(Unforgettable) Chapter 30c: You’ve Got Mail

From: Khushi K.Gupta <khushikumarigupta@xyz.com>

To: Arnav Singh Raizada ASR@ardesigns.com

Date:  Thu, Feb 22, 2014 at 8:04 PM

Subject: Aap Theek Ho?

Arnavji,

It has been two days. You must be thinking that I have relapsed into silence again. It is not so. I have been thinking, thinking a lot, trying to make sense of what you said.

Lekin sach kahen? Aap burra toh nahi manoge? (But shall I tell you the truth? Will you mind?). I am unable to understand it all. Some things I do. I try to put myself in your situation and see, but I can’t. Humme abhi bhi paise ki baat samajh nahi aati. ( I still don’t understand all this talk about money). Perhaps because there are other truths about us …truths that we cannot ignore; truths due to which we never got along in the past, and may not even in the future.

Sabse bada sach yeh hain Arnavji, ki aap or hum ekdum alag duniya se hain.  (Because the biggest truth, Arnaviji, is that we belong to different worlds.)  We think differently, we react differently. I am an orphan from the middle class and the very idea of middle class and its people was so abhorrent to you once.

My thoughts are different, my values are different. For me, relationships, happiness of people around me always came over money. And just the way you did not understand that, I do not understand you.

Since we are being honest and admitting mistakes, I might as well admit mine and apologise for it, thought it is too late.  I should have told Shyaam’s truth to you or Anjili di as soon as I discovered it. I even came to do that. But the idea of giving so much pain to Di, you, your family, the thought that I would be the reason behind your suffering, I could not face that. Like a coward I gave up and preferred to live in a fool’s paradise. That Shyaam would change; that once the child is born he would mend his ways. I should have known that he never would. But I had convinced myself to live in denial.

I am not saying that my way is better than yours. It  led me to errors of judgement. I would like to think that I have becme more careful, more discerning. I am not sure. But I am a middle class girl; a girl who even lived through  poverty in the last one year. I might have fallen down then, had my friend not kept me afloat. Paison ke liye nahin, Arnavji, par un logon ke liye kuch bhi kar sakte hain. (Not for money, but for the sake of those friends, I can do anything). It was same with me then. It is so now. Perhaps I will always be middle class.

Khushi

Khushi sat back, re-reading the mail. She wasn’t satisified. But even when thinking and wiritng, it was a difficult conversation. They would never have made it, had they been face-to-face. Passion, anger, sadness and tears would have taken over long ago. Perhaps that wouldn’t have been so bad, her heart whispered stiltedly. He would have put his arms aournd her and she would have sobbed on his chest. Perhaps that would have been enough to finish it all. Perhaps she should give up this stubbornness, give in and return. It would not be so difficult; even now those harsh scenes of the past were losing their sting. They did not pierce her as they had done weeks ago. She had been truthful. She would never understand things that drove Arnavji. But she often felt that those motivations were no longer important.

Her musings was interrupted by Lavanaya hwo sat on the oppsotie chair with a thud, showing off her manicured and polished hand. She would be a bride soon. Her face glowed with happiness.

‘Poor Aman ji. He is going to fall in love some more and there are still two weeks to go.’ Khushi teased.

Lavanaya blushed as she rolled her eyes, and then glanced at the laptop. ‘Writing to Mr.Raizada?’

Khushi nodded and turned serious. Lavanaya had been a great friend, giving her space but of late, she was being rather pushy when it came to her.

‘You are still not ready to call and talk.’

‘Not yet. There are some more answers that I need.’

‘Hisab maang rahi ho, Khushi?Are you asking him to account for all your suffering?

 

Khushi felt her hackles rise. ‘Not you too, Lavanaya? You think I have no right to these answers…that I should tow the line…’

‘No, you shouldn’t. In fact, if you were dead set against the man, then I would have been fine. Absolutely. But I see that you are not happy. Neither would he be. If I remember him correctly, he would be missing you terribly. His heart would have burst with hope with your mail, he would have laid bare his heart when he wrote to you. Tell me if I am wrong, Khushi.’ Khushi sat silently, Lavanaya’s words joining along with NK’s. ‘And then the days you spent thinking over it (Yes, I do watch over you Khushi), think how he would have suffered? Thinking that the mail he sent might have repulsed you, waiting day and night for a word from you. The extent to which he went to get you back, anyone can see. He loves you, Khushi. No one can deny it. Not even you.’ Khushi nodded. ‘And you love him too. I see that you miss him. Terribly.’

