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“Hi Anya. Do you know me?” Soumya asked hugging her.
“Yes.” Anya said nodding. ” Soma.”
Soumya burst out laughing at her adorable pronunciation.
“Who told you?”
“Mamma.” Anya said then thinking for a second she said, “Nika bhabhi.”
That sent Soumya into another fit of laughter.
“Oh! I should have guessed.” Ranjana said entering the room.”Where there is Anya, there is laughter. She has been waiting for you to get up since this morning. She couldn’t take it anymore it seems.”
“Who is she Anya?” Soumya said pointing at Ranjana.
” Naaniii” Anya said elongating her vowels as usual.
Both Soumya and Ranjana laughed. “Anika and Aashi have told her to call me Nani and you maasi.”
“Aai, she just called Anika bhabhi, Nika bhabhi.” Soumya said very amused.
“Oh! The fun has just started. She assumes you are a newcomer in this house. She will introduce you to everyone. ” Ranjana chuckled. ” Now get up and get ready. It is ten a.m. Anika is skipping her morning visit to her restaurant to be with you and Aashi said she will be back by lunch.”
Soumya nodded. “Anya, can I get ready so I can come downstairs and talk to everyone?”
“O.k.” Anya said and got down from her lap. Then she took Ranjana’s hand and said, “Lessgo daaun Naaniii. Byeee Somamasi.”
Unable to stop laughing, Soumya waved bye to her and Ranjana.
As she got ready, flashes of her conversation with Rudra from the previous night and the dream from that morning went past her mind. Goosebumps rose all over body as she recalled what was said about dreams seen in the mornings.
“Oh God! I should find an accommodation for myself before I start my job and before I embarrass myself.” she thought as she finished brushing her hair and turned around to leave the room.
“Come Soumya, have your breakfast.” Anika said once Soumya was in the living room.
” I am not hungry bhabhi. I will have lunch with all of you. it’s already past eleven anyway.”
Anya nodded as if Soumya was speaking to her. Then she took Soumya by the hand and started walking her around to everyone in the living room.
“Nika Bhabhi” she said introducing Anika
“Mom Buddy maaa”
“Mom Choti Maa”
” Buaaa, Pinku”
“Naanii. Ranjaa” she finished thoughtfully, ensuring that she had given complete information amidst roars of laughter from everyone.
Just then Aashi came in with Shikhar by her side.
Anya looked gleefully at them and ran over. Shikhar picked her up. “How are you Anya dear?”
“O.k. Deeyar” Anya replied. Then extremely excited she pointed to Soumya, ” Soma. Soma maasi came”
“Wow! Really? Shikhar said with wide eyes and a surprised expression.
Once they had reached close by to everyone Anya did her introduction again, “Aachi, Shika mama”
There was a fresh peal of giggles from Soumya.”Nice to see you again Aachi and Shika Mama” she said laughing.
“Hi Soumya. So good to have you back. Aashi told me you were home so I thought I’ll come and see you” Shikhar said giving Soumya a quick hug.
Soumya tried to catch up with all the new developments during lunch. “Priyanka, two weeks for your boutique opening, is that right? What is the name you finally decided upon?”
“Celestial Designs” Priyanka informed. Then looking at Shikhar she added ” Fashion with a Passion.”
“Wow! Celestial Designs, Fashion with a Passion. What a great name. How did you zero in on this name?” Soumya asked very impressed.
“Well, one fourth of all of my profits will go to Expressions Unfettered, Bhaiya’s gallery so that he can accommodate more and more struggling artists. Another one-fourth of all profits will go to Aasha, Shikhar’s NGO for helping young girls from troubled background to pursue a career that will make them self-reliant. So, that’s the passion part of it.” Priyanka said smiling her usual soft smile.
Everyone listened to Priyanka spellbound but especially Aashi, who looked overwhelmed with emotion and Shikhar who had stopped even pretending that he was eating and looked at Priyanka with open admiration.
“That is so amazing Priyanka.” Soumya said while very aware of the fact that she had used Shikhar’s first name and noone had shown any surprise about it. “Wow! I have missed a lot in the past year and a half it seems.”she thought. Shifting her attention to Shikhar she asked aloud, “Shikhar bhaiya, you have started an NGO? What a great cause!”
Shikhar dragged his gaze away from Priyanka and cleared his throat.” Yes, I had been thinking about it for a couple of years. A lot of prep work had to be done in terms of researching the needs and demographics other than permission, licensing and other legal aspects. Finally the conceptualization, acquiring of property, and developing the building was done. We have two girls, to start with, who are looking for an avenue to build a brighter future. We will inaugurate with them.”
“When is the inauguration?” Soumya asked completely blown away by the whole concept.
