Shubham looked up as the door swung open and a head popped in. “Is Cho…Angelika here?”
Shubham stood up and waved her in. “Please sit. I’ll go find her.”
“No! Please don’t bother,” exclaimed Anya, “I’m sure she’s on her way,” she plopped down on the vacant chair.
“Unless she’s forgotten.” The words slipped out before he could stop himself.
Anya grinned. “You seem to know her well!” She held out her hand. “Hi. I am…”
“…I know. Anya Bhabhi.” He shook her hand warmly. “And Chotti’s precious Di.”
Anya looked at Shubham speculatively. “Interesting! You seem to know all about me. And you are…?”
“I’m not important enough…”
Anya clicked her fingers. “Are you Ashubh…oops sorry I meant Shubham?”
Shubham’s lips twitched. “Ashubh it is.” Forever and ever – he bit down on it.
Anya leaned back in her chair with a look of satisfaction. “See? Even I know stuff.” She coughed. “Important stuff.” She twinkled at him.
He met her look and shrugged. “Well if you can’t be famous, be infamous.”
Anya nodded. “Yeah that’s the best way to catch somebody’s attention.”
This time his ears were a tell tale red.
Even more interesting!
“So tell me,” Anya toyed with her topaz ring, “how do you know me? Surely Chotti’s not been discussing…”
“I first saw you when you got married to Sheru bhai.”
Anya sat up. “You know Sherry?”
“Family friends.” He nodded. “Sunita Chachi and Mom are friends. I was scrubbed and dragged to the wedding.” He grinned with a self-deprecating expression.
“What?” Anya was intently watching the play of expression of his face.
Shubham shrugged. “I think I was about 11 years old or so and I thought Sheru bhai was the most handsome man ever and I was crazy about him and idolized him like anything.” He gave a theatrical pause. “Until he broke my heart.”
Anya’s eyes were round like Khushi’s. “Why! What happened?”
“I went for the Sangeet and there I fell madly in love with the lady dancing on the floor. I decided that I would marry her and only her. And then Sheru bhai went and stole her from right under my nose.” He made a comical rueful face.
Anya burst out laughing. “You are funny!”
He gave her an injured look. “Here I am sharing the deepest and darkest secret of my life and you laugh! I’m serious. I thought you were the most beautiful person I’d ever seen.”
“Wow! Thank you. I’m honored and touched.” Anya gave a gracious little bow.
Shubham grinned. “It was the most exhilarating and yet deeply traumatizing day. I remember one moment I was thinking that he was the most handsome guy and the next moment I was busy scheming ways to bump him off.”
Anya giggled. “Actually when I was young, I thought your Sheru bhai was the third most handsome man ever!” Anya revealed.
“Third most!” exclaimed Shubham. “Who were the other two? Some movie stars?”
“Nope.” Anya shook her head, grinning mischievously, “My dad and CSR!”
“CSR?” Shubham’s lips twitched.
“Chotte Singh Raizada.”
He burst out laughing. “I also know one CSR.” He confessed.
“Do tell.” Anya invited her eyes sparkling.
“Chotti Spitfire Raizada.”
They laughed like old friends.
“So,” Shubham fingers drummed on the table, “Do you still think Sheru bhai is the third most handsome guy or…” he left it hanging.
“Good question.” Anya twinkled. “Hmm let me see,” she tapped her chin, “Dad and CSR are in a different category altogether so yeah I now I guess he is the most handsome guy,” she paused, “that is, except when I want to murder him.” She scowled before dissolving into giggles.
“That makes a lot of sense.” Shubham shook his head. He looked at his watch. “I’ll go look for CSR, I mean my CSR.” Shubham stood up.
“Don’t bother.” Anya said easily. “And don’t worry,” as Shubham opened his mouth to protest, “she hasn’t forgotten.” She waved her phone. “She texted me. She’ll be along in 10 min or so.”
Shubham rolled his eyes. “Chotti’s 10 minutes.” Shubham cursed himself. Not again! This wasn’t Chotti. This was her Di! Wonder what she would make of his boorishness. “What I mean is that….”
