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Joined: 01 December 2013
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Joined: 01 December 2013
(Credit: A! Much love from Choti Maasi)
Khushi glanced furtively around the hallway, letting out a breath of satisfaction when she saw it was empty. She was tired of being corralled in her room like a naughty child, disallowed from going anywhere without first passing it by her overbearing husband and family.
She scowled in annoyance, tiptoeing quietly into the kitchen as she reached for the tin of biscuits she knew would be on the upper shelf. Her legs ached as she stood up on her toes, just barely grasping the edge of the tin as she brought it down.
Smiling wickedly, she opened it, inhaling the distinctive smell of her favorite biscuits. She had missed these, dunking them in her chai as the steam swirled up, the treat crumbling ever so slightly in the hot liquid.
Her mouth watered, and she eagerly reached into the bin. She was fed up of eating the sick food, the constant kichidi and yogurt she was fed.
"You seem to be enjoying your forbidden fruits."
She dropped the biscuit at the amused voice behind her, groaning in irritation. She looked up to meet Anjali's gaze, staring at her warily.
"It's a biscuit."
"You're not supposed to be eating that, Khush."
Anjali's voice was gently insistent, but Khushi merely glared, setting a pot of milk on the stove to boil.
"You're lucky your husband is out of the house, or..."
Khushi rolled her eyes, pulling her hair back into a low bun as she adjusted the flame, grabbing the piece of ginger. She rubbed at her sore throat, coughing to clear her scratchy throat.
"He does not dictate what I do."
She said shortly, keeping her gaze determinedly on the foaming milk. Anjali regarded her quietly, her sharp gaze making Khushi feel decidedly uncomfortable. Khushi turned around, silently prompting her to spill whatever she was thinking.
Anjali chose her words carefully, speaking slowly as she thought them out.
"I've never seen Bhai like this before."
Khushi's brows furrowed questioningly as she turned back to the flame, adding the tea leaves to the rolling milk.
"He hasn't left your side."
She said dryly, earning a wry grin from Anjali. But she quickly sobered, her voice pressing forward against what Khushi wanted to hear, knowing Khushi would fight against it.
"He didn't leave your side, Khush."
Khushi's back stiffened, her hand slowing in the cup as the words sank in. She didn't say anything, the silence between them oppressive. The sound of the spoon hitting against the walls of the cup seemed entirely too loud, the dull thud slowing to a stop.
"Bhai only lets down his guard for people who he... I've never seen him like this."
She repeated, struggling to express herself. Khushi still didn't look at her, her body completely still as she listened to the silence on the other end.
Khushi asked, her voice hesitant, anticipation lacing her words.
Anjali paused, contemplating her next words. She knew what she had seen in Arnav's eyes that day, in all the days since Khushi had fallen sick. She had seen the same emotion in Aman's eyes for her. She hadn't been stunned to see it in Arnav, the slow, unstoppable love of his that seeped into Khushi when he cradled her to himself, patting her head with a cool towel.
No, she hadn't been stunned, or surprised even.
But she didn't know if Khushi was ready to know, or if she even wanted to know.
Khushi didn't even realize she was holding her breath, her heart pounding loudly as she waited for Anjali to continue. She knew she was waiting to hear something, that one word that she wasn't sure if she wanted to hear.
"The people who he truly cares about."
Anjali finished, keeping her gaze on Khushi. Khushi felt herself deflate, disappointment seeping through her slowly. She was surprised by it, discomfort settling in her stomach.
She shouldn't have felt this way. He cared about her, he had taken care of her.
Where was this disappointment coming from?
She didn't want to know. The idea that she wanted more, wanted to hear something else bothered her.
Anjali saw the emotions flash across Khushi's face, quickly hidden by a mask of indifference. But Anjali could see the silent question in her eyes, the disappointment that seemed to make her shoulders fall.
"You may not see it, Khushi, but we do." "Perhaps you can see it when you are willing to?" something like this...
Her voice remained quiet, but the soft entreaty was louder than ever, drawing Khushi to listen carefully, look deeper. Khushi's gaze immediately snapped up to Anjali's, the meaning simmering beneath the surface of the innocuous phrase.
She opened her mouth to protest, wanting to push away the overwhelming feelings pressing against her. She knew she had been looking for it, that this was the something else her mind craved for. She couldn't look away from Anju's knowing gaze, unable to ignore the small, reassuring smile that pulled at Anjali's lips.
