Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fida's Corner: 'Rightfully his!' (Chapter 3)

Chapter 3

As she escorted her sister downstairs, Khushi felt his eyes follow her, felt the heat of his gaze sear through the thin chiffon of her saree.  She lifted her hand to tuck her hair behind her ear, and saw his gaze follow the bangles on her wrist; though he was far away, she could see his smile as if he heard the tinkle of her bangles.

The next few hours were nothing but a blur, as the reception dragged on and on.  Introductions, smiles, laughter, deflections, questions, answers; at the end of the evening all Khushi was left with were a series of impressions but with only a few real memories.

One thing she would never forget was Arnav’s constant presence near her; no one else would even have noticed that he didn’t leave her side, his hovering was so subtly done, but she was constantly aware of his presence.  She revelled in his presence, determined to make as many memories as possible to sustain her in the years to come; she committed his expressions to memory, the play of emotions in his eyes, his crooked smile, the heat in his eyes as he watched her.  Only once did he touch her, when, with her arms full of gifts, she almost lost her balance and fell.  The feel of his hard hand seared through her, another sense memory to add to her hoard.

Finally the evening came to an end, and the two families were driven back to the Raizada mansion.  Khushi accompanied Payal to her room and helped her remove what seemed like kilos of gold.  The two sisters chatted quietly for a few moments, discussing the people they had met, and the outfits some of the women had been wearing.

When Akash entered the room, though her sister kept answering her comments, Khushi knew that she was definitely no longer needed.

“Jiji, hum ye sab Mamiji ke paas rakhdenge, tumse hum kal milenge.  Amma Bauji ke saath hum tumse milne aajaenge.  Tum araam karo Jiji, aaj aap bahut thak gayi hogi” “Jiji, I’ll go and give all of these to Mamiji, I’ll see  you tomorrow.  I’ll come with Amma and Bauji to see you then.  You should rest now, you must be exhausted”

As she sidled towards the door, Akash turned his head to look at her

“Khushiji, Bhai ne kaha wo aap logon ko chod denge, bas aap unhe batadena jab aap jaane ko tayyar hain.  Woh poolside pe aap ka intezaar karrahe hain””Khushiji, Bhai said he would drop you all home, he just said to let him know when you’re ready to leave.  He’s waiting for you next to the pool”

She nodded her thanks and crept out of the room, aware that the two people left behind had hardly noticed her departure.

After leaving the jewellery boxes with Mamaji (utterly thankful that she didn’t have to deal with hello-hi bye-bye- Mamiji), she made her way to the main hall, where her parents were sitting with Naniji.

“Arre Titaliya, tayyar ho chalne ke liye?  Payaliya se kal milne aajayenge, magar ab bahut der hochuki hai Nandkishor, humein chalna chahiye” “Arre Butterfly, are you ready to go?  You can see Payal tomorrow, but it’s really late now, we should go”

“Ji Buaji, hum tayyar hain””Yes, Buaji, I’m ready”

“Khushi bitiya, jao, Chote ko bulalo; woh khud tumhein chodna chahrahe the””Khushi sweetheart, go and call Chote; he’s going to drop you home himself”

There was a smirk on Naniji’s face as she spoke; as Khushi left the room, she smiled at Anjali then said “Aap logon se kuch zaroori baatein karni hain, ek do din baad hum aap ke ghar aayenge, phir baat cheet ho payegi” “I have something important I need to talk to you all about, I’ll come to see you in a few days, then we’ll be able to have a serious conversation”

Garima and Madhumati shared confused glances, whilst Shashi nodded “Jaise aap chahein, Samdhanji, par hum kuch samjhe nahin.  Koi chinta ki baat to nahin hai?” Madhumati said. “As you wish, sister-in-law, but I don’t understand.  I don’t need to worry, do I?2

Naniji laughed.

“Arre nahin nahin, Madhumatiji, chinta ki koi baat nahin.  Bas aapke paas ek cheez hai jo humein chahiye hai, to woh maangne aayenge.  Aap pareshan na hon, main jaanti hoon aap woh cheez humein khushi khushi saunp dengi” “Oh no no, Madhumatiji, there’s nothing to be worried about.  There’s just something you have that we want, so I’m going to come and ask you for it.  Don’t worry, I know you’ll be more than happy to hand that thing over to us”

As the two women looked at each other in confusion, Naniji met Shashi’s eyes and saw the understanding there.  She nodded at him, receiving a nod in return.  He may not have been able to say anything, but Khushi’s father wasn’t blind; he had seen the growing glow in Khushi’s eyes, seen the way she blushed whenever Arnav’s name was mentioned.  Though his heart was full of fear at what might happen if the truth about that snake Shyam ever came out, he couldn’t help but hope that things might go well for once.  Just a little piece of happiness, that was all he wanted for his little girl.  Surely that wasn’t too much to ask for.

Unaware of what was running in the minds of the elders of their families, Khushi made her way to the poolside, her heart pounding.  The last time she had stood next to that cool water, she had asked him why he had bought her those bangles.  He hadn’t answered her then, and she didn’t think he ever would, but the thought of being alone with him again sent a rush of pleasure through her.  He wouldn’t ever say the words, but he had claimed her, and she was happy with that.

The poolside was dark, the only light cast by the blinking lights in the “Payal-weds-Akash” sign which Anjaliji had put up a few days ago.

She heard a step and turned; it hadn’t sounded like his footstep.

It was Shyam.

