Rajani was still nibbling on last bit of second piece of cake and wondering if she should give in to her greed and attack the third and final piece as well,
“Well aren’t you coming to help me?” Riteish boomed over her head. She looked up. “Oh you have cake too!” he reached out and popped it into his mouth. “Oops sorry. It was too tempting.”
“It’s okay,” Rajani laughed. “I already had two pieces, no two and half…”
“Two and a half! I got only one piece. Hey Pakhiii!” He vanished.
Rajani turned to look towards the cabin door but it was deserted. He was back in a flash chomping on two pieces at once. “Please come,” he requested, “I can’t understand…”
Rajani again looked towards BBW cabin, “But…”
“But Ma’am only told you to help me. Are you going to disregard her orders?” Heaving a sigh and feeling she was being teased, she got up to follow him. But she stopped at Tanya’s desk, which was strategically angled so she could keep an eye on the rest of the office and their computer screens. The accounts division was a bit further down the hall and had their monitors away from the prying eyes of the rest of the lowly workers.
“Ma’am, in the morning Ma’am told me to help,” she turned to look at Riteish.
“Oh yeah, she told me.” Tanya nodded. “And don’t call me Ma’am. It makes me feel old and grumpy, rude and snobbish.” She said.
Rajani smiled. She certainly wasn’t khadoos. “Yes Ma’…” she trailed off unable to overcome the drilled lessons and notions.
“Tanya. Reserve the Ma’ams for the real ones. Now go on and help Riteish otherwise he will find another reason to keep it hanging.”
Rajani stared. “But I don’t know anything…” “You have common sense right?” She replicated BBW’s long-suffering look. “Just sit with him Rajani. He won’t have any excuse then.”
Riteish flashed them an unrepentant grin from his seat.
“Come sit,” Riteish bounded up from his seat to ceremoniously pull a chair for her, “tell me why doesn’t anybody like this poster!”
Rajani stared critically at the poster flashily titled Do’s and Don’ts for the Tiny Guest.
“This is…?” Rajani began
“This is a pull out poster for our Mothercare magazine,” Tanya stood behind them. “Look Riteish I don’t understand why you can’t see that rather than being inviting, the poster is off putting, almost threatening. The color scheme is wrong. Isn’t it Rajani?”
“Yes. The colors are so garish.” She clammed up afraid of offending Riteish. After all he was the designer, how could she criticize him?
“Exactly!” Tanya agreed. “What’s wrong with you Riteish? Had a late night party or what? Use softer colors. Surely you don’t need to be told that? What else can you suggest Rajani?”
“I think if the title could be shorter and less flashy perhaps it wouldn’t be so in-your-face kind of thing,” Rajani ventured hesitantly.
“Bingo!” Tanya clicked her fingers. “There you go Riteish work on the title. And you should know better to use all caps on the title?” Riteish shrugged as Tanya glared at him. “Rajani advice him on the color and the baby looks so tragic, hello Namaste Mishraji,” Tanya walked away busy with her caller.
“Okay then,” Rajani pushed back her seat.
“Hey wait!” Riteish protested. “Where are you going? You need to hold my hand through this baby business.”
Rajani looked at him suspiciously but he wore a bland innocent expression. “Look is this better?” Rajani turned to look at the screen. “Or is this one?”
“I’m not sure. “If you change the font maybe and tone down the color. No first change the background color, yes! That looks so much better. Could you put some image over there? It’s looks empty and sad…maybe a toy or something”
“Quite an eye for art eh?” Remarked Riteish as he fiddled around with the keyboard and the mouse. “Did you study art in college?”
“No.” Rajani shook her head.
“You should have.” Remarked Riteish. “Yet good that you didn’t.”
Rajani frowned. “Why?”
“Then they would have hired you instead of me.”
Rajani laughed even though her heart gave a little flutter. Relax! He is just flattering and flirting with you.
That’s also important!
That he wants to flatter and flirt me.
Oh really? And does he know you’re married? Do you remember that?
Oh shut up.
“Rajani, did you finish proofreading the article?” Nidhi asked.
Rajani flushed guiltily. “No. I was busy with the poster.” She looked at her watch. Almost time for lunch. Where had all the time gone?
“But that has to go to print today!” Nidhi said. “When will mark the corrections? I don’t want to stay till late,” she grumbled.
“But Ma’am told me to do this first…”
“What’s the matter?” Tanya was upon them.
“That article which has to go to print, Rajani still hasn’t given…” Nidhi jumped in.
“She’ll do that after lunch…”
“I’ll again get late!” Nidhi protested.
Tanya shrugged. “I’ll be later than you.
Tanya shook her head. “You don’t decide priorities. I do. Now get back to your work.”
Nidhi hesitated briefly before flouncing off.
