On Thursday morning, Yuvika was staring at her laptop screen in her study room. There was a mini function in the office which she preferred to skip. She deleted some emails which said that she was approved for some loans which she had never applied for. Some work emails were sorted out and reverted. Later she had scheduled a write up on Children Issues which was to be published next week. She picked Health and Education. She had already gone through some statistics and got the material ready before a couple of days. But during all of this regular work, today, she could not get her mind off her yesterday’s conversation with Joe. Is he that insensitive or he was just not understanding her in reality? But anyway, she preferred to focus on her work anyhow.
Today, Ragini, the domestic help, was present in the house. She was in her mid-30s with a healthy physique. Her long black hair was always loosely braided. She usually wore cotton synthetic salwar kameez. A pair of bangles always clicked on her wrists while working. The colours of her bangles and bindi always deferred with the colour of her attire. She never wore footwear in a home. She had been in this house as a domestic help since Yuvika’s grandmother was alive. During that period, she used to come with her mother. She died three years ago from jaundice. Yuvika had helped her a lot; financially and emotionally. But she couldn’t be saved. Yuvika had suggested Ragini stay in the outhouse which she was about to build for her. But she chose to live with her rest of the family. Every day since she was a kid, Ragini was accompanied by the Maharaj, Shreedhar and his wife Sumi. They were also very reliable helpers for Yuvika’s grandmother.
The kitchen had always been under their observation and control ever since she could remember. She still couldn’t find out the things apart from basic in her own kitchen. They both were elder to Yuvika and Ragini. But Yuvika had the habit of calling them by their names. Even after her grandmother’s death, she chose to stay here and this decision had made them three very happy. Today, when Shreedhar and Sumi’s six-year-old, Muna went to school, half of the expense of his entire education was shared by Yuvika. And they were not allowed to have any objection. And she had also assured them that she would continue this until he started earning himself.
The door bell rang. Ragini opened the door. Joe was standing there. He stood there, chose not to come in. Ragini went in and informed Yuvika. She walked to the door and asked Joe to come in. Yuvika came out and found Joe empty handed, no coffee this time. She could feel that he had come to apologize, but to her surprise, he spoke, “So, have you thought about it?”
She felt completely short of words. Yes, it was extremely insensitive of him. She decided. She sighed looking at him. Joe said, “Look, I totally understand what you are thinking. I really do. Trust me. But I am not snatching it away from you.” She sat on the chair, facing Joe. He continued, “It will be taken care of there. I assure you that.”
“But why only this?” she finally spoke.
“Well, listen now.” He sat on the rocking chair, stock-still. “This is an amazing piece of art. The artist, who made it, had not just painted it. It seems like he had known every single detail of the personality your grandmother was having. And he had scribbled it for a lifetime on the canvas. As if your grandmother is still here, sitting in her chair, calmly, lost in thoughts. But it is not clear whether it is a pleasant face or grieving about something.”
She stared at him and said suddenly, “You know what; she used to sit like that and get lost in thoughts after my grandfather died. And we never disturbed her. We thought that she was having a silent conversation with grandfather. We always ensured her space and time with him even after his death.” She was now lost in her own thoughts, recalling the memories. Her eyes looked wet. Joe didn’t say anything respecting her emotional state of mind. Then he said after a few seconds, bringing her back in the conversation, “And not only this painting, if possible, one day I would like to meet this brilliant artist too. Who is he?”
Her face softened and shoulders got down. She said, “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?” repeated Joe with much amusement. “Haven’t you tried to know?”
“One day, I received a huge parcel with a note. There was this painting. Whatever you have just said came in my mind too then. I had to keep it with me.”
“And what did the note say?”
“It said, ‘Just for the sake of keeping her alive always in memories.’”
Joe said nothing, nor did she.
Joe had touched the tiniest detail of the painting and the emotions the painting showed. He had the eyes of the artist or of someone who knew the person in the painting so intimately. She found herself too tired to think more about it.
Another couple of months passed. Neither Joe nor Yuvika uttered about the painting. They went to some other events and attended formal parties instead. Dev also joined them in many events. Whenever got a chance, they skipped it and went out for long drives and bookstores. Joe was inventing a new avatar of Yuvika. It amazed Dev too as after a long time, he saw her like she used to be; full of life, who knew both; living the life to fullest and working tremendously hard. He really wished her to stay like this forever. He didn’t want this charm of her to fade away again. In all these moments, one constant fear was hovering his head. Neither he wanted to see that nor could he ignore it. All he wanted to enjoy the cheerfulness around and her rejuvenated sparkling eyes. His lost friend was back!
