“And so Mr. Raizada, according to our estimates, the Autumn Collection will be…” the associate giving the presentation faltered in the middle of his monologue. He took a wary look around at the other people sitting in the boardroom and cleared his throat, “…will be slightly delayed beyond our schedule,” he finished flat, gazing at Arnav guardedly, waiting for the inevitable bursting of volcano.
“I understand, Mehra,” Arnav replied calmly. “Can you please liaise with the Designer team and the Production team and try to get this move along as quickly as you can? Let’s try to cut losses of time wherever we can, yes?” Arnav picked up his stack of files and stood up. “Thank you for your time, gentlemen. Let’s hope we meet with some better news the next time.” And with that, he walked out of the conference room.
Mehra stood rooted to his spot, his jaw visibly dropped. Arnav hadn’t blasted off, he hadn’t shouted, hell he hadn’t raised his voice even once! Mehra wondered how the active volcano had become dormant overnight.
Arnav Singh Raizada was a restless man today. For someone who always was in control and on top of everything going around him, this new feeling felt alien on so many different levels. It had been three days since he had last heard from Khushi; actually, three whole days and three whole nights to be more precise. It was so unlike her to just disappear. Well it had seemed unlike based on the first week of their interaction. He had made excuses, he had avoided her, he had not hidden his anger tolerating her company, oh he had been quite blunt at times too. But she had always tagged along, completely immune to his displeasure. And so, yes it was unlike Khushi Kumari Gupta, that irritating lunatic of a woman, to just… disappear like this…
Arnav walked by his secretary’s desk. Then he paused for a moment as if a thought had suddenly come into his mind. He strolled back to her. “Do I have any messages?” he enquired.
His secretary looked up confused. It was normally her who used to follow him and brief him about his schedules and inform him of any phone calls or messages she had received for him in his absence. This was a change in their usual routine. She immediately picked up her notepad and reeled off.
“Sir, there was a call from Mr. Bhasin who wanted to congratulate you for your winning the “Businessman of the Year”. Your banker called asking for an appointment later today. And, uh, Sir your sister had called,” Arnav raised his eyebrows at his secretary enquiringly. “She just asked for you to call her back,” she finished and kept the notepad back on the desk.
Arnav looked from the notepad to his secretary’s face, looking suddenly indecisive. “Uhm, is that all?” he asked, keeping his tone casual. His secretary nodded her head curtly.
“Those are the messages that you have received since morning today, yes sir,” she confirmed. Defeated, Arnav walked back towards his cabin. He slammed the door shut behind him and took off his coat.
What the hell does she think of herself? That she can pick me up and drop me off whenever the hell she feels like? Arnav thought irritatingly as he hung up his coat on the coat hanger by the door. Maybe she got sick and tired of being goody two shoes all the time. Ha! Good riddance it is!
Fifteen minutes later, he was lying on the plush creme couch, resting one hand over his eyes. It looked like he was ‘
“Napping are we?” Aman’s surprised voice cut through Arnav’s thoughts. He withdrew his arm to acknowledge Aman for a moment before resting it back on his face.
“I’m not napping!” Arnav countered.
“Sure you’re not, Sir. You’re just checking, how comfortable the couch is for lying down,” Aman replied, sat down on the sofa next to Arnav looking amused. Arnav let out a loud sigh before finally withdrawing his arm again.
“Women are an extremely strange species, Aman,” Arnav muttered staring up at the ceiling. “They have the singular capability of driving you nuts with their insanity and then make you miss their insanity when they are not around.”
Aman’s eyebrows rose as he heard his boss’s words. Then a small smile crept up on his face for he understood who his boss was talking about. “Indeed, Sir. They are the strangest,” he agreed. Oh, been bit already have we, Sir? “But, if it helps, maybe you could call the missing lady in question,” he suggested casually.
Arnav sat up on the couch agitatedly, his eyes shining with irritation. “WHAT? Me? Call her? Are you out of your mind Aman?” he growled. “Why would Arnav Singh Raizada call that… that loony?”
Uhm, because you’re dying to talk to her? Aman gazed at Arnav, trying really hard to suppress the laughter that was threatening to burst out of him. “It was just a suggestion, Sir,” Aman clarified, obviously keeping his opinion to himself. He glanced at his watch. “I just came to tell you that the clients from Singapore have checked in at the Mariott. I’ll take your leave now as I need to liaise with them for our meetings.” Arnav too swung his legs off the couch rubbing his eyes. “Good day, Boss. Take it easy,” Aman smiled and left the cabin, leaving Arnav fiddling with his phone.
