Joined: 01 December 2013
October 6, 2000
He glanced around the room, Falguni Pathak crooning from the speakers. Long strings of tiny lights were strung high above the grounds, the stars twinkling above. Circles of women and men swirled around him, the dust kicking up and staining the pristine, white kurta.
He craned his head, scanning the crowds. He was tall, but the sheer number of people made it difficult for him to see properly. He was jostled as people pushed past him, their excited laughter ringing in the air.
He finally caught sight of her, standing by a paan stall in a circle of girls. Her hair was left loose from the usual plait she wore, streaming down her back in a thick wave of ebony.
She was dressed in the traditional, brightly colored chaniya, her oxidized silver jhumkis swaying as she threw her head back in laughter.
Her arms were lined in a rainbow of colorful, glass bangles from the wrist to her elbow, clinking every time she moved. The mirrors from her chaniya choli reflected the hundreds of small lights, making her look as if she was glowing.
Her choli was modest, the dupatta pleated neatly. But he could see the expanse of skin as the wind blew the dupatta slightly, her chaniya hanging low on her waist. He swallowed as the intense pangs of desire overwhelmed him, making his fingers itch to reach out and touch her.
He knew how she would react, of course. Her eyes would widen in shock, the hazel clouding over just as he repeated the action, gently brushing against her stomach. She would suck in a breath as her eyes fluttered shut, clenching her fists tightly.
He saw her stiffen slightly, as if she could feel his gaze sweeping over her slim figure. She turned around, her skirt flaring out as the silver payals of her mother jingled.
Their eyes met, and the chaos of the garba faded away as they stood there among the crowd. He couldn't feel the people pushing past him, and he didn't hear the perfectly synchronized claps of the dancers, the heavy beat of the dhol fading away.
All he could hear was...
A small smirk curved the corner of his lips as he saw that she heard the same thing, her hand lifting to her chest.
"Jab tum mere paas hote ho.. toh tumhari dil ki dhadkanon ke saath saath.. meri dil ki dhadkanein bhi tez ho jati hai.. hamari dhadkanein ek ho jaati hai..."
It was as if the crowd parted for him as he strode through, his gaze still holding hers. He could see her eyes widen as she realized he was coming to her, her head slowly shaking side to side in a no'.
But it was too late.
He ignored his friends, who were giving him an approving looks, assuming that he was only interested in spending the night with her. He ignored the giggles of her friends, and the knowing gaze of his sister standing beside her.
"You're not dancing... Anjali?"
He addressed his sister, but his eyes were only on her.
"No bhaiyya, Khushi wanted to have some paan, so we came here."
His eyes dropped to her lips, where he could still see the faint, red stain of the paan. He slowly dragged his gaze back up, relishing the way she flushed deeply.
"We should dance."
Her mouth parted in surprise at his blatant question.
He knew they couldn't, but... it didn't stop him from trying.
"But bhai, you don't dance."
He could hear that Anjali was hiding a snicker, clearly amused by his obvious affection for her best friend. He didn't shift his gaze away, even as Khushi averted her own, staring pointedly at the ground in front of her.
"It's the last night of navaratri. I can make an exception."
Anjali shrugged, and the group slipped back into the crowd. Arnav hung back, taking care to brush his fingers along her waist. He felt the goosebumps erupt on her skin underneath the tips, and just as he had expected, she sucked in a breath.
She shifted out of his grasp as they made their way through the bustle, keeping her voice carefully low so that no one else could hear.
"What are you doing? You know... we can't. I can't go against my parents."
She stumbled slightly, and his hand shot out, gripping her wrist gently and breaking her fall. She fixed him with an irritable glare, snatching her hand away. She moved away from him quickly, purposefully placing herself in front of a bashful Aman.
They began to spin, the inner and outer circles moving in tandem as the next song began. He could see her out of the corner of his eye, a wide smile on her face as she threw herself into the dance.
Sighing, he closed his eyes, before flashing a smile at the girl in front of him.
He shouldn't be doing this.
"Arnav, I love you."
Her voice echoed in his head as he spun one final time, only to find himself face to face with her. She spun right into him, her hair hitting him in the face and leaving him with the scent of jasmine.
Her face was flushed from the dancing, her eyes sparkling with excitement. Her hands were clutching his shoulders, and he felt her stiffen upon realizing their position.
But she didn't move away.
His hands went to her waist, her mouth parting in a sigh as he came in contact with her warm skin. He was mesmerized, and the last strands of his control broke.
He forgot their surroundings as he leaned in, pressing his lips gently against hers. She melted into his grasp, her hands sliding through his hair as she pulled him closer.
