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"So how is the business going on in London?" Arthur asked his son, as they sat on the white wicker chairs in the middle of the large expanse of lawn in front of the Raizada manor, sipping their morning cups of tea.
"It's good. Our stock prices have risen by 5%. I was thinking about releasing some more shares of our company into the market." Arnav replied, looking at his father.
But he was suddenly distracted by the now very familiar person near the Manor, right behind his father and didn't hear what his father had to say to the proposal.
She was wearing a saffron coloured Salwar suit and her hair was tied up in a bun. Bending over, she was inspecting the large beds of hyacinths planted near the walls of the Manor while at the same time, instructing the other workers to plant the orchids that were recently purchased.
He knew that in exactly a month, the flowers would bloom perfectly and add an extra beauty to the already enchanting Raizada Manor.
Looking around, for the first time he observed how the compound was planted with so many new and rare varieties of flowers. That was the speciality of the Raizada Manor and he remembered how fifteen years ago, they used to even have flower exhibitions for a week and the entire town used to be invited for it.
He had no idea whether the custom was still practised but the garden still looked worthy enough for an exhibition. And from the way Khushi was inspecting the flower beds, it looked like she was responsible for the maintenance of the Raizada garden.
He couldn't help but smile remembering how naive Khushi had been in her childhood.
It had been exactly a week since Khushi had arrived at the Raizada Manor and she was slowly starting to warm up to the Raizada siblings. The amazing colourful gardens had immediately caught her fancy and she used to stand and stare at the Red Ginger lilies most of the time, completely fascinated by their colour.
"You like them?" The eight year old Arnav had walked towards her, nearly scaring her at his sudden interruption. It had been just two days after Arnav had come to know that Khushi was an orphan and he had empathised with her situation and taken an instant liking towards the little girl.
The five year old Khushi had only nodded her head, her hazel eyes lit up with a smile.
"You want one?" Arnav had asked back. At first, she had hesitated to respond, but slowly gathering all the courage she had, her head had bobbed in a 'yes'.
"Do you know what is it?" Arnav had asked, reaching out to the roots of the plant to pull one stem out.
"No." her tiny voice had squeaked as she too had bent down curiously to watch him pull out the plant.
"It is a Red Ginger Lily." Arnav had explained giving the plant to her. "You need to take good care of it. Just like how we eat food and drink water, it needs food and water too." And the little girl had nodded eagerly to his every word and taken the plant and run down to her house in the valley.
And a week later, she had come crying to him bringing the same plant but in a dried and dead state back to him. "I put water and food to it, everyday." She had explained pouting her face while sobbing. "But it still died."
Arnav had laughed at her absolute stupidity. "Arrey silly girl! You forgot to plant it in a pot. It needs soil too."
"But you had said only food and water. I put my biscuit and water for the roots everyday." She had replied innocently and that was the first time, he had pulled her into a warm hug and pacified her, laughing at her naivety.
"Arnav?" His father's voice brought him back to reality. "What's so amusing?"
"Nothing Dad." Arnav had replied back, trying to purse his lips together, but however hard he tried, he couldn't stop from smiling looking at how Khushi had been then and how now, she was confidently taking care of the entire garden.
Arthur instantly turned around and found Khushi standing in the direction of Arnav's vision.
Honestly, the elder man had been quite surprised at the lack of interaction between the two people who once couldn't be spotted without each other. Maybe that's what fifteen years did, he concluded and sighing, turned back to see Arnav's eyes lost behind him.
Arnav knocked on the oak door sceptically, wondering why he had been invited to his sister's room at this hour. From inside, he could hear women's voices followed by some squeaks and hushes. Widening his eyes in alarm, he pondered over his decision to go inside, but before he could change his mind, the door opened and he saw Khushi's face pop up in between the gap.
She had one of those foolish smiles on her face which she had when she was doing something silly. Arnav involuntarily smiled back at Khushi and found her immediately sobering up with his reaction towards her.
"Chotay Saab, come in quickly. We were waiting for you." Khushi replied, pulling him inside the room tugging his arm, for a minute forgetting everything else, just like the old times when she had full right over him as a best friend.
Only a second later, she had realised her slip and biting her tongue, she had looked up into his surprised eyes and apologised. "I'm sorry."
