Thanks for all your wonderful comments. And a special thanks
to all those whowrite a little extra.I am sorry for not being able to reply to
For those who ask "Who the hell isRia and Suraj?" ---- Ria
is AR's event manager, as mentioned by Anjali in the first few chapters. Suraj
is the guy who proposed to Khushi in the first chapter.
Desert Rose ' Chapter 14
ARNAV looked at the
worried faces of Anjali and Akash, as they stepped into his room, Shyam in tow.He
had arrived at the Haveli a few minutes ago and was just about to refresh
himself before lunch.
happened?' he asked them, taking off his coat.
is dead against this match Chotte,' said Anjali in a low voice.
looked at Akash and asked him, 'Did you tell her Payal is expecting your baby?'
was silent. 'Why the hell not?' demanded Arnav.
soon as I told her about Payal, she got hysterical and fainted,' said Akash,
'after that I didn't get a chance to tell her as she refuses to speak to me.'
other words he hadn't been able to summon up the courage to stand up to his
mother. 'What about Nani?' he asked.
has no problem with Payal,' Anjali said a little enthusiasm entering her voice.
'She met Payal and Khushiji and loved both the girls on sight. I guess their
Lucknow connection worked in their favour here. But even she has been unable to
know what Akash?' Arnav said looking at the pale face of his brother, 'You told
me the other day that you don't really need my blessings. I would suggest you
say the same thing to your mother as well.'
I am sorry about that --- I really am,' he said with a catch in his throat,
'you have got to help me.'
me? Arnav demanded, acrimoniously. 'Take
the people who decided to bring mamiji here to solve the problem,' he said
without looking at Anjali. He stepped into the bathroom and shut the door with
that night, Arnav was summoned to mami's room. As he entered the room, he found
nani, Anjali and Shyam assembled there. There seemed to be an awkward silence
in the room, all their faces sombre, while his sister looked a shade paler.
happened?' he asked for the second time that day. 'Is this about Akash and
bitwa, all these people have been trying to convince me to get Akash married to
that girl,' she lamented. 'You are one
person who understands me very well. You have to help me here.'
mami '..I think that ___' he began only to be cut off by mamiji.
can I get my only son married to a girl whose sister is so '.wanton?'
the ___?' said Arnav in disbelief.What the [email protected]#$ was mami talking about?
mamiji '. apparently heard some '..rumours from her relatives in Katariasar,'
Anjali managed to say.
rumours?' he asked, his voice icy, his brown orbs glinting dangerously.
hesitated, looking utterly uncomfortable. But mamiji had no such trouble. 'It's
about that girl and you,Arnav bitwa,'shebeganin her shrill voice,'I believe,you
took her to Keshav's house for the Sangeet ceremony? Some relatives of mine,
who happened to be present there, thought you had married and were offended
that they were not invited to the wedding.'
the [email protected]#$!' This time Arnav couldn't stop himself from swearing, expressing his
admonished nani, 'you forget that this is Raisar, not Delhi. Here you cannot
simply take a girl out to other people's ceremonies unless you are married or
betrothed to her. You come from a royal lineage and you have a certain
reputation to maintain.'
relatives will not let me live this down,' cried mamiji, 'how am I going to show
my face when I visit the next time?'
knew that mami was making a mountain out of a mole hill. If the situation was
not so serious he would have laughed his head off. 'That's it? I can't take a girl to a
ceremony?' Arnav asked his face wrought with disbelief, 'this is the 21st
century for God's sake!'
there another thing,' began Shyam hesitatingly, 'Guman'.Bhairav' nephew saw you
at the Desert Festival, holding Khushiji's hand and then later he saw you
entering the tent carrying Khushiji'..' Shyam stopped as Anjali clutched his
she cried as she looked at Arnav with fear.
Sahiba, isn't it better to hear this from me rather than some outsider?'he said
looking at Arnav's reaction surreptitiously. 'It's not that I believe it. Not
one bit. In fact, I have strictly warned him not to spread such rumours.'
'[email protected]#$%^*!' Arnav swore under his breath. 'I
don't care what anyone thinks!' he spat out in, his eyes trained on Shyam,
'what I do with my life is nobody's concern.'
might be true for you, saalesaab' Shyam interposed, 'but it is Khushiji's
reputation that is at stake here.'
knowing this I definitely cannot allow my son to marry the sister of girl whose
reputation is tarnished!'mamiji declared dramatically.
naniji, 'we don't even know if what damadji heard was the truth.'
am sorry saasuma,' said mamiji relentless in her resolve, 'Going by Arnav
bitwa's reputation, this may not really be too far from the truth. Just being
seen with him is enough.'
