‘Sach?’ her soft voice stopped the stream of words.
Arnav looked into her eyes, fiercely, hardly daring to breath. ‘Sach.’ The voice echoed in his head, his heart….Was it true? What was the truth? Did he not marry her for love? Of course, he had always loved her.
Jab jo bura kaha uska koi matlab nahi. Jab ko bura kiya koi uska matlab nahi….sach to yeh hai ki main hamesha hamesha….
Koi matlab nahi….Nothing matters except that I have always loved you. Nothing matters… matters…His own words. Weren’t they true?
Koi matlab nahi. It doesn’t matter if I believed Shyam’s words. It meant nothing when I thrust that mangalsutra around your neck and told you that you would be my wife in name only. How does it make a difference if I snatched away your dreams? How does it matter if I told you how disgusting it was to breathe the same air as you did? Wasn’t I in love when I abused and shunned you for six long months? Koi matlab nahi….Nothing matters…it did not matter that I used my money and power to bend you to my will… Jab jo bura kaha uska koi matlab nahi. Jab ko bura kiya uska matlab nahi.
But if it all didn’t matter then why were things so difficult now? Why does a small word fall from your lips to shake me to my core? Why does the hope twinkling in your eyes ravage me so? The words….how beautiful they sounded, how profound …vast and deep, as my love for you….and….
As empty and meaningless. The realization dawned in that brief moment as Kushi stood looking at him, waiting for him to confirm that what he said was true. It all mattered – whatever he had said, whatever he had done – for it had brought them where they stood today. The sum total of those actions and words which he had dismissed in his egoistical declaration of love – that he can do anything, say anything, that all is justified in the name of love – how wrong he had been? Here stood the girl, he claimed to love more profoundly than any actions or deeds – broken, injured, shutting him out of her life.
And he? He was afraid that she would remember all that and then no declaration of love would be enough to justify the truth.
And yet it was the truth…a truth he had promised to act on. That was the only way forward if he wanted to live with any semblance of sanity. He needed Khushi…Khushi and only some more time. He had decided not to jog her memory….let her remember when she did. He would not help her in shunning him, in leaving him and walking out of his life. That was the truth – a greater truth than all others and he needed time to say it aloud and prove it so that when the memories returned there were other memories to take away the sting.
And so mulishly ASR stood firm…his clever brains quailed at the honesty of her eyes, at the stabs of his own conscience yet he was too used to manipulating others, too used to having his own way.
‘Yes, that is the truth, Khushi. The truth. That I love you.’ Arnav moved towards her. This time, Khushi stood her ground, looking at him warily. He moved slowly as he spoke, coming to stand in front of her. Without touching, without any contact. Just near her drawing her by the sincerity of his voice so that she had to turn to him. ‘I had loved you for a long time though I was unwilling to admit. And in the last one year…I have learnt that I cannot live without you. Those things I said… I was angry. My sister was pregnant…Shyam had been a part of the family for so long. I am not justifying anything. But there is more to it than the words you remember.’ He stood in front of her looking in her eyes, willing her to believe in him.
Khushi still needed reassurance. There was blinding emotion in his eyes as he towered over her yet she had to confirm….confirm before she let the barriers down.
‘You married me because you loved me….despite the fact that your jeejaji…’
‘Why do you ask the same questions again?’ Arnav stopped her from completing the horrible thought. How did she do it? Cut through all his words to ask the questions that mattered, the questions he did not want to answer, the questions he would not answer truthfully. ‘I know you remember my words, the cruel ones…but I love you, Khushi. Whatever else you remember or forget, don’t forget that. Ever.’
‘Arnavji…’ Tears gathered in her eyes as she looked at him helplessly. ‘there is something else…’
‘What?’ what was it? Why did she look so troubled. Was he missing something?
‘Would you still say the same, if I tell you that I am responsible for the death of Di’s husband? That despite my desperation, I was conscious, fully aware …when I jumped into the river, I knew the car would follow…I .. I led him to kill himself. I killed…’
‘Khushi,’ his hands came up holding the sides of her face. ‘Then I would thank you for freeing Di, and all of us from that devil.’ Arnav looked into her eyes. The thought must have been unbearable for Khushi for whom everyone’s welfare was so important. He could not let her think that way. He looked at her earnestly trying to take the terrifyingly painful thought away from her. ‘Shyam led you into that situation. You said he would have run you over with the car. Khushi, I am glad you were better than him. Don’t torture yourself for that man. He could have easily killed Di, he planned to kill me when he had me. But you came to save me…you are my savior…in more ways than one…Khushi…believe me you are my…savior.’
