Link to Previous Chapters
As he worked on his latest and most personal project in his studio, Om lovingly enhanced the shape and form of the idol he was making. It was going to be his contribution to the first art show of his gallery and it was not going to be for sale. As he worked engrossed, his mind rewound the events of the day. It started at when Aashi had arrived. That memory made his senses alive. His brain shifted to his conversation with Anika. He felt a little shaken by that because he knew that in future more such instances would come where he would have to back up Shivaay or Anika to keep the family together. He thought of Saahil and the trust the kid had shown in him when Anika was still not ready to come back in Shivaay’s life. ” Om bhaiya can be trusted”he had said to the resort manager when he was not letting them take an unconscious Anika to their suite. Om firmly resolved to never let Saahil’s interests suffer come what may. “My days of being weak are gone. I am going to fiercely fight for my family now on.”
Then he remembered his time with Aashi in that room and what he had made her say as they had left the room. He couldn’t help laughing remembering her expression. Next he recalled how she had taken the initiative, unabashedly showing her desire for him. He felt his breathing becoming labored. ” It looks like I have just scratched the tip of the iceberg as far as our need for each other is concerned.” The very idea of complete acceptance on her part made him restless and he decided to stop working.
As Shikhar lay in his bed thinking about the entire evening, various thoughts and conversations crossed his mind. But when he closed his eyes he saw Priyanka’s innocent face and heard her voice , “What is your passion? What are you passionate about?”
“What am I passionate about!?” Shikhar thought. At one time he had been passionate about his career and his fitness. The fitness bit was still important to him and his lean, muscular body was the evidence of it. But to say that fitness was his passion, would be taking it too far. He loved his job, but he could not say that he was passionate about it. “Then what?” he asked himself.
His only passion for the past few years had been getting Aashi back to happiness and pushing pain away from her. It looked like that goal was nearly achieved now. “What’s my passion now?” Priyanka’s one simple question had destabilized his center of gravity and jolted him out of the comfort zone and one track focus his mind had been in for the past four years.
” Be passionate about something as long as it’s positive. There are other ways of figuring out what you want to do with your life than by focusing on the academics.” he had said. Priyanka sat on the bed recalling her conversation with Shikhar. Everyone knew that she loved Indian clothes and designed her own. But noone had called it a passion before. Everyone pampered her and loved her to the core but noone had ever expected her to have a goal or pursue a passion before.
For the first time, Priyanka felt that she had really been treated like an adult who needed to have some accountability for her own life. She got up in a frenzy and went to a cabinet next to her study table. She looked through it searching for something feverishly. Her hands finally rested upon a folder and she pulled it out with excitement and brought it to her bed. She gently opened the folder and one by one took out each sheet and placed it neatly in front and around her. When she was done, she had about fifty sheets of sketches of beautiful kurtis, suits, lehengaas, and saaris , complete with details and accessories. Priyanka stared at them for a while. She thought of Shikhar’s words again, “See what Om has done with what he loved to do. I admire that so much. She breathed in deeply and made a resolve.
Next morning everyone seemed to be recovering from the activity and excitement of Saturday and woke up very late. As a result breakfast became sort of a brunch. Saahil was still starry eyed from the previous day and finished his food pretty fast.
“Rudra bhaiya, you are the best party planner in this world.” he declared in a very satisfied voice.
Rudra grinned at him affectionately. “Thanks Saahil. You are a very smart boy.”
Soumya rolled her eyes at their mutual admiration. “Hello!! Priyanka and I played an important role in the planning.”
Rudra gave her an indulgent smile and winked at Saahil as they laughed together.
“Anything for our dear Saahil.” Priyanka said sweetly. “You guys talk, I’ll be back.” she said. Then she went to Anika, “Bhabhi, is Shivaay Bhaiya in his study?”
“Yes.” Anika nodded. ” What happened Priyanka?”
“Oh nothing. I just wanted to talk to him.” Priyanka said with a smile as she left while Anika looked on curiously. However her attention was soon consumed by the arrival of Tej, Shakti, Pinky, and Jhanvi. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood. Tej even nodded at Anika smiling as he said, “Good morning beta!”
Anika felt relieved as she turned towards Jhanvi who went to sit in her chair. Then Anika caught sight of Pinky’s face and her ease was shaken. Pinky’s face looked strained although she still forced a smile and took her breakfast. Anika remembered her talk with Om and Shivaay the previous night and took a deep breath in and went to help everyone with breakfast.
Priyanka walked slowly over to Shivaay’s study. Finding the door open she quietly entered the room. Shivaay was looking intently through the contents of a file and did not notice her.
