Just finished watching yesterday’s episode. I’m no analyst but a simple viewer and this is my POV:
I know I’d thought I wouldn’t see all of it but then, sleep induced state made me forget my resolve. From what I’ve seen now, I think at this rate, Khushi will also be in line for repentance big time if she continues with her mindless antics. ASR is a complex person. He can’t be played around without him backfiring after a while. Khushi is horribly wrong with what she’s doing and these actions? They can’t be justified by saying that she’s merely 19, not mature enough and has been recently roughly handled. She loves him and yes she was forcibly married but she married her heart had already chosen in the end, didn’t she? At least she didn’t have to marry Shyam and go through the horrors of another kind. She could’ve refused to marry him and proved OTT and selfish but then abhi jo kar rahi hain wo kaunsa Khushi ka character hain!
From ASR’s part- yes he will repent and suffer for his mistakes definitely but isn’t it justified that Khushi also suffers then for her mistakes? Maybe the way they got married was wrong and the marriage has to end (which we’ll see if it does) is terribly wrong on ASR’s part but we’re already expecting his suffering.
What I see is that he trusts her and she dupes him. There are only so many times you can cry wolf Khushi darling. This is going to backfire soon when he will not trust you even when you speak the truth. We saw that too in the end, didn’t we though? He thinks she’s hidden the spare parts of his car to trouble him and doesn’t believe that she’s innocent.
Remember Newton’s rule- every action has an equal and opposite reaction. ASR has yet to go through equal and opposite reaction for his action. Bechara aiwai pehlese suffer karna shuru kar diya hain. Khushi is just as mean as ASR is, with the difference being ASR’s past still justifies his actions. Khushi.. sudhar jaao darling.. varna bahot jaldi humiliation ki baari tumhaari hogi.
The best part was GH women and at the breakfast table. Ah! Garima may have said harsh words to Khushi in the past and even been angry and unfeeling but look at how Buaji and Garima acted when the food delivery came in. Wow.. I felt like going there and hugging them. After a few minutes the same feelings overwhelmed me for them again when they ate the pasta and though they didn’t like it, didn’t insult their damaad and praised it to the heavens.
Ye hain India ki womenfolk; they are independent, strong, sensitive, caring, understanding, motherly and forgiving. Babuji seems to be judging his SIL and is quite happy with what his Khushi bitiya has gained in such a husband. (Sun le Khushi, tere babuji ko aadmi ki pehchaan hain.)
Loved Arnie’s expressions. So childlike he was when he asked them if they liked the food and even when he stood with his hands folded on his chest, waiting for the spare parts to be returned. Sweet! J Sanayaji.. yaad hain na, acting kar rahe ho, expressions dene padenge? Where are her correct expressions? They have been missing for sure. Maybe the poor darling is bored with what she’s doing. I’m she’s a smart woman she knows this way of Khushi’s will never lead to happy ending.
Shyam babua.. finally you got the key made but phir pakde gaye beta. 😀 Do you guys also feel that Mamaji is perhaps this “jasoos” that Anjali keeps on talking about? I think Mamaji has a very strong role to play later as witness to all that has happened. Maybe he was also the one who had heard Khushi confessing her state to DM. Kya pata..
Chapter 8 : A scene from this chapter has been dedicated to Monnie Singh Raizada. 🙂
Khushi and Mallika were enjoying the aftermath of the engagement party. The engagement had gone off without a hitch. Punditji had done his job with the prayers and among other things, rings were exchanged between NK and Mallika. Their parents had embraced each other and gifts had been exchanged between both the parties. Khushi, dressed in a red sari with golden border and decked with gold earrings dangling from her ears and a necklace sitting pretty on her neck was a sight for sore eyes. Her red bangles made a jingling sound as if spreading cheerfulness where ever they jangled with her anklets adding sweet music to it. The sari gave her face a pink glow and minimal make up of a red gloss and kohl around her eyes made her look beautiful, totally rubbishing the idea that she could look plain. She had at Mallika’s request left her glasses behind and worn lenses.
While quivering inside with anxiety, she was outwardly calm and smiling. She had not seen Arnav anywhere around yet. Maybe he had left?
Just when she started relaxing, she caught sight of him. He was dressed as usual, in his impeccable suit, his eyes focused on the person he was talking to. He looked handsome as ever. Her skipped a beat as she looked at him. He didn’t look out of place and seemed quite comfortable with people around him. Just then he smiled at the lady he was talking to and Khushi felt her heart flutter. She turned away from him, clutching her sari to her chest.
“Khushi” It was softly spoken but raised the hair on her arms. The voice was so close to her ears. She didn’t dare turn around. She quickly strode away before he could say anything else.
Arnav started moving forward. He hated it when Khushi walked away from him. In all these months, this was another constant that hadn’t changed. He moved towards her and she’d run away. He swore he’d soon put an end to it.
But as he started moving towards where Khushi had walked away to, he felt a hand on her shoulder, “Arnaavv, where are you moving off to? They’re going to play the band soon. I want to dance with you.”
It was Shruti Negi, Mallika’s younger sister. Anrav turned around to find Shruti smiling like a shark at him. She was very provocatively dressed with a single strap holding her blouse from behind. Bare back and barely enough cloth to cover her front, draped with a pink gauze and net sari around her body, Shruti sure looked pretty tempting. But for Arnav, she was as interesting and desirable as a lifeless statue. Shruti leaned onto him, brushing her chest against his and whispered in his ear, “Maybe after a dance or two, we can move to the garden. What say?”
Arnav moved away from her hand, with enough ice in his eyes to freeze the blood in her veins. His smile was polite and dismissing. “I don’t dance Ms. Negi. You’d best find yourself another amusement for the evening.”
Shruti’s eyes widened at his cold voice. Her smile faltered, her practised poise gone. She straightened, with blush covering her cheeks. “Sorry, I thought maybe-“
Arnav sighed. Young girls had to be handled with care, especially when they were future business associates’ daughters, “No problem. A simple case of miscalculation of interest is what happened. You look very pretty and I’m sure there’ll be a lot of men who’d love to dance with you. Good luck.”
He moved away and turned to the bar. Ordering himself a stiff drink, he wondered where Khushi had disappeared off to. He couldn’t see her in the room. Gulping down his drink in one go, he thanked the bartender and went out of the party room that opened out to the lobby of the house.
He walked further out and saw Khushi. She was sitting with Mallika and other girls, who were giggling while Mallika blushed. Girl jokes, he was sure were being cracked. Khushi though had a strained smile on her face as she participated in this girl talk. She was sitting with her head down, playing with the end of her sari and biting her lip softly. His Khushi and her traits were well known to him. He was sure she was trying to think of a way to get out of there. Payal sat along with them, laughing with the other girls and talking animatedly. Her laughter died abruptly as she saw Arnav coming towards the group. She looked at Khushi, anxiety for her sister written plain on her face.
Khushi had closed her eyes and was holding on to her sari tightly; she knew he was here. Her heart beat had suddenly gone into over drive. He was the only one who had that effect on her. Mallika’s voice rang out as enthusiastic and cheerful, making Khushi flinch. “Arnav, hey!”
Arnav looked at Mallika and smiled while the other girls looked at him too. A gasp from some girls broke the silence. Obviously, thought Khushi. Arnav Singh Raizada effect was taking hold of them so they would gasp. She opened her eyes to look straight into his glittering amber ones. She shivered at the amount of want she saw there- and determination.
“Hi Mallika. Congratulations once again on your engagement. Lovely party.” Arnav came forward towards them. Khushi looked at the other girls with scorn. She could see awe written their faces, their mouths open and eyes wide. What was it about this guy that turned all girls silly?
“Come meet my friends.” Said Mallika and proceeded to introduce everyone around. When it came to Khushi and Payal, she gestured at Payal and said, “She’s Payal Singh- hey you guys share the same surname! She is Payal Singh Raizada! She is married and lives in Delhi. And this is her sister, Khushi; my best friend Khushi.”
Mallika grinned and her jaw dropped when Payal said, “ Arnavji is my brother-in-law Mallika.”
“I had no idea. Papa never told me that! ” Mallika’s eyes went wider as if a sudden thought occurred to her. “So you know Khushi too.”
“Of course.” Arnav inclined his head towards her as he looked at Khushi. “Don’t we now each other Khushi?”
Khushi had no choice but to speak. Her voice was a mere croak, “Yes. Hello Arnav.”
“Why don’t you sit down with us Arnav and tell us how you like Nainital. Is this your first visit here?”
Khushi looked at her friend; Neha who had invited Arnav in her simpering, husky voice to join them. She ground her teeth in frustration. Oh for heaven’s sake! She’d always hated Neha’s simper and her attempt to seduce boys with her voice. And here she was doing it with Arnav! There was nothing that she could do about it though so she lowered her eyes and looked down as other girls joined in the request.
Arnav was actually enjoying this. Khushi looked flustered, blush rising on her cheeks, her annoyance apparent to him. This should be fun. How about rousing that not-so-little green monster in her? He sat down and zeroed in on the girl who had invited him. What was her name- ah yes! Neha.
“I like Nainital very much Neha. All the more so since everything here is so beautiful. In fact, I think I will stay here for one extra week and spend time looking at beauty around here.”
It was the way he said it that finally loosened Khushi’s tongue. She lashed out, “Be careful while straying away from the city Arnav. There are lots of animals around here who wouldn’t spare you if you mistook their gentle demeanour as timid when you wander. You’d want to return to London in one piece.”
And almost groaned out aloud as another friend spoke up, “Oh wow, London! You live in London? You don’t live in India then?” Another one spoke up, “NRI Munda hain Neha. Are you married Arnav?”
Arnav’s eyes met hers amidst all others. He wanted to grin at her annoyance but kept his expressions in check. “I used to live in London until a few months back. I’ve moved to India now. I live in Delhi. And no, I’m not married…yet.”
Khushi glanced at Payal questioningly and then away. What did it matter to her where he lived now or if he was thinking about – what did he mean anyway with married not yet? Khushi shook herself mentally. It shouldn’t matter to her. It didn’t matter at all. He could live in Timbuktu and marry the Princess of Norway for all she cared.
Arnav could feel heat rising from Khushi’s being. He could see her trying hard to control her temper and her breathing. He decided to make it more difficult for her. His question to Neha, who sat listening to him with a look of pure lust on her face, startled Khushi, “Have you ever been to Delhi Neha? If not, you can come there sometime and I’ll show you around.”
Khushi closed her eyes and tried to control her temper. She could feel the green monster rising from the depths of her being, his hunger apparent. Khushi felt a knot in her stomach as she realized what she felt. She was horrified at a merest mention of him being interested in someone else could cause such a fierce pang of pain in her heart and bring her to boiling rage. She couldn’t do that to herself, she didn’t want to feel this burning jealousy that slowly seemed to be enveloping her soul.
Without putting her mind to it, she heard the conversation being carried out, where Neha pouted, visibly fluttering he eyelashes, making eyes at Arnav and said, “So you’d show me around in Delhi, huh? But I don’t know anyone in Delhi. Where would I put up?”
