“Aree Chote? When did you come?” Anjali asked in surprise. “Night!” came a monosyllable.
“Oh! I heard some noise in the night..!” she faintly remembered. He was busy sipping his tea.
“Where is Lavanya?” she asked. Sham walked in.
“Aree Raani Saheba.. She must be sleeping .. He came in the night.. And maybe she woke up to greet him!” He smiled pulling his Saale Saab’s legs.
“No!” Arnav dismissed everything summarily. “Search me … if you find something.. Call the police..!” a slap on his face brought him back.
“She is not well!” he said.
“What happened?” Anjali was worried.
“And where was she, yesterday evening?” She asked.
“Party!” he clarified. Anjali understood.
“Chote, Nani was furious!” Anjali whispered. He looked at her.
“She sneaked out for a party!” Anjali told him. He had no justification.
“Is she ok?” she asked him. He nodded.
“Don’t worry, Saale Saab! Everything will be fine!” Sham consoled Arnav.
“By the way, Saale Saab! I want to talk to you.. May be in the evening?” Sham looked at Saale Saab. Arnav nodded.
“Umm.. Raani Saheba.. I need to push off! Have to meet a client! Won’t be there for lunch!!” he said holding his wife’s hand. She nodded sulkily. He smiled at her passionately, squeezing her hand. She blushed.
Arnav came back to his room. Khushi had managed to cover up everything. He clenched his fists in frustration. “Why do I end up hurting her?” he asked himself.
“She deserves it!” he answered. Her hurt, painful, burning hazel eyes flashed before him stabbing his heart. His eyes searched for her number in his mobile. His ego held him back in time from dialing her number.
********** ********* ******
“Khushi…!: Payal was speechless.
“Jiji..Tell me what do I do now? I just said yes to him!” Khushi asked Payal hopefully.
“Khushi…Buwaji will kill you, if you tell her that you are going out with a boy!” Payal Shuddered.
“I know!” Khushi said hanging her head. Both of them didn’t know what to do.
Their land line rang. Buwaji picked up the phone. “Aree, Payaliya… Phone… !” she yelled. Payal came running.
“Ji? Aakash Sir?” She looked around.
“Ji…! Ji?” She didn’t know what to answer.
“Umm.. Ok.. No! I will!” She said mildly blushing. Khushi was standing before her thrusting her hands on her hip. She raised her eyebrows questioningly.
“Nothing!” Payal said blushing and ran towards her room. Khushi followed.
“Khushi.. I need to go! I need to deliver the motifs..!” She avoided Khushi’s gaze.
“But jiji? You haven’t finished the last one!” Khushi was suspicious.
“Umm.. It’s urgent… He asked me to bring the ones those are finished…!” she said blushing.
“Why are your cheeks growing red, jiji?” Khushi asked loudly. Payal turned her face. Khushi turned her.
“What is it, tell me jiji…otherwise I will call Buwaji!” she threatened. Payal hesitated but then said,
“Umm.. Aakash Sir wants me to have lunch with him…!” Khushi raised her eyebrows and forgot to bring them down in shock.
“Ohoooo! So you are going with Aakash Sir? What will Buwaji do, when I tell her?” Khushi blackmailed.
“Khushi.. I am carrying the motifs… but what will you do?” Tit for tat by Payal, rendered Khushi speechless.
“Ok! Jiji.. Let’s keep it a secret. We will tell them that we are going to the market to buy embroidery material…!” Khushi was expert in finding the excuses. Payal’s face lit up.
“Then you go to Aakash Sir, I will go have a nice lunch with Ranjan Sir! After all I owe him that much. He has helped me so much, covering up my mistakes and saving me from the Monster’s wrath….!” Khushi was really grateful.
“So, come on Jiji.. Let’s get ready!” they both ran out the complete the chores and the weekly cleaning up. Amma gaped at their speed.
“What? Why are you in a hurry?” she asked bewildered.
“Got to go to the market, Amma… I have an order…!” Payal said turning her face away from her Amma.
“Yeah!” Khushi nodded grinning. Amma shook her head hopelessly.
