Monday, 6 February 2012

OS: Heartbreaks

OS: Heartbreaks (for Chicky)

Khushi had made her decision. She agreed to the engagement. Really, there was no other option at that point. What with everyone howling, Babuji choking, Buaji going hysterical, it was the only way to end it all. She agreed. But, now, lying on her bed, staring at the stars she hung around it, she felt more at peace, she felt like she was closer to her parents. She could think clearly. She did not want her marriage to be a reaction to the hurt and insult hurled at her by Arnav Singh Raizada. She closed her eyes and remembered how Arnav's words washed over her a second before she agreed to the engagement. She opened her eyes again. No, this wasn't how it was supposed to be. This was all wrong.

Now that Buaji was in bed, Khushi could finally hear herself think. And every thought ended in the knowledge that everyone was being hasty and illogical. Babuji hadn't once spoken to her about Shyam or marriage. Not once even hinted that he would like Shyam to marry her. She knew for a fact that Babuji wanted Jiji to get married first. So, where did all this come from? Babuji is paralyzed and they were thinking of her marriage? What sense did all this make? She thought of the time when she confided in Babuji that she couldn't marry Shyam. She did not find any disappointment in his eyes. The thought of having this or any conversation with Buaji made her head reel. Increasingly, stuffing cotton in hear ears had been very tempting every time Buaji spoke.

Khushi made her decision. She was going to go through the engagement and then buy time until marriage. By then, she would figure out a way to converse with her Babuji and see if this is in fact what he even wanted. She would make everyone happy by agreeing to the engagement and then convince everyone that now that her job at Raizada house was over, she'll find another job. She'll find some financial stability for her family by working for a bit. Also, she'll convince everyone that she'll stay engaged, but get married only along with Payal, after finding a groom for her. Yes, that's what she'll do. For now, she'll just let everyone have their way with the engagement and then figure things out slowly.

Well, the time spent with Arnav surely taught her to be calculating, she thought bitterly. She wished she could physically erase the hurt and his words from her heart. He had been cold last night. He was ASR. She had been spending so much time with Arnav lately that she had completely forgotten ASR. Serves me right, she thought.

Next morning, she got ready and went to the kitchen to let her Amma and Buaji know that she had to run a couple of errands and had to visit Raizada house once. She went to the bank and got a cheque made for thirty thousand in Arnav's name and went to Raizada house. Fleetingly, she had considered calling and figuring out a time when he won't be home, but decided against it. His words echoed in her head. "Tumhaari koi ahmiyat nahi hai mere liye." Well, that makes two of us, she thought. She did not want to care enough to make an attempt to even avoid him. If he's there, so be it. Irrespective, she had nothing to say to him. She will speak to Anjali ji, say goodbye to everyone else and come back. She did not care enough anymore to even pretend like things are normal. Taking a deep breath, she rang the bell.

The previous night, Arnav had marched straight into his room, thrown his waistcoat and keys on the chair and stood near the window, closing his eyes. He opened his eyes only to see the spot where he had almost kissed Khushi just a few hours ago. He could still see her confused, innocent eyes looking at him, her nervous breath on his face, her soft face against his palms. Increasingly, the ASR in him was taking a backseat and Arnav was coming forward. He knew she was responsible. Increasingly, he was becoming aware the power she unknowingly had on him. She made him cry, laugh, dream, fantasize, desire, and a lot of other things that he didn't want to do. She made him lose the control that he was so proud of. Tonight, however, was the last straw. He lost control to the extent of not knowing what he was doing. He almost kissed her. The knowledge shook him. It's not possible that another person had so much control over him. The realization made him run and hide behind his ASR exterior, hide behind his pathetic excuse of a marriage announcement.

He felt sadistic pleasure when he saw the pain in her eyes as he made the announcement. Then, reality took over and as always, he felt her pain. Her tears burned in his heart. Every passing second made him realize the gravity of his mistake. He was unable to pretend to look even pleasant, leave alone happy. And there she was, smiling again at everyone and moving around. In the car, when she continued her facade, he couldn't take it anymore. He needed her to react.He threw caution to the wind and brought up what had happened between them. He goaded her into responding, but she didn't. Forgetting even about her fear of speed, he raced the car and asked her to get the hell out of his car. It had brought him momentary satisfaction to see her breaking as she tried to free her pallu that was holding her from leaving. If he believed in fate, he would've believed that every time they moved away from each other, fate tried to stop them. Sometimes physically and sometimes otherwise. He looked up to see her run into her house, her teary eyes burning right into his soul when she turned to look at him for a moment.