His finger scrolled down the contact list and paused for a small moment at Loony. Arnav glared at his phone as if she’d pop out of it any minute and then he’d thunder at her for disappearing off for three days and three nights. Seething, he flicked his finger once more on the contact list and this time his finger paused on Anjali Raizada. He hit the dial button.
“Chotey!!” came the ever cheerful voice from the other side. Arnav distanced the phone from his ear for a moment scowling to himself.
“Hi Di,” he muttered. “You called? I’m sorry I was in the middle of a meeting.” Arnav didn’t comment further on the abrupt departure from their two calls a week routine.
“Oh pfft, no need to apologise Chotey,” Anjali brushed past his perfunctory apology breezily, “I just called to tell you that Anuj and Priya are both going to be out of Mumbai next to next weekend and…” she paused dramatically. Arnav raised his eyebrows in anticipation.
“And?” he ventured.
“Annnd, I’m coming down to Delhi for some quality time with my darling brother!” Anjali exclaimed happily. Arnav’s jaw however dropped an inch in dismay.
Anjali had married right out of college to her “loser” batchmate Anuj Bhasin (well, he was a renowned environmentalist cum entrepreneur and a freelance consultant to the world’s biggest MNCs, but Arnav nevertheless referred to him as the “loser” who stole Anjali from him. Brotherly instincts eh?) and hence she had lost out on what Arnav called the “bachelorette experiences of life”.
Basically, Anjali was the good girl who frowned at all the bad things like Arnav drinking, Arnav partying, Arnav inviting ladies over at his bachelor pad for a night cap, Arnav making excuses to get out of shopping with her at the Antique market, all of which had happened. Just once. Because she never let any of it happen again during her visits. So yeah, even though Arnav loved Anjali immensely, sadly she wasn’t the most charming of house guests he had entertained.
“Di…” Arnav’s groan failed to register with Anjali who reeled off the things she was hoping they could do together. Finally when she kept the phone down 18 minutes later, Arnav sank down on the couch, exhausted as if he had just finished running a marathon!
[Later that evening]
Just as Arnav was browsing through his emails, he received a call on the intercom. It was his secretary.
“Mr. Raizada, it is Ms. Anita your housekeeper on line two,” she announced. Arnav was slightly surprised. It was very rare that Anita called him at office. Normally they had their meeting during the breakfast hour pertaining to the household problems if any.
“Put her through. Thank you,” Arnav replied. A moment and a click later, he heard the frantic voice of Anita on the other side.
“Mr. Raizada, Mr. Raizadaaa!!!” Anita almost yelled from the other side. For the second time that day, Arnav distanced his phone from his ear, glaring at it with disapproving eyes.Seriously, what was happening to all the women today?
“Calm down, Anita. It is me. What is wrong?” Arnav muttered still holding the phone an inch away from his phone.
“Sir, why have you asked this… this… this thing to be brought here? Sir, you know I’m scared of them. What are you playing at Sir?” Anita whined on the other side in a terror struck voice. Arnav was annoyed now.
“What are you talking about Anita? What thing have I sent home? What is going on?” he asked nonplussed.
“Shooo! Shooo!!” Anita suddenly exclaimed much to Arnav’s utter astonishment.
“Are you… are you shooing me Anita?” he asked her in bewilderment.
“NO! Sir, not to you! I’m shooing it… the thing… the mongrel!” she countered but her answer confused Arnav even more.
“Calm down woman!! This is not helping at all!” Arnav thundered on the phone trying to bring some authority to the conversation. As soon as Anita shut up with her panicking cries, Arnav asked in a calm voice. “Now tell me what is wrong?”
“THERE IS A DOG IN YOUR APARTMENT SIR!” Anita shouted in complete and utter panic.
[An hour later, Arnav’s apartment]
Arnav was sitting in his living room on the black leather couch. He was still dressed in his office clothes which meant he had just rushed back home directly from office and hadn’t gone in to change yet.
[Part of the Penthouse Living room Cum Dining area]
A trembling Anita had waited only till the time he’d reached home. As soon as the door had unlocked and he had walked in, she had bolted out past him and out the door shouting like a banshee. Arnav had stared at her retreating back in alarm. Anita had always displayed sobriety and decorum of the highest order, so yes it was extremely surreal for him to be witnessing this side of her persona. And then his gaze had fallen on the “thing” that had caused all this trouble to begin with and he had stopped dead in his tracks.
And so he was sitting on the couch and still looking in disbelief at the golden retriever lying cross legged on the beautiful creme Persian rug. It wasn’t a fully grown “dog” as Anita had claimed. He looked like he was about 3 months old, still a puppy by the looks of it. The strangest thing was that the pup was staring right back at him, almost unblinkingly and completely immobile as if it knew moving even an inch would result in Arnav blowing up (and not in a good way). Arnav’s gaze shifted as he looked around to explain the presence of the unknown pup in his living room and he saw a wicker basket with a red bow tied neatly across it sitting on the dining table across the room.
