Let’s talk

about Mr.Rochester

Okay, here is another favourite. Dear Mr. Rochestor flirting with Jane Eyre.

And Jane – what a strong  independent character…. I identified with ehr so much once.

And then postcolonial readings happened. Wide Sargasso Sea happened and Mr.Rochestor became a grey bluebeard like character.  But his portrayal by Toby Stevens is just perfect.

If  you can find the video where he pleads with Jane to stay back, you wuld know what defines ‘hot.’  Sadly we can’t see it on youtube. If anyone has the link, please share. It is called Rochestor’s plea to Jane.

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(Unforgettable) Part 24: Echoes of the Past

‘No…no Khushi…it …the contract….it was a mistake. Our marriage is real,’ he rushed on urgently.

 

The voice undid the last knot. Something shifted inside her and Khushi felt it happen in slow motion…a sudden iciness and utter confusion as she tried to make sense of his words, of the misunderstanding…which did not seem like a misunderstanding but more like déjà vu. And then not a deluge, but a slow…a painfully slow replay of the images that had been long buried.

 

 

Earth slowly began to spin on its axis once again. The world righted itself and time resumed its movement after coming to halt with her. But Khushi sat still, unmoving in the darkness of the evening. Images flashed one after another, jerking her sleeping mind out of its inertia, setting the wheels of memory in a slow painful grind. Faces, voices, incidents shimmered clearly on the rippling surface of the pool – one fading into another till they gelled into a single thread – a single thread which tightened like a noose around her, her happiness, the exuberance with which she was waiting for her husband till a few minutes ago.

 

She heard Arnavji call out to her. ‘No…no Khushi…it …the contract….it was a mistake. Our marriage is real.’

 

But his voice sounded so far off, lost in the din of loud words that rang in her head.

 

Tum jaisee ladkiyon ka kya hai…ek gaya toh doosra….

 

Aukat dekh kar galti karni chahiye…

 

Khushi moaned, holding her head in her hands. It was true. What she feared. What she had been denying to herself. She had been greedy, greedy for some warmth, some care, some place to belong to…and now….now…now what? Khushi closed her eyes firmly, probably if she kept them closed, this nightmare would pass…probably this was not real…it was all a figment of her imagination. Her mind was playing tricks on her, again.

 

But each word broke her heart into millions of pieces, pain exploded through her being…intense, so intense that she could almost taste its saltiness as it flowed down from her eyes to her cheeks, mouth. In the broken fragments of her heart, she saw the images playing again and she knew that though she was desperate enough to deny it, this…this was the truth. What she had been living for the last few weeks, that was an illusion, a beautiful illusion which had been created to lure a desperate broken girl. Her pain, her loneliness, her injury, her amnesia – all had been tools in the hands of the man who stood right in front of her trying to once again trap her into the web of words, beautiful lies that he wove.

 

But the memories of the past burnt her, flames leaping higher and higher, swallowing every shred of peace and tenderness.

 

You have no character, Khushi…

 

Aapne amma babuji ko kaise mooh dikati ho…acha hua woh tumhe dekhne ke liye zinda nahi hain….

 

Tumhare saath ek kamre mein, che mahine…it is disgusting.

 

‘Khushi,’ she heard him again. ‘Khushi,…what is all this?’ his voice was laced with confusion. ‘Khushi.’ He sounded near. Khushi dragged herself away with a jerk, uncaring of her knee.

 

‘Careful Khushi, what…what is going on?’ he sounded perplexed.

 

The first thing that stuck her as she opened her eyes was light, the glittering lights of the poolside, the clean mattress spread under the stars along the poolside, the foolishness of the excited girl whose dreams had once again slipped from her hands.

 

‘You tell me, Mr. Raizada. What is going on?’

 

He felt the fine hair at the back of his neck rise at her quiet question. Something was amiss. If she knew about the contract, then why…why was the poolside decorated? What had she been talking about? He had missed something. Uncertainity and fear clawed at his heart. Arnav wished he could see her eyes. She still held her head down, buried in her palms.

 

‘I…I don’t know, Khushi. You wanted to talk…all this..’ he gestured around vaguely. ‘Please, Khushi. Tell me…’   

 

‘I spoke to Lavanaya. Her wedding at Sheesh Mahal, the six months …’ her words faded as the voices from the past took over again

 

‘Tumhe mujhse shaadi karni hogi. Cheh mahine ke liye…’

 

‘Iss kamre ke bahaar hum hum eik couple ki tarah honge…’

 

‘Mein tumhe kabhi apni patni ka darja nahi doonga’

 

 

‘Oh. I…I..thought…’ Arnav attempted to dismiss the panic with light heartededly.  Yet it would not fade…the anxiety that ran through his viens. If only she would look up at him. ‘Khushi. Tum theek ho?’

