Khushi went through the motions of life of autopilot, something somewhere within her seemed to have been switched off – she was here yet she wasn’t. She was the perfect mother, daughter-in-law and yes even wife – she handed Arnav his medicines, reminded him about visiting Di for her marriage anniversary, yes she would buy the gift not to worry – yet all that echoed in her head was ‘I don’t love you anymore’. It kept repeating itself with monotonous regularity reaching a crescendo making her want to scream or break something.
Toh kya hua, she consoled herself, I love him enough for both of us, she reminded herself over and over again.
Yet she couldn’t help but come back to – but why did he say it? Did he want to end their relationship? What about the children? Nani? Did he love somebody else?
Had she misheard him? Yes that must be it, must get my ears checked, she thought to herself as she plunged herself into the AKC’s business of the day. She had no recollection of how she got through the day, indeed the next week for in the evening she got to know that Arnav had left for London, without informing her.
Worry and dread gnawed at her while her throat closed up and stomach churned, she felt suffocated and boxed into a corner. What should I do now, she wondered almost panic stricken, how will I get through this week? Aisa kya ho gaya that Arnav had to off without telling me? Bees saal ke rishte main itni bhi courtesy nahi bachi? Aisa kya ho gaya? Did I do something? Must be my fault, pucca humne hi kuch kiya hoga, she repeatedly flogged herself.
Was he having an affair? A cold hand clutched her heart and squeezed painfully – nahi yeh sach nahi ho sakta, if it were true I would have known, Arnav would have told me – that is what he did tell you, you idiot, sneered the voice in her head.
It’s entirely your fault, you pushed him away, you had no time for him, you forced him to turn away elsewhere; guilt flooded her yet inexplicably her pain eased – it was easier to blame herself than to believe that Arnav could ever betray her – hey Devi Maiyya Shakti dena! Yeh kaunsi nayi pariksha hai?
What should I do now? Should I walk out on this relationship? Is that what he is asking me? And is that what she should do even if that was what he wanted, even if he didn’t say in so many words? There were the children to think of, their lives, their entire future depended on them, aise kaise koi two decades ka relationship break kar sakta hai?
Their lives were inextricably entwined – to switch from ours to yours and mine was almost impossible – yet to continue to live under the same roof when he had all but said get out of my life! Impossible – she shuddered and bent over double clutching her stomach, biting her lips to prevent the scream from rising up her throat.
Khushi desperately wished for a shoulder to lean on, somebody to whom she could pour her woes out, somebody who could guide her, advise her but who? Di? Nahi nahi pareshan ho jayengi. Nani? Nani is already so old and frail, it wouldn’t be fair to dump her troubles on her. Preeto? Nahi nahi, she couldn’t bear for anyone to think less of her Arnav, how could she tell anyone that Arnav no longer loved her? And so what if he didn’t love her? Was her pain, her self-respect, more than her love, her responsibility towards her children, Nani, she faltered and swallowed and indeed even Arnav.
He didn’t know what he was saying she was sure, so foolish and immature to walk up to one’s wife of two decades and declare ‘I don’t love you anymore’ and then walk away for a week! Her blood boiled as anger replaced despair, how could he do this to her? What about the children, the family dammit, didn’t all that matter?
How could you, how could you Arnav she raved and ranted as she paced the poolside, fruitlessly aimlessly, swinging between utter despair and raging fury interspersed with bouts of anesthetized haze – where nothing made sense, nothing mattered for there was no scope – Devansh burst into the room, “Mommm!” she hurriedly straightened herself and turned to greet him – he was obviously big with news, “I got selected to play the drums in the ‘Amateurs Band’ and guess what! Our first show is at Mumbai! You all will come right? Nani too, don’t worry there’s loads of time, two months later.”
Khushi enfolded him in her embrace and congratulated him, feeling terribly proud of him, ohh Arnav would be so happy, “Oh Guddu! I am so happy, of course we will go, we will all go, how could we not!” her heart sank as the last evening’s events came rushing in, two months later! Would she be even here? Sudden tears clogged her throat, “Mamma,” squealed Chotti from the doorway, “Maami and all have come,” she rushed away with Devansh in hot pursuit, he wanted to tell the news before Chotti stole his thunder.
Khushi splashed cold water on her face and walked sedately to greet her guests, “Khushi!” Di rushed to embrace her, “I just got the news and I had to tell you in person,” her eyes were bright and sparkling.
“Kya hua Di?” Khushi smiled mechanically.
“Kya hua?!” Anjali laughed excitedly, “Anya is expecting,” she clasped her hands and squeezed them hard, “Nani,” she turned to hug her, “Hume toh vishwas hi nahi ho raha, hum Nani banne waale hain!”
A brilliant smile lit Khushi’s face and joy flooded her pushing aside the personal heartache, “Oh Di!” she hugged her, “This is fantastic news, bahut bahut Mubarak ho!”
“Tumhe bhi!” Anjali cupped her cheek, her eyes twinkling brightly, “And,” she paused for dramatic effect and looked at the expectant bright faces looking at her, “And Anya is expecting twins,” the whole of RM was in uproar, it was difficult to say who was happiest or who was loudest – possibly Chotti who screamed, “I am going to be a double Maasi!”
“Nahi re buddu!” Devansh and Ankit both pounced on her, “Not double Maasi, a Maasi twice over.”
“Haan haan, that is what I meant,” Chotti sniffed; Nani laughed, “Aur hum great great granny banege!” tears of joy slid down her cheeks.
“Woh theek toh hai na Di?” Khushi asked.
Anjali nodded her head and looked at Khsitij, “Haan Khushi, but Khsitij and I plan to go over to Bangalore tomorrow morning to consult with the doctor and Sherry if it might not be better to bring her to Delhi right away for later travel might be difficult,” Khushi nodded, “Haan Di, yehi sahi rahega.”
“So we will leave Ankit at your place and we will drop Vimla here tomorrow morning on the way to the airport, theek hai? Maybe Ankit can join us a few days later when his exams get over?”
Khushi nodded, “Sure Di, yeh bhi koi poochne ki baat hai?”
Anjali smiled and looked around searchingly, “Chotte kahan hai?”
Khushi heart stopped beating and dropped to her stomach, before beginning to beat furiously once more, “Di woh…he has gone to London,” she turned away and swallowed, “Main mithai lekar aati hoon.”
“London!” Anjali was surprised, “Achanak! Bataya bhi nahi?” she pouted sadly.
“Haan Di,” Khushi rushed to soothe her, “Sudden decision tha for he texted me just before leaving,” Khushi stucking to a sanitized version of the events.
“Achcha!” Di was taken aback, “Aise kaise? For how many days has he gone?”
Khushi shrugged and shook her head, “pata nahi, yeh lijiye mithai,” she said brightly.
Anjali looked at her watch, “pahunch toh gaya hoga na?”
Khushi again shook her head, “Pata nahi,” she swallowed and hurriedly walked over to the children to offer them mithai.
“Haan Maami, Daddy went off to London without saying bye to me also?” Chotti complained to Anjali.
“Yeh Chotte bhi na,” Anjali shook her head, “Abhi phone karke daant lagati hoon,” Anjali dug out her phone and called up Arnav.
But there was no response.
Okay for the next few days in view of the gambhirta of the situation there will be one update per day – pain is best dished out (and digested) in low doses right?
Feel free to protest or concur…