Joe could see Dev and Yuvika’s healthy bonding. But one thing which always pinched him was the succession in Dev’s career due to his family legacy. Though many a time, she tried to make him understand how proficient Dev was in his work, the fact that he was privileged could not go unconsidered. People with legacy, regardless the amount, had to face such masked eyes full of cynicism.
In an incident or two, Joe clearly stated it. But Dev didn’t mind. It was not the first time he was coming across such situations. He was used to it now. Yuvika tried to cover up which Dev could clearly notice. But he assured her that she didn’t have to do this.
Eventually, the bonding between three of them got stronger. The company of each other was not formal anymore. Though Joe was the youngest, he was never underestimated as he was an excellent student who had an equally amazing persona. He used to joke about how initially Yuvika literally hated him due to his disgraceful comment on Mr Parsi. But they had to agree that he had actually won their hearts with wisdom and very fine showcase humanity in different incidents. And yes, how could his cultivated coffee making skill be excluded?
The pace of the book was going faster now. They reached the half-past. It interested both; Yuvika and Jayendra more at this stage.
Yuvika was at her desk. Jayendra was revising the plot for the next chapter prepared by her, leaning back on the table behind her. “I notice that the last two chapters lost the reference of Tej. When did he resign? It is not written here.”
She looked up but didn’t turn around to see Jayendra. “He was not in the office during that period.”
“For this long? Was he on leave?”
“He was not on leave. He disappeared.”
“What?” asked Jayendra, closing the file.
“He ran away with some confidential documents of the office.”
Jayendra did still not understand any of this. Yuvika turned around, rose from her chair and continued, “One of the very sensitive stories of that time was about to go on the floor. I was monitoring the project. His behaviour changed since we met the people related to the story. He also tried to delay his work and influence, another employee. But all failed.
“On one Sunday due to the excessive work, I was supposed to go to the office. Nobody was expected there apart from a gatekeeper. I found some of the windows on the back wall open while I went upstairs. I smelled of danger. I found the door broken. Now somebody was there who was not welcomed. It could be a thief or a goon. They could be more than one too. I had nothing with me but my bag. And it was too late to call for an emergency too. I had no any other choice but to step ahead in the office. As soon as I stepped further, I heard a thud. My cubicle was a mess. It was someone from the office, I could figure out. There were chances that he did not have any weapon. It comforted me a little. But he could not go away from this now. I looked around and went back to the door. I stood there looking around in the office. He would have to get up wherever he was hiding. I would have stood there for the entire day without even moving my eyes away. I stepped back for some meters, peeking into the office. After 20 minutes, I saw a black head at the last row of cubicles. I was not afraid, but I was angry like hell. I so wanted to kill him with my bag. I slipped into the office with the lightest steps. The only thing I was afraid, he should not slip out from my back. While moving forward in his direction, I took two paperweights from two of the desks. I stopped 4 blocks before and waited for him to peek out again. After another 10 minutes, he finally raised his head. I let him raise it more. He did.
“He was Tej as I had assumed. It gave me shiver in the spine. I was so furious that I directly hit one paperweight targeting his head. He screamed. Assuming that he had fallen down, I ran toward his direction and found him, trying to get up in hustle, one hand pressing his forehead. As soon as he saw me, he tried to run. I shouted and threw the other paperweight; this time, not at his head. But I targeted his shoulders. He again fell down. I reached to him and kicked him so hard that he stumbled. This time I shouted the loudest. I didn’t have to use the bag. I gripped his collar and pulled him getting up. I slapped and then punched him. All the papers which he tried to steal were on the floor, scattered. I shouted so loudly that the watchman ran to upstairs. He came near and held Tej by his collar. Before going to call Dev, I slapped him again. It was the tightest this time.”
She looked at Jayendra, only to find him shocked, dumb-faced with mouth wide open. Even he didn’t know about it. After a couple of seconds, he realized it and came back to present.
“I had no idea you could do that.” He spoke, sighed, finally.
“If someone tries to break into your house, what would you do? The exact spine-chilling anger I felt on that day. Nobody and nothing can violate this place. I will never tolerate it. It is either his last day in the office or mine.”
Jayendra was awed by Yuvika’s dedication. He had never seen this before.
Suddenly Dev opened the door, “Hey, Yu..”
Yuvika turned around to spot him. He saw those unvaried fierce eyes which Tej had seen that day.
Read the consecutive story here: https://faceoffiction.wordpress.com/consecutive-story/
The story is a complete fiction. Any resemblance to the real world is a pure coincidence.