“Three weeks from now. One week after the opening of Priyanka’s boutique.”
“Well I must say, Om bhaiya, Priyanka, and you are quite a team.” Soumya said smiling.
” Include Aashi in that.” Shikhar said looking affectionately at his sister. “She is the chief mentor at Aasha.”
Aashi smiled at Soumya and they continued to discuss the two openings.
“When does your job start Soumya?” Shikhar asked.
” Well, I have some paperwork with human-resources to complete and some orientations to go through. Work will officially start beginning of next month, so about three weeks. I am thinking of looking for a…”
“Hi everyone!” Soumya was interrupted by Om, Rudra, and Shivaay coming in.
“We finished the meetings and office work for today so that we could work from home and spend some time with Soumya.” Shivaay informed everyone as he went and hugged Soumya who had gotten up, upon seeing them.
“How are you? Wow! I hadn’t realized just how much we were missing having you here. Now that you are back it seems you never left! That’s the thing with families. No duration of being apart can take away that natural feel.” Shivaay said looking fondly at her.
Anya wiggled in her chair to get down and Jhanvi helped her get out. She rushed to Shivaay and started the introductions again. “Daddy, Somamasi came.”
Then she went to Om “O.” Then looking a little apprehensively at Anika, she repeated, “O chaachu.”
Lastly she walked up to Rudra who picked her up and kissed her cheek.” Somamasi, Oody chachu” she said smiling as she looked at Soumya.
Soumya tried to balance between the laughter that arose in her due to Anya’s introductions and the fluttering in her stomach that arose due to memory of her dream from that morning.
“Nice to meet you Daddy, O, and Oody.” she said in an attempt to hide her light-headedness with a joke.
Rudra looked at her with narrowed eyes and saw the nervousness behind her casual demeanor.
Almost done with lunch, they sat around chatting. ” Soumya, you were in the middle of saying something when they came. What were you saying about looking for something?” Pinky asked.
Soumya looked nervously at everyone.
“I was thinking… now that I have a job, I was thinking of looking for a place.”
There was pin-drop silence in the room. Rudra looked like he was going to bore a hole in her face with his gaze. Ranjana looked at her with an astonished look and the rest of them looked extremely uncomfortable. Shikhar sensed an awkwardness but had no clue why.Pinky was the only one completely oblivious to any tension in the room.
“Achcha. Place. Ok. But what kind of place do you want? You have an office na? You are not opening any business? Then why place?” she asked utterly confused.
“No Pinky aunty, I meant a place to live, like an apartment.”
Now Pinky looked even more confused. ” Hain? For whom? Achcha, some friend of yours needs a place to live. Shivaay can easily help you with that.” Pinky said smiling at Shivaay whose face looked extremely grim.
“No aunty. I meant for myself. A place to live for myself. I am not a student anymore so I should support my own living expenses.”
Now Pinky looked serious too. ” Why, everyone else living here is student or what? Except Saahil, there are no more students here. Hain Ranjana ji? Has this girl gone mad living abroad for one and a half years. What nonsense? Am I right mummy ji?” Pinky said looking expectantly at Daadi.
Daadi smiled at her younger daughter-in-law. Pinky’s simplicity had always endeared her to her mother-in-law in spite of her periodic denseness. ” For once Pinky, you are one hundred percent right. Utter nonsense. Actually she is still in jet-lag so we will not take it too seriously,” she said giving Soumya a very serious look that shook her to the core.
“Haan! That’s true.” Pinky said. “Arrey, this is your home in Mumbai then where will you go, job or no job. Haan, once you get married, live wherever your husband lives, apartment, bungalow, mansion, room, whatever.” Pinky said winking exaggeratedly at Soumya, “We will not stop you then.”
Another uncomfortable silence followed. Finally Jhanvi broke the ice “Pinky, let’s go and try the dresses Prinku wanted us to try. Then she can finalize that lot. You know Soumya, Prinku is designing dresses for a whole spectrum of age-groups and sizes. There are some dresses for Anya’s age too, can you imagine! I think that gives a definite edge to her line. It is so inclusive. Ranjana ji, you also join us. It will be more fun. We can pretend to be college girls going shopping together.”
Thereon, the conversation shifted to Priyanka’s boutique opening while Jhanvi, Pinky, and Ranjana left the room.
“I’ll go and lie down for some time.” Dadi said sounding exhausted.
Soumya felt extremely guilty.” How do I explain to them. If I stay here, those dreams will be accompanied by even more crazy ideas.”
“I need to visit the restaurant for some time.” Anika said getting up. “I’ll be back by tea-time. Aashi, you are home right?”
“Yes bhabhi.” She said pulling Anya into her lap.
“Bye Aanoo. See you soon. Can you give mamma a kiss?” Anika said bending down to kiss her.
