QUAGMIRE

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Jul 11

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 42 times)

Prologue

Relationships are like quagmire once you get into them they swallow you completely, there is no chance of coming out of it you only have to deal with it. If ever you find a chance to return back you would come out only with the scars, there is no other way out.

FORGIVE- How easily can one forgive a person who is the reason for the uproar in their life?

FORGET- How easy is to forget the past which keeps haunting you in every path of your life?

The past is what you are today. The future is what you want to be.

Chapter 1

“30Lakhs?!”

“Yes, house papers are already in the bank due to loan. The loan is due for one more year so we cannot do anything about it. From where will we get at the last minute?”

“Shashi, Why don’t know you take out the money which is saved under Khushi’s name?”

“Jiji! That is for Khushi’s marriage, how can we use it now?”

“We can see that later, there is still time for it. Now if we think about it Payal’s marriage will be doomed.” Garima agreed with her sister-in-law, there is time for Khushi but Payal’s baraath will be here by evening.

“Garima, it’s only 10 lakhs in Khushi’s account, what will we do about the rest of the amount?” as much as Shashi was not convinced of breaking the saving of one daughter’s for the other, he still wanted to give it a try least it leads the other into a broken wedding.

“what about shop papers? We can as well keep them under any of our relatives and taken amount for now. Later we will think on how to settle it.” Madhumathi advised her brother.

“Jiji, it’s of no use, Payal’s in-laws were very particular on the gifts, jewelry to be given. The shop is in mortgage already.”

“Let me see if I can try with any friends” Shashi went out leaving the other two ladies to ponder upon the issue at hand.

“Jiji, What is this new trouble? When Abhishek was here stating he liked Payal and asked her hand in marriage I was more than happy to see at least one of the daughter’s settled in life. Now, I fear if the happiness of my daughter is short lived.”

“Garima, I can arrange for 5 lakhs which are saved out of pension amount, even then we would 15 more to adjust. Can’t we speak to the family and try to see if they would allow some time to adjust, by the way, didn’t you guys discuss this before ?” Madhumathi doesn’t want her dearest niece to be hurt.

“Jiji, they never mentioned about it and even Shashi never thought”

Unkown to the occupants of the room the discussion was heard by the bride and her sister.

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“Khushi, do you think I did the right thing by saying yes to Abhishek? Is he aware of this? Where will babuji get the amount from?”

“Jiji, Please you don’t worry, Let’s call Jiju, I’m sure he is unaware of the whole issue.”

“Jiji, I think I need to meet him personally, his phone is not reachable. You don’t worry before the barath arrives I will speak to him. You just handle ma and bua.” Saying so she rushed towards her scooty and made a move towards SheeshMahal were the groom’s family were given accommodation.


Jul 13

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 33 times)

Chapter 2

“Di, When did you come here?”         

“Chotte, I  know how difficult it is for you to face this place again, but you are doing it for me, to keep the promise you made to me when you can do so much for me, why wouldn’t I be there for you?”

“Jeejaji, at least you should have stopped her or else you could have let me known that you guys are coming.”

“Saalesaab, now-now, how can I go against my Ranisaheba’s wish?”

“Bhai, when I’m there, you don’t need to worry,” Akash said joining the trio.

“You knew about this and kept it a secret from me?”Arnav was shocked, his little brother who always is on his side has now changed the parties.

“Come on Charlotte, don’t scold him, I denied him from revealing anything to you.” Anjali came in defense of Akash least THE great ASR shows his famous anger on the younger brother, not that he would do it, he is ASR for outside world but for the family he is still Arnav, Yes, he is not as before but still, the difference can be made.

“Now that Rani Sahiba, you are safe with your brothers, let me go and complete my work.”

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“Oh god, how careless can I be? Now how do I know where to go?” Khushi reached her destination within time but when it was time to enter the floor number standing in the lift she realized she is not aware of the room details and her phone is safe at home, in any case, she thought of calling Payal or even Abhishek directly is also not possible.

Cursing the person whose face she has seen early in the morning who made her day filled with only negativity she reached reception.

“Excuse me, May I know the room no. of Mr.Abhishek Sinha?”

“Just a second mam, let me check.” The man on the other side of the table replied without looking at her.

“May I know where is AR show being conducted?” at the same moment there was another girl who came to stand by Khushi enquiring about the show.

“Tower 2 Mam” the receptionist was still looking into his system.

“Mr.Abhishek Sinha is in Tower 1, room ...” saying so he looked up to see that the table was empty.

“Where did she go without listening to the answer?” he wondered.

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“Will go to Tower 2 first, obviously someone from the groom’s family will be roaming around, from there it’s easy to find the room number if there is no one found I can as well ask in reception over there, looks like they have a reception for every tower.” In her haste, Khushi didn’t realize that the reply given by the reception is not meant for her.

