘No, thank you, that’ll be all.’ Sara followed her to the payment counter. She paid her money and left the store, looking around to see whether the way was clearfor her. Satisfied, she started towards her boarding gate when she was startled by a voice behind 19
  29. 29. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAher. She turned around to see a tall, gorgeous man approaching her. He looked to be as old as she was, if not a year older. She noted his straight and evenfeatures, his thick mane of dark hair and his deep green eyes. She squinted at him and took acloser look at his eyes. He cleared his throat. She blushed, realizing that she had been caught observing him. ‘Hello,’ he laughed, ‘You left this on the counter.’ He handed her the boarding pass thatshe had absent-mindedly left behind at the store. She recognised his cute Scottish accent. ‘Oh, thanks,’ she said gratefully, suddenlyfeeling like a fool. ‘I’m Chris,’ the guy introduced himself, holding his hand out. ‘I’m Sara,’ she answered, and then took his hand. ‘I was wondering if you’d like to go for a coffee.’ He pointed to a nearby cafe. ‘You stillhave some time left for boarding just like me.’ He looked very confident with his hands in the pocket of his jeans, only his thumbsresting outside, his green eyes returning her gaze. ‘Um...I....,’ she stammered, taken aback by his direct and relaxed manner, as if he thoughtinviting a stranger out for coffee was the most natural thing to do. Oh, what the hell, she thought. ‘Sure, why not?’ she blurted loudly, which brought out a broad grin on his handsomeface. 20
  30. 30. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Regardless of his good looks, Sara craved for company, and he seemed like a nice guy totalk to. Sara smiled to herself as she took a seat at the table and waited for him to get the coffee.She relaxed back in her chair and gazed at the people walking past the cafe. She suddenly feltconfident within herself about reaching out for what she wanted. She was leaving familiar shoresto venture out into a new and faraway land, a land with a totally different culture. Whatever layahead, she knew she was ready for it, for new experiences, for new love and for new memoriesto live life by. And coffee with the gorgeous Chris was going to be the start of those lovelymemories. 21
  31. 31. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Chapter ThreeThe boisterous Saturday-morning crowd of kids splashed around merrily in the large swimmingpool of the BCB Club, while the others basked in the sun after a peaceful early-morning swim. ‘Hey, dude, how’s it going?’ Stretched out on the sun bed, Sid peered over his stylish sunglasses to see a familiarfigure looming above him. It was Ajay Jaiswal, his close friend and loyal tennis partner at theclub. ‘Hey buddy, how was Wednesday’s match?’ Sid drawled. ‘Well, let’s just say you were missed,’ Ajay replied, settling himself in the adjacent sunbed, ‘Sunil wasn’t in good form. His faulty footwork and weak volleys wrecked our bestchances. We lost the match pathetically.’ Sid sensed bitter disappointment in his friend’s voice. He was partly to blame for it. Ajayhad told him a week in advance about the match he had fixed with the two Sharma brothers, theirmain rivals on the club’s tennis courts. But as luck would have it, just a day before the match,Sid had to travel to New Delhi for an important business meeting that had cropped up suddenly. 22
  32. 32. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA It had left Ajay with no option but to turn to a fellow club-member, Sunil, who was agood player, but was not in the same league as Sid. ‘If only you’d played,’ Ajay grumbled. ‘We could’ve beat those two douchebags. Youshould’ve seen them gloat over their victory.’ ‘I’m sorry, man, but you do know that work is priority for me. Try and fix up a matchnext Saturday, and I promise you a good revenge,’ Sid reassured. Then, he suddenly rememberedsomething. ‘Give me a moment, and I’ll be back with some great news for you.’ He gave a sly wink to his friend before sliding off the sun bed. His bare torso displayed alight tan which lent a rugged tone to his lean and muscled body, drawing openly admiringglances from women as he passed them by and made his way to the changing room. Ajay was comfortably sprawled out on a chair at one of the pool-side tables when Sidreturned, looking fresh and relaxed in a pair of white shorts and a lemon-yellow T-shirt. Hesettled himself into a chair and took a sip of the mojito that Ajay had ordered while he was away. ‘Guess who I bumped into at Marco’s during my New Delhi trip?’ he asked cheerfully. ‘PRIYA RAI?’ Ajay leapt up, excited. Sid nodded with a grin. Ignoring the curious glances thrown their way, Ajay continued in a loud and high-pitchedvoice, ‘Don’t tell me! I thought she was still in the US.’ Sid wasn’t surprised by Ajay’s reaction. The practicing lawyer had been Sid’s best friendat boarding school. They had spent most of their vacations together, and their strong bond of 23