He deepened the kiss, tugging at her hair and tilting her head back. She shivered as his hands slid down her back, caressing the bare skin and sliding underneath the dupatta. Groaning, he pulled her hips towards his, his fingers ghosting across her waist.
They broke apart to breathe, and Khushi's eyes fluttered open slowly. Her hands were still clutching at his kurta, and he reached up, brushing a thumb along her lower lip.
She shook her head, stepping back from him. The music seemed louder than ever, people whirling around them, oblivious to the couple in front of them as the beats came faster. He saw her wipe the tears from her eyes, before lifting her skirt and fleeing the scene.
He knew he shouldn't be following her.
Not after the promise he had made to stay away from her until her parents came around.
But he couldn't stay away from her.
He pushed through the crowds once more, trying to find her. He moved past the crowds, into the quieter parts of the festival. She had slipped away, and it was almost as if she had-
His train of thought broke off when he saw her, away from all the commotion.
She was standing in the middle of a spiral of diyas, her face upturned to the stars in the sky. Her chaniya reflected the flames, making her look almost ethereal as the soft light bathed her face. She bent down, a secretive smile on her face as she lit the diffused lamp.
As she was standing up, her eyes met his. She flushed under his shameless gaze, drinking her in greedily. He walked forward, lifting a hand and silently asking her to take it.
She hesitated for a minute but then placed her hand in his, allowing him to carefully lead her out of the labyrinth.
"Come with me, Khushi."
His eyes were focused on the diyas, and she turned to him in surprise. He faced her, grasping her hands in his.
"We don't need these pheres, the sindoor, the endless rituals, we just need each other."
She could see the desperation and the love written on his face, and knew that this time... he wasn't joking. She gently pulled her hands out of his, hating the way his eyes filled with hurt.
"Arnav, you know we can't. My parents will never approve. They think that... you're a nalayak, since you dropped out of school after 11th exams."
"Khushi, I know I haven't been successful yet with my startup. I know it's a longshot, and that I'm broke and unsuccessful right now. But that will change, I promise you. Don't you believe in me?"
She shook her head, sadness evident on her face.
"Arnav, I know you can do it. I have faith in you."
She could hear the frustration in his voice, and hated that she even had to say this.
"Look, it's not about what I believe- my parents only see that you haven't finished school, and they won't let me be with you unless... why don't you go back and take the IIT entrance exams? That way, at least my parents will know that you're working towards something, even if your startup doesn't work. You can get in, I know you can."
He turned away from her, upset by her words.
"No, Khushi. You know I don't like the environment of school. It doesn't encourage any creative thinking, only rote brainwashing. And I don't have the courage you do, Khushi. I can't give up my own dreams to follow those of my parents."
"I'm not giving up my dreams, Arnav. I want to go into medicine. That is what I want to do with my life- I want to help people, change the world."
There was a poignant silence, before the couple faced each other again.
"Forget our parents, Khushi. Let's elope. All of these traditions are pointless."
"Saari reeti rivazon ka koi na koi matlab hota hai."
"Kya hai yeh reeti rivaz? Aur hamare feelings se badkar kaise? Humein kya chahiye, uska koi meaning nahi hai?"
"Reeti rivazon ka koi matlab nahi, shaadi ka koi matlab nahi, toh aap hi humein bataiye, kis cheez ka matlab hai?!"
"That I love you damnit!"
He grapsed her shoulders tightly, pulling her close to him. Her eyes widened in shock, completely stunned by his declaration.
Her eyes filled with tears as he held her, his eyes searching her face.
He was never so blunt with his feelings. His emotions were carefully guarded, and while she knew he loved her, he had never come out and said it so fully.
His grasp loosened on her, defeated. He whirled around, his shoulders slumped as his throat tightened.
"Give me until the end of January, Arnav. One month into the New Year. If I still can't convince them, we'll elope."
Her quiet voice made him stop, and he turned back slowly, unable to believe his ears. She smiled softly at him, her eyes bright with unsaid words.
They would make it work.
January 26, 2001
He stood at the top of the mandir, tugging the collar of his kurta. He was here almost half an hour early, but he didn't care. Khushi would almost certainly laugh, telling him that he was finally on time for something in his life.
He could see Anjali giggling quietly beside him, amused by his irritation.
If she hadn't insisted, he never would have worn this itchy thing. He hated kurtas, with their high collars that felt suffocating.
He wouldn't have even thought of marriage if it hadn't been for her.
He didn't think they needed rituals to prove that they loved each other, but he knew she would want them to have the certainty of a marriage.
She glanced out at the city, trying to pinpoint what had once been her home.
It was her home no longer, of course. She loved her parents, she really did. But she couldn't be separated from Arnav forever. He may have come off like a lazy ass, with his messy hair, his motorbike, and the fact that he had dropped out of school.