Between the towers, the Mahal has a huge open area to conduct any open-air events. Even when the path between was well maintained and lit with different colors of lamps, she felt nostalgic owing to the fact that the place was lonely and she was the only one moving towards that direction. Picking up her pace she started to do a little run so as to get away from the unpleasant silence. As she neared the tower she was able to hear some announcements going on, relaxing she slowed down the pace as the voice over is giving her the assurance that she is not alone.

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Arnav was looking towards the stage where the models were exhibiting his company’s designs on the ramp but his thoughts were occupied by the past memories related to this place. He was thankful that his elder sister was here, as much as he may deny but she knew what he needs and she was always there for him, it’s always difficult to revisit the places which are only in your memories with a reason to increase the hurt.

It was time for the showstopper to make an appearance with him and when he heard the announcement to come over he got up to get on the stage. As it was the final blow to the whole show the lights were turned off and the crackers and the whole area will lit up only when he makes an appearance with the final design.

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It would just take a few more seconds for Khushi to reach the tower when the whole area became silent and dark. Khushi felt someone passing beside her in the blackness and she sprang towards the direction her legs took her to get to a safe place.

Jul 13

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 54 times)

Chapter 3

“BOOM”

One moment she was running towards a light and the second she felt herself flying in the air as she missed her foot and the next moment she was held against something or someone.

It took her few seconds to get back her heartbeats in control, the moment she opened her eyes there were flashes everywhere blinding her eyes with the spark and the background was filled with a lot of noise. When she tried to get control of self she came face to face with eyes which were ready to pounce on her.

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Arnav was stepping on to the stage when he felt someone come crashing on to him. Taking support of the railing beside he stabilized himself and held the bundle which leaped on to him. Once the crackers were lit, in that light, he saw the girl in green holding on to him for her dear life with her eyes closed. The flashes of the camera, the questions from reports surrounding them brought both into consciousness. The bundle in his arms finally decided the same moment to open her eyes, the illumination of different colors from fireworks above reflecting in them.

She would have been forever in his arms if not for the look Arnav was giving her. He dropped her to the floor abruptly and started dragging her towards the rooms on the other side of the event.

Is she dreaming or is she really with THE ASR?

“I want all the details of who is behind this Aman, Akash will handle the media while I will try to do some damage control over there.” She was brought out of her reverie by his voice.

“Any update Aman?” he was back within 15 minutes looking more annoyed than before.

“Sir, she claims that by fault she is here and is sorry for creating the disturbance.”

“Sorry? Seriously, Aman, you do know how much that silly girl’s mistake will cost us right? Let it be, I will deal with her I’m sure she is from the rival’s only.”

The moment he opened the door the girl tried to rush past him, alas he was faster than her, holding her upper arm he twisted her body and cornered her against the door.

“Who sent you here?”

“No one, I’m here by my own. See, I’m sorry for gatecrashing your event but trust me when I say it was purely unintentional.”

“Unintentional? Is it? Doesn’t look like it by the looks. You have come here for your own wish to make money. Isn’t it?”

“What nonsense? See, I agree I’m at fault doesn’t mean you would get a right to speak ****. Let me go, it’s important for me to reach on time.” She said struggling to release her arm from his steel-like grip.

“Important! Who else is in your list? Whose program you want to spoil next?”

“See it’s my sister’s wedding today, I need to reach on time, let me go.”

“What’s the proof that you are saying the truth? Maybe you are trying to mislead me?”

“I’m Khushi Gupta daughter of Shashi Gupta who runs Mistan Bandar. You can find the details on our website we undertake catering services. Today is my sister’s marriage and the groom is here in Sheesh Mahal. Mr. Abhishek Sinha” she spoke in one breath least he doesn’t give her time to say further.

“Why should I believe that it’s true?” he still was not ready to listen to her made up story.

“You can verify the details, but please for now let me go, the groom’s family at last minute decided to ask for a hefty amount as dowry. I need to speak to jiju, Please let me go.”

“So, you are here to make money for that?”

“Shut up, when you don’t want to know the truth, why do you even keep me here? As it is you have decided to punish”

May her words hit the right cord, pushing her aside he shouted for Aman, instructing the guy to verify the validity of Khushi’s words. Before turning to go he turned towards her to say

“If at all I come to know the story you said is deceptive, mind it you will not see tomorrow's sunrise. Ten more minutes to decide your fate.” With that, he was gone.

 

Is it the same person whose photo she has secretly kept under her clothes in her cupboard? She and her sister follow the news channels to T always updating themselves about the current interesting happenings across the globe.

A few years back she came across such news one day, about a boy who is emerging as the youngest successful entrepreneur taking over the fashion world. There was very little information about his personal life and no information on his childhood, the thing which attracted Khushi was how single-handedly he managed to reach the heights and she was impressed with his willpower, talent since then she used to follow every news related to him.

She developed a crush on him but that is something else different altogether with the type of looks the guy carries anyone will have it. Looks can be deceiving she understood it today before she wished how would it look if at all she gets a chance to meet him but now she cursed herself for even wishing that ever. Payal always rebuked her about the stupid wishes saying,

“Khushi, think twice before wishing for anything otherwise you never know what it leads to.”

