“I am sooo sorryyy…”
Lavanya all but sing it out aloud with apologetic expressions on her face that was scrunched up while taking off her ray ban sunglasses and placing her oversize handbag on the table, she took the seat in the corner booth of a famous CCD outlet in the city. Her companion for today was an otherwise chirpy khushi, who right now was looking at her sullenly. Checking her wrist watch, khushi replied with perfect sardonic expressions,
“Oh no problem lavanya ji..you’re just twenty five minutes late”
effctively highlighting twenty faaaive in response.
lavanya bit her tongue before flashing her grin to her newly made best friend. Since the day ASR introduced them in his cabin, lavanya took it upon herself to turn their recently acquaintance status to friendship one. just few calls later, they hit it off very well and khushi being khushi who could make anyone comfortable in her company without really putting an effort made sure their friendship started sailing smoothly. Khushi was glad to have her first genuine friend in a long time and lavanya was glad that the over hyped and proverbial “Mrs. ASR” was nothing what media had been speculating so far. Due to the lack of any proper interviews after marrige, the reports about the arrogant Mrs. Raizada were floating in the media and had reached lavanya’s ear too.As a result She had this image of stylish and high class Mrs Raizada painted in the back of her mind. But that was all before khushi visited that day and it was that day she realized how wrong they all had been. All in all, she was so glad khushi was anything but whatever that rubbish was mentioned about her. Being with khushi, she could be herself, that was the best part out of it.Being in the fashion industry for so long, she knew one must need to have someone to keep you grounded otherwise this flashy world could blow you off in its storm without even you knowing it and then Hanging out with khushi was even more fun. So, as per plan and it being sunday,they decided to met for a cup of coffee.
“i am sorry you had to wait..but thats all cause of your husband..i tell you he’s such a pain in the ass sometimes..err..figuratively”
Lavanya blurted while taking her large glass of cafe frappe loaded with chocolate and whipped cream. As she was running late, khushi had already ordered for both and the hot waiter had just placed their order on the table while flashing a flirty smile in both of their direction.ofcourse, lavanya returned with one of her own and khushi responded with rolling her eyes at her antics.
“hmph..okay..you are forgiven”
Khushi replied with mock anger on her face before giving into her whims and starting their chatting session that she was dying to get into.
They talked about everything n nothing particular at all..it just felt so good to have some girls time together after such a long time and with lavanya having the same zest of living life as khushi’s, they both felt very easy to connect to each other.
“so, whats keeping you busy lavanya ji?”
khushi asked when lavanya’s phone pinged for the 4th time, and she went onto reply with a frown on her face.
“aarggh..its my assistant..god,they cant do one damn thing on their own”
lavanya cribbed while placing her phone back on the table before replying again,
“We have this annual AR Bridal collection show next week for which we all are working like machines from past one month..gosh..and since AR is such a brand, you can imagine the tremendous amount of pressure
associated with it..”
She pointed two fingers to her temple and pulled off the trigger.
“dont worry lavanva ji..you’ll pull it off effectively..and it’ll be a huge success”
Khushi flashed one of her genuine smiles while pressing her hands over lavanya’s.
lavanya sighed in blissful content after sipping the last remenants of her cold frappe and leaned back into the seat
“i so needed this…”
lavanya replied closing her eyes in blissful content,feeling utterly relaxed after so long,
“i tell you girl,we both are going on a full spa day after this event is over..and that too at your husband’s expense”
Khushi grinned a little before nodding,
“anytime..i would love to accompany you..”
“but arnav ji is also working hard..he’s in office despite it being sunday you know”
Khushi stirred her coffee while a small pout appeared on her face at the fact she just mentioned. Indeed, she was used to see him relaxing at home on sundays atleast..like all other times since few months after their marriage.Today being the exception was also the point why she accepted lavanya’s invitation.She missed him..period.
“GOD..you must have seen him before your marriage khushi..he used to be a diehard workaholic.. So many times i had to literally push him out of his cabin cause he was like a leech sticking his head to his files like world was coming to an end”
Lavanya said shaking her head as she must be visualising those times.
Khushi’s brows jump skywards at listening this piece of information about her husband. and now that lavanya was really opening his cards, she wasnt about to let this opportunity go..afterall,she might learn something new shades of him yet unknown to her.