‘Khushi, its okay if you want more time,’ Lavanaya continued, sighing at Khushi’s silence. ‘But be honest and admit. Don’t withhold hope from him. It is not like to punish someone like this. That too a man who loves you so.’

Khushi nodded silently and Lavanaya left her at the that, hoping that she had not said too much.

Khushi watched Lavanaya’s retreating back. Perhaps her friend was right. LAvanaya, who Arnavji had thanked for looking after her in such a heartfelt manner, whose wedding he had arranged, for whose happiness he had done all he could. Why? Because Aman Mathur was his friend, and Lavanaya who was her close friend. For you, her heart whispered. For you, because he knew it would make you happy.

I am not saying I am changed man Khushi. That is for you to decide.Words from his letter came back to him.

Khushi added a small postscript to the mail and sent it.

 

Arnav’s phone beeped. Was this it? The message he ahd been waiting for days, afraid that his mail, his admitting that he had no answers for the past, might have put her off. The letter asked for more from him…but the postscript. It warmed him, it promised nothing, but it was generous enough to give hope. If it was possible he fell in love some more.

PS: Ek sach aur bhi hai, Arnavji. (there is one more truth). That I miss you terribly. Day and night. Jeeji asked me some days ago ‘tumhe kya faraq padta hai, Khushi.’ Lavanaya too told the same thing to me just now. Let the bygones be.

Magar baat apki hai isliye faraq padta hai. Whatever may be the outcome of all this, I know that as long as I live, you would always dominate my thoughts, my memories, my heart.  Laad Governor!

————-

Here it is! I feel like giving myself  a pat on the back. It is not even that short!! 🙂

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(Unforgettable) Chapter 30b: You’ve Got Mail

Chapter 30 b

The house was quiet and dark but Arnav had hardly noticed it. Eversince his phone had beeped and he had seen the message, he had been unaware of the surroundings. The storm inside him raged as he sat in the serene night of Delhi’s shortlived spring; the inner turmoil overtook the world around him. Everything else had ceased to be.

The surprise at Khushi’s mail, the baited breath and jerky fingers as he had opened the mailbox after faltering several times, and then his heart had raced as he read her letter for the first time. Now hours later, somwhere between night and day, between yesterday and tomorrow, between the past and the future, Arnav Singh Raizada struggled with the questions of the present, the questions Khushi asked, the questions that lay beneath this anguish and separation.

He had read her mail so many times….so different it was from the love letter that she had written once, on behalf of his fiancé, her friend, promising to cook pasta for him, make him happy or else to jump off the hill. How different the girl was …and yet how similar. Arnav had seen the glimpse of this Khushi too, in the girl who had shown him the stars.

The directness of the mail haunted him. As if he, his behavior, his callousness had jolted her belief that there was goodness in the world, the unreasonable suffering had made her question her conviction that everything happened for a reason, that there were her loved ones watching over her. It had shaken her trust in others and in her own self.

It demanded honesty, as direct as she had been. But going back over those times, he had trouble understanding what had possessed him then. How to explain those deep inexplicable feelings, a fear to trust and a yearning to let go, the anxiety that he would be hurt and yet a desire to open his heart to the happiness she offered. He didn’t know the words.

So hours later he sat staring at the blank screen of his laptop. ‘Yeh ladki mujhe pagal kar degi’ he shook his head knowing that he would rather be driven mad by her than be left without her in the world. He had to get her back. Arnav took a deep breath and began writing.

From: Arnav Singh Raizada ASR@ardesigns.com

To: Khushi K.Gupta <khushikumarigupta@xyz.com>

Date:  Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2.35 AM

Subject: Re:Aap Theek Ho?

Khushi,

Yes, it was a surprise. A surprise that I dared not hope for. Another thing that I should thank Lavanaya and Aman for then.

