On the second day of Arnav’s trip to Mumbai, Khushi had woken up heavy eyed and tired, despite having entertained herself in devising new torture techniques for Arnav the Cruel, she had not slept well; she missed him dammit. She didn’t feel too good the whole day either and it was so hot and uncomfortable (50oC!!!), the hormones added to her woes and all her anger was directed to her hair, which was irritating her, it felt hot and sticky and the weight of it pulled her down. She just yearned to go home and rest, but unfortunately it was one of those long days, home was GM populated with an excitable Mankie who insisted his Mami to entertain him if not by playing hide and seek at least by enacting his favorite stories; Khushi didn’t really have the heart to refuse the innocent vocal demands of the little one or the silent appeal of the bigger one who too held her breath and crossed her fingers, ‘please Mami do agree’ expression on her face, for Khushi did have a way of telling stories.
As expected she gave in, despite the throbbing aching back. After about an hour or so of active dramatics, Anjali noticed Khushi wasn’t looking too well and shooed the kids away. Khushi was finally able to get some well deserved rest, she wondered if Arnav was right after all, maybe it was time to cut down on her work, she was after all nearly seven months gone. She sighed as she attempted to find a comfortable postion on the bed; she wished Arnav was there to massage her aching back. She drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
The next day there was good news, Mamaji was going to be discharged later in the day and Arnav would be back by night. But Khushi was still exhausted and in a bad mood to boot; grumbling to herself she went off to her kitchen at AKC. In the lift she met another lady, Neelima, with whom she was on nodding terms; Neelima was surprised not to receive her customary cheerful smile from Khushi, “What happened? Are you Ok?” She asked concerned.
Khushi smiled wanly, “I am fine, just a bit tired and everything is a chore, just imagine I got tired washing my hair today and I still have more than 2 months to go! I wonder how I will manage my hair then,” she laughed and shook her head, then she was sad, “And I am losing hair like anything, I think I will be bald by the end of it!”
Neelima nodded her head in sympathetic understanding, “Yes it does get a bit much, I remember cutting off my hair because I couldn’t handle managing it during the later days of my pregnancy and I was also losing a lot of hair; oh here’s my floor, ok bye, take care,” she stepped off the lift.
Khushi looked after her with a thoughtful expression, yes that was it, best to cut off my hair, it’s too much of a bother and once the baby came it would be even more hectic, her experience with Yash warned her. And now she remembered her jiji also complaining of hairfall. The more she thought the better it felt, Ramiya too supported her decision. Quickly rushing through her morning activities and delegating much of her work to Ramiya she dashed off to the parlor for a haircut.
She got a short stylish hair cut and though she felt a pang when she saw all her tresses lying on the floor, on the whole she was quite pleased with the smart elfin look it gave her. Most importantly, she felt light, free and cool! She wondered excitedly what Arnav would say; then just as suddenly she remembered him saying, ‘tum khulle balon main bahut achchi lagti ho’ her first compliment from him! Her heart sank, what if he didn’t like it, what if he got angry, no no, why should he get angry and she could always grow her hair back, it was just a temporary arrangement she consoled herself and sent a quick prayer to DM, raksha karna, waise bhi he wasn’t too happy with me when he went to Mumbai.
The doorbell chimed.
Her heart beat reached a crescendo, she nervously prayed to DM, sab sambhal lena DM and took a deep calming breath as she walked sedately to open the door. At the last minute she chickened out and hurriedly pulled her dupatta decorously over her head as she welcomed Arnav back home.
He stared at her surprised, “What the! Yeh kya naya natak hai?”
She smiled hesitantly, “Oh you are back!” she said rather inanely, “Paani piyenge kya??”
“Khushi,” he said irritated, “Yeh dupatta hatao, waise toh tum theek se chal nahi sakti upar se pregnant, hatao ise,” he insisted, while she demurred and said, “Mamaji kaise hain? Aur baki sab, Yash ne kya bola? Did you buy him something?”
Arnav ignoring all her questions, he reached out and flicked her dupatta away from her head and then froze in stunned amazement; there was silence for a while as Arnav’s face darkened, “What the HELL Khushi, yeh tumne kya kiya? He burst out after the initial shock.
Khushi attempted to smile, “How do I look?” Then hurriedly, “Woh… it was so long and unmanageable,” she faltered at his expression and resisted from saying that her back was aching, she shuddered to think how he would react to that! She fumbled, “Toh humne socha….”
“Tumne socha! Mujhe poochna zaroori nahi samjha! Itni jaldi bhi kya thi?” he was furious.
Khushi flinched at the anger in his tone and aggressive stance, “Haan jaldi toh nahi…humne socha nahi ki aap itna nara…”
“Tumne socha nahi, kabhi sochti ho, kabhi sochti hi nahi, apna dimaag zyaada mat lagaya karo, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada!” he bit out angrily, “couldn’t you wait for me to come back? How dare you Khushi, tumhari himmat kaise hui?” His face was black with anger as he wagged his finger in her face.
“Arnavji humari baat toh suniye,” Khushi pleaded, feeling dreadful, never in her wildest imaginations had she expected him to react like this, a bit annoyed yes, but to this extent no; Khushi knotted her fingers feeling helpless and lost as how to placate him, she could hardly reverse her actions this very minute, “hume samajhne ki koshish toh kariye,” she attempted once more.
But Arnav was beyond reason, “Hat jao mere raste se, main tumhari shakal nahi dekhna chahta”, he rudely thrust her away and strode off angrily to the guest room.
Their relationship post-remarriage hit a new low as for the first time Arnav slept in a separate room, possibly emboldened by Nani’s absence. While Arnav had his anger for company, something he had been heavily dependent upon for years, so it was with reasonable ease and comfort that he wore his familiar surakshakawach, Khushi was not similarly insured.
Khushi once again felt she was floundering is a sea of sorrows and worse for the second time in rapid succession ASR had effectively showed Khushi her aukat. He still didn’t have a good opinion about her and when it came to the crunch she would still be crucified and hanged without the benefit or courtesy of a chance to explain.
She sank down on the couch and wept bitter tears, her excruciating backache overshadowed by the agonizing heartache.
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