Even though Khushi was caught up in the whirlwind of preparations, every other moment, her heart fluttered with trepidation, how she wished she could have her mother’s bangle back. It had never been far away from her mind, but she had had no option so had swallowed the loss as best as she could, but now that there was a chance of getting it back, she was impatient and tense, what if, just as Arnav feared, what if the pawnbroker had sold it off?
She could still remember clearly that fateful day when at the fair, she had cajoled her father to buy her a pair of jhumkas, she had wanted bangles as well but as they were all glass bangles, her father had refused to buy any for her. Disappointed, she had worn her jhumkas and decked up as a bride with her mother’s bright pink dupatta and complained to her mother about her ‘sooni kalai’. Amma had laughed and slipped on her own bangle to Khushi saying, “Take this one for now, later you can ask your dulha for as many bangles as you like.”
Khushi had felt all grown up and just like a bride and had refused to return the kangan to her mother, even though it was really big for her. Khushi remembered she had used a ribbon to tie it to her hand and promised she wouldn’t lose it. Reluctantly, her mother let Khushi wear it as they were leaving Khushi at her maasi Garima’s place for a couple of days. Her parents had to go out of town to attend the funeral of a distant uncle of her father (though Khushi hadn’t known of it then) and she had been quite upset over being left behind.
They never returned from the funeral. The bus they had been traveling in had a head on collision with an oncoming truck and there were several casualties, including her parents. Her Amma had been wearing the payals at the time of her death and were used to identify her mother.
Since then, the kangan, just like her payals, had been her link to her mother; though Garima had put them away for they were too big for her and had finally given them to her when she had passed school.
Hey Devi Maiyya, Amma ka kangan mil jaye, she prayed with all her heart.
Khushi hesitated outside their bedroom; Arnav had come home late and had avoided meeting her eyes. Her heart sank; he must not have been able to recover the bangle and was now feeling guilty and sad for her. She gently pushed open the door, her worst fears were confirmed; Arnav stood by the pool hands in his pockets staring up at the sky. Khushi swallowed and said with forced cheeriness, “Aap yahan par hain? And I was looking all over for you,” she went and held his arm, “Aapko pata hai, Nanheji is totally smitten by Lavanyaji,” she laughed loudly.
Arnav put his hand over hers, “Khushi I am sorry I couldn’t get the bangle.”
Khushi’s smile faltered a bit, “Koi baat nahi Arnav, it was all in a good cause, I am sure Amma understands,” her voice broke, just a bit.
“Khushi tum theek ho?” Arnav looked intently at her.
Khushi smiled and nodded her eyes over-bright. “Why don’t you change?’
Arnav nodded his head and went to change, Khushi went to DM and sat down sadly beside her, “Perhaps it was better earlier when I had the chit, at least I felt as if I had Amma’s bangle; maybe Arnav still has the promissory note,” she brightened and then was sad again, “but it will never be the same again, I now know that I can never get Amma’s kangan back,” tears fell thick and fast as the loss of her mother’s bangle truly sank in.
Warm hands clasped her firmly and enfolded her in their familiar comforting strength, “Phir se jhooth Khushi?” he murmured.
Khushi shook her head and tried to speak, but temporary ‘takni kharabi ke wajah se’ she couldn’t speak and instead busied herself in soaking Arnav’s tee-shirt, that is till she felt Arnav slip a bangle on her wrist, she froze and stared through her tears, “Amma ka kangan!” and a fresh bout of tears, albeit happy tears followed.
“Arnav!” she scolded him, “how could you do this?”
“Kyon, why can’t I do this? Tum mujhse jhooth bol sakti ho…,”Arnav murmured.
“Jhooth? When did I lie Arnav?” Khushi protested though her voice lacked conviction.
“Just now when you said ‘koi baat nahi if you couldn’t get the bangle back’. You didn’t want to upset me that is why you covered up right? Always more concerned about others!” Arnav’s penetrating eyes saw through her.
She shuffled her feet embarrassed, “Nahi woh..kangan kahan mili? Was it with the pawnbroker?”
“Nahi,” Arnav shook his head, “he had given it to his daughter as part of her dowry; she was now staying in Patna.”
Khushi’s eyes were round as saucers, “Haaw! Toh phir!?”
“Haaw.” Arnav mocked her, “Phir kya?” Arnav shrugged, “Took her address, made him call her up and explain that I was coming, took the chopper and collected the kangan and came back.”
“So simple eh?” Khushi looked at him suspiciously.
Arnav looked away, a slightly guilty expression on his face, “Ok ok, the pawnbroker was a tough nut to crack and refused to even talk to Aman. So I had to step in (with ASR personal BG on full blast) and it took me some time persuade him to reveal the whereabouts of the kangan.”
Khushi shuddered and asked almost fearfully, “Which hospital is he in?”
Arnav shook her, “Come on Khushi, itna bhi bura nahi hoon! Waise bhi why dirty my hands when money speaks; once he realized that money was not of concern he was all unctuous cooperation personified,” Arnav said rather disgusted, “He even called up his daughter and son-in-law and made sure they had the kangan with them by the time I reached Patna.”
“And in Patna, they didn’t create any fuss?” Khushi asked curiously.
“Yeah well, the son-in-law was a bit of a bore but towed the line very fast once he saw a couple of pink notes,” Arnav said dismissively.
Khushi hugged him, “Aapne yeh sab humare liye kiya?”
“No Khushi, I did it for my ‘khushi’, for my mother-in-law’s khushi,” Arnav corrected her.
Khushi made a face, “ASR ne baat karna kya seekh liya, humari bolti bund kar dete hain, hmmph,” and gave him an extra tight hug.
Arnav hugged her back.
“Khushi,” Arnav suddenly said, “Ma ke kangan kahan hai?”
Khushi stared at him and went to the cupboard and brought out the box given to her reluctantly by Arnav at the insistence of Di soon after he forcibly married her. The memory of how he had ‘lovingly’ slipped them on for the benefit of a spying Bond Mami reopened an as yet unhealed but hidden wound.
She looked at Arnav with tear-filled eyes only to find her regret lining his eyes; he too remembered those dreadful days; silently she offered the box to him.
He took it and tenderly, almost reverentially, slipped them on to her slim wrists, one by one. She gazed at her bejeweled arms in wonder, “Finally I feel truly accepted as this family’s bahu,” she smiled through her tears.
His face awash with emotions, Arnav pulled her to the poolside and looked up at the sky and said in a choked voice, “Finally I feel Ma mujhe dekh kar khush hai.”
Khushi slipped her arms around Arnav and called softly, “Amma Babuji, come meet your Damaad; aapko pata hai, yeh duniya main sabse achche pati hai.”
The two of them spent a quiet evening by the poolside in the company of their parents.
Aur yeh kuch zyaada hi sickly sweet aur romantic ho gaya kya?
Click here for Chapter 55