 

‘Only you can do this, Mr. Raizada. Only you,’ the voice was soft…so soft and calm…so unlike the flame that was burning her inside. ‘Destroy a person and then ask ‘tum theek ho.’ Is it some…does it give you pleasure….to…play with someone’s helplessness?’

 

Blood congealed and each heartbeat was a painful thud against his frozen insides. Her words echoed in his mind, raising the scepter of the dead past – Khushi Kumari Gupta trembling with rage, throwing her resignation in his face after nearly dying in that dangerous guest house.  ‘Aapki vajah se nahi, aapke bavjood hum theek hain.’ Arnav closed his eyes to dispel the nightmare he seemed to be falling into. It had happened. The moment he had been dreading each waking moment. It was here. Everything was going to fall apart in a moment. A sense of helplessness and desperation assailed him.  Legs buckled and he fell on his knees some distance from her…afraid to approach her, too scared to do anything. ‘Khushi….’

 

He wanted her to lift her head and look at him. But when she did that, he would have done anything to escape, escape from the accusation and betrayal that burnt in her eyes. One look at those eyes and he knew. ‘You…you remember….’ She turned away as if she could not bear to look at him. ‘Khushi, listen to me,’ once again he bellowed unable to bear the sight as she turned away.

 

 ‘Why? So that you can tell more lies?’ She jerked up from the mattress. Her still tender knee protested at the violent movement. Immediately she winced and bent down to hold it. Out of the corner, she saw Arnav too get up and take a step towards her. ‘No,’ she hobbled to the edge of the pool. ‘No…don’t come near me. I am alright. Just don’t come…’

 

‘Shut up, Khushi.  You are not…you are not alright.’ He would not stop. Arnav caught hold of her wrists and pulled her away from the edge. May be  he thought she was going to black out and topple in the water, may be she was going to.

 

She tried to jerk her hands away but Arnav held them in a vice like grip. He pulled her closer as if by securing her to him he would overcome the tempest that was brewing around them.

 

‘You lied to me,’ She tried to turn away.

 

‘No. I haven’t lied to you.’ His fingers left her wrist only for his hands to go around her.

 

Khushi struggled as she tried to push him away. ‘You deliberately cheated me. Fed me lies…’

 

‘No. It isn’t like that…’ He would not let her go. Arnav held her still with brute force. ‘Just let me speak…listen to me,’ he shouted. Once again they stood still like they had done weeks ago. Close, noses almost brushing against each other. But there was no tenderness. Instead there were angry breaths, two pairs of angry eyes locked in a combat…one straining  to make the other understand, the other blinded by pain and betrayal. ‘Will you listen to me, Khushi?’ Arnav controlled the panic by trying to be reasonable.

 

But Khushi was in no mood. Taking advantage of his momentary lapse, she pushed his arms away with a jerk. ‘Like you listened to me? Give me a reason…one good reason Mr. Raizada, that I should listen to you. One good reason that I should believe that what you are going to tell me is true.’

 

‘You don’t believe me! But Khushi,’ he moved towards her. She stepped back holding up her hand to stop him. ‘You don’t believe that…that…Does all this mean nothing to you then? Have these weeks meant nothing to you?’

 

The flame was burning her being, charring her happiness. Her dreams emerged out of the fire it…crumpled useless ashes.

 

 Gift nahi to tip samajh kar rakh lo….

 

‘yeh masoomiyat mujhe dhokha nahi de sakti. Main tumhari asliyat jaanta hoon…Tum eik giri hui ladki ho’

 

She remembered the words of the devil.

‘Aapke liye koi nahi aayega Khushi ji. They will think that you ran away with your lover.’

 

She felt destroyed…destroyed once again as she had been on the day when he had revealed the truth behind their marriage…when she had tried to plead with him and he had thrown her words in her face.

 

 ‘What do they mean to you, Mr. Raizada? A way to tell yourself that you have set things right? A way to absolve you of your guilt? Or is it a reward for ridding you and your family of that snake? Another tip?’

 

‘Khushi,’ he had to stop her …stop her from saying all this…thinking all this. ‘Think Khushi. Think about all these weeks and tell me…..’