He replied, his voice seducing the girls surrounding him, “Well, now you know me. I have a big house with lots of rooms. Maybe you’d like to stay there. It would be fun. “
“Uhh..” totally flustered, Neha looked around and saw that the other girls were looking at this Arnav guy with the same lust that she felt. It was all a matter of staking claim, right? Her eyes were pure evil when she said, “Sure! I’d love to come and stay in your house.”
Mallika seemed totally dazed with the conversation. She cleared her throat, looked at Arnav, mischief dancing in her eyes and said, Er-yes. Goodness Arnav, stop seducing the girls! Waise, it’s a good idea. In fact I’m sure many girls here would want to take up on that offer.”
While they all laughed, Payal looked at Khushi who seemed to be in intense pain. “Khushi?”
“huh? Yes Jiji?” Khushi opened her eyes and looked at Payal.
“Are you feeling alright? You-“ Khushi cut Payal midsentence,
“Yes Jiji, I’m absolutely fine, just a little suffocated. In fact, I think I’ll go inside.” She gave a brilliant smile to Mallika who nodded her assent and without looking at Arnav, walked away from there muttering loud enough for him to hear, “and throw up.”
Arnav watched her go, muttering along the way and smiled to himself. She was nothing if not feisty, yes- that was Khushi Kumari Gupta-soon-to-be-Mrs. Raizada. He just had to wait for his plans to come to fruition and fervently hope that she’d not screw up the plans with her unpredictability.
Khushi walked back into the house, with the party full on and people dancing around. While the young generation had taken up the dance floor, the elder generation had moved to the far side of the room, where comfortable sofas and lounges had been kept. Khushi made a face towards the noise emanating from the room and walked towards where her grandmother sat. She must be there somewhere.
“Khushi, come join us!” Some of the guys from the dance floor called her. “Change your traditional clothes and join us in fun babe.” One of the guys, Gaurav shouted, giving her leering glances. He was an old friend who loved to fool around and was not to be taken seriously. He opened his arms wide and shouted, “Come to me baby!” Khushi laughed and shook her head in denial. She thumbed him down and signalled him a “See you later” to resume walking. She had barely taken two steps when she was held tight by her waist and roughly pushed out of the house again.
Only one man had the guts to do that to Khushi Kumari Gupta. Anger that had been churning in her stomach was ready to spill out. She struggled furiously as he dragged her to the far side of the lobby, next to the swimming pool. All was quiet here, with no one around.
“Let me go, damn you! Get your hands off me Arnav!”
Arnav swivelled her so that she faced him now, her face red from anger and exertion of the struggle while his wild amber eyes sparked with the same emotion.
“How dare you Arnav Singh Raizada! How dare you manhandle me, you bas- “Khushi stopped, horrified with herself and closed her mouth with her hand before she could utter the one profanity that was true in Arnav’s case. She tried turning away from him again and he said, “If you want to call me a bastard, do. It’s only the truth after all.”
Khushi closed her eyes and counted to ten. She couldn’t say that to him. It hurt her just as it would hurt him. But she couldn’t let him have his way either. She was angry after all. She tried pushing his hands away from her waist and spat, “Let me go this instant. I don’t want anything to do with you.”
Arnav wouldn’t let her go of course. He was just as angry as he held her by her waist and dragged her face to face, “Sure, why would you want anything to do with me when there are guys out here you may already be doing with! ”
Khushi looked at him, her shock evident on her face, her struggles ceased for a moment. “You’re a fine one to talk! Who was that who was seducing all the girls with his “Come and stay with me in Delhi” statement?” She mimicked his voice, her eyes flashing fire.
“Jealous sweetheart? You’ve no need to be. ” Arnav caught her closer so that their chests were almost brushing against each other.
“You wish Raizada! It doesn’t bother me in the least.” Khushi spoke quietly. She had stopped struggling now, knowing that her struggles will brush her chest against his and burn her body even more. She hated herself for this pool of desire that was accumulating between her legs at this close contact. She tried to control her wanton thoughts. Closing her eyes, she said, “Flirt with whoever you want Arnav. Just let me go. I’m not interested in spending time in your company.”
“The way you were giving a come-on to that guy on the dance floor, it looks like you’re not short of company here in Nainital.”
Khushi gasped as the meaning of his words sank in. Oh how she hated that mocking drawl of his and– he was actually accusing her of being promiscuous again! Her hand came forward to hit him but was caught mid-air. Chest heaving, they both stared at each other while Khushi laughed bitterly, “Oh yes, double standards are at play again Arnav Singh Raizada! You can flirt with any one you want but I can’t even talk friendly with a guy. No wonder I don’t want anything to do with you anymore.”
He caught at her shoulders gently as regret flooded his being and he mentally kicked himself. What the hell was he doing! He had to be gentle with her, woo her. In his jealous rage, he’d completely forgotten himself and accused her again when she was innocent. Would he never learn?
“Khushi, I’m sorry.” Khushi refused to look at him. “I’m shouldn’t have said that. I just don’t like the thought of you with anyone. I didn’t mean to-“
“It doesn’t matter Arnav. Let me go please.” Khushi’s voice was deathly quiet, tone flat. She moved his hand from her shoulder and made to go. Arnav was having none of it.
He roughly caught her shoulder in his hand and turned her around, “Look Khushi, I’m really sorry, okay? I shouldn’t have said all that. I don’t know what got into me or maybe I do.” he uttered the four letter word that Khushi didn’t really think a man who was apologizing would use in front of her. To top it, he was still holding her, his strong hand gripping her shoulder while she trembled inwardly. All she could do was stare at his shirt buttons and pray “Devi Maiyya please extricate me from this situation. How could you put me in such a- and after all that he had said before and again … please make him let go of my shoulder, NOW.”
While she closed her eyes and prayed to her beloved Devi Maiyaa, Arnav looked at her with something like fury that was replaced quickly with guilt and pain. He was genuinely apologizing; yes, he was at fault again. Khushi always made him feel a heel. He had never apologised to anyone except to her and his Di. The least she could do was listening to him once and maybe give him a chance, dammit!
He knew he had hurt her bad the last time, when he had called her names and broken the engagement. The day he had uncovered the truth, he had gone through excruciating pain and guilt. He had realized what a fool he had been by letting go of the only woman that could love him as deeply she did, who could accept him despite his background and his faults; the only woman who made him complete.
His Anjali Di had wiped the floor with him and later on tried to help him find Khushi. He had tried but in vain. As a last resort, he had decided to immerse himself in work and his sorrows in solitude where nothing but happy memories of Khushi stayed put along with the huge stone of guilt around his neck. Had it not been for Khushi’s grandmother calling, he’d have drowned himself in his misery and died.
Hell, he understood her anger and her distrust of him. He was ready to prove himself and earn her trust again if need be. If only she would listen to him! His confidence took a dipping when he thought about it.
“All she does is close her eyes, hide her pain, her feelings and say that she didn’t want to talk to me!” He swore quietly, thinking to himself. Khushi was not going to let him get into her affections again so easily, was she?
He knew he should let her go but touching her did odd things him; always had. The day they’d almost made love on the club terrace came into his mind and stirred up a fire that refused to go down. He took a deep breath to control his emotions. Why wouldn’t she look at him at least! He was trying to apologize and be a gentleman too.
“Khushi” Her name came out in a warning growl and then, as if things had not yet reached its peak, he took hold of her other shoulder and shook her, “look at me dammit!”
Startled and quaking, Khushi looked up. Maybe he’d let her go now? She thought and then looked at his eyes. His eyes were burning globes of fire.. as if he was the panther about to attack his prey.
“Why do you have to rile me up so much? You always get under my skin dammit! What do you think of yourself Khushi Kumari Gupta? I’ve been standing here saying sorry to you umpteen times and you don’t even look at me! The way you walk, the way you look down your nose at me. It makes me go crazy Khushi!”
Khushi eyes were wide orbs, “I make you go crazy!?” she squeaked and then got her courage back. “How dare you blame me Arnav Singh Raizada, Mr. next-step-to-God! I have done nothing to you, do you hear.. nothing! As if all you accused me of in the past is not enough, you’ve come here to- what you said just now – let me go at once!” Khushi tried to free herself from his hands but they were like iron bands around her shoulders.
“Make me.” His words were menacing and Khushi felt fear curl in her stomach with- excitement? “You glare at me Khushi Kumari Gupta and your mouth gives me the message “touch-me-not” but ..”
“But what?” Khushi held her breath as her stomach churned with well-known sensations, sensations she thought she had lost months back. She was panicky and confused. What was he trying to say?
“But your eyes say something different. He leaned into her, “Do you know something sweetheart? The more your mouth says no, the more I want to touch you.”
His words, softly spoken made Khushi’s stomach drop somewhere in her shoes. What did he just say? Arnav couldn’t possibly want her! No, he couldn’t desire her at all! Not after all that had happened! He had been cruel to her, he had mocked her, made fun of her; he had told her that she was promiscuous, crazy, comical and absolutely not worth his time’ that her body disgusted him.
And yet, when Khushi looked into his eyes, she could see the fire blazing high, the inferno of want burning for her as he leaned into her more, pressing her against the wall, into the darkness where they were away from all; in hiding. He was pressed so close to her that she could feel his taut muscles down the length of her entire body and Good God- that surely wasn’t!! She gasped as her eyes looked down and then flashed back up at him, her voice a mere whisper, “Let me go.. please.”
“I know I treated you bad just now, downright rotten in fact. But I am apologizing for it. Had I not dragged you away from there, I’d have been tempted to do this again and again right there by the dance floor, in front of all others who were lusting after you, until I was sure you couldn’t remember your own name much less any of them.”
Instant shock held her rigid as both his hands came around to cup her face. She moved her head to one side but he would have none of it. His softly spoken “Khushi” had her turning at him again. She closed her eyes. As his lips touched hers; gently at first and then swooping down again and again, sipping her taste from her lips, Khushi felt herself melting in his arms. No more did she want to wriggle away from him, not this time.
“Khushi…” Her name was a desperate moan as Arnav’s mouth began taking firm possession of hers, the gentle kiss turned into an act of possession. A sensation so incredible that Khushi felt she was floating in the air took hold of her. Her hands grabbed his shoulders for support as her knees buckled with this sensuous onslaught. This was- was- so good. She met his move with her own, her heart beating a tattoo in her chest, blood rushing down south as they both gave in to this incredible, inexplicable need for each other. Khushi felt as if a potent narcotic drug had been injected in her veins and if she didn’t find relief soon, she’d die. Her skin felt so hot, she felt so hot! She wanted to simply eat him up or hold on to him and never let him. She wanted to straddle him right there and let him take her. She loved him —
As though alarm bells had jingled loudly in her ears, she opened her eyes in shock and pushed him away roughly while he was still unbalanced. How could she have fallen in his spell again! She had to get out of here.
He seemed to be dazed and shocked just as she was, although she doubted if he was dealing with the kind of emotional upheaval that she was dealing with.
“I- I- good bye!” her voice was a hoarse whisper and she turned and ran away from him. She didn’t dare look back to see the kind of expression his face may hold.