“mm hmm…Oh, he has this habbit of completing his work ahead of time..like if he has a deadline of 3 days then he would like to be free n relaxed for the last 2 days. He despised being at the mercy of time and other factors.That gave him the control he so desperately needed i guess..
he had already seen so much at such an early age..that being vulnerable is a place he never wanted to be at again”
Khushi sensed lavanya drifting off in the memories..it was at the tip of her tongue to ask what exactly arnavji had faced..what was she talking about. She knew arnav and lavanya were college buddies , since the time they were in Howard..so she must knew a great deal about him. she felt helpless not knowing about that part of his life..she wanted to share his sorrows, his fears..her mind connected few dots and she realised it must be about his mother only. It was striclty no-go topic..nobody ever mentioned it at home..not even anjali di and nani. she had asked about her in the initial days after her marriage n sensing them uncomfortable while replying she decided to leave it at that. As desperate as she was to ask she knew now asking lavanya about his it might raise suspecions..so she made a mental note of asking him later..at some proper time..dont know when.
“whatever..But Arnav Raizada’s older version was like a walking nuclear bomb..about to be exploded any moment”
Lavanya added with a wink of hers, getting back into that jovial mood, and khushi found herself grinning at that witty comment on his husband.
“Trust me..it was like a nightmare for the employees to be within his radar everytime he was on round in office”
Lavanya managed to say inbetween her giggles,
“and he used to be there on almost all sundays..can you beleive?..no holidays..except the national ones for him cause its mandatory..but gosh, he was like boderline freak for his work..it gave him solace you know”
“ofcourse, until you came”
Lavanya added with a bit of softness this time, her eyes shining with a glint of their own as she put her hand over khushi’s and caressed it, passing her a silent thank indeed.
Khushi was too lost to say anything..she felt her throat choking with some unknown emotions. ‘until you came’, the words still lingering in her ears, she couldnt quite say they were true..had theirs been a normal relation, she would have been proud n escalated hearing those words, but now she wasnt exactly sure, she could take the credit for them. so she just passed a small smile, hoping like hell its exactly the case what lavanya is seeing.
“Marriage suits him you know..He’s a lot more calmer than he used to be and all his employees are thanking heavens for sending you to deal with him”
Lavanya replied tilting her head sideways while displaying her trademark smirk.
That indeed turned her lips upwards in a genuine grin too.
Calmer? no way..infact now she think about it, its always the opposite..arnavji is always on the edge around her as long as she is concerned…specially after that sid’s incident. Are we talking about the same man here?, she wondered.
“and he leaves his cabin everyday at six.dot..no more crashing in office on sundays either..”
lavanya said before adding,
“show me your hand khushi”
Khushi saw lavanya closely inspecting her fingers while curiousity piqued inside her as she asked her reluctantly,
“What lavanya ji?…”
“Just checking your pinky finger around which you have wrapped him completely n making him dance to your tune”
Rolling her eyes she pulled her hands away but not before her mind came up with the visual of Raizada actually dancing around her little finger..one that she would be having a hard time forgetting soon.
“but trust me..you are good for him..be like that..”
After dropping khushi to her home, lavanya drove off with a promise to meet soon..both ladies utterly happy to their heart’s content.
He looked at the board hanging on the front of the building, through spectacled eyes. Everytime he read it, a smile automatically make its way on his wrinkled face. Shifting his glasses higher on the bridge of his nose he read it out aloud, “Snehalaya Gurukul”. Everytime he saw children playing in the garden of his school, an unknowing satisfaction made its way in his heart and he couldnt help but thank his lord everytime
for showering his blessings upon him in various forms. He was indeed a lucky man. Shashi Gupta’s wife Sneha Gupta was one exceptional lady, beautiful, simple, elegent and down to earth. Despite being deprived the chance to go to school, she educated herself by reading books with the help of her siblings. That was the reason she so strongly supported education as an integral part of a child’s upbringing. 7 years ago, when fate had snatched her from him cause of brain tumor, shashi gupta had decided to do make her dream come true. Though sneha gupta was not in his life anymore, but she was still alive through each n every student of this Snehalaya Gurukul. Her dream was alive and so was she. This Gurukul was one of his long cherished dream, a true tribute to his wife who would have been very happy had she been here. but shashi Gupta knew, wherever she is today, she must be happy there seeing him running this gurukul efficiently. He saw a group of students approaching towards him and they touched his feet to take his wishes. He lovingly caressed their heads giving his blessing before they went to their respective classes. He sighed in contentment as he made his way to his own office.