As he was driving back, the desire and need to go back and wipe her tears was so overwhelming that momentarily he wondered if he would be able to stop himself from doing just that. He had jumped at the excuse to return her purse. He could go see her, make sure she was fine. As he stepped out of her house, he was panicking. She was going to kill ASR completely and revive Arnav. He just folded his hands and wished her father. He just wished everyone in that house like a respectful, polite young man. She did this to him. He needed to kill Arnav and bring the ASR back. Somehow. He was almost rushing out when she stopped him. He turned around and lashed out. He didn't plan to do it, but it's what he did the best. Lashing out at her to hide his own feelings. Hurting her to ignore his own hurt. He felt a chill seeping into his heart when he noted the hurt and despair in her eyes when she looked at him like she didn't know him. That should teach her to stay away from me, he thought.

Now, climbing into his bed and staring at the ceiling, he wished his money could him erase the image of her eyes from his mind. Having fallen into a disturbed slumber in the early hours of morning, he woke up rather late. He walked around the house to catch a glimpse of her. It was past 11, she should have been here long back. Reminding himself that he was not supposed to think of her, he went back to his room. Work, he thought. His one shield. He hoped to spend at least half an hour at stretch without thinking about her even once. As he got ready, he heard the door bell. As he his head jerked up, he realized how much looked forward that sound early mornings, knowing it would be her. Remembering that he was late today and that Khushi hadn't come today, he went back to getting ready.

"Namaste Omprakashji" said Khushi as he opened the door and let her in. "Anjali ji hain?" Omprakash nodded and gestured her into the living room.

"Namaste Anjaliji" said Khushi as Anjali stood up and beamed at her.

Seeing Khushi look around, Anjali said "Lavanyaji Naani ke kamre mei hai, Khushiji. Aaj der ho gayi aapko? Sab theek toh hai? Aap pareshaan lag rahi hai"

As they sat down, Khushi said "Nahi Anjali ji, sab theek hai. Der nahi huyi thi. Hum kaam pe nahi aaye hai. Humaara kaam toh khal khatam ho gaya tha na. Hum darasal Arnav ji ki kuch cheezei lautaane aaye hai"

Anjali looked confused as she said "Chote ki cheezei? Aapke paas? Achcha, hum Chote ko bulaate hai."

Khushi's eyes widened as she said "Woh ghar pe hai?" When Anjali nodded before turning around, starting to call out, Khushi continued hastily "Nahi nahi Anjali ji. Unhe bulaane ki zarurat nahi hai. Aap bas ye unko de dijiyega." Khushi took out the cheque and Arnav's mannat ki chaabi and held them out.

"Cheque? Ye toh aapki salary thi na? Ye kyu lauta rahi hai aap?"

"Nahi Anjali ji. Uss din jab tak humne cheque bank mei de diya, Arnav ji ne hume paise diye the hospital bill ke liye. Bas wahi lautana tha."

"Aur ye?"

"Ye.. er.. ye chaabi er.. Anjaliji.. aap bas unko de dijiyega" said Khushi and slipped it into the envelope containing the cheque.

Anjali looked at her quizzically, but didn't say anything. Khushi got up and said "Hume chalna chaahiye"

"Khushi ji, iss mahine ki salary toh le jaayiye na. Hum jaante hai ki mahina puura nahi hua hai, lekin kaam toh kiya hi hai aapne itne dino tak."

"Nahi Anjali ji, iss mahine hum kuch hi din toh aaye. Aur phir Lavanya ji humaari dost bhi hai. Aur sabse badi baat, Nani ji ne unhe apnaa liya hai. Hum iss mahine ki salary nahi le sakte. Hum chalte hai."

"Arre theek hai Khushiji, par thodi der rukiye naa. Naani aur Lavanya ji se toh miliye. Itni kya jaldi hai."

"Nahi Anjali ji hume jaana hoga. Woh kya hai ki humaari sagai tai ho gayi hai toh Buaji ghar pe intezaar kar rahi hongi."

"Kya?" said Anjali "Aapki sagai tai ho gayi? Ye toh bahut khushi ki baat hai! Aap hume nyota nahi dengi?"