  33. 33. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAfriendship had remained even after Sid had gone abroad. In their school days, Ajay’s family and Priya’s family had neighbouring houses in theresidential area of Greater Kailash in New Delhi. Whenever he was at home during the holidays,Ajay would coax his younger sister to ask Priya to join them in family outings. Since Priya washis sister’s schoolmate and both their families shared friendly relations, the two got to know eachother very well. Sid had met Priya a few times when he was at Ajay’s place during theirholidays. Marco’s, then a small place to hang out for ice-creams and other goodies, had been thefavourite haunt of the teenagers. Then, one day, after about five years, Priya’s family moved toPune. As years passed, Priya and Ajay drifted apart: Priya went to the US for her studies andlater, got a job there, while Ajay stayed back in India to study law. But, he still remembered herall those years. ‘She told me that she returned to India some three months ago, for good this time.’ Sidcontinued. ‘She was visiting a few relatives in New Delhi when I met her.’ Sid paused to sip on his drink and grinned wickedly at Ajay, who was waiting for him tocontinue. ‘She’s moved to Mumbai and owns a pad in Andheri,’ he said, ‘and no, she isn’tmarried.’ He handed Ajay a business card: ‘Priya Rai, Director, Mumbai Food Bank,’ and then, hercontact details. ‘She’s running a charitable organization to feed the hungry.’ ‘Wow, this is incredible,’ Ajay exclaimed with a soft, loving look in his eyes, ‘I’ve 24
  34. 34. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAalways known she was so caring and generous towards the needy.’ He looked at Sid with a dreamy expression on his face. ‘Is she the same? I mean she wasalways very beautiful.’ A beep sounded from Ajay’s mobile and announced the arrival of a message. ‘Go on, take a look!’ Sid smiled, ‘That’s my answer to your question.’ ‘Oh my God, it’s her! Priya! The love of my life,’ Ajay gasped for air, like a fish that hadbeen pulled out of water. His eyes were glued to the photo while he gushed over Priya’s beauty. Suddenly, he got up and gave Sid a fierce hug. ‘Dude, you’re the best,’ he said, obliviousto the attention he was drawing towards them. Sid laughed, pulling himself out of Ajay’s tight embrace. ‘I told her that you’re alsosingle and living in Mumbai.’ Ajay’s eyes grew big and wild with joy. ‘I want to meet her. Should I call her rightaway?’ Sid couldn’t help but laugh out loud. He hadn’t, yet, been able to understand how agrown-up man, when in love, could end up behaving like a child. Ajay realized that his friend had something up his sleeve. ‘She’s meeting us here at the club tomorrow for lunch,’ Sid announced. ‘You sly devil! You had this all planned up for me, right?’ Sid shook his head and laughed again. ‘You’re just too good, man,’ Ajay said, and then as an afterthought he asked, ‘Naina’s 25
  35. 35. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAgoing to join us, of course?’ It was more of a question than a suggestion. But it drastically changed the expression onSid’s face. ‘I called it off with her last night,’ Sid said in a matter-of-fact tone. ‘What?’ Ajay asked, looking shocked, while he tried to secretly hide his joy at hearingwhat he considered to be good news. He’d never really liked Naina, ever since the first time he had met her. But he hadn’t saidthis to Sid because he knew his friend had never let any of his previous girlfriends get too closeto him, not emotionally close to him, that is. He listened quietly as Sid told him about Naina’sinsistence that she accompany him to Maldives. ‘I think she needs help,’ Sid snorted, as he began describing the previous evening’sincident. ‘We met at Jojo’s, where I told her about my decision. I knew she would create a sceneso I had asked Jojo to arrange a table in the green area, you know, so we could be hidden awayfrom the other diners. Thank god, I thought of that!’ He took a deep breath, and continued, ‘I told her that I had enough of her incessantdemands and tantrums and wanted to call it quits. She burst into tears and accused me of beingcold and uncaring. Can you imagine this coming from a woman over whom I’ve spent almost25% of my monthly salary over the past three months?’ he rasped out angrily. Ajay shook his head and mumbled his disapproval. ‘She agreed that the bond between us had weakened and then she started her cranky 26