Finally today she understood the meaning.

Jul 16

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 56 times)

Chapter 4

“I’m sorry to say this but for the marriage to be conducted, you need to give the amount now otherwise let’s think about the wedding once you get the money, we don’t mind waiting, our son wishes to marry your daughter and we have no qualms with it.”

“Sinha Saab, for the matter of five lakhs you are asking to postpone the wedding, I promise to pay it to you in 2 days. Just let this happen.” Shashi was getting more irritated with the comments from the groom’s father, but as bride’s father he shouldn’t lose his cool, for the sake of Payal he has to do it, otherwise he would never speak to people who give importance to money than his daughter. Only because he wants his daughter to lead the life with the person she loves, he has to bear this.

“Pay it? What is it you are saying Shashi? You are saying as if it is some fine. This is a gift which you are giving to your son-in-law,  give with happiness not with a sad face otherwise it will affect him.” Sinha was offended with the words Shashi chose.

“Abhishek beta, at least you..”

“Uncle, it’s better if such matters are dealt between elders. It wouldn’t look good if I interfere in it. I like Payal, I want to marry her there is no denying it, I will wait for her to enter my life, you don’t worry.” Abhishek said with a smile.

“But I’m better off without someone like you in my life.” Payal couldn’t hold anymore.

 She was standing outside the room where her father was speaking to Sinha’s. She was disgusted to find out what type of a person she decided to marry. He said he liked her, he was the one to speak to both the families and now when it’s time, he says it’s the matter to be discussed by elders? If he would have raised the matter of dowry earlier she would have never agreed to marry this guy. She never loved him, her parents were okay with the proposal hence she gave her consent otherwise never in her dreams she imagined him to be her husband.

“Payal, let your father handle this” Garima tried to hold back her daughter as she knew Payal getting involved in this will only worsen the matter.

“Ma? Are you asking me to be calm? After hearing to what all they said, still you are asking me to be silent? First in the name of jewelry than in the name of tradition and now in the name of gift they are looting us.”

“PAYAL. Mind your words. I like you doesn’t mean I will let you speak against my family.” Abhishek finally found his voice.

“Like? Is this what you call like? You don’t even respect me, or my family. Just get out before I lose my cool and do something which you will regret your whole life.”

“Payal you are crossing your limits, keep in mind that no one ever will come to you once they know of your broken wedding and the reason behind it. You have no other option then me” He threatened.

“It’s better if I am alone all my life then to be with someone like you. OUT now.”

“Wait, Where is Khushi?”

“Khushi?”

“Haa Khushi, she came to meet you, what you did to her tell me, why isn’t she back yet? Speak out otherwise I will rip you out” she looked like a person possessed.

" You will not move from here until you tell me where she is. You think these are false threats right, let me show you the practical." She was about to hit him but her father stopped her.

"Babuji..?"

...............................................................................................................................................................................................................

"Done with checking? Can I go now? Or something is still pending? As it is you have wasted enough time of mine If at all I reach late due to this and miss the wedding then let me tell you I will curse you daily for rest of my life."

"What the..." Arnav got the required confirmation but he was shocked with the audacity of the girl to give him back after spoiling his show. Curse him? for rest of the life? Seriously?

"Anyways, you are not what I thought you to be, Other then have a charming face, it will be nice if you are good at heart too. It gives the glow to the face you know?" saying so she ran from there without giving Arnav time to react.

Arnav was not sure if she complimented him or commented on his attitude. Whatever it was he has made sure that he is away from this girl. One meet and his work are affected already.

Unknown to him even Khushi wished she never meets him again.

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Was it this morning that their house was filled with joy and laughter? It looked like ages passed since then. Madhumathi sat on the stairs thinking deep. They tried to save the day but it was of no use. On one side the groom's family left after throwing the entire blame on them seeing Payal's behavior, the other side she can hear the neighbors whispering about the uproar caused in their family. Khushi still has not reached home. Her head surely would blast with the amount of pressure it is handling at the moment. Finally to relieve her aunt Khushi made her appearance.

Jul 21

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 43 times)

Chapter 5

“I should appreciate you for the planning Payal. You sent her away to put the blame on us and make money out of it?” he wanted somehow to make her feel the insult she made out of his family a few minutes before.

“Khushi?! Are you fine? Why were you late? He did something right tell me” 

“Jiji, I’m fine.”

“Abhi let’s go, we shouldn’t stay here anymore .” Mrs. Sinha took the lead this time.

“One moment, when you are not interested anymore in the alliance I think it would be best if you return the jewelry and the money given by babuji till now, as it is you are very respectful people, it wouldn’t look good if you run away with them. Isn’t it?” It was Khushi this time, how dare they give importance to money than her sister and slyly trying to put blame on them and escape.