“Bhaiya.” she said softly.
Shivaay looked up surprised by the sound of her voice. “Prinku? What is it? Is someone calling me?” he asked casually.
“No bhaiya. I need to talk to you. Do you have the time?” Priyanka said nervously.
Shivaay’s heart started to beat fast.”Was she OK? What happened? Is something bothering her?Is she in some kind of trouble? ” He closed his file and got up.
“Of course I have the time! What happened? What’s the matter? ” he said walking up to her.
“No, I am fine.” Priyanka assured him. ” I just want to talk to you.”
“OK…!” Shivaay said uncertainly as he saw his baby sister go and close the door. Beads of sweat appeared at his forehead as he scanned her face nervously for indications of anxiety. But she looked extremely calm and even happy! Giving up, Shivaay walked up to his desk with her and both sat down.
Priyanka raised her hand and took out a folder that was hitherto hidden by her dupatta and forwarded it toward Shivaay.
Shivaay took it from her, and looked at her completely clueless and flabbergasted.
“What’s this Prinku?” he asked surprised.
“I made them bhaiya. Please look at them and tell me what you think about them.”
Shivaay opened the folder impatiently and took out the contents. He was mesmerized by what was inside. He looked through the beautiful, brilliantly detailed, designed, and colored sketches.”They are beautiful Prinku! I am so impressed.” he said looking at them smiling.
Priyanka felt a deep sense of relief. She smiled and gathering up all her courage she said, “Bhaiya, I want to quit college and I want to enroll in a fashion design program. I want to design Indian clothes and accessories professionally and I want to learn how to do that properly. Will you help me?”
Shivaay looked at her stunned. Was this his little Prinku? All of a sudden she was looking mature and grown. What had happened to her, he thought regretfully at first. Then he realized what question she had asked him.
“You want to go to a professional fashion and textile design school? Are you sure? Don’t you enjoy your current college program? Why suddenly?”
“I enjoy college bhaiya, but I have no future there. I want to do something I love and be really good at it like Om bhaiya and be admired for it. This is my passion and I want to pursue it. Will you support me?” she asked with her childlike innocence.
Shivaay felt his eyes dampening. He cleared his throat and took a deep breath. “Yes. This is excellent and if this is what you want then I will support you two hundred percent. Add Om and Rudra’s collective four hundred percent to that, and you have six hundred percent support for your ambition.”
Priyanka’s face lit up as she smiled widely and tears rolled out of her eyes. She sprang up from her chair and rushed to hug Shivaay tightly. ” Thank you bhaiya! You are the best. I love you.”
Shivaay looked at her laughing affectionately. “I’ll work out your admission at a fashion technology school first and then you can quit college.”
Priyanka smiled back at him and nodded.
“I’ll let you work now.” she said picking up her folder.
“Leave it here. I might need it when I send in your application and supporting materials. I’ll let you know when you need to come with me for something.”
As Priyanka was leaving, Shivaay called out to her. “Prinku, how did this suddenly come to you?”
Priyanka smiled. “Best inspirations and motivations come to us suddenly bhaiya. I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t looking for it, but I am so lucky to have found it. I have never felt this happy, this confident, and this liberated before. ”
Shivaay nodded at her amazed as he resolved to get her admitted in the best possible design program for the very next term.
Next week was a busy one in Oberoi household. Saahil was scheduled to go for his surgery on Thursday. Anika had put her restaurant work on hold for two weeks. She was extremely nervous and had been very quiet. Shivaay tried his best to soothe her and succeeded for some time until she went back to being anxious. Shivaay realized that her anxiety would end only after Saahil had come out safe and sound from the operating room.
Tuesday afternoon, while Aashi was at her work station in her office, developing the plan for Om’s gallery there was a knock at her office door.
“Yes? Come in.” she said turning around to look briefly at the closed door as she went back to her work.
A few seconds later a pair of warm hands touched her shoulders softly making her gasp and jerk up her head.
“What the heck!!” she shouted angrily and then became quiet as she looked back at a pair of deep eyes looking at her.
“Sorry! Didn’t mean to startle you. After the progress I have made so far, I thought touching you on your shoulders was definitely permitted.” Om said in a teasing voice.
“How was I supposed to know it was you?” She said recovering, her heart still racing as she got up from her chair.
“I told you I’ll see you on Tuesday. And I said I’ll call unless I just drop by.” said Om looking at her incredulously.
Aashi shook her head in disbelief. “You are too much.” she said.
“OK. If you are that upset with me, I’ll go.” Om said with mock seriousness.
Aashi laughed at his theatrics. She hugged him briefly. ” Come, I’ll show you the plan I have so far.” she said holding his hand as she walked him to her workstation.
