Joined: 03 June 2006
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Joined: 03 June 2006
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Joined: 03 June 2006
Have you heard of a saying that 'time heals everything'.
For me the more time moved on from my days at Modi bhavan the less my sorrows and pain became. I simply wanted to put it behind me and forget all about what happened.
However, it was still too much to bear.
Tears rolled down my cheeks whenever I replayed the events. It was as though it took place just yesterday.
The entire Rajkot community was holding a weekend mela in the local grounds. There was lots of excitement and celebrations all around as Modi Industries had expanded their company taking in another four hundred employees from the local region, making Modi Industries the most formidable industry in India with several potential local and overseas projects in the pipeline. People from all over Rajkot and neighbouring towns and villages set up stalls displaying their wares, games and activities.
My family was very proud of their achievement, in particular my Ahemji who was instrumental in generating these projects. Maaji was over the moon with joy and was extremely overjoyed with Ahemji and the fame and fortune the Modi name had brought. She dressed me up really well in the finest sarees for those days with Baa's jewellery, making sure I carried the Modi name well too.
It went all well. Even Ahemji talked to me politely and gently with love in his eyes when we were interviewed by the press on a staged platform with everyone watching eagerly. Maaji and I sat on either side of Ahemji. Next to Maaji was Papaji. On my other side of me was Rashiben with Devarji, Kakaji and Kakiji.
It happened so suddenly. One moment I was amazed and taken aback by Ahemji and his admiration. The next moment I was being stared at with disgust and contempt by Ahemji, Maaji and every family member. How was I to know that I would embarrass and slander the Modi name? I felt guilty for the rest of the time not knowing what had just happened. When we got home I was disowned instantly by all, especially by Ahemji and Maaji. No one wanted to look at me or talk to me, even Maaji and Kakiji did not want me involved in any of the household chores at all.
I never felt so alone. I realised that there was no place for me anymore in at home. That is when I decided to leave. I waited for all to sleep that night. I quietly packed my bag with two plain sarees, my parent's photograph and some of my father's pension money; leaving everything else behind. I walked out of Modi bhavan telling the guards that I was going to the mandir nearby. I went to the bus station and took the coach to here; a small quiet seaside village.
Ahemji, Maaji and Modi bhavan are all behind me now.
It has been five months today. I feel a lot stronger now. May be time is healing me.
The little money I took I used to set up a roadside food stall cum shop where I sold my handmade crafts and provide overnight lodgings for passing travellers. It was overlooking the pretty sandy beach which had wonderful views of Gujarat coastline and the Arabian Sea. My neighbours had become my friends now. They have been so generous in their support when I started.
My neighbour's young son, Suraj, comes over every day to help me. He serves and takes care of all the guests. By day I work in the kitchen preparing the meals and I embroider and sew useful household crafts by night. This became my new routine and my security.
My room is just right. It is small and basic but cosy enough for kanaji and me.
Today was a perfect spring day. Twilight is setting in. The full moon is low in the east and rising. The evening is simply going to look beautiful with the reflection of the moon on the sea and a star studded sky as its backdrop.
I have one guest staying tonight. The neighbours have heard that he is a rich businessman who is going to build a big hotel nearby.
"Aunty," Suraj called out to me as he entered the kitchen, "Saab, says all the curries are his favourites!"
While handing Suraj two more rotis in the plate I replied, "That's what we want to hear. Offer him more rotis, Suraj."
As Suraj headed back into the dining area with two hot rotis in his serving tray he turned around and said, "Aunty, he also likes your embroidered bed sheets. He said something about his mum may like them."
"Tell him that when I serve him tea I will show him some other colours too," I acknowledged, griddling the last roti.
Two hours later I knocked lightly on the guest's door with his cup of tea and three different colours of embroidered bed sheets. I heard a muffled voice saying come in. I turned the handle and entered the room glancing at the guest who had his back in my view looking out the window taking in the scenery.
"I have brought your tea and some embroidered bed sheets to choose. I left them on the side table for you," I said and turned around to leave.
I was just midway between the side table and door when he said, "Eh ... I ..."
I turned around saying, "Ji?"
He turning around to continued, "You sound like someone I once ...," he stopped in the middle of his sentence, when our eyes fell on each other. I stood frozen for what seemed a long while not letting go of whom I saw in front of me.
He dark brown eyes looked tired and his face was angry but his expression changed from distressed to concern.
"... Gopi," he softly called out.
Staring in front of me was my Ahemji.
I gulped, still looking at him. My heart was racing and felt my fingers moving placing my pallu over my head unknowingly. I had to keep calm and distant I told myself.
"Ji...aap, h..h..here," I said with increasing nervousness in my voice, and fear building up not knowing where to look and what to say. I felt my eyes welling up with tears.
"I have been looking for you everywhere," he said as he approached me with big strides.
I stepped backwards crashing against the door frame and accidently closing the door. Having built up my strength over these past months I was quickly realising that I was in no way as strong as I thought I was.
He was in front of me grabbing both my arms, looking deeply at me and saying in a pleading voice, "Why did you leave me?"
"P... p...please let me go," I begged him, trying hard to hold back my tears and stopping my emotions from having the better of me. It was too much to keep in all at the same.
I lowered my face continuing, "I am not worthy to have you. I have let you down very badly." "Please Ahemji let me go...please," my voice trailed into a bitter sob as tears rolled down my cheeks. I was helpless.
Ahem was stunned with my response.
He took me in his arms and hugged me resting his cheek on my head saying, "Shhh...it's ok now, I am here," and rubbed my back gently with his hands calming me down.