Main theek hoon, Khushi. Aur abhi shayad Khush bhi hoon.  (I am okay, Khushi. And for now, happy too.) If NK’s visit has brought about this, then, I promise truly I have never appreciated NK as I do this evening.

Khushi, I have been thinking for hours now. I know until I answer these questions neither of us will be able to let go of the past. But even after re-living those times again and again, in the last hours, weeks, months, I still have no answers.

Khushi, mere paas koi jawaab nahi hai. I have no answer to your questions, no way that I can tell you, explain and justify what I was then when I was with you. You are right. I was angry, I did not trust anyone around me. Even my family.

I saw love, even my family’s,  as their need – their need for me, and all that I stood for. You know, for Akaash’s marriage, when you were teaching me about the ways of the heart, I brought Mamiji around by warning that she would lose her status as a Raizada daughter-in-law if she opposed the marriage, though I knew that beneath all her make up and jewels she was the woman who sold her jewellery to fund my studies, who never diffrerentiated between Akaash and me.

Only with Anjili di, I let my guard down. But even with her, I liked it when she was with me, liked to protect and look after her. I told myself that she needed me, believed that she clung to me because she was weak and I was strong. Her tears, her pain made me feel helpess, as if I could still not control our lives. They brought me to my knees so I tried my best to stop them. By giving in to her wishes, her desires, I believed I granted happiness to my weak handicapped sister.

Over the last year I learnt a lot about her. She is a strong woman, a woman who knows how to get her way, a woman who can stand alone merely by her faith in God and her believe in love and goodness, just like you. But then, I had not looked deeper enough to appreciate even my sister. The mindless desire to make money, get to the top, overcome and control life around me – probably all these tied me to the past which I never cared to examine. Never had time to. For me love was synonymous with need. I saw everyone’s need for me, for the money, the power and the status I brought and that made me stronger.

Yet you are right. No one bore the constant brunt of anger. Despite my arrogance, I got along with others. I don’t know why you bothered me. Probably because you never needed me in the ways I understood need. Probably because I knew that though you fascinated me, you were never really interested in ASR. That all I stood for had no value for you.  I wanted you to show weakness, ask for help, lean on me, so that I could gloat and look down on you, as I did at every one around me. Even when you came to Shanti Van on Di’s request, and often sought me, I rubbed my power and status in your face, because I wasn’t even capable of understanding that friendship and sympathy you offered was not dependent on any of these things.

But when I assigned motives of money, I could make sense, a warped kind of sense but still something I understood. And so I went on, though you kept confusing me and I became harsher. Do you remember that Diwali night…how many times I have yearned that phone call had not interrupted us? That I had not used my mind to make sense but listened to the beats of my heart. And then Payal’s wedding, how many times I have re-lived those days from Sangeet to the wedding, wishing for a different outcome – that I stayed back to hear everything, that I spoke to you instead of Shyam.

Perhaps you are right. I can get away saying that it was convenient to distrust you. We had known Shyam for long. He had been living with us. Di’s husband, my sister who was pregnant, my sister whom I thought was blind in her love. But none of thse excuses can justify the fact that I loved you (Yes, I did) and yet did not trust you. I loved you and yet decided that you should suffer, without giving a second thought to your side of the story. With my ideas of money and its power, everything seemed stark clear – motives that I assigned to Shyam, motives that I assigned to you.

Later in those few months living with you here, in this room, with me, the conviction that there was more to the world than money and status, that my understanding was limited, stunted – it stared in my face so often. Yet I refused to give way; being ASR, it could not bow down to you. Even when you told me the truth, I could not listen. ASR could not be wrong.  Admitting that I had erred, would mean that I had made the biggest mistake of my life; that the very foundations that I stood on were false. I was stubborn mule, a monster as you correctly called me so often.

