EPISODE 21: LUCKY
Lunch was a quiet event at the Oberoi Mansion today. The table was overflowing with the best quality food and most of the people sitting around it were pretty famous in their own virtue. It could even be said that for the first time in ages, business and art were almost equally represented in Oberoi Mansion. And I could surely say that never before had our table been more definitively divided. Amidst all of these unnatural conditions, Om was positively squirming in discomfort. To his left sat a stone-faced, striking girl of about the same age as him. Her name was Sonia and she was one of the successful businesswomen today, although the face of her company was her father. To Om’s right sat Bade Papa with Badi Maa, trying to keep up the perfect father charade in front of our guest, Mr. and Mrs. Chadda. Right across Om sat another attractive girl, who was probably a year or two younger than Om in age.
The other half was occupied by Rudra, Saumya, Dad, Dadi, Mom, Prinku and me, in that order. Beside me, the stone-girl chewed on her food bleakly. Since we had met in business summits and other conferences before, I wasn’t too uncomfortable around her, unlike Om. Or maybe the cause of his uneasiness was the girl in front of him.
An uber-rich actress who was famous for the kind of roles Om wouldn’t care for. And here she was, openly flirting with him at the lunch table, with every pair of eyes questioning her sanity and disapproving her character immediately. Every one, except Om, who studiously ignored her! If I didn’t know better, I would have never believed that she was here for her stone-sister’s alliance. Mr. Chadda could be a billionaire for the world with men lining up outside his house for his daughter’s hand. But it was confirmed that he would go empty handed from Oberoi Mansion.
I sighed at my food again, desperately waiting for this torture on all of us to end soon. But time passed at a snail’s speed, and we were forced to sit through awkward silence while Om and the stone-girl were sent to talk to each other in private. I could visualize the result of that conversation, but there was nothing that I could do to speed up this painfully trying evening. I thought how lucky it was for Dadi, Mom, Prinku and Saumya as they got to leave after lunch for some important work.
Om and Sonia finally came back. I sensed a particular viciousness around her and concluded that her ego had been hurt by Om’s rejection. I knew what would happen next; Bade Papa would try to bait the stubborn fish and end up drying the whole pond! ‘How bad can this get?’ I wondered to myself.
Om looked at us in weariness and we nodded in sync to let him know that we got his back. I tried looking at the bright side of things, such as Bade Papa not being able to complain about Om not giving this a fair try. I sighed heavily realizing that it was all just wishful thinking on my part. As if in answer to my thoughts, Riddhima walked in. When she lately realized that we were entertaining guests today, she stopped in her tracks, looking towards Om apologetically. I stepped towards her and said, “Hey, Riddhima. How come you are here today?” I fake-smiled at her and she was quick to catch on. “I came to return this bag to Om”, she said and sat down. Introductions were exchanged and everyone finally settled down.
“So, what do you think Sonia? Do you like him?” Mrs. Chadda asked her fuming daughter. She in turn silenced her with a look and the question was automatically passed to Om. Being the saint that he is, he truthfully answered, “Sonia is a nice girl, but I don’t think we are well-matched. We have nothing in common and our ideals are poles apart. So, I don’t think we should take this further.” He spoke in a low, confident voice with just the right amount of regret and politeness showing through.
This brought out the most bewildering reaction from our guests. Mr. Chadda was mirroring Bade Papa in his anger. Mrs. Chadda expressed her regret with empty words. Sonia’s sister, the actress, was absolutely thrilled with this news. “Can I marry him now?” she asked with a weird, unsettling glint in her eyes. Om’s eyes were about to pop out of their sockets while Rudra and I exchanged identical incredulous expressions. The others sat still like statues. Only Riddhima’s face betrayed her disappointment.
I saw Om look down and type something into his phone. The other girl didn’t notice his preoccupation and pressed on. “Are you sure you want to reject me too, Om? Don’t you want to talk to me in private as well?”
I instantly felt nauseated at her queasy words, but I controlled myself by looking away. Pretending to have an important call, I moved away from the gathering. Rudra held my sleeve and looked at me like I had stabbed him in the back, so I was forced to let him tag along. Om, on the other hand, occasionally looked towards the door expectantly. We moved to the farthest end of the hall near the door and discussed the weird family sitting across from us. Just to be clear, the weird family was the Chaddas, not the Oberois.