Before he could reply, he heard Anjali's voice behind her. "Bhai! How do I look? How's my reception dress?" She screamed with excitement.
Arnav looked at absolute amazement at his baby sister, all grown up wearing a traditional maroon and pink Lehenga. He simply leaned against the door and a small smile curved up his lips.
"What? Say something! Do I look too fat in this? Is the colour combo bad? Is the jewellery too much? Should I replace anything?" Anjali went on shooting questions at him in utter panic while he continued to remain silent and smile at her. "Bhai! You are not helping. I called you thinking that you would be in a better position to judge this dress from a man's point of view. But you are not helping at all." She screamed at him.
"Anjali Memsaab, I think Chotey Saab likes this entire outfit." Khushi spoke on behalf of Arnav, looking at him. And he couldn't stop his eyes from travelling from his sister and stopping at her face.
"Isn't it Chotey Saab?" She asked, looking in his eye.
"No, Khushi. I'm sure something is wrong with this dress. Please can you pull the doris of the blouse tighter?" Anjali asked, observing her reflection in the full length mirror.
"Anjali Memsaab, if I pull it more tight, the blouse will definitely split open in the sides and you don't want that." Khushi said, adjusting Anjali's outfit and saw his smile widen even more.
"First of all Khushi, stop with your Memsaab, chotey saab thing. It's quite annoying to the ears. Makes me feel as if I'm some old Queen of some castle. God knows Bhai, what's wrong with her? From the time I've come here, she's going on calling me Memsaab. And you Bhai, stop smiling and give me your honest opinion." Anjali blasted out at both of them.
"He won't say anything. He will only keep smiling till you reach your threshold of being annoyed." Khushi laughed, looking at him and found his one eyebrow automatically quirk upwards to her response.
"And you both are my Memsaab and Chotey Saab. I was just forgetting my manners when I was a kid." Khushi replied and found his smile suddenly falter for a second. "And believe me, you are looking very beautiful Memsaab, just like a Queen. Your groom will be knocked off his feet when he will see you."
Arnav leaned away from the wall and slowly ambled towards them. Stopping right in front of his sister, he gazed at her from top to bottom, before scrunching up his face in a confused expression. To his surprise, he found Khushi laughing at him and for a minute, he forgot everything.
That one ominous day vanished and all that remained was three kids, having fun with each other.
"You want my honest opinion?" he asked with a serious face, causing Anjali to panic even more. "The choli is a bit too small. I doubt Dad would approve it and what's with all this jewellery?" he asked with an even more serious face, trying to control his smile and when Anjali's eyes nearly welled up with his comments, he couldn't control it anymore. "Just kidding Chutki. You are looking perfect." He said, cupping her face and hugging her.
"I hate you Bhai." Anjali was nearly crying now while Khushi stood silently beside them, smiling at the two siblings. So what if Arnav behaved differently towards her? He was still close to his family and the same old brother and son to them.
Not wanting to intrude the private moment between the siblings, Khushi simply turned around and stepped out of the room, closing the door behind her with a satisfied smile on her face, unaware of the fact that the molten brown eyes had followed her, all the way out, a strange sort of sting dwelling in them at her earlier words.
The morning air was filled with shrieks of excitement and laughter as Anjali rushed and flung herself onto the arms of a six foot tall figure standing at the doorstep of the Raizada Manor. With Blue aviators on his eyes, along with donning a Green Polo T-shirt and dark blue Armani jeans, he looked no less than a hero walked out directly from an action movie.
"Welcome home." Anjali winked at him, pecking the lips of her fiance, RK also known to the world as Captain Ranvijay Khurrana.
Ranvijay Khurrana was the son of India's famous industrialist, Dushyant Khurrana. The Khurranas owned the Construction Business that spanned nearly seven states of India and thus, Ranvijay being the only son was the sole heir to all that property. But fate had decided to play mischief and the boy had instead decided to pursue a career in Aviation.
However, he hadn't forsaken his father's wealth inspite of his decision but rather chosen a life of extravagance. It had been during one of such lavish parties in the night clubs of Amsterdam where he had first met Anjali, a university student pursuing her degree in Economics.
And the two had instantly fallen in love with each other. The bad boy had fallen for the geek and now, two years later, they were finally getting hitched.
