Based on the song Ishq Wala Love from Student of the Year. 🙂
Based on the song Ishq Wala Love from Student of the Year. 🙂
Happily Ever After
He looked up, the stars were smiling at him. It was beautiful. He knew, his parents were there too, looking at him, looking at them. They must be proud of him. No, they must be proud of her, their daughter in law.
He turned his head slightly to look at her sleeping form, on their enormous bed.
He gazed at the stars again.
He turned to look at the little cot next to their bed, and the tiniest human sleeping in it. He walked up to the cot, to admire the single most beautiful creation of God. His baby. Their baby. He stood and admired her, as she gurgled in blissful sleep.
She almost knew she was being intently watched by her father. She popped her tiny button like eyes open. Arnav immediately bent low to placate her, but knew, his daughter to be headstrong as him. Like father, like daughter! He took her in his arms and strode to the poolside to attempt to put her back to sleep.
Khushi had been so tired.
He took her stroller, and strapped her in. He rocked it back and forth, back and forth, his momentary lapses causing the child to whimper. That is how Khushi puts her to sleep.
With his arms crossed, resting on the stroller, he felt a pair of very warm, feminine arms wrap around his waist.
“What are you doing?”
He didn’t need to turn around, he moved one hand from the stroller, placed it over her’s and brought it to his mouth to kiss it. “Putting our daughter to sleep.”
Khushi raised her eyebrows at him. “She isn’t an easy one.”
“I know, she’s like her mother after all!”
She moved away from him, to in front of the stroller, to assess her husbands progress.
Arnav raised his eyebrows at her questioningly. “How did I do Mrs.Raizada?”
Khushi nodded her head and smiled at him, “You’ve not done too badly, Mr.Raizada.”
“She is asleep?” Arnav asked, almost appalled at his achievement. Somehow, this was more of an achievement, much more special than any of those multi million dollar deals for AR Fashion.
Khushi bent over the stroller, her breath washing over Arnav’s face. She closed the gap between them, and her soft lush lips touched his cheek to plant an affectionate peck. “Yes,” she whispered.
All was well. This was their happily ever after.
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.”
“I am going to go to Lucknow.”
He looked up at her as soon as she said that. The information had just been thrown at him.
“Since I am here, I want to meet Amma, Bauji and Buaji.”, she aid, trying to remember their faces. She saw heir pictures every night before going to bed, but that was it. They had become a memory. She missed their voice and the comfort that came with them.
“When do you want to go?” he asked, suddenly curious. When did Khushi even make these plans?
Sitting with his elbow rested on the armrest, and his chin resting on his right hand. He turned his attention to his plate, but he was mostly just moving the food around in his plate. “You didn’t tell me earlier” he said.
“What? Why? And, I don’t need to tell you!”
He sat back in his chair and crossed his arms across his chest, “Khushi, I’m going to come along.”
“I don’t want you to come along,” she reproached.
“But..”, he tried to reason with her. How could he tell her that he didn’t want her to travel alone? He didn’t want to not be with her. He wanted to be with her. Almost, cling to her. The slight fear of losing her, still there inside him, gnawing him.
“I can perfectly manage myself, as I have done in the past,” she retorted. She didn’t want to be attached to him. Not, emotionally, not in any way. There was just too much excess baggage involved.
“I don’t have doubts about that.”
“Then you think I will run away or something?”
“What? No!” What could be done for respite from this spite? He meant her no harm, but how does one undo the harm already done?
“Then there’s nothing for you to be concerned about,” she stated.
With concern visible in his eyes, he stated simply, “I don’t want you to travel alone.” There, he said it. He said as he felt.
“I travelled back alone from Shimla.”
“That was different.” How so? His own mind questioned him. And Khushi was fast enough to verbalize the same.
“I don’t know Khushi! You aren’t travelling alone!” He said in a manner more protective than would have been appropriate.
“I am. And, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
“Khushi, please.”, his eyes pled with her and a frown flitted across his handsome face.
She studied for a long moment and said, “Fine, come with me, if it means so much to you. Get your ticket booked for Lucknow-Delhi Swarn Shatabdi for this weekend. Are you happy now?”