Khushi could feel herself trembling an hour later even after she reached the safety of other ladies in the women’s parlour and was sitting beside Mallika. Punditji was looking for the good muhurat for the wedding to take place in the next two weeks since NK had to go back to Sydney. While everyone around her was talking, Khushi was in her own thoughts. Oh my goodness gracious everything under the sun. Her lips still tingled and her body was still on fire. She wept inside with rage, frustration and desire. Humiliation burned deep within her along with those other emotions. How could she have done what she did — responded so ardently! How could she have forgotten what he’d accused her of, what he’d thought of her, what he still could readily accuse her of!
Arnav sat with the other men, his mind a million miles away- or maybe simply in the other room where Khushi sat with other women. He had walked back a few minutes after she’d ran, trying to compose himself. His body had been shaking with undisguised, unfulfilled lust as well as disgust for himself. So much for attempting to talk to her, woo her!
He wanted to turn around, forget about the niceties, barge into ladies’ parlour, carry Khushi away somewhere to begin anew. He’d woo her and make her trust him again. But then common sense took hold of him. He picked up a glass of wine from the tray of the waiter passing by and drank it in one gulp. He picked up another and prowled back into the room where other guests were. He had enough time and this time, Khushi was going nowhere. He had her exactly where he wanted her. He knew she desired him and perhaps a part of him hoped that she still loved him, but he wouldn’t go as far as that. Time enough to make her fall in love with him again even if she hated him now. He resolved silently. Khushi Kumari Gupta, you can enjoy your friend’s wedding. It will soon be your turn next.”
Once inside the house, Khushi immediately went in search of her grandmother and Payal. She was shaking from the encounter. Oh how could she have- why did she have to feel this pull towards that hateful man! She will never forgive him. He could say sorry till he was blue in the face and she’d not relent! NEVER!
She found Payal, her grandmother and Mallika all sitting together. They looked up as she went in and Mallika exclaimed first, “Where the hell did you go off to? Everyone wanted to meet you and congratulate you but you just have to go off in your own world! Where the hell have you been and why are you panting?”
Khushi put a hand on her head as dizziness was close by. All three women stood up immediately from their respective places, exclaiming in concern. Mrs Gupta had of coure, already guessed what had happened and knew that sooner or later this stage would have arrived. She’d have preferred later but the youth today was so impatient! Ah these young lovers!
Khushi could feel darkness enveloping her. Payal swore softly under her breath and held her tight. She made her sit down while Mallika ran to get her a glass of water. When she came back, Khushi was still lying on the sofa with her eyes closed. Baffled, Mallika asked Payal, “What’s wrong with her? She was fine all this time and now.. what has happened to her Payal di?”
Payal made Mallika sit down who looked like she’d burst into tears. “It’s nothing. You know how Khushi is, she’d run around and then fall down exhausted. That’s all. Maybe we should just call it a day and take her home. After all, we have to be back here tomorrow for your engagement ceremony.”
Mallika looked somewhat comforted by Payal’s words but Khushi felt like someone was pushing her deeper into the quagmire of hurt. She opened her eyes and exclaimed, “I want to go home now Jiji. Take me home now.” she looked at Mallika and composed her features desperately, “I’ll see you tomorrow morning, okay? Come home.”
Mallika hugged her once and let her go. Mrs. Gupta clucked like mother hen as Payal helped Khushi into the car. Once home Khushi couldn’t wait to go into her room. Mrs. Gupta asked her if she wanted to eat something but Khushi declined. She just wanted to rest and be alone. Payal looked at her worriedly as he climbed up the stairs to go into her room.
“I hope Arnavji knows what he is doing. How could he have just come out like that grandma? He should’ve done it when we were present.”
Mrs Gupta sat down in her favourite chair and picked up her knitting. “No Payal. It is for the best that he met her alone. They need to do this by themselves. Young love needs some privacy. Khushi is very private when it comes to her emotions, my dear. She may not be as mature and sensible yet as you are when it comes to feelings and expressing those feelings but she definitely would feel humiliated if Arnav would meet her in front of us and try to explain or ask for her forgiveness.”
Payal sighed and looked up at Khushi’s room. The door was closed and all was quiet. “Maybe you’re right grandma. Khushi does keep to herself when it comes to her feelings. I just hope she’s alright.”
“Leave her alone and she will be. She’s nothing if not strong, my granddaughter.” Mrs Gupta announced, her hands busy knitting but her mind working toward a plan. No one need know yet how she could help them but help them she would.
Khushi fell on her bed after she’d taken off her evening finery and had a shower. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t remove the feel of Arnav’s hands on her shoulders, her hands, her face, her waist. He was so much a part of her that every time she touched herself in those areas, she could feel his touch. She had cried in the shower and called him names, trying in vain to scrub herself where he’d touch, to remove the feel of his hands but she couldn’t.
How was she going to live the rest of her life is just one meeting with him put her right on the edge of insanity? If such a time came again and she accepted his plea would he leave his judgement on the side and stand by her, supporting her? No, she didn’t think that would be how Arnav Singh Raizada would behave. He would probably call her names again and she would be humiliated again, he would break her heart again if she gave him the chance.
Tears welled up in her eyes again and she angrily wiped them away. Did he even – had she been so wrong when she’d fallen for him? Had she mistaken the lust in his eyes as love? She got up from the bed and went to sit down on the indoor swing by the window and held her head in her hands. She had to be strong; she had to learn to be strong. She couldn’t give in no matter how many times he asked for forgiveness. He didn’t trust her and that, in her book was the basis enough to break all contact with him.
Restlessness seemed to be her companion for tonight. Khushi got up and added a shawl to her attire of silk pyjamas in baby blue before getting out of the house and going towards Sophie’s kennel. It was summer and the air was cooler than normal but Khushi loved the weather in Nainital. She whistled to call Sophie who came racing to be with her mistress. Khushi bent down on one knee and rubbed her ears, “Yes, I know, I know. I didn’t see you today but you know how it was today. Today was for Mallika. Want to go walking with me girl?”
At Sophie’s enthusiastic bark, Khushi smiled and started walking. Sophie ran rings around her, woofing, finding a stick now and then and bringing it for Khushi to throw. It was fun to play with her and after a while, Khushi laughed loudly, “You always want more, don’t you darling.. greedy bitch!” Slowly, Khushi found herself relaxing and coming back to her normal self. Sophie always had a calming effect on her.
“Come then, it’s late and time to go in.” saying this, Khushi led Sophie back in the house.
The jitters that had plagued her last evening returned in full force when Khushi woke up and thought about getting ready to attend Mallika’s engagement. She couldn’t- she won’t be able to face him again, she was sure! He would be there and how could she avoid him when he’d be present in front of her eyes all the time? He would be there, he would be watching her and she- no, she couldn’t do this to herself again.
Still in bed, she called up Mallika’s private line. She knew her friend would be up by now, shouting orders at everyone around. “Hey there pretty girl. How’s things coming along?” Khushi spoke as Mallika picked up the phone.
“Argh! No, no you can’t put that vase here in my room Shruti! I am not as sophisticated as you are. I’m sure to break it. Plus orchids don’t match my mood. I need sunflowers today. Yellow in red and if you can’t do it, to hell with Mum’s instructions, I’ll get up and do it myself. What say?” Mallika spoke to someone, her voice hopeful.
Khushi knew the one who was being cajoled into removing Mrs Negi’s favourite orchids from Mallika’s room- Shruti; Mallika’s younger sister. There was a time when Shruti was the more dominant of the two sisters but tables had turned last season with Shruti failing badly at luring NK away from Mallika because she thought he wasn’t good enough for her sister and both sisters confronting each other. Shruti had finally learnt her lesson and since then on, two sisters behaved quite amicably towards each other.
“If you’d stop instructing her long enough and let the orchids be, auntyji herself would remove them.” Khushi spoke into Mallika’s ear, grinning to herself.
“Khushi, my love!” Mallika’s cheerful greeting came forth. “Are you getting ready to come here? I need your help on so many things I tell you! The engagement dress has arrived and the jewellery is still lying around in one of the cupboards. I don’t remember where. And the make-up girl is about to come in by 11 and I have to be ready by 1:30. I swear to God Khushi, I’m very nervous today! Come soon yaar.”
The grin faded from Khushi’s face. “Mallika, I don’t think I can come. Is it okay if Payal jiji comes and helps you out?”
WHAT!” Mallika’s voice crossed the octave at Khushi’s words. “What do you mean you can’t come? Can’t come right now or can’t come—Khushi don’t tease me!”
Khushi’s voice wobbled. She knew she was letting her friend down but she had to be selfish, she HAD to protect herself from Arnav. She didn’t want to break into pieces again. “Mallilka, honey I wouldn’t tease you on something as serious as this. I mean it. I can’t come to the engagement party. I’ve got to get out of town due to urgent work.”
“I’m coming over.” Mallika simply stated and hung up..bringing full fledged panic into Khushi’s room.
If Mallika came over, there’d be no way she’d let Khushi get away from the engagement. Khushi got up quickly, washed and dressed herself into jeans and a sunny yellow Tee. She had to get out of the house; grandma and Payal could handle Mallika for now. She’d explain later. Adding a sweatshirt over her T-shirt, she ran downstairs to get out but was too late. Mallika was already there, sitting on the sofa with her grandmother, her face red with exertion. She must have driven real fast if she was here in less than 15 minutes! Khushi stopped as she heard her grandmother talk,
“Mallika, there are things about Khushi that are unpredictable. She was sick yesterday and worried about something too. I didn’t think too much on it but now I believe her worries must be related to work.”
“ I don’t care naniji, I will not let her go anywhere today! How can she do this to me naniji.. it’s one of the most important days of my life and my best friend, the only one I’ve had from childhood now tells me she can’t attend my engagement! How unfair is that?” Tears weren’t far away.
Khushi made a move to go forward when she saw Mallika starting to tear up. “Mallika, let me explain. Please darling, you don’t have to upset.”
Mallika whirled around, her eyes full of tears and blazing, You Khushi Kumari Gupta are going to attend my wedding. You get that? I won’t let you go.”
Khushi sighed, “Mallika-“ she tried to explain. Mallika of course, was in no mood to listen. Hysteria was not far behind as she got up.
“You have to come to my engagement party Khushi! I’d never forgive you otherwise. You’re the one who made me and NK confess our love. “Mallika stamped her feet in annoyance and looked at her grandmother. “Naniji, I insist! Please tell her that she’s to come to my engagement party along with the rest of you guys. If she doesn’t I’m not getting engaged. Let NK wait forever!”
Khushi gasped at her friend’s declaration. She’d never thought Mallika would throw such a threat. She went forward, her hands held out, “darling, please! Don’t do this, I’m sorry but-“
“Khushi, I wish to speak to you alone. Mallika, sit here and calm down child. Khushi will attend your engagement party, I promise.” Mrs Gupta spoke quietly but firmly.
“But-“ Khushi tried but had to quiet down with a glare from her grandmother. Mrs Gupta got up and asked Khushi to come along with her. Together, they went into Mrs. Gupta’s room. “Close the door child.” Mrs. Gupta instructed. When Khushi had done that, she patted the side by her sofa. Khushi went and sat down next to her grandmother.
