Not really satisfied, Arnav turned on the screws even as he loosened his arms to look down into her face, “Khushi tumne bataya nahi?” he murmured softly.
“Kya?” Khushi was confused.
“Yehi ki whether you at any point had that on your mind? He asked blandly.
Khushi froze and struggled to free herself from the suddenly tight band of his arms, “Hu…Hume der ho rahi hai, chhodiye hume…kya kar rahe hai, chhodiye,” she hissed as her struggles intensified.
He gave a low laugh, “Come on Khushi, itna bhi kya sharmana! It’s been so many years, ab bata bhi do!”
She glared at him, “Achcha,” she nodded her head threateningly, “Toh pehle aap bata dijiye, did you have that on your mind, was that the reason why you…” she broke off unwilling to say further, besides there was no real need and of course she was sure he wouldn’t like to answer that and hence the topic would die a natural death.
But then she couldn’t be more wrong.
Arnav nodded his head ruefully, “Of course!” he replied musingly, “Wajah chahe jo bhi diya ho, no matter how I rationalized it, put the ‘blame’ on Di and that my ‘lofty’ protective instincts provoked, if I am honest, my reaction and action stemmed from a deep-rooted primal instinct,” he looked down at her, “it just boils down to the fact that I wanted you for myself and only for myself.”
Khushi’s heart nearly stopped beating as his intense searing gaze scorched her; her heart began thudding furiously and blood rushed into her ears with a self-congratulatory triumphant gush; unable to resist she slid her arms around his neck as she stood on tiptoe to kiss him. He received the honor with the full welcome it deserved.
“Tumne bataya nahi Khushi,” Arnav murmured a little while later.
Khushi sighed as she rested her head against his shoulder, “Mostly no, I must admit I didn’t really think about that at least not that I remember,” she was silent; she cleared and murmured softly, “Maybe when at Buaji’s house when you were exercising…” she broke off unwilling to say further as his low laugh washed over her, embarrassing her.
“Oho toh the prudish naïve innocent Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada ko bhi aise khayal aate hain!” he teased her unmercifully, “And,” he murmured softly, “Ek bata rahi ho tho pata nahi aur kitne…” he laughed wickedly, she hit him in the chest with her fist before burying her red face in it.
There was silence for a few moments; Arnav said regret lacing his voice “Khushi, about Mrs Mehta…”
Khushi raised her head to look at him, “Hum samajhte hain,” she swallowed, “isme aapki koi galati nahi thi, it was my fault, both times,” she reached out and clasped his hand close to her heart, “I do understand now that how awkward and difficult it would be for you to have a relative, even if by marriage, in your office, that too at such a junior position,” she shook her head, “I don’t know what I was thinking, I should have made some excuse to Buaji,” she shrugged, “Aur rahi baat, Mrs Mehta ki, what can we do, this is how the world runs, ‘you scratch my back and I will scratch yours’ we don’t have any choice but to live by these hypocritical selfish societal norms,” she clutched his hand tighter, “The worst is that I know this and yet I chose to disregard it,” she shook her head at her naivete, and smacked herself, “Pata nahi humari akkal kahan ghaas charne chali gayi thee,” she apologized.
Arnav sighed ruefully, “True, but I shouldn’t have been so curt with you or snapped at you,” he put a hand to her cheek and caressed it gently, “I am sorry Khushi…”
Khushi smiled mistily and shook her head, brushing away the apology, but Arnav was clearly back to his maudlin and sentimental mood, determined to atone for his sins, he coughed and cleared his throat, “Aur Di…”
“Re…rehne dijiyena,” Khushi rushed in, unwilling to dig up buried arguments, why spoil a perfectly beautiful moment; besides there was really no point in trying to straighten a dog’s tail! Somethings were best left undisturbed and she had made peace with it, she could and would like happily with it, she already had so much to be thankful for! The very fact that he was willing or even thought it necessary to discuss Di with her, well that was sop enough for her non-expectant state of mind and heart.
“No Khushi,” contrarily Arnav pursued the very topic he was never ever keen to discuss, possibly the fact that Khushi too didn’t want to discuss it, piqued him, provoked him to come clean, “Bolne do mujhe, I really don’t know how you can say that! Every time it is the same old story,” he grimaced angrily, “I swear to myself that I will not compare Di with you or even take out it on you,” he shrugged helplessly, “Pata nahi Khushi, what happens when it comes to Di, I…I just cannot take it and I feel so angry and disturbed that I have to take it out on someone,” he looked regretfully at her, “And that is unfortunately always you,” he fell silent.
