It is said that a car often defines the person driving it. For instance, the Mercedes C300 sports sedan was the most sought after vehicle for a businessman of a high stature; it stood for everything that big shots yearned for – class, luxury and power. And so, one in three top ranked businessmen owned one to have them driven them around in style. Arnav Singh Raizada, however, differed when it came to cars. He preferred SUVs over sedans primarily because the machismo which SUVs brought to the scene thrilled him. Their power, speed and rugged exterior established the no-nonsense attitude that Arnav always stood for. He had two such magnificent black beauties parked in each of his office and home garages; a Toyota Fortuner and a Land Rover.
And so, when he rushed down to the basement of AR towers that morning, he shook his head at the driver seated in readiness at the wheel of his Mercedes and rushed to his Fortuner instead; the need for the day was speed over luxury. He quickly set the destination on the GPS perched on the dashboard and revved the SUV out of the parking lot. The driver stared in utter confusion as his boss rushed away.
Even though Arnav could never accept it up front, he had very less experience with women other than the night time cavorting at his apartment. He could never tolerate tending to the whims and fancies of the female species and so he had never bothered to extend the relationship beyond a dinner and a wild night of showing his prowess in the bed. What was the need really? He was a handsome, single, filthy rich businessman and there was no dearth of hot women who were perfectly happy to abide by his requirements. And so, Arnav Singh Raizada, the biggest womanizer since Casablanca himself, was at a complete loss about the precarious situation he was in.
Khushi had been crying. No, she wasn’t crying. She was on the verge of crying, Arnav reminded himself as he pressed down on the accelerator. But what happened so suddenly that she had switched from happily cheerful to melancholically sad, he wondered with a worried frown. He could still remember her groans on the phone as she had begged him to come over to her house immediately. He shook his head in exasperation. Female species was such a mystery to him. Well there was no other way to find out other than by meeting her face to face. And with that thought in mind, he dexterously weaved in and out of the traffic throwing an occasional glance at the GPS as the voice cooed the instructions.
Richmond Apartments was a surprisingly beautiful multi storied building in a not-so-pretty neighbourhood. The monolith stood distinct from the other shabby housing complexes in the vicinity and was known for the better amenities it promised. Which is why the super of the building was amazed when Khushi requested for him to prop up the “Out of Order” sign in front of the lift on the ground floor for 20 minutes that morning.
Well, actually he was surprised that Khushi had not demanded something weirder like the time when she had requested that he display a woman’s brassiere on the notice board or another time when she wanted him to sound the fire alarm in only her apartment from the controls at the entrance lobby or finally the time when he was asked to put some weird liquid into the apartment’s swimming pool which made the water turn blue the moment her guest entered it.
You might wonder why the 66 year old super put up with her demands. Well, all the acts he was doing for her didn’t have any permanent noticeable effects. Moreover, the crisp 500 denomination notes greasing his palms each time gave him a good enough reason. So, yeah, in comparison to the crazier things Khushi had requested him to do in the past, this seemed, dare he say, pretty innocent.
15 minutes later, a visibly distraught Arnav stood in the lobby staring at the “Out of Order” sign in frustration. Well, Khushi did warn me that the lift wasn’t working. He turned to the super who was sitting in his chair and snoring loudly. Arnav checked his watch. He’s sleeping at 11 A.M.? Really? Arnav shook his head disbelievingly and nudged him awake.
“Flat number 43. Which floor?” He asked sternly to the super who woke up merely to answer – “8th floor” and slumped back into his stupor.
With a final glare at the incompetent caretaker, Arnav started walking up the stairs. The caretaker walked to the base of stairs and listened closely to hear Khushi’s newest guest’s fading footsteps. Once he was assured that he could no longer hear smartly dressed guest, the super picked up the “Out of order” sign and walked to his seat getting back to the newspaper he had been reading. All in a day’s work, eh?
I run 5.2 miles every morning! Why is walking up 8 floors so frikkin hard? Arnav panted hard as he laboriously climbed up floor after floor. His coat came off on the 3rd floor, his tie on the 5th floor. And by the time he reached the landing on the 8th floor, his waistcoat had completed the trio. It was nearing noon time and Arnav finally realised how much dependent he was on air conditioners. Anyway, he had made it in one piece, well, obviously not counting the three pieces of clothes in his arms. Flat number 43 was at the very end of the dimly lit corridor which Arnav almost sprinted to. Finally, he paused before the door, took a deep breath calming his panting and pressed the doorbell.
The door clicked open in a few seconds and Arnav gasped out in shock.
