“What? What happened, NandKishore!” Buwaji lost her heart. She was scared to see police at the door. Sham hurriedly went forward.
“What is it?” he asked the constable.
“Who is Ms. Khushi Kumari Gupta?” he asked in a loud rude voice.
“Ji, she stays here!” Sham was very polite with the constable.
“We have a complaint about a hit and run case!” the constable was vague enough.
“What? What case?” Buwaji asked in fright.
“Nothing, Buwaji… you go inside. I will handle it!” he sent her inside. But babuji stood there.
“umm.. she is in the office right now! I will ask her and inform you later!” he said glancing sideways at Babuji. The constable looked confused. He stared at Sham and then said,
“She will have to report to the police station..!” he turned.
“Which police station?” asked Babuji, coming a step forward. The constable looked at Sham.
“I know, uncle. Don’t worry! I will handle it!” sham assured Babuji.
“Thank you, Sham babu, but..! Sir, what is the matter?” asked babuji to the constable.
“We have a complaint about a hit and run case!” he said rudely.
“Who gave the complaint, sir?” babuji asked joining his hands.
“Don’t ask me! Come to the police station!” he ordered. Babuji nodded and looked at Sham.
Uncle, you may not know the process. I will handle it. Sorry, constable saab! I will come and meet you with Khushi ji!” said Sham sending the police away.
He came in wiping of the sweat. “Don’t worry, I will handle it!” he said with a fake smile.
“How do I thank you, Babua? You are like an angel to us!” Buwaji almost touched Sham’s feet. Babuji looked confused.
“If Khushi was hit then who gave the complaint? I know, she didn’t. Payal told me about it.” Babuji was worried. Sham said, “I will go and inquire!”
“I will also come with you!” said Babuji determined to know who filed a complaint.
“Payal bitiya, call Khushi’s office. I will talk to Khushi!” he said logically.
“No need uncle. I will handle it. Don’t worry!” Sham placed his hands on Babuji’s shoulder and made him sit on the chair.
“Haan, this is right, NandKishore! Sham Babua, please, you go and inquire!” Buwaji came to Sham’s rescue. Sham went away.
Babuji sat there lost in thoughts, wondering who might have given the complaint. “I should ask Khushi bitiya!” he concluded.
**** ***** *****
“Babuji..!” Khushi was wallowing on her Amma Babuji’s bed after dinner. She had reached home after ten, after her duty hours. Then the interrogation had started about the accident. She didn’t know anything. There was no question of she filing a complaint as the riots broke soon after. Sham had gone and had managed the matter. He had assured everyone that everything was settled and she need not go to the police station..! Buwaji had taken a sigh of relief.
“Khushi…! You are not a small girl. Sit properly!” her Amma reprimanded.
“Amma, wait! Let me ask him something..!” she ignored her Amma. Amma and Payal grinned at each other. “NandKishore! She is wallowing like a donkey..! She needs a man who will keep her under control …!” Buwaji said holding her head.
“Stop it Buwaji… Don’t talk about it now! I have many things to do!” Khushi declared. Amma smiled.
“I have to find a prince for my jiji first! Then plan for her wedding, then for her children….!” She started off with the list.
“Stop it Khushi..!” payal cut her off getting serious.
“Khushi, first think about that police case..!” Payal held her hand.
“ Thank god Sham Babua handled the situation and that police station matter!! Otherwise, I would have had a heart attack!” Buwaji said smiling. Babuji looked more serious.
“Wait!” Khushi raised her voice. “I want to ask babuji…!” she was cut off.
“Khushi, I want to talk to you. It is serious!” he looked at others. “Alone!” he clarified. Khushi sat up in the bed. Others went out.
“Khusi bitiya, tell me honestly.. Are you alright?” he asked her.
She looked up at him. “Yes, babuji!” she said seriously.
“What kind of working hours are these?” he opened the topic. Khushi thought for a while.