“Khushiji, aap ko humare Saale sahab ki di hui chudiyaan itni pasand aayeen hain ke aap unhe utaarne ka naam hi nahin lerahi hain, magar humari di hui angoothi aap ne phenk di thi.  Yeh kaisa insaaf hai.  Hum to aap se shaadi karne chahte hain, woh to shaadi ke naam pe thookte hain”
“Khushiji, you like the bangles my brother-in-law gave you so much that you can’t bear to take them off, but you threw the ring I gave you away with no hesitation.  That’s hardly fair.  I want to marry you, he doesn’t even believe in marriage”

“Aap humse baat mat kijiye.  Aap ko sharam nahin aati.  Aap ki patni hai, aap ki shaadi ho chuki hai.  Aap humse shaadi kerne ke baare mein soch bhi kaise sakte hain”
“Don’t talk to me.  Aren’t you ashamed.  You have a wife, you’re married.  How can you even think about marrying me?”

“Aise mat kahiye Khushiji.  Rani sahiba beemaar hain, kya pata woh iss dharti pe kitne dinon ki mehmaan hain.  Unke jaane ke baad humein thodi si Khushi ka to haq hai na, Khushiji.  Apni patni ke gham se aap humein nahin bachayengi Khushiji.  Hum aap ko itna chahte hain, kya aap humara thoda sa bhi intezaar nahin karsakteen.”
“Don’t talk like that Khushiji.  Ranisahiba isn’t well, who know how long she is for this world.  After she leaves, I’ll need a little happiness won’t I Khushiji.  Will you not save me from the grief I’ll feel when I lose my wife.  I need you so much Khushiji, can you not even wait a little while for me?”

“Bhagwaan ke liye aap chup hojaiyye.  Pata nahin aap kya kya kahe jaarahe hain.  Hum aap se kabhi shaadi nahin karenge.  Aapse shaadi karne se pehle hum apni jaan dedenge”
“In the name of God, be quiet.  I can’t understand a word you’re saying.  I’ll never marry you.  I’d rather kill myself than marry you”

She felt his hand on her shoulder, his fingers digging into her soft skin

“Aapko apni behen ki thodi si bhi chinta nahin hai, Khushiji.  Agar humne Mamiji se kehdiya ke unhe sab pata tha, agar humne Naniji ko batadiya ke aap ka poora parivaar kiss tarha se ye baat chuparaha hai, agar humne unhe ye batadiya ke Gupta parivaar haath dhoke humare peeche kaise pada tha aap se shaadi karne ke liye, to phir aap ko lagta hai ke Payalji yahan rehsakengi.”
“Have you no care for your sister Khushiji.  If I tell Mamiji that your sister knew all about me, if I tell Naniji that your whole family hid the truth from her, if I tell them that the whole Gupta family were desperate for me to marry you, then do you think that Payalji will be able to stay in this house?”

He pulled her closer, his breath warm against her face, the smell of alcohol wafting into her nostrils. 

“Aap ko humse thodi narmi se pesh aana chahiye Khushiji; agar hum saale sahab se kahenge ke aap ne humein kiss tarha se apne jaal mein phansaya, to aapko kya lagta hai, woh aap ki baat maanenge.  Hargiz nahin.  Unhe hum pe itna bharosa hai, aur woh apni Di ki khatir kuch bhi karne ko tayyar hain.  Dilli to kya, aap ke liye poora Bharat ek nark banadenge.  Aap kaheen bhi bachke nahin jaasakengi.  Aur aapka parivaar aap ke saath saath bhatakta phirega”
“You should be a little kinder to me Khushiji; if I tell my brother-in-law how you trapped me in your web, then do you think he’ll listen to you.  Of course not.  He trusts me implicitly, and he’ll do anything for his Di.  Forget Dlehi, he’ll make the whole of India hell for you.  You won’t have anywhere to go, and your family will be on the streets along with you”

Shyam smiled, the smile terrifying in its gentleness. 

“Hum aap se kuch zyaada thodi maang rahe hain, Khushiji.  Sirf thoda intezaar.  Ranisahiba ki zindagi ab zyaada lambi nahin hogi.  Unke aakhri din unko khushi khushi guzaarne dein, phir unke guzarne ke baad, hum dono apni zindagi shuru karsakte hain.  Humein pata hai ke aap ko accha nahin lagta hoga, humein unke saath dekhte hue.  Hum jaante hain aap sirf humein jalaane ke liye Saale sahab ki chudiyaan pehne hue hain.  Magar sirf thode se dinon ka intezaar hai Khushiji, phir hum saath saath rahenge”
“I’m not asking you for much Khushiji.  Just a little patience.  Ranisahiba hasn’t got long to live.  Let her live her last days in happiness, then when she is gone, we’ll be able to start our new life together.  I know you don’t like it when you see us together.  I know you’re only wearing those bangles to make me jealous.  But you only have a little while to wait, then we’ll be able to be together”

“thoda intezaar kijiye Khushiji, phir hum dhoom dhaam ke saath aapke ghar baraat leke aayenge”
“just wait for me a little while Khushiji, then I’ll bring a bridal procession to your house with every possible celebration and happiness”

With a last terrifying smile, he walked away, leaving her standing there shaking with fear.  Tear dripped from her eyes; she wiped at them frantically, trying desperately to gather her scattered thoughts and come up with a way out of this unholy mess she found herself in.

Maybe she should just tell him; if she told him the truth now, maybe he would believe her, maybe he could find a way to help her.

Silent sobs wracked her body as she tried to process what that man had just said to her.  How could she deal with such madness, she didn’t know, but she had no one to turn to apart  from him.  Her parents had enough to deal with because of her father’s illness, and her aunt was all sound and bluster but wouldn’t be able to deal with Shyam’s slick machinations.

She took a deep breath and held it for long seconds, until she felt like her heart was going to pound out of her chest.  As she released it, she felt his presence behind her and turned, a smile starting to appear on her face.