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Payal sat in her room looking at the screen saver on her mobile, it had her and Abhishek smiling to the camera on the day of engagement. Her eyes darted towards the ring finger which now is showing the mark of the previous owner. Unknowingly her eyes watered, true that she didn’t have any feelings towards him but since the wedding got fixed, they spent maximum time together due to one or other occasion, in all this she weaved dreams of the future ahead with him, they shattered before they saw the light. She stood strong until she took the ring off her finger and threw it on his face. Everyone in the family and neighbors supported them but that moment she was like any other girl whose trust was broken, a girl whose wedding got cancelled at last moment, she locked herself in her room to get back to normalcy again, some me time to process the happenings of the day before she faces the world again.

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“Shashi, never ever feel that you are alone. We are all there for you. It’s good Payal raised her voice against this otherwise she had to face the same trouble which my daughter faced.”

“Yes Garima, it’s good they showed their true faces now, imagine how it would have been if at all it happens after marriage. Our Payal will never be happy in that miser’s house.”

Khushi rushed behind her sister the moment Payal ran away, while the elders remained behind to manage the situation. All were supporting them but the pain that this incident will always remain as a scar in their daughter’s life is not allowing them to be calm. There will be rumors for some time which cannot be avoided and Shashi was most affected as he failed in finding the perfect life partner for his princess.

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“Babuji, Jiji and I decided to go to the dargah, as it is what all bad has to happen have happened now to start everything fresh we want to take blessings.”

“What fresh will you start Khushi? Payal will not go anywhere henceforth” Bau declared her ultimatum.

“But buaji what wrong did Jiji do? It was the mistake of Sinha’s not her she will resume her job and before that, we will go to the dargah.”

“Yes, Jiji you also come with us. Let us thank the Almighty for saving us from getting into this relation were in future it will only let our daughter face troubles.” Shashi supported his daughter’s, anything for his daughter to come out of grief.

“Shashi even you are on their side? I think no one is worried about the happenings of yesterday. fine, why should I keep worrying then, let’s go.”

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“Di? You are still here? I thought your tickets have been booked for early morning.”

“Ha chotte they are, but I canceled them, I need to visit the dargah, after all, he fulfilled my wish which I asked many years back.”

“Di?! He fulfilled? Seriously? Fine then, I will arrange the car you can go and praise him for all that he has showered on us.”

“Chotte, you will never stop it will you?”

“You know that I will not.”

“Okay but you and Akash are accompanying me and before you deny let me tell you this is final.”

“Will I ever get a chance to deny you?”

“Never” Anjali smiled looking at the sulking face of her brother.

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Khushi after finishing the prayers asked Payal to look for bangles while she goes and ties the lock which fulfills the wishes. Bua wished to return back to the car once they were done offering the prayers so the elders left to wait in the car. She tied her’s and saw that someone who just has passed her has dropped his key and called out to him to give it back and to her surprise, it was none other than the ASR.

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Arnav was irritated with the noise around him, above that his sister forced him to tie the lock while sits for some more time in the prayer hall. Akash rushed to a side as he got a call from the client and was nowhere to be seen. Muttering under his breath he tied it and started to go from there as early as possible but he was stopped by a voice from behind. And he turned around to see the girl in green from yesterday’s mishap.

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“AAP!”

“YOU?”

 “Your Key.” She said forwarding the key which fell down from his pocket.

“Throw it away”

“Throw away? You are standing on the premises of  dargah and you also tied the lock but you don’t want to keep the blessings with you?”

“Blessings? When I don’t believe in God, keeping a key in the name of blessings is far. In fact, I don’t think he exists”

“How can you say that? The luxury and success you are enjoying today are given by him and you deny his existence?”

“ASR writes his own destiny. If at all there is someone up there, then there will be no pain in this world.”

“Hawww!” Khushi was left behind looking wide-eyed at the person who just showed his audacity which was due to his status in the society.

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“And you know what Jiji? He doesn't even believe in the almighty? How can someone be like that?”

“Khushi, it’s his life, he gets to decide what, whom he should believe. Why are you worrying about it?”

“Ya, I know, that’s why I just left it there otherwise I was ready to give him left, right and center for speaking all that yesterday and today. But I never thought that he will be like this”

“We can never know how a person is until we get to know them close enough to see their true intentions.” Payal thoughts raced backed to he ex-fiance.

“But you tell me this, where did the pearl strings from your blouse go flying?” 

“What? Show me. This is all because of him, he pushed me so hard, the blouse would have got stuck to some sharp object in the process.”

“Khushi? You didn’t even realize that it got torn?”

“What can I do Jiji? I was shocked and surprised at seeing him in front of me. Now leave about him let’s go eat Golgappe.” Pushing his image out of her thoughts she got ready to go with her sister to enjoy the delicacy.

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Jul 24

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 51 times)

Chapter 6

“Bangles? Akash, are you sure, you bought these?” Anjali was astonished, to say the least, her brother is standing in front of her holding a dozen bangles stating he brought them for her. 

