what is it about Ria?

Chapter 3

The Chopra Group of hospitals was celebrating their silver jubilee and the staff was thrown a party in the party hall of their old but the first ever hospital building. The rehabilitation team was specially invited since it was relatively a new department. Ria initially didn’t want to attend, as the party would run late into the night. The old building was far away and she didn’t want to go home alone so late especially in the terrible weather. It was raining cats and dogs since the earlier day and if the weather predictions were to be believed it would be worse tonight. She also didn’t have a dress for the party but Preeti who was her school batch mate was the only one who knew about her situation. She had got her a dress even without asking and Ria was chagrined but grateful. She had no choice but to accept the beautiful gown if she wanted to attend the do. She had never ever worn anything go gorgeous and didn’t want to feel awkward but then she looked at the types of clothes brought in by the others, including a LBD for Preeti herself and she was relieved. Honestly, she felt mixing around with her team mates from work may help her bridge the gap… she hoped she could be on friendly terms at least now on. She had never bothered so much about peoples’ opinions and besides her home, she didn’t have to bother. She was good in studies, an all-rounder… so her achievements spoke for her rather than her physical attributes. But somehow in this job the dynamics had totally changed and the worse was she wasn’t able to put her finger on what it was… whether it was her sudden promotion, or something else. She hoped todays party would help her talk to others and check out what the problem was, if she got a chance.

 Since yesterday everyone was charged up in the hospital because of the impending celebration, mainly the party. There was a bus arranged to take them from this new building to the old one where the venue was and then drop them back here after the party. Preeti had promised she would drop Ria home in her car from here so she was relieved on that front. Her other friend Tushar from the adult physiotherapy rehabilitation ward, who hadn’t been on great talking terms too had coaxed her to join them. Slowly the group was warming up to her and she didn’t want to lose the chance of re-establishing the lost camaraderie. So, finally Ria had agreed. She had decided to just let go for some time and just forget about her parents, sister, Vikram and of course the big bad bossman. Her heightened anxiety these days were making an ulcer in her stomach, as it is.

She stood up stretching her tired limbs, packed up her files in her large tote bag she had carried specially for today, and made way to the powder room.

As Ria got ready in the ladies’ common room, she wondered if the monster would be there as well. He was always conspicuous by his absence. She had never seen him socialise, thank God for that. She couldn’t dampen her high spirits to let her hair down a chance she barely got… Dr. Chopra only met the three leads every week for the reports and discussing future course of actions and behaved as though he barely tolerated them. Of course, he did have a problem with her specifically. If only she knew what it was…?

As she looked into the full length mirror of the ladies’ powder room, she felt the long gown. It was as if… made for her. Preeti had purchased it last year for her sister’s wedding reception and usually didn’t like to repeat clothes. Ria didn’t even bother to think about the cost. However she got to wear the designer ethnic outfit… that was awesome in itself. The base was a satin tin gown sequined at the top and there was a part chiffon attached long frilled skirt which was a beautiful blend of white and off white. Ria put on minimal makeup but used the kohl in her eyes generously. Somehow she felt desirable whenever she did that. But why was she even bothering with all this? Was she doing it for Dr. Gaurav subconsciously? Gosh…no. where did that even come from? All that ridiculous gossip must have gone into her head. She shook her head as if it would drive away the thoughts. But there was a reason… the real reason why she had the unavoidable visions.

Ria sighed as she looked at her image in the full length mirror lost in thought. Everything was so paradoxical. She clearly recollected the last day of her internship in this hospital a little over three years ago. Dr. Gaurav had handed the certificate to the interns. When her name was announced she had literally scampered off the chair and run to the stage excited to be finishing yet another milestone in her career. But she wasn’t prepared for the pull she felt when she had looked into his eyes… for the first time in her life. They were a strange combination of brown and black as if fluctuating between the two and… piercing. There was this light pink scar that ran from his right eyebrow diagonally up to his temple disappearing in his hair. The bushy black shiny mane adorning his head enhanced his deep set eyes. There was another scar from his right cheek to his right ear. But that was very light and visible only if one looked closely and she had looked closely enough. It was as if the unruly facial hair in form of a light beard was permitted to evolve to hide those imperfections. Somehow, she had found him ruggedly handsome and her heart had skipped a beat. It was as if he had not just looked into her eyes but looked into her soul. She had quickly averted her gaze and silently accepted her certificate. Over the months that followed, she had always thought about that moment. Those eyes kept coming into her dreams very often. She loved reading romance stories but every time she did, she would visualize those eyes. Thinking about him was like dropping a pebble in a quiet water body and the ripples brought alive those memories quickening her pulse. Nothing in her life had affected her to that enormity. She had been brought up in an household with strict rules pertaining to boys. So in a way she felt guilty and ashamed to even have the wayward thoughts.

In the course of her two-year post-graduation studies that followed her internship, she had searched his name online, whenever she had got an opportunity. There was not much information except what they all already knew about him. He was a loner. He didn’t frequent any page three dos which were common for people of his society. In fact there was not a single picture of his in any party or event. She also found that he had other business ventures like a huge lounge bar… really? besides being a major partner in this group of hospitals. She had found only one full-length photograph of his from one of the sites and wanted to download it. But she didn’t do so for fear of being found out. Her access to a PC was in the library and the instrument was shared by so many of her classmates for their research and other work and she didn’t want to take a chance.

