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Aashi went to look over the boutique site with Priyanka and Shikhar on Friday . As Shikhar had predicted, Aashi thought the remodeling and decor of the place would take roughly a month and a half, maximum.
“Which means that I need to immerse myself in preparing for my opening.” Priyanka said thoughtfully.
When she heard nothing in response she turned to look at her companions and realized that both were looking at her with masked worry.
” No, don’t worry. I got hyper last time but now I am getting excited. I have already sketched ten good designs in the last three days.”
Both Aashi and Shikhar looked a little relieved to see her smiling and happy.
“I’ll go home.” Priyanka said. “Both of you come when your work is done.” she said as she walked to her car.
“Bye Prinku. We’ll see you in the evening.” Aashi called after her while Shikhar just looked on. Both waved at her as she left and walked back to Shikhar’s car to go back to their office.
“She has come such a long way in the last three years. That one decision to join fashion school changed her life. Om always wonders how she realized that that is what she wanted to do as he considers, and rightly so, that realization to be the root of her happiness . Now she is a self-assured person, but for Priyanka of three years ago to realize her passion was a stunning thing. What an amazing girl.”Aashi kept talking in praise of Priyanka.
“Yes. Quite amazing.” Shikhar said quietly very aware of the silent drumming in his chest. “What would Om think if he comes to know how she reached that realization. Clearly she hasn’t shared it with anyone in spite of having confessed it in front of me more than once. What if…” his train of thought continued to saunter on its own track.
Shikhar came out of his reverie . “Yes. Yes?”
Aashi gave him a piercing look. The siblings looked into each other’s eyes for a couple of seconds and just like that, without a single word having been spoken, no secret remained between them.
Aashi took a deep breath. ” Let’s go. We have to finish our work quickly so that we can go home. I am glad you will be there for the next couple of days.”
“Yes. Me too.” Shikhar replied as he got behind the steering wheel and started the car.
” You know bhaiya, it’s amazing how a brother, once he realizes where his sister’s happiness lies, will do all in his power to ensure that she gets to that place. You have done it for me all my life and when Om pursued his relationship with me, he was confident that he would have your support. But if he hadn’t pursued me actively, I don’t know where we would have been today. Definitely not this happy.”
“Hmm. You are absolutely right.” Shikhar said thoughtfully as he drove and looked ahead.
Aashi turned to look at his profile. His entire life of self-control and self-denial,for her sake, went by her eyes in a flash. She saw her brother, who was now trapped in his long-practised, self-imposed restraint. She felt his loneliness and his melonchaly and it brought tears to her eyes and an ache in her heart. She looked back to the front to get a grip on herself. ” I have learned from my experience that in order to be happy and make one’s loved ones happy, one must pursue one’s happiness actively and not be a passive onlooker.”
Shikhar turned his head sharply to look at his sister. The flash in his eyes indicated that he had understood perfectly what she had meant. He looked ahead again. ” I agree with you.” he said in a low but clear voice.” There is a right time for everything. And that is why I am very happy that Priyanka is pursuing the passion that will finally make her happy; her dream of proving her worth to herself by successfully opening her boutique. Until then, anyone who loved her, wouldn’t want her to get lost in any other distraction.”
Aashi gasped at Shikhar’s statement as her eyes became very wide. Then slowly a smile crept on her lips. She felt exhilarated and like a thousand butterflies had been set free in her head and her heart. She saw her brother’s happiness glimmering just a little distance away, almost within reach now. With a refreshed sense of inner peace she nodded, “Yes, until then.”
The next several weeks Priyanka dived earnestly into preparing for her boutique opening. Her days were consumed by preparation of a clothing line fit for a gala opening and visits to the boutique site with Aashi to overview the designing and decor of the show. Shikhar was immersed in his work from before. As work on his NGO, Aasha, progressed, it demanded more of his time to ensure that it shaped up according to his vision for it. With so much work and activity, time acquired wings and flew by as if in the blink of an eye. And just like that, two months went by.
“Yes Aai. I have boarded the plane. As soon as I have net everyone at Oberoi Mansion I will leave for Pune. Dadi said she has already arranged for my transportation. I’ll see you in a day Aai.”
Soumya said barely able to control the emotion in her voice.
“Yes, beta. I’ll see you soon.” Ranjana said in an equally emotional voice. ” Hang up now; you have boarded so you will be asked to switch off your phone. Just relax now.”
