Aman was silent as they went back to Uma’s place. As he walked her to the gate, he said abruptly, “You were right you know.”
Poo stopped and looked at him surprised, “Right? About what?”
“That you are not just a pretty face,” It was Poo’s turn to stare at him; he stared right back at her, satisfied that she had not misunderstood his words yet afraid that he may have revealed too much he abruptly nodded, “I’ll see you tomorrow, be ready by 8 am,” he walked away swiftly.
Poo just stood there staring at him, heart thumping, a slow flush staining her cheeks, why exactly did he say that? And more importantly what was it that he didn’t say? The evening passed in a blur for Poo as she sat quietly inconspicuously in one corner. All the songs haunted and taunted her as she impatiently waiting for the morning.
Morning was of course all business – all work and no hanky panky (but then on second thoughts, work is no barrier to hanky panky is it? In fact ‘work’ may promote, facilitate, enable and encourage such extracurricular activities – aur kabhi kabhi toh pata hi nahi chalta kyon, kab, kaise woh stapler ke aad main dil chura ke le gaya – hai ki nahi?)
Aman was in ‘ASR mode’ and completely focused on work at hand – it was a hectic and tiring day as Aman relentlessly drove a hard bargain and cracked deals while Poo watched in admiration and then in exhaustion – what did the man run on? Didn’t he feel hungry? Poo rued more than once.
It was nearly 3 pm by the time they managed to wrap up their agenda to Aman’s satisfaction and he declared that they should leave immediately for Delhi to be able to reach Delhi at a decent time.
But hamesha toh Aman ki nahi chal sakti na – there was an emergency of sorts when Bunty (Uma and Mahesh’s son) had an attack of severe diarrhea and had to be rushed to the hospital. Mahesh was unwilling to return to Delhi leaving his son in this condition so it was decided that Aman and Poo would return while Mahesh would come by bus when Bunty had stabilized.
Of course all this extracurricular activities were time consuming and it was only about a couple of hours later that Aman and Poo were able to leave the city. Aman was keen to beat the office rush hour and hence focused on negotiating the narrow roads of Jaipur to find the quickest exit from the city while Poo too sat quietly.
It was only about an hour later that Aman realized that Poo hadn’t spoken a word; he scratched his head, was there something wrong, maine toh kuch nahi kiya, he thought defensively, at least not today, “Well,” he cleared his throat and shot a side-long glance at her, “That was a good day’s work.”
Poo nodded noncommittally and mumbled, “Hmmm.”
Aman was taken aback and a bit piqued as well – knowing Poo he was expecting a more vocal and appreciative response – something in the lines of, ‘Oh yes and such an educative morning, thank you for the wonderful opportunity, it was a treat to watch a master at work etc etc.’
And instead when all you get is a ‘hmmm’ kuch toh gadbad hai – par subah toh theek thi? He thought back to the day, yes there was no doubt about it, she was fine throughout participating actively in the discussions, taking notes, asking questions, absolutely full on. Toh ab kya ho gaya?
“How was the function last evening?” he ventured to ask.
“Fine,” came the response.
Aman sighed but plodded on resolutely, “Must have gone on till late, I am glad I didn’t agree to attend, I had a relaxing time at the hotel, very nice place I must say,” he cast her a quick glance, nope no change, “by the way you really missed something,” he said heartily, “The buffet breakfast was mind-blowing,” he positively drooled, “Pure top class Rajasthani cuisine, there was kalmi vadas, pyaaz ke kachori and that jaljeera made with raw mango, was just awesome.”
Did he imagine it or did the temperature fall by another two notches?
He cleared his throat, “Haan waise you must have also had good food, after all it was part of the wedding celebrations, kya khaya tumne?” he dared to ask.
“Kuch nahi,” she responded sullenly.
“Kyon? Kya hua?” Aman slowed the car down.
“Because all I had today are the umpteen cups of tea and since we left early I missed breakfast too,” she snapped.
Aman looked at her in consternation, Oh that was why she was so quiet and now mad! She hadn’t eaten anything the whole day, but then neither had he so why wasn’t he hungry? Oh wait a minute, one party had served awesome khastha kachoris while Poo had gone inside to check up on the working area, conditions and staff – he and Mahesh had hungrily gobbled up the hot crisp kachoris and then rushed off to their next stop the moment Poo had returned.
Guilt smote him, oho yeh toh gadbad ho gayi, she must be starving! No wonder she was so withdrawn and silent. Without saying anything further, he stepped on the accelerator and soon had her seated at a dhaaba and ordered stuffed parathas for her while he ordered sandwiches for himself. Mindful of her resentful ‘umpteen cups of tea’ he ordered coffee for her.
He sipped his coffee and nibbled his sandwiches (those kachoris were heavy) as he watched her hungrily gobble down the hot crisp parathas. She had two whole parathas before she sighed and pushed back her plate declaring she would burst if she had any more.
“I am sorry,” offered Aman as he started the car, “I completely forgot, I had eaten and I wasn’t hungry, so it conveniently slipped my mind, forgive me?” he cast a side-long glance at her.
Poo looked reproachfully at him, “I missed all the yummy Rajasthani khana, it was so late at the function and I had snacked so I couldn’t eat any dinner and then I missed breakfast,” she glared at him, “I was so looking forward to a real Rajasthani spread, but,” she crossed her arms and huffed.
Aman grinned sheepishly, “Bolna chahiye tha na!”
“Kab?” she challenged, “Ek minute ki bhi fursat thi kya? All my dreams of daal baati churma,” she drooled and moaned, “sab choor choor ho gaye.”
Aman looked away guiltily, “I am sorry,” he apologized abjectly, “Waise I know a great joint in Delhi which specializes in this cuisine, I could take you someday,” he held his breath, did it sound over eager, like asking for a date? “You know to compensate for my insensitivity,” he added hastily.
Poo brightened, “I’ll hold you to that!” she said spontaneously.
Aman looked at her, “And I look forward to it.”
Poo’s breath stuck and her heart fluttered madly, “I am sorry,” she said hurriedly and looked away, “for being such a pain, I really get cranky if I don’t get my meals on time,” she explained, her lips twisted self-deprecatingly, “Living in the city has really made me soft, I remember going for days without even a single square meal during my childhood,” she grimaced, “Just tea and sometimes that too black, because we couldn’t afford to buy milk,” she grimaced.
Aman looked at her, “Maybe that’s why you were so upset? It reminded you of those unpleasant days, made you wonder if your family still has to go through a similar phase, made you feel guilty for having all the trappings of luxury,” he said rather perceptively.
Poo flushed and changed the topic, “Enough about me,” she protested, “This is not fair! You know everything about my family while I don’t know anything,” she pouted, “Tell me something about your family.”
“What’s to tell,” Aman shrugged casually but his fingers tightened on the wheel, “there is just me.”
“Just you?” Poo was incredulous, “Aasman se tapke hain kya? Parents toh honge na?”
Click here for Chapter 364