“To tum ho Jijaji ki aajkal ki mohabbat?” “So you’re Jeejaji’s current true love”

Khushi stopped breathing for a moment, as his words sank in.  The tone of his voice contained the same bitterness she remembered from the first time she had met him, that same hatred of the world filling every syllable.

“Meri..........” “Just listen.........”

“Tumhein ye to nahin lagta ke tum Jeejaji ki pehli najayaz pasand ho?  Nahin Khushi, aisi baat nahin hai.  Pichhle teen saalon mein maine pata nahin kitni ladkiyon ko paise deke apni Di ka ghar basaye rakha hai.  Jeejaji ke baare mein aur kuch kaho na kaho, ye to sach hai, unke saamne se ladki hatado to woh bahut jaldi bhool jaate hain, kissi nayi mehbooba ki taraf apni attention dedete hain.” “I hope you don’t think that you’re Jeejaji’s  first bit on the side, do you?  No Khushi, you’re not.  In the last three years, I’ve lost count of the number of women I’ve bought off to keep my Di’s married life secure.  You’ve got to hand it to Jeejaji, if you take away his current obsession it doesn’t take him long to find another fancy-piece to catch his interest.”

Arnav walked into the light, a smile on his face.  Khushi shuddered again at the sight of that smile, it was such a bitter travesty of the smile he had worn only two days ago.


“Magar tum, Khushi Kumari Gupta, tumhein to paise deke main apni Di ki zindagi se nahin hata sakta na.  Tum to mere chote Bhai ki saali ho, meri Di ki dost ho.  Tumhara main kya karoonga Khushi Kumari Gupta?” “But you, Khushi Kumari Gupta, I can’t pay you off and get you out of my Di’s life.  You’re my little brother’s sister-in-law, my Di’s friend.  What shall I do with you, Khushi Kumari Gupta?”

He stopped in front of her, his gaze raking over her in a way that made her feel dirty.  For a moment, she thought she could see a hint of softening in his eyes, before his gaze fell on the bangles she was wearing.

“Kya mere Jijaji hi tumhare mangetar the?  Haan, wohi the.  Tumhari aankhein mujhe sab bata rahi hain.” “Was my brother-in-law your fiancee?  He was, wasn’t he.  Your eyes are telling me everything”

“Aap................” “You.............”

Arnav dragged her close, his fingers digging into the bruises Shyam’s cruel grip had caused on her arms.  Her gasp of pain broke through the miasma of rage engulfing him for a moment; he let go, only to cup her face in a parody of the way he had touched her before.

“Mujhe bataya kyun nahin tumne Khushi?  Kya sochke tumne mujhse ye chupaya?  Kya tumhein laga tha ke ye baat kabhi khulegi nahin?  Tumne apni family ko kaise manaya, iss baat ko chupane ke liye?” “Why didn’t you tell me Khushi?  What were you thinking when you hid this from me?  Did you think you’d be able to hide it forever?  How did you convince your family to hide this from us, what did you say to them?”

He leaned close, his very calmness terrifying her.

“Shayad tumne ye socha ke agar mujhe pata chaljayega to main tumhare qareeb nahin aaoonga?  Kya ye baat thi Khushi?  Kya tumne ye socha ke main apni behan ki souten ke paas nahin aaoonga? Kya tumne ye socha ke tum mujhe itna paagal karlogi ke main tumse shaadi karloonga?” “Maybe you thought that if I found out, I wouldn’t come near you.  Was that what it was, Khushi?  Did you think that I wouldn’t  come near my sister’s rival?  Did you think you’d make me fall in love with you so deeply that I’d marry you?”

“Meri baat to sunlijiye” “Will you just listen to me?”

“Jab baat karne ka waqt tha to tum chup raheen theen Khushi.  Tumne baat karne ka haq kho diya hai.  Ab baat main karoonga, aur sunogi tum”  “When it was the time to talk, then you stayed silent Khushi.  You’ve lost the right to say anything.  Now I’ll talk and you’ll listen”

“Please, ek dafa meri baat to...................” “Please, just give me one chance................”

“Bas, Khushi.  Ab meri baat sunlo.  Paanch minute baad, hum dono neeche jaayenge.  Kal, main tumhare ghar aaonga, apni Nani ke saath aur hum dono parivaar se ye kahenge ke hum shaadi karna chahte hain, aur kyunki Akash aur Payal ke aane tak hum intezaar nahin karsakte hain, hum kalhi shaadi karna chahte hain.  Uss ke baad, tum meri biwi banjaogi, aur Arnav Singh Raizada ki biwi ki taraf kissi ko dekhne ki himmat nahin hogi. Jeejaji ko main South Africa bhej raha hoon, woh kal subha chale jayenge.  Jab tak woh aayenge, tum meri biwi ke role mein fit ho  chuki hogi, aur unko koi aur mehbooba mil chuki hogi”
“Enough Khushi.  Now listen to me.  In five minutes, we’re both going to go downstairs.  Tomorrow, I’m going to come to your house, with my grandmother, and together you and I will tell our families that we want to get married.  Because we’re not willing to wait until Payal and Akash get back from Malaysia, we’re going to get married tomorrow evening.  After that, you’ll be my wife, and nobody will have the audacity to even look at Arnav Singh Raizada’s wife.  I’ll send Jeejaji to South Africa, he’ll leave in the morning.  By the time he comes back, you’ll have settled in as my wife, and he’ll move on to some other lover”

“Main aap se shaadi nahin karna chahti” “I don’t want to marry you”

