Joined: 09 December 2008
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Joined: 09 December 2008
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Joined: 26 February 2008
Joined: 26 February 2008
Joined: 26 February 2008
Joined: 09 December 2008
Mallika nods her thanks to Koel and says into the phone, "Hello Mr. Bakshi, did you talk to that agent regarding those documents?.. I see.. yes, could you just wait a minute, I need to check my file.." and she rushed to her cabin, followed by Koel.
It is then that Ashutosh sees Nidhi standing near the door. "Yes Ms. Verma?" he asks her.
She fumbles a bit on her words, "Sir.. woh.. this summary" and extends him the printout. While taking the printout from her, he makes the mistake of looking into her eyes. Those eyes which are always playful, look up at him sadly.
He couldn't help himself from asking, "Anything wrong Ms. Verma?"
"Woh Sir..I am sorry for my behavior Sir. Please give me another chance. I .. I mean, main ab aapko shikaayat ka koi mauka nahi doongi. Please Sir", she pleaded with a hint of tears in her eyes.
It was then that Ashutosh realized that she had overheard his conversation with Mallika. He looked at her, in contemplation.
"Please Sir" she said again. He gets a firm grip on himself and gives her a stern look.
Later that evening Ashutosh and Mallika were sitting opposite each other in Nawab restaurant, sipping wine. He was dressed in a dark blue suit with a maroonish red tie and she was dressed up gracefully in a beige silk saree with sleeveless blouse, her neck and ears adorned with light pearl jewelry. As usual, there was a comforting silence between them, as they let the wine rejuvenate them after a tiring day. The silence, however, was broken when his phone rang and the caller ID showed Armaan. Since they were in a discreet corner of the restaurant, he took the call and put it on a speaker mode, "Hey Armaan, had your dinner?"
"Yaar dinner ki baat mat kar. Was trying to cook pulao, since Amma and Baba have gone to Vaishnaodevi. Lekin jal gaya."
"Uncle Aunty chale gaye? I thought they were going day after tomorrow"
"Yeah, they preponed their trip. And because they went off suddenly, Amma mere liye kuch bana ke bhi nahi gayi"
Hearing this, Mallika butted in, "Armaan, just grab your keys and drive over to Nawab. Humne abhi tak kuch order nahi kiya. We'll wait for you."
"Mallika, ek toh pahle hi meri bhookh ke maare jaan nikal rahi hai, upar se apne honewale se mujhe pitwana chahti ho kya?"
While Mallika rolled her eyes at his dramatics, Ashu responds, "Abe oye, ye kya laga rakha hai. Chup chaap nikal wahan se"
"Na ji na, kabab me haddi nahi banna mujhe. Waise I have already ordered my favorite pizza with extra cheese."
Both of them look at each other as if to say, 'ye nahi sudhrega. He and his love for high cal food' and Ashu said aloud, "okay. Enjoy your pizza"
"Chal rakhta hoon, you enjoy your date.. arre ruk ek minute, jis ke liye phone kiya tha woh toh poochna bhool hi gaya. Yaar Ashu, tu kitna bolta hai, isme kaam ki baat reh jaati hai.. abhi main bhool jaata toh?"
While Mallika laughed silently, Ashutosh said in mock exasperation, "sorry Armaan, tu toh jaanta hai na ki khaali pet main jyaada hi bolta hoon (she laughed loudly at that, trying hard to control herself and he too smiles at her) anyways bol, kya baat thi?"
"Arre yaar Mallika bata rahi thi ke tu us junior ko fire karne wala hai, toh main soch raha tha ki humari college me vo Sameer tha na, jo US chala gaya tha, uska chhota bhai bhi hamare yahan interview dene aaya tha. A bright lad yaar. And the best part is he never took Sameer's name during the interview. And when I looked at his surname and asked him if he knew Sameer Singhania, tab usne bataya. I think he will be perfect for our office. Main soch raha tha ke usko abhi phone kar doon that he can join tomorrow."
Ashutosh hesitated, wondering how the two would react, "nahin Armaan, woh maine, maine use thode din aur continue karke dekhne ka socha hai. Next vacancy hogi toh we will take that guy, okay?" Mallika looked up at him with mild astonishment.
Though surprised, Armaan simply said, "okay (the bell is heard) chal rakhta hoon mera pizza aa gaya" and he hung up.
