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Arshi SS:What You Will - REPOSTING

mklam Senior Member
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Joined: 01 July 2013
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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:27pm | IP Logged

This is the story of a girl who lives by her wits. Fate has not been kind to her. But someone up there finally decided that enough is enough. With due apologies to the Bard of Avon, I have borrowed elements from his play Twelfth Night (What yo will) in this story.All quotes at the beginning of each chapter are from the play.

1. The waif that wasn't

"If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction."

It was the worst storm that the capital had ever seen. There was no electricity since the morning and the streets were water-logged. Telephone poles on the ground vied for space with branches cut off from trees. The stench emanating from open drainages was unbearable and rivulets of muddy water was running all over the roads. The cacophony of traffic noises and human voices accompanied by thunder and lightening added to the growing chaos. Even the posh neighbourhoods of Delhi didn't escape the deluge. The Raizada mansion, a jewel in the city's landscape because of its architectural beauty and stunning interiors had its own share of woes. The master was away, some of the women had retired to their rooms either praying or tossing in their beds. The matriarch of the house aided by her daughter-in-law was supervising the job of lighting earthen lamps in every corner of the house.

When they heard the loud knock on the door, the Raizada women stopped whatever they were doing. Hari Prakash or HP, the major-domo of the family, rushed to open the door. He saw a young boy, shivering and wet, looking at him with an pathetic expression. "Who are you? What do you want?" HP asked warily. Besides one could never be too sure in this city with the media reporting on horrific crimes on a daily basis.'

"Sanctuary...I want sanctuary!" the fella whispered before he fainted on the doorstep. The small satchel on the young shoulders slipped and fell on the ground too. HP was taken aback for a moment, then spun into action. He carried the boy inside the house. By now Devyani Raizada, the matriarch followed by her daughter-in-law Manorama came running. "Who's this boy? Do you know him?" Devyani looked at the unconscious figure lying on the floor and turned to HP who had rushed to the kitchen room to bring some towels and refreshments. "Maji, I really don't know who this is but how can I turn anyone away in this storm?"

Devyani watched as HP tried to revive the boy. The boy's grey pants were frayed at the edges and he was wearing a sweater that seemed to be two sizes larger for his thin frame. The short hair gave him a gamine look and oddly enough there was a cap tightly fitted on his head. Everything about the boy screamed tiny. Manorama was certain that this was a miscreant who had been hired to rob the Raizadas. Recently she had seen this television serial where a gang had been watching a house for a while and had sent in a young girl to ingratiate with the family. In the story, the family were extremely rich like the Raizadas and had been duped by the boy's easy smiles. Besides one could never be too careful in this city as television serials often depicted reality.'

Often Manorama got confused between fact and fiction. The boy on the floor made her uneasy for some reason. It's time for Manorama Bond to get back into action. Where is my attire for this mission - hope they aren't too creased?' That very thought had Manorama excitedly dashing back to her room.

Oh, life can be cruel and this young fella looks like a lost soul.' Devyani's maternal instincts kicked in as she saw the boy's eyes slowly open. First there was abject fear in those eyes and then a hint of relief as they saw the kindly old woman. "Uh..where am I?" The reedy voice pulled at Devyani's heartstrings. HP was already helping the boy sit up. "Don't be frightened. You fainted at our doorstep. Take your time and get your bearings. Hari Prakash has brought some food for you. We'll talk in a few minutes." When the boy saw the bowl of soup he sighed with relief. He immediately started gulping down spoonfuls of the soup oblivious to the thoughts running in the old woman's mind. Devyani had seen this look, this yearning so many times in the past. Her heart bled as she watched the boy fill the yawning hole in his belly. Wasn't it the Mahatma who said there are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread'? The slices of bread which HP had brought were consumed in a jiffy and when the boy looked up with his eyes wide open HP couldn't help smiling. He understood what was being unsaid and went to the kitchen to bring more food. In the meantime, Devyani was struck by the beautiful eyes that was gazing into hers. Was that a touch of hazel in those grey eyes? Those eyelashes were so long and that porcelain-like skin seemed so flawless. I wonder...no, no I'm getting old and stupid.'

"Haaw.." The soft murmur drew Devyani's attention to what the boy was looking at. When she turned around she nearly burst into laughter. Her daughter-in-law Manorama was wearing a yellow floral shirt and green pants. She wondered if Manorama could even breathe as the outfit looked so tight. Why was she also wearing dark shades? It was night, they were indoors, and there was no power. The lamps had started flickering so it would be a miracle if Manorama could even see whatever was ahead of her. Besides she seemed to be peering closely at the stranger in their midst.

"Sasuma, sasuma*. I have to talk to you alone." Manorama's stage whisper was enough to rouse the entire neighbourhood. When Devyani went closer to her daughter-in-law, Manorama whispered. "Sasuma, this is all a plot hatched by a gang of thieves. They want to rob the house and have sent this boy. But don't worry...Manorama Bond is here and she's not shaken or stirred." Devyani was rolling her eyes at the theatrics being played out. I should have let Manorama venture onto the stage. Perhaps I curtailed her freedom as I can see that the world has lost a fine actress albeit in the comedy roles.'

"Hmm...can I ...?" The hesitant voice floated across to Devyani's ears. Giving her daughter-in-law a stern look, she walked back to the boy who was now standing on his own feet. "Yes. Tell me - who are you? What do you want?"

"My name of Khush. I'm an orphan. I've just come to Delhi looking for a job and so far I've not been lucky. The storm was so frightening, I was looking for shelter and just ran inside this compound not knowing who was here. I'm sorry if I've caused you any trouble." By the time he finished speaking he looked exhausted as if the whole speech had drained him out of any energy.

Devyani Raizada had a magnanimous heart and an astute mind. She rarely erred when it came to recognizing people for who they were. Her first impressions were spot-on yet there was something off-kilter about this boy. But her instincts told her it was not a bad thing. This boy seemed a good sort and needed help. Besides one could never be too suspicious of everyone otherwise people will never help each other in times of need.'

Then the boy spoke hesitantly. "Lucknow which is home seems such a far place now. This city is so big and frightening. It feels like a jungle."

If Devyani had even the slightest doubt about the boy earlier, it was obliterated by his remark. The reference to Lucknow had tipped the scales in the boy's favour as Devyani was from the same city.

"You can stay here for now. Hari Prakash will show you where to sleep. In the morning, we'll figure out what can be done for you."

The boy looked stunned when he heard the words. Then the most unexpected thing happened. Devyani Raizada found herself hugged tightly by the young boy. A complete stranger started crying profusely on her broad shoulders. "There, there. Now everything's going to work out for you. You've come to the right place." Portentous words uttered by the matriarch of the Raizada parivar. Her single decision was going to change the lives of all the people living in this house. Despite the waves of disapproval she sensed from her daughter-in-law, Devyani felt she had made the right call.


