“Hello Sham babu, What are you doing here?” asked Babuji seeing Sham walk into the house like a family member. Sham froze and gaped at Babuji.
“Arree Aap? When did you come?” he brought a forced smile on his face. He was shaken. “What are these people doing here?” he thought.
“We came in the morning!” Babuji stood in his way folding his hands. Sham stood there with gaping mouth.
“Arree Sham Babua, come, come!” Buwaji came from inside. Babuji looked at Buwaji.
“Arree, Sashi Babua, yeh Sham Babua to Devadoot Hain! He came to our help from time to time..!” Buwaji fell short of words in praising Sham. Babuji still stood there.
“Arree, come in!” Buwaji called him inside. He came in and sat on the chair. Babuji took the chair opposite him and stared at him. He felt nervous.
“Umm Buwaji, I came here to inform you, that your pension work is almost done!” he touched the sensitive issue. Buwaji started off again to praise him. He wore an innocent smile on his face and looked down politely.
Amma brought in tea. He accepted a cup getting up from his seat.
“Sham ji, how come you found my sister in Delhi?” asked Babuji. Sham fumbled but Buwaji came to his rescue.
“Arree, it was a coincidence. He met me in the market. I brought him along .. he is like a family member now! He is a great help. He is working on my pension case also.” she said holding Sham’s hand fondly. He smiled at her.
“He helped our Sanaka Devi. He cares for her!” she added further raising her eyebrows, glancing at Sham. Sham again looked down politely.
“Thank you very much, Sham Babu! We are indebted to you! “ Babuji said.
“Nothing uncle ji, I consider this as my family!”
“Now that I have come here, we won’t bother you, much!” Babuji said.
“No uncle ji, its my pleasure!” Babuji didn’t react.
There was a knock on the door. “Police?” Buwaji got up with a jerk frightened to the core. Sham got up and looking at the family members said,
“Don’t worry Uncle, Buwaji.. I will handle it!” he came hurriedly towards the door.
****** ***** ********
He waited for her in his cabin with clenched fists, rage mounting the peak! He saw her coming through and climbing the stairs lifting the full length gown slightly up in front with both her hands.
He inadvertently touched his chin, where her forehead had banged. He could still feel her breath on his neck, he still could feel her heart pounding..His eyes followed her. She was not looking up.
She climbed the stairs with wobbly knees. She reached the threshold of his cabin and he grabbed her shoulders in rage hurting her.
“Ssss!” her mouth left a faint scream. “What do you think you were doing?” he hissed at her in rage. She closed her eyes in fright. His grip on her shoulder made her wince in pain.
“Answer me!” he yelled. She was afraid of opening her eyes. He pushed her with might and she fell backwards hitting a chair with a thud. He pushed her on the chair and leaned forward dangerously.
“You are faster than expected, Khushi Kumari Gupta! Already started spreading your tentacles?” he asked her loathing. She could not control tears even under closed eyes.
“Started weaving your net around the men here, haven’t you?” he was disdainful enough to whip her. She looked at him miserably with quivering lips. He glared at her with hatred. She had not spoken anything. Drops of sweat appeared on her forehead with tears welling up in her eyes.
“Let me tell you, Khushi Kumari Gupta, all those who wear suit and tie are not rich and wealthy…! So be careful while choosing a man! You will be disappointed!!” his whisper was venomous. She closed her eyes again, unable to bear his glare. Her breath became uneven, as she couldn’t control her sobs. She could feel his breath on her face. His grip on her shoulder had become bone crushing.
“So eager to catch a big fish?” he whispered in her ears bending down further. His lips almost touched her ears. She winced. With one jerk she pushed him back placing her hands on his chest. He lost his balance for a moment. She got up and moved towards the door. His grip was strong enough to pull her back.
“Not so soon, Khushi Kumari Gupta!” he hissed.
