Few miles away from Harini’s house, a car headed away from Bengaluru.
“So how is it going?, his friend asked.
“All my actions,so far, are felicitous enough to make her fall for me.”, he replied. “She is just awesome. Looking at her every day is so special. Her food is to die for.”, he smiled to himself.
“Do you love her?” , his friend asked him.
“Of course yes.”, he replied.
“Then why do you have to do this to her?” , his friend asked in confusion.
“For her good.”, he replied
“You are imperiling your love for her, your eminence, above all your future.” , his friend warned.
“Future?”, he asked in confusion.
“Yes. What if she lodges a complaint against you?”, his friend spoke as he had an eye on the road. The darkness slowly crept in.
“No, she won’t. She is bold and beautiful. Deep inside her, there is a tender hearted girl, who longs for a person, to support her dream. I will do it for her. I will do anything for her. And then..” he paused to smile.
“And then?, his friend asked.
He punched in his friend’s arm and nudged him to drive meticulously through the tenebrous road.
“Hello, Home away Home”, Harini answered the call, cradling the phone, in the crook of her neck. As she spoke, she moved out of the grocery store carrying two heavy bags.
Saba, her driver, who had worked with Harini’s father for more than a decade came running to relieve her off the heaviness of the bags.
She smiled at him, gesturing a ‘Thank you’. She continued to speak over phone.
“I will repeat your order mam; Two Pesto Pasta, One Garlic bread, one cheese pizza, one Masala dosai.” There was a pause and Harini continued, “Thank you for calling Home away home. Your order will be delivered by 8.30 PM.”, Harini ended the call.
“Saba, Anna. We have a delivery to make at 8.30 P.M. The order is from Benson Town.”
“Sure.”, he nodded and ignited the car engine.
Harini, A Chemical engineer, commenced her career with an acclaimed Multinational company as a Process engineer.
Her opulent parents, suggested her to study Computer science and wear an ID card to sit in front of a computer. She chose to study Chemical engineering, wear a coat and stand behind the microscope, to deal with complex food science.
She was a process engineer in the Food industry.
She moved away from her home town to Bengaluru, very much against the wish of her Father, since her hometown did not have opening in Food industry.
While she broke the complex food science to simple particles at her work for analyzing them, she built complex foods from simple raw materials at home. She owned ‘Home away Home’ a takeaway and Delivery Restaurant. She loved cooking. She loved food. Hence her work and passion involved food.
The idea of starting a restaurant slowly germinated in her and grew into an obsession. It was simple and unpretentious. Most of her customers were her office colleagues, their friends and their friends of friends.
Harini wanted to make ‘Home away Home’ flamboyant and vibrant. She had been undergoing a lot of thought for the same.
She chose to live alone in a small 1 BHK flat, where she felt independent and secure. It was a big township. The only person she knew in her township was, Somaya ji, who owned her house. A couple, who lived in the house opposite to hers, had hardly spoken to her.
Saba and his family lived just ten minutes away.
Her day unfolded at 5.00 A.M. She woke before the city was astir. Certain days were arduous right from the outset. But Harini was zealous and perky. She worked in the morning shift in her company, returning home at 3 P.M.
Her dinner preparations for ‘Home away home’ began once she was back. She served Indian and Italian foods. Her father had sent out his driver, whom she used for delivering foods. According to her dad, the Driver was for his daughter’s safety.
While her father called her profession ‘completely unnecessary to stay away and toil’, her mother called her Passion as ‘you were not brought up to be a cook. You never know what a dignified job is.’
But Harini was a born rebel.
She neither paid ears to her mom nor dad. She did what she loved. Her parents called her adamant. She did not bother.
Harini followed a simple thumb rule in life. ‘When you don’t stand for anything, you will fall for everything.’
As the car came to a halt, she rushed in to kick start the cooking. She totally had seven orders to prepare; three were to be delivered and the rest was takeaway. She turned on the Microwave and raided the fridge for Basil leaves.
The next morning, Harini and Preetha were seated in their office cafeteria, situated at the Cunningham Road.
“So when is your wedding?” Harini could hear a voice which was feeble enough to escape the ear piece of her friend’s mobile and reach her ears.
Preetha rolled her eyes as she sipped in some water.
