Feeling strangely calm and steady, Khushi attempted to shut out the protests of her dimaag and tune in to the beat of her heart.
Her thoughts wandered to her brief conversation over the phone with Arnav while he was in London. She now regretted disconnecting the phone – aisa toh pehle kabhi nahi hua tha – always it had been Arnav who put the phone down first, that’s the way it had always been, toh uss din kya hua tha, she asked herself.
Suddenly out of nowhere, Arnav’s words from many years ago floated across to her – Main us ehsaas ki baat kar raha hoon jo hum tab mehsoos kartein hai jab hum ek doosre se door hote hain; door rehkar bhi ek doosre ke paas hote hain; wohi pyaar hai Khushi.
And that is what had exactly happened that day – Arnav had barely spoken more than a couple of words, yet it was as if he had screamed it out loud and clear – Don’t hear what I said Khushi, listen to what I am not saying Khushi, I love you dammit, Khushi are you listening to me Khushi, please Khushi, hear me Khushi.
Overcome with a barrage of conflicting emotions, she had put the phone down and bawled her eyes out. But she had been so steeped in her own sorrow and pain that she had been guilty of missing the wood for the trees.
She sighed – just as she had overlooked the way he had clutched her hands by the poolside. As usual unki zubaan kuch bol rahi thi aur body language kuch aur – no doubt his words had categorically rejected her but she still remembered the warmth of his hands as they had held on to hers hands for dear life and screamed mat jao Khushi mat jao, main jee nahi paaonga tumhare bina…
He still loves me, she suddenly realized with cold certainty.
Sab teri galati hai Khushi, she castigated herself – tu toh Arnav ko jaanti hai na, bahut pyaar karti hai na usko? Phir bhi, itne saal baad bhi, you ‘heard’ only his words? Unki toh aadat hai- zubaan par kuch aur dil main kuch aur!
At least her subconscious was smarter than her conscious and that is why when he had first dropped the bombshell, she had paid no heed to his announcement. At that instance, to put it simply, she hadn’t believed him – in fact her instincts had told her without an iota of doubt that Arnav chahe kuch bhi keh le he still loved her and DM na kare, if such a day ever arrived and he actually didn’t love her – she would get to know of it even before he did. For her dil knew the truth – it was only when her dimaag (along with pride, ego and self-worth) poked its nose in the matters of the heart that things became complicated.
As she went over the events over and over again, her confidence and conviction grew – baat kuch aur hi hai.
Kya wajah ho sakti hai that he was deliberately cutting her from his life? Why did he want her out of his life? Or rather why did he think it would be better off for her and the kids if she were to go away? These crucial questions haunted Khushi and she paced the poolside restlessly – poochne ka toh koi fayda nahi – she knew what he was going to say – wohi purana ghisa pita dialogue – tumhe har baat batana zaroori nahi hai Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada.
Par hum bhi KKGSR hain, itni jaldi haar nahi maanenge, Diwali ki raat ki galati ko nahi repeat karenge, unke words ke jagah unki aankhon ki bhasha par zyaada bharosa karenge, she swore silently to herself just as Chotti let out an ear-piercing shriek.
Khushi rushed inside, as did Arnav from the adjoining room. Chotti was sitting up in bed howling at the top of her voice, “Shhshhh Chotti kya hua?” Arnav reached her first and gathered her into his arms; he looked helplessly at Khushi, “Kya hua?”
Khushi shook her head, “Pata nahi, kya hua Gudiya?” she tenderly caressed her curls.
“Mammaa, Daddy, I thought both of you had left me and gone away because I am a bad girl,” she clung to Arnav and clutched Khushi’s hand sobbing piteously.
A lump formed in Khushi’s throat and tears sprang into her eyes. Involuntarily her eyes swung to Arnav’s. A lone tear escaped his eye and slid down his cheek before he turned away, “No sweetie,” Khushi came closer, brushing against Arnav, “You are the world’s bestest girl, hai na Angel’s Daddy?” she kissed the still sobbing girl and forced her head up, “You know,” she dropped her voice into a theatrical whisper, “I have a secret for you and only you,” Chotti stopped sobbing and looked up at Khushi expectantly from within Arnav’s arms, “Kya?” she managed to say between her hiccups.
“Yehi,” Khushi wiped her tears tenderly, “Ki at night Daddy and I become like Chotti and Da, we often fight amongst ourselves like both of you,” she looked at Chotti and nodded shamefacedly, “Kabhi kabhi we forget we are adults and behave like children, but then it doesn’t mean anything, and we soon go back to being friends, hai na Arnav?” she said without looking at him.
“Yeah sweetheart,” Arnav’s voice was barely a strangulated whisper, “It doesn’t mean anything,” he echoed faintly; their eyes met briefly over Chotti’s head before each slid away unsure and hesitant.
Chotti was reassured but she insisted that both hold her while she slept – she was clearly not taking any chances. Her parents had no choice but to give in.
Soothed by her little girl’s soft snores and Arnav’s warm breath ruffling her curls, Khushi too slid into a deep sleep, her first in many days.
Arnav wasn’t so lucky, he stayed up most of the night, staring at the ceiling, tortured and harangued by his ghosts and demons – he had failed his family and he could find no way out of the mess he was in.
It would have been infinitely better if they had walked out today – better today than when she got to know the truth and after all, for how much longer could he hide the truth?
Maybe it was time to pray for some divine intervention – but why would DM help him? Perhaps if Khushi had asked her best friend, She might offer some help, but then Khushi ko toh pehle hi usne itna zyaada pareshan aur hurt kar diya, toh kis munh se…
Forgive me Khushi forgive me…
Achcha yehi hoga ki tum chali jao bachchon ko lekar. Nani Mumbai chali jayengi,
I dont deserve you Khushi and the kids deserve better.
And don’t worry about me – this would be my just deserts for failing my family and for hurting you over and over again.
Iss baar main airport par khada tumhe jaate huye dekhoonga, helpless and unable to stop you from leaving. Shayad tumhare dard ka ehsaas ho. Perhaps this is your DM’s way of punishing me…
Sahi kaha aapne, this is what you deserve. Par isme humari kya galati hai Devi Maiyya? Humare bachchon ki kya galati hai? Why are we also being punished? Aap aisa nahi kar sakte Devi Maiyya. Ek ko sabak sikhane ke liye…
Par bitiya samjhana toh padega na? Collateral damage toh hoga na? Kuch paane ke liye kuch toh khona padega na? Abhi nahi sudhrega toh kabhi nahi sudhrega…
Nahi Devi Maiyya nahi! Hume nahi sudharna humare Arnav ko! Hum samajhte hain unhe. Woh jaisa bhi hain humare hai. Bas woh humare paas rahe, khush rahe, hume aur kuch nahi chahiye Devi Maiyya. Humse aur saha nahi jaata Devi Maiyya, unki yeh dasha, bachchon ka dard, Nani… humari toh jaise saanse hi ruk gayi ho. Nahi Devi Maiyya nahi, kuch kijiye Devi Maiyya kuch kijiye…
Soch lo bitiya soch lo. Phir mat kehna…
Nahi kahenge Devi Maiyya nahi kahenge. Bas woh humare saath rahe, woh aur bachche khush rahe bas...
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