On his way home that evening, Arnav Singh Raizada took the time to go over his plans for how he would deal with the reappearance of his brother-in-law in his life and in his house. He had mapped out two plans of attack; one which he could use if Shyam showed any ongoing interest in his wife, and another which he would implement if Shyam had found himself another girlfriend. The only thing he couldn’t factor into either plan was how Khushi would react.
Over two months of marriage had brought him no great insight into his wife’s heart or mind. On their wedding day, he had initially planned to ignore her and restrict her, to keep her as an unwanted but necessary burden. He had expected to be able to control himself well enough, to be able to remove her from his heart and mind as easily as he had dealt with everyone else who had ever hurt him. But his reaction at the moment he married her made it clear to him that his control was virtually non-existent where she was concerned; he couldn’t simply pretend she didn’t exist. It was then that he had decided to make sure she would suffer as much as he did. She had broken the heart he had almost forgotten he had, and she had to pay for it. And so, on his way to his suhaag-raat, he had thrown together a plan which he had been trying to stick to over the last two months.
Two months of sharing a bedroom, sharing a bed, two months of waking in the same room, sleeping in the same room, living together, those two months played on his mind. Two months in which the only time he touched her was when there were other people around. Two months of taunting her in private and (more discreetly) in public. Two months of forcing her to behave as he wanted her to, of making her live according to his rules, of making her accept his supposed infidelities. Two months of making her wonder every night if that night would be the one when he finally….
Despite the last two months of living with Khushi, he still couldn’t predict what she would do. Khushi had taken everything he had thrown at her as if his behaviour were completely normal. The Khushi he remembered from the days before his marriage had vanished, leaving behind a colourless version. There were times when he wanted to shake her out of her silence, prod and poke her into giving some response to his taunts, but something always stopped him. Part of him knew that if Khushi ever started standing up to him, he would forget every plan he had ever made and fall at her feet and beg her to love him, to forgive him for everything he had done to her, to forget Shyam.
He thought back to the first night they had spent in this room, their wedding night. It had been then that he had put into action his hastily thrown together plan for handling his new wife.
That night, he walked into his bedroom to find the bed decorated with flowers. Walking forward, he saw the rows of flowers covering the glass doors to the pool, creating a fragrant curtain separating them from all prying eyes. He could see that the other doors to the pool had been locked, ensuring their privacy on what was supposed to be their first night together. As he put a hand out to touch one white bloom, Arnav closed his eyes then clenched his fist around that fragrant blossom, releasing a waft of perfume as he crushed it.
Flinging the now-crushed flower away from him, he turned back towards the bed; a shaft of pain pierced him as he thought of the dreams he had destroyed with his own hands. He had once dreamed of seeing Khushi surrounded by flowers as she waited for him.
But she wasn’t there; the rose-petals which had been formed into the shape of a heart on the bed spread remained undisturbed. For a moment, he wondered if she had turned tail and run; he began to consider where to look for her, wonder if Shyam had somehow convinced her to come to
with him. His hand was just going towards his phone to contact his Private Investigator when he heard the bathroom door open and saw her walk in. South Africa
Khushi had changed out of her gaudy wedding clothes into a simple cotton salwar qameez; his eye couldn’t help but assess the quality of the cloth and mark it as inferior, whilst his mind tried to adjust to her apparently calm demeanour.
For some reason, Arnav had expected Khushi to be furiously angry, or perhaps distraught and crying her eyes out. He hadn’t expected this calm acceptance, this ability to adjust to his presence in the same room, this seeming lack of care at their forced proximity.
As she moved around the room, tidying some things away, picking out the saree she was planning to wear the next day, choosing all the accessories she would need to go with it, he watched in astonishment. Where was the distress he had been expecting?
She quietly moved to the bed, and gathered up the top cover, putting it to one side without dropping any flower petals. Turning back the sheet, she adjusted the pillows on the left side of the bed, and was about to lie down when Arnav finally gathered his scattered thoughts enough to speak.
“I need to talk to you”
She stopped and silently turned to look at him.
“From today, duniya ki aankhon mein tum meri biwi ho. Chahe hum donon ke beech iss kamre mein jo kuch bhi ho, iss kamre ke baahar duniya ko sirf itna pata hona chahiye ke tum meri biwi ho. Samjhi tum?” “From today, in the eyes of the world, you’re my wife. Whatever happens between us in this room, outside of this room the world should only know that you are my wife. Do you understand?”
