"Nikki, bahut badi problem ho gayi. Ghar ke gas cylinder me gas khatam ho gayi. Iss wakt toh doosra cylinder toh kahi milega bhi nahi. Maaji ke kuch guests aa rahe hai. Itna saara khana aur snacks banane hai. Kal saari taiyaari karke soyi thi lekin bina gas ke sab kaise banaungi? Nikki, mujhe bahut darr lag raha hai. Kuch samajh nahi aa raha-"
"Di, tu shant ho ja. Me hu na. Me Pammi aunty se baat karti hu."
And that is how Anokhi Bhalla ended up with loads of cut vegetables, marinated chicken and all sorts of sauces in the kitchen of the university canteen where she worked. Babli had to go back to set up the house for the party. She was reluctant to leave Anokhi to do all the cooking but she could never speak up in front of her in-laws.
The canteen lady, Pammi aunty, had gratefully lended her kitchen to the sister for helping her last minute in preparations for Shaurya Sabherwal's birthday party.
Anokhi rolled her hair up into a bun and used her pen to keep them in place as she got to work.
It was about half past six in the evening. Shaurya Sabherwal had had a hard day at work checking the mid-term papers in his cabin. And his mind was never at rest nowadays after his confrontation with his mother and the whole deal with being stuck in the factory riot.
He often found his mind wandering over to the antics of a certain irritating girl in his university and his class. Lately he found himself not able to think about anything but.
Ever since during the riot when he lost sight of Anokhi, fearing someone would hurt her, Shaurya had started to realize these unexplainable feelings. He could not rest not knowing if Anokhi was safe. He never realized when the excruciatingly irritating, infuriating Ms. Bhalla became the adorable, fierce and endearing Anokhi to him.
He never could control his emotions around her. She always managed to bring out his hidden emotions, ones he didn't even realize he was feeling. From all the underlying anger to the smiles he wanted to keep hidden, she managed to bring them all to the surface.
He didn't know what to feel around her. And neither did he know what to feel when thinking about her.
He came down the stairs from his office when he noticed the lights on in the canteen kitchen. He could not see through to the windows because they were hazed but he could see some purple movements through them.
He knew it was late and he knew that Pammi aunty never stayed this late because she lived quite far away so, she had to leave early.
He cautiously walked over to the canteen area and peeked around the door to watch a frantic Anokhi looking like she could use some help.
She was bringing a glass bowl full of dry fruits when she tripped on thin air and the bowl went flying up in the air.
Shaurya rushed forward to catch her in his arms before she hit the ground face first and pulled her into him when the bowl hit the floor and the glass shattered.
Anokhi looked up to see Shaurya staring down at her. She looked at him with a confused expression before looking down at the broken glass.
She got out of his arms just as the pressure cooker whistled signaling that the Rajma was done.
She looked between the cooker and the broken glass with panic in her eyes.
"Tum voh sambhalo. Me kanch saaf kar doonga." She looked at him with uncertain eyes and Shaurya looked back with determined ones. She decided not to question him and went to the stove.
Shaurya got himself a broom and started cleaning up the broken glass.
Once the Rajma was off the stove and the glass taken care off, Anokhi and Shaurya turned to look at each other.
"Aap itni late yahan kya kar rahi hai, Ms. Bhalla? Canteen bahaut pehle close ho gaya tha." Shaurya took in her attire. She was wearing her purple kurta with a light pink apron with a small bunny head printed on it. Her hair was tied up except a strand that was getting in her face. Her fingers were coloured with remnants of masalas and there were a few rice grains hanging from her hair.
Shaurya managed to stifle a laugh begging to escape from his through but he couldn't help the smile that came onto his face when he saw the bunny.
"Sir, mujhe bas thodi aur cheeze hi banana reh gayi hai. Uske baad me sab lock karke chali jaaungi."
"Aur tum yeh sab apne ghar ke kitchen me kyu nahi bana sakti? The canteen kitchen is not for personal use, Ms. Bhalla." Shaurya knew it was useless to fight her as he was sure she would figure out some counterpoint. He was very uncomfortable with this whole situation.
"Sir, mene Pammi aunty se baat kar ki hai. Unhone hi mujhe allow kiya hai. Aur agar emergency nahi hoti toh me bhi yeh kitchen use nahi karti."
Anokhi explained the situation to him while he listened intently. They were cut off by a chime signaling that the rice was done cooking.
Shaurya looked around the kitchen. It was a mess and Anokhi looked nowhere near done with it. She looked like she had a lot on her hands and very little time to do it considering the guests would arrive at the house in about two hours.
Shaurya let out a long drawn out sigh before taking an apron hanging on the back of the door and tying it around himself.
Anokhi looked at him and tried to hide her smile when looked at his apron. Shaurya looked at her in confusion and looked down at his apron before his face turned sour and Anokhi burst out laughing.
Right in the middle on his black apron was an angry bitter gourd (karela) who seemed just about ready to beat someone up.
