[Banner Credit : Kiddo_Star aka Shreya]
Khushi reached Aman's office at 9:00 am as decided. She was carrying a small handbag with her just enough for a month's stay at Panchgani. Aman first checked and verified her identity. He checked the print of the appointment letter Khushi was carrying. After he was assured that this lady was Khushi, they both left for Panchgani. There was a driver with them. Aman sat in the passenger seat in front and Khushi sat on the back seat. Being the only female in the car, she was feeling a bit insecure though she knew there was nothing to worry. Aman was a very nice gentleman and anyone would feel comfortable with him in the first meeting itself. Khushi was silent. Aman asked her whether she had met Arnav Singh Raizada before. She said she hadn't and she had only read about him and seen his pictures in the newspaper. She also told that she had read all of his books and she loved his writing. Aman smiled. Khushi guessed that Arnav Singh Raizada must be a very gentle, understanding, calm person. Aman laughed at her guess. Khushi gave him a confused look.
"Miss Khushi" said Aman, "Don't judge Mr. Arnav on his writing!! He is totally opposite of what you have guessed!!" Khushi just stared at Aman as if she got to know some grave truth just now. Aman smiled and said, "Don't look at me like that please...! Arnav Singh Raizada is not that bad a person!" he laughed and further said, "Don't worry Miss Khushi, I think I scared you! Look, I don't want you to face any problems during your internship, so I just warned you. The experience of the previous interns with Mr. Arnav was not so good, you know"
Khushi's eyes widened. Not so good? All weird thoughts flushed into her mind... "Oh my God!! I would be staying with that man in his bungalow for one month... A single lady, all alone... with a guy... one month!!" Aman could see the fear on Khushi's face. He was trying to guess what she was thinking, when she asked, "How can stay alone with him? I mean... I can't... I..."
Aman understood what she meant. He assured her that there was no such problem with Arnav. Arnav maintained a purely professional relationship with his interns and he stayed as away as possible from the interns. "And yes, you won't be alone there... Kaveri Mausi will be there with you. So there won't be any problem!" said Aman.
"Kaveri Mausi?" asked Khushi wondering who she was.
"Yes, Kaveri Mausi... She is the most loving and caring woman I have ever seen!" replied Aman. "She is the caretaker there... And she will take very good care of you too...!!" he said with a wink.
Khushi felt somewhat relieved.
Kaveri Mausi was looking around for Arnav. She went to his room and saw that the door was closed. She knocked on the door and called out to Arnav but there was no reply. She opened the door and saw that Arnav was still sleeping. She smiled as she sad beside him and caressed his forehead. "Arnav?" she said gently. Arnav just groaned in reply. "Wake up beta, it's already 9:45!" said Kaveri Mausi, "The intern will be reaching by 11... Wake up now and get ready"
Arnav groaned again and without opening his eyes said, "Let me sleep for some more time Kaveri Mausi..." He changed side and said, "After that intern comes, I won't be getting a peaceful sleep for one month!!"
Kaveri Mausi laughed. "Poor interns... They have to tolerate you for one long month!! I really pity them!"
Lifting his head and looking at Kaveri Mausi with slightly opened eyes, Arnav said with surprise, "Poor interns?!!! Poor ME!!! You know very well how irritating these interns are!" and he slept again.
"I know, I know!" said Kaveri Mausi as she stood up to leave. "Don't sleep for very long, okay?" she said as she walked towards the door.
"Fifteen more minutes!!" said Arnav as he pulled the blanket over his head.
"Not more than that!" said Kaveri Mausi as she closed the door.
Arnav got up after half an hour. He came out, sill rubbing his eyes, and sat down at the table. "Ramu!" he called out to the servant, "Where's my coffee?"
Just then Kaveri Mausi brought coffee for Arnav. "I have told Ramu to move the lawn... So he is busy there!" Kaveri Mausi sat down to accompany Arnav.
"So, had a good sleep?"
"What sleep Kaveri Mausi!! The thought of the new intern has made me lose my sleep!!" said Arnav.
Kaveri Mausi laughed. "Don't worry Arnav, this time the intern will not be like the others... You will see!" said she to pacify Arnav.
"Tumhaare munh mein ghee-shakkar Kaveri Mausi!! I hope what you say is true!!" said Arnav as he sipped on his coffee.
