Chapter Twenty Four
Let's Make Babies!
Khushi hastily skipped down the staircase straightening her white floral saree and tucking the loose tendril that had escaped her bun. Today she had to visit a village 100 Kms from Rewa to do the preliminary work on the Women's workshop. She headed for the breakfast room not wanting to start her journey late, otherwise her entire schedule for the day would derail. Not expecting anybody there at 6:30 in the morning, since everybody generally took their breakfast at 7:30 she walked towards the room. But not today, as she opened the door she found Arnav dressed for work in his crisp white formal attire, sipping his coffee he was completely engrossed in reading the paper that he held in the other hand. At the click of the door he looked up and smiled.
Without acknowledging it Khushi gingerly walked towards the table, almost certain now she couldn't do an about turn without looking silly. But she chose to take the sit opposite Arnav, ditching her usual position next to him. Arnav wished her " good morning" which again she ignored, resigned he went back to reading his paper. His almost clean plate indicated that he was near finishing his breakfast, yet Khushi hurriedly grabbed a paratha and pickle that she preferred over the continental spread that the rest of the members enjoyed.
Keeping his eyes glued to his paper Arnav raised one hand in mid- air and addressed Khushi, "Khushi, pass me the juice."
Annoyed Khushi flippantly shot back, "Why? Would that fetch you votes?" Arnav looked up, unabashed amusement evident on his face, he put the paper aside and he replied in a deliberate low tone punching it with an impish smile, " I just may. With you my dear, I could fetch almost anything...conquer the world... Even win the next world war. " he teased her with a dramatic flair.
Khushi looked away and started toying with her pallu under the table, the man and his golden tongue, he first lures with it then spews out venom with the same. She didn't want to sit there and be subjected to some more of his artful games, Khushi made to get up and leave when Arnav said as he folded the newspaper then wiping his mouth with the napkin, " Wait, you don't need to get up. Finish your breakfast at leisure... I am done." He got up poured the juice in his glass and walked out with it in hand.
Khushi let out a sigh, she had been a wretch around him lately, never managing to suppress her turmoil since his candid confession of few days back. As she continued with her breakfast Anjali walked into the room instantly changing her mood, Khushi cheerfully wished her "Good morning, you are up early."
Anjali made herself comfortable on a chair opposite Khushi's just beside the chair Arnav had recently vacated. "Yes, couldn't sleep."
" That's good, we haven't met for so long. Now we can catch up."
" And all thanks to Mrs. Busy bee that we haven't been able to meet." Anjali lightly teased her sister- in-law as she started helping herself with the breakfast.
With slight apprehension Khushi asked, " I heard Arnavji spoke to Maasaheb. What happened?"
" You told him didn't you?" Khushi turned down her head guilty at her small betrayal whereas Anjali shook hers and continued, "He did speak."
" And?" Khushi asked anxiously.
" And what? Maasaheb has already shortlisted a few candidates." With a sullen demeanour Anjali started having her scrambled eggs.
" But why? He did speak to her, right? Then how..." Khushi paused then scoffed, contempt dripping in the words that followed, "Oh wait, did he then realise that his sister's marriage can actually bolster his political career and happily suppressed his brotherly concern?"
" No Khushi! I don't know what is amiss between Dada and you lately, but you are wrong. He sat me down with my mother and asked me to turn down the whole marriage idea. He infact had everything prepared for my Cambridge course, Khushi. I know that you married Dada on precarious grounds, but I thought, now you knew better." Anjali was disappointed seeing that her friend couldn't get her brother albeit complicated he was everything any relation can hope for.
" Well, wouldn't he do anything for winning those elections? And then why is Maasaheb still looking for proposals when he has already spoken to her? And of what I have seen she does listen to him, grudgingly so, but nonetheless she does give in."
" That's because, I told him I want to get married!" Khushi stared at Anjali in disbelief. "and I don't want you to meddle in this Khushi, let things be... As for Dada doing anything for winning elections... You don't know nothing about him! You don't know that he never wanted to get into politics. He hated it. You don't know what he gave up to come down to rescue his family from defamation! And now, all he wants to do is to win it because then he doesn't have to answer the guy that rests within him and who by the way, he killed brutally all those years back. Dada has no identity left now apart from what he chooses to show others. So don't sit there and judge his integrity." Anjali's eyes watered as all the memories of her former brother flashed right back. When she met Khushi she had believed that she would bring her jovial brother back to life, to circle that hardened soul and envelope him with warmth and affection.