 

‘Leave me alone, Mr. Raizada’ she interrupted. ‘I don’t want to hear…don’t want to hear your words, your lies that you…’

 

‘No,’ a single blunt word halted the flow of hers. ‘I told you in Sheesh Mahal, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. I will not leave you now. Not for a moment. And it would do you good to remember that.’

 

Arnav would always remember the silence that followed his stern words, no longer tender, but harsh, determined, making her aware of the inevitability of his presence by her side. He would not leave her. Khushi’s heavy breathing punctuated the silence…a calm before the storm.

 

‘Remember…yes, I will remember.’ She hissed.  ‘I remember. Bhagwan ho na aap. You are one who writes your fate, everyone’s fate. Tell me, what else do you want to write in my fate….’ Khushi snatched the sheet that covered the mattress and thew it at his feet. Tears choked her voice. Hair came undone. ‘Is there more pain, more grief…do I still have to pay for your thirst for revenge. What do you want? What more do you want?’ Khushi was shouting, trembling with rage as she picked up jug of water on the table and threw it on the ground. Shards of glass scattered like the two breaking hearts.

 

‘Khushi,’ he shouted suddenly scared for her. Had he pushed her too far? She seemed to have lost all sense of safety. Rage took over completely. She was no longer listening.

 

 ‘Or is it your guilt?’ With one swipe of her hand, the glasses on the table joined the shatterd jug. ‘Do you think I am a doll which you can pick up whenever you want, and break her, and walk all over her?’  she tore at the plants around her, pushing the pots till they fell at her feet, shattering and spraying mud in all directions.  ‘Healing my injury, cosmetic surgery, physiotherapy.’ She kicked one. The impact jarred her knee and she fell, a shard of glass cutting through her fingers.

 

‘Stop, Khushi,’ Arnav ran towards her.

 

But Khushi was beyond reason. ‘I hurt, I bleed! Can’t you see. I am not a doll.’ With her injured hand, she pulled the fairy lights that lit the poolside and threw them behind her. Her feet tangled in the wires and she fell.

 

Arnav was by her side. ‘Oh my god, Khushi. Your knee. Oh god!, Arnav paniced. But as he came to sit near her, she dragged herself away.

 

‘Don’t. Touch. Me. Leave me alone. Leave me alone,’ she was shouting hysterically, dragging herself away from him.

 

‘Okay, stop.’ Arnav shouted, putting lid on her hysteria. Words died but her slender body still trembled against the onslaught of emotion ‘Stop, Khushi. Ok. I will…I will do that. Just, just come inside.’

 

Khushi remained seated stubbornly still breathing heavily.

 

 ‘I will leave, Khushi. Just come inside. I will leave you alone….please.’  If only she would hear him.

 

Khushi got up gracelessly. ‘Your knee…’ Arnav began. But she walked away towards the room, her stiff gait telling him that she was in pain. Once upon a time he would have raged at her for turning away when he was still talking. There was little he could do now but follow her.

 

 She stood inside, her back towards him waiting for him to leave.

 

Arnav walked to the door. ‘We need to talk, Khushi. You are angry now. So I will…I will leave. For now, I will leave. But don’t think this is over,’ He finished before closing the door behind him quietly and sinking down to the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

Let’s talk romance….

Just  a little change from the usual updates. ‘Let’s talk romance’ can be a place were we can talk about all goes into making an interesting romance.    I invite you all to join in…with your favourite books, series, television shows and fictions.

Here are two scenes from my favourite book…turned into an equally fabulous television series. Jane Austen’s Pride  and Prejudice. and these are my favourite scenes.

Colin Firth has been a favourite ever since.

What struck me when I was watching it again a few days back was how similar   money, class, and social issues of this nearly 200 year old story were to our show. Just listen to them talking….you could almost replace them with ‘our’ couple. 🙂

and here is the meeting that follows right after the previous scene…how awkward it is…

Anyone who has not watched this one, can catch it on youtube…albeit in clipped version.  I like this version of the series the best…what about you guys?

Do write in with your favourite stories…if you want to make a longer independent post about it, let me know. I will change your settings into a contributor! But even a small comment would be great…

No longer read romance in hiding….let’s bring it out in open!!

 

(Unforgettable) Part 23: The Veil Lifts

Arnav rushed into the room as soon as he could, angry and irritated with the world around him. First NK and Payal had sent him away for dinner and medicines. Then, after NK’s call, Mami and Di had stood guard over him, not letting him get up till he had finished, knowing full well that Khushi was awake, he had even heard them tittering as he ran out. And then the infernal traffic… Arnav rushed through the never-ending corridors of the hospital. Khushi’s room was just around the corner. He was greeted by sounds of laughter outside the room. ‘Why not? After all that NK is there….’ he scowled.

