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Joined: 29 September 2011
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Joined: 29 September 2011
"Kyon apne aap se jhoot bol rahi ho, Khushi?" Arnav's soft voice whispered in her ear and she stood frozen. Where had he appeared from and why wasn't he yelling at her about her Aukat already? She could clearly see that they were in his room at Shanthivan; Devi Mayya knew she had been in there enough times to recognize it.
"Meine…mera mathlab hai ki…humne…kabhi jhoot nahi.." she stopped, looking at the amused smile that played on his lips as he watched her, patiently waiting for her to complete her incoherent reply. His eyes bore into hers with an intensity that halted her every thought; she seemed to have completely forgotten what she had been about to say.
"Jhoot nahi tho kyon mujhse door jane ki koshish kar rahi ho, Khushi?" his breath on her skin made her shiver and take a step back…
…And tumble right out of the bed she had been sleeping on. "Ow!" Khushi exclaimed as she rubbed her shoulder which had taken the hit to the ground. She was about to stand up and walk out like nothing had happened when Payal entered the room and seeing her position, laughed. "Phir se gir gaya, Khushi?" she asked with amusement; Khushi gave her Jiji a mock glare that only made her smile more.
Shaking her head at her sister's antics, Payal lent Khushi a hand. Pretending to be angry, Khushi turned her face away from Payal's extended hand. Kneeling down, Payal looked at Khushi's face. It was flushed and slightly red; wondering what might have happened, she asked, "Khushi, kisi sapna dekha kya?" She knew that Khushi used to get dreams, past memories really, of her parents and she would always wake up disturbed and sad. Payal had felt helpless those times, cursing herself for being useless.
Khushi nodded, "Us…us Laad Governor hamein sone wakth bhi kush nahi reh dethe. Sapno mein bhi pareshaan karna padtha hai, Rakshas." she muttered under her breath. Confused with Khushi's words, Payal merely said, "Ab uske bare mein sochna band karo Khushi. Ab tum kabhi bhi unhe dekhne khi zaroorath nahi hai," before she stood and walked out of a room with a warning to get ready soon.
"Ithni aasaani ho tho kyon nahi kar paathe ham? Kyon bool nahi sakthe usko?" Khushi murmured to herself as she went to get ready. Her mind was confused beyond help. She couldn't understand her own thoughts, for the first time in her life. Khushi Kumari Gupta, who had prided herself on being able to separate good from bad, right from wrong, couldn't find the solution to her own contemplations. If forgetting someone was as easy as Jiji made it seem, was it her fault for not being able to do it?
Last night, when he had yelled at her, she had felt oddly like someone had taken something out of her life. That he would never marry, Lavanyaji or anyone else, seemed to weigh her heart like a brick. Jis tharaf ki insaan shaadi nahi karna chahtha? Pyaarse inhe kya nafrath hai? She spent longer than normal to shower, lost in thoughts, trying to think like ASR would. Giving up the attempt when she realized she was getting nowhere, Khushi walked out of the shower and dressed quickly.
The dream had woken her up rather early and her Amma and Babuji hadn't woken up yet. Nor were Buaji or Shyamji anywhere to be seen. Payal was making something on the stove and Khushi walked towards the kitchen. "Halwa bana rahi hai, Jiji?" she asked with a wide smile, smelling the delicious aroma.
"Haan, lekin pehle Pooja khatham hona hai, uske baad tum kha sakthe ho," Payal replied in a reprimanding tone. Khushi nodded and returned to her room, the talk of Pooja giving her an idea. Quickly tying a few locks of her hair with a clip, she let the rest of it float down her back, hurrying to her almara to get her dress out.
"Yeh kya hai, Sanka Devi? Subah subah sadi pehenke kahaan ja rahi ho?" Buai asked, lifting her head to look at Khushi, who had been about to hurry out of the house in a flurry.
The red and green sari she had chosen was her mother's. Her Ammaji had given it to her when she had been very small to keep as a reminder. She had never worn it before that day but something had made her pick up this saree when she had made her mind up to go to the temple.
Khushi had felt better immediately after wearing the saree; she felt as if her parents' protective aura had surrounded her, cocooning her from any harm that might come her way. Mandir jaa ke Pooja karein tho aur achha lagega; sab teek ho jayega she had thought happily. Whenever something had bothered her, Khushi had always resorted to going to the temple, alone, to fight with her Devi Mayya and get what she wanted.
This time was no different and Khushi quickly gave Buaji her reply, "Aaj mandir mein badi Pooja hai na, Navratri ke liye? Hum bas wahaan jaa rahe hein. Hamein Jiji ko bhi bulaya tha lekin woh gar pe Pooja ka thaiyaar kar rahi hai tho hamne socha ki ham akele chalein."
Buaji nodded, watching Khushi's form with satisfaction; Shyamji certainly had mellowed the tufaan down, she thought smugly.
"Achcha Buaji, ham chalthe hein," Shyam told her with the same reassuring that he had used to fool her all along. Buaji nodded and with one last reminder to return soon, let him walk away.
Shyam had taken maybe a few steps before he came back. "Vaise Buaji, Khushiji kahaan hai? Subah se unki darshan bhi nahi mila?"