  36. 36. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAstories, half of which I’m sure she had just concocted to gain my sympathy.’ A slight tinge of red rose to his face. ‘When she realized that she wasn’t gettinganywhere, she began pleading that we could at least remain friends. I told her that I wasn’tinterested in knowing her anymore, and that was my final decision. “Do me a favour,” she thensaid coolly to me, “at least put in a good word about me to Dev Maurya so I get a chance tofeature in the Natlife swimsuit calendar 2012.” That really bugged me.’ The red of Sid’s face had deepened perceptibly. Every year, some of the hottest girls in the modelling industry vied with each other forthe coveted assignment of featuring Natlife swimsuit calendar, the models for which werepersonally selected by Maurya. Naina knew that Maurya would gladly consider Sid’s personalrequest, thus most definitely assuring her a place on the calendar. ‘This was bound to happen someday and I did try to warn you about it. She wanted to getto Maurya through you,’ said Ajay, shrugging his shoulders in disdain. Sid knew his friend was right. ‘I lost my temper and told her off. Then, she left in a huff,’he finished with a smile. ‘Oh, and by the way, there’s another piece of good news.’ ‘Whoa, slow down, man!’ Ajay grinned. ‘Don’t tell me, there’s a new girl in your life!’ Sid laughed. ‘Natlife has appointed me as the new Director of International Operations inEurope and North America,’ he announced happily. ‘That’s awesome, dude!’ Ajay exclaimed, landing a soft punch on Sid’s shoulder. ‘Wow,what a day! Things can’t get better than this.’ He pulled Sid to his feet. ‘Come on, let’s go inside 27
  37. 37. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAfor a celebratory drink.’ He waved a few hundred-rupee notes at the table attendant to cover thebill, and then they made their way to the club’s lively bar. *******‘I’m so proud of you, my son.’ Bikram Paul Oberoi greeted Sid with a warm embrace as thelatter entered his father’s sprawling house on Carmichael Road in South Mumbai. On Friday, Sid had called his father to give him the good news of his promotion and hisfather had insisted that he come over for lunch the next day. It had been more than a week sincethe two had met. Although Sid’s sea-facing penthouse on the fourteenth floor of a Breach Candy high-risewas barely a few minutes away from his father’s house, his busy schedule and the heavyevening-traffic made it difficult for him to meet his father as often as he would’ve liked. Theyspoke more often on the phone. ‘Congratulations, Sid! We’re all very happy for you,’ said Sid’s step-mother, Maithili, asshe hugged him. Maithili, an alluring woman and a painter, was responsible for bringing light back intothe life of reputed garment-exporter Bikram Oberoi, who had sunk into a deep depression after 28
  38. 38. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAhis wife’s untimely death. Sid, who had been deprived of parental love by tragic circumstancesduring his childhood and growing years, had readily accepted Maithili’s presence in his father’slife. A loud and familiar shriek echoed in the large sitting room as fourteen-year old Kaya,Sid’s half-sister ran across the room and jumped straight into his open arms. Sid laughed alongwith the others as he hugged his teenage sister. Dressed in a white T-shirt and blue denim cut-offs, young Kaya looked every bit arebellious tomboy, especially with her short, boyish hair-cut. ‘So, how’re your studies going?’ Sid asked her. ‘They’re going fine,’ she smiled proudly, glancing at her parents for confirmation. ‘She’s dying to show you her latest trophy,’ Maithili laughed. Kaya took Sid’s hand and led him to her room; they were followed by Bikram andMaithili. ‘Very good, Kaya, I can see that you’ve finally cleaned it,’ Maithili said, throwing anappreciatory glance around her daughter’s room. ‘Sid, you should visit us more often. At leastthis way I won’t have to be after Kaya all the time to get her to tidy her room.’ They all laughed. Sid looked at Kaya’s collection of teddy bears and dolls arranged on a corner shelf.Another corner shelf was decorated with her framed certificates, cups, trophies, medals and otherawards she had won in various educational and sports activities at school as well as at her 29