The lessons in love that you tried to give me when bringing Mami around for Akaash’s wedding– I learnt them, Khushi. Learnt them the hard way. In the one year that you were gone, no one has needed me. Payal was ready to give up on her marriage, on being a Raizada daughter-in-law when she learnt the truth. Akaash walked out giving away Raizada house, the name, the money. My brother who, I thought, I followed me beause I brought him success; the brother, whom everyone thought was my shadow, he stood by his wife. He has become a son to your parents. My sister’s love proved to be much mpore discerning. You know, I think Di was not even surprised to learn about Shyam. But my mistakes shook her. I had destroyed everyone’s peace, had taken them all for granted. But they stood by me, Khushi. Despite all I had done, they spared some moments of their day for me, as a brother, as a son. Never let me alone, not because they wanted anything from me….but because they loved me.

I understand now. I will not tell you that I am changed man. That is for you to decide. I did not tell you anything when I found you again because after a long time, I felt alive, I felt love, I felt the need to be needed. And this time, I was not confused by what I wanted. I wanted you. And I got you. Call me selfish if you want to. Khushi, if there is anything in this whole saga that I don’t regret, I don’t regret lying to you that day when I found you in Sheesh Mahal once again. Much as it angers you to hear that, I would change a lot of things of the past if I could, but I would not change that. Never. I can never take away the pain and suffering that all underwent because of me, especially you. Perhaps the shadow of my errors will take a long time lifting. But these weeks have given me some peace, some memories to live by.

Tumhara Laad Governor

Arnav

—————-

Indeed, now that I am writing it, it does seem weird, especially after watching some fo the initial episodes (remember that what nahi pot, gamla scene :-D). Those Khushi and Arnav writing mails – strectches your imagination a bit. But I would like to think that a lot of time has passed, too many things have happened, and both of them have changed – a more mature Khushi, and more honest Arnav. That is what I told myself.       .

(Unforgettable) Chapter 30a : You’ve got mail

From: Khushi K.Gupta <khushikumarigupta@xyz.com>

To: Arnav Singh Raizada ASR@ardesigns.com

Date:  Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 5:04 PM

Subject: Aap Theek Ho?

Arnavji,

I know this mail would surprise you. It has surprised me as well. I was all set to write a long letter to you but Lavanaya and Amanji convinced me that this was better. So here I am. After Lavanaya taught me to operate this thing and Amanji created an account, they have let me alone to struggle on the keyboard when I have so many things to write.

But now that I am writing, I am left wondering about the same thing that I had been in the morning when I was sitting with a pen and paper. Where do I begin?

Aap theek ho na? Thank you for the anklets. They are exactly like my amma’s. They meant so much to me now. And not just because of amma.

It was good of Nanheji to visit Lucknow. He told me a lot of things…about the past. Please don’t be angry with him. It helped me understand so much that had been puzzling me for a long long time. I understand your hurt, your anger. Even your distrust. I know it has been a long time, but the bad memories have a bad habit. They tend to persist till we make an effort, conscious and willfull to root them out.

I want to do that Anravji. I want to move ahead. I don’t want to linger forever with horrible days and nights of life.

But before I can do that, I need to know and understand why all this happened? I know you found it difficult to trust. Life held little prospects of pleasure. Yet there were people you were courteous with, people who did not bear the constant brunt of your anger as I did. What did I ever do that I was never given a benefit of doubt or a chance to explain? So many times you could have made little effort and learnt the truth – about my presence at the Sheesh Mahal the first night, about Shyam and me.
Then why? Perhaps it was just convenient to hate me? The question bothers me night and day.

Why me?

Khush Kumari Gupta

—————-

Arnav’s reply, coming up soon. As i said, lets try for short updates this week which I can manage.

As you know, ‘Unforgettable’ is moving towards the end. I know a lot of you read only thsi story. (It would be nice if you gave the other one a try) and a lot of you have been reading it silently. Please, this is the time to  leave comments  since there are only a few more updates left on this one. Make it memorable for me. Leave a lot of comments!!

Also, as I mentioned in my reply to Hina in the last update, I have another story, whcih I wrote along side ‘unforgettable’. Hopefully I would be able to share more about it with you soon. I wrote ‘Unforgettable’ to take a break from that one, and I came to ‘Unforgettable’ with that story floating in my viens. You will see a lot of influences of this story on that.

