Chapter Two



It was Jay's first day at work. His eyes shone in excitement as there was something special about the day. He jumped off the bed, rushed into the shower to get ready. He eagerly awaited this day for quite a while now. He had gained experience as an intern a few times before. But this was going to be his first full time job. Even if it wasn’t for the career option he had to choose, there was something different about this day.

Today, he was going to start a new phase in his life. He can finally call himself independent at the age of twenty-seven. This might not sound as exciting to anyone else but for Jay it was a big deal. Taking a big step out of the academic world and stepping into the real world.

 Jay desired to study medicine and follow his parents’ footsteps. But circumstances desired something else from him. By the stroke of luck, he landed in the field of Computer Engineering. Jay had a natural talent of being good at whatever he did. Hence, both the parents were equally happy with the career path he now walked upon.

Everything was just normal and boring until a few weeks back when an offer letter arrived in his email inbox.  One of the renowned financial firms  had shown interest in his profile and wanted him to join them as a software developer. They wanted him to extend the final project that he had worked on for his Master's Degree. It was a huge deal for him as he was offered to hold a position of importance

He always did an excellent job hiding his thoughts behind a smile. Truth be told, he was living his life on compromises. He desired to take medicine as a career option for his parents. He hoped that he’d make them proud by following their footsteps. The guilt of not being able to secure admission in a medical college didn’t bore him down much until he realised that Parnika was able to get a seat in one of the top medical colleges in the country.

Parnika wasn’t a goal oriented personality. To her, being with Jay and the family was the only correct option. When Jay failed to follow the path he desired, she took up his dream and fulfilled it. Jay felt much worse than before. This often made him feel uneasy & less worthy. He desired to be the perfect son but things didn’t always go as he wished.  Hence, upon Parnika’s insistence, he took a chance and made up his mind to try a different career option and see wherever it’d take him.

“Ready for the big day?” Parnika smiled, pouring him some freshly brewed coffee. Jay climbed downstairs dressed in a peach coloured shirt paired with a pair of chocolate brown pants. Parnika’s cheeks flushed red as she ogled at him like a love stricken bird. She gazed at him as he strapped his watch around the wrist. He looks so good in this, why doesn't he dress like this often? Parnika wondered, getting lost in her own thoughts to an extent that she didn’t realise the cup was about to overflow.

Parnika's presence at the Shah residence wasn't unusual. She often used to stay with them whenever her mother was on a jatra.  Her mother often used to head on  jatras (religious trips) with her bhajan mandal (religious group).  Arindam was most of the time out of town for work while Shalini used to spend the majority of her time at her clinic. She believed her kids were now capable enough to take care of themselves. Hence the trio spent a lot of time together.

In absence of parental authorities, Parnika often used to be the one who took care of others. She evolved into a matriarch of the little group. Jay was more attached and dependent on Parnika unlike his little sister Khushi. Khushi was more of a carefree and independent persona who wanted to live each moment of her life on her own terms. Jay on the other hand was the one who craved familial love and seeked validation on every aspect of his life.

To Jay, Parnika was already a part of his family. He didn’t see her as a friend or a neighbour, but something more than that. It was something that he never had thought about. They were always more than friends. He used to share everything with her. At times the things, which he won’t share with his own parents. She was his partner in crime,  just like his shadow, always there for him. He had never imagined his life without her because she was always there.

“Yes Pari! I had no idea that I'd be leading a team. I don’t know how I am going to do it. But I certainly don’t want to mess it up on my first day. I hope I am able to make a good impression on my team.” excited Jay gulps down on the coffee and munches on the poha which Parnika had made for breakfast. “Ma and Pa will be a week late. Pa’s conference got postponed due to some reason and now it's scheduled for a week later. Since both of them are in London for a week more, they decided to enjoy a little and visit a few places.” Parnika said as she sat down beside Jay serving him some more.

“Oh nice! It’s been so long that they had a vacation. Although, I’d miss them here. Bas bas Pari, Jado thai jais atlu khais toh. ( Wait! I won’t be able to finish it. I'll get fat if I start overeating. ) Jay covers his plate with his hands as Parnika attempts to serve him. “Barabar khais nai toh kaam kevi rite karis? ( How are you going to work if you aren’t well fed?)” Parnika puts the bowl down and looks at him with a smile.

Parnika has called Jay’s parents  Ma’ and ‘Pa’ since childhood. She thought of them like her own parents. Being a kid, she got so attached to the Shah family that she one day asked if she could call them ‘Ma’ and ‘Pa’ like Jay. Shalini and Arindam found it adorable as they always wanted a daughter. Now, they had someone who used to address them as parents apart from Jay.

It was then a few years later when Jay was actually blessed with a sister and their family was complete. Now, they had two daughters instead of one. Shalini often used to joke about it with Arindam when both siblings were at school.

The Shah family had shifted to Ahmedabad when Jay was a little boy. Their ancestral bungalow was uninhabited post the death of Jay’s Grandfather. The whole Bungalow was renovated a few years later and now appeared like a mansion. Parnika’s mom was a part of a bhajan mandal for which she often used to travel a lot. She had been a part of this group ever since she was taken aback after her husband’s demise. She had buried herself in religious activities to get over the sudden demise of her partner. Shah family’s arrival was like a blessing for her as she could focus more on her bhajan mandal without worrying about her little daughter.

Jay rests his back on the chair barely finishing his breakfast which felt more like a full fledged lunch to him. “I won’t be able to eat anything now for the day.” Jay muttered getting up from the chair. He grabbed his laptop, plugging it off the charging and placed it in his bag. “Ma says if the tummy is empty, it’s tough to focus on the job.” Parnika replied, cleaning the dishes. “Parnika, but if I overeat, I’ll be dozing off at work.” Jay heads towards the door grabbing the car keys. “Get ready, I’ll drop you on the way.” Jay ensured that his shirt was properly tucked in getting ready for the day.

“Yes, wait a minute. I’m almost done. Can you just take my bag from the couch and wait for me in the car?” Parnika removes the apron as she walks towards the mirror in the adjacent room. “Okay, don’t take too long” Jay left, closing the door behind him.

“It took you quite some time, you know I don’t wanna get late on my first day.” Jay blurted as his fingers, eager to twist the key into ignition. “Jay, you are an hour earlier than you should be, you won’t be late dear.” Parnika said as she climbed into the sedan, closing the door. “By the way, I must say you look great in that dress.” Jay winks at her as he drives out of the garage heading on to the main street. “Thanks! I just bought it yesterday. I knew you’d like… I mean I liked this dress the moment I saw it on the mall’s display.” Parnika replied while playing with the little hangings on her odhni looking out of the window. She wanted him to see her in his favourite colour today. Hence, when she saw this navy blue churidar kurta with the beautiful tasselled dupatta , she couldn’t resist.

Much of their ride was filled with silly banter. There wasn’t a time when things would go awkward between the duo. Parnika was a total badass usually but it seemed as if something in her personality magically changed whenever Jay kept her company. She was surprisingly shy and unnecessarily calm around Jay but otherwise she’ll be the one  to never mess with. With Jay, at times she behaved like his mom while the rest of the time she’ll be a best friend. There was something between them which both were unable to see but their parents had already noticed it long back. It didn’t take long for Parnika to realise but for Jay it felt like it’s going to take a long time.

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