“What have you decided, Uncle ji?” Sham stared at Babuji. He got no reaction from Babuji. Buwaji sat there clutching her head in despair.
“As I told you, I could get a stay order for your shop. But the bank has already attached your house..! You have nowhere to go, Uncle ji!” sham had a threatening voice. Babuji looked at him.
“NandKishore! Babua, you guide us. What should we do? Look at his health! You are our savior!” Buwaji had lost her control.
“I will take it up, if you want me to!” Sham played his move. Babuji was deep in thoughts. He had no energy and money to litigate. He knew he had not paid the installments and bank had attached the house and sealed it. But later on the bank manager had called him up and informed that someone had paid off the entire loan amount. He had refused to disclose the name. Babuji gaped at Sham.
“Uncle ji.. I couldn’t find out from the bank. They refused to disclose the information. But if you file an application, they will have to..!” he said looking at Babuji.
“Haan, Babua.. Yes, he will file that application. You go get the information…NandKishore!” Buwaji said excitedly.
“Jiji.. we have not paid the installments, bank has sealed the house.. What other information you need?” Babuji asked.
“Uncle ji.. I heard someone has paid off the loan. But the property is still in your name. I want to know who did this, before it gets transferred from your name!” he brought out his hidden agenda.
“Dekhiye Sham Babu..! I am not interested to know who paid off and why. The fact is, I have lost my house in Lucknow! “ He said with heavy heart.
“Uncle ji, I can give it a try! Give me your property papers..!” said Sham.
“I don’t have with me. They are in bank locker! Unless I go there…” Babuji looked at Sham’s aghast face.
“It is not possible for me to travel. So may be when I go back to Lucknow, I will be able to get those papers..!” said babuji turning his face. He felt exhausted.
“Who else can open it?” asked Sham. Babuji stared at him and said “Khushi! Its in our joint name..!”
“What?” Buwaji got up with a jerk. “Yes Jiji. I made her joint account holder, when she became eighteen!” Babuji had a faint smile on his face. Sham looked lost. “Why Khushi? If it would have been any other person, it would have been so easy to get those papers.. But Khushi? She was even more difficult than this clever Uncle ji!” he thought frowning.
“ASR!” Regi was speechless looking at the dockets. He sat on the chair with a thud. He opened the file with Shaky hands and read the documents.
“Here!” ASR held out another envelope. Regi refused to take it.
“No! ASR! I don’t know..!” he said still focusing on the file.
“You have to!” he said not looking at Regi.
“Yeah, I know..But..!” Regi couldn’t complete. He chocked.
“No! Stop! Take this”. ASR thrust the envelope in his hand and turned his back on Regi.
“It’s final! There will be no change now!” he said and Regi hung his head getting emotional. He went back to his cabin and ASR gazed at his laptop unfocused.
Khushi came to the office to see Regi talking to Rekha. He waved at Khushi. Khushi looked up at his cabin. He was busy with his laptop, She grinned at Regi and Rekha.
“Hmm Back to normal!” she sighed seeing everyone in place. She started her work happily.
“Khushi..!” Regi called her. “Meet me at lunch time in my cabin!” he said disconnecting the intercom.
****** ***** ******
“This is for you, Khushi!” he held out a gift. Khushi gaped at Regi. “Regi sir? Gift? … why?” she couldn’t comprehend. Regi looked away for a second and then facing her said.
“It’s a small parting gift, Khushi!” He thrust the gift in her hand.
“What? What gift? Parting? What does that mean?” With every question her voice rising, she came a step forward. A lump forming in his throat, Regi swallowed hard.
“Yes. I am leaving!” he said looking away.
“What? What do you mean, you are leaving..!” she came on to him.
“Khushi… I am leaving!” she stopped with her mouth falling open.
“Why?” she asked in anguish. “I have to..!” he said gravely. “I mean that’s the best solution..!” he said avoiding her gaze.
“What do you mean solution? Regi sir, what’s the matter? Tell me!” she raised her voice.
“Shuuu! Khushi stop!” he said bringing down his voice. “What happened, Regi sir?” she asked him suspiciously. She remembered Regi going to his chamber.
“Who gave you this solution?” she narrowed her eyes. Regi gaped at her. “Khushi.. stop!” he tried to stop her wandering mind.