Mrs. Gupta began carefully, keeping her face devoid of any expression, “Khushi, I need an honest answer. Is your decision based on the fact that you ex-fiance is here to attend the engagement?”
Khushi could only gape at her grandmother, with no words coming out her mouth. As if she had spoken her assent, Mrs Gupta continued, “Do you want the world to see Khushi as a weakling? Do you want him to see you as a weakling who backs out of a social event simply because he is around? It is none of my business to know what happened between the two of you and why things stand the way they do but child, I must say I thought you were stronger. You back out of your best friend’s engagement event simply because he is around and you fear he may try talking to you?”
“Grandma- how- you- did he- “Khushi seemed unable to formulate much words, forget asking a question. Grandmother put a hand on her shoulder, “He had called on Payal to let her know that he was in town. He doesn’t you that you’re here Khushi.”
“He does now, grandmother.” Khushi whispered, her throat clogged with tears. At her grandmother’s questioning eyes, she clarified, “I saw him yesterday, he came up to talk to me, said he- he wanted me back.”
“He did? And what did you say child?” Mrs Gupta was outwardly calm as a rock but feared her granddaughter’s reaction inwardly.
“I told him it was impossible for us to get together again. He has said some things that are unforgivable grandmother, I can’t-“
Khushi couldn’t go on as tears rained down her face. Her grandmother nodded sagely and said, “well, if you can’t then you can’t. But does that mean you hide away. I have never taught you to run away from adverse times Khushi. You can’t let your own problems ruin your best friend’s engagement day, can you darling?”
Khushi remained silent, her head down, tears falling. Mrs Gupta squeezed her hand and sighed, “Well, if you really think you can’t face him at a social event where there’d be so many people around you , it’s alright. I’ll try and explain it to Mallika. She may be upset but she’ll come around eventually. Don’t worry child. You go on out to where ever it is you were going.”
Mrs Gupta made to get up after patting Khushi’s hand but Khushi held on. Mrs Gupta sat down again. Khushi put her head in Mrs Gupta’s lap. “I’m scared grandmother. I was hurt badly before. I don’t want to hurt again. I do not – he was – he said he loved me but-“
Mrs Gupta said some choice words under her breath that no woman of her age would utter and then tried to calm her granddaughter. “In life, there are many problems that may crop up and you may feel that it is the end of your life. But it never is. Every attempt that is made to pull you down should make you more determined to get up and move on. You’re a brave one my child. Don’t let anyone pull you down and despair. Get up and face the world like you’ve always done- with smile and spirit. One more thing Khushi- sometimes, people may make mistakes and judge you unfairly. But you may be called equally unfair if you don’t give them their chance of forgiveness. If he wants to talk, let him do so. Give him the chance to explain.”
Khushi looked up, “you really think so? He was cruel to me grandma. Why shouldn’t I be equally cruel to him? He didn’t even look for me when I left! Now that he has found me, he thinks he can take up from where we left off. I don’t- I can’t.”
“Tell him that then child. Tell him it is impossible for you to forgive him so easily for whatever it is that he has done. He was cruel to you, you say. Is it in your nature to be cruel to people you love?” At a startled glance from Khushi, Mrs. Gupta smiled and continued, “I know my child. I know you love him despite all that may have happened between you two. Maybe you should let him know that he will have to earn your forgiveness.”
“And trust grandma?” Khushi asked.
“And trust.” Her grandmother affirmed. “Love is just a word if there is no trust in the relationship. Face him if you have to, if he comes to talk to you and explain this to him. Let the ball fall in his court and wait for his reaction.”
“I don’t know grandma. I’m scared. I have no answers, I am confused. I don’t know if I still love him or not. I don’t know if the hurt I still feel would ever fade away. I don’t even know if I can ever forgive him.” Khushi said. Mrs Gupta laid her hand on Khushi’s head and caressed her hair, “Darling, if you’re scared, you’re not chicken. You’re brave because you are scared and you know it. The thing to do is to face it. Hmm?”
“Khushi stayed quiet for a while, resting her head on her grandmother’s lap and enjoying the love her grandmother showered over her. Then some inner resolve seemed to toughen her. She got up and hugger her grandmother. “Thank you grandmother for being there for me, for not asking me questions and just letting me be.”
“That’s what elders are here for darling. “Mrs Gupta said smiling, her relief plainly there for Khushi to see in that smile. Not that she understood the real reason behind the relief. ‘Now go on out and pacify your friend. Then get ready and we’ll head out to Negi residence. And remember, if you need me, I’m here for you. Have been and always will be. This is your house just as much as it is mine and your refuge from all evils of the world.”
“Oh grandma, I love you! Thank you so much for being there.” Khushi hugged her grandmother, tears filling her eyes again. Both grandmother and granddaughter then wiped each other’s tears and smiled. Slowly they got up and went outside where Mallika was waiting, watching the TV and biting her nails.
As she heard them approaching, she switched the TV off and came forward, “Naniji…”
Khushi quickly came forward and hugged her friend, “I’m sorry for hurting you Mallika, today of all days too! Forgive me?”
Mallika’s eyes narrowed, “ I will if it means you will come to my engagement party and stay glued to me all day long.”
“Done deal!” Khushi smiled widely, making Mallika break into sobs and hugging her. “Thank you Khushi. I was – I didn’t want to face this day without you.”
“Hey, shhh.. it’s alright. Am going to be with you. Am so sorry for putting you through all this today. Now wipe your tears before you get puffy eyes and red nose!”
Khushi quickly hugged her friend tight and further added, “ Let me throw some clothes in a bag and we’ll leave for your place. Grandmother and Payal will follow later.”
Mrs Gupta nodded and hugged Mallika too. “Be happy child. Go on now both of you. We’ll be there soon.”
As the girls went out of the house, Mrs Gupta picked up the phone. It was time for her to talk to Mr Raizada about the next step.
Good read – for a shy guy he certainly speaks blunt. 😛
Chapter – 6
Khushi was not sure what was making her heart beat faster,making her feel dizzy but as soon as she entered Negi House; Mallika’s home, she could feel both these sensations. Now why on earth would she feel anything of the sort in her best friend’s house? She had been coming and going here since she’d been young. Why would it arouse such sensations today? The only one who could- Khushi gasped loudly making Mallika turn around worriedly, “What’s wrong? Did we forget something?”
“No-nothing, nothing at all.” Khushi tried to sound cheerful but her breath hitched in her throat. She ridiculed the thought. Nonsense, she was definitely going to have to do something about this paranoia that had her it its grip! First at the bazaar and now here.. get out of it Khushi!
Once they went into Mallika’s room and changed into Mehandi clothes, Khushi relaxed somewhat but was still on the edge. Her instincts, every now and then whispered his presence to her. But how could that be possible?
Khushi had changed into a beige coloured dress that had pink borders. She thought it gave her a homely, plain, “not worth a second glance” look but she had no idea how pretty and docile he looked in it. She wore minimum make-up, her glasses firmly perched on her nose.
Mallika being the centre of attention wore a royal blue Lehanga in velvet with red zardosi work done in it. “Why don’t you wear your lenses now Khushi and you guys, are your dresses for the sangeet ready?” Mallika asked Khushi and her other friends who were changing as well.
Khushi looked around and saw all of them nodding. She groaned inwardly. She didn’t want to wear lenses. “Can I not dance with my glasses on Mallika?”
“Absolutely not! You promised you will leave your stubbornness aside and do as I say on Sangeet evening!”
Mallika pouted and Khushi hastened to assure her that she would, despite her reluctance. Khushi wore the lenses since it would be difficult to do so after the mehandi was on her hands. It had been quite a while since she’d worn lenses. She felt a little uncomfortable with her glasses gone, as if a part of her happy girl façade had been taken away. They went into the ladies room where Sangeet and mehandi ceremonies will take place. Payal was already sitting next to grandmother, getting mehandi on her hand done.
Khushi remembered how NK and Mallika had met as she sat down beside Mallika while two girls started applying mehandi on Mallika’s hands. NK’s side of the family had already arrived, with his Mom and Dad smiling at every one. NK himself was sulking and had thus decided to stay back in the hotel. Khushi knew her friend well. He would not be able to stay away for long from Mallika, never had been able to since they met.
Khushi had befriended NK while studying for her MBA and NK had come to Nainital with her one summer holiday. That is when Mallika and NK had hit it off and even after NK had left, they had kept in touch. Two months back, NK had come down and gone on one knee, in the presence of several hundred candles to propose Mallika. Khushi remembered the joy on their faces when they had declared their love for each other and their commitment to each other. If only she could find that one man who would love her as much!
Khushi’s face drooped at the thought while a girl took hold of her hand and stared applying mehandi on it. Absent mindedly, Khushi looked at her mehandi and sighed. She couldn’t deny it that she did meet the man who was capable of deep love, only- what was love without trust? Angry at herself that she had thought of him again, she tried to focus on what was being discussed around her. They were all talking about the function that would take place after Mehandi.
“Khushi, which song are you and the girls planning to perform on?” Asked NK’s mother. Khushi liked her a lot. She was kind and gentle and by no means, lacking in sense of humour.
“Mummyji, it’s a song from the movie Chandni. It’s called “main sasuraal nahi jaaungi ( I will not go to the in-laws house)” said Mallika, looking at Khushi.
Khushi smiled back, dragging her mind away from dark thoughts. It was Mallika’s special evening and she was damned if she’d let it be ruined. A sparkle lit her eye, as she replied, “Yes, Auntiji, I know it’s a song for wedding Sangeet but we found it appropriate at this time to tease you guys. Marriage may be a bit too heavy what with us all busy meeting Mallika’s demands.”
Mallika nudged her with her elbow and outraged face while NK’s mother laughed. “Sounds like fun to me. I look forward to watching it. Is Mallika performing as well?”
Khushi chuckled, “She doesn’t want to give the wrong impression by doing it herself so we’re going to do it on her behalf.” Mallika blushed and other women around laughed.
Khushi looked around for her grandmother who seem to be missing and asked Payal, “where’s grandma?”
Payal tried to speak with an air of carelessness but was not sure if she was able to pull it off, “Oh she must have gone to the other room to meet others. There are so many people of her acquaintance, you know. She keeps on flitting around.”
It seemed as if Khushi had accepted her explanation because she nodded and focused on what was being drawn on her hands by the mehandi girl. “Do you want a letter written in it?” Asked the mehandi girl to Khushi.
“NO.” Khushi replied firmly, not giving herself any chance to feel sorry for herself. She had no business thinking about Arnav at this time.
Soon the mehandi session was over and older ladies brought in “dholak” and tambourine. They started singing old folk songs meant for weddings and engagements. Normally both the bride and groom parties teased each other with these songs. Khushi’s song may be filmy but it was of similar nature too. Men had been allowed back into the room now. NK’s mother was dancing with Mallika’s father and the other relatives had also started dancing with each other. At Mallika’s quiet whisper, all girls moved away into the other room to dress for their performance. Payal accompanied all the girls to help them dress and make-up since she was quite a good hand at it.
Khushi came out wearing a green Lehenga with pink dupatta that was tied from one shoulder to the other side of her waist so that it may be easy for her to dance in it. The other girls were similarly attired too in Lehanga, the colours of their choice. Giggling and laughing with the other girls, Khushi came out into the room and stood beside Mallika. It was time.
