Posts Tagged ‘Arshi’
OS 2 shot – Waiting / Intezaar ( part 1)
“Hey Khushi, Jump and I’ll catch you”
“Shhhh we will get caught “
Khushi climbed out of her bedroom window and lowered herself into Arnav’s waiting arms.
Her rucksack was on her back her and Arnav sneaked away.
“Are you going to your prom dressed like that?”
“My outfit is in my rucksack. I’ll change when I get there but I have to be back before Payal
otherwise you will find my body hanging by the nearest lamppost. Come on Arnav – Lets go ”
It was Khushi’s prom night and she had been grounded; the reason being Buaji thought it was inappropriate for her to attend. Nice girls from good homes and good backgrounds didn’t go out partying or period just didn’t go out or have any fun. Certainly not with a boy ! And definitely not with a 21 year. One of her besties. She didn’t have a single best friend she had loads, there was Preeto, Akash who was straight as they come and pined for her Jiji but never told her. There was Lavanya who was Payal’s friend and somehow had become Khushi’s due to their natural affinity for trouble. Lavanya ‘s madness was no less than NK’s. This group of friends had grown up together. Arnav being the oldest and most responsible, tempering the trouble that the group got into. Khushi being the youngest along with NK got into an inordinate amount of scrapes together. Payal and Akash were the sensible ones usually bargaining with the elders to get Khushi and NK out of trouble.
They all knew That Khushi had been banned from the prom by Buaji and they all knew she was going to go. They just hadn’t worked out how she was going to do it.
Khushi knew who her true ally would be in this case – NK would land her straight into Buaji’s lap with her head on a platter. Lavanya would be good – but still couldn’t get her there ; Akaash and Payal would not support her but if she got caught they would help get her out of trouble.
The unlikeliest member of the group would help; He had a soft spot for her but never revealed it to the rest of the group. He would help her all she needed was her lower lip to tremble and her eyes to fill with tears. He always gave into anything she wanted but never in front of anyone. In front of everyone else he was hard and unyielding, arrogant, his heart had been carved out of stone. But they all knew when it came to them he was a completely different person. His guard would partly come down, they would see the hardness disappear from his eyes and even occasionally smile.
That smile was never seen in the public domain it was reserved solely for his family and friends.
Arnav knew that Khushi had been banned from her prom, he also knew that she would go. There was damage limitation to be done. He knew that she would land herself in trouble up to her neck with her family. He had warned her the price would be too high. But Khushi Kumar Gupta was was a steam train on full speed heading for a train wreck- all he could do was be there for her. Recently she had been in trouble every time they looked away. Her teenage antic’s had got her family worried but as ever Khushi’s heart was always in the right place. Buaji threaten to send her away to boarding school and that to a military style school if she got into anymore trouble.
“Khushi are you sure?”
“Arnav – stop being boring I’m almost sixteen –I’m not going to miss my prom. How old are you Arnav – life is for living”
“Khushi you may not have much left when Buaji catches you; and she will- the price is going to be very heavy for you and for us”
“Arnav stop spoiling my moment – let’s go!”
Khushi arrived at her prom and danced the night away with her best friend Preeto. She had the time of her life. She smiled and chatted to all her friends from her class and danced nonstop. She did nothing wrong while she was there. She had helped with the organisation of the function, the decorations, she was part of the committee and she had been banned from her own party. Buaji just didn’t understand.
At 10:30 Arnav came back for her and helped climb back into her bedroom window.
“Arnav you’re the best”
“No , I’m just making sure that you are not stupid enough to get yourself into trouble with some boy or other by hitching a lift at this time of night – Now stay out of trouble Khushi – I mean it ! I’m not helping you anymore”
Arnav thought about Khushi – on his way home ever since they were children she had been able to wheedle anything out of him right or wrong. He was 21 and she wasn’t even sixteen what hold did she have over him, everytime she asked him ,he gave in. He probably felt like this since she was the youngest and the naughtiest member of the group. Well, here was another escapade that he had safely managed to get Khushi out of. Who would look out for her when he was gone. He was on his way to Harvard in the fall who would help her then.Who would look after her? Payal and Akaash and Lavanya were a year behind him and that left NK a year behind them-and he was almost as bad as Khushi. When those two planned something together they had a potentiating effect on each other the trouble they got themselves into was compounded. Who would look after his Khushi when he had gone? His Khushi ? When had she become his Khushi and not their or our Khushi? Enough he spent too much time replaying her antics in his brain.
Khushi climbed in the window and saw her Jiji in bed asleep .
“What the ?”she wasn’t even late now Jiji knew –well she would get her telling off tomorrow –her Jiji would never rat on her.
Khushi was now 24 years old. That evening had been the turning point in her life. Arnav had been right there had been a huge price to pay. She hadn’t realised the personal cost to herself and her family. But she had been caught that night. Some well meaning parent had sent pictures of her to her father showing her at the prom with his daughter.
“Look our angels are growing up fast “– had been the caption.
All Shashi saw was red, all Buaji saw was a rebellious, disobedient teenager putting their family reputation at risk and that too when Payal was coming up to marriageable age. Something had to be done and something was. Buaji had made sure of that.
Khushi felt as though she had been ripped out from the loving protective arms of her family and sent to a military style school for rebellious teenagers for girls. There had been no love, no friendship no warmth. She wasn’t a rebellious teenager she just found herself in trouble.
Slowly they killed her soul at the school the light died in her eyes; she was a born fighter and survivor she would make it through this. No contact with her family and friends was like a death sentence for Khushi. When she was allowed home for two weeks in the summer, Shashi and Payal questioned Buaji- had they made the right decision ? Was this the right school? Khushi seemed to be a mere shadow of herself lack lustre eyes, shadows under her eyes. She seemed to have lost weight . But Buaji had been adamant this was the best place for her –had there been any trouble ?
Had they heard a peep out of her ? were they worried what next ? No life was peaceful. Shashi said his life was empty without her Buaji fought adamantly to keep Khushi in that school for another year. That would sought her out then they could bring her home and get her married.
Khushi ran away on her eighteenth birthday. She had mixed with all sorts of girls and learnt a lot of trades that ordinarily she would never have come in contact with.
She knew how to pick locks, hotwire cars , infact she knew how to pull apart car engines and put them together. She had struck up an odd friendship with one of the caretakers there when she was continually put on car washing duty as part of her punishment.
Khushi now twenty-four had lived by her wits and moved away as far as possible from Dehli and that school. That had been another life. She had seen more than her fair share of misery and knew that her looks would attract unwanted attention; she knew that from school –that’s why she had run –no one was going to listen to her. A troublesome teenager –she had run with her virtue barely intact.
She ran and ran. Stealing to get by making sure no one knew that she was a girl till she arrived in Goa and helped an old man who had a garage. Here she finally found some peace and learnt all the skills that he could teach her. She had turned into a proper grease monkey. She had learnt about engines and cars from him. She could strip an engine down fix it and put it back together again. She lived with her Baba working for him from sunrise to sunset. She spent her evenings with him talking and finally letting her guard down. He had slowly over time had help her heal. He knew she had been traumatised, she had runaway and now she had forgiven her family but she had not forgotten.