Khushi was shocked at Anjali's reaction, but she could see the love and pain in that outburst for her brother, Anjali briskly got up and started moving towards the door, when Khushi spoke up in a soft voice, " But Anjali if he never shows his identity how will I know any of this?"
Without facing Khushi, Anjali said, " Then maybe you should dig deep to know more. Ofcourse, that is if you want to...because he will never voluntarily open the door to his past. And no one else is allowed to either."
Khushi followed Anjali as she left the room, she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that Anjali was hinting at something. Khushi really didn't want to think about it at the moment, there were lot of things that needed her attention first and the answer to one of them strode in from the other end, " Hello Khushi, Good Morning." Aman's pleasant and welcome presence always made her forget about all that was going wrong in her life, she smiled and wished him back.
" Where's ASR?"
" I am not sure, maybe in his study. Amanji, how did the investigation go? Did Rashid Chacha say anything?"
Though a small smile played on Aman's face his voice was grim, " It may take some more time Khushi, he seems nervous and so isn't very forthcoming."
" When can I meet him?"
" There are some protocols that need to be followed and until the authorities get a proper statement no ones allowed to meet him."
" But maybe if he meets me, he would get the courage to speak up. I need to know what's holding him." Khushi desperately pleaded.
Aman nodded, " I will see what I can do."
" Thank you". Khushi started moving towards the entrance door when Aman stopped her, " Khushi, did you just come from the breakfast room?"
"Yes, why?" Aman sheepishly smiled and said, " That husband of yours made me come here at the crack of dawn and I didn't have any thing to eat."
Khushi smiled at him, " I will have the breakfast sent to the study."
" Your an angel. Thank you." Aman moved to climb up the stairs in quick strides.
" Hmmm, Khushi beta, no one gets the authencity of the Butte ki Kees right. We have so many cooks but no one can cook it the way you cook it." Rajmata sat in the tea room enjoying the local delicacy that her grand daughter- in - law had prepared specially for her.
" And I am so glad you have finally chosen to spend time with this old woman. You my dear have become so busy... it is not that I am not happy, infact I am very proud of you but do take out time for yourself too, otherwise you will just end up becoming like your overworked husband." Rajmata compassionately smiled at the girl who was gradually blossoming but was worried that her relationship with her grandson had not really moved forward.
" Today I will spend the entire day with you Daadi. I have taken the day off. As for me turning into a workaholic like Arnavji... I don't think so I can make work my entire life as he has done."
" You are right, Beta. But he has made it his life because he doesn't want to live one and that's sad because the boy actually knew how to live a life to its fullest." Khushi furrowed her brows, two people in a span of few days had mentioned about he giving up on life. What happened in his past? She couldn't separate politics from Arnav's persona even for a second, he seemed to be a natural at it.
" Hello Daadi" dressed in casuals for a change, Arnav sauntered in with his hands stuffed in his trouser pockets. Khushi immediately looked away as he lowered down to sit on a settee opposite his grandmother, and he did notice her snub.
" Aaah, today seems to be my lucky day. I am blessed by the company of both my grandson and his wife." Arnav hunched down to rest his elbows on his knees, laced his fingers and looked up at his wife, now slightly annoyed at her brush - off. "Khushi made this for me. You should try it Arnav. It is delicious." Rajmata offered her plate, Arnav took a spoonful, " Hmmm, nice."
Rajmata looked at Arnav and said " You both should try to take out some time for this old lady. If not give me a great grand child to spend my day with and I won't bother you." Khushi jerked her head to look at Arnav, bewilderment flashing in her eyes as a beautiful pink flushed her cheeks, amused at this transition, Arnav decided it was payback time. You just can't go Scott free after rubbing Arnav Singh Raizada the wrong way. " I am more than willing Daadi, but every time I enter a room your grandaughter- in - law sprints in the opposite direction." Khushi squinted her eyes to glare at her husband, completely aware that he was exploiting the situation as always.