"But the reporter..," I started.
"You have done nothing wrong. It was not you Gopi," replied Ahem releasing me, raising my face with both his palms forcing me to look at him and wiping away the tears from my cheeks with his thumbs.
He continued this time with anger in his voice, "They have tried but they did not succeed," then quickly changed his tone to a gentler, calmer one, "You mean the world to me and nobody can send you away from me."
I looked questioningly at Ahemji.
He continued, "Rajkot TV channel filmed the whole interview. Mum and I watched the recording. Mum had her suspicions but needed to confirm it. The video tape had the evidence. It caught the culprits, Rashi and her mum, red handed. They handed those nasty questions to the reporter whom they bribed into asking you. I should have not jumped to conclusions so quickly. I was not thinking clearly. I should have supported you. Gopi, I am sorry for not believing you."
"Mami and Rashiben ..."
"Don't worry about them ... They will no longer be troubling you anymore. All has been taken care now," he assured.
I placed my hands over Ahemji's both wrists, releasing his grip from my face. I attempted to break away from him as this was too much to take in but he grabbed hold of my waist and drew me close to him.
He placed his forehead onto mine looking directly at me and declared, "Gopi you are staying with me because I too cannot live without you too. I love you too much."
I noticed an upturn to his lips as he spoke. My Ahemji was smiling.
Hearing these words brought relief to me, happiness in my eyes and a smile on my lips as I too felt this way and confirmed it, "I too am in love with you."
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Ahem stood at the window of one the top hotel in Mumbai and gazed out at the city street and its people as he waited for his wife.
This night is the most anticipated night of both his and Gopi's life. He had waited six months for this night. He lost the count of number of cold showers he had taken to get Gopi to this point in their lives.
It had all started the night he learned of Gopi's genuine desire to learn to read and write. Up to that point he had thought that Gopi had no interest in studying, and she was just putting up a front.
Her devastation at not being able to study had convinced him to talk to the Principal to give her a second chance. He had gone a step further and promised he would be the one to teach her.
He had gone against his mom's wishes for the first time and started teaching Gopi how to read and write. He had to get her ready to take the exam in ten days.
At first things had been awkward between them, but once they started spending more time together it became easier. After the first day Gopi started grasping what he thought her at much quicker rate.
It was only when he was near her that she froze. At first he hadn't been able to figure out what made her tremble anytime he went near her and she stopped doing whatever she was doing. When he watched her from far she completed her work without hesitation and neatly.
Her reaction to him had puzzled him at first, but one night when he was looking over her shoulder once again she started trembling, then he noticed a delicate shudder go thru her whole body. At first he thought she feared him, but then he noticed her breathing heavily and the pulse in her neck started beating at a faster rate. He had realized that it wasn't fear that had her trembling, but excitement, that was causing the reaction.
He had discreetly moved back without letting on that he noticed her reaction, and for next few days he watched her from far most of the time, but would go close to her to see how she would react, and he got the same reaction each time.
He had been more surprised by his own response to her reaction. He had felt his own attraction to her many times in the past, but he had always suppressed his attraction. Any accidental touch of her hand had sent a jolt of electricity thru his body. Once he became aware of her attraction to him, he had been unable to ignore his own sexual awareness of her. The more time he spent with her the more he felt the pull towards her. He found himself constantly watching her and wanting to be near her.
Ahem rested his head on the windowpane, still lost in the past. His mind flashed back to the night Gopi passed the exam.
Gopi passed the exam with flying colors and he had been relieved thinking he wouldn't have to spend so much time with her. On that night Gopi came in the room with a huge smile on her face and thanked him shyly for helping her. He was too lost in her smile and her soft- spoken words to pay attention. Her smile dimmed a little and she turned to walk away from him. He took a step towards her when she turned back to tell him something and they bumped into each other, he caught her before she could fall, and they both stood still for what seemed like minutes, but were actually only few seconds. He found himself pulling Gopi towards him and holding her tightly.
Ahem came to his senses quickly and put her away from him. "Sorry, did you want to say something?"
Gopi turned away from him. Ahem sighed when she covered her head with the pallu and answered him back without looking at him. "Woh, maji is calling you." She then left the room quickly.
Ahem realized she thought he was going to yell at her for bumping into him.
When Ahem came back to his room after talking with his mom, he heard Gopi talking to her Kanaji. "Kanaji, thank you so much for being with me today. I would have never been able to do this without you and Ahemji, I only have one request for you, please always keep him and maji happy. They have both helped me achieve my biggest dream." Ahem stepped back before Gopi could notice him and instead went to terrace to think about all the things his mom had revealed to him.
It seems there were very important parts of Gopi's life that he didn't know. He had been so busy feeling sorry for himself and occupied with his own self, to feel any kind of kindness towards a girl, who from the first day that she came into his life, had selflessly devoted herself to him and his family without asking for anything in return. Any other girl would have broke under the kind of abuse he had dished out to Gopi, but not her, she had stuck by him no matter how she was treated.
After his observation of Gopi's interactions with her family, the way her mami had talked to her on Rakhi, and now his mom's revelation, Ahem realized that Gopi was used to people treating her this way. She did not know any other way to live.
There were many questions running thru his mind at the moment. It was obvious now that Gopi had been emotionally and may be even physically abused by her mami and Rashi. He realized she still feared them somehow, and that is why they took advantage of her at times.
