The period 2027-28 was a terribly busy but happy time, at least for Anya. On the other hand, the situation and mood at RM was rather grim (because of the impending split and associated complications and altercations) and as tempers ran high as did ill-will – the Mumbaikars preferred to stay over at GM rather than RM. Actually this was Nani’s decision, “Chotte, Aakash,” she called the two her room after another impossible to digest dinner – ASR had sneered and snapped at Aakash while Aakash had thrown his spoon with a clatter across the table and stomped off – with the children staring on in horrified fascination. Khushi had rolled her eyes, she could already see the wheels turning in Guddu’s brains as he too hurled an imaginary cutlery into space; she looked at Nani, just a matter of time before Devansh put it into practice.
“It is best that Aakash bitwa stay over at Anjali bitiya’s place, at least till the split is legalized,” she adjusted her pallu, “I don’t want the children to be affected by all the bitterness, at least let them have their illusions till they can,” Nani was quite clear about it, even though she herself was torn. Her place was in Mumbai, but she couldn’t bring herself to leave home, leave Khushi, Chotte, the children, Poo, Anjali bitiya, nahi nahi, she would stay here, no matter what.
Of course Aakash didn’t throw temper tantrums at GM but the topic of discussion was primarily about Aakash’s grouse and complaints regarding the way the business was being split by ASR. Concerned about the impact of such negativity, Anjali discouraged Ankit from having dinner with the family and he was only too happy to be left alone to his nefarious activities. Similarly, Anjali didn’t want to disturb Anya either who she instinctively knew would be more emotionally upset than Ankit and this being her final year in college, she encouraged Anya to stay in the hostel.
And so it happened that Anya was blissfully ignorant of the happenings at home and firmly entangled in her studies and budding love story. Of course, this meant that Anjali too was unaware of the kichdi that was bubbling and ready to be served.
Although to give credit to Sherry, true to his promise, neither by word or deed did Sherry let on anything more than friendship for Anya. However, to the discerning viewer, the warm tenderness in his eyes as they rested on Anya was pretty much evident. Sherry kept Anya firmly at arms length and Anya having once burnt her fingers (err lips and pretty much everything else) was happy to go along with this. She treasured the moments spent with him, talking of friends, movies, work, exams, career, future prospects etc and if she felt warm and breathless once in a while, well she was probably PMSing or something.
She spent many a pleasant evening just chilling with Sherry, Aisha and his mum, playing cards or Scrabble. Some nights, Anya and Aisha would spend the night at Sherry’s place especially if they lost track of time and Sherry was out of station. Some days Yatin would also join them while other days Aisha and Yatin would go off to spend some time alone. Of course these were just on special (and much awaited) weekends –the rest of the time, Anya slogged it out – in fact Sherry was very strict about it.
One weekend, Anya casually dropped in on Sherry’s office around lunch time, “Come let’s go out for lunch!” she popped her head through the open door; she smiled at Sherry and his colleague Robert. (Sunita was away on a conference and Aisha was up to no good with Yatin)
Rob waved his hand casually, “You guys carry on, I have a movie to catch,” he began gathering his stuff.
“Ooo! A date is it?” Anya teased him familiarly.
Rob grinned and winked, “Yeah you could say that,” and vanished through the door, “Bye.”
“Enjoy yourself!” called Anya and she turned to Sherry, “So come on,” she urged him from the doorway, “I am hungry, let’s go,” she rubbed her tummy, and defended herself as she saw the familiar expression of disapproval and censure, “been slogging in the library since 8 am,” she sighed exaggeratedly.
“Oh really?” he raised his eyebrow, “What may I ask?”
Airily confidently she told him – bas phir kya tha – questions par questions were fired at the speed of light. She ducked and flubbed, uttered and muttered until finally defeated and aghast at her ignorance, she tottered away to the library to slog it out again – minus lunch, his words echoing in her ears, “I don’t want anyone blaming me for your poor grades.”
Not all fun and games! In fact he was quite un-lover like and more like a strict local guardian who harassed and pulled up Anya for every other thing, “Your antivirus is out of date! All your data will crash, I am warning you, have you taken a back up? Abhi nahi toh kabhi nahi,” he would snap at her. He critically viewed her academic progress and washed his hands off her categorically when she came and cried on his shoulder how none of her applications for placements for summer training had been accepted yet, “Ask your beloved hifi Mamu to pull some strings for his precious bhanji,” he sneered.
“Of course,” she snapped back, “That option is always there, but I want to make it on my own.”
“Then do so, why are you telling me your sob story,” he was quite out of patience and rude.
She glared at him and stood up to leave, “I was just ‘discussing’ the matter with a friend,” she stressed very much on her dignity, “not sobbing or begging for help,” she turned on her heel and swept away her nose in the air.
Just a couple of days later Anya got a call from a coveted organization offering her heart’s desire, she of course was over the moon and couldn’t stop crowing, “I did it, I did it and I didn’t need anybody’s help, so there!” she stuck out her tongue at him.