His eyes narrowing, Arnav walked to the table, keeping a wary eye on the pup. He picked up the basket from the table and started walking back to the living room. He looked into the basket and found an assortment of soft balls and chew toys. The pup looked up and started to wag his tail at apparent recognition of the contents of the basket. “Stay boy,” Arnav muttered warningly and then paused, feeling surprised at the words coming out of his mouth with so much ease. Then Arnav noticed a note tied to the handle along with the ribbon. He eased out the piece of paper and started reading, his scowl becoming more and more pronounced with each word he read.
Hello Mr. Raizada!
How are you doing? I’m so sorry for the inconvenience of having my dog being dropped off at your place at such short notice. His name is Oscar and he truly is an adorable (slightly high spirited) 5 month old retriever pup. I’ve had the dog shelter keep all his favourite toys just in case he gets lonely. I know your record of having pets and so I trust only you to take care of my sweety pie till the time I’ll be back which should be very very soon 🙂
Thank you so much!
Khushi K. Gupta 🙂
WHAT THE HELL!! This woman… this… AHHH!! I’m going to kill her! Really I’m going to strangle the life out of her!! Arnav violently shredded the note with his hands and threw the remnants in the air. Seething, he sank to the couch looking at Oscar who was staring at him with a faint interest, his cute little wagging very slowly from one side to the other as if inviting Arnav for a game. Arnav raised his eyebrows seeing its antics. The wagging just got harder. “No… No Oscar-“
And that was it!
On hearing its name, Oscar bolted from the rug and started running all over the lounge, around and around the dining table, it’s cute little tushy banging against the small tables and knocking down furniture. Thankfully, Arnav preferred minimalistic design and so had never kept any of those delicate figurines on the peg tables for decoration. Nevertheless, this rampant trail of destruction was not going unnoticed by him.
“Oii Stop!!” Arnav thundered and started chasing the retriever. Oscar merely thought that his new master was playing along and shot towards Arnav’s bedroom and jumped up his bed.
“Oh no! No no no no no! You are not getting up there! NO OSCAR!” Arnav reprimanded loudly as Oscar rolled over his side, his tongue lolling out comically. “Get out Oscar! I said GET OUT!!” Arnav thundered pointing his finger towards the verandah past the dining room and at the opposite end of the house.
Oscar finally straightened up realizing his new master seemed pissed. He slowly got off the bed and his tail no longer wagging, he slowly walked past Arnav and towards the rug in the sitting lounge where he had been sitting earlier. “No! I said get out! Not on my rug, Out of the house!” Arnav bellowed and picked up the basket and walked out to the verandah and kept it at one corner. “Oscar!” he summoned loudly. The dog silently walked towards the basket as if all joy had been sucked out from its life and without any fuss sank into the bucket.
“Good boy,” Arnav murmured and Oscar looked back at him with caramel eyes. Just as Arnav felt his heart melting seeing Oscar flash his puppy eyes at him, Arnav shook his head and sliding the doors shut at the verandah of his penthouse suite, he walked back into his house. He studied the trail of mess that Oscar had left behind him and started cleaning up. Just as he picked up the third chair upright, he felt a frission of irritation again.
Khushi. Just when I start wondering why you had disappeared, you give me a reason to wish I had never wondered in the first place, he thought annoyedly. There was a dog in his apartment for crying out loud! There were apartment rules and regulations in place. Not to mention what his neighbours would think. And what the hell was he going to do about Anita? She wouldn’t set foot in his house until Oscar left. Arnav ran his fingers through his hair. She isn’t here, I haven’t met her and yet she has managed to rile me up. Again. What is it about her really? Jeez!
He took out his phone and dialled up Loony. He deserved answers, no, wait. He DEMANDED answers! She couldn’t just leave her deserted dog from the orphanage out of the blue and expect Arnav Singh Raizada to take care of it in her absence. What does she think I am? A dog walker? He thought angrily walking towards his room. An automated voice responded to him, I’m sorry but the number you are trying to reach is currently out of reach. Please try again later. Arnav disconnected the call and banged the door of his room shut in frustration.
[Much much later at night]
Arnav fidgeted slightly brushing the hair out of his face and then stilled. A minute later he fidgeted again, his eyebrows scrunching together in restlessness, but he stilled again. Finally, he snapped his eyes open and sat upright on his bed. The room was engulfed in absolute darkness. He fiddled with his phone and the screen came to life. It told him it was 1:30 in the morning. Arnav groaned loudly and switched on the bedside lamp to reach for the jug of water.