Anjali and naniji exclaimed in unison at mami'sinsulting comment.
went on with her tirade. 'I agree that Akash bitwahas made a mistake'.. but I
attribute that to lack of proper role
model after having lost his father at very young age.
will not let him pay for that one little mistake.'
looked at Arnav, his face drained of all colour as his whole body shook with
anger.He turned around and strode away from the room, without looking back at
anyone, only one sentence stuck in his head. Lack of proper role model''.
knocked on the door to Arnav's room,as he sat on his bed, his head in his
hands. 'I am sorry, Chotte.' Anjali said in a low voice. 'It's all my fault.'
____' he returned, only to be cut off by her.
me finish Chotte,' she said, a catch in her voice, 'you have to know that it
was my idea to send Khushiji out with you that day.'
I was the one who convinced her that it was the only way to let Akash and Payal
meet,' she said evenly, 'I also told her there was no time as you were planning
to take Akash to the States for treatment.'
am sorry Chotte, I was so blinded by the idea of helping Akash that I didn't
think for a moment how you would feel.' She said, tears streaming down her
please don't cry,' he said coming up to her. 'You should know something as
well. I was going to let Akash and Payal meet that day.'
God!'Anjali was horrified.
night, I was upset that you had played a role in this,' he continued,'but I
have had some time to think over it and realized that you only had Akash's
happiness in mind.'
Chotte,' she exclaimed, hugging him tight. She raised her head and cupped his
cheek affectionately as she said, 'Now you should forgive Khushiji as well.'
turned away from her, his body stiffening, 'I don't want to talk about it Di.'
Di '' I know how to handle this,' he said cutting her off, 'We have had a
stressful day. I think you should go to sleep.'
she paused, 'you are good brother.' She said, reminding him about mami's
Chotte, I am you older sister and let me say it,' she said her eyes flashing
with pride. 'You and I know how you took care of this family, giving up your
dreams and aspirations.
you ever let a bunch of freeloaders tell you otherwise, do you hear me?'
aske Arnav a mischievous smile entering his lips as he said, 'are you by any
chance calling yourself a freeloader?'
and I don't mind it!' she said emphatically, 'Iam staying under the roof of a
person who I love most in the world and I am proud of it,' she said, her
infectious smile lighting up her entire face.
Di'.. lest your husband should hear it.' He joked through his unshed tears.
ok'..he knows.' Anjali said wiping the tears from her face.
turned away from Arnav's door, seething, their mutual admiration for each other
disgusting him to no end.He thought about this morning when Arnav had taunted
him for bringing in mamiji. How dare he talk like that? He had no respect for
his brother-in-law or older sister. Just because he was the owner of the house
it didn't mean that he should treat everyone like subordinates. He had tried to
talk to Anjali about that but she had covered up for her brother as usual. Their
closeness nauseated him.
was his bad luck that mamiji turned out be a clamours bitch. She had completely
shot down Akash, Anjali and then later him as well, when he had tried to
intervene. Thoughts of closing his hands around her throat had crossed his mind
at one point. He would have probably convinced her in time, but his dearest
wife had panicked and called her brother yesterday. He had promised Khushi that
he would help her. He hit his fist against the wall in frustration. He hadn't even
seen her today, because of this drama, missing the daily routine of visiting
the guest house with Anjali.
he had to give it to mamiji for putting Arnav in his place. He had derived a
sadistic pleasure from his brother-in-law's disparagement. He deserved that and
lots more. He was sick and tired of him taking away all the laurels since he
was in college. He realized the matter had just got a lot tougher, especially
in lieu of the rumours. Their attendance at a Sangeet was understandable, but
their activities in the Desert Festival, was unexpected, if not from Arnav, at
least from Khushi. And if he hadn't heard it from Guman himself, he wouldn't
have believed it.
the other hand, it made things easier for him didn't it? He knew for a fact
that Arnav wasn't the committing type. He would be there for Khushi when Arnav
discarded her like used tissue.
