Link to previous chapter.
Everyone in Oberoi Mansion was still recovering from the busy schedule of various marriage functions. They woke up late, had a leisurely brunch and gradually started getting back to their routine work. Priyanka, Soumya, and Rudra had been missing their college so they went back to make up all they had missed. Saahil had missed his school work as well. He went back to attending school. His adoption papers had been filed and almost processed. He was formally going to be Saahil Singh Oberoi in another three weeks. Right after that was his appointment with a doctor to undergo the first round of treatment for his leg. He had been undergoing regular physiotherapy to prepare him for the procedure.
“Anika, remember, Saahil has his physiotherapy appointment at four today” reminded Shivaay as he started to leave for work. She nodded. ” And I have set your appointment with the bank for ten in the morning tomorrow.” Anika nodded again. Shivaay and she had discussed her desire to start her own restaurant. However, Anika wanted to do it in her own way , discuss it with a bank loan officer, assess the investment needs, responsibilities, and practicality. She wanted to do her own research to understand what she was undertaking and do all the groundwork of setting up a restaurant with some help from Shivaay. As usual, Shivaay had again marvelled at her strength and character and fully supported her. As he started to leave for work, he swiftly looked around, saw noone else, and gave her a quick kiss, ” Love you.” he said. She blushed but looked him in the eye and said, ” Love you too.”
Shivaay smiled at her and left.
Om finished his meetings for the morning and went to see if Shivaay needed any help. He didn’t. Om decided to go and look over his gallery site. On his way there he called Shikhar.
” Hey Shikhar. Just wanted to follow up on the art gallery project. Let me know when you are free for the first visit.”
“Sure Om. I’ll call you back some time today.” Shikhar hung up the phone and went into deep thought. Then seeming to have come to a decision he got up and walked over to Aishani’s cabin and knocked at her door.
” Come in”
“I need to talk to you Aishani.” Said Shikhar entering her cabin.
“Go ahead” Aishani said as she kept working on a plan she was developing.
” Yesterday Om and I discussed an art gallery he is developing for struggling artists. He called to see if I could visit the place for an overview. I am swamped with work and won’t be able to go for at least a week. You know I have a string of meetings and presentations in Bangalore for the next couple of days and then more after that here. But this is a great project and a noble cause so I don’t want to keep him waiting. Will you go instead and get the basic overview and details?”
“You think I am not swamped in work? I am not your secretary Shikhar.” Aishani said coldly.
Shikhar felt a familiar indignation rising up in him. It happened every time she called him Shikhar, instead of bhaiya.
He controlled his anger. ” I know you are not my secretary which is why I wanted you to go. I want to give personal attention to this project.”
“So? It’s your old friend’s work, therefore special to you. I couldn’t care less. If I have any time leftover from my schedule I’ll use it to unwind and relax. Not to go and work for you.” Then she looked at him scornfully and said, “I have a life of my own Shikhar. I cannot spend all my life worrying about you.”
Shikhar felt a rush of tears come up to his eyes , stinging them as he heard his own words thrown back at him. It was like a slap and it weakened him every time she used those words as a weapon. His shoulders slumped, he stared back at her for a few seconds, an image of her helpless and whimpering swimming in his watery eyes. Before the tears could roll down, he turned around and walked back to his cabin.
Aishani sank in her chair, her hands shaking as she picked up a bottle of water. She took a few sips doing nothing to stop the tears that rolled down her cheeks. She sat like that for a few minutes struggling to fight her painful memories. Then she wiped her tears, gently pressed her palms on her eyes, and took several deep breaths. Eventually she got up, walked over to her brother’s cabin, and knocked. She winced at Shikhar’s hoarse “Give me a minute.” When she heard him say, “Yes, come in.” she opened the door. She saw his red eyes, felt a rush of emotion sweep all over her, controlled it, then said, ” If I do this for you , you will owe me one. Is that acceptable to you?”
“Give me the contact information of whom and where. Also brief me about what you will be looking for. I have done this before but I would like a refresher before I go. Let the client know it’s going to be me, not you, for the overview. I have no more patience for disappointed looks and insulting remarks about whether I am up to the job.”
“It’s going to be Om so you don’t have to worry about that”
Aishani felt her heartbeat quicken but she stayed completely in control. “Whatever. Inform him nonetheless.”