“What? And, what about your ticket? And why are we going by train?”
“Arnav, I already have my ticket. I was merely informing you. And, to answer your other question, going by flight doesn’t even make sense. It takes longer.”
“What if I don’t get a ticket in the same carriage? But.. wait a minute…”
Khushi just shrugged her shoulders at that. What was she supposed to do? And, why was he even insisting on coming along?
“Khushi, just get your tickets cancelled. We’re going to take my chopper.”
Khushi looked up at him eyes with said don’t try and protect me, I can handle myself.
And he responded with – I want to.
“Arnav, I don’t want you to come with me, and I want you to accept that.”
Arnav sensed the finality in her tone. And, he knew this was something Khushi needed to do on her own. He needed to accept it. He could not force himself into Khushi’s life like that.
If this same conversation, no, it couldn’t even have progressed this way. But, if Khushi had said something even remotely similar to what she had just said, Arnav Singh Raizada would have blown up. That was not way to talk to him.
But, no, this Arnav Singh Raizada, did not have that same amount of pride, at least not when it came to the particular woman in question. We could have even mistaken him for a long identical lost twin of the Arnav Singh Raizada we are familiar with. Just, with a gentler, kinder heart, with the enhancement of the ability to love.
She looked away and picked her drink and swirled it around in her mouth, and Arnav provided her with the necessary relief from the topic. But he asked her something that probably affected her even more.
“Have you informed them?” he asked, changing the matter, avoiding much debate.
“No, not yet” she almost whispered.
He sat back in his chair, with his arms strewn across the arm rests, and with that old calculative, but, a slightly, more concerned look in is eyes, he asked, “Khushi, what will you tell them? Where had you been all these years?”
That was the question Khushi didn’t know the answer to. It is my belief that the truth is generally preferable to lies.* But, the truth would hurt this time. Khushi had made up her mind long before Arnav had asked the question. She was going to lie, that was certain, but, what was she going to say?
“I… umm…” she was stumped, she stammered, she didn’t know. There was no way she was telling them what had happened. She had already pained them enough. It was just the thought of seeing them, which was overpowering her every other emotion. The comfort their sight would bring to her. And the comfort that home brought with it.
A pool of tears clouded her vision, and she muttered, “I just want to see them. I want to make sure they are alright.”
Arnav fisted his hands in agony. There were tears falling down her face, and he wasn’t being able to do anything. Think Arnav. He leaned across the table, pressed her hand against the cool glass top with his. The unfamiliar, yet comforting gesture from Arnav, caused her to look up at Arnav, in his eyes, which were trying to soothe her on their own. “We’ll figure it out.”
Khushi nodded, and immediately withdrew her hand.
Another moment of weakness.
She began gathering herself, opening her purse. “I have to leave now, for the class.” she extended her hand to Arnav, with a bunch of rupee bills in it.
“Are you crazy Khushi? You think you’ll pay for our lunch?”
“I wasn’t going to pay for your share, I am only paying for myself.”
This just wasn’t right. What could be done about Khushi constantly trying to pull away from me?
“No Khushi, please stop this. And, I wiLL drop you.” he said, raising his eyebrows at her, pushing back her hand with the money back to her.
Khushi fell back in her chair, slightly awkwardly. She looked around, avoiding Arnav’s gaze, though fixed at her, but gesturing a waiter to come with the bill with his hand. He placed the plastic card in the little leather case, and as swiftly as the waiter was gone he said to Khushi, “Khushi, there are something’s I need to do. Please, let me do them.”
Khushi looked at him briefly, but then noticed the waiter walking back to them. “I hope you enjoyed the lunch ma’am.” Khushi smiled at him, her formal, and no teeth, smile. But Arnav was the one to say, ‘It was great, thank you.”
They walked to the car in alliance; Arnav even opened the door for Khushi. To his surprise, when he went in and sat on the driver’s seat, Khushi hadn’t even done her seat belt. He leaned over her again, took in her scent, the scent of a woman. There was, a faint pink in her cheeks? Like the olden times? Maybe. A little too faint to notice. But, she let him do it. She tried avoiding inhaling his cologne, but he stayed like that a little long for her to not inhale, and not be noticed.