His mom had pointed out to him that she was proud of him for helping Gopi when she needed him, but that's not enough. Weather he liked it or not Gopi was his wife first then her vahu, and she was made to realize this by her mother. Gopi was his responsibility and after knowing how she was brought up and how she suffered, and is still suffering, because of her mami and Rashi, it was up to him to decide weather he wants to help her overcome her fear or not.
When he thought back to all the things Gopi had done for him and his family he realized that no other girl would have done that. No educated, modern girl would have obeyed her mother in law the way Gopi did, or took care of his family the way Gopi did. Seeing others happy made her happy. Gopi did her duty as a wife and as a daughter in law without expecting anything in return. She deserved so much better than what she had gotten by being married to him.
Was his mom right? Is Gopi the best wife for him and the best daughter in law for Modi family?
There was only one obstacle that was holding Ahem back from Gopi and admitting that he had always liked Gopi. And Gopi had taken steps to remove that obstacle herself, her education. So now what's stopping him from accepting her as his wife?
Ahem felt a sense of calm come over him as he reached a decision. He walked back to his room. He saw that Gopi was already sleeping in her usual place. He turned and closed the door, and stood there staring at Gopi's serene face. This wasn't the first time he had stood like this and stared at her, but this time it felt different from all the other time.
Ahem glanced at his watch to check the time. Another hour before Gopi will be done at the beauty parlor. He looked around the room to make sure everything was in place. He wanted this night to be the most special night in Gopi's life. Ahem gave one more glance at the box sitting on the bed and turned back to the view outside and reminiscing about the past.
Once Ahem made up his mind, he made sure that nothing or no one would get in his way. The first thing he needed to do was help Gopi gain confidence in herself, one way of doing this was letting her finish her studies, but Ahem didn't want to send her back to school, so he looked for an adult program that she could attend in the evening time, that way she wouldn't feel guilty about not helping at home also. Ahem couldn't find an adult program, but he did find someone who was willing to work with Gopi one to one, a retired school teacher, Ahem immediately hired her to teach Gopi. He made arrangements for the teacher to come in the evening time, when he would be home to make sure that Gopi was not distracted from her studies. That night he went home and informed Gopi and the family about his plans.
He made a mental note of Rashi's smirk and the twinkle in her eyes. He looked at his mom and nodded his head towards Rashi. His mom gave a tiny nod of her head to let him know she understood. Ahem thought to himself, "Keep dreaming Rashi, this time you are not going to win, this time your opponent is not Gopi, but her husband Ahem Parag Modi, and he is determined that you not abuse his wife like you have in the past."
Ahem glanced at Gopi, who had stood silently while he made the announcement. "Gopi, can you bring me some tea?" shocking her, he had never directly asked her to bring anything for him. Gopi glanced at Koki and then went to kitchen to make the tea.
Ahem went to his room set the bag down in the chair and took off his jacket. Now to the second part of the plan to make Gopi gain confidence, this part also involved Ahem making Gopi realize that he was ready to accept Gopi as his wife and that he was ready to move forward with their lives.
He was rolling his shirtsleeve back when he saw Gopi enter the room with the tea, from the corner of his eye. He glanced at her, but continued with the task. She placed the tea on the table glancing at him nervously. She started to turn back to walk out the room but he stopped her. "Ruko Gopi." She immediately froze in place.
Ahem walked past her and closed the door. He noticed Gopi's eyes widen in surprise as he walked towards her, when he was close to her she looked away and took a step as if to walk away from him, but he halted her movement by immediately stepping in front of her.
He raised an eyebrow as if to say now what? She looked down to avoid meeting his eyes.
Ahem put his curled fingers under her chin to raise her head and made her look at him. "From now on, stop wearing this stupid pallu on your head, I am fed up with it, I don't ever want to see you put this on, unless you are at the mandir." Ahem removed the pallu from her head.
When Gopi started to say something Ahem immediately stopped her by placing his finger on her soft lips to stop her. "Don't say anything, just do as I am telling you. Do you understand?" Gopi nodded her head silently, Ahem gently wiped the single tear that rolled down Gopi's soft cheek.
"Now tell me, are you happy with the arrangements I've made for your studies." Ahem waited for her to say something.
Instead of saying anything Gopi threw herself in Ahem's arms once again, and this time Ahem didn't hesitate to catch her and put his arms around her to pull her close to him.
That night another surprise waited for Gopi when she came to the room. She put the water jug down on his side of the bed and asked her standard question. "Ji, did you want anything?"
Ahem surprised her "Yes, I want something." Gopi waited for him to tell her what he wanted. "Go change your clothes then I will tell you."
Gopi came out of the bathroom ten minutes later and went to the dresser to take off her bangles and anklets while Ahem watched her silently. When she was finished, he got up, took her hand and pulled her to the bed. "From tonight on, you will sleep on this bed, not on the floor."
Gopi didn't know how to react or what to say. First the pallu, then the hug and now he wants her to sleep on the bed.
Gopi made to get up from the bed, but Ahem stopped her. "But Ahemji, you……" She stopped because once again Ahem place his finger on her lips. "No arguments, I will also be sleeping on the bed, we are married, and are allowed to sleep on the same bed." Gopi couldn't say anything to that, so she did as he said.
It took Gopi days to get used to sleeping on the bed, but she finally relaxed enough to sleep thru the night.
In the days that followed it took lot of patience on Ahem's part to make Gopi comfortable with him. He started out by having small conversations with her, then moving forward to making her aware of him as a man.