The bright sky with tiny, scattered clouds looked beautiful. She looked at it.
Harini loved to fantasize things. She always loved imagining things in mind, which could never happen in reality.
One such silly wish of hers was a proposal; her prince charming, singing a song to propose her, under the moonlight.
She smiled at her thoughts.
“Crap.”, Harini heard Preetha abusing.
“Why do always people want to know what others had to do next? There is something called minding the own business. Are people aware?”, Preetha shook her head.
Harini smiled at her best friend and punched in her arm. While Harini was a silent rebel, Preetha was a bomb, ticking down, ready to explode anytime.
Preetha was an overprotecting friend of Harini. For Preetha, Nothing can be greater than Harini’s presence. They shared a beautiful friendship, beyond description.
“So did you speak to your parents?”, Preetha asked.
“I rejected few marriage proposals which my parents brought to me last month. They were upset. We never spoke for more than a week until yesterday. I got a call from Mom last night, when I was busy packing my last order. “
“What was it about?”
“It has been more than a month, since I visited Chennai. She wants me to be there this weekend. It is a long weekend for us. I could not deny. So I will have to start by Thursday evening after office hours.”
“That’s nice.“, Preetha turned her head as she spoke.
“Blue checks?”, asked Harini.
“No no. There you see the tall guy. He is the one.” Preetha smiled sheepishly.
Preetha loved gossiping about Guys. Harini always blamed her, for distracting their conversation, every time a good- looking guy passed by.
According to Preetha, there was nothing wrong in gossiping. In fact she took pride in it. She felt it was normal at their age.
“So, he is the most handsome guy, you have seen?”, Harini pulled her legs.
Preetha winked and thought about her Prince charming. His tall frame, spiked hair, and that breath taking look. He made her go crazy.
“Just one guy; One good looking guy and the entire conversation is lost.”, Harini sighed and sat back, folding her hand across her chest, not knowing which guy had registered himself in Preetha’s thoughts.
The long weekend arrived. Harini reached home 11 in the night. Her mom and dad were waiting to receive her. They had stacked the freezer section and kitchen with her favorite items. Harini looked at her mother. She was radiant and beautiful.
Her parents were sweet, except that her father was over cautious and mother was melodramatic.
Harini had a short talk with her parents and called it a day.
It was twenty three minutes past eight in the morning, when Harini woke up as she heard a sibilating ‘Good morning’ in her ears.
As she rubbed her eyes with her left hand and attempted to conceal a yawn with her right, she saw Vino, her cousin, standing there.
Harini slowly got back to sense and heard the house bustling with cousins and relatives.
“Wake up!!!!”, screamed Suji as she rushed in.
Sujitha and Charan were her maternal cousins, while Vinodhini and Vivek , and Sreenivas were her paternal cousins.
“What happened?” Harini’s irritated tone did not surprise her cousins.
“Aunt told us.” Suji grinned.
“What did she tell you?” Harini tilted her head, gathering her disheveled hair.
“The groom’s family is coming here, today.” Vino widened her eyes, pinching Harini’s cheeks.
“Ouch.”, Harini exclaimed in pain. She never liked when someone pinched her in her cheeks.
“Harini, aren’t you out of bed still?” she heard her Mom’s voice.
“Ma, give me a moment to think. May I really know what is happening here?”
“Harini, we started matching your horoscopes with that of boys to look out for a perfect match for you. One such horoscope had matched and they are coming home today. I called you here for the same.”, her mom spoke with a pride that she had outsmarted her daughter.
“If we had informed you earlier, you would not have come.”, added her Father.
Harini sat there, hands covering her face. She was determined not to lose her temper for her parents, who had lost their mind, in an attempt to hunt boys for her.
She wanted some time to think, to deal with it. She slowly excused herself from her parents and locked herself in the washroom. She thought she needed a support, someone who could understand her.
She slowly walked out the washroom, after a refreshing bath, trying to separate her hair strands, which were tangled due to wetness.
She walked past the room where Vino and Suji were there. She thought of speaking to them.
“No, Vino. You don’t know that. Red Jhumka will go really good with this saree.”, Suji tried to rule out Vino’s idea.
