Divergence 12/?

Khushi wanders around the main room, alone, but comfortable. She has been to this house plenty of times. In her own time that is. There was joy in the house. Arnav didn’t live there anymore but Anjali did. She had roamed these halls when she was younger. She, along with her friends, had built blanket forts on the very space she was standing.
It was all the same but so very different. It was as if knowing that she was looking at a painting that was fake and she was the original artist. It was familiar and alien at the same time. Everything spun around her.
“Hey, you okay?” she heard Anjali. Khushi turns around and nods.
“Just been a long day.” She shrugs. “Everything is so grand here.” She adds unnecessarily to keep a conversation going.
Anjali gives her a shrewed look. Khushi knows that Anjali has seen the interaction between her and Shyam and seen something more. She has also seen the shared and loaded exchanges that she had staged with Arnav.
“How long have you known Arnav?” Anjali asks, linking their arms. “You both seem…close.”
Khushi ducks her head and acts coy, laying it thick. “Sir promoted me to his executive assistant after Aman moved to finance department. Shyam also mentioned that Raizada company was the best place to work in the city, so I have nothing to complain.” She sincerely hoped this wouldn’t come and bite them in the ass.
“Shyam said, huh?” Anjali smiles tightly. “When was that again?”
“Oh it has been few weeks. He had come home to meet my uncle when had just moved to city.” She says remembering the story Payal told her, hoping it aligned with the time line.
Anjali suddenly looks relaxed and her entire persona brightens. Maybe she got the answer she was hoping for. “Shyam is obviously partial about it but I am glad you took his advice. We are a very good company to work for. Like a giant family.”
Khushi personally didn’t care too much about familial emotion associated with a corporation. She and Arnav had worked hard to write policies that helped people to maintain a healthy work life balance and had started programs like work from home for new mothers, and gone as far as installed a long term day care facilities free of cost for those who preferred to have their young children nearby. It hurt her head when people started calling their company a family and cut maternity leave by weeks.
“That’s nice to hear,” Khushi replies diplomatically.
“Who is this?”
Aman stops them and looks at Khushi, a smile spitting his face. Its the same smile that’s always dancing on his face.
“Are you okay?” Akash asks, looking at Khushi’s stunned face and teary eyes. “I am sorry, I don’t understand…” he trails when Khushi looks visibly upset and is trying hard to avoid her tears from falling and smiling all the same. She hadn’t calculated this part – the part where Akash was still a very much part of their lives and was still around. The young roughish boy who said shitty jokes that made them roll their eyes and laugh all the same, was standing in front of her grinning. He wasn’t just a teenager anymore but a full grown man with his own agency.
“Oh, dear lord.” She says and leans on the wall. “I apologize,” she says sincerely, looking at the floor. “I don’t know what came over me.”
“Are you alright?” Akash asks, feeling put out for garnering such a visceral reaction. “You seem flushed. A glass of water perhaps?” He asks, twisting his fingers together, anxious.
Khushi shakes her head. “I am sorry. Don’t worry about it. Its been a long day.”
“Arnav making you work hard?” Anjali teases, kindly. “If its a bit too much, tell him so, okay? He is a very understanding man.” She says proudly.
“I am a very understanding boss, she is right about that.” Arnav slides in next to her. Understanding is in his eyes and looks at Khushi warmly. He knows how it is to watch people who he never thought he would ever see again appear in front him again. Akash was a surprise they forgotten about completely. It had hit her in the gut. “Come on, I will show you the garden,” he navigates her outside the present company who were watching her. Khushi nods and lets herself to be led.
This isn’t a play, he knows. This isn’t a con they are putting for show. Khushi is rattled again. They walk swiftly towards garden area where its quiet.
“I am so sorry,” she apologizes again. “Akash was just there. Its been so long Arnav.” She sighs.
“Imagine my surprise.” Arnav shakes his head. “And he is my cousin here. To see him daily here and eat together, watch him laugh – its a privilege, in ways I cannot explain.”
“And there is Aman who looks at me as if I am a bitch who stole his job and Shyam whose eyes is the stuff nightmares are made of, Anjali who walks with a weight on her shoulders and then-”
“Hey. Hey.” Arnav hugs her then. Pulls her to him and puts his arm around her, holding her close. “They are not our…friends, okay? They look like them but they are ASR and KKG’s people. They are theirs. And we have ours.”
“I know. I know.” She answers. “I know that this is temporary and…it was…”
“Its alright,” he says easily. “No worries.” He hugs her closer. She sighs again.
“I thought I would be okay. I saw Payal again, I saw uncle and aunt, and it would all be okay, you know?”
“It hits you, I understand.”
“Yeah, it does. Akash was with us and he chose to leave Arnav. And that was something else.” She relaxes and uncoils her hands from around him. Arnav mimics her and unfurls his arms from her waist as well.
He chuckles. “Tell me honestly,” she asks him stepping next to him. “What’s Anjali and Shyam’s deal really? Is Anjali aware of what Shyam has been up to?”
“He is scamming most probably,” Arnav says dully. “Akash hinted at Shyam being away from home for long and how we don’t know anything about his life – like where he works or who are his friends. Not just us, even Anjali is unaware of this.”
“Can you confront him?” She asks, worried.
“We have to out con him in his own game. He isn’t the guy who will do well in confrontations.”
“Okay, what do we do?” she asks.
He looks at her sheepishly. “Be the bad guy.” It takes a couple of moments to dawn on her.
“Can Anjali handle this?” she is still worried.
“Doesn’t have to be Anjali. ASR loves Anjali a lot. He looks the other way for pretty much everything. Shyam knows that ASR would do anything to protect her. So if ASR comes to know that his sister’s marital bliss is in trouble-”
“He would be devastated.” Khushi finishes.
“And we can use that to our advantage and draw out Shyam.”
“What if Shyam doesn’t take the bite? What if he just ignores my advances?”
“He won’t.” Arnav says, confident.
“But-”
“Trust me. He won’t.” Arnav says confident. “He wants you. I can see it in his eyes. He is ready to screw it all over for you. I have to find out what is that he wants from Anjali first.”
“Isn’t it money?” Khushi asks, sardonic. “He implied as much when he spoke to my uncle.”
“Divorce?”
Khushi shrugs. “He said it would be messy. Could be. Can’t say for sure.”
“Anjali would be devastated.” Arnav swipes his hand on his forehead. He is exhausted. There are too many variables at play here. “Or should we take you off the board?”
“Huh?” Khushi asks, surprised.
“Think about it,” he grins, knowing that it was going to throw her off.
Khushi rolls her eyes and swats his arm. They walk back towards the house where the festivities are now in progress. They hang back at the edge of the room, their backs touching the wall. It takes only few minutes of slouching and feeling aliens in a world not their own to be joined by Akash and Shyam. Both bring extra drink in their hands and offer Arnav and Khushi one each.
“How do you like working for Arnav?” Akash asks, voice kind. Khushi still finds it difficult to see one of her oldest friend in the eye and not just run and hug him. At least with Payal she could hug and talk to her but with Akash it was slightly complicated. Ironically it was worse with Aman but seeing him everyday had numbed her a little.
Khushi smiles into her glass. “Its hectic, not going to lie. Being the face of CEO office comes with some…lets say, complications?” she snickers.
Akash laughs. “Petty jealousy?”
“Oh, I wouldn’t say that!” she exclaims, watching Shyam from the rim of her glass who was seething at her. “Just that some people won’t get that I can actually do my job, you know? That have the talent or the capability to do so.”
“Who said that?” Arnav asks, intrigued.
Khushi shrugs carelessly. “Just some idle talk sir, don’t worry about it. Unimportant people.”
Shyam’s anger is visible around the edges and Khushi exchanges a glance with Arnav. “Then again, they don’t have access to my personal life so its easy to make assumptions.”
Its easy bait and Akash, as expected, takes it. “Sounds juicy, do share.”
Khushi glances quickly at Shyam once and says happily. “I might be engaged! Its very complicated and I kind of said no. But now…I am leaning towards saying yes.”
Akash looks lost, Arnav has mirth in his eyes and Shyam.
Shyam looks shocked.