For updates on that and all my other fictions (now and coming), follwo me here (of course) or join me on twitter (@vandanasaxena31)

Enjoy 🙂

Chapter 29: ‘…And sometimes she loved me too…’

“I can write the saddest poem of all tonight. I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.” 

-Pablo Neruda

The darkness was slowly settling in. Probably he should get up and put on the lights. Khushi never liked it in the dark. It reminded her of the most aweful nights of her life. The day her parents died, she had once told him. More horrible dark memories must have added to that crushing event. Probably she also remembered the night Shyam had tried to run her over with a car. Did she also remember the nights that she spent alone here, at the poolside, he wondered. That would make him a part of her nightmares. He must be a part of her nightmares. Did she sit on the terrace of the Sheesh Mahal in the evenings and  remember those days, and hate him? Did she ever remember him kindly? How could she ever accept the anklets when she met NK tomorrow? Why would she come back now.

Time had come a full circle. Once again every evening he sat under the stars, still waiting for her…some word, one call that never came.

Ek din aapko pata chalega ki jo bhi aap karte hain who devi maiyya aapse karvati hai…par uss di hum aap ke saath nahi honge.

Her words had been so prophetic. It was over a month since she had left. Yet each day was as painful as the first. He had tried to distance him self after taking the decision to let her go…he had tried to prepare himself for this loneliness that he knew would follow once she left him…a loneliness that might last forever. Now he wondered if it would ever become easier to live with it. Probably not. Arnav remembered the horrible year when he had lived in darkness after her disappearance. How terrifying those days were! This time was different. He knew where she was. He knew she was ok…as least not in any physical hardship. That he had ensured. But beyond that he was as helpless as he had been then. No, it was never going to be easy. Despite all his efforts to move ahead with life, once again he was standing right there where she left him, and he knew he would be left here, in this nothingness if she decided not to come back. The burden of a barren life stared him in his face every morning and he spent every day trying to come to terms with it.

‘Arnavji!’ Payal’s voice interrupted the train of gloomy thoughts. She brought in a glass of milk along with his medicines. Payal extended the tray, waiting for him to take his medicines and milk. There was no point asking her to leave the tray. Arnav knew she would not.

Eversince Khushi had left, Payal had turned around. Arnav wondered what it was that prompted Payal to look after him. Probably it was his helplessness, probably she pitied him, the angry

Payal whom he know recognized as Khushi’s sister – a sister who would go to any lengths to protect and fight for Khushi. Why did she seek him out now?

‘How is she?’ Arnav asked as Payal turned to leave once he had kept the empty glass in her tray.

‘She says she is okay.’

‘But…’

Payal sighed as she turned around. ‘But she is not happy. Khushi is not happy in Lucknow.’

Silence followed Payal’s words. The two wracked there brains to say something. Payal lowered herself on the stool near the dressing table. ‘I know my sister. I can hear the sadness in her voice. But I know whatever I say would make no difference to her…or you.’

‘I am sorry, Payal. Believe me, if there was something I could do, I would.’

Silence followed the words. Payal watched wide eyed. Had ASR just apologized to her?

‘Payal,’ he continued after a pasue. ‘I am sorry that I used you and Akaash. Sorry to have caused so much pain…to you, your sister, your family.’ He said quietly. A burden weighing on his heart lessened with each word he uttered.

‘But…then…why?’ Payal stuttered, quickly moving past his apology to come to the question that had been troubling her for days. . ‘Why did you let her go? You said you could not live without her. You did everything to keep her. Then why?’

‘Because she wanted to, Payal. Your sister, who would not leave me alone when I sent her away, when I shouted at her, when I did everything to distance her. She…she kept returning. And now, when I…when she had become my reason to live, she could not bear to be close to me. She shunned me, would not look at me, did not want to hear me. I did not want to see her unhappy…could not watch her hating me.’

Payal pursed her lips and was silent for a long time before burst out as if she could not keep the anger inside her any longer. ‘You hate her, make her life hell and then pine for her when she is gone. I…I..could not even hate you in peace…you were so…so sad…. Anyway, now she, Khushi….she says she cannot live with you…Yet I hear sadness in her voice…loud and clear. She knows, and I know, everyone knows, that she is not happy without you!’ Payal was unable to stop herself anymore. ‘Why? What is it between the two of you? You can’t live together, you can’t live apart. Do the two of you ever realize how difficult it is for others, people who care about you, to see the two of you hurting each other and then pining in sorrow?’

