Beyond words

When eyes and souls connect

Chapter 41: Mending hearts, building bridges

on May 24, 2013

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Payal and Di heard a crash and came rushing out to find Khushi in a heap in the landing. Payal reached her first and cradled her. Anjali fetched water and they sprinkled some on her face. Khushi opened her eyes and remembered what had happened. Her eyes floated up to the picture above her and shock and grief assailed her. How was she going to live with this secret. She had known that Arnav ji and Anjali ji’s parents had died under tragic circumstances, but that her mom life was intricately tied to theirs was unfathomable.

Payal looked at her sister concern welling in her eyes.

“Khushi, are you OK? Can you sit up?”

“Jiji.” Khushi said weakly struggling to raise herself up. Payal helped her to lean against the wall. Khushi sipped on some water that Anjali Di had brought. She felt color creep into her pallid face.

“I had forgotten to eat lunch and must have fainted” she lied weakly.

Anjali asked Hari Prakash to set out some food and the two of them escorted Khushi to the table. Nibbling on her food, Khushi tried to quell the rising feeling of panic and unease in her. How would Arnav ji react to this? She had to tell him.

After resting awhile, Payal and Khushi were on their way. Khushi wondered if she should let Payal in on the secret and then decided against it. Her Jiji deserved the happiness she had now. This was something that was best left buried.

The day broke to find Arnav curled up in a ball on the floor. He woke up to pain in his back and stiff joints from the cold floor. The photo lay on the floor beside him. He picked it up, put it back in the diary and packed all his things. He needed a hot shower and some food before he could think.

Sitting in the cab back to the airport, he looked at the world around him with new eyes. How fitting was it that what had started in Lucknow ended there. He would have to share it with his Di. She needed closure as much as he did. Having walked in the same shoes as their mom she knew what it was to live with a man who hankered after another woman. Perhaps she would find it in her heart to let go of the pain they had carried for too long.

They would have to face Garima aunty. He would think about it another day. Perhaps some things were best left as secrets?

Khushi. His Khushi.

The past day had broken some of the carefully erected walls in his psyche. He had spent a good part of his life being bitter and resentful against marriage. Reading his father’s diary had given him a glimpse into his father’s life. Perhaps not everything was black or white. Perhaps his father had never loved their mother. There were questions for which there were no answers.

He had been lucky to find love. To find that one person who felt like home to him. Being in her presence made him feel grounded and secure. He would be a fool to let her go.

As the flight took off, he saw clouds with a silver lining. A warmth filled the space in his heart he had kept closed for too long. He smiled without being aware of it.

Reaching home, he sought out his Di. Brother and sister held each other as they tried to rebuild their lives from the ashes around them. Anjali looked at her brother. He looked different. As if by shaking off the past he was learning to live again. Perhaps he would find love.

Arnav sat by the poolside, the water reflecting the night sky. Instinctively he looked up searching for the brightest stars.

“I need your blessings mama” he whispered.

He felt a deep sense of peace pervade him and knew what to do.

Khushi sat by the front porch of her house, her fingers played with the glass bangles she had taken to wearing everyday. Their presence seemed to be tangible reminder of the person who had gifted them to her. Looking up the night sky, she found what she was looking for and whispered “Give me strength Amma. I am going to talk to Arnav ji.”

The day broke and Khushi and Payal left for work. Buaji, Garima and Shashi Babu sat in the living room tallying expenses and making sure everything was ready for the Mehndi and Sangeet the following day. A knock sounded on their door. Garima opened it to find Arnav standing in front of her. He removed his glasses and his eyes lingered on her and an unreadable expression came over his face.

Garima welcomed him inside and Buaji and Shashi ji made space for him to be seated comfortably. He looked at the three of them not knowing where to begin.

“Aunty, I would like to have a word with you alone before I talk to all of you.”

Garima looked at him quizzically. She turned to her husband who nodded imperceptibly. Buaji was not sure what was happening.

“Bitwa you can talk to Garima in Khushi’s room.”

Garima walked into the room and Arnav followed. He closed the door behind him and faced Garima. He walked close to her and held her hands in his.

“Aunty ji, will you bless me?”

Garima nodded not sure what he was talking about.

Arnav wordlessly removed the picture of his dad and Garima and held it out to her. He watched as her face turned pale and she looked unsteady. He held her elbow as she steadied herself and spoke in an even tone.

“Aunty, I did not mean to bring this here to intrude. When Dadi passed away, she gave me the key to my dad’s locker. I found this picture and a diary he had left behind.”

He hesitated before he continued.

“I am sorry for whatever happened. I know I cannot undo the past but I realize now that you were as much a victim as my mom. I hope you find closure in the fact that the family and children you tried to protect are doing well. We have suffered a lot in the last fourteen years but Di and I are looking forward to moving on.”