“Nani tumhein sikhadengi ki Raizada khandaan ki bahu se kya expect kiya jayega. Agar woh aur Di khush rahengi, to main tumse kuch nahin kahoonga; agar unko tumne kabhi na-khush kiya, to main tumhein bakhshoonga nahin.” “Nani will teach you what is expected of a Raizada bahu. If you keep her and Di happy, then I’ll leave you alone, but if you ever upset them, then don’t expect any mercy from me”
“Rahi humare beech ke rishte ki baat.........” “When it comes to the relationship between us...........” he stopped, waiting to see if she would react.
She still didn’t say a word, though he could feel the tension in her skyrocketing.
“At the moment, the sight of you disgusts me so much that I feel sick at the thought of touching you. So you won’t have to fulfil every responsibility of being my wife just yet. But once I’ve managed to deal with my disgust of you, then I’ll expect you to fulfil that duty as well. Sooner or later, I’ll expect you to have some children, Nani itna to chahenhgi- main sirf itni ummeed karsakta hoon ke unn mein Raizada khoon zyaada aur tumhara khoon kam ho, though I’m sure they’ll be as great a disappointment as you are to your parents.”
“At the moment, the sight of you disgusts me so much that I feel sick at the thought of touching you. So you won’t have to fulfil every responsibility of being my wife just yet. But once I’ve managed to deal with my disgust of you, then I’ll expect you to fulfil that duty as well. Sooner or later, I’ll expect you to have some children, Nani’s going to expect that much- all I can hope is that they’ll turn out to have more Raizada blood in them than Gupta blood though I’m sure they’ll be as great a disappointment as you are to your parents.”
He saw Khushi jerk at his words, though he couldn’t tell if it was at the thought of sleeping with him or whether it was because the idea of disappointing her parents was painful to her.
His own words were like acid on his tongue; though his plan was to scare her so much that she would stay out of his way as much as she could, part of him still hurt to see how easily she accepted that he would treat her that way.
“For now, all I want is to be able to ignore you as much as possible. Inside this room, don’t talk to me, don’t interfere with any of my belongings, just let me pretend you don’t exist. Iss kamre ke bahar, tum Raizada bahu hone ka jo faaida uthana chaho, uthalo. Magar iss kamre ke andar, yaad rakhna ke main tumhari harr chaal ko jaan chuka hoon- tum agar Shyam, ya kissi aur aashiq se baat karne ki koshish karogi, to mujhe pata chalega, aur phir mujhse bura koi nahin hoga.”
“For now, all I want is to be able to ignore you as much as possible. Inside this room, don’t talk to me, don’t interfere with any of my belongings, just let me pretend you don’t exist. Outside of this room, you can enjoy all the benefits of being a Raizada daughter-in-law. But inside this room, just remember that I’ve got your number- if you even try to talk to Shyam or any other one of your admirers then I’ll find out and then there will be no one worse than me.”
He kept expecting her to scream at him, to berate him for treating her this way. Part of him wanted her to shout at him, to insist that he listen to her explanation, to make him believe that there was some reason she hadn’t talked to him; surely if she wanted, she could make him believe her reasons, and then they could have the marriage he had secretly dreamed of.
But Khushi kept quiet, and her silence damned her even further in his eyes.
Turning away from the silent woman standing next to the bed, Arnav collected his night clothes from the wardrobe and walked into the bathroom; he stripped then stood under a punishingly hot shower for as long as he could stand. As he walked back into the bedroom, he saw that she had curled up on the left side of the bed, staying as close to the edge as she could. He smiled at the sight of the tear tracks on her cheeks; if he was suffering, it was good to know that she was suffering too.
After dosing himself with his nightly insulin, he went and lay on the bed next to her, hoping that exhaustion would force him to sleep. But some time later, he was still awake; every breath she took disturbed him, the sound of every sob made him want to draw her into his arms and comfort her, and the scent of her taunted him with every breath he took.
After an hour or so of torture, he flung himself from the bed and paced around the room; was this what every night would be like from now on?
He finally settled on the lounger, and drifted off to sleep.
It had turned into a nightly battle with himself. Most nights since then, he lay next to her, hoping that it would finally be the night when he would be able to conquer his longing for her, and sleep peacefully on his own bed. Till now, every night had ended with him sleeping on the lounger or outside next to the pool; but it was a battle he kept fighting- he couldn’t afford to give in.
Shaking himself, he started going over his plans in his head.
If Shyam had moved on from Khushi, then things would be easy to handle. He would deal with whoever Shyam’s new girlfriends were the way he always did, and once some time had passed, he would start to think about his future with Khushi. He had no idea if they could ever have a future together; he wasn’t sure he could ever trust her again, and he knew for a fact that she would never forgive him for the way he had treated her.
Still, that was the best case scenario for him. If Shyam had moved on, there was still a hope that he could come out of this mess with some self-respect.
