Chapter – 2
*EARLIER THAT DAY*
Khushi opened the old box she had kept hidden up in the attic for so many years and not looked at it. Much against her wish, tears slid down her cheeks. She brushed them away, annoyed with herself for being such an emotional person. She sat down on the stool kept close by and took out her wedding dress, moving her hand over it lovingly. It had been such a joyous occasion despite all the hiccups. She held the wedding dress in her lap and picked up the wedding album covered nicely with a cling film and removed the film carefully. She wasn’t sure how many minutes she had been sitting there for, crying silently while she looked at the pictures in her wedding album. How quickly had things moved from happy time to sorrowful, she thought.
It was five years today since she had left Arnav Singh Raizada, her husband. Not that she had left him because she didn’t love him. On the contrary, she had left him because circumstances had forced her hand to do so. She had not known then that she would see him every day despite having left the city where he resided. She would have moved away to a different continent but it had not been possible to migrate despite all the help she had had on hand.
It was about two months after Khushi had left Arnav, his house and all her loved ones that she had found out she was pregnant. Having left no choice but to endure the pain all alone, she had moved to Allahabad, a city about 115 miles away from her beloved Lucknow where her Amma Babuji resided.
No one would think of her moving to a city where she didn’t know anyone and by no one she meant her family and Arnav. In their eyes as well as Arnav’s she was gone forever. It was in Allahabad that she had given birth to her sons, with none of her family around for support. Some kind friends she’d made at the beginning stayed with her until she came back home from the hospital with her sons, drained physically and mentally. She had given birth to dizygotic or fraternal twins.
Khushi being a religious person had gone to a priest when the time was right, got their horoscope made, done the needed puja to thank Devi Maiyya and pray for the safety, health and long life of her sons and had their names kept- Aarush for the elder one and Ayush for the younger one.
As they grew older the ache in Khushi’s heart over Arnav intensified. There were too many times when she was reminded of Arnav- times when he got annoyed, when he got hurt, when he was happy and especially when he showed care for his loved ones. They were so much like him! Both of them had similar polite manners and the same charm; only Ayush, the younger one was a little impulsive like Khushi at times. Most days he followed his elder brother around and let him happily boss over.
She wiped her tears away with the end of her dupatta; determined not to cry anymore. Arnav must have moved on with his life like she had planned he would and she-she needed to move on too. Not that she hadn’t tried to do so. But this was no big city and where could she move on to with two boys in tow?
She had been fortunate in Allahabad since when she arrived, she had found a place to live on rent for cheap. Not only that, her land lady; an old woman who was declared cranky by the entire neighbourhood had stood by her strongly when she had given birth to her sons and given her an occupation. She had been the wife of a sweetmeat maker and she had been delighted to find that Khushi was sweetmeat maker’s daughter.
Once Khushi had proved she could make mouth-watering sweets; especially Jalebis, she had been given the responsibility of running the shop. When the old lady died a year back, Khushi had come into possession of the shop as per her will, with no living family present in the old lady’s life. Since then Khushi had made a great success of it. Allahabad knew where to go when they wanted delicious Jalebis and other sweets on festivals.
She thanked her ever present Devi Maiyya for all the good that had been bestowed upon her, muttered a prayer for Arnav and wiped the last of her tears. It was time to go down and get to work.
*A FEW HOURS LATER*
Khushi closed the door of her house as they all went for a walk in the park with their dog Sandy. The kids were allowed to walk Sandy and hold his leash as long as they both held each of Khushi’s hands. And that was how Arnav first saw them together.