She faintly heard the footsteps in the background, the thumping against the floors strangely familiar.
How many times had she heard those same footsteps pacing around the room as she twisted on the bed, her skin soaked in sweat?
Those footsteps would always walk towards her, the husky timbers of his voice murmuring softly to her as a cool hand touched her forehead, easing away the distress.
"Khushi? You should be in bed right now. What are you doing in the kitchen?"
The footsteps had stopped, the owner standing directly in front of her, fixing her with a disapproving, caramel gaze. She looked up at him, the scent of him mingling with the steaming chai, intoxicating and comforting.
Her mind didn't register the admonishment in his voice, instead taking him in, her gaze sweeping across his face, caressing the well defined cheekbones that were dotted with stubble. She forgot that Anjali was in the room, forgot to put up resistance as Arnav grasped her hand and tugged her back to their room, the chai sloshing over her hand.
She cried out in surprise as the liquid spilled over her skin, stumbling into her husband as he whirled around to face her. It wasn't particularly hot, the chai cooled from waiting as she and Anjali had talked, but it had startled her.
"Khushi?! Khushi, why can't you be more careful? You just barely got over your flu and..."
He grasped her hand, placing the cup on the counter as he inspected it carefully. She watched him, captivated by the way raw worry in his eyes, unhindered by the usual walls that carefully guarded his emotions. Her hand was loose in his grasp, her entire attention taken up by the man in front of her.
"At least that chai wasn't hot, you're..."
Arnav slowly became aware of the hazel eyes that stared at him. He looked up at her, and his heart caught when he saw the reverent realization in her eyes, a warmth he hadn't been expecting.
He quickly looked away, his grip loosening on her hand. He was unsettled by the knowledge that emanated from her eyes. He had been caught with his guard down, the bricks tumbling from the wall as if they had never been held in place, allowing her to easily climb over it.
He cleared his throat, letting her hand drop to her side. He could see the recognition on her face that he had closed himself off, saw her pull back from him, her hands clasped in front of her.
"Wipe off your hand, and be more careful."
He said brusquely. He turned and stalked out of the room, her gaze following him out. He ignored it, taking the steps two by two as his heart pounded against his chest.
Khushi closed the door behind her with a soft click, the candlelight illuminating the shadow of the tall figure sitting at the desk. She could hear the faint scratch of his pen against the paper, the brief pause in his writing as he registered her entrance. She heard him let out a quiet breath before continuing, his pen seeming to dig into the paper.
She didn't say anything, walking over to the closet. . She took out her nightclothes, glancing at him occasionally out of the corner of her eyes. The air filled with their awareness of each other, hanging over them like a cloud full with rain.
He tilted his head slightly, listening to the occasional coughs that broke the silence, the faint padding of her feet on the floor. He had learned to recognize the sound of her, found himself listening for the way she opened the door, the way her feet tapped against the floorboards.
They listened for each other. Their breathing seemed to fall in synchrony as she went about the room, the sequence of tasks familiar, a rhythm they had fallen into.
She coughed again, leaning her hand against the wall as she struggled to take a deep breath.
"You should not have stressed yourself today. If you fall sick again, it will be your fault."
His gruff voice came from the desk. He didn't even look at her as he spoke, his pen continuing to scratch away at the paper. It was as if he didn't care, the offhand, condescending comment almost mocking.
But it wasn't enough to erase the memory of what she had seen earlier. She knew, could feel the concern that he tried to hide behind the sardonic words. She had seen it, damnit.
The thought almost made her smile, the knowledge that there was light behind the dark distance that spanned between them making her heart sing.
She couldn't let herself feel that again.
She gripped the wall tightly, her emotions building into a raging storm within herself. The sliver of hope that unfurled within her refused to die down, despite her efforts. She had spent the day away from the bed, determined to show Arnav that she was feeling completely well.
And she had wanted to avoid him as well.
The thought unsettled her, knowing that he affected her. The worry in his eyes as he had looked at the tea spilled over her hands lingered in her mind. She could still feel his tender grip on her hand, the way her heart had filled with something at the sight of him.
"The people he truly cares about"
The idea that Arnav cared for her wasn't new knowledge. No, it wasn't that that made her heart lurch.
It was that she had seen something else with it too.
Her mind warned her not to acknowledge it, an ominous reminder of what had happened the last time she had believed in him ringing in ears. The memory stabbed at her.