Khushi and Aman reached the bungalow in Panchgani by around 11. The driver took out Khushi's bag from the dickey. Khushi looked around admiring the natural beauty of the place. The sun peeping from behind the clouds, the fresh air, the dense trees, the sweet chirping of birds... Ah! What an environment! Refreshing! Unknowingly a smile spread across her lips. Forgetting all the worries, she was enjoying the moment after ages. Ramu, who was working in the garden, saw the guests arrive. He quickly went in to inform Kaveri Mausi and Arnav.
"Come Miss Khushi!" said Aman as he entered through the gate.
Khushi followed. The driver offered to carry her bag, but Khushi preferred to carry it herself. She looked at the beautiful garden, very-well maintained. The yellow-green plants with clusters of colourful flowers welcoming her as she walked through the walk-way. There, in front of her, stood the beautiful bungalow named Shabd. "What a name!" she thought, "Shabd - that means words! Mr Arnav loves writing so much that he has even named his bungalow after his profession!" Khushi was amazed.
They reached the door where Kaveri Mausi welcomed them. Her smile and the glow on her face radiated her love and warmth that captured Khushi. Aman introduced Khushi to her. Khushi felt as if Kaveri Mausi was no stranger to her... as if she knew Kaveri Mausi since long! She completely agreed with what Aman had told her about Kaveri Mausi on their way. They received a warm welcome and breakfast was ready for them on the table. They all sat round the table. Khushi looked around expecting to see Arnav Singh Raizada for the first time. Her heart was beating fast. What would his reaction be on seeing her? How should she react? Should she shake hands with him? Or should she just smile? Should she say "Hello Sir"? Or shlould she wish "Good Morning"? She was confused and waiting for Arnav in anticipation.
Kaveri Mausi told them to have breakfast. Aman asked about Arnav. Kaveri Mausi said that Arnav was busy in work and would eat later. This killed Khushi's curiosity. But then she thought, "Why would the great Arnav Singh Raizada have breakfast with us? We are no celebrities..." and she silently ate whatever was served. The food was prepared by Kaveri Mausi and was very tasty. Khushi appreciated it.
At home, it was Khushi who prepared food. She always used to love the food prepared by her grandmother. And today, food prepared by Kaveri Mausi reminded her of her grandmother. Her eyes watered suddenly. And then she remembered she had to call her grandpa to inform him that she had reached safely. She called him on his mobile but he didn't pick up. This was usual. Baba hardly picked up his phone the first time when called. She knew he would call later after seeing the missed call.
After the breakfast, Aman left with the driver. Kaveri Mausi took Khushi to her room. Khushi was looking around at the beautifully furnished home as she followed Kaveri Mausi. On the way, there was a room with the door closed and a "Do Not Disturb" sign put on the handle. Khushi halted in front of it staring at the sign. Kaveri Mausi smiled and said, "Arnav's room!! He always puts that sign when he needs to be alone..." Khushi smiled faintly and followed her through the passage. The passage turned to lead them to another couple of rooms. Kaveri Mausi showed Khushi her room and told her to make herself comfortable. She also told Khushi to ask for anything she needed without hesitation. Khushi nodded. Kaveri Mausi left.
Khushi arranged all her things in the cupboard. There was a window to her room and a small balcony. She opened the window and cool air filled the room. She went into the balcony. Dark clouds had covered the sky. It seemed as if it would start raining heavily any moment. The weather was cold. She stood there staring at the the beautiful surroundings. Suddenly her face saddened. She looked up at the dark clouds and some words escaped her lips...
Yeh bhagya ke wohi kaale baadal hain,
Jo srishti ko khushiyon ki barsaat de gaye...
Lekin meri zindagi mein yeh baadal aise chhaaye,
Ki kabhi na dhalne waali raat de gaye...
(Meaning - These are those clouds of fortune that have given rains of happiness to the nature... But the same clouds brought with them those never-ending dark nights in my life...)
Khushi's eyes watered. And then she saw someone standing in the balcony opposite to hers. She wiped her eyes dry and saw that it was none other than Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada! And he was much more handsome than he looked in newspapers! Khushi looked more carefully and noticed that he was staring at her. Khushi immediately looked away, embarrassed. Arnav kept staring at her. She was so beautiful. Is she the intern? He had never seen a girl so closely before that he could admire her beauty. But today he couldn't stop looking at her. What was so special about her? What was so different about her that was attracting him? She was just another girl, just another intern of his, wasn't she? Khushi slowly raised her gaze to match his. Why was he staring at her? The thought scared her for some reason. They both kept staring into each other's eyes. And then rain began pouring down. Khushi broke the eyelock and went into the room closing the door of the balcony. And Arnav stood at his place staring at the closed door as the rain drenched him completely.