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Anika came back from her restaurant in the afternoon. She usually wrapped up the peak lunch hours and handed over the reigns to her manager so that she could be home with Saahil and Anya for a while. Then she would go back for a few hours in the evening to let the staff and patrons see her presence. So far she had managed a work and home life balance with Shivaay’s immense support and due to Dadi, Jhanvi, and Pinky who together took care of Anya. “In another few months she will start preschool and that will help too.” Anika thought to herself .
Once home, Anika headed for Jhanvi’s room. Without any encouragement from Anika, Anya was automatically more drawn to Jhanvi whose calm and collected manner made her feel safe and secure. She loved Pinky immensely and was very attached to her but she had clear preference for Jhanvi that Pinky had accepted with good humor as she did not really have much choice.
“You’re back Anika?” Jhanvi asked as she looked up from her book and saw her enter her room.
“Yes badi ma. The traffic was not so bad so I got home early. Where is Anya? I’ll check on her before Saahil is back.”
Jhanvi laughed. “She is with her Mom. They are watching some Guru Maharaj’s preaching together. Seriously Anika, what did you eat and watch when you were expecting? Your daughter is such a drama queen. One minute she is sitting and listening to me read to her and another minute she wants to see Mom.” Jhanvi said with a big grin.
” She has so many options and so many people doting on her that she is spoilt rotten. But I think as she grows up…”
“Oh please!” Jhanvi said getting up. ” She is just over two. She listens to all important instructions. Eats when asked to eat, sleeps when asked to sleep, sits and listens quietly when I read to her, plays with everyone, and makes friends in a blink with every new person she meets. How can you call her spoilt! You are too much really.Lets go to Pinky’s room ” Jhanvi kept speaking as she walked out of the room.
Anika followed her thinking, ” Baap re. Never criticize a child in front of her grandparents. I did not know I would get such an earful from Badi ma.” Trying to make up she said aloud, ” I was just joking Badi ma. You know, how we call kids naughty lovingly.”
Jhanvi laughed. ” Okay. Then you are very naughty, lovingly!”
“And who is that Aanu.” Pinky asked.
” Mickey” Anya replied.
“Hai! So Claver. Knows so many English names.” Pinky kissed Anya’s head
” We thought you both were watching some Guru maharaj’s pravachan.” Jhanvi asked as she entered Pinky’s room.
“Arrey, poor thing. She asked me so cutely with her innocent kanji eyes! How could I refuse. And I am learning so many English names from her. So smart!” Pinky said looking super impressed with her granddaughter as Anika shook her head laughing.
” Anya, let’s go see Daddy. Then you can eat with bhaiya.”
Anya got very excited at the very mention of Saahil. She kissed Pinky on her cheek.” Byee Mom”
“Hai. I’ll be there when you eat but bye for twenty minutes.” Pinky laughed.
Anya got down from Pinky’s bed and toddled over to Anika and Jhanvi. ” Byee buddy Ma” she said smiling her widest smile.
“Byeee Aanu.” Jhanvi said giving her a flying kiss.
Anika picked her up and took her over to Shivaay’s study.
“Hayee Daddy.” Anya squealed at the sight of Shivaay.
“Hi pumpkin. How was your day with Badi Ma and Mom?” He said walking over to Anika and kissing her lightly on her lips. ” And how was your day Anya’s mamma?”
” My day was good and busy. I am skipping the evening visit today. I want to hear about Prinku’s boutique site from Om and Prinku and see what Aashi has to say. Plus, I think my evening visits on weekends are more critical. Weekdays , Mr. Mehra can manage.”
” Hmm.” Shivaay mumbled picking up Anya and nuzzling his face on top of her head. ” May be but don’t let your staff know that. Drop in randomly on a weekday here and there so that they know you may come in any time.”
“Saahil will be home soon. I’ll go and get lunch out for him. She will also eat a snack. Do you want something?” Anika asked looking at father and daughter making silly faces at each other.
” Hmm.” Shivaay said making a fish face that sent Anya in a hysterical laughter.
“I want you.” he said laughing.
Anya obviously thought that was a mad joke too and rolled with laughter in Shivaay’s arms making him laugh too.
Anika felt her face flush in spite of herself. “Come with her in 15 minutes and don’t let her go crazy. Or she will get overtired.”
“Good.” Shivaay said as he looked at Anika with a wicked grin. ” Then she will be snoring by late evening and the night will be ours.”
“Hey bhagwaan. Dono paagal hain.” Anika said going completely red in the face.” She will repeat in front of someone and land up embarrassing us.”
” What’s there to be embarrassed about?Everyone knows that a stork did not not drop her in a cloth bag at our house.”
“I am leaving. In the dining room in twenty minutes.” Anika said as she walked toward the door.
