Link to previous episode : Episode 8
She choked on the cold drink as she tried to supress a chuckle that was border line on escaping as she watched her new friend returning the lot of dresses she had chosen to try on to the salesgirl.
Its been 2 hours they entered the mall. Only 20 minutes were spent on purchasing the movie tickets, the rest were spent in order to find few perfect dresses by Swara and to their bad luck, Swara hadn’t find a single piece of cloth that captures her mind and heart. So they were in this store which was under the ownership of RK Designs, that is, Ragini’s own clothing store. For once Ragini was really glad that she had kept herself kind of hidden from media’s eyes, being the introvert she was, it was always Nannu who worked at the frontlines while Ragini was laid back and private kind of person, who preferred to remain hidden at the sidelines.
She rarely made public appearances, and that was why only few people outside her circle recognized her. Her brand was a household name but she wasn’t. A promotional poster caught Ragini’s eye causing her lips to curl due to a fond memory.
The poster displayed few dresses of the new bridal clothing that she had launched three months back. The best part weren’t the clothes but it was the model who was showcasing them. DJ. Ragini let herself wander off in the memory when she had to blackmail DJ into modelling for her. It was fun watching the badass rock chick trying to get comfortable in those heavy lehngas and other dresses.
“Enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough is enough!!” Sanskar started stomping his feet hard, attracting the attention of the people present around.
“What happened Sanskar?” Swara asked as she pulled out a knee length tricolour dress, in shades of orange, gray and navy blue.
“We came here to play games and watch movie! Not to buy you clothes. I want to go play games.” Sanskar whined.
“I got the permission so we will buy clothes first.” said Swara.
“Ra-gi-ni” Sanskar drawled her name, “Let us go, please.”
Both Swara and Sanskar were giving each other murderous looks and Ragini decided that it was time to intervene. She came and stood in between Swara and Sanskar.
“Sanskar let me help Swara first okay.” Sanskar was about to argue but Ragini cut him off, “30 minutes tops!”
Now Swara was about to argue. No girl can shop clothes within 30 minutes. While Sanskar agreed, Swara wasn’t sure about it.
Ragini turned to face Swara and gave her an assuring look.
“What do you want exactly?” Ragini asked.
“I don’t know.” Swara replied sheepishly.
Ragini sighed, “Colors, occasion, anything you want your clothes to be about?”
“Something comfortable, daily wear but also something that I can wear for simple get together parties.”
Ragini looked as if she was contemplating hard, almost as if she was processing the little piece if information to google out the perfect dress pieces. 2 minutes later, Ragini dragged Swara with her through the various sections while Sanskar sat on a chair drawing something imaginary on the tiled floor with his left foot.
As Ragini went checking the different sections in the store, she started picking up different clothes. She picked at most 6-8 dresses and pushed Swara inside the trial room with the dresses in her (Swara’s) hands.
13 minutes. Ragini smiled as she looked at her wrist watch. They still hand 15 minutes before Sanskar starts demanding to go play and watch movie.
Damn that was impressive! Thought Swara as she eyed herself in the mirror. Ragini had picked 7 dresses for her and all of them were epic. Really, all of them were what Swara wanted, Ragini really had a fine sense in fashion. Brilliant and extra ordinary. Her favourite was the peach colored plazo with an off shoulder top that hugged her curves and had a cropped bottom that exposed her midriff.
Her another favourite was the black colored knee length dress, paired with a blue denim jacket and a dark gray scarf with black colored detailed designs. Why hadn’t she seen that before! Swara changed back into her own clothes, picked the other dresses and came out of the trial room with a brilliant smile on her face.
“28 minutes. You came on time!” Ragini laughed softly, “Well the smile on your face tells me that you liked the clothes.” commented Ragini.
Swara gasped dramatically, “Liked it?! I freaking loved all of them!” In excitement Swara tried to hug Ragini but due to the force that Swara’s hug held, both the girls lost their footing and fell on the floor laughing.
“You two are playing on the floor! Can I join too?” Sanskar asked innocently, setting them off again, laughing.