*sasuma - Hindi word used to address mother-in-law



Edited by mklam - 22 December 2014 at 7:32pm

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mklam Senior Member
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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:28pm | IP Logged

"O world! How apt the poor are to be proud."

Chapter 2: A Day of Firsts

The mattress was soft, the blanket was thick, the room was cozy. The young guest of the Raizadas slept the sleep of the innocent. The tempest continued to wreak havoc on the world outside. It had insidiously played its tricks on the inmates of the biggest mansion of the city. The Raizadas were sound asleep in their opulent beds. All except one. Manorama Raizada was wide awake and not happy with the turn of events. Who was this stranger sleeping under their roof that night? Sasuma could be very naive at times. Manorama double-checked the bottle of red chilli powder and the pair of scissors under her pillow. She patted herself on her back for her ingenuity and wondered if these were enough ammunition. Isn't that what the heroine in her favourite television serial did once in that scary episode? She then looked at the person sleeping on the bed next to her and grimaced. Her daughter-in-law Payal. The girl was her son Akash's choice. Manorama's resented the fact that Payal was dirt-poor. The dregs of society, as she referred to the girl in her mind. But when the whole family had backed Akash, Manorama had reluctantly accepted Payal as her daughter-in-law. At least on the outside. Of course, the girl was a darn good cook and never raised her voice at anyone. The meek little lamb.' thought Manorama with a hint of disdain. When the sound of thunder reverberated in the house Manorama flinched. Hey Devi Maiyya, this was going to be a looong night.'

The sound of birds chirping on the trees sounded like sweet music to the boy's ears. He woke up and felt disoriented for a moment. What the...Then the image of the sweet old woman rushed into his mind. When he got out of bed, he noticed his bag in the corner. As he unpacked the pitiful contents on the small table there, his eyes fell on the tattered photo. It showed the smiling visage of a young boy with twinkling eyes and a dimpled chin. "Oh, Kishore when am I going to see you? My heart tells me that you're still alive.' Breathing deeply he walked out of the room searching for Hari Prakash.

"Ah, there you are. Come and join me. Nothing like a cup of tea to blow away the cobwebs." Hari Prakash's welcoming smile and the a sip of the adrak-wali chai was a great way to start the day in HP's book. The old servant and the young lad kept up a desultory conversation. HP didn't realize that he was being skilfully manipulated by a shrewd mind as facts about the house and the inmates were extracted by the old retainer. Devyani's adherence to customs and traditions, Anjali's penchant for fasts and temples, Manorama's obsession with television and diet fads, Payal's meek manners and mild ways, Akash's constant need to seek approval were neatly filed away in an intelligent brain. HP was on a roll until he mentioned a name and paused. "Arnav bhaiyya.." There was a hint of fear and reverence as Hari Prakash spoke his master's name. How was he going to explain the mass of contradictions that was Arnav Singh Raizada to this chit of a boy?

"What happened Hari Prakashji? Why did you stop? Is the master a good man?" Khush was puzzled at HP's sudden silence. Just then the two heard the sound of soft footsteps enter the kitchen. A woman with a shy smile walked towards them with a slight limp. "What is going on here? Are you the boy who took shelter last night?" "Yes. My name is Khush." Then the boy broke into an enchanting smile that touched a chord in the woman's heart. Anjali Raizada was a person who always had a soft corner for dogs, strays and all those hapless beings thrown at the mercy of fate. She also had a stubborn streak in her when it came to playing Good Samaritan. So far her acts of mercy were confined to four-legged creatures but now she took one look at the young lad in front of her and decided that this one needed her support. "Lets have breakfast together. Hari Prakash?" As of on cue, HP turned towards the cooking range and came back with two plates of piping hot puris and aloo sabji. There was something so endearing about the scene where the thirty year old woman laughed and chatted with a young boy about everything under the sun. When Anjali asked the boy about his family, he replied. "I did have a family once. But now.." He looked so woebegone that Anjali quickly changed the topic. Khush felt guilty for a moment as he wasn't being completely truthful. But then the end justifies the means, doesn't it?'

Whether it was the latest Aamir Khan flick, the price of soaring vegetables, the inordinate traffic delays on the roads or the safety of women, the duo never had a dearth of topics to discuss. The difference in status or age was a nonentity as the woman and the lad ate their breakfast with gusto and talked like long-lost friends. I've never seen Anjali bitiya so animated.' Hari Prakash's eyes welled with tears at the easy camaraderie and he thanked Devi Maiyya silently for the happiness evident on Anjali's face.
Like the proverbial bad penny, Manorama walked into the breakfast parlour and exclaimed loudly. "Hee! What's happening here? Mistress and urchin dining at the same table?"
"Mami, please. I forced him to sit with me. We are having such a good time." The light in Anjali's eyes partially dimmed at Mami's condescending expression and words.

Khush tactfully retreated from the table carrying the dirty plates to the utility area behind the sink. As he started washing the vessels in the large sink, the lyrics of a song started playing in his head. Whenever his parents heard the two of them sing the ditty with such enthusiasm they would fondly remark,"K&K ka pagalpan!"

Phoolon ka taaron ka, sabaka kehana hai
Ek hazaaron mein meri behanaa hai
Sari, umar, hamen sang rehana hai
Phuulon ka taaron ka, sabaka kehana hai
Ye na jaana duniya ne tu hai kyon udaas,
Teri pyaasi aankhon mein pyaar ki hai pyaas,
Aa mere paas aa, kah jo kehana hai, ek hazaaron ...
Jab se merii aankhon se ho gayi tu door
Tab se sare jeevan ke sapane hain choor
Aankhon mein neend naa, man mein chaina hai, ek hazaaron .*

He heard Devyani's voice coming from the kitchen. She was finalizing the day's menu with Hari Prakash.

"I'll help Hari Prakashji with the preparation today Naniji." Devyani smiled when she heard the lad address her as nani. There was something so endearing, so spontaneous in that expression and tone. Then for a moment he looked stricken as if he'd remembered something. "Oh, I'm sorry I shouldn't have addressed you as.."
"No beta. You will call me nani from now on. It only feels right. I'm sure Hari Prakash will be happy to take your help in the kitchen." She walked out slowly dragging a scowling Manorama with her. Anjali came near Khush, cupped his face and beamed. "What a sweetheart you are. I'm so happy that you're here - your parents gave you the right name." The boy's face crumpled at the mention of his parents but Anjali didn't notice her faux-pas as she had already turned away. He jerked when he felt a comforting touch on his right shoulder then. A pretty girl was standing by his side and looking at him with compassion. Khush blinked at her. When had she come?'

"Cheer up. I'm Payal, the daughter-in-law.. Nothing seems as it appears. It will all work out eventually - happiness is not so far-fetched. Isn't it Omar Khayyam who said, be happy for this moment. This moment is your life?'