His musky cologne, seeping through her senses. Slowly. She shut her eyes. The somewhat pleasant memories were now a flurry in her head. Her breathing hitched, as she gulped in a mouthful of air. Ahem.
She cleared her throat, and Arnav suddenly shifted back. Spikes of his air rubbed against her chin.
She again looked out at the not so mesmerizing, but the forgotten images of the wide expansive roads of Delhi, the narrow streets. Children, men and woman, walking, animals, auto rickshaws, buses, tempos, cars, all of them in a cohort. She heard Arnav grumble under his breath. She smiled to herself; it was all a little too familiar.
Once he was settled back in his seat, he inhaled deeply. With a hand on the gear, and the other starting the ignition, a foot on the accelerator, and one on the clutch, he start off.
She flicked the strands of hair falling across her face, and asked Arnav the question she had been wanting to, “Arnav, why? Why do you feel you need to do these things?”
He hesitated for a moment. His grip around the steering wheel tightened.
He glanced at her scornfully, was there really any explanation? Why a man wants to do things for a woman is obvious, but those weren’t the only reason behind Arnav Singh Raizada’s doing, what he was doing. It was to woo back Khushi, the girl he’d nearly lost. It was to re build the lives that had been spoilt. It was a mean of redemption. To redeem himself. To face the man in the mirror and not hate him. He knew his reasons, but what could he say?
“I don’t know, Khushi.”, he restated what he had said,”…… I just need to.”
It was the fact. He needed to, for his own self.
In that moment, even Khushi knew something for sure. Arnav felt guilty to no extent for what had happened, but she also knew, it wasn’t entirely his fault.
There wasn’t any other talk, except the name and place of the school Khushi had to go to. The car came to a sudden halt, reminding Khushi she had to leave. Just as she tip toed out of the car, she turned back to say, smilingly, “I will try and drop in, in the evening, to teach Khu. And, thanks for today.”
*Quote from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, spoken by Dumbledore
Arnav was sitting in the car in ignition, parked at the entrance, waiting for Khushi. She got into the car and he drove off in silence.
Just as they were out of the crowded streets, and there was a silence around him, he said, “Khushi, I’m sorry that all that was brought up today.”
Khushi didn’t glance at him; she was looking at the guild of birds flying in a guild in the sky. Horrendous, torturous memories resurfacing, which could not easily by contained by any other person. A bevy of emotions.
All of it, creeping back to her. Everything that she had contained with herself for so many years. Not a hint of it was ever exposed to anyone, but herself. And, that’s what it was time to do again. She wiped the small tear, at the corner of her eye, ready to trickle down. The calm composure overtook her, and she replied,
“It’s alright Arnav, it’s in the past.”
He looked at her more intensely this time, as he brought the car to a halt at a side. “Khushi, I can’t tell you how sorry I am for….. For not believing you that time..”
“It’s alright Arnav, it’s in the past.” She replied in a monotone, as she pressed a stone against her heart, beating painfully in her chest, while leaning her head against the cool window of Arnav’s SUV.
“Khushi, all that you’ve gone through, because of us…. Me.. I’m sorry.”, stammered Arnav apologetically.
Khushi repeated, “It’s alright Arnav, it’s in the past now.”
“Dammit Khushi!” Arnav said irritably, as he punched a fist into the steering wheel. “You can’t just say it’s fine, when it’s not.”
“Well, you want to know what’s not fine?” Khushi lashed out at him.
Arnav looked at her with eyes full of uncertainty. What else could have happened? What did he not know? Khushi had hinted at something before too.
But, what followed was silence. A few tears rolled down Khushi’s cheeks, as painful memories came flooding back to her.
Khushi stuttered through her sobs, “Please drop me to the hotel Arnav.”
“But, Khushi, tell me, what is it?” asked Arnav.
Khushi shook her head in disagreement.
“Fine, let’s get to your hotel, then we’ll talk?” said Arnav.
Khushi didn’t respond to that, and Arnav took that as a yes.
He drove in to the hotel, Khushi got off the car before him and he had to run to catch up with her, as giving the car to the valet took an extra few minutes.