“Yes, Di. Why would you doubt that?” he adjusted his spectacles looking elsewhere, not meeting her eyes.

“It’s because you don’t like buying these stuff and you never gifted this type.”

“Di, I saw these and I thought it suits you best, that’s it.” Saying so he went to his room before his sister could question further.

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Akash lay on the bed as the soft lamp-light fell on his clean shaved face. His mind occupied with Anjali’s words, his sister caught his lie. He was standing away from the crowd speaking over the phone while his sister sat in the prayer hall, and his brother was sent away to tie the lock. 

“Ouch” Payal was passing by the stores looking at the displays when she was pushed by a group of  kids who were playing around, as the land was uneven she was not able to balance herself and bumped into the person next to her trying to hold them for support before she falls flat on her face.

The electronic gadget which was allowing him to communicate fell to the ground when the hand which is holding it close to the ear was pulled and held tight by someone from behind making him turn to give an earful to the person who was responsible for it but he stopped short when he saw her.

“Looks like a sprain.”Payal stood trying to balance herself on one leg while taking support.

“Yes, it is”.

“Ha?” she finally looked up to see the owner of the supporting hand.

“I’m saying it is a sprain, let me help you.” He said taking her other hand to hold.

“It’s okay. I’m fine, thank you.”  Saying so she limped towards a bench to sit.

“It will pain more if you neglect it.” He said trying to touch her leg.

“Thank you for showing concern but I would like to deal with it alone if don’t mind.” Payal twisted her leg to the other side slowly and after coming to the conclusion that she can manage to walk, she gave one small smile to him and moved away.

He saw her trying different bangles standing in front of a store.

“I would also like to take these.” He said looking at her.

“I mean for my sister.” He corrected himself when he saw her looking at him confused.

“Will you help me out in selection.”

“These will be good, finalize as per your choice.” Payal took five minutes to look over the models displayed and handed him five different varieties.

The girl went away without looking back but her image got fixed in his mind. The girl in white salwar with her hair braided to one side. 

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“I will be there in 20 minutes Aman.” Looking into the mirror he adjusted his tie.

“Anyways, you are not what I thought you to be, Other then have a charming face, it will be nice if you are good at heart too. It gives the glow to the face you know?"

Her words rang in his mind as he stood looking at his reflection in the mirror. He was brought out of his trance as his phone started ringing. 

“Damn, this girl” he rushed towards his workplace before he thinks about the girl in shades of lime and emerald green lehenga. He pushed the latest image of her in plain half white color netted salwar out of his thoughts.

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“Khushi, let’s go.” 

“But Jiji, we just came, let’s have two more plates before we call it a day.”

“No, let’s go.” Payal paid the vendor and started dragging her sister.

“Oh poor girl, come with us, we will buy you ice cream also.” Till now the two guys who were commenting in hushed voices raised their voice seeing one of the ladies dragging the other in fear.

“Ji?” Khushi didn’t understand if it was meant to them or was she mistaken.

“Offo, there is no need for so much respect, if you call me darling with love, I wouldn’t mind you see.”  The other chap came forward to side hug Khushi.

“Excuse me? What sort of behavior is this? Let us go.” Payal tried to deal with words.

“What’s the rush? Let’s us have some fun, I will drop you home if it gets late.” He gave her a foolish smile.

“Oh is it? But how will you drop two of us?” Khushi asked looking innocent.

“You don’t worrr..AAHHHh”

While the man who is standing beside her turned to the other side to show them their bikes Khushi moved back towards the Pani poori stall. Filling her fists with chili powder she pushed her sister aside and threw it on their faces in seconds.

“Uncle’s, aunty ji’s, how can you all be silent watching all this?” Khushi said to the crowd who were watching the incident take place making no move to interfere.

“Arrey, how dare they tease the girls?” someone from the crowd shouted and within minutes the two boys were thrashed.

A person who is watching the whole scenario from far moved away seeing the girls coming in the same way.

Jul 26

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 54 times)

Chapter 7

“I told you to not let her out, didn’t I? Now see what has happened that is why you should listen to elders, they would say with experience, not for the sake of it.”

“Buaji, if they misbehaved with us, what is Jiji’s or Babuji’s mistake in this?”

Khushi narrated the entire scenario which has happened in the market once they reached home, she now thinks that if it would have been better if she lets the matter be, as her sister told. Buaji started scolding the boys but when Khushi told her how they managed to escape the anger was directed towards her, later towards her sister and then towards her father.

                                                                                                    

“Ooo kussii, I’m not their enemy, I’m only saying for the betterment of you guys.”

“At least listen to me now, let them stay in the home for some days.”

“Jiji, how would it help? Is there any guarantee that this will not happen after some days?” Shashi was worried about his daughter’s but that doesn’t mean keeping them locked in the house would solve the issue, these small issues shouldn’t be obstacles in their life.

“Fine, buaji you want me to be away from this environment for some days right? Then I will go to Delhi.” Payal spoke for the first time.