Soumya hung up the phone with a big smile on her face. There were so many emotions wreaking havoc in her mind. She sat back relaxed in her seat and closed her eyes. The image of her mother’s smiling face loomed in front of her. Next she saw Sameer, her older brother with his usual charming smile. It reminded him of two faces at once, Om and Shikhar. One was similar in temperament to her late brother while the other in both temperament and boyish good looks. Once her mind had passed through several other loving faces, it fixed upon the one that had given her strength in her weakest moments. Rudra. Her pillar of strength when she had felt weakened by her mother’s anger due to her accidental wedding. Rudra, who had ensured a normal environment for the two years after her wedding with him so that she could study hard and do well. Rudra, who had encouraged her when she had wanted to apply to American universities for higher education. Rudra, with his idiotic jokes and deep thoughts that popped up out of nowhere and were always compensated by a stupid joke right after. Was he still the same? In her mind’s eye he looked handsome as ever and smiled his sly smile while his eyes held the same innocence and purity as ever. A person full of contradictions so that you could never have a set theory about him. She had changed a little. Would he have any opinion about that? Did he have a new girlfriend? Soumya’s eyes flew open at that. She ran her hand through her dark brown hair that reached till her mid back. She took out the novel she had brought and started to read it to distract herself.
Ranjana looked at her phone thinking about her conversation with Soumya. “She said she would go to Pune as soon as she had met everyone at Oberoi Mansion. She is so excited. I hope she won’t be too shocked. What do you think Om?” Ranjana said turning sideways.
Om smiled at her. “She will be pleasantly surprised Aai. She should have her entire family together so that she can be with them all after such a long time. So your agreeing to come with me to Mumbai was the right decision. We will go together to the airport tomorrow to pick her up.”
Ranjana smiled and turned the other way to look at Rudra who sat there listening. Ranjana felt a pang looking at him. How he had faced all her anger three years ago so that Soumya could pursue her dreams. And how well had he fulfilled each promise he had made to her. A wishful thinking passed through her thoughts but she kept it to herself.
The next day was a busy one in Oberoi mansion. Everyone was excited about Soumya coming back. Except Tej, Pinky, and Shakti, all understood what the real importance of this day was. At about nine at night, Om, Rudra, and Ranjana left for the airport.
Once there, they stood in the designated area waiting for her. Ranjana stood covered by Om and Rudra, who stood in front of her. The T.V. screen in front of them showing flight status indicated that her flight had landed a while ago. “She will be here any minute now.” thought Rudra. His eyes looked with anticipation towards the stream of incoming travellers. He felt a little blinded by staring so hard at such a crowd.
All of a sudden he saw a petite, curvy girl, dressed in a powder pink loose ,long sleeve top, black leggings and low heeled black shoes, pushing a couple of suitcases on a cart. Her straight, long, brown hair framed her breathtakingly beautiful face as her eyes searched the crowd in front of her. Rudra was stunned. “This was Soumya? What had happened to her? Where had his chubby Sumo gone? Who was this curvy yet svelte, woman who looked all around her unaware of the glances she was attracting from the men passing by. ”
“Soumya!” Om shouted as Rudra had apparently lost his voice.
Soumya heard her name and looked in their direction. Here entire face lit up and her lips stretched in a full smile doubling her beauty. She pushed her cart to her full capacity and almost ran towards Om and Rudra.
“Bhaiya!” Soumya shouted as she set her cart aside and hugged Om tightly.
Om hugged her back and kissed the top of her head. “How is my little sister? God! We’ve missed you so much.” he said blinking back the tears that had sprung up in his eyes.
Then Soumya turned to look at Rudra who was quite white in the face. He looked like the wind had gone out of his lungs. Unable to control her emotions, Soumya said “Hi Rudra.” and hugged him tightly too.
Rudra felt like his entire body had been connected to a hundred live wires. Bracing himself he hugged her back briefly brushing his lips on her hair. “Hi Soumya. How are you? We missed you.” he said letting go before he did something extremely awkward.
“I missed you too. All of you.” She said still smiling while tears streamed from her eyes.
“My God!” Rudra thought. ” I remembered her being beautiful, but was she always this beautiful. Anyway, control. Time for her surprise.” he thought and turned to look at Om.
Om smiled. “We have a surprise for you Soumya.” he said as he moved away to create space between him and Rudra.
Soumya’s face looked thunderstruck as her eyes fell on Ranjana. “Aai!” she whimpered and broke into a sob as Ranjana stepped forward and gathered up her daughter in a loving embrace.
They stayed like that for a few minutes until Rudra cleared his throat. “Can we do the rest of the hugging session at home?” Then feeling conscious he added, ” I mean you and aunty. Not to mention all the other people at home who are going crazy with anticipation at this very moment.”
Ranjana let go of her daughter as they both wiped their tears and laughed.
“Yes, let’s go.” Soumya said. ” I can’t wait to see everyone, especially Saahil and Anya. She was a baby when I last saw her.”
“Oh then brace yourself.” Om said laughing. “She is a package of full-time entertainment now. I wonder what name she will give you.”
Soumya laughed as they started to walk towards their car. Om held Ranjana’s hand as they navigated through the crowd of people. Soumya walked right behind Om with Rudra walking beside her pushing her cart. The two looked at each other briefly, each wondering if the other could hear their wild heartbeat.
Thanks for reading Everyone. I hope this won’t disappoint. Please do leave a comment if you can. ?