After the shopping spree, the trio of Sanskar, Ragini and Swara were headed to the gaming section on the 3rd floor on the mall, when a huge trampoline caught Sanskar’s attention. He tugged at Ragini’s hand and started dragging her towards the place the trampoline was.
“I want to do that!” Sanskar said pointing to the teenagers who were jumping on the trampoline.
“But Sanskar we..see Swara is..” Ragini tried to relieve her hand from Sanskar’s hold but failed. Swara ran behind them and held on Ragini’s other hand. “Wait..stop for a minute.” Swara said.
Sanskar pouted but stopped, “I really want to do that.” he crossed his arms in front of his chest and just huffed.
So it was decided that Ragini would take Sanskar for trampoline jumping while Swara will wait for them in a restaurant next to the gaming arena. Ragini got the entry ticket for Sanskar but he was adamant about Ragini coming with him, so Ragini took a ticket for herself as well.
They had to wait for 5 good minutes for those teenagers turn to end. Sanskar pulled Ragini with him, they both climbed the trampoline with their shoes off and started jumping to their hearts content.
Ragini was a little embarrassed at first but it flew off sooner than she thought. Both of them laughed, held each others hands while jumping and tried many different poses in air. It was fun.
It was fun but it ended when Sanskar mistakenly stepped on Ragini’s foot who tripped on her long skirt and they both fell on the trampoline and bounced a little. Ragini was lying on top of Sanskar, her petite form covering his muscular one. Her hair creating a curtain for hers and Sanskar’s face. And that was what it looked to the outsiders, the other people. But something else also happened.
When Ragini fell over Sanskar, her lips accidentally got brushed against the corner of his jaw in a fleeting kiss and the little bounce? That only caused Ragini to move in a way that her lips now rested over Sanskar’s. Oh shit!
The moment her lips touched his, something blasted inside her, a firecracker like thing that cause sparks to erupt. Ragini felt her mind go hazy, she hadn’t been kissed on lips ever. Well this also wasn’t a proper kiss either but still their lips were in direct contact with each other. Damnit! The innocence of the simple brush didn’t matter, only the contact was enough to make Ragini’s senses go weak.
Cutting through the haziness surrounding her brain was the realization, the reality was the move that Sanskar made by tightening his arm around her waist.
“Oh crap!” Ragini pulled away from Sanskar and got off the trampoline. She couldn’t dare look at Sanskar. She was way too much embarrassed and her heartbeat too erratic. Whereas Sanskar was acting normally well as much normal as Sanskar is with his medical condition. He still behaved like a child and Ragini, she just locked the memory of the whole event in a part of her brain and threw away the key to that door somewhere. Soon the things were back to normal. They appeared normal from far at least.
Laksh’s meeting with Mastishk had gone extremely well. After the deal was signed, Laksh invited Mastishk to Shanti Sadan for lunch. Mastishk saw it as an opportunity to meet Ragini, so he agreed to Laksh’s invitation.
Laksh called home and informed that Mastishk was coming with him for lunch. Due to the sudden nature of the said invitation, a chaos was caused among the Maheshwari and Gadodia ladies regarding what to cook because Laksh will be coming back at 3 for lunch, which gives them 2 hours to prepare everything.
Ragini, Sanskar and Swara came holding shopping bags, while Swara and Sanskar were laughing on their own jokes, Ragini’s mind was still wandering around the kiss that she had shared with Sanskar. Her first kiss. It wasn’t a proper kiss but still it was a kiss. Oh damn!
The memory brought colour to Ragini’s cheeks. Had Sanskar not reacted by tightening his arm around her..
Ragini stopped in her tracks and went still while Swara and Sanskar walked away to the hall, so immersed in their conversation that they didn’t notice Ragini standing still in midway.
The memory of Sanskar tightening his arm around her waist, unintentionally or maybe intentionally pulling her close while they kissed brought the suspicion regarding Sanskar’s mental condition. She was too embarrass to notice Sanskar’s reaction that time, but the look that he had given her when she had fallen over him in the car, good lord! She could now pin-point the dazed look on Sanskar’s face, right before he had started calling her fatty!
