He came to the office and for the first time responded to the Security Guard’s salute! The shock on the guard’s face didn’t wipe off for a very long time!
Regi called. Arnav smiled picking up the phone.
“ASR! Talk to her!” Regi was agitated with his mother’s attitude. She was not cooperating for the treatment. ASR sighed and waited for his mother to come online. He talked to her for a long time trying his best to convince her to go ahead with the treatment. The painful chemo had started and she had given up in the first cycle itself. Nine more to go ...! He tried explaining to her in his monosyllable conversation in vain. He was not at all good at it. He only knew to command, to order and expected others to follow his orders...!
“Listen to me damn it! Else I will bring you back to Delhi!” he yelled threatening her. His voice reverberated. Everyone looked up at his cabin and he realized who he was talking to.
“Look.. I am sorry!” he said in a mild tone but the phone was disconnected. He dialled again.
“Sorry, Regi!” He started off.
“Oh! She needed that yelling..! Let me see how she reacts to your terror dose!” said Regi.
ASR busied himself in the work. His phone rang and he got the long awaited news. One of his Lucknow project was through with construction permits. He closed his eyes in satisfaction. “Three more to go! But I want all of them together!” His ambition didn’t stop with one project. His brain started formulating strategies for handling financers. “Next time, my share will be more..! AR Constructions will be in the market with its own brand, in construction!” He called Aakash and Aman.
“Aakash, the project is through despite a failure with Mehta Construction..! This time we have to be more careful!” he said seriously. Aakash’s face lit up! Aman looked at ASR in apprehension. Having prior work experience in construction company, he knew the dangers in remotely monitoring the construction sites.
“This is a great news Bhai. I know, this is ’ make or break’ for us. But I am sure, you already have something in your mind to make it a success..!” Aakash said admiring his bhai. Arnav nodded.
“This time, no outsourcing, Aakash.. We will have to have our own team. Local construction company Dhingras are ready but the supervision should be ours. Twice a day progress update we require to keep tight control over the costs! Aman, you will be the point of contact from AR constructions! You will handle this project with few others!” he said opening the rolls of blueprints and Gant Charts! New excitement waved throughout the office. A new venture of AR Group. A complete diversification!!
********* ******** *********
“Didi, Ley Lo Naa! Only Five Rupees.. The bumper draw is tomorrow, Didi! Try your luck! Didi, you have come from Mandir.. Devi Mayya will shine your luck. Lay Lo Naa!” A small boy followed her everywhere persuading her to buy the Lottery Ticket. Khushi’s eyes lit up!
“Agar Lag Gaya Toh? She looked at the draw money. “Fifty Lacs? “ She looked at the boy. He knew she was gullible. He smiled at her broadly. “Devi Mayya, Kisi Ko Khali Haath Nahi Bhejati..!” He took advantage of her religious beliefs. She nodded putting her hand in her bag.
“Khusiii... No! I don’t give you money to buy lottery!” She remembered her babuji reprimanding her when she was young and had pestered her babuji to buy a lottery ticket. He was annoyed with her.
“There is no shortcut, Bitiya! There is no substitute for hard work..! This kind of gain won’t last long, Khushi...! No!” he had given her a slap when she was adamant.
Khushi put her hand in her bag and took out five rupee coin. She gave it to the boy. “Didi, Ek Nikalo..!” said the boy smiling broadly fanning out the tickets. She shook her head.
“No Bittu miya..!” she patted on his skull cap. The boy looked at her surprised.
“These five rupees are for you! Do whatever you want or take a Ticket for you!” she said smiling. He looked at the coin and looking up at her said.
“I will eat something, Didi! These Lottery tickets are not for people like us. We are only to sell these, cannot try our luck..!” the boy said gravely and smile on her face wiped off.
“Yes, bittu miya... Bade Hoshiyar Ho! Jao Aish Karo!” she pushed the boy and he ran towards the sweet shop.
“Aray Haan! I didn’t try the sweet shops in Mandir compound! I will get the samples tomorrow morning..!” she smiled again and crossed the busy road almost running towards her house.
******** ********** ********
“Aray Sham ji? Where were you?” Khushi was surprised to see Sham sitting at the table.
“Khushi.. Come inside!” Payal pulled her. “What happened?” Khushi looked at Payal’s worried face. Babuji’s health had deteriorated.
“But Doctor said he is improving..!” Khushi wondered.
“Yes Khushi.. but this morning after you left he was unconscious. Sham ji told us and we ran to his room” Payal said nervously.
“Sham ji? He was there?” Khushi asked narrowing her eyes. “Jiji.. why every time Sham ji finds out that Babuji is ill and why is he alright when Sham ji is not around!” She asked suspiciously.
“Stop it Khushi! Don’t raise doubt about his intentions. May be he can see the symptoms better than us..!” Payal said reasonably. Khushi came out.
“What happened to Babuji, Sham ji?” she sat beside him and asked. He turned to her and said
“When I came in the morning, he was in his room but when i went to meet him he was unconscious..! Don’t worry Khushi, he will be alright. I called the doctor and he has given new medicines. I have bought them..!” He took out the packet. Khushi took it and went into babuji’s room. She sat there holding his hand.
“Babuji, how did this happen?” she was in tears. She looked at the medicine chart and got up with a jerk. She took out the medicines and helped him to sit. She gave him the medicines and came out again. Sham was still sitting at the table but this time Buwaji was with him.
“Hey Devi Mayya.. Steam Engine got fuel... she will start again..!” Khushi muttered and before Buwaji could start, she started off
“Sham ji, I was waiting for you that day. You didn’t come!” she looked morose. Sham felt better. He came forward and said, “Sorry, Khushi! I had some urgent work! And by the way, buwaji’s pension work is done. She will start getting her family pension from this month, regularly!” he gave her the good news. Buwaji had tears in her eyes. Khushi looked at her and came to her.