Khushi had started to smile –it had taken her six years so far-but the haunted look in her eyes never quite disappeared.
She kept tabs on her family, but never let them know that she was ok.
Payal had got married to Akash and had a three year son. From the papers she saw that Arnav had risen to the top but his eyes seemed to have hardened and he always had different women on his arm. NK and Lavanya had somehow become an item but not married. Her Babuji seemed to be a lost soul now like she had been for a long time. Buaji seemed to have mellowed but Khushi felt no emotion towards her. She had been solely responsible for the trauma in her life worrying more about what society thought than what was happening to her.
Khushi heard that her father had a heart attack and was in hospital she picked up her bags and told her Babathat she was going to see her father before it was too late.
Khushi waited till visiting hours were over and sneaked into his room and saw her father.
She sat and talked to him about all the things that she had done and what she was doing now. She didn’t know if he could hear her- but she told him she didn’t hold him responsible for anything. She kissed him and a tear escaped from her eyes and landed on his face; his eyes flickered open. Shashi stared into his daughters eyes unblinkingly. The medication was powerful and his eyes closed when he opened them they were gone.
Shashi fought through the haze of medication was he hallucinating , did he want to see Khushi so badly and just say sorry –now that death had knocked on his door – a warning sign. Had he imagined those eyes? He had to find Khushi.
As soon as Shashi was better he called Payal and Akash and Buaji –“ I dreamt that i saw Khushi – I want to find her”.
“Babuji we have tried and every year that has passed since she disappeared it has gotten harder.”
“Akash use Arnav and his power please find her for me, I know she has forgiven me but I need to see her again-tell her I was wrong!”
“Babuji you rest I’ll see what we can do, Bhai has a good detective agency they will look for her –it will take time but we will do what we can to find her”
Payal and Akash headed over to Arnav’s office and by the time the conversation was over a vase lay shattered on the floor. The group would get together, Khushi would become their fulltime case.They would rack their brains to see if they could remember anything about her that might lead them to her.
They sat there not voicing their fears – a single girl 18 no education , a madcap, a fun loving souls in this cruel world what would have become of her –how would she make her way through this world.
Was she still alive? How would she have survived? There was only one way for a girl to survive, the oldest profession since time. Arnav couldn’t bear to think about Khushi and what she would have had to face since she had run away. He hadn’t found out for two years that she had run away from school- he had looked, they had all looked but no one had found her. Now he was rich –he would find her.
Six weeks later the first report from his detectives made for grim reading . He swigged the shot of whisky to calm his nerves and rising anger. Today he would go and have it out with Babuji and Buaji ,Payal and Akash were told to be there.
The hopeful smiles disappeared instantly with look that they all saw in Arnav’s face. The anger was evident. They had never seen him so angry and that was saying something.
Arnav launched into attack ,by the time he had finished Payal and Buaji were sobbing and Shashi uncle had tears streaming down his eyes. Akash sat in stunned shocked silence.
Who the hell had found this so call school , whose idea was it ? Khushi was naughty not rebellious.
She hadn’t deserved to be sent to a reform school. As Arnav read out the report of what his detectives had found out – they sat in disbelief as they heard – they had seen the signs but ignored them. The punishments were inhuman and cruel the cane and the whip . There was no schooling in the formal sense just trades that girls were taught.
There were side line trades run by some of the people in charge some of the girls traded sexual favours for an easier life –everything was a trade off. They had thrown Khushi into a pit full of Vipers and she had run –there was no surprise. They had found an old man who had retired who remembered Khushi and told them that he helped her escape and what had happened arrived from. She had almost been raped that night until he came along. He lost his job because he had interfered.
She had escaped; he had given her enough money to run. That’s all he revealed.
The detectives noted that he seemed to living better than his means –they found out that a postal order arrives every month for him. It originates somewhere in Goa.
The detectives feel that it can only be Khushi no one else –so they believe that she is still alive.-is that good or bad, god only knows, with what you are responsible for making her endure!
She was the most innocent soul I have ever known and you both are responsible for ripping her apart.
If she is still alive I will find her and trust me we will do everything it takes to get her back to the Khushi we knew.
The detective seemed to come to a dead end they couldn’t trace the money any further. But with the evidence they had collected the so called school was shut down. Charges were being brought against most individuals in that school for corruption, drugs and sex trafficking and just plain cruelty.
It was about three months later when they were all sat round dinner at Shantivan. They had been discussing the traumatic events of the day. Akash and Payal had been busy arguing in the mall they hadn’t noticed Zakki get bored and wander off. They had found him in the security office. He was happily sitting their eating icecream with not a care in the world. Payal was sobbing by this time and Akash was frantic with worry.
Arnav looked at Zaaki “Zaaki you can’t just wander off a mean person might take you away from us”
“I wasn’t alone and I didn’t wander off”
“Zakki did you leave your mummy and daddy ?”
“Yes, but only because I saw maasi and mummy and daddy were fighting. I hate it when they fight. I saw her so I followed her. She bought me the ice cream and left me with the policeman. All you grown-ups are the same. Even she told me don’t ever leave mummy’s hand no matter what, some mean people might take me away. And then what would mummy do? She also said I should never have sweets or chocolates from strangers or get into people’s cars if I didn’t know them and if they were to try and take me I should scream really loudly and bite and kick. I like that maasi a lot she even made me practice kicking”
“Paayal at least one of your friends talks sensibly – why didn’t she just bring Zakki to you or just ring you –she must have known that you were very worried”
“Zakki which maasi was it ?”
“Khushi masi she is so cool-and so much fun”
Zakki chattered on in all innocence whilst at the table there was pin drop silence .
Arnav was the first to ask “Zakki where did you meet Khushi masi ?”
“At home ?”
Puzzled Zakki answered “No – besides she told me I was her secret masi and I’m not supposed to tell anyone about her” As soon as Zakki had said that he clapped his mouth over his mouth and started to cry. “Now our friendship will be kutti!” big tear swelled in his eyes and trickled down his face.
“Zakki you only told us by accident and we won’t tell anyone so don’t worry but the next time you see her or play with her tell us we want to play as well”
After Zakki had left “What do you think?”
“Bhaiya I don’t have a single friend called Khushi “
“It’s got to be her. I’ll see if anything shows up on the mall close circuit cameras”
They looked but it was as though she was a ghost – nothing.
Khushi didn’t want to be found she wouldn’t
Time came and went still no further. It wasn’t till Zakki’s fourth birthday.
“Mummy ,mummy I got a secret for you come with me”
Laughingly Payal let her son pull her into the poolside.
The others watched on he climbed on the chair then the table what was that monkey up to. He made Payal turn round covered her eyes and kissed her on her cheeks.
Akash saw Payal turn a shade of white as her son scramled of the table and ran off.