Payal was right. They hadn’t. In their muleheaded belief that they were responsible for everyone, he as well as Khushi – they had made a mess of things, hurt the very people they had set out to protect. Everyone was still grappling with the mistakes of the past- Di, who would never be happy till he was, and Payal, for whom Khushi’s happiness was as important as her own.

‘I am sorry.’ Arnav said again.

Payal rose to leave but his words stopped her again.

‘Why do you do this, Payal?’ Arnav gestured at the tray she was carrying. ‘All this for me?

Why?’

 

‘For Khushi. For me, you are my sister’s husband …whatever she says and whatever you say.

And…’

 

‘And?’

‘And this time I know…I know you lied but…but you were trying to set things right …to make her happy,’ Payal shrugged. ‘You love her, I know. You are trying. So…Anyway, when she wakes up from this foolishness and comes back, she might ask me.’

‘She might not,’ Arnav felt it necessary to let Payal know. ‘Khushi said she might not return.’

‘Is that so? You are both delusional,’ Payal said clearly, shaking her head at him as he was a child. Payal put on the lights in the room before turning to Arnav ‘She will come back.’

Arnav looked up, his tired red eyes burning with such hope and uncertainity that she could not help but walk back, kneel down and cover his hand with hers. ‘Believe me, Arnavji, she will. And you better be ready for her when she does.’

He nodded dazedly and Payal got up to leave. ‘So look after your self, so that you can look after my sister when she is back.’

Payal stepped out of the room. The two of them, Arnavji and Khushi, they were so naïve at times. It was painful to watch them like this. She would speak to Akaash. They might go to Lucknow soon. Akaash wanted to attend Aman’s wedding to Khushi’s friend. Probably it was time they did something about their foolhardy siblings. Payal smiled as she remembered Khushi’s plan bring her around when Akaash had proposed. It was time to settle the score, dear sister.

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

Khushi sipped her tea as she sat back, tired but happy. NK looked around delightedly taking in the sights and sounds of Hazratganj, the most fashionable market place of Lucknow.  It had been a great day, as she had known it would be. Khushi had taken him around the city she loved, and he had filled her up about all the news from Delhi. Well, almost all. For name that was on the top of her mind had been missing till now.

She could always count on Nanheji when she was feeling down. His company was a pleasure – no emotional pressure, no efforts to live upto any expectations. Khushi smiled at the man sitting opposite her.  Once, in the days that followed the surgery, she had fleetingly captured a similar effortless kind of relationship with Arnav. Just the pleasure of the spending time with each other had been enough. She had been so sure of his love, and he…he had been so eager to make her comfortable, to make her happy. And under the smooth pleasant surface had been the delicious undercurrents of desire. Khushi remembered the pleasurable sense of anticipation, the ill concealed hunger that welled up in his eyes often, which would awaken an answering passion in her…the way his hand would caress her leg as he helped her…the way his arms tightened around her in the night, his hot breath on her neck, the touch of his slightly roughened lips…and…and the tension that rose from the strange reluctance on Arnav’s part to let it get any further, how it often it frustrated her. How bright those days were. Khushi felt her belly quiver as she remembered them …was it all an illusion as she had claimed in anger…No. It was as true, her heart answered with certainity that it had not felt for a long time.

‘Khushiji, where are you?’ NK waved his hand in front of her her. Not that he needed to ask. Her dreamy eyes told it all.

‘I am here. With you,’ Khushi woke up from her day dreams. ‘But I hope this trip is not because you are leaving soon and wanted to see me before that,’ she added worriedly. THe thought had crossed her mind and it had irritated her.

‘You want to send me away? Here I was planning to join your dabba service…handle the business  while you cook to your heart’s content.’