She stared at Sanskar carefully trying to understand if he was really mentally unstable? Or was she reading too much between the lines? Her train of thoughts was stopped by Swara, when she called out for her. Ragini managed to smile and make her way inside as Swara bragged about how perfect Ragini’s choice was in fashion.
“Beta, we will see these dresses later. We are really busy now.” Sharmishta placed her hand on Swara’s stopping her from taking out the dresses she bought.
“What? Why you so busy?” Swara questioned.
“Laksh is bringing home a guest, for lunch.” Sujata informed caused Ragini’s interest to spike up.
“A business client to be precise without giving a second thought Laksh invited him for lunch. We are in a fix right now. Don’t know what to cook!” Annapurna said massaging her temples.
Parineeti made a face as she said, “And his name is so weird. Mastsh..something.”
This angered Ragini. How dare she joke about her friends’ name, “Mastishk. His name is Mastishk, meaning brain, mind.” Ragini murmured.
Everybody was looking her way with a question in their eyes. “Do you know him?” It was Swara who voiced it out.
Ragini fumbled with her words, “Yeah..uumm..kind of. Actually before coming here, I used to work for him. This morning I heard Laksh talk about him and yeah I know him. Mastishk Kashyup’s my ex-employer.”
“Oh! Then you must know about the food he likes!?” Sujata exclaimed.
Ragini held back the sigh of relief and said, “Yeah.” Ragini was excited about meeting her dear friend so she started blabbing about the food items that were Mastishk’s favourites, “Dal makhani, kadhi-chawal and gulab jamuns. He likes his gulab jamuns hot with lots of sugar syrup.”
The ladies immediately went inside the kitchen and started making lunch. Parineeti was given the responsibility to make gulab jamuns as it was her speciality while the other ladies divided the rest of the work among themselves.
Mastishk clutched the handle of his office bag tightly as he entered Shanti Sadan. The bag was actually for Ragini, it had her files and her new cellphone of course. He chuckled as he imagined what Ragini’s reaction will be when she will be given a piece of old technology to operate on.
The first thing he noticed when he entered the hall were the impressive interiors of the house and second thing was the delicious aroma of gulab jamuns.
“Mastishk?” Laksh called, as he saw Mastishk standing with his eyes close and the look on his face was as if he’s in heaven or something.
The family members came out to welcome the guest. Ragini bit the inside of her cheek, keeping herself from laughing because Mastishk looked quite abnormal standing like that.
“Gulab Jamuns!” Mastishk spoke making Ragini laugh while the others were either amused or confused.
Ragini’s laughter brought him to reality. Mastishk composed himself and smiled sheepishly while scratching the back of his neck. “Sorry I just…. The aroma…. I just love gulab jamums. Oh sorry!”
Annapurna laughed, the boy was cute just as her Sanskar was before everything went wrong. “Its okay beta, don’t be embarrassed.”
Sharmishta then called everyone for lunch and just like morning Sanskar insisted that if Ragini can’t feed him that she had to at least sit beside him.
“Its a good thing that Ragini told us about the dishes you like to eat, we were confused otherwise.” Parineeti commented as she served food to Mastishk.
Laksh raised a brow at Ragini who felt flushed under his questioning gaze, “You two know each other?”
Before Ragini could say something, Sujata spoke, “Yeah she said she used to work for Mastishk before.”
“You did?” Mastishk looked at Ragini, who glared at him, “Oh yes of course, she, yeah she. Actually she used to work for my sister, in her NGO. Yeah she did.”
That piqued Laksh’s curiosity, Ragini had said that she had done only babysitting jobs, she didn’t mentioned about working in an NGO. He wanted to question Ragini about it, plus the silent exchange between Ragini and Mastishk aroused suspicion. Which employee knows about such accurate, personal likes of its employer’s sibling? But before he could ask something, Mastishk had cleverly changed the topic.