Three beaming faces turned towards Arnav, inviting him to join in the charmed circle of joy. Without a thought, his face relaxed into a smile. He rushed to Khushi’s side.

Tum Theek ho, Khushi?’

Khushi nodded, smiling at the man she had been waiting for.

‘So now you believe me, Nannav. See, Khushiji is ok!’ NK piped in.

‘I had to find out myself…How can I believe a man who thinks 15 minutes is immediately?’

‘Nannav, my dear brother, even if I had called you in 2 minutes you would have told me I was late.’

‘Because you said you would call me immediately,’ for a moment Arnav’s answer stumped NK. Was he serious? Indeed he was.

NK shook his head. ‘I will go and get coffee. Bhabhi, please tell Nannav about khushiji’s  medicines. He will have to cross-check with the nurse as well.’

‘Shut up, NK’ Arnav drawled even as he turned to listen to Payal. He would have to cross check secretly.

Arnav’s smile grew as he heard the doctor’s words, Khushi would be completely ok, even the limp. They could go home in two days. His hand tightened around Khushi’s.

‘See, I told you so,’ he turned excitedly.

‘Yes Arnavji, so I have decided tochange your name – from laad governor to Pati parmeshawar? Jo aap kehte hain wahi hota hai,’ Khushi joked.

Arnav’s smile slipped slightly. Main apni takdeer khud likhta hoon. He pushed back the words from his mind as he composed himself and smiled back.

‘Nahi, I am not God, Khushi.  But I believe that your Devi Maiyaa is kind….and forgiving,’ he said softly. The words faded at the end and he sat silently, his eyes closed, his hands clutching Khushi’s, thanking the almighty for giving him this chance and time to earn forgivenss. There had been design in everything…Despite his cruelty, Khushi’s Devi Maiyaa had not overlooked his pleas for redemption.

As Payal watched Arnav and Khushi, she felt the burden lift finally, leaving her lighter, happier. The worry of the future left her…everything was going to be fine. The last shadows of guilt and anger that still gnawed her inside finally faded away. She had been wrong about Arnav, she acknowledged it now. Payal saw the man emerge behind the mask of ruthlessness that he always wore. She had not believed Aakash and Anjilidi when they told her that Arnav was not as he pretended. Now she saw that herself. Khushi, her sister was going to okay, she felt with a certainity that had been absent till now.

**************

The hope and happiness, the complete and utter perfection of the days that followed the surgery was too good to be true. Later, when she was alone, Khushi often wondered if she should have known then. Such contentment was too good to last for a lifetime. But she had known even then. She had been seeing life at the surface. Time and again something shook the placidity of the calm surface.  The unplaceable emotions, the troublesome ones  –  the fear, sadness, guilt – time and again often left her confused as they permeated through the atmosphere of the Raizada house.

She sensed them shifting and changing around her – the anger that simmered in her Jeeji’s eyes when she was with Arnavji; these days it had changed into a grudging acceptance. Nanheji had also been withdrawn and cagey initially; now he joked more freely. And Anjili di constantly hovered around her when she was with the family, as if she partook in her brother’s guilt and happiness, looking after Khushi’s comfort when her brother wasn’t around, trying to emphasize how much her Chottey had missed his Khushi when she had been gone for a year; it was surprising that she bore no grudge against her…had it always been like this?

At the center of it all was Arnavji, her husband. He had admitted that he had made mistakes and he was out to set them right. She understood his sorrow and guilt. Khushi desperately wanted to believe that all was fine. That apart from disagreements and minor arguments which were a regular feature of any couple’s married life – all had indeed been well.

So Khushi believed all of them …not only because they seemed sincere. But also because she had been starved…starved for safety, lonely, with no hope and no resource to turn to. When Arnav Singh Raizada had appeared at Sheesh Mahal, she had been wary yet fascinated … but with his unstinting attempts to care of her, the wariness had been lulled to sleep and the fascination had turned into acceptance, and acceptance was soon shifting to affection. Khushi often thought that had she not been so vulnerable she would have put up a greater resistance ….asked for more clarifications…probably she would not have felt so badly betrayed and hurt then.