  39. 39. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAvarious clubs. Each time she won a new trophy, she would proudly show it to him. He looked atone he hadn’t seen before: It was a beautiful five-inch hand painted resin scholastic trophy with agolden Aladdin cup resting on a decorative paper design over which was written ‘OutstandingStudent’ with a feather placed next to it. The plate at its base carried the following words: SpringRose High School, Academic Achievement presented to KAYA OBEROI. ‘This is amazing news, Kaya!’ he said with pride in his voice. Kaya beamed with joy. ‘Wait a minute, I’ve a surprise for you,’ he smiled, making Kaya jump around excitedly.He pulled out an envelope from his pocket and gave it to her. She immediately grabbed it and ripped it open. ‘VIP Passes to Justin Bieber’s concert!’she squeaked. There were two of them, for her and her best friend. ‘Oh Sid, thanks a ton!’ shecried excitedly, throwing her arms around him again. Sid smiled. He was glad that he had thought about it. He knew that his sister was a die-hard fan of Bieber and had a big crush on him. It had been easy for him to arrange for the passesfor Kaya and her friend. Natlife’s own Nat Entertainment was behind the idea of flying the popular internationalteen sensation to Mumbai for the closing night of Relay, and was organizing and providing allthe required arrangements and infrastructure for the forthcoming concert. Bikram and Maithili exchanged quiet smiles as they watched the beautiful display of lovebetween Sid and his doting half-sister. 30
  40. 40. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Chapter FourStepping out of the arrivals hall of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Saralooked around for someone carrying a placard with her name or that of the IYI Association. ‘Sara Velasquez?’ enquired a female voice amidst the crowd. Sara turned her face to the direction the voice came from. A young woman, in her earlytwenties, rushed forward towards Sara, fighting the crowd that surrounded her. Dressed in jeansand a white T-shirt she was of medium height with long, straight and black hair. Her broad,welcoming smile reached her kohl-lined eyes. ‘Hi, I’m Kamini,’ she said holding out her hand. ‘Welcome to India.’ ‘Hi, Kamini,’ Sara smiled back in quick recognition of the name and took theoutstretched hand, shaking it loosely. Kamini was the local manager of IYI, and the two of them had been in touch throughemail ever since her internship with Natlife had got confirmed. ‘This is Jesse,’ she said, as she introduced a guy, who looked to be about the same age asher. ‘And this is Meera,’ she said, pointing to a short girl dressed in a traditional salwar kameez. 31
  41. 41. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Both of them smiled and greeted Sara in turn. Meera drew out a small and round metal box containing vermilion and applied a pinch ofit on Sara’s forehead. ‘It’s our welcoming tradition,’ Kamini explained. Sara smiled in acknowledgement. She bent her head to receive a garland of marigoldflowers around her neck. She was touched by the warmth of the threesome. It was nearly 11 pm,and yet they were so welcoming and enthusiastic. ‘Is this your first time in India?’ Meera asked. ‘Yes,’ Sara nodded with a smile. ‘You’ll soon find yourself falling in love with our country.’ Kamini laughed reassuringly. ‘I’m looking forward to it,’ Sara laughed back, as they walked towards Jesse’s car. They instantly cleared the airport’s parking lot and hit the night-time highway, for Jessedrove like a man possessed. ‘I didn’t know India drives on the left hand side of the road.’ ‘It’s a legacy the British left behind,’ Jesse smiled. ‘Though, in some parts of the city,you’ll find people driving on whichever side of the road pleases them.’ Everybody laughed. The blurred scenery along the highway was a sensory riot of sounds and scents, withdust-coated old trucks, bellowing and blaring their horns, and belching exhaust. Jesse’s car shotpast it all, moving only inches away from other vehicles, stray dogs or people crossing the road 32