He hadn't known what to do make Gopi more comfortable with him physically, he wanted her to get over her shyness with him, so he started out with small things. One night he pretended to have a headache, and when she offered to rub balm on his head he immediately agreed. On another night he grabbed her hand in sleep so she was forced to sleep close to him all night, when she woke up the next morning she had expected him to say something, but when he just smiled at her, she relaxed enough to smile back at him.
Once she started to relax with him, he started to get bolder and making her aware of his intentions.
Ahem was getting ready for office when he noticed a button missing on his shirt. "Gopi!" No one in the family was surprised anymore when Ahem called for Gopi to do things for him. They had all been aware of changed feelings for Gopi. Only clueless person was Gopi herself. Rashi had attempted to thwart Gopi's education and keep her from getting close to Ahem, but none of her kalakari's had worked, in fact the more she tried the more family members started distrusting her, in the end she had been forced to give up trying to stop Gopi from getting close to Ahem.
Gopi came running in the room at Ahem's shout. "Did you call me?" Ahem looked at her flushed face and realized she must have rushed upstairs at his shout. "Sorry, one of the buttons on my shirt is broken, can you sew it back on please."
Gopi took the needle and thread out of the drawer and waited for him to hand her the shirt. "Do I have to take the shirt off? You can sew it back on while I am wearing it right?" Ahem kept his face blank, so she wouldn't get nervous at being close to him.
He watched her intently as she sewed the button back on, when she was finished, he put his hands on her waist and brought her close to him.
Gopi's eyes widened at this, but she didn't look away from him. He brought his lips close to hers, he pecked her on the cheek lightly and released her. "Thanks!" Gopi flushed and ran out the room as he chuckled at her embarrassment.
Then few weeks later when Gopi realized that Ahem's feelings for her changed she started feeling more relaxed with him. He took her out to celebrate her quick progress with her studies. He asked her about her likes and dislikes. Then one night he asked her why she didn't go to school in childhood.
Ahem had then taken her hand and pulled her to the bed and made her sit with him. She had still avoided his eyes, so he had lifted her face and made her look at him. "Now tell me again why you didn't want to study when you were a child." She had tried to look away from him, but he hadn't let her.
"Gopi I know you are not going to say anything, but I already know. Its not that you hadn't wanted to study, but no one had given you that chance. Am I right?"
And in the next moment Gopi had been unable to hold back and started crying uncontrollably. He had taken her in his arms and soother her while she cried all her pain out. When she had finished crying, she had told him everything. About how she was brought up by her mama and mami and felt that she owed that her life for bringing her to their house instead of leaving her in an orphanage. She had repaid them back by never being demanding and doing whatever was asked of her.
Ahem wiped Gopi's tears and made her look at him again. "Gopi, do you trust me?"
She answered without hesitation "Yes, more than anyone." Ahem had felt humbled by her simple answer and realized Gopi not only trusted him but also loved him unconditionally.
"How can you say you trust me, after what I have said to you and done to you in the past?"
"Because I never blamed you for any of it." He opened his mouth to say something but she stopped him by putting her hand on his mouth. "Whatever happened in the past was because of my own shortcomings, it didn't have anything to do with you. I hope you believe me when I tell you that had I known you loved someone else I would have never married you. I realized that you deserve so much more than I can give you." It was Ahem's turn to stop her.
"No Gopi, no one forced me to marry you, I could have stood up to my mom like I did when it came to your education. Do you know that was the first time I have ever disagreed with my mom?" When she shook her head no, he continued. "Do you know what that tells me?" Again she shook her head no.
Ahem took her face in his hands. "It means you meant more to me then even I realized. When I was disagreeing with mom, only thing I was thinking about was that you wanted to study, and I would make that happen no matter whom I had to fight to get you what you wanted. I realized that had Anita mattered to me as much as you matter to me, I would have fought with my mom just as passionately to be with her."
That night Gopi had slept in Ahem's arms feeling safe and secure.
She continued with her studies, and with Ahem's support she gained confidence in herself and became self-reliable.
Few weeks later Ahem had to come to Mumbai on a business trip and he decided to bring Gopi along with him. After he finished the business part of the trip, he and Gopi had spent their days sightseeing and shopping.
They would be returning to Rajkot in two days time, so he decided to celebrate Gopi's birthday in Mumbai.
Ahem went to the room phone and called in order for room service, he then lit all the candles in the room. When he was finished lighting the last candle, he heard Gopi come in the room.
He couldn't stop starring Gopi. She looked beautiful in her pink and blue sari, with her hair flowing down her back. He was glad they didn't put heavy make up on her face. Gopi's beauty was in her simplicity.
While Ahem was looking at Gopi, she was starring at the decorated room. Ahem moved in front of her and held her by her arms. "Happy birthday Gopi!"
Gopi had tears in her eyes, no one had ever celebrated her birthday before. This was the best gift he could have given her. Gopi hugged Ahem to thank him for the surprise. Ahem moved back and cupped her face. He then leaned down and placed his lips on Gopi's and gave her a deep kiss. Ahem pulled back before he completely lost control and forgot about rest of her surprise.
Just then they heard a knock on the door. Ahem put Gopi away from him and took a few cooling breaths before going to open the door.
He had the waiters set up the food outside on the balcony. Once the waiters left, Ahem took Gopi's hand and took her outside. He sat her in the chair then took his own seat across from her.
Gopi was delighted to see that he had ordered all her favorite food. They both ate from the same plate, feeding each other savoring each special moment. Once they finished dinner, Ahem took Gopi back in the room.