Love stories for tedious people #4

I have all these stories, these things that I have learned today that I am so excited to share and when I run from the library towards my room, towards the common area where people are collected in clumps, I realize that there is no one to share them with.
“You are reading again,” Payal comments watching her. She is munching on a packet of chips from the package they both received few days ago. “Don’t you get bored?”
Khushi smiles indulgently that borderlines on self deprecation. “I got nothing else to do,” she answers. She doesn’t say what she truly wants to say.
“You could join a club,” Lavanya chimes in then, arriving at the very moment, hand in hand with Arnav. Khushi shrugs, almost careless with her action.
“I am in enough of them already,” she says simply.
“Still sitting alone, huh?” Lavanya persists. “No friends around?”
Arnav looks at her shocked, Payal chuckles awkwardly.
Khushi, however, grins. “Hell is other people.”
Lavanya’s cocky expression dies and her mouth turns a flat line. Arnav spares her a look and smiles at her. Khushi barely glances at him.
“Well,” Lavanya says, adjusting her blazer. “I guess some people are destined to just live alone.” She smiles looking down on Khushi. Arnav looks devastated at that, on behalf of Khushi. And Khushi’s expression however turns thoughtful.
“You are probably right.” She agrees, surprising everyone. She turns and looks at Arnav directly. “Sometimes our own loved ones can become noose around our necks.”
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Arnav splutters. Lavanya and Payal look at him surprised.
Khushi doesn’t bother with a response but quietly packs her things and starts walking towards her dorm. Arnav seethes and follows leaving a confused Lavanya and Payal behind.
“That was out of line,” Arnav says harried.
Khushi stops and stares. “Of all the shit we have told each other, that’s what’s bugging you? Really?” she snorts. “Way to set your priorities in life,” she adds.
“You fucking know why,” he snarls.
“Don’t know, don’t care.” She replies carelessly. “And stop making a scene every time your girlfriend gets bored and tries to start some drama with me. Or better yet, you can tell her to leave me the fuck alone,” Khushi groans.
“Get in here,” he pushes her into a deserted classroom and collapses on the first chair he sees. There is exhaustion around his eyes and tension set in his shoulders. Khushi pauses, willing her anger to simmer.
“Please, just five fucking minutes. Stop. Lets just stop.” He begs, his head hung.
She exhales at that. She stops fidgeting. The wild thrumming beneath her skin calms a little – its still there but his tone has settled something in her.
There is a story between them that’s being constantly woven by the threads of fate, constantly knotted and woven into patches of clunk that required lot of untangling and patience. The fates loved this story. This was the story universes waited for. This was the story generations pined for. This was the story that came so often being unfulfilled that when it actually materializes, the universe sighs in relief – as if all the agitation of eons are smoothened.
“What is it?” she asks.
He shakes his head. “Its…nothing, I am sorry for overreacting.”
“What is it,” she asks again. When he looks up, Khushi is surprised to find his eyes red rimmed. As if – no, she shakes her head.
“How do you know you are alive?” he asks her. Khushi is speechless. “Is it the perception you have that of the world? Is the constant turbulent beating of my heart? Or is it the rational part of my brain that is trying to understand the world, trying to understand it. I feel Khushi. I feel. Does it make me alive? Is that enough to make me alive? How do I know?” Arnav suddenly eats up the ground between them and stands close to her. In a moment of sheer helplessness, he settles his forehead against hers. “I don’t know if am even alive anymore Khushi.” He confesses silently.
They stay that way for an extended moment. “What’s going on?” Khushi whispers. “Is it-”
“Mom tried to slit her wrists.” He closes in and settles his forehead on her shoulder. She gasps softly in his ear and catches his weight when his knees give out. “Its been a week and I don’t have the courage to call her and talk to her.”
Khushi stays quiet and shoulders his weight on herself. Arnav cries silently, softly, privately, hiding in her hair, in her shoulder, his sobs muffled by the school issued wool-polyester blended blazer in a dusty unused classroom. She draws him in and she stumbles when his knees knocks her over. She holds their combined weight with sheer will power and praying to all the deities she could name.
“Ever since I heard the news it feels like I have been dunked in ice cold water and I am frozen all over. I am numb, I am burning, I am awake, I am asleep, I am tired, I am restless – I am so much and nothing. And I don’t know Khushi, I don’t know if am alive or not. If my mother didn’t hesitate to do what she tried to do, I must not be existing right? Because she wouldn’t do that to herself if she had an actual son right? Would she?” he whispers hoarsely.
Khushi holds him tightly as if he would flutter away if she were to let go. She doesn’t know what to tell him, she doesn’t have the words, the experience, the maturity to console him in this state. She just holds him and lets him be.
Their story, their tragic, angst ridden teenage warble, is filled with disappointing parents, mutating relationships, nervous breakdowns, identity crisis and experiencing grief, trauma, abandonment, emotional abuse and loneliness to a point where their behavior mimicked to that of a matured adult. They looked older, talked like adults and sometimes made decisions like adults because life hadn’t been kind to them.
In that moment too, Khushi let their antagonism aside and lent her shoulder to Arnav for the evening. They weren’t antagonists. They weren’t even friends.
They were just two people, one falling apart and the other holding all the broken pieces of him together, to make something beautiful later.