“Leave me..!” her lips quivered. “Why? Won’t you try your tricks on me?” he had knocked her dead finally with his whipping remarks. She looked up at him giving up all her resistance to free herself. The anguish in her eyes twisted his heart. He left her losing his energy. She stood there shaking from head to toe, not even trying to move away.
“ASR!” Regi was at the door. He looked at Regi turning towards him. She turned her back on them to wipe her tears off.
“ASR, need to talk to you!” started off Regi. Khushi gathered her energy to drag herself towards the door.
“No! Khushi, wait!” Regi pulled her back. She had lost her energy to resist. She stood there looking down, completely defeated.
“Look, ASR! I don’t know what animosity you have, but.. Look at her, ASR!” ASR’s eyes travelled in her direction.
“ASR, look at the dress! Don’t always think, the super models bring you the fortune. Look at this beautiful, simple, innocent yet dignified girl, ASR! She is an angel to me! Look at the dress, traditional, yet very in vogue, modern. Just put this, and look at her!” he wrapped a star studded dupatta around her back on brought its edges in front wrapping around her elbows.
“Perfect! Look ASR, She is a perfect Indian girl, shy, Khandani, beautiful, elegent..on the threshold of her womanhood!” he went on. With every word, ASR’s eyes followed Khushi from head to toe. With every word, Khushi shrunk. She tried to hide herself behind Regi. ASR’s feelings were unknown to himself.
“Look ASR! It was my wish that she wore this dress…!” he couldn’t complete his defense.
“Bass Kijiye, Regi sir! Please stop all this. I am not a mannequin at the display. It was my mistake that I agreed to wear this!” finally words only found her. She moved towards the door clutching her dupatta.
“No! wait! Khushi!” Regi tried to stop her in vain. She ran out of his cabin to change. .
ASR gaped at Regi with hollow look. Regi gazed at her vanishing figure, shook his head and turned saying “I made a big mistake!”
“Me too!” ASR’s heart cried out.
Khushi changed in her normal attire in the trial room, without looking at her mirror bhai. She came out in a few minutes and went straight to her cubical. ASR stood at the door staring at her unblinkingly.
Rekha had no courage to face Khushi. She felt guilty. Regi sat on his chair with a thud feeling doomed. “Am I killing the innocence of this girl? Bu..but I just wanted him to realize how wrong and judgmental he was about her.” his heart ached.
Khushi sat on the chair locking her fingers and closing her eyes, for a while. Then joining her hands, praying her Devi Mayya, opened the file, to continue with her work. ASR couldn’t move an inch from his place, he kept gazing down.
Khushi started filling up the data with shaky hands making numerous typographical mistakes for a long time. Slowly she regained her composure.
“Buck up Khushi! This is not new to you! It always happens with you! You always make some Gadbad in the end!” she muttered animatedly, opening her Tiffin and stuffing a piece of Malai barfi in her mouth. The sweets always gave her energy and strength. He, in one swift move had come down behind her.
“Nothing works smoothly for you, Khushi! You always end up in a mess…!” she said little loudly. “Even in childhood… Khushi, do you remember, you won the championship and while lifting the trophy, you fell down on the stage clumsily..!” she said with a smile on her face, recollecting that funny incidence.
“What?” Came a whisper in her ears from behind! She turned her swivel chair with a jerk spiraling her hair in the air.
“Woah! Careful” He dodged the swirl. Before she could react, he tried to snatch the Tiffin box from her hand. She pulled it back holding it tightly. He held her wrist and she lost her grip. He took the box and picked up the last remaining barfi. He opened his mouth to take a bite and she screamed.
“No, don’t! It contains sugar!” he looked at her defiantly and stuffed the entire piece in his mouth.
“ITANI KADAVAHAT UGALANE KE BAAD, HAMAHI SE MEETHA??! Even after spitting the venom, he has the atrocity to eat my barfi!!” she muttered raising her hands to strangle him.
“Ai..Heorhd.. ith! SUNA MAINE!!” he blabbered with stuffed mouth, climbing up his cabin.