Payal sat down shocked.
Akash came rushing in and Payal was crying by the time he got there.
She was holding a letter in her hands.
Akash took the letter from her hands “Payal What is wrong “
“Khushi came today to the house she gave Zakki a kite they played for half an hour on the roof flying it she asked him to give me a kiss and keep it a secret and this letter.”
Sorry. I had no choice. I had to run. Please forgive me. I come by time to time and play with Zakki – if you don’t want me to I won’t meet Zakki anymore or my niece and nephew who is due next.
I will never let my reputation affect yours,
Always love you
“We will bring her home – don’t worry Payal. Lets tell Arnav she won’t be far”
How does she do it come and go and never be seen. But the one thing they knew she was alive.
Devi Maya had been watching from above decided to lend a helping hand to Khushi, she considered Devi Maya to be one of her best friends, she needed to help matters along a little.
It was Khushi birthday and Payal decided to pay Devi Maya’s temple a visit to bring her sister home safe and sound. She dragged the whole family including Arnav.
As they silently sat there praying , Zakki got bored got up and went and sat next to his Masi .
Payal , Akash and Arnav kept a watchful eye on him his wandering habits would get him lost one day.
They noticed that he had moved two rows up and was playing with a ladies plait.
Payal didn’t know what to do she couldn’t move. Arnav was silently laughing at his nephew. Go on take the kid to more puja’s see what happens.
Akash was silently cursing his naughty son. They all watched as he put his little hands over her eyes and kiss her. They all gasped. Zakki only did that with his mum no other member of the family.
He said he was a big boy now and only kissed special girls that didn’t count as girls, like his mummy.
Who would he voluntarily be kissing.
Khushi felt someone pull her hair- a child. It could only be one child Zakki and then she felt small hands cover her eyes. She turned to see him and smiled and saw all of them sitting there nani mamiji , Di, Akaash , Arnav Babuji and Buaji .
Instant recognition between all of them. Khushi’s eyes flashed a multitude of emotion hurt regret ,pain, fear and then anger when she saw Buaji .
She turned back to complete her prayers.
Then as everyone stood up to get the prashad Khushi withdrew into the crowd ready to run Payal had already guessed her intention she walked out of the temple before the Puja was complete. Akash and Arnav lost her in the crowd. Di had Zakki.
They heard it “Khushi stop”
But Khushi was already running and Payal was no competition for a girl with Khushi’s street life experience. Arnav and Akaash were chasing her but she vanished then they heard a scream Payal lying in a crumpled heap on the floor. Both Arnav and Akash forgot their quarry and ran over to an unconscious Payal. Akash worried sick picked her up Arnav saw Payal as well she opened her eye winked at her husband and Arnav and carried on with the faint.
“Bhai she’s serious lets go straight to the hospital you know the baby and all”
“I’ll get the car”
Akash gently laid Payal in the back of the SUV whilst Arnav drove.
“I think that was well played – bring her to us”
Arnav asked for a side room. “She won’t appear till we have gone and we can’t leave early – she will be watching from a distance .”
It was close to midnight when a nurse came with her med
Payal just said “Khushi” and held her arms out to her, forgotten was the plan to raise the alarm. Both sisters sat there crying and hugging each other.
“Khushi come home where have you been all this time ?”
“I can never come home your reputation will be gone”
“I don’t care what you have done or what you have been doing I just want you home Babuji wants you home and Buaji feels bad for what she did to you”
“I have a lot of baggage. Your society will never accept me –remember I ran away – I’mnot a good girl am I.”
It was 4:00 am before Payal pressed the buzzer. Arnav and Akash rushed in to find Khushi sleeping next to Payal
“Shhh look who’s come home”
“How long has she been here?”
“You call us now “
“Am I always going to be waiting for this girl?”
“Always Arnav –always”
The Charm Bracelet
She was going through her old emailing list deleting contact renewing acquaintances finding out who she was going to email with her new business card. She spied him on her list every year once a year she sent him a birthday card and it would bounce back incorrect mailing address.
As kids they had been inseparable, he had let her into his gang as she was a crack shot with a catapult, even if she was a girl. She could climb a tree better than most get the mangoes down faster than most as she was a crack shot. She could run almost as fast as they could and ride a bike like the rest of them. Above all her father owned the sweetshop so she always brought sweets for them.
Then one day tragedy struck at the big house at Anjali Di’s wedding and he was gone. She didn’t understand the in s and outs but Aunty (she was lovely ) killed herself because uncle was really mean who then killed himself . But all it meant to Khushi was the loss of best friend. She didn’t want to be part of the gang anymore and slowly she stopped playing with them it hurt too much that he had left.
Then one day out of the blue on her birthday, arrived a little bracelet with half a heart engraved best friend. There was no name or return address. But she knew who it was from and khushi smiled that day more than she had ever smiled and when she went to Devi Maiya’s temple she put extra sweets on her Puja thali. Then on every year something little would arrive another charm for her bracelet, a star, her birthstone, a fairy ,a peace flower, a little catapult she didn’t even know they made them.
She had no return address he never gave any clue of his whereabouts but every year something arrive on her birthday. This was her 21st and a little envelope arrived a 21st charm studded with a little white stone.
What was she expecting ? Arnav to arrive on his bike and all the gang to get together run and play and hide as only innocent children can do. As she grew older and read about the history of her friend she came to know more about the tragic death of his mother and then his father and eventually rumour had it that he was thrown out or they had to run away to escape the fate that their evil uncle had in store for arnav and Anjali. But the inhabitants of Sheesh Mahal didn’t fare much better.
Their fortunes dwindled rapidly and the house fell into rack and ruin and was up for public auction to raise funds to pay the debts off .
By her twenty second birthday Sheesh Mahal was being returned to its former status by an eccentric young millionaire tycoon who ran AR designs.
By twenty three Khushi had two more charms on her bracelets a Celtic swirl and the other was his birthstone.
Today she wanted more, she wanted to meet an old friend who never forgot her. She never forgot him except he didn’t know. Every year on his birthday she would go and give an extra thal of ladoos at the mandir, but today she was going to Khwaja ji ‘s Dargah to to grant her wish to meet her best friend.
As she was coming out of there she bumped into a young man wearing aviator glasses and a white scarf around his head.
“Can’t you look where you are going?”
“I’m not the one with dark sunglasses-half blind”
“Yours I think in case you hadn’t noticed” he handed back to her, her white chiffon dupatta.
She snatched it back of him “Don’t expect a thankyou”
It was later on in the day that Khushi found herself thinking of her friend – the renovators hadn’t done a proper job at Sheesh Mahal the gap in the fence still existed –she could go inside and see was it the same. The gangs tree carved with their names the hole in the tree where they stored their catapults would they still be there –she had forgotten all their treasures they had hidden in the tree over the three years the gang had run together.
Where were they all now ? most of them came from rich families of Lucknow, she was the only one who wasn’t .She had no idea what had happened to all of them including her best friend.