He picked up the box from the bed and handed it to her. "I know it's your birthday, but this gift is for me. Will you wear it for me?" Gopi took the box from his hands and went in the bathroom. She set the box on the counter and opened it with shaky hands. She gasped when she saw the green short nightgown that Ahem had admired in the window of a boutique when they were shopping. He had wanted to go in the boutique to shop for her, but she had refused and dragged him away from there, he must have gone back and bought it while she was getting her make over.
Could she wear this and go in front of Ahem? He wanted to see her in the nightgown, and she wanted to express how she felt about him.
She quickly took off her sari and donned the nightgown before she changed her mind.
She had spent most of her married life with pallu on her head whenever she had been near her husband. She took a deep breath and reminded her self that although they hadn't consummated their marriage, they done lot more than kiss on many occasions in the last three months.
Gopi had quickly figured out that behind Ahem's angry young man facade was a very passionate man.
Gopi took one last look at herself in the mirror, shrugged her shoulders and turned towards the door. It was now or never, she slowly turned the doorknob and cracked open the door. She almost closed the door again when she saw shirtless Ahem leaning against the doorframe with his arms crossed over his naked chest.
Ahem felt his breath whoosh out of his lungs when his eyes landed on Gopi. He dropped his arm to his side and straightened up. He inhaled deeply to control his body's reaction to seeing her in the green spaghetti strapped nightgown. He hoped he is able to pleasure her before he lost complete control of his body.
His first reaction had been to push her against the wall and take her right then and there, but her nervous movements kept him in check.
He slowly moved towards her and snaked an arm around her waist and brought her close to his body.
Gopi felt her face flush as she stared at Ahem's wide, muscle lined chest and lean middle. She didn't dare go past his waistline to see his body's reaction to their closeness.
Ahem pulled her close to his body then bent and lifted her in his arms. Gopi put her arms around his neck and hid her face on his bare shoulder.
Ahem carried her to the couch instead of the bed, he sat on the couch holding her on his lap. "I can feel your heart going million beats a minute, Gopi."
Her gaze shied from the gentle probe of his. She felt nervous and awkward. Ahem gently caressed her face and brought his lips close to hers. Gopi felt his warm breath on her lips and closed her eyes to wait for that first soft touch of his lips to her lips. His cool lips eased gently onto hers. He retreated a hairbreadth as if waiting for some signal from her. Gopi lifted her hand to tentatively touch his bare chest with her palm and fingertips.
Gopi felt the shudder that went through him before his lips seized hers and his arms slid around her. The kiss was long and lavish and so carnal and hungry that Gopi felt as if she was being devoured. She couldn't help her wild response, or that she trembled when his big hand closed warmly over her breast. When his lips moved off hers she still had a presence of mind to stifle her moan of disappointment. They were clinging to each other almost painfully tight.
Ahem trailed kisses down her neck, pausing here and there to bite and then sooth it with his tongue. He left trail of warm wet kisses all the way down her neck to her cleavage. He nuzzled her cleavage gently then lifted his head to see her reaction. Ahem chuckled when she shyly looked away from him.
Ahem lifted her in his arms again walked towards the bed. He placed her on the bed gently and came down beside her. He lay beside her and pulled her close to him by wrapping his arm around her waist. He once again took her lips with his. He probed her lips with his tongue and when she opened her mouth he deepened the kiss. He felt Gopi's arms tighten around him. He left his mouth once again to trail soft kisses down her neck, while hooking his finger in the thin strap of her nightgown. He slid the strap down her arm while continuing to kiss his way down her body.
Ahem smoothed his hand down her body and back up, pulling the nightgown along with his hand. He whipped the nightgown over her head and pulled it off of her. He threw it over his shoulder without taking his eyes off Gopi. He watched as a dark red flush spread from her face down to her chest. She tried to cover herself with her arms, but he stopped her by getting hold of her wrist and pulling her arms towards her head and holding them there. Gopi closed her eyes in embarrassment. Ahem kissed her eyelids, then her cheeks, gave her a light peck on her lips then trailed kisses down her neck. Gopi moved her legs restlessly when she felt Ahem's chest bushing against hers. Ahem continued trailing kisses down Gopi's body, pausing in places to give her a lingering kiss to increase her pleasure.
Gopi's small hands moved with growing confidence as instincts took over and her body learned what gave him pleasure.
And when many fevered kisses and expert touches brought them together in the deepest and most elemental way, they soared to some lofty, breathless place. A place of sparkling light and sweetness that was nearly unbearable. They hovered there for a precious scattering of heartbeats and then began the rippling descent that took them back to earth and landed them in the quiet, candle lit hush of the big room.
They lingered over a last lazy kiss then lay together skin to skin, overcome by a satisfying lethargy, Gopi fell instantly and deeply asleep.
Ahem got up to blow out the candles, he came back to bed, wrapped Gopi in his arms and fell asleep with a satisfied smile on his face.
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Was it when I held her hands stopping her from falling whilst holding the lit diya? It was that night of our engagement when the lights went off in the house; she knew where to find the light. In the dark something pulled me towards the mandir only to find her there. She lost her balance and I was there in time to save her. I found myself staring deeply into her wide opened eyes. I was lost in them, staring into them not realising that the house lights had turned on.
Was it when I hooked her mangalsutra around her neck and filled her mang? Where was my mind then? I was taken aback by her silence and calmness. She joined me at the mandap and sat next to me waiting and waiting to be married to me. We sat in silence. I stole glances at her whenever I could to admire her. She made a beautiful bride. My best time then was at the moment of putting on her mangalsutra on and filling her mang. I know I felt a lot calmer inside then than before. She became mine in front of society and family but did she become mine from then on? I don't think so.