Daadi lightly slapped Arnav shoulder as said, " Don't tease the innocent girl, Arnav."
" Exactly Daadi, since she is SO innocent I am ready to give her lessons on how to make babies." Flummoxed Khushi looked at Arnav, completely shocked at her free- swinging husband." Theoretical...theoretical lessons" He added with a roguish smile. She wished she could slap the smug smile of his face or...or stomp open the floor and bury herself right there. But Arnav didn't relent inspite of being aware of her discomfiture.
" But even for that, Daadi we need to sit together in a room. it's not like she can throw in an egg and I can..." he paused for impact and then continued, " I could have explained everything in detail but I don't want to embarrass Daadi here." Khushi's jaw dropped, he clearly knew he was embarrassing her not Daadi because his grandmother was clearly entertained by this one- sided jest- session.
Khushi wanted to run out and scream! This man was incorrigible. He suddenly rose and said, " Come on Khushi, let's make babies." Khushi stood still in shock completely mortified at his words she pinned him with an accusatory gaze. "Relax, that's the title of the lesson 'let's make babies'. Weren't you a teacher? Aren't you aware that every lesson has a title?" He winked at her and left the room, leaving behind a girl whose heart was pounding so hard against her rib cage, that she was almost certain there were a few hairline cracks there.
What was one supposed to do when they were subjected to this easy charm? His hypnotic magnetism would drive a sane person mad, he made her forget everything at such times. If he could be so charming on one end then why does he don this impenetrable mask at other times? Khushi knew she couldn't wait till things decided to unfold naturally, she was too involved now and she as his wife had the right to know what makes his personality oscillate from North to South within seconds. That day's confession was the brutal truth, and even when she only wanted to hear the truth from him, her heart had weighed down with sheer disappointment at his blunt words, Khushi somewhere wanted him to deny everything she had overheard, she wanted him to tell her that his actions were always genuine. Anjali's advice came back rushing to her mind.
He won't open he door to his past? Did his past have the answers to her questions? Open the door... Right! Maybe that room which she accidently stepped into had some answers.
She knew he was insanely furious at her error that day, but she will have to go there again to find answers and that too soon.
And four days later, the opportunity walked right into her lap. Arnav had left early morning to Mumbai to attend to some urgent work. Though she didn't know when he would return she decided she will attend to her daily commitments at the NGO and then after dinner do some digging. Two days back she had sneaked in to see where he kept the key, so when she entered the empty room she directly headed to the desk drawer to extract the key.
She felt like a thief, she had never done anything so sneaky in her entire life, with a wildly thumping heart she entered the small room, she groped for the switch and turned around to latch the door from inside just incase someone walked in. Like before she was drawn to the paintings, the bold rhythmic brush strokes and the vibrant use of colours pulled her there, she picked one from the front stack, it was an abstract painting, as she was a novice and knew nothing about art she couldn't make head or tail of it. Did Arnavji collect art? But she picked up another canvas and noticed that the style was the same, Ofcourse she also found a few traditional landscapes but something about the pattern, distinct style, indicated that it was by the same artist, stunned by the beautiful work present in the room, she started rapidly going through more canvases, each one leaving her more raptured. She moved a few rows down and found a few portraits too, and some were scandulous! They had female models lying completely naked with not a stitch on them, she turned a beetroot red and looked away, but her eyes kept moving back to the perfection that the paintings represented, the expressions of the model's faces were beautifully captured, each plane of the body perfectly detailed. As she looked deep, she found there was one model who was repeated often, and she mostly featured in face portraits, a mass of burgundy curls, bright vibrant smile, a pierced eyebrow, her vivaciousness came alive through the several canvases she picked.
Then there were other paintings, which were bit too modern for her taste, but the similar strokes surprisingly she recognised through all the works she had gone through. A heavy feeling settled and she knew the answer but to confirm it she moved on to the small room on her right. She didn't have the keys to it and hoped that it wasn't locked. Khushi turned the knob and mercifully it gave in.