She found herself tracing the pattern carved in the tree so long ago “True Friends”
Unbeknown to her she was being watched from the minute she entered the grounds of Sheesh Mahal. He had seen her walk over to the tree and trace the patterns out. Surely not the girl from the Dargah this morning and then he smiled she always did have a lot of spunk. Some things never changed. But somethings did for the better – she was stunning now –but he had always loved her. First as a gawky teenager she had been his first love but he had never been able to tell her she would have probably have hit him , or fought with him for getting so eeew. He had been content to be her best friend and wait until she was old enough to become more. But fate had played its game and she had been taken from him along with everything else. But slowly he had earned it all back and now he was going to have her back there was no doubt in his mind. She was his he had waited all this time for her.
“What ? You !”
She recognised the man from this morning “I came to see our tree”
“Our tree ? You the new malkin of Sheesh Mahal”
“No –but then neither are you by your question. I came for old time’s sake to check on a few memories and promises”
“Me too –did you use the old doorway ?”
Khushi nodded her heart pounding hard “How do you know about the old doorwy?”
“We used to use it a lot as children – I thought I’d come and check it out before they closed the doorway.”
“Do you mind taking off your glasses?”
“Khushi looked into liquid brown eyes with flecks of gold and before he knew it she had launched herself at him “ARNAV ”
She hugged the horrible man from the morning and he hugged her. To onlookers they may have been two lovers meeting. She squeezed him so tight in the end he had to say “I’m not going to vaporize if you let loose a little but I might be able to breathe”
“why were you so horrible to me in the morning ?”
“I might as the same of you Khushi –you weren’t exactly warm and overfriendly”
“I said sorry first”
Excitedly forgetting about the present remembering only the past she grabbed his hand and pulled tugging him along racing around their old haunts. Showing him their favourite haunts as kids ,till finally Khushi asked him caressing his cheek “What happened to you all this time ? where have you been and what have you been doing all these years? Are you hungry come home mum there as always she will make you your favourite as she used to.”
“Come on what you waiting for? Really you’re looking at the time on a day like this. No way you’re coming home to mum and me for a while”
Arnav smiled she hadn’t changed at all she was still exactly the same mad and half-baked as ever ,did she even think about what society or people might say dragging a grown man behind her to her house. But he cared, not about himself but about what others might say about her. He quietly disengaged himself from her and said you lead I’ll follow.
She grabbed his arm and pulled him along quickly to her street.
“Khushi you need to let me go people are staring at you. They look as though they are about to murder me”
“Oh don’t worry about them they know me well.”
“You always grab strange men of the street and bring them home”
“You’re not strange you’re my Arnav. Look we are at home AMMA ,AMMA “
“You’re gone half the day and now you turn up screaming did you even remember why you went out in the first place Khushi , wait till I get my hands on you, err “she came to a dead halt as she saw Khushi dragging a strange man behind her.
“Amma look who I have brought home?”
She looked perplexed and confused .”
“Amma Arnav you remember”
“Aunty” He bent down to touch her feet but before she got there she pulled him up and into her arms.
“You’ve been gone a long time son, we missed you and your antics”
Arnav smiled again. Something he rarely did. Aunty made his favourite drink and gave him some homemade sweets.
“Aunty I can’t have them anymore but I will certainly taste them –Khushi you eat the jelabi they were your favourite”
“Don’t encourage her Arnav she can still eat a whole box in one go” and Arnav threw his head back in laughter.
“Khushi run and go and get your Babuji from the shop and tell him Arnav Bitwa is here go”
“Aunty ,I need to talk to Babuji and you both without Khushi around for about ten minutes is that possible today or on another day”
“Don’t worry I’ll send her to get my ghee which she originally went out o get and came back with you like three hours later”
“Khushi where’s my ghee ? Go get some I can’t make pooris for Arnav “
“Don’t go anywhere I’ll be back in a flash – you had to run out today you could have told me on the way to the shop”
Arnav explained to Khushi’s parents how he had been turned out of Shanntivan after his parents deaths and he and Di went to live with his Naani who helped turn their life around. He was qualified with an MBA from Harvard and was a very wealthy individual now. If they had nobody in mind for Khushi could he marry her, he had been in love with her for a very long time.
Both were happy about the proposal except for one thing – “You have to ask her yourself you know we call her Sanka devi –there’s no knowing with her”
“You got tickets for the show at Sheesh Mahal tonight please come and if you don’t let Khushi come at least.”
“Khushi you’re back I have to go back you should have some tickets for tonight’s show I see you after the show in the VIP lounge”
Disappointment was quickly replaced by anticipation of meeting him tonight.
“We have tickets for the show at Sheesh Mahal how ?”
“It’s my show –how could I not invite you”
She saw the invites and a small brown package “another charm” I knew it was you all these years.”
With that she jumped happily around turning him with her “Khushi you will make me dizzy-stop. I really have to go if they don’t see my face soon all hell will break loose and use the main entrance tonight not the back door. Aunty my driver is on his way with a package for Khushi if it is OK can she wear it”
Arnav soon left , Khushi saw her latest charm a tiny little diamond ring and the outfit that had arrived a beautiful green and pink lengha with an immense amount of silver embroidery with strings of pearls holding the choli together. It was the most beautiful outfit she had seen. A note was pinned to the outfit I hope you like this and wear this from one friend to another. The Car will be back to pick you up in an hour- I hope you all come. Wear the jewellery as well , I designed the whole outfit with you in mind. Hope it fits. Might be a little loose you’re Amma can adjust it .
There after it was like someone had set Khushi on fire . She rushed to try the outfit on, got her mum to adjust it. She was still puzzling out in her head what AR designs had to do with Arnav his note said his designs maybe he was working with someone else. Khushi fully dressed in the outfit dripping in jewellery from head to toe. Bangles made from red and green stones alternated with pearls set in silver enough to fill both arms, a necklace to match like a collar but went down low enough to almost reach her cleavage. What her choli revealed her necklace covered. Long dainty earrings and a tikka to match. For her ankles loops of green red and pearls draped her ankles and where they were gathered little bells.
“Amma this jewellery feels really heavy for costume”
“It’s not costume did you not see the box it came out”
“Amma i better take it off what if I lose it ?”
“He would never have given it to you if you were going to lose it”
“I need one more piece of jewellery to finish me off- my charm bracelet”
“No Khushi leave that”
“No Amma i wear that – that’s the most important part”
Babuji looked at Khushi with tears in his eyes –next to her Amma and Buaji –
“What you all looking at? It’s as though you have never seen me before “
“You are looking alive and you’re eyes are sparkling with laughter – you are radiant tonight”
Her parents were the funniest pair she had met they had seen her dressed up before and never made any thing of it.
The car arrived and was ushered straight through to the main entrance of the building . Flashes of light bulbs kicked off when Khushi got out of the car. Camera light bulbs were flashing like a flickering uv light the photographers couldn’t get enough of her. Khushi was puzzled . They were led to VIP seats to be seated.