“No. No. Kundan set will enhance the beauty.” Vino argued.
Harini let out a sigh. There were not the ones. They would not even understand her point.
She thought of seeking help from Vivek who was seated in the Maroon Dhivan.
“Vicky! I…”, she tried to speak, while Charan interrupted her.
“Hey, Boy, you know? The Groom is from a big Multinational background. We can really look out for some extravagant gifts and exorbitant meals. I heard they have parties there. He might take us, if we could impress him. I am super excited”, as Charan completed, they both gave a High-Five.
“Useless!” Harini muttered.
“Hey, Harini you were about to say something?”, asked Vicky.
“Not really. You are in your final year right? Get placed first. You will know what the reality is.”
“Hey look. She is worried we might make her husband spend more.”, Charan commented and they chuckled as if they had received an honorable accolade for their silly humor.
She stood there thinking, while her Mom and Aunt came running, shovelling the saree, which Vino had, in her hand. Her mom accompanied to her room.
“Mom, why don’t you understand? I do not want to get married now.” she persisted.
Her father and Grandmother had entered her room by then.
“What is your problem, Harini?”, her Dad demanded an answer.
“Appa, please. I have a big dream. “
“Please don’t repeat about that hotel, that you are running.”, her mom crooked her face in disgust.
“Ma, it is not a hotel. It is a Take-away and delivery restaurant. I know that you keep calling Saba Anna to check on how it is going. Hasn’t he told you about it?”, Harini argued.
“Son! Why don’t you let her chase her dream? Woman empowerment starts from home. She is just asking for time. Why don’t you give it?” , her Grandma came in as a rescue.
“In your days, people felt sick and crippled to tell that they cook. There were times when cooks were looked upon as poor people struggling to make both ends meet. This generation takes special pride.” her mom tried to stop her Mother in law from supporting her daughter.
“Had she paid ears anything to what we had advised? Studies, Nature of work, Place of job. Everything. Everything had been her wish so far. She is too juvenile to decide on what, when and how her wedding would be.” Her father spoke fast.
“Appa, I am not going to decide anything. I will leave it to you. But please give me time.”, Harini adjured.
“For what, Harini? Please don’t tell me it is for that hotel stuff you do.”
“Amma, Please. I know it is not flourishing. But, I have just started. I have to develop my restaurant. Climb up heights in my career. I want to write a cook book. I want to run a cookery show. I have so many ideas. I need time for everything. Please give me some time. Three years. Just three years. If I don’t achieve, then, I will get married.”
“Why can’t you chase your dreams after marriage?” her mom demanded.
“Huh”, Harini let out a sigh. “No, I can’t.” , her reply was stern.
“Why?”, her dad and mom asked in unison.
“.. that is because I want to be a strong and an independent woman. That is because, if my parents, who had risen me for twenty four years, cannot understand and believe in my dream, how can I expect a bunch of strangers to do? I do not want to rue for missing my dreams. I want to chase them. I want to achieve.” she spoke, her eyes shimmering with tenacity.
“Now, have the flowers pinned and get ready. Go.” Her mom urged.
She let out a sigh and walked towards the mirror. She smiled as if she got an idea. She suppressed it.
“I will come out in two minutes.”, she told to her parents.
Her dad stood still, reluctant to move.
“She will not run away.” her grandma snubbed her son.
“You might make her do so, by reminding, even if she did not have an idea of doing so.” Harini’s father blurted out. She smiled at her son’s fury.
Once the room was deserted, Harini did, what struck her few minutes ago.
“Hello, Sweetu”, his charming voice was audible after the fifth ring.
“Sree, I am in big trouble.”, Harini did not have time for beating around the bush.
“What happened?”, he was concerned.
“I am in Chennai now. It looks like a groom’s family is coming here today. It was planned without my knowledge.”
“Wow! Congrats”, exclaimed Sree.
“Ok, Ok. Cool. Listen, all these days, we had been shunning the marriage proposals. This time they are going to be right in front of us. We cannot eschew.”
“Talk to the guy. Elders might not understand; Talk to the guy; tell him your dreams. If he rejects, Uncle and Aunt might find your point valid. “
“What if he accepts, just for the sake?”
“Let us hope that does not happen.”
There was a long pause.