Khushi left the door to her room open; Arnav entered and shut it behind him.
Arnav stifled an urge to just shout at Khushi, demanding to know what was wrong. But, his heart advised him better. This wasn’t one of those old times where he could scare Khushi into doing as he instructed, and he didn’t want to.
Something told him, the matter at hand was delicate and he didn’t want to press Khushi into telling him. Rather, she tells him when she was comfortable doing so.
He tried to change the topic, lighthearted small talk not really being his forte; he used Khu to his rescue.
“Khushi, ever since Khu saw you dance, she has been badgering me for dance lessons.”
Khushi felt a faint blush trickle her pale cheeks as she smiled at Arnav, trying to show him some gratitude for not pressing.
“Really? She never mentioned it to me.”
“Maybe she felt shy.” Said Arnav, trying to cover up.
“Shy? I don’t think so.”
“Khushi, will you please teach my niece some dance?”
“What? You mean, like taking classes? Isn’t she too small?”
“Yeah. And small? No way. She has got the brains of a grandmother. Moreover, it will keep her busy, and she’ll learn something out of it.”
“Hmmm.” , Khushi murmured as she gave it some thought.
“We’ll keep it professional. I’ll pay you on a class basis.”
“What? I’m not going to take money from you! And not for teaching the girl who shares my name.”
Khushi furrowed her eyebrows at him and gibed, “Arnav, why did you name her Khushi?”
There was a shy smile on Arnav’s face. He inclined his head slightly to her side, and began tracing circles with his thumb on his wrists. “Khu told you.” He said weakly.
Khushi leaned her head on Arnav’s shoulder and entangled her arm in his like kids. “I thought she was just kidding.”
Suddenly the tone of the day changed and the world seemed a brighter place. They sat like that for a few minutes until Arnav’s Blackberry began ringing arduously.
Arnav pressed the Bluetooth button, walked up to the windows to take the call. “Aman, I’m not coming to office today. Manage everything. I don’t know how, synchronize with Akash, do video conferences, but I should not get another call from you today.” Arnav Singh Raizada just delegated, on the mobile, an entire day’s work.
On the other side of the phone, Aman was a man probably more confused than anybody else. This had never happened before.
“Why aren’t you going to work?”, asked Khushi.
“Because I don’t want to.” Was his plain simple reply, as he fiddled with his Blackberry.
“And, why, may that be?”
“Because, I want to spend the day with the girl I like.” Fully aware of the magnanimity of what he was saying.
Khushi’s eye widened into saucers as she realized Arnav was actually flirting with her.
“But, I’m not free like you, I have work to do.”
Arnav sprang up, surprised, “What work?”
“I talked to the School I did a workshop with, and they said, they would want me to hold afternoon classes for the kids.” She explained.
“But, why? I mean you could have..”
“No, I want to, that’s why. And, I need something to pass my time too. This isn’t home.”
Arnav moved away. That hurt him. Delhi isn’t home anymore?
“Khushi.. I… I wasn’t talking about you.” Arnav stammered, trying to cover up once again.
“Really?” Khushi asked saucily.
“Really.” Arnav repeated with a smug smirk. He gave himself a mental pat on the back. That was a good cover up Raizada.
“Who’s the other girl you like?” Khushi asked, as she felt a tingling sensation of nervousness in her heart, slightly apprehensive of what his answer may be.
“Your namesake, my niece.” replied Arnav, and Khushi for some reason felt relieved.
“But, I was actually hoping you’d come along too.” Arnav added.
She pursed her lips as she thought how she could work that out, not negating the possibility of it. “Maybe, I’ll join you after the Dance Class.” She hadn’t been to Shantivan since that day, but something, made her feel at ease today, comfortable going there.
Arnav beamed a happy smile, “Good, let’s get some lunch. And I’ll drop you then?”
Arnav sauntered out of the room and gestured Khushi to follow.
Khushi was surprised to see this side of Arnav today. He was being nice and friendly, not too demanding. She was not complaining.
Arnav was surprised with himself too. He had smiled a heart happy smile today, after many days. The girl who could make him smile was back, and he was determined to make her stay.
