The storm had passed. And had left a trail of destruction in its wake.
To begin with, Raunak couldn’t reach his office and attend the meeting. The American delegates were furious at Raunak’s unprofessional conduct and had left his office assuring him that he would never get the contract. And then he had to bear the brunt of the policemen’s reprimand for giving shelter to a wanted criminal. None of his excuses worked on them, even though they knew that Raunak was the real victim here and not an abettor of the crime. It took him, Lajjo, and their lawyer, hours to convince the police that they were completely unaware of Sajjan’s background and that they were misguided by their neighbours, the Sharmas, who had recommended Sajjan Singh to them.
“The Sharmas you say, eh?” The chief inspector asked, scrutinizing Raunak’s face carefully.
“Yes sir, the Sharmas,” replied Raunak and Lajjo together. “They had recommended Sajjan and had said that he had four years of experience in Mumbai as a driver.”
“But still it’s your fault that you blindly believed them. It’s a bad world Mr. Singh, how can you trust people so easily?” chided the inspector, adopting a grandfatherly tone. The involvement of the Sharmas seemed to have placated the inspector. “But now we will have to get hold of these Sharmas.”
And so after signing some papers and having received tons of warning and advice, Raunak Singh was released. And this whole process was “greased” and accelerated with the help of a few banknotes, which the noble policemen took as a “reward” for their efforts from the hands of the very grateful Raunak Singh.
And now the Sharmas. Poor Sharmas! They were “gotten hold of” nicely by the police. As if Raunak’s trip to police station and Sajjan’s status as a runaway criminal wasn’t enough for the gossip mongers in the colony, Sharmas’ questioning by the police was also added to the grapevine. But the Sharmas were themselves shocked by Sajjan’s true identity and told police everything they knew.
Apparently Sajjan had fooled them too in believing that he was a seasoned driver. Mr. Sharma’s boss had fired him within a week because of his rash driving and he came to Mr. Sharma with his tale of woes and well…you know the rest.
What about Raunak and Lajjo? They were in depression for more than a week. Raunak’s fears had come true and he had lost the biggest deal of his professional career and Lajjo, deep down in her heart, felt guilty for whatever had happened.
But God has strange ways of making things happen. One day, after about a month of the infamous day of Sajjan’s firing, Raunak came home with such good news that the Singh household came back to life again.
“I have got the US deal!” Raunak almost shouted in excitement, throwing his bag and hugging Lajjo the moment he entered home. “They were not happy with the Chinese proposal and decided to give me another chance!”
“Really! That’s great news!” Lajjo said giving an unusual smile.
“I had to bring down my profit margin to give them a more lucrative deal. But that’s okay. I’ll make up for it with the volume of business I will get. Wait a minute! Why are you smiling like that? What?”
“I also have good news for you.” She came out with the truth.
“What good news?”
“My brother has found a perfect driver for us!”
The smile on Raunak’s face vanished. “What?” He contorted his face and asked, “How can you even think of another driver, after what happened with the previous one?”
“That’s why I had asked my brother to do a careful search to find the driver. Besides, we can’t just let the Mercedes rot in the garage!”
“It doesn’t need to rot there. I am thinking of selling it.”
“What?” Lajjo said, looking at Raunak disbelievingly. “You will sell the car just because of a bad driver?”
“That’s why! That’s why I never had a car! ” Raunak said, stressing his conviction by wagging his finger in the air. “It’s you who forced me to buy this one. I never trusted strangers! Rightly so! But it’s you who forced me to get this driver!”
Seeing Lajjo’s miserable face after this outburst made Raunak realize that he had probably said too much.
Lajjo said nothing. She just turned away and went to the kitchen. Raunak’s heart sank. He knew that unless he did something to ease the tension in the air, he would have to go on an empty stomach that night. And the food, in the next few days, was sure to taste strange, sometimes more spicy, sometimes less salty. Such are the gastronomical dangers of upsetting a devoted wife.
Raunak felt weak in his determination. If her brother himself had made the search, he thought, he need not worry so much. A brother won’t think of harming his sister. Besides, he would interview the driver and satisfy himself before hiring. Deep down, he knew that selling the Mercedes wasn’t a feasible solution.
Raunak slowly walked towards the kitchen and saw Lajjo working in a fury. He tiptoed into the kitchen and held Lajjo in his arms from behind.
“So, when are we calling the driver for interview?” Raunak whispered in Lajjo’s ear. “And what is his name?”
A faint smile struggled to appear on Lajjo’s face. “Tukaram. You will like him.”
“I would like a special dinner tonight.”
“I have something special for you. For dinner. And for dessert too!”
Cut! Come back next Thursday!