  42. 42. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAright in the middle of traffic, till they drove up the driveway of a large bungalow housing the IYIinterns. Sara noted with a smile that during the twenty-minute ride that it took to reach the house,Jesse hardly touched the brake. The house was located on a lovely tree-lined residential street. ‘We’re now in an area called Bandra. The nearest landmark, the Jogger’s Park, is just aminute away from here,’ Kamini explained. ‘We’ve to warn you though that, like every otherSaturday, tonight too, there’s a party going on inside.’ Sara sighed to herself as she stepped out of the car. After the long and tiring journey, thelast thing she wanted to do was attend a party. Beyond the front garden, few youngsters were smoking on the porch. After a quick roundof introductions, Sara followed the others inside the large house. The ‘party’ was in full swing, everyone enjoying their drinks and socializing loudly.Music and the buzz of people filled the house. The new arrivals drew everybody’s attention. ‘Guys,’ Kamini yelled, to be heard above the noise, ‘Please welcome Sara Velasquez,your new housemate from Mexico.’ Once another round of introductions and greetings was over, Kamini turned to Sara. ‘Youmust be very tired. I’ll have Sandra show you to your room.’ She addressed the crowd once again. ‘Someone please help Sara in moving her suitcase 33
  43. 43. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAupstairs to her room,’ she yelled, pointing to the luggage that Jesse had brought in from the car. Sara thanked Kamini warmly. In the course of their email communication, Kamini had already informed Sara about theother two Natlife interns in the house, Sandra Singh from UK and Shivani Kumar from US, aswell as about the five other house-residents with whom she was going to share the large,furnished house. The cost of the rent and utilities were split equally between the housemates. ‘I’ve got to make a move now,’ Kamini said, glancing at her watch. ‘I’ll pick you up onMonday morning for your first day of work.’ ‘Have a great weekend,’ Sara gave her a warm hug before joining her roommate, whowas waiting to give her a quick tour of the house. Sandra led her past the rooms adjacent to the living room. They started with the well-equipped modular kitchen. ‘We do our weekly shopping on Sundays, which is tomorrow,’Sandra informed, on their way back to the living room. ‘In all, we have five bedrooms, three onthe upper floor and two on this floor. One of the two rooms here is occupied by Bruno fromBrazil, and the other is shared by Shivani and the Italian girl, Carla.’ Sandra showed her the laundry room and then led her upstairs. A small staircase stood ina corner. ‘That’s the way to the terrace. You’ll get a full view of our surroundings from upstairs.’ There were three closed doors on the floor. ‘This one,’ Sandra pointed to the door closestto the stairs, ‘is occupied by Michael, the guy from Hong Kong. It’s got an attached bathroom.Next to it is a girls’ room shared by the French girl, Marie, and the German, Claudia. Our room 34
  44. 44. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAis adjacent to theirs. The girls’ bathroom is at the end of the corridor.’ Sara’s bags were already in their room when they entered. She looked around thepleasant and tidy room. Thank God, she thought. Having had a bad roommate experience in NewYork, she was a bit apprehensive about the nature of her future roommate and her tidiness. Now,on seeing how neat the room was, she put her mind at rest. There were two single beds in the room, two huge wardrobes, two corner shelves and aceiling fan. The only window in the room was screened to keep away mosquitoes. After showing her the two bathrooms on the floor, Sandra said, ‘I’ll leave you now. Incase, you need anything I’m downstairs.’ As an afterthought, she added, ‘If you want to, you canjoin us.’ ‘Thanks, but a warm shower and a bed is all that I want right now.’ Sara replied,suppressing a yawn. ‘I’ll be fast asleep after that.’ ‘Okay then, goodnight and sleep tight,’ the other girl smiled. ‘You too, have a great night.’ Sara returned. Next morning, when Sara went downstairs to the kitchen, she was pleasantly surprised tofind Carla there. ‘Good Morning.’ They greeted each other. Carla threw a searching look at Sara’s face for signs of tiredness or strain. ‘How did yousleep?’ ‘Very well, thanks,’ Sara smiled. ‘You’re up rather early for a Sunday.’ 35