By the time, the older ladies finished their song and sat down tired but happy, the girls had taken their positions. And then began the dance. Khushi danced gracefully, lip singing the song and giving out perfect, naughty expressions. The song was all about teasing NK’s family- his mother, his father, his sister, his brother-in-law. It talked about how each one of them comes to take her to the in-laws’ abode and how she’d make excuse not to go with them.
The song came to its climax, to the part that spoke about the last message coming from the beloved. Khushi had decided to drag Mallika into the song for this verse since NK had shown up in the middle of the song and was sitting beside his mother, cheering her.
As Khushi moved with the music to drag Mallika and NK into the song, the verse began, “paanchwa sandesa mere piyaji ka aaya, koi bahana na phir yaad aaya…” (the fifth message came from beloved and I couldn’t remember any excuse…) Mallika and NK looked at each other; their gazes shy and loving and spiritedly played their part on the verse while Khushi went into the background with the other girls.
The song was almost done and it said, “nange paanv main daudii chalii jaauungii, maike vaapas main lautakar na aauungii, sainyaa jii se lipat main jaauungii, huun suunii sej sajariyaa sajaauungii, ban ke bistar main haay bichh jaauungii..main sasuraal nahiin “…(I will run to him barefoot, I will not come back to my mother’s house, I will hug my beloved and decorate his life, I will become his bed by laying down for him) Mallika blushed furiously and stumbled on the last line but NK held onto her hand.
When the song was over, Khushi jumped and cheered loudly along with others, hugging them each in turn; her sadness, her worries, her heartaches forgotten. Here was one couple who was so much in love, so committed to each other, it brought tears into Khushi’s eyes. She moved away while the pair basked the glory of praise from everyone.
She wanted to move away for a bit and keep to herself for a few minutes. Going out in the garden will surely help. Thinking this, she moved without thinking and bumped into someone.
Arnav had watched Khushi dance from distance. He grit his teeth when he looked at other guys watching Khushi with lust and admiration. He wanted to tear their eyes out, so angry was he. He admitted to himself feeling jealous, knowing he didn’t want anyone else looking at his Khushi that way. While she had danced, he could feel his body stirring with desire, his heart turning over in his body, jumping with joy at seeing her again, happily dancing. She was simply beautiful!
Her eyes conveyed all kinds of thoughts through their expressions, her hair that had been tied in a braid with a silver thread, her poise, her tiny waist and the tantalising belly button that could be seen when she lifted her hands to dance, her smile; sometimes naughty, sometime mischievous, sometimes downright sinful. Her mouth when she touched her tongue to her lips, as was her habit when she was worried or concentrating hard. He ached to touch her mouth, to taste it again. He wanted to hold her in his arms again, her body moulding to his and feel her melting into them.
He had planned to watch her from a distance and make his move the next day. But one glance at all those guys who seemed to be leering at Khushi, waiting for the dance to be over so that they could ask Khushi out changed his decision. Earlier Khushi’s grandmother had told him that Khushi had been tensed since yesterday and asked him if he could perhaps postpone his plans. He had assured her that he would be careful while talking to Khushi and only if Khushi was willing will he take his plans further.
Of course, there was no way he was going to stop until he claimed her, he knew that but he didn’t think her grandmother needed to know that at this time. He had come with a purpose and he would not leave until his heart was with him again-his Khushi. He would try to be gentle. He would need to control his temper and stay calm. He had never had trouble before when it came to being calm and controlled; only with Khushi did he lose it completely. Khushi had enough power to ignite his temper, had sometime deliberately provoked him even! As to her grandmother telling him, she had been behaving weirdly since yesterday, he knew why. Of course she would! Her heart recognized his heart beating in close proximity to her. No matter how much they fought and declared they hated each other, their hearts still beat as one.
Arnav moved ahead and he saw Khushi trying to get out of the room while a couple of guys moved forward to talk to her. To hell with everything, he had to get there before anyone else!
“Oops! Sorry, I-” The sentence was left unsaid as she stared at the face of one man she had dreaded to see again, her heart had ached to see again. Arnav!
“So we meet again, Miss Khushi Kumari Gupta.” He drawled, steadying her with his hand on her arm.
Khushi went through a brain freeze at this point. Her mind boggled, hardly making any sense as questions emerged in her head. She must certainly be hallucinating! How could he be here? How would he know she was here? How did he know the Negi’s?
While a part of her mind juggled with the questions and their comprehension, a part of her registered that he had lost weight. His jaw looked more defined than ever, his bright amber eyes intense than ever and glittering with emotions that rocked her world once. He was wearing “Brioni”; the sickeningly expensive, custom tailored suit as usual, giving him his “I’m the boss” look that had turned many a girls to mush in Khushi’s opinion. His hair had been cut short to look make him look hot and sexy and he had an evening stubble. Her body heated up and danced its own tune while her mind was still trying to come to grips with his presence.
While she was still trying to formulate questions and come up with plausible explanations, Arnav pulled her out of the room and outside, away from all eyes. He walked briskly down the steps and into the garden. Surely a figment of your imagination couldn’t do that! His touch had seared her arm. It was real enough, hot enough just like when Arnav used to pull her into his arms and kiss her senseless.
“Sit. We need to talk Khushi.” He growled huskily as his eyes devoured her, while he sat by her side, still holding her hand.
Khushi looked up into his face, her chicken brain still computing the fact that he was here. At his words though, she jerked away from him and gasped; the spell broken.
Her breath hitched in her throat. He was here for real and not her imagination! Breathtakingly handsome as ever, Arnav was dangerous when he looked at her like this. Her palms started sweating as heat pooled inside her stomach and lower, heart beating like the flutter of a caged bird. How could he look so mouth watering and how could she still feel like this after everything that had happened?How could she still ache for his arms around her!?
“What are you doing here Mr. Raizada ? And why have you come? Have you not done enough, not said enough?” saying this, Khushi tried to get up.
“ Sit down Khushi! I am not done talking with you yet!” He caught her hand in his again and growled softly between his teeth, his temper already slightly showing.
“I’m not someone you can order around, get it? Let go of my wrist. I am not going to sit around and listen to whatever vile accusations you want to throw at me. Let me go or I’ll scream!”
“ Well then, you might as well scream because I’m not letting you go.” Arnav held her hand in tight grip, his eyes chips of ice. He took a deep breath. He was here to woo her, not frighten her. He had to calm down!
“Look Khushi, I will let your hand go but we really need to talk. You have to listen to me, give me a chance.”
“Let my hand go and we’ll talk.” said Khushi.
The moment he let her hand go, she ran from his side, shouting, “To hell with you Arnav Singh Raizada.”
She didn’t run far though. He caught her by the waist just when she reached the beginning of the steps.
“You really need to learn manners Khushi.” Arnav growled and before she could so much as retaliate, he picked her up like she was a sack of potatoes on his shoulder and dragged her back deeper into the garden, surrounded by trees. She was breathing heavily, struggling and trying to free herself unsuccessfully.
“Let me go damn you! I’m not your property! How dare you pick me up like this, how dare you touch me! Let me go this instant! Why should I give you a chance? Did you give me a chance?” Khushi pummelled him with blows on his back. Not that they seem to be affecting him at all. He put her down and pulled her into his body, his hands quickly holding hers as she tried to hit him.
“Calm down you wild cat! You’ll injure yourself and me both if you keep on doing this.”
“I don’t care! Let me go you beast. Oh!”
In one moment, Arnav arms twisted her arms behind her back, forcing Khushi into his body. Khushi struggled even more, tears forming in her eyes. She would not cry, she would not! She couldn’t let him see she was weak.
“You’re hurting my arms dammit! Let me go!” Khushi wailed as finally tears fell down her cheeks. “Let me go Arnav. Please! I can’t take this anymore!”
Khushi sobbed silently while Arnav looked at her, his rage fading all of a sudden. He let her go and moved away from her while she sobbed in her hands, quietly.
“Why have you come Arnav? What more needs to be said?”
“Khushi.” Arnav felt his voice grow hoarse. Hell, he could never see her crying and this was worse! He had come here to make up and he’d already shouted on her, forced her, hurt her and now she was crying again. He ran his hand through his hair, dishevelling it. “Dammit woman! I just wanted to talk to you. If you’d simply hear me out, I’d not have to force you like this. “
As if he couldn’t bear to hear her sobbing any more, as if he couldn’t bear to stand away any more, he close the distance between them and removed her hands from her face, turning it into his chest. “Khushi.”
While Khushi sobbed on his suit, Arnav breathed in the scent of her hair. Green apples and cinnamon. Her hair always smelled the same, fresh and lively. He pulled her deeper into him, his hand going around her waist, another going through her hair. “Khushi” His voice was a mere croak accompanied with a groan. “For God’s sake, have mercy on me. Stop crying. I hate it when you do that.”
She could hear his heart beating as she lay her head on his chest and cried, beating hands against him and mumbling, “I hate you, hate you.”Suddenly she stilled as his hands moved from her hair onto her back, caressing her. Was she mad? Why was she letting him hold her! She pushed herself away from him, her tears on her cheeks, her eyes blazing, “ You have a hell of a nerve Mr Raizada. You are the sole reason for my tears and my miseries and yet you- Please, just go away. I do not wish to speak to you.”
Arnav didn’t touch her this time. She had kind of hoped he would stop her as she started walking away but he only said, “ Khushi stop.”
Khushi stopped walked but didn’t turn back. He continued, “I know the truth and I know you were innocent. I know now all about how Shyam lured you into that room and tried to molest you.”
Khushi turned around quickly, her eyes shocked and surprised. Arnav continued, his voice filled with guilt “ I found out the truth recently when Shyam was drunk at a party and boasting how he had you in his claws then, how you struggled, how I didn’t believe you and how he got one up on me.”
Khushi shuddered and closed her eyes as the memory surfaced of how close she had come to being raped, by her own cousin too! Had Arnav not interrupted on time, she’d have been raped and killed by that obsessed creep. Another shudder racked her body as Khushi tried to control her panicked breathing. Deep breaths. It didn’t matter any more. She opened them to look at Arnav; her eyes a tale of anguish and then down, “So you know now. Yet you didn’t believe me then.”
Arnav looked as if someone had put a spear through his heart. Oh her eyes! How much had she suffered and he had compounded it all! He was just as responsible for hurting her physically and mentally as Shyam was. No wonder she hated him now. But he couldn’t live with her hate, he just wouldn’t! He had to ask for forgiveness, she had to give it to him.
His eyes tried to show her how sorry he was, how he suffered and lived with his guilt since the last so many months but she refused to look at his face. He turned away from her and spoke quietly,
“ I can only tell you that justice has been served. He is in jail now since he had also embezzled funds from my company. Even when he serves his sentence and comes out, he will not be entertained in any decent society.” His eyes searched her face desperately for some sign of forgiveness, some sign of her mellowing down now that the culprit had been caught and given his due punishment, “ Khushi, I know I didn’t believe you at the time since I had seen the proof with my own eyes, proving otherwise. You must realize how it looked at the time.”
Khushi looked at him, her hurt and despair plain in her eyes.
