“Tum theek ho?” He repeated, his voice gruff.
“H…haan.” Khushi swallowed and steadied herself. “Hume kya hoga?” Khushi brushed him off and her easy tears that had started flowing at the sound of his voice.
“Toh phir abhi kyon so rahi ho?” She heard the all too familiar and hurtful rising irritation in his voice.
“Kyon?” She snapped. “Sone ke liye bhi permission chahiye kya?”
“Khushii.” His voice gentled. “Tum jaanti ho mein kya keh raha hoon.”
“Nahi hum nahi jaante. Kahiye.”
“Tum afternoon ko kabhi nahi soti. Tum…”
“Arre wah!” Khushi refused to be appeased by his concern. “Aapko toh humare baare mein bahut kuch pata hai. Taaliyaan.”
“Dekho Khushi, mere paas faltu time nahi hai…” Arnav was fast losing the battle with ASR.
“Haan toh time waste mat kariye na…” Khushi grabbed hold of the reins, and flung herself atop her high horse.
“Khushi mera woh matlab nahi tha.” Arnav made a heroic come back. “Main bas yeh pooch raha tha ki tum theek…”
“Haan hum theek hai.” Khushi disconnected the phone and burst into tears.
Humse baat karna time waste hai.
Ho kya gaya hai – unhe, hume aur hum dono ko. Seedhe munh baat kyon nahi kar sakte? Sirf woh hi nahi. Hum bhi toh har baat ka ulta matlab nikalte hain. Kam se kam phone toh kiya.
Yehi problem hai teri Khushi. Kab tak tukdo par palti rahegi. Kabhi Buaji ki, aur ab Arnav ki?
Kab tak doosre ke kartooto par parda dalti rahegi? Kab tak sach se bhagti rahegi?
Kaun sa sach?
Yehi, ki tumhari koi aukat nahi. Tum hoti kaun ho kuch bhi kissi se kuch bhi expect karne ki?
Nonsense! Sab pyaar kartein hain humse.
Dil behlane ke liye Ghalib khayal achcha hai.
Nahi! Sach mein…
Humne kahan na, sach se bhagna hai toh bhago, dil ko behlao. Is bedard duniya main koi kisi ka nahin. Sab akele aye the aur akele hi jayenge…
Haan par zaroori toh nahi ki zindagi mein akele hi rahein? Aur waise bhi koi humse pyaar karei na karei, hum unse pyaar karte hain. Bas.
Karti raho phir zindagi bhar unki ghulami. Yehi tumhari haisiyat aur yehi tumhari aukat hai.
Khushi gave way to her anguish and wept like never before. Phir rote rote, so gayi.
“Mami!” A soft voice called from afar. “Mami.” The voice coaxed. “Let’s go. The sun is about to set. Let’s go to the beach.”
“Hmm.” Khushi rolled over and stretched. “Chalo. Kya time ho raha hai?” she looked at her mobile. Memory came rushing back. She hurriedly got up and went to the washroom. “I’ll be back.”
What a mess!
And the tears were just under the surface, waiting for another breach.
Khushi determinedly splashed her face. Not content, she stepped under the shower. Feeling better, she went out with her customary smile. Perhaps a bit forced and a bit puffy but Anya was busy admiring herself in the mirror.
“Tada! Kaisi lag rahi hoon?”
“Oh wow!” Khushi gushed. “Looking lovely! Like your daughters!” She laughed.
“Hai na!” Anya turned this way and that way, preening and peering at herself. “Even I thought so.” She giggled. She paused. “Sherry wont like it.” She worried.
“I look so young na. He in any case gets into these phases about cradle snatching, how we are incompatible,” Anya sighed and flopped on to the couch. She stood up the next instant and pulled up her hair into a bun. “Maybe I’ll put it up like this.”
“No! Don’t.” Khushi protested. “Do what you like. Don’t presume for Sherry. Besides, you shouldn’t get out of the habit of putting yourself first.”
“Jaise aapne kiya?” Anya put an arm around her.
“Aisa kuch nahi hai.” Khushi denied.
“Par aap toh aise na the,” Anya objected, “Hume yaad hai aap kitne chulbule…”
“Who knows, perhaps, this is the real me?” Khushi interrupted. She shook off her sombre mood and smiled brightly. “Ab mera jo hai so hai, you make sure you don’t lose yourself. Chodo yeh sab. Let’s go out and kick some sand.” She pulled Anya by the arm.
Laughing like to two carefree girls, they raced the waves on the beach, curled their toes in the slipping sand and tasted the salty spray on their lips.
They turned around and greeted Disha. “Hi! Come join the party.” Anya called.
“That’s the plan!” She jumped right in. “Dinner is on whoever gets completely drenched first.”
“You are on! Come on Mami. Let’s play.”