“Delhi!?”All the other members in the room were surprised.

“What will you do in Delhi all alone?” the mother of the girls was confused with the way the conversation was leading to.

“I will also accompany her.” Khushi is not aware of  Payal’s plan but whatever it is she will be with her sister so she blindly said she is ready to go with her.

“See, even Khushi also will come with me. Babuji, this morning while going through the newspaper I saw some job postings in Delhi, as it is I want to get back to my work, but as buaji wants us to be away from this environment, I feel it would be better if I try my luck there. I can work there and I will be away from here.” Payal explained to her father as she too wants to be away for sometime from the place where there are some painful memories.

“Beta, how can you guys be there alone?” Shashi liked the thought but what about their safety?

“Arey, why will they be alone? They have their aunt. As it is the house is lying empty for two months, rather than renting it to someone else again we will stay there.”

 Madhumathi’s husband bought the house while they were living in Delhi, but after his death, she rented the house and started living with her brother Shashi in Lucknow. Few days before Payal’s proposal for marriage has come she went with her friends to visit Mathura for a few days. As she was not there Shashi had to do all the talking as the marriage was a rushed affair from groom’s side. She gave her consent on phone and by the time she was back the dates were fixed. She stills feels if at all she was there before arranging dates she would not have let Payal to face this situation, due to this guilt only she is going to stay in the same house after many years after that painful incident.

“Jiji, there is no need for you to go there again. Why Delhi, they will go to any of the relative’s house.” Garima doesn’t want her sister-in-law to feel the pain she has overcome with great difficulty.

“Garima, let me do this, it has been very long, I want to do this for Payal. If it is anyone from relatives they will bring this topic again, everyone will start giving advice it is not good for Payal.”

“I will book tickets for the day after tomorrow, pack your bags then,” Shashi said smilingly.

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“Jiji!?AR?! Why didn’t you tell me this before?”

“Would you come if I told you it is AR for which there are openings?” adjusting her handbag Payal smiled looking at her sister’s expression seeing the name board.

“Never,” Khushi said puffing.

“That’s why I didn’t tell you, now come on let’s go inside.”

“Come on Jiji, didn’t you find any other company other than this? I would not want to work under him nor I would want you to be here alone.”

“Let’s us first give the interview. You are saying as if we are selected and working directly under him. Khushi, the vacancies are available for so many departments, don’t think too hard. Let’s go.”

“By the way, you were the one who always wanted to work with him, see him in real, talk to him, isn’t it? So your devimayya has heard your wishes Khushi.”Payal grinned.

“You and devimayya both are not on my side.”

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“YOU?”

“Yes, me.”

“What the hell are you doing here? Who sent you in the first place?”

“I’m here to attend the interview. Now I don’t know that my stars are turning this bad against me.” The last sentence Khushi spoke to herself but she was loud enough for Arnav to hear it.

“Excuse me? Are you following me or something? First you spoiled my event, then in dargah, now even here.” Arnav wants to give back to her listening to her last words.

“I wouldn’t be here if I’m not qualified to be here, the previous two incidents were accidental.”

Khushi can feel a dull ache starting at the base of her neck, soon it will turn into a full-fledged headache if she stays for a few minutes with him. It was seven in the evening, they were here since morning, attending one round after another. AR provided them with refreshments but Khushi, being a foodie was not able to manage with it anymore on top of that the final round is taken by ASR himself, can her day go any more worse.

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“AAP?”

“Yeah, Welcome to AR Miss. Payal.”

“Err...Thank you, but how come you are here?”

“Hi, I’m Akash Singh Raizada, recently promoted as Head of the Marketing Department, So technically you are going to assist me henceforth.”

Payal’s final round was done and she was informed that she was selected while she was waiting for her sister to finish her’s. The HR team has asked her to finish the basic formalities today so that the appointment orders can be released at the earliest. While signing the official documents she saw the same person who asked her to help him buy bangles back at the dargah in Lucknow.

Now she understood why ASR selected her to assist his brother. He wants someone who is experienced enough to assist his brother, now is the brother worthy of the post or was it given to him only because he is a family will be known in coming days. As ASR always kept his family away from limelight she didn’t recognize his brother back then.

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It was half past eight by the time Khushi’s interview came to an end. She understood that Arnav wants to check to the T before finalizing any candidate, that explains the number of rounds and time taken for each candidate to finish the final face to face with him. She sulked as she understood that he is looking for a personal assistant for himself as Aman who is working under him currently is getting promoted and transferred to another branch. If she gets selects by any chance, she has to work under him, she is doomed completely as she saw her sister walking towards her smilingly too brightly, letting her know that she is selected and on the other side she saw ASR give his nod to HR stating that Khushi’s orders can be prepared.

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Jul 30

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 43 times)

Chapter 8

Arnav was surprised to the least when he saw the girl back in Lucknow in front of him, he was irked when she stated that it is her bad luck to be in his presence, hence he wanted to drag the interview for as long as possible. Her resume is impressive, the girl too met the criteria for requirement hence he was willing to hire her for assisting Aman. But he changed his decision when Khushi murmured that Aman is safely escaping while some other would become a scapegoat.

