Di started from the beginning.
Sheetal Kapoor and Chotte were classmates at Harvard and knew each other because of their India connection. In those days, the Raizadas were not rich, in fact quite the contrary and if it weren’t for the scholarship, Chotte would not have been able to afford to study at Harvard; as it is he had to take up odd jobs to sustain himself. He pushed himself to the limits while studying and working, hardly stopping to eat or rest. One day he collapsed and had to be rushed to the hospital; Sheetal took care of him in those difficult days and Chotte was extremely grateful to her and soon they became good friends.
Perhaps Chotte developed feelings for her or at least he took their relationship to be something more than friendship and expected it to reach another level sooner or later. However Sheetal was an ambitious girl who had other plans. She had her eye on another Indian guy who was also in their class, Arun Sodhi.
Arun, son of a rich and influential NRI, was very snobbish and very choosy about whom he even talked to. Since ASR and Arun played basketball together, they shared a great camaraderie and were even known as the ‘awesome twosome’. He was the one who had rushed ASR to the hospital and taken care of his medical treatment. Sheetal sensed an opportunity to become friends with Arun. She deliberately positioned herself as Chotte’s nurse and soon had ample scope to interact with Arun. Neither ASR nor Arun had any inkling of Sheetal’s ambitious plans and the days passed happily enough while Sheetal played her game smartly, judiciously dividing her time between the two.
She gave Arun the impression that ASR was crazy about her and since she was a softie she couldn’t bear to hurt him etc etc. She used ASR as a reason to seek out Arun’s help and shoulder while forbidding him to discuss her with ASR as she didn’t want to break ASR’s heart or push him over the edge; her kind, caring, considerate and gentle nature impressed Arun (exactly as Sheetal had planned) and soon he and Sheetal were seeing each other, albeit undercover, in deference to ASR’s feelings.
On the other hand, when with ASR, Sheetal made grand business plans that she wanted to set up with ASR once they completed their course and returned to India. She told ASR that she was friendly with Arun only so that she could gain access to influential people and perhaps even convince Arun to invest in their business.
Once the course was over, it was time for them to come back to India. ASR and Sheetal were supposed to be taking the same flight back home; but when she came to the airport, she told him that she had cancelled her ticket as she was planning on entering into a business venture in the States. ASR was aghast; “What about us, our business venture?”
Having achieved her goal and now that ASR was definitely leaving the country, Sheetal decided to come clean; she thought it would be in her best interests to deal him such a blow that he would never ever think of contacting either her or Arun again.
Sheetal laughed at his face, “Us?! Are you serious ASR, there is no us; Where is the money to set up a business? Neither you nor I have any money; don’t be such a dreamer ASR! Oh by the way, Arun and I are planning a joint business venture, who knows one thing might lead to another?” She winked.
Shocked and betrayed, Arnav could only stare at her.
“We didn’t want to hurt your feelings so we didn’t tell you earlier, but it was rather sweet the way you followed me around like a little lost puppy,” she patted his cheek and said, “A word of advice though, go back to India and let your family choose a girl who will bring a big fat dowry along with her, with which you can set up your little business. In any case ASR, never make the mistake of thinking that any girl will ever fall for a guy with no money.”
Khushi listened to Di in silence, shocked; her heart went out to Arnav. Once again fate had dealt him a cruel blow, once again his trust in the goodness of people shattered; no wonder Arnav was so bitter and ruthless; no wonder he was so scathing about middle class girls, who according to him had a one point agenda of ensnaring a rich husband; and no wonder he had been so afraid to trust her or his feelings for her; no wonder he went so far that Diwali night and then backed off even faster; Sheetal had a lot to answer for, Khushi’s blood boiled; how dare she hurt Arnav like this!
“Di” said Khushi hesitantly, “Did Arnavji tell you all this?”
Anjali nodded her head, “Haan, but in not so many words, you know how he is; when Chotte came back from the States, he was running a very high temperature and was very unwell. In his delirious state, he blurted out some things from which I could guess what had happened; when he recovered, I tried to ask Chotte, he only told me about the last conversation with Sheetal and then threw himself into setting up his business. After a couple of years, I became friends with Kritika who turned out to be Arun’s sister; she had shifted to India after falling for a desi guy; while gossiping about this and that it came out that her brother had been classmates with Chotte, then another time she told me that Arun had married a mutual friend Sheetal, but he was already regretting it as she appeared to be only after his money. Along with Arun’s inputs, we slowly pieced the story together.”