But as long as she was at the Raizada Mansion after her surgery, she had felt blessed – blessed and grateful to feel the love being showered on her. The entire family, including her amma, babuji and the buaji had gathered together to welcome her back from the surgery….as if she was once again returning from a long absence. The lunch had been a little feast; Di had made sure that there was everything that Khushi liked. Khushi had been embarrassed when Arnav had carried into the house, but there was little she could do with her bandaged leg. Payal Jeeji and Akash Jeeju had followed them beaming. In the days that followed, it became so common sight that the teasing looks were replaced by welcoming one. She only had to move to draw attention and someone would rush to ask if she wanted something. She even got irritated when Arnavji kept moving the position of her leg, when she winced slightly and thence followed an argument…about his decision to stay at home for a week till they next visited the doctor and the therapy began.

Even then there was no respite…he hovered as the therapist helped her exercise. The therapist would come everyday in the morning and Khushi was told to follow the same exercise schedule in the evening, on her own. But that was not to be, she discovered the first evening. For Arnav was ready to help her exercise, on a stool in the front of her in his waistcoat, shirt sleeves rolled up. Never mind that she needed no aid, forget it that she had been doing some of these excercises for a year. Arnav had decided that the limp had to go and he was going to see to it himself, Khushi thought in loving exasperation, as he held her leg like a piece of porcelain china and winced dramatically with every movement. So much for the man who showed no emotions….

And what about Arnav? He saw the old Khushi, his Khushi as she emerged and merged with the new one. Though she slipped back and forth in time so often, ever since she had called him Arnavji on the plane from Lucknow, the shell of amnesia had been loosening steadily. It had not been a deluge of memories as they had anticipated, but a slow and steady realization.  These days Arnav saw her often, in her quips,  in her toothy grin, in her eyes as she rolled them at him. The Khushi of his memories merged seamlessly with the new and mature Khushi. She has grown up, he thought. And at the heels would came the painful thought….it should have taken years, long and beautiful years and they should have grown old together. But she had been forced to grow up too soon, too painfully…. and he was the reason behind it all. And with a renewed vigour he would set out to alleviate her pain, look after her, comfort her, woo her.

She had said that she might have loved him….he would prove worthy of it this time.

************

It was during those days of bliss that Khushi decided to call Lavanaya. It had been a long time. She had called Lavanaya a day after her return to the Raizada house, assuring her friend that everything was indeed fine. Khushi had sounded excited and eager as she told Lavanaya about Payal, Aakash, Nani, Buaji, Amma and Babuji, even Arnav Singh Raizada, her husband who had tried his best to allay her apprehensions when she had broken down at the poolside the first evening. And Lavanaya had been convinced. Khushi had finally reached where she belonged.

Now in the restful days after the surgery, Khushi remembered her friend once again. She must speak to Lavanaya immediately. Arnav agreed. The chat was long overdue, he said mysteriously. And if she got well enough, she could even visit Lucknow soon, he promised…Only if he had known then…

This time Lavanaya was as excited as Khushi…both friends sure that their news was greater. The call was interrupted with shrieks and exclamations, as both girls struggled to talk simultaneously.

‘Haan Lavanaya, the surgery was successful. I don’t even feel that pain as I did earlier. It is receding…but you know the best part…’

‘Quick Khushi, tell me….I can’t hold my news back any more…jaldi batao.’

‘The limp…the limp would go soon. The doctors are sure, after some physiotherapy…’

‘Thank God Khushi. I am so happy. Everything has turned out for the best. Marriage has been good to you…hasn’t it? That is sooo reassuring….’

‘True, but I don’t understand, reassuring?…’

‘What is there to not understand? It’s simple…I am getting married, Khushi …’

Khushi shrieked ‘I knew…I knew…he was always your Mr Mathur.’

‘No, he wasn’t …but he is now…’ and thus went the next hour as the two friends shared the details. Later Khushi sat smiling at phone., She was happy, happy and proud. Lavanaya had mentioned his name in gratitude. Khushi remembered how Arnavji held Lavanaya’s hand and thanked her. It was not a show, it had indeed been heartfelt….why would he do so much for Lavanaya and Aman Mathur and not even let her know. She thought about the happiness in Lavanaya’s voice when she told her.

‘Six months…six months of doing nothing Khushi…can you imagine? After the hard work of months here? ASR had made a contract…We are going to be on a paid leave and then join again after six months. We signed it…who wouldn’t? He told Aman to take it as our wedding gift. Even the wedding will be held at Sheesh Mahal. It is still two months away…but how I am looking forward to it! Khushi, Khushi, I am so happy…’

Her mind full of Lavanaya, Aman Mathur, the wedding in Sheesh Mahal and her husband’s role in it all…She couldn’t wait for the evening…she couldn’t wait for seeing him again….her husband…

***********

Letting himself into the room, Arnav paused at the door. He was surprised by the darkness. Eversince Khushi had been back, there had been no room for darkness. He usually came back to a room full of light and music of her anklets as she rose to meet him. Why was it dark today?