Khushi, who wasn’t aware that she is safe zone until that moment, dug her own grave as Arnav decided to let her be under him and show how it would be if he willingly decides to make anyone a scapegoat. He asked the HR department to prepare the required documents for Khushi and once she signed them and was making her way out to the door he called her.

“Just a second Ms. Gupta.”

Khushi stood rooted to the spot, she thought the torture was done for the day but looks like there is still more to receive.

“I’m sure now you can see the glow on my face, isn’t it?” standing just a few feet away from her, he questioned trying to gauge her reactions.

“Huh?”

“You forgot? You were the one who told me if I’m good at heart there would be a glow on my face, you came in search of a job and I offered it to you so I’m being good isn’t it? Obviously, there has to be a glow on my face.”

Khushi tried to say something when he moved a step forward halting her words.

“Welcome to HELL Ms. Khushi Gupta, Oh, I mean AR, I’m not sure if you are able to see the glow on my face but I can see the color draining out from your’s.”

“Tomorrow at sharp 9” before Khushi could reply he left the cabin.

................................................................................................................................

He didn’t expect she would look this good in casuals too. If he thought she looked like a fairy in white chudidar back then today she looked completely different with her jeans topped with plain light pink chikan work kurta. Her hair styled in a simple side swept fishtail braid.

He grazed the bangles in front of him.  The same bangles which she tried and rejected later as the price was not to her liking. He saw in her eyes that she liked them hence he bought them and kept it with him. He never knew that he would get a chance to give them to her. Probably now it is too early to gift but as she is going to work under him there may be plenty of chances to give later. He put them back in the cupboard and locked it.

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Arnav was unpacking his bag when few pearls rolled on to the floor as he pulled the blazer out from the bag. He bent down to pick them, while his mind was giving him a vague image of a girl in green. Her image from today popped up. She was wearing slim fit jeans with a light orange georgette top on which she wore a white color scarf. Hair was pulled into a french braid with few bangs falling by the side. He was shocked that he observed her so carefully.

"No, I didn't observe her, as she was in front of me for so much time while the interview was going, I remember so much in detail. That’s it."

He placed the pearls on the dressing table and moved to the restroom to take shower.

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Aug 2

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 56 times)

Chapter 9

“Jiji, I wish I would have said no when you wanted to come to Delhi.”

“You cannot change the past Khushi, so stop sulking, you always admired him, now when you got a chance to work with him, why you regret it?” Payal was tired of listening to Khushi going over the same topic again and again from the time they exited AR.

“If you so badly wanted to be away from him, why did you perform well in the interview? You could have just left it in the first round, no one forced you to write the correct answers.”

“Oh my dear sister, you never would appreciate my sacrifice, I couldn’t leave you alone to suffer under him, I know you would be selected.”

“Khushi, for your kind information, I worked before too, where you didn’t accompany me to the office on any day in my whole tenure with it, I know how to deal with my superiors. Give this reason to anyone else my dear little sister. Accept the fact that you wanted to work with him hence you tried hard to get it”

“I’m hungry” Khushi escaped without saying further.

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Arnav was seated in his cabin looking over the files when he heard the knock on his door.

“ASR, Khushi, and Payal are here, I think you would want to speak to them before they start their day.”

“Yeah Aman, you guys be seated in the Conference room, ask Akash and Rohit to join us. I will be there in ten minutes.”

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“Usually the background verification takes about one week, right? So how come Bhai asked her to join from today?”

“Akash, I think ASR is the right person to answer this.”

“And the other girl, the one who gatecrashed our show in Lucknow, what is she doing here?”

“She is Khushi Gupta, Payal’s younger sister. ASR selected her as my replacement while I move away to the new branch.”

Aman didn’t mention anything further but Akash understood why verification wasn’t done for the sisters. As the same was taken care of when Khushi was locked up in the room for spoiling their show in Lucknow.

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“Goodmorning Sir” both Gupta’s wished when Arnav entered the room and took his seat.

“Good Morning and you can call me ASR, AR believes that every employee is equal, no superior, subordinate rule over here. Coming to the joining formalities Rohit here from Hr department will take care of the procedure, once we are done with this meeting you can go along with him and complete them. Is it okay with you Rohit?”

“Yes ASR, One hour and they will be done with the formalities,” Rohit replied.

“Coming to your work, as Mrs.Sharma who is assisting Akash  would be leaving the organization in one month, I hope you would put in extra efforts to learn everything in this period Ms.Payal.”

“Yes ASR.”

Payal was little worried when she heard that she only has one month time. One month doesn’t mean she has the whole month for learning, she needs to understand the role and try working over it in the guidance of the Mrs.Sharma so that by the time Mrs.Sharma leaves she is able to handle the role without glitches and additional support.