Di paused and continued, “In fact it was Kritika who called me up today to tell me that Sheetal was back in town and even though Arun had finally managed to divorce her (at a hefty price) she had insisted upon meeting her and had seemed inordinately interested in ASR but Kritika had fobbed her off. But knowing Sheetal, she thought it best to warn me.”
Di held Khushi hand and said, “Khushi, I really don’t think Chotte loved Sheetal; it is just that his ego was bruised and he felt betrayed again.”
Khushi put her other hand on Di’s and said “Hum samajhte hain.” And indeed finally it all made sense. All the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle neatly fitted in. All those cruel baseless taunts and barbs, about ‘aukat’ ‘haisiyat’ and that fateful Diwali night ‘yeh mat sochna ki ek ameer admi tumhare payal ko apne seene se laga kar baitha hai’ just showed how deep the scars ran, she swallowed a lump in her throat.
“Di,” she cleared her throat, “Di, I need your help, at Arnavji’s insistence I bought some clothes, since I have never been to such a party before can you please help me decide what to wear?”
Di enthusiastically nodded her head, “Of course! And it will be fun, come let’s hurry up otherwise you will get late, it is already 6.30; wait I have an idea, I think there is an album with the previous year’s party, let me show it you so that you can get an idea of what to expect.”
Di went to search for the album while Khushi went to her room. As she entered her room, she stopped short. In one corner stood a beautifully carved study table complete with a table lamp and a note which just said ‘Khushi’; at his thoughtful gesture Khushi’s pent up emotions spilled over; she wiped them away, but that Laad Governor couldn’t say a simple sorry, she sniffed.
Di came in with the album; she was also surprised to see the table. She admired the table and said, “So nice of Chotte to get the table for you, hain na?”
Khushi made a face, “Kuch nice vice nahi Di, we had an argument this morning, all his fault, but rather than say sorry, he sent this table,” she caressed the smooth sleek carvings of the table.
Di smiled and said, “Achcha, achcha, see I found the album, not many photos though just a few.”
They looked at the photos, all the women were very sophisticatedly dressed and most wore western style dresses, there were sari clad ladies as well, but they were mostly of the older age group. Di looked at Khushi who was worriedly nibbling her fingers.
“Khushi,” she said, “Don’t worry, show me your sarees.”
Khushi took a deep breath and said, “Di, actually that day when Arnavji told me to meet Reeta at the Clotheshorse store, she also made me try on an evening gown and then insisted I buy it, even though I was not comfortable at all. When I refused, she said she would gift it to me, so I had no choice but to purchase it. Do you think I should wear that?”
Anjali jumped up in excitement, “Really! Oh God bless Reeta! Show me the dress.”
Khushi took out the dress and held it up against her.
Di clapped her hands and said, “Superb! This is fantastic and just the right thing for such a party,” she looked closely at the label, “Hey this is an AR Design product, not only that it is Chotte’s design, look that tiny insignia over the logo; those are put exclusively on Chotte’s creations.”
Khushi nodded her head, “Reeta told me it was Arnavji’s recent creation and seemed to have been designed specifically for me, but I thought she was just saying that to convince me to buy it.”
Di looked at the dress again, “Yes, I think she is right, these days he hardly gets anytime to design he is so busy managing the company; so if it is a recent creation, you must have inspired it.”
Di smiled and said, “I have an idea, I will call up the parlor and fix up an immediate appointment for you, take your dress along with you; you can dress up there and then go directly to the party.”
Khushi gratefully nodded her head, she was rather dreading moving through RM in that gown.
“Ek minute,” said Di and vanished, Khushi packed up the dress and few other necessary items.
Di came back with a red box in her hand, “Here I have just the perfect set to match your beautiful gown.”
Khushi opened the box, it was a delicate kundan meena set with ruby drops and diamond polkis.
Khushi was overwhelmed, “Di this is beautiful but I can’t take it, suppose I lose it?”
“Then you lose it! Take it, it is yours now, a gift from me, you have given me so much and I haven’t yet given anything”, said Di insisting.
“But Di, those were just…”
Di shook her head, struck up a stiff pose and put her nose in the air, “I am older than you and this is my order,” then laughed, “come on Khushi take it, and hurry up, you will be late.
Khushi smiled and gave Di a big hug before rushing off.
Click here for Chapter 31