Shabana

Part III

“Shabana, what would you like to carry for your lunch?”
It was six o’clock in the morning and she was woken up by Ammi’s call.
She was pretty excited because it was her first day to the office.
She opened her eyes and looked outside into the courtyard; the day light was filtering in her room. Ammi was in the kitchen and Heena was asleep on the bed by her side.
She didn’t want to disturb her, so she left the bed and slung a dupatta on her neck. She tiptoed and left for the kitchen.
“Ammi, I want to carry two parathas and bhindi ki sabzi”.
“It is the first day I thought you would like to carry some dessert too.”
“OK, can you make Saviyans?”
Her Ammi smiled and went back to cooking.
Shabana brushed her teeth and looked into the mirror. She wondered, why did Rohit choose her to be his first employee and that too when she was just a, to be SSC.
She thought that she would implore Heena, because she was more matured in the worldly ways.
By that time Heena was awake, yet she was idling away on the bed. She knew that Heena was sometimes jealous of her when she got her way, yet there was a strong bond between them.
“Aapa, my boss had set up his office six months back. The office is pretty big and impressive. How come he selected me as his first employee? He could had chosen someone else in the last six months and he could had picked up some one who was better qualified and who had experience.”
Heena had a mischievous smile when she looked at her kid sister, “Maybe he developed a liking for you.”
Shabana blushed and lay down near her.
“How do you feel, when your marriage is just a few months away?”
“I feel nervous as well as happy.”
“How come?”
“Nervous because I don’t know, how well I would be accepted in Javed’s joint family, happy because I like him.”
“Yes, I understand.”
“Ok I will go and get ready, see you in the evening.”
“Khuda Hafiz.”
“Khuda Hafiz.”
Shabana got ready in a rush and after two hours of commuting reached her office, Regent Corporation five minutes before ten.
Ramu, helper had finished his work and he was waiting for her, to hand over the office charge.
He wished her, handed the keys and asked her permission to leave.
After noting down his mobile number, she relieved him, then she went to the washroom to freshen herself.
Next she busied herself in tea preparation, she was sure that her boss would be coming any moment. By the time tea was ready Rohit had also arrived. He was happy to see that the office looked neat and Shabana was waiting for him with tea.
“Welcome Shabana in Regent Corporation.”
“Thanks a lot, Sir.”
Rohit walked to his cabin and Shabana followed him. She placed both the cups on the table and sat down facing him.
“Our next order is for a large marriage ceremony, which has to be organized at Lodhi gardens. We have to make arrangements for one thousand guests. The arrangements would include illumination, flower arrangements, live music, cocktail, non- vegetarian and vegetarian food, bedi for lama phere, decoration of two rooms in the guest house etc. The function is exactly after seven days.”
Rohit gave her a list of contractors and asked her to contact them and start placing the orders.
“How about checking their quality?”
“You may call, check their credentials and go to taste their food.”
Shabana went to her seat and logged on to her computer.
She picked a food contractor’s name from the “A” list and opened their website.
She read the menu and after looking up his list of clients, she called him up.
“Would you visit our office today; we want to finalize an order for a large marriage party?”
“Fine, I will be in your office by 12 noon.”
Rohit had instructed Shabana to finalize the orders.
Shabana was not aware that in normal circumstances a fresher didn’t take up complete charge of an important function from the word “Go”. She assumed that was the way the business was run.
At 12 three persons from the caterer company turned up.
She made them sit at the reception and called up Ramu to arrange for the tea and cookies. She occupied the revolving chair in the second cabin and called them inside.
Within ten minutes Ramu brought tea and cookies for all of them.
The discussions about the menu, rate per plate, timings, staff dress etc. carried on for about an hour and a half and finally she placed the order with them.
She went to Rohit’s cabin and brought a signed cheque of Rs. 7,00,000 towards the advance for the contractor. In the same fashion she finalized the orders for rest of the vendors within the next three days. She had already placed the total orders worth Rs. 50,00,000 and had paid advances of Rs.25,00,000. She still had two days excluding Sunday to follow-up on the orders. Those days had been earmarked for quality check and fine tuning. She was invited by her main vendors to seven parties at different locations to show cause their capabilities. Out of seven two parties were for lunch and five were for dinner.
Shabana decided to take Heena with her to the dinner parties. She knew, otherwise she would not get the permission to leave home for the late nights.
Rohit was happy that he could devote all his time for sales follow up and overall supervision. He was confident that the delegation of responsibility would pay dividends in the long run.
Heena being a good cook herself loved the idea of checking the quality of food at five dinner parties for the two evenings. The problem was, how to maneuver Abba’s permission.
Both the sisters waited for Abba’s arrival after Azaan. They waited in the kitchen till Abba had washed, dried his feet, hands, face and had taken his seat on the takht.
