|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
Not having been left with a choice, Shikha allowed Ram into her apartment with great reluctance. She moved away from him, not wanting him to smell the alcohol on her breath. But she had forgotten to consider Ram’s intelligence and observation skills. He was not the second-in-command of such a big software company for nothing.
Ram caught on immediately that Shikha had been imbibing. He did not comment on it as he sat down on the single sofa in the room on realizing that he would have to wait forever for an invitation from the woman in front of him. She was beautiful, he could see that. But her looks were shadowed by her terrible habits. There was hardly a day that he had seen her sober and she smoked a couple of packets of cigarettes every day. Over and above all this, she constantly bitched about someone or another.
Then why was Ram attracted to her? He did not understand it but it was definitely there. He could empathise with her and her insecurities were very obvious to him.
“Have you had breakfast?” asked Ram, noticing the empty whisky glass on the table in front of him.
“Mommy Mommy, why don’t you mind your own business Mommy?” mocked Shikha, a sneer on her face.
Ram was unfazed and he just refused to budge. “I’m planning to have lunch at Nysha Bar & Grill.” He pretended to look at his watch, giving her a surreptitious look, trying to gauge her moves. “I have a table booked for 2 pm and you’re welcome to join me.”
Shikha’s stomach growled much to her annoyance. But then, she had not eaten much in the past 24 hours. She had, in fact, been suffering from heart burn thinking of Ranveer and Chanda together.
Ram got up, “That settles it. You’re hungry and so am I. Let’s go.”
Shikha was not going to give in so easily, especially as she did not even like Ram. He had some guts, just coming in and trying to run her life. She glared daggers at him and said, “You must go on, Ram. I have to do some cleaning up as it’s the weekend.” She pointed to the door as she said this.
Ram walked towards her, much to Shikha’s irritation. “Come on Shikha, you still have tomorrow off. You can do your cleaning up then. Let’s just have some lunch and I’ll bring you back home straightaway.”
“Can’t you get it into your thick head that I don’t want to go with you?” said Shikha rudely. Anger and frustration vied with each other as she so wanted to be a part of Ranveer’s life and that was just not happening. And over and above that, this old man, Ranveer’s right hand, wanted to go out with her. Why should she settle for second best?
In the end, the calm and quiet Ram had his own way. He did not give Shikha a choice but to go with him. Coming to the conclusion that she would probably be able to get rid of him only if she had lunch with him Shikha decided to accept his invitation.
Shikha was on her worst behaviour and drank her way through lunch. She did not care what Ram thought of her. She was not out to impress him and it was not her fault that they were having lunch together. ‘That should teach him a lesson to force her to have lunch with him,’ thought Shikha as her empty glass rolled across the table and fell down with a crash. Ram was stoic through the whole scene and calmly called a cleaner over to clear up the mess.
And after that, he had the unmitigated gall to go ahead and order a huge lunch. And did he consult her? Of course not! But she was not surprised at his behaviour. She knew that he had no manners, he had no… Shikha’s mind buzzed as her stomach protested against the abuse. She did her best to resist the food but got too tempted and had her share. Ram watched on with a twinkle in his intelligent eyes, quite confident that Shikha’s bark was worse than her bite.
Ram did not realize that just because he found Shikha attractive did not make her a nice person.
MONDAY MORNING SAW SHIKHA IN HER CABIN QUITE EARLY. She waited eagerly to meet Ranveer. She was sure she would be able to know the way the wind blew on meeting him.
She was shaken when she saw the Ranveer who walked into his office. He was smiling and that in itself was a rarity. Walking into his cabin to greet him, Shikha was amazed to hear him whistling a tune. Her face darkened as she guessed the reason for his cheerful mood. Doing her best to wipe out the anger on her face, Shikha gave him a shaky smile as Ranveer looked up.
“Good Morning Shikha, how was your weekend?” he asked, a wide smile on his face. All these days that she had been working here, Ranveer had not said more than a ‘Hi’ in greeting and that too without a smile. What had happened to him?
“Good Morning Boss. Not too bad but yours seems to have been great,” she said, curiosity getting the better of her temper.
Ranveer’s grin became broader. “Yep, the best ever,” he said, his voice adding to the cheer.
Shikha had the strong urge to shake him up and clenched her fists to stop herself from doing so. She gritted her teeth and gave him a tight smile before leaving his cabin. She could not take his joyous state any more.
She bided her time. Usually Ram came to the office first, followed by either Shikha or Ranveer, one after the other. The rest of the staff came in almost half an hour later. Shikha waited for Chanda to come to work. She would teach the young lady the lesson of her life.
MEERA AND MOHAN HAD DECIDED TO TAKE THE ASTROLOGER’S ADVICE. They planned to trace their absentee son-in-law and try to make Chanda’s marriage with him work. For that, the two of them decided to travel to Veerendra’s village to meet his family.
Jaswantpura was a half-a-day’s journey by road. Meera and Mohan left with their driver quite early in the morning and reached the village before noon. They drove around the village for 10 minutes looking for Veerendra’s home. They had visited the Choudhurys but once before Chanda’s wedding.
As their driver parked in front of the wooden gate, a couple of small children ran to look out at the car, a not very common sight in the village. Meera and Mohan got out and gave the kids a tentative smile.
With a determined expression on their faces, Chanda’s parents walked into the compound, keen to trace their errant son-in-law.