‘Arrey wah, nanheji. It’s a great idea.’ Khushi wondered if he was serious. His foreign returned image did not really go with a dabba service. But then, she herself was not sure if she would ever return to … to KKGSR dabba service. The image of Arnav showing her the blue visiting card flashed in her mind. It had been months…but it seemed a lifetime, Khushi felt a pang. The yearning to talk to him intensified.

‘Then to our future partnership,’ NK raised his cup in a toast and set it down slowly after taking a sip. ‘So when do you plan to return so that we can start working on it.’ he said after a pause. Time to talk about the elephant that had accompanied them though the day.

‘I…I…don’t know, Nanheji,’ Khushi fixed her gaze on the  cup of tea, unwilling to answer the question.

‘Why?’

Khushi answered with a shrug.

‘You are still angry with Arnav?’

‘No.’

‘I am glad to hear that. He misses you a lot, you know. I am sure Payal bhabhi told you.’

Khushi nodded silently.

‘Then? Is it because you…you want to punish him?’

‘No,’ Khushi replied emphatically. ‘You know I came here to think. I needed time.’

‘And what have you thought?’

‘A lot. Nanheji, I…I believe him and …and you all when you say he suffered. I know…may be it is guilt, may be..may be he really loved me as he says. But …but I don’t understand …don’t understand him. Why did he behave the way he did,’ Khushi tried to put her thoughts in words. ‘What did I do wrong that he was so nasty in the beginning…such rudeness, such harsh words…just because I was not rich. At times I cannot imagine he is the same man. But he is. He is the same man who made my life miserable when I was trying to work at AR Designs. You know once…once he let me fall from office. Then sent me to a dangerous place where I almost died. It was almost like he wanted me to leave, to disappear…how often he told me that he did not want to see me, or hear me…why? And he says he loved me but…but how easily he found it to believe those lies about me…why?

‘These are the questions only Nannav can answer. Have you asked him?’

Khushi shook her head. ‘Whenever..whenever we speak…we…we are never able to talk. Every thing else, the emotions, the hurt, the past…it just takes over…and the questions I want to ask, they get lost. And till I have answers, I know they would keep troubling me.’

NK sighed. Left to herself, he did not think Khushi would ask his cousin and that muleheaded man would not talk to her on his own. May be a little push might not be amiss? Would it be interefering too much?  But then who were Nannav and Khushiji to accuse others of interfering in their lives!

‘Khushiji, I don’t have answers to your questions. But there are somethings about your husband that you must know. I know I should not be the one telling you this…but he is so stubborn..that..’ Nk shrugged. ‘You are right. He…he had a lot of anger and bitterness. And I cannot blame him.  Remember I told you once, he had a difficult childhood. His father…well, he had an affair with another woman. And when his mother found out her husband’s truth, she committed suicide …shot herself on the day of her daughter’s wedding. And he followed her. Can you imagine?’ Khushi gasped. ‘Can you blame him for…for being angry. For Di and Nannav clinging  to each other. He does not find it easy trust people. Their chachaji threw them out of Sheesh Mahal which had been their home.’

Khushi’s jaw dropped. Sheehs Mahal…so the scandal she had heard about. She remembered herself telling Arnav about it…on the plane from Lucknow to Delhi..the tension on his face. ‘Devi Maiyaa. That is why…that is why he hates the place.’

It was NK’s turn to shrug. ‘The scandal was well known in the elite circles of Lucknow. That is they moved out of Lucknow. He changed his name form Mullick to Raizada, made a fortune for himself, studied hard, worked harder…but I think..he…never left the past behind…until..well, until you came. But here he had created another mess. Why did he treat you to such rudeness…I don’t know. Only he can answer that. Ask him.’

NK leaned forward and covered her hand with his. Khushi nodded dazedly.

The journey back to Sheehs Mahal was a silent one. Khushi was still trying to assimilate the information, the revelations about the complex man she had fallen in love with. A bitter man …a man with a dark past.  He had faced betrayals of the worst kind. Even though she had a faint memory of her parents, she knew that had they been in a similar situation, her mother would have chosen to live for her. So would her father whom she remembered vaguely. Their love for the child would have overcome all other passions, all other love and hate that seemed to have ruled the life of Arnav’s parents. Was it a wonder that he found it difficult to trust others when his nearest ones had left him to fend for himself?  Was he a monster as she had once believed….as he had called himself several times, apologizing for his behavior? Probably he was…but a sad one. His anger and arrogance had helped him when love and trust had failed him so miserably.

