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A Fake Engagement – A Real Wedding CHAPTER 10

Chapter 10

a fake engagement- a real wedding

a fake engagement- a real wedding

” Why is it that every time I try to do something nice for you, it backfires?” Anjali asked her brother, thoroughly put out by his attitude that evening.

Arnav looked at his sister, amusement plain on his face. His sister’s tactics were not unknown to him but to have invited La to be his date for her Mehandi evening without even asking him stretched things a bit far. And he was quite sure that she had no idea what a can of worms she had opened up by inviting Laavanya to India in the first place. He shrugged and said,

“Who knows ? Maybe you should stop thinking you’re being nice to me by giving me unplanned surprises. Unlike you my darling sister,  I don’t like them.”

He had been surprised to see La this morning, when she had suddenly come up to his office and announced herself. Politeness and long ingrained teaching of never leaving a friend in need alone had urged him to take her up on her offer of showing him around the city. He had cancelled his appointments for the rest of the day and gone out with her, only to listen to her mooning about the only love of her life- Shyam Jha.

His hand fisted at the thought of him and then the fist tightened when he recollected Shyam and Khushi together, with her hand in his. Unexplained rage had erupted in his head at the sight of Shyam dragging Khushi away from him. He had wanted to snatch her away from Shyam, and keep her by his own side.
It had taken a few moments for such irrational thoughts to fade, and sense to kick in. Recalling Khushi’s behaviour he had realised that she had not objected to Shyam’s hand in hers, nor had she protested when he had led her away. The rest of the day had become unbearable with his head partially filled with thoughts of Khushi and the question of her relationship with Shyam. La had tried to be bright and chirpy but by evening, she had fizzled out; opting out of going to the night club as originally planned.

On arriving home, he had been greeted by Maamiji who had wanted to know if La was coming to the house later on. Initially he had been taken aback by her suggestion, but later on realised if Anjali had organised La’s coming to India, it was quite possible every one thought, he and La were an item again. He had excused himself after firmly dispelling Maamiji’s doubts about his relationship with La.

Once in his room, he shed his clothes and made straight for a cold shower. Unwillingly, he had thought of Khushi.  As usual, she had tried her best to ignore him. That had only annoyed him more. Deliberately he had tried to rile her up, only to fall flat on his face as she had dismissed him by calling him ignorant about New Delhi in not so many words. She had even dared to imply that he was one of those men who wouldn’t go out unless he had an escort. Distaste of that thought had left feeling him bitter in the mouth.

Once dressed in casual chinos and a white t-shirt, he had come down to be grumbled at by his sister.

Anjali continued, stuffing flowers into an already neat flower arrangement. Arnav winced for them as Anjali said, ” I thought having La here would cheer you up. I wasn’t sure if you were together any more or if you have moved on to pastures new, but she’s a nice girl. I like her. “

The last was said in a defensive tone. Arnav stopped her from putting a rose in the arrangement, chuckling, “Any more in there and the entire arrangement will be choked to death Anjali! ” He put the rose down on the table and said, “La is a good friend, has always been. But there is nothing of the kind of relationship you think between us. She has her sights set very firmly on a man since she was a teenager.”

At Anjali’s raised eyebrows, he had to defend La, “The time in London was a smokescreen! She needed a fiction and I did too.”

“Did you now? Hmmm.. it must’ve been to keep the horde away I’m sure.” Anjali gigggled at her brother’s frowning face and said, “Imagine that! La prefers someone else to you! Who I wonder is this guy?”

ASR scowled as he recalled Shayam and with him, Khushi. He growled out the name in annoyance, “His name is Shyam; the son of Manohar Jha; the owner of Manchester Cotton Textile .”

Anjali’s face took on a speculative look. “That’s not a bad choice. I remember the guy from the corporate parties I had been forced to attend last year, as a board member. You joined hands with his father for a project, didn’t you?”

“That’s right. His father is a good businessman, so I am quite sure he won’t be averse to the match between his family and La’s. However it is this man himself who has been a bit shaky on commitment.”

Anjali absorbed this and Arnav continued, “Coincidentally he is also here these days and we bumped into him today. He was with that girl; Khushi Gupta.”

The last words came out really bland in tone. Anjali looked at her brother, realising that he was hiding very strong emotions under the bland voice. She pretended ignorance about Shyam being Khushi’s photographer and said, “Our Khushi- the wedding organiser and your ex-employee? How does she know him? “

“I have things to do for your wedding. I’ll see you later, okay?” Arnav said and walked away instead of answering her question. Anjali observed the taut profile of her brother walking away from her and smiled slowly. Things were definitely taking a very desirable turn, small thanks to unprecedented luck on her side. She might just be able to pull off her stint and finally fulfil her mother’s dying wish.

Anjali sat down on the chair by the flower arrangement on the table, her eyes misting. She still remembered her mother’s deep sigh and her words, spoken to her when she was only eighteen and Arnav was twenty-three. Anjali had been crying of guilt because Arnav hadn’t eaten for two days; they had fought bitterly over her latest crush who had been paid off by Arnav.  He had shown her tender teenage eyes the real picture hiding behind the object of her infatuation’s charm; a man ten years elder to her and only after her money. It had been too much to bear then and in rage, Anjali had lashed out at her brother.

Her mother had been travelling with her father to Paris for a business event that weekend when the incident occurred.  Upon return, she had taken the matter into her own hands and had the matter resolved in minutes. She was the only one Arnav ever listened to, without any argument. When he had gone back to his room (after accepting Anjali’s apology with a smile), Anjali had asked her mother why her brother had been so brutal with the truth. Her mother had given a sad sigh and said to her,

“My darling son and your brother is a complicated character.  When your father died, I married Sebastian and sometimes I wonder if that is what started his cynicism of relationships. He knew; he was six, old enough to know that I had married Sebastian not because I loved him, but because we wanted companionship, and also because I wanted financial security to raise the both of you. He had already seen what his own father had done to us as a family. Your father had thought he would climb the social ladder by marrying me and he did so too, by squandering my inheritance and betraying my father’s trust. Arnav had loved your father dearly, made him his idol. Sadly his love had never been returned. Your father was not the one to love anyone but himself. One day Arnav realised the truth.  Turned out his charming idol had feet of clay. That was his first disillusionment. When I married Sebastian for financial security, it was his second disillusionment. Later on, as he grew up he realised there was a lot more to our relationship that that, but it did give birth to the cynic in him.”