“Parineeti ji, those gulab jamuns were really amazing. I haven’t had such tasty gulab jamuns before. They were good, these ones are the best!” Mastishk praised as he ate gulab jamun number 7.
Parineeti blushed. She thanked him politely and filled his bowl with 2 more gulab jamuns.
“Oh god! I’m finding it difficult to move, I am sure I might have gained few kgs.” Mastishk said rubbing his belly causing laughter to break out around the table.
“Arre beta, there is no harm in gaining weight. You know being fat used to be a status symbol back in our times, it indicates wealth and prosperity.” Dadi remarked.
“No Aunty Ji. I will look horrible with a fat belly, moreover Drish will go ballistic and set me up on a diet!”
“Drish….your wife?” Sujata asked.
This query of Sujata, caused Mastishk to choke as the water went in the wrong pipe and Ragini to dissolve into giggles. The reaction wasn’t left unnoticed by Laksh.
“What?” Sujata frowned.
“Aunty Drish is his sister.” Ragini answered.
“Oh. Sorry.” Sujata said smiling sheepishly. Mastishk was about to say something but the very moment his phone rang.
“Think of the devil and the devil calls.” Mastishk murmured as he answered the call. It was Drish on the other side.
Mastishk left the table to talk to Drish while Ragini started helping the ladies to clean the table as everybody had finished eating lunch. Laksh’s suspicions regarding Ragini were growing by leaps and bounds. Hadn’t she told him that she had done only baby sitting jobs? Then she said that she had worked for Mastishk, but Mastishk said she used to work under his sister in an NGO. If she was just an employee, that too for Drishika Kashyup, then how come she knew about what Mastishk likes to eat. Okay, even if she knew that somehow, but the way Mastishk and Ragini act around each other, they seem to share a bond on a more personal base.
They seem to be talking in gestures more than words.
Later, when Laksh was walking towards his room to grab a file as he and Mastishk needed to be back in the office to sign the contract and seal the deal, he saw Mastishk and Ragini talking, alone.
“I swear we have this psychic twin connection! If not that, then Drish must have appointed someone to spy on me. I mean how come she gets to know that I am in trouble or something?” Mastishk asked Ragini. Laksh hid behind the pillar, spying on the two.
Ragini smiled, “Just like you get to know about it when she is into some trouble. You guys are twins Tish, created together, formed together, birthed together and grew up side by side, its something that comes naturally.”
“Tish?” Laksh whispered to himself.
“Seriously Ginu! She overreacts sometimes. She acts more like a mother hen than a sister.”
“But you love it! And don’t try to argue.”
Mastishk rolled his eyes, “Something happened by the way.”
“Gatothkach seems to be in love.” Mastishk drawled in a sing song way.
Ragini scoffed, “Tell me something new. He’s…”
Mastishk interrupted, “No. It’s the real kind of. Drish just told me about it. Apparently Chashni and Juno were out on a date when they saw Gatothkach being beaten by two women.”
Laksh was confused about the way the talked about people with such weird names.
“So he fell in love with one of those?” Ragini asked.
“No. Not one of them. But the girl he fell in love with, broke his nose.” laughed Mastishk while Ragini eyed him angrily.
“Tish! Is he okay? What the hell happened?”
“Long story short. Gatothkach was describing his dream girl to Chashni when his dream girl turned into reality and banged into him hard. He fell on the floor and broke his nose. Juno says that she talks a lot, he got a headache you know.”
“But Gatothkach is okay na?” Ragini was very worried.
Mastishk smiled and held her hand in hers, rubbing soothing circles with his thumb, “Just a minor fracture, nothing else. Doctor said that pain relief medicine and an ice pack would help. It will heal on no time.”
Ragini relaxed visible. She was happy hearing that her friend met his dream girl. “Now tell me is this the surprise that you mentioned about in your email?” Ragini asked pointing to the package that Mastishk was holding.
“Ginu? Tish? No way they are related professionally.” Laksh concluded.
“Well yes, it is. Open it.” Mastishk handed the package to Ragini, who started unwrapping it with childlike glee that faded the moment Ragini saw what was inside. She looked up at Mastishk who was grinning wickedly.
