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Chapter 3 –
Unaware how long he was lying in the boxing ring and what time it was, Kunal was walking back home. He was beaten, brushed and in physical pain; but his mind was pre-occupied with guilt, shame, sheer disgust he felt for himself and pain he had given Siddhi. He was not aware how many punches he welcomed or how many times he was knocked down, but he had started to take account of every second Siddhi spent in jail, in isolation and darkness; what she had gone through fighting with Richa and Abhay on her own. All while he was too much immersed within himself and remained nothing but a burden. Burden on his family, burden on society, burden on his own kid and burden on Siddhi. Walking on deserted road, he is in process of accepting no matter what, he has been a burden and will always remain one. All he can do is at least not be burden on others.
Somehow with small timid steps, Kunal did reach his home. He made sure not to make any kind of noise when entering the house. He walked-in to his bedroom. He saw Siddhi sleeping somewhat peacefully on the left side, same place she use to sleep during early days of their marriage while Kunal slept on Gadda. There were times when she had fallen right on him as she was afraid of dark. Then he looked at his sons who were sleeping on the right side of the bed. For as long as possible, Kunal stood there admiring his family, yes his family. A sly smile crept on his face looking at them but it went away faster than it came, replaced by worry on his face and tears in eyes. He stared at Siddhi, who currently looked at peace, but what did she do during those 9 years? She must have kept thinking about him, ungrateful Kunal Chopra who never bothered to meet her once, neither let her flesh know anything about her. As if she hadn't endured through enough during those 9 years, later she had to live in Diwan house, where there was constant threat on her son and her own safety, both which she fought alone while her looser husband roamed streets drunk and least bothered.
Unknowingly Kunal sobbed a bit looking at sleeping beauty, which alerted Siddhi right away as she had been waiting for Kunal to come back. She opened her eyes and was turning towards Kunal but he was too quick to run away. Siddhi got up and went into living room, no Kunal there and even door was locked from inside. She was 100% certain it was Kunal. She can sense him being around her but he was not there. Just then she realized something and went towards bathroom. It was locked from inside, Siddhi knew it had to be Kunal. Very carefully banging on the door in way it's not loud to wake everyone, "Kunal, I know you are in there. Please come out, I need to talk to you. You ahven't talked to me since yesterday, please come out. Even kids were worried. Please come out. Kunal.." she didn't get any answer. She heard what might have been sob, but she couldn't be sure. She stood there for few minutes but did not get any response; finally she decided to go back to room knowing it is still too early for Kunal. All along this period, Kunal was sitting in corner of the bathroom, keeping his hands on mouth so he doesn't make any sound at all. His eyes were full of tears and he couldn't control them, but he tried his best to make sure not a single sound escapes.
After about half an hour, Kunal came out of the bathroom. He looked around to make sure no one was there. He again went back to his bedroom and saw his family sleeping. Without making any noise he went to a corner and just sat there. Sitting in that corner, his eyes were constantly on his family, especially Siddhi. Time to time he looked by the door or at the window as if he was on guard duty. But as far as he could keep his eyes open, he was staring at Siddhi. When he finally opened his eyes, it was already morning. He was covered by a blanket and had pillow on side. He knew it had to be Siddhi. He came out of his room, saw everyone was busy in their daily tasks. He looked around, in kitchen, living room but didn't see Siddhi anywhere and got bit worried. Seema saw Kunal looking here there, "Siddhi went to drop off kid to school. Their bus didn't come today so." Kunal nodded yes to that and went into bathroom. He came out in about half an hour and without really being noticed left home.
It was 8 pm now. All day Kunal had not come home. While other family members thought it is not really big deal, Siddhi was very worried. She was the only one who knew what Kunal was really going through. Even when he didn't say anything, Siddhi always understood him better than anyone else. While she did engage in household activities, helped kids with their homework and attended to their needs; her eyes were constantly on the door hoping Kunal would walk in. Her day long wait finally ended at 8:30 pm and Kunal keeping his head down, taking small timid steps walked-in the house. As soon as he entered both of his sons almost jumped on him for a hug. Kunal tried his best to give them a smile and hear what they had to say. They dragged him to dining table where everyone was having dinner. They asked Siddhi to serve Kunal as it had been really long time since they ate with their father. Before kids can finish their sentence Siddhi was preparing his plate. She had made Kunal's favorite halwa today hoping he would like it. BA in his usual demeanor announced how much Kunal loves it and that's why Siddhi had made it. Even when Siddhi was serving Kunal standing right next to him, he kept his head down. Siddhi too sat for dinner as it had been years she had enjoyed a meal with her beloved.