next morning, Khushi walked into Arnav's office with trepidation. It was a week
since that fateful night and her heart skipped a beat, as she saw him, his head
bent over his lap top. An errant lock lay on his forehead, escaping the
confines of his neatly combed hair, making her want to run her hands through
it. As he looked up from his laptop memories of that night came back, suffusing
her entire body in heat from her head to toe, her heart beating wildly in her
eyes reflected the same conundrumas he took in her simple purple kurti, her
hair pulled back from her face with clips, braided into a simple plaitthat fell
delicately down her breast. When he looked at her make-up free face, he was
reminded once again how blatantly young and beautiful she was. He quickly moved
up his eyes to look into hers, his mouth tightened into a grim line, as he caught
the sadness in them.
sat down on the chair and Arnav came round to her, went down on his haunches
and picked up her foot,placing on his thigh to inspect it.
has healed,' she said softly, as she pulled her feet back from his grasp. It is the wound in the heart that hasn't
healed, she added silently. 'You wanted to talk to me?' she asked him hurriedly
not wanting to linger at the joy she felt at his concern.
like your sacrifices are not going to go waste after all,' he saidgruffly, as
he stood up, his face stoic.
do you mean?' she asked him constrictedly.
said you did what was best for Akash and Payal.' He said reminding her about
her parting lines. 'And that has paid off, I should say, because Akash and
Payal will get married after all.'
cruel words were twisting the knife that was already lodged in her heart, but
she pushed the feeling aside when she asked him, 'I thought mamiji was not
happy with the alliance.'
she is still not happy.' He looked directly at her. 'But she could be
Khushi said, looking a little sceptical, 'Payal will be happy.'
before you call the band baaja,' he said mockingly, 'let me tell you that there
is one condition.'
course! thought Khushi exasperated. She knew there had to be a catch somewhere.
'What condition?' she asked him warily.
will marry me.'
wasn't sure she had heard right. 'What?' she asked him her eyes going wide as
saucers. 'Are you joking?'
I look like I am joking?' he countered, 'Do you usually behave like this when
you receive a proposal?'
the proposal sounds more like a business deal --- yes!' she said emphatically.
you expecting me to get down on my knees?' he asked her, lacing his tone with sarcasm.
she said thickly. 'I would never expect that from someone like you.' she added contemptuously.
thought someone like you wouldn't be
averse to this -- condition --- under the circumstances.'
anger rose as the meaning of what he was saying sunk into her. 'What has it got
to do with Payal and Akash's marriage?'
don'tfind it necessary to explain.'
wanted to tell him what he could do with his "condition".'Then my answer is
your frigging problem Khushi?' he asked her arrogantly, 'You found yourself a
rich man. You would not have to work for the rest of your life. You are just
playing hardball, aren't you?
He paused, 'You have some rich fool waiting for you back in Delhi.'
image of her neighbour Suraj, owner of a sweet meat stall in Laskhminagar,
flashed before her eyes, a flash of pain crossing her face as she remembered
his sweet proposal.
Arnav swore, a bewildering anger enveloping him, as he saw her face.'You left
some loser hanging in Delhi, with the hope that you will marry him some day?'
he asked derisively.
is a good man from a good family,' she said, emphatically, confirming his
you love him?' he asked her his voice dangerously quiet.
recently told me that love is highly overrated,' she said, the pain in her
heart increasing, 'But, between you and him, I'd rather marry him,' she
declared her face stoic.
that right?' he said, his face hardening, his eyes dark smouldering coals. 'Do
you think this good man from a good family will still want to marry you after
he finds out about your steamy Arabian Nights escapade in the desert?'
went very still. 'You wouldn't dare''
me.' He said laconically.
else can I expect from a man who has lost all ability to feel?' she said
you are absolutely right.' He said, still staring hard at her, 'and you of all
people should know the reason for that.'
stared at each other for countless seconds, and then he broke the silence. 'Don't
beat yourself over it. You can go back to your loser.But while you are at it,
take your sister with you.' he added softly.
should I?' she shot back. 'Akashji promised to marry Payal with or without your
was not too happy with the reminder. 'You should know something about your
would-be brother-in-law. Akash didn't show any inclination to work after his
bachelor's degree until I pushed him to start at AR a few months ago, result of
too much pampering, no doubt.
get me wrong, he is good at heart. But he is not capable of earning a single
pie if he gets out of AR.'
sound like a hindi movie dad now' she smirked, though she was a little taken
aback by this revelation.
ignored her comment as he continued, 'That is one of the reasons I was against
this match,' he said evenly.'I knew that he needed some more time to settle
down, to grow up into a responsible individual.'
you were planning his marriage!' she said, remembering what Anjali had told her
when she had come to meet her at the hotel.
was his mother who had planned it. Not me.'
am sure Akashji will do fine once you stop mollycoddling him.' She said
wish Akash had the same confidence, you have in him Khushi.' Arnav said, lacing
his tone with sarcasm.