Khush looked at her bemused as she continued with a mysterious smile. "Remember - Intezaar ka pal meeta hota hai." For a brief moment, he saw a fiery flash in Payal's eyes. Then he nodded his head slowly sensing that he had found a kindred spirit.
When the bell rang, Hari Prakash went to open the front door with Khush and Payal trailing behind him. Two men stood outside at the doorstep. The bespectacled one in front broke into a grin when he saw Payal standing behind HP. Then the other man came into view talking on his bluetooth. "Aman, I want those figures now. Get to it!"

The voice was incisive, the words were cutting and the expression brooked no-nonsense. He looked like a Greek God with his handsome clear-cut features and was nattily dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and suit. Suddenly he turned and zeroed in on the young boy who was staring at him with wide eyes and mouth agape. Both froze for a moment and the same thought simultaneously occurred in their minds.Who was he?'

*song from the Hindi movie Hare Rama Hare Krishna



Edited by mklam - 22 December 2014 at 7:35pm

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mklam Senior Member
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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:28pm | IP Logged
Chapter 3:Setting up the Stage

"Is it a world to hide virtues in?"

Arnav Singh Raizada stared at the young boy standing behind Hari Prakash. He looked like a pixie with short hair cropped close to the face. The eyes were startlingly unusual - did they actually have a touch of hazel or green? But the bulky sweater and the brown pants looked ill-fitting on the wearer. The famed ASR shaatir dimaag reared its ugly head now. Then history witnessed a rare moment when he roved his eyes from the boy's head all the way down to his feet. His sixth sense began to tingle - something wasn't adding up here.

After the initial shock of seeing such a handsome man, Khush observed ASR with a dispassionate air. He had seen such men on television and the movies but never imagined he would see one such specimen in the flesh. Chocolate brown eyes, with well-defined features and an attractive figure, the man standing at the doorstep commanded authority and respect. He simply oozed animal magnetism. For a moment Khush felt a slight flutter in the heart, then steadied himself.

"Arnav bhaiyya, shall I get you some black coffee?" Hari Prakash was fluttering around the man looking a bit flustered. Akash had already reached Payal's side and the two were whispering to each other.

"Wait, HP. Who is this boy? What is he doing here?" The master of the house wanted answers and Hari Prakash braced himself before replying. "Bhaiyya, this boy fainted at our doorstep last night. As there was a terrible storm outside, Maji gave him shelter. She also said he could stay here for a while. His name is Khush and he's an orphan from Lucknow." By the time HP had finished speaking he was a mass of nerves. Four people waited for the verdict as they looked at the man in charge. His inscrutable face didn't reveal his thoughts. "Fine. He can stay for now." Khush felt he had passed some sort of test. Hmm..so this is what it feels like to stand on the edge of a precipice and then being yanked back to solid ground'

It was a happy trio who quietly went about preparing the lunch for the family. While Hari Prakash filled in two plates of food, one with puris and sabji and the other with scrambled eggs and toast and walked out, Payal was busy explaining to a wide-eyed Khush. "That's breakfast for the brothers. Arnavji is a workaholic. He never stops. He is probably using the office room on the first floor and Akash must be with him. They will come down when it's time for lunch."

"Why are the two of you chatting instead of working? Simply gossiping and upto no good!" Manorama flounced in the kitchen and glared at the two of them. Without replying Payal went back to making rotis while Khush was stirring the dhaal makhani, the bhendi (ladies finger) masala and the karela (bitter gourd) curry on the stove. The two worked quietly and in perfect sync with each other. Manorama loaded a plate full of snacks and chomped out of the kitchen all the while grumbling under her breath. Then they heard her shriek. It was so shrill and ear-splitting that all the women in the house came running towards the living room. Khush too ran out of the kitchen and halted for a moment.

There was a beautiful girl standing there in a lime green georgette sari and smiling at Manorama. "Miss Kashyap!" Manorama's tone held reverence, her eyes gleamed and she practically bowed to the visitor. Devyani and Anjali broke into smiles when they saw their guest. When Khush turned to Payal with a questioning look, the latter explained quietly. "Lavanya Kashyap. A family friend and Arnav Bhaiyya's betrothed." Khush's heart skipped a beat when Payal mentioned the last word. So the man was taken.' Meanwhile the Raizada women ushered Lavanya Kashyap towards the sofa set and settled down comfortably. Khush was about to head back to the kitchen when she clashed gazes with Miss Kashyap.

"Do you have a guest staying here? I've never seen him before." Lavanya smiled. The most enchanting dimples came out in full force adding to the allure of those twinkling eyes. When Anjali opened her mouth to introduce Khush, Manorama began her vitriolic spiel. "This boy is a stray Lavanya, Sasuma here.."

"Manorama, quiet. Khush came here looking for shelter last night from the storm. He is now staying with us." Devyani's quelling look had the desired effect and Manorama became quiet. Besides Manorama had more important things on her mind now that Miss Kashyap was here. "Lavanya, did you see the latest designer wear brought out by Babu Jani and Randeep Khosla?" Devyani rolled her eyes. Anjali quietly got up. Khush turned back to the kitchen but not before sharing a commiserating look with Lavanya. Payal gave her mother-in-law a resigned look and followed Khush. Lunch was going to be a lively affair and Khush could hardly wait.

As the two sweated it out in the kitchen along with HP, Lavanya was trying hard to extricate herself from the clutches of Manorama Raizada. The woman was like a leech and whenever Lavanya visited the Raizadas, Manorama would completely monopolize her attention and time. Today Lavanya's patience was on a short fuse. She had to talk to Arnav privately. But how do I get this woman off my back?'

Like an answer to her prayers, Anjali came towards her with a determined look on her face. "Lavanya, tomorrow is the special puja for Devi Maiyya. I just can't decide what to wear. You have to help me select the sari. Come with me. Mami, can you help Nani with her selection please?" Manorama was cornered and she knew it. She watched Anjali drag Lavanya away and vowed that there was always a next time. Miss Kashyap was going to stay for lunch. Arnav was also here and Manorama was going to stir things up a bit on that front.

Devyani Raizada was a stickler for rules. That meant mealtimes had to be adhered to and the house had to be immaculate at all times. When the grandfather clock struck one, Hari Prakash surveyed the dining table with satisfaction. The food was piping hot, the beautiful chinaware was artistically placed on ornate placemats and the table was set for seven people. Besides HP was happy that he now had another pair of hands helping him serve the food. Devyani walked in with the entire clan trailing behind her with Arnav holding the rear. Khush stood at the far end of the dining room watching everyone take their seats. Devyani did a quick scan of the contents placed on the table and sat down. Manorama was desperately trying to catch Lavanya's conversation with Anjali while Payal and Akash seated next to each other discreetly held hands as his mother was pleasantly occupied. Arnav was on the phone mouthing orders interspersed with expletives as he took his seat at the far end of the table. Khush was surprised. He hadn't even looked at Lavanya once and was sitting the furthest away from her. Is this how engaged couples behaved? Strange are the ways of the rich!'