“Mana karne se pehle alternative sunlo Khushi Kumari Gupta.  Agar tumne mana  kardiya, to main abhi ishi waqt neeche jaake ye poori baat apne parivaar ko batadoonga.  Saaf saaf kehdoonga ke tumhare poore parivaar ne ye baat chupayi ke Jeejaji ne tumse mangni ki hai.  Nani se kahoonga ke tumne hi Jeejaji ka peecha kiya, aur jab woh Di ko nahin chod rahe the, to phir tumne mujhe phansane ki koshish ki.  Mamiji se kahoonga ke Payal ko sab pata tha.  Usske baad tumhare parivar ka Dilli mein kya, India mein rehna mushkil kardoonga. Sochlo Khushi, ek baar sochlo.  Jhoot bolne ki saza kissi ko to milni hai- ya to sirf tumhein, ya tumhare poore parivaar ko”
“Before you refuse, consider the alternative Khushi Kumari Gupta.  If you refuse, then I’ll go straight downstairs and tell my family the whole truth.  I’ll tell them clearly that your whole family hid the fact that my brother-in-law got himself engaged to you.  I’ll tell my grandmother that you chased after him, and when he refused to leave my sister, then you moved on to me.  I’ll  tell Mamiji that Payal knew all about it.  After that, I’ll make sure that it’s impossible for you to find a roof over your head in India, let alone in Delhi.  Consider that, Khushi, think it over once before you refuse.  Someone has to pay for the lies; it’s either going to be you on your own, or your entire family”

She looked at him, looking for even a hint of the man who had been frantic with worry at the thought of losing her; all she could see was the brutal man who had destroyed her reputation and forced her to leave Lucknow.

“Aap ye kyun karrahe hain?  Meri baat to ek baarto  sunlijiye” “Why are you doing this? Will you just listen to me, please”

“Baat karne ka waqt chalagaya Khushi.  Maine tumse ek baar poocha tha, tumhare mangetar ke baare mein.  Woh waqt tha baat karne ka.  Ab main sirf apni Di ki khushi ke baare mein sochoonga.  Unko apne pati ki zaroorat hai, woh jaise bhi hain.  To main apne Jeejaji ko unke paas rakhoonga, kisi bhi tarha.  Main tumhein apni zindagi se nikaal to nahin sakta, to phir apne se baandh ke rakhoonga.  Jeejaji itne bhi mohabbat me paagal nahin honge ke MERI biwi ki taraf aankh utha ke dekhne ki bewaqoofi karenge”
“The time has passed for talking Khushi.  I asked you once about your fiancee, do you remember.  That was the time for you to talk to me.  Now I’m only going to think about my Di’s happiness.  She needs her husband, no matter what he’s like.  So I’ll make sure she has him, not matter what I have to do to ensure that.  I can’t throw you out of my life, so I’ll bind you to me.  No matter how insanely Jeejaji wants you, he’s not stupid enough to dare to approach my wife”

Khushi couldn’t think, couldn’t breathe.  There was no way out of this situation, no way to make the contemptuous man standing in front of her understand why she had done what she had done. 

He smiled at her, the smile sending shivers of terror down her spine.

“So what’s your answer Khushi Kumari Gupta? Will you marry me?”

What could she do but say yes.

The tears rolled down her face as she remembered that moment, that night when the man she loved had broken her heart.  In that moment, she had known that the Arnav Singh Raizada she had given her heart to had vanished, driven back into hibernation by the way she had betrayed his trust.  Part of her believed that she had only herself to blame, but the loving heart of her wept for his betrayal.  Could he not have trusted her, just enough to hear her out?  Could he not have given her a chance to  explain? 

Since that night, she had been sleep-walking through life, numb to everything.  Her acting skills had developed immensely, and over the past two months, no-one had noticed that there was anything wrong.  But now she had had enough.

It had taken two months, but she was finally beginning to come out of the quagmire of pain she had been caught in since that night.  She couldn’t bear the thought of living in this limbo for the rest of her life; neither of them could ever find contentment this way. Sooner or later the truth would become apparent to their families, and she couldn’t allow them to experience that pain.  One way or another, she had to bring this torture to an end.  If she had been a weaker woman, she could have considered ending her own life; she couldn’t deny that there had been moments when she had contemplated ending it all, simply to escape the weight of the burdens crushing her with every beat of her heart.

But those had been only moments, moments of weakness in the middle of the night, when the darkness seemed impenetrable.  It had been those moments of weakness which had shocked her out of the despair she had felt since that night; it had been those moments which had made her vow that she wouldn’t let herself be defeated by one man’s lust and another’s anger.  One way or another, she would free herself and free her husband too, from this half-life in which they were existing.  Whether their marriage, forged in hate rather than the love she had dreamed of, would survive was something she had no idea about.  But one thing was sure; Khushi Kumari Raizada had had enough of simply enduring.  The time had come to start living; living the life she had hoped for before that night.

Written by

Fida Raizada

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Fida's Corner: 'Righfully His!' (Chapter 2)

Chapter 2

As Khushi bade Nani farewell, her smile hid a thousand hurts and shattered dreams.  Sometimes it seemed that she couldn’t remember what it was like to breathe without pain shuddering through her with every breath; there were times when all she wanted to do was scream till her throat was raw, scream at her husband for destroying her over and over and over again.  It would have been kinder to kill her than the daily torment he put her through, but she knew that he hadn’t wanted to be kind, knew that Arnav Singh Raizada was capable of the utmost cruelty when he believed someone worthy of punishment.

He had turned their lives into a punishment and ensured her existence had turned to torment, reminding her with every breath of how unforgiving he could be.  The love she had once seen in his eyes had turned to hate the moment he realised she had lied to him, and for that she couldn’t blame him.  She hated him with every fibre of her being, mostly for being so unbending and unforgiving; but part of her hated him simply because she couldn’t stop loving him, no matter how hard she tried.