“Dude! What’s this?” she waved the cell phone in front of Mastishk’s face. So this was the old technology he was talking about.
“Not my fault. Drish is taking this drama of yours on a new level. She said, I would quote it for you, “Tish, don’t you think that it wil odd for a caretaker, an ordinary caretaker to carry a Samsung Galaxy s6 edge, a 71,000 rupees phone!?”” Tish said imitating Drish’s voice and tone.
“A 71,000 rupees phone! How come I never saw that? Who are you Ragini?” Laksh thought.
Ragini seemed to not like the surprise at all, she angrily placed the phone back in the package and hugged loudly, “I am going to kill that sister of yours! Aarrgghh!”
Mastishk just laughed in response which irked Ragini. She was about to retort but stopped when she spotted a person hiding behind the pillar. Nervously she looked at Mastishk first and then back at the pillar.
Laksh knew that Ragini had spotted him, so there was no use of hiding. Moreover it’s not him who needs to give an explanation, its Ragini who needs to explain about her reality and the motive behind hiding it from them. So he came out of his hide-out and stood in front of Mastishk and Ragini, his arms crossed in front of his chest and the look on his face clearly meant that he only needed to hear the truth.
Ragini sighed, her cover was blown in what? Just two days. How was she going to manage till Shekhar Gadodia came?
“I will explain everything, tell you the truth but not here please.”
“Come to office with us, we will talk as we sign the deal.” Laksh said before walking away.
“Ouch! Drish you need not to dump the ice pack on my face. Be gentle. Don’t be harsh on this beautiful face.” Salil was half sitting half lying on the couch, as Drish “dumped” the ice pack on Salil’s face.
Salil, Drishika, DJ, Arjun, Radhika, Varnan and Agastya were right now at their two storey beach house, more like their den. Salil, Drishika, DJ, Arjun, Radhika, Varnan, Ragini, Mastishk and Agastya are known as “The Elite Nine” because they are the best in their professions, are best of friends. There financial background, the status they hold in the society and the bond that they share are the reasons that the media has grouped them by giving them the title of “The Elite Nine”.
The beach house that they were now at is a property owned by the nine of them. It’s their personal heaven apart from their own houses. Normally they come here to enjoy some quality time and peace together during breaks from their work, to find solution to the others problems or to simply relax.
Right now they were here to discuss Salil’s problem which was not his broken nose but the girl he apparently fell in love with today. Arjun and Radhika were sitting together wrapped in their love cocoon, DJ and Varnan were lounging on the two hammock chairs, placed opposite to each other. DJ was more interested in the photographs in her hand than Salil’s whining about his paining nose. Agastaya was sitting on the other couch, opposite to Salil, while Drishika was sitting beside Agastaya with her feet plopped into his lap.
“Are you sure about this?” Varnan asked.
Salil removed the ice pack from his face, “Nannu I have told you million times that yes! I am sure that I am in love. She is the one dude.”
Drishika rolled her eyes munching on a chocolate wafer, “If we take into account the reputation you hold in love department, it’s hard to believe on what you are claiming right now.”
“I am with him in this. His love looks genuine to me.” Radhika said with a sweet smile on her lips.
“Don’t encourage him Chashni. Wasn’t he getting beaten by his two girlfriends?” DJ remarked.
“And he just fell in love again just after what? 30 minutes?” Agastaya asked.
“Ex-girlfriends DJ and Einstein, those two are an old story now, Uttara is my present and future.” Salil said. His eyes had this twinkle that made his friends want to believe in him.
“You’re way too much cheesy sometimes you know. People get afraid of you, your intimidating looks and structure. Tch, they don’t know that what in reality this hot-shot lawyer is.” Arjun commented.
Salil cringed, “Don’t call me “hot” again. Coming from your mouth, it’s just eeeww..”
“Idiot!” Arjun threw a small piece of decorative glass stone at Salil, who winced loudly as it his forehead.
