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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: Fri, Feb 21, 2014 at 2.35 AM
Subject: Re:Aap Theek Ho?
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
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. .