Poo was upon them in a flash, she solicitously patted Aman’s back, “Are you Ok?” she was concerned, he coughed and steadied himself.
“Kya hua?” Poo asked.
He shook his head, “Kuch nahi,” his heart still thudding furiously, “Yeh tumhari Chotti bahut khatarnak hai!” the words slipped out unbidden.
Poo looked towards Chotti who had dashed off, screaming, “Da, Da wait for me Daaaaa.”
Relieved that apparently things were back on an even keel “Kyon?” Poo smiled in anticipation of yet another chottism, “kya bola?”
“Usne bola ki…” suddenly Aman realizing what he was about to say and to whom, he stiffened, “Nahi nothing,” he dug out his mobile, “Some urgent business, I have got to go, please convey my apologies to Khushi Bhabhi,” he vanished from the scene.
Poo looked after him in dismay – she had hoped that they had managed to put the unfortunate incident behind them that they would be able to pretend that it had never happened.
But evidently Aman was not ready to forget or forgive.
Her shoulders drooped.
About a week later, Arnav requested Poo to again go back to A&Designs as they were short-staffed and an important deadline was coming up. Poo wasn’t too happy about it, for she had just begun to move on and didn’t want to disturb her mansik santulan once again – but then who could dare defy ASR?
When she turned up for work (with dozen’s of butterflies in the pit of her tummy), Aman’s PA handed her the files she was supposed to work on. Instead of being relieved at not having to work in close quarters with Aman, Poo was contrarily piqued to find that Aman was giving her the royal ignore – What the! She fumed uncharacteristically am I some pariah or outcast? Like I care two hoots, she sniffed disdainfully, bahut ho gaya yeh nautanki, she sniffed disdainfully, I am glad I have to work independently and not with him, she told herself firmly over and over again.
Three days passed before Aman gathered the gumption to approach her. The office was more or less deserted and Poo was busy wrapping up for the day – in fact she would have left long ago if it weren’t for the last minute file Aman had sent in especially for her, “Sir ne bola aaj hi chahiye,” the peon informed and dumped the file on her table. Pucca jaan boojh kar itni der se bheja hoga, she fumed, pehle nahi bhej sakta tha? Samajhta kya hai apne aapko ki woh just ‘a Man’ nahi ‘the Man’ hai? she snorted to herself as she attacked the file rather viciously.
“Err,” Aman muttered and coughed hesitantly – Poo’s head shot up and her eyes flew to his; he looked away, he coughed again and scratched his head, “Umm could you…could you drop me home please,” he said in a strangled subdued voice, “There is err, there is something wrong with my car,” he finished in a rush.
Poo bit her lip, “Sure,” she shrugged casually even though her heart was beating fast.
“Thanks,” Aman nodded, “I’ll uh just get my things,” he turned on his heel and strode off. She stared suspiciously at his retreating back – ab isse kya ho gaya? Taxi bhi toh le sakta tha, she thought resentfully as the butterflies came charging back with renewed strength, vigor and energy – she felt ready to collapse.
The trip was made in complete silence; it was only when they reached his residence that Aman seemed to rouse himself from his stupor, “Come up for a cup of tea will you?” he said abruptly making it sound more like an order than a request.
Poo stiffened, “No thanks, I better get going,” she refused.
Aman came around and held her door open, “It won’t take long,” he insisted but she didn’t move, “Please,” he added.
She relented and stiffly accompanied him to his apartment. Restless and nervous, she only dimly registered that he didn’t open the door himself; instead he rang the bell. The door swung open and Poo stared in shocked surprise as a middle-aged lady, very obviously a close relative of Aman, stood at the door. Poo’s eyes widened with questioning disbelief and swung to Aman.
His face was a curious mixture of self-deprecation and pride, his eyes were full and soft, he ushered Poo in and gently shut the door behind them and muttered huskily, “Meet my Mother,” he waved towards the lady and then said, “Ma, this is…”
“I know!” smiled the lady warmly, “Punya!” she moved forward and enfolded Poo in one of the most warmest and spontaneous of embraces in Poo’s memory, “Oh may God bless you my child! Thank you, thank you,” her voice raw with emotion.
A stunned Poo soaked in the warm and almost forgotten comfort of a mother’s hug, she stared at Aman over his mother’s shoulder – his eyes too were trained on Poo, soft and tender, his face flushed, his lips twisted and moved of their own volition I love you he mouthed.
