Khushi spent the large part of the day strapped to her chair, uncomfortable and disturbed. She was upset not so much about her predicament as by Shyam’s revelations. To say that she was horrified and shocked would be an understatement. The fact that she had been instrumental in Shyam’s return to RM was also eating into her.
Exhausted from upheavals of the last twenty-four hours, Khushi dozed off in parts only to wake up with a start at the beginnings of another nightmare involving Shyam. After a while of this Khushi gave herself a strict talking to and resolved to grip on herself and think ahead so that if needed she could save herself and her family from this evil monster. Although she was fairly confident that Arnav would have got her ‘message’ she knew she couldn’t underestimate Shyam either and even if Arnav did land up, there was no guarantee that anger would not cloud his thinking.
No she would have to do the thinking and doing, if only she could be free, she would show that monster. Sudden doubts assailed her. What if Arnavji did not ‘get’ her message, what if he was late for the wedding?! Bas kar Khushi bas kar! She told herself. Devi Maiyya hai na? But she had to have a backup plan.
Her captors offered her food and she gagged at the thought of food that too bought by Shyam – no wait, not Shyam, definitely Arnavji’s money. She pulled the plate close, besides she needed her strength, she was thinking from her head and not going by the dictates of her heart which told her to throw the food in her captor’s face.
She not only worked off all the food offered but opened up a channel of conversation with each of her captors whoever was guarding her. It not only helped her pass the time, but also helped her establish a rapport, a fellow feeling with them. She asked them about their families and compulsions behind choosing this route for earning money. She assured them of hefty rewards, much more than Shyam could ever dream of giving, from her Arnavji.
Yet all too soon Shyam was back swaggering in with his hated leer. “Toh Khushiji, how are you? Sorry to keep you waiting and that too in this position. Aap toh jaante hain, how much I care for you?” She flinched as he reached out and tucked her hair behind her ear, “but unfortunately due to some strange inconceivable prejudices, you don’t allow yourself to care for me as much.” He was mad, thought Khushi, “If only you did, I would have given you a grander wedding than your Arnavji ever could. But never mind, I am fully confident that given time, you will grow to love me.”
Khushi glared at him and strained at the restraints. “Never, ever, never!” She spat.
“Never, is too long a time, Khushiji! We shall see, come it is time to wed, you know the routine, exchange garlands, sindoor and pheras, what you missed with saale sahab, rendering your ‘marriage’ null and void. Be a good girl and I will give you a gala wedding ceremony with all the trappings, bigger and better than the one saale sahab organized for you. And there would be no ‘miscarriage’ this time I can assure you,” he winked evilly.
“Shut up shut up!” Khushi screamed, “I don’t believe you! I don’t believe anyone could be so vile, so satanic.”
“Dekho Khushiji, you are again underestimating me. Although that works to my advantage, but since you are going to be my wife you should at least realize the true value, the actual depth of my capabilities. Come let me tell introduce you to the great Mr. Shyam Manohar Jha so that you can have the privilege of being the only person in this whole world who knows the whole truth about me and nothing about me.”
Shyam then proceeded to describe with great relish and graphic detail his intricate plans, which gained him entry into RM, and he made sure she knew exactly how he had ensured she caught a glimpse of him.
Khushi listened to him in growing horror and disbelief. No doubt he had told her this earlier, but somehow, in some corner of heart, she had not really believed it; at least not that bit about plotting the murder of his own unborn child, first by replacing the medicines and then the intricately planned accident. She had passed that off as too fantastic to be real and that it was just for effect to ensure her cooperation but now as the details were laid bare she was forced to accept that it was no confabulation but real and that made it doubly dangerous for her. She had to be calm and delay as much as she could so that Arnavji had ample time to be able to come up with some plan to save her – that is if he still wanted to. Her shoulders slumped, but only for a few moments. He would come. She steadied. Her heart told her he would come.
