Khushi got out of the car and smiled at Arnav, “I have an idea,” she said brightly, over-brightly, “how about if I apply as a housekeeper? After all after all these years, that’s what I am excellent at.” She paused. “Unless you have complaints in that quarter as well?” She sneered.
Arnav slammed the door of the car. “Shut up Khushi.”
“Kyon? Hum kyon shut up? Isn’t it a good idea? Or would it be below ASR’s dignity to have his wife work as a housekeeper? So that means I will have to take your permission before accepting any position?” she clicked her fingers. “I know! I will use my maiden name. Maybe it’s time to drop the Singh Raizada,” she paused and added in a sotto voce, “permanently.
“Suna maine.” He glared at her.
“Good.” She glared right back at him. Sach main bahut ho gaya yeh tanashahi. Kab tak was he going to take her for granted. He could say anything to her, but she couldn’t right?
He strode away to loud ASR score leaving her alone outside RM. Khushi stared at his retreating back in despair. Me and my big mouth she cursed herself. Kar di na gadbad? Couldn’t you keep quiet? Thanks to Chotti, kitne dino baad thoda normal…Normal? Kis normal ki baat kar rahi ho? Yehi toh normal hai, accept it Khushi. Bachche the, unki wajah se ronak bani rahti thi. Ab kya bas main aur meri tanhai.
And that’s how it was. The lunch, Arnav’s return, his meherbaani all a flash in the pan – nothing had changed. ASR was just as busy and Khushi just as alone. With nothing to distract her, she wallowed in self-pity and craving Arnav’s company, she spun tragic sob stories featuring herself and her sense of injustice and being handed the short end of the stick tore into her.
And Arnav too riding on his high horse on a rising tide of success had no time (or inclination) for home or Khushi. But he didn’t see anything wrong in that. He didn’t have time period. And dammit woh aisa hi tha never a coochie coo man and he didn’t see any reason to start now. Besides, there was so much to be done, so little time. Itna time lag gaya losses recover karne mein, and now it was time to soar high, reclaim his due standing as south Delhi’s most successful businessman, make everyone sit up and take notice when he strode in. Life was all about money and aukat. Relentless hard work was the only way and no one was going to stand in the way. What did Khushi have to complain about? Ussi ke liye toh yeh sab kuch kar raha tha. And 24 hours mein 8 hours toh ussi ke saath spend karta tha, kaafi hai right?
For Khushi, it was somehow worse when Arnav was home. For to be with him and to be repeatedly and relentlessly reminded that she was part of the furniture or at best one of those new-fangled robots, which Arnav had procured for her.
Oh I didn’t tell you about the robots did I? Hua yuhn ki Shakuntala was busy bringing up kids and HP was getting too big for his boots so ASR had gotten an army of robots to help Khushi around the house. One for cleaning, another for answering phones, doorbells, making lists, reminding Khushi of her days schedules, helping her plan events, menus, manage invitations, bookings etc etc.
Each morning, after Arnav left for work, she would move from room to room while Safia cleaned, moped and dusted. Listik trailed behind Khushi taking notes for the day, whom to call, whom to invite, suggest menus, recipes. GrinLi’s job was to open doors collect home deliveries, check and pay for them. GrinLi (short for Green Light [aka Hari Prakash]) was also programmed (by Deva) to judge who had entered – ASR or Arnav and play the background score accordingly to give a heads up to Khushi. Of late, it was either the palpitation inducing ASR score or the mournful soul searing strains of how much and kyon dard hai itna etc
The band of robots was a big help and Khushi didn’t know what she would do without them. Yet, their bland mechanized voices got on her nerves, especially Safia’s rusty click grated as it bent over. Safia had be taken to the workshop on several occasions but it seemed it was a creative defect for which there was no solution except for a replacement. But that would come at a cost – quite unacceptable to Khushi.