He just looked at her and crossed his arms but held his tongue. It was only later much later when her path crossed with the big boss himself and he enquired about Sharath that the penny dropped. She didn’t know whether to attack him for interfering or thank him for taking the pains and not rubbing it in, “Kinshuk Bhatia, the big boss was asking about you,” she offered indirectly.
He stiffened and looked at her warily; he nodded his head, “Convey my regards if you meet him will you?” he said casually though his demeanor was anything but casual.
She nodded carelessly but blinked at him lazily; he looked sheepishly at her and then blinked back at her.
And then his dire threats and dark warnings and predictions came true.
Her laptop crashed.
She was totally panic stricken, “My project! Oh I cant simply do it all over again!” she turned pale with distress while Sharath glared at her, “This was a tragedy waiting to happen, how many times did I tell you to run a scan? Did you keep a back up like I told you to?” she shook her head dumbly, “I told you to let me reload Windows but then you kept postponing it,” he really rubbed it in, “But when do you ever listen to me?” he was quite mad at her and to her horror, Anya burst into tears, “Ab rone se kya fayda?” he said rather hard-heartedly and walked off!
Anya sobbed and then sniffed dolefully to herself trying to control her emotions, sahi toh hai, ab rone se kya fayda? Better get to work, aur koi option bhi toh nahi hai? She wiped her tears and dug out some of the printouts that she had in her bag, assessing how much had to be typed and checking if this was the latest version and if she had a copy of the complex formulas which she had worked out with so much difficulty – nope not a sign of that – tears clouded her vision but she gritted her teeth, kya fayda? May as well get down to doing it all over again, her shoulders drooped, it was going to be long uphill task and such a waste of time redoing stuff, if only she had listened to Sherry. But that man was really something! She wanted to strangle him, such an obnoxious arrogant man, what right had he to speak to her so harshly and when he could see she was so upset. Just look at him, she thought rather resentfully, left me alone here and disappeared into his cabin, na koi sympathy na kuch, hmmphhh she snorted to herself and stiffened. Well she would show him, she vowed.
Sherry returned with a laptop of his, “Here take this,” he said rather shortly.
“What’s this?” Anya said equally standoffishly.
“My spare laptop, and leave yours, I’ll see what can be done,” he thrust the laptop into her hand, “I am getting late for my meeting,” he dashed off without waiting for a response.
She glared at him tempted refuse his rather generous offer, but then it was her fault and beggars cannot be choosers, she accepted the laptop with poor grace after a bit of dithering and some more swearing at Sherry, consoling herself by devising torture techniques for him – slow boil him in oil while she did a mad Red Indian dance around the cauldron and he begged for mercy. Her agitated nerves soothed somewhat by these pleasant images, she took the laptop with her.
Back at the hostel she got her dose of necessary support and sympathy from Aisha (but woh bhi limited offer tha!), “At least he gave you a replacement laptop, imagine having to arrange for another one, where would you have got another one so quickly?” Aisha said bracingly
Anya sniffed, still put out with Sherry, “At least see if it has all the programs that you need, otherwise you would have to load them as well, come on! Don’t waste time, there’s loads of work to do.” Aisha prodded her
Reluctantly Anya switched on the laptop and desultorily browsed its features, she stopped in surprise, what was that folder named Anya?
Heart beating fast, she quickly opened it and stared at in delighted shock, all her files and folders were sitting there pretty as you please! Hurriedly she clicked on each, yes! It was all there? Oh when had he copied her files? Seemed to be pretty recent going by the dates! Phewww now she wouldn’t have to do it all over again.
Aisha got Sherry’s share of exuberant hugs and kisses. Of course when she recovered enough she did send a thank you sms; in return she got a message ‘off to Mumbai, back next week, collect your laptop from office tomorrow.’
Highly relieved and chastened, Anya messaged back, ‘I promise to keep back up of all files’
He relented enough to send back a disbelieving smiley.
She hugged herself feeling safe and cared for – it was as if she were on a comfortable space where Sherry was her safety net. He would let nothing hurt her or even disturb her and she reveled in it.
Their nok-jhok and petty squabbles continued under the benevolent gazes of Aisha and Sunita while Anya fell deeper and deeper in love with Sherry without actually saying the ‘L’ word. Anya was quite sure he loved her too but she despaired of his ever saying anything. ‘At this rate I will die a virgin spinster’ she often grumbled to herself.
But she also was cautious and careful not to let her grades slip; also the fact that she hadn’t confided in Anjie was preying on her mind – confided what? She defended herself, we are just friends and I don’t tell Anjie about all my friends do I? Oh really? She sneered, not even such close friends, Anya blushed, shut up, we are good friends and not close the way you are insinuating, she huffed. Not for lack of trying on your part, she shot back slyly.
She blushed even harder thankful to be alone in her room.
Sherry of course was in love with Anya but mindful of his mother’s warnings he restrained his ardor and urge to declare his feelings (often with great difficulty) at least till her exams got over. But it was becoming more and more difficult to maintain his distance with her. So he began taking up more and more assignments out of Delhi, hoping that distance and work would keep him from blurting out what as uppermost in his heart and mind.
Click here for Chapter 313