“Yes.”, her feeble response reached Sree.
“Ok, don’t worry. As I said, just try talking to him. It is time for a meeting. Catch you later. Bye.”, the line went dead.
As Harini, placed the mobile back on the rack, she just hoped to keep calm, and handle it.
As Sree, placed the mobile back in his pocket, he took two steps at a time to the meeting room, hoping the wedding proposal did not happen. He wanted his Harini. He yearned for a glimpse of her. It had been more than a year.
Harini was made to wait in her room while Suji was with her. Harini closed her eyes and tried to stay calm. It was after ten odd minutes, they could hear a lot of noise outside.
“They are here.” Suji whispered. The mundane greeting took place. In another few minutes, Harini’s mom came in.
“Come!”, she held Harini by her hand and made her walk out of the room.
Her own living room looked a lot different for Harini that day. All eyes were on her. She could see so many strange faces smiling at her. She scanned the room quick to identify the groom. She could see no one.
Her mom nudged her to smile and greet everybody.
“Sit down, dear”, a lady in her mid-fifties, smiled at Harini.
‘Mother in law?’, Harini thought. Her mind corrected itself in a few seconds. ‘… Groom’s Mom.’ She registered.
“Why don’t you sing a song for us?”, the lady asked.
“Sorry, I am not a good singer.”
“She sings well. We had taught her music.”
Harini and her father said in unison. The groom’s family had a good laugh. Harini could hear Charan chuckling under his breath. She thought of dealing with the idiot later.
“That is okay.”, smiled a man in early sixties.
Harini again perused the room. She could not spot anyone who looked like a groom. Harini slowly lost her patience. She could sense that her expressions became restless. She made sure to restore it back to a formal smile.
“My son could not make it today.”, the lady spoke, as if she caught Harini’s scrutiny. “We are really sorry about it. His company had organized a, sudden crucial meeting today. We came here, to keep up our date and we thought why to begin an auspicious meeting on a negative note. “She smiled.
“We would be disturbing you again. We will visit once again with our son.”, the Groom’s father continued.
“Our pleasure.”, Harini’s mom and Dad spoke simultaneously.
“By the way, we love your daughter. She is so beautiful. We are just waiting to hear from our Son. How long you think you need time for marriage preparations?”, the lady asked.
“We have the jewellery, sarees, utensils and all other items ready. My friend owns a marriage hall; so even that would not be a problem. The preparations might hardly take a month. “, replied Harini’s dad.
Harini was stunned. She could imagine where this was going.
She was not sure whether it was for good or bad. How would she express herself?, Harini wondered. Does it have to wait till the groom comes again? She thought. It was not good. She cannot take chances with her parents. They are dangerous when given time. They will work fast. Her mind raced.
“Thank you for the photograph. I will show it to my son. Here is my son’s card. Please have it. We have already mailed our son’s picture. Hope everything goes well.”, the lady spoke and smiled at Harini’s dad, breaking Harini’s chain of thoughts.
“Vivek, my nephew helped me a lot in emailing the picture.” Harini’s dad introduced Vicky to the guests. He grinned in pride. Harini gritted her teeth.
The guests bade a bye and it was almost 12 in the noon when they left.
Harini changed to her tracks. She informed Preetha and Sree on what had been happening. She did not miss to grab the card and have it safe in her bag.
Harini tried to act normal as if she had no opinion about the proceedings. She could make out from what her Dad spoke. She had time until the groom visited their house. She decided to use it to its best.
“Best idea.”, Sree exclaimed as Harini spoke about her plan. Sree looked at the groom’s picture. He felt the groom was looking good. He was not sure whether to check with Harini about it. What if she had not seen still? He should not be driving her to look at him. The groom looked too good for a ‘No’. What If Harini accepts? Sree will not even have a chance. He did not turn the proposal down. It was Harini. He was just helping her.
“Hello!”, Harini’s voice was not loud enough to shut off Sree’s mind.
For Harini, Sree was special among the cousin. While only Sree and Charan were elder, the rest being younger, she always felt Sree had the same wavelength as hers. According to her Dad both were arrogant. According to Harini he was one who understood her. He was very close to her heart.