Love stories for tedious people #3

He watches her talking to one of their teammates. Him and her have reached an stalemate, their previous conversation rendering her to be disarmingly polite towards him to the point where it felt mocking and taunting. He bore it for the words he had said. He smiled self-deprecatingly as he has stupidly reduced her to a tool of necessity than a friend. She is chuckling at something the other boy just said. Its so rare to see her laugh these days, the thinks. “Maybe because you and your friends haven’t been nicest to be around”, his mind supplies. He swallows, harrowed. There was a time when a day didn’t go by without them talking about their day; it wasn’t always profound, somethings just mundane things – food, clouds, all things that grow, flowers on weeds by the school compound, and once they literally watched paint dry.
Its hard”, he thinks leaning on the wall. “Watching someone so close slowly lose interest because they have come to realize that there is nothing but hurt and ache here, and slowly this loss in interest isn’t just for deep meaningful conversations alone but even the ‘I heard you were sick, how are you doing’ inquiries. She gets lost among the superficial, the mundane, the vapid, the boring, the loud, the chatter, all remain.
In that moment she throws her head back and laughs. There is no tension in her shoulders, her long hair is flying and the plaid hair band on her head – a tiara of her own making, grounds her. With his friends, no, their friends, her smiles are guarded, her laughs measured and her eyes weary.
With this boy, she is a teenager – a carefree girl talking about, well whatever it was, it must be pretty amusing.” He wonders. He looks at them again and something twists in his stomach. Hurt? Petty jealousy? Loneliness? He laughs at the thought. He is always among friends; either Lavanya or Aman are attached to his side when they are not in classes. “So why is this cyclone in my head about her new found friendships and unguarded laughter?
She suddenly turns and looks at him. He is too immersed in his thoughts to see what instigated that. Maybe that boy she is with told her that he was watching them like a fucking creeper. Their eyes meet. Her laughter dies. In his head, it plays in slow motion – she slowly tucks in her shoulders, the mirth in her eyes starts to dim and turns to the side of weary, the crinkle on her cheeks smoothed as her mouth falls flat. The deconstruction of laughter in his head is non-poetic and is of a bullshit narrative. He hates the fact that he has become the person to become a catalyst of such a thing in someone’s life, let alone a friend.
But, in her mind, she isn’t his friend. At least not anymore. Last week he all but implied she was a tool in his arsenal to get a leg up in competitions, in life. A friend wouldn’t do that. And she had started reacting as such; she had kept a polite distance and treated him like someone she had to interact with for the benefit of the society. Something churns in his stomach when she barely acknowledges his presence – she neither smiles nor frowns at him, just looks, turns back to the boy and starts talking as if he was a stranger.
That fucking hurts.
Its a clear dismissal if its meant as one. Knowing her, it definitely was. Being a glutton for punishment, he walks towards the duo. When he nears, her animated movements mute and she hesitates. She is a kinesthetic person whose graceful movements echo her words. In his presence they stumble and hiccup and stammer. He blames himself for it.
The entire philosophy is so convoluted, don’t ask, its terrible in its foundation and juvenile in its execution,” the boy is still talking. She is distracted. The boy is oblivious. “You’ve seen the movie as well?
Are we still talking about…” he begins, butting into the conversation he wasn’t invited to.
I gotta run, catch you guys later.” She turns and hurries away. Away from him. As if he is bringing in new strain of contagion to her.
The boy watches her go in nonchalance and shrugs. “See ya,” the boy yells in kind response.
She waves her hand without turning back. He hurries after her, meaning to catch her. And do…what?
“Wait up, please.” He begs. She keeps walking. He falls in step next to her. “Can we talk?
Sure,” she says, easily. He blinks in response. He didn’t expect that. He falters.
I wanted to apologize for last week,” he says, hesitantly. “I hurt you and that wasn’t my intention.
She watches him, studies him really. She nods, half a moment later. “Apology accepted.”
He brightens at that. “Really?” He asks, his chest loosening.
She shrugs. “It seemed like a big deal to you, so yeah. Really.
He stops walking. The ache in his chest is back two fold and he suddenly understand the gravity of the situation. “Khushi,” he prays.
That makes her stop walking. When she looks at him, its without a shred of emotion on her face. “Isn’t that what you want?” She asks.
Something inside him splinters then. “You’ve got to be fucking kidding me if you think this is something I want Khushi – pity because I was being an insolent brat. Be angry, be messy, throw a punch, hell continue the status quo. But please. Please for the sake of what little thing we have had between us, don’t throw me this bone because its easy.
Why not?” She asks, looking over his shoulder where his friends are waiting on him.
Because. Because-” he cannot say. He doesn’t want to. He cannot. Not without betraying multitude of friendships.
She smirks then. “I, Khushi, forgive and absolve you, Arnav, of all the sins and errors he has ever committed towards me.” He looks at her in sheer horror. She smiles serenely at him. “Are you happy now? You don’t have to worry about anything else to do with me. We are done.
Don’t say that. Please.” He chokes.
Your friends are waiting for you,” She says instead, and offers him a small smile. When she leaves, he doesn’t follow.
A part of him leaves with her. He doesn’t brings himself to accept it just yet.

Divergence 11/?

Its confusing, the arrangement of family and the festivities that surrounds him. There is point of contention, he supposes, that hibernates underneath the fabric of traditionalism and terracotta idols. Khushi is lost among throngs of mirror sown silk sari and traditional attires that play hide and seek with her silhouette. He watches her for a moment, smiling to himself at her obvious lost visage among other women.
“Hey there. What you doing?” He asks, grinning. Khushi rolls her eyes good natured.
“Anjali said she will be back in a jiffy and I am waiting. And thinking I am horribly under dressed for this…soiree.” She replies with a grin of her own.
“Arnav, you are here.” Anjali gives him an odd look, watching the two of them closely. “I am sorry I was late Khushi,” she adds kindly, ignoring Arnav’s look.
“That’s alright,” Khushi replies, halting. An uncomfortable silence befalls the three and awkwardly, Khushi clears her throat. “I think I will wait in the main room.” She excuses herself. As she turns around, she comes face to face with Shyam.
She grins slowly at the man standing in front of him. “Hello Shyam,” she says, happily making sure all the happiness in all the world is shining out of her face. Arnav internally groans at her performance. “How are you? How do you know Raizadas?” She asks, eyes wide, taking a step closer to Shyam.
“Khushi?” Anjali steps in before Shyam can recover from the shock of seeing Khushi with his wife. “You know Shyam?”
Before Khushi could answer, Shyam interjects. He misses the fact that Arnav is standing close by watching him closely. His eyes are honed in on the two women in front of him; his past and what he wants his future to be.
“You look amazing Anjali,” Shyam replies completely ignoring Khushi. Khushi, being Khushi, rail roads him in his own game.
“I didn’t expect to see you here. Did you come here to meet me?” She asks earnestly. Anjali turns to look at Khushi first and then and Shyam. Arnav suppresses the need to giggle. He wants to wait and see what happens next. There could be a possible explosion or an implosion, either way this was necessary to make Shyam move to their schedule.
“Do you know Shyam?” Anjali asks, looking between Khushi and Shyam, eyes wide.
Shyam recovers quickly. “I represented her uncle in an old court case. Didn’t even take money from them since they couldn’t afford it back then.” He smiles smarmy. Khushi tilts her head, in recognizance. She tries to move closer to him further but Shyam has been playing this game for far longer. He anticipates her movement and quickly moves next to Anjali and circles her waist with his right arm. He smirks at Khushi as if to say – your move.
She turns her head to Arnav instead. “Shyam here helped our family a lot. He has become like…our family too. We still meet quite often and everyone in our family loves him,” she gushes. She is laying it thick and it sounds stupid to her ears but Anjali’s contrite expression and Shyam’s constipated one makes her believe that has sown the seeds of doubt. Good. She sighs in relief when she senses Arnav coming up next to her and stand close, the smell of his cologne decayed over the day, and the crispness of his suit managing to maintain its strength. She allows him to invade her personal space and swallows. She looks up to him, “I am so glad,” she tells Arnav.