Kunal was about to touch the food, "Do I really deserve this? For years I sat at this spot and enjoyed meals three times a day. But what have I ever done to deserve even one small bite? Every morning I walk out of my room and demand Seema to make me a tea, who is he to ask for anything from anyone? Instead of ever saying thank you for his meal, he use to give attitude and shamelessly dare to ask for certain dishes. What kind of pathetic human being is he?" While Kunal was lost in his thoughts, Siddhi was staring at him and knew Kunal still is not back to his normal self. She did not like seeing Kunal in this state and wanted him to come out it right away. Before she speaks, BA, "papa, what are you waiting for? Come eat na, it is your favorite dish. Start, we had been only waiting for you"
Again Kunal forced a smile on his face and started eating. Each bite was too hard for him to swallow. For years he swallowed his pride, if he had any to being with; now when he knew, everything looked so big. Even these small bites appeared too heavy for him to take in. Somehow he managed to finish what was served and before Siddhi gets chance he took his dish away to kitchen. He washed his plate, said "thank you" for his meal and went to his room. Everyone was surprised to see this if not shocked. Siddhi's worry increased more seeing this. She loved seeing her akdoo husband demand for more halwa and may be tease her bit that it is not upto marks. If not that, at least not seeing him wash his plate and thank her. What was exactly going on in his mind? Can it be more than what she thinks? Has Kunal gone further into shell than period he was struggling with Anand matter? What if he was?
When Siddhi went to the bedroom, she saw kids studying on the bed and Kunal sitting in same corner as night before with his diary. She sat with her sons and helped them with whatever they were doing. Then she arranged her room, put clothes in the cupboard and usual activities. Her sons asked her to tell a story before going to sleep so she did. Even when Siddhi was doing all this, her eyes constantly looked at Kunal who was simply sitting there in the corner with a blank face buried in his diary. Not engaged with anyone or anything, may be not with his own self either? Whatever it was she was worried. Knowing at least today Kunal is right there in front of her eyes, she was somewhat at peace. She thought finally after two days at least Kunal had come home and soon she will make things better with Kunal. With that thought in her mind, she went to sleep. Once everyone was asleep, Kunal put his diary away and positioned himself staring at his family. His focus was of course Siddhi. He tried his best to keep his eyes open, unaware for how long he kept staring at her, not sure if he was even blinking or not he sat on his spot. Again when he opened his eyes it was already morning and he was covered by blanket.
Kunal went to on to do daily activities, took his towel and went to bathroom. When he came out, he was followed by Siddhi carrying tea cup and she stood in front of him with it. He didn't look at Siddhi directly thinking, "is Siddhi just so nice or stupid, I say both. She is so nice that's why she is always helping everyone. But she is also stupid, that is why she cares so much for a useless person like me. She is always ready to attend to worthless individual I am. Why God, why?" without saying anything, avoiding any type of eye contact he left the room and soon out of the house leaving baffled, somewhat hurt Siddhi.
Kunal again did not come home till almost 8 pm. For next week or so it became his regular schedule. He would leave in the morning, without drinking tea, would not come whole day, eat very little dinner only because his sons wouldn't eat without him and sit in the corner with his dairy. Siddhi thought may be few days she will get her Kunal back but here she wasn't even able to see him properly, forget about talking. She was at least content with the fact he was coming home every single night and slept right there in the same room. But his blank face made it impossible for her to understand anything.
One night Kunal had just finished his dinner and walked in his bedroom. He went to his corner and saw a box on the half-berth right next where he sat. It had note, for Kunal. He opened the box and it had a radio inside. He took the radio out and knew right away it had to be Siddhi. Siddhi too came stood by the door to see Kunal's reaction seeing radio. Ever since old one was broken, she had thought of buying a new one for Kunal and she hoped at least this would make Kunal react and bring him more towards her. Kunal was staring at the radio and Siddhi was staring at him.
Tu Bichdan, bichdan kehndi he,
Tu bichdan kejndi he, bichde to jee na payenge,
Kunal automatically went down to memory lane. He remembered the first time he listen to the radio after marriage and at first Siddhi was bothered by it but due to old song she had laughed that night. Unknowingly a smile crept on his face, which made Siddhi smile as well. He went back to time both spent in Mahabaleshvar and how Kunal had teased Siddhi with radio. Kunal's face really lighted up when he remembered during Raveen'a wedding how Siddhi had first complained she had to adjust to his radio, but she too had started liking it and couldn't sleep without it.
Har dua me, tu hi samil,
Chahe tanha, meri mefhil,
But soon that smile wiped off when he remembered his last encounter with Siddhi in jail 9 years ago. She had said leave and he left, without really thinking why? Then came back 9 years he spent wihtout her, but more importantly what Siddhi would have gone through in that dark cell. Seeing Siddhi getting off that car, giving her hand to someone, Siddhi with Abhay in that office and party. How he believed Siddhi had moved on without him, his lies about Richa accusation to Siddhi, Abhay's announcement, actual wedding, court case, Siddhi's telling him about Abhay but he did not believe it. Last image robbed him of every ounce of life, he himself breaking his old radio just to spite Siddhi. Yes, he was the one who had broken it and now Siddhi tried to fix it. Isn't that how things have been, he always ruined things while Siddhi kept fixing it for her pathetic husband. Kunal's hands had also lost energy and radio dropped of his hands on half-berth, so it was still safe but Kunal couldn't touch it again.
Kunal turned back to realize Siddhi was standing by the door, looking at him all along. Siddhi had seen Kunal smile, his face glowing up and then turning blue again. For a minute she was hopeful things will get better, but again seeing Kunal like this broke her morale. Even though Kunal was standing there with his head down and had no tears in his eyes, she knew he was crying. She knew very well Kunal was crying out loud and Siddhi couldn't take it. She looked at Kunal with tears in her eyes and questions but Kunal
Ranjo gum he, aalam nam he,
Hoon me zinda, yeh kya kum he soniye….
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