” Ok. I’ll come and give you a briefing in a few minutes. I’ll inform him too. Which date and time suit you?”
“I can go around twelve tomorrow.”
” All right. I’ll be in your office as soon as I have gathered a few forms and templates to give you.”
Aishani had turned around to leave when Shikhar called her out “Aashi, can we please be done with this Aishani-Shikhar crap. I can’t take it anymore. Just speak out all of your anger against me. Fight with me. If you want I will call you Aishani but at least you stop calling me Shikhar. Please go back to calling me bhaiya.”
Aishani’s face became red. Without turning around she said, “Sometimes silence is the best revenge ! I’ll wait for you in my cabin…Shikhar.” and she walked away.
“Fine!” shouted Shikhar in frustration his hair all messed up and tie hanging loose around the open collar of his white shirt. “I’ll go back to calling you Aashi then. Do what you want.Have me killed if you will!”
Aashi could not help smiling a bit as she got a flash of her childhood memory of irritating the hell out of him until he shouted in frustration.
Shikhar gathered himself up, got all the required paperwork and went over to her cabin.
At the art gallery space Om looked around and took some notes of his own. After acquiring it, he had gotten the place thoroughly cleaned so it was free of dirt and dust. He had even had some old leftover but good condition carpets from one of their warehouses lain on the gallery floor to make it look more hospitable. It used to be a clothing store so there were shelves all around. When he had not received Shikhar’s call after forty-five minutes of getting there, he decided to leave. Just as he started to lock up the place, Shikhar called. Om stopped locking the place and took the call hopefully.
” Hey Om. Sorry it took me a while. I am swamped with work this week but I want to get started on the gallery project. So Aishani will come to get an overview tomorrow. She has worked on several projects with me over the past three years and has a diploma in the basics of architecture. So she is more than qualified. She wanted me to specify this as in the past when she has visited in my place, clients have shown disappointment and doubt. Since you are an old friend I thought I could clarify this frankly.” Afraid of offending Om, Shikhar added apologetically.
Om smiled imagining Aishani confronting a client doubting her ability. He could not resist a chuckle. “Don’t worry Shikhar. I have seen her Durga avatar. Your parents rightly named her Aishani. I’ll be careful. And remember, I am Omkaara after all. I think I can calm down Aishani’s wrath.”
Shikhar was silent as Om had said exactly what he had seriously felt at the party, seeing the two of them together. But he could not let either get even a hint of what he really wanted. He just laughed casually and said, “Yeah sure!
Om felt incredibly happy as he got into his car and drove home. He thought that it was because his dream project was finally getting a kick-start. Aishani had received a briefing for the next day from Shikhar. She felt excited at the prospect of seeing Om again. She knew why and she also knew that she had to hide her feelings and keep them firmly under control. He was a nice, good-looking guy from a privileged background and obviously wouldn’t want to have anything to do with someone like her, she told herself. Then her thoughts went to what Shikhar had shouted out earlier on. In her mind she said, “I can’t forget how you abandoned me when I needed you most bhaiya, but I am thankful to you for giving me these few moments of happiness of knowing someone like Om.”
When Om got home he saw Anika and Saahil in the living room. “Hey Saahil! What’s up? How did your physio session go today?” he said as he sat on the sofa next to Saahil and put his arms around him. “Theek thaa bhaiya but the physio teacher is very strict. She does not let me stop when I get tired.”
” But that will speed up your recovery after the surgery Saahil. Your muscles will be super strong by then.”
” Arrey, I know all that theory bhaiya. But the practical part makes me cry.”
Om laughed at Saahil’s smart talk and kissed him on his head. “So Saahil, in three weeks, I will be bhaiya as well as your chacha. Have you decided what to call me after that?”
Saahil rolled his eyes. “Poocho mat bhaiya. Band baji hui hai dimaag ki. It is so confusing. Rudra bhaiya can only be bhaiya. I can’t imagine him as anything else. You are also bhaiya. Didi is Didi. Same with Priyanka didi. Jeeju is the only one whose name I don’t mind changing.”
Anika and Om laughed looking very amused at Saahil’s big problems. “Oh really Saahil.” said Om.”And what do you not mind calling him , can we know?”