Shaurya looked down at it disdainfully while Anokhi kept on laughing. They both were thinking about the time Anokhi had called him a karela and at the whole irony of it.
Shaurya looked up at the sound of her laughing. He had rarely heard her laugh. She chose not to even smile around him. He found himself liking the sound escaping her lips. He wanted to keep hearing it. It was definitely much better than the long, drawn-out arguments from her. He watched as her eyes crinkled at the corners and she threw her head back laughing whole-heartily. She was a sight for sore eyes and he couldn't get enough.
Seeing her laugh, he couldn't help but let out a chuckle of his own as he shook his head at her.
There was this very rare, very precious moment when they both were just laughing. Both were happy around each other and all the past complaints and inhibitions they had with each other were forgotten for that one moment.
Their laughter soon died down and they looked at each other.
"Sir, aapne apron kyu pehen liya?" Anokhi asked him, even if she had a faint idea what the answer was going to be.
Shaurya smirked at her and replied, "Tumhari help karne ke liye. Batao, kya madad kar sakta hoon main tumhari?"
It was adorable.
I can only imagine how cute shaurya would be looking w8th that karela apron
I really like such moments of pure domesticity just simple things like helping each other , caring for each other etc etc these things are soo meaningful and sharing a laugh is the best thing two people can share.. in your OS they are already sharing it.
My heart flutters thinking about such moment. In real life two such moments are precious right. Such moments are pure bliss...
I really loved it
"Sir, aap meri madad kyu karenge? Main kar loongi. Aapki help ki zaroorat nahi hai."
"Ms. Bhalla, don't be under the impression ki main yeh aapke liye kar raha hu. Yeh mere college ka canteen hai. And knowing you, main ni chahta ki main kal college aaun aur mujhe yeh canteen raakh me mile. I just don't want you to burn down the college canteen. Aur aapke saath koi na koi problem toh hamesha rehti hai. So I wouldn't be surprised if you managed to burn yourself along with the kitchen." Shaurya made grand hand gestures with a sarcastic smile on his face, all the while staring at Anokhi as her face twisted with every word he said.
"Sir, yeh pehli baar nahi hai main khana bana rahi hu. Mujhe bahut accha khana banana aata hai. I can assure you main canteen nahi jalaaongi. You're welcome to leave." Anokhi motioned towards the door and was about to go back to her work when Shaurya grabbed her arm and pulled her to face him.
"Ab tum mujhe mere hi college, mere hi canteen se bahar nikalogi? Aur Anokhi maine sab dekha tumne kitni expertly uss dry fruits ke bowl ko handle kiya. I must say, you coordination and your idea of 'main sambhal loongi' is very interesting." Shaurya ended with a sarcastic note and went to the counter to where Anokhi was chopping up vegetables. He started chopping the already half chopped tomato.
"Sir, aapko khana banana aata bhi hai?"
Hearing this Shaurya harshly threw the knife on the cutting board and turned to face her with an angry expression.
"Kyu? Nahi aa sakta? Problem hai tumhe koi? How dare you? College ke dino me sab mere butter chicken ke deewaane the. Log mujhe paise dete the unko mera special butter chicken banake khilane ke. Ek secret side business me mini restaurant khol liya tha maine campus me. Teachers tak ate the. Aur tum meri culinary skills question kar rahi ho? Ek baar mere haath ka butter chicken khake dekho. Pagal ho jaaogi tum. Apna seedha saadha average butter chicken bhool jaaogi." Shaurya was deeply offended at her questioning his cooking as he fumed with anger.
Anokhi watched his outburst with amusement dancing in her eyes. He distinctly resembled the angry karela on his apron now about to beat someone up.
"Haye mata rani! Mujhe nahi pata tha yeh itna touchy subject hai. Sorry agar maine aapki feeling hurt ki toh." A smile managed to break out on Anokhi's face when she blurted out the last part and Shaurya's eyes immediately shot up to glare at her as she sheepishly went to the other side of the kitchen to check on the marinating chicken.
"Tum ruko ab. Main abhi banake dikhata hu. Saari bolti band ho jaayegi. Baaki sab sambhalo tum." Shaurya ordered her as he snatched the container with the marinated chicken pieces.
"Please. By all means." Anokhi smiled discreetly at him as she handed him all the ingredients required for the dish.
She herself got busy with the starters.
They worked in silence stealing glances at each other and the dishes they were preparing until Anokhi's phone rang. Since Anokhi's hands were covered with kebab fillings, Shaurya took her phone from where it was sitting on a window sill and put it on speaker.
Babli's panicked voice rang through the phone.
"Nikki. Gadbadh ho gayi."
Shaurya was discreetly listening in on the conversation.
"Kya hua, di?"
"Nikki, mujhe abhi pata chala ki mummy ji ne jo guest bulaye hai voh tere liye bulaye hai. Voh unse teri shaadi ki baat karne vaali hai."
Shaurya's head shot up to stare at the phone before his eyes rested on Anokhi who was unable to comprehend such information instantly. She quickly regained herself as Shaurya held his breath in anticipation.
