Tej sat on a couch in the living area in Oberoi mansion, having a cup of coffee. Jhanvi sat next to him reading a book. Tej looked at her and asked, “Has Om informed you what time he will be back? This is his first independent deal. I am anxious to hear how the tour went and whether he liked the place. I know Shivaay is with him. It’s just that I am excited. But he will not share anything with me. Jhanvi, are you even listening to what I am saying?”
Jhanvi looked up calmly. “yes I heard you. I understand you are excited. Om does not share his excitement with anyone except Shivaay and to some extent Rudra. Don’t start getting jealous of Shivaay again. See how his love brought Om where you wanted him to be. Of his own free will without any intimidation. Om texted me to inform that they’ll be home by early evening. They should be here in another hour or so. Just relax and enjoy seeing the children support each other through tough times. After we are gone, they will have only one another.”
Tej felt bad. “I am not jealous of Shivaay, Jhanvi. I am done with that phase. After Anika left, I did not enjoy seeing him depressed. It hurt me too. I may not love him like you do but he is after all my brother’s son. He has always looked up to me, always tried to please me and get my affection, and repeatedly tried to prove himself to me more than to Shakti. I do love him and want to see him happy. I was just getting frustrated with Om’s situation and it got the better of my judgement. And now, I just crave for some softening in Om’s feeling towards me. I don’t expect him to love me after the way I ruined his childhood and constantly tried to pit him against Shivaay. I just hope for his forgiveness.”
Jhanvi smiled at him. “All in good time. Things are only looking up. Anika came into our lives, saved us from so many mishaps, and even by her absence helped our family bond better. Pray that she comes back soon and then the rest of our issues will also get sorted”
“Bilkul Sahi kahaa jethaani ji” said Pinky who had walked in and heard their conversation. Shakti and Dadi joined them too. The maid brought tea for everyone and all except Tej took a cup each and sipped on their tea carrying on with general conversation. Suddenly they saw a very hyper Rudra running down the stairs and Priyanka and Soumya following him. Soumya looked at him with worry. “Ye Rudra ka bachcha, actually bachcha hai. Look at him hopping like a bunny all over the place. Om bhaiya should not have told him anything. Ab ye idhar se udhar, udhar se idhar phudaktaa rahegaa and eventually he will blurt out everything.” Priyanka laughed” Soumya, excitement to meri bhi nahi ruk rahi hai. When we got that call late last night it was like someone had planted a lit up diwali ka anaar in me. It’s becoming hard to control the fountain of happiness.”
Soumya looked at her and said exasperatedly, “Not you too. Dono bhai behen ek jaise ho. I am also very excited but see how cool I am.”
“Yes,” said Priyanka ” That’s why since this morning you have been either eating parathaas, or chocolate, or talking non-stop to me and Rudra bhaiya, or going back to parathaas.” Soumya rolled her eyes. “Achcha chalo let’s go and control Rudra bunny a bit”
Both rushed to Rudra who was now talking excitedly to Dadi. Dadi just laughed at his hyper energy but Tej looked at him shrewdly, “what’s up with you Rudra? You are even more , umm, “energetic” than usual today.”
Rudra: Arrey Papa , it is such a special day, I am so excited…
Then he saw Soumya approaching him with an angry look. He checked his emotions just in time,
“My brothers are coming back. My Ram, Laxman will be back from their vanvaas. I am so emotional.”
Everyone except Tej laughed at his drama.
Tej: They were gone for one day. And how are they “your” Ram, Laxman?
Rudra: ohho Papa, details pe na jaao, feeling dekho. I am their Bharat so they are my Ram Laxman.
Tej: You are younger to both.
Rudra: Papaaa…Kar di na phir detail waali baat!
Pinky(laughing)- Achcha, and who is Shatrughan?
Rudra- Our Prinku. Kalyug me she came as a girl. Aaj paandav milan hogaa.