"Anjali ji woh kal raat ko yahaa se jaane ke baad hi tai huyi thi. Iss hafte ya agle hafte hogi. Tareekh nahi pata humei. Buaji hi batayengi. Aur koi function nahi hai. Bas ghar pe hi hogi Amma, Babuji, Jiji aur Buaji ke saath."

"Aap.." Anjali hesitated "Maaf kijiye Khushiji, aap khush toh hai na? Humaara matlab hai ki.."

"Anjali ji hume sachmei der ho rahi hai" said Khushi hastily as she suddenly felt Arnav's presence nearby. "Aap bas Naaniji aur baaki sabko bata dijiyega. Hum chalte hai"

Arnav reached the end of the stairs just in time to see a flash of green slipping out of the door. Green, he thought. The color of her dupatta. The one she was wearing when she fell on him into his arms on the rangoli. Shaking himself, he walked towards the living room wondering why he had felt her presence when he walked towards the stairs.

"Di, mai office jaa raha. Late ho gaya aaj toh raat ko der se aaunga" Arnav said to Anjali and was going to turn when she said "Achcha ye Khushi ji ne diya hai tumhe dene ke liye. Hum tumhaare kamre mei rakh denge"

Arnav froze. When he saw Anjali turning around, he said "Khushi aayi hai?"

Anjali turned and said "Aayi thi. Abhi abhi nikal gayi."

Arnav tried to ignore the anger at the thought that she didn't come and see him as he said "Kya hai ye" gesturing at Anjali's hand.

"Tumhaara cheque" she said giving him the envelope.

He took out the cheque and stared at him remembering how he had hoped that she would forget about the money he paid at the hospital. She probably did until you called her a gold digger, a voice reminded him. He closed his eyes briefly as Anjali said "Oh aur uske andar ek chaabi bhi hai Chote"

He looked inside the envelope in disbelief as he saw his mannat ki chaabi inside it. She kept it with her all these months? His mannat ki chaabi? He tried to close his heart in vain against an intense emotion surging through him. Stuffing the envelope into his laptop bag, he said harshly "Woh chali kyu gayi? Ek toh itni der se aayi aur chali bhi gayi?"

"Chote woh ab yahaa kaam nahi karti. Kyunki Naani ne Lavanyaji ko accept kar liya hai, woh keh rahi thi ki unka kaam kal khatam ho chuka hai. Iss mahine jitne din unhone kaam kiya uski salary lene se bhi mana kar diya ye kehke ki Lavanya ji ab unki dost bhi hai."

"Gold digger? I called her a gold digger? Not that I believed or meant it for a moment, but I said it nevertheless?" he thought.

"Aur vaise bhi woh aaj jaldi mei thi" continued Anjali "Unki sagai tai ho gayi hai. Bol rahi thi ki iss hafte ya agle haft hogi. Toh unke ghar pe sab intezaar.." Anjali stopped at the sound of Arnav's laptop bag falling down.

"Arre Chote.." she said walking forward to pick it up. She looked up to see Arnav staring at her incredulously.

"Kya hua Chote?" she said holding the bag in one hand and keeping the other on his shoulder.

Jerking away from her, he said "Kya kaha aapne? Uski sagai tai ho gayi? Kya bakwaas hai Di! Uski koi nayi naatak hogi. Kal raat hi toh thi yahaa pe aur kisiko kuch nahi kaha. Aise kaise itni jaldi.."

"Wahi toh Chote. Woh keh rahi thi ki kal raat ko yahaa se jaane ke baad hi tai hua. Hume lagta hai jaldi mei tai hua hoga. Pata nahi kyu hume laga ki woh khush nahi hai. I hope ki unke gharwaale unhe force karke toh.. hum abhi aate hai" she trailed off as she heard Naani calling out for her. Placing his bag on the floor, she walked away.

Arnav stood rooted to the spot. Khushi was getting engaged. He felt a cold, numb despair clutch at his heart. He felt like he would never be happy again, like things would never be fine again. Fleetingly, he wondered if his face mirrored the expression on Khushi's face last night when he announced his wedding. He wondered if this feeling is what he put her through last night by announcing his wedding. Her hurt and pain stricken eyes flashed in his mind as he shut his own eyes. Yes, he thought. This is what she felt last night. Heartbreak. That is the word. He knew what it looked like - he had seen it on her face and in her eyes last night. Hours later, right now, he knew what it felt like in the very core of his soul.

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