Sorry for the delay. I know this part should have come last week, but as fate would have it - my entire family fell sick - hubby, me and the two tots. It was absolutely disastrous to say the least and the kids are still home which means less time to write. Nevertheless, Ive tried my best to make it as exciting as possible. Please please please do leave your comments, they encourage me to write, critiques are also welcome. Feel free to clutter my inbox and scrapbook if you want to say something to me or bug me for an update - I do like that!!! (sigh)
Also, I haven't had the chance to proofread or type-edit the post, so please ignore any major grammatical, spelling errors that maybe.
This update is dedicated to ManKiBaath who asked for it and patiently waited as I fell sick and got better to complete it.
Lastly, a lot of people wanted to know why Khushi didn't want to go to Lucknow. I hope this chapter answers your questions.
New Delhi railway station was bustling with energy. Porters clad in red were fast making their way to various compartments. Vendors selling food were pacing the length of the platform convincing people to buy their goods. People were crowing around newspaper stalls and food joints buying their bottles of water and some reading to keep them company during their journey.
Seated at the window Khushi was taking all this in. Clad in a baby pink chikankaari kurta and blue jeans, she was busy eating some peanuts she had bought outside the station. She was travelling by the Lucknow Swarn Shatabdi Express, which would take her to her destination in less than six hours. However, it was a chair car. She would have preferred a sleeper train but there were no tickets available last minute.
She cursed Ravan Kumar. "He had to force me to take this vacation," she muttered under her breath. "And he even told HR about it," she stated to no one in particular. "Not that I don't want to see my Amma and Babuji, but not like this. I was saving up all my vacation to visit them during Payal's wedding. Now that stupid Ravan Kumar will make me go on loss of pay if I take a lot of time off for Payal's wedding," she muttered.
There was news that Payal was soon to be engaged, again. Shashi had this time around completed his due diligence and found a family that did not want any dowry - or so they said. But Payal liked the boy. That was good enough for Khushi to give him the benefit of doubt.
Her Buaji was on cloud 21. "Devi Maiyya has showered her blessings on us. The boy is so good. He has a job as a Manager in a big multinational corporation." That didn't impress Khushi. "Despite knowing about the earlier wedding, he and his family have agreed to the alliance. They said such things happened. They didn't even make a big issue about it." This did.
The thought of meeting her Amma and Babuji soon brought a smile to her lips. She would be going to Lucknow soon. And all of a sudden, her entire week was filled with plans to eat at the various chat stalls, shop from various street bazaars and have lots of late night chai and jalebi with Payal asking her about her life and marriage. She had missed out on a lot but she was intent on making up for it by staying up and getting all the gossip straight from the horse's mouth.
The toot of the train's horn broke her reverie. Khushi looked outside her window and took in the rush. She wondered where all the people were going. Her compartment was fairly empty. Except for a few railway workers and vendors who supplied tea and coffee, there was hardly anybody around her. And the train would be leaving in another 10 minutes.
"Of course, everyone prefers a sleeper car," she muttered. "Who will want to travel by this chair car? No wonder tickets were so easily available."
Just as she said this, the door to her compartment opened. Khushi eagerly looked at the door to get a glimpse of her co-traveller. All she could do was gape at the handsomely chiselled Arnav Singh Raizada wearing a olive black three piece suit, aviators perched on his nose, make his way towards her.
"Y..y...you?" stammered Khushi as she watched a nonchalant Arnav settle himself in the seat right next to her. He stood up to put his small briefcase on the railings above and busied himself straightening the creases on his expensive Versace before he sat down again. All along, Khushi's eyes continuously followed his actions.
"Stop staring at me Khushi", she said, with a hint of a smile gracing his features. "It's rude."
"Of course, staring is rude, but this ridiculous train jacking stunt of yours is perfectly acceptable."
"Thank you," he replied.
"I said thank you for saying that my stunt was acceptable."
"I was being sarcastic."
"I didnt think so."
Ravan Kumar always knew how to touch a raw nerve. She calmed herself and asked again, "What are you doing here?
"Going to Lucknow."
"The great ASR, going to Lucknow in a train? Is everything alright?"
"Of course. It's just that a stubborn employee insisted she wanted to travel by train, despite the fact that I had bought flight tickets for her. That employee is a crucial part of my overseas expansion project. I have to train her in a lot of areas before we embark on that trip. Since time was of essence, I thought I might as well take this journey with her to get started."
"I am not going with you to Milan."
"I didn't ask for your opinion Ms Gupta. I'm merely letting you know."
And before Khushi could protest, Arnav handed her the black dossier he had been carrying all along. "Open it Ms Gupta, here are the names, positions as well as detailed information on the key members involved in the Milan expansion. I will need you to know all of this on your fingertips."
Bending over her to turn the page, Arnav continued: "If you look to the side, Ive made some notes in red ink. They indicate personal preferences of these people, in terms of their choice of colours, materials and even simple things like food and drink. Remember, the first rule of business, no detail about a prospective partner or even competitor is too small to ignore."
And while Arnav explained what he wanted Khushi to take away from the dossier, before they went back to reworking the designs, Khushi simply stared at him.
Here was a wealthy man, who ran his own multimillion dollar fashion business, simply sitting in the second class compartment of a chair car train, not complaining about the heat or dust, but rather simply getting on with his work. Just when she felt, she had him all figured out, he did something to get her start thinking all over again.
Who was he?