Standing before him was a vision in, I believe the colour is called, bubblegum pink. His eyes narrowed to block the blinding hue. Draped in the pink fluffy nightgown, pink pyjamas, and bunny eared pink slippers was a pale, baggy eyed, miserable looking Khushi Kumari Gupta. Her hair was… just all over the place. There wasn’t the slightest trace of makeup. And her beautiful eyes… were red and swollen. Why were her eyes red? Arnav suddenly felt a weird sensation in the pit of his stomach. She really had been crying! His irritation at having been beckoned out of the blue, his frustration with the caretaker of the apartment, the annoyance at having climbed eight flights of stairs were all knocked out of his mind as he stared at the wreck of a woman standing in front of him.
“Khushi? Are you okay?” the words were out of his mouth before he realised it. Khushi’s eyes widened. He had called her Khushi! Not his usual sneering “Ms. Gupta”, but a concerned “Khushi”. Once she got over her brief moment of surprise, she stood back and opened the door wider to let him inside.
“I’m fine, Mr. Raizada,” Khushi replied, her sad voice contradicting her state.
She closed the door behind her as Arnav looked around the studio apartment that was her home. It looked a cross between someone’s attic and the antique shop that his sister used to drag him to buy old furniture once every month; there was a huge brown lopsided sofa staring at him from the centre of the living room. There were lamps at every nook and cranny of the room in the strangest of shapes and sizes. The walls were done in soothing tones of custard yellow. He noticed the ceiling of the entire apartment was painted with stars. Weird.
He noticed a big tub of ice cream sitting on the rickety wooden table in front of the sofa. He stared at the name stamped on the cover for a brief second and as realisation hit him about “deepest darkest desire” he turned to gape at Khushi. She was talking about chocolate ice cream. Damn! Arnav knew better than to expect this woman to talk dirty to him. He sighed. Khushi sank on the sofa wrapping her night gown tightly around her and stared at the ice cream box sullenly.
“You can sit you know? There aren’t any bugs on this sofa, I checked,” Khushi muttered. Arnav raised his eyebrows for a moment hearing her, then shook his head exasperatedly and sat down next to her.
“What is going on, Ms. Gupta?” Arnav asked impatiently.
“You know when the most important thing in your life just… disappears… it hurts like hell,” Khushi started off in a morose voice catching Arnav completely off guard. He stared at her. Khushi looked at him and he immediately nodded indicating he agreed to what she was saying, although having no clue really.
“It is true, you only know their true worth only when they are no longer in their life,” Khushi continued and plunged a big spoon of ice cream into her mouth. Arnav’s eyes narrowed. Was she talking about her love life? He wondered guardedly. He was feeling as if he had landed into an alien world. No one had ever approached him for advice on their love life, mostly because he was never known to have one.
“You see Ms. Gupta, it really is no use moping about what’s gone from your life,” Arnav said in a businesslike tone. Khushi looked at him. “You shouldn’t run after it. Rather, you should just move on from there, holding your head up high with dignity.” There! Not bad advice for a newbie Arnav! He thought approvingly to himself. Khushi sighed loudly and kept the spoon back into the tub of ice cream.
“But it’s all my fault!” she suddenly moaned and buried her head in her hands. Arnav stared at her in surprise that his advice wasn’t considered at all by her and she had launched into a completely different angle. He extended his hand to her shoulder and patted it awkwardly.
“There, there.” He muttered in what he hoped was a supportive voice. It was strangely distressing to watch the woman who had mercilessly commanded her rules and then swept him away with her graces in the club not two nights ago crumbling like this in front of him. “It’s not your fault, Ms. Gupta.” Arnav mumbled and took a deep breath. “The guy was a moron if he didn’t appreciate a fine woman like you.”
Khushi slowly lifted her head from her hands and stared at Arnav dumbstruck. He quickly withdrew his hand that had been patting her shoulder and interlinked his hands in his lap, looking away from Khushi embarrassedly.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Khushi asked. She had raised her eyebrows inquisitively. Arnav looked back at her, now confused at her expressions.
“Huh?” he ventured.
“It’s my fault that I left my phone lying around. That’s how I lost it,” Khushi replied. “Where did the moron guy come into all this?” she asked him confusedly. Arnav felt his mouth falling open. He gaped at her flabbergasted. All this talk about losing the most important thing and knowing their worth… She was talking about her… phone? What the-? And he had thought something completely different, he had thought she was going through a love crisis. Oh shit!