"Woh to paas vale mandir chale hein, Shyam bitwa. Jaldi aayegi," Buaji replied, wondering inwardly about how much he seemed to care for Khushi.
"Achcha, toh ham chalthe hein," Shyam took his leave and Buaji went back into the house to look after the Pooja arrangements.
Arnav came out of his hiding place; he had been able to catch only the last bit of the conversation that Khushi had gone to the temple. But what was Jijaji doing here? He wondered, trying to recall him ever saying that he knew the Guptas personally. Remembering no such incident, Arnav only realized that his Jijaji had never come face to face with Khushi. If he knew them, what was the need for him to hide it from Di or the rest of the family. He hadn't mentioned it even after Khushi had started coming to Shantivan on a regular basis.
Confused and badly in need of answers, Arnav decide to approach the one person who he could get answers from. He briefly considered confronting Jijaji about it but something told him that he wouldn't get any straight answers; he would get more reliable information from Khushi. Much as he disliked her, even Arnav couldn't help but admit that she wouldn't give false information about anyone. But she was already quite ticked off with him…Arnav pushed aside the part of him the hesitated to meet her; he was Arnav Singh Raizada, and nobody could refuse him anything.
Khushi was smiling gently; coming to the temple had been the best idea she had had in a while, she thought proudly. Her mind had calmed down quite a lot after attending the Pooja. She had been able to focus her wayward mind, finally. What had disconcerted her was the Panditji's blessings. He had blessed her that she'd be married soon; Khushi smiled shyly as she thought of it. Lifting her Pooja Thali carefully in one hand, Khushi lifted the saree in her other hand as she walked across the slippery granite floor of the temple.
Turning when she reached the steps, Khushi turned once to get one last darshan of Devi Mayya, her heart saying one final prayer, asking her to show the way. Eyes closed, she completed her beseeching and turned back, her heart skipping a beat as she did. It only happened when Arnavji was around, when she could feel his presence. Chiding herself for getting back to square one, Khushi walked down the first few steps cautiously; hearing the flap of pigeon wings, she looked up and the first face that she looked at was his. At first Khushi thought she was imagining things; Laad Governor aur Mandir? She thought incredulously. But when he stood unmoving, staring at her like he had in her dream, Khushi felt flustered. This was no mirage, he really was here. But why?
Taking careful steps, Khushi walked towards where he was standing…
Arnav had no interest in going inside the temple; that was a concession he only allowed for his Di. Standing outside near the shops, he waited for Khushi to come outside. Impatiently watching for the familiar chudidhar clad form, he was shocked when he saw the vision she made in the saree. He had never thought red and green, such contradicting colors, could ever go together but seeing her draped in a saree that contained both in equal share blending in perfect equanimity, Arnav stood mesmerized, the thought running unbridled in his mind that Khushi Kumari Gupta could bring anything together, no matter how clashing they were. Her face was tinted with a light pink that always came with her cheerfulness. At least she wasn't too affected from yesterday, he thought with relief.
She turned around to look back one last time, the same way she had looked always looked back at him when he had hurt her and chased her away; that expression in her eyes that told him that he was forgiven.
He saw her start as she noticed him, her eyes going wide in that way they always did when she was surprised by him. Accompanying it was confusion and a trace of happiness that Arnav was sure he had imagined. He waited for her to walk to him; he knew she would. He could see that the saree was giving her a little trouble; she had to take careful steps to not step on it. Her pace quickened as she reached him, the plate in her hand tilting precariously.
He barely had time to catch her thali with one hand as it finally tilted too much and she tried futilely to stop it from falling. Her hand slipped from holding her saree and in her hurry, she stepped on it, making her loose her balance. Holding her by her waist with his left hand, he steadied her hand on the thali with his other hand, resulting in a little of the Sindoor falling on his hand. She held onto the Thali, her hand almost hidden in his; her other hand instinctively rose to hold onto his shoulder for balance.
They stood that way for a while, each simply looking into the other's eyes. Hers were tensed, scolding, surprised, shocked, angry and happy all at once and Arnav didn't know which affected him more. He could only hope that she understood his silence as well as he could comprehend hers. She looked different today; the mischievousness was missing, replaced by a sense of wisdom and naivet that went together in a manner only Khushi could balance.
She couldn't seem to lift her eyes away from his, her mind was busy trying to memorise this face. He wasn't smiling but neither was he reproaching. He was just…observing, admiring. His intense look making her embarrassed, she looked down, opting to look at the knot of his tie rather than at his face.
Khushi blinked a couple of times as she tried to move the stray lock of hair that had landed on her forehead; it was falling into her eyes and obstructing her view. Realising what she was trying to do, Arnav let go of Khushi's hand that was holding the plate and pushed aside the locks behind her ear. Only later did he notice that his actions had caused the Sindoor on his fingers to mark a neat streak on her forehead; no would believe it was accidental.
The temple's bell rang loudly, breaking them from the trance. Khushi jerked away from him, turning in the opposite direction and began walking back towards the temple. She wasn't really aware of what she was doing; the way back home was in the other direction, but Arnav was standing right in front of her path and Khushi felt that she'd rather stay in the temple the entire day rather than face him. Something was off; with her, with him, with what lay between them…
Hope it wasn't too boring? Please do comment/like!
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