He had taught himself programming out of a stray book, and had started up his own company. With the burst of the dot.com bubble, the technology industry had crashed, leaving Arnav nearly penniless.
If only he would take those exams...
She shook her head. Arnav wouldn't listen to her over something he felt so strongly about.
She felt the shaking beneath her feet as she descended from the hilltop, and stopped to take a deep breath. She placed a hand over her heart, feeling the dhak dhak, the way her feet shook as she stood.
She was entirely too nervous for this.
Only twenty minutes, and then she would be there.
Arnav ducked as he felt the tremors begin in earnest, sprinting out from underneath the famed mandir. He could hear the ominous cracks echoing in the silence of the monring air, and just as he got out...
The part he had been standing underneath collapsed.
But he didn't care about his just-missed chance with death, the collapse of a mandir, or the itchy kurta that no longer seemed itchy.
He began his sprint towards the city, ignoring his gasping breaths for air, ignoring the pain shooting up his legs, ignoring everything.
She was still there.
Arnav stumbled back, the Red Cross woman staring blankly into his face.
People pushed past him, and he stood there, ignoring the chaos around him.
"She can't be gone! She- she promised me she would be there. She has to be there. Check again!"
"Sir, we've checked every single day this week. There were no survivors. I'm sorry."
"Look again! She has to be there. She promised me she would be there. She- she promised me."
It pained the woman to have to tell this distraught man that she wasn't alive.
"Di, she- she promised me, Di. She promised me hamesha. She t-told me she would be there. Why isn't she there Di? Why isn't she there?"
His voice was broken, his eyes frantic but blank as he scanned the area. Anjali watched as her normally aloof younger brother's body wracked with silent sobs, tears overflowing and tracking down his sunken cheeks.
She had no answer for the questions he asked, and hastily wiped away her own tears. She had to focus on Arnav- or the shell of a man that he was now.
The Red Cross woman watched the brother and sister disappear beneath the shambles, clutching each other desperately.
She shook her head sadly, watching as the woman standing beside him grasped his shoulders, wiping away her own tears to focus on his. The story was just one of thousands, just another heartbreak in this horrible scenario.
One more face, one more story of a broken life.
He had spent the last week here, only asking for one name.
She watched as the man was led away, feeling a deep sense of sorrow for him. She had very limited Hindi, but she knew that khushi meant happiness.
There are some people that you just connect with. Sometimes, you don't even know them in person- you go on the internet, find a common interest, and hope to Devi Maiyya that they aren't a stalker.
Thankfully, Di turned out not to be a stalker. Instead, she turned out to be someone I now regard as an older sister- who I laugh with, ask for advice, and can always rely on.
Happy Birthday, Di! I hope you have a wonderful day filled with lots and lots of love. I love you, with all the damnits and the faraqs.
Juhi Di will update the second part tonorrow morning- because what is a birthday without a cliffhanger?
Happy birthday, you fabulous person! Kick ass.
Lots of love,
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Happy Birthday My Darling Jigs
You are our ...
Sirf Main he Nahin,Aur bhi koi hain Yahan,
Who's Rather keen to wish you
I'm sure I heard him singing something...
Ek Ladki Ko Dekha To Aisa Laga
Jaise Khilta Gulab
Jaise Shayar Ka Khwab
Jaise Ujali Kiran
Jaise Bun Mein Hiran
Jaise Chandani Raat
Jaise Narmi Ki Baat
Jaise Mandir Mein Ho
Ek Jalta Diya...
Even Going So Far As To Proclaiming...
Tere liye hi toh signal tod taad ke
Aaya dilliwali wife shife chhod chhad ke
To Woo you, he brought some cake in his favourite colour
A small piece for us?
Accha chodo, cake is all yours,
kuch Meetha share karlo ...
While this bloke here may talk the talk ...
You, my love, totally walk the walk!
Quite literally in sickness and in health !!!
Jigs, on your special day, I just want to say that
I'm delighted to have you as my friend.
You truly are an amazing person and
I shall always be grateful to Juhi for giving us Shaadi and the Baaraatis, where I got to know you.
And to know you is to love you!
So vibrant, so positive, so inclusive. so encouraging,
I want for you to have all the happiness in the world,
and for your life to be
Always filled with joyous moments, just like this ...
You deserve it all and a lot more besides.
With lots of love and hugs and more hugs and yet more hugs and then some more
And wishes that your day be filled with love and laughter
Your sweetie always,
Choti, sweetheart, you really are one, and I totally faraq you
Let's rock the place !!!!
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Joined: 01 December 2012
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Joined: 01 December 2012
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