Defeated, Arnav sighed and opened his mouth to speak, but Khushi spoke first, “Ek minute! Let me get this clear, no ‘ramanchi’ huh, I don’t want you to say, ‘I went back to pray’ or something like that and say ‘deal done’. Be very clear, I want to know why, no matter how many questions it takes as part of the first punishment.”
Arnav looked at her in grudging admiration and said, “I went to thank your Devi Maiyya.”
Khushi astonished, “Thank her?!, For what?”
Arnav, “For not listening me or you.”
Khushi, even more surprised, “What the…theek se boliye.”
Arnav looked at her then reached out and pulled her into his arms, “For not giving up on me, for forcing me to write such a beautiful destiny.”
Overwhelmed Khushi hugged him tightly as she recollected the day he bound her to him with the bandage.
She moved back to look at him, “And what about ‘not listening’ to me?”
Arnav hugged her tighter, “Remember that day you also said that when I realize that it is all Devi Maiyya ki marzee, you will not be there? I thanked her for not making your prediction come true. Although that day, when you fell off the cliff,” he swallowed, “She almost did make your words come true.”
Their thoughts and emotions became one after a long time. They stood there in the warm comfort of each other’s arms, each loath to break the spell.
Arnav’s stomach growled.
“I am hungry,” said Arnav unnecessarily.
“No cheating, your second ‘punishment’ is still pending,” Khushi pouted.
Arnav, innocently, “Sure, but after breakfast, ok?”
Khushi looked at him suspiciously and then said, “Ok, give me 10 min to complete my bath,” she waved her finger at him, “Phone call from Jiji my foot! Next time I will not fall into your trap.”
“I too got a glimpse of the ‘old’ Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. Didn’t you cotton on when I said Payal was in a hurry because she had to go to school? Today is Sunday darling!” he mocked.
Khushi huffed and vanished into the bathroom while he looked on smiling (lopsidedly) at her retreating back.
Arnav was busy on the laptop when she came out, dressed for the day.
“I finished, you go and get ready, while I make breakfast,” said Khushi giving a few quick strokes to her wet hair.
“Arnav, come on, I thought you were hungry”, Khushi waved her hands in front of his eyes.
He jerked away irritated and then went back to his laptop.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” he murmured distractedly.
Khushi grimaced and flounced out of the room, he should have ‘married’ his laptop.
In her kitchen Khushi cheered up, she shooed away HP and got down to making something special for breakfast. Hmmm, ‘upma’ or pancakes? Unable to choose, she decided to make both, one angrez one desi, just like them, she smiled. And Arnav did like both.
‘Arnav’, strange that even after so many years the name sat oddly on her tongue. She preferred to address him indirectly as ‘aap’ or Arnavji when talking about him to Nani, or if she was riled, challengingly as ‘Arnav Singh Raizada’ or Laad Governor, yet rarely as Arnav. She blushed while a smile tugged her lips as she recollected her ‘change over’ from Arnavji to Arnav.
A few days into their conjugal wedded bliss, Khushi came up behind Arnav and hugged him, “I love you Arnavji,” she breathed.
Arnav caught her hand and brought her around with a pained expression.
Khushi was taken aback to see his expression, “What happened Arnavji, sab theek toh hai.”
Arnav wryly, “What ‘theek’, all you life you will call me Arnavji or what?”
“Of course, it is a respectful way to address one’s husband”, she said demurely lowering her eyes.
“Khushi, yeh natak bund karo, call me Arnav nahi toh…” said Arnav.
Khushi, hands on her hips, “Nahi toh what”
Arnav stood obsequiously and said in a falsetto voice, “Nahi toh kuch nahi…..Khushi..ji”
Khushi giggled and clapped her hands, raised her non-existent collar and preened, “Haan, yeh theek rahega, after all even the wife deserves respect”
Arnav, getting irritated, “Come on Khushi, what’s the big deal? Come on try it.”
Khushi placating, “OK, Arnav..jii, ok ok, Arnav…Singh Raizada.”
Arnav well and truly riled now, clenched his teeth, “Khushi, I am warning you.”
Khushi, enjoying being contrary, “You tell me what’s the big deal, kya faraq padta hai?”
Arnav, “Of course faraq padta hai dammit specially when…”
Khushi, jumping in, “Specially when what, Mr Arnav Singh Raizada? Or should I say Laad Governorji?”
Arnav glared at her and then inexplicably, burst into laughter. He guffawed loud and long and was soon rolling on the bed, clutching his stomach.
Khushi stared at him in amazement, “Humne aisa kya keh diya?” He didn’t laugh like this even when the bed broke! “Arnavji, kya hua…. Arnavji…batayie na hume, Arnavji”
Arnav laughed even more, gulped, and said in between his laughter, “Khushi, stop, please stop, I can’t take it anymore.”
Khushi even more confused, “What’s the matter, will you please tell me before I go mad!”
Arnav sat up and wiped his eyes, “I was just imagining you calling out Mr Arnav Singh Raizada or Laad Governor whilst….”he went off into whoops again.
“Whilst what?” Khushi shook him.
“Whilst in the throes of passion”, he managed to gasp.
Khushi stared at him uncomprehendingly and then she blushed, a beetroot red, and started punching him but ended up giggling along with him.
That put an end to Arnavji for whenever she forgot and let it slip, his lips would twitch and he would raise his eyebrow. For a while it was a touch and go for ‘Arnav Singh Raizada’ and ‘Laad Governor’ as well, but they withstood the test of time and blush.
Click here for Chapter 12