But the anger and the pain seemed to fade away, eclipsed by the emotion that seemed to seep from him, that snuck through the cracks of the domineering wall he had put up, wearing away at the caulking.
She gazed at his figure, hunched over on the desk as he signed the letter with a flourish, placing his pen neatly on his desk as he took off his glasses, rubbing at his forehead. He stood up before she could react, turning around to walk over to the bed.
He stopped still at the sight of her, their gazes locking. There were no pretenses, their eyes speaking the words for them that they refused to let out into the air. They were cocooned into their own space, the world fading away and leaving them, leaving the anger and the pain behind, exposing the raw interior that neither was willing to confront.
They simultaneously walked over to the bed, slipping underneath the covers. Her eyes followed his hands as they removed the glasses, folding them and neatly putting them on the side table. She was struck by how boyish he looked without them, a sense of vulnerability about him.
They were distinctly conscious of the other's presence, staying painfully close but not touching. Their breathing was steady, but both knew that the other was not yet asleep, the heavy, rain filled clouds lingering between them.
The soft, gentle notes of her voice made him turn, the urge to see her irresistible. The moonlight faintly shadowed her cheeks, glinting and reflecting from her eyes. His nose was just barely touching hers, their curled legs pressed together. They could feel their warm breath against their faces, almost cross eyed as they looked at their silhouettes in the dark.
They leaned forward, their lips fusing together in a tender kiss that contradicted everything their cool demeanor that came with the morning sun. He kissed her again and again, deepening the kiss each time until she was shivering with impatient pleasure, his hand reaching up to brush her hair behind her ear.
He pulled away, the drugging kisses making his body crave for more. He pressed one last kiss before he forced himself to turn around, their backs pressing against each other.
There was a long silence, broken only by the ticking of the clock until a faint rustle moved the sheets. Their fingers slid together, small smiles on their faces as they fell asleep.
(continued in next post)
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Joined: 01 December 2013
Nikhil leaned his head against the cold, stone wall of the jail cell, smiling sardonically. He could hear the footsteps and voices of everyone else outside, the chaos seeming like a faint echo in the distance as they ricocheted against the walls.
He cracked his knuckles, staring blankly at the bricks in front of him, the jagged edges of the stone set hastily. He had grown immune to the goosebumps perpetually crawling up his arms, the permanent shivers that shook him.
The loneliness was oppressive, lying before him like long stretches of endless road that snaked through the desert. His curls had grown unruly, hanging in loose waves halfway down his neck, darkening the circles around his eyes. He could feel the scruff on his cheeks, his clothes perpetually stiff from the dampness that touched it, drying, and then wetting it again.
He had finally grown to understand the circular nature of time, having had entirely too much of it. He had lost track of all beginnings and endings, lost in an endless cycle of kal aaj aur kal.
He licked his parched lips, glancing at the sliver of a window, the barred lines interrupting the neat square of light that streamed in. He had counted ten sunsets, and assumed he had been in solitary confinement for a little over a week.
He heard the approaching of footsteps, and his brow furrowed in confusion. He wasn't supposed to see anyone until lunchtime, and it was far too bright outside for that.
He turned his head just as the door clicked, the light masked by a tall, lean figure. Warm, brown eyes met his, arms crossed across his chest. NK could see the glimmer of his wedding band on his long fingers that rested against the crisp white kurta.
"Quite a nice place you have here."
NK flashed him a grin, his face brighter than it had been in days. He glanced to the side, distinctly aware of the jailer's stiff back pressed against the bars, knowing he was listening carefully.
"Thank you, Aman. How is Bhabhi?"
"Since when is she Bhabhi and not Anju?"
NK couldn't restrain a faint chuckle that immediately dissolved into a cough, shaking his head.
"Since she married you. God only knows why she would do that."
There was an aching familiarity in the banter as it tapered away, leaving the two friends staring at each other in silence. The distance between them seemed larger than ever, but for the first time in months, it felt like their hands were reaching across the gaping hole, just barely touching.
NK looked away from Aman's piercing gaze, tracing the crack beside him that he had traced thousands of times. The air was heavy with regrets and broken promises, the weight of what was to come.
"I'm going to die, aren't I."
NK said softly. It wasn't so much a question as a statement of acceptance, the hollowness sounding strangely full. Aman didn't say a word, only looking at the haggard man sitting on the floor. He was struck by the dignity that remained in his posture, his back ramrod straight and his eyes as sharp as they had always even.