“You must be Khushi Ji. It’s been a long time ”
“It has how …”
Music started and the show began models walking up and down the walk way. Designs were stunning as were the colours textures. The whole show had her in awe and speechless.
Then a note was passed to her Come with Aman backstage.
She followed questioningly. She smiled when she saw Arnav.
“ You look amazing and leave me speechless.What do you think of my world – are you ready to be a part of it ?”
“What are you talking about Arnav ?”
“Are you ready to hold my hand like you did when we were kids going on an adventure exploring ?”
“Arnav haven’t I always followed you ? What have you got planned now ?will you walk with me but once you do that there will be no turning back Khushi you will be mine. Only mine you will be more than just best friends with Arnav Singh Raizada”
“Hang on a minute –who is Arnav Singh Raizada ? He is a famous designer” Khushi voice trailing off.
Arnav smiled down at her and rested his head against her’s there foreheads touching.
“ My best friend was Arnav Malik”
“Arnav Malik died with his father”
“SShhhh never ever say that again! my Arnav never died he was lost for a little while but he came back to me ”
“You’re Arnav took a different name to conquer the world so he could come back and claim his Khushi. I sent you charms every year, as things got better for me I had the charms specially made”
“The catapult, the ring, the celtic design ”
“Are you ready to walk by my side forever Khushi ?”
“Boss you’re on next the show stopper ?
“Do you need more time I can get the girls to do another walk down?”
“We’ve been getting into trouble as kids why change now –lead the way Arnav”
He smiled all you have to do is walk with me and smile whatever is said or happens just keep smiling remember I’m right beside you.
“Aman we are ready” smiling.
“Bloody hell boss – sorry boss I mean apologies maam. I have never seen the boss smile”
“Really ? He never stopped when we were kids ! He was always laughing at me usually”
“Khushi with you not at you most of the time –but some of the pickles you got yourself into”
“Which you took the blame for”
“Boss you were a kid ?” in amazement
“Aman do you want to keep your job ?”
“Arnav stob being a bully”
Ladies and gentlemen I give you the designer “Arnav Singh Raizada and The Showstopper”
Arnav and khushi walked up and down the gangway with Khushi smiling as camera flashes exploded.
He then walked back and walked down holding Khushi’s hand and surrounded by his models.
“I’d like to thank everyone who had a part in putting this show on. I would like to give a special mention to the new line that we are launching “Khushi” each item of clothing will always carry a signature charm somewhere as it is a currently the bridal range I leave it to your imagination wher you will find the charms but each item will come with one only on the Khushi range .
Arnav smiled and kissed Khushi’s wrist in particular the charm bracelet.
“You thought I hadn’t noticed”
“Arnav exactly how famous are you ?”
“Not famous enough if you are asking me”
“Let’s go time to meet wolves and just follow my lead and you will be fine”
“Sir You’re new line, what has been the inspiration ?”
“My friend “
“Sir a special friend ?”
“A very special friend”
“Sir you’re Showstopper – you have never walked down with a particular model”
“No I never have ! You’re point being”
“Her name was missing from the the programme”
“It was not missing –it wasn’t there”
“Maam you’re name”
Khushi had been watching the cat and mouse game between the reporters and Arnav .
Khushi looked at Arnav -he raised an eyebrow –“they want your name once it’s out there’s no turning back” he whispered.
“It’s Gupta…… Khushi KumariGupta”
That was all the press needed the crowd went wild with questions ,an avalanche of questions spued forth. There was no holding back. Where did they, meet how long ago , the tirade was endless.
“that’s all folks”
“Khushi let’s go.”
“Aman read them the rest of the statement “
Aman smiled at Khushi she was good for him he had finished a press conference for the first time without biting someone’s head off and the second time in hours he had seen his boss smile.
“So Khushi all that’s left now is will you marry your best friend ?” he whispered quietly as they stood up to leave the conference table.
She looked and smiled and nodded she had waited a long time for her best friend to come home and he had finally she thought of her mannat ki chabi ,what was his wish ?.
Before he left the podium Arnav Singh Raizada a very private man usually
Put his hand in his inside pocket and pulled out an square cut emerald ring flankedhand and by two diamonds and placed it on her finger and kissed her and attached a new charm to her bracelet –an oval disc engraved always yours Arnav
He then kissed the inside of her wrist and led her of stage leaving the reporters gobsmacked falling over themselves to get the photograph.
Aman finished of the media presentation equally as stunned by the turn of events as the media, by reading the statement Arnav had given him.
Arnav Singh Raizada will be marrying his childhood sweetheart in a small private ceremony in the near future after which time they will make a public statement. I have waited till now to let my Khushi finish her degree away from the limelight and met when she was 8 years old –My best loved and protected secret. I would take this as a personal favour if you allow her, her privacy.
The Almost Kiss
“Aman please I NEED a job – you work in AR designs as his manager and PA –find me something till I can get a proper job.”
“NO Khushi-find a job on your own”
“Aman I am your little sister –pleeease”
“Khushi – things happen when you’re around you will get me fired and then what will we do?”
“A minute ago it was Aman now it’s bhai ! I know I’m going to regret this –I’ll find something but you have to behave –no mad pranks or causes-keep your mouth shut and stay away from ASR and don’t tell anyone that I am related to you –or you will get me fired!”
Later on that day “Khushi I have sorted a job out for you in the canteen with Shukla Ji cooking cleaning away from me”
“Now it’s Bhaiya will miracles never cease in one day I’ve gone from MR Gupta to Aman to bhai and now bhaiya! Well in the office it’s gonna have to be Saab”
“Really Bhaiya ?” Khushi threw first a cushion at her brother then another.
“OK you can call me sir”
Another cushion landed on Aman “ No really Khushi everybody calls me sir or saab except a handful of people”
“OK SIR!” she stuck her tongue out at him.
A few weeks passed uneventfully Aman was grateful for the lack of reports or concerns around one certain new employee. She loved her new job, she enjoyed cooking and Shukla Ji enjoyed having her around. She was better at cooking than he was. Once finished she would head to a dance studio nearby and spend the next 3 to 4 hours working out and practising. Aman would pick her up on the way home.
“Aman since when have you started clock watching ?”
“Sorry Arnav – I have to pick someone at 9.00 it’s 8:50 I don’t want her to be waiting on her own at this time of night. Once I’ve picked her up I don’t mind coming back”
“How long ?”
“15 mins tops “
“Go but we will be here till late”
“Khushi hurry I’ve got to go back to the office we will be working till late”
“You have not had dinner have you”
“Neither has Arnav –this is just start of the craziness till the show – I’ll have to arrange something about getting you home after your practice “
Aman returned to work and Khushi watched the watch ticking by reading her latest book that held her captivated The Little Coffee Shop Of Kabul .Her stomach growled she was hungry so would Bhaiya be.
Khushi wandered into the kitchens found some food rustled up some dinner , She knew Arnav like nonspicy food whilst her brother the opposite.
Two plates of steaming hot food , spicy egg and roti for Aman and Pasta Carbonara for Arnav.
