Chapter 1

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The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry ~ Robert Burns

As the aircraft speedily floated downwards to touch the ground, Khushi stared outside seeing nothing, clutching the armrests of her first-class window seat with dear life. When, after an eternity, her flight landed on the airstrip with a muted thud and a slight jerk to her person, she sagged back in relief. Thanking God for landing safely, she instinctively turned her head to check on her brother. He was smiling at her from across the aisle, shaking his head. He always found her fear of flying amusing. Khushi grinned back trying to hide her unease. He did not know that while she hated flying, she hated airports more.

Much more, when he was flying with her.

"Welcome to Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai. The temperature outside is in high 30 degrees. Local time is 11:30 pm. Please remain seated till the seatbelt sign is on. Electronic devices can be switched on. Passengers with connecting flight- all other flights are on schedule. Have a safe journey ahead. Passengers with Mumbai as their final destination can find baggage claim information at the gate. Thank you for flying with American Airlines. We sincerely hope you fly with us again in future," pilot's voice reverberated as the aircraft taxied towards the gate.

People got up and moving as soon as the seatbelt sign turned off, retrieving their hand luggage from under the consoles. Air hostesses started flittering around helping them. Khushi noticed the American air hostess who was subtly trying to flirt with her brother throughout the flight, batting her eyelashes at him again. Wryly, Khushi wondered how she would react if she were told that the handsome six feet tall, fair, aristocratic and lithe looking first class passenger, whose attention she was trying to grab is not a wealthy businessman or an Indian actor, but the heir to the most powerful mafia empire of the Indian subcontinent. Third generation criminal blood. Not very pleasantly, she was sure. It was altogether a different thing that Akash Ranjan Vaghela, her elder brother and stand-in father cum mother, was busy with his Blackberry and paid no heed to the simpering woman. Khushi smiled in approval. Her brother was getting married soon and she expected nothing less than complete loyalty from him towards her would be sister-in-law, Natasha. 

Khushi stood up stretching, brushed her long thick ponytail with her fingers, smoothed her leggings and oversized topper. She liked to dress comfortable for long flights, except for her gravity-defying designer footwear to compensate for her short 5 feet 2 inches frame. That, she could wear to bed.

"Gudiya, got your stuff?" her brother asked extending his free hand, standing with his own carry-on bag in the other.

She nodded and extended her duffle bag to him, keeping her purse with herself.  Now starts the humiliation, Khushi sighed as they filed in the line towards the exit. And sure enough, there stood two airport security people, staring at them directly, openly singling them out from the crowd. 

Akash Ranjan Vaghela flying international always stirred up security at airports, regardless of the country. She knew the drill by heart now. While everyone turned right towards the immigration counter, they turned left and followed the two men. After a short walk, they entered a huge room with an exclusive security post and sharp looking airport staff waiting behind the counter. Khushi made a move towards the cluster of plastic chairs in the corner. They will make them wait unnecessarily, trying to drive the point that Vaghelas or not, the law can detain them if it bloody wishes. Then they will bring in their luggage and turn it upside down in front of them like they are fools who will fly with a stash of drugs or illegal arms. Others will check their passports and documents for fraudulence from every which angle. Again, as if they are fools who would fly internationally with fake documents. Question them on some occasions. But at least in India, airport officials looked at Akash bhai with fear and police people fell over each other to appease him. 

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