Khushi hardly slept that night yet in the morning when she got up, Arnav was gone. The next week or so was worse than when Arnav had gone off to London – at least then she could pretend as if nothing had happened. But now to see him everyday, feel his presence and his silent rejection was more than what Khushi could bear. She could only watch in nerve wrecking helpless anguish from the sidelines as Arnav withdrew into a shell and built up a thick impenetrable wall around him – no one had any access, not even Chotti.
In fact he was hardly home, he left for office at the crack of dawn and returned late at night – worry for his health overrode all other personal issues – Khushi began sending his dinner to the office as well even as she fought a bitter silent war within – he doesn’t care for me why do you? She railed at herself, don’t you have any self-respect, why do you allow him to trample all over you, crush you with his cruel cold words, why are you behaving like a spineless abla naari – go away from here, leave him, bachchon ko lekar chalee jaao – that will show him – ek kadam bhi tumhare bina nahi chal payenge she told herself.
She drooped, tabhi toh I can’t leave him, she moaned to herself, he doesn’t know what he is saying! How will he manage alone? Kabhi kiya hai kya? Aur Nani, Nani ka kya, what about the children would they be happy without their father, would it be fair for her to put her ‘self’ above them, above what was best for them – nahi nahi she couldn’t be so selfish – Khushi toh kab ki biwi, bahu aur amma main kahin lupt ho gayi hai, to bring her back to the forefront now would be nothing short of a Herculean task – her tears fell thick and fast as she accepted defeat – besides all said and done, I still love him, I am still deeply and passionately committed to him and only him.
Yeh dil bhi kitna ajeeb, besharam aur dhokebaaz hai – jisne usse thoda woh usike intezaar main abhi bhi hai?
Khushi repeatedly agonized over the state of their relationship and dithered about what her stance should be over over again – vacillating between anger and despair.
Khushi was alone, completely alone – there was no one with whom she could share her pain and dilemma. Even her best friend seemed to have deserted her, despite Khushi’s heart felt appeals to her – Hey Devi Maiyya, yeh kya ho gaya? Hume raasta dikhaiye Devi Maiyya, kya sahi hai aur kya galat hume kuch samajh nahi aa raha Devi Maiyya yeh dard humse aur saha nahi jaa raha, Shakti dena Devi Maiyya, Shakti dena, she prayed long and hard.
With great difficulty, she also accepted that perhaps Arnav didn’t love her anymore – so what next? Continue as before? But then self-respect bhi kuch hota hai – her entire being rebelled, she couldn’t stand to stay here another minute. But where would she go? What about the children, Nani – would they go along with her or should she leave them here – no no, leaving them was not an option just as leaving Arnav wasn’t – but where did that leave her?
Her head went round and round in circles – it was like a maze from which there was no escape – no way out. Possibly Arnav was the only one who could throw some light on what her course of action should be but every time Khushi tried to corner him, he would just gave her a blank stare and shut himself up in the children’s bedroom.
But the final straw was when Khushi saw Arnav drinking. It wasn’t that Arnav was a teetotaler but just that he never drank alone – moreover it suddenly became clear to Khushi that this had been going on for sometime. Only that could explain her finding glasses at the oddest of places – on the ledge by the flowerpots, under the swing, even on the bench at the other end of the poolside where he rarely went. Her heart dropped to the bottom of her stomach and all the blood rushed to her head – she just saw red, “Yeh kya naya natak hai?!” she screamed as she pounced on him by the poolside where he was pacing and drinking.
“Natak? What the hell are you talking about?” he snapped back irritably.
“This,” furious, Khushi grabbed at the half-full glass in his hand.
“What the ****!” he lashed out and downed his glass in one swig, “Here,” he smashed the now empty glass onto the floor with a mocking sneer, “Khush?”
An awful coldness swept through Khushi, “I cannot carry on like this Arnav,” she intoned bleakly, her hands clenched as she held herself together by a superhuman effort, willing him to stop her from doing the unthinkable – walking out – surely he would not let her go? Gut instinct clashed with hopelessness and despair overcame her, “Aap aise kyon kar rahein hain Arnav, don’t do this please,” her voice broke.
Arnav shrugged and turned away, “Tumhe toh pata hona chahiye Khushi main aisa hi hoon.”
Whatever little fragile semblance of self-control Khushi had disintegrated that very moment; all her patience and forbearance gave way to red-hot rage and rebellion course through her veins – she had had enough of this nonsense, she wanted out and wanted it right now. Who the hell did the Laad Governor think he was? That he was some Maharaja and she his slave?
In a flash she was upon him, “Nahi, you are wrong,” she thrust an emphatic finger into his chest, “You are not like this, this,” she pushed her finger into his chest forcefully, “this,” she shook her head decisively, “is not my Arnav,” she clutched a fistful of his sweatshirt, “Kahan hai mera Arnav, bolo,” she pulled at his shirt, “bolo, bolo, kahan hai humara Arnav,” she was becoming hysterical.
Arnav detached her fingers and pushed her away, “Control yourself Khushi, kya bakwas kar rahi ho, apne aap ko sambhalo…”
“Nahi, nahi,” Khushi came back at him, “Hum nahi sambhalenge apne aapko, thak gaye hain sambhalte sambhalte, aap sambhaliye hume,” tears were streaming down her cheeks, her hair all tousled as she gazed up at him pleadingly, she picked up his hand and slid her hand into his and closed them over hers, “Please Arnav, come back to me please, don’t force me to leave you please,” she begged.
His hands gripped hers tightly. “I am not forcing you to do anything,” he said woodenly, “Rehna hai raho jaana hai jao, the fact of the matter is I don’t love you anymore,” he reiterated.
His cruel words slashed her heart once more and in her humiliation and heartbreak, Khushi only dimly registered that Arnav was still clutching her hands and that she had to forcibly extricate her hands from his tight clasp as she rejected him like he had rejected her – hot rage surged through her veins, “Bahut ho gaya yeh sab aapki tanashahi,” she screamed, “Do you have any idea how painful it is to stay in the same house with you, feeling the coldness, the rejection, as if, as if I were some unwanted employee of yours,” her voice broke and tears slid down her cheeks in an endless stream.
“Please Khushi don’t you exaggerate and start all this rona-dhona wala natak,” he looked away and bit out coldly, “what the hell do you want me to do? That after two decades of marriage I should still sit with you, hold your hand and whisper sweet-nothings?” he sneered, “Mera aur koi kaam nahi hai kya?” inflexible, unmoved and unyielding, he crossed his arms and turned away, “go away, leave me alone,” snapped coldly.
“Arnav,” Khushi tried to calm down and pleaded once again, “Please don’t do this to us, aapko toh pata hai na I cannot continue to stay here under these circumstances, please try and understand,” she begged for clemency.
“Tumhari marzee,” he intoned coldly, “Jana hai toh jao.”
Khushi’s heart plummeted – she went hot and cold. Khushi couldn’t believe her ears, she stared at him stunned, “kitni aasani se keh diya ‘jana hai toh jao,” she whispered painfully through a clogged up throat, “but practically it is not so easy,” she paused as her voice failed her.
“No Arnav,” she wiped her tears and let anger overtake anguish, she pulled him around forcefully to face her, her eyes flashing dangerously, “kitni aasani se keh diya ‘tumhari marzee’ kuch aage ka bhi socha hai kya?” she railed at him, “What about the children, Nani,” her voice faltered, “Us, our relationship, this house, the past two decades, there must be some solid reason? Aap batate kyon nahi?” her pitch rose as frustration gripped her – uska bas chalta toh she would have physically shaken him and forced the words out.
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