She knocked on Aman’s door and found no one she next knocked on Arnavs’ door .
“Come ?” Arnav was confused and perplexed who else was in the building at this time of night.
“Sir I thought you might be hungry ?” Khushi eye’s were directly trained at Aman but she was speaking to Arnav
“You are ?”
“Arnav she works in the canteen – thanks that will be all for now”
“Arnav smiled at Aman so that was your pickup – how long ?”
“What Arnav ?”
“How long have you been seeing her ? She brought the dinner for you!she was totally focused on you”
“I’m not seeing her and yes she brought the food for me lets continue or we will never finish this tonight . ” Aman knew that he had closed the topic of Khushi with Arnav.
Aman sent Khushi a text – hey coffee please and some typing then we can go home. Arnav is black no sugar .
Khushi brought up the coffees .
“Thanks and the dinner was really nice”
Aman took his coffee and said thanks and gave Khushi a file with notes and scribbles and amendments.
“Who taught you to write”
Khushi sauntered off with the folder and sat at the terminal her hands flew across the keyboard tying changing amendments and tied up the presentation and emailed it back to Aman with a little emoticon sticking out a tongue at him.
With a little note – You owe me! I’ ve cooked for you and you’re kadhoose boss made coffee and now am typing ! xxxxxx. Khushi didn’t realise that Arnav was working at Aman’s terminal.
“Aman you sure your you’re not seeing her” with that he showed him the message .
“I apologise on her behalf”
Arnav laughed . Aman looked up at him stunned . “Aman don’t worry I’ve known you to long –I know that she is someone special in your life –and she’s not scared of calling me Khadooose!”
Finally they all left at1:00 am.
“Thanks for your help…. I’m sorry I don’t know your name”
“You’re welcome “
She grabbed Aman’s hand “let’s go”
Arnav thought to himself Lucky guy and I still don’t know her name
The week just got crazier and crazier for Aman as the show date got closer and closer.
Khushi had organised an auto to take her home. She always made sure that she made and left food for Aman and Arnav in the evenings with a pot full of hot coffee and always desert separating Arnavs as sugar free.
AR Designs was a powder keg today it was reading itself for ignition. Right down in the belly of the canteen the rumours of discontent could be heard someone was going to get it.
Aman hadn’t been down for lunch. Khushi took it upon herself to take it up to the conference rooms which had been converted to workshops.
“Sir” Aman saw his sisters eyes full of concern . “Come in Khushi”
“Bhaiya you’ve not eaten”
“Leave it Khushi I’ll eat it later let me finish”
“NO you tell me about it –take a break eat and I’ll give you my brilliant input at problem solving”
“Khushi its not cooking and not dancing! “
“It’s a show – a performance – what am I brilliant at coordinating singing and dancing costume shows so give Mr Gupta what’s making your world crumble and has got everyone scurrying around like little mice?”
“The runners are rubbish , the models can’t pick the beat to walk to, the clothes don’t fit correctly and flow the way Arnav wants the list is endless!”
“Let’s start with where can I help? you eat let me listen to the music”
As the music started to play Khushi lost herself to the music she entered her own world she loved and started to sing and dance in Aman’s office. He loved to watch her dance and he joined in toe tapping eating his lunch. Khushi was doing a series of pirouettes when Arnav walked in .
“What the ….. is going on we have a fashion show that is struggling to meet the deadlines and you my righthand man is in here dancing with his …”
“Arnav! Don’t say it. We have been working flat out –and I agree with Khushi sometimes you need a break to see the wood from the trees she has just listened to the music line up and she says it should be changed it doesn’t flow and the outfits she seen the drwings are coming down in the wrong order.”
“You want me to listen to a girl from my canteen – a …a…. a ….cook! Aman sometimes you are unbelievable you want me to put my fashion show in the hands of a cook ”
“Arnav I trust her when it comes to music and dancing let her mess with it for one day if she can’t sort out the walk down to your satisfaction I’ll resign “
“That much trust – I’ll take you on but if she doesn’t succeed you won’t resign just work for me for free for a month since that will equate to time lost in wages”
“If Khushi is successful what will she get ?”
“Equivalent of your month’s wages”
“Do I get a say in this ?” asked Khushi nervously
Both men replied unanimously –“NO!”
“After Arnav had left Aman hugged Khushi –“Don’t worry”
“No pressure eh MR GUPTA !”
Aman gave Khushi a kiss on her the top of her head “I have complete faith in you !”
Arnav and Anjali walked in “Still here – I thought you were meant to be saving Amans’ job”
Aman ignored Arnav “Hi Anjali Ji , Excuse Arnav’s foul temper today –he’s laid a bet with me and we all know how much he hates losing”
“Aman , Chote never loses a bet”
“He hasn’t bet against my Khushi there’s always a first time”
“Well if you two can tear yourselves apart there is work to be done – the show and your month’s pay is on the line !”
“Khushi looked at Arnav he was just plain angry – nothing new there –but Anjali had she seen hurt flicker through her eyes. Her brother definitely had a weird look in his eyes, when he looked at her.
“Before we go Khushi –Anjali Ji what did you need from me ?”
Arnav answered – “sign some cheques for her latest cause that she is raising money for “
“Anjali ji ever coordinated a walk down ?”
“No but I have seen plenty”
“We have a walk down in trouble would you like to help me win a bet against Arnav”
“Come on then we have a walk down to re-organise”
Five hours later the walk down flowed the designs themes flowed and the steps she chose for the models were simple but effective.
Do you think Arnav will take part in the finale? I’ll use Aman for now- can he dance ?”
“Khushi j ii have never seen him dance but then I have never seen Aman move either ?”
“What Di?” Somewhere during there work she had become Di.
“When we finish the walk down I’ll show you Aman move, he used to be good and very hot and incredibly sexy in the routine time of my life ,he can twist me twirl me and catch me. Keep watching DI “
“Shall we call him Aman”
The walk down flowed , it was electric ,he had not seen a show as good as this in a long time –it would take the fashion world by storm . It was a happening show . Then he saw Aman dance with Khushi . His heart twisted he didn’t like that –Aman was a good dancer and this routine with Khushi and leap of the stage had sent the models and spectators screaming –they were caught up in the moment and when she flew through the air and Aman caught her sent the whole place wild all the models were dancing.
Arnav thought to himself- if this was the response from his tired models what would happen when this went live.
Aman and Khushi would have to be part of the show –he knew they had just done this for pleasure but it took the show a whole new level this routine in one of his designs would send the show viral .
Anjali watched with a wistful look as she saw Aman hug Khushi at the end. Arnav watched on as well not liking what he saw.
“You ready to go home Khushi or are you still on for a practice”
“ I need to let some steam off Aman , everyone gone give me half an hour”
“Ok will lock up and then come back and pick you up”
Arnav heard the music and came to a standstill with what greeted him. Khushi dancing her heart out. From simple plies to multiple pirouettes her leaps ,and splits . She was elegance personified when she danced . Arnav was already in love with her , but watching her he lost his heart completely. Aman came up behind him with Anjali “She is breathtaking isn’t she Arnav when she dances she transports herself and her audience to another plane”
“What is she doing in our canteen?”
