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!”