Everyone looked at Rudra and said together
“Paandavs are five and in Mahabharat, not in Ramaayan”
Rudra: Ohho, details pe na jaao
Everyone: Feelings dekho!!
They were laughing and chatting when Om entered the front door. Rudra saw him first and lost all patience.
“Bhaiyyyyyyaaaaa” he ran to him and hugged him tightly. “Where are they?”
Soumya and Priyanka also got very excited and ran to Om. He laughed hugging Rudra and looking at Soumya and Priyanka.
By now all elders became very curious. They knew something was going on and looked on curiously.
Om smiled at everyone and moved aside from the door. Anika and Saahil entered Oberoi Mansion hesitantly. Shivaay walked right behind them beaming with ultimate happiness.
All the elders were completely shocked. Anika and Saahil stood at the door looking nervous at everyone staring at them. Eventually, Pinky was the first to come to her senses and said, “Anika, Saahil, stop there. Do not take a step forward.” and she left the living room.
Everyone looked at her leaving, in shock now. Anika froze where she was, feeling mortified. Shivaay was in shock too. Just then Pinky reappeared with an “aarti thaali”. She walked up to Anika who was standing just inside the threshold. Pinky put teeka for Anika and Saahil and did their aarti. She did the same for Shivaay, and then Om. “Such a big jobs my sons have done. Aarti to banti hai” she said wiping her tears. “And my daughter is back finally. Uski aarti to double banti hai” Anika burst into tears at such affection from Pinky and hugged her. By then other elders were there too. Anika touched the feet of all elders one by one and each one blessed and hugged her warmly. Then Tej patted Saahil’s head and said smiling, “We missed you so much Saahil.Thank God you are back”. Saahil smiled back.
Dadi went back to Anika, traced her face, gently with her wrinkled hands and then started to sob. Anika was overwhelmed. “Sorry Dadi. I am so sorry. Please forgive me. But at that time I thought it was the best thing to do. I wanted to meet you one last time but I did not think that then I would be able to leave with dignity.”
Eventually Dadi calmed down and said ‘I know beta. I am not angry. But I was heartbroken.” Anika hugged her tightly again. Then she hugged Soumya and Priyanka too. “We missed you so much didi.” said Soumya. Shivaay just looked at the entire scene and felt overcome with emotion.
Anika had not expected such welcome and their love for her completely threw her off. She realized that Om was being hundred percent truthful about them missing her terribly. She did not know what future held for her but she knew that she had made the right decision by listening to Om.
The next few hours were spent in eating and general chatting. Then Dadi said, “Anika , we just want to know where you have been and if you were ok all this time. Don’t misunderstand our intention. Last three months we were worried sick imagining what might have happened to Saahil and you. I had confidence that you will manage, tough as you are. But still…you are my child so …”
“I understand Dadi,” said Anika. Then she narrated briefly her journey from Mumbai to Pune and then to Ooty. All listened spellbound to her story. “Bhabhi, you are James Bond ki bhi naani” said Rudra. Om laughed, “that’s exactly what I told her except the naani part.”
“Care-taker of your orphanage?” asked Pinky surprised. Anika tensed up. Yes Aunty, I was an orphan till Papa found me. Saahil was born a few years after my adoption. And then we both lost our parents in an accident a few years later. I did not mean to hide this from you. There was never any reason to explain all this before. I don’t like any talk about we not being, so called, blood related and neither does Saahil.
The whole family looked at this girl awe-struck. Shivaay was stunned by her strength and goodness. Just when he thought she could not surprise him anymore, she presented another facet of her character.
Pinky said, “Anika, you think we are ashamed by this story? Oh my maata! I am so proud of you. You are not just a sister but a mother to Saahil. So much pain you have taken in life and still you are so strong and cheerful.”
Everyone agreed and Dadi smiled proudly at Anika. Rudra said, “Bhabhi, I respect you so much that I can’t even begin to explain. You really are my super woman”
Hearing Rudra call her “bhabhi” again, Anika felt that it was time to set the record straight or she was again going to hurt them.