Anjali smiles but Arnav sees the discomfort behind it. He wants to pursue this further but doesn’t want Anjali to go nuclear when there are too many people around and Khushi doesn’t have any defense on her.
“That’s nice,” he smiles at Khushi, turning full charm, knowing fully well it looks on the outside. Its private, its absolutely beautiful and as per Khushi, it makes him look like a human being and not a stoic robot. In his periphery he sees Shyam carefully watching them. He hopes he is radiating a budding crush slash romance the way he is looking at Khushi and seeing Khushi, he knows she has cottoned on. She is looking at him coyly beneath her eyelashes, quirked lips with barely there smile and tilts her chin away from him. She is brilliant, his mind supplies.
“It is, isn’t it?” She gushes. “Its like I am being blessed from every direction these days,” she says inducing happiness into her voice. It sounds fake to his ears but he nods sagely. “You coming into my life is nothing short of a blessing sir,” she says. Arnav sees her smile and sees it for what it is. Anjali is now being utterly charmed by Khushi and Shyam is silently seething. Arnav loves every second of it.
“Come on Shyam,” Arnav hears Anjali say. Arnav and Khushi don’t take eyes of each other, staring at each other as if all the answers of universe are being answered. There is a definite shift of air between them but knowing them, Arnav is positive they aren’t going to touch it with a three hundred feet pole. For all the ways they are grown and adult like, they act like middle schoolers while dealing with their own feelings.
“I wanted to-” Shyam starts but is pulled by Anjali.
“Lets leave them alone for now,” she says.
Arnav is looking down, utterly charmed by this Khushi who is playing mind games with a dick. Khushi is looking up to him as if he is the answer to life. “Shyam is creepily staring at us,” Arnav maintains the smile that’s pulling his cheeks but he soldiers on. He hopes he doesn’t look smarmy.
She grins in response, still looking up. “They can’t see me. I can totally make fun of you now,” she trills knowing that her back is facing Shyam and Anjali. He can’t even glare at Khushi. “Hi,” she says biting her lip, trying to stop laughing. “How are ya?” She says, cheekily.
“Fuck you,” he says pleasantly. Her shoulder shakes in silent laughter. “Shyam’s face says he is planning murder in his mind. So that’s progress. Anjali is stuck between being happy for me and is looking between Shyam and us. She knows something is off.”
“I miss Anjali,” Khushi says softly.
“I miss Shyam,” Arnav adds quietly.
“Don’t remind me,” she shakes her head. “Our Shyam is the sweetest and softest man on the planet who tells lame dad jokes from the 90s, and making us smile with a story. He adores Anjali and I have never seen him snap at anyone let alone Anjali. And then there is this Shyam. Same face…”
“Its the eyes,” Arnav says, leaning down and whispering in her ears for theatrics. She steps back at the sudden invasion of her personal space and looks up at him in surprise. He chuckles apologetically. “He is watching. Just go with me okay? If you think I am stepping my bounds, you can move away.” At Khushi’s tiny nod, Arnav grabs her forearm and drags her towards the other end of the living room where there is a small alcove, a space made between two book shelves; space that’s hidden from many people but still visible to at least half of the room. Khushi is pliant and allows herself to be dragged. He has never done this before and would never do it but this is theatrics, he tells himself again and again. He squashes the more primal part of him that wants similar action to be performed under different circumstances.
“Sorry,” he says immediately once they come to stop. She miscalculates her momentum and ends up crashing into Arnav. Arnav brings his arm around her waist and holds her close, hugging. Khushi rests her hands on his chest, her eyes wide and searching his. “Sorry,” he says again. She just watches him, a blush slowly creeping apple of her cheeks, her eyes shining with secrets.
He is pretty sure there would be background music blaring had this been a damn movie or a television drama but this is reality so they are surrounded by cacophony of festivities around them. For a moment he forgets the purpose for putting up this act, just enjoys the feel of Khushi in his arms. He notes belatedly that Khushi isn’t letting go of him either. He relaxes his hold on her waist and that snaps Khushi out of her trance.
“Yeah, me too. Sorry,” she says, smoothing her hand on his chest, leaving traces of fire. He swallows loudly. Khushi smiles inwardly at the motion.
“They are gone,” he says hoarsely. She tries to extract herself but is surprised when Arnav tightens his hold. Arnav looks at her wide eyed, betrayed by his own hands.
“Arnav?” She asks. Arnav leans forward and settles his forehead on her shoulder.
“A moment please,” he begs.
His prayer is answered when she leans back in and breaths him in. “Always.” She whispers in his ears.
He stays in her embrace for a second longer than he intended to and then steps back. He completely steps away, avoids looking at her and waves at Akash who is running towards the entrance.
“I will catch you later,” he says over his shoulder and bolts. Coward, he calls himself. His voice is shaky and he hopes Khushi doesn’t notice it.
“Okay.” Khushi says, her voice deep and hoarse.
What the hell was he doing? He wonders.

Divergence 10/?