  45. 45. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Carla laughed. ‘I don’t like to miss my morning walks, even on Sundays.’ Sara strode towards the coffee maker to prepare her coffee, finding her way around theplace by instinct. ‘What are you having for breakfast?’ she enquired. ‘Eggs and bacon. Do you want some?’ Sara shook her head. ‘Thanks, I’ll make some French toast.’ She looked around for thewater dispenser. ‘We don’t use bottled water. We’ve a water purifier instead,’ Carla said pointing to thewall-mounted unit. Sara looked on with interest. ‘You know, I was in Mexico last year on a six-month internship in Guadalajara,’ Carlastarted. ‘Nice to hear that,’ Sara smiled. ‘Guadalajara is a lovely city.’ ‘Oh, Mexico itself is a lovely country!’ Carla grinned. Then she quickly added, ’But,India is my first love. I had first arrived here two years ago on a six-month internship withDulcet Industries. Thereafter, I went to Guadalajara. When I got a wonderful job opportunity atDulcet Industries, I returned here.’ ‘I’m very happy with the company and the work atmosphere. Next month, I’ll becompleting a year with them.’ She let out a sigh of contentment. ‘Time flies so quickly.’ ‘What about your family? Do they live in Italy?’ ‘Yes, in Verona. There are four of us in my family – my parents, my younger brother, 36
  46. 46. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPACarlos, and I. In the past two years, I have visited them just twice, but we keep in touch online,through video chats. What about your family?’ Sara described her family while expertly placing the slices of French toast on a plate. Shecarried the full plate and joined Carla at the table. ‘Tell me about your Mexican experience.What were your first impressions of Mexico?’ ‘Well, there were some moments of anguish but I loved the country.’ She paused to thankSara for the proffered plate of French toast. ‘Mmmm....this is delicious!’ she gushed. ‘Thanks,’ Sara smiled, pushing the small bowl of sugar before her. ‘Here, you can addsome more of it, if you want.’ Carla continued. ‘When my flight landed in Mexico City at around seven in the evening,I was dead tired after spending an entire day travelling. I was dying for a shower and a bed whenthe two IYI student managers received me at the airport. Instead of taking me directly to myaccommodation, the girl took me to the IYI office. The guy had to attend a party while the girlhad to finish off some urgent work in the office along with another girl, a Colombian intern, whowas waiting for her. It was almost eleven-thirty when they wound up their work...By then, I wason the verge of collapsing. I didn’t even take a shower, for fear of falling asleep in thebathroom.’ Sara turned up her nose in disgust. ‘How terribly insensitive of them. I bet they must havenever travelled abroad on a long distance flight, and so didn’t know how tiring it could be.’ ‘That’s exactly what I thought. Sometimes, you’ve just got to bear with ignorance. But, 37
  47. 47. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAthat’s not all.’ ‘No?’ Sara stared at her in mock horror. ‘A day later, before embarking on the eight-hour-long bus journey to Guadalajara, I toldthem to pass on my arrival details to the IYI local team in Guadalajara. But, they didn’t bother todo so, and I was left waiting at the bus terminal with nowhere to go.’ ‘That’s just too much. Let me assure you that I’m not a regular IYI member and I’venothing to do with them in Mexico. Natlife contacted the IYI in Mumbai about my CV who inturn contacted the IYI in Mexico to arrange for my internship formalities. That’s all I have to dowith them.’ ‘Aw, sweetie,’ Carla consoled her. ‘It’s not like I’ve anything against you just becausesome people from your country treated me badly.’ ‘What about your stay in Morelia?’ ‘It was overall good, but...’ Carla grimaced as she suddenly remembered another badexperience. ‘The local IYI team in Guadalajara had fixed a temporary living arrangement for me.Luckily, an office colleague helped me in getting a paying-guest accommodation through herfriend. Unfortunately, the landlady was a huge miser. Even though my rent covered drinkingwater, she would keep a watch on the water level of her water dispenser. There were just thethree of us in the house – she, her son, and I.’ Carla paused to catch her breath before shecontinued. ‘I had to remind her all the time to place an order for a new dispenser. Once, therewasn’t any water left in the dispenser when I returned home from work and there weren’t any 38