“Rudra, every one, I want to avoid any misunderstanding. I came to meet all of you because I felt that I had been selfish in leaving like that. I got so much love from here and I missed you all a lot. But the things that happened between Shivaay and me are not resolved. I have not come back as his wife. I cannot suddenly forget everything. I am here for a few days. Let us see what happens. I don’t want to build any expectations in you , only to hurt you again. So sorry.”
The whole family tensed up at her statement. Fear of uncertainty showed on their face. After a few moments Tej said, ” That’s fair Anika. You had to go through a lot and it is your right to decide how much you can forgive and forget. Our love for you is unconditional. We want to cherish the moments you spend with us and we will worry about later , later. Tej looked around at everyone and all seemed to reluctantly agree. He briefly happened to glance at Om and was astonished to see a hint of smile and a flicker of respect in Om’s eyes as he looked at him. It was too much for Tej to take. He briskly got up and said in a hoarse voice “have fun everyone” and left. Noone understood what had happened there except for Tej and Om.
They talked for some more time. Everyone had eaten a lot earlier so they weren’t hungry for dinner. Rudra came and said to Anika with his sad, puppy face, ” Bhabhi, since we aren’t sure for how long Saahil and you will stay with us, can I keep Saahil with me while you guys are here?”
Anika felt someone had held her heart in their hand and squeezed it. She managed to say , “Of course Rudra!”
Jhanvi came to Anika and said, “Anika, if you don’t want to stay in your own room, you can stay with Priyanka.” She gently touched Anika’s cheek and left. Other elders left too. Dadi was exhausted and had left for her room earlier. She was the only one who had shown open disappointment at Anika’s talk of going back. She seemed to have become very tired after that and wanted to sleep.
Om asked Anika where she wanted her luggage kept. Anika looked at Shivaay and said “Priyanka’s room.” The extreme tension in the room was palpable. Om instructed a staff to keep Anika’s luggage in Priyanka’s room. Soumya and Priyanka quietly slid out of there. Rudra asked Saahil to come along and took him to Om’s room. Om gave one final look to Shivaay and Anika, said “see you guys tomorrow morning” , and followed Rudra.
Shivaay stood there staring at his “wife” with an undefined expression. Anika stared back but eventually lowered her eyes and left. Shivaay sighed and sat back on the couch thinking deeply.
Next morning everyone gathered up at breakfast table. Tej and Shakti had a meeting so they left quickly. Om had to discuss something with some experts for the resort expansion. He took them to his home office to go over details. He asked Shivaay to join him soon.Rudra had decided to skip college that day. Saahil and he finished breakfast and went to Om’s room to play with video games. Priyanka and Soumya needed to go to college due to an important assignment and said they would be back soon. Pinky, Jhanvi, Dadi, Anika, and Shivaay sat at the table. Anika was looking at her plate and pushing her food around. She had hardly taken a couple of bites. Shivaay stared at her. And the three women stared at both of them with a worried expression.
Finally Dadi , with a determined expression said, ” I want to keep a puja to thank God for bringing back Anika and Saahil.” Everyone else at the table looked at her. Pinky gave a huge smile. “Oh my Maata Mummy ji! What a great ideas! That is why you are mummy ji.” Jhanvi smiled and showed her appreciation. Shivaay smiled too and looked at Anika who simply looked at Dadi and smiled. “Anika, puttar, will you take the responsibility for making arrangements for the puja. When you are in charge, I feel completely relaxed.” Anika felt taken aback at this sudden responsibility. But she smiled and said, “of course Dadi”
“Good, then all arrangements will be done by you. This is a special occasion for me. I want new clothes for everyone. So arrange for that too.” Anika felt even more flustered and stammered “Jee Dadi”.