There were people in his living room – a fact he hadn’t accounted for when he arrived home earlier than other days. Khushi stammers a little, the crowd of women puttering in the vast living space in front of them hindered her steps and she unconsciously took a step towards him, making their shoulders touch.
“What’s happening,” he asks room at large, voice a little above hush whisper.
“I told you we are having a function Arnav,” comes the reply from this other side, Anjali seemingly appeared out of thin air and materializing right next to him. She is radiating in a pastel sari and demure jewelry, her movement careful and floating. “And who might this be?” she asks cocking her chin towards his assistant.
“This is Khushi,” Arnav says, hastily gathering his wits and stepping back, allowing the two women face each other fully.
Arnav watches Anjali smile politely at Khushi and he hates that he cannot fully read her. He doesn’t know this Anjali and he doesn’t have the understanding he has with his own sister. The polite smile is the same but his Anjali is far more reserved in outward display of emotions but puts up a good conversation. But here Anjali is smiling wanly and is being awfully quiet. “She is my executive assistant. She has replaced Aman. If you need to get to me and you aren’t able to, Khushi is the person you call,” he offers knowing the storm that’s brewing. He doesn’t know why he offers up Khushi so openly and seeing Khushi’s surprised expression he wonders if he has crossed some sort of line but its too late to take it back. “I thought I will introduce her to the family, just in case.” He adds.
Anjali’s smile broadens in a way he didn’t think possible. “Its great to meet you Khushi, welcome to our home,” she snatches the younger woman’s hand and pulls her in. They chat amicably among themselves about festivities, tediousness of last minute arrangements and long last relatives. Anjali seem to be taken with Khushi and Khushi turns back and gives Arnav a solemn look.
“Are you okay bro?” Arnav turns around and sees Akash standing a few feet away from him, smiling. It was unnerving to see him so close and not know anything about him. Since there was nothing about him that was known, Arnav wonders if this is a good thing or a bad thing. There was always a way about Akash that irked him, a certain degree of apathy and distance that kept him at a distance and made him closer to the only other male in the group, Aman, while Akash was chill with Payal exclusively. It was a dynamic they were all clear with. Akash hands him a glass of chilled juice and motions him to drink. Arnav had noted early that the house had lacked alcohol. Anjali had given him a wild look followed by a look of shameful disappointment when he asked if he could get some nightcap. Akash had smirked and had said nothing while Anjali continued to rant about forbidding alcohol in this house.
“Thanks man,” Arnav grins at his cousin and takes the offered drink. Instead of beating around the bush he dives in. “How come I don’t see you at office?”
Akash stills. He stares at Arnav for a second longer than necessary and smiles privately. “You think I am not yet ready for working at the corporate just yet. I am at our manufacturing plant with dad, remember?” he says slowly as if explaining to a toddler.
“But its not what you want.” Arnav says, reading the subtext.
Akash smiles again, self deprecated. “We don’t always get what we want.” He says moodily. “That’s also something you said.”
“What is that you wanted to do?” Arnav asks, genuinely wanting to know.
Akash waits for multiple heartbeats to get his thoughts in order first. “Sales.” He stops and looks away. “I think we have great potential to be leading exporters in what we are currently producing and expand more on that as well. But…”
“I have been freezing you out and been sort of a dick about it?” Arnav finishes for him. At the back of his mind he wonders what is it that ASR was thinking. He is pretty sure ASR must have had some reason for denying his cousin a position in the company. Arnav decides to investigate a little further before making an offer. “How about you bring in your business plan whenever you are ready and I will promise you I will hear you without a bias.” He offers a smile. “And maybe a little bias because you are my cousin,” he chuckles for good measure. Akash lets out a bark of laughter.
“There is something different about you. But thank you.” Akash gushes.
“What do you mean different?” Arnav asks, hoping there is a sincerity seeping on his face.
“You don’t look that tensed up anymore for starters,” Akash replies, laughing. He takes a sip from his glass and allows his eyes to wander around. “Its just nice, you are more…engaging I suppose?” he asks, more or less. “I am not saying its weird or anything,” he hastily adds looking at Arnav’s irked expression. “You were…inaccessible at best and aloof at worst,” he explains further. Arnav feels small, like being scolded by high school head master. “I wasn’t…well, none of us bar Anjali perhaps could get through you. So…past few days is a bit of different…you, I guess?”
Arnav hummed in response not knowing how to answer him. Akash continues as if a channel is opened. “Its nice, seeing you…free,” he says haltingly.
“Free?” Arnav parrots.
Akash grins, all teeth. “You are the monolith of our family bro, we circle around you, put our trust in you. My mother gave you all her jewels using which you paid off loans and revitalized our failing company. My mother, with all the shady sixties mean girl dialog sprouting woman, put all her trust in you and you delivered.” He shrugs. “And bro, you never failed from then on. Ergo, monolith.”
Arnav understands ASR a bit better then. The family dynamics make sense as well. “And you think she doesn’t trust you as much?” Arnav asks, knowing the answer.
Akash smiles, looking away but doesn’t reply.
“She likes Shyam though,” Arnav takes a chance. He knows he is being a medium sized dick by deviating the conversation to elsewhere but Anjali is running out of time. “Doesn’t she?”
“Mom has a complicated relationship with Shyam. Shyam stepped up when Anjali’s wedding kind of stopped, you know?” Akash said nodding. Arnav nodded along absolutely not knowing this. “Shyam was…problematic before.”
“What?” Arnav asks, leaning away. “How do you…?”
“I know I was young and so were you. But we saw right?” At Arnav’s nod, Akash continues. “When Anjali’s fiance said no to marriage at the alter, Shyam walked up to grandma and said he will marry her. Everyone knew Shyam, at least grandma did and mom did, dad did. Or so we think.”
“And…we don’t?” Arnav hesitates.
“You were a little isolated given how you were away during your childhood. Shyam used to come to our farmhouse a lot, often so he was known to the family well. Dad and uncle – your father, thought he was a hard worker and funded his law school education. He wanted to open his private practice and not work in corporate and they were okay with that too.”
“That seems okay?” Arnav says.
Akash doesn’t say anything. “What is it Akash?” Arnav asks gently knowing that some extra prodding is necessary to get to bottom of his doubt. “I am asking you because Anjali is my sister and she is my most highest priority now. If you think there is something, anything at all, please don’t hesitate.” He adds.
“Its nothing bro,” Akash shakes his head. “Shyam is nice and he is good with all of us. But all these years, he has isolated his work friends to the point where we don’t even know where he works anymore. I tried asking him multiple times and never get straight answer. He goes out of town on his cases…its worrying.”
Arnav is silent. He wonders if he wants to bring in Akash into Shyam situation. Maybe it would help him but, he still doesn’t know where everyone stands. He decides to talk to Khushi first.
“Let’s talk later tonight,” Arnav says enigmatically and pats Akash on his back. Akash smiles brilliantly back.

Love stories for tedious people – #2

Its a small installment that I had initially thought of writing for flowers but didn’t write. The messed up angst filled teenage years. I was in mood to write some angst so here we are. Enjoy.

