In the meanwhile, Khushi joined her diploma classes. Khushi has insisted upon using her maiden name and predictably ASR was not too happy about it.
“Kyon Khushi? Why do you want to use your maiden name? You don’t want to people to know you are married?” Arnav confronted Khushi.
“No Arnav, I have no problem with people knowing I am married”, she explained patiently. “Waise bhi I will be wearing the mangalsutra and sindoor na, so in any case people will know I am married. It is just that, I don’t want to be identified as your wife; you have such a distinctive surname.”
Arnav’s lips thinned.
Khushi caught hold of him arm, “Don’t get annoyed, I don’t want people to be overawed by my husband’s status or be identified as my husband’s wife. It is not like I am not proud of my husband’s stature and achievements, but just that when I do start my business I want to make it on my own and without fear or worry of impacting your ‘shaan’ your status; or taking undue advantage of being your wife.”
“And when you supply food to AR Designs? Then people will know you are my wife won’t they? Arnav pointed out.
“No, Arnav,” said Khushi adamant, “They will not know because I will not be catering to AR Designs. I think it is best we keep our personal and professional lives different.”
Arnav looked at her, understanding her point of view, yet not liking it. He got the feeling it was somehow his fault, something he had done or said to make her think like this.
He tried to convince her but failed. He had no choice but to fall in line, albeit reluctantly.
While the theory classes were a necessary evil, Khushi particularly enjoyed the practical classes and every other day, the RMwasis were treated to new delicious and exotic delicacies. Of course some were not so nice; these, Mamiji enjoyed. She was particularly annoyed with Khushi for not getting any ‘gifat’ for her from Nainital (even HP had got one) and lost no opportunity to get her own back. Khushi was horrified at having forgotten such an important member and left no stone unturned to pacify her.
“Mamiji, for you I couldn’t decide what to buy. Everything was so cheap and nothing in the market was good enough for you,” Khushi tried to appease Mamiji.
“Laaiiij aaall laaiiij, tum humka insultiyay ho,” sniffed an angriyaofied Mamiji
“Nahi Mamiji, hum sach keh rahe hai,” said Khushi crossing her fingers, “I finally found an ‘itar’ shop but you have such hi-fi and sophisticated taste so did not dare to buy anything for you. And you know I am not as sophisticated as you, so Mamiji, you please come with me to the mall and I will buy you a perfume of your choice.”
Mamiji was mollified by the expensive ‘gifat’, but she never really forgave Khushi the oversight.
Arnav watched the Khushi-Mami saga with immense enjoyment.
“Why are you so happy?” Khushi attacked him in the privacy of their bedroom.
Arnav shrugged, “Mazaa toh mujhe aa raha hai, can’t deny it. Actlly, I feel as if I have got my ‘revenge’ for making me hysterically search for you all over the marketplace, looking like a madman.”
Khushi giggled, “Really? Like a madman? Kyon? Aapko kya laga ki main gayab ho gayi? Asman nigal gaya.”
Arnav shrugged again, “Who knows with you, what you will do next? Tell me honestly do you even know what you are going next?”
Khushi smiled mischievously and said, “Well I do know what I am going to do next, question is, are you going to follow me or are you going to take the lead?”
Despite being Arnav Singh Raizada, he was happy to let Khushi take the lead and enjoy their journey to paradise.
It was a week later that Kshitij again broached the topic of coffee.
Anjali again demurred, but he would have none of it.
As she got into the car, he shut the door and leaned in to say, “Tomorrow I will wait for you at the Bistro near your office between 11 am and 12 noon.”
He waved her away.
After a long pointless debate with herself and a stern lecture about just coffee and just friends, maintain distance etc etc, she hesitantly entered the Bistro at 12.30 pm – just to see. He was sitting comfortably in one corner, reading a book, but he looked up immediately upon her entry.
He stood up as she neared and said unnecessarily, “You are still here.”
He nodded his head and pulled a chair for her and made her sit. “I am prepared to wait.”
“That’s not what I meant,” she said flustered
“But that is what I mean,” his warm gaze seared her.
She got up to leave. He held her hand and pulled her down, “Ok ok, I promise not to tease you, at least not today, what will you have?”
He placed their order and turned to her, “What would you like to talk about? The weather, Anya’s school, my new job or..?”
“Tell me about your wife,” said Anjali in a rush. There was silence and Anjali could have kicked herself; this is your idea of ‘maintaining distance’ she taunted herself.
“I am sorry,” she said faltering.
“Fair enough,” he shook his head. Slowly he started speaking.
While he was in college, Kshitij fell in love with Natasha, a bright vivacious beautiful girl, who was into acting and dancing. They had a whirlwind courtship and soon got married. They settled down to a life of domestic bliss. But Natasha was an artist, a free thinker, she was like a butterfly, she hated to be pinned down; and she chaffed at the chains of domesticity; she became bored, of him. He was hurt and felt betrayed, but he still loved her and understood her need to be free. He encouraged her to go back to her first love, theater; they were again happy; she became pregnant; initially she was overjoyed with motherhood and loved Anya; but soon the charm wore off, she again started missing the spotlight; she went back; she travelled a lot with her troupe and it fell to him to look after Anya; initially his parents were there to support but as luck would have it they passed away. Life became one long battle, who was going to look after Anya, who was going cook, who was going to do the dishes, who was going grocery shopping, who was spending more, who was earning how much. He was totally fed up and just when he thought things couldn’t get worse, Natasha died in a road accident.
Kshitij was devastated and life lost all meaning. But yet he couldn’t afford to collapse, there was Anya to consider; she was just 4 years of age. Everything in Montreal reminded him of Natasha, so he took up another job in New York. He tried his best to adjust and adapt, but apart from the logistics of managing a little girl all by himself, he was intensely lonely and worried. Worried for Anya, what if something happened to him? What would happen to Anya? He spent sleepless nights worrying about Anya.
There was only one option, to come back to India and find his family.
Click here for Chapter 26