Lost in her thoughts, she had then smiled, and proceeded to say, ” I have never regretted my decision to marry Sebastian, and I was very happy the day you and Arnav decided to accept him wholly and call him your Dad. Sebastian truly loves you as his own.”

Anjali had smiled brightly, held her mother’s hand and kissed it. Her mother had squeezed her hand in return and continued,

” I think its was the greatest sign of acceptance when Arnav decided to accept his new name. I know that he loves being called Alex by Sebastian, but he is also aware of how different his life might have been had he not been given the life and love he has, by Sebastian. When you father died, all I had was you as a toddler in my arms and Arnav, and a whole lot of debts that his womanising and gambling had left behind. My mother couldn’t forgive me for choosing such a man, and I couldn’t forget that I had chosen such a man. Yet I had loved him wholeheartedly. I can never regret meeting him or marrying him, because he gave me you and Arnav.

Anjali,  I sometimes wonder if there would a woman brave enough to love him and fall in love with him, despite his weaknesses.  I am not blind to his faults darling, nor am I unobservant. He is clever and brilliant at what ever he does, and your father says he will go far when he joins the business next week, as his successor. I have no doubt about it. But I have seen bitterness reflecting in his attitude, made only worse by his broken affair.  His eyes are already of a man of thirty, cynical. He is the son of a prestigious businessman, has money and he is aware of it. He knows that girls-women may like him only because of his wealth. So many girls flock over to him, and I have no doubt he has his share of girlfriends and fun. What man his age wouldn’t? My fear is, even if he does fall in love one day, he is so pig headed, he might just screw things up, to run away from his one fear- disappointment. Remember my words, darling. If I am not around at the time, you make sure your brother finds his soul mate.”

Tears ran down Anjali’s cheeks as she remembered this conversation with her mother. This was the last close conversation they had had together. Two weeks after,  her parents had been killed in a plane crash, while travelling across the Atlantic. Mr Rothwell senior had happily named his successor, given a party for the occasion, and decided to take a holiday with his wife. They had been travelling to America when the plane had crashed.

Anjali wiped tears off her cheeks and sniffed, going into her bedroom, more determined than ever to ensure her brother’s happiness. She knew what she had to do next.

TWO WORLDS APART- FINAL CHAPTER

Chapter 14

two worlds apartff1

Arnav closed the bedroom door and turned around to face Khushi, who was already sitting on the bed, her legs folded, ready to talk. Her eyes were troubled, her face pale. Constant thoughts plaguing her mind could be seen very clearly in her eyes. As he stood by the door for another minute, Khushi burst out,

“Arnav ji, do come here. I – must know. We must talk.”

Slowly Arnav approached Khushi and sat down next to her on the bed. Taking one of her hands in his own, he smiled into her eyes and said softly, “Let me get ready for bed and you do the same. We’ve got the whole night to talk. “

 

Khushi made a face, “No we don’t. You have to wake up early and then go to work too. I don’t want you going to work all tired.”
Arnav kissed the palm of Khushi’s hand, making her quiver as he said, “How very wifely of you, my darling.” Humour glinted wickedly from his eyes.

 

Khushi smiled widely, “That’s because I am your wife Mr. Raizada. But I want to know—“

Arnav laughed softly and put a finger on her lips, “Quiet wife. One of your duties is also to listen to your husband—sometimes at least!”

 

Khushi giggled and Arnav smirked, then said, “Ab jaao. Get ready for bed my love. Once we’re cosy, I’ll tell you all you want to know.”

 

And so it happened that 10 minutes later, when they were both under the covers, cuddling that Khushi raised the question, “Arnavji, is it true that Aparna lied to me? That these 5 years of unhappy living and keeping our sons away from your fatherly love was all simply because I’d been foolish enough to believe her? “

 

Arnav sighed and kissed her hair, “You are a good person Khushi. It is not your fault that you believed in her lies, not your fault that we suffered so much these last years. You did it thinking of a little boy and his happiness. That doesn’t make you a bad person or foolish; on the contrary. “

Khushi stayed quiet, but took refuge in Arnav’s arms by snuggling into him and hugging him even tighter than before. Arnav squeezed her back and continued, “Yes, she lied to you- to everyone who knew her actually at the time we did. “

 

“I always wondered why she kept on harping on about how she didn’t want anything from life anymore, how her life was content. A person who is content doesn’t keep on repeating it every second, you know. The day you told me about the DNA test and Vishal being born out of wedlock, and accused me of being a neglectful father, I knew a deeper game was at play. To feel the waters, I spoke to Aparna about it. Of course, initially she pretended to deny it all and then gently cried out to me in not so many words that Vishal was my son, and she and he were my responsibility.”

 

Khushi looked astonished, “What? Why didn’t you tell me about it?”

 

Arnav looked sheepish  for a second and then grimaced, “I think I should have. It might have helped you realize what was happening, and you’d have never left me. But in my arrogance, I thought I’d solve it all by myself and then you’d never have a chance of any doubts in future.

 

Anyway,  when you left, I became absolutely distraught. I tried finding you everywhere obviously, despite all your instructions. But it looked like you’d completely vanished. Everyone was worried. Babuji never said a word to me, but I could feel his accusations every time he looked at me. Everyone looked at me for answers Khushi, and I have nothing to give.”

 

At the amount of pain in his voice, Khushi grasped his hand and kissed it. She took it between both of hers and held on to him, trying desperately to absorb some of that pain of his, to lessen it. Regret washed her being in waves. She should have realized how everyone else might feel. She shouldn’t have left like that.

 

A pool of tears formed in her eyes as she mumbled, “I’m sorry.. so sorry Arnavji. I should’ve thought it through. I hurt you and everyone I love so badly.” She raised her tear filled eyes to his, beseeching him to understand, “But believe me, I thought I was doing the right thing! I thought, I was coming in between the happiness that Vishal and you deserved.”

 

Arnav leaned in and kissed her forehead. Sighing heavily, he placed his chin above her head, as she folded more closely into his arms.

 

“I know you Khushi. I know you thought you were doing the right thing. I don’t blame you anymore; no one does. Yes, I was distraught. I was angry when you left. But after the whole thing was sorted out, I knew exactly why you’d done it.”