They had been with Anjali for three sessions and now on route to the fourth. They hadn’t spoken much since the poolside conversation. Khushi had told him otherwise, but Arnav had insisted on picking her up each time. He said, “That is the least I can do.” Khushi didn’t argue with him. She was accustomed to him wanting things done a certain way, and it would be a futile argument, and, it didn’t really matter.
The doctor had told them, after the second session, that Anjali had shown a marked improvement in a short span of time. He was very impressed with her progress.
Khushi didn’t know whether to feel proud, or not. She hadn’t really been doing anything. She just had to go there, sit in front of Anjali and try and soothe her and talk to her. She had been apprehensive about meeting her after their first encounter, but the Doctor and Arnav had given her reassuring smiles and said that they had full faith in her. And the next two meetings did go well, even according to her.
In the second session, Khushi had only tried to soothe her, rub a comforting hand on her back, while constantly telling her, “It’s alright now.” Just as the doctor had instructed, keep the conversation minimal. Well, you need two people to talk for a conversation to happen, and there could hardly be a conversation when she was the only one talking. But the doctor had said, Anjali first needs to normalize with her presence around her. Getting her to talk would be an even bigger milestone, but it may take time.
In the third meeting, Anjali had looked up at Khushi and acknowledged her presence. That was the achievement for that day.
Arnav would sit in the waiting area, waiting patiently, while Khushi would go in for about half an hour, trying to give his sister a new life. He would sit there, almost ready to bite off his nails in anticipation as to what was happening, how the progress was. He would make frequent trips to the glass aperture in the door, but he had made these visits infrequent as they progressed with the meetings, as he realized he trusted Khushi, and his presence at the door actually worked to create a pressure on her. As he noticed, the days he spent longer at the window, she would come out and tell him a formal customary, and “I think she’s better now.” With a smile that wasn’t very real. On other days, she would ignore his presence and proceed to the Doctor’s cabin, and Arnav would take it as his cue to follow. That seemed more genuine, and he liked it better.
Later, Arnav would drive away to work, and Khushi would get dropped mid way, as she had realized that dropping her to the hotel was actually out of the way for him, and picking her in the morning was enough, and she didn’t want him to take too many pains for her. She had reminded him, “Arnav, I’m not here because of you, and you should in no way feel obliged to do anything for me.”
They followed the same routine today, Khushi went in and Arnav waited. She walked out after about the usual amount of time and Arnav followed her to the Doctor’s cabin.
“I have good news for you.” The Doctor said, before Arnav Khushi were even seated, which caused them to look at each other as if to ask the other whether they had any idea, and when both shrugged, they took to their chairs across the Doctor.
“I was experimenting, and I reduced Anjali’s dosage of anti-depressants and sedatives. I was a little apprehensive of your meeting her today, but as I know, it all went well, didn’t it, Ms.Khushi?” said the doctor, smiling at Khushi.
“That’s great news.” Said Arnav smiling.
“Okay, now the fun and games are over.” Said the doctor, in a sudden serious undertone. “Mr.Raizada, your sister’s case history, it’s rather peculiar. I think, there are missing gaps in it that I need to know now.”
“Like what doctor?” asked Arnav, his lips pursing into a thin line.
“Like, how Ms.Khushi here is related to the patient. There has to be an important link, otherwise why would she respond like that to only Ms.Khushi?” said the Doctor, thinking out loud.
Khushi swallowed in air as she waited for Arnav to answer. When Arnav didn’t answer immediately, the Doctor pressed on, “Mr.Raizada, this knowledge is important for me, for the case. When you had called last week, you had explicitly told me it’s just another visitor. Even I hadn’t expected such results, but there has been an improvement, and now that that we have progressed so much, I need the entire picture, that you have concealed from me for so many years.”
Arnav cleared his throat, he looked straight into Khushi’s eyes, and took hold of her hand with which she had been gathering fistfuls of her kurta, under the table and squeezed it reassuringly. Then he began, “Doctor, my sister had been married to a cheating scumbag who deceived us.”
The Doctor, sensing the discomfort in the room, asked , “I know that, where did Ms.Khushi come into the picture?”