"Bhai, this is Ranvijay." Anjali finally introduced her fiance to her brother.
"Hello Arnav. I've heard a lot about you." The thirty year old had extended his hand to greet him.
"What a coincidence! Even I've heard a lot about you." Arnav had replied sarcastically looking at his sister and the other guy had laughed at his answer.
Arnav didn't know what to make out of this man. He seemed intelligent, but his eyes were cunning like the fox, always roaming around everywhere and noticing everything. Atleast that's what it appeared to him. He also had an air of confidence in him, which narrowly bordered on arrogance and honestly, Arnav was sceptical about him and preferred reserving his judgement for another day.
"You have a lovely house Anjali and from what I can see around, looks like our honeymoon can also be accommodated here." Ranvijay said, earning a mortifying glare from Anjali.
"Vij!" She warned him in a low tone bordering on a growl and her fiance laughed at her, pulling her quickly for a surprise smooch.
But then, the two love birds had not been able to control their hormones after being away from each other for a long time, resulting in their quick smooch to turn into a long French kiss, without even bothering about their surroundings, until they had been interrupted by the noise of someone coughing.
Arnav had already turned around, deciding to give the couple their privacy and as it is, the sight of seeing your younger sister with another man wasn't a comfortable sight for the elder brothers.
But instead of finding the glass windows of the house to focus on, he had found Khushi standing near the wall, her eyes now focussed on her Memsaab and her Memsaab's fiance making out with each other.
And Arnav had observed her with utter amusement as her face had first paled at the initial sight, followed by her cheeks reddening with embarrassment at the realisation of what she was actually witnessing in front of her. Turning as red as a tomato, she had bit her tongue and turned around instantly, only to find the other Raizada members coming towards the main door, causing her to cough out loudly to warn the busy couple.
"Silly girl!" Arnav had muttered under his breath, his face widening with a smirk at her silly antics. She was still the same, wasn't she?
And then, a long list of pleasantries was exchanged between the family and Ranvijay after which he was finally taken inside the house. However, Arnav hadn't missed out how Khushi would always stay in one corner and listen to the family's talks with a small smile on her face.
There was a strange yearning in her eyes, as if she longed to be with the family, a family she never had. He noticed how her face would instantly change when any of the family members noticed her presence and how she would turn around pretending to be tending to the household work around her.
Arnav Singh Raizada's observant eyes didn't miss any of it.
And for the first time, he noticed a tinge of sadness behind that huge smile on her face.
"So, Arnav, do you have any plans to apply for commercial pilot licence? I can get you in." Ranvijay said, as they sat at the mini bar in the old colonial house, sipping their drinks. Being the owners of one of the finest Distilleries in the world, the Raizadas had a huge collection of world's finest liquor stacked in their bar and it was a natural thing for any of their guests to have a few drinks with them. Thus, Arnav and Ranvijay had decided to swig down few and get to know more about each other in that session.
"No, atleast not at the moment. I prefer to stick to the ground instead of flying on the clouds." Arnav had replied back causing the other man to chuckle.
"You know, you are quite amusing, even more than your sister." The other man had replied earning a smirk from Arnav. But the two gentlemen were interrupted by the door opening and with both their attentions now focussed on it, they saw Khushi entering the room with a tray containing a huge jug in her hand.
"Chotey Saab, here is your ice as you requested." She said looking at Arnav particularly, keeping the tray beside them.
"Actually it was me who had requested it." Ranvijay instantly replied, looking at Khushi with particular interest in her. And Arnav's eyes which were on Khushi a second earlier, now flew to Ranvijay who suddenly seemed interested in her. Before he knew it, he saw Ranvijay's hands stealthily creep towards Khushi and graze her arm uncomfortably.
"Honey, you are too pretty to be working as a maid for the Raizadas. You would easily get a job as an airhostess since your interest is in serving people. And anyone would love to be served by women like you." Ranvijay had said, observing her from top to bottom, causing Khushi to squirm uneasily.
It wasn't even a second after those words had left Ranvijay's mouth and Arnav didn't know what was happening to him. There was a sudden release of energy, a deadly fire igniting inside him, the intensity so powerful, he thought that his insides would thaw out with it.
