Posted: 24 June 2008 at 1:19pm
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"Sir, Ms. Aggarwal is here for the arbitration," his secretary Shivangi said through the intercom.
"Send her in," said Adi as he somewhat nervously straightened up for his first arbitration meeting with Maithili.
He hadn't seen Maithili since their tense encounter two weeks ago,
where she left him standing outside the SAG office. Shruti had kept Adi
updated on what was happening with the case, and he knew that that
Maithili was back at SAG and would be coming to his office for the next
three weeks for arbitration. It was no surprise to him that she would
be arriving this morning. Still, it made Adi nervous to confront her
after all that had happened. He had been so rude with her, and so
unnecessarily harsh. Those tears, he thought to himself, those precious
drops running down her soft cheeks…he did that. He should've known
better. After all, Maithili was new at this kind of thing, and who
knows how different all of this is from her experiences in legal cases
abroad. He knew how stubborn Maithili could get, and there was simply
no way she was going to forgive him, he thought.
"You'd better get ready for some heavy attitude, Adi," he thought to himself as he heard the doorknob turn.
He gave her a pleasant smile as she walked in, which she brushed
off brusquely. Noting that she had come alone, Adi remembered Mamma
telling him that Maithili was handling this process by herself.
"Congrats on re-joining SAG," he said warmly.
"Thanks, but I'm not here to talk about myself," she shot back.
This is going to be a loooong day, Adi thought to himself.
It was the middle of the day, and Adi and Maithili had been working
through legal files for at least the past 3 hours. Of course, with her
sitting across the desk from him, he was too distracted to actually
concentrate on any work. Surprisingly, she was quite professional with
him. He noticed how remarkably different and grown up she was from the
Maithili he once knew. It was clear she was angry with him, but she was
able to put that aside and get through work.
Through the corner of his eye, he stared at the way she
absentmindedly tapped the edge of her pen against her chin. Ah, her
chin, Adi thought back. He remembered the way she had stuck it out
towards the breeze that day when he saw her for the first time after
she had returned to India. Adi drifted into a fantasy. He imagined how
it would've been if instead of the breeze, Mumbai had greeted her that
morning with rain. How the drops of water might have dripped off her
chin. And how if he had been there next to her, he might've kissed her
chin, and how the cold and fresh rain water would've dripped down her
chin, through his lips, and onto his tongue. He shook his head. He
couldn't believe he, the serious businessman that he was, was having a
bollywoodesque rain fantasy about Maithili in the middle of work. He
chuckled at the thought of how angry she would get if she knew what he
was thinking right now.
"Something funny?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
"Uh, nothing… you don't want to know, trust me"
"O-kay," Maithili said in an irritated tone.
"Waise Maithili… how long has it been since you've seen a Bollywood movie?" he asked humorously.
She looked up from her files to shoot him a menacing look. She was clearly not amused.
"Can we get back to work, Adi?"
"Yes, of course," he paused before he continued, "but can you
forgive me first? For the other day, at SAG? I'm really sorry,
Maithili. There's no excuse for my behaviour and I've felt terrible
since, please believe me," implored Adi.
A slow smile spread across Maithili's face. She was enjoying
seeing Adi feel remorseful. She didn't want to let him get off that
"What did you say, Adi? I couldn't hear you."
"I said I'm sorry about the other day."
"I'm really sorry. I mean it."
The Aditya Mehra she knew in college would have never apologized
for anything, and especially not to someone from the opposite sex. She
unwittingly smiled at him, warmly resting her eyes on his handsome
features. His eyes looked so honest that she just had to believe that
his apology was sincere. Maybe he had changed after all. She nodded to
indicate that she had forgiven him. After all, she felt a little bad
that he had lost his clients because of her hastiness. And she had to
admit that she had gained a lot more respect for Adi after learning
that she was Shruti's son. In addition, ever since she had been back at
SAG, she had researched Prism and was impressed with his achievements.
"It's okay," she said. "And I'm sorry too, for…well, for rushing things with the lawsuit."
"No worries, what's done is done… Hey, can we take a break and go for lunch somewhere?"
"Don't push it, Adi."
"How is lunch pushing it?"
"Don't forget that I am here as a neutral party for this arbitration. Are you trying to bribe me?"
"Actually, that's not a bad idea."
Maithili rolled her eyes at this pathetic wisecrack.
"But I've got no intention of bribing you," Adi continued, slowly
leaning in across the desk towards her, "so will you please lunch with
Maithili smiled coyly at how sweet Adi was being with her.
"Mr. Mehra, I really don't---"
He interrupted her, "I like it when you call me Adi." He paused and
added pensively, "I've missed the way you say my name." He retreated
slightly, knowing he had said a bit too much.
"Fine, Adi, I guess I could use a lunch break." She was glad to change the subject.