“Arjun!” Radhika said in a reprimanding voice. She untangled herself from Arjun and sat beside Salil. Radhika messaged his forehead and glared at Arjun. “What!? He deserved that!”
Radhika is 4 years younger than Salil but she had always treated him like her son. It all goes way back when Salil had lost his parents in a plane crash, he was 23 years old that time. When no one could handle him, it was Radhika who dealt with the situation and Salil in such a way that the bond of friendship that they shared grew into something more. Radhika is the one most close to him than anyone else.
Radhika’s maturity and Salil’s childlike behaviour (that is reserved for the people close to him) made them this way. No matter how young Radhika is than Salil, after his parents death, he had started treating her like his mother. He just doesn’t call Radhika “Mom”, but both of them behaves as if she is.
“Can’t you see he is hurt?” she scolded Arjun who rolled his eyes and huffed out a breath. Radhika then asked Salil if he was okay. Salil kissed her cheek assuring her that he was fine. Radhika didn’t went back to Arjun, she just remained seated beside Salil.
Agastaya shook his head, no matter how much time passed some things never change. And it was better that way.
In Laksh’s cabin, Ragini and Mastishk were seated opposite to Laksh. While Ragini and Mastishk were tensed, Laksh had this look on his face that meant business, the same kind of look that your teacher gives you when you are found cheating in an examination.
“From where do I explain you…” Ragini started but was interrupted by Laksh, “From the start of course.”
Ragini looked at Mastishk who gave her an encouraging nod. “I am Ragini Khanna.”
“Yeah so.” Laksh said, his expressions same as before.
Mastishk chuckled and earned a deadly glare from Ragini, silencing him. She turned to face Laksh and sighed before she continued, “Your sister, Uttara…”
Laksh interrupted, how’s Uttara involved in what ever was going on, “What? What about Uttara?”
“Its not about her…”
“Then who is it about? Listen Ragini you….”
“Will you let me explain!?” Ragini yelled. Laksh held back his words and gestured Ragini to speak.
“Uttara, she’s studying fashion designing right? You know who her role model is? Her idol?” Ragini asked, indirectly giving him hints.
Laksh frowned, “Yeah someone called RK. Yeah RK it is.”
Ragini made a face, eyeing Laksh narrowly, “What? You know who RK is? Are you related to him?”
“Him!!” Ragini yelled. The tone of her voice scared Laksh a bit but it only caused Mastishk to laugh out hard and loud.
“Oh God! Him! Hahahahaha.. Ginu!” Mastishk uttered as he laughed.
“RK is not “him” okay! In this, R stands for Ragini and K is for Khanna. RK is Ragini Khanna. I am Ragini Khanna!” she said as she pointed her finger on herself.
“You are Ragini Khanna?” Laksh was stunned.
“I think I just made that clear.”
“As in RK! You are fashion designer, Uttara is inspired from.”
“Like I said.” Ragini smiled.
“Then what are you doing here? I mean “The Ragini Khanna” who employees thousands of people, what is she doing here employed as a caretaker?” asked Laksh.
Ragini felt nervous, what would Laksh think about her when he will come to know about her past? About the way she is connected to the Gadodia family?
He knew she was nervous, so Mastishk held her hand in his and squeezed it, giving her support and encouragement. Taking in a deep breath, Ragini started telling Laksh the story of her life. She told him about Maithali and Shekhar’s relationship, her getting born out of wedlock. Shekhar leaving Maithali and marrying Sharmishta. Then about how she and her mother were supported by Varnan’s parents and most importantly, her mother’s last wish.
To say that Laksh was shocked would be an understatement. He was gobsmacked on learning the truth. He had never thought that his Shekhar Uncle would do something like this. He looked at Ragini and something cracked inside him seeing her shedding silent tears. No child deserved what Ragini had gone through.
Somehow in just two days Ragini had become a friend to him. She’s fun to talk with, always smiling, good natured and witty. He hadn’t thought that she hid so much pain behind that smile of hers. It isn’t easy for her to see a woman at a place which her mother deserved. Ragini deserved a proper family just like Swara had.
Credit to: Megha