“Chalo Achha Hua! Now Buwaji will be happy!” she hugged her Buwaji. “this is all because of sham Babua!” Buwaji said gratefully.
“I know Buwaji.. Thank you Sham ji!” she said sweetly. Sham was relaxed. She prayed her Devi mayya to give her strength.
“Umm Sham ji?” she started off. Sham looked at her.
“Can you tell me, how much would be the hospital bill?” she was not ready to give up. Sham looked at Buwaji hopelessly. Buwaji came to his rescue.
“Aray Khushi, he doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to disclose how much is the bill..!” Buwaji looked at Sham fondly and Sham nodded.
“Really? Buwaji, that’s because he does not know, how much is the bill!” Khushi pulled the pin of grenade. “Did you give a blank cheque? Sham ji?” she asked raising her eyebrows. Sham got up with a jerk.
“Khushi ji, I told you, it really does not matter who paid the bill!” he was annoyed and nervous.
“No sham ji, it does matter. I want to repay that money as early as possible. So, if you have paid the bills, please tell me the final amount!” she too got up.
“Khushi ji you still consider me an outsider...!” Sham was hurt.
“You are!” she said flaring up her nose. “Khushi...!” Buwaji yelled. Khushi covered up..”I mean, you are till we get married! But I won’t till I replay all your money, Sham ji!” she bowled a googly. Sham was clean bowled. He gaped at her. “Khushi!” he was very hurt. She was determined.
“Sham ji, please don’t misunderstand me! But I enquired in the hospital and I will get the duplicate bills too!” she said looking straight into his eyes.
“Khushi... listen! Sit here!” He asked her to sit by his side. She did. “I..I arranged the money from someone. He paid the bills!” Sham confessed.
“Who?” she asked. Buwaji too looked worried.
“Khushi, I know the law. Your company was bound to pay the medical bills and they did!” he said challenging her.
“For your information, Sham ji, I was relieved from duty a day earlier!” she stumped him. He grew nervous. Then clenching his fists like a cornered cat said.
“Khushi, I never said I paid the bills. Payment was important that time than who actually paid the bill! I never said to anyone that I paid the bills!” he stood angrily.
“And now, I think I should leave. If you don’t trust me, there is no point staying here. Buwaji, I will send your pension file tomorrow. You get the work done in the office!” he blackmailed and Khushi understood that she should not stretch it to break it.
“There is enough time, Sham ji! I will have to dig further, to know who you really are... !” She thought determinedly. And smiled sweetly at Sham ji.
“Aray, Sham ji? You are leaving? I thought we would go out for some time!” she said turning her back on him. He froze and turned. “You want me to come with you? Where?” he asked.
“Where else? My favourite place, Mandir!” she said. He sat back. “Ok. Get ready!” he smiled. She went inside and her phone rang. Sham picked up. It was from Raizada House. He didn’t know what to do. Khushi came out running and snatched the phone.
“Hello?” she called out. “Aray, Anjali ji? What is it?” she asked and listened for a while.
“Yes Anjali ji, I will come. In fact we are going to that Mandir only... yes, yes we will come..!” she said smiling.
“This is great! Sham ji, let us go!” She said wearing sandals. Sham gaped without moving an inch.
“Aray Haan! Jiji are you coming?” she winked at her Jiji. Sham took out his phone.
“Umm Khushi, I will make a phone call and come!” he disappeared. Khushi waited. He came back to say he has some urgent work.
“See? Again? I feel we are destined not to meet, Sham ji!” she giggled and Sham turned his face enraged.
“Destined not to meet! I will change the destiny... i will have you Khushi!” he clenched his fists in frustration.
*********** ********* ***********
“What the hell are you doing here?” he yelled seeing Khushi in the Mandir.
“I should be asking you this question, Mr. Raizada!” she retorted back and Nani smiled.
“Khushi bitiya, don’t discourage him by asking such questions.. It’s a big favour he is doing on us and devi mayya by coming here with us. “Its only because Di insisted...!” he retorted angrily and Khushi wondered realizing his love towards his Di.
“If you are done, let’s go!” he barked and Anjali giggled. “It’s not started yet!” she said looking around for Panditji! He took out his phone and went away.
“Aarti Pakadnaa Bhi Nahi Aataa! Can’t even hold the Aarti properly!” she muttered angrily looking at him holding the aarti reluctantly.
“Tumhe aataa Hain to Pakado!” he thrust the thali in her hand. She glared at him.
“Aray... Dono Thik say Pakado!” Panditji ordered and he had to hold the thali with her. She raised her eyebrows teasing him. “Shut up!” he barked and Anjali looked at him angrily.
“Aray, you two, hold the Aarti properly!” Nani was behind them and Arnav frowned. He had to do Aarti with Khushi. She took Prashad with full devotion and he refused turning to go out. Khushi held his hand angrily and said under her breath.
“Prashad!” he glared back at her. She pulled his hand and kept half of her Prashad on his palm. He kept gaping at her. “something came crashing down in his mind..! Prashad Ka Gud! The green eyes were glaring at him.” Someone rang the Mandir bell and he came back to his senses. She stuffed half of her portion in her mouth and gestured at him to have his.
“It’s not that sweet, Mr. Bitter gourd!” She whispered and ran out of his reach before he could grab her angrily. Nani watched both of them and a broad smile appeared on her face. She was grateful to Lavanya for not coming to the Mandir!! She called out!
“Khushi bitiya! We have kept pooja at home! And you will have to come to help us! And yes! We may require sweets and jilebees! Anjali will place the order!” Khushi nodded, looking at him angrily. He already had reached his car!