Beyond words

When eyes and souls connect

Chapter 12: Picking up the pieces

Driving away from the temple with Di weaving in and out of consciousness, Arnav called Aman and curtly instructed him to follow instructions he had left with him that morning. He would have to deal with Shyam but before that Di needed attention.

As they turned into the gates of Raizada Mansion, Aman stood waiting with a lawyer and a team of security guards. Getting off the car, Arnav carried Di to her room where the doctor had arrived and administered an injection.

“Let her rest awhile. The medication will calm her down and then you can talk to her.” He reassured his Di would be OK and left.

Before he dealt with Shyam, he needed Di to be able to face what had happened. Knowing how his Di idolized Shyam ji, he wanted nothing left to chance. Shyam sat sullen faced in the study, security guards on either side of him. Nani ji and the rest of the family faced him.

“Damaad ji, we held you in high respect. How could you do this to us? We treated you as a son and today you have broken the trust and belief of our child.” Nani broke away unable to continue.

Mami had no qualms. She swiftly told him what she thought of him and minced no words in calling him what he was.

Mama ji looked at him reproachfully. No words could repair the damage that was done.

Akash looked at his Jijaji straight in his eyes. Neither blinking or turning away.

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Di recovered enough to see her Chottey by her side. He held her as she rocked back and forth coming to terms with what she had seen. Arnav gently turned her towards him.

“Di, Remember how you tie Rakhi each year and I promise to protect you for ever? Today I have to make good on that promise.”

Anjali looked at him, grief raw in her eyes.

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Arnav wordlessly placed the file that had shaken him that morning. He left nothing out. When he got to the part where Shyam had tried to get engaged to Khushi, a look of recognition swept through Anjali’s face.

Brother and sister held each other for a long time recognizing that the only other relation that had Anjali moored to happiness was slipping away. Stepping away from his Di, Arnav asked if she was ready to face Jijaji.

Anjali looked uncertain. “Give me a few minutes Chottey. I need some time alone to process what has happened. I will join you down in a little bit.”

With Chottey leaving her reluctantly, she walked up and latched the door. Sitting on her bed, she fingered the papers in the file that lay threadbare the sham that her life had been. Memories of her falling in love, being courted and serenaded brought a fresh wave of tears. Then random images intruded. The constant travelling. The call from Motilal jewellers about a ring that Shyam ji had purchased. The jalebi making. The insistence on Khushi ji not coming to Raizada Mansion.

The dots connected to complete the niggling thoughts that had felt alien a few days back. The thoughts she had felt ashamed feeling. She needed to face him. To look into his eyes and see the truth for herself. Steeling herself, she walked to the door. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door to find Chottey waiting for her.

Brother and sister walked down to face their future.

Payal and Khushi sat at the temple for what seemed ages till they spied Buaji and Amma coming towards them with murderous expressions on their faces. Khushi cowered while Payal intercepted them.

“Buaji, Amma. Please listen. I know I should have called to let you know but…”

Payal did not get to complete her sentence before Buaji’s firm hand had her by her ears. She all but dragged her away before Khushi came to her senses and physically restrained Buaji.

“Buaji, this is about Shyam ji. You are not going to like it.”

The mention of Shyam ji stopped Buaji. She looked at Khushi as if urging her to go on and finish what she was saying.

Between Payal and Khushi, they brought Amma and Buaji to date on what had happened that evening. Even as they wrapped up, Akash ji arrived. He breathlessly announced that Di had practically expelled Shyam ji from her life. He said Arnav would take care of legal proceedings but for now, Di was handling it better than they had thought she would. He looked at Payal with gratitude. Payal looked away conscious of Khushi’s eyes boring into her.

He held Buaji’s hands and looked at her.

“Buaji. I know you have all suffered at the hands of Jijaji. Bhai is handling things at our end but I wanted to apologize for whatever happened. I hope nothing untoward happened with Jijaji in the house. Please do not let him in if he attempts to come back. I will stop by the house and collect any things he may have left in there.”

Buaji nodded. The whole story sounded so improbable that she would have had trouble if it were anyone but Akash ji telling her that. Her hands trembling, she now turned her gaze to Khushi.

“Sanka Devi, Will you forgive me? To think I was ready to spoil your life without understanding what could have happened. I dread to think of it.”

With that, she fell silent.

Akash ji drove them silently to their home as all of them digested the enormity of what had happened.

The storm had passed but it would be a while before they picked up the pieces and started rebuilding their lives.

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Chapter 5: Dil and Dimaag at work

Lavanya looked at Arnav. “Give me one last hug before I leave” she said. It suddenly hit Arnav. The consequences of his anger. He began his uncertain walk towards redemption. He reached out and hugged Lavanya. A genuine, repentant hug.

“You don’t have to leave you know” he said realizing how hollow it sounded.

Tears fell freely from Lavanya’s eyes. She let them fall mourning the death of a dream. Death of a relationship that never had been. Slowly she piled her clothes into her suitcase as Arnav looked on.

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“What do we tell them?” she wondered aloud. Arnav walked over and sat by her. He took his hand in hers and sat mute. After what seemed ages, he stood briskly and told her not to worry. He made this mess, he would clean it up.