Tanya heaved a sigh. “Okay let’s have a look at the poster. Hmm not bad.”
“Show Ma’am the other version,” Rajani said.
“Oh wow! This is so much better.” Tanya praised. “Great work Rajani. It is good to have you on board.”
Rajani smiled happily and stood up. “I’ll go and finish the manuscript and then have lunch. Okay Riteish, you can do the rest as we discussed,” Rajani said.
“Thanks for your help.” Riteish flashed her a grin. “I don’t know what I would have done without it.”
“Yeah right.” Her heart gave a flutter.
She had barely settled down at her table when Pakhi came over with another girl. “Coming for lunch? By the way, this is Avantika, the office ghost.”
Avantika laughed and punched Pakhi. “Ouch!” Pakhi rubbed her arm.
“Hello Rajani.” Soft brown eyes smiled at her through a thick pair of black-framed glasses. Just as it was clear that Pakhi was very much married and very likely recently too, Avantika was just as obviously unmarried. She didnt even wear a bindi and wore her hair in a tightly pulled back ponytail.
“Hello,” Rajani smiled. “But ghost…?”
“She writes all the articles for HRH or any other “celebrity” mother.” Pakhi rolled her eyes. “Anyway we can talk upstairs. Come along.”
Rajani shook her head. “You guys carry on. I’ll finish this and come. It’s urgent.”
“Who said?” Pakhi asked.
“I knew it!” Pakhi clicked her fingers. “She doesn’t want to stay late that’s why she is pressurizing you.” Avantika too nodded her head.
“A word of advice,” Pakhi leaned close to Rajani, “don’t pay too much attention to Nidhi. She will pull any trick to finish her work before time. That way she can leave office on time and she holds the record of never staying a minute beyond 5 minutes of closing time.”
“But she said this has to go to print,” Rajani tapped the manuscript she was working on.
“Who’s she?” Pakhi asked. “Ask Tanya, if she says then it’s okay but otherwise,” she rolled her eyes.
Rajani shifted uncomfortably, “I don’t want to cause any delay…”
“Come on! You got to eat,” Pakhi coaxed.
Rajani shook her head. “I am not hungry thanks.”
“Oh no no!” exclaimed Pakhi.
“What?” Rajani was bewildered.
“You aren’t getting out of eating the food I got. Like it or not, you got to eat and praise my cooking too,” she laughed.
“I can eat!” Riteish butted in, rubbing his hands, “what have you got? I just loooove your cooking.” He swore.
The girls giggled. “Drama king,” Pakhi shook her head. She dug her hand into the bulky bag and drew out two disposable boxes, “Here, chole and dahi vada.”
“Yum!” He sniffed and drooled, “What about kulchas?”
“Don’t push your luck huh,” Pakhi turned away and pulled at Rajani, “come along now. Where’s Nidhi?”
“Whispering sweet nothings to her BF what else?” Avantika sighed leading the way to the terrace.
“Look who’s talking?” Pakhi elbowed Avantika.
“Oh please!” Avantika rolled her eyes, “One thing I have yet to figure out is how to whisper and then sweet nothings.”
They laughed. So both Nidhi and Avantika were unmarried and had boyfriends. If only she too…
“Isnt Tanya coming?” Avantika asked.
“In a bit, she’s with BBW,” Pakhi said, “come along Rajani. It’s nice and warm upstairs.”
Seeing no option, Rajani scrabbled around in her bag for her parathas. Thank God she had not taken the auto and instead bought a packet of chikki.
“What have you got Rajani?” Nidhi peered over her shoulder.
Rajani flushed and then paled. “Parathas,” she mumbled, “I think the maid forgot to put in the vegetable or the pickle.” The words stuck in her throat.
“It wouldn’t have mattered if she had forgotten the parathas too!” Pakhi smiled, “I got loads of chole kulcha and tadaa,” she sang out, “dahi vada.”
“HEY!” Riteish loomed large over them, “where’s the red imli chutney? Oh! You got kulchas,” he said accusingly.
The girls giggled.
“Here,” Pakhi kept a few kulchas aside and gave him the rest of the packet.
“That’s it?” He was surprised. “Take one more.” He said generously.
They laughed and waved him away. “We probably wont be able to manage this much either. We have idlis too.” They burst into laughter at his expression. “Go on. Take it and don’t forget to share with the others,” Pakhi cautioned. He stomped off.
“I wonder what I have for lunch?” Avantika opened her tiffin box with trepidation, “the PG grub is going from bad to worse.” She peered suspiciously at the contents. “Yech! Gourd again.”
“Never mind,” Pakhi said, “there’s enough and more. Come on! I’m starving.”
“Wait,” Avantika looked up from her phone, “Tanya sent a message – BBW is coming for lunch.”
Click here for the next chapter: Sweet Dish