She sat in the car, Hari Prakash sitting next to the driver, the shaded screen raised between the front and the back seats.  Her husband had left standing instructions; she was never to be unescorted, no matter where she went; if he wasn’t with her himself, then one of the Prakash brothers was always by her side.  Arnav had told Nani it was so that Khushi never had to do anything for herself, so that she never felt the burden of any of the responsibilities she had shouldered before their marriage.  Nani had happily believed him, but the truth was far more bitter.  He had told Khushi the real reason the day after their wedding- he didn’t trust her alone. He didn’t trust her to not hide things for him, so to make sure she could never lie to him again, he had decided to remove that temptation from her mind.  If she was never alone, then she could never have anything to hide from him, and she would never be able to lie to him.  And so it had been for the last two months; if she ever left the Raizada Mansion, she had an escort who stuck to her like glue. 

Khushi had accepted her guardians the way she had accepted everything after that night, with mute resignation. Things had happened so fast that she hadn’t been able to think of a way out of the maze of half-truths she had found herself caught in, and the pain which had shredded her heart had left her so dazed that she had found it hard enough to breathe, let alone to come up with an explanation cogent enough to satisfy Arnav Singh Raizada.

So much had happened that night.

That night.

The night that had changed everything.

She stood there half-dressed, a red saree in her hands as she contemplated her reflection in the mirror.  Was she the same girl who had come to Delhi from Lucknow?  There was a look in her eyes that she had never noticed before, a knowledge as old as Eve; she had first noticed it after she returned from the Raizada mansion with his bangles on her wrists.  Arnav may have been unable to tell her why he had bought her those bangles, but the look in his eyes when he had seen her wearing them had told her so much; there had been so much hidden in the depths of his eyes that, while she didn’t fully understand everything he was feeling, she knew deep down inside that she was his

The bangles she was still wearing were nothing less than a brand, his way of marking her.  It was an old-fashioned notion, the idea that she could carry his brand.  Part of her fought against the idea of belonging to anyone, but a deep seated, more primal part of her thrilled to the sight of his bangles on her wrists, there for everyone to see.  For the last two days, she hadn’t taken those bangles off, wearing them even when they didn’t match the outfit she had worn for the first part of the wedding ceremony.  She wore them even now, and couldn’t help but be thankful that the saree her mother had chosen for her to wear that night matched them, these bangles that  he had chosen.

Khushi knew it wouldn’t be possible, but there was an unshakeable need inside her to not take those bangles off, not until she had something else to brand her as his; a thread would do if he wrapped it around her wrist himself.  She stood for another minute, looking at the way they moved on her wrists as she draped the saree around her waist; the gentle tinkle as they moved against each other hinting at gentle words she thought he would never be able to actually say. 

The man who had claimed her was not a gentle man, though sometimes he surprised her with his tenderness; she was almost afraid of the day when he would come to claim her in front of the world.  Still, despite everything, he was hers and she was his; a small part of her couldn't help but wish that they would fight their way through life together, even if they fought with each other as much as they fought for each other.

Shaking herself out of her dreamworld (only in her dreams could she imagine he might think of marrying her), she turned to pick up her earrings, saree finally draped, then jumped as her mother bustled into the room.

“Tayyar hogayeen bitiya?  Phir aajao, chalte hain.  Akash ki Naniji ne hamare liye gadi bheji hai, kaha hai ke woh humara intezaar karrahi hain.  Humein aur der nahin karni chahiye””Are you ready, sweetheart?  Come on, we should go.  Akash’s grandmother has sent a car for us, she said she’s waiting for us.  We shouldn’t dally any longer”

Garima stopped speaking as she finally looked at her niece.

“Titaliya, tu itni badi kab hogayi, mujhe pata bhi nahin chala.  Tu kitni sundar lagrahi hai””Butterfly, when did you grow up so much, I didn’t even notice.  You’re looking so beautiful”

Khushi blushed, then walked over to hug her ‘mother’.

“Amma, ye sirf tumhari aankhon ki mohabbat hai.  Main to wohi hoon jo hamesha se thi.””Amma, you only think that because your eyes are full of love.  I’m the same as I always was”

Garima smiled, pressing a kiss to Khushi’s forehead

“Nahin bitiya, ab tu bhi badi hogayi hai.  Bahut jaldi tumhari bhi bidai ke liye tayyar hona hoga mujhe.””No, my sweet daughter, you’re more grown up than I had realised.  Soon, I’ll have to get ready to send you to your husband’s house”

“Amma, aaj to sirf Jiji ke baare mein socho.  Kal se to tum sirf humare baare mein sochna, magar aaj tum sirf Jiji aur Jeeja ji keliye socho.  Ab chalo na, nahin to mujhe hi daanto gi, der karne ke liye”
“Amma, today you should only be thinking about Jiji.  From tomorrow, you can think about me, but today you should be thinking about Jiji and Jeejaji.  Now lets go, otherwise you’ll be telling me off for making you late”

Laughingly she pulled Garima out of the room; within moments the whole family were settled in the car and being driven towards the Raizada Mansion.

When they arrived, she left her parents to their greetings and slipped away to her sister’s room.  She was just about to enter as she always did when she remembered that her sister was now someone else’s wife; her hand stopped in the act of pushing open the door and instead moved up, knocking on the door to announce her arrival.

She heard Akash say “Come in”, his voice as gentle as always.  A smile broke over her face at the thought of how well her Jiji and Jijaji suited each other; both gentle people who complemented each other perfectly. 

As she stepped through the door, her smile widened when she saw the couple standing on opposite sides of the room, clearly having jumped apart as soon as they heard the knock at the door.

