Arnav heard Anya laugh, “Actually I had forgotten, but suddenly all of a sudden I remembered, I think we were sitting here, just like this except we were looking at the album,”
Arnav was impressed, she had been just 6 years old then and still she remembered; she must have found the conversation interesting perhaps even unbelievable, without really understanding why to have such a clear recollection of the ‘story’ of their double weddings. Arnav shook his head wryly, so much for Khushi’s attempt to whitewash his complicity, his extreme unjustifiable over-reaction, his dreadful counter retaliation to Khushi’s supposed crime; with a pang he wondered what Anya would think about her beloved CSR now. Only too right, he thought grimly, she should know what men were like, what better way to drive home the point – rather than live in her dream world where he was a knight in shining armor, one who could do no wrong – it was time she knew that he was just a man – with feet of clay.
He stiffened as he attempted to steel himself, yet he quailed at having to see the awed affectionate look in the innocent eyes turn accusing, derisive, even loathing! Khushi’s hurt had been bad enough, he had still to forgive himself, though he could often conveniently forget about it because he knew that Khushi had completely forgiven him, she loved him unconditionally, wholly, completely, warts and all – but would Anya?
Anya held a special place in his heart, how would he be able to bear her disgust? His heart sank, what if she talked about it to the other kids, what if Devansh too – no no, he would never be able to bear it! Arnav was almost panic stricken; yet just what you deserve, the voice in his head sneered, and as always so selfish, thinking nothing but about your status, your prestige…Shut up, shut up, ASR screamed, don’t you remember the circumstances? Di’s happiness was at stake, I lost my head – Di’s happiness! Is that all you care about dammit! What about Khushi? Shut up dammit, I made amends didn’t I? He justified but the voice wouldn’t just shut up – oh did you? Did you really, is that why you never miss an opportunity to put down Khushi, show her that she could never compare with Di for your affections, that she is way down below your list of ‘priorities’ that at the end of the day, she is one who is the most expendable, that she really doesn’t have any aukat?
Arnav swallowed as he suddenly acutely felt Khushi’s pain, the agony, the anguish, the betrayal – the fall from his own eyes was almost too much to bear; he determinedly turned away from these unanswerable accusations and switched over to the ongoing conversation on the other side of the curtain.
Here too there was no succor. Dread and trepidation filled his heart, he was in a dilemma; he should just turn on his heel and walk away, he didn’t want to know, he couldn’t bear to see himself exposed, to hear the astonished disbelief as the scales fell from Anya’s eyes, yet he stood rooted to the spot, “So tell me Mami more about this yarn you spun me so many years ago.”
“Nothing, we seem to be all done here don’t we,” His lips twisted, as he heard Khushi mumbled; ahhh Khushi, he thought sadly, how long can you cover up for me and my misdeeds; don’t you know Anya won’t be fobbed off so easily! His suspicions were confirmed as he heard Anya pester Khushi.
His heart thudding, Arnav heard Khushi say, “Nothing much to tell actually, your CSR got the wrong impression about the sort of person I was and he…he persuaded me to marry him to save the situation.”
Arnav’s heart stopped and then began beating furiously again, the blood rushed to his ears and the RV reached a crescendo, he held his breath, would Anya buy that? He shook his head, unlikely, it was a thin flimsy cover-up – but at least it was a cover-up and Arnav appreciated Khushi’s valiant efforts to keep his image intact.
“And of course he soon realized his mistake and fell in love with you to boot!” Unbelievably he heard Anya clap her hands delightedly, “That is why he married you again with full honors didn’t he?”
Arnav couldn’t believe his ears! That was it? He thought incredulously, she swallowed that? No questions asked! It was as if Anya too didn’t or couldn’t bear to think badly of him! Tears pricked his eyes, he felt humbled by their obvious unconditional love for him; guilt racked him, he was so undeserving of it.
Arnav’s heart nearly broke as Khushi’s soft heartfelt whisper with no undertones whatsoever, “Yeah something like that,” washed over him, nearly drowning him in remorse, overwhelming with her love, her complete forgiveness, her acceptance of his misdeeds without a shadow of any resentment or bitterness. He felt small and undeserving, he couldn’t take this anymore, it wasn’t right that he was let off the hook so lightly.
“What ‘wrong impression’ did he get?” Paradoxically, Arnav was relieved that Anya decided to press the matter further, he steeled himself, tell her the truth dammit Khushi, throw out her illusions out of the window, break her trust in men forever, if her Mamu could be like that, she shouldn’t trust Sherry, she shouldn’t trust any man for that matter, it was only right that she should know the truth and nothing but the truth, he grimaced angrily and clenched his fists, his image was expendable, Anya’s future wasn’t; she was every bit an innocent naïve fool that Khushi had been, he wouldn’t be able to bear it if any man dared to take advantage of it, break her heart over and over – just like he had; unfamiliar emotions assaulted him, he felt restless, he wished he could break something, yell at Khushi, it was all her fault dammit – his shoulders drooped. No, it is all your fault, don’t you dare blame Khushi for this mess, she has been hurt enough as it is, don’t you dare Mr Arnav Singh Raizada, either shut up and take your punishment like a man or get lost; don’t you even think of taking it out on Khushi, you got no business blaming anyone but yourself.
Khushi sighed and mumbled, “Nothing, he just thought I was having an affair with someone else.”
Arnav closed his eyes as he heard the over-simplified version of the truth, even though actually that was what it did boil down to! But again would Anya swallow it, leave it at that? Wouldn’t she be curious? Insist on greater details? How would Khushi tackle that? He wondered.
“Affair with someone else!” Anya was astonished, “But then why should that bother him? He too was engaged to someone else wasn’t he? And why force you to marry him for that!” Anya was justifiably puzzled.
Arnav willed himself to stand still and wait for the axe to fall, the truth be told, the veil to be lifted from Anya’s eyes, for him to fall from her grace, forever.
Arnav could imagine Khushi pretending unconcern and casualness, “I don’t know, he saw me with someone else and he just saw red,” he heard her cough and then unbelievably, “Now that you mention it, maybe he did have one thing on his mind!”
Arnav’s emotions made a U-turn almost instantaneously, he nearly cracked up. Relief and love flooded him, he felt as if he had just jumped off a cliff and Khushi had appeared from nowhere and caught him safely in her arms; a delighted smile lit his eyes and curved his lips, never in a thousand years would he imagine his darling conservative prudish Khushi hiding behind ‘that’ to save his pride and honor! Yet a tear rolled down his cheek,
‘Khushi’ filled his dil and dimaag.
“Ahhh Mamu’s a deep one!” he could again hear Anya clap hands excitedly clearly impressed and quite pleased with his amorous side! His grin broadened even as his yearning to rush to his beloved’s side intensified. He wished, oh he so wished he could see Khushi’s sure to be embarrassed face, pucca a beetroot red by now! His eyes misted over, his lips twisted as his arms ached to hold her, let her bury her face in his chest…
“Just imagine insisting he marry you because he was jealous and wanted you for himself!” Anya marveled, “But Mami,” she was curious, “How did he ‘persuade’ you?” he heard Anya say teasingly, “Did you also have…”
Another broad grin split Arnav’s face, he was beginning to feel sorry for Khushi, yet contrarily he had begun to enjoy himself. His only regret was that he wasn’t out there next to Khushi, he didn’t want to have to rely on his imagination! But what the heck, at least he had the audio signal. Anticipation built up within him, I wonder how you will deal with that Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada! She hasn’t done too badly so far, he admitted to himself.
“ANYA!” the chair scrapped nosily as Khushi’s stood up.
Click here for Chapter 247