“Let’s forget it ok, I think you are overworked and with three of us absent yeh toh hona hi tha, are you Ok?” she looked at him concernedly.
“Yeah, I am ok, I think just a touch of viral or something,” he sat down and pulled a file towards himself and looked expectantly at Poo as she continued to stand, “Well? What are we waiting for?”
She hurriedly dug into her bag and took out a strip of medicine, “Here take one of these, rest is what you probably need but obviously you are not going to get it, so you may as well take a painkiller and get on with your work,” he just stared at her, “here go on, it wont kill you, in fact you will be more comfortable, so will I,” she mumbled.
“What did you say?” he frowned.
“I said ‘and even I will be more comfortable’, nahi toh you will be on short fuse the whole day,” she rolled her eyes while he looked away ruefully.
She grinned and offered him the tablet again, he looked suspiciously at the strip before reluctantly accepting it; finally they settled down to work. As the medicine worked its magic, Aman felt better, calmer (or perhaps it was renewal of Poo’s wide-eyed gaze, the faint whiff of her fragrance, the light scratch of her pen over paper as her fingers flew over it, her earnest questions) and yet distracted – yeh kya ho raha hai mujhe he wondered for the nth time and dragged his attention back to the work at hand with an immense effort.
It was a long yet productive (and strangely peaceful especially for Aman who had a growing sense of being home or what he had always imagined home to be yet been deprived of) day and Aman’s table began looking decent again as slowly the files were taken care of and delegated or relegated to their appropriate places.
Poo was working in the outer office with one of the assistants when the she started getting restless, “Maam it is already 7 pm, may I go home now, please, my family…” she trailed off.
“Ohh is it that late?” Poo was surprised and looked around; the office was more or less deserted, “Yes yes of course carry on, I will finish this off and then switch off your computer,” she smiled and went back to work but only after texting Khushi that she would be late.
About half an hour later, Poo also decided to call it a day and went looking for Aman. She peeped into his office but he wasn’t at his seat, she looked around and found him sprawled on a couch at the far end of his office – fast asleep.
She went over to him and frowned – strange that he was sleeping here, must be really tired or was he not well – he had been sneezing and sniffling throughout the day. She put out a tentative hand and touched his forehead, yep no doubt about it, he had fever all right, the medicine’s effect must have worn out and now his fever was free to wreck havoc.
She dithered a bit and then called up Khushi, who in turn organized a doctor. Poo ordered some food and then went back to work at his table, no point in wasting time.
Aman woke a little while later and even though Poo could hear him moving about she continued to work with her back to him, giving him time to collect himself, waise bhi he was sure to be feeling guilty and embarrassed at being caught sleeping in his office, she grinned to herself.
The guard ushered in the doctor who prescribed some medicines and rest for his viral infection.
After the doctor had left, Aman frowned at Poo, “Why did you have to tell Khushi bhabhi or call a doctor? Minor cold hai, theek ho jayega.”
Poo shrugged, “What option did I have? Aap hi bataiye, if the situation was reversed, what would you have done?”
Aman hissed, irritated, his head throbbing, his throat sore and his stomach was rumbling too, “I am a grown man and I can manage on my own,” he sneezed violently.
“Bless you!” Poo murmured, “Yes of course I can see that, but don’t worry, koi ehsaan nahi kiya, I did it for the company, you are indispensable for A&Designs right?” she looked at him pertly.
Aman grumpily shuffled over his seat and desultorily sank into it; he pulled a file towards him and stared at it blearily, in a dazed manner, “Leave that, you should go home,” Poo pulled away the file authoritatively and handed him the medicines which the peon had brought from the nearby chemist.
Aman accepted the tablets rather ungraciously and glared mutinously at her, “Thank you for your concern but I will go once I am good and ready,” he said with awful politeness.
“Okay fine, at least eat something,” Poo opened the take-away bag but Aman turned away sulkily to face his laptop.
Poo rolled her eyes, uff yeh toh Deva se bhi gaya guzra hai, she just quickly spooned some soup into a cup and pushed it towards him, he ignored it initially but then slowly as the aroma tickled and teased even his blocked nose, he casually took a deep satisfying sip, just what his raw and sore throat was crying for. Finally he gave up the pretense of work and gobbled down a decent meal (Chinese his favorite – suggested by Khushi); finally he pushed away his plate and got back to his favorite files – but he was clearly having trouble focusing.
Once or twice he shook his head to clear it but then finally gave up, “I think I should go home now, the medicines are making me drowsy,” he admitted.
“Yeah sure,” nodded Poo as she hid her grin.
Then there was another hitch – Aman was in no condition to drive so Poo insisted on dropping Aman to his residence. In fact he was so dizzy and disoriented because of the cold medicines that she had to even help him to his flat, dig out his keys and make sure he was safely inside. Aman looked drowsily at her and mumbled, “Thanks Poo,” and gave her a woozy smile before crashing on to the bed. He was clearly having fever, possibly high fever and yet Poo’s heart fluttered at the casual easy familiarity from someone normally so stiff and formal. She hesitated briefly before tugging off his shoes, just like doing it for Deva, or Chotti, she chanted, or Nani, she giggled to herself.
How could she leave him in this condition, she wondered. Maybe I should take off the tie and unbutton his collar button as well so that he doesn’t choke. The tie was pretty easily disposed off but the collar button was a tough one especially since she was trying to do so delicately without disturbing Aman. Her hair fell on his face and he brushed it away irritated. She hurriedly gathered up her hair into a knot, took a deep breath and leaned over him to attack the recalcitrant button again and while she was still struggling, Aman’s eyes suddenly opened and he stared into her startled eyes just above his; heart thudding furiously she held her breath, hoping he would doze off without saying anything.
After an interminable silence, Aman suddenly asked huskily, “Does it hurt?”
Bewildered, Poo stared at him, “Hurt? What?”
Aman slowly raised his hand and laid it over her scar, “This,” he rasped.
Poo froze but didn’t withdraw from his touch or look away, she slowly shook her head, “No.”
“I am glad,” he said simply, his eyelids drooped, “water,” he mumbled and struggled to get up.
Clamping down on the storm of emotions he had evoked by a single question, Poo pushed him down and with a final tug the collar button yielded, “Relax,” she muttered indistinctly, “I’ll get it,” she escaped to the kitchen and put her hands to her flushed cheeks and swallowed hard – the way he had reached out to touch her scar – gently, matter-of-factly, innocently, acceptingly. Just like Deva had, making her ugliness vanish in an instant, making her beautiful and whole once again – his simple gesture destroyed any defenses, any reservations she may have had.
Poo fell deeply and irrevocably in love with him then and there.
Click here for Chapter 360