"Arnav bitwa*. Why are you sitting there? Come here, take this seat next to Lavanya." Manorama giggled and got up. But her Arnav bitwa gave her a firm look and motioned her to sit down. Lavanya bit her lip from laughing out loudly and winked at Arnav. Khush noticed the little exchange between the engaged couple and was baffled. Friends pretending to be more?'

There was something heavenly in the meal that afternoon. The Raizadas gorged on every dish and wondered what was so special today. Hari Prakash had only one thing to say. "Khush ka kamaal." Manorama while digging in her daal makhani and naan decided that Payal should pick up a few recipes from the "guest from the gutter". Devyani and Anjali were convinced that the food being tasty only showed that the lad had a good heart. Payal and Akash were happy that they could gaze into each other's eyes while eating as Manorama Mummy was busy while Miss Kashyap found herself drawn to the stranger with the beautiful hazel eyes. Arnav Singh Raizada was thinking hard as he ate his favourite karela curry. Time to bring out the big guns tomorrow - perhaps a background check?'

* term of endearment for child in Hindi



Edited by mklam - 22 December 2014 at 7:36pm

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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:29pm | IP Logged
Chapter 4: All life is ephemeral

"Love sought is good, but giv'n unsought is better."

Khush had no idea about the inner workings of a human brain, especially one as complex as Arnav Singh Raizada's. If he had even had an inkling, the lad would have run for his life. But ASR was a master of deception. His instructable face had clinched many a deal often besting his opponents in the corporate world by playing his hand at the last minute. His clever strategy and ruthless demeanour won him the respect augmented by the millions he made for the company while conducting business. The only chink in his armour if that, was his family - notably his grandmother Devyani and his sister Anjali. When the two ganged up against him, the lion morphed into a lamb.

A few months back when the fearsome duo had cornered him about his solitary status, he had been blindsided. In the presence of the two women, the tycoon who frequently graced the cover of business magazines became a mere "Chotte" - the boy whom they had lovingly brought up and still expected to toe the line in matters of utmost importance such as marriage. When the two women grilled him about his reluctance towards marriage, Arnav aka Chotte came up with a brilliant plan. He decided to rope in his childhood friend Lavanya Kashyap, the one who saw through the veneer and could keep the wolves at bay. To his pleasant surprise, Lavanya too played ball and the two got into a deal to fob off their respective families. The Raizada women had a new project on their hands - the wedding of ASR with Miss Lavanya Kashyap. It was rumoured that Ranbir Kapoor had agreed to entertain the wedding guests at a private function - this was a coup for the Raizada family and Manorama had imagined herself in umpteen wedding outfits to grace the occasion. She had forgotten to read the small print that the bridal spot belonged to Lavanya Kashyap and not Manorama Raizada. Lavanya's father Shashi Kashyap, a widower cared only for two things - his food and his golf handicap. He was content that the Raizadas would take care of everything.

Today ASR had something in his mind. He called up his secretary.

"Aman, I need you to check on something, actually someone for me ASAP."

"But ASR, I'm leaving on a vacation with my wife and kids tomorrow. Can't it wait?"

"Aman.."

"ASR, my wife is threatening to leave me. Please Sir. I want to stay married.." When Aman whined, ASR knew it was no use trying.

"Once you're back in a week, this is the first thing you need to do."

Even as Aman was profusely thanking him, ASR disconnected the line. Hmm Khush who-ever-you-are, I'm still going to keep an eye on you. This is just a temporary reprieve.'

Meanwhile ASR's unsuspecting prey was in the kitchen chattering like a magpie to Hari Prakash. Khush's childhood days in Lucknow were full of happy memories - forever playing pranks on the parents, neighbours and getting away with them. "You know Hari Prakashji, when we were little kids, babuji* would always scold my brother who was innocent and never catch me red-handed. Poor Kishore got the brunt of it all.." His voice trailed off as Hari Prakash looked at him sympathetically.

"Where is your brother now beta?" "I don't know. We got lost on the way to Delhi. It's a long story." His eyes started tearing up. "One moment I had it all, then it was all gone." Hari Prakash's fingers clenched at the abject sorrow in his eyes. "There, there. Things will get better - remember there's always a light at the end of the tunnel."

Just then Lavanya walked into the kitchen to get a glass of water.

"What happened? Why are you crying?" She came near Khush and gently touched his shoulder. "Nothing. Just old memories. Can I get you something?" Khush gave her a sweet smile. Lavanya was touched. For some reason she was drawn to this boy. On closer inspection, she guessed his age to be the same as hers. The wiry build was deceptive as there was strength in those bones. The way he carried those big buckets and pots of water, cooked food in huge cauldrons, did the housework which involved a lot of lifting and flitted around like a butterfly. Quite a powerhouse of energy. The chirpy smile was like a magnet drawing everyone in. Lavanya was reminded of an Irish Blessing.
"May the wings of the butterfly kiss the sun.
And find your shoulder to light on.
To bring you luck, happiness and riches.
Today, tomorrow and beyond."

Lavanya recalled the conversation she had had with Arnav sometime back. Racked with guilt, she wanted to call off the pseudo engagement. "How long are we going to deceive the families Arnav? It's just not right."

"Lavanya, I was just about to talk to you about this. Why not make the engagement a real one? I know you're not in love with anyone at the moment and friendship is a good foundation for a marriage."

"Arnav, are you joking? I do NOT want to marry you at any cost. I still haven't given up my dreams of finding love and romance."

Arnav saw the resolute look on his friend's face and decided not to push it. He never did believe in such nonsense as love. He certainly wouldn't recognize it even if it was staring at him in the face.

Lavanya was torn from her reverie as she felt a glass of cool lime sherbet being placed in her hands. "Here drink this. You'll just love the taste." Lavanya took a sip and went delirious with joy. Was there something else in the drink? A hint of madness? A dab of mischief? Whatever it was, Lavanya gulped the drink in one go and looked at Khush who gave her a conspiratorial grin. Lavanya felt truly blessed at that moment. This boy was going to brighten up her life. She could feel it in her bones.

When the grandfather clock struck four times, Lavanya raced out of the kitchen. "Oh God. I'm running late. Daddy is going to have my hide. I'd promised to take him to the game today and watch him play." On that frantic note, Lavanya left the Raizada mansion driving like a bat out of hell. When Manorama came running to the living room to discuss the latest mud pack treatment with Miss Kashyap she was bitterly disappointed to learn that the bird had flown the nest.