Things were not always a bed of roses for him. He had started this gurukul after he took voluntary retirement from his job as an lecturer. During his career as a teacher he realised the privatisation of education had only deteriorated it. The main intent is on making money and not on providing values. It had hurt him immensely when he realised that bribery and donation to get a seat in a reputated school is the most common norm.
The fact that it was depriving the needy and poor for their right to education was what forced him to took this giant step. He had enough savings with which he started this school at a low level on a rented property. The fees for it was kept minimal so that even poor can afford it. Due to his dedication and hard work, his gurukul came under recognisation cause of its excellent results within its debut year but then there was very long way to go and they have just started. Things were going fine till one day he got a letter from Municipal Corporation personnels telling him his gurukul was an illegal construction and had to be demolished. By the time he reached there, MCD has destroyed half of what he had created with his hard work, blood n sweat. They went to court against the decision n were successful in getting staying orders for the time being. With all the parents supporting them with their petitions, after a long legal battle of a year they have finally won the case but by then, the damage had been already done. The funds of gurukul had been used in the legal proceedings, while same time, parents worried about their children’s future during the whole legal procedure started shifting their students to other school in mid sessions and with half of school still damaged, Shashi Gupta felt like being back at square one. Had it not been khushi and his sister madhumati being his backbone, he would have been completely shattered. He didnt wanted to let go of this dream when he was so close to making it. But that time it felt like starting from scratch all over again and the money that came as fees wasnt nearly enough to start construction at massive scale. He wanted to see his gurukul at the top but right then he felt it was an distant dream..out of his reach. Within months khushi got married and without her constant chirping in the house, he felt even more depressed. Loss of his dream n the pain of being away from his beloved khushi, he felt himself slipping into depression.
until one day which restored his faith in god and his limitless powers.
He opened the envelope with uncertaininty while khushi was sittiing on the sofa, watching his actions keenly. He had no idea what it could be but when he saw the content inside it, for a small moment air whooshed out of his lungs. His eyes widened on its own accord as he look back n forth between khushi and the cheque in his hands with 25 lacks amount scribbled on it and signed by Arnav Raizada. He couldnt react for a long time as khushi sat there waiting patiently for his response. He knew this money was a help from her side so he could go ahead with persuing his dream which now felt so close, within his reach, his heart escalated by the prospect of how he could make it happen But only for a moment.
“Beta, thanks for considering but i really couldnt take it”
He said shaking his head, living the dream yet again even for few seconds felt so good but then reality dawned on him and he decidded to rather face that.
“Nahi beta, it wont be fair..its your husband’s money”
He said, placing the cheque back into the envelope, extending it back to khushi who was visibly not happy with his reply. Coming towards him ,she knelt on the floor near his chair, placing her arms on his lap, she
replied calmly even before he could say another thing.
“Babuji..why isnt it fair? Isnt Arnav ji your son too? ”
“Beta he is…but..”
She cut him in mid sentence,
“Babuji, Arnav ji himself gave me this last night when i told him about gurukul. Cause He wanted to help…”
He was still reluctant to accept when she continued pressing the envelop in his hand,
“and its not a favor he’s doing on you just cause you are my father..His organisation is involved in these noble acts of charity and donation. When he learned about gurukul, how its different from others in providing
education where their’s no bar of caste and status, where you are ensuring values are above all, where you are providing almost free education to poor and needy, he was so adamant on coming here last night itself, he personally wanted to give you this But then he realized you might not accept it. That’s why he sent me babuji. You wont deny me, right?..and think about all the services we can provide those kids that werent there in the gurukul earlier”
Shashi kant seemed torn between the two, his heart happy way beyond measurement at the prospect of getting the much needed financial help but the other ethical part was not quite letting him made this decision easy for him.
“No beta babuji..you are keeping it otherwise arnavji wont let me enter that house again..”
She said while rolling her eyes and shashi kant couldnt help but caressed her head lovingly with a small smile on his face.
“Acha theek hai..let me thank him for this generous help atleast..”
He said while tooking his phone out of his pocket when she snatched it back.
“He had strict orders for that too..dont mention it infront of him bauji, he really dont like it you know. Arnavji is kinda awkward in accepting thanks and appreciations..”
She said giggling while making faces while telling about that arnavji’s part.
He placed the phone back into his pocket giving into her whims. Praying to his almighty to always bless his children with happiness and luck throughout, shashi kant gupta drifted into a dreamless slumber that night for first time in months.
for the burden lying and crushing onto his chest had suddenly pulled over with a flick.