“Khushi, you should have thought before saying all this to your Sir?”
“Think? You think I did wrong? He needed a bitter dose Jiji..!” Khushi still was very angry.
“Khushi, you know, anger makes your mouth work faster than your mind! And you end up hurting someone!” Payal said gravely.
“Hope you have not done that with your Sir!” she muttered. Khushi gaped at her.
“What? Jiji? You think I was wrong in questioning him?” Khushi was furious.
“Why can’t you people understand? Someone had to do it. Someone had to tell him how wrong he was!” Khushi flared up.
“That someone need not be you, Khushi! Why can’t you leave those two alone? You said they are friends, then why do you have to interfere?” Payal gave her another dose of wisdom.
“Yeah! You are right. But I am sure they are enemies. This could be done only with enemies. You know? I wouldn’t do this, even to my enemy. But this, Laad Governer! He takes sadistic pleasure in ruining others!” Khushi muttered angrily. Payal shook her head hopelessly. There was a knock on the door and Sham appeared.
“Sham ji?” Khushi got up. Buwaji came from behind Sham.
“Aray Sanaka Devi, come on get up! Prepare tea for Sham! He is staying over!” she said pulling Khushi’s hand.
“Tea? Now? In the night? Buwaji we had our dinner!” Khushi looked at Sham.
“You know what? I am nocturnal … my work starts after dusk. You know, lot of reading and paper work, I prefer to do in the night peacefully. But its ok. You must be tired!” he smiled sweetly at her. But she had got up and was moving towards the door.
“No, Shamji. I will prepare tea for you..!” she said smiling at him. Buwaji felt better. Khushi went into the kitchen and Sham followed.
Khushi lit the stove and kept the water for boiling. She turned to take sugar and tea containers and was shocked to see Sham playing with the flame of matchstick. His eyes reflecting the flame he had curled up his lip in a smile.
“Sham ji? What are you doing? You will get burnt!” she screamed. Sham held the flame in his fist to put it off. He gazed at Khushi.
“I love it! You know?” He turned to the stove and put his finger through the flame. Khushi ran forward.
“You know? Once you control the fire.. its nothing like it! You rule the world. Anytime you want, it burns down everything for you! Once you get it under control.... and I do!” he stared unfocused dreamily. His eyes flashed menace.
“You scare me, Sham ji!” Khushi turned her back to put sugar and tea in the boiling water.
“Do I?” He was very close behind her. She felt insecure and called out. “Buwaji… do you want to give company to Sham ji?” She was so loud that sham paced backwards. He again lit the matchstick. Khushi turned.
“This craze of controlling fire may backfire on you some day!” she snapped and took the tray of the tea cups.
“Stop shouting, Khushi.. Babuji is sleeping!” Payal took the tray from her and went out. Sham followed. Khushi remained in the kitchen, puzzled.
“He really scares me!” she shuddered with a sigh and went out.
********* ********* ********
“Rekha Madam, when is he leaving?” asked Khushi in a small voice, Rekha looked at her.
“You know Khushi, this Saturday! That is tomorrow!” Rekha too was very serious. “We couldn’t even give him proper farewell!” Rekha felt sad.
“Yeah! But he didn’t want to! He said he wouldn’t bear it.” Khushi said looking at his locked cabin. “I am going to the airport to see him off!” Rekha said and many of her friends nodded. “We too!” they said.
“I will also come…!” Khushi said and got up from her chair. Lunch time was over. Everyone had lost interest in eating together. Khushi looked up at his cabin. He had disappeared. She had not see him after her outburst. She still was smoldering and still wanted to yell at him for asking a person like Regi to leave! “Heartless monster!” she strangled him in the air again opening the file to resume her work.
******** ****** ******
Khushi looked around and she located Rekha in the crowd. “Rekha madam!” she yelled over the crowd and weeded her way through the crowd. A busy Delhi airport was buzzing. Khushi reached. She saw lot of her colleagues gathered to see him off. For the first time she saw his family and the little Khushi!