‘Khushi?’ he called out. She was somewhere in the room, he knew.

He was 15 minutes early, Khushi thought irritatedly. She had planned it all so well. Hariprakashji and Nanheji had been so nice to help her. All she had to do was wait ….and all he had to do was come home on time. Khushi had been patting herself on her back as she looked forward to surprise her husband. And now…She saw him move towards the light switch…. ‘wait!’ Khushi yelled from her perch on the poolside. She had to stop him before he switched on the lights. First he comes home early and spoils her plans and now lights! ‘wait Arnavji! Leave the lights. We…we need to talk’

Arnav moved towards the poolside, puzzled at what Khushi was upto.

‘Talk?’ He asked as he stepped out. ‘What do you want to talk about in this darkness, Khushi.’

Khushi heaved a sigh. The man always threw her plans haywire.

‘About Sheesh Mahal?’ she whispered. ‘And the marriage…and the 6 months of contract you offered…’

Arnav felt his flesh go cold, as his heart beat came to a grinding halt.

‘No…no Khushi…it …the contract….it was a mistake. Our marriage is real,’ he rushed on urgently. He had to make her believe. He had done it so many times in the last few weeks. He would do it again…make her believe in him again. Nothing was lost. ‘Khushi, you are my wife….in every way that matters.’

The voice undid the last knot. Something shifted inside her and Khushi felt it happen in slow motion…a sudden iciness and utter confusion as she tried to make sense of his words, of the misunderstanding…which did not seem like a misunderstanding but more like déjà vu. ‘Hamara vishwas kijiye’ she saw herself. And then not a deluge, but a slow…a painfully slow replay of the images that had been long buried. Only the positions were reversed.

(Unforgettable) Part 22: Falling….

Once again, Khushi raised her hand to admire the ring on her finger.

‘You like it?’ Arnav murmured in her ear. They lay along the poolside surrounded by his plants. Some candles still glittered casting soft shadows on the surroundings. The sweetness of roses permeated the air. Bliss, after another heart stopping moment.

‘Yes,’ she smiled at him and turned back to her finger. The star on her finger overshadowed the once glittering faraway in the dark blue sky. ‘My star is brighter than all others,’ Khushi quipped. ‘Thank you, Arnavji.’

Arnav let out a long breath, threading his fingers with his, before bringing them to his lips.

A star – did she guess the significance? He hoped not. He hoped that she would never ever remember the day when she had tried to give him those stars – symbols of dreams, her love – and he had thrown them back at her. Arnav tightened his arms around her, worrying about the next time another ugly indicident from the past knocked against the walls of her mind, another dent in the perfection of the present. He wondered how long he could live like this…moment to moment, always waiting for the bubble to burst.  Could he stop that from happening everytime?

‘Khushi, Will you remember these…these things everytime….everytime you remember the past? Please Khushi, try…try to remember that I love you…I have always loved you with all my heart. I was a fool, trying to deny it, not telling you. But…’

‘Arnavji,’ Khushi looked at him with solemn understanding…a gaze so unlike Khushi and yet so much like her, the mature girl that she was beneath her chatter. This was real Khushi…as real as the lively chirpy girl he knew. Arnav fell in love some more. ‘It wasn’t a happy one…was it? Our marriage. We were not happy.’

‘Khushi,’ he said thickly, his answer evident in the lowering of his eyes as he tried to gather her closer.

‘I can understand,’ she continued. ‘With your jeejaji. It must have been unpleasant. Tough for you to watch your di.’

Arnav refused to raise his head, lying still, motionless, with his head against her neck. She was trying to justify him! Why? Why did she have to do that and make him feel guiltier? Why did she have to talk about the past? Why couldn’t both of them just forget…forget everything. Arnav groaned like a creature in pain.

‘Yet there must have been something. You married me despite that. You say you loved me. And inspite of all these hard memories, I feel myself …myself…’ Khushi’s voice faded as she faltered, thinking about her feelings at the moment.

‘Mmmm…’ Arnav tightened his arms, asking her to complete her thought.

‘I feel myself…falling in love…I must have been in love with you…despite all.’