“Byee mamma. I laav you.” Anya said smiling.
Shikhar smiled looking at the adorable imp.”I’ll see you guys later. Bye.” he said giving one last look to Priyanka who gazed back at him.
Soumya spent the entire day looking at carefully masked, hurt expressions on the faces of everyone but Pinky. Ranjana looked very upset. “Why did you say that?” she had told when she had found some time alone with her. “And so abruptly, the very next day you came back? How could you be so insensitive Sumi? These people don’t just love you LIKE you are their family, you ARE family to them. You belittled their love. The way Om cares about you…How worried he looked!”
Soumya had been speechless. Now she sat staring at the lawn from a balcony on the ground floor. Still under jet-lag, she couldn’t sleep. Besides the memory of all the sad faces, angry looks, and accusations of being rude, troubled her beyond measure. She sat there wiping her eyes when she heard soft footsteps behind her. A little startled, she turned around to see Rudra standing there. He gave a long look to her face, pulled a chair next to her, and sat down.
” Crying?” He asked simply.
“Angry?” she replied with a question.
“I thought you would understand the difference between hurt and angry.” Rudra said looking at her miserable face.
When she did not respond he spoke again.”Why do you want to move? What made you think on those lines?”
” Circumstances. I came here four years ago because I was very young and new to the city. I needed a safe place to stay among trustworthy people. That is no longer a need.”
“And nothing else has changed in the last four years? No new relationships, sentiments, nothing? Everything you have with this family is just need-based?”
That hurt her very badly and a fresh stream of tears started running down her cheeks.
“No! Of course not. I have close relationship with everyone in this family, but I could not take it for granted. That would have been presumptuous of me. I didn’t want anyone to think that…That I was assuming…” Unable to go on she sat there silently weeping and wiping her tears.
“Anyone or me? Why do I have the feeling that this has more to do with me than everyone else. Does this have something to do with the incident that took place three years ago?” Rudra asked looking at her directly.
“Maybe that…” Soumya said. ” but also with what is happening now. I want no further complications.”
“What kind of complications are you suspecting?” Rudra inquired.
“I mean, we have all entered the next phase of our lives.” she said trying to explain herself.
” Sooner or later there are bound to be developments and things could get awkward between us.”
“Really? How?” Rudra asked starting to get a clear idea of what was going on in her mind but in no mood to help her out.
Soumya resorted to absolute silence. She couldn’t go on any further without any awkward admission.
“There won’t be any complications.” He said studying the various expressions on her face intently. Then he looked like he had come to a definite understanding.” Look, just stay while everyone is preparing for Prinku’s big day. Continue with your work as needed. If you still feel a few weeks from now that you should move, then we will look into the matter. Just don’t rush into it and make a wrong decision, and deeply hurt a whole lot of people including yourself.”
Soumya looked at him with surprise.”My God! Are you really Rudra? You are talking like Om bhaiya. For how long have you been so mature now?” she said in a teasing voice. Somehow, she was not upset anymore and her mood felt much better.
“Actually O gets the maturity from me.” Rudra said carrying on with the humor “Wo to, I just maintain this clown image to keep my family entertained. You know, the dynamic personality that I am!”
“Oh God! Too much. I can’t take it anymore. I’ll go to sleep now.” Soumya said laughing at his exaggerated talk.
As they walked up the staircase, Rudra put his right arm around her. Before she could start feeling jittery again he said, “You know Sumo, do not over think matters. What’s there is there. What’s bound to happen will happen. Just take it one day at a time, let me know your doubts, and do not fear while Rudy is there.”
Soumya realized that she believed him completely and had no doubt that he will be able to clear all her doubts. As they reached her room, Rudra joked again, “So is this a nightly routine now. I will go looking for bhatakti aatma Soumya and bring her back to her room.”
Soumya laughed and pinched his arm playfully. Before she could know what was happening, Rudra bent down, kissed the top of her head , said goodnight and walked off.
Copyrighted to Diyaa
Thanks for reading Everyone. Sorry about the late update. I had a busy week but more than that, I am finding it harder to write Rumya story as compared to the others. I write what I feel would be natural to their case but it doesn’t have as much drama as Shivika and OmAashi so I wonder if it is boring. But I guess I’ll stick to my characterization as otherwise I wouldn’t be able to develop it properly. I promised a reader some OmAashi scenes. This update got pretty long and came to a natural break at Rudra saying goodnight to Soumya so I couldn’t include it today. I’ll include it in the next update for sure.
Lastly, Shubhadra suggested copyrighting as she saw some plagiarized material on other sites. So I am following her advice, and hence the copyright at the bottom.☺ That’s it dear readers. Please comment if you can so that I feel capable of completing this story. Take care😊