“Deciding what to do stay with me or go back and rejoin the royal ballet company as their principle ballerina. Once she joins them that’s it for her for the next seven eight years , she will eat live and sleep ballet. She is using this time to see if there is something else she might want that she has not tasted yet. She has only known the ballet world since she was a child. Now these three months she will be introduced to life outside ballet – what is she going to decide , I don’t know but she has to do about 4-6 hours practice everyday that’s why the canteen job suits her .
“Khushi ready ?”
“Let me warm down”
“Aman where did you meet her ? in our canteen?”
“Arnav you really don’t pay attention to anything – pull her personal file you will understand everything”
“Well she has certainly breathe new life into the show I want you and her to dance in the finale like you did earlier.”
The fashion show took the industry by storm , Khushi and Aman’s routine had the audience dancing in the aisles. The designs were amazing and orders were flying in cementing AR in the number one position in the fashion industry.
At the after party the routines were asked for again and again, Arnav noticed that Khushi danced from the start not stopping.
“Does she ever stop Aman , you never told me how you met her”
“I didn’t want to embarrass you look at her personal folder –I’m not telling you! I believe she needs to sit , so i am going to rescue her.
“Arnav’s asking me how I met you?”
“Forget about him what about Di?”
“What about her ?”
“You are in love with her – I think the feeling is reciprocated – are you going to tell her? Or even do anything about it ?”
“Whhat ?Khushi have you seen where we live and where she comes from – “
“Now you don’t have to pay for me that will all change- so when are you going to tell her”
“No Khushi she is unattainable for the likes of”
“Di do you like Aman ?”
“Do you like Aman ?”
“Khushi that can never happen ,I’m a divorcee with a limp. Who is going to look at me ? And those who do are more interested about what they can get out of Arnav . He needs an uncomplicated life , he can do a lot better than me”
“Di I asked a simple question not a whole chapter – do you love Aman ?”
Di turned red “OK that wasn’t hard –I take it your silence to mean yes”
Later on in the evening when Arnav and Aman were sitting round the table.
Khushi exploded “I am fed up of the both of you ! I have never known a pair like you . You have spent the evening pussyfooting around each other. Di , Aman loves you but has a hang up about the amount of money you have . He feels that you are above him . And Aman Di thinks that she is not good enough for you since she is divorced and has a limp. Oh by the way did I forget to mention that you both love each other to distraction. If you don’t sort this out tonight I am going to probably kill the both of you.”
Three people were choking on their drinks.
“Arnav you owe me a dance so let’s go and leave these two to sort this out .I have given them all the help I can, they are going to have to kiss on their own I’m not helping.” Aman had just got his breath back and started to choke on the the second comment.
“Di I’m not saving him you’d had better do that” with that she grabbed Arnav’s hand “Don’t look back “
They found themselves outside in the gardens –“Di and Aman ? I mean Aman? Really Aman ?”
“What’s wrong with Aman ? He is fantastic , for a start he puts up with all the rubbish you spout out at him, he is loving ,caring ,loyal , gentle”
“Stop you don’t need to go on about his attributes – I employ him I know how good he is! But what about you? How do you feel?”
“Di is lovely, she needs solid dependable reliable touched with a bit of madness –they are perfect for each other. Do you know I think he has loved her since he met her”
“What are you going to do ?
“Finish working for you hopefully attend Aman wedding and then go back and join the Royal Ballet Company as a first soloist then maybe become a principle within a year ”
Arnav didn’t say anything further he was in love with her, sometimes the hardest thing to do is to let the one you love go. He had to let her go and follow her dream. When she came to him and he would make sure that she did there would never be any ‘what ifs’. She had worked too long and too hard to lose it now because he wanted her.
They sat and chatted for a long time about the show her dreams the next catalogue what Arnav wanted. She didn’t even know it but somewhere along their conversation she had wrapped her hands in his and he was playing with her fingers.
She caught the look in his eye and Khushi blinked away not wanting to deal with the hidden depth of passion there. Arnav pulled her face back towards him staring deep into her eyes , he felt her heart race in anticipation “Feel mine” and he laid her palm on his chest she could feel his thundering heart.
He slowly tilted his head and leant forward, lips almost touching but not quite- giving her ample opportunity to pull away. She felt her breasts straining at the fabric , her stomach twisted at the thought of the kiss. She knew he was giving her a chance to say no ,but she wanted this as much as he did.Khushi closed her eyes in anticipation for those lips to meet and then she felt the shock of a cold blast of air. He had moved away . Khushi eyes flew open hurt confusion unsatisfied passion shone out as she looked at Arnav . “Aman and Di” he whispered.
Khushi looked up and saw Di and Aman approaching them.
“Anything to tell us ? we have been waiting patiently for you to find us” Arnav took control of the situation , she felt like a quivering mass of jelly and he hadn’t even kissed her. What would happen when he did if this is what she felt like at the thought.
A week , a whole week had flown by Khushi and Di were inseparable trying to get everything ready for the wedding in a week. Clothes ,jewellery , lingerie . That hadbeen a whole new experience when she saw what was on display.
“Di what is the function of this lacy scrap , and it has slits in it , everything is going to fall out the front – there is no support or decency in it-they call this a bra ?”
“Di whispered in her ear the function is to tease and for the man to have easy access to…..”
“Ewww” Khushi slapped her hands over her ears and screwed her eyes up. “That’s my brother you’re talking about and you’re gonna be my bhabhi – please don’t traumatise me –you’re on your own for this section BYE!”
Khushi thought to herself she was free for a while what now ? window shop ?
An hour later she had no idea how she was entering AR designs and climbing the staircase to be told that her brother had gone out . She hadn’t come to see her brother but she needed an answer to the almost kiss. That had left her mind in total confusion.
She knocked on his door not sure what she was going to say.
“Come in, Come in , COME IN”
Who had knocked on his door why hadn’t they come in,he strode across the the room and pulled open the door to see Khushi disappearing down the stars.
“Oh no you don’t KHUSHI – get back here !”
Khushi heard the anger in his voice what had she done now.
“Stop debating , I’m not angry at you , come back up ………Please”
Khushi turned and ran up to him smiling .
“I should be angry with you – where have you been for the last week ?”
“You have seen me everyday – i bring your lunch”
“Send my lunch but take Aman his! Why are you avoiding being alone with me . How come you’re here you should be shopping with Di now shouldn’t you ?”
“She was traumatising my brain –it was horrible”
“What did she do ?”
“She was buying lingerie for her wedding night –those pictures are still to vivid –he is my brother ,I don’t need to know that level of detail do you know she saw a red lacy bra”
“Stop Khushi do you think that I need to know that level of detail about my sister’s lovelife. I need to find out about my own screwed up love life”
Arnav pulled her into his office shutting the door sitting on the sofas and pulled her into his lap.