As he poured himself a glass of water to drink, he glanced down and noticed he was still dressed in his office clothes. He let out a tired breath and got out of his bed and walked to his walk-in closet to change into some comfortable pyjamas. Once suitably dressed for bed, he walked back to his bedroom and chugged down the water when he heard it.
“owww wooowww WOOOWWW.”
Arnav stood rooted at his place, slowly lowering the glass and kept it by the bedside table. The loud yelping sound came again.
“owww wooowww WOOOWWW.”
Arnav opened the door of his bedroom and walked across his apartment shrouded in darkness and towards the verandah. He stopped a few stops short of the door for sitting right outside the door on the other side was Oscar yowling with all his might. “What? What do you want?” Arnav asked through the closed door.
Oscar tried to scratch the door between them in answer.
“Oh no. You are not coming inside. I don’t want you knocking down the furniture again.” Arnav replied shaking his finger reprimandingly.
Oscar sat down grumbling to himself.
“Well, you are not coming inside that is all I know,” Arnav countered.
Oscar started yowling again. Arnav placed his hands on his ears in protest. “Oh good lord! Not again! What do you want Oscar? What?” he asked the dog. However, this time the dog just kept whining. Getting extremely irritated with his not knowing what the dratted dog wanted (and of course his poor sleep getting butchered in the process) he picked up the phone and hit speed dial.
The phone kept ringing and just on the last ring did a sleepy voice respond. “He(yawn)llo?”
“Hi Di,” Arnav muttered, mentally kicking himself for disturbing his sister so late at night.
“Chotey?” Anjali’s voice was crystal clear instantly, no signs of sleep in it. “Is everything alright? Are you okay?” she asked worriedly.
“Ya Di. I’m fine, everything is okay,” Arnav mumbled back gazing at Oscar’s face. Was it Arnav’s imagination or was Oscar looking morose?
“Oh, then how come you called now? It’s close to 2 in the morning, Chotey,” The irony of both the siblings having broken the two phone calls a week routine was not lost on Anjali.
“Di, when Roger was a pup, did he ever whine late at night?” Arnav’s next question threw Anjali completely.
“Roger? Chotey why are you asking suddenly about Roger? That was years ago!” Anjali muttered, not able to conceal the shock she felt. Her younger brother had called her up at 2 in the morning to ask her about their Labrador who had been dead for God knows how many years. Seriously?
“I know it was years ago Di. I just… please tell me what I’m asking?” Arnav changed tracks midway. He obviously didn’t want to reveal that he was going through it right now.
“Well, when Roger was a pup, hmm no he was a very quiet little fella. But I remember Crystal used to whine sometimes,” Anjali replied. Crystal was Priya’s little Pomeranian. Arnav raised his eyebrows.
“So, why did that used to happen? Crystal was hungry?” Arnav asked.
“No, she just had to relieve herself and both Anuj and Priya had been too lazy to take Crystal out. Sometimes I had to take her out in the middle of the night,” Anjali replied and Arnav narrowed his eyes and pursed his lips glaring at Oscar.
“Thank you Di. Sorry to have disturbed you. Go back to sleep. Love you,” Arnav replied and quickly disconnected the phone. Anjali stared at her phone bemusedly wondering if she really had that conversation or had she been dreaming.
“Right. So you need to pee,” Arnav muttered sliding the door slightly to slip outside to the verandah. “And since dogs are prohibited in my apartment so obviously I can’t take you downstairs,” Arnav muttered conversationally. Oscar stared at him. “So what do we do?” Arnav asked himself. As if in reply, the dog turned his gaze towards one of the many potted plants kept along the verandah’s railing. Arnav’s eyes narrowed.
“No. We are not doing that!”
Twenty minutes later, a grudging Arnav did just that.
Hehad created a bed of earth about three inches tall at one corner of the verandah, at the expense of few of his plants which lay in empty pots, devoid of the blanket of soil that had covered them. Oscar had been looking at Arnav toiling away most interestedly. And soon as he stood up and brushed his hands of the dirt, wiping the sweat off his tee shirt, Oscar ran to the earth patch sniffing all over it. Minutes later he relieved himself. Then getting up, he brushed himself off and quietly walked over to his basket and curled up inside it.
Arnav smiled and started walking back inside. As he stopped by Oscar near the door, he bent down and lovingly rubbed his head. “Now sleep and let me sleep too, okay?” Arnav murmured and walked back inside the apartment sliding the door shut behind him, hoping for some relief from the adventures of the day which seemed to have no intentions of halting. After changing into some fresh clothes, Arnav got back into his bed again. He instantly fell asleep, the tiredness of the day finally catching up with him.
[30 minutes later]
“ooowww wooowww WOOOWWW!!!”