"Really? You know, you're giving me too many surprises here.
Firstly, I thought you'd never forgive me. And what's more, I didn't
think you'd agree to have lunch with me. What happened to the Maithili
Aggarwal who was always so difficult with me in college, huh?
"It's been a long time since that Maithili Aggarwal grew up and forgot about all that," she replied calmly.
"I hope you haven't forgotten everything," he said with a mischievous smile, and noticed some red rushing onto her cheeks.
"Let's go," she said, getting up from her chair and abruptly changing the subject to the topic of food.
* * *
"Adi beta, how was the first day of arbitration?" Shruti asked her
son, who was sitting down with the newspaper in the living room after
"Oh it was great!" he said, realizing he probably was sounding a
little over-enthusiastic about a dry legal process. "I mean to say, it
went very well. It was a good start."
"Sounds good. How do you like working with Maithili? Apparently you two didn't used to get along in college. Any problems now?"
"Mamma… please. We were kids in college. We are obviously capable
of working with each other just fine, and I think Maithili is
incredibly skilled at what she does and quite professional."
Shruti smiled, happy that she was right about Maithili, and made her way to bed.
"Oh, I'm sure you are very professional with her," chimed in a bitter-sounding Tanu, who was sitting a few feet away watching TV.
Adi just remembered the whole lafda that Maithili and Tanu had
earlier. Tanu had wanted him to talk to Mamma about Maithili, but he
had forgotten. He sighed as he approached her.
"Tanu, kya baat hai yaar?"
"Don't yaar me. Bhai nahin ho tum mere…Traitor!" said Tanu in a sulky tone, flinging a pillow at him.
Adi caught the pillow and sat next to Tanu, trying to gently placate her.
"I think you got the wrong impression of Maithili."
"Well, okay, technically you didn't. She's quite…what do you
say…well, she's outspoken, but she means well. And she's honest enough
to speak what she thinks."
"Right," mumbled Tanu.
"Look, please give her a chance?"
"Ew, why are you asking me to give her a chance? I don't
care about her! And I never want to see her again. What's the matter?
Are you falling in love with her or something? Eww! Will I have to call
"Okay Tanu, that's enough," said Adi, getting off the couch while
Tanu burst into laughter at having gotten a rise out of her brother.
Adi jogged upstairs towards Ashu's room to say good night, which
was pretty much the only time he got to see his artist brother who
liked to spend his time in his own world most of the time.
* * *
In the Rai Choudhury house, people tended up to stay up late into
the night. Rishika had a habit of reading till late, and Gauri was
usually buzzing around with too much energy to settle down into bed
early. The only person who went to bed early was Rishabh Rai Choudhury,
who was pretty boring in comparison to the stylish and vivacious
Gauri was planning the details of the dance show she was
choreographing for a charitable cause. She pulled out some of her
costumes and went towards the mirror, trying to decide between them for
the dance. She looked at herself, lost in thought for a moment,
allowing herself to have a narcissistic moment admiring herself in the
Sometimes she felt like nobody understood her, including her best
friend Tanu. Gauri was 19 years old, but she was a precocious
19-year-old, and though she developed an attraction towards boys, she
wasn't too thrilled with the choice at her college. Why did boys her
age have to be so…stupid, so utterly vacuous, she thought, frustrated.
This opinion caused her to brush off most boys that gave her any
attention, and it earned her the reputation that she was a snob and a
heartbreaker. The fact that her friend Tanu's reputation was similar
didn't help matters. But she didn't really care about their reputation.
No matter what anyone said, Gauri knew Tanu the best. Tanu had a
sharpness to her, and an edge that rubbed most people off the wrong
way, but Gauri knew that her friend was mostly misunderstood.
Gauri sat down with her journal, lazily writing down her thoughts,
which had rapidly shifted to Tanu's brother Ashu, whom she had vaguely
known since childhood. In the past two years that Tanu and Gauri had
become good friends, Gauri also spent more and more time with Ashu.
Following suit with Tanu, Gauri called Adi bhaiyya and called Ashu by
his name. Ashu was shy, but carried himself with a lot of maturity. She
tried to sneak into his room to talk to him about his art, to see some
of his paintings or sculptures in an effort to get him to open up to
her. Ashu did respond to her, but only with a certain measure of
timidity. As she wrote in her journal, she realized that she found the
sensitive Ashu's creativity and timidity very attractive.
She closed the journal with a smile on her face, and turned down
her music to make sure it wouldn't disturb her parents. She half-lay on
her bed with her right foot still on the floor. Her nomadic dancer feet
started absentmindedly tapping to the music and slowly stopped as she
reluctantly fell into slumber, with dreams of Ashu awaiting her.
Edited by --arti-- - 17 July 2008 at 8:30pm