“Yes, I do now. You believed that– that creep cousin of mine who was your friend and employee rather than the woman you were engaged to; me- the woman who kept on telling you that she was not in the room by her wish but had been forced. You believed only what you saw, not in me.
You proved everyone right; all those who kept on telling me I was a fool to get involved with you- that you had no heart, no conscience, that you were ruthless in your real life as in business. Those who told me that I was naïve to believe you were engaged to me and wanted to marry me because you cared for me even if you didn’t–you couldn’t care, you couldn’t love. You proved them right and you proved silly naive me wrong. But I learnt my lesson.
I know now Mr. Raizada. It hurt horribly at the time; your distrust, your betrayal but I’m alright now. I am over the hurt and am even over you. You needn’t worry, you needn’t lose your sleep over it. I know you are not in the habit of apologizing no matter how big your crime may be. I don’t expect you to apologise just as I know I will not forgive you.”
“Khushi, I am sorry.” The words slipped out of Arnav’s mouth before Khushi could move. She looked shocked, only stared at him when he repeated again, “I’m really really sorry. I should have believed you. Forgive me and come back to me Khushi. I-”
A giant wave of rage enveloped her as she realized what he had just said. “Forgive you Arnav Singh Raizada? For what? For being your-pompous-ass-I-am-always-right-self? I don’t think so! You and I can never be together again. This conversation is over and I have nothing more to say to you.”
“Khushi, stop!” Arnav’s command fell on deaf ears as Khushi kept on walking. Tears had begun again. He wanted her, oh yes he did.. but only to assuage his own guilt, only to make himself feel better. He didn’t really care for her. Well, he could rot in hell for all she cared!
Her feet came to a stop at his softly spoken, “Khushi.” His next words scared her as did the determination in his voice. “Fine. We’ll talk another time. I’m not going to go away so you might as well face it. I’m here to get you back in my life and you will come to me again. I am not letting you go Khushi. I am staying here at Negi house as their guest since they have invited me to the engagement party.”
Khushi looked back and stared at him for a moment. She whispered so softly that he almost missed her words as he spoke to herself, “So you’re not here just for me. I knew it.”
She walked away, wiping her tears with her dupatta while Arnav stood looking at her departing dear back. A part of him was rejoicing. He had seen the proof in her eyes. Her despair told its own story. She still loved him! However,… he sighed. She was not going make this easy for him. He knew he’d have to crawl before he would be able to win her back. A determined glint came in his eyes. Tomorrow was another day. He was ready to grovel, he was ready to crawl- in his own ASR/Arnav style.
“So NK is going to wait in the wings while you pamper yourself here, with all that eeky stuff on your face and get pedicure-manicure?” Khushi asked her childhood friend Mallika in an outraged voice, “Where is your sense of fairness? The guy has travelled thousands of miles and wishes to talk to you for a couple of minutes before the mehandi function. What is wrong with that?”
Mallika looked at her friend with exasperation. Her face pack was surely going to crack if she spoke another word trying to explain to Khushi why she couldn’t meet NK before the engagement tomorrow. She had tried to explain it to her that her astrologer considered it not the right time for her to meet him but would Khushi listen?
She gestured to Khushi to wait for a minute while the pedi-mani ladies finished their job and asked the professional facial expert to remove her face mask. Once that was done, she calmly turned towards Khushi and said, “Babe, I’ve tried to explain it to you again and again but you won’t listen to me. Punditji said it is not the right time for me to meet him. IF I do something bad may happen. I am not willing to take that risk Khushi. Try and understand this please and make him do so too. You know he listens to you!”
“Hmmph.. I hate all this astrological nonsense. What’s the point of keeping two people who love each other apart, even if it for a couple of hours?” Khushi grumbled and then sighed. She would have to accede to her friend’s wishes. Mallika believe in such nonsense and it was her engagement, her life. “Fine, I’ll tell the poor guy, he must wait until tomorrow although I dislike it. He’s my friend too you know. ”
Mallika laughed, “Yeah, and your admirer too my love. He was half loved you when he met me and had it not been for us matching so well and falling in love with each other, he may have waited for you all his life. According to him, you’re an innocent angel who has come down to Earth and can do no wrong and no matter how hard I try to tell him that is not the case; you’re a nutcase, he won’t listen to me.”
The smile that had found its place on Khushi’s face got wiped off immediately. “Don’t! I am very fond of NK and I wouldn’t wish for you to talk about him like that. He’s my friend and what’s more he’s like a brother to me.”
Mallika squeezed Khushi’s shoulder and came up to hug her, “I know darling. I know. He’s so good at heart and so kind.. I sometimes think I have dreamed him up. “
Khushi brightened at this, “Nope. He’s real and he’s here for you. You’ll be engaged tomorrow and then soon married and then… !”
Mallika blushed and swatted Khushi gently, “chal hat.. pagal! Now if only we could find another like NK that you would fall in love with.”
Khushi moved away from Mallika so as to hide her face full of anguish, “You could give me 100 such NKs and I still wouldn’t be the right girl for him. Until I don’t have your cheerful and kind disposition, I can’t have such a man as NK. “
“What kind of man would you like then?” Asked Mallika, coming to stand next to her friend, perplexed by her tone. “Did you already find one and not tell me about him? Did you Khushi?”
“What’s to tell? Not all stories are bestowed with happy endings and we must reconcile with this fact of life.” Khushi said and then brushed the unhappy thoughts off her mind. She couldn’t break down ever!
She smiled and said “We are not going to talk about me now Mallika. We are simply going to focus on you. And my watch tells me if we don’t go back home soon, we’re going to be reprimanded big time before the Mehandi function!”
“Khushi, are you- you’re not happy. I know that. Won’t you tell me what happened? I’m your best friend.” Mallika put a hand on Khushi’s shoulder, turning Khushi towards to face her. Khushi smiled and said, “You’re my best friend, yes. And there’s nothing to tell. I mistook a devil incarnate for my Prince Charming and my heart got bruised, is all. Trust me, I’m fine!” and saying this, she moved away from her childhood friend again and said, “Look, it’s time we left. Forget all this and let’s just go. I want us to have loads of fun today. “
Back at Gupta Residence, Mrs Gupta was talking to Payal, “I knew he would sooner or later come forward to claim her attention but I didn’t think he’d act upon it so soon. He wishes to see her today, at Mallika’s mehandi function?”
Payal had spoken to her grandmother about the phone call last evening and her conversation with Arnav. Payal sighed, “Arnav ji is not a very patient man grandma, especially where Khushi is concerned. The day she left Delhi without telling anyone of her whereabouts was the day I shudder to think about. I’ve never seen a man so furious grandma, ever! For some days I thought, Arnavji was going to throttle Khushi if he found her. He stayed in that murderous rage for many days and then his black moods took over the entire household. Everyone, even Dadiji was so scared to talk to him lest he went into one of his anger fits and walked out of the house again. He worked himself to the ground, and would snap everyone’s heads off at the merest mention of something that reminded him of Khushi.
He left for London soon and after a few weeks, came back and then went away again. He was like a man on mission. Akash said he’d heard him making some enquiries about Khushi but Akash also didn’t dare ask his Bhai what was going on. He wouldn’t speak to anyone about Khushi, especially not to Mum and Dad. The last time he was in Delhi and had gone away again in a day, he looked like he had been stabbed to death. We had tried finding out what the matter was but he just left. Akash thought maybe it had something to do with a big deal that had gone sour. But then, Anjali di called after a few days, demanding to know what had happened. She said she’d never seen Arnavji like this in her lifetime, not even when their mother had run away with their father’s friend and their father committed suicide with heartbreak. He was devastated by something he had found out, she said.”
Mrs Gupta looked sad, “Such a tragedy that two people who are too alike in nature have met and perhaps fallen for each other. I know there is a strong bond between Khushi and him though neither would admit it openly. I could feel that when we met him yesterday. At my age, one knows these things. I wish Khushi would confide in someone! She keeps everything to herself more than ever now, cries in the night and simply looks lost at times. Yesterday when I met Arnav, I felt the same emotions running high in him as I feel in Khushi. He’s determined to talk to her and if that day is today, so be it! We’ll take it as it comes. Khushi must face him and get it over with if that’s what is going to happen. She can’t move on until they both have unfinished business with each other. Children today…” Mrs Gupta looked as if she was Atlas on whose shoulders lay the burden of this world for a moment. Then she straightened her shoulders and said, “Let’s go Payal. We’re getting late for Mallika’s mehandi function.”
At Mallika’s house, the party had begun. Guests had arrived from all corners of the world. Big wigs, executives from various companies that Mallika’s father had dealings with had come in to attend the engagement party. One could also see local politicians mingling around. Arnav was talking to one such local politician but his eyes kept on roaming around in the house, looking for that particular girl who had brought him here — Khushi.
He heard laughter from the other part of the house and knew the mehandi function had started and the womenfolk of the family were having fun while they waited for the intended bride and her friends to return from the spa. While he was actively searching for Khushi, he didn’t intend to come in contact with her until the time was right. He will not meet her today- oh no. He only wished to look at her, take in his fill of her today while she enjoyed herself. The journey to claiming her as his will begin tomorrow.
He heard the commotion at the end of the party hall and knew she must have arrived. Only his Khushi could make such a din and encourage others to do it too. A slight smile touched his lips as he imagined her face. She would be laughing and teasing her friend, dancing her hands around and talking animatedly with her eyes.
Thinking about how her eyes could talk took him back to the day after they had been introduced and he had messed up her mind.
Khushi had been walking around in the garden with Akash and another friend of hers when he saw her again the next day. He had just come back from work- a hectic day that had been filled with meetings with politicians and bureaucrats not to mention some other smart ass businessmen who had a carrot stuck up their- never mind that! He was tired to the bone and wished to get out of his dark blue suit that he had worn all day long. A long hot shower and some comfortable clothes was what he craved. Added bonus would be hot dinner and a book to read in peace.
Unwittingly his eyes strayed towards the trio walking in the garden, his eyes staying glued on Khushi. She wore a cream coloured sweater with and her feet were stuffed into shoes. She had a focused, concentrated look on her face and she was listening to whatever Akash’s friend was saying very intently, her glorious hair open and blowing in the wind. At one point, it looked as if she would argue but she kept quiet and looked as if she was mulling things over in her mind. She had a frown on her forehead and she kept on biting her lower lip as if forcing herself to stop speaking out her thoughts. He felt a tremor run through his body when he looked at her pale pink lips, especially the bottom lip that she was worrying. He wished to go there and put his mark on those lips. A hunger was taking hold of his senses; hunger to taste those lips.
Hastily he snapped out of those thoughts. He didn’t need this complication in his life. For heaven’s sake man, you’ve just met the girl and you didn’t even like her so much! – He told himself. He already had a girl who was willing to share his bed and be at his beck and call back home in London. Women were meant for pleasure and not to be trusted. What fascination could such a girl as this Khushi Kumari Gupta hold for a big tycoon like himself? He delivered this lecture to himself and walked off.