Its a bit of a twisted game, I suppose”, he says, one winter afternoon when its particularly warm for them to shed their winter outer clothing. The boarding school is nestled among mountains, sheltered from the eyes of the outside world, parents would say. Children, children would snicker and giggle and say that mountains made the best places to hide. Hide what? Someone would ask.
Expectations, purpose, existence, some would cry hoarsely. Some would look away. Some would sigh. Some would quietly melt into shadows the mountain made, without as much an acknowledgment to the question.
What are you waiting for?” Khushi asks, tired of Arnav’s and Lavanya’s weird mind games they played with one another and frustrated that Arnav wanted to elaborate with her.
Provocation,” he says. “Envy,” he adds.
Khushi looks at him blankly. “I see.” She says. She doesn’t see jack shit. Whatever. Its all bullshit anyway.
There are layers to our togetherness and relationships, glued and sown by tangible threads of our souls, we don’t know which one of our souls are used to patch what part of our relationship and that makes it all the more devastating when solstice strikes, the tug and pull pains us both equally.” His eyes are misty, nostalgic about a past that hasn’t happened yet, future that seems to be final in his eyes.
Is that right?” She asks, sounding and feeling tired. She is tired of this shit.
Lavanya thinks that you and I share some kind of chemistry and-” he hesitates.
And what?” She asks sharply, wanting to smite him where he stands. She hates him sometimes, for his obliviousness.
Just, saying.” He adds, jaded with their age old friendship. “She merely wonders what is that makes us work so well and I guess everyone wants to know now as well.
Khushi swallows heavily. She doesn’t want to talk about it anymore. But her stupid brain doesn’t let go. Her mouth gets along with the program. “What did they say? Others?” she persists.
We all went for a walk right? Yesterday? I think it was Aman who asked why is that we, as in you and I, always team up for a lot of activities.” He says, smiling, kindly. She knows he believes he is being kind. But he doesn’t realize he is reminding her about the purposeful alienation of her by all of her friends on a pleasant afternoon, let her stay alone in her room while they all strolled outside.
What did you say?” she asks, wishing all of this would stop and she could go back to her room and sleep for next twenty years.
I told them its because we make the best team.” He says easily. “Better chance of winning with someone like you.
It stings in the best way, she thinks. It gives her clarity. “I see.
His charm, his smile, his easy movements – all still at her chilly response.
We are also friends Khushi,” he amends, tacks on quickly as if remembering. “We have known each other for such a long time, we have grown up together. Almost familial if you ask me. Its easy being with you, having known you. I like being with you, working on these things with you.
Ah. I see.” She says, a part of her relaxes but it stings still.
Its almost as if Arnav knows he has crossed an invisible line, made a grave error, hurt Khushi unknowingly and done something irreparable. “Say something else, please.” He says softly.
Khushi looks at him and holds his eyes. Arnav’s smile wilts at her empty stare. “I got nothing, man” she says simply and starts packing her stuff. She misses panic crossing Arnav’s face.
It was nothing big Khushi, they were just talking,” he tries.
I see,” she says.
Arnav blanches. “Stop saying that! Say something you actually mean for fucks sake.
She stops and looks up. “Why? Why do you care? I don’t.” He is taken aback. “You are a great teammate. As a friend, its all muddled in your relationship with Lavanya.” She starts packing her bag again, Arnav stands, shaking. “Of our existence, what do you think it is that wills us to take one step after the other, to move, to pursue, to will? Is it purpose? Is it hope?” she looks up again and shakes her head, smiling self-deprecatingly. “I think its plain old disappointment in all things human. Its utterly and universally disappointing when faith is placed on basic human decency and all you see is, a big pile of dogshit.
Khushi-” Arnav says, horrified, realizing how unknowingly he and his friends had managed to hurt her. “That wasn’t – we weren’t-” he stammers. “It came out wrong.”
She smiles then. “I see.” She says and walks out.
He watches her go, lost in thoughts, disappointed in himself.

Convergence 5.1/?

“How much do you remember?” Is the first thing Arnav says the moment he lays his eyes on Anjali and Shyam. They, along with Khushi are taken aback with his brutish bluntness but Anjali’s features smooths over first as if her memories serve a blueprint to handle Arnav’s behavior, but Shyam continues to scowl.
“Enough. Not much but some,” Anjali says shrugging. “We were right behind you that night,” she continues without meandering about the subject. Arnav and Khushi look at each other and back at Anjali who is looking at the two curiously. “I guess we stuck with our escape partners.”
“Looks like it,” Arnav says snidely. “We ran but you weren’t behind us,” he insists. He doesn’t know he feels it very important for this piece of information to be clarified. Khushi’s eyes shine and she looks away. Shyam sighs unnecessarily. Anjali peers at her old classmate.
“Our safety wasn’t your responsibility. You understand that right?” Anjali asks, her no-nonsense tone softening to reduce the blow of her words. “Shyam and I were there, we didn’t stick to the plan – at least not the exact plan.”
“What are you talking about?” Khushi interjected.
Shyam sighs in obvious frustration. “I was angry and the fire, well, I was a little consumed by it.”
“A little?” Anjali snarls. “We were almost consumed by it because of your petty revenge fantasy.” She screams. Arnav is positively happy in that moment that they are meeting in his apartment and not at the police station. “You were obsessing over it because-”
“Anjali-” Shyam hisses, eyes wide.
“Oh, shut up.” Anjali throws her hands up. “It’s just Arnav and Khushi. Its not like they don’t know.”
Shyam looks spooked and the other two look at Anjali, confused.
“Well, we have all seen the other side of the shadows, haven’t we?” She asks, easily, formulating what’s been on their mind all their lives. “Shyam’s visits were milder and far more educative in the process.”
“Educative how?” Khushi asks, curious.
“For us it was an expose on raw violence right? We could tap into that primordial energy, the thread of fate that runs between all, the paths of truths and lies and realities and all we have to do is follow that…violence. Somehow when Shyam…goes under, its calmer to him.” Anjali explains. Shyam nods in agreement.
“What do you mean by calmer?” Its Arnav who is curious this time. He is peering at Anjali.
Shyam clears his throat and rolls his eyes. “Its hard to explain because our experiences are different and we rarely discussed how things were between us – back then. And when I got out I had only Anjali’s experience to compare to in detail. It was hard to cope then. But even then, I had known that whatever was going on with the others wasn’t normal. It wasn’t right. Just by comparing our experiences and seeing things that I had seen and experienced-”
“What experiences?” Khushi whispers. An ache, long ago forgotten blooms in her chest, slowly progressing across her sternum. Its a wound that was unfortunate in its position, a measure of time that had left its mark on her skin and bones. Every time she came back from across the other side, she hurt a little more, her nightmares got a little worse and the world became a shittier place than before – the one that made less sense and infinitely cruel.
“When Anjali said how we could see certain things, like bad things that had happened to good people, I could see some good things as well. I was shown things…across time. Old things, historic things, things that hadn’t happened yet but had a high probability of passing. I was tapped into that complex system where these probabilities were exhibited and I was given full access to view them.”
Khushi and Arnav looked at each other. “We saw only darkness.” She says softly.
“So did I,” Anjali adds in.
“I saw…stuff.” Shyam says. “That’s why we started this business of helping people. It brings them peace.”
“His view on the world was different from that of ours that’s why he wanted to destroy all the things that were there in our school. Our teachers got a wind of what he had come to know and there was only so much he could do to punish him. No amount of punishment could make him unlearn what he had come to know. He festered in that anger and when the time was apt, he sprung into action. Hell, we all knew about the mainframes. It wasn’t that out of the ordinary to torch the damn thing.” Anjali defended their old friend.
“But once I got out I thought more about it and I was sure that I didn’t get them all.” Shyam says hesitantly. “What we thought was the mainframe room was just the control room. The actual server room was several stories below the basement.”
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” Arnav says exasperated.
Anjali shakes her head. “We kept in loop. You two fell off the radar but we didn’t. The fire got reported by local authorities next day. There was a team that came from nowhere in the night and cleaned it all out. We know the servers weren’t in the basement because when we went back to the site several months later, we found the sever sites.” Anjali said harshly.
“That kind of tracks with the way they operated as well, unfortunately,” Arnav shrugs. “They performed these operations out in open for decades and never get caught. They wouldn’t make their mainframes so easily accessible and visible to a bunch of kids, come on.”
“There you have it,” Shyam says, insolent as always. “I don’t know what happened to the other two though. Do you?” he asks Arnav and Khushi.
They both shake their head. “It is possible that they didn’t make it,” Anjali says quietly. “Because by the time we left they were still there and they weren’t making any progress.”
“What the fuck were they doing?” Khushi asks, surprised.
“They were watching everyone else burn,” Shyam says, lighting a cigarette and watching the lighter give a dull flame. “They just stood outside the door and watched them all scream and burn on the other side.” He says softly.

