Images of Khushi assaulted him; he suddenly yearned for Khushi, just a glimpse of her, a pair of walnut eyes teased him, provoked him, beseeched him, taunted him, haunted him, he pushed back his chair and pulled on his coat, he deserved a break dammit, it had been going on for more than 3 weeks now and Khushi was right, Rome wasn’t built in a day, there was nothing that couldn’t wait till Sunday; feeling a bit rebellious Arnav saw his chance, what the heck, he could take Sunday off as well. ASR reared his head, no that would be too much, he would give the staff off on Sunday as well and he could do the accounts on Sunday, undisturbed, it would take just a couple of hours.
Decision taken, ASR called up Aman and asked him to message the employees about the double off while he strode out of his cabin at an unearthly hour of 8 pm, his heart racing as he called out silently, Khushi main aa raha hoon.
The peon sat in the deserted office morosely, staring at the MMS clip sent thoughtfully by his friends partying away. He sighed and started playing ‘Angry birds’. He stood up hastily at the sight of ASR as if seeing a ghost, “Sir!?”
“Lock up will you and you can go home, come back on Sunday morning by 10 am.” ASR muttered as he walked past, he stopped and took out his wallet and handed him a 1000 rupee note, “What’s your name?”
“Thandimal.” Stuttered an overwhelmed peon.
“Thandimal eh?” Arnav’s lips twitched, he took out another 1000 rupee note and thrust into his shirt pocket, “Holi Mubarak Thandimal!” and smiled.
Thandimal managed to whisper, “Holi Mubarak Sir” before sitting down with a thump, money he could handle, but a smiling Sir, now that was something else, nobody in the office would believe him, he thought gleefully, ‘lagta hai Sir ka bheja fry ho gaya hai!’
A charged up Arnav drove like a maniac to RM and thrust open the main door, excitement and anticipation coursing through his veins, he stopped in surprise, “What the…”
Khushi flopped wearily on the recliner, exhausted and depressed, she yearned to just go to sleep, it had been a particularly long day; today Mamiji’s relatives were coming over for a pre-Holi party at RM and so were Di et al. Di was flying to Lucknow with her family for her first Holi with her in-laws, Buaji had left a week earlier for her brother’s place. Khushi had intended to go as well, after returning from Mauritius, but the best laid plans…she sighed. She leaned back and closed her eyes; after finishing her AKC meals for the day, she had come back home to cook for the party at home. As it was Shakunthala’s first Holi, she had taken the day off along with HP to visit her sasural as well although Nani had had the foresight to insist on a replacement for the evening as there was party and she didn’t want Khushi to be unnecessarily overburdened. In fact she had suggested hiring a catering service, but Khushi’s self-respect wouldn’t allow such a thing.
Khushi had finished her preparations for the evening even as the first of the guests began to trickle in, she rushed off to freshen up and change. She still had to send Arnav’s dinner, though all the other office staff had thoughtfully messaged her that they would be dining at home. If only Arnav too would come tonight, but she could see the pitfalls of that, he would not be exactly ecstatic about leaving his work to attend a party at RM that too one that was overrun with Mami and her relatives. Instinctively she knew that he would be better off at the office. So despite Anjali and Nani nagging her, she had hedged them off. But one could still wish couldn’t one, she thought rebelliously as she nagged DM, she sighed and closed her eyes; images from another Holi teased her.
She dozed off for a while on the recliner and woke up feeling refreshed, though still low. Desultorily she showered and stood in front of their cupboard wondering what to wear, the fragrance of his clothes reminding her of all that she had firmly pushed to the back of her mind. Bas kar Khushi, she scolded herself as she rifled through her clothes.
A flash of red caught her eye; she pulled it out and stared. It was the saree Arnav had gifted her on her birthday, and she had rejected it outright. She caressed it lovingly as a rueful smile lit her face, what a way to ‘gift’! Only Laad Governor could do such a thing! Suddenly feeling bright and cheery, she wore the saree and just as she finished dressing her heart thumped, a soft wind blew, he was here! She just knew it! She had been about to put up hair, she dropped the idea and just gave it a few brisk strokes. Heart racing she walked out of their room.
Arnav stared around in surprise; he could have sworn that Thandimal had said it was Holi. But the house was decorated as if it were Diwali! What the heck was going on?!
“Arnawbitwa! You are herez, ekdum right timewa par” Mami descended on to Arnav in an overwhelming cloud of perfume and makeupwa, and her jewelry could put KL’s chain ki dukaan to shame.
Arnav rolled his eyes, silently but strongly condemning his ill-luck, oh no! Was today the party Khushi had intimated him about?
“Arnawbitwa, today humri paternity and maternity homez se first time peoplez coming far dinner, to bless Kho…I meanz Payal bahuria…ooh I am soo excited she will be getting lots of gifats,” In testimony to her extreme joy, Mami shook and swayed dangerously like a ship in a storm, her saree billowing out like a massive sail.
Arnav stared at her in horror as he debated going back to the office or he could plead ill-health and retire to the safety of his room, par Khushi? Uska kya? Oh well he would just pull her in and lock the door too, he started for the stairs.
“Mamu!” A tiny hurricane collided with him; he caught her easily enough, a reluctant smile creasing his face, “Anya! What are you doing here?!”
“We are all here! Only you were absent!” Anya gave him a great big smacking kiss as she hugged him tightly, “I missed you so!” she pouted, “Where were you all these days?”
“Haan Chotte,” Anjali came up smiling with Khsitij in tow, “We are all here, dekha Khushi ne tumhe mana hi liya!” she too gave him a tight hug. “Tumhe pata hai na Chotte we are going to Lucknow for Holi tomorrow?”
He nodded his head, “Haan Di, Khushi ne bataya tha; you are taking the chopper I hope.”
“Haan Chotte, we could have easily taken the plane, but Anya madam here got wind of it now she is hell bent on that chopper ride.” Anjali affectionately pulled Anya’s cheek. “Haan par Chotte, when we come back a couple of days later with them for Payal’s delivery, we are taking the airplane, theek hai?”
Arnav nodded his head, his eyes searching, over the heads of the milling crowd. Dammit where was she?
Click here for Chapter 97