For Sree, it was a different feeling. She was not just special, but much more. Sree himself was not sure when it happened, but he started looking at Harini differently. She was not the same old kid, who gets irritated when someone pinched her cheeks. She was grown up. Her attitude towards life, her charm made Sree look at her differently. He fell in love beautifully. He was still awaiting a good opportunity to express it.
“Hello!”, this time Harini’s voice was loud enough to shut off Sree’s mind.
“Hey, yes, tell me.”, Sree replied.
“Day dreamer!”, Harini smiled. “So wish me luck.”, she smiled again.
“Sure! All the best. Hope everything goes fine. Everything.”, Sree felt awkward after stressing the last word.
“Thank you.”, she replied casually, assuring Sree that the stress meant nothing to her.
“Are you nuts?”, Preetha exclaimed when Harini spoke about her plan.
“No, believe me. It will work.”, Harini smiled. “I will show you how. Just call out this number.” Harini extended the card to Preetha.
“09”, Preetha called out the last digits, as Harini dialed. Harini waited eagerly for the line to get connected.
“Hello”, A warm voice answered the call.
For a moment, Harini felt the world around her coming to a halt. She was not sure why his voice gave her that feeling.
“Hi. I am Harini.”, she managed to speak.
There was a long pause on the other side.
“Hope your parents had informed you what happened last Friday.” She attempted to recollect who she was.
“Hey, Harini. What a surprise!” the voice exclaimed.
“Hope you are doing good.”, Harini thought she could start it polite. “I just thought I would talk to you about something. “, she paused.
“Yes, please”, the voice replied.
“I am not in a position to marry now; the reason which my parents won’t understand. I hope you will. I have big dreams to chase. I am not interested in getting married now. Can you please tell your parents that you don’t like me? You can project anything; my height, weight, color, etc. But please express your dislike. It would be easier for us to drop and for our parents to move on, if we stop at this stage. Once the proposal proceeds, it will be very difficult to look back. Thanks for understanding.” Harini closed her eyes, covered the mouth piece and let out a sigh.
Preetha was awestruck.
“Sure. Thanks for letting me know.”, the voice replied.
“Thank you so much.”, Harini smiled.
“Ok, Harini. Take care.”, the voice tried to end the call.
“Just a second.”, Harini tried to continue, which made Preetha to throw a weird look.
“May I know your name?”, Harini asked, sounding ambivalent about her own question. She heard the voice smile.
“Pawan. I am Pawan Kumar.”, he replied.
As Harini cut the call, she directly hit the delete button of the email in which her Father had attached the groom’s photo.
It was almost 8.15 P.M. It had started to drizzle. Harini was peeping through her windows looking out for Saba. He had gone for a delivery.
It was more than a week since she spoke to Pavan. She did not hear anything from her parents since then. She was not sure what Pavan had told. She thought for a while, cupping her face in her hands. Few minutes later, she made up her mind. ‘If there is a problem, let them come to me. I shall not assume and worry’.
The sky snarled with a loud thunder. He wanted to rush home soon. He heard about ‘Home away Home’ through a friend. He wanted to give it a try. He parked his bike in a shade and called a number.
Her mobile phone started singing a melodious number. It was soothing for the cold night. She suddenly turned in surprise. How could her mobile sing? She came to her senses. It was a call from an Unknown Number.
“Hello.”, she answered.
“Hello. Is it ‘Home away Home’? “, asked a husky, male voice.
“Yes”, she replied.
“I would like to place an order.” He spoke fast.
“Sorry Sir. We take up orders only from 3 P.M – 8 P.M in the night. “, Harini replied.
“I guess I am late just by 15 minutes.”, he smiled.
“Ok, Fine. Is it a take away or delivery? If it is delivery, I cannot afford to, Sir, as my driver has not yet returned from the previous order.”
“No, It is a take away. I will come and get It.”, he replied fast.
“Sure. Can you please place your order?”
“1 serving of Aloo Paratha, please.” He ordered.
“Sure. Anything else, Sir?”
“No. That’s all.”
“Your name, please.”
“Uhh. I could not hear you. Sorry”
“Name, please.” She repeated.
She found it difficult to hear him. She heard him say Madhi.