With a jerk, as if her words had electrocuted him, Arnav raised his head to look down into her eyes. Disbelief, shock, surprise, happiness, tears. Hum apne pati se bahut pyaar karte hain.

 

Khushi smiled tentatively, running her fingers along his stubble, wiping the moisture that had accumulated in his eyes. ‘Kya har baat par rona zaruri hai?’ she asked softly. And with a sound that was somewhere between a laugh and a growl, Arnav sealed her mouth with his.

Khushi smiled against his lips before giving in completely to the moment. For that was Khushi,  the girl who lived in the moment, for whom the present was more important than the uncertainties of the past, for whom last few months had been too painful, too cold, too lonely. Wariness and fear of the earlier encounters had faded over the days. She had even justified them – they must have been a result of the complicated relationships and tensions that she and Arnavji had lived through. But now she basked in the warmth of the present. And it seemed so right, to love her husband and be loved in return. Khushi opened like a bud which had overcome a long cold winter. She held her palm over Arnav’s heart, feeling his heart beating in unison with hers. She ran them over his back, drawing him closer, nuzzling against his throat, her hot breath whispered a message of desire, a message of love and safety – that she did not have to be alone any more, that her husband would always stand beside her.

Desire came hot and pounding as Arnav felt Khushi move against him. It would be so easy to give in to the pull; Arnav ran his fingers through her hair, feeling their softness. Her warm breath on his throat raised indescribable longings. So easy …and pleasant to deepen this illusion – that all was fine. They were a normal couple – madly in love. That they could indulge in this frenzied lovemaking anytime they wanted. That he belonged to her and Khushi was his, completely.

But she wasn’t. There was a part of her mind and her heart that still kept him out, that could still turn against him. And there was a past whose shadow did not disperse from his mind even in this moment. Arnav was already afraid about his decision of not talking about the past. He knew that till it did not come out in the open, he could not further their relationship. Yet he could not gather the courage to tell her everything and neither could he give up reveling in these stolen moments.   How difficult to let her go….

‘Ouch, my knee,’ Khushi whispered, bringing him down with a thud. His leg was sprawled over hers. And she was still injured. He had to set things right. What was he thinking?

Khushi felt Arnav withdraw. ‘It’s nothing. Only your leg came over mine…’ she looked at him, heat still radiating off her gaze.

‘Sorry,’ he forced himself to say before drawing away slightly and taking deep breaths to bring his mind and body under control. ‘You must sleep. The surgery is tomorrow.’

Khushi pouted. Arnav tried to explain. ‘You must relax and prepare. The knee will not be painful after…’

‘After the surgery and you are sure that the limp will go after the physiotherapy,’ Khushi parroted. ‘I know all that …’ she settled her head on her shoulder.

‘Then sleep,’ Arnav chuckled.

———————

‘Khushi, Khushi…can you hear me?’ Payal’s voice sounded so distant, as if on the other end of the tunnel. The drugged darkness engulfing her lifted slightly. Khushi raised her tired eyelids. It felt  as if she was waking up from a deep sleep. Bright lights of room of the blinded her for a moment before she took in the sterile whiteness around her. She was in the hospital. The surgery had been scheduled late in the morning. By the looks of it outside the window, it was night.

Khushi turned to Payal, who was bent over her side. ‘Are you okay? How do you feel?’

‘Thirsty,’ her throat was parched.

‘I will just call the nurse,’ she rang the bell above her head. ‘Are you in pain?’

Pain? Khushi felt her body. A strange sense of discomfort around her injured leg. Not pain really, the effect of the drugs must still be on. Khushi shook her head. ‘What happened?’

‘The operation was successful. Infact, the doctor said it wasn’t as bad as he had imagined. Khushi, you knee will be okay. The doctor said that he was hopeful…that the limp will go in time.’ Payal beamed, happier about doctor’s words than Khushi who had already accepted her limp as a permanent handicap. Khushi smiled at her sister’s happiness. ‘With some physiotherapy, it will go.’ Payal wanted to say it again and again.

So Arnavji was right. Khushi remembered his words. ‘Arnavji?’ she asked her sister.

‘Has just gone for dinner,’ NK sauntered into the room. He grinned at Khushi, before taking the chair on the other side. ‘Infact, he had been stuck here, on this chair since for hours, I was wondering if there….was….’ NK pretended trying to get up unsuccessfully. ‘I was right, there is glue on this chair. He was stuck.’ Khushi and Payal looked at him alarmed before catching the joke.