As Lavanya went to freshen up before leaving, he called his family for a quick meeting. Akash was not back home. Di, Nani, Mami and Mama looked expectantly. His grave face gave no clue of what was coming. As expected, they felt crushed by his announcement.

“What do you mean Chotte that you and Lavanya are breaking up?” Di’s lips trembled as she asked. Nani look angry. “Relationships are not to be made and broken like business deals. There are families involved, feelings involved. Lavanya changed herself so we could accept her. What happened now that you can no longer proceed with the engagement?” Mami looked ready for war. “Hello hi! Bye, Bye!! Arnav bitwa what do you means no engagement?”

Arnav stood resolute. Spying Lavanya walking downstairs with a heavy suitcase, he rushed to help her. They stood side by side as partners for the first time. Sharing blame and the combined anger of the family.

Lavanya hugged Di, Nani and Mami. Touching Nani’s feet she said “Please do not blame him. We came to this decision mutually. There was no fight. No right or wrong. Some relationships are just not meant to be. ASR will get married some day.”

With that she walked out, her heart breaking into a million pieces all over again.

Di followed Arnav as he walked back to his room. “I need some time alone Di” he said. Anjali would not hear of it. “What happened Chotte? I can’t believe you and Lavanya broke up after all that she did for you. For us.” Arnav turned to his Di. “I said nothing happened. I finally realized I am not ready for marriage or commitment and I did not feel it was right to keep Lavanya in the dark about it. She deserves better than me. I really need some time alone now Di. I will talk to you later.”

Anjali watched her brother struggle with unnamed emotions. Silently she walked out closing the door behind her.

Was it relief or regret he felt? Arnav wondered.

Akash stood at the entrance of Raizada Mansion. He dreaded the thought of the discussion he needed to have with Bhai. Before he did that he needed to talk to Di. Putting his game face on, he walked inside the house. The house felt somber and bereft of emotion as he entered. Wondering if everything was OK he walked in.

His mom and dad sat in the living room unusually quiet. Di and Bhai were nowhere to be seen. Debating between going upstairs and talking to his mom, he spied Hari Prakash bring tea. Walking down, he sat by his dad. Even before he could ask anything his mom poured it all out. Lavanya and Bhai had broken up. Now Akash would never get married. Sighing in exasperation, he looked at his dad for confirmation. Mama ji nodded his head. Yes it was true. Bhai was in his room and did not want to be disturbed and Di was upset.

He knew what he had to do. Walking up, he knocked on Di’s door. Letting himself in, he sat by Di’s bedside. Holding her hand, he asked if she was OK. Di nodded turning to him. Her eyes looked red like she had been crying. Stroking her hand gently he reassured her everything would be alright. “Where was jijaji?” he asked casually. Di thought for a moment as if recollecting and said he was away on work and would return to Delhi in a couple of days. Akash felt a stab of pain go through him. How was he ever going to shatter Di’s unshakable trust in her husband? He needed to talk to Bhai. It was not going to be easy and it certainly did not look like the right time to have this conversation. “You take rest Di. I need to talk to Bhai.” With that he left the room and headed to his room.

Pacing up and down, he knew it would be a tough sell breaking his Jija ji’s facade in front of Di. Hell! it would be difficult for anyone to believe what he had just heard from Payal ji. There had to be a way. Something irrefutable without tipping Jijaji off.

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Chapter 2: Not now. Not ever.

Giving her dad’s hand a quick squeeze, Khushi realized there was no point dragging it out. She turned to Buaji firmly. Her voice low and steady she repeated what she said. Without waiting for Buaji to reply, she turned to Shyam and said she would like to speak to him. Alone.

Bua and Garima exchanged glances. Payal seemed unsure if Khushi really meant alone. Khushi gave her a quick nod to let her know she knew what she was doing. Shyam and Khushi walked out to the veranda.

Shyam reached out to hold Khushi’s shoulder so she would face him. She flinched but did not move. Taking a deep breath, she turned and looked Shyam ji in the eye.

Shyam ji, we did talk a few days ago and I thought we agreed we would not get engaged now. Why this hurry? Why now? Khushi’s voice halted, questioning the man she had come to regard as a friend though something in her made her wary of his touch. She stepped back reflexively as if his answer had the power to hurt her.

Shyam gazed at her pretty perturbed face, his brain working overtime to salvage the situation. How he played the game now was critical to ensuring Khushi ji would be his. His face changed. Like quicksilver, the anger was replaced by concern.

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Khushi ji! he said. I am in no hurry. I understand how you feel. Perhaps it is best we let this rest for a few days while Shashi uncle recovers. Perhaps in time you will feel differently about me. We can still be friends right? I always wish nothing but the best for you. I will talk to Buaji and your mom. They will understand.

Khushi looked at him. He was saying what she wanted to hear. Yet, there was an uneasiness she could not shrug off.

Quickly discarding the warning thoughts in her head, she smiled warmly and took his hand.

Friends. She repeated after him.

Entering the home together again, Shyam made a beeline for Buaji cajoling her into making a cup of tea. Garima and Payal looked at Khushi expectantly, relief writ large on their faces. Khushi gave them a weak smile and said she needed to lie down for a bit as she felt exhausted. Without waiting for a response, she walked into her room and closed the door behind her. Sinking to the floor, she let the events of the day wash over her. The sobs came unbidden. Did she do the right thing?

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