Beyond words

When eyes and souls connect

Chapter 33: Laad Governor or Rajkumar?


Khushi looked at the bundle on her lap. They really were sample invites. Did he really come to drop the invitations? Shaking her head she focused on them and picked out a couple she liked. She then picked her phone to follow-up with the girls who worked for her on how the day went and if they were able to manage without her.

Payal returned looking happy and flushed. Her eyes were bright. Khushi’s heart overflowed. Love did suit her Jiji. Akash Jijaji was fast becoming her favorite person. Another two weeks to Mehndi and Sangeet and then the wedding. She realized with a pang that her Jiji would be moving to the Raizada Mansion. Well! At least she would be in Delhi.

As if Payal heard what Khushi was thinking, she pulled her to the porch outside. She was bursting to share the news with someone.

“Khushi. Guess what was the surprise?”

“What Jiji? Tell me na?”

“We.. I mean Akash ji and I after the wedding will be moving to Lucknow for a few months.”

Payal paused for what she said to sink in. Her eyes shone.

“Few months Jiji?”

“Yes. Arnav ji told Akash ji that he needed him to relocate to Lucknow for about 6 months to handle some business they are setting up there.”

Payal lowered her voice.

“Akash ji thinks it is because Arnav ji thinks we need the time away from sasuma after the wedding,”

She grinned as if she was privy to some inside joke amongst the Raizadas.

Khushi gave her sister a big hug and squeezed her tight. Her Jiji deserved all the happiness she was being showered with.

Payal bounced back into the home to find Bua with a surprised look on her face looking at what looked like a check register. Her forehead had furrows in it from thinking so hard.

“Payaliya, come look at these numbers for me. Why does my account have more balance than it usually does?”

Payal sat next to her Bua and crunched the numbers for her. She added up the numbers and looked at the past month to compare debits.

“There it is Bua ji. Your rental check has not been cashed yet. That is why you have a higher balance.”

Bua sat lost in thought. The check should have cleared by now. She would have to follow-up with the landlord.

“Hai Re Nandakishore. With all the work relating to the wedding, I now have to follow this one up as well” she said as she rose to go in the kitchen.

Khushi who had come in as well, grabbed the check register and concurred with what Payal said.

“Buaji. Am feeling good enough to go out. I will look into this for you tomorrow morning” she said as she pocketed the check book and the passbook from the table.

She was hungry and peeked into the kitchen to see what Bua had for dinner. Her eyes fell on the teacups on the counter and the memory of Arnav ji assailed her.

“Who was he? The laad governor who enjoys having the last word, reminds her of her aukat and pushes her away or her rajkumar who rescues her from burning buildings, bashes goons who dare lay a finger on her, says sorry without hesitation and brazenly presses her fingers to his lips?”

“What did she feel for him?”

Khushi smiled absently at her naivete in the years before when she mistook her attraction for him as acidity. She now knew that she was attracted to him. She definitely liked him. A lot. Love? Did she love him?

She felt color rising up her cheeks at the thought and decided she had enough of playing the demure damsel. It was time to up the ante. Two can play this game.

Cheering up, she let go of her fingers she had been staring at and looked up. Bua and Payal sat transfixed watching her.

“Sanka Devi! What were you thinking of? Your cheeks are so red. Are you OK?”

“Should we call Arnav ji?” Payal teased. “He always seems to be there when you fall, when you decide to walk into speeding cars.”

“Jiji! You too??”

With that the Gupta sisters attacked their food with gusto.

Lavanya entered the home, her face radiant.

“I had such a good evening” she declared. Payal and Khushi looked up and at her expectantly.

“Well! NK had asked me to show him around Delhi and we had a good time driving and walking around the main spots.”

Payal and Khushi looked at each other and said in unison.

“NK? Good time huh? Just walking and talking Lavanya?”

Lavanya looked at them and added hurriedly.

“We are just good friends now. He is cute though.”

Khushi felt happy for her friend. She had been through much the past couple of years and NK would be good for her. He was goofy and knew how to make her laugh.

“Did you have dinner or are you joining in?”

Lavanya waved her hand breezily and disappeared into Khushi’s room.

Arnav sat at dinner table playing with his food. Nani and Anjali looked at each other meaningfully.

“Chottey, Are you OK? You seem to have lost interest in food these days? You are going to temples. You actually volunteered to take the invitation samples to Payal ji’s home. Sab teek hai?”

Anjali reached to touch her brother’s forehead in mock concern. Nani smiled coyly and Mami looked at everyone with suspicion. What was happening without her knowledge. She would have to find out. Akash and Mama dug into their food without any hesitation.

Arnav pushed Di’s hand and scowled. He ate hurriedly and left without a word. Reaching his room, he let the mask down and a smile played on his lips. He relived the evening and the look of surprise on Khushi’s face as he walked away dropping the invites in her lap. Something about being with Khushi brought the child out in him. He loved sparring with her and having the last word.

She had looked lovely in her night suit he thought distractedly. What would he give to be able to kiss her. He recoiled with horror at the direction his thoughts were taking him. Mehndi and Sangeet were a couple of weeks away. How was he going to contrive it such that they could meet often?

He smiled as the answer dawned on him. All he had to do was let Di know casually and his work would be done. He went to bed a satisfied man.