 

Khushi raised herself up on her hands and kissed Arnav on his lips. “I love you so much. And I caused you pain.” A frown marred her brows, “But what was going on? If I was in the wrong and Aparna was doing something that was—I don’t understand Arnavji.”

 

Arnav kissed her back hard and smirked, “You’re not as brilliant as you think you are Khushi Singh Raizada.”

 

At her indignant look, he said, “Alright. I won’t tease you for now, because you do need to know it. We talk about it this time, finish the tale and never speak of it again.”

 

At a cautious nod from Khushi, he continued,

 

“ Aparna underestimated my love for you. A week after you’d left, she tried to come on to me. The first few days, she sympathized with me, cursed you for leaving me in such a condition, for leaving “her” in this compromising position where she’d have to “fill a gap you left behind”. That’s what she thought it was, and she said it.

 

Then one evening, everyone had gone out. I came back from work, as usual and I saw her wearing your sari and cooking in the kitchen, like you do. When I went into my bedroom, she came in after a bit. Said she’d cooked my favourite food to cheer me up. I knew a seduction game was about to roll. I set the record straight that evening, and told her there was not going to be any grand reconciliation. Even if Vishal was my son, Khushi was my wife. I didn’t want any other. She left the room that evening, but not without uttering vile words for me, that I will not repeat in front of you.

 

She could see her plan failing, and me slipping out of her hands. For the next two weeks, she tried to befriend me. By this time, I had already had investigators working on her case, and the results had just started coming in the evening she had tried to seduce me.

 

Aparna had spent the last three years at the order of the court in correctional institution. She had already been sentenced once for about six months, for embezzlement, fraud and slander. Another interesting bit also came out. There was a restraining order against her. Do you remember the  architect, Arun Varma from the parties we’d attended together ? – he had filed it. Apparently, Aparna had tried to pass herself on as his girlfriend, and created differences between him and his real girlfriend. When he exposed her, she became aggressive towards his girlfriend. In the end, the restraining order had been put in place. “

 

Khushi listened to this, her mouth open in shock. “She was mentally sick?”

 

Arnav shook his head in regret, “Sadly not. Women like her are never mentally sick. It was just a way of getting out of tight spots she had gotten herself into every time. She was cunning to the nth degree.”

 

“How did you expose her then? And where was Vishal all this time that she was facing all these charges and in the mental institution?” Khushi asked, her frown pronounced.

 

Arnav took a deep breath and said, “Vishal was where he had been happy, even if alone. He was in the orphanage, where I officially adopted him from after the whole fiasco had been sorted out.”

 

At her dazed expression, Arnav nodded to himself, “Yes, Khushi I know. For you this all seems incredible, but the thing is, not everyone is as decent as you are, my love. Aparna had planned very carefully. She had adopted Vishal and trained him as befitting my son a few months before she accidentally bumped into us. The DNA reports that you’d seen after you’d sent the sample were fake, because the samples had been switched by her.

 

I could’ve let go of the whole thing, even let her leave after all the destruction she’d caused, had it not been for the fact that she’d included an innocent child into her game plan and used him, almost killed him to achieve her goal- me. “

 

Khushi looked up alarmed, her hackles rising, “What do you mean Arnavji? “

 

Taking a deep breath, Arnav said, “She tried to poison Vishal to get family sympathy.”

Ignoring Khushi’s horrified look, Arnav continued, “Vishal went through a tough time, with you leaving us, and he felt he was to blame to some extent. I had tried to cheer him up at times, but he had started getting morose. Then one evening, when I came home, I heard Aparna tried to force feed a medicine. He kept on saying it smelled vile, but she wouldn’t listen. When I tried to intervene, she told me that Vishal was a sensitive child, and according to the doctor, he needed a sedative to help him get out of low moods. What a load of rubbish! When I asked her to show me the pill she wanted to feed him, she snapped at me and told me to mind my own business.

 

Vishal had started crying by then, refusing point blank to take the medicine. I could see Aparna starting to become aggressive in her stance. To cool off the atmosphere, I told her, I’d give Vishal the medicine prescribed by her doctor. For my sins, I helped her feed him poison.

 

Khushi, that pill had been coated with rat poison. Aparna left him with me, saying she had to go out for a meeting with a prospective client. In an hour, Vishal had started vomiting and was showing severe signs of poison. Without any delay, I took him to the hospital. He was there for two days, since the poison had affected his body severely.

 

Investigation proved that the pill had been coated with rat poison. Aparna came to the hospital teary-eyed and accused me of trying to kill her son. What she didn’t realize was, I had already gathered all the evidence to prove her guilt. A short court battle ensued, where needless to say, I came out the winner. She was sentenced for five years, with attempt to murder. “

 

Khushi’s eyes were wide with shock, her voice locked in her throat as she heard the entire story unwrapping. It was almost like a TV drama, except it was real, especially since it happened with herself and her family. Had it not been for her own foolishness, none of this could have happened – she cursed herself for having being so gullible.

 

Silence reigned for minutes, until she let out a long breath and in a tearful voice said, “Oh my God. All this, because she wanted you, and I was foolish enough to believe all that I heard and saw.”

 

Arnav cupped her face between his hands and said, “No Khushi. She never wanted me. She wanted the wealth and fame that came with Raizada name. I had nothing to do with it. And you, you my love, were foolish- yes. But it was not because you were stupid. It was because you believe people are good. And that is one of the things I adore about you.”

 

Khushi sniffed, her nose turning red as she snuggled against Arnav, her voice breaking, “Poor Vishal. What he went through!’

 

Arnav soothed her, his hand moving gently in her hair, as he said, “He knows he would never have to be through anything like that ever again. He knows he is loved. I adopted him after all this, and last year we got his leg sorted out. For him, the mother that has been, the mother that is, is you Khushi. You know that. “

 

“Yes.” Said Khushi, glad to have the past sorted out. She looked up and smiled, the calmness in her husband’s eyes soothing her, “ I am so glad you didn’t give up on me.”

