The Annual meeting of the general investors was one of the most important events in Arnav Singh Raizada’s calendar; an event that merited weeks of preparations, many sleepless nights of his auditing and finance departments who toiled in compiling figures of profits; figures which were presented to the benefactors of the company who came salivating to hear about their returns and left satiated with further plans to put in more money. Of course, an invite to one of the most posh hotels of the city – The Grand Minerva – was like the icing on the cake for the investors. But truth be told, it was Arnav’s convincingly suave style of oration that did the trick of sweeping them off their feet; he was adept at switching between his charming persona for the ladies and his rugged businessman facade for the gentlemen at a moment’s notice.
Well, that is what happened till last year.
In the past 2 hours since Arnav had hobbled on to the main stage, he had messed up the sales figures, tried to joke about his newest business venture which didn’t remotely sound funny even to himself, and flirted with a seemingly gorgeous woman who turned out to be the mother of the youngest model his company had hired. And yet, the lowest point of the meeting came when the investors didn’t look too happy about their future prospects in his company, which is when Aman took over and Arnav excused himself to the backstage citing health problems.
Thirty minutes hence, the gathering had dispersed off for tea in the coffee shop and it was just the two men sitting on the stairs of the stage. Aman handed Arnav a glass whose contents were fizzling. Arnav raised his brows enquiringly.
“Disprin,” Aman replied, “for your headache, Sir.” Arnav couldn’t help but notice his closest colleague’s disapproving tone. He nodded his thanks and took a sip.
“Sir, was that Tammana’s mother you were trying your charms on?” Aman finally asked after the customary moment of silence. Arnav sputtered into his glass and glared at him from the top of the rim of the glass. Aman burst out laughing.
“Sir, she is fifty three!” Aman exclaimed still laughing. “And if I may be bold to add, not your usual type,” he added good humoredly. Arnav sighed in reply. There was really no point getting his pants on fire with his manager’s cheeky comment because he knew it to be true.
Turning up with a terrible hangover was definitely not something Arnav had planned on. Heck, he didn’t even remember how many drinks he had downed the previous night. It had to be more than five, Arnav thought decidedly, because he was man enough to keep his senses intact with five scotches inside him, but last night he had just let go of himself. Now, why did I do that? He mentally admonished himself.
“Don’t ever go on a boozing binge before a meeting Aman,” Arnav advised, “even if the woman is hot enough to set you on fire.” Aman shook his head at hearing such pearls of wisdom coming from the biggest womaniser he knew. Ah, liquor makes us all wise heads doesn’t it? He thought smiling to himself.
Sitting close to her, he noticed her smiling and laughing. Her features were strikingly beautiful; her pink lips glistening under the dim lights of the bar; her perfectly carved jaw line; the soft curls of her beautifully set hair kissing the nape of her neck; the eyes, oh the eyes, shining so brilliantly even in the dimly lit room. She was saying something to him and her ear ring glinted as she moved her head animatedly while talking. He wanted to touch her; he wanted to feel her warmth; her soft lips were so inviting…
Buzzz… Buzzz… Buzzz.
Huh? What? Arnav dazedly sat up, having lost his hold on the dream he had been fantasising. And what a dream it was, he was so close to… never mind. He rubbed his eyes sleepily as he fumbled to find his phone in the darkness. What time is it? The luminescent hands of his bedside clock told him it was 12:45 A.M. Arnav frowned. He hardly had a moment to feel surprised that he had sunk into deep sleep so early when he saw the caller id blinking on his phone’s screen.
Arnav groaned loudly. Why had he thought she was going to allow him some peace of mind to recuperate? His happiness could never last with her around, could it? Why? Why, oh why can’t she let me be? He wondered desperately to himself as he went on staring at the phone whose insistent buzzing was now becoming irritating for him. He finally picked it up.
“What?” he growled, falling back on his pillow and shutting his eyes.
“Uhm Hello? Is this Mr. Raizada?” Arnav’s eyes snapped open. The sweet voice from the other side wasn’t anything like the annoying chirpy one he had been expecting to hear. But the caller id had confirmed it was her.
“Who is this?” Arnav muttered irritatedly.
