Breakfast was ready but not ‘Arnavji’, Khushi giggled to herself as she put finishing touches to the breakfast.
Her phone rang, “Hi Di, how are you?”
Di, “Hum theek hai, you tell me how was the ‘date’?”
Khushi plaintively, “What date Di, as expected your Chotte forgot and then by the time he remembered it was too late, he did get a Salman Khan CD but then he fell asleep!”
“And yet it was “awesome”? Di teased.
Khushi fumbled, “Haan Di, how is Kshitij Bhaiya, and here is your Chotte”.
She put the phone on speaker mode.
“Hello Di what’s up?” said Chotte affectionately.
“Good Chotte, why don’t you both come over for lunch today?”
“Sure Di, what’s the occasion?”
“Nothing much, I just want to see Khushi’s expression when she tries to explain how a date and movie that didn’t happen could be described as ‘awesome.’
An amused Arnav looked at Khushi until she blushed.
Khushi rushed in, “Kya aap bhi Di, we will come for lunch, but I will make something and get.”
Di laughed, “Achcha baba, bye, see you soon, don’t be late.”
Anjali put down the phone and smiled excitedly at her husband Kshitij sitting across her with a pile of newspaper, “I called them over for lunch, it’s been so long since we met. Poor Khushi, Chotte is so busy and the kids are all out and she is all alone. Maybe she should restart her business or take up a job or something.”
Kshitij looked up from his paper, “Yes, not everybody is lucky as you, a husband who is at the beck and call of his wife. In fact more often than not, waiting for his busy wife to come back and spare him some of her precious time.”
Anjali getting up, “Don’t exaggerate, at my beck and call indeed. I have a lot of work and I am going to the kitchen.”
Kshitij, “Hey running away from the battle field eh?”
Anjali shook her head and walked off to the kitchen, “Aap bhi na.”
But in the kitchen, she bit her lip; maybe there was an element of truth in his accusation, though light-heartedly made. Yet she could sense an undertone, an undercurrent that made her uncomfortable.
After Shyam’s dénouement, Anjali had been shattered. It had taken a lot of patience and love on the part of the family to bring her back from the brink of despair. Khushi in particular had nagged and pushed her into taking up a job at AR Designs, which she took to like a duck to water. It seemed as if she was born for the fashion world. Her knack and eye for fashion became a valuable asset for the company and slowly Anjali found another reason to live. She threw herself into her work and soon she had no time to mope and her family heaved a sigh of relief.
Yet there was a heaviness; an underlying sadness in her heart which constantly dogged Anjali, she not only had her own pain to bear with but also that of her family, Chotte and Khushi in particular. Despite Arnav’s attempts to keep her in the dark about the ‘contract marriage’ Mami in her repentant mode let slip one or two comments and it was not difficult for Anjali to extract the rest of the story.
Anjali’s her heart broke each time she thought of what Khushi had to undergo for her happiness; cheated by her fiancé and forcibly married by another. While Chotte’s behavior was inexcusable, because he did it for her, she felt doubly responsible.
Apart from her own pain of loss and betrayal, the guilt gnawed at her; she was responsible for the unhappiness of two people who loved her the most. She was at a loss as to how to make amends, how to patch up an obviously sorry state of affairs between the two. So she focused on building a life for herself, to begin to laugh, smile, joke and behave as naturally as possible. This was the least she could do to ease things for her loved ones. She couldn’t bear to see the way Khushi avoided Chotte’s company or the way Chotte yearningly looked at Khushi when he thought nobody was looking. She hoped and prayed things would soon get sorted out between Khushi and Chotte.
Her prayers were answered soon enough.
Khushi tripped into the kitchen; Anjali was rustling up a quick breakfast for herself as she was running late.
“Good morning Khushi”, said Di cheerfully, “Where is Chotte, he didn’t even go jogging? Isnt he getting late for office?”
“Good morning Di,” Khushi fumbled, “Woh he is coming, he… he overslept.”
She busied herself in preparing breakfast. Anjali looked questioningly at her back, just then Arnav came in and said, “Morning Di, what’s for breakfast?” and went over to Khushi to look over her shoulder and, Di could have sworn, placed a quick kiss on her cheek.
Sure enough, Khushi’s face was a bright red when she turned around. Anjali walked up and touched Khushi’s cheek. Khushi smiled shyly at her, looked at Chotte, blushed even more and looked away. Anjali’s smile grew wider as she looked at Chotte; he was openly admiring his beautiful, paagal but cute wife.
Anjali felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from her shoulders. Unable to speak a word she hugged them both. As the three hugged each other, tears fell down her cheeks in an unstoppable torrent but she kept smiling, laughing and teasing them. Naturally Khushi joined her in the unseasonal rains while Arnav was hard put to stay dry.
Anjali went to office with a song in her heart.
Click here for Chapter 13