Once he had showered, he got into a horizontally striped sweater and put on his Gucci loafers. They were quite comfortable to walk around in, in his room. Smiling, he dialled the number to his Di in London. He came and stood by the window in his room talking on his Bluetooth with his Di. The window overlooked the garden. Khushi, Akash and the other unnamed friend were still walking in the garden and Khushi was saying something, the expression on her face earnest. She seemed to be pressing her point home as her companions looked dazed by her and kept on nodding.
And then she smiled. Arnav found he couldn’t take his eyes off her face, he could barely respond to his Di. Her smile had him captured. He hung up, promising his Di to call later while his eyes never strayed from Khushi’s face. Her smile held all the joy of the world, as if she had found a treasure. She whooped with joy, laughing and clapping her hands, making those two dumb fools standing next to her grin while an unwilling smile graced Arnav’s face slowly. She looked really pretty when she smiled.
While the two guys started talking to each other, turning their backs on Khushi as she searched for something in her book, Arnav found himself mesmerized by her. She stood directly under the lamp light, scribbling something in her book, the tip of her tongue caught between her lips that were still curved in a smile. Arnav felt his body stir and loins tighten as he saw her; her face glowing and her tongue coming out to be caught between her lips. What the hell was wrong with him! How could he be so affected by this chit of a girl!
He was about to turn away from the window when he felt her gaze on him. As if Khushi felt his gaze, she suddenly looked up from her book and straight at him. The smile on her face disappeared abruptly. She looked at him; confused as if asking him why he stood there looking at her as he stared back, his desire in plain view for her to see, not knowing if she understood how at this moment he wanted to touch her, taste her. A slow flush started on her face going down to her neck. She looked away and up again. Unspoken questions were asked by her with those beautiful eyes, questions to which he had no answers. She looked down as if feeling awkward and quickly walked to the other two guys. Something was discussed and she smiled at them. Turning away, she moved towards the exit of the house gate. Just before she turned out of the gate, she looked back and up at him. He was still standing at the window, looking at her. They shared one last gaze and she left.
Someone cackled next to him and he came back to his surroundings. Outwardly calm, he felt his heart thud loudly. He knew she was in the hall.. she had come. Only in her presence did he heart beat so fast, so loud that he felt the entire room would hear it.
His Khushi may be out of spirits when alone, as her grandmother had informed him yesterday, but she also possessed fighting spirit- like he did. She would never let anyone know what she felt. She was so much like him in such aspects. That had been his undoing. If only she spoken to him and told him the truth- he shook his head to clear the fog of despair- no matter. It will all be solved soon- once he caught up with her. He looked on as she came into view.
Chapter – 4
It was Payal with grandmother following her at a slow pace, helped by Lalita.
“What is wrong? Why do you look so pale Khushi? Have you been crying?” Payal’s concerned voice broke through her muddled thoughts. Bravely Khushi tried to calm herself and reply back. Her voice was but a hoarse whisper when she tried to speak. She coughed as she tried to get her vocal cords working.
“Uh.. I wasn’t. I wasn’t crying. I was just- I was watching Comedy Central and laughing, is all. I wasn’t– I’ll be right back!”
Giving this incoherent explanation, Khushi moved away from Payal and her grandmother. Those two saw too much most of the times. She didn’t want anyone’s sympathy. She didn’t want anyone to know what she had gone through. As she was climbing the stairs, the phone rang again. This time it was Payal who picked it up. Khushi stood still as she heard Payal talking.
“Hello? Oh! uh..hello Arnavji. Uh ah.” And then she listened to whatever was being said before saying, “I don’t think it’s a good idea Arnavji. But I’ll ask my grandmother and find out if it’s possible.” Some more listening and then, “Fine. If you really want to do that, I can’t stop you.” Payal nodded her head and concluded, “Okay then, I shall talk to you later. Bye bye.”
Khushi watched her sister closing her eyes, take a deep breath, wipe her brow and calm herself. Fear was a tangent thing lodged in her throat as Khushi made her way downstairs again. Feigning nonchalance, she asked, “Whom were you talking to Payal?”
Payal started as she saw Khushi next to her and went pale. “Uhh..Khushi. That was -that was – no one in particular. We should go in for dinner now. Grandmother will be waiting. I’ll be right back after changing my clothes.” She gave Khushi a distracted albeit loving smile as she walked away.
If Payal didn’t think whatever Arnav said was worth it, if Payal didn’t think it concerned her– that meant, he was not there because he knew she was here. An acute sense of relief showed upon her face that was replaced immediately with disappointment that filled her heart, knowing he didn’t care enough. So what if she had been scared at the thought of meeting him. Her heart still- ENOUGH! Didn’t she already know what he thought of her? Had the humiliation not been enough? Why did her stupid heart keep hoping he would see sense, that he would have finally unearthed the truth?
Khushi shook her head to chase Arnav’s thoughts away and went into the dining room. Grandmother sat alone, deep in thought.
“What are you thinking about grandma? What’s for dinner?”
Her Grandmother, Naina Gupta looked up frowning, annoyed at her thoughts being interrupted. A smile broke out her face when she looked at Khushi. “Aahh my dear! There you are. Were you in your room all this while?”
“Yes grandma. I and Sophie took a long walk and then were exhausted. Where did you guys go off to?”
Her grandmother, normally a person not to avoid eyes was now avoiding Khushi’s eyes. Khushi was well aware that something was being hidden from her as Mrs. Gupta said, “I had to meet someone important for the estate’s welfare. I must ensure that it is passed on to you in pristine order when I die. Who knows what may happen next?”
So, it’s all about this estate and she doesn’t want me to know anything about it yet. Maybe she met the family lawyer today, thought Khushi as she admonished her grandmother, “Oh shush! I do not want to listen to this! I don’t need the estate. You’re not dying tomorrow and in fact you’re going to be around for a long time.”
Mrs. Gupta smiled at her eldest daughter’s only child. Though Garima; her younger daughter and her husband had adopted Khushi when she was a few weeks old, she sometimes showed the same streak that was her mother’s trademark. Khushi of course had no idea that she was not Garima’s real daughter. There had been no need to tell her after all. It was better that the past that involved her mother never come out in the open.
The dinner commenced when Payal came down, smiling. She conveyed Akash’s regards to grandmother and looked at Khushi uneasily. At Khushi’s raised eyebrows, she hesitantly put forward, “I hate hiding things from Akash. Since you’ve asked me to tell no one about you, it feels like I am lying to him.”
“Why would you feel that especially when Jeejaji would not ask about me? He- never mind all that now. Let’s commence with dinner.”
As dinner went on, Mrs. Gupta chatted now and then with Payal while Khushi remained quiet. They exchanged a look and at a nod from Payal, Mrs. Gupta addressed Khushi, “By the way, Mallika is home and had been here to see you this afternoon when you were away. They’ve finally set the date for engagement.”
“Oh wow.” A genuine smile covered Khushi’s face, all her previous sadness forgotten. “Mallika and NK will be finally together. Poor NK has been calling regularly from Sydney asking me to coax her parents to set the date soon. I’m so happy for her! When and where is the engagement?”
Payal looked straight at Khushi and said, “It is the day after tomorrow and she’s invited us to the Mehandi tomorrow morning.”
“Lovely! It will be such fun! I am so happy for them.” Chortled Khushi.
Night time saw Khushi roaming about in the house garden with Sophie, a shawl on her shoulders. Troubled looks furrowed her brow and she kept on biting her lips and mumbling to herself. She couldn’t get past the feeling that it had been Arnav in the market. Why had he called Payal here if he didn’t know of her whereabouts? He’d never bothered She’d know his voice; she’d feel his presence anywhere in the world. She still remembered the first encounter which had set them against each other.
He held out his hand, “ Arnav Singh Raizada, main wahi hoon jiske bare main tum abhi baat kar rahi thi.”
At this gesture, Khushi who had been standing with her head low and blushing looked up with a glint of battle in her eyes. “I’m Khushi Kumari Gupta. And if the cap fits……”
“Looks like it doesn’t. Bina jaane, bina pehchaane kisi ke liye kuch bhi bolna nadano ki aadat hoti hain. Lagta hain tumhare gharwale yeh seekhana bhool gaye hain.”
While Payal and Akash gasped at this attack, Khushi was enraged, “Humare gharwale chaahe jo seekhana bhool gaye ho, tehzeeb toh bilkul nahi bhule. Lagta hain aapke Angrezi ghar main koi hain nahi tehzeeb kise kehte hain ye batane wala. Jaane se pehle humse se seekh ke jaana.”
It didn’t look like Arnav was used to anyone back answering him nor did he look impressed at her comeback retort. Khushi’s reply only seemed to anger him more. He was about to speak when Akash and Payal intervened almost at the same time.
“WHAT?” Arnav and Khushi turned around to look at Payal and Akash, both equally irritated at being disturbed. This was a battle damnit! Where do you get off disturbing someone who’s fighting!
Khushi glared at Payal and Akash and then looked back at Arnav to find similar expression of annoyance on his face. It was a second before she realized they were standing close together- too close. She could almost feel his breath flowing atop her head. Sudden uneasiness grabbed her at this closeness and she moved away a bit, the battle light still not completely extinguished from her eyes. She could see that he shared her sentiments. Good then!
Arnav looked at Khushi as if she annoyed him beyond reason for a second. Those amber eyes that could drown you in its deep pools seem to be spitting fire. In another second however, an indifferent smile replaced this look and he said, “Looks like you’ve been saved. Go home little girl and next time, before you open your mouth to talk about me, think before you speak.”
Saying this, he was about to turn away from her and leave when he caught her, “Get lost scoundrel. As if I’d want to speak with you or about you ever again!” He turned around so swiftly and came to her; she gasped and took a step back. Fatal move since the grass was a bit slippery as it had been recently watered. She slipped. The next she knew she was lying flat on her back on the grass and Arnav was standing above her with no expression on his face.
“Khushi! Are you alright?” Payal came rushing towards her and helped her stand up.
“I’m fine Jiji. You’d have thought people from England would have the decency to help a lady who’s about to fall but then- decency is an etiquette that is hard pressed to come by from a- a – cad.”
Arnav raised an eyebrow and pondered on her statement with interest.
“A cad? I must admit I haven’t heard word that since my sister stopped reading stupid romance books. Understand this Miss Khushi Kumari Gupta. When ladies fall, gentlemen help. With your bitchy manners, you’re most certainly no lady. I’ve heard about how Indian girls are always on a lookout to ensnare an NRI in their clutches. Keep your dirty paws away from me.”
Saying this with an expression of distaste on his face, he looked at her once more as if challenging her to reply back. Khushi was too shocked to say anything for a moment. Who was this guy think he was! His ego was astounding!
Arnav walked off, ignoring the outpourings that began from Khushi as he started moving while Payal tried to shush her and open-mouthed stare from Akash who’d never seen his Bhai so rude ever before. Just before he entered the house, he looked back and Khushi and winked, making her jaw drop open.
“Why you.. !!! ” Khushi went and then burst into peals of laughter. Akash and Payal looked at her as if she’d gone crazy. Maybe she had ‘cos that had been the beginning of a fight-argue–make up-laugh-hate-love relationship.
“Khushi! Andar aa jaao! It’s too late in the night and you have to be up early tomorrow to go to Mallika’s mehandi function!”