“Ok dear” Shivaay said mischievously
“Ok deeyar” Anya repeated.
When Om got to Priyanka’s boutique site, he found Shikhar and Priyanka already there, sitting at the doorstep of the small building, talking. For a few seconds Om looked at them from his driver’s seat. He had a strange feeling that he couldn’t put his finger on. The two noticed his arrival once he got out of the car.
“We got here just five minutes ago. The realtor called to say he was running late and would be here in another ten minutes.” Shikhar informed.
Om nodded. “It’s ok. We can wait and look around the property.”
“Good idea.” Shikhar said as they proceeded to walk around together and discussed the place.
An hour later, they had walked through the medium sized store having inspected it closely.
” The building looks solid. It will all be Aashi’s work I think. In my opinion, it will be functional and good to go in about a month. Refurnishing, painting, polishing, decor, all of that will not take more than a month. The set up will take another few weeks. In two months, the boutique should be ready for opening.” Shikhar said thoughtfully.
” That means, I better start working on my first collection right away. I already have a few but I need at least ten times more. Designing, stitching, trials, finishing…Oh God ! So much to do.” Priyanka said gasping a little.
” Hey! Relax. I am sure you can get it done and if not we can move up the opening date by a few months. ” Shikhar said soothingly.
“Shikhar is right Prinku. Everything will be done in its due time. And you are more than capable. Just relax.”
“Let’s get going then.” Om said. ” You are going back to office?” He asked Shikhar.
” Yes. I have to finish some work by this evening. I think Aashi will come to see the place on Friday. She told me.”
” Yes. She will come with you and Prinku. Friday night come home for dinner and stay back for the weekend. ” Om said as they walked toward their respective cars.
“I’ll come for dinner but why stay…” Shikhar asked puzzled as they reached Om’s car.
” We will chat at length and Aashi will be satisfied to have you around. She likes it when you stay back but never mentions it.” Om said as he pointed his keys to unlock the car.
“Ok. I’ll come and I’ll stay.” Shikhar said a little misty eyed. ” Bye Priyanka. See you on Friday.” he said with a soft look glazing his eyes.
Priyanka nodded at him. She gave a quick look to Om. Then as if coming to a decision she held her head high and said, “Bye Shikhar.”
Shikhar held his breath for a couple of seconds at the sound of his name from her. He had a feeling he was going down a roller coaster ride.
Om looked at Priyanka for a brief second as if trying to fit pieces of a puzzle. Then once Priyanka had sat down in her seat, he too got into his car and waved at Shikhar.
Shikhar looked on as they drove away. As he reached for the handle of his own car-door he realized that his palms were clammy with cold sweat.
Late that night, after a deep discussion about the boutique, everyone got up to go to their rooms. Shivaay and Om walked alongside Rudra who was constantly checking his phone.
“What do you keep checking?You were doing it during our conversation as well.” Om asked a little irritated.
“Wo O it’s night time here so…”
“So? What does that have anything to do with checking your phone constantly? Unless you have officially been accepted into the owl community.” Om replied with dry humor.
Aashi and Anika who were walking ahead alongside Priyanka, looked at each other as they heard Om.
“Ohho O. Leave poor Oody alone. He works hard all day and only gets this time to check messages. Right Oody?” Aashi asked in her best imitation of Anya , thus diverting the topic cleverly.
Rudra laughed looking at his younger bhabhi who always seemed to come to his rescue. ” Right Aachi.” he said smiling widely.
“She is sleeping right now otherwise she would have taken both of you to task right now.” Om said laughing as they walked upstairs.
“By the way,” Priyanka said with excitement, “Remember Soumya called Dadi yesterday to tell her about her new job here and that she will be back in a couple of months. I think she will be here for my boutique opening. I am so so happy. I miss her. Thank God she will be here for such a big day of my life.”
Om suddenly looked like a light bulb had switched on in his head. “You are right Prinku. I miss her too. We all miss her and thank God she’ll be back soon.” he said glancing swiftly at Rudra.
Each person left for their room one by one. As Rudra went ahead past Om’s room Om called out to him, “By the way, sorry Oody, you are right. It’s night here. Best time to check messages. Good night.” he said with a grin as Rudra walked on shaking his head.
“Let’s go peach,” Om said smiling at Aashi as they entered their room. “I am full but wouldn’t mind a bite of fruit before bed.”
Thanks for reading Everyone. Hope enjoyed this chapter. I am anticipating Soumya’s entry in next chapter as I will move the story by a couple of months. So that might be interesting. Just in case there is a confusion, like kids sometimes do, Anya calls people by the name she hears them get called by. But sometimes for no apparent logic kids break their own rules so she calls her dad , daddy and Bua, booaa. Let me know if there is any other confusion. And, yes, please do comment if you can. You guys are the reason why my expressions are unfettered😊😋