Beyond words

When eyes and souls connect

Chapter 3: Stirrings of trouble

on May 9, 2013

Khushi woke up with a start. It is late already she thought with a panic and then realized she did not have to go anywhere. Flashbacks of the previous evening swept past her eyes cine style. Her shoulders slumped not for long though.

Cheering up as she did about the thought of being home, she jumped out of bed and hugged her Payal jiji. Accustomed to impromptu expressions of affection Payal laughed at her nautanki sister and pushed her to the bathroom so she could freshen up.

Watching Buaji and Amma getting ready to leave for the satsang at the neighbor’s home, Payal walked up to them. Amma, I am going to the market, is there anything other than subzi you need? Amma thought for a moment and added a few items to the list. Be back soon she gently reminded.

Payal had barely turned the street corner when she bumped into Akash Raizada. “Aap?” she asked mildly surprised to see the quieter cousin of Arnav in their street. “Um. hm. Well! I came by to pick up my car from the garage near here.” he said. An awkward pause filled the air between them. “I should be off now” said Payal shyly moving away.

“Jijaji?” Akash stated incredulously. Payal turned around curious. Akash stood a puzzled expression looking at Shyam ji who was turning the corner walking towards the main road. Akash knew Shyam ji? Perhaps Shyam ji handled legal matters for Akash ji? Even as she moved slowly towards the market, she sensed Akash ji had turned and was walking towards her. He seemed preoccupied. He bumped into her again.

Sorry! I was surprised to see jijaji here he said. “Jijaji?” Payal repeated incredulous. “Did you mean the man in the brown shirt who just turned into the main road?

Akash ji nodded still distracted.

Akash realized belatedly that Payal ji seemed to recognize jijaji. “You know him?” he asked Payal. “Haan! He is a paying guest at our home”.

Nothing made sense any more.

“Payal ji we have to talk. Do you know of any quiet place around here?” asked Akash. Payal appeared not to have heard him. She stood staring at the street corner where Shyam ji had disappeared. Akash nudged her again. “Do you know a place where we can talk? It is important.” Payal recovered and nodded mutely. There is a temple nearby. We can go there.

payash

They walked in silence digesting what they had just discovered. Payal texted her sister saying she was taking a detour to the temple and to let Buaji know when she returned from the satsang. They found a quiet corner and sat on the steps. Akash’s mind raced with the possibilities. Does Di know? What was jiju doing as a paying guest in Delhi? It did not make sense at all.

Akash adjusted the frame of his glasses and seemed nervous. “Payal ji, I know this is awkward. I am not sure what to make of what I just saw. Shyam ji is married to Anjali Di. Did you really mean it when you said he has been living as a paying guest in your home?”

Payal looked at the man in front of her. His words seemed distant like there was a waterfall inside her head. She had to shake her head a couple of times before she asked Akash ji to repeat what he said. Shyam ji was Anjali Di’s husband? Images from the Teej vrat spun inside her head. The raksha daaga. The fasts. The pious wife, the loving family. It can’t be true!

The silence threatened to overcome them. Akash’s analytical mind registered the shock on Payal ji’s face. He would have to tread carefully. He needed to know everything before he could apprise bhai of this. Anjali Di. What would he say to her? That her husband was living in Delhi and pretending to travel? His head spun.

“Payal ji, I know this is difficult to talk about but I need to know more before I involve the family.” “Can you tell me how Shyam ji happened to become a paying guest in your home?”

Payal looked at him. His face was calm. The nervousness seemed to have gone. In its place was a calm collected person who was trying to make the best of a bad situation. She took a deep breath and began. Stopping every now and then, she shared the traumatic memories of her baraat returning and Khushi being held up at Sheesh Mahal. Her eyes seemed distant as she recalled her and Khushi’s visit to the TV station and finding out Arnav ji was the reason behind the footage being released. She wiped her tears as she recounted the humiliation Khushi and her parents experienced at the market. She steeled herself as she told Akash ji about how Shyam had helped save Khushi and eventually followed them to Delhi. The distaste in her face was apparent as she talked about how he smooth talked his way into staying at their house. He got Khushi a job at AR Designs warehouse and eventually persuaded Bua and Amma to get her engaged to him. She stopped as if talking about the engagement to be was loathsome. The relief on her face was evident as she spoke of how Khushi refused to be rushed into an engagement. She broke down exhausted from reliving all that had gone wrong over the past few months.

Akash hesitated for a second and gently held Payal ji by her shoulders as she struggled to stop the tears. He dug out his hanky and passed it wordlessly. She wiped her eyes and gave a tearful smile.

They sat in silence digesting what they had shared. The devastation of two families. A man of few words, Akash looked determined. “Payal ji, what we spoke about today, can you keep it to yourself for a few more days while I figure out how to deal with this?” Payal nodded. What was a few more days? She would have to keep Khushi safe from that vile man.

She realized with a start that it had been over an hour since she texted Khushi. I need to leave now Akash ji. Can we meet again tomorrow to figure out what to do next? Akash nodded. He had to act quickly. Bhai. Oh! What would Bhai say? He shuddered to think of the storm about to overtake their lives. He escorted Payal ji back to the market and promised to be in touch. Be brave. I will make sure everything will be alright. He lingered holding her hand a fraction longer than needed.

Payal finished her grocery shopping in a daze hardly seeing what she was buying. Loading her bag she traced her steps back to the Gupta house. Putting away the produce, she sought out her ebullient sister and gave her a tight hug.

Khushi was taken aback. Something was amiss. Her usually quiet sister was even more quieter. Was her eyes red? Had she been crying? A million thoughts crossed her mind as she crossed the room to look at her sister.

Jiji! Are you alright? Tum teek ho? she asked concern oozing out of her. Payal wiped her tears and nodded. She held out her hand, Devi Maiyya’s prasad on it. Khushi helped herself but was not sure what prompted this emotional outburst from her reticent sister. Come on tell me now, what were you crying for? Did the subziwala yell at you? Did you lose anything? Did you hurt yourself? What happened?

Payal hugged her sister once again and wiped her eyes. Nothing! I was just feeling emotional. I am happy that you followed your heart and said no to getting engaged to Shyam ji she said.

It was Khushis turn to be puzzled. What happened at the market? Why did jiji become so emotional? It was lucky that Buaji and Amma were at the neighbors. Jiji, you OK? she asked one last time. Payal nodded.

payalkhushi

That sealed it then. Jiji, let’s get golgappas this afternoon. I am so happy you are my jiji she said as she playfully gave her one more hug before she danced away into the kitchen.

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One response to “Chapter 3: Stirrings of trouble

  1. wow awesome this akash is very smart loved how he asked the right question beautifully done awesome update

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