The sisters brought a plate of rasgullas for Abba.
Abba had a sweet tooth, he was curious and asked his daughters, “Aaj kis khushi me rasgulle khilaye ja rahe hain.”
Heena answered smilingly, “Shabana’s contractor had presented her a dozen rasgullas, as a sample of dessert, which would be served in her party.”
“Subhan Allah!”
Once they found him in good mood, Heena broached the subject, “The next two days Shabana has to be the taster at four dinner parties. She would get the office car to pick her up and drop her back.
She has requested me to accompany her, we have come to ask for your permission.”
“What time will the car drop you back?”
“By 11.”
“OK, dono apna khyal rakhna.”In his good mood Hafiz forgot to put his checks.
However, it was not in his nature to retract what he had once permitted.
He decided to modify his attitude towards his grown-up daughters.
“Betiyon ab tum dono baligh ho, harek baat ke liye mujhse puchne ki zaroorat nahi hain.”
Shabana remembered the golden words, “Freedom comes with responsibility.”
She was delighted to feel the age-old restrictions evaporating.
It was a beginning of a new era; she had the freedom to go ahead at full throttle to prove her mettle.
“Religion had many plus points, the biggest being that Khuda had blessed her Abba with fortitude,” she thought.
Heena and Shabana got ready at six in the evening. They walked up to Golcha to get rid of their burqas and then they walked to Dilli Gate.
A tourist Innova SUV carried them to Rajokri. The SUV maneuvered through heavy traffic for one hour and finally dropped them at the gate of a farmhouse, where the final touches were being given to a marriage party. Regent Corporation’s contractor had invited Shabana and Heena to show case the food and cock tail arrangements there.
The entrance was decorated with marigold, chrysanthemums, lilies, roses and lilacs. The boundary hedge as well as the lawn was decorated with technicolour lights. The tables had bright coloured linen covers. The cushioned chairs had dark green coloured arm and back rests. Each table had a flower vase on top with a red rose in it.
They were introduced as part of the contractor’s QC team, who had come to check the arrangements.
The host party was mighty pleased with the contractor’s professionalism.
Shabana and Heena walked around with the contractor, who offered them Mocktails, the main dishes and the dessert.
Heena took half a spoon from each preparation and shared her comments with her sister, “The Chicken is overcooked, Ma ki daal doesn’t have its flavour, other things are fine.”
Shabana repeated the comments to the contractor privately.
He assured that the mistakes would not recur in Regent Corporation party.
In half an hour both the sisters left the premises. The SUV once more maneuvered through heavy traffic and reached the next party, which was at Lodhi Gardens.
The marriage party was at full swing when they reached.
Lucky, bride’s brother was the first to notice the two girls.
Shabana as well as Heena were a little self-conscious, because to introduce themselves as tasters would have been over the board.
They instead introduced themselves as the guests from the bridegroom’s side, only they had arrived before the Baraat.
“It is our pleasure to receive you, my name is Lucky.”
“We are Shabana and Heena.”
“What would you like to have?”
“Orange juice.”
Lucky got chatting with Heena while Shabana excused herself, she walked into the pandal to look for the contractor.
“What do you do?”
“I am a software engineer in a private firm.”
Lucky found Heena to be vivacious, he asked her, “Where do you live?”
“We live in Old Delhi.”
“What do you do?’
“I am at home and learning to cook from my mother.”
He found it a bit strange that an attractive girl like her was wasting time at home.
She cleared his curiosity by her explanation.
“My marriage is on the cards; I am waiting.”
Before Lucky could bug her further Heena made a demand, “May I taste golgappas?”
He acted like a typical host and led her to the golgappas counter. It had a queue and Heena got herself mixed up in the crowd. He looked around to see if there were any unattended guests, as once again he had become conscientious. In a few moments, everyone could hear the drumbeats, heralding the arrival of baraat at the gate.
He hurried to receive the bride groom and the baraat, whereas Heena slipped out to the kitchen to track Shabana.
Heena saw Shabana tasting Kadi pakoda, Peas pulao and Gajar ka halwa.
She was quite satisfied with the preparations and gave final instructions to the contractor.
“There will be 1000 guests make sure that the food isn’t inadequate. The quality is good just repeat your performance.”
The contractor was happy to get compliments from his client. He replied, “Please don’t worry the food will be adequate and the quality will be same, if not better.”
Shabana and Heena were happy that the purpose of their visit was fulfilled.
While the baraat was being welcomed they quietly slipped out. The SUV picked them up in a few minutes and carried them back to Dilli gate.
By the time they reached home it was around 1130 PM.
Abba was at the gate waiting for them.
Shabana explained, “There was a lot of traffic on the roads, therefore the car crawled at number of places.”
He was quite satisfied with her explanation.
“Betiyon itne traffic mein, aadha ghanta idhar udhar to ho hi jata hain.”
Both changed into informal wear and retired to bed.

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