“Aman here would be leaving after three months so Ms. Khushi here comparatively has  more time in understanding the responsibilities, I hope you would utilize it in an effective way.” Arnav said addressing Khushi

“Yes.” Khushi nodded meekly, she didn’t hear what he said, she was altogether in a different world. Her name in his voice sounded so different and she was lost in her dream world, hearing it from him.

“Akash, have a meeting with your team so that Payal wouldn’t have to waste her time finding out whom she needs to contact for different issues.”

Akash nodded looking at Payal. He can see that she was worried, he will have to find out what is it, he decided to speak to her alone once she is back completing the formalities.

“Khushi in my cabin once you are done with formalities.”

Arnav could make out from Khushi’s face that she was lost in her thoughts, he hates people who don’t give hundred percent in their work. 

Aug 8

QUAGMIRE (By Varanasi) (Thanked: 49 times)

Chapter 10

“How attentive are you?”

“Ji?”

Khushi was confused with the question Arnav posed as she entered his cabin after one hour, completing the formalities along with her sister. Both she and Payal sat in the lobby with coffee cups in their hands, when Payal was informed that her team was waiting to have a word with her and Akash is already in the conference room. Asking Khushi to enjoy her coffee, Payal rushed to the room. That is when even she remembered that she was called in by ASR to his cabin after she completes her work.

“Ms. Gupta, I asked how attentive are you? But guess what, your response to it or rather should I say ur non-responsiveness tells that you actually don’t pay attention when you are in a meeting or when your superiors are addressing you.”

“No ASR, its...”

“SIR”

“Ji?”

“You would call me SIR.”

“But it was you who asked us to address you as ASR and..”

“Do you have any problem with it, Ms. Gupta?”

“NO SIR” Khushi wanted to argue but she kept quiet not wanting to have unnecessary arguments with her boss on the very first day.

“Good, now coming back to my question, I don’t think you are that attentive, so if you want to prove it to me that you are indeed attentive to your work, take these papers and correct the spelling mistakes,” Arnav said pushing a bundle of papers towards Khushi.

“Let me help you, as this is your first day, you would surely need assistance, so the mistake here is my name is misspelled, instead of ARNAV SINGH RAIZADA, it is printed as AARNAV SINGH RAAIZADA. So your work is to strike off the extra A” he could see that Khushi was shocked with her first task.

“Sure SIR, I would strike out all the EXTRA’s. I mean all the Extra A’s.” Khushi said gritting her teeth.

Arnav clearly understood that she meant his attitude in the first sentence, it is good she corrected it immediately, but all said and done, it is just the first day, he will surely show her how he would take extra care to show her, her place.

“Before you leave for the day, I want to hear from you that it is done. Now you may leave Ms.Gupta”

Without a word Khushi left the cabin, she knew he observed her blanking out in the meeting while he spoke to her hence he is trying to punish her with these sort of stupid work, if this is how he observes to the T then she has to be henceforth very careful to not let this repeat again.

............................................................................................................

“Jiji, how are you?”

“I’m fine Shashi, don’t worry about me, how is everything over there ?”

“How can I not worry Jiji, on one side it is you, on the other side my daughters, if they are here, they had to face the wrath of the rumors on the canceled wedding, but if you are there you had to deal with the pain alone. I failed both as father and brother. I could neither get a good life partner for my Payal nor I’m there beside you to support as you relive your pain ”

“Don’t think like that, it was my decision that I accompanied the girls here and it is your daughter’s decision to work here and as a good family member, you supported our every decision. Don’t spoil your health thinking all these. I joined a satsang group nearby so most of the day I will be out of the house and in the night I have my niece’s to look after me” Madhumathi tried to assure her brother.

“Take care Jiji” Shashi disconnected the call before he becomes more emotional.

...............................................................................................

“Khushi? What is that you are doing here with these papers?” Aman was surprised to see Khushi sprawled on the table with her half of the body leaning over the table muttering something with a pencil in her mouth.

“Oh Aman, it is that Sir has given me these to correct, so..? Khushi was embarrassed with the posture she was picturing when Aman walked to her. It would look to anyone that she was simply lying on the table and chilling.

“ASR gave you these? Fine, let it be, for now, come with me, as we would need some of your details so that you can have the access to the system from tomorrow. And let us also start with our work, you would only understand if you observe it.” Aman took her along with him.

......................................................................................

“Aman are you sure that these are the responsibilities of a PA? I mean will I even get time to breathe in between all these? And will there ever be one day when I could go home on time from this jail?”

“Haha, Khushi, I’m telling what all ASR expects his PA to look after, I’m here to help you don’t worry.”

It was a 3’o clock in the afternoon when Arnav wanted to check on how Khushi is doing so he made his way towards Aman’s cabin as he learned that they both are in there. They both were so much engrossed in their chitchat that they didn’t see ASR was also privy to their talk.

“Jail? Let’s see how you go on time today Khushi Gupta” Arnav silently went away.

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