Aman had recovered and was back at his favorite joint – office. In fact, the very same day, after Poo left, he went to office, ghar beithe beithe ajeeb ajeeb khayal aa rahe the and unable to face them or even understand them he simply ran away to office – his safe haven. Yahan par he felt in control and stable with no confusion. Happily (albeit sneezing and coughing) Aman dived into the pile of pending work, glad that he didn’t have to face Poo or apologize – best if he pretended he didn’t remember anything besides he had asked her if he had offended her in anyway but she had refused – let’s leave it at that he decided.
But then over the day as Poo continued to be absent, withdrawal symptoms crept in, he became irritable and restless, yahan bhi toh kaam hai, yeh kaam koi kaam nahi hai kya, he fumed silently to himself. Subconsciously he began counting the hours to the Jaipur trip. He was planning to drive up there as he enjoyed driving and the road to Jaipur was really good and of international standards – a pleasure to drive on (aur phir agar Poo saath ho toh kya kehna right?).
Finally the day arrived and Aman had butterflies in his stomach – he was just excited about going out of town – a welcome change from the four wall of his office, he told himself. But then since when did he love the outdoors so much, work was what he liked best and the office was his mandir wasn’t it? He scratched his head thoughtfully and then gave up, chhodo na, why analyze a good feeling, just enjoy – he shook his head ‘this is so not me,’ feeling out of sync with himself.
Mahesh landed up first with his wife and six month old son in tow. He had called earlier and requested permission, “Sir, is it ok if I bring my wife Uma and son? Actually this way it would save me a trip to Jaipur as I have to go to drop her there for her sister’s wedding, its ok na Sir?” he pleaded.
Aman had little choice but to agree besides tabhi Poo landed up and his heart gave a leap and his dimaag went for a toss. He was seeing her after 127 hours – kya mausam hai~~~ chal kaheen door nikal jaayeein ~~~ song popped into his head out of nowhere. His phone rang, it was Di, a very apologetic Di – Ankit was unwell and she wasn’t comfortable leaving him as Khsitij was already out on a conference.
So it was quite a family complete with baby that set out for Jaipur. Poo was enchanted with the happy golu molu gurgling little boy and cuddled him throughout reliving memories of her own two little babies now too big to be cuddled – or rather too big to admit that they liked to be cuddled. As for Aman, he was happy and relaxed, as the car ate up miles and he eavesdropped unashamedly on Poo’s sweet nothings and the baby’s gurgles. Poo was most disappointed when they reached Jaipur by noon and Uma was dropped off at her parents place. By that time Uma had warmed towards Poo (well who can resist a person who goes gaga over your baby eh?) and insisted that she stay the night at their house. Mahesh was coming after here after their day’s work was over and since Di hadn’t come it would be uncomfortable for her alone in a hotel wouldn’t it? And besides tonight was Sangeet and bound to be fun. Poo threw a questioning pleading look at Aman, who had been harboring visions of sharing a candle-light dinner with Poo (while she was busy cooing) was severely disappointed yet relieved – what the hell is wrong with me! Tum aisa soch bhi kaise sakte ho – she is ASR’s sister for God’s sake. Aman shrugged his acceptance though he sternly refused to be party to the event, and no matter how much Uma or Mahesh coaxed he refused to agree to join the Sangeet celebrations, women’s function, not interested in music and dance etc. Although he did agree to lunch mostly because it would save time.
Anyway, after Mahesh’s father had assured them of getting the best deal, the trio went off to meet Kirori Lal and visit various joints, which were top class for supply of material.
It was a hectic and busy afternoon as they travelled through the length and breadth of the city (while in the city, Aman took a cab, easier and more convenient than taking his own). Finally around five pm, Mahesh made his excuses and vanished after exhorting Poo to come as early as possible. Aman and Poo continued to meet vendors and discussed material, quality, quantity, costs, logistics etc and it was almost 7.30 by the time they were done, “So shall I drop you at Mahesh’s place?” he asked Poo.
Poo looked at him, and looked away.
“What?” he asked.
She fidgeted a bit and then said in a small voice, “I don’t have anything to wear.”
Aman rolled his eyes, “I don’t believe this! Itne der se we were seeing clothes it didn’t strike you then?” he was incredulous.
Poo nodded shamefacedly, “It did but then…” she trailed off self-consciously.
“But then what?” Aman demanded.
“Then I thought it wouldn’t be right to mix personal work with business, right?” Poo said; Aman nodded reluctantly, “Ok let’s see what we can find for you.”
He instructed the driver to take them to a suitable store preferably the one they had been to a couple of hours earlier and had a good collection.
Poo quickly chose a simple yet colorful lehenga choli for herself (after getting due approval from Aman) and then with an apologetic glance at Aman, set about choosing with gusto for Chotti, Khushi, Di Nani and phir how could she forget the boys, or even HP, Shakuntala. Aman was in no hurry and joined in enthusiastically, candlelight dinner nahi toh kya, shopping hi sahi!
“Now who are you buying these for?” Aman sighed, “I thought everyone was done?”
Poo hesitated, “For my sisters,” she said and cleared her throat, “and my parents.”
“Oh but I thought they had disowned you?” the words popped out before Aman could restrain himself, “Sorry, I know because I had contacted them while the adoption papers were being drawn up,” he explained without going into the details of how greedy and grasping they were.
Poo looked away and then looked back squarely at him, “They have,” she swallowed, “I haven’t.”
He looked at her stunned; inexplicably he was reminded suddenly after ages of his mother – was this how she felt about him as well, was this why she wrote him every week since Father died, even though he never replied or even read her letters? Unable to deal with the onslaught of emotions he lashed out, “Unbelievable!” he sneered, “Next you will be saying you bear no ill-will towards the guy who threw acid on you.”
Poo flinched but held her ground; she met Aman’s eyes squarely. “You are right,” she said, “Actually I no longer have any hard feelings, in fact,” she said musingly, “I think I am grateful to him.”
“What!” Aman was incredulous, “You are mad,” he declared.
“No,” Poo shook her head firmly, “No I am not mad. No doubt,” she owned, “when the incident occurred it was very traumatic and earth shattering,” she swallowed and then brightened, “but then it turned out to be a blessing in disguise for this,” she touched her scar, “became the reason I could escape my village, achieve my dream of studying, learning new things, earning money, be independent, see new places, do all the things that I always wanted to,” she turned to Aman and said seriously, “Do you know, if it weren’t for this ‘unfortunate’ incident, I would have probably been married by now,” she shrugged, “possibly to the same guy who attacked me, had three kids with a fourth on the way, busy scrounging to find food to feed them, walking miles to gather firewood and water,” she paused and looked away, “be at the mercy of my husband’s drunken frustrations,” she said matter-of-factly, “have no other option but to grin and bear it, for where would my children and I go?”
Aman just stared at her.
Poo touched her scar, “Don’t you think this is a small price to pay for all that DM has blessed me with? Deva, Chotti, Bhabhi, Nani, bhaiyya Di, Ankit, education, job and most importantly freedom – freedom from a lifetime of slavery,” she shook her head and smiled at Aman, “The place I have come from? Trust me when I say, I have no regrets, only thankfulness, gratefulness towards DM for whatever she has written for me for I know that whatever she does, she does for the best, bas dekhne aur samajhne ki nazar chahiye.”
Click here for Chapter 363