Arnav grabbed his car keys, pushed through the crowd gathered in his room and stormed off into the night. Garima and Buaji who had by now emerged from their room, with Babuji looked apprehensively at him. Garima, in particular, looked worried and agitated as she nervously wrung her hands. They waited in the lobby fearing the worst, wondering what had happened, when Payal came rushing down the stairs, crying hysterically. She threw herself into Garima’s arms and said, “Amma! What is this that Dadi is saying Amma? Stop them, please stop them tell them that this is not true!”
Garima froze and her arms dropped from around Payal as she stood stiffly. Slowly the other members of the family came down the stairs to the lobby where they were standing.
Naniji looked around and asked, “Where is Chotte?”
Buaji put a hand to her head. “HNRK Woh, he just charged outside…”
Everyone looked blankly at each other. No one knew.
Garima was weeping and shaking uncontrollably and she kept muttering Khusi, Khusi
Payal led her gently to the couch and made her sit down.
Nani called HP to get some water and asked him, “Have you seen Khushi?”
“Haan. Arnav Bhaiyya wanted to talk to her alone by the poolside and she went there.”
Nani, nodded her head and said, “Theek hai. She must be with Chotte I hope they sort out this thing soon. Aakash call up Chotte and find out.”
Aakash tried calling up Arnav and Khushi, but both phones were switched off.
“Try again in a little while,” Nani said curtly, “Garimaji, you must have heard what Sumi said from Payal.” She was stern but not rude, “but we would, or at least I would like to know from you the truth, or at least your version,” She shook her head worriedly, “because I simply cannot believe what she is saying! That you had an affair with my daamadji… ”
“HRNK!!!!” Buaji, stunned and shocked into silence, finally found her voice, “Haan Garima? What is all this? Why don’t you speak up and tell Dadiji – that nothing of the sort happened – that it is all a lie….”
Dadiji cut in, “What can she say? This is the truth and nothing but the truth! She cannot deny it! Here is the proof,” so saying she passed the photo to Buaji.
Buaji stared at the photograph disbelievingly. “iiiii sab ka hai….nandkishore.”
Shyam smiled evilly as he watched from the sidelines, holding his sobbing wife in his comforting embrace.
Garima, continued to wring her hands and attempted to speak, “Please listen to me Jiji. Please try to understand. I didn’t know he was married…”
“Bas,” Dadi’s voice rang out cold and clear, “We don’t want to hear any of your pathetic excuses. Get out of this house immediately. The wedding is off….”
“SUMI!” Nani interrupted hastily, “Shant ho jaayie! Let her speak and nobody is leaving till this thing is sorted out, till Chotte and Khushi don’t come back. That is final,” She said decisively. “Garimaji, aap kahiye,” she said gently.
Garima wrung her hands. “I swear I didn’t know he was married. He didn’t tell me was married. I was madly in love with him. But the day I got to know, when Dadiji came and told me, I was shocked and horrified. I confronted him and walked away,” she swallowed and plodded on, “And then I got news of the double tragedy.” She choked and faltered, Payal held her steady. “I went to see but I came away because I couldn’t bear the guilt. I wanted to end my life too but Shasheeji saved my life,” she sniffed and turned to Buaji and clung to her. “Jiji….please understand! It was not my fault,” She sobbed, “You know me! I could never ever knowingly break up a family. You tell me….could I ever do such a thing? Never… never….you ask Shasheeji if you don’t believe me… ”
Buaji shook her head. “Garima,” there was a wealth of confusion and doubt in her voice, “I can’t believe that you hid such a big thing from all of us and for so long. No wonder you didn’t want to meet Dadiji, always hiding from her; that shows you had a guilty conscience.” She also looked shell-shocked. “Otherwise you would have said something earlier, you would have confessed at least to me. I can’t believe it Garima, you have broken my trust,” she detached her hands and moved away.
“Nahi Jiji!” Garima started after her pleading, “Don’t speak like that! I did not want to destroy Khushi and Payal’s married lives that is why I kept silent. I knew Dadiji would never believe me – she never listened to me then, she didn’t listen to me after the Haldi ceremony.” She clutched hold of Buaji, “Believe me Jiji! I didn’t know,” she forced Buaji to look at her, “he didn’t tell me, he broke my trust. I loved him so much….” She wept into her pallu.
Buaji thrust her away disgustedly. “You have broken my trust! My faith!” Her ample bosom heaved with the rising tide of emotions. “Here keep your beloved’s photo with you!” She thrust the photo into Garima’s hand and turned to go but Garima clung to her. “Nahi Jiji, please don’t desert me like this. I swear on my daughters, I swear on DM, I didn’t know,” their was a ring of truth in her voice, “If I had, I would never, never would even think of such a thing.”
“Ek minute, Madhumatiji,” Naniji spoke up, “Maybe Garima is telling the truth, maybe she was cheated,” she sighed and pulled at her pallu, “it happens to the best of us, people can sweet talk and fool even the most hardened of us,” she paused, “isn’t it?” She looked meaningfully at Buaji.
Buaji, darted a look at Shyam and stiffened. She reluctantly nodded her head.
Nani, satisfied at having made her point, continued, “And if Garima is able to swear on DM, on her two precious daughters, I am rather inclined to believe her,” she said decisively, “and moreover even if this is true,” she turned to Dadiji, “Sumi why should the wedding be called off? What is Khushi’s fault in this – that Garima is her Aunt?” She paused and her eyes blazed with an unnamed emotion. “What about the fact that your son was an equal party to this affair? Is he blameless? And by the same standard, Chotte is equally culpable isn’t he?”
Dadiji refused to back down. She held Nani’s gaze unflinchingly. “I will not be taken in by this female or this female’s niece. They are master manipulators. This one destroyed my family and another one is also going the same way.” She stood stiff and unyielding in her sentencing. “She failed with one and nearly succeeded with Arnav.” She drew herself up. “But I will not let this happen, not while I am alive.”
“SUMI,” Nani’s voice also hardened. “Please don’t speak about things which you are not well aware of, you don’t know the whole story or Khushi.” She looked over towards Anjali still sobbing in Shyam’s arms and softened her tone. “Please calm down and I feel the decision should be that of Khushi and Chotte. Let them decide, as they are the ones to be most affected.”
Dadi crossed her arms and pursed her lips in complete negation of her childhood friend.
Nani looked at her and then said thoughtfully, “Sumi you had met Garimaji that day when you gave the bangles to Khushi. “Why did you not say anything to us that day? I noticed that there was some tension between you two. But why did you wait till today? The wedding day?”
Shyam grimaced damn Nani. He hugged Anjali close and whispered, “Rani Sahiba, I have a bad headache. I am feeling suffocated. I think I will go out for a bit of fresh air, you are alright na?” He asked with love and concern.
Anjali immediately wiped her face and sniffed. “Do you need any medicine? Shall I make tea? You go and lie down, I shall come and massage your head.”
Shyam, smiling bravely, “Nahi nahi don’t bother.” He gave a hand a quick squeeze. “I am fine. I would not have said anything but I am feeling very suffocated.” He lowered his voice and leaned towards her, “It will not look nice if you also come with me. It is a very serious situation I know.” He sighed. “Waise bhi I cannot really do anything here. I will go and lie down, dont worry about me,” another reassuring smile and a squeeze, he disappeared.
Click here for Chapter 3
Hola peepools! Kaisan ho? Sab kushal mangal na? Gosh it is good to be back and reconnect with you all! Thank you for your company on this crazy journey 😀 A big hello to newcomers (if any) and if you would like to know what happened to Arnav and Khushi after everything was sorted out Click Here – warning it is 500 chapters long.