All that he could see were those helpless eyes, a strange cold fear dwelling in them, a fear which had paralysed her that day and which paralysed her even at this moment, right in front of his eyes. They were petrified, as if the life in them had completely stopped and her face was devoid of all colour, as if she had stopped breathing.
He didn't even realise when the grip on his whiskey glass had become dangerously hard nor had he realised when his palms had turned sweaty, the rage blinding him.
It had taken all his control to remind himself that the man in front of him was going to be his brother-in-law as he spoke. "Ranvijay, leave the girl alone." Arnav had replied calmly, nearly grinding his teeth with all that restraint over himself.
"Oh come on Arnav! Don't you think she's a pretty woman? And don't stare at me as if you are all holy and pious man. I've heard a lot of stories about you. The British Tabloids have atleast one article about you daily." The other man had said, winking at him. "And hey! I'm not married yet. I assume I can have some fun before I enter a lifelong relationship of fidelity with your sister."
Arnav didn't know when the grip on his glass had become so hard to shatter the entire glass, tearing the skin of his palm apart and only when the sound of it shattering had echoed the entire room, had Ranvijay finally shut his mouth with shock at what had just happened.
"LEAVE KHUSHI ALONE!" Arnav had roared blaringly, and immediately pulled Khushi from his grip towards him with that same bloodied hand, standing as a shield between her and Ranvijay. His eyes were reddened with the sudden increase of blood pressure while his hands were trembling at the shock of his own intensity.
The next second, he had seen the door open as his father, mother and sister had all come running anxiously to the room hearing the sudden outburst.
"What happened?" Arthur had asked, noticing the tiny shards of glass spattered on the floor while Naina had gasped with shock seeing her son's hand holding Khushi's arm, all dripping with blood.
"Vij? Bhai?" Anjali had come running towards them, trying to figure out what had just happened.
But Arnav couldn't answer because he himself didn't know what had happened to him a minute earlier.
Neither of the three could speak anything.
Ranvijay was the first to recover. "Dad, it was a small accident. I guess the glass wasn't strong enough for Arnav's grip." He had lied looking at Arnav. There was no way he could tell them what had actually happened. Even he was too shocked to react to it.
"Arnav, go and get the first aid done." Arthur had replied, letting out a sigh. He was not a man of fussing and knowing that his son was old enough to take care of himself, he turned around and left.
"Chotey, come with me." His mother had pulled his other uninjured hand, but Arnav hadn't moved.
He was frozen in his spot, not knowing what had happened or what was happening to him. And then, his eyes had slowly travelled down to his hand, stopping at the spot where he was still holding Khushi's arm, the spot reddened with his blood and ascended up to look at her paled face. She was just staring at him blankly.
No tears, no emotions, nothing. Only haunting emptiness.
Arnav had immediately felt his grip loosen around her, while his hand had fallen limp against his body, finally releasing her. And without uttering a word to anyone, he had stormed out of the room, not knowing where he was going, not knowing what he was doing.
Next update will be on Sunday the 21st.
NEW READERS! ATTENTION!
Thank you for taking an interest in this FF. For those who haven't been with me when I wrote Mirage, here are some points to be noted.
I'm probably the only writer in this Forum who doesn't send PMs for updates. It is because I find the task quite time consuming and most of the people who I send PMs to hardly bother to read. So I'm simply wasting my precious time. Hence, do not take it otherwise that I'm selectively ignoring your buddy requests. I strongly believe that if you like the FF, you will follow it at any cost. So your only option to follow this FF is to bookmark it. And in this FF, I will let you know in advance when the next chapter will be posted, so that you don't have to waste your time waiting for an update.
Now a general point about the FF.
I DO NOT visualise my characters as they were in IPKKND serial. So Arnav for me doesn't look like Barun or Khushi isn't like Sanaya. But you are free to imagine them in a way that suits you. One of you had a hard time imagining Dadi like IPKKND Dadi. Believe me, she is nowhere close to that.
I imagined Dadi to look somewhat like actress Maggie Smith except with longer hair. Google her. Dadi is a British for God's sake. So she is supposed to be British looking.
And remember, Arnav is also three eighths British. Right now, there is only one actor in India would resembles my description. But I wouldn't want to force my imagination upon you. You are free to imagine him as you like.
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