Afraid of the very violence of her feelings, she turned on her heels to charge out.
Yet she couldn’t bring herself to leave just yet. She had not even seen him properly.
“Happy that you won, gloating over your victory,” Khushi spat venomously at him, still seething from his high handed tactics, determined to not yield an inch. May be it was time she restarted her agenda of ASR ko satane ke 100 tareeke.
Arnav strolled towards her and stared at her with unfathomable eyes, she expected them to harden any minute at her rudeness.
Inexplicably, they suddenly softened, and after a bit of hesitation, said softly. “Happy no. Thrilled yes – that you are back in our room. Gloat no, celebrate your return – yes.”
Then he suddenly pulled her and clasped her in a bone crushing hug, murmuring. “I love you Khushi,” over and over again.
Her legs turned to jelly, suddenly she couldn’t breathe. An eon later, which seemed to last a second, he moved away and went to the cupboard and brought out a brightly colored package and an envelope. He handed the package to her and indicated with his eyes to open it.
With shaking fingers, Khushi unpacked the gift. Shocked she stared at it, tears pooling of their own volition and spilling over. It was the picture taken at Preeto’s wedding which he had smashed by the roadside. Deep regret and self-loathing lined Arnav’s eyes as he whispered, “I am sorry Khushi, if you can…. please forgive me…”
Khushi stared back him, trying to fathom him confusing man, what was he trying to say, what did he want from her, what should she do, he had contrived to bring her back home, but why, what about the contract, what about their marriage, were they married or not? And now this….
Her shoulders drooped, the roller coaster of the last few days taking their toll, her desire to do what she thought was right and what she truly desired, tore at her. “Arnavji….I am tired, I don’t understand what is happening, I cannot go on like this, what about the contract….”
Quietly, Arnav handed her the envelope. Hesitantly she opened it, it was the contract torn into half.
Confused she looked from the papers in her hand to Arnav.
Slowly Arnav bent down on one knee and held out a ring. “Khushi, will you please marry me?”
Khushi sat down with a thump on the recliner, speechless, still staring at Arnav. Her world had once again taken a 180 degree turn. She felt dizzy with this turn of events and she desperately tried to achieve some semblance of coherence and order in her thought processes which were defiantly doing a celebratory jig in tandem with her heart unmindful of all the cautionary messages she kept repeated to herself.
“Ar..na..vji…what are you saying….you know the situation, Di would never be happy and without Di…you….”
“Khushi, Khushi…stop stop thinking like that, I have told you Di understands, and yes Di is the most important person for me,” a pang of anguish shot through Khushi, “but you….you are a part of me, my sanity, my better half, without whom I am incomplete, only half alive. marry me Khushi, teach me how to live, complete me Khushi, give me back my sanity…”
Khushi stood up in agitation. “Arnavji, please stop please stop, what is this new torture method that you have devised? What do you want from me….my jaan?”
Arnav shook his head. “Why would I want your jaan, you are my jaan.” His lips twisted and firmed. “What I want is tit for tat, you stole my heart, I want yours in return.”
Khushi’s heart dropped to her stomach and then bounced back to her throat where it started behaving in an alarming fashion; almost as if it wanted to physically obey ASR.
Khushi, swallowed, stiffened and attempted a sneer, “What if hume koi faraq nahi padta? What if I don’t love you?”
ASR was back in an instant, “Oh really! Faraq nahi padta? So why did you come charging here? And you don’t love me right? Kidnap hoke dikhaoon?”
Khushi’s teeth set on edge, what arrogance, how dare he take her for granted? “Ji Laad Governor ji, don’t fly too high up just because I made an effort to find you when you were kidnapped. I would have done that for anybody, even Baanke Lal ji”.
“Baanke Lal?! Who is the hell is that?”
“That handsome guy who had a paan shop at the end of the gali at Laxmi Nagar. He too had a soft corner for me” She blushed and lowered her eyes.
“Soft corner! I love you dammit.”
“Na toh ‘love’ na hi ‘soft corner’. You are stone hearted. If you had even a soft corner for me, you would have not have left me at the airport. I begged you so much and you…” Khushi bit her lip to prevent herself from breaking down.
Arnav shook his head, “Had I loved you less, I would have surely listened to you and my heart. But what to do, years of nafrat, dokha and practice and made me a ‘head’ over ‘heart’ man. Khushi, main aisa hi hoon. I do what my brain tells me not my heart….”
Khushi was well and truly riled by now. “Brains! Don’t make me laugh, you are such a moron, if you had any brains, the least bit of deductive capabilities, you would have seen that a ‘home-wrecker’ would not jump off a roof just to make sure her husband has a happy wedded life with another woman!”
Arnav looked suitably chastised. “Khushi, woh main, I was angry, and I was not thinking…”
“That’s it?! That’s your explanation, you were angry and you were not thinking so you have the right to charge in like a bull at a china shop?”
Arnav shushed her, “Let me complete. I know my behaviour is unforgivable and in your place I would have probably never forgiven, but please give me a chance to prove that I really do love you.”
Ever since she had been giving him that…a chance to prove that he loved her…she won some and lost many more, doubts creeping in more often lately.
Stop it Khushi! The idle mind is the devil’s workshop, she told herself sternly. Besides it is all your fault. Earlier you never had any time for him; you were busy making life happy for others, Nani, Jiji, Di, the children and consequently he slowly moved away, letting you grow, prove yourself worthy, be happy, while he buried himself in his work. Now that you have time, you expect him to drop all responsibilities and be at your beck and call.
Sighing, she stirred the almost done ‘geela geela pusta’. She suddenly sniffed suspiciously, here she was making pasta and she could smell pakoras!