Joined: 26 August 2012
He smiled at the memory of Khushi wiping off plates after plates of jalebis as he walked back to his apartment. His car was still at outside the block Khushi lived in, as he gave in to the temptation of taking a walk on this breezy night. It was a short walk from her place to his, hardly ten minutes, he could pick up his car before leaving for work the next day. Arnav loved this time of the night, it was dark but not deserted. He bought a small packet of peanuts from the teenaged boy at the roadside and munched on it on his way back home while he thought over his evening with Khushi. He knew she was unhappy and the fact he couldn't do much about it broke his heart. He understood where Shashi came from, and consciously tried not to form an opinion about his actions. He was her father and would always come first. He himself would always be there for her, but he didn't think he had the right to override or argue with what Shashi decided for Khushi. Shashi was her father and that was his prerogative. But despite all that he couldn't help but blame him for Khushi's present unhappiness, the girl looked lost, like she was slowly losing all hope. The girl he had fallen in love with was full of joy and a zest for life, and he hated to see what was becoming of her. He would do what he could and what he should in his position - be there for her, always.
Before he knew he was at the door to his apartment. He knew his grandmother would be asleep, and so took out his keys and opened the door, trying his best to do it as quietly as possible. And what he saw inside made him smile widely in surprise.
"Di!" he said excitedly as he closed the door behind and walked up to his sister and embraced her in a tight hug.
"Chote, speak softly. Nani is asleep" she said as she hugged him back just as tightly.
He stepped back and placed a soft kiss on her temple. He missed her presence dearly ever since her marriage a three years ago, the intensity only increasing with every passing day.
She held his hand, dragged him to the couch and made him sit. "Did you eat at Khushi's? Nani told me you were there."
"I did. When did you get here Di?"
"A few hours back. I was missing you all too much." she said smiling brightly.
"Why didn't you call me when you came? I would have come home sooner."
"Nani told me it was Khushi's first day at work. Also about how Shashi Uncle forced her into it. I thought it was important you be with her."
"Di you don't have to always be this understanding. "
"That applies to you too." she replied sternly.
"Di please, I don't want us to argue right now, we just met after weeks!" he really didn't want to have the conversation he knew would follow, it had happened several times in the past and always left him anxious.
"Alright, I'll drop it. But I have always said this and I will warn you again, she is a nice girl but has a tendency to take you for granted, do not tolerate that. Even if you do, I sure as hell won't." she asserted meaning every word she said.
"Alright Anjali Devi, point noted. I'll just wash my face and come, then we can talk for sometime."
"No Chote, I'm sure you've had a long day. Go get some sleep, we'll talk tomorrow when I bring you your morning tea, okay? I'll just wait to Aakash for sometime and then hit the sack" she said sweetly as she ruffled his hair.
"Don't wait for him Di, I'm sure he is with Payal, she must have called him after I left."
"I thought you said he now knows his clandestine meetings with Payal is no secret to anyone!"
"Oh yes, he does. Now I think they just do it for fun, Payal must have realised this is the boldest Aakash can get."
"Chote!" she mock-glared at him, "You are too mean to him sometimes."
"I know. Its fun. Admit it Di, it IS fun."
"I admit no such thing." she said, trying her best to put on a serious face. "Does he have the house keys?"
"Yes, Di. He keeps them handy, to secretly enter the apartment after his secret meetings with his secret girlfriend", he chuckled. Anjali couldn't help the giggle that escaped her mouth. "Fine, I'll go sleep now. And you too, off to bed. I'll see you in the morning."
"Yes Hitler Didi. Shubhratri" he gave her a mock salute before he turned around and walked to his room.
Anjali looked at her brother's retreating back and sent a prayer to God to ensure his happiness. She adored Khushi for the person she was, but always felt her brother deserved better. Khushi was one who would never forfeit her independent happiness for anyone. On the other hand, she was unaware of the extent to which Arnav had allowed her the power over his life and his happiness, and that worried Anjali. She did love Arnav, but Anjali was certain Khushi did not treasure him the way he ought be.
She banged her laptop shut and reached for the newspapers. She couldn't do this now. She had thought reworking on her manuscript would help her clear her head like it always did, but this time it didn't help. On the contrary, it made her feel even more frustrated. She felt...disinterested. The thought scared her and she decided not to push it any further. Was it the fatigue from the day or the faade she had put in front of her family? Or the fact that no matter how many times she reworked it, how many drafts she prepared, Arnav had not given his whole hearted approval. He was supportive but maintained that her work lacked perspective, dimension. Whatever it was, she realised it had gotten to her today and she couldn't even get herself to read through her manuscript, forget refining.