“Bhaiya, why can’t Dad find a less abnormal family for O’s marriage?” Rudra complained. I quietly chuckled at him as he made faces. “Even when such a handsome guy is sitting right beside her, she is obsessed with O! Can’t she see he’s not interested in her? And why is Riddhima here? O had dumped her, right?” he continued with his chatter and I sneaked glimpses at Om. The elder crazy people were trying to convince Om and Sonia to take some time and think rather than taking a rash decision.
“I’m not interested in her!” Om snapped at last. Unable to contain his displeasure, Bade Papa countered, “Who are you interested in?”
As if on cue, Ishu walked in through the door and everyone turned to look at her.
Wow! That was the only word ringing through my head as soon as I saw her. The red anarkali complemented her skin and the soft fabric accentuated her curves well. The golden and black embroidered details glowed on her arms and along the neckline, giving her an unearthly allure. Her hair was braided at the front, cascading down her shoulders and back in a dark mass, flowing in harmony with the dupatta draped over her shoulder. To add to her charm, the power of her magnetic eyes was heightened by a thin kohl lining.
My first reaction on seeing her was wonder, the second was relief. I sprang to my feet and marched to her side quickly, almost singing, “Hey, Ishu.” The others could only stare at us open mouthed but I ignored them just as I had been doing all afternoon. On instinct, I threw an arm over her shoulder. Her reflex kicked in and as she was about to punch me, I held her hand and turned her to face me completely. As always, her eyes went wide with self-reproach and she froze. I smiled at her and that seemed to relax her for now.
The nearest to us were ShivRu and I heard them talking about me. “O has even broken my record in case of girls! Four girls at once! Bhaiya, what will I do? Where will I go? He has stolen my only talent!” His theatrics were out of the world and I barely held in my laughter. Shivaay looked at us in shock and replied, “Yes, it looks like it!” Apparently Ishu had heard them too and she looked at me with lots of questions in her eyes. When I didn’t offer any explanation, she turned to the still speechless crowd. She recognized the actress from her filming and turned to me with twinkling eyes.
Involuntarily, I gave her a sheepish grin and she slid her hand to my elbow possessively, winking at me. Mr. Oberoi had had enough now, and he thundered, “What the hell is going on here?” I drew in a sharp breath at his tone and was about to give him a piece of my mind, when Ishu tightened her grip at my elbow. Regulating my voice to a polite note, I said, “It was a pleasure to meet you. I’ll take your leave now.”
We were about to leave quietly when Riddhima called out to me, “Om, where are you going with this con girl?” A sudden anger surged through me and I turned to see her disbelief coloured face. “Ishu, this is Riddhima. And RIddhima, this is my girlfriend, Ishu.”
Riddhima looked like she was about to burst in rage. I looked around the room to see the various reactions to my statement. The clingy actress looked jealous; Sonia was drowned in her haughtiness, refusing to acknowledge Ishu; Mr. and Mrs. Chadda’s faces showed appropriate indignation; Mr. Oberoi and Chhote Papa were shocked; and lastly, ShivRu were amused with my white lie. There was another emotion transparent on Shivaay’s face, but I couldn’t quite place it. Without waiting for anyone to recover, I held Ishu’s hand and walked out.
My face felt hot as if there was a steam generator inside my head. I pushed back my hair and slammed my fist on my car. I didn’t notice my hand covering Ishu’s slender hand. She was looking down at it, deep in thought. Feeling my gaze on her, she looked up and smiled happily. “You owe me”, she stated and I replied, “Anything you want.” She thought about it for a while and said, “I can’t think of anything now. But whenever I ask, will you give it to me?” She was obviously challenging me, but it felt too intimate for a challenge; it was more like a secret. I nodded positively and she was happy to let it be at that.
SNEAK PEEK: Shivaay and Anika have an announcement to make. Om is conflicted about something and while going somewhere, he bumps into Ishu.
Sorry for the delay guys 🙂 Also, this one is longer. I hope you enjoyed it. I’ll explain Ishu and Om’s points of view in detail later. But till then, keep thinking of what could Om be thinking about so deeply 🙂 Plus, I request you guys to ignore the mistakes as I wrote this one in a hurry. 😐 🙂