“Babuji, you know everything. They are paying a 12th pass girl, Rs. 50 thousand. Naturally they will expect me to work more! And I don’t mind working hard, plus this is only temporary.. Soon the inquiry will be over and… !” she said reasonably.
“Are you harassed?” he asked her directly. She looked startled. “No!” she said sitting up.
“What is this?” he asked holding her shoulder and showing her the dark marks. She withdrew her hand immediately and fumbled.
“Umm, babuji.. its that … I … I was falling down from the stairs… and he pulled me holding my shoulders…!” she lied blatantly. And then feeling guilty added further…
“Babuji, I still wonder, when the curfew was declared.. no one was allowed to roam around on the streets, the riots broke out, everything was vandalized…he was searching for me for many hours on the roads and finally found me, risking his life..! Took me to his home! He could have got killed…!” she shuddered with the thought.
“Why babuji?” she asked him innocently. He thought for a while…
“If you are genuinely concerned about someone, you risk anything for that person…!” he said seriously. She fell silent. All his rescue operations flashed before her. She winced.
“He must be a good person..!” her babuji concluded.
“Good? You don’t know him babuji. He is a monster.. Today he snatched my mithai…! I was so angry!” she again raised her hands in the air as if strangling him. Babuji had a smile …
“Why didn’t you offer him one?” he asked grinning.
“Offer? To him? Sweets? Babuji, he is diabetic…!” she said pursing her lips sulkily.
“Hmm…!” babuji again was serious.
“Bitiya, does he hurt you?” he looked into her eyes searching for the answer. She glared at her Babuji and suddenly her eyes filled…
“Babuji…!” she sobbed. He placed his hand on her head.
“I..I don’t know, what’s wrong with me..! I don’t want to talk about it to anyone! He.. he is a monster…. But….” she stopped holding her breath! Babuji looked at her intently.
“Do you feel safe in that office?” he asked. She nodded. “Yes!”
“Even when you are alone..?” he asked her seriously.
“Yes!” came the answer.
“Hmm..” babuji was deep in thoughts. “Now, go to your room and sleep!” he patted on her head. She reluctantly got up and went out.
“ASR, why didn’t you come? You just went to office to pick up the file. You didn’t turn up at all after that. I had to handle everything…!” Lavanya had blown her head off in rage. He didn’t bother to answer.
“Where were you?” she asked him at the dining table.
“Had some urgent work!” he said curtly.
“Aakash, we have to settle the account for Mehta constructions!” he changed the subject.
“Yeah Bhai… I have to do something with that. They have stopped the construction work without notice” he provided the information.
“I will get the status report from our site engineer!” said Arnav seriously.
“KHANEKO HELLO HI AND BIJINESH KO BYE BYE! NO TALKS ONLY EATS!” Mami interrupted. Aakash looked around sheepishly. Lavanya tried assimilating what mami said.
“There is more serious matter, Hello hi bye bye!” she fanned out the photos.
“No Mom! Not again!” Aakash looked frustrated.
“Haayin? At least have a look at them..!” Mamaji winked at his son. Aakash shook his head hopelessly.
“No Dad!” he refused. Arnav stared at him.
“Hello hi bye bye! ARNAV BITWA KI HELLO HI YAHAAN HAI…! AB TUMHARI BAARI HAIN, AAKAHS BITWA!” Mami said loudly.
“Stop it Mom! I am not interested…!” he looked at his big brother for support.
Arnav glared at him and shrugged. “Its between you and mami!” he shirked his responsibility.
“Di..!” Aakash turned to his Di. She smiled thoughtfully.
“Mami, don’t worry. I will show him the photos tomorrow!” she winked at her younger brother. He looked relieved. Mami too looked optimistic.
“Raani Saheba, did you show your gift to your brother?” asked Sham slyly, looking at Arnav.
“Aree, he came home just now. I will show him later…!” Anjali said looking at her younger brother.
“What gift Di? Diamonds?” asked Lavanya excitedly. Anjali smiled. “No Lavanya.. it’s a beautiful saree! I loved it!” she said dreamily.