 

“NEVER.” Arnav vowed as he held the most precious gem of his life in his arms. “I did not know what love was before I met you, and I will never be able to love you any less for who you are. You and our children are my biggest wealth, and I am only thankful to God that you came back to me with our sons. “

 

Khushi smiled with her eyes at him, curving her hands around his neck, as she reached his lips and whispered, “We are not two worlds apart anymore, darling husband. If I am your wealth, I am ready to be spent– on you, by you.”

 

“In that case…. ”  Arnav said huskily,  as their passion took over.

TWO WORLDS APART- Chapter 11

Chapter-11

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Khushi heard a gasp and some low voiced mutterings. Curious to know where the noise had come from, she looked up to see a boy coming down the stairs slowly, one step at a time. She recognized him immediately. It was Vishal. His forehead shone with perspiration as he tried to carefully take another step down the stairs. With her heart in her mouth, Khushi watched as he slowly came down. How he had grown! Her heart ached for the little boy she had known and the boy know, who was trying so hard to fit in into the world. If nothing, she was glad that he had Arnav’s affection.

She had now accepted the reasoning her mind had come up with the night before, that even though Vishal had been accepted by Arnav, Aparna had not. What Arnav said when before he left to sleep in the guest room had stayed with her. It was quite clear that Aparna had left their lives long time back. She was curious as to what could have been the reason. Why did Arnav say she would regret having sacrificed five years of their lives together?

During this contemplation, she had also let in another thought. A part of her had wondered if she was actually being forced to go back. She had had to accept it that deep inside her, hope of going back home, to the man who was her husband, her life had always been there. Maybe when she had prayed at all times for her beloved’s well-being, she had secretly hoped for a reunion. Why should she then not embrace it?

After an hour of debate with herself, Khushi had finally decided to give herself and Arnav a second chance.

When Khushi had entered RM, she had wondered if she would encounter any unknown in the house she had made home. But looking around had confirmed her suspicions from last night.

For whatever reason, Aparna had not been given an entry in Shantivan.  Meeting everyone made her realize another thing. Aparna had never been a part of this family- her family, in all the years that Khushi had been gone. Had she lived in Shantivan; Raizada Mansion, she would have definitely left her mark somewhere, on someone. It was as if she had never been there. The only difference she could perceive in the house was addition of some new furnishings. No doubt that the escalator was for Vishal as was the moving chair and a hammock next to the back garden.

Khushi watched Vishal coming down all by himself and felt anger bubbling inside her on his behalf. How could everyone just let him walk down the stairs all alone! At least OP or HP should have been with him! Another step and he faltered again. Before Khushi could stop herself, she was up the stairs and next to him. Smiling at him, she said, “Will you let me help you down?”

The smile that lit Vishal’s face as he accompanied it with an enthusiastic nod nearly brought tears to Khushi’s eyes. How could she not love him? After all, if she thought fairly, it was Vishal who had first awakened motherly feelings in her. Shrugging all her thoughts, she held his hand.

“I’m so glad you’re back.” Vishal said as he took a step down.

“I’m glad to see you can walk now.” Khushi said, her voice husky with emotion. There was no question of not accepting Vishal, he always had a place in her heart.

Vishal looked at her face again. Seeing tears glittering in her eyes, his hand left hers. In the next instant, he wrapped them around Khushi’s waist, his head buried against her. Khushi hugged him back as he whispered, “My Ma! I missed you so much! It was hard work, but Dad helped me get through it.”

Unwittingly, a tear dropped out of Khushi’s eye. Her heart had responded openly to Vishal calling her Ma like he always used to. At the time Khushi had thought he addressed her such because she was another woman in his father’s life. He had always called Arnav Dad and Aparna had always been addressed as “Mom”. Shrugging thoughts of Aparna aside for the moment, Khushi ruffled his hair.

Her voice was husky, as she said, “I-I’m glad he was there to support you.”

They had almost reached the bottom of the stairs. Arnav stood aside with Aarush and Ayush holding his hands. They were looking at Khushi and Vishal. Arnav came forward with both his sons and introduced them to each other.

“Vishal, these are your brothers- this is Aarush and this naughty boy here who’s wriggling is the youngest of you all; Ayush. Aarush, Ayush, this is your elder brother Vishal.”

All three looked at each other. Vishal’s face had a wide smile on it, as did Ayush. Aarush however looked at Khushi for confirmation of this information. Khushi nodded and smiled, bringing Vishal forward to meet her sons. “Come, meet your brothers Vishal.”

Vishal hugged both his brothers who hugged back with total acceptance. If their mother said he was their brother, then he was. It was a few minutes before Aarush’s smile was replaced again by a frown. Khushi closed her eyes in mortification as she knew the question that was about to come up. Her son Aarush was nothing if not like his father. He would definitely have been analyzing the information given and come up with a conclusion. And what was more, just like his father, he was going to be blunt about it and say it out loud. She was right.

“Mommy told us long time back about you. She also said she had to leave you and Dad because you had another mother.” He looked at Khushi and frowned, “So do we have two Mommys?”

She was about to answer when Vishal laughed a bitter laugh, “Oh no, Aarush. That is not true, not exactly.” He hugged Khushi who stood beside him. He looked up at her, his face serious and said, “I know I was not born from her like you guys, but she is my only Ma.”

While Khushi was still trying to speak past the lump in her throat, never mind bring all her scattered thoughts together, Vishal looked at his brothers, oblivious to the chaos Khushi’s heart and mind was in.

He said firmly,  “We have only one mother Aarush. We don’t have two Mommys.” At Aarush’s still confused expression, he elaborated, “Let me explain. Come let us sit on the sofa. My legs ache, you know. I got a new foot.”

“What happened to the old one?” Ayush asked with child-like ignorance.

Vishal looked at him sadly, “I lost it brother.”

“How?” Ayush asked again.

Vishal sighed, evading the question, “I lost it when I was 2 years old.”

Ayush looked at Vishal and said, “Our teacher says we are born only with one pair of legs and we must eat well to keep them healthy. We learned about body parts in our class.” He looked around and told everyone importantly.

The family, that was sitting already and listening to the entire dialogue, smiled and nodded.

Ayush was not done with his questions however. His eyes glinted with morbid curiosity of a child as he asked, “So when you lost it, was it an accident? Were you walking by yourself?” At Vishal’s affirmative nod, he whispered, “Was there a lot of blood?”

“Ayush!” Khushi gasped, scandalized. She put her hand on Vishal’s head immediately as if to protect him, as she scolded her youngest son, “You must not ask questions like that! Apologise.”