“Where is Buwaji?” Khushi asked, looking around.
“Mandir… Surya Pooja!” Amma clarified. Both sisters glanced at each other and increased their speed. They had to push off before Buwaji turned up..!
******** ********* *********
“Buwaji… Humnain Kahan Tha Naa?” Sham was frustrated. He was sitting next to Buwaji who was clutching her head helplessly.
“NandKishore…! How do I know, these girls would go out in the morning?” She was frustrated too. They had a plan of Sham taking Khushi out for lunch and be closer to her.
“I will convince her..Buwaji.. Don’t worry! I know you are worried about her. Once she says yes, Uncle Ji will also agree!” He had managed to convince Buwaji. She had agreed happily.
“Hello? Ji? I am not been able to hear properly… Your voice is cracking…!” Khushi shouted in the phone. She had frowned when she saw flashing Sham ji on her mobile.
“Hello, Khushi ji? Where are you?” He asked her yelling over the phone. “Karol…!” Khushi opened her mouth to tell him where she was but again slapped herself.
“Hello? Hello? Kuch sunai nahi de raha hain..! I will talk to you later..!” she disconnected abruptly. Sham frowned and looked at Buwaji hopelessly.
“Why did you let them go?” Buwaji yelled at Amma.
“I didn’t know, you had some plan…!” Amma answered in a small voice. “Shit..!” Sham banged his fist on his palm. His politeness changed to rage.. His eyes changed color.. His posture stiffened..He got up from the chair.
“Ok. Buwaji.. I take your leave!” He said sternly. Amma looked frightened at this change. Buwaji was clutching her aching head.
“Umm.. Sham Babua.. Please have some tea!” Amma tried to stop him, fearing that he would go after the girls.
“Khushi… Hum Galat Kar Rahain Hain..!” Payal felt guilty.
“Yeah Jiji, I know, this is not right… but it’s a question of one lunch. And you have to deliver the motifs, after all!” Khushi said grinning. Her cell rang again. She looked at flashing Sham ji and ignored.
“Khushi..! Phone..!” Payal pointed out.
“Sham ji..!” Khushi whispered. Payal smiled in understanding.
“Jiji… Hurry up!” said Khushi picking up the material and paying off the bill. After all the plan should be fool proof.
“Humm!” She said handing over the material to Payal.
“Jiji.. We will meet here after two hours…I think that much time is enough for you two …!” she winked at Payal and Payal blushed furiously. They saw Aakash approaching.
“You came alone? I would have picked you up!” Aakash said.
“No! Khushi was there. We bought some material!” said Payal mildly.
“Where is she now?” asked Aakash.
“Ummm.. She went with her friend..!” Payal said looking down. Aakash nodded. He took her to a nearby hotel.
“I don’t know, what I will have for lunch…Hope Ranjan Sir is foodie too… Not like that Monster!” she frowned at his thought and slapped herself.
“Don’t think about him, Khushi, enjoy the food!” she said to herself and merged into the crowd.
“Thank God! Chum saved me!” Lavanya was overwhelmed. “I think I should call her..!” she dialed Khushi’s number. She didn’t pick up.
“Is she sleeping? Lavanya was surprised. She looked at the time. “Hmm I will call her landline!” she blurted dialing the number.
“Lavanya..!” came a rude call and ASR appeared at the table. Lavanya was having her late breakfast with the night’s hangover. She was sipping black coffee. He stopped seeing that she was on phone.
“Hello, Khushi Kahan Gayi?” she asked surprised.
“Oh! Ok. Thank you!” she disconnected.
“This Khushi… she is always …!” Lavanya blurted.
“Why? You don’t have the training session?” he asked sternly.
“No, ASR! It’s Sunday… and Chum doesn’t come when yo…!” she stopped seeing him clenching his fists.
“And she has gone to the market with Payal!” she said and he turned his back and went to his room.
“Damn it! Where is she? “ He paced his room, couldn’t stop thinking about her.
“Aakash…!” he remembered.