Khushi didn’t bother replying, she was busy running away from the crashing wave which caught the other two by surprise. They gasped as a crashing wave lashed them curling about their waist. Khushi laughed in glee.
“Hey! That’s not fair!” Disha grumbled. “We weren’t ready.”
“Tell that to the waves.” Khushi daringly saw off the receding waves before dashing back.
“Anyway the deal is complete drenching,” Disha was still in the fray, “You may just end up footing the bill!” She danced away.
They had a gala time playing with the waves. Khushi couldn’t believe the fun she had and how easily they gelled with Disha. It was as if they had known her for years. They talked till late at night on anything and everything other than their families. Which was a first for both Khushi and Anya. Disha had a knack of drawing them out, encouraging them to voice their thoughts, opinions, views on topics they wouldn’t otherwise be on their agenda. She was interested in what their plans were for the future, what they felt passionately about, their childhood, what their fears were, their favorite nightmare, worst nightmare. And she did this without actually asking them outright, but gently leading the discussion while commenting on a movie, a character, their reaction, her own experience, engaging them so actively that they themselves weren’t aware of how and or when they had joined the discussion vying with each other to speak first. It was only later, much later that they realized that although she was a qualified doctor her passion was psychology and of late had taken it up as a full time profession.
“Wow! You are good!” Khushi exclaimed as she pushed back her dinner plate, “I don’t remember the last time I spoke so much. In fact, I am by nature a chatterbox but over the years,” she shrugged and trailed off.
Disha smiled and shook her head. “It happens, circumstances change, we change, but as we grow older we go back to our older selves. At least that is what I have observed. Rahi baat mere good hone ki, I have just one quality.”
“What?” They looked at her expectantly.
“I am a good listener.” She looked at Anya sitting across her. “Koi problem?”
Khushi turned to look at Anya sitting beside her. “Kya hua?”
“Kuch nahi.” Anya worried her lip, “Maira is not too well.”
“Oh.” Khushi was instantly concerned. “Sherry texted you?”
“Hmm. Apparently ek do din se both are not well. Usual cold, cough. But Maira is very cranky and irritable. And because of her Keira bhi…”
“Oho! Poor babies.” Khushi worried. “Let’s go back.” She pushed back her chair.
“Arre Mami. Relax. Abhi thodi jaana hai. Waise bhi aap kyon…”
“Hum akele thodi rahenge yahan.” Khushi objected.
“Kyon nahi? LG ki yaad aa rahi hai?” Anya deadpanned.
Khushi’s phone buzzed. Think of the Rakshash
A barrage of messages followed.
Told Aman to book your flight to Lucknow.
Join me for the Fashion show tomorrow evening.
Taking your dress.
Check in at the airport early and visit the spa.
Click here for previous Chapter 517
Click here for next Chapter 519
Hello Peepuls. Kaisan ho? Sorry got a bit delayed today. Too much happening with little or no writing. I will be taking a break, next week to catch up on writing i.e. there will be a post, post Diwali too 😀 But then again perhaps a few weeks later. Will keep you posted via mail/twitter. Please bear with me.
And in other news, in these unprecedented times while the entire world has taken to the mask (well most of the world and in some measure or the other!) I have opted for unmasking. The virtual kinds with merging of my various versions. In a moment of crazy pandering to the self, I did what I promised I would never do. Waste paper.
Kuch samjhe ki naahi?
Oh well, I broke free of self imposed shackles of doubt and dithering and jumped on the bandwagon of (self)publication of my short stories. Yes, despite my long rambling yarns I can and do write short stories (which are not Hinglish), even ultra-short stories, which are barely 100 words long. Yet, to be honest, some of them ended up being as long as a novella.
Anyway, long story short, my first book Breaking Free: A Novella and Other Stories is now out in virtual stores. A fair warning though, this book is a tweaked and edited collection from those published on my blog – including an edited one from SS. So if you have been reading my blog and stuff other than SS, this may not be for you. Although if you liked my stories, I would appreciate if you could share it on your groups.
Out in stores now…
I also want to take this opportunity to once again thank all of you for reading and especially those who have bothered to leave an encouraging comment. Without you, I would have never had the courage to unmask. Being inexperienced and new, without the backing of a traditional publisher, I depend on you to spread the word. Thank you.
PAN India Distribution:
Amazon : https://www.amazon.in/dp/9390507006
The eBook is now available on Amazon KDP.
Germany – https://www.amazon.de/dp/B08N56MDFD
France – https://www.amazon.fr/dp/B08N56MDFD
Netherlands – https://www.amazon.nl/dp/B08N56MDFD
Canada – https://www.amazon.ca/dp/B08N56MDFD
Australia – https://www.amazon.com.au/dp/B08N56MDFD
What are you waiting for? Go check it out and salvage 2020. At least for me. 😀
Or perhaps I should say, let the trolling begin! 😛
Yikes! What have I gotten myself into! Help! The butterflies need to escape!