Posted: 24 June 2008 at 8:15am
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"Whoa! What the hell…," wondered Adi as some crazy woman entered
the elevator in a rush, lost her balance and collided with him. She
fell to the floor, taking him down with her in the next few seconds. He
searched for her face angrily, wondering who could be this clumsy. His
eyes found her face and rested on them.
From the shock of the fall and the dizziness of fast-moving
elevator, Maithili's eyes were tightly shut after the fall. She had no
idea that it was Adi's body that was on top of hers. In the moment that
it took for her to open her eyes, Adi's anger dissipated and his eyes
sympathetically savoured her vulnerability as she lay beneath him. She
had been crying. Her reddened cheeks were moist. A pang of guilt struck
him. He had done this to her, he berated himself. He thought he saw a
mild throb in her wet cheeks for a split second, but it had
disappeared. Without even thinking about it, he brought his hands to
her face and his fingers almost brushed against those soft cheeks. What
would happen if he touched her now? Would that old magic return? Will
he feel that old spark between the both of them which he thought had
safely disappeared from his life?
Maithili opened her eyes to see none other than Aditya Mehra on top
of her and with his fingers so close to her face. She saw something in
his eyes that she didn't recognize, but in any case, she was still
furious with him.
"Get off me, Adi!" she ordered.
When Maithili uttered his name as Adi, he heard the sense of
ownership she took when she said it. He felt so close to her at that
moment, literally and otherwise.
"I'm…sorry," he stuttered as he got up, forgetting that it was her
who clumsily fell on him in the first place! All that mattered to him
now was that he had made her so upset. He tried to help her pick up her
papers, but she shoved off his arm. The elevator came to a stop and
Maithili rushed out, even more upset that Adi had seen her crying in
humiliation. Adi followed her.
"Wait!" he yelled after her, catching up with her. "Don't do this."
"Do what? If you mean you want me to let go of the case, you can forget it."
"Listen, forget about the case for a minute. I mean don't run away
right now, Maithili," he said. He had begun that sentence loudly but
got to a really soft tone when he said her name.
Maithili stared at him. He had said her name with a tenderness
that she didn't know he was capable of. She had managed to stop most of
her tears of anger by now, but a few drops still fell involuntarily, as
if to remind her of her humiliation.
"You're… crying," Adi softly said.
"Well I suppose you thought I'd be laughing with joy after what you put me through back there."
"I'm sorry. I… really shouldn't have spoken that way. I-I just
don't know what came over me. I wouldn't have gotten that angry with
someone else, so I don't know why when I saw that it was you I got so…"
he trailed off, unable to complete his thought.
He thought of telling her that he had been angry since the day she
left India without saying goodbye to him. That he had only forgotten
about that anger and that pain, it had still been there deep down until
he just screamed at her. Memory is a trickster, Maithili, he thought to
himself. He thought of telling her that he had seen her some days ago
in this area. That he was surprised when Tanu told him she worked here…
and that he had no idea she was so close all along while he had been
desperately lost in her thoughts since the day he noticed her. But he
couldn't tell her all this. The words wouldn't come, and it wouldn't
make sense anyway. And on top of it all, he was aware that he had just
been thoroughly out of line with her back in the office.
She breathed impatiently, and he sensed that she was uncomfortable.
He blurted out the only thing that he thought would make her feel
better at that moment.
"Look, you should go ahead with the case if it's important to you.
In fact, I'll talk to Mamma and make sure you can remain in SAG."
"Stop it, Adi," she said in an angry and curt tone. "I don't need
your permission to do the case, nor do I need you to get me my position
back in a place where I have to deal with people like you. I was a
lawyer before I came to SAG and will continue to practice even after
leaving here," she said and quickened her pace.
"Okay, stop walking for a second. Can we please sit down and talk
about this? Can I extend some 'professional courtesy' to you to make up
for what I did back there?"
he said, slightly humourously.
It was no use.
"No, it's too late."
"Maithili, come on," he pleaded.
