Beyond words

When eyes and souls connect

Chapter 23: Realization

Arnav held the crumpled piece of paper in his hand. Making the first move in relationships had not been his style. He opened it to read “Jeth ji, friendship MEANS much to me. It has to be earned.”

Arnav felt a frisson of anger radiate through his being. “How dare she.. What did she think of herself?”. He read the note again noticing the capitalized “MEANS”. Was she telling him something. His mind went back to the last conversation they had after the Diwali night.

“For me you or whatever happened tonight MEAN nothing”

He sunk to the ground, his back against the bed frame. The images played in succession in his head. The hurt in her eyes as he backed away after leaning in to kiss her that Diwali night. The tear that escaped her eyes when he stood with Lavanya announcing they were to get married. The devastation on her face at her doorstep as he uttered those cruel words dismissing everything she had felt in one swoop.


How had he even expected her to respond to his offer of friendship? She was right. He would have to earn her trust before her friendship let alone love.


Did he actually say that?

Khushi sat by the window sill. The full moon poured a silky light all over her room. Her hair was open. Her thoughts far away.

Arnav. Not Arnav ji. She had earned the right to be his equal. Hadn’t she? This time they would start out as equals.

“Can we start afresh? As friends.”

The note had been burned into her memory. What did he want from her? He had destroyed her that night hadn’t he? She knew as well as he did that what had happened was not an impulse. They had been drawn to each other as moths to the fire. Writing her reply had been difficult. She knew how hard it would have been for him to take the first step. Arnav Singh Raizada never asked for anything. He demanded and got away with it. If he wanted to her in his life in any capacity, he would have to earn that right this time.

She looked at the sky. The bright light of the moon had overshadowed the stars. She knew her parents were up there watching over her. She had to sleep.

Tomorrow Jiji would be engaged.


Payal sat in the living room clutching the phone. Akash ji had called for the third time that evening. He was besotted. She had to give it to him. For all his mild manners, he was a wild horse at this romance thing. She half expected him to pop in to her room through the window next. Life was good.

Akash couldn’t believe himself. Tomorrow he was going to be engaged to the girl of his dreams. His Payal. The first time he had seen her at the market looking for dupattas, he had fallen hook, line and sinker. Growing up with a mom who believed in flaunting, he craved for the simplicity that Payal offered. He needed someone silent and strong. Someone who would stand with him. By his side. Not ahead. Not behind. A partner.

Anjali watched the moonlight filter in through the window. The drapes moved in the breeze sending shadows dancing on the walls. Tomorrow one of her brothers would be engaged. She sighed wistfully at the thought. When would she see Chottey’s eyes shine with happiness the way Akash’s did? Would she ever see him laugh. In the fourteen years since he had taken responsibility for their well-being, he had been a man on a mission. He hid behind his pain. His heart was shuttered in making them impregnable to hurt. He used cynicism as a shield and held a grudge against the fates for leaving him without a mother’s love to cocoon him. She had done her best but what he needed was a shore for his soul to moor itself. A sunny, calming presence that could heal away the hurt and apply balm to his troubled soul. An image of Khushi inveigled itself into her conscious. If there was one girl who fit the bill it was Khushi but Chottey seemed to always get off on the wrong foot with her.


Devi Maiyya, please make Chottey see sense she whispered as exhaustion overcame her.


Chapter 22: The thaw sets in

Friday dawned well and early in the Gupta household. Garima and Shashi had travelled to Delhi and Bua’s smile stretched from ear to ear. Her titaliya was getting married. Khushi and Payal were up early and helping Bua and Amma pack the return gifts and getting the thali ready. The smell of sugar and oil was thick in the air.

Khushi did the finishing touches to Payal’s makeup and looked at her sister. She looked radiant. Removing a smidgen of her kajal, she applied it behind Payal’s ear.

“You look beautiful Jiji. Akash ji is a lucky man.”

Payal blushed and looked away. Khushi looked at herself in the mirror. She had chosen a simple suit and had just lip gloss on. Her complexion glowed and she found herself looking at the window in anticipation.

Soon, two cars came to a halt in front of their house and the Raizada family trooped in carrying gifts and wearing smiles to match. All except Manorama mami. She had her nose scrunched as if she smelled something bad. Khushi’s smile faltered only to brighten at the sight of Anjali ji. The two of them hugged and celebrated the happiness that they had wrought about. Just as the family settled down in the chairs that had been arranged, the door opened and Arnav stood there dashing in a white shirt and black vest. His eyes flew to Khushi who stood nearest the door lingering on her before he strode inside to stand by his brother.

Akash bent down to take blessings from the elders as did Payal and Nani ji cleared her throat to speak. She formally asked Garima and Shashi for their daughter’s hand in marriage. Shashi and Garima accepted, tearing up with happiness. Payal symbolically crossed the room to sit with the Raizadas.


Garima indicated to Khushi to bring out the refreshments. Khushi walked with a spring in her step. Her jiji was promised to Akash. There would be more rituals and eventually the marriage. Daydreaming she poured out the tea and set out the snacks. Sensing someone else in the kitchen, she turned and all but collided into the man himself. He was helping himself to water.


Arnav ji.

Her heart beat raced. Looking flustered, she tried to compose herself and raised her head to meet his gaze. He looked straight into her eyes and with a casual motion, placed a note on the counter grazing her wrist as he did and turned and walked away.


The world around her seemed to slow down. Her heart beats sounded way too loud. Clutching the counter for support, she took in a deep breath and willed herself to recover. Her wrist still stung from that accidental contact.

Her Amma voice pierced the haze she seemed to be in.

“Khushi bitiya, are you bringing the chai?”

“Yes. Amma. Coming right up.”

Khushi quickly set the cups on a tray and on an impulse turned the note to read it before she faced him again.

“Can we start afresh? As friends.”

There was no indication the note was from him. She turned it over and scribbled before sliding it under the cup of sugar-free coffee on the tray.

Balancing the snacks and tea, she went around setting the cups. She bent before Arnav and indicated with her eyes before she left. She watched him scoop up the note and slide it into his pocket casually.

Akash seemed content stealing glances at his fiancée to be. Payal seemed to be very interested in her feet and barely looked up. Manorama mami seemed in a hurry to leave.

Finally setting the next day for the Roka ceremony the Raizadas departed. Arnav lingered till he was the last to leave and as Khushi stepped out the door, he slipped right behind her.

Walking in tandem to the car, Khushi was barely aware of anything but him. The air around her seemed to scorch and she moved instinctively to put some space between them. She stopped at the fence while Arnav walked on.

Waving bye as the cars eased out, she kept her face impassive as she saw him mouth the words “You look nice”.

A deep color suffused her face as she walked inside.

Arnav helped his Di and Nani inside the house and took the steps two at a time till he was in the privacy of his room. He hesitated before he pulled out the crumpled note.