'Shyamji has also promised to help.'Khushi
I admire your confidence in someone you met three days ago,' he said with a
barely controlled temper. 'Nevertheless, I accept your decision and wish you
all the best. 'You may leave now.' He said curtly, as he went back to work on
his laptop, dismissing her.
soon Khushi left Arnav poured himself a drink, his whole body wrought with
tension. His thoughts went back to the night in Delhi, couple of days ago.
He sat in the office of
Raizada Mansion working on his laptop. He shut it down with a bang and picked
up the glass of vodka tonic on the table, gulping it down in one go. He hoped
the burning liquid would help him forget. It was almost a week since he had
left Raisar, but thoughts of Khushi haunted him every night, disturbing his
sleep. Once, he had this weird feeling that she had called out to him. [email protected]#$! He
slapped the glass back on the table.
He heard a knock and
looked up to see Ria at the door. She was dressed in a short, figure hugging
hot pink dress. 'Hi ASR, I brought the portfoliosof the designers.' She walked
in with a case, swaying her hips, her stilettos beating out a staccato rhythm
on the hardwood floor.
'What?' he said gruffly, not particularly
happy about being brought out of his reverie. 'Ah right'. the ethnic collection,'
he said remembering.'But we aren't hiring the designer until later this month.
There was no hurry.'
'Oh it was no trouble
ASR,' she purred, giving him a coquettish smile, as she put the case on the
'I am sure you are
getting late for a dinner or a party,' he said when she started walking around
the table to him. 'I won't keep you.'
'Why don't you come with
me?' she said as she sat on the table next to his lap top, the hem of her dress
riding up her thigh.
He moved his chair back
and stood up, moving around the table to pick up the portfolio. 'Now that you
brought me some work, I think I will take a look right away.You carry on.'
'Something has changed,'
she told him sliding off the table to face him across it. 'You have avoided me
since you came back.'
'What are you talking
about?' he said without looking up, rifling through the file, sounding bored.
'Is it because of that girl at the hotel in
Bikaner?' she asked sharply.
Arnav looked up at her
his eyes beginning to simmer, 'That is none of your business!' he rasped. 'Look
Ria, I am a little stressed out right now,' he said trying to keep his cool, 'I
will see you at work tomorrow, alright.'
'I knew it!' she spat
out, her voice rising up shrilly. 'The way you were staring at her while she
was dancing'.. you found yourself some new to entertain you.'
'Enough Ria!' he warned
'She didn't seem your
type though,' she went on, 'the way she was dressed, with those glasses and
everything. There must be only one reason you are so smitten.'
'I think you should
She went continued, 'She
must be good in ___'
'Don't you dare talk
about her like that!' he thundered.
'So it is true then,'
she smirked.'You used me ASR!' she raged on.
'Shut your goddamn
mouth!' he said his voice so icy it sent shivers up her spine. 'Who the hell
are you? Don't forget you work for me. You only got this job because your
father begged me to give it to you, and I obliged him because he was my old
client. You knew you weren't competent enough for this job. So, you decided to
use your "charm" to sustain it. You think I don't know you have been sleeping
around with your assistant Kunal, so he does all your work? And that you don't
think twice before hooking up with our clients after a dinner meeting?
'I am not sure if you
are just so nave that you don't realize that these things don't get you
anywhere in the long run or if this has become another habit. So let's not talk
about who is "using" whom. Now get the hell out of here!'
was with all these women? thought Arnav . First, Khushi and his sister had conspired
against him, Ria had tried to manipulate him into feeling guilt, mamihad
blatantly pointed fingers at his character and then Khushi had rejected his
proposal. He raked his hands across his hair as his attention moved to the box
that had been lying on his table since morning''
The small shoe sized box had arrived via
courier. It belonged to Lavanya. Mrs D'Souza, Lavanya's old housekeeper had
sent over Lavanya's personal effects over to him as she was moving away to Goa
to live with her sister.He had opened up Pandora 's Box few days ago, when he
had told Khushi about Lavanya. He was not ready to open another one.
picked up the full glass and hurled it with all his might, shattering it to
smithereens as it crashed against the wall.He had had enough
of these neurotic women.
Damn you Khushi!
I feel motivated to
write more when I hear from you so do comment and feel free to give me your
My previous works:
Edited by charlotte74 - 26 September 2012 at 3:09am