Could it have been at the dandiya contest when mum put us on the spot to take part? I refused to be made a public spectacle of us and be a talking point in the afternoon tea conversations. Mum said that this was all done to uphold the Modi name. I walked away from mum and sat in my car readying to leave when I saw her standing all alone on the stage and the announcer calling our names. I could not let her down. It would have hurt me to have done this to her. She was a sight for sore eyes when we looked into each other's eyes on the stage. I was enthralled by her throughout the entire dance not realising we had won the contest. She certainly won the heart of all Rajkot society that night, but mine? It is hard to tell.
I was so upset knowing what she went through facing the robber that night. She was so brave. I was walking by our room only to find her awkwardly trying to apply ointment on her scratches on her hand. I watched her in amazement. I felt needed so I walked in and offered to help her. She turned me down reminding me about the vows she had taken back. This was outrageous! How could I leave her like that and not heal her wounds? I cannot imagine anything worse. I felt like a criminal then.
About these vows, I never want to repeat that day ever again. I hated myself for being an arrogant idiot. That day hurt me the most but taught me about respect and commitment in a relationship, something that never existed with Anita at all.
My turn came at Diwali when that stray rocket flew in the opposite direction. I sensed something wrong happen to her and I went to check. I was so right. The rocket burnt her hand. I saw her struggling to open the tap to relieve the pain. I took over and was her Good Samaritan. I was taken aback to find her thanking me with candles and flowers. My love does not start or end with this. My love is much deeper than this.
May be it was when she told me that she cannot live without me at Holi? I was seething with anger when I realised that someone rubbed colour on my face. I was ready to rip that person into pieces when I grabbed hold of this tiny hand catching the culprit, only to see her in her new hairstyle and look teasing me with her looks and her words. She was adorable and delectable.
I felt I lost myself when I could not find her. She in a foreign country all alone... lost. That was my worst night ever. I searched at the station, in the market places, the streets, in the parks, around the lake ... everywhere! How could I bring myself to face another day without her. I put her through so much that night. When we found one another the next morning and we hugged each other. I realised just how much she mattered to me. I know then I will never let her go, or was it not to be?
I waited for her to excuse herself to pluck the mangoes and then I said my goodbyes. This was my excuse to spend alone time with her under the mango tree. It's a place that brought back so many childhood memories and I wanted to share it with her. I wanted to touch her and hold her in my arms and she allowed me to by showing her how to pluck mangoes. But my private time was shared by Jigar showing the family photos of us under the mango tree. It was not ours to cherish privately anymore.
How I wish I could go back a change those terrible moments that haunt me? When I slapped her, when I threw her beddings on the floor, when I threw her out of our room, when I scolded her for washing my laptop, when I ..., when I ... . Oh the list is just too long of all these awful things I have done to her. Whenever these moments flash through my mind my heart cringes and I run into a cold sweat. Why? Why would I do this? What was I gaining by doing this to her?
We have been through so much now. Yet she came back again and again and again and again.
"Ahem dikra," mum called out when she entered the room breaking my thoughts; "it is time."
I was sitting in front of my laptop on the bed staring at the screensaver on. My mind was reeling with all these thoughts trying to pin point that moment when she became mine.
I closed my laptop and kept it on the side table and accompanied mum downstairs to mingle with the rest of the family.
I looked around the place to see Modi bhavan extremely beautifully decorated. There were gold and beige drapes on the archways with green and red edging which matched my sherwani. The stairway had orange and red flowers wrapped around the balustrade. The rangoli at the entrance was the most spectacular I have seen.
However, there is nothing more beautiful than what I was looking at right now – Kinjal and Kaki bringing Gopi down the stairway. She was looking as beautiful as ever. I was bedazzled. Her eyes met with mine when they left her standing next to me and a gentle smile broke out on her lips. I smiled back at her. Oh, I love her so much and much, much more.
"Punditji is calling both of you to the mandap to renew your vows," said mum.
We walked forward together.
I know that she is 'my everything' and has been mine ever since mum said she found Gopi for me.
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The sun was rising from the east.
It was so real.
I could see her standing there like she did every morning.
But it wasn't real.
"Aapko kuch chahiye?"
I squeeze my eyes shut; I didn't want to forget again.
Her voice was always so sweet, so soft and so innocent.
How could I have ever hated it?
A scent lingers in the air and I inhale deeply. She always smelt so lovely.
I look at the clock and the flashing digital lights tell me that it's 5:10 am.
Though way too early, I get up and get ready for the day and notice how she's nowhere to be found. For some reason that surprises me even though that had been the norm for over a year now.
The house was quiet, eerily so but I could sense her. I could feel her presence nearby.
But I couldn't see her.
She made sure of that.
"Where are you?" I whisper to myself.
I couldn't blame her for hiding from me; I had brought it all on myself.
She deserved better.
So much better.
But I was a selfish guy and I couldn't let her go, though I knew she was better off without me. Since our marriage I had never given her a chance, yet she had given me so many and suffered every time she did.
Every day that goes by, I can't help but feel her slipping away from me.
Until one day she'll be gone for good.
And that scared me more than anything had before.
I felt so powerless.
So unable to stop the train wreck happening right before me.
Was this how she felt?
Every day of our marriage, knowing that no matter what she did, it would change nothing at all.
Yet she still smiled.
But was it real?
Maybe that was how she protected herself from the suffering she endured, not only at my hands but the hands of everyone, knowingly or unknowingly.