Saahil became thoughtful and said, ” I wouldn’t mind calling Jeeju, Dad. He is kind of like a “Dad” type guy. It suits him. But it will not work with what I am going to call everyone else.So I’ll stick with Jeeju.” ended Saahil putting his right palm on his forehead like he had so much burden. Om hugged Saahil and laughed uncontrollably as Anika looked on laughing too . Noone noticed Shivaay who was back home and had heard everything Saahil had said. He stood there quietly composing himself and getting rid of the lump in his throat.
After a few minutes he let his presence be known. “Hey Shivaay! When did you get home?” asked Om.
“Just now! How are all of you doing.”
“Saahil and Anika seem to have had a good day at physiotherapy.” said Om as Saahil rolled his eyes again, “And I had a marvelous day at work. My gallery project will finally start tomorrow. Someone will come to do and overview of the place.”
“Wow! Great Om!” Shivaay said as he sat on the other side of Saahil and fiddled with his hair. Saahil leaned a little on Shivaay and let his head rest in the nook of Shivaay’s arm and shoulder. Shivaay let his right arm go around Saahil and hugged him gently, quickly kissing the back of his head.
After dinner, everyone went to his or her room. Shivaay volunteered to take Saahil to his room which was now right next to his own and Anika’s room. As Shivaay tucked Saahil in, he kneeled down next to his bed and gently caressed his front-locks off his forehead. Then as casually as he could, he said “Saahil, three weeks from now, your adoption will be completed. Anika Didi and I will be your parents officially.”
Saahil nodded as he looked at Shivaay with his innocent eyes.
“We are doing this so that Anika and I can do everything for you that a mom and dad can. And I don’t want any Bandari Bua to threaten us with snatching you away.”
Saahil laughed when Shivaay said “Bandari Bua.”
Shivaay laughed too, then continued, “Saahil, I have taken care of Rudra since he was about as old as you are now. So I feel kind of like a Dad even to him, and he is so big. So I definitely feel kind of like a Dad to you. Don’t worry about what you are calling whom in this house. Call me whatever you feel like calling me OK? If it’s Dad then let it be dad. I would love it.”
Saahil held Shivaay’s hand tightly. ” Can I ask you something?”
“Of course! Anytime, anyhing.” said Shivaay.
“What will happen when Anika Didi and you will have your own baby? When people get married they have babies. And I am so waiting for a cute little baby to take care of. But you will be that baby’s parents right? Will this adoption thing still be true then?” Saahil had a lot of confusion and doubt on his tiny face that this child had probably hidden until now.
Shivaay realized what a confusing time it was for Saahil and just like Anika he hid his doubts and fears under a mask of jokes and goofiness. Shivaay felt his heart becoming very full. He swallowed hard and said softly ” Yes Saahil, regardless of what happens in future, you will always be my first child. Always”
Saahil stared at him for a few seconds. Then he got up a little and hugged Shivaay tightly and simply said, “I love you so much Jeeju. It doesn’t matter what I call you. In reality, for me you will always be dad.” Shivaay, let go of the tears he had been trying to hold back. They hugged for a while then Shivaay whispered, “let these tears be our secret. Or every one will tease us.”
Saahil gave him a thumbs up and said “goodnight.” Shivaay kissed his forehead and said “goodnight” too. Then he switched off the lights in the room, switched on his soft nightlight and his moons and stars projection light that brought a comforting night sky to his ceiling. He left the door just a little ajar so that the corridor light would creep in and reminded Saahil to press the switch right next to his bed in case he needed anything. That switch was for a bell in Shivaay’s and Anika’s room in case Saahil needed them for any reason at night. Then he walked to his own room right next door.
Anika came out of the bathroom just as he entered the room and locked the door behind him. She was dressed in a black satin robe and Shivaay sighed deeply as he saw and felt her comforting presence.
“Where were you?” she asked. “Look, I picked up a gift for you today.” she said dramatically displaying her attire. Shivaay walked up to her, and hugged her tightly.” It’s amazing how much happiness you have given me Anika and how much you keep giving. Anika smiled as she hugged him back.
In his room Om lay in his bed feeling excited about the next day. Again he told himself it was because his art-gallery project was finally starting. However, when he closed his eyes, all he could see was a girl in bright pink, with long chocolate color hair framing her flawless oval face, and a pair of almond eyes with the depth of an ocean in them. Om fell asleep with that image in his eyes.
Thanks for reading Everyone. Please comment if you can. 🙂