Arnav knew the ramifications of what he would need to say but he felt uncertain. He looked at Khushi once again, but she blinked away from him, took charge for herself. This had to be said and done, and it was all in the past now. Khushi drew her hand from Arnav’s and said, “Well, Doctor, the Man was attempting on cheating on her with me. He played out a scene trough which he made Anjali believe that he was the one being victimized and that I was the one after her husband.”
“But you weren’t right? You weren’t involved..?” asked the Doctor uncertainly, while making scribbling notes into the pad that lay before him.
“No Doctor, she wasn’t.” Arnav vindicated before she could answer.
“Well, then you didn’t tell her? You didn’t explain it to her?” asked the Doctor almost apologetically. If she had explained all of it to Anjali in time, all this mess could have been avoided.
Arnav again answered before Khushi, as the entire scene from that night replayed in his mind – A crying Khushi, begging him to listen. But he hadn’t. He was the one to blame, not her. “Doctor, it’s not her fault. She tried. She tried explaining the situation to everyone, but, nobody believed her.”
“Hmm. I see.” The Doctor murmured. The Doctor directed his next question to Khushi, “Ms.Khushi, how did you know Anjali’s husband?”
Khushi answered compliantly, “He used to live at my house as a paying guest, and he had convinced my family to marry me off to him.”
“And that was against your wishes?”
He addressed his next question to Arnav, “So, it was actually until the night that.. you know… Anjali was raped, that, you didn’t realize the truth about her husband.”, as he flipped through her records once again, getting a clearer picture of what had happened.
“Yes, and it was the same night, a few hours later.” replied Arnav.
“Well, I think I have enough information on the patient now, thank you for your cooperation.” Said the doctor smiling at them. “But I do have one last question?”
Arnav raised his eyebrows at that, “What?”
“Why didn’t you come before Ms.Khushi?”
Khushi glanced at Arnav before answering, “I only learned of Anjali’s condition recently.”
The Doctor smiled at Khushi once again, “Better late than never.” And he added cheerfully, “That’ll be all for today.”
Arnav exited the cubicle, and motioned Khushi to follow, but she stopped to ask the Doctor, “Will she be alright?”
The Doctor, who was an old man, patted her head gently and said, “I would bet on it.”
Khushi smiled at him and muttered a, “Thank You.”, before leaving to follow Arnav
She was standing at the entrance. She was waiting for him. Arnav walked up to her and asked her to follow him, and she did.
Arnav didn’t drive to the hotel, and when Khushi had asked him, he hadn’t responded.
The car came to a screeching halt at the gates of Shantivan. Arnav got out of the car but Khushi sat in a few minutes to decipher his actions. She didn’t understand.
She followed him, she was about to step into his room when Khu caught up with her.
“Aunty! Aunty!” She reveled in joy as she hugged her, wrapping her arms around her knees.
One look of the child, whose presence had irked her earlier, now worked to take away all her worries. She pulled her by her hand and took her to her Badi Nani, who was about to tell her a story. She sat and listened to the entire story, and thankfully, there wasn’t much awkwardness this time.
Little Khushi made Khushi sit with her for lunch, demanding to be only fed by her, and no one else. It was when Khushi was feeding her, she realized how much the child was like her mother, she did care for everyone, and tried to lighten spirits, and how she craved for love and attention. Or maybe it was a child who was deprived of her mother.
But, no, she didn’t think Arnav ever let Khu feel anything was amiss, he was capable of making a person feel loved when he wanted to, and otherwise, like a piece of shit. She had been on both sides.
Khushi’s eyes searched for him around the house, as her mind had wandered onto him again, and while she held a bite of Indian bread in front of Khu’s mouth.
She didn’t see him the entire time.
She tried to refuse to lunch when Nani ji requested her to eat, as it was getting late, but gave in and sat for lunch with her. In the small talk they had over the table, she gathered that the all-pervasive Mamiji had gone with Mama ji to visit the four teerths for some peace in this house. She was certain, a bad omen had befallen her house, and only prayers to the Gods would work to sort things out.
Khushi left the woman to her musings, and walked to Arnav’s room. She noticed Khu sitting on the bed with picture frame of Anjali’s held in her small hands. Khushi went and sat besides her, as she didn’t spot Arnav around.