As Ayush’s lower lip trembled with the reprimand. Arnav picked up his youngest son and tickled him, “Bloodthirsty child! Yes, there was blood but Vishal was very brave.”

Ayush smiled radiantly at his father, “I was sure there must be blood involved. Teacher says when there is accident, there is always lot of blood.” He looked at Vishal and said, “Sorry brother.”

Vishal seemed to be overcoming a lump in his throat as he said huskily, “Not a problem little brother. You can ask me anything, anytime.”

Aarush had a frown on his face as well. He was looking at his elder brother, his eyes understanding some of what was being said, “So – it must have hurt a lot when you lost your foot? We had a boy like that in our class. He said it hurt a lot when he tried to walk with stick.  He couldn’t get a new foot though. Maybe that’s why he was always sad.”

Vishal empathized, “Yes, that must be it. Were you his friend then?”

Ayush and Aarush nodded enthusiastically, as Aarush replied, “Oh yes! He couldn’t run or anything but we studied together and played Snakes and Ladders too! He came to our house quite frequently. Mommy always gave him Barfi; he likes it very much you know.”

Arnav looked at Khushi, his eyes betraying the overwhelming tenderness he felt for his wife. At his son’s admission of how Khushi gave extra affection to that physically disabled friend of his, his feelings threatened to overflow. He heard the women in his family sniffing behind them.

Deciding enough tears had been shed today, he said loudly, “ I’m thinking of throwing a party and introduce all my sons together.”

“Great idea bhai!” enthused Aakash. Payal nodded in acceptance. She was, it seemed to Khushi, used to their rich lifestyle now. Payal had a glow about her that Khushi had never seen before. Good for her!- thought she.

Aarush pulled on Vishal’s sleeve. Vishal bent down to hear what his brother had to say and then gave a very un-boyish like giggle. All three brothers went on with their talk in excited whispers, until Khushi asked, “What is going on here? What are you boys talking about in whispers?”

“It’s a secret Ma.” Said Vishal with a beaming smile towards his brothers. The twins nodded vigorously. Khushi opened her mouth but closed it again with a snap at a look from Arnav. His look said, “Leave the kids alone. Let them talk.” Reluctantly, she nodded at him and turned away to the elders of the family.

“Naniji, I don’t think a party will be a good idea so soon. We still need to get used to- I mean, Aarush and Ayush will have to get used to the lifestyle here and we—“

“Khushi, my child- all will happen in its time I assure you. However, I agree here with Arnav that a party is a good idea. All three grandsons of Raizada clan will be introduced. Along with that, the news of the newcomer will also be celebrated.”

Senior Mrs. Raizada, then pointedly looked towards Payal with warmth in her eyes. Khushi gasped and shouted, “Jiji, you are going to have a baby!”

“Shhh!!” Khushi was shushed by Payal, who turned a rosy pink.

After much of hugging and cheerful talk, everyone departed taking Aarush and Ayush with them. It was the first night together for Arnav and Khushi. Despite Khushi’s protests, Arnav’s suggestion was deemed right. They needed to spend time together, to re-engage the feelings and talk.

Nervous, Khushi walked upstairs with Arnav, to enter into the domain that she had left behind five years back. Their bedroom.

TWO WORLDS APART- Chapter 10

Chapter-10

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It was with a heavy heart that Khushi locked the door of the house she had spent her last five years in. Tears had gathered in the corner of her eyes; tears she wouldn’t allow herself to shed. Even when Savita came to wish her good bye, Khushi smiled cheerfully, assuring her that she will be back from time to time. She behaved as if her heart was not full of misgivings at going away from this place- her sanctuary when she needed it the most.

She looked back once as she reached the car where Arnav and her sons were waiting for her. Two tears made their way out of her eyes, onto her cheeks as she mentally thanked the house and the much loved previous house owner for giving them a happy place to live. She sat in the car and looked straight ahead. Aarush and Ayush, she knew were happy to be where ever she was, where ever they thought their father could live with them.

They had, as kids do, accepted the facts quickly, without shedding any tears over it. They had been sad the previous evening when they had been told of their departure from Allahabad and arrival into busy city called New Delhi. Arnav had spent time with them, patiently explaining the situation, as Khushi sat next to him, her hand in his. The flight to Delhi from Allahabad had been full of chatter, with boys wanting to know everything, as they incessantly questioned their father. Aarush, Ayush and Arnav sat together while Khushi preferred to sit on the other side of the aisle, by the window.

Arnav knew she wanted space and time to gather her thoughts and he had given it. For that Khushi was thankful. As they landed in Delhi and stepped out of the airport, Khushi’s heart quickened. Their driver waited outside in the parking lot, to take them home.

The journey home was completed in silence from Khushi while the kids chattered on. Arnav patiently replied to all their questions and from time to time, kept his eyes on Khushi. He fully appreciated how difficult this time was for Khushi and how much she needed this time alone to herself. Soon they reached Shantivan.

Trembling inside with anxiety, Khushi stepped out of the car. Arnav held her other hand and squeezed it tight to reassure her. Aarush and Ayush both exclaimed with awe when they had their first glimpse of Shantivan. They all held hands. Arnav held on to Aarush’s hand while Ayush was holding Khushi’s. She looked up at Arnav, seeking reassurance again. Arnav smiled, bent and kissed her forehead, saying, “ Everyone is waiting for you my darling. Welcome home.”

Khushi smiled a ghost of a smile, still anxious. Her heart eased a little though when Arnav held on to her as the door opened.

Khushi saw a sea of faces- all too familiar faces and tears gathered in her eyes. Payal stood inside the door, holding  the Kalash while Anjali stood beside her, holding the puja thali. Khushi held on tight to

For Khushi, it was a bittersweet homecoming. Everything that had happened to her in Raizada house ran in front of her eyes, as if it was a film that was being rewinded. She remembered her first entry into Shantivan, Anjali’s loving care, Naniji’s sweetness and understanding, Akash & her own sister Payal’s love and consequently their wedding. She also remembered all the happenings during the wedding, how her own had occurred quite accidentally and forcefully, how things had changed, how Arnav had changed. But most of all, she remembered her re-marriage and her entrance into this house that had become the home of her heart and the events that followed it.