Ashutosh looked up at Mallika uncomfortably, "Mallika, woh actually, I did not call Solanki Sir, because.. (getting very uneasy and averting her eyes) you see, .. the summary she wrote was impressive!" Come on, now. I know that's not even half the truth. Yes the summary was good, no doubt. But the actual fact is that I could not bear to see those beautiful eyes sad. Though I hope my tone was hard and strict enough when I said that this will be the last chance she gets. One more mistake and she is out. He sighs at his helplessness and looks at Mallika apprehensively, I hope my explanation is good enough for you Mallika!
She looks at him with a serious frown for a while, making him very tense and then bursts out laughing.
"Kya hua?" he asks, totally taken aback.
She says, still laughing, "Ashutosh, apni shakkal dekhi hai abhi tumne? Aisa lag raha hai, ke you were caught cheating in the exam and you are giving excuses to your principal. Aur maine toh kuch poochha bhi nahi tumse. She is your junior, tumhari marzi tumhe jo karna ho"
He gave her a distracted smile and the waiter arrives to take orders for the starters. Since none of them is in a mood for a heavy dinner, they bypass the starters and order light main course dishes instead. The waiter withdraws.
"Main kuch soch rahi thi" she says tentatively.
"Armaan ke baare me"
"Armaan ke baare me kya?"
"Zindagi me kisi ka saath chahiye Ashutosh! We are getting married soon, tumhe nahi lagta Armaan ko bhi settle ho jaana chahiye? It's high time! I think tumhe usse baat karni chahiye. Main karne wali thi, but I think it's better you do."
He thinks deeply for a while. "Mallika you know na, college me Suman.."
She cuts him, "I know.. maybe I don't know the details, but I know the gist. But, still don't you think 10 years is a long period? I think he should move on Ashutosh".
"Don't you think even I want that Mallika? Even Uncle Aunty bhi mujhe kai baar keh chuke ke, main Armaan ko samjhaoon. Lekin kaise? Main baat chhedta bhi hoon toh he immediately withdraws into his shell and tells me point blank, ke mujhe is baare me koi baat nahi karni."
"Understandable, itni gehri chot jo khayi hai! I still can't believe that any girl can.." she trails off as the waiter arrives with their order. He serves them and leaves.
It's then that he realizes that they have been talking about every other subject but themselves. Though uncomfortable with such talk, he knows that she expects him to discuss this topic. But how do I begin? What do I say to her everyday?
Seeing him in thoughts, she asked, "kya soch rahe ho? Armaan ke baare me?"
"Mallika, auron ki bahut baaten ho gayi, lets talk about US na?"
"Sure, that's my favourite topic, so what do we talk about us?" she says grinning.
He smiled back and turned serious, "Mallika I know you don't believe in these things, and nor do I. But mere birthday pe jo hua uske baad Baba ne kisi panditji se baat ki, aur humari official engagement ka mahurat nikalwaya hai. Its on 25th. Today is 4th, so we have two weeks to plan. So, batao, kahan rakhe party?"
"Jahan bhi tumhe theek lage"
"Mallika, kabhi toh apni bhi marzi batao? Agar humari relationship me saare decisions main hi loonga toh.."
"Is galat fahmi me mat rehna Ashutosh. Abhi tumne mujhe jaana hi nahi. Ek baar shaadi hone do, phir toh shayad tumhe saans lene ke bhi meri permission leni padegi. I'm gonna be a dominating wife and you are gonna be a henpecked husband." she said tongue in cheek.
"Arre baap re!" he said in a mock scared tone. Then an idea struck him and he decided to tease her. He said in a contemplative tone, "Waise Mallika, maine na ek theory padhi thi, internet pe, about henpecked husbands."
She was curious, "What theory?"
He took his time chewing his food leisurely, then said, "Actually, it's based on a recent study" and showed another spoonful of food in his mouth.
Mallika realized he was teasing her, so she said in an irritatied tone, "out with it Ashutosh"
He enjoyed her apparent irritation. He said with a wry smile, "According to this study, henpecked husbands are more likely to.. chhodo na Mallika, tum kya karogi jaan kar"
She dropped the fork from her left hand, to pat his hand insistently, "Ashutosh!"
He laughed at the gesture and said, "Okay batata hoon. Henpecked husbands are more likely to have EMAs"
"What!" she was totally taken aback. Then, she looked daggers at him while she said, "Mr. Ashutosh Mathur, remember this ' if you so much as THINK about another woman, I swear (pointing the knife, that's in her right hand, towards) I WILL KILL YOU"
He burst out laughing and after cooling down, she too laughed a bit, "Ashutosh tum bhi na!"
"Sorry Mallika, but it's really fun to tease you"
"Really? Let's see what fun you have when I tease you"
"You know how to tease?"
"Uh huh. .. "
The rest of their dinner was done in the same mood, wih light banters and teasings. They also made plans for the party.