Chapter 28: Shifting equations

GuptaswithjalebiKhushi heard Lavanya stir on the other side of the room and noiselessly slid back under her bed covers. She managed to fall asleep in the wee hours of the morning. The day broke and the family crowded in the living room to demolish the mountains of puri aloo Buaji kept replenishing and dissect the previous evening. Everyone concluded the evening had gone very well despite worries about Akash’s mom causing some drama.

Mehndi and Sangeet were to be a week before the actual wedding which was a month away. There was shopping to be done and actual wedding purchases to be made. The home hummed with cheer and happiness.

Anand had tried to reach Lavanya and finding she had changed her number, decided to call on Khushi to find out what happened. What he had not been prepared for was an onslaught by the entire Gupta family. He fled tail between his legs and Lavanya heaved a sigh of relief. Apartment hunting had started in earnest and she found one not far from the AR office but it was available only three weeks later. Khushi’s family persuaded her to stay on with them till that time.

With a few weeks to go for the next ceremony, Shashi and Garima decided to return to Lucknow to invite family and wrap up their affairs for the next couple of months. Payal seemed to have developed a new-found ability to be the first to pick up the phone when it rang. She looked forever dreamy and became as klutzy as Khushi much to Bua’s consternation.

Between Anjali and Khushi, shopping trips were planned and wedding plans made. Payal was content to let them take charge and used her evenings to meet Akash who seemed to have finally found his voice and loved to regale Payal with tales of his Bhai and Di.

Lavanya and Khushi sat in the yard with cups of tea in their hands.

“Lavanya,” Khushi began hesitantly “There is something I want to talk to you about.”

Lavanya looked at Khushi expectantly. It was not often that Khushi gave a preamble before she started a conversations.

“The day the Raizadas had come to our home to ask for Payal’s hand in marriage, Arnav had come too. He came to the kitchen when I was getting tea and snacks ready. He left me a note.”

Khushi paused.

“It said. Can we start over? As friends.”

Lavanya’s face registered an unknown emotion. Khushi looked at her.

“Aren’t you going to say something?”

Lavanya mulled her reply for a bit and said hesitantly.

“Khushi, what was between Arnav and me is in the past. It never had a future. If you are worried that I might be hurt, please do not worry. No matter whom he eventually loves or marries, there will be a part of me that will wonder what went wrong.” She paused to look at Khushi and continued.

“I think it is OK to share with you now. I have known for a while now that ASR loved you. When ASR and I broke up it was because I finally realized he would never feel for me the way he seemed to care about you. What you say and feel matters to him Khushi. I have never seen any one else get so much under his skin. I don’t think he himself realises it Khushi. He has been in love with you for a long time. I only hope he understands his feelings for you before it is too late.”

Saying that Lavanya relapsed into silence.

Khushi looked at her with bewilderment. She had expected Lavanya to feel pain. But this? This she had not expected.

She reached out to hug her best friend.

Lavanya hugged her back and her eyes twinkled.

“Make him woo you Khushi. It’s payback time.”


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.


“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.


Chapter 4: Trouble in paradise

Arnav stared at the laptop screen. The report he had been looking at since morning refused to make sense. He was distracted. He kept looking at the door half expecting Khushi to materialize in a burst of color. What was wrong with him? He had stalked away from her yesterday didn’t he? Ordered her to keep away from him and his life. So why was he feeling restless? He shut his laptop with a bang as Lavanya entered the room holding a pair of dresses. The sight of her in her emerald-green shalwar was enough to enrage him.

“What are you wearing?” he asked, his voice coming out sharper than intended. Her eyes shrunk with hurt. “Why ASR? You don’t like it? Nani, Di and Mami said I looked good.”


“Go and change” he continued his voice low and dangerous. The last thing he wanted was Lavanya reminding him of Khushi. Lavanya stood mute, unyielding.

Injecting a note of false cheer in her voice, she held up the two evening dresses. “Which one shall I wear for this evening’s party?”

“Did you not hear what I said? Go and change.” Arnav’s temper was rising. His vision clouded in a haze of rage. How dare she?

Lavanya retreated tears shining in her eyes.

Seeing her walk away defeated, Arnav realized what he had done.

He walked quickly. Catching up with Lavanya he muttered something that suspiciously sounded like sorry and turned her around to look at him. “I don’t want you to change for me. You realize that don’t you? I don’t mean to hurt you. It is just that I sometimes say things without realizing what I mean. I am sorry Khushi.”

Lavanya looked at him, everything crystallizing in her mind. She turned and ran to her room. Sitting on the bed, she looked back at their relationship. Did they even have a relationship? She loved him sure. But him? Did he even love her? Images of her proposing to him in front of family, her in her bridal do asking him if he loved her. He had never said the words had he?

What was she doing?

Her shoulders slumped. The elation she had felt two days back at an impending engagement with ASR evaporated. She had to leave. She needed to leave.

Arnav stood in his room, his control over his life slipping. He had done wrong by Lavanya. Had he ever loved her? What was he doing? He needed to fix it. Right away.

Lavanya heard footsteps approaching and quickly dabbed her eyes. ASR stood by her door. His eyes looked troubled. He seemed to be struggling as much as she was. He turned and shut the door behind him and came to stand in front of her. She knew what was coming.

No ASR. Don’t say anything. I understand. I am leaving. Just remember I loved you and always will.

Arnav felt little. What had he done?