It was true, though I was one of her main prosecutors; the people who kept silent and simply turned their heads were just as bad.
But I was worse.
I would always be worse.
It was my duty to protect her, support her and fight for her yet I managed to fail each and every time.
Yet she never gave up hope.
I would see it sparkling in her eyes every time she handed me a cup of tea, served me and even when I scolded her and called her an illiterate.
But her eyes shone no more.
She had given up hope.
I couldn't tell you when I first realised this, it could have been when Mum told me I didn't have to take her to school any more or when I realised it had been two weeks since I'd last laid eyes on her, though she continued to do her duties as a wife.
But I could tell you how it changed my life forever.
I'd crossed a line that day, I knew it, I had hurt her more than I probably ever had before, I felt guilty, I knew I'd done wrong and should apologise but the sick psychopath in me wanted to see how far I could push her, to see the extent of her love for me, to see what it would take to break her.
And that's what I did.
I broke her.
There were so many times in the past when I'd rubbed the fact that I didn't love her in her face, like the time when I showed her the picture of Anita and I or the time I slapped her but this time what I'd done was so much worse.
Everyone in the house could tell that things had changed between us though we spoke not a word of it, she was good like that, despite everything I did, she always kept quiet.
This time was no exception.
One of mum's friends daughters was getting married, so she decided that the whole family except Gopi and myself would attend the wedding, her reasons for us staying behind were so I could manage the house and Gopi to look after me, though everyone knew it was a last ditch attempt by mum to fix our relationship.
They were due to leave in a weeks' time, therefore preparation for their journey began immediately. 4 days before they were due to leave there was a knock on our door and once we opened it, we were stunned to see Anita standing on the other side. She was drenched; her clothes sticking to every inch of her body, beside her a small bag lay. Unaware of whom she was, Kaki ushered her inside and sent orders for Mani to bring towels for her however, mum knew better.
Though because of the Kinjal fiasco, everyone now knew that I had, had a girlfriend before marriage, they did not know that it was the girl who sat before them and so when she said that we were old friends, no one blinked an eye.
I looked at Gopi who was looking at Anita with a strange look on her face. Was it sympathy, sadness? What was it?
"I'm so sorry for just barging in here so late at night, but I didn't know where else to go" she began, tears streaming down her now dry face.
"It's okay beta" Kaki said soothingly wiping her tears. "What's wrong? Have you run away from home?"
"You could say that, I've been living in America for the past year and I came back to India a few days ago but everything's so different, people just aren't who you thought they were"
"What do you mean?"
"I went back to my house, where my brother stayed and he….he's so different, he's changed so much, I was there 3 days and there was a party every night and he had so horrible friends, the girls were all tarty and the boys were perverts. My brother was just like them, worse even, he told me what he'd been up to in the past year and I, I couldn't believe my ears, he was evil and then tonight he had another party, I was upstairs, alone, when I heard noises, my door opened and in cam e one of his friends who was clearly drunk and he, he, I fought him and then he just passed out on the floor. I went looking for my brother but he didn't care, told me to lighten up and I knew that I couldn't stay there anymore, so I shoved some clothes into a bag and took off" Tears were falling down her face as she lowered her head.
I could tell everyone had been affected by her story, even my mum.
"Don't worry beta, you're safe here, nothing will happen to you. Gopi?" Kaki called out.
"Go make up the spare bedroom for…." Kaki turned to face Anita "What's your name beta?"
"Anita" she whispered.
"Go make up the bedroom and take her bag upstairs, Mani go and make Anita some hot almond milk and take it to her room" immediately they both got to work with Mani rushing to the kitchen and Gopi upstairs.
"Come with me" Kaki said standing up and leading Anita up the stairs to her room. I turned to face mum and she was staring at me with an indecipherable expression on her face before she got up and went to her room. Soon after, one by one all the family members went upstairs until I was the last one and then I went up.
The next day mum cornered me in my room and warned me that Anita better not hurt her Gopi vau and I assured her I'd make sure she didn't, though I didn't make sure. In fact, I avoided her like the plague.
For the next couple of days, Anita blended well into the family, Kaki took good care of her, as did Gopi, there didn't seem to be any ill feelings so I wasn't worried. However, the day everyone was due to leave, Mum gave the help a few days holiday, so I got worried, it would just be Gopi, Anita and I.
The first day after everyone left, it seemed like everything was fine, Gopi was doing her duties and Anita was recuperating and then Anita started getting closer. Simple things like accidentally brushing against me or walking in on me changing. I didn't tell her to stop, I don't know why but I didn't. Gopi didn't notice or at least I didn't think she did.
We were running low on groceries, so Gopi said she was going to go out to buy some, I offered to go with her but Gopi said that someone needed to stay with Anita as she had a fever. I went up to my room and began changing, whilst Gopi said she was going to see what was there and what wasn't, she had told me that Anita was sleeping and that when she went out she'd pick up medicine for her as well.
I'd pulled off my shirt and grabbed my evening wear when I heard the sound of the door shutting behind me. I froze, a cold fear creeping up my spine. I squeezed my eyes closed and began praying that it was not Anita though I knew it was very unlikely that it wasn't.
"Ahem" I heard from behind me. I turned around to see Anita looking at me. Since she'd been staying in the house, she'd been wearing traditional clothing, probably as a way to fit in some more.
"There's a phone call for you" I took the phone from her outstretched hand and put it to my ear.
"Jai shree Krishna, damaji" I heard from the other side. It was Gopi's mami.
"Jai shree Krishna, what can I do for you?"