Next morning, Ashutosh walked into his office at 8:45 a.m. as usual; it was his routine to arrive at his office 15 minutes before its opening time. He was surprised to hear, "Good morning Sir"
He would now know that chirpy melodious voice even in his dreams. "Good Morning Ms. Verma, aap kab aayin?"
"Sir I just came 5 minutes back" she said in a matter-of-factly voice.
"But we open at 9, and yahan overtime nahi hota."
"No, sir.. its not that. You see, I did not want to get late again today, so.."
"Good Ms. Verma. I believe punctuality is very important for success in any field"
She nodded, "So, Sir, what do I do now?"
"Just give me 5 minutes and then come to my cabin. In the meantime, I suggest that you go through that summary you prepared last evening."
After 5 minutes, she promptly knocked at the door and walked in with the summary, her notepad and pen.
"Please have a seat Ms. Verma, (as she sits with 'thanks') Did you go through the summary?"
"Yes Sir, any mistakes? Are any corrections needed?" she asks with enthusiasm, her pen poised over her open notepad. I hope I am sounding like I am really interested in this work.
He hesitates for a while, "Well Ms. Verma, my purpose behind asking you to prepare this summary was to guaze your drafting skills and your ability to sift the relevant facts from the irrelevant one. And I am glad to see that you have both. But you need to refine them."
As she looked at him somewhat confused, he said, "don't worry, you will learn how to refine them, while you are under me.. (he suddenly coughed to camouflage his discomfort at the words 'under me' that he had just uttered) I.. I mean, in this office. For now, can you tell me what qualities make a good lawyer?"
She thought for a while and then began unsurely, "I don't really know Sir, but I guess, the ability to put forward good arguments."
"Yes Ms. Verma, a good lawyer should actually love to argue. And holding a good argument needs.. " he trails off as he sees her putting the top of her pen between her lips and is again distracted. Recovering with an effort he tries to continue, "uh.. So what I saying?.."
"You were saying something about argument Sir" she said, trying to hide her impatience. Why doesn't he come to the point right away? Why does he have to lecture. I have had enough of them during college.
"Yes, Nidhi, .. I mean, yes Ms. Verma, logical and coherent thought process is a must to hold arguments that make sense. Otherwise, it would be just a tussle, not an argument. I hope you understand the difference. (As she nodded, he continued trying his best to avoid gazing at her face) And a good lawyer has to be exceptionally adept at presenting facts and arguments on paper. All arguments have to be presented in such a way that there are no loopholes in them for the opposition."
By now, Nidhi was genuinely interested in his explanation and nodded enthusiastically. He continued, "We come to preempting the loopholes later. First let me tell you a golden rule I always follow while drafting anything. I believe a legal draft should be ABC. Any idea what ABC stands for?"
By now, she was curious, "no Sir, please explain"
"ABC stands for Accurate, Brief and Clear."
As she tried to process this, he continued, "Accurate ' be as accurate as possible. Don't say 1000 when the actual figure is 999. This is a simplistic example, but I think you get the point? (As she nods,) good. Brief- be as brief as possible. Brevity is a powerful tool not only to get the concerned person interested but also to ward off opposition's efforts. Can you guess how brevity can be used to the opponent's disadvantage?"
She tried to think aloud, "Maybe.. by.. I mean, if we are brief, the opponent would not be able to.. I mean, he would not have much opportunity to oppose us?"
He was surprised, "Excellent Ms. Verma, every word we write is like an opportunity for the opposition lawyer to debate and argue over. Each and every word we use in drafting is like a double edged sword. It can be used in our favor or against us."
"I understand Sir" she said.
"Now, the last point. Clear. Clarity is very important when you write. Don't use passive tone when you can use active figure of speech. Use simple present tense or simple past tense. And lastly, use short sentences. And yes choose you words very carefully, There should be absolutely no room for ambiguity ' the word you use should have only one meaning ' the meaning you intend to convey. Opposition lawyers always look for vague words so that they can use them to their advantage and to our disadvantage"
By now she is totally engrossed and looks at him with bright intelligent eyes, willing him to continue. This gesture of hers again sparks something in him. He stoically averts his eyes from hers and continues, "So that covers drafting. Now, we come to the most important thing. Not only a good lawyer must possess the ability to hold an impeccable argument as well as present a case well on paper in the form of an ABC draft, but also seamlessly blend the two. (As she looks up trying to comprehend this, he continues) Yes, your drafting should be backed by your arguments and vice versa. Also, always take care that your argument and draft both say exactly the same thing in the same manner. And.."
