Anjali went to Laxmi Nagar and confronted Payal, who did not need much coaxing to come out with the whole Shyam saga. Anjali listened quietly to the whole story while Garima and Buaji looked on apprehensively.
Once Payal finished narrating, Anjali sat quietly for a long time while the others looked on wondering, worrying. She heaved a sigh and she went to Garima and said softly, “This is what happened with you as well hai na?” Garima’s eyes widened. “The only difference being Mamma got to know earlier than you and here Khushi got to know before I did,” Anjali’s voice broke.
Garima hugged her tightly and they both shed bitter tears of anguish for their lost love, the betrayal and impact on their loved ones.
Garima controlled herself and said to Anjali, “Bitiya, I have one heartfelt request please don’t make the mistake your mother did,” She faltered, “Or I would have done if Shasheeji hadn’t been there. I will regret the consequences of my action, no matter even if it was in all innocence and ignorance, to my dying breath but trust me it is not worth losing your life.” She wiped her face. “Too many people love you, your brother looks up to you as his mother; don’t make him go through the same pain again,” she pleaded.
Anjali nodded and squeezed Garima’s hand. “You are right, he is not worth it. Chotte and Khushi have undergone so much for my sake; even knowing the truth Khushi fought with Chotte, brought back Shyam, all for me. I could never do this to them.” She was pale but steady. The inner core of steel and strength shone through. “In fact it is time I put things right as only I can relieve them of the burden. I have to go home now,” She folded her hands and asked for leave.
“Di,” Payal spoke up urgency in her tone, “Can I come with you? I know Arnavji said that I should also go with Amma and all, but then Aakash called up and said that Khushi has been kidnapped and that…that…Sh Shyamji is behind it.”
Unable to speak Anjali nodded her head and took Payal’s hand and they both left for RM.
At RM, Anjali was relieved to find Shyam sleeping and taking advantage of the situation she went to Nani’s room and poured out her woes to Nani and Mami. Nani knew much of the story, while Mami was horrified to know Shyam’s true colors. Nani comforted her as best as she could, all the while afraid that Anjali too would go her daughter’s way. Payal came with Aakash and he filled in the rest of the developments regarding Khushi’s kidnapping including HP’s testimony and involvement of the police and that Bhai had just left for the police station. Mami felt guilty for misjudging Khushi and was even humane to Payal.
Anjali was sobbing throughout. She was torn between sorrow at the loss and betrayal of her love, and pain and anguish for Chotte and Khushi. What all they had borne just for her and now Khushi’s life was at stake. Her heart sank. God forbid if something should go wrong.
After a while NK joined them with the news that jijaji had left RM with a handbag and as instructed by Nannav, he had alerted him and he in turn had alerted the police. Now they had to wait for further news.
Almost immediately Anjali got a call from Shyam to inform her that his close friend’s mother had suddenly passed away, so he had to rush and would probably be late in returning. The air in Nani’s room was thick with tension and into this bubbling mass of emotions Dadi came back after her siesta, fresh and ready for another bout with the RMians.
“Still mourning about the wedding which was not destined to happen?” Dadi taunted. “And what is this girl doing here? Didn’t Arnav throw you out as well?” She attacked Payal. “Do you not have any shame?”
“Bas kijijiye Sumi, bas,” Nani’s voice was stern, “enough is enough, you are miles away from the truth.”
“I know the truth, the whole truth, and I revealed it yesterday, that is the ultimate truth. Come let us purify the house and start afresh.” She cast a disgusted look at Payal. “Aakash, tell this girl to leave here immediately.”
“I will do nothing of the sort,” Aakash sprang a spine. “Payal’s rightful place is by my side as is Khushiji’s besides Bhai. Do you even know that she has been kidnapped?”
“Kidnapped!” Snorted an unconvinced Dadi. “Another drama to gain sympathy, I know these people’s tricks very well. All of you are such fools, only Damaadji appears to have some sense.”
“Bas kijiye Dadi bas kijiye,” Anjali’s cup of woe spilled over, “What do you know of us and what do you know of your damaadji? You return from your Ashram after 14 years and you expect to know what has been happening in our lives and what is best for us?”
Dadi was taken aback. “Anjali bitiya, I was just trying to remove the blindfold that these people insist on retying…”
“Nahi, Dadi, you are the one who has a blindfold on, not us.” She bit her lip. “In fact mine was the last one to be removed and I will remove your blindfold. I will tell you what kind of a man your beloved and trusted damaad is and what Khushi has done for this family. But then given your nature, I doubt if you will believe me, better to see with your own eyes.”
Anjali took out her phone and dialed, “Chotte, where are you?”
“Umm,” Arnav was taken aback. He wasn’t expecting Di to ask him that. “Di…some urgent work…I will be back soon…don’t worry.”
“Chotte, tell me where you are going. You are going to rescue Khushi from Shyam’s clutches aren’t you?”
Arnav was stunned into silence. Dammit! Who told Di? How could he manage both?
“Yes Chotte I know the truth and he is not here so you must be following him to his hideout where he has imprisoned Khushi, hai na? Chotte, say something!” She pleaded. “See I know all and now I insist that you tell me exactly where you are going. I too want to go and I want to catch him red-handed. Chotte, you can’t deny me this!”
“Di, relax, Di,” He soothed her. “Everything will be fine, please Di, I am sorry Di, please try and understand this is a police matter. I can’t tell you Di. Raman is taking me along only under duress.”
“Oh! Raman? Chotte, give the phone to Raman.”
“Give it to him,” Di’s tone brooked no opposition.
ASR reluctantly offered the phone to Raman. There was a brief but silent war between the two, finally Raman yielded and said, “Yes Di?”
“Raman, I don’t care,” She declared, “I will go mad if I sit here anymore! Give me the address or else,” Raman tried to interrupt but Di was having none of it. She was on the warpath and nothing and nobody was going to stop here. “No arguments Raman. Give me the address immediately otherwise, I swear I will jump from the terrace,” She was as calm as if she was discussing the weather.
Raman glared some more at ASR and then, pleaded, cajoled and even begged for reason, but Di was adamant and at her emotional blackmailing best, Raman capitulated but with poor grace. He tried to assert his authority by directing her not to bring anyone else with her, but he was talking to thin air.
He handed ASR’s phone back to him, fuming, “Great! Now I not only have to catch Shyam red-handed, and catch him before he hurts Khushi but also before Di lands up for her pound of flesh. God alone knows who else will be accompanying her. And to top it all, I am taking YOU along with me!” He threw up his hands before dropping them on to the steering wheel, still ranting. “Unbelievable maaannn unbelievable! Am I leading a police operation or directing a bloody soap?” He stepped furiously on the accelerator.
ASR prudently held his tongue and as an added precaution studiously avoided looking in Raman’s direction for the rest of the journey.
Click here for Chapter 9