Om looked at the screen with deep interest as Aashi explained it to her.
In Soumya’s room Ranjana looked through her toiletries bag. ” It’s so hard to find things in here. I am going to be here for four more days. I need to arrange this somewhere.” she thought carrying her bag to Soumya’s dresser. Soumya was still not back from college. Ranjana saw the mess on the dresser finding little to no space for her things.
“She has kept so many unnecessary things here. What are all these drawers for.” she mumbled opening the drawers to find an empty one.
At Aashi’s office Om listened attentively to Aashi as she wrapped up her description. ” It will make more sense when I explain it at the gallery. I still need to add several things. It’ll be done by next Tuesday. By then, we may be able to visit the gallery as well.”
Om nodded.” Sounds good. Let’s go out for some coffee. ”
Aashi gave it some thought “OK. Let’s ask bhaiya if he wants to join us.”
They walked over to Shikhar’s cabin. Aashi knocked at it and opened the door. Shikhar was on a phone call. He waved at Om. Aashi walked over to his desk and wrote down on a piece of paper, ” We are going out for coffee. Want to join us?”
Shikhar kept talking on the phone as he read her note. He shook his head sideways in denial. Then he shifted his phone to his left hand and wrote his answer. “Very busy. You guys go on.”
Aashi nodded and went back to Om.”He is swamped. Let’s go.”
They walked out of the office and walked over to Om’s car. “Where do you want to go?”
“Anyplace nearby and this time I’ll be coming back to my office.” Aashi said meaningfully. Then she smiled at him widely. Om recalled the last time he had taken her from her office and what had happened at the cafe. He made a mental note of not going there as he started to drive.
“Let’s go back to the same cafe as last time Om.” Aashi said completely surprising him. ” We never tried their coffee. If the wrap was so good, the coffee must be killer.”
Om looked at her amazed before he looked back ahead at the street. “I thought…” he said uncertainly.
“I am not afraid or ashamed of any experience with you. Each one has helped me move forward in life. I am not as good as you at expressing myself but I can accept reality and I embrace each interaction with you.”
Om breathed in sharply as he said.”OK.” She had left him speechless and had completely taken his breath away.
In Soumya’s room, Ranjana found each drawer crammed with accessories, make-up, hair-bands, and all sorts of things. “This is her one drawback. She cannot keep anything but her books organized. She finally tried to open the bottom drawer. It seemed to be stuck. She jerked it open and it suddenly came out pushing her back. It seemed to be empty except for a small, worn out bag. “Thank God! At least one drawer is empty.” She collected a few things from the top of the dresser and put them in the empty drawer, to make space for her toiletries. ” I bet she has some junk stuffed in this dirty old bag.” Ranjana took the bag and shut the drawer. She opened the bag casually as she walked over to the bed and overturned it. The contents of the bag spilled over the bedsheet. She looked at the stuff curiously. As recognition of the items that had spilled over dawned on her, her eyes widened with shock. She realized she was staring at a mangalsutra, a piece of red thread with some metallic ring tied to it, a couple of silver toe-rings and a few other miscellaneous items that a girl was made to wear during wedding rituals. Her heart raced and she felt a little dizzy. She touched the mangalsutra with trembling hands and was about to pick it up when the door opened. It was a worker from the mansion.
“Soumya didi’s mail came. I was told to leave it in her room.” he said handing the white envelope to Ranjana.
As if in a trance she took the envelope and watched the worker leave. Then she looked at the envelope. It had the logo of Soumya’s old college. With trembling hands she opened the envelope and read the document inside. ” We have received your request for transfer… Please submit original marksheets and a duly signed transfer certificate for further procedure…” “She is trying to get transferred back…!!What in God’s name has she done and what all is she hiding from me!!” she thought with disbelief. There was nothing to do until Soumya came back. Trembling with pain and anger, Ranjana collected all the items on the bed and put them back in the old bag. She placed the envelope next to it. Then she went and sat on the couch staring ahead, thinking of all her struggle to educate her children after Soumya’s dad had passed away. Tears rolled down her cheeks making her stunningly beautiful face strangely poignant. She did not attempt to wipe her tears and stared directly at the door as she waited for her daughter to come back.
Thanks for reading Everyone. I am sorry about the delay in update. Saturday got a little busy. Besides, I had to give the story some thought. As Serendipity is drawing closer to its conclusion, I might sometimes skip a day in posting updates as I want to take enough time to think about the story and give it a proper progress and conclusion. Thank you for your patience and support. It would be an understatement to say that I really appreciate it, but what else do I have but words☺Please comment if you can.