A smile crept up on Khushi’s lips. “Mr. Raizada? Where you giving me… chick advice?” she gasped in disbelief. Arnav pursed his lips and ground his teeth in anger. “Oh my god! You actually thought I was having guy trouble!” Khushi burst out laughing in her loud tinkling laughter. Arnav sank onto the sofa feeling more and more embarrassed with every passing second. He had made such a huge fool out of himself.
Khushi pushed the tub of ice cream to him. “I think you need this more than I do,” she said to him controlling herself from giggling. Arnav glared at her with narrowed eyes. Aaand, ladies and gentlemen, she’s back! He thought annoyed. He suddenly sprang up from the springy sofa and picked up his coat hanging limply from the chair by the door. He rummaged in the pocket and took out the pink Samsung phone. He walked back to the sofa and handed it out to her. Khushi’s eyes widened in shock.
“Ohhh my baby!” she exclaimed. Arnav looked startled thinking for a moment she was addressing him as her baby. But then he noticed she was still looking adoringly at the phone. He sighed. Of course, trust her to be affectionate to non-living things. “You had my phone all this time?” she asked Arnav as she took it from his hand. Arnav nodded.
“Why didn’t you return it?” her next question again rendered him speechless. He remembered his ego egging him not to find her alternate number but let her call him.
“Uhm, I didn’t have your alternate number.” He muttered sheepishly, wondering how the tables had turned so quickly. Where he had been angry a moment ago, now stood a seething Khushi.
“Haa! A likely ruse! Did you go through my messages?” she muttered suspiciously. Arnav looked at her in amazement for a moment before getting angry at being accused of something so outrageous.
“What?! Look Ms. Gupta, I have no interests in reading your personal messages. I have no interest in your phone or your life for that matter,” Arnav countered angrily.
“That didn’t stop you from lending expert advice a while ago about my love life, Mr. Raizada,” Khushi replied. Arnav was struck speechless again. Seriously what was with this woman and her well timed comebacks? The two of them kept looking at each other, Arnav glaring at her, while Khushi was looking at him amusedly.
“Tell you what? I’ll forget that if you promise me something,” Khushi said sweetly, laying down her bait. Arnav’s eyes narrowed.
“And what might that be, Ms. Gupta?” he whispered in the same tone as her, only his words sounded menacing.
“How about you let me take you out for lunch? You know as my token of gratitude for your returning my phone?” Arnav’s stared at her in bemusement. She is asking me out? This had to be the weirdest offer ever made to him, by the weirdest of women. His mind started working furiously checking if this was another one of her tricks.
“That is not necessary, Ms. Gupta. I’m glad you are… uhm, reunited with your phone.” He muttered, in his usual rigid way. He buttoned his waistcoat and picked up the tie. “I should head back now. I have some work to take care of.” Khushi’s eyes widened.
“But I call and you come! That was one of the rules,” she murmurs innocently. Arnav suddenly loses his cool at hearing her childish words.
“Ms. Gupta! This isn’t a joke alright? Some of us have work to do! And every time I run around at your beck and call, I lose business worth millions!” Arnav’s voice rose to a shout as he struggled with his tie, finally taking it off and throwing it to the floor in his frustration. Khushi’s smile stayed on her face as she slowly walked up to him and picked up the black silk tie from the floor. She put it around his neck and slowly started knotting it up humming slightly to herself.
Arnav froze at this sudden change in situation. He had yelled at her but she hadn’t reacted at all! What was this woman made of? Was it her time of the month? He had read a few articles on how women behaved when they were going through PMS. The abrupt mood swings, the frustration, the nonchalance, it all fit. But he knew he would be wise not to voice his opinions. He just watched Khushi fiddling with his tie.
“Mr. Raizada, I know you are a big businessman. But you do realise that you knew perfectly well what 8 weeks of anger therapy entailed.” Despite her smile, Khushi’s voice steeled and Arnav’s eyes widened. He had never heard her talk like that. “You also knew it perfectly well when I laid down my rules what they entailed. Single knot or double?” she added nonchalantly.
“Double.” He replied in a monotone, watching her work on his tie. He felt his mouth dry as her hands regularly brushed against his chest.
“So if you think I’m joking with you, let me remind you that this is MY work,” Khushi’s voice was again sugary sweet and her lips were curved in a smile. But Arnav wasn’t fooled with her expressions. He knew he had hit a nerve in her. “And Khushi Kumari Gupta never, ever, jokes about her work!” she finished and pushed the knot hard into his throat making him gag and sputter in shock. He coughed as he straightened his tie to a comfortable level, and stared at the fireball standing in front of him.
It seemed, Arnav Singh Raizada had finally met his match.