Arnav sat leaning back on the chair in his study, resting back his head, his eyes closed. He wasn't able to concentrate on his new story. He needed some time off. He walked to the shelf to get some book to read. His gaze fell on a file, the same file Aman had given to him... the file having the details of his new intern! He quickly took the file and sat down on the chair. Placing the file on the table, he put on the table-lamp and opened the file. The first couple of pages had the details of Khushi Gupta along with her passport-size photo. Her address, her phone number, her educational history, her job details. Arnav read everything in detail.
Something strange caught his attention. After completing her education, Khushi worked for an year in Mumbai. But she left the job and then after two years she joined as a lecturer in College of Arts, Pune. This made Arnav wonder... Why did Khushi leave the job which was quite good? And why the gap of two years before she joined as a lecturer? Why didn't she continue the job in Mumbai? And she joined as a lecturer? She could have got another job, why lecturer? Her education took place in Mumbai. Her first job was in Mumbai. Then she leaves the job... Nothing for two years... And then she is in Pune working as a lecturer... That's strange! Where was she in those two years? And what did she do? He turned the page in the file to find the offer letter to join of the internship. There were other documents including her identity proofs. And then at the end was the paper that had Khushi's entry that was sent with the application for internship. Arnav read it line-by-line, word-by-word...
Life... It is simple and beautiful, yet very complicated. Complicated... when it suddenly changes everything and we don't understand the reason. When strange things happen and people hold you responsible for the wrong you never did. When you are forced to take the decisions that were supposed to be right just because the people felt so. Why do we fear the society? Who are they to decided our how our life should be? Why are we forced to take decisions based on the consent of the people who would never be with us to face the consequences? I have learnt the most important lesson of life - Never depend too much on anyone, no one cares for you so much to always be with you through the dark times. Even our shadow leaves us when we are in the dark! There's no one our's as such. Sometimes things make me think... Am I really responsible for what happened? Am I the one to be blamed? And then I feel guilty. A fear creeps over me... fear of being responsible for more horrible things... I have lost faith in myself...
Yun thukra diya iss zamaane ne humein,
Har woh khwaab suhaana bhool gaye...
Zindagi ke iss gam mein itne ulajh gaye,
Ki hum aansoo bahaana bhool gaye...
(Meaning : I am so abandoned by the society, that I forgot every dream of mine... I am so lost in the misery of life, that I even forgot to shed tears...)
Arnav was lost into his thoughts. He could feel the pain behind those words of Khushi. Why so much pain at such a young age? Arnav remembered what Khushi's words... I have read all your books so far... And I love your writing! The only thing I don't like about your stories is that you have ended all of your stories on a sad note. Why always sad? Does every story have to end that way? Arnav remembered Khushi's wet eyes when she had said that. Her words still echoing in his mind... If you are planning your next story too with a sad end, I am sorry but I will not work on it with you! He couldn't believe she had said that. He had seen interns before. No one would have dared to say that. But Khushi did. That was unusual. Now Arnav wanted to know more about her. He was sure that she had some unpleasant experiences in life. Was it related to that gap of two years? Arnav was very curious to know what had happened to Khushi. Arnav heard a knock on the door. Was it Khushi? Arnav quickly kept the file in the shelf and went to open the door. He opened the door preparing himself to face Khushi but he saw Kaveri Mausi standing there. He sighed.
"Arey! Kaveri Mausi! Come.." he said.
"Why? Were you expecting someone else?" she asked.
Arnav didn't say anything. Kaveri Mausi sat down on a chair while Arnav sat down on his. Both were silent.
After some time Kaveri Mausi spoke, "She hasn't come out of her room since you yelled at her..." Arnav looked at Kaveri Mausi. He was ashamed for what he had said. "You told her to leave?!!" asked Kaveri Mausi.
"I know I shouldn't have said that..." said Arnav helplessly. "She made me angry... and... and you know how I react..." Arnav sighed. "I will apologize to her during dinner!"