  48. 48. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAshops nearby to buy one from. From then on, whenever the dispenser was about to get empty, Iwould carry a bottle to the office to have it filled there before I left for the day.’ She sighed and continued. ‘Few of my colleagues would make a noise about it, but Ichose to ignore them. It was fine till I was working. But after my internship was over, I wasstuck at home for about ten days. One day, I reminded her about the almost empty dispenser somany times, and she told me that she had ordered for a new one, but that the delivery man couldbe busy. “Why don’t you buy yourself few bottles?” she suggested. I told her that I’d rather callup to enquire about the non-delivery instead and asked for the telephone number. “No, I’ll callhim again,” she said, and within an hour, a new dispenser was at the door.’ Carla ended her storywith a cheerless smile. ‘My, my, you sure did run into some mean Mexicans,’ Sara teased. They both laughed together. ‘You’re starting work from Monday, right?’ ‘Yeah,’ Sara replied, taking a sip of her coffee. ‘You’ll get to see a bit of the city today when we go out for our weekly shopping. Thisway, you can get yourself oriented to the surroundings.’ ‘How do you travel for work?’ ‘An office colleague, who’s also a close friend, lives just two blocks away from here. Hepicks me up on his way to office.’ Sara noticed Carla’s coy smile when she spoke about her friend. 39
  49. 49. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA ‘Bruno’s office is close to the Natlife office, so in the mornings, he drops Sandra andShivani to their office. It’s....’ Carla stopped mid-sentence when her cellphone suddenly startedto ring. She blushed when she saw who was calling. Sara guessed that it was the same colleague-cum-close-friend and grinned at Carla whenshe excused herself to take the call. Fifteen minutes later, when Sara was on her way to the terrace, Carla was still talking onher cellphone, comfortably lounging on the living room sofa. 40
  50. 50. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Chapter FiveLate in the afternoon, Sara and her housemates bundled themselves into two cars and drove awayfor their Sunday shopping. The drive proved to be an eye-opener for Sara. She looked out through the window, herattention captured by the chaotic scenes on the road: Cars, taxis, overcrowded buses, bikes,scooters and the three-wheeled rickshaws, they all jostled each other for space, wedgingthemselves into the tiniest gap they could find on the road, frequently coming within a hair’sbreadth of each other to move ahead, each vehicle in a desperate rush to reach its destination. The traffic didn’t stop for anybody, she noted dryly, when she saw people sprintingacross the road, narrowly escaping the moving cars. The constant honking added to the chaos onthe roads. At the traffic signals, beggars and street vendors scurried along the waiting cars, fromone car window to another. Coming from Mexico City, one of the most populated cities in the world, Sara wasn’tparticularly shocked at the sight of the enormous human mass. But, she still watched withinterest as they moved around in all directions. 41
  51. 51. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA Dinner was a McDonald’s combo-meal at one of the sprawling malls where they hadfinished their shopping. By the end of the evening, Sara got to know each of her housemates. Shewas the oldest amongst them while eighteen-year old Shivani was the baby of the house. Later atnight, in their room, Sandra talked about herself and her experiences with Natlife. Born and brought up in London, the twenty-year old British citizen came from a mixedparentage of an Indian father and an English mother. With her long and black mane, her fair skinand dark eyes, she could easily pass off as one of the fair-skinned girls of India but for her thickBritish accent, which gave it all away. After spending a year and a half in the company, Sandrahad become quite familiar with the staff. ‘My internship will be over by the end of September,’ Sandra informed. ‘Then, I’ll bereturning home to work in Natlife’s UK office.’ Sara didn’t fail to notice a tinge of sadness in Sandra’s voice when she talked aboutleaving India. To change the subject, she said, ‘I’m so eager to start work from tomorrow.’ ‘You won’t be put to work immediately,’ Sandra smiled. ‘For the first two weeks, you’llhave to undergo training sessions, where each and every aspect of the company will be presentedto you. There will be workshops, audio-video presentations, and tours to Natlife’s factories andmain offices. You’ll get the opportunity to interact with managers, even directors.’ ‘Wow, it all sounds very exciting,’ Sara exclaimed. ‘It’s every bit as fun as it sounds,’ Sandra winked. ‘This way, the new employees getfamiliar with the company, get to know its group businesses and activities.’ 42
  52. 52. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA She continued. ‘You’ll love the group activity sessions held at the Natlife School. Thereare lots of games, brainstorming sessions and other cool stuff for the new recruits to do together.’ Sara smiled. She always enjoyed group activity sessions. It provided her with somelaughs, gave her mental exercise and even tested her communication skills. ‘Right now, I’m working in HR and help in the training of new recruits. I’m assisting inthe preparation of the training plan and schedule,’ Sandra said excitedly. ‘Every now and then,we organize training sessions even for the existing employees who have been newly promoted orhave been shifted to a new country. This may include even directors within the huge Natlifegroup.’ ‘I’m already looking forward to tomorrow,’ Sara grinned. ‘Brace yourself then! We’ve a totally different work atmosphere at Natlife.’ ‘Will I get to meet the Chairman?’ ‘Yes, of course! But, he’s usually travelling on his umpteen tours around the country aswell as abroad, holding audience with thousands of Natlife distributors at a time. But, you’ll getto meet him personally some time during your internship.’ Sandra chuckled. ‘You should see how the distributors go crazy on seeing him. Theyclamber over each other to get close to him. He’s like a rockstar to them.’ She continued. ‘However, tomorrow, you’ll surely meet the prince of Natlife.’ ‘Prince of Natlife?’ Sara asked incredulously. ‘Yes,’ Sandra winked, ‘the hot and hunky Sid Oberoi.’ 43
  53. 53. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPA ‘Is he related to Dev Maurya?’ ‘No, Maurya’s only son, Nik, is in the US. Sid’s the blue-eyed boy of Maurya, as well asNatlife’s Managing Director, Gautam Doshi,’ Sandra gushed on, ‘and literally too, a prince heis...he’s got the most stunning blue eyes.’ ‘I bet he has all the girls in the company falling for him,’ Sara joked. ‘Almost everyone,’ Sandra laughed. ‘He’s quite a charmer.’ ‘Has he got a girlfriend?’ Sara asked, a little curious. ‘Well, if he has one, he’s not open about it.’ Sandra said matter-of-factly and then added,‘And no, he’s not gay.’ With that, Sara’s unspoken question was answered. ‘I’ve heard that he’s never been serious about any girl.’ ‘So, he’s a womanizer?’ ‘No!’ Sandra denied vehemently. ‘I can see that he’s cast his spell on you too,’ Sara teased. ‘Let’s see how you fare with him tomorrow,’ Sandra laughed. 44
  54. 54. THE BLUE-EYED PRINCE OF NATLIFE SWARUPAA Big HI to all my readers! Thank you very much for reading the first 5 chapters of my first-everromance fiction eBook. I’m sure you enjoyed reading the sample chapters :-) Now you can readthe remaining 32 chapters of this eBook (of 257 pages) in PDF format at just US$ 4.99 or theequivalent cost in your currency. Just click on and go through the instructions.To buy the eBook, click on the “Add To Cart” button on the sidebar. A new window will opendisplaying the cost of the eBook. If you’re interested in my three eBooks on Mexico, click on therelevant buttons. To make the payment, click on the “Checkout With PayPal” button and youwill be directed to the PayPal site where you have to enter your credit card details. In case, youhave a PayPal account you just have to log in to your account to complete the purchase.On making the payment, you will receive the download link to the eBook through email.For those in India, you may place your order for the eBook (at Rs 275) by sending an emailto or along with your name, address,email and phone number.If you’ve any questions, please do not hesitate to send an emailto or thepicbookmexico@gmail.comCheers :-)Swarupa