I retreated my steps, I faltered as I treaded the weary path with a broken heart. I couldn’t believe what lay before me, had my eyes deceived me? Was it really Khushi and… Jeejaji? No. No. My heart refused to believe it. Then I heard her voice, it was sharp like a dagger that had been pierced into my heart. I remember her voice, crystal clear.
“Why don’t you leave Anjaliji?”
My ears could not have mistaken as well.
My heart broke into a million pieces. All my dreams of us living a happy life together seemed to have shattered into a million tiny pieces all around me. And I was going to tell her I loved her.
I needed some space. I didn’t know what to do. And all this was happening in the middle of Akash and Payal’s wedding!
I had to tell Di the truth, that seemed the right thing to do, but then, she had to announce that she was pregnant. Why did it have to happen just then?
Di’s suffered so much, ever since that day in Lucknow. No, I couldn’t let her go through more. She was so gullible, so naive. She was too nice for this world.
I had to protect her, at any cost. I didn’t care about anything else. Shyam Jha could not be trusted. But I had to give him another chance, for Di’s sake. Yes, I would give him another chance. Di’s love was so pure, that would transform him, yes, if that couldn’t, nothing could.
But I had to find a way to get Khushi out of his head. I don’t know how Di could love, so irrevocably a low life like him, but none of us gathered the truth about him either. And Di always just saw the nicer side of people, she always ignored all the bad qualities, it was as though her brain refused to register it.
The only way to get KHushi out of the picture was… what… to marry her. Yes. I didn’t see any other way. That way I would be able to control her actions as well. I couldn’t believe she had done this to me. After those last few days… Had she been trying to get close to me. Maybe.
Decisions had to be made quickly, I pulled her from the midst of everyone and I lay my plan in fron of her, not the entire plan of course, how could I tell her the absolute truth. No. I couldn’t. I put it across to her bluntly, maybe a little to bluntly, I gave her absolutely no choice, there was no space for choice any more, no time. No, it just couldn’t wait.
I wish I had considered all the implications of my decision then, I really do.
I told her, “Marry me, or I’ll send Payal back home with you.” I knew she loved her sister as much as I loved Di, and I used that to my advantage. There was no geting out of it for her. She had tried to drill some sense into me, she reasoned with me, she always did, but I couldn’t care less about what she felt that time. I didn’t once think about what I put her through, maybe, if I did, I would not have been able to carry on with what I did. I wish I had.
She succumbed to me. She agreed to marry me. I called up the pandit and got all the stuff ready at the mandir. Yes, I didn’t deny her the traditional Indian wedding with the saat pheras around the holy fire. But I didn’t mean a single one of the seven vows. And I didn’t go through it for Khushi, it was for my own convenience. I would have rather gone through a court marriage, but the papers could not have been prepared so quickly.
It had taken a little while to get Khushi used to the house, the customs. I had drilled into her how she needed to behave at each and every occasion, how, we needed to hold hands whenever we entered the house, how we had to wait for each other and always eat dinner together at the dining table. I think she had gotten a little scared of me. I don’t know how I managed that. I think I had become quite the heartless monster when it came to her, I must have hated myself if I had been in her place. But she had gone through it.
She had even stopped complaining or revolting in some time. She complied with everything I told her, she did everything as I wished.
I thought I had killed the Khushi I had known earlier. She wasn’t chirpy or bubbly, like she used to be. She seemed so lifeless, so fragile. She had become so thin and frail by the end of it.
I remembered that night vividly. It had been 5 months since we’d been “married”.
I had had a very bad day at work. I couldn’t believe I had let such an easy deal slip off my hands. It was not like me, that kind of a thing never happened with me, it never happened with Arnav Singh Raizada. I had returned home dejected, feeling worn out.
I didn’t know what was going on in my life. My life had become such a mess. I was married to the girl I was in love with, but I could not tell her that, I felt cheated, betrayed by her.
My sister was pregnant with a child from a man who I didn’t think loved her. And I hadn’t done anything about it yet.
My entire family, hated me for what I had done.
I needed some comfort, I wanted to tell Khushi how much I needed her, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I entered my room in darkness, and snuggled up to her. I needed her. The warmth of her body was comforting for me. I lay close to her for a while. I slid my arm around her waist and pulled her closer, before asking her if she was awake. She nodded. I took that as her approval, to let me lay like that. I was glad she hadn’t stood up on the bed and started shouting at me.
I took in her sweet fragrance. It was like jasmine. So pleasant. All my tiredness left me once I inhaled some of her.
She was always there for me, even if unknowingly, her presence around me was enough. I had become used to her being around me.
But she soon turned around, to ask me, “Wh..?”
I couldn’t spoil this moment with a conversation, it would definitely end up in a fight. Every time we talked we fought, argued. I don’t know how many Saridons we consumed in those 6 months, quite a few I think.
I claimed her mouth in a kiss before she could have even uttered a word. I had waited too long for this, I thought as our lips touched. She tasted sweet, something like strawberries.