“Maaf kijiye Jeejaji, magar hum Jiji ko tayyar karke neeche lejaane aaye hain.  Wahan sab intezaar karrahe hain, humein jaldi se nikalna hai” “Forgive me, Jeejaji, but i’ve come to help Jiji get ready.  Everyone’s waiting for her, we have to leave as soon as we can”

Akash blushed, then smiled gently

“Payal, main zara Bhai se millta hoon, neeche milenge””Payal, I’m just going to go and see Bhai, I’ll meet you downstairs”

Serene as ever, her blushing cheeks the only sign of her inner happiness, Payal nodded gently.

“Theek hai, hum bas aate hain” “That’s fine, I’ll be there soon”

Their eyes met, unspoken messages passing between them, then Akash quietly left the room.

She waited until the door had closed behind him, then Khushi squealed loudly and threw herself at her sister, hugging her tightly until Payal laughingly protested.

“Jiji, tum kitni khush lagrahi ho, aur Jeejaji to bilkul tumhare deewane hain.  Tum hamesha itni hi khush rehna, theek hai” she said, grabbing Payal’s hands and twirling her round and round.”Jiji, you look soooooooo happy, and Jeejaji is totally mad about you.  You’ve got to promise to always be this happy, ok”

“Khushi, bas, Khushi bas bas bas” Payal laughingly tried to calm her over-excited sister.

“Bas Khushi bas.  Dekho, meri madad kardo, nahin to main ye sab kaise pehnoongi.  Aur Saasuma ka aadesh hai ke main ye sab pehnoon” “Enough Khushi.  Look, you’ve got to help, otherwise I’ll never be able to get ready in time.  And Saasuma has dictated that I have to wear all of this”

Khushi turned to look at the jewellery laid out.  Her eyes widened as she took in the array of jewellery laid out on the bed.

“Jiji, yeh sab aap ko pehnna hain?””Jiji, she wants you to wear all of this?”

With a resigned smile, Payal replied “Haan Khushi, yeh sab pehnna hain.  Saasuma ka hukum hai.  Humne jab inn se poocha to inhone kaha pehnlena hi behtar hai.  Do din baad se to hum yahan nahin honge, to Saasuma ki baat aaj maanlena hi behtar hai””Yes, Khushi, I have to wear all of this.  It’s Saasuma’s order.  I asked him as well, and he said I might as well let her have her way today.  We’ll be off after a couple of days, so I might as well give in today”

Khushi tore her eyes away from the glittery display on the bed.

“Tum yahan nahin hogi, Jiiji; tum kahan jaa rahi ho?””What do you mean you won’t be here Jiji; where are you going?”

Payal blushed. ““Yeh humein apne saath Malaysia leke jaarahe hain.  Inhein kaam ke liye wahan tour pe jaana hai, to Bhai ne kaha ke ye humein bhi ke jaayein.” “He’s taking me to Malaysia with him.  He’s got to go there for work, so Bhai said that he should take me too”

“Par Jiji, tum kitne dinon ke liye jaarahi ho” “Par Jiji, how long are you going for?” Khushi asked, feeling slightly dismayed at the rapidity with which things were changing. 

“Do maheene ka tour hai Khushi, inho ne kaha ke agar humara dil nahin laga to ye humein pehle bhejdenge, magar humein lagta hai ke jahan bhi yeh honge, hum wahan khushi khushi reh sakte hain” “He’s got to be out there for two months, Khushi, he’s said that if I don’t like it he’ll send me back early.  But I think that I’ll be happy to be wherever he is”

“Do maheene?  Tum do maheene tak bahar rahogi Jiji?  Hum tumhare baghair kaise rahenge?” ” Two months? You’re going to be away for two months?  How will I manage without you?”

“Khushi, humare baghair to ab rehne ki aadat to daalni hi padegi na, aur dekho; yahan to aana jaana to rahega tumhara.  Di ne kaha hai ke unko tumhari itni aadat hogayi hai ke woh chahti hain ke tum roz unke paas aao, unke saath waqt guzaaro.””Khushi, you’ll have to get used to managing without me, and look, you’ll still be coming here.  Di has said that she has become so used to having you around that she wants you to come and visit her every day, come and spend time with her”

“par Jiji, hum bina wajha thodi na aasakte hain; abhi tak to aap ki shaadi ki tayyariyon ki liye aarahe the, par ab to koi wajha nahin hogi””But jiji, I can’t just keep coming here without any reason; uptil now, I was coming to help with the preparations for your wedding, but there’s no reason anymore”

Payal turned to face Khushi, taking her hands in hers.

“Khushi, tumhein ek baat batani hai.  Di ki tabiyat theek nahin hai.  Bhai aur yeh Di ka itna khayal kyun rakhte hain, tumhe pata hai; issliye ki unki tabiyat kissi bhi waqt kharab hosakti hai.  Pichle kuch maheenon se woh kuch zyaada beemaar rehrahi hain.  Bhai ne innse kaha ke agar tum aati rahogi, to Di ke baare mein yeh donon bhai thoda kam pareshaan rehenge.  Humari khaatir kardo Khushi, nahin to inhe apni Di ki bahut chinta rahegi””Khushi, I have to tell you something.  Di isn’t well.  He and Bhai take such care of her, you know that; they do that because her health is so fragile that she could deteriorate at any time.  She’s been getting gradually worse over the last few months.  Bhai said to him that if you keep coming, then they’ll both be a little less worried about Di.  Please Khushi, please keep coming for my sake, otherwise he’ll be so worried about Di”

Khushi listened to what her sister was saying with ear, but her mind was going over and over the fact that he has asked that she keep coming to the mansion.  He was making sure that he had an excuse to be near her, to see her and talk to her every day.  He was as keen to be near her as she was to be near him, even though the chances were they would end up fighting over everything and nothing.