Suddenly he became angry and snapped, “And why you don’t give me hell I don’t understand?” he was thoroughly disgusted with her; perversely he shook his head at her perversity, “How can you take it lying down! I can understand and appreciate your self-control at that time but then later on it is natural to react, aur tum ho ki ab bhi ‘rehne dijiye’!” he mocked her, surprised and unable to digest her forbearance.
Khushi tried to make light of it, “Aap bhi na! You are really making a big thing about nothing, you should be happy that you have such a ‘mahan’ wife, aur waise bhi,” she hurriedly added as she saw him hissing in irritation, “Isse hum humare rishte ki ‘nazar battoo’ maante hain, humara matlab hai,” she elaborated on seeing his ‘what the’ expression, “Everything is so perfect in our relationship, only this,” she swallowed, “toh kahin humari nazaar hi na lag jaaye,” she smiled happily at him.
He glared at her, “What rubbish Khushi! Nazar battoo! Idiotic nonsense,” he shook his head, “I really don’t understand how you tolerate me and my ill humors,” he was back to his emotional state. Paradoxically, the more Khushi was forbearing, understanding and forgave him, the more he was annoyed and upset with himself.
Khushi looked at him ruefully and sighed; she shook him, “Achcha achcha, hum abhi gussa karte hain aap par!” she grinned at him trying to tease him out of his ill-humor but he of course didn’t cooperate; she rolled her eyes, “Achacha, aap bataiye, before you met me, jab Di ke saath kuch galat hota toh tab aap kya karte the?”
Arnav looked at her confused, “Tab…tab,” he shrugged, “Nothing, I just used to remain silent and angry for days, maybe months, for there was nobody whom I could take it out on,” he said almost wonderingly, “But then why do I have no problems in blaming you?” he pleaded, almost like a bewildered child to Khushi.
Strangely, a brilliant smile crossed Khushi’s face, even as Arnav looked at her and snapped, “Koi joke suna raha hoon kya?”
Khushi grinned, “Nahi, I just remembered an incident between Mahadev and Mata Parvati,” Arnav rolled his eyes, but Khushi insisted that he listen, “Aapko pata hai, once Mata became very angry because her sister Ganga boasted that Mahadev was also known as Gangadhar (the one who bears Ganga). She was so annoyed (of course there were other reasons as well) that she turned into Kalimata and in that avatar nearly destroyed the whole universe,” she looked at Arnav, “Even going to the extent of swallowing Mahadev,” he blenched; she nodded her head, “Yes, there was a huge crisis and the world would have come to an end, but then Lord Vishnu stepped in to appease Kalimata and peace was restored (as was Mahadev).
“Later she apologized to Mahadev for losing her temper with such potentially disastrous consequences; Mahadev in turn consoled her but then pointed out the fact of the matter – ‘Satya toh yehi hai na Parvati, mujhe Gangadhar kaha jaata hai, Parvatidhar nahi!’
Interested despite himself Arnav grinned, “Boy that would have made her happy! So what did she do to Him for rubbing it in?” Arnav was curious.
Khushi shrugged, “Obviously she was upset but then before things got out of hand, Mahadev went on to say ‘kyonki dharan toh unhe kiya jaata hai, jo apne se prithak ho,” seeing his confused expression, she translated, “Because you ‘bear’ someone who is separate from you,” she nodded wisely to Arnav whose face underwent a transformation as the meaning sank in, she reached out and held his hand, “And that is the reason you blame me, because you don’t consider me separate from you, because I am the only person in this world with whom you don’t need to pretend, explain anything, for I will understand, for you know as I know – that you don’t really blame me but just that you need to vent, you need a punching bag,” she looked into his eyes, “for you know that I know that you will come back to me,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “For I know that you will look at me, only me with that expression,” she swallowed, “for that alone I will bear this and indeed any pain willingly, again and again.
He looked at her stunned, speechless; humbled and overwhelmed, how well she understood him, how much she loved him, how much she trusted him, “Kkkhhuushii…” words failed him, but then after a brief struggle muttered huskily, “Par main koshish karoonga Khushi,” he caressed her cheek, “to be kinder… to us,” he smiled lopsidedly even as his lips twisted and his voice faltered, “I hope to be worthy and deserving – always.”
She melted in his arms. The RV played on full volume echoing off the walls of their room. But then it was all too short as they were interrupted by the new GV (Guddu ve) composed by their jigar tukda,“Waaaaahhhhhh waaaaahhhhhhhh”
The angriyafied version of the GV score clearly signaled his hugely distressed state of mind.
Click here for Chapter 252