The room was dark except for the moonlight which drenched in through the huge window on the opposite wall, even from the distance she noticed the shimmering water of the lake that could be viewed from Arnavji's study. This view itself appeared like a masterpiece with the reflection of the moon and beam path highlighting the ripples in the otherwise steady lake. She blindly looked for the switch, the room filled in with illumination in mere seconds, but she stood there nailed to the spot for a good few minutest taking in every new detail of the space. A big easel stood at the centre of the room, next to it was a low distressed table stained with multitude of colours and carried lots of bottles, tubes of colours, a big holder had several brushes and painting tools, colourful rag cloths, pallates were lying around, a white flannel shirt again stained with colours hung on the top end of the easel, there were empty canvases lying around everywhere. She scored through cupboards that carried sketch books and some more with pencils and some chemicals. She reluctantly moved towards the easel picked up the shirt and inhaled deep in it, the familiar fragrance confirmed her premonitions, that the artist of the wonderful work that was carelessly dumped in the outside room was none other than her husband.
Khushi slumped on his stool, shocked she sat there completely blank then she allowed herself to fondly touched the table, the colours, the brushes. Her hardened, practical - to- the- core husband, was an artist! And not an ordinary one at that he was exceptional. The work she had just witnessed was nothing short of genius. She opened the drawers, thirsty to swallow in some more knowledge on her husband, wanting to know every detail about the mysterious man. She tried to imagine Arnav sitting on this stool, wearing that shirt and painting. It was hard to imagine him anything other than the straight dressed suave politician that she had known him to be. But she found more papers with beautiful pencil sketches, again the bold pencil strokes were impressive, certifying this brilliantly talented side of her husband..
So was this what he gave up? A career in art? But he could have continued with it now as well. Why was his this life never mentioned in papers or public? Why was he ignored by the family before? Why didn't anybody from the family ever mention him before he came down to India? Being an artist couldn't be so bad that you as good as disown your child.
'UFFF!' though she had discovered a very beautiful side to her husband, that she really appreciated and somehow her respect for him only grew making it difficult for her to hate him, this trip had only added to her pile of questions regarding Arnav. Who will give her the rest of the story? Can she expect anything from the horse? She sighed in resignation and got up, carefully she moved in the outer room and slowly she walked out from there latching the door with utmost care.
She placed the keys in the drawer and started moving out deep in thoughts, " Khusheee?" She froze to the spot, her heart stopped beating, when the familiar albeit a heavily slurred voice reached her from the sofa which she knew was just inches away. She slowly pivoted her head to the right to find an almost empty liquor bottle sitting there. Her husband was clearly drunk!
" Khooosheee? are you here to make babieej?" The slur was more prominent now, Khushi panicked she wanted to sprint out but considering the proximity she doubted whether that would go unnoticed even in his inebriated state.
" Come, lets make Babieej!" Without a warning a hand circled her wrist and she was jerked around and pulled in on his chest where he was lying on the sofa. She was plastered flat on his upper body, she looked up to find his dilated eyes looking at her, his face mere two inches away, the strong alcohol smell overpowered the air around. That smell mingled with his own potent fragrance didn't really offend her but a mild exhilaration tingled her body. Her hand that lay on her chest brushed against the crisp curls that peeped out of the unbuttoned kurta. " you Shee, I was never good at theory... But practicals has always been my forte." He sniggered at his own drollery.
" Arnavji, you are drunk!" He scoffed at that and said, " yes, looksh like! I am drunk and you are mad... At me" he furrowed his brows. " are you mad at me because I am drunk or are you mad just because you are mad at me?" His garbled words absolutely made no sense, she had never imagined him like this... ever.
"That weird frown when you are cross mars your beaoootiful fache! That and thishhh " His hand moved to her bun and unclipped her hair which freely cascaded down on his chest and a strand settled on his face. He picked it up, rubbed his thumb on it and smiled, " Perfect, just perrrfect." And within seconds dozed off. Khushi let out a sigh of relief. For a moment she thought of calling someone and helping him to their suite but then realized it would be wise to flee without anyone noticing her here. So she quickly tiptoed out of the study leaving her sloshed husband to rest in his drunken slumber.
Edited by ShwetapS - 04 May 2014 at 7:42am