“No.. tell me, who gave you this solution? Who asked you to leave the job?” she asked taking a step ahead, raising her finger.
“ASR! I mean, he is right! I should .. but he is...!” He tried to explain hurriedly. Khushi had already blown her head off in anger. She was beyond listening to anything.
“I knew it! I knew it! He will spoil everything. I had told Rekha madam, he will not resolve the issue, he will complicate..! I knew it, Regi Sir!” she flared up pacing his cabin up and down trembling with anger…!
“Khushi.. please.. calm down! Listen to me.. I am not...!” Regi started off weakly. He didn’t know how to convince her. He himself was not sure, whether he would be able to handle it.
“No! Regi Sir, this is not done! He cannot do this to you..! I won’t let that happen..!” She said furiously stopping in the middle abruptly. Regi gaped with open mouth. Her face was reddened. She was fidgeting; her eyes were spitting rage…! “I have to stop this storm!” he thought to himself and before he could take a step forward, she was out of his cabin. He sat on the chair with a thud. His emotions overwhelmed. He looked around his cabin. He worked here for almost six years, with the cabin permanently assigned to him. He couldn’t control his emotions.
“Oh! God! What am I going to do?” he clutched his head. He was trying to convince himself. But he couldn’t see himself at any other place, other than this cabin, this studio, this display place, this working area. He couldn’t control his tears.
Khushi came out of Regi’s cabin and came to her cubical smoldering. “I have to do something. He cannot do this to Regi Sir!” she was thinking hard on whom to rope in for this …! She looked up at his cabin. He was not in his place. She picked up the intercom.
“Hello Aman Sir! Where is ASR Sir?” she asked. Aman had no clue. She tried with Lavanya, with every possible person but no one knew where ASR was. Even Aakash didn’t know where his bhai was! With every passing minute she grew restless, her rage mounted and she started biting her lip furiously.
“Sssuss!” A droplet of blood oozed out of her lower lip. She had bit it hard. She dabbed her lip with her finger and saw him walking towards his cabin. She got up picking up the gift. He didn’t look at her and walked past her. She followed. He ignored. She climbed his cabin behind him. He came in and assumed his seat. She stood before him folding her hands. He looked up at her.
“Is it true, what I heard?” she asked in a low tone.
“What did you hear?” he asked in an equally low tone.
“That Regi sir is leaving?” she asked. “Yes” was the plain answer. She stared at him for a while. He stared back.
“May I know the reason?” she took a step forward clutching the back of the chair.
“No!” again a monosyllable. Her mouth fell open.
“Why did you ask him to leave?” her voice was a tone louder. He did not move his eyes from her.
“I am asking you, Mr. Raizada!” she was loud enough. He still refrained from responding.
“Don’t have any explanation, isn’t it?” she asked scornfully.
“What do you think? You can take any arbitrary decision and people will bow their heads in acceptance?” she asked looking straight into his eyes. He glared back.
“You thought no one will question you, isn’t it? Not even Regi Sir! But no, Mr. Raizada .. I will question your decision…~” she went ahead in rage.
“He asked you for help. And this is what you offered? This is how you resolve the issue? This is how you solve others’ problems? By terminating them from the job?” she was yelling. He still had not answered.
“Rekha madam said you two are friends. This is how you help your friend? Answer me Mr. Raizada!” her yelling reached the peak. Someone went and told Regi. He came running to ASR’s Cabin and stopped dead at the entrance looking at the scene. Khushi was yelling and ASR was looking at her, folding his arms on his chest and reclining on his chair.
“You call this friendship? This is back stabbing..! You had no right to terminate him, Mr. Raizada! If one has friends like you, who needs enemy then?” she raised her finger and came forward banging her fist on the table.
“You.. huh..Yo..!” she chocked. He got up from the chair. “Water?” he held out a glass of water!
“To hell with your water!” she snatched the glass and threw it on the floor forcefully. The shards spread all over. Regi shuddered. ASR just stood there looking at the broken glass shards.
“Khushi…!” Regi came forward .. “No!” she raised her hand exactly like ASR, stopping him from advancing.