"Exactly the same thing in the same manner?" she quipped, "Can you please give me an example?"
"Hmm.. okay.. let me see.. yeah, suppose in my draft when describing an object, I write that it's brown in color, but during my argument, I say it's wood colored. This small discrepancy on our part is enough of a window for an opponent to throw a doubt on our facts. Got the point, Ms. Verma?"
"Absolutely Sir, thanks!" she smiled
"You are always welcome. (As he realized he said it too sweetly, he put on an indifferent demeanor) Okay, and finally, it is very important for a successful lawyer to dig out relevant judgements from the past that support our case. Earlier, it was a very tedious job. But now thanks to computerization, it's as simple as putting a few keywords in an internal legal search engines."
"Good, that covers the basics. For now. Okay, let me see what task to assign to you.. hmm, since you seem good at drafting, I think you can try to draft an argument (handing her a file) on this case which is due for hearing next week. I have written down some points that need to be covered. You will find it on the first page of the file. And pl. bear in mind what I just explained to you. Especially ABC. And please don't hesitate to ask me anything you don't understand."
"Okay Sir" and with that, she leaves. She returns from time to time to ask him something before he leaves for the hearings at noon and by 4 o'clock that evening she has prepared the entire draft of some 25 pages. At about 4.30, she is proofing the draft when he walks in after attending the court. She gives him 5 minutes breathing time and then takes the printout and knocks gently on his cabin door.
One look at her face and all his fatigue vanishes. He goes through the draft and suggests changes. When he realizes she is too inexperienced to grasp all these details, he asks her to bring it on flashdrive and then both work together on his laptop. While her gaze is intent on the monitor, the close proximity with her distracts him no end. Finally unable to take it any more, he says, "Okay Ms. Verma, I will take care of the rest. You just wind up your other work"
"Other work? What other work Sir? Aur waise bhi, abhi bas thoda hi toh baaki hai, let's finish it na"
God! What do I do now? How do I send her away? "Well, Ms. Verma, you see, the closing time for our office is nearing, so I need to wind up some tasks. In the meantime, you please check with Maria if your resume has been filed in our records."
She nods and leaves. She just returns to ask, "May I leave for the day Sir." He nods barely looking up from his laptop. "Good night Sir" "Good night Ms. Verma."
The rest of the week passes in the same way, with his trying to fight off his strange pull towards her, while mentoring her. On the weekend, he again tries to spend time with Mallika. Mallika and Armaan spend the entire Sunday at Ashutosh's house with his father joining them during lunch and dinner and sometime in between. The three friends watch movies at home, and have a lot of fun. But Ashutosh looks distracted almost all the time. Armaan and Mallika notice this and ask him, but he just shrugs it off.
Monday to Wednesday again pass off on the same note. In these few days, Col. Verma and the Solankis are delighted see a new Nidhi, very slowly, but as surely emerging from behind the spoilt brat. There is a purpose in her gait, instead of the earlier aimlessness. She is very enthusiastic every morning about going to office. She enjoys the mentoring and the learning process immensely. Though she thinks her boss sometimes behaves weirdly and looks at her strangely and often averts his gaze suddenly, she doesn't bother to think about it. She is too engrossed in learning about the fascinating legal field. Contrary to her image in front of her loved ones and friends, she is so intellectually charged up while working that her skills improve exponentially. It's as if she has got an opportunity to utilize her dormant abilities. The only thing that still disappoints her is that she has still not accompanied her boss on any of his courtroom trials, but does not press the issue much. For the time being, she is content lapping up the pearls of wisdom, she gets during their discussion. Though her inherent indiscipline does rear its ugly head from time to time, but she manages to keep it in check, and he too does not seem to mind the occasional lapses on her part.
In the evenings, she still hangs out with Rohan and their common group of friends, but now she does not enjoy their company as much and insists on leaving early so that she does not get late to the office the next day.
Contrary to this, Ashutosh is finding it difficult to concentrate on anything and everything, including his profession. He seems distracted all the time. Armaan, Mallika and Mr. Mathur get worried seeing his restlessness and suggest that he is overworking himself and that he should go on a short break, preferably with Mallika. But he does not heed any of their advice.