"You don't have to."
He finally said, a quiet plea behind his words. NK made a faint noise, a melancholic smile on his face.
"How is Dadi?"
Aman hesitated, taking a deep breath.
"She's broken, NK. But she's a strong woman."
NK nodded curtly, wistfulness in his eyes. He longed to place his head in her lap one last time, feel her aged, wrinkled fingers comb through his hair as she told him stories.
"Your dad is an asshole."
NK laughed, a wry grin curving his lips.
"You're telling me."
"It's all bluster, you know. He's just as broken as you are. He lost his wife, and now he's losing his son."
"I was never really his son to begin with."
Aman shook his head, watching the resentment in NK's eyes.
"He does love you. Sometimes... people just forget how to show it."
He could see the sheen of tears in NK's eyes, the way his lashes clumped together as he blinked rapidly. There was a long silence as the two friends let the moments of the past linger between them.
"And how is she?"
His voice was quiet, pained as it caught on the last word. He swallowed, his Adam's apple bobbing as the image of her hurt, betrayed eyes came into view, shining with unshed tears. The guilt stung just as sharply as it had that day, the dull, constant ache never fading as it pinched at his heart.
Aman stared at his friend, the pain lacing his words impossible to miss. For a moment, he couldn't help but compare how both Arnav and NK spoke of Khushi in the same way, the same glimmer in their eyes.
He paused, struggling to find the words. He knew NK was waiting for a response, but didn't know whether...
"She got married."
He finally got out, unsure of whether he had said the right thing. NK didn't flinch, an almost satisfied smile tugging at the edge of his lips, pain clouding the depths of his eyes.
"She loves him, doesn't she?"
Aman paused, contemplating his next words.
"Don't, Aman. I know. I guess I always have, in a way."
He mused, an ache in his words. Aman merely listened, his heart squeezing at the anguish and regret. NK turned dark eyes up to him, a desperation in his voice.
"Does he love her?"
Aman didn't even have to think before the word slipped out.
He saw NK relax, a faint smile shadowing his lips. The man leaned against the wall, his face lightening as if a heavy weight had been lifted off of his shoulders.
"Don't do this, Nikki."
The endearment startled him, and NK's gaze shot up to his friend as Aman dropped to his knees by his side. He hadn't used that nickname in years, an urgent desperation echoing against the walls.
"You know I hate that nickname."
Aman ignored the attempt at humor, grasping his friend's hands. NK looked away, unable to handle the pain in his eyes.
"Nikhil, you don't have to do this. Don't martyr yourself. We need you. Hell, I need you. I need your voice, the passion you bring, the way you get everyone excited. I can't do that Nikki, not without you."
NK gently extricated his hands, shaking his head. The tears had long since spilled down his cheeks, wetting the scruff of his beard.
"Yes you can, Aman. I know you can."
Aman shook his head, begging the man in front of him to reconsider.
"I don't give a damn. You're my friend. Our disagreements don't change that, NK, you- you're a part of me, a part of us."
NK didn't respond, staring off into the distance. He hated the plea in Aman's voice, knowing that he wouldn't be able to take it away.
It was ironic, how friendships that seemed lost were never that difficult to find again. NK shook his head, turning to Aman.
"No, Aman. I have to do this-"
Aman moved to interrupt but NK silenced him with a smile tinged with pain and acceptance.
"I want to do this. This is what I was meant to do."
There was a new determination that seeped in, and Aman couldn't help but admire him in that moment. He could see the pride in NK's eyes, the feeling of accomplishment. NK fixed him with a sad smile, grasping his hands between his own.
"Tell Dadi I love her, Aman. Tell her that I-"
NK's voice broke, his heart cracking as he spoke, ploughing forward.
"Tell her that I'll always be with her, just like she was always with me."
He paused, falling back against the wall, the tears streaming down unchecked as he continued unsteadily, his voice trembling.
"Tell Khushi that I'm sorry, I'm sorry I couldn't be who she needed. Tell her that I hope she's always happy, that I lo-"
He broke off, shaking his head at the familiar stab of pain that seared through him. He had lost that right to tell her that, he couldn't say that.
"Tell her she inspires me, Aman."
NK's grip loosened on his hands as NK leaned his head against the wall, silent sobs wracking his body. Aman struggled to hold it together, fisting his hand tightly as he stepped back, taking deep breaths that refused to ease the tight knots in his stomach.