“Uhm, I’m really sorry, but I happened to find this phone and I don’t who it belongs to. I just went through the last called list and yours was the first name there, so I called you,” the other voice reeled off in a panicked tone, no wonder intimidated by the terrifying demeanour of the man who claimed to be Mr. Raizada.
Arnav scowled. Khushi had left her phone somewhere and he was the one getting calls for it? Unbelieveable.
“Why don’t you hand it over to the nearest police station?” he replied matter of factly, still unwilling to open his eyes. The voice on the other hand squeaked in panic.
“N… no!” the girl stuttered. “I’m really scared of the police. Look mister, can’t you come and collect it please? I don’t want to get into any trouble.” Arnav was feeling more and more irritated with every passing minute.
“Well, in that case, miss,” Arnav stressed on the word sarcastically, “why don’t you call someone else in the contact list to come and pick it?” Seriously? Arnav thought exasperatedly. Are all girls idiots? There seemed to be a thoughtful pause at the other end.
“Uhm, you are the only one who I’m supposed to… OUCH! I mean, you’re the only one I could think of to ask for help. Please, Mr. Raizada!” the girl implored almost teary voiced. Arnav pursed his lips. Yeah, this was great, when everything else fails just start crying.
“OK, ok fine!” Arnav conceded. “Where are you? Tell me the address, I’ll send my driver and have it collected.” He opened his bedside table to take out a writing pad and a pen and started jotting down the address that the girl was now fervently narrating. She finally cooed her thanks and disconnected the call.
Arnav turned to his bedside clock again which now showed it to be 12:55 A.M. He scowled.Jeez, what a time to run an errand, he thought irritated as he sat upright on his bed and started dialling the number of his driver.
“There you go darling!” Khushi said as she gave a handful of the new Maybelline nail polish bottles to the excited teenager.
“Khushi didi!” she exclaimed reproachfully, her smile having dropped off the moment she finished counting the bottles. “These are just 9! You promised me 10,” she looked at Khushi with big round eyes threatening to tear up any minute. Khushi nudged her playfully.
“Your tricks won’t work with me Anu. Don’t forget I taught you those,” she replied and burst into her usual tinkling laughter. “And I had promised you 10 for a flawless delivery. You messed up the part with ‘you’re the one I’m supposed to call’.” Khushi stuck out her tongue at her niece.
“But then, you did slap my arm in punishment didn’t you?” Anu replied rubbing her arm, but smilingly.
“Tell you what?” Khushi replied. “You hand over my phone to Mr. Raizada’s driver and then we’ll have a movie marathon of Ranbir Kapoor’s movies? Deal?” Anu’s eyes sparkled hearing the terms of their renegotiation. That would surely work.
“Deal!” Anu replied happily. “By the way, Khushi didi?” she resumed after a minute, “who is this mystery man Mr. Raizada? Sounded very rude on the phone.” Anu mimicked Arnav’s voice as she settled down comfortably on the worn out brown sofa.
“He’s the new angry young man I’m trying to tame,” Khushi murmured mischievously, although more to herself as she stared out of the window of her apartment watching the road below for any signs of an approaching Mercedes.
Arnav had been sitting on his desk since morning and hadn’t managed to get much work done. Correction. He hadn’t managed to get any work done. And the sole thing responsible for this shocking inefficiency was the shiny pink Samsung handset resting on his desk. Her phone, he reminded himself annoyedly.
He had not paid much attention to it when the driver had grumblingly handed it over to him before setting out for office in the morning. He had just slipped it into his pocket and forgotten all about it. He had had his routine morning coffee, had a word with his secretary about his day’s appointments, and had made his routine weekly call to his sister; all in blissful ignorance of the phone’s existence in his pocket. In fact, the moment when it decided to finally remind Arnav of its presence was in the middle of his daily catch up meeting with his Production and Creative team.
“Mr. Gupta, I’m pleased with the progress of the new bridal fashion line. In fact if things go right, then I propose we start it off before the impending – ,” Arnav was speaking to the head of his Creative team when the board room was filled with a not-so-melodious rendition of “It’s raining men! Halleluaj! It’s raining men, yeah yeah!”