"Nothing much, it's Gopi you see, I need some help and only she can help, so can you send her back for today?"
"Dhanyvadh damaji, May you always be blessed" we said our goodbyes and hung up.
I turned to Anita. "Has Gopi left yet?"
She shook her head "She's still in the kitchen"
"Ok, tell her to come up"
I quickly went into the bathroom to get changed and when I came out Gopi was standing nervously by the wardrobe.
"Gopi, there's no need to go grocery shopping today. You should go to your Mami's house instead, she needs you there"
Though she looked confused, Gopi immediately complied with what I said and left.
I came down for dinner a few hours later, only to see Anita making it, I never knew that Anita could cook considering that during the course of our relationship, we'd only ever gone out for dinner. After serving the food, she sat down across from me and began eating. We made polite conversation, but I could still feel the awkwardness in the air.
Even though I didn't know where it came from, Anita brought out a bottle of wine and the more I drank and ate, the more loose I became and soon we were talking like old times, after eating we went into the living room to talk and then we were in her bedroom and I couldn't remember why. From her sofa, we were on the bed and then some wine fell on my shirt, so I had to take it off at least that's what Anita said and there was more wine and I felt happy and relaxed and then we were talking about my marriage and how it broke us up.
"I hated you at one point" Anita said. Despite the fact that I was sure that she had drank more than me she seemed perfectly coherent, maybe I was just a light weight or something.
"I'm sorry Anita; I really am but my mum…"
"Oh, don't worry, after finding out how your marriage was a complete failure, I felt much happier"
"Thanks" I said dryly.
"I was thinking to myself, why could that be and I realised, it was because you, we never got closure, the relationship ended so abruptly and on such bad terms we could never get closure on anything" Anita's eyes darkened and she leaned in closer.
"Why, why do you think that?" I slurred.
"You never got a good ending with me and that bitterness filtered into your marriage"
"Oh" Anita moved closer until she was sitting right in my lap "How do we get closer?"
"I think I know how" and then her lips were getting closer to mine but I couldn't smell any alcohol on her breath.
That was weird.
"Anitaji" I heard from a distance, I briefly turned my head only to see Gopi there and the look on her face was of utter devastation. The bags in her hands dropped. "I brought you your medicine" I could hear her say and then she was gone.
I pushed Anita off of me and stood up, intent on going after Gopi, I couldn't understand why she looked so sad, however I stood up too fast and collapsed on the bed, falling asleep.
When I woke up my head was pounding and the events of the night before were a blur, but what I could remember of it was not pretty. I looked beside me to see Anita sleeping peacefully and I quickly got out of bed and went looking for Gopi. She wasn't in our room or any part of the house that I searched. Despaired, I returned to my room and showered quickly. Anita was still asleep, I went downstairs to see breakfast laid out and so I sat down to eat, leaving for work soon afterwards.
Everyone was returning in the evening and so I needed to find Gopi, to explain to her, so I came home early and yet she still wasn't anywhere to be found, I wondered if she'd left but her clothes were still in the wardrobe. When everyone came home, not a word was spoken of what happened and why Gopi was so distant and that was how things had been since.
Anita had left the house a few days afterwards, actually left makes it seem like she had a choice. My mum threw her out instinctively knowing it was her fault somehow and I could only hang my head in shame as my mother's piercing dark eyes looked at me knowing that it was my fault too.
I had only seen Gopi once since then, she was crying at the temple, asking Kanajhi what wrong she had done in life to deserve sadness every time. I stood there and watched her for over an hour as she told her life story and I was physically ill knowing that I'd just added to her pain.
I snapped out of my thoughts as I heard the sound of footsteps above me, I stood up quickly running after them, knowing it was her. I ended up on the terrace, I checked everywhere but she was nowhere. Giving up, I sat slumped against one of the benches.
"Gopi" I croaked "If you're listening to me, I want to tell you that I'm sorry, for everything and to tell you that the other night, nothing happened between us I swear. Since our marriage, I haven't been with her or seen her or had any contact with her. You're my wife Gopi and I would never betray you in such a way. Please believe me, I'm trying so hard here, I miss you. I miss seeing you smile at me, I miss seeing you period. I miss your voice and the sound of your bangles; I know you don't wear them anymore because of me. I hate knowing that I'm the cause of your tears. I hate myself for hurting you all this time but the truth was I was scared. Mum was right in picking you for me, you're perfect but I was afraid of falling from you, afraid of giving you that power to destroy me but I'm not afraid anymore Gopi. You loved me and I hurt you, I didn't believe you but I do now. I know I don't deserve you but please, please come back to me"
I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping to stop the tears from pouring out. I was seriously hurting right now and then I heard it. The clinking of bangles. I hoped I wasn't imagining it and therefore kept my eyes closed. A warmth brushed over my face and cupped my cheek.
I opened my eyes slowly only to see her beautiful brown eyes staring back at me. A wide smile graced her lips. I lifted my hands gently to her face and brushed my thumb over her lips, then her cheeks and then her eyes.
She was real.
And she was here.
She was mine.
"I never left Ahemji" she whispered. I stood up and ran my hands down the length of her arms till I laced her fingers together.
"I love you Gopi, forever" I said. The moon beamed down on her, the light making her skin pale and angelic.
"I love you too Ahemji, always" and then I kissed her.
We weren't perfect, but we were us. Though we had a lot to work through, I knew that we would do it and we would emerge on the other side stronger than ever. She was my everything and I never wanted to lose her.
There was still hope for us yet.
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Krishna attempts to kill Gopi after sending her to a mental asylum.
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