“Kya hua Khushi? Sab theek hai na?” Di was at her elbow.
“Di!!” Khushi threw her arms around Anjali and burst into tears.
“Khushi!” Anjali was shocked, she had never seen Khushi breakdown like this, ever. “Kya hua? Ghar par sab theek hai na?”
Khushi allowed herself the luxury of unburdening her overflowing heart on Di’s shoulder before controlling herself with a superhuman effort, she straightened and nodded, “Ji,” she sniffed and wiped her face.
“Toh phir?” Di asked concernedly, “Chotte ne kuch kaha?” she instantly identified the culprit.
Khushi’s tears started flowing again, “Na…nahi Di aisa kuch nahi,” she mumbled weakly brushing away her tears.
Anjali shook her head, “Kaho na kaho he must have said or done something, yeh Chotte bhi na, dekho na itni badi baat aur kisiko bataya tak nahi and to be honest I didn’t expect Aakash to behave like this,” she sighed, “In a way I guess its good Chotte didn’t speak to us about it, just think how bad Nani would have felt? At least she has been kept out of this family drama, I just shudder to think how traumatic it must have been for Chotte, betrayed by his own brother,” Anjali bit her lip.
Khushi felt even worse than before – Khhusshii please samajhne ki koshish karo – his words echoed and taunted her. The image of him sitting alone by the poolside clenching and unclenching his fists, sleepless even now that the crisis was over, just because Khushi wanted her pound of flesh – nahi yeh tune galat kiya Khushi she reprimanded herself, you should have stayed with him fought with him but to leave him alone like this? Nahi nahi yeh theek nahi kiya.
Kya theek nahi kiya? Aur alone kya – everyone else is there at home na? Hum hi toh nahi hain – besides he doesn’t need me does he? Did he too not go to London without informing anyone? Woh baat alag thi, he had work in London. I also have work here in Bangalore, she defended herself, I had to come and see Anya didn’t I?
“Hume wapas jaana chahiye Di,” she mumbled, feeling restless and agitated.
“Arre tum Delhi main nahi ho, you are in Bangalore, aise kaise abhi chale jaaoge?” Anjali objected, “Kal chale jaana, theek hai?” she cupped Khushi’s cheek affectionately.
Khushi looked at her helplessly, cursing herself – what was the hurry to get your pound of flesh, mil gayi kaleje ko thandak Arnav ko aise pareshan karke? Are you happy now? She castigated herself.
“Kya hua Khushi? Chotte se jhagda hua hai? Batao hume, jab se aaye ho bahut pareshan lag rahe ho?”
Tears sprang into Khushi’s eyes once again but she swallowed and shook her head, “Nahi Di aisa kuch nahi nahi,” she forced a smile, “You are right, I will go back tomorrow,” she said brightly even as her heart sank, another endless night in the offing – oh how she dreaded the sleepless nights.
Anjali looked at her doubtfully and would have pursued the matter if Sherry had not come along and hustled them for dinner.
Even though Khushi caught an early morning flight, it was almost mid morning by the time she reached RM – the children were in school and Nani regaled her with the events that had happened in her absence – how the kids never listened to her, how they were both late for school as they got up late and then the driver also didn’t turn up, Chotte had to drive them to school, Chotte couldn’t find his car keys and then the kids forgot to pick up their tiffin boxes, Chotte had to again go to school to drop them off on his way to the office, Shakuntala ne daal main mirchi zyaada daal di thi, she had acidity the whole night, abhi bhi she wasn’t feeling too good, nahi doctor ke paas nahi jaana, Shakuntala ko samjha dena, Anya kaisi hai, aur Anjali bitiya etc etc
Khushi finally made her escape. Their room was of course empty – itna hi mera intezaar tha ki office chalegaye? She thought resentfully and cynically – Subah se ek phone nahi kiya and you rushed back like a madwoman ki woh pareshaan hai – ab pata chal gaya na kya value and kya status hai teri unki life main. She swallowed and took in the mess – his nightclothes and even the wet towel was strewn all over the bed. Khushi put down her bag; she reflexively picked up the towel and spread it out in the Sun.
Khushi picked up his nightsuit and was instantly enveloped in his scent, she buried her nose in his shirt and burst into tears – it wasn’t fair she railed even as she clutched his shirt closer as if that were Arnav himself – I wanted to punish him, hurt him like he hurt me, but then why does it hurt me so much? Why do I just want to melt into his arms, soak in his scent, breathe in his warm breath as he huskily calls out my name – why o why couldn’t she be more stern and hard hearted, why did she just yearn to throw it all, forget it all, just…just be with him, just feel his arms around her. She clutched herself tighter as she ached to be held by him, to hear him mumble ‘shh Khhhusshii its ok shhh’ as he rocked her gently.
Arnav too had spent a sleepless night vacillating between anger and despair – anger at Khushi for having left him high and dry. He could not even go after her as she had effectively boxed him into a corner. And he hated feeling helpless and cornered that too by Khushi – uski himmat kaise hui mere saath aise karne ki. Fear clutched him – what if she did leave him? Exactly what you deserve Mr Arnav Singh Raizada, he sneered. Aur kya galat kiya Khushi ne? After all she has just gone to Bangalore while you had gone off to London.
That was work, he defended himself, I was just trying to protect my family, save them the anguish and pain of my failure, he thought dejectedly.
Yes, by cutting out Khushi’s heart – ab pata chal raha hai na how she must have felt? Do you have any idea what you put her through? He went hot and cold all over as the full enormity of his thoughtless actions and words hit him. Khushi, Khushi tumhe toh pata hai ki main aisa hi hoon jaan ke kabhi…
His phone rang, “Chotte! Khushi ko kya hua?”
“Di,” mumbled Arnav surprised to get a call from her so early in the morning, “Khushi ko kya hua?” he echoed guardedly.
“Tum batao, I have never seen her so upset ever, she barely ate anything and looked pale and wan as a ghost, tabiyat toh theek hai na uski?”
“Pata nahi. I guess,” Arnav muttered guiltily.
“Kya Chotte, bhala aise koi karta hai kya? How can you be so mean to her?” Di reprimanded him, “Jo mann main aaya wohi bol diya huh? Kuch toh socha hota uske baare main?”
Arnav swallowed, “Achcha toh Khushi ne sab kuch bata diya aapko,” he said instantly very much upon his dignity.
“Dekha dekha,” Anjali instantly cottoned on, “I knew you must have done or said something really awful for her to break down like this that too after the crisis has been sorted out,” she paused, “And if you think Khushi has told me anything then I am sorry to say you really don’t know her at all,” she disconnected the phone in annoyance.
Relief and guilt in equal measure flooded Arnav, for a minute there he really thought… “Di,” he called her back, “Khushi,” he swallowed, “Khushi kahan hai?”
“Hume nahi pata,” Di responded distantly.
“Di please,” Arnav cajoled her.
Anjali sniffed, “Chotte I am really very annoyed and upset with you, humse Khushi ki halat dekhi nahi gayi…”
“Di please,” Arnav called urgently, “Let me talk to Khushi please, I promise I will make it up to her, just let me talk to her,” he mumbled penitently.
“She just left for the airport,” Di informed him, “she should be in Delhi by noon, and you better make sure that you do make it up to her nahi toh humse bura koi nahi hoga,” she warned him direly.
Excited and restless, Arnav had dashed off for an early morning drive around the streets of Delhi and ended up at his mother’s garden. He sat there for a long time trying to sort out his emotions until restlessness drove him to the office and then back home – to his Khushi.
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