Maybe, it was a wrong thing that I did, but I don’t regret it one bit, I think it was the one good thing that happened to me then. We didn’t realise when we had progressed from just kissing to making sweet passionate love. It was my best night ever.
Khushi hadn’t once stopped me, I don’t think it would have been easy for me.
I finally said those words to Khushi I had been wanting to, ever since the night of Paayal and Akaash’s wedding. I knew it was a mistake.
I love you, Khushi.
I didn’t realize when sleep claimed us, I think I slept like a baby, with Khushi lying close to me. Our bodies perfectly complimented each other. Her form arched into mine like we were a part of a jigsaw puzzle.
I woke up with a start. I pulled back my arm from around Khushi’s waist. I had slept hugging her, with my head nestled in her soft silky hair. I immediately retracted and got out of bed. I showered and left all too quickly, much before she would have woken up. I couldn’t face her now.
I had been weak last night.
I knew she would notice it, she always left the room before me. But I had to get away from her. I knew, once I saw her face the demon in me would erupt again. Maybe the reason I wasn’t absolutely repulsed by her last night was because, well, it was dark, and I could hardly see her face.
I don’t know, every time I saw her, images from that night, of her on the terrace would come flashing back to me, and then the face of Di, almost worshipping that insolent cheat. Pregnant Di.
And I hated her for being a home wrecker, for attempting to break my Di’s house, for making me fall in love with her. I hated myself for loving her. It made things so much harder for me then. Everytime I did something meant to hurt her, I ended up hurting myself instead. Emotions kept coming in my way. And I didn’t function well that way.
I stayed up late at office, did unnecessary work, just avoided geting back home.
Then I did the one deed I regret the most in my life.
I went to a bar. I didn’t drink, but I took the first one who hit on me to a hotel room.
I knew she was trying her best to seduce me. She was actually pretty good at it. but it wasn’t working on me.
I didn’t respond as she bent down and began kissing me, while she simultaneously unbuttoned my shirt.
It was not until her face was extremely close to mine that, I realised what I was doing. My mind flashed Khushi’s face from last night. This was not right. I immediately pushed her away from me, buttoned my shirt and left. I didn’t even know her name. I felt ashamed of what I had done.
I walked into our room hesitantly; I didn’t feel I belonged there, with Khushi, anymore. I didn’t go to sleep, I took a long shower, to wash away the sin I had committed.
It was nearly 6 a.m. by the time I was done. I couldn’t sleep still. I decided I needed some fresh air. I went for a long jog.
When I got back, I saw her, holding onto my shirt from last night. She held it out to me, demanding to know,
“What does this mean?”
I could sense hurt in her voice.
Then I saw what she was trying to show, the lipstick stain on my collar.
I tried to mentally comprehend how that must have gotten there, must have been when that woman was showering filthy kisses.
I couldn’t look up to her and face her. No. I didn’t know how to respond.
My defense mechanism, as always was lashing out at Khushi. For whatever she did, even if she wasn’t wrong, but if anything put me in a spot, I would just shout at her and reverse the order of things and make her feel terrible.
I looked away from her, but she was being persistent. She walked up to me again, to face me, she wanted answers, I didn’t have any worth giving.
I pushed her with my hand and she even stumbled as she lost her balance. I never treated her like a woman. I never treated her with respect, I don’t know how she bore me for all those months. I really had made life hell for her.
She had started crying, there was a stream of tears rolling down those soft cheeks, which I had caressed the other night.
She asked me, innocently, “Did that night mean nothing to you?”
I wish I had told her how much it meant to me, how much it still means to me. I grabbed her hard, digging my fingers into her shoulders. i pulled her close to me, so that our faces were barely millimeters apart. Oh yes, it was definitely because of the darkness that night. I couldn’t have ever loved that face I thought. And I said the opposite of what I should have,
“Khushi Arnav Singh Raizada, you, and the time that I forcefully spend with you or even that night, none of it meant anything to me. You are absolutely N-O-T-H-I-N-G to me. Don’t go about getting a big head that Arnav Singh Raizada cares a damn about you.”
I left her with that and stomped out of the room. I couldn’t bear talking to her anymore. I couldn’t give her explanations, nor did I feel the need to. I stopped for a second at the door, outside the room, and I heard her sobs grow louder and more profound. I think that was the last straw. I don’t think Khushi can ever love me now, again.
I knew she had loved me then; otherwise, there was no way she could have put up through that. I had mulched her every hope and dream from being married.
We didn’t talk the last month, only the necessary curtsies outside of the room. She was still the perfect wife outside. She would cast me those enchanting smiles whenever anyone was around. But inside the room, we were like strangers. She never spoke a word inside the room. Sometimes, I would give her some instructions; she would just listen and obey.
I think I heard her cry sometimes in the bathroom. But I don’t think she wanted meto know about it, and I never questioned her.
It was our last night of co-existing in the same bedroom for nearly 6 months now.