Dinner that night was a quiet affair. Arnav and Akash continued to work in the study. When Hari Prakash brought in their food, they nodded at him. The only sound one heard in the study was that of typing on the laptop keyboard while Akash quietly checked the ledger accounts. Manorama was glued to the television screen debating if the actress Sanaya Irani looked better in a green lehenga or a red sari while Devyani and Anjali were drawing up the menu list for the wedding reception. Payal was jotting down some Lucknowi recipes from Khush who was in his element. It was a content family that went to bed that night unaware of what the morning would bring in its wake.

*word for father in Hindi



Edited by mklam - 22 December 2014 at 7:38pm

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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:30pm | IP Logged
Chapter 5: Hark! Friend of Foe?

"Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit"

The Raizada brothers left for work at the crack of dawn. Arnav had an important meeting with his Japanese clients who had just landed in the capital and were raring to go. Akash had spent almost the entire night (much to his wife's annoyance) thumbing through the Japanese language phrasebook. When Manorama tried to kiss him goodbye on both his cheeks giving Payal a triumphant look (she liked playing these silly games with her daughter-in-law) Akash turned red and mumbled. "Arigato gozaimasu okaasan."* Manorama blinked and crossed her fingers. What was her little boy saying? I need to investigate - its back to my Bond avatar.'

Devyani and Anjali were closeted in the prayer room communing with their favourite deity and her various forms plastered on the wall. Hari Prakash quietly took Khush aside and informed him. "They will be observing a fast today." Manorama was hard-pressed not to rub her hands in glee. Now she could eat to her heart's content whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted.

"Hari Prakash, come come. Let us not waste time. Payal and Khush - follow me." It was a strange procession that marched to the kitchen with Manorama in the lead and Payal taking the rear. Just you wait Sasuma - only a few days more and then you'll be taking my place there.' If one had looked into Payal Raizada's face for a minute and was privy to the thoughts in her head, they would have taken to their heels. Khush threw a a sympathetic look at Payal. Manorama imagined herself to be a character from an old movie at the feast awaiting her later in the day.

When the doorbell rang, Manorama stopped and addressed her band of followers. "Hari Prakash, you know the menu. Start preparing the food - these two will help you.I'll get the door." When Manorama opened the door, she saw a clean-shaven man giving her a broad grin.

"Shyam Manohar Jha! What are you doing here so early in the morning?" Manorama looked at him suspiciously. When she had met him for the first time at a wedding a week earlier, she was not very comfortable. The reason was simple. He tried to jump the queue while standing in line to meet the bridal couple pushing aside Manorama neatly. Then he also beat her at the food court by monopolizing the chaat stand. The final nail in the coffin came when Devyani laughed at his corny jokes and cut Manorama to size in his presence.

"Manoramaji, I came to drop off these apples - they're from Kashmir. I wanted you all to enjoy the taste." The words were accompanied by a sweet smile that grated on her nerves. She snatched the bag from him and stood there without inviting him inside.

"Aah...is naniji at home?" Shyam persisted. Naniji my foot. He's not her grandson, just two meetings and he's already trying to inveigle his way into the family.' Manorama snorted and then let him in with a sour expression on her face. "Today Sasuma and Anjali are fasting. So I will have these apples myself." In your face, you fool.' Manorama pointed towards the sofa and headed to the prayer room to inform Devyani about the unwelcome visitor.

Anjali was all smiles when she saw Shyam seated on the sofa. "Arrey, Shyamji when did you come? This is quite a surprise." Devyani greeted him with a smile and sat down next to him. "Naniji, you won't believe what happened to me the other day.."

And so it began. Shyam's Soliloquy. It was a mystery how he captivated the imagination of Anjali and Devyani Raizada with his stories and had them giggling like school girls. His jokes were anything but funny, his smiles seemed permanently frozen as if he had tried Botox and the eyes darted around like a ferret. The one-man show failed to impress the Bond woman who had already started biting into an apple.

"Sasuma, I'm going to keep the doctor away - see how many apples I will have today." There was no responding laughter but Manorama was undaunted.
Then the whiff of a perfume with a hint of lavender teased her nostrils. "Lavanya!"

When she turned around there stood Miss Kashyap in a white salwar kameez.

"Sorry Mamiji. The door was open and I just walked in. I had forgotten the book that Arnav had lent me yesterday. I need it for the meeting today." Lavanya was the owner of a high-end boutique in the city.

"Manorama! Can you get it from Arnav's room? I think Chotte had mentioned seeing it on his desk. Besides I have to discuss something with Lavanya regarding the reception."

Manorama reluctantly left the living room but not before giving a long-suffering sigh. Devyani introduced Lavanya to Shyam Manohar Jha. Then the oddest thing happened. Shyam looked at Lavanya as if he was struck by lightning. Lavanya glared back at him as if she was repulsed. Devyani saw the exchange and narrowed her eyes. Hmm...this doesn't look right.'

Lavanya began to count the minutes till Manorama returned with the book so that she could leave. Shyam dreamed of a better prospect for himself as he gazed on Miss Kashyap - one far more prettier and without a limp.

Devyani plotted her next move carefully. Anjali wondered if she should change into her parrot-green Mysore crepe silk sari as she wanted to look her best in front of Shyamji. Besides the slinky look suited her best when draping the sari over a designer blouse made of netted fabric and Savaroski crystals.

"Lavanya, I wanted to select a sari for the reception. Why don't you tell me if you have any preferences?" Devyani brought out her master list and waited for Lavanya's reply.

"Naniji, I really don't have a preference. Please select something that you feel would suit me." Lavanya looked uneasy standing there and kept looking at the staircase leading to Arnav's room. What's taking her so long? Besides this creep can't keep his eyes off me.'

"Don't you have to go the office today Shyamji? You said this was a busy time for lawyers." Devyani's tone was hard, her look was inimical. Shyam jerked at the cold waves emanating from the matriarch towards him. Besides Anjali was babbling about saris and blouses and he had tuned her out a long time back.

"You're right Naniji. I'm already running late for my appointment. Hope you are able to enjoy these delicious apples later - I'd got them for you specially from Kashmir."

Devyani gave him a gracious smile and got up along with him. Manorama came there huffing and puffing. She brandished the book at Lavanya and thrust it on her hands.

"There. Now we have to talk. There's so much I have to ask you." "Mamiji, not now. I'll come tomorrow and spend time exclusively with you. Perhaps a trip to the salon?" Manorama looked crestfallen for a minute then cheered up at the prospect of visiting the beauty salon that too with the incomparable Miss Kashyap.

When Shyam walked towards the front door, he stopped when he heard the sound of footsteps coming from the kitchen.

"Naniji, there are no tomatoes in the house. Shall I go to the market now and get them along with some other vegetables?" Khush hadn't paid attention to the others as he had eyes only for Devyani. Then he realized that there was a stranger in their midst. When he looked up and saw Shyam, his eyes went wide with fear. His fingers trembled and he almost lost his grip on the basket of vegetables that he was holding onto. Shyam gave him a puzzled look.

