Chapter 1: Work! Work!
I glared at the code on my computer screen. Just as I finished with my task, our team manager, Biswa, handed me another module to look over. He told me it was important that I did the work - because apparently I was one of the best- before I could bring myself to refuse him. I hate this job.
I couldn’t wait to switch from here. Pay was low, overtime was expected almost every day, and my little brother’s pocket money could put shame to the annual bonus that we got this year. In fact, that bonus was the last straw that made me get off my lazy back and start looking for other companies. I didn’t want to be stuck in a big machinery -aka Vision Corporation- for the rest of my life with a measly pay that would barely get me by if I wasn’t living with my parents.
I had applied to other companies and cleared some of their rounds. I was eagerly waiting for an interview call and hopefully later bag the job so I could put in paper with HR and get the hell out of Vision Corporation. Even the thought of working for two months on notice period dampened my mood.
I soooo wanted to leave.
I hated this job. Not only money, it didn’t give me the thrill or the opportunities to better myself either.
My phone rang. I sighed seeing the caller before picking up.
“Why aren’t you home yet?!” Yelled my mother from the other end.
She wanted me to come home early today. I mean, she always did. But in the morning she told me it was something important. I was in a hurry so I didn’t probe further. Most likely some relatives visiting us.
“Something came up Maa, I’m just finishing up-”
“Work! Work! Why are you doing so much work, Mithi?” Maa whined, using my pet name that everybody called me at home. “I don’t even know why you need to work. Your father provides you with everything. Did he ever not?”
I frowned. Not again. “Maa, you know why I work. Don’t start again.” I didn’t have time for this right now.
“To be honest Mithi I don’t get it why you work?” She began, completely ignoring my request. “Your father is capable of providing you with everything. Our girl shouldn’t be out there slaving for someone when she can have everything she wants-”
“It’s not all about money,” I mumbled.
“Of course, it’s not. That job doesn’t even pay enough for me to buy couple of good sarees.” Okay, her words stung. “Instead of working at that low grade job, you should be at home, learning to cook, taking care of home, preparing yourself to become a good wife. Which man will take a wife who doesn’t even know how to make halwa?”
I did know how to cook halwa. I messed it up just once... okay, twice. Before I could correct her she continued.
“Today’s girls are so misguided. A woman’s true worth comes from her husband and family. We women are built different. It’s stupid how these girls are trying to copy men.” When she started she sort of forgot how to stop. “It hurts me how you’ve become just like them. You were so obedient and good when you were little. Always listened to me, helped me in the kitchen, and sewed those small dresses for your dolls. Such a good girl.
“Your grandmother warned me to not to send you to convent school. They brainwash little kids. I should’ve listened to her. Pragati Public is much better. They have salwar suits for uniform instead of revealing skirts. That would have been better-”
“Maa! Stop it!” I hissed. I felt little guilty when she actually stopped. I didn’t snap at her often. She got shut up by others plenty and I didn’t want to be another family member who treated her like doormat. Though she really tested me sometimes.
I took a deep breath to calm myself. “This is not the right time for this. Please understand,” I said calmly.
There was a momentary pause before she answered. “Alright. I don’t have time either.” Her tone was brusque, but I knew she’d be fine in an hour. “Your father is getting angry that you’re not home yet. I’ll tell him that you’re going to take some more time.”
My mother sure knew how to play her cards.
“I’ll be there in ten minutes!” I surrendered immediately and began packing up my stuff. I’d work at the module from home. “Just hold him off, okay... Please,” I added when she didn’t reply.
“You better be here in ten minutes.” With that she hung up the call.
I waved Zainab, my friend and co-worker, goodbye before rushing out. She was all too familiar with the scene of me running away whenever it was late. Now she didn’t even bat an eye.
I huffed and puffed to my scooty in the parking lot. The ride to home was filled with Lucknow’s long traffic and anxious thoughts about getting home early. My father had quite a temper and it was better to not anger him. Angry Papa, not-so-good Papa.
I parked my scooty in house’s verandah alongside my brother’s bike and walked toward the living room with slow steps.
I heard multiple laughters and chats as I got closer. I peeked inside to get the whiff of who was inside before deciding to show myself. I wasn’t very keen of aunties who always reminded my parents that it was time to find me a suitable boy and marry me off. Yeah, I didn’t like them very much.
My eyes clashed with dark brown ones and my breath got stuck. Clad in a crisp white shirt and blue pants, sat a man in the middle of my living room, looking regal and posh. Olive skin tone, crooked nose, slicked back dark hair, clean shaven cheeks and deep brown eyes greeted me as I took in his appearance. I was struck.
He is so... beautiful.
“There she is!” My ogling of handsome stranger was cut short as I realized my younger brother, Kshitij, was pointing at me.
“Excuse me,” my mother said, making me notice others in the room too.
Besides my family, there was an elderly couple too. They were sitting on other sofa. It was clear they were his parents. I didn’t get much chance to study them as I found myself whisked away by my mother.
“I’ll bring her back,” she told them, dragging me out of the room.
I frowned. What was going on?
My eyes widened. Wait... Don’t tell me it is what I think it is.
I stole another glance at handsome stranger and found his eyes already on me. My body heated and heartbeat picked up.
Please don’t be what I think it is. I prayed once I was out of his smoldering gaze.
Halwa- An Indian sweet dish.
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