To say that Arnav had been waiting with impatience, stealing constant glances of the time on his mobile would be an understatement. And, obviously, little Khu was enthralled. Her newest friend was coming over to teach her dance.
Wide grins spread across the two faces as Khushi walked into Arnav’s room that evening. She gave them her enchanting, captivating smile too. It was meant for the kid.
“Khushi Aunty! Khushi Aunty!”, the girl wrapped her tiny arms around her knees, welcoming her into her house. Khushi bent down, kneeling by little Khushi’s side, so that they were at the same level. “So, your Dada tells me you want to learn dance?”
Khu nodded her head vigorously, like how children do, when they know the answer to a question they don’t think adults know. Khushi smiled at her, and looked at Arnav, who was leaning by the frame of the door. A quiet spectator.
“Yes yes. I want to dance on ‘Dhinka Chika.’” She informed, piqued that her friend wasn’t paying all her attention to her.
Khushi decided to play along. Kids were always fun. “Really? I don’t know that song Khu! Can you sing it for me?”
“Uffo!” Khu brought a hand to her forehead and sighed. “You don’t know, ‘Dhinka Chika’?”
Of course she knew it, it was a Salman Khan song!
Khushi pouted and moved her head to indicate, ‘No.’
“Oh, don’t worry, my Khu is a little rock star. She’ll sing it for you.” Said Arnav, coming by his niece’s side, planting a soft peck of encouragement on her cheek. That’s all the kid needed, a little bit of love.
And thus began an offbeat, but the cutest version of “Dhinka Chika” ever.
“dhinka chika.. dhinka chika… re re re…”
“Do you know it now?” Khu asked Khushi innocently, raising her eyebrows at her. Gosh, she bore much resemblance to the man who had raised her. The next thing, she would be rolling her eyes, and saying ‘What the..’.
She glanced at Arnav and caught that flicker of familiarity in his eyes. But she looked away as soon as her eyes met his.
“We’ll start learning tomorrow? I’ll ask Dada to get arrange it on a CD and everything. Okay?”
“Okay, then I’m going to play now. Bye.”
Before Khushi could respond the little girl had disappeared. She smiled to herself and turned to Arnav but even before a word of instruction had been uttered from her mouth, there was a prompt reply. “ I heard everything, the arrangements will be done.”
“Great then, I’ll head back home. Erm, to the hotel I mean.”
“Come, I’ll drop you back.” he said, as he picked the car keys from the table.
“You don’t need to.”
“I have work that side.”
“I seriously thought you’ve given up work, with the amount of time you’re around.”
Arnav ignored that comment and walked to the car and Khushi followed suit.
[A few days later]
“I can’t go home Arnav.”, she said, while looking out the window and the rains lashing against the window heavily.
He looked at her from the corners of his eyes and saw her eyes glistening with tears. Clutching onto fistfuls of her suit, tightly. He reflexively rushed towards her.
They were in Khushi’s hotel room, it was one of those days where Arnav knew Khushi wasn’t alright and he had given his car to the valet and followed her in.
“What?… I mean… Why Khushi?”
“Arnav I can’t.” she looked at him briefly and, trusting him she let her weight loose upon him. He engulfed her in an embrace and stroked her back to comfort her. He could feel the moisture her tears had created at his chest. He gently pulled back the hair that was sticking to her moist cheeks now drained of any colour.
“What happened Khushi? Is something wrong?”
“I can’t go Arnav…. I can’t… I can’t face my family….I..”
“Why Khushi? Khushi I know they’ve waited for you all these years and given up dejected. For them there’ll be no joy bigger than seeing you.”
“I know, and that’s why…I’ll…..I will…. I’ll let them down.”
He placed a hand on her chin and urged her, “Look at me Khushi..”
“Arnav, I can’t tell them the truth, and I can’t lie to them.” She said, looking into his eyes despondently. Tears blurred her vision.
“What is the truth Khushi, can you trust me to tell me?”
She looked into his eyes deeply and said what had been buried deep in her for what seemed forever, constantly weighing her down, however hard she tried to ignore it. The reason she left Delhi. The reason she felt so impure. The reason she despised human touch. The reason she had distanced herself from anything that could provide her with any kind of comfort. “I was raped.”