Arnav had frozen in his seat unsure what he was more shocked about; the horrible singing or the fact that he had been interrupted in the middle of his morning ritual or that the voice seemed to be streaming from his pocket or his horrified recognition of the voice which was singing it. He had finally pulled out the candy pink phone from his pocket, much to shock of his employees in the room and had pressed on the red button so hard that the phone turned off completely. Seething for a moment, Arnav had wordlessly walked out of the meeting. Mr. Gupta never found out what the impending time for launching the bridal fashion line was.
Which brings us back to Arnav’s office with him glaring at Khushi’s phone.
Arnav didn’t have Khushi’s alternate contact number. For a moment he thought he could contact Suri and get it from him, but then he stopped himself. Are you going to call her? Are you out of your mind? He scolded himself. It was her phone that was lost, so she should call you instead. You’re Arnav Singh Raizada for crying out loud. And you do not run errands for anyone! He thought smugly to himself and replaced the phone back into his desk drawer for the third time that morning.
The phone was back on his desk and being subjected to Arnav’s scrutiny within the next five minutes.
“Sir, I have a Ms. Gupta for you on line one,” his secretary’s voice broke his concentration. He looked up at her in disbelief. Wasn’t he just thinking about Khushi? How did she know?He wondered. Frikkin telepathy, that’s how! His secretary’s gaze fell on the shiny pink handset perched on Arnav’s desk. She furrowed her eyebrows as she took a closer look to be sure of what she was seeing. Then her surprised eyes looked up questioningly at her boss. Arnav’s eyes narrowed as he noticed his secretary’s reaction. He picked up Khushi’s phone and put it in his pocket.
“Patch her through,” he replied curtly. His secretary nodded and retreated to her desk wondering since when had her boss got obsessed with girly phones.
“Hello Mr. Raizada,” Khushi’s voice sounded low and subdued. Arnav was at a loss for the second time on receiving her call, as he had been expecting to hear her usual bubbly greeting.
“Ms. Gupta,” he replied and paused for a minute. “Good morning?” he ventured cautiously.
“It’s not a good morning at all! It’s a sad morning,” Khushi gave a long mournful sigh on the phone. Arnav felt slightly uncomfortable; it hadn’t been more than four times since he had met her or talked to her on the phone and yet, the absence of her usual cheery self was making him restless.
“It is a beautiful morning, Ms. Gupta,” Arnav replied exuberantly, trying to infuse some cheerfulness into her dreary voice.
“Yeah, whatever,” Khushi replied dismissively much to Arnav’s surprise. “Can you meet me?” she requested morosely.
“Uh, right now?”
“No. After I’ve drowned myself in my huge tub of Deepest Darkest Desire,” she replied sarcastically. Arnav’s eyebrows shot up in surprise as he listened to her words. Are her words metaphors or is she really talking dirty to me?
“Uhm. I don’t know what that means, Ms. Gupta,” he replied tentatively. It’s better to clear the air, isn’t it? Khushi sighed, no doubt feeling exasperated with his incompetence.
“Just… just come over will you?” Khushi said sadly. Arnav was getting really alarmed now.What the hell is wrong with her?
“Okay! Okay I’m on my way,” Arnav immediately got up and pulled his coat from his chair. He picked up a writing pad from his secretary’s desk on his way out and quietly mouthed to her “Urgent work. Cancel my meetings for the day,” his secretary gaped back at him in response.
“Are you still there or is AR towers’ reception screwing up?” Khushi groaned from the other end. Arnav balanced his phone on his shoulder as he pulled on his coat and held on to the writing pad and pen in his hands.
“Yeah, yeah! I’m here!” he replied patiently. “Now, what’s your address?”
Khushi playfully kicked Anu who was giggling openly, watching her Aunt moan and groan as if in physical pain, while she was hogging on the monster sized tub of dark chocolate ice cream with the cursive writing Deepest Darkest Desire stamped on its cover.
“Flat no. 43. Richmond apartments. CHV Nagar,” Khushi sighed into her landline phone, trying hard to suppress her own giggles as she added. “Oh and the lift is broken, so please use the stairs,” and disconnected the call. Had she still been on line, she would have heard a last familiar outburst of “WHAT THE- !” on the phone.