The reaction of both parties were keenly noted by the others in the room except Anjali Raizada who was debating on the finer points of Mysore silk versus Pochampalli silk saris. Devyani, Manorama and Lavanya had only one thought running in their minds. Had the two met before?'

*"Thank you very much mother" in Japanese.



Edited by mklam - 22 December 2014 at 7:40pm

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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:43pm | IP Logged

Chapter 6:Changing of the tides

"Conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise as haply shall become the form of my intent."

Shyam thought the eyes looked familiar. He wondered where he had seen them before. Meanwhile Khush murmured to Devyani that he was going to the store room to get a bigger bag for the market. As he turned away, his mind screamed with one word. Run. His past could not catch up with him now. There was too much at stake here.

"What happened Shyamji? Do you know our Khush?"

"No naniji. I thought he resembled a cousin of mine. I have to go now - perhaps I can visit in a couple of days?"

Manorama snorted audibly. Not if I can help it.'
Khushi trembled inwardly. Hey Devi Maiyya. Please do something to prevent him from coming here.'
Anjali sighed. Definitely the orange Pochampalli sari next time.'
Lavanya relaxed. I'm busy at the boutique with the special Pongal sale this week.'

When Khush returned from the market in an hour carrying loads of vegetables, HP was helping him put away the produce. When they heard footsteps they turned to see Naniji come near them.

"Make sure that the food isn't too spicy Hari Prakash. Lavanya's father is joining us. He mentioned that he will be bringing along a guest."

The moment Devyani stepped out, Manorama came running in. Khush was convinced she had been hiding behind the pillar watching her her mother-in-law's moves.

"What did Sasuma say? Tell me now." When HP spoke up, Manorama's eyes became hard.

"One dish can be bland - all others have to be spicy for Manorama. Also stick to the list that I gave you. Understood?" On that note, she flounced out of the kitchen.

"Hey Devi Maiyya, why am I caught in these saas-bahu battles? If only Manoramaji didn't watch so much television. Let me talk to OP bhaiyya for some advice." OP was HP's elder brother who worked in Shashi Kashyap's house. He was a veteran in public relations having worked in a joint family set-up for years before he had landed up on the Kashyap doorstep.

As the two Ps conferred on the phone, Khush rolled her eyes. So much fuss over a meal?

Khush and HP slaved over the cooking range cooking up a storm. Naniji continued her prayers with Anjali by her side. Manorama ably assisted by Payal got into the business of cleaning up the house. In reality she made sure that her daughter-in-law did a stellar job from her vantage point on the sofa.

Lunch was ready, table was set and Manorama Raizada was busy drooling. She was also glaring at the clock cursing Shashi Kashyap to perdition for his tardiness. Must be stuck on the golf course.

When the bell rang, Payal opened the door. An elderly gentleman with an affable demeanour stood there wearing a beret, brown checked shirt and tweed trousers. He wasn't alone. A tall, fair young man stood next to him with a friendly smile.

Devyani and Anjali had also come to the living room when they heard the sound of the bell ringing. "Please come Shashiji. We are so delighted to see you."

"Namaste Devyaniji. Let me introduce you to my new friend here - Kishore Gupta. He's a businessman from Mumbai who's planning to relocate to Delhi."

Devyani liked the open expression on Kishore Gupta's face. She welcomed him graciously. After a few minutes of conversation with Manorama giving Sasuma pointed looks and helpful hints towards the food on the table, the party moved to the dining area.

HP came running to serve them. Payal was also roped in to help him.

"Where's Khush?" Devyani asked HP with a puzzled look on her face.

"He thought we were running low on salt, then just took off to get a packet. I tried to reassure him that it was fine. But I couldn't stop him."

"Haaw..when did he leave? I was right here."

"He left when you were sitting on the sofa and talking on the cell phone. Payal bitiya saw him leave."

"Whaat? Why didn't you tell me? Now we have one less pair of hands to serve!" Manorama scowled at her daughter-in-law.

"Maji, you were talking to Sharada massi about the tailor."

Payal explained softly, her face not betraying the thoughts running in her head. You were actually discussing the blouse cut as you wanted to look like Katrina Kaif. Katrina Kaif my foot - more like old comedienne Tun Tun in my opinion.'

Then the bell rang startling everyone out of their wits. It was incisive and loud.Who could this be?

Payal was surprised to see a worried Lavanya standing outside.

"What happened Lavanya? I thought..."

"No, I left the cupboard keys in my boutique yesterday. I need to pick up some papers from home and knew Daddy was coming here for lunch."

She walked in fast and stopped when she saw her father seated at the table with the Raizadas.

"Daddy, I need the cupboard keys. Why are you not answering your cell..."

Lavanya Kashyap stopped when she realized that there was an additional guest at the table. Someone who was sitting next to her father and seemed to know him well. Someone who was causing her heart to beat rapidly. Fair skin, curly hair, hazel eyes, were those dimples by any chance?

To Kishore Gupta, the girl standing in front of him took his breath away. He remembered the immortal opening lines of John Keats poem Endymion.
"A thing of beauty is a joy forever; its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness."

The very name Lavanya meant grace or beauty and was such a good fit for this girl. Kishore Gupta was a goner. Fortunately for him, Lavanya Kashyap was in the same boat.

Shashi Kashyap was irritated by his daughter's intrusion. The most delicious aroma was emanating from the table and his stomach began growling. He had more important things to do than keep track of keys and papers. This girl is so careless.

He fished out the keys from his pocket and handed it over to Lavanya.

"Here, off you go. Let me eat in peace." Lavanya looked hurt for a moment, then relaxed when she saw the stranger give her a sweet smile. She was so tempted to stay for lunch. Was it the aroma or the stranger's come-hither looks?

When Manorama noticed that Lavanya was dithering, she jumped up. She was certainly not one to let go of this opportunity.

"You must join us for lunch. No excuses please."

Then their guest spoke softly. "Miss Kashyap. Please join us. Your father has spoken a lot about you to me. I wanted to ask you something about today's fashions as I have a textile mill in Mumbai."

Lavanya found herself weakening. Before she knew it she found herself seated next to Kishore Gupta.

At that meal, two people at the table embarked on a journey of love. Two others continued their love affair with all things edible. The matriarch and her grand-daughter wondered if their favourite deity would get annoyed if they could sneak in a few samples of the Kashmiri pulav. This fasting business was quite taxing.

Only two people were unhappy. HP and Payal Raizada. While one was resigned to this scenario as it was his lot in life, the other bristled with indignation waiting for an opportunity to turn the tables.

"Naniji, why was the front door left open? It's very unsafe these days as Delhi is  becoming the crime capital."

Khush was rattling off as he carried a packet in his hands. All eyes turned towards him. Only one went still in his seat. When Khush looked up and saw the young man sitting next to Lavanya, he froze. How, when, what?