If Shyam showed any interest in Khushi, Arnav knew he would have to clearly stake his claim on his wife; he would do whatever it took to make Shyam believe that Khushi could never be his, even if it meant destroying any hidden dreams he himself had for the future. He had no idea how he would make himself treat Khushi that way, how he would bring himself to hurt her like that but when the time came, Arnav knew he would be able to do whatever it took to keep his Di happy. It was something that he had promised himself the day his father had died, and his need to protect his sister was the only constant in his life. He was willing to destroy himself, his belief in the kind of man he was deep down inside, destroy everything he held dear if that was what it took.
Once Khushi was pregnant, Shyam would move on to some other interest, and those time-pass girls were easily dealt with.
Arnav could only hope that Shyam had lost interest in Khushi.
The ‘Khushi factor’, the unpredictable flaw in Arnav’s plans was actually far more significant than he realised. The wife Arnav he was coming home to was not the same wife he had left behind that morning. After spending a short while with her parents, Khushi had made her excuses and returned home. She had spent the hours since her return home making some plans of her own. Two months of torment hadn’t dulled her brains; now that she had determined to fight for her life, she knew that she had to take some firm steps.
Her first step was to think back over the time she had spent in the Raizada family. Her husband’s family had shown her nothing but kindness since her marriage, gently introducing her into Raizada society. Khushi knew that they expected her to guide her Jiji once she returned from
, but that was something she would think about when the time came. But the kindness and love of her in-laws was something she gave thanks for every day; it was the one thing that had made the last two months bearable. Malaysia
Her husband was the one person she had tried hard not to think about over the last two months, except to think of how to keep out of his way. It was easier to simply hate him, detest him for everything he was doing to her than to think about what he was actually doing.
But now she took the time to think about the way he had acted towards her, the way he looked at her, the way he treated her. Had he actually treated her as badly as he had threatened too? Harsh words when they were alone, taunts when they were in private, a complete lack of trust, a knack of knowing exactly how to make her feel like nothing- certainly she had suffered because of those. The nights he spent with other women, those hurt her more than she could have ever imagined. No matter how thankful she was that he hadn’t yet expected anything physical from her, she couldn’t help the part of her that felt betrayed every time he stalked in smelling of another woman’s perfume. He was discreet, no one in the family had ever even suspected; but he seemed to enjoy rubbing every fling in her face, a calculated insult to her beliefs about the sanctity of marriage.
But the more she thought about it, the more she realised that he had been suffering along with her. Perhaps she had deliberately avoided noticing, but there had been signs all along that he wasn’t as happy in his vengeance as he would have her believe.
He taunted her, yes, but the taunts were never as biting as she knew he could be. He seemed to avoid being alone with her, preferring to spend time with her only when safely chaperoned by family or friends, where perforce he had to play the role of the loving husband. As much as he had threatened on their wedding night, he had never yet even indicated he expected anything from her physically, though she knew he wasn’t the kind of man who thought love was a requirement for sex. And now that she thought about it, she wondered whether it wasn’t that he was trying to dishonour her further by breaking vows which she held dear but whether instead he was using those other women in an attempt to keep himself away from her?
Was there a chance that he was still drawn to her? Was it possible that some part of him still felt something other than hate for her? She remembered the way she had felt on her sister’s wedding day- as if he had claimed possession of her? Did he remember that too? She had never considered it before, as mired as she had been in hurt and betrayal, but was his rage not just triggered by her lies but also by a sense of betrayal and infidelity? Could he have thought that she was leading him on, whilst actually being interested in his brother-in-law?
All these questions and more swirled through her mind, and she cursed the time she had wasted in self-pity; two months of decrying her fate and wallowing in hurt could so much better have been spend in trying to find a way out of this mess. But then, it was also true that in those early days of their marriage, Arnav had been so closed off and bitter that she might as well have tried getting a brick wall to talk. It was only now, with two months of evidence in front of her, that she had an idea that there might be something else in her husband’s heart other than simply hate and vengeance.
Whatever was going on in her husband’s head, she would never find out unless she could get him to talk to her. This half-life they were living had to come to an end, one way or another; either he would have to get over her lies about Shyam, accept that she had made a mistake in her attempt to protect his family and then try and have a life with her, or she would have to accept that there was no possibility of a normal life for them together and somehow persuade him to release her from this state of limbo.
So her next step was going to be an attack on the fortress that was Arnav Singh Raizada. One way or another, she had to get him to talk to her, to listen to her. And she had to do it soon, before Shyam came back from his exile to
. South Africa
So on that day, both Arnav Singh Raizada and Khushi Singh Raizada made their plans, neither one realising the parts they were being expected to play in each other’s campaign for success.