Every nook and corner of this house reminded her of the love shared by herself and Arnav and then, the intense sorrow of leaving it all behind, for his good. Two tears slipped from her eyes and flowed over on to her cheeks, as her lips smiled with joy of seeing Shantivan again. This place was her haven of happiness and she had to leave it behind. How had she borne it then? How will she ever bear to live here again, now that it must have been tainted by new memories of Arnav and his ex-girlfriend?

“Khushiji.” Anjali’s wobbling voice reached across her ears and Khushi turned around. The whole family stood in front of her, still waiting in the hall. Everyone had tears in their eyes, including Mamaji and Akash and their faces were alight with joy. Naniji was sobbing in her handkerchief. Buaji stood beside her; her face a picture of unbearable happiness, her hands joined to thank NandKishore. Beside Buaji stood her mother & father.

“Khushi, meri bacchii.” Garima sobbed out a whisper.

“Amma” Khushi whispered at first and then cried out loud, running towards her mother. As she reached within inches of her mother, she stopped and stared at her mother’s face. Tears ran down her cheeks as she gazed lovingly at her mother, who couldn’t seem to control her shaking or crying. In the next second, Khushi was in her mother’s arms who hugged her fiercely.

“Amma.. I’m so sorry Amma. Please Amma, don’t cry. I’m very sorry to have hurt you. Please forgive me Amma, please!” Khushi said brokenly, pleading for forgiveness again and again as she held on tightly to her mother.

“Nahi Bitiya, nahi.. rote nahi. I’m so happy that you have finally come back. Don’t cry my daughter. I love you. I am not angry, there is nothing to forgive. Oh my child, how you must have suffered all alone!” Garima; Khushi’s mother said, consoling her, kissing her forehead and then hugging her again.

The storm of sorrow and guilt subsided a little in Khushi’s heart as she met everyone one by one. Everyone had truly welcomed her back home, but her eyes kept on looking for traces of Vishal and his mother. Their sons had been introduced and made much of, by all the elders of the house. Anjali had gone completely overboard when she hugged them and told them she was their father’s sister; their aunt. Arnav had been glad to see that they had liked her immediately, though they did become a little wary of her, as she kept on hugging them and not letting them go.  All in all, they had been kissed and hugged and welcomed in true Raizada style. Both of them seemed anxious and wary as they met everyone, though they did lap up all the affection. Once they’d been introduced to all, they had come back to hold on to Arnav’s hand as their mother still seemed busy with others.

Arnav had been standing quietly until now. He had watched the  union of his family with Khushi; his eyes hiding a well of emotions. Khushi had broken down when she’d first hugged her mother and father. It had almost made Arnav want to hug her himself and console her, to tell her everything. But he held on to his control. As she met with everyone, he saw Khushi’s eyes straying anxiously, looking everywhere. Arnav knew what she was searching for.

He looked up and signaled to the teenage boy standing in the balcony. At his signal, the boy slowly came down the stairs, as if afraid of his reception by the party downstairs. He looked at Arnav for confidence, at Arnav’s nodding smile, continued downstairs. His feet encasings were new and still stiff. A quick step forward almost made him slip. He held on to the banister with a gasp, a mutter and steadied himself.   And he immediately caught Khushi’s attention.

Saraswatichandra reviews and thoughts

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Dear readers,

All those who’ve been reading my thoughts and views on the daily soap on Star Plus show “Saraswatichandra” may please note that they can read the review on http://myeduniya.com/mydiary/?name=Amateurstorywriter

Keep watching and enjoy the show! 😉

Saraswatichandra on 4th March, 2013

saraswatichandra-tv-series

PART 1

PART 2

TWO WORLDS APART- CHAPTER 7

Chapter-7

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Khushi grumbled inwardly while she finished her work that evening. She was quite happy in the shop, talking to other people, doing business- and with quite a bit of profit too- basically happy to be away from the disturbing presence of Arnav Singh Raizada in her house. He was still in there somewhere, talking on the phone via his Bluetooth. It was one habit which irritated her then and did so still. She was still quaking from the aftermath of the effect of his embrace and his words.

“Make no mistake my wife, this time around I’m beside you and you will come home with me, even if I have to resort to other measures to do so.”

They were making her nervous; his words. She knew Arnav to be ruthless in getting what he wanted. She was wary of him and his moves right now. What she couldn’t understand was- and it was mighty frustrating- but she couldn’t understand why he wanted her sons when he had one of his own, with his ex-girlfriend.

As if her continuous thoughts were in sync with him, he came right in front of her and stood by her. She looked up at him and deep in her belly, a fire started burning. He lifted his hand and pushed a strand of hair away from her face, cupping her cheek. Khushi closed her eyes, knowing his intent, cursing her body for being so weak, so pliable in his hands. Her body tingled with anticipation as she felt him bending down. She felt his breath on her lips and then, the touch of his lips on hers. She was lost as he kissed her expertly, his hands molding her body to his.

 

When he let her go, Khushi could hardly stand up by herself. She held on to his the collar of his shirt and slowly opened her eyes. His stare made her gasp. It held well known tenderness and hunger that she remembered from the past. She tried to step away from him but he held her fast by the waist, pulling her closer if that was possible.

 

“I’m glad you haven’t forgotten.” When Khushi’s brows wrinkled in confusion, he smirked and tightened his hold on her waist. “that I love to kiss you senseless when we’re back together at the end of the day.”

 

Slow blush crept over Khushi’s cheeks as she remembered the days when their passion got the better of them once Arnav was back from work. There was no getting out of the bedroom until their hunger would sate a little. Only then would they join the rest of the household.

 

Arnav smirked at the small victory. He knew what she was thinking about- she was thinking about their times together, their evenings when passion ruled. Tender love making came later in the night, when they had had their fill of passion in the evenings. He had missed those evenings with an intensity all these years. Anger at the loss of time was still burning in his heart, but he was clever enough to know that now was not the time to show it.

 

“Where are the children?” He asked, moving away from her deliberately, giving her time to adjust her mind to the conversation.

“Er- they- they would be at Sarita’s place. They come back when I’ve closed shop. Sarita kind of – babysits them for me.” Khushi replied, slapping herself mentally. She should have remembered the children and used it as an escape instead of drowning into his eyes and that kiss!!!