She didn’t say anything, but Khu held out the picture to her, “This is my mother.”
Khushi smiled at the innocence of the child.
“Isn’t she beautiful?” she asked.
Khushi pulled Khu into a hug, into her lap, so that she didn’t see the sudden pool of tears that blurred her vision slightly. What fault was it of the child’s? The entire, bloody situation?
Khushi lowered her head to plant a kiss on her hair.
“She’s beautiful, and you’re just like her.” Khushi said.
“You know her?” Khu asked.
Khushi nodded, uttering a, “Mmmhmm.”
Khu said, “Tell me something about her.” as she settled herself, so that her head lay in Khushi lap. Khushi pulled the covers onto her before she started telling her of the time she first met her mother.
Khu fell asleep in the middle of it, and Khushi had transferred her onto the pillow. She was just bending to kiss her once again before getting up and leaving when she heard heavy footsteps approach the room. She turned around as she heard the door open.
It was Arnav. She wasn’t even embarrassed to be in his room without his presence though their relationship had definitely estranged over the years. Arnav just shot her a glance and walked straight to the poolside.
Khushi followed him swiftly, and shut the glass door behind her, so as to not wake Khu up.
Khushi walked up to him, he was standing with his back to her. She noticed he was holding something to his myth, and then there was a puff of smoke. Was he smoking? He exhaled another plume of smoke that made her cough, and that’s when he noticed her behind him.
He spun around on his heels and stubbed the butt of the cigarette in the ashtray that lay on the little table there. She hadn’t noticed he had an ashtray over here earlier when she had been here.
“So, you smoke now?” She asked innocuously.
Arnav snorted and ignored her. He asked her, obnoxiously, “So, have you ‘thought about it’?”
The sarcasm in his tone pinched her.
“What did I ever do to you that you need to talk to me like that? Don’t you forget, you are the one who needs me here! You are the one who wrote me that desperate letter! You are the one who came crawling to my house Mr.Arnav.Singh.Raizada!” She said in a low, but a serious tone, not wanting the child to witness this. Otherwise, there was no stopping her shouting at him this time. She didn’t have the time or the patience to satisfy this man’s ego, especially when he should be the one thankful to her.
Arnav charged up to her like a bull. The earlier Khushi would have been scared and moved backwards until she was pinned to the wall, but this Khushi had seen too much of the world to be scared, she stood firm to the ground.
Arnav caught hold of her hands and twisted them so that he held them behind her back, with a firm grip of his own hand and pulled her close. And he said in an icy, indignant monotone,” You think you are some paragon of virtue, running away like that? Khushi, why did you run away then when you knew you were the one being wronged?”
“Leave me Arnav, you are hurting me.” Khushi said, while purposely not looking at him nor making any attempts to free herself. She didn’t want to let him think for a second that he was successful in making her struggle.
“Fine, tell me what made you come back, was it my letter?” He asked, while not loosening his grip on her.
“I said leave me.” Khushi said through gritted teeth.
Arnav loosened his grip on her with a start that made Khushi slightly fumble.
“You want to know? For starters, yes, it was your letter, but no, it wasn’t you who made me come here. It wasn’t even Anjali entirely. It was my own past and for the sake of that little girl sleeping in your room.” She bawled at him.
Arnav pursed his lips into a thin line as he heard those words. He knew he had unnecessarily been connote, but something just brought it out of him. Maybe, it was irritability at the fact that she hadn’t got up at once and said that she would do all that she could to help Di recover.
But now when he thought of it, there wasn’t any reason for him to hold such high expectations of her. And Khushi had said it, it was he who needed her, and he needed to show some gratitude.
“Khushi, I Am..”
“Don’t say sorry unless you mean it.” She cut him.
“I’ll help with Anjali, as much as I can. I know what she has gone through.”
“What do you mean?” Asked Arnav, confused by her words.
“Nothing. Just let me know.” She said as she turned to leave.
She caught hold of the frame of the door with both her hands, before she turned herself by her waist, to say, “Arnav, everyone doesn’t have the lily white lives you think they do.”