Laughter echoed in the room as the nurse entered and asked her questions  . No, there was no pain. Only some discomfort. She was thirsty. But she could have water only three hours. She would be given painkillers for some more time. All was well, the nurse assured before taking Payal along with her to explain Khushi’s medication.

‘I must call Nannav immediately,’ NK took his seat once again. ‘Nahi to who mujhe kacha dabba jayega…you know.’

‘Chaba jayega, Nanheji,’ Khushi corrected. ‘Arnavji aapko kacha chaba jayenge.’

‘What Khushiji! You are also a part of his plan to kill me?’ Khushi shook her head and smiled. Craziness came to her naturally when she was with Nanheji, she realised. As if his madness called to her own.  ‘I always knew.  Nannav has been looking for ways to kill me since we were boys,’ he was saying. ‘Bhabi would be excused. She is your sister after all. Well, I don’t want to give hima chance.’ NK winked at Khushi as the phone connected.

‘Nannav, Khushiji is awake…no, it has been only 15 minutes….but the nurse was here….I called immediately….only 15 minutes….15 minutes means immediately, Nannav…no, it does not mean 15 minutes late. …Payal bhabhi has gone with the nurse…about Khushiji’s medication…but…I am sure bhabhi would explain them to you….she would explain them correctly…hello…nannav…hello hello….’

‘Disconnected. You know Khushiji, you are married to a madman. And he is going to be here soon.’

‘I know, Nanheji’ Khushi whispered as she smiled at NK perplexity.

‘Earlier he was raving outside about why you would not wake up in an hour after the surgery. You should have seen the look on the doctor’s face. Poor man. We had to send Nannav away for sometime,’ NK shook his head and paused. ‘He…Nannav has changed so much,’NK continued again, in a softer, more serious voice. ‘He would never show his emotions like this…accept sometimes…probably when he was with Di. He loves you, you know that too…’

Khushi nodded, content to listen about the complex man that was her husband.

‘When you…you disappeared. I was so angry …so angry with him.’

‘I know. We kept fighting. He told me.’

NK looked at her seriously, trying to read something in her expressions. ‘You don’t remember much, do you?’

‘Not much. Just some arguments. We fought a lot.’

‘Yes. But he was not unaffected. I could see during the wedding. He…he cared. Whatever happened later. Khushiji, you must know. Nannav is never an open and friendly one. Does not trust easily.  He had a difficult, a very painful childhood. It made him rough….and…’

‘Good news, Khushi,’ Payal burst into the room. ‘Two days here and then you can go back home. Physiotherapy will start next week.’

Khushi nodded at Payal before turning to NK, who was beaming once again, the seriousness of the moment gone. She wanted to hear more, ask her questions. But not now. Today was the day of her recovery, of hope and happiness. Someday she would ask Nanheji to complete what he wanted to say, tell her more about Arnavji. But for now, she embraced the lightness of the present as she waited for her husband. Soon he would be here, possessive of his space by her side. Soon Nanheji and Jeeji would have to give up on their time with Khushi, because Arnav had been so worried about Khushi since the morning. It would be difficult to un-glue him from her side.

 ————————

so here is the next part. Some clarifications.

Some of you felt that Khushi had changed too much…that the change in her attitude from the suspicious girl in the beginning to what she is now…was too drastic and inconsistent. I have tried to explain it in this update. She has slowly gained confident and a sense of security. She has a sister, a friend – is even eager about her small business. (I hope I was able to show that).  She knows there are people who love her… that includes Arnav, for that is what he has been showing her all along. She began believing that Anrav loved her quite some time ago. Her only doubts are about the past.  And Khushi, being  Khushi is ready to give benefit of doubt…neither is Arnav leaving any stone unturned to gain her love and trust. I tried to show all that.

Plus she still has to regain her memories completely. For now these flashes alternate with memories of good times….creating a different impression – that all was well. Except for  fights and arguments, they were very much in love. Arnav has, of course fed her that illusion. So what happens when she remembers everything fully ….that is also coming soon

And then there is maudlin Arnav, once again. I was wondering if I am making him cry too much….probably. But I am not averse to weeping men (provided its not a habit!!! – imagine that :-P). But tears aren’t really a sign of weakness….to shed a tear or two, is okay, I think.  ASR’s  moisture laden eyes did draw me several times in the show.

Moreover if each chapter of the FF was an episode, then Arnav has cried only 3 times….where as we had Khushi crying in every second episode…So I hope you guys don’t mind…after all the purpose of this exercise is to make him feel bad and then redeem him. 🙂

Do tell me what are your thoughts?