Arnav could see the same questions reflected in Khushi’s eyes. He had asked himself the very same questions a thousand times, what if that girl was a girl other than Khushi? Would he still have married her? And why had he felt compelled to marry Khushi? Why bring her home, why give her license to come under the same roof as Shyam? Wasn’t that defeating the very purpose of marrying her, of keeping Khushi away from Shyam? In captivity, while he was alone with his thoughts with nothing but time on his hands, these questions haunted him.
And this other angle, what if Di had not been involved, what if it was some other man? What would he have done then? Would he have still reacted similarly?
He held out his hand to Khushi, she stood there unyielding; he went and pulled her to him and slipped his arm around her waist. She agitatedly clasped and unclasped her hands; he clasped her hands with his warm firm grip and sat her down on his chair whilst he knelt by the side.
“Pata nahi Di”, he said finally looking at Khushi, “What I would have done if it was somebody other than Shyam, I really don’t know, I wouldn’t have liked it for sure; I definitely had some feelings for Khushi even back then even though I refused to put a name to it”, he squeezed Khushi’s hand tighter and said, “I acknowledged it only when I thought she had been injured in an accident; the intensity of the pain and anguish forced me to break away from my own ego, my pride and prejudice to accept that Khushi meant something, that she…she mattered,” he said softly. “But it is true that if you had not been involved Di, I very much doubt that I would have taken this extreme step,” Arnav shook his head and said wryly, “I would have probably withdrawn into my shell or who knows, pulled out all the stops to woo Khushi, like when I thought NK was dangling after Khushi,” he smiled faintly.
There was silence.
He bowed his head and sighed, “But you are right Di, if it were a girl other than Khushi, I would never have forced her to marry me, there was actually little or no logic in forcing her to marry me and bring her to the very same place I should have kept her away from. I could have easily offered her money, given her a job elsewhere forcing her to agree to my terms using the same threat, but yet I chose to ‘marry’ her, to bind her to me; the heart does have a mind of its own,” he finally admitted.
He once again squeezed Khushi’s hand and let go, he went over to his Di and said, “I will miss you Di; I can’t bear the thought of being away from you.”
Di hugged him, “Ahhh…now we come to the crux of the matter”, she teased gently, albeit sadly “even Anya knew it! Chotte, I will miss you too,” she hugged him, “But you forget we will still be meeting each other every day, I also work at AR Designs, actually there is more scope to meet at the office than at home!”
Unconvinced, Chotte dug his heels in, “Can’t you all stay here? If you like I can get a separate apartment set built on the other side of the pool,” Chotte brightened, “Yes that’s it, we could all live here!”
Anjali shook her head, “What an idea! Have you been talking to Anya by any chance?”
Chotte shook his head bewildered, “Anya no, why should I need to talk to Anya for ideas? This is my idea!” said a rather proud Chotte.
Anjali looked at Khushi and giggled, “Chotte! You and Anya seem to be in the same age bracket, she also had the same idea, CSR, sahi naam diya hai tumhe!
Chotte made a moue but insisted, “Idea toh achcha hai na?”
Anjali hugged Chotte, “Haan baba, it is a good idea, but not workable, I very much doubt that Kshitij will agree to it; and…and I too, “she swallowed, “I too would prefer to start a new life in a new place, free from…” she cleared her throat, “and besides Chotte, I am still in the same city and we will be meeting everyday at the office.”
Chotte reluctantly nodded his head and hugged his Di hard and then said to Khushi, “When is Aunty coming with the Shagun?”
Khushi swallowed, smiled at Di and said, “I will find out and let you know.”
Anjali looked at Arnav and inclined her head towards Khushi, nudging him to apologize.
Arnav reluctantly nodded his head.
“Khushi!” Arnav called Khushi back as she was leaving with Di. She smiled and left the two alone.
Khushi stood stiffly, “Ji?”
“Khushi..woh..I…I am..getting late and I can’t find my brown shirt,” Arnav finished in a rush and then cursed himself.
Khushi stared at him, “Perhaps that is because you are wearing it,” she said sarcastically, “or were you talking about some other shirt?”
“Nahi woh…I ….I…I meant to say….I can’t find my wallet.” Arnav fumbled, embarrassed.
Khushi moved and quickly dipped into his back pocket and extracted it and waved it in front of his nose.
Arnav made a grab for her hand but could only catch his wallet. She turned to leave, he looked at her rather helplessly; he walked to the cupboard and slid the door open and then shut it with a bang, “Ouch!” he yelped.
Khushi came running, “Kya hua? Did you get hurt? kahan lagi?”
Arnav raised his pain filled eyes and put his hand over her heart and said, “Yahan lagi.”
Khushi eyes filled up, she tried to leave, but Arnav trapped her against the cupboard, “I am sorry Khushi, I shouldn’t have said that, I didn’t mean it.”
“If you didn’t mean it, why did you say it? Somewhere you must believe it, that is why you said it hain na,” said Khushi tears falling thick and fast.
“Nahi Khushi,” Arnav denied vehemently, “woh…I was very upset with the thought of Di leaving, I was hurting and I wanted to hurt, I wanted to lash out and you seem to be convenient punching bag. I am sorry Khushi, I am really sorry.”
Khushi swallowed and attempted a weak smile, “Never mind Arnav, hum samajhte hain, after all if it wasn’t for Di we wouldn’t even have been married.”
Arnav stared at her, regretfully, “That’s not true Khushi, uss raat, before the ‘galatfehmi’, I followed you to the terrace, because I wanted to tell you ki mujhe kyon faraq padta hai, that you are the girl without whom I feel as if I am unable to breathe…can you even imagine what I would have undergone that night…coming to declare my love and then to see my beloved in the arms of my sister’s husband?”
Arnav stopped, controlling his emotions with an effort.
Equally emotional, Khushi said, “Rehne dijiye Arnav, it’s ok…”
Arnav shook his head, “No Khushi it’s not ‘ok’ and I am not justifying my actions but I hope, I just hope you can understand,” he paused, “that night, I was hurt, not only…not only for Di but also for me; I just couldn’t bear the pain….the pain was almost as bad as another night 14 years ago, “a muscle twitched in his jaw, “I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think straight, I just did what my heart told me…..you were mine and I had to bind you to me…..this was the only thing that made sense, by hook or crook, I had to bind you to me forever,” he relaxed and gave a faint smile, “I suspect that ‘contract’ clause was cooked up at the last minute by my dimaag to establish its presence in the whole drama.”
Click here for Chapter 41