Divergence 9/?

“Why are you calling me at work, Anjali?” Arnav asks, worrying. His heart beats a little bit faster.
“Oh, its nothing serious,” Anjali says, laughing quietly. “Calm down little brother,” she adds. “I just wanted to remind you to come home a early today. You remember right? We have that function?”
“Is there something on my calendar for today?” He asks Khushi who is sitting on the chair opposite. “Apparently its a light day?” He asks scratching his jaw.
“There is a chunk of evening marked personal and home.” Khushi replies, thumbing through iPad. “Problem?”
Arnav shakes his head. Maybe this was a good time to introduce Khushi to his family and see Shyam’s reaction first hand to Khushi’s presence. Perhaps also see how Shyam behaves in his presence with Anjali. All in all it was time to socially experiment than theorizing.
“Sure Anjali. I will come home early.” He says inducing brightness in his voice. The resounding cheerful response made him deflate visibly and audibly wince. Khushi snorts at his wince and shakes her head. “There is some function at home and you are coming as well.” Arnav says in what he assumes to be a cheerful voice.
Khushi looks at him blankly. “That’s a bad idea.” She shakes her head. “You don’t even know what’s what just yet and taking me there to a private function will disturb the dynamics of the family. You may not be able to walk away from that Arnav.” She scolds him.
“Shyam will be there.” He says, leaning back. “You up for it?” he asks, just in case.
Khushi looks away momentarily, in thought. She smiles as she turns back. “Should be fun.” She picks up her phone and sends out a text. “I’ve notified Payal I will be home late. It will be good to gauge his reaction when he sees me and to understand his relationship with Anjali.”
“Here, look at ASR talking Akash,” he flips the phone towards Khushi. “Their interaction all seem so…distant.”
Khushi goes through the chat log quickly. “I can see brotherly love pouring in every byte.” She says sardonically. Arnav grins in response.
“ASR seems like a quiet dude. Doesn’t talk a lot, keeps to himself and probably is a little lonely.” Arnav responds in kind. “There don’t seem to be many a friends either, you know? Most messages and calls all seem professional in nature. Besides Lavanya that is.”
Khushi looks up from the phone and smiles sadly. “That sounds a lot lonely.” She slides the phone back to him. She plucks the old phone from her bag and hands it to him. “KKG is a little similar. Payal and her exchange some texts every now and then and phone calls are all between the family. It seems like her life is constructed and architected to operated within the confinements of her family and she seems to prefer it that way.”
“They both seem to prefer it that way, isn’t it?” Arnav notes wistfully. “They are aged a decade apart and so different in their background but have such similar fundamental principle.”
“But the way they express is so different,” Khushi comments. “Khushi’s way of dressing is individualistic at its best. Its the reason why fashion industry exist – expressionism at its finest. She is confident in her expression, and designs her individualism to define her personality and show it to the world with the confidence that, frankly, very few people possess.”
“But?” Arnav asks, knowing the tone already.
She shakes her head, the expression almost sad. “There is some martyr complex going on. I am not very sure but it seems like it.”
Arnav says nothing but lets her words linger. “ASR blends in. He has achieved so much in life but something is off about it. There is some drama I am missing, a haunted look that everyone gets when they look at me, the careful way people seem to move around me as if I am a volcano.” He says.
“Family tragedy?” Khushi asks, cocking her jaw to the side? “Don’t we all have them?”
“His affliction to them is probably more blatant and more…scarring perhaps.” He says delicately. Khushi bows her head and says nothing further.
A few minutes later Arnav clears his throat. “ASR did feel something for KKG.”
“So you say,” Khushi smiles softly. “KKG is far more private than I can give her credit for.”
“You don’t know?” Arnav asks, a little disappointed.
“Its perhaps too soon to tell.” She says instead. “For someone who is so chatty about a lot of things, KKG is incredibly tight lipped about personal stuff. She talks a lot without talking about a lot of things. She is private about her thoughts even from Payal who is her closest and best friend.”
“Maybe they aren’t very close after all?” Arnav ventures.
“I am not sure.” Khushi says. “Its just…tragic.”
“Excuse me,” Aman walks in before Arnav can say anything in response. “We have a meeting.”
“I am taking lunch,” Khushi says, nodding at Arnav and excuses herself. Aman and Khushi don’t get along very well just yet. But Khushi knows that its important that she has to know Aman well to do her job better simply because Aman seems like a decent enough guy and he was her predecessor and has a lot of knowledge about ASR. But she couldn’t be sure. “I will be back in an hour,” she adds for good measure so that Arnav knows and Aman sort of knows as well.
“She is running a personal errand for me on the side,” Arnav chuckles. “Relax, she is doing well.” He adds for good measure and hopes his tone doesn’t sound too patronizing.
Aman smiles a little. “Khushi isn’t experienced in handling every activities of a CEO. If she has any questions she can come to me. I have told her this.”
“But she hasn’t,” Arnav observes, Aman hesitance.
Aman nods. “I am worried because she comes with zero experience. She has been on this job for just about few weeks and has no internship or even connections to back it up. She is new to city, incomplete education…I am right to be worried.” Aman defends his observation.
Arnav doesn’t say anything. He waits till Aman picks up the thread he is on and continues. “Its not that I want her to fail-”
“You seem to think that she is going to anyway,” Arnav says quietly. “And since she isn’t coming running to you, you seem to think I have been doing a lot of things on my own and covering for her. So you organized this meeting under that guise.” Arnav grins. “Here, take a look.” Arnav opens his notes on the tablet and slides across.
“What is it?” Aman asks thumbing through it.
“Those are her notes on my meetings for the last one year.” Arnav says.
“This is…thorough.” Aman admits quietly.
“This was done along with everything else that’s on her task list.” Arnav smiles. “Khushi is doing alright. I am very sure she will come to you when she finds it necessary,” he says pleasantly. “Let things be.”
Aman shifts in his seat. It hits him then that Aman is actually worried about him and it has nothing to do with Khushi. Khushi is a new entry into his life and from Aman’s perspective, this is a bizarre turn of events. He sighs internally.
“I will be fine too Aman,” Arnav says gently. “I can always count on you if it comes to it, right?” He asks.
Aman brightens considerably. “Of course sir. ”
Arnav decides to pay attention to Aman a little bit more to discern if this is a genuine concern or petty jealousy for hiring a younger woman in his place.