“You’re right!” Anya interrupted. “Chotti’s is a flighty scatterbrain with no sense of time. I always told her she would never make a good doctor. But you know how she is – a self-willed spoilt brat. But then you already know that don’t you?” Anya looked at him in a commiserating manner. “Anyway don’t let me keep you from your work. Please carry on,” she waved a graceful hand and leaned back comfortably in her chair and waited.
Shubham shuffled the papers on his desk. He coughed and cleared his throat. He shifted uncomfortably.
Anya watched with the developments with grave interest.
“It wouldn’t be fair to call her flighty or scatterbrain.” He said carefully. “She’s never on time because she is too sincere and dedicated towards her patients. When she’s with them she tends to forget everything else.”
Anya played with her sunglasses. “So are you saying she is a good doctor?” She asked in a neutral tone.
“A darn good one.” Shubham said emphatically.
Anya leaned forward. “And that she’s not a self-willed spoilt brat?” There was enough disbelief in her voice to make Shubham flush.
He grinned. “That and more!” He wiped his brow in an exaggerated fashion.
Anya went off into peals of laughter.
“I see you are well entertained.” Angel said sourly as she walked in just then. “What’s the joke?” she looked at them. “I could do with a laugh or two.”
“We were talking about some common people we know.” Shubham said smoothly, “their peculiarities and oddities…”
Angel looked at him with deep suspicion and attacked her Di. “Who exactly are these common people?”
“Oh so many,” Anya said getting up, “come let’s go…!”
“Name one.” Angel challenged, not liking the glint in Shubham’s eyes one bit. She sat down determinedly.
“Sherry for one, then his mother….”
“Actually I was just telling your Di how I wanted to murder Sheru bhai because he married my first love.” Shubham interrupted.
Chotti made a rude sound and pushed herself to her feet. “Come on Di, let’s go, Boo will murder us.” She hustled her.
“It was a pleasure to meet you Shubham.” Anya smiled at him. “If only we had met earlier and you were older….” She mourned, her eyes belying her expression.
Shubham put a hand over his heart and winced. “If only I could show you my broken bleeding heart….”
Chotti almost gagged. “Come on Di!” She pushed open the swing door.
Anya grinned conspiratorially at Shubham and hurried after Chotti. “Hey wait up!” she huffed. “You make me wait for hours and then…”
“Oh please Di!” Chotti rounded on her. “Not hours! Maybe 15 min. max. Waise,” she scowled, “not that you were bored or anything.” Chotti snapped. “Not with a doting fan fawning all over you.”
Anya sniffed the air. “I smell something burning.”
Chotti looked around before flushing. “Oh please Di! How can you even say that? He’s so…so…so….”
“I know,” Anya nodded understandingly as she put an arm around Chotti, “Woh bade hi woh hain.” She burst out laughing at the ASR-look on Chotti’s face. Anya backed out with her hands raised. “I’m kidding. Just joking. Let’s grab a cup of coffee.” She dragged her towards the stall. “Waise,” she said with studied nonchalance, “I don’t see what your problem is. Shubham seemed like a really shubh decent witty chilled out guy, no airs…”
“What!” Chotti flared up. “That’s exactly what I was afraid of. He’s a chameleon, changing colors faster than you can blink. Nothing shubh about him, Ashubh through and through.” She fumed.
“Methinks the lady doth protest too much.” Anya quoted with a sly expression. “Waise Ashubh makes for a great mash-up moniker.”
Puzzled, Chotti frowned at Anya. “What do you mean?”
“A-Shubh.” Anya moved out of reach. “Angelika and Shubham.” She waited for the fireworks, which turned out to be a damp squib.
Chotti wore an arrested expression, which gave way to a silly fatuous smile.
“Ahaan!” Anya clapped her hands. “I knew it! Daal main kuch kaala nahi, poori daal hi kaali hai. Simmering and ready to be served hot!” She crowed.