"Yeh tu kya bol rahi hai? Di mujhe abhi shaadi nahi karni. Voh kaun hote mere rishte ki baat karne vaale?" Now it was Anokhi who was fuming with anger with panic swimming in her eyes.
"Mummy ji ne unko pehle hi teri tasveer bhej di thi. Unhe dekhne me toh tu pasand aayi. Voh tujhse milne aa rahe hai."
Shaurya was bubbling in anger just like the gravy in the kadhai was. He didn't understand why he was feeling angry and restless all of a sudden. Anokhi looked up at Shaurya with unsure eyes and Shaurya stared back at her waiting for her next move.
"Nikki tu aisa kar, tu ghar mat aa. Mil mat unse. Apne kisi dost ke ghar chali ja ya kahi bhi aur chali ja, aaj ghar mat aana."
"Lekin di, yeh sab khana. Yeh khana time par nahi pahucha toh aunty ji aur Vineet jiju tujhe-" Anokhi got cut off by Babli.
"Tu meri chinta mat kar. Apne aap ko bacha. Anokhi bahaut bada kaand ho jana hai."
"Aise kaise teri chinta na karu? Achha sun tu koshish kar aunty ji ko manane ki. Me kuch sochti hu. Apna dhyaan rakhna." With that Anokhi hung up the phone as a heavy silence rested in the air.
Both Shaurya and Anokhi had stopped what they were doing, both in deep thought. Shaurya stared at Anokhi's back that was turned towards him. He saw her shoulders shaking and then after a few seconds he heard a few sniffles.
He hurriedly wiped his hand with the dish cloth and went to stand beside her by the kitchen counter.
He turned his head to look at her. She looked the most vulnerable he had seen her after the ragging incident. She had her head bowed trying to hold back the tears in her eyes while an occasional sniffle escaped her. Her hands were by her side, fingers still covered with the kebab filling. Shaurya had never seen her so defeated.
He saw as her teary eyes moved across in front of her face as she tried to think of something to save herself. She had no money on her right now to afford a night away from home. All her stuff was back at the house and she couldn't get it. She had no means of transport and no one to support her besides Babli di, who couldn't really do much right now. And even if she could, she wouldn't run away because guests were expected and she would have to somehow deliver the food even if she could not deliver herself.
Shaurya saw her slowly slipping into a panic attack, unable to sort out her thoughts to figure out a way out of the situation. He turned his body towards her, her face still hanging low. He clutched her right upper to comfort her and she flinched in pain.
"Oh shit, I'm so sorry. Tum theek ho?" Anokhi rubbed her arm to sooth the pain while Shaurya awkwardly blew on the wound not knowing what to do.
Anokhi went back to staring at the ground.
Shaurya tilted her face upwards and the second her teary gaze met his, she broke down.
Shaurya led her by the shoulders to a chair in the corner of the kitchen and gently sat her down while he kneeled on the floor in front of her.
"Anokhi, tum shant ho jao. Koi tumhari shaadi tumhari marzi ke bina ni kara sakta. You don't have to worry." Shaurya comforted her for a few minutes more before she began to calm down.
"It's ok, Anokhi. Main hoon na." Shaurya joked with the movie reference to make her smile and used the pad of his thumb to wipe away her tears.
Anokhi looked up at him, "Mujhe nahi pata tha aapko Shah Rukh Khan pasand hai."
"Main hoon na is a classic movie. Shah Rukh Khan pasand na pasand hone se uska koi lena dena nahi. Aur Shah Rukh Khan kise nahi pasand?"
Shaurya dramatically gasped, "You're dead to me. Mujhe tumse baat hi nahi karni."
"Mujhe Aamir Khan zyaada pasand hai. Shah Rukh Khan ek hi type ke role karta hai. Romantic. Aamir Khan zyaada diverse hai."
"Lekin Shah Rukh Khan uss ek type ke role ko bhi toh kitne acche se karta hai."
"Aap jo bhi bolo, Aamir Khan zyaada accha hai."
"Anokhi, I can't trust you anymore. Main tum jaisi uncultured ladki ko trust hi nahi kar sakta." Shaurya huffed and got off his knees while Anokhi rolled her eyes and couldn't help but let a smile peek through at his antics.
Shaurya watched her smiling through her tears and let out a smile of his own. She looked adorable with her flushed face and red nose and ears, sniffling ever so often. He really wanted to poke her red button nose.
And he did.
Anokhi looked up at him with bewilderment and confusion while he avoided her gaze, not quite knowing why he did that.
"Chalo ab yeh sab jaldi se khatam karna hai. Main wait nahi kar sakta ki jab tum mera butter chicken khaaogi aur admit karogi ki main sabse accha butter chichen banata hoon." He pulled her up to her feet and went back to the kitchen counter all while mumbling his disagreements.
"Shah Rukh kise nahi pasand..."
Topic started by Tallulah
Last replied by wamavasant