She paused. Maithili was struck by the sincerity he heard in her
voice. She stared at his face, feeling confused. But she couldn't trust
him. Not now.
"If you think you can charm your way out of this case, then you're sorely mistaken. I'll see you in court, Mr. Mehra."
Adi sighed with frustration. He watched her walk away, determined
to not give him a chance. He wanted to run after her and apologize
again and again until she believed him. He wanted to brush off those
tears of hurt from her cheeks, and he really wanted to make sure she
was okay. But he just stood there, knowing she wouldn't budge, and
knowing that there's nothing he could do right now.
* * *
It had been two weeks since the incident at SAG. As it turned out,
a neglected old policy at Prism had created some problems for a sector
of workers, and without Adi really getting to know about it, this issue
had fallen through the cracks. Shruti had gotten involved with the case
and resolved it so that it didn't need to go to court at all. It just
had to clear an arbitration process where the lawyer has to sit down
with the employer and work out the policy problems over a time of 2-3
Shruti knew that Maithili had made a mistake, but felt bad because
she also knew Maithili was new to law in India. Shruti decided to visit
Maithili at her house.
"Um…Ma'am? Please come in." Maithili was surprised to find Shruti here.
"Thanks, Maithili." Shruti looked about. "Is Kamal ji also home?"
"Uh…Papa is away on a business trip."
"Oh I see. I just came by to talk to you about something," Shruti
said as they both entered the living room and Maithili directed her
towards the couch.
Shruti began to elaborate on the complications of the Indian legal
system to Maithili. Shruti explained to her that one can't just file
lawsuits at the drop of a hat in a country where stacks and stacks of
legal cases stood as pending for years, sometimes decades. Shruti made
it clear that this had nothing to do with the fact that Prism was her
son's company, but that it was a general rule of thumb to follow.
Maithili began to understand the situation better, and realized that
she had initially acted in haste. Nevertheless, Adi had still been out
of line with her.
"Maithili, I know what you are thinking. Regardless of all of this,
my son should not have acted that way with you, and I want to apologize
on his behalf. You know, I have never seen him quite that angry. I
guess it's just that he has really been working very hard on Prism. And
that morning, it turns out that he had lost some important clients
because of some rumours about the lawsuit. These kinds of things get
blown up into very big issues. That's another reason to tread
"You're right, Ma'am, and please, you don't need to apologize on his behalf. Aap mujhe sharminda mat kijye."
"Maithili, chahe koi bhi ho, I don't think it's right to speak like that in a professional environment."
Maithili nodded faintly. Of course she was still angry with Adi,
but she didn't want to show that in front of Shruti, who was being so
kind and patient with her.
"Maithili, there's something I need to tell you. When I first saw
you, I felt like you reminded me of someone but I wasn't sure who. In
the past couple of weeks, I have realized that you remind me of me --
of the younger Shruti Mehra. You have the same passion and conviction
that I did. My hope is that you will go far, beta, and achieve a lot
more than I have."
Saying this, Shruti reached towards Maithili and touched her
shoulder lightly. Maithili felt embarrassed for having resigned in
haste. She was moved by Shruti's words. Shruti and Maithili had been
sharing such a good bond that Maithili shouldn't have taken out her
anger with Adi on Shruti Ma'am. Maithili apologized to Shruti and
thanked her for the job offer, and promised that she would be back on
the job. She also told Shruti that she would see through this
arbitration process with Aditya Mehra no matter how bitter their
personal history was.
"I'm proud of you," Shruti said as she looked affectionately at
Maithili. Letting her guard down a little bit, Maithili warmly reached
towards Shruti for a hug and they both shared a friendly and
Maithili waved at Shruti, whose car was now exiting the front gate.
As soon as Shruti was out of view, Maithili started to feel a bit
nervous again and as she stood staring at the gate, she worriedly drew
in a deep breath.
"I just want to get through this arbitration soon, and then things can be back to normal…" Maithili sighed.
Edited by --arti-- - 17 July 2008 at 8:29pm