Chotti made a desperate attempt to recover. “I don’t know what you mean.” Quickened her pace. “The coffee queue is too long! Let’s go.”
“Sure.” Anya followed suit. “Waise you are right not to follow that path. He’s nice, but not really of our standards.” She sighed. “You know how your Dad is about such things. Besides he’s not at all good looking.” She dismissed.
“I didn’t know you put so much value on looks.” Chotti sneered. “Didn’t you always say – beauty is skin deep?”
“Nah,” Anya shook her head, “That one doesn’t fit Shubham.”
Chotti looked puzzled.
Anya bit the inside of her cheeks. “Well, he’s ugly inside as well isn’t he?”
Chotti pressed her lips and stomped ahead.
Smirking Anya hurried to keep pace. “I prefer the other one.”
“What other one?” Chotti said curtly.
Anya coughed and cleared her throat. “Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder.” This time Anya couldn’t escape Chotti’s punch. But she didn’t care. She laughed rubbing her arm. “Gotcha! You think he’s handsome!” She crowed.
“Rubbish!” Chotti snorted. “Everyone else thinks he is handsome. Not me.” She scorned.
“Sad.” Anya sighed. “He thinks you’re beautiful.”
Angel stopped in her tracks. “Did he actually say that?” She asked with a mix of hope and disbelief.
“Sort of.” Anya hedged.
“Sort of matlab?”
“Well you have to agree we look alike and he thinks I am the most beautiful person he has ever seen.” She nudged Chotti. “Dont you get the connotations?”
“Nonsense!” Chotti scowled. “What connotations? He loves you. Not me.”
“So,” Anya narrowed her eyes and bit her lip, “do you want him to love you?”
“Why would I want that?” Chotti snapped.
“Perhaps because you love him?”
“Aisa kuch nahi hai Di. Din main sapna dekna bund karo.”
“You are telling me or telling yourself?” Anya asked slyly.
“Look Di I want to clear this up once and for all,” CSR was up in arms, “Mujhe koi faraq nahi padta ki woh jiye ki….ki….”
“Go on,” Anya encouraged, “say it and clear it up. I dare you.”
Chotti hissed in frustration. “Oh please Di! You know I can’t say it!”
“Because I am a doctor!” Chotti said triumphantly. “I can’t say that about anybody.” She wore a self-righteous expression.
“Toh,” Anya smiled her satisfaction. “Tumhe faraq padta hai.”
“Jhoot bole kawa kaate,” Anya sang.
“Who’s lying?” Shubham panted as he caught up with them.
“What are you doing here?” Chotti snapped instantly. “I’m off duty.”
“Yes, Ashubh,” Anya’s eyes danced, “you can have her back tomorrow morning.” She bit her lip.
“Oh,” Shubham shook his head, “most welcome to take her away aur mujhe koi faraq nahi padta if she comes tomorrow or not.” He took his eyes off CSR’s blazing face and bowed to Anya, “I came looking for you. Your sunglasses.” He held them out to her.
“Thanks so much.” Anya patted his cheek. “Such a sweet boy. If only…”
He sighed lugubriously. “If only…”
“Maybe I could look for a suitable girl for you?” Anya suggested.
“Maybe,” Shubham scuffed his shoe, “but will she be able to hold a candle to you?”
Anya burst out laughing.
“Come on Di,” Chotti pulled at her arm, “aren’t we getting late now?” She turned back to look at an openly grinning Shubham. “Shameless flirt.” She muttered in a sotto voce. Lowering her voice she hissed at Anya. “Just wait till I tell Jiju.”
“Promise you will tell him?” Anya begged. “Sherry’s started taking me for granted.” She said darkly.
“Uffffffff.” Chotti groaned and begged, “Can we drop this topic now?”
A/N Yeah well those are my sentiments too….I didn’t mean them for it to go on and on. But Anya just refused to give up her screen space and like Chotti I had had enough of the topic. Aur main akele kyon jheloon inki nautanki hence this update 😉 Feel free to rant 😀