“Special gift?” Lavanya asked winking at her. Nani rolled her eyes.
“Today is the day when we met for the first time five years back!” Sham said wrapping his arm around his wife. Arnav looked at the adorable couple and glanced at Aakash.
“Yeah, Bhai! I got it!” he got up and took out a box from his pocket.
“Jijaji… this is for you from your BILS!” Said Aakash loudly. Sham accepted the gift smiling. He opened the box to see a key of a brand new car…!” his eyes flashed. Then closing the box he returned it to Aakash.
“No.. Saale Saab, I cannot accept it! This is too expensive..!” he looked at his wife.
“Accept it.. After all whatever is mine is all yours…!” she said passionately. He smiled at her and took the key. "Yeah Raani Saaheba! Whatever is yours is mine!!" he thought smirking...
“Wow, Di!... ASR when did we meet for the first time?” Lavanya asked dreamily.
“Don’t remember!” he said plainly disappointing her. “A girl with green eyes in his arm was gazing at him in fright…! Look at her ASR!.. simple, innocent…!” he looked away then closed his eyes.
He was tossing and turning in his bed…
“Look at her ASR..! Beautiful, simple, elegant…! Threshold of womanhood…!” Regi’s words kept coming back to him. “Rakshas Kahi kaa!” green eyes spat anger..! He couldn’t sleep. He stood at the pool side gazing at the stars. “No Don’t! It contains sugar…!” someone yelled. A faint line of smile appeared on his face. His eyes twinkled! … He came back and slumbered on the bed again.
***** ***** *******
“Khushi, I am sorry! I shouldn’t have pestered you to wear…!” Rekha felt guilty about the incidence. Khushi smiled at her considerately. They had gathered for lunch but everyone felt awkward to talk to Khushi.
“Khushi..!” Regi started off.
“Regi Sir! Please… I am ok!” she said smiling broadly. Regi gaped at her.
“Khushi… he must have insulted you again…!” Rekha had tears in her eyes. For a moment, Khushi’s eyes emitted pain but the next moment she smiled broadly winking at Rekha. She leaned towards her and said in her ears…
“You know, Rekha madam? I am only 12th pass, that too in Hindi Medium. This Monster.. I mean ASR Sir speaks in Buckingham English..!” Rekha looked at her thoroughly confused.
“Buckingham?” she asked loudly.
“You know? That Buckingham palace, in London? He thinks he comes to his office via Buckingham palace every day… So he speaks in English….” Khushi clarified and went ahead sending waves of laughter.
“Most of his words, I don’t understand.. you know, I have a limited vocabulary…!” she said smiling.
“The things I don’t understand, I don’t care …! So you see… I take only 25% of what he says…!” she said giggling, remembering what he had said about her when she was describing the riots at his house! Rekha laughed her heart out.
“You know?” Khushi whispered.. “Yesterday he said something like tentacles…! I didn’t understand the meaning… so I didn’t bother about what he said…!” she said smiling. Rekha looked serious. She understood the magnitude of Khushi’s humiliation.
“Khushi…!” she held her hand tightly.
“I know the meaning now!” Khushi whispered. Rekha smiled with moist eyes.
“How can you look at the things differently?” she asked in amazement. Khushi smiled and took out a paper from her bag.
“You know? Tentacles… the octopus have tentacles… and it spits ink when poked….” Khushi opened the folded paper.
“See this! I sneaked out some time to take my revenge!!” she said satisfied with her work. She had drawn a caricature of a person with suit and tie and in place of head, she had drawn an octopus with an angry face and spreading tentacles, his mouth spitting ink everywhere, even on himself…!” Rekha couldn’t control her laughter! Khushi’s ArtWork got circulated everywhere.
“That’s why you are Khushi….!” Rekha hugged her tightly. “Always be like this…!” she said cupping Khushi’s face.
“Life has taught me to be like This…!” Khushi was serious. She looked at the calendar and sighed.