His words stopped midway, his body stilled as if a shot of electricity passed through him and he stood motionless, afraid that if he breathed this fleeting moment would disappear. Khushi ran her fingers along the side of his face, caressing his eyes, cheeks, ears…she looked in a daze, absorbed in the sight of her hand roaming on his face as if she was learning the feel of him, touching him like a blind person, convinced that he loved her, that he did not care that Shyam had died because of her…that she could give in to the desire to touch him and see if he was real.
Khushi touched the man, Arnavji, her husband, the husband who loved her. His words put to rest the horrible thought that had been plaguing her. His nearness brought her heart alive. His hands, warm on the side of her face, his breath mingling with hers. A scene flashed through her mind. Smeared in colour, dizzy and intoxicated – two figures on the poolside, uttering heartfelt words of desire. Her hand came up to feel his thundering heartbeat. She pressed her palm into to the warmth of his chest.
Khushi surrendered to the tug of desire that drew her to Arnav. Stepping closer, her lips brushed the side of his mouth, a feather light touch before she moved near his ear and whispered. ‘Arnavji, hamari dhadhkanein ek ho jaati hain…’ Khushi pressed her cheek against his stubbled one…standing still for a moment. ‘Hain na?’ Scarcely had the words left her mouth before the peace of the moment was gone.
It was the words that shattered him…he who had been holding still all along, hardly daring to breathe. Arnav had not come near her after she had flinched away from him in Sheesh mahal, not tried to touch her except hold her hands. And now Khushi was touching him. She was touching him! The moment had a dream like quality, like the ones he used to have in her absence. And he was afraid it might be one. So he dare not move lest everything disappeared.
And then came the words, softly breathed in his ear. She remembered one of those rare moments when they had come together, the moment they had let their guards down.
It was the words, her words shattered him. Arnav let out a cry; his hands pressed the side of her face once before they went around her, on their own volition, fingers of one burying in her hair as he held her still while the other snaked around her waist seeking to draw her close. Arnav buried his face into the side of her neck, inhaling her, feeling her, tasting her warmth, her generosity, her love. Finally, finally.
‘Arnavji’ Khushi tried to push him back. She was breathless…a happy kind of breathless. He was holding her too tight but she felt warm, cared for. One of her hands, the one which had touched his heart, was still buried between them. The other clutched at his shoulder.
The wetness she felt on her shoulder worried her. ‘Arnavji’ she called out worriedly as his body heaved, somewhere between a sob and a sigh, his face still hidden in the side of her neck. She tried to pull him up. Arnav shrugged away her hands, burying his face deeper in her neck as he pushed her back, back till they came up against a wall. Some of his weight slumped on her as he drew deep breaths trying to gather the threads of control. He would not look up till he had settled down this storm in himself , till he had his fill of this warmth – ‘Khushi, Khushi’ – he hugged her closer.
Was it a few moments? Hours? Several sun-lit days? Arnav lifted his head with a sigh. Only slightly till they were looking at each other, their noses almost touching. This was all he could manage for now.
‘Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada,’ he jerked her gently off the wall making her lean on him. ‘You remember don’t you? Don’t you? Tell me what you remember? ‘
Khusi looked into his eyes and shook her head. ‘I don’t. I just remembered the words when you were speaking…I just get those flashes.’ She whispered.
Arnav nodded slowly bending his head to kiss her cheek, giving her time to draw back, tightening his arms to stop her. When she did not, he looked up and whispered ‘Then remember, remember every time you …you think about me.’
The question annoyed him. Did she still need to ask? ‘That I love you dammit!’ he drew her face closer, only inches apart now.
‘Oh that!’ she giggled as she nodded.
Arnav couldn’t help but smile before he bent his head to kiss her on the other cheek.
‘You believe me. Right?’
He still needed to ask! but his eyes were troubled and Khushi rushed ahead to heal him.
‘I believe you.’
‘Then will you listen to me.’
‘Please go for the surgery….please. Its important…for me’
Khushi smiled and nodded before whispering an ‘Okay’ and leaning her head on her husband’s shoulder. His hand left her head and went around her shoulder, slowly, almost tentatively.
okay. I know some of you are not going to be happy…especially with Arnav. But bear with me. We are nearing the end soon.
Another thing: Arnav’s lines from the heer-ranjha, I always found them beautiful but very troublesome. I wanted to deal with them here.
So brickbats …they are welcome and so are all other comments. I really look forward to them. so please make my day.
BTW, i stared watching season two but stopped this week…you know why! (confession, I stopped after Arnav dropped Khushi from his cabin but returned sometime later when I saw troubled ASR. The conflict in the man just drew you to the character. Moreover Khushi had a kind of spunk that is so absent in her present counterpart! This one may spout all the right things about women’s issues, but blushing and thinking kindly of a man who has just slapped you!!!!! sigh…just at the time when violence against women has become such a heartfelt issue, it is portrayed as something romantic. )
the dilemma now…is there nothing in Hindi to watch on TV ?