She had seen the hospital staff once in a while in their college cafeteria or loitering in the lawn. Though they had tried to be subtle her observant eyes had known it was them. She even once found the hospital supervisor’s PA going through the interns’ files when she had gone to discuss a case with her guide. As far as she knew, any major action like this couldn’t have been possible without Dr. Gaurav’s permission. She made subtle enquiries around her college. She realised he was keeping tabs on the interns and their progress in the higher studies. It did make sense because of the tie up their college had with the hospital but this was going a bit overboard…

She wasn’t a fool. She somehow felt she was the reason why a man of his calibre was bothered about the mere interns. She was sure he had felt something too during that certificate ceremony. Was he stalking her? But strangely, like the attraction to the forbidden fruit, it had thrilled her endlessly and even now she couldn’t stop smiling. But now the thrill was marred by her own guilt of not having such feelings for Vikram.

In fact, the day she had got this job, she had looked forward to see Dr.Gaurav. She had realized she had a hopeless crush on him. Though, it had scared her enough to keep her secret from the world, her life otherwise had been an open book and very predictable. But this feeling was like the nicotine kick… a pleasure that made her otherwise boring life interesting.

She had been thrilled to be among the few selected for this job from the innumerable applicants from all over the country. However, in the months that followed her appointment she was only subjected to silent treatments or occasional reprimands from him. Her decisions were questioned and twice she was subjected to face the management board. She wondered if she had been disillusioned about her feelings for him. Unfortunately in her zest for achieving heights in the hospital with one of the purposes being an audience with the Director himself made her oversee the murky waters in which she was threading. As a result she had built a metaphorical wall of animosity around her which had made it impenetrable to the others in the hospital. Once promoted she not only had to face the jealous ire of her colleagues but very recently, stress in form of redoing the entire work which she had painstakingly done.

He would always find reasons to make her wait after work hours for the past month ever since she had been promoted, to see him, almost daily and sometimes wait up to an hour. Fortunately, he had a lively secretary Karuna, a 50-year-old mother of two, who would not just sympathize with her but also keep her occupied with office gossip. Karuna would also jokingly share tips on managing the Bossman. Ria thanked God for small pleasures like these which helped get her anxiety levels under control.  By the time he would find the time to actually meet her in the office, he would always be in a rush and suggest corrections. Karuna once told her, post hospital hours, he visited his lounge bar that he ran in partnership with his childhood friend. Twice in the cabin he had come very close to her to point out a mistake in her protocol, almost touching her she could feel his breath or get a whiff of his cologne as she stood trembling in paradoxical but strange exhilarating fear But then he was  gone like the wind leaving her senses scattered and confused. Within five minutes he would usually dismiss her as if she meant nothing more than a fly on the wall. Most of the times, he never even looked at her. She often fumed but couldn’t do anything about it. Twice she had taken the very important project report to discuss with him but he never had the time and now she had almost given up… did he do it on purpose to appease his ego?

  Ria would often get extremely delayed in reaching home due to the pathetic Pune traffic and now the rains. Her parents would be annoyed at the kind of awful hours she kept. She was stuck… badly stuck. To add fuel to fire, last week, for the first time Dr. Gaurav had yelled at her in his cabin not even looking at her, over some petty mistake in her report. She had been in tears as she had emerged from his cabin. Karuna had looked at her with sad eyes and tried to make her smile. That evening she had shed silent tears on her way home, only to receive silent treatment from her folks. Even Pooja snubbed her these days. Ria was at her wits end and she had started to wonder how long this was going to continue. She couldn’t even discuss this with Preeti. She had made up her mind to speak with Dr. Gaurav after the silver jubilee events with regards to her professional issues. She deserved some answers and at the end of it if she was asked to resign then so it be… This incongruously baffling attitude of his left her confused and frustrated and by now she was sure she had been thoroughly disillusioned by the enigmatous man. She had definitely misread the signs… she had been a fool. How could a man like him want to even think about her… her father had been right. She had to thank God, Vikram had wanted her… but why was she so upset with even the thought?

The entire week the hospital held various camps across the hospital branches in Maharashtra to commemorate the glorious twenty five years of the hospital group. They had all been busy alongside their usual hospital duties.

Tonight’s party was the last in the series of events.

It was pouring heavily and they had to reach the party hall. The old hospital building having the party hall was to be demolished and a new state of heart health club was to come up in its place. Just before the building was brought down the higher-ups had decided to host the last party there, to relive the nostalgia. A team member had arranged a bus to take all of them to the old premises and drop them back here after the party.  Ria had never been to that location before.

She was looking forward for an evening of relaxation. Would it actually soothe her nerves? She didn’t know. But as Preeti styled her hair, she knew that after all that she had been through here, she deserved a break…at least this one evening she wanted it for herself…

Copyright Disclaimer: All content posted here is a work of fiction and original work based on the author’s imagination. There is no intention to disrespect any person or faith. Any resemblance to any person living or dead or any community is purely coincidental. No part of the content can be copied, reproduced or posted anywhere else either entirely or in parts, without the consent of the author.

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