“No! Regi Sir, don’t stop me! I need answers from him!” she pointed her finger at him. He had stood tall. His muscles flexing, his hands twitching, his teeth gritting… Regi knew, he was trying hard to control his anger. Any moment he would pounce on her to tear her into pieces. Regi winced.
“Khushi.. Stop!” he said loudly. ASR raised his hand to stop Regi and looked again at Khushi. She had never stopped talking. He assumed his seat again, picking up another glass of water.
“Why? Why should I stop? He should stop hurting his own people. He should understand, distancing from people will leave him nowhere. You will be alone in the world, Mr. Raizada..! There will be no one to share ..!” she had hit the trigger inadvertently.
“Yes, I am a loner.. I don’t care!” he said in a deadly voice. Her ranting stopped for a second to look at him and then she exploded again.
“Yes! And you are a blindfolded person.. Your ego has blindfolded you! You fail to understand others’ feelings… you have no heart, Mr. Raizada! Your big ego and pride is destroying people around you..!” she stopped to breathe. Regi made his way in and held her hand.
“Khushi, for Christ Sake… please stop! You don’t know the issue!” he could speak one full sentence before she started again. ASR’s grip on the glass tightened. His vanes visible on his forehead and neck, Regi sensed the danger.
“Khushi Stop!” he yelled. Khushi looked at Regi. “Yeah… I should stop. There is no one to stop him. He is the ruler… Master of the Universe! Blasphemous person! Looks only at the darker side! Never believes in goodness of people…! Knows only to hurt people! ” She stopped falling short of words..
“What do you think, Mr. Raizada? That you will be able to break him down? You think, he wouldn’t get the job elsewhere? But let me tell you, Mr. Raizada… he will get a better job than this… this… shabby place..! He will go higher and higher than stagnating at this place, working under you! Take this… you keep it! Parting gift… I don’t need it.. because I am not parting… I will keep in touch..” She went on banging the gift on his table…
“Enough!” he screamed at the top of his voice and she stopped like someone switched off the power.
“Out!” he said with a deadly voice and Khushi stopped for the first time, gaping at him.
“No! I will not st…!” she opened her mouth… but before that
“I said, Out!” he yelled at the top of his voice and the glass in his grip broke into pieces.. His voice reverberated in the office and the entire office froze in fright.
“ASR!” Regi ran forward to take the glass and to hold his bleeding hand.
“Out!” He ordered her. She took a step forward gaping at his wound. He came around, grabbed her shoulder with his other hand, dragged her and pushed her out of his cabin.
“ASR!” Regi looked aghast. ASR came back to his seat and wiped off the blood with tissue. Regi gaped at him and down at Khushi. She was still trembling and clutching her head. Her anger had not subsided.
“Boy! Jesus! She surpassed you in anger, ASR! She is a blaze! “ Regi shook his head. ASR refrained from reacting.
“ASR, I am sorry! She does not know anything… she only heard that I am leaving and…! I..I will go explain ..!” Regi moved towards the door.
“No!” ASR stopped him raising his hand. “I don’t need others to justify my actions..! Nothing is going to change my decision. You are going and that’s final!” he spoke at length for the first time in fifteen minutes. Regi was speechless.
“But ASR, she needs to know!” he tried his level best. “No! I don’t care who thinks what about me! I take my own decisions..!” ASR looked furious. Regi looked at him. He knew, his friend ASR was hurt beyond comprehension. He knew his hurt would never heal. He knew, he had to do something..!
“ASR please! Stop hurting yourself. Let me explain..!” he pleaded. “No!” said ASR curtly.
“Regi Thomas Kannur, you are not going to talk to her about this!” he ordered and Regi lost his last chance. He couldn’t go against ASR.
“ASR, please.. Listen to me once for Christ sake!” Regi spoke in anguish.
“I said NO!” yelled ASR. Regi hung his head with drooping shoulders in defeat!
“Go home, Regi!” ASR said calmly.
“No, ASR! Let me complete the day.. please?” Regi urged. ASR looked at him hard and turning his back to hide his emotions said.. “OK!”
Regi came forward, “ASR!” his voice filled with overwhelming emotions, ASR cut him short.
“No, go back to your cabin!” Regi descended with a heavy heart! ASR picked up the intercom.
“Aman, ask someone to clean this mess!”