Poo fiercely hugged his mother and burst into tears. Great big sobs wracked her slender frame as did his mother’s more generous proportions. Steeped as she was in her emotions, Poo could have sworn she felt Aman hug them both fiercely for a fleeting instant before he released them and strode away from the scene.
Poo gulped and sniffed valiantly, trying to rein in her emotions – too overwhelmed and confused to think straight, “Bas bas bachche isme rone wali kaunsi baat hai?” scolded the lady softly as she gently pushed Poo away from her and used her pallu to wipe her cheeks like a little baby.
The tears started flowing again and Poo slid back into her arms again and soaked in the much missed warm comfort of a mother’s hug, “Achcha achcha, bas beta bas,” she soothed, “Chalo chalo rona dhona bund karo, ab toh sab theek ho gaya, woh bhi tumhari wajah se, aur tum kyon ro rahi ho!” she kissed her cheeks and again wiped her tears. Poo hugged her fiercely as if she would never let her go; Aman’s mother hugged her back, uttering soothing comforting words as she caressed her back.
Aman cleared his throat, “Here have some water,” he offered.
Poo steadied herself with an immense effort and accepted the proffered glass. Aman brought a tea tray and placed it on the coffee table, “Have a cup of tea,” he invited rather awkwardly.
Aman’s mother led her to the sofa, “Here sit down and have some tea, dekho Ammu ne banaya hai, tumhare liye,” she smiled, “I have to go to the mandir for the Arti aur waise bhi,” she looked at her son, “I believe my son wants to ask you something,” Poo looked at her confused but she continued without a break, “but remember Punya no matter what I hope you will continue to treat this as your second home,” she placed a hand as blessing on her head and rose, “DM ko bahut saara dhanyavad dene aur ek aur ashirwaad bhi mangne ja rahi hoon,” she said rather cryptically.
Aman shuffled around restlessly waiting only till his mother had left to come and sit on the sofa facing Poo, “Punya!” he began emotionally and then, “Chai lo?” he hurriedly poured a cup and handed it to her.
Poo mentally rolled her eyes – itne emotionally chai ke liye pooch raha hai! “Th…thank you,” she muttered.
“Look,” he started again, but then he coughed and sputtered like a car whose battery was dying.
Poo sighed; she sipped her tea and choked, “Kya hua?” Aman was instantly alert.
“Kuch nahi,” Poo shook her head, “Tea is good,” she smiled.
Suspicious, Aman took a sip as well, “Oh damn,” he swore – instead of sugar he had put salt.
“Sorry,” he apologized, “Woh jaldi main, I got confused,” and then as if a damn had burst, “I am really sorry Poo,” her nickname slipped out unnoticed (at least by Aman) and in his eagerness to convince her he caught hold of her slender hand in his rather large palm and clasped it firmly, “I am really really sorry Poo, you know I didn’t mean that, I was hurt and upset because,” he swallowed hard as he struggled to find the right words to describe his emotions and train of thoughts, “because I idolized my Father,” his lips twisted, “He was my hero, he could do no wrong and suddenly here I was faced with the real possibility of having completely misread the situation,” he closed his eyes and squeezed her hand painfully unmindfully, “I just couldn’t bear the possibility, all those wasted years, injustice to Mother,” he shuddered, “the sudden horrified realization that you were in all probability right made me lash out,” he was brutal in his analysis of himself and made no attempt to sugarcoat his indefensible behavior, “and hurt you where it hurt most,” he whispered painfully as he raised his anguished eyes to meet hers.
She met his eyes steadily and smiled shakily, “It’s ok,” she brushed his apology away, “All’s well that ends well.”
“Nahi,” he said forcefully, “Its not ok, it was unpardonable, how could I?” he paused, “I who pride myself in being fair and just be so cruel and unfair?” he shook his head dejectedly, “I don’t know what happened to me.”
“Nothing ‘happened’ to you,” Poo tried to soothe his injured sense of self, “It was only natural, besides I shouldn’t have interfered spoken about your beloved father like that, I should be apologizing and I do,” she looked at him regretfully, “I am sorry, I shouldn’t have raised questions about your father’s integrity and motives.”
“No! You were right to challenge my views, first time in my life someone has ever challenged me and proved me wrong,” he again squeezed her hand, “but for you, Mother would have continued to suffer,” his voice was raw with emotion and his eyes sparkled with unshed tears, “I would have remained bitter.”
Click here for Chapter 367