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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:45pm | IP Logged
Chapter 7:A very strange party

"Well, God give them wisdom that have it; and those that are fools, let them use their talents."

After the initial disbelief, Khush became ecstatic. The look of joy transformed his face. His features became more pronounced and the tiny lines on his forehead magically disappeared. I've found him. Or has he found me?'

He wasn't sure. Besides did it really matter? What are the odds that in a nation of one billion people the very person you were searching for lands up on your doorstep? Serendipity was one thing, but this was more than that. It was all Devi Maiyya's hand at work.

Kishore Gupta thought he was dreaming. The hazel eyes looked familiar. The smile was pricking his memory. But he didn't know this boy. Or did he? He began to scratch his head. All that heavy food has got my brains addled. Then his bewitching beauty nudged him on the shoulder.

"Hmm..Kishore. Shall we meet tomorrow at the Purple Orchard restaurant on MG Road? Perhaps at 5 pm?"

Bingo! He couldn't believe his luck. Kishore had never believed in Dame Luck till now as his family had been through a long spell of misfortunes. Even his business wasn't what it appeared to be. But now he felt the tides changing in his favour. After giving Shashi Kashyap a furtive look (after all the man was the father of the girl) Kishore murmured his acquiescence.

"It's a date!" Lavanya whispered breathily with stars in her eyes. For some reason her voice floated across to Khush who beamed back at her. Khush had happy thoughts in her mind. What a perfect fit there!

Devyani and Anjali had already left the table as they couldn't endure the sight and smell of such delectable food. Piety did win but only after an aggressive battle between the heart and the stomach. In the meantime Manorama and Shashi Kashyap were engaged in a silly duel. If one ate more puris, the other ate more pakoras. If Manorama managed to swipe the remains of the Dum Aloo, Shashi Kashyap swooped in on the last spoon of Palak Paneer. The two were so caught up in their binging contest that Payal and Khush knew there would be no leftovers. Kishore and Lavanya had already eaten and were engrossed in each other.

Khush felt that their behaviour was unbecoming for the table. It was a good thing that Naniji was not present. HP had for some reason disappeared to the kitchen. If Khush knew the reason he would have applauded the man on his ingenuity. When HP had called OP earlier on the phone, big brother had also given him advice on preparing extra food. "Keep aside some food - away from that Manorama's prying eyes.". When HP removed his secret stash of extra food he heaved a sigh of relief. There was enough for all three of them including Payal bitiya and Khush.

Finally Shashi Kashyap and Kishore Gupta took their leave. Lavanya squeezed Kishore's hand before she skipped and hopped to her car. In the kitchen the Trojan warriors attacked their food as they were starving. Manorama had retired to her room for a nap after that heavy repast. Her snores reached the ears of the people in the kitchen who rolled their eyes. HP looked at the other two indulgently. They were such sweet kids and never complained. Khush was becoming an integral part of the family.

That night Devyani was tired. Her grandson Arnav was late from work. Akash had come home earlier and had taken Payal out on a shopping trip. Manorama had still not woken up from her long slumber.

"Maji, I will wait for Arnav bhaiyya. Please rest in your room. You look tired." HP saw the weariness in the droop of the shoulders and the exhaustion on the face. Devyani's fast had tired her and she was also growing old. Anjali had a light meal and was in the prayer room seeking pardon from her favourite deity. She felt horribly guilty that she had succumbed to the demands of her stomach.

After Devyani left HP settled down for a long vigil. He was joined by Khush. "Why does the master come so late?"

"He has so much work. He runs a big company which employs thousands of people. The company has offices all over India and abroad and customers keep calling him at all odd hours. Akash bhaiyya helps but its never enough."

There was a look of reverence on HP's face when he talked about the master. He had seen Arnav Bhaiyya at his worst and still felt a tad sympathetic towards him. Perhaps it was the sheer grit and determination to take care of his family against the odds stacked against him. The family had lost everything when Arnav's parents and uncle died in an accident. Arnav was barely a teenager and it had fallen on the young boy's shoulders to look after everyone. The teen had to beome an adult more out of circumstances than out of choice.

Khush's heart melted at the tribulations that ASR had faced. Such a strong sense of duty in one so young. The first time Khush had seen ASR, he had felt funny. His heart had started beating rapidly and his cheeks had turned red. Now the same feelings were back. Think of the devil and there he appears before you. Arnav Singh Raizada was standing in front of him. Khush hadn't heard the bell ring, neither had he seen HP open the door. He had been day-dreaming about the man and had sensed his presence immediately. That was odd.

ASR smirked when he saw the young boy with his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Cute and adorable. "Cat got your tongue?"

"Haw! Nahi, its so late. Is this a time to come home?"

"Whaat? You sound like a wife?"

"Haw! I'm no wife, certainly not for you. Who can manage you?"

HP looked in horror at the exchange between Khush and ASR. This was certainly not how one spoke to employers. Had the boy lost it? He looked at ASR waiting for him to explode. Then his eyebrows shot up when he heard the master guffaw. The sound was novel and strange because it was heard the first time in the Raizada mansion.

"Come beta. Let us get the dinner ready for Arnav bhaiyya." Thanking his favourite deity for ASR's momentary lapse he dragged the young boy away. ASR gave them a bemused expression. The boy was quite spirited and he was looking forward to the thrust and parry.

Khush had no idea what had got hold of him a few minutes earlier. He had forgotten that he was a mere employee. He had only seen a handsome devil with a silvery tongue and a naughty gleam. But they were equals in the eyes of DM, weren't they? Where had that thought come from?

The next day there was excitement in the air when Khush woke up.

"We're having a party." HP explained. "Arnav bhaiyya has called some guests for lunch." As the ladies got busy prettying themselves up Khush and HP were busy running around. "You're like a butterfly, just flitting here and there. So much energy, so much passion." Devyani murmured when she saw Khush for a few minutes. Yep, so much passion.

When Arnav heard his grandmother's words, he felt a pang. Everytime he came near the boy, his heart began to gallop. He tried to dismiss it the first few times, but it persisted annoyingly. Oh my God! Does this mean I'm attracted to a boy? What the..
He vowed to keep a safe distance from Khush. The Kawasaki brothers were expected any time now.

When the Japanese brothers showed up at the stroke of noon the Raizadas were waiting in line. Then the bowing started. When one began, the other ended. It was like a wave that flowed and ebbed. Devyani was excused as she had a bad back.

Manorama had to be helped back on her feet as her back had given way. Only HP and Khush were spared the exercise. Then Shashi Kashyap showed up with Kishore Gupta for the next round of bowing. The two seemed to be joined at the hip. Khush was certain that the next visitor would be the incomparable Miss Kashyap and as if one cue she turned up in her georgette emerald green sari looking like a million bucks. No Pongal sale was going to keep her away from this wonderful man. Anjali grimaced as she felt her thunder being stolen. The brown Chanderi silk sari looked so drab next to the green. But then she consoled herself with the fact that Shyamji wasn't here.