********** ********* *****
“Where are you, Aakash? I want you to call Payal!” ASR spoke without preamble. Aakash fumbled. He didn’t know where the conversation was moving.
“Bhai?” he asked bemused.
“Aakash, Call Payal!” he ordered.
“But Bhai.. She doesn’t have a mobile..! But…!” he couldn’t complete.
“Damn it!” He was about to disconnect.
“Bhai.. She is with me!” Finally Aakash opened the secret. Payal winced in fright.
“What?” Arnav was shocked and the coming back to senses ordered.
“KHUSHI KO DO!”
“Bhai.. She is not here…!” Aakash fumbled again. He got up and went aside.
“Damn it, Aakash! Where is she?” he yelled.
“Umm bhai.. She went with some friend…!” he fumbled again.
“What the hell, Aakash?” ASR was furious.
“Ask Payal to call her and ask her where she is!” he ordered again. Aakash felt embarrassed.
“Ok. Bhai… I will let you know!” He avoided Payal’s gaze. He didn’t know how to ask her.
“Um.. Payal ji, where is Khushi ji?” he asked stuttering.
“I don’t know. Why?” she asked looking up at him.
“No.. I mean.. If you could ask her.. I will leave you at her place or maybe I will drop both of you at your place..!” He found out a reasonable reason. She nodded. But looked nervous. He held out his phone.
********* ********* *********
Ranjan was waiting for her. She smiled broadly. “Am I late?” she asked him.
“No! I am early!” he said smiling at her.
“Where shall we go?” he asked her. “ The nearest one!” she answered and “with good food!” she said inwardly. He nodded and crossed the road.
They were in Manmeet Hotel sitting at a corner table. Her phone buzzed. It was Payal. She looked at the missed calls list and shuddered seeing ASR Sir’s several missed calls along with Sham ji!! There was a miscall from Lavanya.
“Ranjan Sir! Excuse me!” she dialed Lavanya’s number,
“Hello.. What happened? Are you ok?” she was worried.
“I am fine, Chamakili… thanks!” Lavanya said.
“Its ok, Lavanya ji.. I will talk to you later!” she disconnected.
“What would you like to have?” he asked her opening the menu card She fought her urge to snatch the menu card from him and order.
“I don’t know, what is good here!” she said looking down.
“Actaully… I like any type of food… It should be tasty.. That’s it!” he disclosed to her relief and she smiled broadly.
“Me too!” she said relaxed. The next moment they were discussing the food and ordering.
Khushi was happy to have a foodie company.
“Umm Ms Khushi..!” he said hesitantly gauging her reaction. She didn’t notice it that he called her by her first name.
“Haan Sir? “ She looked up.
“My name is Ranjan!” he said looking at her. “I know it, Sir!” she said grinning. He smiled.
“I am going to Mumbai on Promotion. I am a treasury head of our western region!” he disclosed. Khushi gaped at him. “You are transferred?” she asked in shock.
“hmm! I wanted it. I am from Mumbai!” he said seriously. ASR sir considered without even me asking for it. He said and Khushi again was lost in her thoughts.
“Aree? Sham ji?” She thought she saw him at the entrance. She froze. But the next moment there was no one. The growl in her mind grew louder. She winced at his thought.
“I will be going in a couple of months..! “ he said seriously. She nodded concentrating on her food.
“We won’t meet after that!” he hinted. She nodded.
“Yeah..!” she said “Even I will be gone back to my Lucknow!” she thought gravely. He looked at her serious face.
“Khushi… I wanted to…!” he didn’t know how to gather his courage to ask her. She was busy enjoying the food.
“Khushi.. Can I ask you something?” he asked in a serious tone. Khushi was busy eating ice-cream after a sumptuous dinner. He had preferred a cake after lunch. His hand moved towards her… He touched her hand and she stopped eating ice cream. She didn’t know what to do! She gaped at Ranjan. He was looking at her intently.
“Would you like to visit Mumbai?” he asked her.
“Haan?” she looked up in shock and spoon fell down from her hand. Someone had pulled the chair.
Ranjan got up struggling in shock.