Khushi was brought back from her memories of Arnav by Payal. Who knew at the time that the guy who had said those words would one day come close to her, use her, break her heart and prove how diligently he believed in what he had said that first time. Khushi went upstairs, holding tears in her eyes that would be shed as usual on her pillow in the night.
Payal saw Khushi going up to her room and sighed. Tomorrow was a big day. Little did Khushi know what or rather who awaited her at Mallika’s Mehandi function…. Payal sent a prayer up to Devi Maiyaa who had been Khushi’s best friend and confidante right from her birth, “Devi Maiyaa, stay with Khushi tomorrow so that she may be able to face what awaits her.”
Once she reached the house, Khushi ran upstairs to her room, locked her door and threw herself on the bed, hugging the pillow and chanting, “He’s not here. He’s not here. He had said he doesn’t care for me. I don’t feel anything for him. I hate him after what he’s done to me. He’s not here. He’s not here.”
How long she sat there calming herself with her pep talk, she did not know. It was only when darkness surrounded her that she realized it was late evening. Regaining her senses, she got up and went to the bathroom. After splashing a lot of water on her face, she got dressed for dinner. She had missed tea and she was sure that grandmother and Payal must be wondering where she was.
When she came down, all was quiet. Was there no one in the house then? Where was everyone? She went into the kitchen and helped herself to a plate full of jalebis. Coming out, she called out loud, “Grandma, Payal, Lalita, what’s up with everyone?”
On the dining table was a note. She recognized the hand writing. The note was written by Payal. “Sankadevi, you know how to worry us, don’t you!!! Lalita mentioned that you may have gone to get veggies from the market while taking Sophie for a walk. Before leaving, we saw Sophie in her cosy kennel so am assuming you’re in your room, napping. We’ve gone out for a bit and shall be back soon. Do not start the dinner without us. We shall be home soon! Help yourself to some jalebis if you want.” Payal
Khushi read the note and sighed while a soft smile played around her mouth. Yeah, so they’d leave her all alone and go to- a frown touched her brow. Where would have they gone to exactly? She shrugged her shoulders after a moment, relaxing. They must have surely gone to one of grandma’s friends. That old lady could never sit still for sure! Khushi grinned at the thought while she munched on the jalebis and switched on the TV and earned some chuckles while watching Comedy Central.
The phone rang down the living room hall. Khushi got up, picked it and absent-mindedly said “Gupta residence.”
There was a pause at the other end and then gently but firmly the voice said, “May I talk to Payal please?”
Khushi dropped her plate of jalebis as she heard the voice. Shock had her voice frozen.
“Hello? Can you hear me? May I speak to Mrs. Payal Raizada please?” A pause, “This is Arnav Singh Raizada calling.”
Khushi’s vocal cords refused to cooperate as her fears were confirmed. Arnav was calling for Payal here. “He knows!” Her mind screamed with panic while her heart rate went soaring high in the sky. She tried to speak but it was impossible.
“Hello? Hello? Is anyone there at the other end Goddamnit! Speak up!” Arnav’s voice came through loud and clear, annoyed at this non-response.
Khushi could take it no more. She hung up the phone as tears gathered in her eyes. How could fate be so cruel! Why would he call here! Why would he do this to her! Had he not done enough? Had it not been enough that she had left every one she loved, when she had to leave him for his sake!
“I do not want a woman who thinks it is fair to play the field, that I will allow her to sleep with another while I’m away. Had you played your cards right, I might have married you since I lust after your delicious body but now I know I don’t need to. I can have you without tying myself to you. If he wants you, he can have you AFTER I do.”
Khushi shuddered as she remembered the last meeting with Arnav. She still saw him when she closed her eyes and thought about him. His eyes had shone with disgust and anger, his body posture defining his revulsion; as if he couldn’t bear to share the same space, breathe the same air as she did. The way he had caught hold of her arms, bruising her. Cruelty that had dripped down his tongue and those lips that – it was all etched in her memory- his words, his anger, his hatred and what happened after…… NO! She will not think about it, never ever again! Get a grip Khushi, deep breaths!
The doorbell rang before Khushi could gather her wits. Numb from this encounter, she went to open the door.
Chapter – 2
Grandma sighed and looked at Payal, “It has been about seven months now since she’s come here. She left you all to stay with me in this quiet part of the world but she finds no peace. She smiles and laughs with everyone but I can’t be fooled. She tries hard to not let it show but sometimes, it just comes out. She has not forgotten that guy Arnav. She is still hurting.”
Payal’s face went from smiling to gloomy. “Arnav has been quite busy lately and in off mood according to Akash. Dadiji has been very concerned about him as well. As such, he’s our cousin and stays in England most of the days with his sister but these days he travels frequently to Delhi for his new project. It was during one of those early visits when Arnav and Khushi had met.” Payal remembered how Khushi had described Arnav after their first meeting.
Payal Gupta and Khushi Gupta were the daughters of a respectable businessman. They lived in the posh Chanakyapuri area of Delhi and were neighbours with Mahinder Singh Raizada and his family. The Raizadas were known to be very affluent and influential in business as well as in politics. Payal and Akash had been school classmates while Khushi was a two years younger to them. After graduation, Akash had left to go the U.K to study further while Payal had gone to Shantiniketan to study Arts. Khushi being smarter had gone ahead and finished her M.B.A. in marketing. Public speaking was her forte. She was witty, smart, outgoing, fun-loving and could chatter nineteen to a dozen. She’d always boasted that she could even turn the Grinch into smiling Santa.
Payal thought about the first time Arnav and Khushi had met. Arnav was Akash’s cousin and had come down to Delhi from the U.K. for the first time since he had some business to deal with. According to Akash, he was admirable since he’d independently made his first million before he turned 30. Akash was in awe of him and talked of him constantly before his arrival. So much so that Khushi had finally declared,
“He must be stuck up then. Those who are money minded are normally pricks with a brick stuck up in the rear. Tell me Akash, this cousin of yours- is he one of those rich, spoilt, Angrez kids who can’t speak Hindi worth knowing and think they’re too high above us? ” She’s been smirking when a voice interrupted, “I assume you’re talking about me.”
Khushi turned around, a shade of beet red. Akash stuttered, “Bhai.. uh.. Welcome! I didn’t realize you’d already arrived! When did ..”
He was tall and well built. The evening light in the background encircled him, giving him a dangerous red halo. As he moved, his walk was lithe as panther’s or was it tiger eyes? His eyes, as he came nearer shown with light and anger. Amber eyes; yes, he had tiger eyes. Brown hair, amber eyes and golden skin along with manly looks were a deadly combination when it came to slaying girls and it looked as if he was well aware of it.
The man didn’t take his eyes off Khushi’s face while he spoke, “I came in about an hour ago. Uncleji picked me up from the airport. I came out looking for you since uncleji wanted to sit down together.”
Akash stammered while he tried to introduce some normality into the situation, “ Ah.. ww-we were just talking and I was telling them about y-you. Payal, this is my cousin from England, Arnav. Arnav, these are our neighbours’ daughters- Payal and Khushi.”
Arnav smiled at Payal and left her dazed with that smile while he moved up to where Khushi was standing. He held out his hand, “ Arnav Singh Raizada, main wahi hoon jiske baare tum baat kar rahi thi abhi.”
At this gesture, Khushi who had been standing with her head low and blushing looked up with a glint of battle in her eyes. “I’m Khushi Kumari Gupta. And if the cap fits……” *flashback ends*
Payal came back to the present and continued, “The worst part is, when he comes to Delhi on business, he never asks about her! Mum and Dad live next door so if they’re present when he arrives, he politely greets them and goes into the guest room. He’s never said a word of what happened between them and she’s too proud to tell anyone she’s been hurt by whatever happened between them.”
Grandmother clucked her tongue and frowned, “You rarely do, when you love someone very deeply and are hurt. Love can only be hidden by a giant ego that protrudes out to show to the world that you’re unshakeable. I may be old and may follow traditions but I’m not foolish. I know how the world today works. Though she won’t say anything, I know it went way beyond attraction. I may have not met him but I wish I could. What kind of fool lets a gem like my granddaughter slip out of his hands? Damn fool boy!”
Khushi in the meanwhile was wandering about in the rain. She didn’t mind it; in fact she felt it cleansed her. She had always loved the rains and now even more so when she knew that it was the only way she could hide her tears. Sophie didn’t mind the rain either since it gave her an opportunity to run around and chase whatever object was flying in the air.
By the time they reached the bridge near Tallital, it had stopped raining. The sun was slowly trying to make its way out. It was June and the sun would stay around a bit longer in this month so she could roam about a little further before she went to the market to buy vegetables on Lalita’s list.
She went to the post office and got some postage stamps. She always did when she was upset and wished to write to her friend in London. Once that was done, she moved towards the subzi-mandi (the vegetable market) and started buying the vegetables. Bhindi, Aaloo, Gobhi, Palak, Methi and the other vegetables on her list were one by one added to the basket that she always carried around with her while she chatted with the subzi-wallah. Sophie, she could see was getting restless.
“Sophie! Do stay still. I have yet to buy some more. If you behave I’ll buy you a bone later.” Sophie wagged her tail and stood on her legs, as if to say, “alright, as long as I get that bone.”
The subzi-wallah smiled at Khushi and continued weighing the rest of the vegetables, “That’s one smart dog you’ve got there Khushi, taking after her mistress.”
Khushi laughed at that. “Yeah, grandmother is one smart woman. Now me, I’m practical.” She thought to herself while paying the subzi-wallah, “And practicality dictates that I buy myself a bottle of water from the nearby shop while I get Sophie’s bone.”
“A bottle of water please.”
Khushi froze as she heard the voice. It can’t be! ARNAV! Her heartbeats went galloping and her face turned pale. She put a hand to her heart and tried to calm down. “Calm down Khushi. He can’t be here. How could he be here? He had said he’d never cared, he had said- he’d never come back. You’re just imagining his voice. Get a grip.”
While she was trying to calm herself down, the voice asked, “How much?”
She didn’t wait to hear anything else. Panic grabbed her entire being as she rushed off to run away from there as fast as her legs to take her.
While she ran away causing the subzi-wallah and some others to look at her in astonishment, Arnav stood nearby collecting his bottle of water and thinking to himself, “Running is not going to help this time Khushi. The time has come to pay for what you’ve done to me. The time has come.”
Chapter 3 Precap:
“You have to come to my engagement party Khushi! I’d never forgive you otherwise. You’re the one who made me and NK confess our love. “Mallika stomped off Khushi’s room in annoyance and went to grandmother’s room. “Naniji, I insist! Please tell her that she’s to come to my engagement party along with the rest of you guys. If she doesn’t I’m not getting engaged. Let NK wait forever!”
*Chapter 2- PRECAP: Arnav’s entry and flashbacks begin. *
Grandma sighed and looked at Payal, “It has been about seven months now since she’s come here. She left you all to stay with me in this quiet part of the world but she finds no peace. She smiles and laughs with everyone but I can’t be fooled. She tries hard to not let it show but sometimes, it just comes out. She has not forgotten that guy Arnav. She is still hurting.”