Khushi was an all-in-one self-programmed robot for Arnav and her kids. Except she couldn’t be, no matter how much she wished, as emotionless as them. In fact if anything, she was even more sensitive and uptight than ever before. With nothing to distract her, she wallowed in her tanhai and self-pity.
Sometimes Sankadevi would rear her head, while at other times self-respect and dignity forced her into a cold silence, hume bhi farq nahi padta, aapko humara akelapan nahi dikhai deta, aap humare saath aise kyon kar rahe hai? Aisa kya maang liya aapse, ek smile, ek kind word, ek warm gesture, ek glance? Yeh bhi nahi de sakte aap hume, kya aapko sach main koi farq nahi padta –don’t you miss me at all?
Khushi loved him, so she let him be – at least she tried to let him be, hoping praying, kabhi toh woh din aayega when Arnav would escape from ASR’s clutches.
Aisa nahi hai ki Khushi had not tried to break his silence, breach the fortress he had imprisoned himself in, to reach out and reconnect but each time she was rebuffed and in fact seemed to worsen the situation.
“Kya hua, aap theek to hai na?”
“Kyon? Mujhe kya hua?”
“Nahi, you are so silent, so withdrawn, preoccupied. Everything okay in office?”
“Yes sab theek hai. You don’t have to take out your magic wand yet to theek karo everything.” He snapped.
Khushi was aghast. “Aap aise kyon keh rahe hain? I was just worried about you. You look stressed and…”
“I am fine Khushi,” he reiterated, his body taut, his lips a thin white line, his eyes blazed, “Why don’t you get it, main aisa hi hoon and if you really love me, care about me, mujhe aise hi rehne do,” he turned away.
She stared at him in disbelief. But what about me? Don’t you love me? Don’t you care about my feelings? Mere feelings ka kya? Bas kar Khushi, its obvious he doesn’t need you, he just needs a housekeeper, grow up, accept it ab soch le, tujhe kya karna hai.
But Khushi being Khushi couldn’t let well enough alone. She tried again. “Aise kaise keh sakte hai aap? I don’t believe this, aap aise nahi hain…”
“Please Khushi,” he raised his hand, “I know myself better or you know me better? Would you have me pretend to be something I am not?”
Khushi shook her head, twisting her fingers agitated, “Nahi kabhi nahi, I have never attempted to ‘change’ you but I know this is not you,” her throat was raw with anguish, “Say what you like but your eyes, your body language all screams out in anguish, begs me to do something to ease your pain, but I am helpless against this wall that you have created between us, I am unable to reach out, reach in…”
“Oh please Khushi, please keep your imagination of ‘Arnav’ to yourself, I am telling you main aisa hi hoon, a loner, I am happy and content in my work, please don’t expect me to dance to your tunes, take you out for dinner, movies,” he clenched his fists, “Agar tum insist karogi toh main karoonga yeh sab but I won’t be happy doing it.”
“Humne kab kaha ki yeh sab chahiye hume, just talk to me, share your day your tensions and concerns with me, pehle toh karte the,” Khushi trailed off, hurt and anguish clouded her thinking.
“I am fine Khushi, leave me alone, that’s the best thing you can do for me,” he paused, “if you love me, let me be.”
Khushi stared at him aghast, “Par…”
“Stop obsessing over me dammit!” burst out Arnav, “Just because the kids have grown up you don’t have to focus all your attention on me! I am fine Khushi, you need to get your own house in order.”
Khushi swallowed. “Wohi toh koshish kar rahi hoon!” Her smile was overbright.
“I just don’t get it Khushi! Main jaise tha, waise hi hoon. Aisa kya ho gaya ki tum aise behave kar rahi ho? Kya nahin hai? Kya chahiye kya?” His lips thinned as he blasted her.
Khushi swallowed hard and twisted her fingers. “I was young, I had a family, I had you, I had everything,” her voice was a mere whisper as she struggled not to break down, “Or so I thought But now there’s no one. Not even you. Worse.” She swallowed hard. “I don’t have any hope.”
Click here for Chapter 502