He tried to speak, but words failed him, his mouth forming the shapes, the sounds refusing to slip into the air. NK opened watery, red eyes, smiling at him with a shrug.
Aman gave him a brief nod, knowing that any words would dissolve into grief as he turned on his heel. He stopped at the door, holding the bars for support as he took a long breath, the tears sliding down his cheeks.
He heard NK's voice, quavering but certain, calling after him. He didn't turn around, silently acknowledging it.
"Tell Papa that I love him too."
Aman shattered, the glue just barely holding him together as he strode out of the cell, unable to look back at the dark brown eyes that followed him. He heard the click of the jail cell shutting, his strides growing longer and longer until he was jogging into the waiting room.
He saw the figure of his wife, waiting for him with a haunted expression as he walked towards her, pulling her into him. He didn't care that there were people watching, desperately needing the comfort of her touch, of her fingers holding him to herself.
He knew the tears were wetting her sari as his chest heaved, the salty tears mingling with hers.
Behind them, a man stood in a jail cell, his chin jutted out proudly as the jailer clasped the handcuffs around his wrists, taking him away. As he stepped into the blistering sunlight, he smiled up at the blue sky. He stepped towards the man in the dark figure, eclipsed by the bright light streaming down.
For the first time in years, he felt free.
Note: And that's where I'll leave you for today! I hope you liked it- please let me know what you thought through a like or a comment. It's like a little piece of chocolate to reward me after the update! (can you tell I'm hungry right now...?)
As always, please follow @ipkchotidesi or PM me your email for update notifications.
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Joined: 09 June 2013
Waiting to see ki kaise chhod paayega woh haath jo usne thaama hain tightly ...
Khushi's hesitant yearning to hear Anjali say the words aloud was moving to see. It was like it would soothe her inner turmoil. But what followed was one of the most beautiful pieces of vulnerability exposed and feelings understood I have read. It was so so so well written. Reminded me of these lines "Jisko jee jaan se chahte hain, jab usse nazron ke samne pate hain tab aankhen bolti hain zuban nahi"
And then you gave us NK. Oh my God, that was stunningly written. His every thought, every emotion, every belief so evocatively brought out. The conviction of the martyr, the child's need to be nurtured, the camaraderie of a friend, and then Khushi ... the wistfulness, the selfless desire of a lover to see his beloved happy, the pain of not being the one to give her that happiness, that triste feeling laid bare. When he says, "Tell Papa that I love him too", I too had tears running down my face. He's making peace with himself, ready to face death not fearful of it, not having any regrets. Petty inconsequential things seen for what they are at the moment of truth. As you said, "he felt free".
Choti, my love, each update surpasses the previous in depth. Each sentence beautifully crafted. Words weaved together superlatively. I'm a total pankhi
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Joined: 21 April 2014
It is very interesting to realize that your story uses so many words to convey Arshi's silence and your Arshi use so much silence to convey what many words cannot say. Silence or words, your story and your characters are just equally amazing. And you my dear, deserve all the praise for making it happen in every week, in every twist and every turn.
First of all, it was a most gratifying read for me. Yes, a tender kiss, faint rustle, the fingers slide and a small smile is all it took for me. But, these gestures this time, are of a totally different kind. Maybe because they come from a sense of understanding and a commitment. And that for me, is when a wedding ends and a marriage begins.
Arnav - If ever there is something called a right mix of caring and not caring, then what he did comes very close. For me, other than his England ambition, it's hard not to admire every move he made so far. Right from getting married to displaying his emotions to taking care of Khushi. He did what was needed for Arshi.
Khushi - The mind is still at war but heart is slowly winning the battles. I am hoping the smile at the end is the beginning of a new journey. She should have realized by now that she is the most important rose in his garden. She will soon realize that, the proof of that is not in how beautiful the bloom is, but it is in the time that gardener spent in nurturing it.
NK - The love for his country cannot be any more pure than this, knowing what he has readily put on the line for the sake of that. We love you too and are wishing for some happy miracle. Have to respect his commitment and offer salute to his guts.
Some stories grow on you so much that sometimes when you are commenting, you kind of get the feeling if you could even do half justice to really what you want to convey. But I guess, that simple feeling already proves how much this story matters to me and a million thanks to you Choti for making that possible.
The following 6 member(s) liked the above post:
anukap, Mirabell, Illuminatus., chotidesi, Chokri_ASR, Arshi67,
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