“Thank you for placing your order with ‘Home away Home’. Your can collect your order by 8.35 P.M. “, she cut the call, heading towards her kitchen.
Harini neatly wrapped the Paratha in a foil and filled the ramekin with Dhal and Curd and replaced the lid firmly.
The clock struck 8.45 P.M. There was no sign of Saba. The order was still afresh. The sky started to pour down heavily.
She heard the doorbell ring. As she opened, she saw a guy standing in his formals. He was drenched. He shook his head vigorously, to shake off the water. Harini fixed her gaze at him. He closed his eyes and ran his fingers through his hair strands, in an attempt to set his hair right.
The water droplets in his palm and fingers, shined like little pearls, reflecting the fairness of his skin beneath. He opened his eyes, bent down and made sure his shirt was fine. He unfolded his crumbled cuff to wither the excess moisture. By the time Harini opened the door completely; he slowly raised his head and met her piercing gaze.
His eyes were prominent gold in color. It shone in the night light. Harini had never seen such a guy. Harini had never seen a guy in such a way.
He did not expect her to be this way when she heard her voice. Her sharp features looked perfect on her. Her perfect brows, thin lips, such a talent from such a small package, he wondered.
They beheld each other, for a long time; their mutual admiration being resistant to most of the worldly disturbances.
It was as though the sky had to come down and make noise with its thunder, to make them both come to reality.
Both of them were shook by a loud thunder. He suddenly shook his head, coming to reality.
“Home away home?” he asked.
“Yes. You are Mr.Madhi?” , she asked.
He tried to suppress a smile which was later vented out as a warm laughter.
“I am Abhivadan.” he introduced.” You had not heard my name properly then.” He continued.
“Sorry. Your order is ready.”, she excused herself and brought the pack. He paid her and as he was about to leave, he looked at the sky.
“Looks like it will not stop. Can I wait under the roof until the rain stops?”, he asked. She could not deny. She thought for a moment at the same time. He was a stranger. She again looked at him. She felt he could wait outside.
“Sure, you can wait here.”, she pointed to the flat corridor, making sure he waited outside. She went in, closing the door behind.
Her Ceasar salad was waiting for her. As she moved to grab it, she heard her car honk. Saba was back. She hurried to the door. As she opened, she found Abhivadan, eating as he stood leaning against the wall.
“What?”, she asked.
“Hunger.”, he smiled.
Saba was already at the door step by then.
“Madam, what happened?”, he asked.
“He placed an order with us. He told he will wait for some time as it was raining. But he had already started eating.”, she narrated.
Harini felt bad for Abhivadan. She had an urge to invite him.
“Please come in.”, she invited. “Saba Anna, you too.”, she called.
As Abhivadan took a chair, the trio sat in silence.
“Why don’t you speak something, Saba Anna?”, Abhivadan asked.
Harini turned in a reflex by the sudden mention of the name.
“No! Just that I am able to hear my own munching sound, which I am not able to bear. So, I thought some external sound would help.” Abhivadan replied.
Harini burst into laughter.
“You are funny.” she justified her laughter.
“No, I am not funny. I am Abhivadan. Why don’t you get my name right?”, he asked with an innocent face.
Harini suppressed a smile.
“Ok, Ok. Abhivadan. Fine?”, Harini raised an eyebrow.
“You can call me Abhi.”
“’Home away Home’ is too long.” he said.
“Sorry?” Harini asked in confusion.
“It is very difficult to address you every time as ‘Home away Home’. I hope you have a shorter and sweeter name.”, Abhi replied.
Harini shook her head. He was too charming.
“I am Harini.”, she smiled.
Abhi completed his meal. He thanked Harini and Saba Anna and left. Harini hopped to the kitchen to get her bowl of salad.
“Madam, I am leaving.”, Saba left.
As he entered his room, he felt happy. His first move was successful. He planned few, while some happened naturally. He was moved by her beauty, her mesmerizing voice, above all, her excellent cooking.
He dialed a number.
“Hello!”, a familiar voice answered.
“Thank you Saba Anna, for the co-operation.”, he smiled.
“No Problem Sir. But please execute your plan fast. I will be in big trouble if they know I am involved too.”, Saba spoke in haste.
“No worries, Saba Sir! I am on the right track.”, he cut the call.