After silence for a couple of minutes, Arnav said, "You were right Kaveri Mausi, Khushi is different! You remember the other three female interns? My God! The first time when I had met them, they didn't stop praising me and my works. They were so dramatic and always tried to come close to me. Useless girls! I hated them so much. They had not come here for internship, but for something else, you know!! But Khushi... she is different!"
Khushi put all her belongings in her bag. She sat on the bed with her legs folded. "I don't want to stay here any more!" she said as tears rolled down her cheeks. "I miss you Baba!!" she sobbed, "I miss you!" she was crying embracing herself. "I am coming back Baba! I will never leave home again... I don't want this internship... I don't want anything!! I just want to live... I don't want people around me!! I want only you Baba... Only you understand me! Only you believe that I am not bad!"
Khushi's head was heavy. She was sobbing badly. Her eyes were red, and swollen. She heard a tap on the door. She quickly wiped her tears. She heard Kaveri Mausi calling her for dinner. Khushi refused to go saying she wasn't hungry and didn't wish to eat. Khushi didn't open the door. Kaveri Mausi tried a lot to bring Khushi out of the room, but failed. After all her efforts in vain, Kaveri Mausi went away. Khushi sighed in relief. She was about to lay down on the bed to sleep when she again heard taps on the door.
"I am really not hungry Kaveri Mausi... I don't want to eat anything!" said Khushi gently.
Khushi was surprised to hear Arnav's voice. "Khushi?! Please have something with us..." But there was no reply from inside. Khushi was just staring at the door as Arnav spoke, "Khushi, I know I have hurt you! I am sorry... But believe me, I didn't mean it!" Khushi didn't say anything. Tears couldn't stop flowing from her eyes. Arnav said, "Open the door now... Khushi, I said I am sorry! Please open the door!" There was no reply from Khushi.
Arnav sighed. He felt bad for Khushi. He began walking away knowing that Khushi will not open the door. But he stopped when he heard the door open. He was very glad to see Khushi. He went to her and said in relief, "Thank God you finally came out! You know how worried I was??!!!" He saw that Khushi had packed her bag. He looked at her and said, "You are not going anywhere, get it?!!" He wanted to take Khushi with him to the dining room but then he felt that might not be right. So he called out to Kaveri Mausi and they all went to have dinner.
Khushi was very silent and anyone could make out from her face that she had cried a lot. After dinner, when Khushi was going back to her room, Arnav called her, "Khushi!" he said, "I am sorry, I understand how hurt you were! Sometimes I cant control my anger, you know! And I may say things I don't really mean. Please don't misunderstand me. I was just..."
"When are you briefing me about your new story?" asked Khushi.
"Aan?!!" said Arnav, surprised.
"When are you briefing me about your new story, Sir?" repeated Khushi.
"Tomorrow? After breakfast?" said Arnav still not believing she asked that.
"Okay!" said Khushi and turned to go to her room.
"Khushi!" said Arnav, "Thank you!"
Khushi smiled and Arnav was happy that she had forgiven him. "And Khushi, I might yell at you very often... I am like that, you know! Please don't mind..." Khushi nodded.
"Good night Sir!" she said.
"Good night!" Arnav wished back.
The next morning was pleasant. Both, Arnav and Khushi, were back to normal. Kaveri Mausi was glad to see that. After breakfast, Arnav introduced the idea of his new story to Khushi. He had not started working on it yet. Khushi listened to his idea and liked it. Unlike the previous interns who agreed blindly to whatever Arnav said, Khushi freely shared her views, positive or negative. Arnav appreciated that.
Four days had gone and by now Khushi was comfortable at the new place. She had developed a good rapport with Kaveri Mausi as well as Ramu and had no issues with Arnav. Arnav tried to ask Khushi about her past, directly as well as indirectly, but Khushi didn't reveal anything. Arnav decided to take Aman's help to know more about Khushi. He told Aman to visit College of Arts, Pune where Khushi worked as a lecturer, and find out more information about her. Also he told Aman to keep everything confidential. Aman agreed. Now only thing Arnav could do was to wait patiently for Aman's call...