Slowly, the realization dawns on Ashutosh that he is attracted to this girl. But neither can he keep away from her nor stand her proximity. He felt utterly disgusted with himself. Disgusted and ashamed. This is what happens Ashutosh, if you don't get married at the right time! Elders are always right. But we are so headstrong, we think our elders are too set in their ideas. But now I realize, Baba was right and I should have gotten married long back. Agar maine shaadi kar li hoti aaj se 5-6 saal pahle, toh I would have been too busy with Mallika and our family. Phir aise mera dimaag toh kharaab nahi hota! Ab bas! No more thinking about Nidhi, no more calling her to my cabin. I'd have Mallika, Armaan or someone else in my cabin, when she is with me. Or better still, shall I keep her under Mallika or Armaan and take Koel or Rehaan under me? No, what do I tell them? I can't even sack her now that she is giving her 100% to her work. She has the potential to become a successful lawyer. No, I cam't jeopardize her career or undermine her confidence, just because I'm being foolish and letting my emotions run away with me. God, why do I feel so drawn to her? WHY? Kya karoon, kisse share karoon? Armaan? Yes, Armaan! Lekin main bolunga kya usse. Mujhe toh ye baat sochte hue bhi sharm aati hai. Main, Ashutosh Mathur, jise hamesha se apne charitra pe garv tha, aaj engaged hote hue bhi.. ek ladki vo bhi apne se kareeban 15 saal chhoti ladki ke baare me aise vichaar.. Chhee.
Kya kahoon main Armaan se? Aur phir agar woh mera dost hai to Mallika ka bhi dost hai. Kya sochega woh.. Nahin, is paagalpan ke saath mujhe khud hi deal karna hoga. Mujhe Mallika ke saath hi zyaada se zyaada time spend karna chahiye. Mujhe uske kareeb jsana chahiye. Kya kami hai usme? Achchhi bhali si ladki hai, sundar hai, mujhe samajhti hai.
He is so struck that he tries his best to avoid Nidhi, but its not easy. And his behaviour ends up being more and more weird. Armaan and Mallika are getting increasingly worried about him, but mutually decide to give him some time and space. They know it won't serve any purpose if they corner him.
That night, at about 10.30, after tossing and turning about in his bed for about 15 minutes, he gets up and grabs his car keys. As soon as he reaches the main door, his father calls him, "Itni raat der kahan jaa raha hai beta"
I need fresh air to breathe Baba or I will suffocate. "Thoda kaam hai Baba aata hoon. Aap kyun jage hue hain ab tak?"
"Kuch nahi beta, paani lene utha tha. Lekin beta, itna urgent hai kya? Kal nahi jaa sakta?"
"Aata hoon na Baba, aap please so jaiye" he said shortly and rushed out before his father could stop him.
Aajkal is ladke ko ho kya gaya hai? Na theek se baat karta hai aur na khaata peeta hai. Mallika keh rahi thi office me bhi pareshaan rehta hai. Baat kya hai? Poochhunga toh batayega thode hi na. How do I find out what's bothering him and making him this restless?
At 11 pm, Mallika is in her bed reading a magazine, when her phone rings. She sees the caller ID and is surprised, "Hi Ashutosh! Itni raat der? Everything okay?"
"Yes everything is perfectly fine. Were you sleeping?"
"Nahi, bilkul nahi"
"Mallika, tumhe phone karne ke liye mujhe ghadi dekhni padegi kya?"
She breaks into a smile, "No way, bilkul nahi. You can call me any time. Jab bhi tumhara mann kare."
"Aur tumse milna ho toh?"
Her smile widens, "Of course, anytime"
"Toh phir, open the door. I am right outside" with that, he cuts the call.
What! He is here? I m not presentable. What do I do now? How long can I make him wait? I am just wearing my nightie.
She hurriedly puts on a gown, and opens the door while tying it up.
"Hi Mallika, did I disturb you?"
"No, not at all, (all the while she is conscious of her attire) kaise aana hua itni raat der? I thought you like to sleep early."
He nods, "Neend nahi aa rahi thi toh socha tumhaare saath coffee peene aa jaaoon"
"Kya baat hai Ashutosh, pichle kuch dino se pareshaan lagte ho?"
"Mallika.." he began, not knowing what to say.
"Okay, lets do this. Tum baitho, main coffee leke aati hoon, phir aaram se baat karte hain okay?"
He nods and she rushes into the kitchen. I will just put the water to boil and then go to my room to change. I'm glad that he came. I will find out what's bothering him so much.
As soon as she puts the water on the gas and switches it on, a pair of strong masculine hands snake their way from around her waist and encircle her tightly. She gets alarmed first and then relaxes when she realizes it's Ashutosh. His one hand reaches the gas knob and he switches it off. He engulfs her tightly for a moment from the back and his lips lightly caress her cheek. Then he turns her around to look into her eyes.
He sees apparent surprise, slight nervousness and anticipation in those eyes. But the reigning emotion in those eyes is: Complete surrender.
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SS : Pyaar hain shayad
chp.11 pg 49
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