Every other day Khushi would try to introduce to introduce a new item in the menu and made it a point to draw up a questionnaire to gauge customer satisfaction, meal preferences, requirements, and expectations. She distributed these amongst ASR’s staff and since the questionnaire was anonymous, the sated and fed employees had no problem complying. Khushi diligently studied the results and drew logical and evidence-based conclusions as to what kind of a ‘dabba service’ would be most satisfying for her customers. All these activities kept Khushi busy, out of trouble and most importantly sane; although Khushi still missed Arnav terribly, especially in the evenings when she would often resort to talking to his photograph to ease her pain (little knowing that the moment she started her one-sided ‘aapko pata hai’, somewhere else in the city not so far off, almost instantly Arnav would resurface leading to a major faceoff between him and ASR. Aman and any other underling in the vicinity would naturally suffer collateral damage). Or perhaps Khushi too got an inkling of these internal conflicts, for later she stopped these verbal communications. She kept up the flow of emails; if she were lucky she got a response:
‘Got my first contract!
Mamiji’s relatives coming over to Delhi, party at RM on Friday.
Thanks for the warning!
Anya missing CSR
Broke two of my 2 lakh FDs for expenses
Di going with Kishu Bhaiyya and Anya over to her ‘sasural’ for Holi.
Tell her to take the chopper.
Doctor said, jiji may have her baby any day now
My first profit!
What did you get me?
Bought éclairs for everyone, with my profit of 50 rupees aur aapko toh meetha mana hai!
[But that evening there was Prasad and ‘Hajmola’ choorn ki goli with this dinner]
To cut a really long tragic itemized story of the ‘lambi judai’ short, things continued in this vein for quite some time, ASR pushed himself to his limits refusing to take any break or cut himself any slack, taking cue from their boss, the rest of the staff bravely kept up, at least for most of the part.
Khushi too threw herself wholeheartedly into her business, in a way it was sort of a blessing for Khushi that she had to more or less go it alone. There was no Arnav to breathe down her neck, direct her or guide her and hence she was free to work the way she wanted, without any hindrance, AKC was totally hers. She made mistakes of course, she stumbled, tripped, fell, scraped her hands and knees (as there was no Arnav or ASR to catch her before she fell), but soon she did learn to walk, with confident easy strides (a special AKC Lady Governor BG score had to be introduced).
However, the introduction of Ramiya significantly eased Khushi burden and pain, she found someone to laugh and joke with, it was rather boring and lonely to cook all by oneself and most importantly, she had missed a sounding board. Ramiya was indeed DM sent.
It was Friday and it was just 7 pm; suddenly ASR found that he was alone at Amezing HQ. He frowned, a bit surprised, the higher echelons usually hung around till at least 9 pm when they started mumbling and making their excuses one by one. Strange but he noticed that today no one was around. Aakash had started leaving early the last few days, saying he wanted to be with Payal as her due date was approaching, she needed him etc etc, Aman had a meeting at the other end of the town, he had claimed it would go on till late and the traffic would make it pointless for him to return here, better he go home and work from there. He had taken two other staff with him, another two had claimed urgent family matters, the rest he couldn’t remember; oh well he rubbed his forehead tired, doesn’t matter, the peace and quiet was a blessing, he wouldn’t be disturbed and could get more work done, those accounts had been demanding his attention for quite some time. He pulled the thick dossier towards himself. There was a knock at the door, annoyed he looked up, it was his peon, “Yes?” he snapped.
The peon stood there hesitating, “Sir woh…sab chalegaye.”
“Haan toh?” barked ASR, annoyed at the break in his concentration.
“Kuch nahi,” stuttered the unfortunate man.
ASR shook his head irritated, “Let me work, disturb me only if there is a fire,” he bent his head back to the heavy dossier, but the peon kept hovering around the doorway.
ASR sighed frustrated, “What?”
The guy was clearly apprehensive yet determined to have his say, it was now or never, “Sir, kal toh office bund rahega na?” he managed to say after a few false starts.
“Kal office bund?” ASR was astounded, “What the! Of course not, if you want a leave get one of your colleagues to fill in.”
The guard shook his head sadly, “Koi nahi hai saahab.”
“What! Why? Kal kya hai?” ASR was surprised.
“Kal Holi hai sahab” the peon informed ASR.
“Holi!” What a useless festival, ASR thought to himself, but he reluctantly nodded his head, he dismissed an obviously ecstatic peon with a wave of his hand, “Par chutti kal hai, I still have a lot of work now.”
Of all the festivals, Holi was the worst, messy, rowdy and uncivilized to boot, just another excuse for people to get drunk, do what they pleased and get away with saying ‘bura na mano Holi hai’. His lips tightened as he remembered the guy who had dared to jostle Khushi last to last Holi. Thankfully there had been no gala Holi party at RM last year, though ASR, contrarily, had been rather disappointed at this turn of events as he had been hoping to take a few liberties with (a still rootha hua, though re-married) Khushi in the name of all that is Holi.
Last Holi was a low key affair or rather a no-show because, Anjali had been still disturbed over the SMJ fiasco and Khushi had thought it best to take her away from RM to Lucknow, to Sheesh Mahal for a change during Holi. Nani too had agreed and since Anjali seemed to have perked up at the thought of her childhood home, all the ladies of RM had gone off to Lucknow and since Navratras were close to Holi, they decided to visit Vaishno Devi as well.
ASR bent his head back to his books, but his concentration faltered as he recollected the events at Holi in 2012. Scenes of that Holi flashed before his eyes, an excited Khushi blabbering about color codes for people, cute Khushi busy making bhang, a terrified Khushi steeling herself to face that rascal as he reached out to put color on her, Khushi tricking him into drinking bhang, an exuberant Khushi dancing away with gay abandon, an innocent Khushi wondering and questioning him, the man who made her life hell, so trusting so confidingly about her disturbing symptoms, and he…. ASR shut his file with a bang.
Click here for Chapter 96