The Arrangement

By: P.G. Van

A few minutes later, Niha walked back into the front room holding a tray with coffee and a mug of hot water for Mahen.

She slowed down her steps when she heard Raghav’s elevated voice. “Why would I give up my ancestral land, for what? Why do I care if you want to build an automobile manufacturing facility?”

“This will be good for the region for the coming generations. This area will no longer be considered underdeveloped. We can take this region to a new level.” Mahen sounded calm.

“Mahen, I have no such interest. I’d rather keep my land.” Raghav sounded adamant.

Mahen was about to say something to him, but Raghav had stood up and was walking toward Niha as she carried the tray. “Niha, it’s so sweet of you to bring me coffee.”

She held on to the tray when Raghav tried to take it from her. “You can take the coffee mug. The other one is for Mahendra.”

“Oh, okay,” Raghav’s face fell in response to her slightly snarky statement.

Niha placed the tray on the table and handed the mug of warm water to Mahen. “For you.”

“Thank you, Niha.”

“You’re welcome.” She smiled at him and took the seat next to Naani.

Raghav took a sip of the drink. “Niha, the coffee is great.”

“I’ll be sure to let Ratnamma know that,” she said, smiling.

“What would it take, Raghav?” Mahen asked after a few moments of silence.

“Mahen, stop discussing business all the time. Let’s talk about some fun,” Raghav said, looking at Niha. “Niha, you should go to the party that I’m hosting. It will be fun.”

Niha smiled, looking at Mahen, “Sure… if I can hitch a ride with Mahendra.”

“Mahen doesn’t go to my parties. I’ll pick you up, for sure,” Raghav said cheerfully.

Niha didn’t have to look at Mahen to know that he was glaring at Raghav. She turned to look at Mahen. “Mahendra and I will check our schedules and get back to you.”

Who was she kidding? She had no plans. What schedule?

“I promise it will be a fun party,” Raghav sounded desperate.

“What do you do outside of partying, Raghav,” she asked teasingly.

“I’m working on taking over my dad’s construction business,” Raghav sounded excited.

“Interesting. What do you build?”

“Commercial mostly. I want to venture into residential homes projects too, once I take over.”

“Great, what do you build in the area?” Niha asked curiously.

Raghav shook his head. “Our business isn’t here. It’s primarily in the city.”

“Oh… so you just come here to party?” Niha smiled.

“Yes, I come back here to the ancestral home. The rest of the land is barren. No one wants to cultivate these days, and I don’t blame them.” He shrugged.

Niha scrunched her nose. “It’s sad that the land is going to waste.”

Raghav looked at Niha for a long moment as if searching for a response and then at Mahen, guilt visible on his face. “It’s unfortunate that we do nothing with the land, but my father wants to retain the land in our village, just so we have our roots here for future generations.”

Mahen leaned back on the chair, looking at Raghav. “Tell your father I’ll give you three times the amount of land in the same village in return for your land.”

“Three?” Raghav swallowed hard.

Mahen nodded. “Yes. Three hundred acres of my cultivated land for one hundred acres of your barren land.”

Raghav looked shocked. “Are you serious? And this is for…”

Mahen stood up. “For future generations’ well-being, not just one family but thousands of families. In this way, they can stay here with their families and grow where their roots are and not have to trek to the big cities.”

Raghav stood up slowly looking at Mahen. “I’ll talk to my father about the deal.”

Mahen put his hand on Raghav’s shoulder. “I can understand why your father might want to retain the lands, but the previous generation thinks differently. I wanted to talk to you so that we can collectively bring change.”

Raghav smiled, nodding. He took Mahen’s hand in his. “You’re right. I’ll talk to my dad. All I need is a fair exchange for my father’s sentimental reasons.”

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