“Jiji, agar tum kehti ho, to hum zaroor aayenge. Par tumhare baghair humein yahan aate hue bahut ajeeb lagega.””Jiji, if thats what you want, then of course I’ll come.  But it’ll seem really strange to come here without you”

“Do maheene ki to baat hai Khushi, aur phir hum yaheen honge.  Kya pata, tab tak koi ladka tumhare pyaar mein paagal hoke tumhein hum se door lejaaye.””It’s only two months Khushi, and then I’ll be back.  Who knows, maybe by then some handsome man will fall madly in love with you and sweep you off your feet”

“Jiji, tum hamesha humein chedti ho, magar dekho; zyaada pareshaan kiya to hum Jijaji ko humare bachpan ke sab raaz batadenge.  Samajhlo, aur hum se daro Jiji!””Jiji, you always tease me, but look, if you tease me too much then I’ll tell jijaji all about how naughty you were when you were little.  Remember that, you should be scared of me!”

Payal laughingly raised her hand to Khushi’s cheek, but Khushi ducked away then said “Jiji ab dekho, Mamiji hum donon se bahut ghussa hongi agar humne aur der ki.  Chalo, jaldi jaldi ye sab pehenlo, neeche sab intezaar karrahe honge” “Jiji, look, Mamiji will be so cross with both of us if we’re even more late.  Let’s go, let’s get all of this on you as quickly as we can, everyone must be waiting for us downstairs”

As she helped her sister don all the finery which Mamiji had deemed appropriate for her bahu, her thoughts wandered to the man who’s bangles she wore.  That part of her which dreamed of the day when he would claim her the way Akash had claimed Payal kept rearing its head, trying to make her believe in the impossible, but the sensible part of her knew that it would never happen.  She was his, but he would never claim her; he was hers, but he would never admit it.  He would never marry her, she knew that; sooner or later, her parents would find someone suitable for her to marry and she would have no reason to say no. 

She was his, for now; it was only her fantasy that she would always be his.  When the time came, she would do her duty and lock his memories away in the darkest recesses of her heart; she would do her best to be a good wife to whoever her parents chose for her.  But till then, she would wear his brand proudly, create a store of memories to last her a lifetime, and rejoice in the fact that, even for a short time, she was his.

Written By:
Fida Raizada

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Fida's Corner: 'Rightfully his!' (Chapter 1)

Chapter 1

He sat at the dining table, drinking the fresh orange juice, which was the only breakfast he had been able to stomach in the last two months.  Sitting next to him, Nani carried on an animated conversation with his wife, discussing everything and nothing.  He wondered whether he was the only one who could see through Khushi’s mask, see that her eyes were dead.  It certainly seemed to be the case, but then maybe he was the only one who knew what he was looking for.  He knew exactly what someone’s eyes looked like when they were dead inside; after all, it was that dead look which stared back at him whenever he saw his reflection in the mirror.

There was a lull in the conversation, giving him a chance to break in.

“Khushi, is Di not coming down for breakfast?” he asked, his voice as neutral as he could make it.

“Bas aarahi hongi, Jijaji ka phone aaya tha.” “She’s just on the phone to Jijaji, she’ll be right down” She replied, her lilting voice a parody of the way she had once spoken.  He could see his grandmother smile at the sight of Khushi’s blushing cheeks; how was she to know that the blush wasn’t one of shyness, but one of shame.

“Theek hai.  Zara dekhlena ke woh kuch khalein.  I’ll be back late tonight, mera intezaar mat karna.”  “Fine.  Make sure she eats something.  I’ll be back late tonight, don’t wait for me” He smiled generally in the direction of the others seated at the table, before getting up to go.

Making his way to the bedroom, he was aware of the conversation continuing behind him, his aunt and uncle discussing when their son and daughter-in-law would return from America, whilst Nani occasionally breaking in to talk about the grand dinner party she wanted to throw to celebrate their return.

“Suniye” “Can I bother you?”

As he gathered his briefcase from the bedroom, Arnav heard her voice behind him.  He didn’t turn towards her, but stopped what he was doing, allowing her to speak.

“Agar aap bura na maanein, to kya main Amma se mil aaoon?” “If you don’t mind, can I go and visit my mother?”

Maine tumhein kabhi mana kiya hai jaane se?  Nahin.  Tum jaana chaho, chali jaao.  Just remember, you’re my wife, not just their daughter.  Wahan iss ghar ki koi baat karne se pehle ye sochlena ke tumhari Raizada parivaar ki taraf kya zimmedariyaan hain” “Have I ever stopped you from going? No.  If you want to go, then go.  Just remember, you’re my wife, not just their daughter.  Before talking about anything that goes on in this house, remember the responsibilities you have towards the Raizada family”

For a moment, the air between them was filled with electricity; he could almost hear the retort on her lips before she stopped herself.

“Aap ke aane tak main aajaaoongi.”  “I’ll be back before you get home”

“Mujhe koi farq nahin padta, tum kab aati ho, kab jaati ho.  Bas meri baat yaad rakhna” “It makes no difference to me, when you come and when you go.  Just remember what I said to you”

With those words, he turned and stalked past her, their shoulders brushing as he passed.  As he settled into his car, for once letting the driver take the wheel, Arnav could feel the pressure where their shoulders had touched, the sensation enough to reawaken the craving for her touch that he fought so hard to control.

He pulled a file from his briefcase, trying to settle himself with some work; within a minute, the sound of a siren broke through the silence and he looked up to see an ambulance speed past the car with blue lights flashing.  His eyes followed the ambulance as it drove into the distance, memories rising to the surface no matter how hard he tried to suppress them

That night, he had realised how much he needed her.  It had happened in an instant, when he realised that he couldn’t remember what life was like without her in it.