I didn’t sleep that night; I lay on the couch and just looked at her sleeping form. Maybe I wanted to take into me as much as I could of her. I had got used to her being around, and strangely, I think it was comforting, though I didn’t know it then.
She didn’t sleep facing me; I think that might have been a conscious decision. I think I heard soft sobs in the middle of the night. I didn’t know how much I had hurt with every word I had said. Maybe she cried like that every night. I didn’t know.
In the morning, I told her, ” You’ll leave tomorrow Khushi. I’ll tell my entire family the truth.” I thought at least that would get some response out of her. Not that I had tried to small talk with her anyway. I couldn’t, I got pleasure out of seeing her miserable then.
She didn’t utter a word, I think her lips pursed into a smile, but there was a grave sadness about it. She didn’t need that reminder from me.
I got back late from work that night, I had stopped to buy her lilies, I knew they were her favourite. However much torment I had put her through, I was going to say at least a thank you for her for putting up with it.
But I entered my room in emptiness. She had already left. She had left me a note on the bed, along with the mangalsutra, and the little box of sindoor.
I am leaving. Hopefully this will make things easier for you, since my presence aggravates you so.
Everyday of living with you, I hoped, every single day, maybe today would be different. But you insulted me on every occasion, hurt me in every possible way.
I hope now, that you have hurt me, it has eased some of the pain you claim you suffered from because I had hurt you. A great pain it must have been, and probably six months were not enough to make me repent for it. But I am sorry for the hurt I caused you.
I wish you a happy life. I cannot continue this game of hurting each other, when I don’t even understand. I think you know the rules better.
I did love you, and maybe, that’s why I didn’t give up hope on us till that day, which you probably don’t even remember.
My knees became wobbly and I collapsed to the ground as I read the letter over and over again. She really had left. And she had loved me, I think I even knew that somewhere deep in my heart.
I looked around the room. All her stuff was gone. I opened the cupboards to check, none of her stuff was there, only my stuff, neatly stacked.
But this day had to come I thought, I tried to explain it to myself. Khushi had to leave.
I lay on my bed trying to sleep, but the covers had her scent in them. I tried to sleep on the couch, but my eyes kept wandering to the bed. I had got so accustomed to Khushi lying there.
I paced up and down my room, I felt jittery.
My gaze fell on the bunch of lilles I had got for her. The image of Khushi lovingly arranging those flowers in a vase came back to me. Then I remembered pulling them out of her hand and throwing them. I picked up the flowers that sat on the table and I threw them in the dustbin too.
I sat by the poolside and went over some office work on my laptop. Work seemed the only way to get rid of those thoughts about Khushi.
But I couldn’t.
All those happy moments kept coming back to me.
I remembered, her standing there on the poolside, wrapped in the fairy lights, she looked so cute.
I remembered how she blushed every time I went close to her, but the redness of her cheeks had gone by the end.
I remember the goose pimples that formed on her soft skin as I put her payal on her foot.
And I remembered that night..
The morning came, and everyone in the house soon knew that Khushi had left. I tried to explain the truth about our marriage to everyone. I tried to explain the truth about Shyam Jha, but nobody believed me.
Nani told me, I had lost all senses. I think I had too. I didn’t know why I had put Khushi through all that? It had all been so inconsequential!
I really had created too much of a mess, and I did not have the energy to reason with anyone anymore.
Di wouldn’t believe me, she was too blindfolded by her love for that man. Or maybe he had changed to love her.
I had no choice, when Nani told me, I should leave the house, I did.
I now, lived in a flat on my own. I have drowned myself in work. I hardly even give myself breathing space anymore. I had left Shanti Niketan, and nobody had bothered to talk to me nor did I keep in touch with anyone. I always hurt everyone around me. It is better this way now.
I had made some wrong decisions, and now I was repenting for those. I had to. It was my turn now.
I lost the girl I loved.
All that I had done was ultimately futile. Di seemed to be living happily with her husband, and child.
Akash had shown me a picture of their baby at work, even though I hadn’t asked him to.
Akash was the only one I talked to, but we hardly talked, it was just work related.
I can’t believe Di would have a child and I wouldn’t be around him. I had thought of this so many times, ever since she had got married, how I would pamper my nephew. But I hadn’t got the chance. I didn’t deserve it.
I had seen Khushi once, on the street, even though she was alone, she looked content, I guess she’s happier now too. She didn’t go back to her family, they hated her, because of me, even though I had tried to explain the truth to them.
I have made too many lives miserable. I loathe myself. My own face repulses me, and that’s why, I haven’t put mirrors here, in my flat.
Khushi still comes in my dreams, more often than you would think. With her captivating smiles. I sleep longer those nights.
But I have this one recurrent dream, in which, I’m falling into a massive black hole, and no one’s around to even hear my cries.
I don’t think I’m good enough for Khushi, she deserves better, much better.
Khushi, someday you’ll know, I wasn’t good enough for you.