 

“I’m not surprised to see you in a Mishthaan Bhandar and running it successfully. You always did have good business acumen and were a good halwai.”

 

“Well, I am a halwai’s daughter. What do you expect?” Said Khushi.

 

Arnav nodded in understanding and said, “And a businessman’s wife. I expect no less from you sweetheart.“
Before she could retort to that, he said, “I’m going to go upstairs into your room and take a shower. I can’t make do with the small bathroom in the guest room. I’m a little tired after back to back meetings today.” A devil prompted him to say, “You coming? “

 

Khushi glared at him. He simply grinned and said, “No? Alright then. I’ll make it quick and help you out with laying the table for dinner.”

Khushi snapped, “Koi zaroorat nahi hain. Hum khud kar lenge. I’ve been doing it by myself all these years and I can still do it, without your help.”

 

“Tch tch.. you’re angry. But you’re magnificent when you’re angry.” He winked and said, “I’ll be back soon.”  making Khushi’s heart ache as he climbed up the stairs and disappeared into her room. She muttered “Laad Governer kahin ke!”

 

She slapped her forehead with her hand and mentally castigated herself within a few seconds. How could she have forgotten the kids? What if Aarush and Ayush had come back while they were still in each other’s embrace? It was horribly irresponsible of her to – to let Arnav kiss her like that.

 

As if the thought of kids had conjured them up, Aarush and Ayush came running into the house, screaming, “Mommy!!” The bright smile that she reserved for her kids came back on, as she hugged both her children.

Aarush looked around as he hugged her and asked, “Is- has he left?”

 

Khushi hid her pain for her children. They knew just as much as she did that he won’t stay forever, no matter what he said. He had his obligations somewhere else and sooner or later, they will call him. For the moment, it was important that she pacified the kids. She ruffled Aarush’s hair and said softly, “ He’s upstairs. He had a long day and he’s tired.”

 

Ayush’s mouth drooped. “So we can’t talk to him? He won’t play with us? I wanted him to help me with my homework.”

Aarush gave a snort, “Of course he won’t. Why would he? And Ayush, we don’t need him to entertain us either. We have Mommy who plays with us and helps us with our homework.”

 

Khushi couldn’t see Ayush so heart broken. She smiled at him and said, “You can ask him nicely if he will help you today. He’s very intelligent you know. But Aarush is right, and you know that, don’t you?” At Ayush’s reluctant nod, she continued, “We can’t let him stay with us. I had explained it to you guys earlier, had I not? He has other duties that must come before us. We have to understand that and let him go.”

 

“But I want him to be with us. He’s our father!” Ayush burst out, tears appearing in his eyes.

 

“Ayush, my son! I understand that, but you know we can’t – he can’t live with us.” Khushi desperately tried to make him understand.

 

A thought occurred to Khushi, but she hastily wiped it away from her mind. No, it was not possible. She was not the kind of woman to claim her right on him, even if he was her husband. He was first and foremost someone else’s father. That someone who needed Arnav more than anyone else, it was not his fault that he was born out of wedlock. Even if Arnav couldn’t see it, she could and she would never let any injustice happen to that child. She had her sons and they had her. They didn’t need him.

 

Aarush took Ayush by the hand and said, “Do you want to live with him, knowing Mommy will be alone? He will take us away from Mommy. What will we do then if he doesn’t love us ?”

 

Ayush shook his brother’s hand away, “I want a father and mother both, like all other children in my class. That is all I know!” and saying this, he ran into his room, sobbing. Aarush had tears in his eyes too, as he looked at his mother, “I want him too you know, but I will be strong for you.”

 

Khushi took him in her arms and hugged him, her heart breaking into two. She kissed him and said, “Go and change your clothes. I will lay the table for dinner. And help Ayush with changing too, will you?”

 

Aarush nodded and slowly went into his room. Khushi got up from where she had sat down and absently started laying the table in the dining room. Her thoughts were more tormented than ever. She was glad Arnav had not been a party to that scene. She had no clear idea what game he was playing, but she knew she couldn’t allow him to stay. Her sons will grow more attached to him if he stayed any longer than a day. What will she do then if they decided they will go with him and not stay with her? She trembled at the thought of life without her sons. NO! She wouldn’t let that happen.

 

Her hand stilled while she arranged the table mat on the table. Was she being unfair to them? By keeping Arnav away from his sons, was she actually doing injustice all around than just with Arnav and Aparna’s son?

 

She remembered the day she’d found out about Arnav’s son from his ex-girlfriend Aparna. Aparna and she had met quite by chance at a party and developed a slow friendship. Khushi knew that Aparna had a son; Vishal, who was physically disabled, but she had been shocked to hear that Aparna had not married.

 

Aparna had confided that though Vishal’s father was alive, she had no intention of approaching him. She came from a poor background and didn’t consider herself suitable enough for him. Khushi had cried for Aparna when she had been told, that Vishal’s father was a rich tycoon and married. She had tried to make Aparna see reason. Vishal’s increasing sullenness, his emptiness, his constant need for a man’s attention- all those things had upset her. Khushi, who belonged and believed in old ideas thought it unfair on the child to not have a father and tried to reason with Aparna.

 

But Aparna had been adamant- until the day she and Arnav met and Khushi’s world fell apart.

Saraswatichandra- First impressions

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Finally the waiting ends and Saraswatichandra comes into plain view. The first episode ends and I know that I’m going to be occupied on weekdays from 1930 to 2000 hours, with my eyes glued to the TV. J

After watching all the promos of the show, I am hoping that this show is going to bring a revolution in the field of Television.  At least in the show, I hope I won’t complain about the sets or the make-up being garish, as it is in the other TV soaps. It already looks as if it will be a “no expenses spared” kind of show.

Through the first episode, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has lived up to the name he made in the world of Cinema, as a man who does not do things by half. Both the settings in Dubai as well as in India are grand and the introduction of the characters just as powerful. The music quite reminded me of “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam”. I’m also reminded a little bit of the movie “Saraswatichandra” made in 1968, starring beautiful Nutan and its songs. The songs of this movie are evergreen in my memory.

SLB is known as a romantic who wishes for the stories to have a happy ending but is unable to do so. Not that one can blame him for the way this story will unfold, of course since the original is a tragic love story.