But hadn’t she seen his tender side…with Di, Nani, even Mamiji…and herself… when..when he ahd broken her fast on Teej, come all the way to the temple to bandage her finger…when he thought she had an accident. The memories once again flooded her mind…Khushi saw a man struggling against his innate bitterness, his distrust. How well Shyam must have known him to play on that.

Shyam. Despite everything, Khushi knew she would always carry the thorn in her heart…that Arnav had trusted Shyam’s word.. he had believed  she could stoop so low, without giving her a chance to explain. But neither could she forget the last few weeks…weeks when he had showered her love, his immense capacity to care, the way he had laid open his heart, his insecurities, made himself so vulnerable knowing that when her memories came back she might turn away from him. And she had done exactly that….She felt his efforts to cling to her; his refusal to let her go, with a new understanding, a new kind of urgency.

‘I have my wife and I am going to be with her.’

 

‘Then you must know that this … I cannot let you go…with nothing to hold on to…’

 

‘In your scheme of things, you are planning to destroy me.’

Suddenly Khushi wanted to rush to him, hold him and wipe away the tears she had seen so often in the last few days. She looked at NK who had been quiet all the while. ‘Please, is he..is he okay…?’

‘He is. Payal bhabhi and Anjili Di look after him. And its not like last time…when you disappeared. He knows where you are so…that makes it …better, I guess.’

Khushi nodded.

‘He sent these.’

Khushi’s eyes teared as she took them and held them tightly. Anklets…just like her mother’s. He knew she would miss them them once she had her memories back. But it was not just because it was her mother’s. She had re-lived that diwali night so often…when he had put a similar anklet on her feet. In her mind, they were as much a part of her mother’s memories as his.

Khushi sat down with a thud and buried her face in her hands. She wanted him so much…it was like an ache in stomach. ‘I…I must have hurt him…so badly when I left.’ She murmured.

NK ran hand on her head. ‘Well, my stupid cousin did deserve it, didn’t he?’ he said with chuckle trying to cheer her up. ‘Come home, Khushiji. But come because you cannot stay away…not because you feel sorry for him as you do now…come because you cannot stay from him.’

****

Next day, after NK had left, Lavanaya found Khushi sitting on the terrace staring at a blank paper spread before her, nibbling the pen, lost in thought. Where did she begin? She looked up when Lavanaya came to sit opposite her.

‘I was planning to write to Arnavji,’ Khushi answered when Lavayana raised brow in inquiry.

‘Prem patr’ Lavanaya teased, happy to see Khushi blush.

‘Just some things that I needed to ask him.’

‘Then speak to him?’

Khushi shook her head. ‘It is better this way. Later…later we can speak face to face.’

‘OK. But do you know while you were in amnesia, the world moved ahead. You can mail him…and he will get it instantly. This will take ages.’

Khushi looked at the paper and then Lavanaya. Her friend was right. How often she had teased Arnavji that he was as much in love with his laptop as her!

‘You tell me then. How to write a mail..’ Khushi pushed away the pen and the paper and looked at Lavanaya.

‘Of course. First lets get a laptop, Ms Khushi Kumari Gupta.’

‘Singh Raizada,’ Khushi murmured getting up to follow Lavanaya.

**********

The phone beeped. It was late. Who could be writing to him at this time, Arnav wondered. Perhaps some overseas clients, he took up the phone with a sigh. His eyes widened with shock as he read the message in the inbox.

Mail from Khushi K. Gupta.

————

  So here it is. A long one to compensate for being late. Yesterday was  just not my day!
‘You’ve got mail!!’ to follow. I always found the idea of love letters very romantic. But Lavanaya is also correct. Letters are passe. So I decided let the two of them write mails and sort out the issues. Also I feel with all the tears, emotional baggage, face to face encounters often dont work….
🙂 Enjoy. and write to me so that I can shape up the rest the updates to come. Will update ICHTW by the weekend!