There were bursts of loud laughter, broad grins and furious sound of cameras clicking by the esteemed guests while the others played the gracious hosts to the hilt. Akash Raizada was in his element. He practiced all his verbs and adjectives that he had learnt in his free time (trying to master Japanese) and was unaware of the strong waves of disapproval thrown at him by the experts. Then a sharp admonition from his dear wife brought him to his senses.

Kawasaki Senior was impressed with the young tycoon that he had heard so much about. The two got into a comfortable discussion and talked of everything under the sun except matters of business. Then Khush started serving the food. After a few bites both father and son started smacking their lips all the time grinning from ear to ear. "oishii*, Arnav-san oishii." The rest of the meal was interspersed with their compliments as Khush blushed under the scrutiny of the visitors and the master of the house.

Shashi Kashyap was beaming too for another reason. His competitor at the table had an upset stomach and was lying low. Besides Manorama's back had still not forgiven her for her earlier stunt. The lovebirds continued their eye locks and yearned to feed each other in private. Bah!We can't wait for the party to get over.

"I wish to take this young man with me to Kyoto, Arnav-san. He works well, he cooks well."

Not in a million years. He's mine. Mine'. ASR was about to retort before he smiled politely.What the..where had that thought come from?'

*oishii - tasty or delicious in Japanese

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Posted: 22 December 2014 at 7:47pm | IP Logged
Chapter 8:Patience is a virtue 

"O time, thou must untangle this, not I.
It is too hard a knot for me t'untie."

Khush was reaching the end of his tether. He had been trying to contact Kishore Gupta since the time he had seen him. Once when Lavanya had left her cell phone in the kitchen, Khush had jotted down Kishore's number. A couple of times when he had tried calling, the number was unreachable. Then when he did get through to Kishore, his call was never answered. Why didn't he call back? Was he wary of unknown numbers?

Ah! He'll try to corner him at the restaurant today evening. But Kishore and Lavanya would be on a date. How could he become a kebab main haddi? He had to think of something fast. As he stared at his cell phone for a while, he heard the sound of someone coming towards him. When he turned back he saw the master.

The moment ASR saw the boy, he gave him a terrified look. Then he turned and moved in the opposite direction. He seemed to be in such a haste to get away from Khush and hit his head against the wall and nearly tripped over the ornate stand. Yep. The great ASR, the heartthrob of the female population, the poster-boy of business magazines was falling. Falling hard on the solid floor. Before he could hit the ground Khush raced towards him and held his shoulders. For a few seconds, maybe minutes, the two stared into each others eyes. Khush could have sworn that he heard the words "Rabba Ve"* being sung in the background. ASR tried to spring back and grazed the boy's chest. Whoa! What was that? He could have sworn..'

"Arnav bitwa, what ees happening?" Manorama's eyes popped out at the sight of her nephew struggling to get up from the floor. Then she reached out and pulled him up in one attempt. All that food hadn't gone to waste after all. ASR mumbled a thanks to his mami and rushed out of the house. He was going mad. Should he see a shrink? Why did that Aman idiot have to leave town at this time?

"Watch your step, boy. Don't forget Manorama Bond is right behind you." Glaring at Khush Manorama turned to the living room. Rolling his eyes Khush began to focus on his earlier goal. Aha!

That evening when Anjali decided to go the temple, Khush asked her if he could tag along. "I need to meet an old friend of mine who hasn't seen me in a long time." Anjali agreed happily as she wanted some company. Manorama looked at the boy contemptuously. Old friend my foot! He means Devi Maiyya. This boy isn't as virtuous as he looks and is probably going to the temple to seek pardon.

Manorama decided to be patient until she could reveal the boy's true colours.
At the temple Anjali was praying in front of the idol. There was a big crowd gathered there for a special puja. Khush looked at DM with a beseeching look.Show me the way. What do I do? When he turned to look at Anjali he noticed Shyam Jha standing at a distance. Shyam's eyes were fixated on Anjali. Run. Run.

"I have to pick up the blouses from the tailor otherwise Manoramaji will be very angry with me.Why don't you stay here - I'll be back in thirty minutes." Anjali looked annoyed when she was interrupted in her prayers. Then she realized where she was standing and calmed herself down. "Yes, yes. Just leave. I will be all right."

Khush hurried out of the temple. He knew that Shyam would not leave this opportunity to keep Anjali engaged. But before slimy Shyam could conjure up any mischief Khush would be back. As he jumped into an auto and sped towards the restaurant, he kept praying. Please be there. Hey Devi Maiyya.

When he walked into the restaurant, he saw Kishore sitting alone at the table.Where was Lavanya? Oh, never mind.

As he approached his quarry he suddenly thought of something. Oddly enough there weren't many people at this time in the restaurant. After a quick word with the head waiter, Khush approached the table with a glass of sweet lime juice and started humming a song.

Phoolon ka taaron ka...

When he began to go off-key Kishore Gupta turned. That voice. That tune. That note. Oh my God. Could it be her? Was he hallucinating? He saw a young boy standing there holding a tray in his hands. The boy's eyes were welling up with tears as he looked at Kishore. Hazel eyes. Rosy cheeks.

Khush..Khush..i..Khushi?

The boy nodded his head tearfully. "K&K ka pagalpan. It's me Kishore - your sister Khushi."

"But how,what, when?" Kishore was confused yet elated. He had found his sister. The one he had been looking for such a long time. But why was she working for the Raizadas?

Then he remembered Lavanya who had just gone to the restroom.

"Don't worry. Call me on this number tonight. We'll talk then."

Before he could stop her, she had disappeared. When Lavanya got back, she saw a bewildered lover-boy sitting in his seat. "What happened Kishore? You look as if you've lost something."

"Ah, no. Not anymore Lavanya. In fact I found something I've been searching for a long time. I'm so happy." He broke into a wide smile. She gasped when she saw the sheer joy in his eyes.

"Should I be jealous? I hope it's not another woman."

"Yes, it is in fact another woman. But not in the way you're thinking."

"Whaat?"
"Lavanya, is it all right if we leave now? Some important work has come up. Let me drop you home and attend to that."

When Khush reached the temple she found Anjali and Shyam engrossed in each other.It didn't take him long to move in for the kill, did it?'

"Anjaliji, its time to head back home. Look how dark it has become." Khushi spoke firmly. No way was she going to let this creep near Anjali Raizada.

Shyam was all smiles now. "We were just waiting for you to return. Anjaliji, I will meet you tomorrow at home then." By now Anjali was simpering at the attention whileKhushi was seething with anger. Tomorrow. I'll be waiting for you toad.'

*tune played for lovers in a popular television series IPKKND

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