Divergence 8/?

“I am surprised to see your personal assistant here, ASR.” Durga Prasad notes moodily. “Its very old fashioned of you.”
“You are the CFO?” Arnav asks, disappointment evident in his voice. He knows this man from his world. He works for Raizada industries and worked alongside Khushi. The man had no imagination, lacked the appeal that Arnav was looking for. Durga Prasad was an excellent middle manager, following the trend and to a great extent – orders given by someone, well like, Khushi. He should have listened to Khushi and Googled this shit before. One simple search, he would have known who the CFO is.
Durga Prasad spares him a look. “What is this meeting about?”
Arnav hesitates only for a heartbeat. “Whatever made me hire you as the CFO?” he asks, in a well mannered hopefully gentle way that he totally doesn’t possess but can incredibly fake. He hears Khushi snort behind him.
“Your father saw my talent and hired me,” the older man says prideful of his accomplishment. Arnav cares little to nothing for nepotism but wonders the kind of inheritance model that worked for generations of employers. What his father saw, Arnav can never know.
“The company has been doing quite well but it has nothing to do with you now, does it?” Arnav begins, hoping and praying he keeps up with the charade of ASR. “The market has been performing well for over half a decade and without you doing much, we manage to deliver what we have planned and some. But I am unhappy.” He finds it dramatic.
Durga Prasad stills, cocks his head in question. “You are?” there is no precipitation of lying anger, but mere curiosity. “You said you were very happy with the way things were going during last management meeting.” He gently reminds Arnav.
“That’s because we were in a meeting.” Arnav easily lies.
Durga Prasad leans back in his chair and crosses his elbows on the armrest of the chair. The look is calculating that of a bond villain, Arnav thinks. “It was one on one meeting.”
Arnav gives up the pretense of being nice and cool and dives right into the heat. “Whatever,” he says, accepting and embracing his asshole self. He likes that aspect of himself. “Give me five, no three good reasons why I should continue to take advice from you – a person who hasn’t done anything spectacular in last four years except for going with the flow.”
Durga Prasad looks contrite and the bustling anger beneath his skin is evident the way he clenches his jaw. Arnav doesn’t stop there. “How about this though?” He begins, surreptitiously coming up with an idea, a totally dumb and brilliant idea at the same time. “I don’t want to fire you or make you go away. You are a good guy. But there are things I want to change. I will make the plans. You will make them happen.”
“That’s not-”
“This isn’t a negotiation meeting Durga,” Arnav stops the pretenses completely. “This is more of a for your information meeting. When I want to push my agenda, I will ask for it and your department will make sure its done.”
“And what if they can’t?”
“We will see when that happens. However I am confident your department will be able to execute it. Of course we will have plenty of discussions around it, but am sure, we can iron out those details when the time comes.” Arnav mutinously holds his ground and stares the man down.
“Whatever.” Durga Prasad shrugs and leans back in and begins his breakfast. Arnav is taken aback at the nonchalance and the laid back answer. He wants to face palm so bad but stops himself. He waits.
“That’s it?” Arnav asks when the brief interlude of silence is filled only with mastication sounds.
Durga Prasad swallows noisily as if to annoy Arnav even further. “You are a control freak who thinks he can run every facet of the company. Go ahead and do it and fail man. I don’t care.” He says matter of fact. “Close enough?” He grins.
Arnav and Khushi exchange glance. “Enjoy your breakfast,” Arnav replies with his own answering grin. “We will be over there if you have any further questions. Going forward direct all your questions to Khushi, my new executive assistant. You send across all minutes of your meetings to her, just keep her in loop okay?”
Durga Prasad gives him a thumbs up and doesn’t bother to respond with a verbal answer. Arnav doesn’t take it personally.
“Breakfast?” Khushi asks, grinning as they walk away from the CFO table. “Your treat.” She says blandly.
Arnav shakes his head, laughing. “What do you think?”
“He will do as you ask because he likes the position too much and knows that he cannot find a position like CFO ever in his life. He perhaps was good once in his life, he probably was good for a small scaled company that Raizada industries once was but after its growth, he is not suitable for the job anymore.” Khushi replies. “This will take a bit of time.”
Arnav finds them a table far, far away from Durga Prasad and motions the waiter. Once they have given out their orders he sighs and rubs his forehead.
“I know what I said about Anjali but I am incredibly worried.” He snaps his laptop shut and watches Khushi’s response.
“I will hire Venkat and see what he comes up with. I don’t know what’s Shyam’s game plan with KKG is just yet. I will talk to uncle once.” Khushi says. “We are missing something though,” she says, rubbing her eyes. “This is a very grand plan to go about right?”
“What do you mean?” Arnav asks.
“Think about it. Is this a grand plan to just marry KKG – like he saw her somewhere and he made this ploy of becoming her neighbor and falling in love with her, or was it a genuine meet-cute he had with KKG as he happened to be her neighbor and that there is actual problems in his marriage.”
“You think this goes far back? Like something sinister bad?” Arnav asks, wondering where is Khushi these conclusions from.
Khushi shakes her head. “Its a bad feeling Arnav. Let me talk to Payal tonight. I will get Venkat on board as well. He will find everything that’s possible about Shyam. Also, I think you have to talk to your family as well.”
“I don’t know where to start with my family,” Arnav admits.
“Try Akash,” she quips. “Find out what he does and see his perspective. Casually slip things to him and get things out of him.”
Arnav raises and eyebrow at that. “That sounds dirty.”
She grins. “But that’s a good idea.” He nods ruefully.