Arnav had left and the only way she could clear her head now was a word game. Having already solved the one on the main paper with Arnav, she looked through the supplements to find another one. She was disgusted at some of the news she skimmed through while she searched for a puzzle, apparently there were those who thought a girl who isn't a skinny blonde didn't deserve a Wimbledon Championship*.
She finally found the puzzle she was looking for and started working on it. It successfully distracted her from the chaos that was her mind and she was almost through when she heard a knock on her door. It could only be Payal, her parents had gone to bed long back.
"Come in jiji"
She was surprised to find her father standing at the door; "Its me, beta, do you mind if your father sat with you for a few minutes?" he asked politely.
"Of course Papa, you need not even ask. Why are you up so late anyway? Are you not feeling well?"
Shashi walked in and sat on the chair next to her table. "Nothing of the sort dear, I was just thirsty and got up to get some water. I saw the light to your room was still on, so..."
"Its okay Papa. I wasn't sleepy, so was trying to look for something to do."
"You think Akash is still around?" he whispered.
"I think so, I heard Payal's loud "you idiot!" about ten minutes ago." she replied giggling.
"I see you found what you were looking for." he said his eyes pointing to the puzzle in her hands trying to break the awkward silence between them and saw Khushi nod. "You used to come to me for help when you were younger, unfortunately I was never good with words and I couldn't offer you any help." he said looking at nothing in particular. Khushi sensed he was trying to say something more and allowed him the time to collect his words. He spoke after a few moments, "I think I am still the same Khushi, hopeless with words." and chuckled mirthlessly.
"You are right and you are wrong Papa." she said softly. For a second Shashi's eyes widened in surprise, but he composed himself just as quickly and asked, "Why do you say so?"
"You are bad with words, that is true. But that doesn't mean you couldn't help me. You always have."
"You have never really needed any help, Khushi. Yes you would come to me in the beginning, but my inability to offer any help never deterred you. You always find a way. You always have." he repeated her statement.
"Because you've had faith in me. When I have that, I don't need anything else. And when I don't..." she felt her throat clog.
"You always have that Khushi. Never for a second think that I don't believe in you. But I want you to have more. I want you to have everything. All that I could give and all that I couldn't. I want you to have it all."
She wanted to say so much, tell him that she truly believed she could have it all only when she followed her heart, that she could never be happy doing what she was doing right now, but she couldn't bring herself to say it aloud. Her father seemed to have made up his mind not to let her pleas get to him, and she was tired of trying. She loved her father and just kept reminding herself of that fact to stop herself from resenting the man in front of her, who was hell bent on keeping her from pursuing her dream.
Shashi looked at his daughter, the turmoil and the anguish evident on her face. If only she knew he felt the same, perhaps worse knowing that his daughter probably hated him at the moment. He felt like heart was physically being torn apart, for he wanted to give in to what his child wanted so fervently, but had to stop himself from doing so. She prided her independence and to a large extent that was the trait that defined her; he wanted that to be her strength and never her folly. So lost was he in his thoughts he didn't hear Khushi addressing him until she raised her a voice a few notches.
"Papa?" he finally heard her voice. "Are you okay?"
He looked at her and nodded.
"Would you like to help me with this puzzle? I just need to crack the last two clues" she asked smiling. She just wanted to ease the tension that had filled the room, and she couldn't bare to see the crestfallen look on her father's face.
"I thought we reaffirmed I am no good at this stuff."
"We also reaffirmed your guidance is always helpful." she said seriously.
"Alright then." he locked his fingers and leaned forward.
"7 letter word for a place or a state from which there is no escape."
"Deadlock ?" he asked tentatively after racking his brains for 10 seconds. To him it felt like an hour.
"That's 8 letters Papa."
" I should have known. Its too simple, doesn't even sound crossword-like."
"Yeah, you know the big words one only ever comes across in really thick books."
"Pa! You know-"
"Alright alright. 7 letters you said?"
"Actually, we'll come back to this later. I already have 3 of the 7 letters filled in. The next word should give us the 4th. Wait - wow this next one is meant for you. 6 Letters - A 1978 John Travolta musical. The first letter-"
"Grease!" he almost got off the chair in his excitement and looked at his daughter expectantly.
"Are you sure Papa? " she teased. It was correct, it fit.
"I am sure this one is correct. I can be wrong about your funny words but a Travolta film? No way. It is Grease alright." he said defensively. "And it had Olivia Newton-John, we don't forget details like that" he added, his eyes now twinkling. Khushi just shook her head.
"Okay so now we can look at the last one. Grease would mean the fourth letter is an a. So we have im _ a_ _ e.
They arrived at it together.
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Joined: 24 April 2012
Well im no expert in all these emoshuns and all, but from where I sat, I never thought that Khushi was ... you know ... not giving Arnav his worth. I thought they were pretty balanced out, yeah?
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