Shyam broke into her thoughts, “Hum jaante the Khushiji that you would put two and two together. I knew you soft heart would not be able to see your darling Di in such distress without her beloved patidev,” Shyam gloated. “I also knew that you were the only one in the house who had the guts to overrule Arnav, and you fell so neatly into my plans! It just strengthened my belief that we are meant to be together and my love for you increased manifold,” His eyes glowed, “Come let us be bound forever in the holy bonds of matrimony.”
Khushi shied away like a nervous filly further into her chair.
“Don’t be like that!” Shyam scolded her tenderly. “See I bought a new Shaadi ka joda specially for you. Go wear it and all your jewelry is also here. Ah you thought I had stolen it hain na?” He was hurt. “How could you Khushiji think so lowly of me? I took it all away for your own safety. See it is all here in this bag, here take it and get dressed.”
Khushi quailed and her heart thudded. Yet she held her ground. “Nahi, I am not going to do anything of that sort.”
“Don’t force me to force you Khushiji!” He snarled and then just as suddenly he calmed down and in fact looked quite pleased. “Theek hai Khushiji. As you wish! Actually there would be added pleasure to marry you in the shaadi ka joda that was bought for you by Arnav.” Khushi stared at him in despair. “I will send him a wedding photograph for sure,” he sneered.
He had Lallan and Rocky, who were lurking silently in the corner pick up the chair to which Khushi was bound and then marched off to the temple, just a stone’s throw away. At the temple, arrangements had been made for a wedding and Khushi brightened upon seeing that a pundit was also present. He took one look at the chair bound bride and went as white as his dhoti kurta and started stuttering. Khushi ticked him off her list of potential helpers and her heart sank. Then anger flared in her breast.
Just what was that Laad Governor thinking? How dare he take so long? Just let him come, she would surely blast him. No that would be letting him off easily, she would torture him and slow boil him in oil, and he said he loved her… arrrgggghhh.
Khushi focused on her anger, it was better than the cold panic that was setting in. Her hands and feet were feeling senseless and shaky, her mind was shutting down, she yearned to drop off into a long nap from which she never wanted to waken. No this would never do! She needed to be alert and active, she would deal with Arnavji later. First she needed her wits about her to deal with this blot on humans, this inhuman monster.
Think Khushi think, hey DM raksha karna raksha karna.
Shyam came and leaned over her chair and hissed, “Khushi, I hope you are convinced and ready to marry me without any fuss. I am going to untie you and expect you to cooperate. If you don’t, well I have a man waiting in Laxmi Nagar, just a phone call would be enough to send your dear babuji to the crematorium. The choice is yours.”
Khushi controlled herself and nodded.
Shyam untied her hands and feet. Khushi sat there wincing and rubbing her numb hands. Her ankles were throbbing with pain and her legs were all shaky from fear and weakness. She tried to stand up but failed.
Shyam sighed impatiently and said, “Jaldi Khushiji, jaldi, I want this over and done as quickly as possible.”
Not if I can help it thought Khushi mutinously. Trying to buy time, she grimaced and winced in pain, stood up and fell back in the chair again. She said, “I am trying, can’t you see, I will need a little time.” She pouted. “You are even more inconsiderate than Arnavji and you say you love me.”
Shyam was instantly all solicitous concern and care. “Of course Khushiji, hume maaf kar dijiye, I should have understood, these idiots bound you so tightly,” he turned and glared at them standing quietly at one side. “But,” he continued, “We do need to hurry, once this formality is over, you can take as much rest as you want.” He promised.
“But I must able to stand at least!” Khushi snapped, while she rubbed her legs. When she could no longer delay things any further, Khushi stood up shakily, Shyam rushed forward to support her.
Khushi angrily shrugged him off, “Leave me alone, I am capable of walking by myself.”
She slowly walked towards the burning havan, her heart thudding madly, hoping against hope, even as a sinking feeling engulfed her.
A very happy birthday to you dear Ruchi! Wish you health wealth and joy hamesha 🙂
Click here for the Grand Finale