The engagement was a simple ceremony held at a five-star hotel, at the insistence of Arnav as Khushi’s exams were starting from Monday.
The star of the evening was, nope you guessed it wrong, Kshitij. Having got an earful from all the lovely ladies in his life for turning up at the Shagun ceremony (albeit after the ceremony) in his work clothes, he took special care with his appearance and he really looked dashing in his formals complete with cravat and an embarrassed smile. Buaji’s arms started aching with the number of times she had to de-nazarofied him. Both Khushi and Anjali were extremely proud of him and hung on each side, much to, yes, ASR’s annoyance.
Following the exchange of rings, as is wont on such occasions, there was singing and dancing, which everybody joined in with great enthusiasm, except that is ASR. He refused to shake a leg or even twitch a shoulder, not even when Di pleaded with him. Sulking, he wandered off to the balcony beyond the French windows where the view of the city from the 15th floor was indeed breathtaking.
Anjali looked after him sadly while Khushi just glared angrily at his retreating back. Kshitij nodded to his sister to look after his precious Anjie while he strode off to the balcony carrying 2 glasses of the finest.
Kshitij offered a glass to ASR, who reluctantly accepted it; Kshitij gently clunk their glasses and said, “Cheers.”
Silently ASR raised his glass in a toast and sipped his drink. Kshitij turned to soak in the view of the twinkling city lights, “Great view!” he ventured.
ASR grunted and sipped his drink again.
“You know, I am afraid of heights,” Kshitij tried again, “in the States, we stayed in a 30 floor apartment and I took the 2nd floor, much to everyone’s disgust.”
ASR moved away and leaned over the balcony edge. Kshitij took a deep breath and followed ASR to the edge and looked down apprehensively for a second or two and instantly moved away and surreptitiously wiped his brow.
ASR hid his smirk.
“It sure is tough to face your fears, isn’t it?” Kshitij said conversationally, “But over the years, I have learnt that no matter how much one tries, one can’t run really away from ones deepest fears or insecurities. They come back to haunt you sooner or later.”
ASR stiffened, he turned to stare at Kshitij, who nodded his head and said, “It is tough to let go of your sister isn’t it? To let her go out on her own, to stumble, to trip, to learn to perhaps be hurt again, to not be there to wipe away her tears, to protect her always, to make everything right for her.”
A waiter entered with a tray of drinks and snacks.
ASR grabbed a drink and turned away, yet he could still hear Kshitij, “And more so when the guy whom your sister opts for is also his wife’s brother. A double whammy so to speak! A male, specially an Indian male, is conditioned from birth to accept that a sister or a daughter will one day leave for her own house with another, but a wife, a wife is truly one’s own; she has no one, or should not have anyone, but her husband in her life, her Parmeshwar and she, his toy to treat as he pleases; to be her provider, sustainer or destroyer as his whim dictates…her very own,” Kshitij’s voice became very soft, “Laad Governor, and then suddenly WHAM! she has a brother, another man whom she cares for, whom she trusts implicitly, whom she could turn to in times of distress and that is probably even more disturbing and difficult for you to accept than your Di’s marriage.”
“I don’t know what you are going on about,” ASR bit out.
“Oh but I do, ASR,” murmured Kshitij softly, “You see I understand only too well, because I too am a man and in the same boat.”
Arnav started and stared at Kshitij.
Kshitij smiled, “Arnav, do you think it is easy for me to accept that my beloved cares, perhaps more than for me, for another man, even if it is her own brother? At least where Khushi is concerned, you have the luxury of knowing that she definitely cares more for you than she does for me. While I, I am not at all sure of my standing, indeed if any.” Khsitij swirled his Scotch, ruminating, “In fact, sometimes I feel that my daughter has a greater claim on Anjali’s affection than I do.”
Arnav’s expression lightened a bit, in fact he wore a smug expression.
“We men are extremely possessive where our women are concerned, don’t you think?” Kshitij mused. “In the interests of peace and the happiness of our respective ladies, do you think we could have a truce?” Kshitij held out his hand.
After an infinitesimal pause, Arnav shook his hand.
Kshitij gulped his drink and pointed his glass toward the milling crowd inside, “Now how about if you put the sparkle back in my fiancée’s eyes?”
Arnav looked resignedly at Kshitij, who shrugged his shoulders and said mildly, “And if you hope to get any sleep tonight.”
Arnav could see his wife, most uncharacteristically, sitting with Di, while the rest of the gang was dancing; as if sensing his glance, Khushi looked up, walnut and chocolate clashed, evoking an exotic swirl of emotions on both ends.
Arnav sighed, Kshitij was right, unfortunately; he downed his drink, got rid of his glass and shoved the glass door open and exited the balcony.
“Dance with me Di,” muttered Chotte a bit shamefacedly. Both Anjali and Khushi looked up startled, Anjali searched for and found Kshitij’s standing a bit away from them, he looked back at her solemnly and winked.
A beautiful smile crossed Anjali’s face and she happily took his hand and stood up, “But Chotte,” she laughed, “they are playing such a peppy number!”
Arnav smiled, “Don’t worry Di, I will manage,” he lowered his voice, “I have two of the best under my belt.”
Anjali shook her head and laughed again, “Chotte tum bhi na.”
Khushi quickly thanked her DM for making everything right on this special evening; finally Di looked just as happy and carefree as she deserved to be and strangely that Laad Governor also seemed to be at peace.
Somebody tapped her on the shoulder; she looked around, “How about a dance Chatanki?”
Khushi’s eyes widened as she remembered the much hated epithet Kshitij had bestowed upon her when he had suddenly shot up in height, “Sure ‘dadduji’, she threw back at him as she got up to join him on the dance floor. They both laughed as they remembered how Khushi had been very upset at being called ‘Chatanki’ and she had complained to an aunt in the neighborhood; she was very fond of Khushi and had advised her to call him her grandfather now that he was all grown up and big, hence the ‘dadduji’. Kshitij disliked his new name just as much as Khushi did, so peace had reigned once again.
As Arnav jigged rather awkwardly to the beat of the music, he looked around and spotted his darling wife dancing away with gay abandon with her brother, who also seemed to be quite comfortable on the dance floor.
Arnav’s lips tightened. He caught hold of a passing waiter and whispered something to him. He then escorted Di over to where Khushi was dancing, “Kshitij,” he called, “Here is your amanat,” and offered Di’s hand to Kshitij.
Ceremoniously Kshitij accepted Anjali’s hand and said, “Thank you Arnav, I will keep her safe.”
Arnav nodded his head, “I know you will, for otherwise you will have to deal with not only me but also Anya and Khushi.”
Everyone laughed, while Anjali blushed.
A new song began to play; Khushi looked at Arnav, without looking at her Arnav murmured, “Excuse us,” and pulled Khushi to the dance floor into his arms.
No words were needed, for their song said it all.
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