The next day at work was exacting. There were so many onerous analysis and reports Harini had to complete. It was around 3.15, she boarded her car.
She looked at the bright sky outside, Abhivadan’s face flashed through her mind. He looked smart. She felt as though she had been with him for so many times before. His looks never seemed strange.
Her thoughts were jammed by her mobile phone. It rang loudly.
“Hello.” She answered.
“Hello, Harini?” the voice replied. Her face lit up. She did not know why. It was him. She leaned forward in excitement.
“Abhi!”, she exclaimed.
There was a long pause and she could hear heavy breathing.
“I think you have got me wrong. This is Pavan.”, the voice replied, with disappointment.
Harini sat back, eyes widened.
“Sorry. I…”, she stammered.
“That is fine. I just called you to apologize. I am sorry for the delay. I am really not able to speak to my parents about my dislike. Hence I am delaying the visit to your house too. I will speak to my parents at the right time.”, he spoke in haste.
Harini took few seconds to gather her thoughts. She was not worried, addressing him as ‘Abhi’. She did not mind about Pawan being disappointed with her, for addressing him with another guy’s name. She did not bother about Pavan getting her wrong. She had turned him down anyway. But why have Abhi’s thoughts gotten into her so much, to address another person as him? Had he been in her thoughts all this while? She thought.
“Hello!”, Pavan spoke on the other side.
“Yeah! That is fine. As long as you say a ‘No’, I am fine with anything. Thanks for the information.”, she replied.
“Sure, Take care.”, he let out his words fast and the line went dead.
That evening, she had only two orders to deliver. She packed them up neatly. One was from Preetha’s friend from RT Nagar, while other was from her colleague, to be delivered to Marappa Garden.
Saba took both of them and left. Saba had been returning late from deliveries in the recent days. She could not imagine why. She shrugged her shoulders as if it was fine until her customers did not complain.
She was not able to forget the phone conversation. She should have been a relieved girl by then, but she was confused.
Her mobile rang. It was a call for food order, to add to the number of orders she got that day.
“Hello!”, she answered in her usual voice, suppressing her confusion to one of her customers.
“Hey, Harini. Its Abhi”, a familiar voice called out.
This time she could not go wrong. It was not just a call to add to the number of orders, but also to add to her confusion. She had to meet him again today.
“Hey, hi.”, she replied.
“What is your dish of the day”, he asked.
“Uh. Hmm. Nothing in particular. You can place your order.”
“Well, then. A serving of Veg fried rice.”
“Sure, Thanks for your order. “, she checked her clock. It was 7.10 PM. “Your order will be ready by 7.40 PM”, she spoke in an urge to end the conversation.
As she packed the noodles, she checked twice whether there were packets of Tomato and Chilli sauce. Abhi came to collect the order. She refrained herself from any conversation. She began and ended with a formal smile, with very few professional words in between.
It was almost at 9 in the night, when Abhi called her again. She was hesitant to pick up the call, as it was not for an order.
She held her mobile and tapped it restlessly, staring alternatively at the green and the red button. Her bad, she chose to press the green.
“And before you start with your somber Hello, Miss.Chef, you should be careful before you swap orders.”, Abhi’s energetic voice startled her.
‘Why does he really have to disturb me again and again?’ she sighed.
“Sorry?”, she asked in discomfiture.
“I guess, I ordered for a Fried rice.”, she could hear him smile.
“Oh My…”, she exclaimed. “I am so sorry. I gave you noodles. So sorry.”, she apologized.
“That’s fine. It was the best Noodles I had ever had; so light, yet so filling. Less oil, loaded with crunchy vegetables. I am feeling so good.”, he comeplemented her.
“Thank you.”, she smiled. Her intention to avoid him disappeared into the magical voice of Abhivadan.
“But you really have to answer for the mistake.”
“Why should I answer? It was just because of you, I was confused.”, she blurted out, disregarding the fact that she could be audible.
“What? Excuse me?”, Abhi cleared his throat.
“I mean. Sorry.”, she got back to her senses and the verity that she was audible. ”I should answer. It was just because of me. I am sorry.”, she faked an apology, with jollity.
He laughed, his same warm, comforting laughter, as if he got her completely.
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