He remembered standing in the dark, watching the lights of the ambulance pull further and further away from him, only one thought reverberating through his mind - that he couldn’t remember what his life had been like without her in it.

He couldn’t imagine what life would be like without her in it.

He remembered standing in the dark, watching as the ambulance carried her further and further away from him; he  remembered that all he could think in that moment was that he didn’t want to imagine what his life would be like without her in it.

It had been that moment that had led him to make so many strange decisions, led him back into the world of pain and hurt that he had always associated with love.

For a few moments, he had been paralysed; indecision was an emotion he had little experience of but at that moment only one thought had gone round and round in his mind, leaving no space for any coherence.  “khushikhushikhushi” he couldn’t think couldn’t breathe “khushikhushikhshi Ican’tlivewithouther khushikhushikhushi needherneedherneedher”. All that had been in his mind was her.

As the memories washed over him, he let himself remember that moment, felt himself back in that mire of worry and terror and need.

 She was injured, they were taking her away from him and he didn’t know what to do.

He took a deep breath, and forced his mind to calm.  One thing at a time, he’d deal with one thing at a time.  First he’d find her, then he’d do whatever it took to make her better and then he’d deal with whatever else needed to be done to keep her in his life.  But first he needed to find her.  He needed to find her so that he could keep her, keep her in his life where she belonged.

He turned and starting running; he needed to follow that ambulance, and no matter how much some part of him wanted to chase run after it, to keep running till he caught up, the tiny part of his brain that still had coherent thought realised that he could only catch up to her in his car. 

Reaching the white four-wheel drive, he pulled open the door and threw himself into the driver’s seat.  As he drew the seat-belt around his waist, he heard her voice, bargaining with some street vendor.  For a moment, he was convinced he was imagining it, his need to see her alive and well so strong that he was deceiving himself into hearing her.  He held his breath, looking around before his gaze fell on the rear-view mirror.  There she stood, alive and well.  He blinked, then looked again; when it finally sunk in that it really was Khushi standing there, that it really was Khushi’s voice that he could hear, he let out a shuddering breath, the strength flooding from his body.  As the realisation sank in that he hadn’t lost her, his head leaned forward, resting on the steering wheel, the breaths continuing to shudder through him as he tried to get a grip on his out-of-control emotions.

After a moment, all the myriad sensations crystallised into one overpowering feeling- anger.  How dare she put him through this, how dare she?  Didn’t she realise that she was his, his?  She had no right to do this to him, no right to come into his life and throw it into turmoil and then send him into a tailspin with the threat of removing herself from his life.

He threw himself out of the car and stalked towards her, unaware of what he was saying, uncaring of what his anger revealed.  It was only when she directly asked him why she mattered to him that his mind woke up again, stopping him from declaring himself before he was fully sure of exactly what it was he wanted to tell her.

The car drew to a halt at some traffic lights, the sound of the hawkers on the street bringing him out of his memories.  A wry smile crossed his face; what a fool he had been, to believe that she was worthy of love.  How wrong he had been.

And if it took every bit of his strength to suppress the love he couldn’t erase from his heart and mind, he would never admit that, even to himself.

Written by
Fida Raizada

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fida's Corner: Rightfully his! (Prologue)


He sat in the dark, next to the pool, the bright moonlight shining down on him.  He was alone, as he always was, even when in the midst of a crowd.  A few moments of peace, a few moments where his thoughts weren’t chasing after each other, that was all he craved, but somehow he could never find that inner serenity.

The gentle tinkle of shifting glass bangles came from the bedroom; he started to turn his head towards the sound but stopped himself at the last moment.  Did her presence in his life not torment him enough without allowing himself to give in to his weakness?  It was hard enough to not fall to his knees and just beg for an end to his misery most of the time, he didn’t need to torture himself by looking at her while she slept, while she looked as innocent as he wanted her to be.

A shuddering sigh escaped him.  The mask he hid behind cracked and fell away as he leaned back in the lounging chair, his face a study in love and hate and despair.  He closed his eyes, trying to force himself to sleep. He had become so used to this nightly torment that it felt normal, though there were times when he remembered the days when the fortress around his heart was strong and undamaged.

Sleep eluded him for long moments.  Just as he felt himself finally drifting off to sleep, he felt the weight of her head settle into the hollow of his neck.  His eyes jerked open, his hands moving to push her off him; how dare she break the rules he had laid down the day she came into this house.

There was nobody there, no warm body to push away, no silky hair teasing him with its caress.  He turned to look into the bedroom; she lay there with her back to him, her shoulders tense even as she slept. 

God, he was going insane.  The past two months of anguish had clearly taken their toll on him.  How could he imagine that she would come anywhere near him, he had told her more than enough times how much he hated her, repeated words of disdain and disrespect over and over in the hope of making himself believe them along with her.  She would never come near him of her own accord, and he told himself he never wanted her to.  And yet, every night, his imagination betrayed him, making him believe again and again that she had breached the distance between them; every night he told himself he would rebuff her if she were truly to approach him, only to have to convince himself over and over that he wasn’t disappointed when it always turned out to be a manifestation of his own innermost desires.

He lay back again, determined to force himself into sleep.  And this time, when he felt the warm weight of her along the length of his body, he let the dream take him away.

“I love you” she said, “as much as you love me”.  Her lips grazed his throat, laying gentle kisses at the angle of his jaw.  “That means I love you more than I imagined anyone could love anything.”  Her kisses trailed towards his lips, enticing him, tempting him, until he gave in and took her lips in a deep kiss, his hands roving her body with possessive fervour.   Passion flared and took over; his last conscious thought was the regret that this dream too would come to an end, the way they always did.

Written by
Fida Raizada