“Thanks puttar, ye puja achche se ho jaaye without any hindrances. Then I won’t even mind dying the next day and she gave a heavy sad sigh.” Anika felt distressed at this. ” Why are you talking like this Dadi? I will personally take care of each and every arrangement. Nothing will be missing.” Shivaay, Jhanvi and Pinky looked on at Dadi’s back as she hugged Anika.Dadi smiled a calculating smile and then went back to her sober expression. ” Take the earliest date possible from Panditji. I’ll go and lie down for some time. Pinky, Jhanvi, come to my room. I have to discuss some things with you” Pinky and Jhanvi left the room with her.
Shivaay: Umm, let me know what you need for the puja. I mean information or payment related questions.
Anika nodded. “I had all information written in a diary that I used for your wedding planning. Now I don’t know where it must be” That brought back memories of that time to both and they were lost for sometime. Anika came back to her senses first and started to leave.
Shivaay: Anika. Wait. I have that diary.
She turned around. “What?” she asked surprised.
Shivaay: Yes. Come with me.
Anika followed him uncertainly. They went upstairs and headed towards Shivaay’s room. Anika stopped at the door. Shivaay took her hand and gently pulled her in.
He walked towards his closet as Anika looked around. The room brought a flood of memories good and bad and her breathing got heavier. She saw that Shivaay opened a small almirah kept right next to his closet. Anika was curious. “Is that new ” she asked.
“Yes” he said. I needed extra space for some of my stuff. Anika looked at the content of the almirah and gasped. Inside it, were kept neatly, all her things that used to lie around the room or the house. Some of her shoes, a couple of her handbags, some clothes, a few of Saahil’s clothes and books, his toys and other odds and ends. He found her work diary from amongst the books and handed it to her. She saw that her other , personal diary was also there and she eyed it nervously.
She quietly took the work diary from him.
“Take whatever you need from here whenever you want” said Shivaay. Anika nodded.
“A lot of your stuff is still in this closet” he opened his closet and Anika saw that it was half filled with her clothes and things just like she had left it three months ago. ” Just in case you want something from here.” Again Anika just stared at her things and nodded. Her complete silence was becoming unbearable to Shivaay. She was a talkative person and thinking about all of her quirkiness gave him pleasure. This prim and proper and minimal talking Anika was nerve-racking.
She turned around to leave the room when her eyes fell on the nightstand next to his bed. It had a picture of her on it. She took a deep breath and left the room. Anika felt very upset as she walked to Priyanka’s room. How loving and doting he appeared in front of his family. If she refused him , it made her look like the bad-guy. She remembered how much she had come to trust and respect him much before she had realized that she was attracted to him and even loved him.How he had broken every belief she had about his character. And he was doing it all over again. Being nice, soft, and picture of a good understanding person. How long until he did an about turn and started to ill-treat her again? She reached Priyanka’s room and sat at the study table there. She thought ” Before I leave again, I am going to find out what made him become so brutal to me? From being kind, supportive, caring why did he go to being a heartless beast? And then he flipped back again. Why? He had a problem with my blood and lineage. What changed? Is he putting up this front to please his family? But what Om said about Shivaay and why Om joined business? Om does not lie. I have complete faith in him.
Anika’s head ached with confusion and conflicting ideas. Finally she resolved, ” I am going to make Shivaay Singh Oberoi answer some questions.”
After that resolution, she started to go through the diary to find the contact information of various people she needed for the puja, starting with the priest.
In Dadi’s room, Jhanvi and Pinky listened attentively to their mother-in-law. “Understood mummy ji” both said.
Jhanvi added, “Anika comes for any information or assistance, we will direct her to Shivaay one way or another. You are right, unless they interact, talk, and fight it out, their main issue will not get resolved. And living in separate rooms, they will not get a chance to interact enough.”
” Let’s pray this works out. This is our last chance to get her back in our lives” said Dadi pensively.
Hi everyone. Thanks for reading. I am building up to the climax of this story now. This and next update may be a little slow but it is needed to set up the stage for the final act. Hope you will still enjoy it anyway. Thanks for your support. Do leave a comment if you can. I’d really appreciate it.