(Not proof read. Please bear with that and let me know the glaring errors)
Nearly a day later, there was still no message. Khushi kept checking her phone growing more worried with each passing hour. It did not oblige her with the familiar ring. Neither came any mail.
What came instead was the Raizada clan. The very next evening Naniji, Payal, Anjili, Aditi, NK and Akaash were in Lucknow, nearly a fortnight before the wedding. All eager to meet her and take a vacation, they told Khushi. Sheesh Mahal transformed into the noisy happy house it once was – during another wedding long time ago.
But the man that her eyes sought did not come. Neither did anyone mention him. Khushi submitted to the excitement of reunion – all the time his absence and silence nagging in her mind.
Finally as they sat together after the dinner, Khushi could not contain her anxiety.
‘Is Arnavji coming soon?’ She turned to Akaash casually.
‘Yes…er…Bhai..soon’ The simple query stumped Akaash and he turned to his wife with a look that was somewhere between an angry glare and a pitiful appeal for help.
Khushi turned to Payal and looked all confused. Payal pursed her lips and glared as if asking her husband to man up.
Anjili came to the rescue of her poor tycoon of a brother whose tongue always knotted and stuck in his throat when he had to lie.
‘He said he would be here for the wedding,’ she said. ‘He had some meetings in Mumbai.’
‘Yes,’ Akaash recovered, glancing apologetically towards his wife before turning excitedly to his sister-in-law. ‘That is what I was saying. Very important meetings. Only Bhai could handle. The Mehta group is our biggest client. We do a business of crores every year. They are based in Mumbai but have branches all over India and South East Asia. Deal in high quality fabrics. This deal might be the most profitable one in the year….and…’
As he paused breathlessly, Payal interrupted.
‘Why don’t you mail the details to Khushi, Akaash,’ Payal narrowed her eyes in an effort to suppress a smile. ‘I am sure she would like to know all that.’
‘Of course, Of course,’ Akaash murmured. But his relief was shortlived.
‘But why does he not pick up his phone?’ Khushi asked him again.
Don’t ask me! Akaash wanted to scream. Ask NK, he stole Bhai’s phone. I have already faced ASR’s ire when he called from airport. He would have to buy new phone in Mumbai, Arnav had said in irritation.
‘Tell everyone Akaash that I am ok,’ Arnav had said. ‘Tell everyone that I will be touch. Akaash, I mean everyone…tell everyone…’
As if Akaash did not understand that everyone for Bhai meant Khushiji.
And there was more to come. Bhai’s phone would take another day to activate. His mail was deactivated from the server. Tomorrow he would call and shout and ask ‘Have you informed everyone…I mean everyone, Akaash.’ Why was he in the line of fire while three masterplanners glared at him.
‘He….Nannav, lost his phone, Khushiji’ NK said. ‘Didn’t he call from airport, Akaash?’
‘Yes. Yes.’ Akaash nodded before thanking NK silently. Who said he was a joker. NK was the smartest of them all. He would tell Bhai when they met, Akaash thought as he slumped back into the chair.
Khushi looked confusedly as her normally confident brother-in-law squirmed under her simple questions. Something was wrong. Was Arnavji…
‘Is he ok?’ she turned anxiously to Anjili di. ‘Is Arnavji ok?’
‘Yes. He is okay now… he assured us when we were leaving.’ Anjili answered with a heavy sigh.
‘Yesterday he fainted,’ Payal answered in a soft voice. ‘His sugar levels, you know.’
‘He doesn’t take care,’ Naniji shook her head in sorry.‘I am so worried about the boy.’
Payal, Anjili and NK heaved another dramatic sigh.
Overacting, Akaash thought. Not that he would tell his wife. He was already going to receive an earful for his nervousness.
‘But why did no one tell me? Why, Jeejaji?’ Khushi turned back to Akaash.
Akaash squirmed again as all the eyes turned to him. Why him? God, Khushiji was a match for Bhai – as relentless as him.
‘Because he insisted he was okay,’ Payal came to chivalrous rescue. ‘And…and he insisted on going to Mumbai himself.’
Akaash nodded and gulped down a glass of water, excusing himself when the phone rang.
They were succeeding, Anjili and Payal shook hands as they watched Khushi. She looked restless at the breakfast next morning. This time she did not wait. Had Arnavji called? She asked as soon as everyone settled.
‘Yes,’ Akaash managed, tutored by his wife over the night. ‘Yes. He said that he should be able to talk by the evening. He …said…he said he was ok.’
KHushi nodded thoughtfully and turned away. What was wrong? She could not tell. Buts something was. All her being was focused on the absent man. Lad governor! his silence had given her a sleepless night. Perhaps …perhaps she would talk to him.
Yes, she decided. She would talk to him.
Khushi felt lighter as soon as she had made up her mind. It was time to meet him half way. It had been nearly two months. But she had realized that she would never be completely happy away from him. Perhaps they could sort out everything once the wedding was over. Perhaps they would sort out things all their life.
Fighting and making up – all their lives, Khushi did not want anyother life.
How empty everything would be when the family left, when Lavanaya and Aman too would leave for their honeymoon. Home, yes she too would go home. Finally she knew what she wanted.
Eagerly she waited for Arnavji to call Jeejaji in the evening. But when the call came, it took pulled the earth from under her feet.
‘Scotland, Bhai. You are going to Scotland?’ Akaash said loudly. ‘I hope everything is ok there.’
Scotland! Memories assailed Khushi. The last time Arnavji had said he was going to Scotland and all had gone wrong.
‘What, Bhai? Can’t hear. You…did you say you are going to be in Delhi…When are you going to Scotland?
Khushi saw her worry mirrored in a quick anxious look Anjili cast towards her before turning back to Akaash.
‘Bhai…Khushiji is here. Talk to her.’
‘Arnavji,’ she took the phone eagerly. ‘Are you.. are you ok?’
Silence. Was he ok? What was the noise behind him?
‘Arnavji,’ Khushi couldn’t help a sob of fear.
‘Khushi…shhh. I am ok.’
A sense of déjà vu hit her again.
‘I love you, Khushi,’ Arnav told her over the phone. Khushi closed her eyes. The phone went silent. No, no. It couldn’t be happening again.
Here is the update. Really sorry to be so late and thanks a lot for keeping up with this.
The trick played on Khushi might be unkind but then what goes around comes around!! Just hang on…soon it is going to be a happy reunion. 🙂
For everyone who hasn’t been to the ‘coming soon’ section, please visit it. Yes, it is going to be published soon. I know many of you assumed the other story that I had been talking about (the one I was writing along side Unforgettable) was an arhi story. But it isn’t. I was seriously working on a book and it is done now. You can read the blurb of ‘Dust of Ages’ in the Coming soon Section.
I hope you would all read and like it as much as you have loved this story. I would keep you guys updated about ‘Dust of Ages’ here or you can follow me on twitter.
So stay in touch.