Garima looked at Arnav’s troubled eyes. Her eyes filled with tears as she reached to touch his head.

“I am sorry Bitwa. I did not know your dad was married. I would have never…”

She choked as she tried to explain what had happened. Arnav reached out to comfort her and ended up being comforted. Wiping away tears, the two of them returned to the living room.

Aunty, Uncle, Buaji, there is something I wanted to talk with you. Garima looked at him wondering what else he wanted to talk about.

Looking directly at Shashi Babu he said.

“Uncle, I would like to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.”

Shashi looked at the man in front of him and felt happiness overcome him. Struggling to speak he nodded his acceptance.

Arnav continued “I will ask Nani and Di to come with the Shagun soon but I have a request. Please do not tell Khushi I asked you for her hand yet.”

Khushi had a rough morning. She had trouble concentrating on the food and kept mixing up numbers. What she needed was a good session of making Jalebis. But before that she had to talk to Arnav ji. The photo was burning a hole in her conscience. She would tell him and accept whatever he decided. The trouble was where was she to find him?

Arnav’s phone buzzed even as he finished talking to Di and Nani about his visit to Khushi’s home. Nani couldn’t quell the happiness that threatened to balloon inside her. Di promised she would hold the secret all to herself but she couldn’t help smiling. Her chottey was in love. And he wanted to get married. She hugged her brother for the umpteenth time since that morning.

Wriggling out of his sisters hug, Arnav reached for his phone. A smile reached his eyes and he walked to the poolside to call her back.

“Arnav ji. I need to talk to you.”

Khushi sounded breathless.

“Are you OK Khushi. You sound nervous.”

“Can you meet me at the temple?”

“Sure. I will see you there in half hour.”

There was much he had to do before he could meet her.

Khushi sat fidgeting with her dupatta as she awaited Arnav ji. Arnav walked in and watched her from a distance before he walked up. Sitting next to her, he bent over and nuzzled her cheek.

“I’ve missed you Khushi.”

Khushi looked up in consternation. The closeness was unsettling. Moving a bit to put some space between them, she looked up at him, her face giving away the confusion within.

“Arnav ji. There is something important I need to share with you.”

She paused not knowing how to start saying what she needed to say. Closing her eyes as if she needed the strength it gave her she began.

“I found a photo in my mother’s box. Your father loved her Arnav ji. She loved him too but she did not know he was married.”

She looked at Arnav expecting the lines on his face to harden. For him to walk away.

He sat there. Resolute and unmoving. His eyes held a tenderness that baffled her.

“Khushi. I know that.”

He knew that? How? When?

“I was in Lucknow yesterday to bring my father’s belongings back home and I found the same picture. I also found a diary.”

He paused swallowing hard. Images from the previous day swum before him. He held back nothing.

Khushi reached out and held his hand as the two of them tried to make sense of what had happened and how their lives were intricately linked.

She felt a burden lift from her chest. Arnav ji knew. He was OK. He still loved her. She kept touching him to make sure this was real. He was real. They were real.

Arnav looked at Khushi with affection in his eyes. Reaching out for her hand, he held it under his.

“Khushi. Promise you will never leave me.”

Khushi looked at him, her love for him all-encompassing.

“I promise. We will be together. Always.”

As they walked down the steps, Khushi belatedly remembered the other thing she had wanted to talk to him about. She stopped mid step.

“Arnav ji. I was thinking about your question the other day. The answer is yes. I will elope with you.”

She said it with so much naiveté that Arnav melted all over again.

“Let’s go to the car” he ordered gruffly as he pulled her with him.

Once in the car, he pulled her in for a hug and looked into her eyes and a twinkle came into them.

“You never cease to amaze me Khushi Kumari Gupta. Be prepared. After Payal’s wedding. Be ready to walk out with the clothes on your back.”

Khushi nodded remembering what she had promised.

“I have one condition though Arnav ji. Even if we run away and get married, I want to get married the right way. With pheres, sindoor and mangalsutra. With a priest officiating the marriage.”

Arnav looked at his girl with amazement. He was a lucky man.

“I promise Khushi.”

With that, he threw reserve to the winds and bent down to claim his woman.

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2 responses to “Chapter 41: Mending hearts, building bridges

  1. loved thst both wanted just to keep each other happy loved how he spoke to khushi mom an dhow he asked for her hand in marriage awesome update beautifully done

  2. fijiankudi says:

    Arnav handled his dad’s matter very sensitively, with Garima and Khushi. I m looking forward to seeing what he has up his sleeves for marriage. Waiting to see khushi’s face. read about khusi’s reaction.

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