The original Gujarati novel “Saraswatichandra”, written & set by Govardhanram Tripathi in 19th-century feudalism in India,  from which Sanjay Leela Bhansali has adapted his screenplay, is divided into four parts. The first is a love story between Saraswatichandra and Kumud Kumari. The second encompasses the life of an ideal housewife; the martyr, in the form of Gunsundari. The third part focuses on the displays of political nature in the lives of the characters, whilst the fourth is dedicated to the sadhus of Sundargiri, who talk about 18 ways of being an active Sanyasi while living in the material world.

It is said that the entire novel; all four parts of it covers 150 characters in total, with the inclusion of kings, ministers, Englishmen who ruled over the country at that time, as well as middle and lower class families. The novel is all about these characters and their life experiences/struggles.

If Mr. B goes as per the novel, he will show the mental and physical struggles that all characters go through, along with the third kind of struggle that two main characters; Saras and Kumud have to go through- struggle against the rules and norms of the society. The question of what is right and what is wrong will persist endlessly during the entire story. One will be reminded of Shakespeare and his women characters while watching the female characters of the story.

I am hoping to see and discuss the glaring and subtle differences that will pop up in the show with the readers and viewers of the show. Of course the show is set in the modern world, modern surroundings. The male lead, Saraswatichandra is living in Dubai but holds on to his old country culture- the way he prays to the Sun and touches the feet of his late mother and step mother- they are all quite right in characters, as is his defiance in small matters. The suit that he wishes to wear for the party is just as dashing but without the mark of richness that his step mother would prefer him to wear. These subtle games of mind and differences, I’m hoping to see more.

Then there is Kumud- the lively, emotionally strong and already matured character. Kumud is what an ideal daughter would be- smart, beautiful, engaging, lovely voice, intelligent, obedient of her parents’ wishes (most times) and well aware of her responsibility as a daughter of the house. Yet, one sees her small act of rebellion when she says no to the proposal without hearing much about it.

In a way, both Saras and Kumud are similar. Bound by their manners and yet giving out hints of their stubborn nature and their internal strength. They will consider it all but in the end, do what they think is right.

With the end of the first episode, the stage has been set for the first meeting of Kumud and Saras who have no interest in each other and very different views of life. Let us wait and see what happens in the next episode.

 

TWO WORLDS APART- CHAPTER 2

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.

Two Worlds Apart- Chapter 1

Chapter-1

Two kids stood by the door of the kitchen, quietly watching the woman making jalebis and muttering to herself. They looked at each other, their expressions identical and grinned at each other, “Looks like Mum is again thinking about us and has stressed herself.”

It was just yesterday when the playschool where both the kids went to had called Khushi. The kids were too naughty, they said. Obviously Khushi being Khushi had shouted them down and told them in no uncertain terms that her sons were angels personified. They couldn’t ever hurt anyone’s feelings. The playschool teacher had warned her that if the kids would continue to be naughty, especially to girls, they would have to be punished.

Both Aarush and Ayush were well aware that the teacher would be doing nothing of the kind. They were their father’s children in that way. One smile and one look from them, a small request made politely worked wonders with the teacher-always! But their mother, Khushi Singh Raizada was unaware of her sons’ abilities.

For once, Khushi was not stressing herself out by thinking about her sons. She stood by the stove, dipping the jalebis into sugar and muttering to herself, “I should have never opened that damn box. I should have simply forgotten what day it was today instead of going into the attic, opening the box and crying my eyes out remembering him. I need to be sensible about everything. Past is in the past and my future—“her eyes misted again as she thought of her sons “-my future lies with bringing up my sons and making them capable and smart—like their father.”

“She remembered the PTA meeting from yesterday and despite herself grinned. Her sons were sure hell to manage but she wouldn’t have them any other way. Charmers and absolutely brilliant. She admitted to herself that she may have behaved a little hot headedly with the teacher but then, which mother could hear her sons being called naughty monsters? She knew they were naughty but they were like-pixies. Naughty and yet possessed a good heart.

She took out the last of jalebis from the pan and turned off the stove. Suspicion had crowded her mind. The house was just too quiet considering the fact that both her sons were at home. Fearing the worst for her work room and the study, she moved out of the kitchen and at first, peeped into the work room. To her relief, everything seemed to be fine. Now for the study where Khushi kept most of her books, her cherished memories of Amma and Babuji as well as Payal and Akash. They were the last of the photos she had of them. The children knew of course who they were, with the exception of their father- a photo she kept hidden from them at all times, in her study table drawer.

Not finding them in the study either, Khushi was intrigued. It was unlike the boys to be so quiet. Could they be in their room perhaps or had they-heaven forbid! Despite her warnings gone out of the house with their dog Sandy. She hurried up to their room and let out a breath of surprise as they found them on their respective tables, studying!

She looked at them lovingly from outside the door. Aarush and Ayush both were four years now and so much like their father in looks and manners, only they had their mother’s smile and her eyes. At the noisy breath she exhaled, both the kids turned to look at her with smiles on their faces.

She felt an ache in her heart to again realize that Arnav would never know that he had sired two sons-so much like him. They were just as uppity when someone challenged them or hurt them, they never showed off their intelligence but used it when required and possessed a great sense of understanding. They both loved humour and good music. They preferred English music to Hindi and -Khushi sighed soundlessly. They sometimes made fun of the songs she liked-just like their father used to. Oh Arnav! If only things were different, we’d be with you right now.

“Hi Mommy! We’re ready for the walk with Sandy.”

Khushi entered their room cautiously, knowing they always winded her up. Parents do when they know their kids loved a laugh. She was a grown woman and yet her sons were as smart as their father in winding her up by their arguments and their pranks.

“We’ll leave in some minutes. What are you two up to?”

“Oh we just thought we’d finish the homework this evening so that we can enjoy the weekend.” Aarush replied sunnily, his smile bringing an instant reply from Khushi.

“This weekend is the zoo and picnic weekend. Of course!” Then she added briskly as she opened their wardrobes, “All right. When you’re done with your homework, come down and we shall go for a walk. Make sure you wear the sweaters I’m laying out for you right now when you’re down. It’s almost winter and it’s starting to get chilly.”

“Yes Mommy.” Came two replies. Khushi ruffled their hair and gave them a kiss each on the top of their head and left them to go downstairs.