“Regi sir!” she chocked. He patted on her back introducing her to his family. His wife Annie, his three year old son Robert and his little one Khushi! An old fair lady was sitting on the bench. He took her to the lady. “this is my mother! And Mother, this is senior Khushi!” he said. Khushi joined her hands and said “Namaste!” the lady nodded smiling. She was wearing a golden bifocal spectacles. A cross hung on her chest with a thick golden chain. She was wearing a white cotton handloom saree with light green small border. She looked pale and fragile. Her curly, graying hair looked frizzy thought tied in a knot. She was wearing thick gold bangles and was carrying a small bag. Khushi gaped at her. Her smile was captivating. Khushi couldn’t take her eyes off. Khushi sat next to her still staring at her. “She looks divine!” thought Khushi. Mother was glancing at the entrance searching for someone.
“Regi..!” she called. “Mother.. we need to hurry up. We need to check in..!” he said holding her hand. She shook her head.
“Aru…!” she looked at the entrance again. Regi sighed shaking his head.
“Your Aru is not going to come, mother!” he said gravely.
“No.. E Will!” she said with an accent. Khushi gaped at her. “Ende makan!” she said in malayalam in a heavy tone!
“I know your Makan, mother he will not come! He cannot see us going!” he said turning his face away.
“No sonny! He will come.. to see me off! He can’t forget!” she had tears in her eyes.
“Oh! Stop it mother. I know him. Your Aru will not come!” he said fidgeting with the trolley.
“Regi we better hurry up! She was carrying the baby with her bag!” Khushi stood up and looked at the baby curiously. The pink ball wrapped in pink woolen was sleeping sucking her little thumb.
“Aweee! So cute!” Khushi held out a packet. Annie looked at the packed.
“Its not heavy, but its bulky. Amma, my mother made a quilt for the baby!” Khushi said.
“Oh.. Thank you!” Annie smiled and looked around to stuff the packet in one of her bags. Khushi held the baby in her hand smiling broadly at everyone. She touched her cheek with her finger and the creamy, soft, tender sensation tickled her. The baby churned a bit and went back to her thumb sucking.
“hehehe!” Khushi couldn’t stop her giggle. “She is so cute!”
Regi hugged everyone with tearful eyes. Annie shook hands. The kid was restless.
“Come on mother.. we have to go!” Regi supported her to get up. She got up but did not move an inch.
“He had promised me! He will come!” She again searched in the crowd and cryed.. “Aru…!” everyone turned. ASR was striding over to them. Khushi clenched her fists in rage.
“What is he doing here? Making sure that Regi sir leaves?” he muttered furiously and the next moment her mouth fell open in astonishment.
“Aru..!” Mother had hugged him tightly kissing his forehead.
“I knew, nee varum you will come!” she had tears in her eyes. This was beyond comprehension for Khushi. “Why is she so overwhelmed ?” she wouldn’t know.
“ASR!” Regi hugged him tightly. ASR patted on his back. Everyone gaped at them.
“ASR!” Annie hugged him too. “Thank you, ASR! You did this for us!” she too was overwhelmed.
“Someone had to, Annie and I took the decision!” he said gravely looking at Regi with moist eyes.
“Aru.. “ Regi’s mother held his hand. “valiya upakaaramaayi! Thank you, Son! Now I can die peacefully in my house!” she said sobbing.
“Shuu! Don’t say it. You will be alright! He will take care of you. And the little one!” he looked around and saw the baby in Khushi’s arms. Khushi still gaped at everyone with her mouth still open. He came and took the baby from reluctant Khushi. “Careful!” she blurted. “Shut your mouth up!” he hissed. She shut it immediately.
“Ok, now! Go!” he pushed Robert a bit giving him a big chocolate. Annie picked up the baby from his hand. Regi couldn’t control himself. Khushi looked at ASR. He clenched his fists looking away, trying to control his emotions too.
“Stop it Regi. Don’t make her feel guilty. Keep her happy!” he said sternly stealing a glance at his mother. She was talking to other colleagues and shaking hands with them.
“Ok! Senior Khushi… hope to see you again..!” she said smiling. Khushi nodded.
“Aru…! You will come to meet me!” he nodded. “And soon! Before I die!” she added.
“No..! you are not going to die!” he hugged her tightly. “Take care!” he said taking steps back and the next moment he was merged in the crowd. Khushi wanted to run behind him. Her head was spinning with numerous questions. She saw Regi and his family going behind the glass wall….!
“Who is he?” Khushi still had not got the answer!