“First this was not finished”
A long while later “Just so you know I have never made out with any girl in my office”
Somehow she was lying on his chest his shirt was on the floor his trousers were half undone and she was only missing a top.
“I enjoyed that very much – but blow jobs are not for the office and this still doesn’t tell me about what we are going to do. Khushi please put your top on I can’t think straight when you are around at the best of times. I have never done this in my office what do you do to me ?”
Khushi laughed . “ I like what i do to you”
“Khushi Please put your clothes on or this is going to go a lot further –and I don’t want our first time to be here I will never be able to concentrate you know now everytime I look at that sofa I will see us. Look at what is happening to me . “ Besharam Miss Gupta please put your clothes on so we can talk”
Aman and Di got married in a beautiful but small ceremony and Khushi showed Di that a limp didn’t stop her from dancing at her own wedding.
Arnav and Khushi got engaged before she returned to London. They would manage a long distance relationship . Arnav felt that she was too young to give up her dream that she had worked so hard for –they would get married in time but that was all details to be worked out. Khushi was only 19 could give her another six years till her 25 birthday. He was 27 , he needed to give her time to grow up have her dream so later she would never have any regrets about settling down and having children.
My Gap Year
Is she why you have been spending so much time in Goa –did you think I wouldn’t notice? But that is for later – Now she needs you – Go to her – no one is going to say anything – whatever it takes – go now let’s find out what the doctor said –he should be finished by now”
Arnav and NK took it in turns to stay with her 3 days she spent in the hospital flitting in and out of consciousness. All wedding preparations were on hold. Khushi’s family had all come down to be with her.
“It’s only a common cold but in her it can be lethal if not treated quickly and properly, Nanav we have done the best we could the rest is fate’s hands. Nanav I know this is no consolation but fate has always been kind to her –she is a born fighter and she will fight to the end. Sometimes she loses hope ,we all do and that’s where you and I step in.”
“NK how can you say that Fate looks on her favourably – she would never have a had the disease in the first place ! It’s not FAIR! Why her ?”
“I asked Khushi the same question do you want to know what her reply was – If it had not been me it would have been someone I loved –I’d rather it were me. It’s selfish of me but it is harder to watch the one you love growing sicker and fading away than actually being the one suffering. So I am no martyr just scared, lonely and selfish. She believes in her Devi Maya wholeheartedly, if she places a problem in front of us she also provides us with the solution –we just have to look until we find and never give up the faith no matter how hard. So Arnav this is not just her test but ours as well”
“NK how did you meet Khushi? What is it between the two of you?”
NK smiled genuinely for the first time in days “Sit let me tell you about us. It’s a long story but I’ll skip over the boring parts. I was living in some rented accommodation till my flat was ready. Every morning and night I used to be hit by a stone. I just didn’t know where it came from?”
“Yep she is a fantastic aim with a catapult but that’s another story – one day she had a paper round it look at the window! Bring me a raw mango and I’ll let you pass for free. I was furious, but when I went to the window I found a sick girl. Our friendship grew as her health grew worse but her grip on life was fierce I saw her through radiation therapy, chemotherapy –the nausea, the vomiting. I couldn’t believe it, I held her head when she had no more strength, I brought her a multitude brightly coloured scarves when she had no hair. Do you remember there was a period I was bald –I kept her company –I’d buy her scarves and she would buy me silly hats.”
“I remember we all thought you had lost the plot –your mum was quite worried about you back then – she still is now !”
“I saw her through her bone marrow transplant and then for thereon it only got better- she has been in remission occasionally getting ill like now –it takes her twice as long to recover than a normal person. Her craziness and zest for life is unbeatable. We have got into more scrapes than you can imagine or heard about. Her illness has never held her back. I have never stopped trying anything only tried to make sure that she was safe. Nanav she is the sister, I never had. I found it hard to let her come to you , I couldn’t stop her but I could you . I thought I had succeeded but it is evident that I failed. I know you were not the marrying kind and my Khushi needs a special man – but over the last few days I think you may fit the bill. One who will let her grow ,take risks ,not worry what people will say and be there for her when the time needs. The problem we are going to have is that Khushi is not going to want to marry you!”
“What ? NK how can you in one breath say I fit the bill and in the next say she won’t agree”
“She will never want to as she says burden her crap on anyone else that’s why she took a job so far from us –to make us independent of her not the other way round. She wants all of us her family to treat her as normal and do things that other families do without life revolving around scans, regular blood tests waiting on results. She said we could never change the outcome only the way we approached it and that we all had to stop living from result to result but instead live for ourselves”
“If I told you to live for yourself why are here instead of prepping for your wedding NK” a quiet croaky voice mumbled”
Suddenly Khushi was being stared at by two sets of eyes chocolate ones that were worried and concerned and looked exhausted and NK that had tears brimming.
“God you both look awful, Arnav what day is I have I missed the wedding ?”
“I might say the same about you. Do you think NK would have got married without you being there?”
“When is the wedding ?”
“Three days time Khushi and now you had better focus on getting better- it’s the bride and groom who are meant to be the centre of attention not the best man –person!. You have a mehndhi, haldhi, and a bachelor party to organise and stand next to me when I get married. I have two best men and you. So focus !” I need you out of this place by tomorrow evening at the latest”
“I hope to meet your schedule but I not be in full participating capacity”
“Just be there tell Nanav and Akaash your crazy ideas and they will organise it OK ! Now i need to inform your family and and the doctor. Nanav is here till I come back”
“Khushi why didn’t you tell me about yourself?”
“Arnav I’m too tired, can you hold me a while”
Arnav gathered her in his arms and just as she drifted off to sleep a barrage of doctors entered to carry out various tests.
Khushi’s only response was “You are meant to let sick people sleep!”
“Welcome back to the land of the living and bad tempered Khushi you know they are only doing what they have to”
“How much blood do you want this time ?”
Soon the doctors left and NK and Arnav had a lengthy discussion outside by which time the rest of the family arrived.
In the middle of a jubilant family reunion of the whole Gupta and Raizada clan Khushi fell fast asleep.
Khushi arrived back at the Raizada mansion in time for the wedding celebrations having missed the other events. Soon the Bride and groom had gone.
Arnav and Khushi’s parents decided to leave Payal behind to help Khushi recuperate in the Raizada mansion sufficiently before returning to Lucknow. Within a week Khushi was fit as a fiddle but had noticed the blossoming relationship between her and Akaash and faked her recuperation and changed the rota for Seafront so that Arnav and Amaan were alternating Akaash’s name never came up.
“ Arnav hurry up”
Arnav came out of the bathroom to see a Khushi bouncing on his bed .
“What exactly are you up to ?”
“Your bed is rubbish there is no bouncibility in it!”
“It’s a bed Khushi to provde support for your back not a trampoline! I gather that you are feeling better.” Arnav was smiling at seeing her get back to her old self.
“mmm I need a favour of you”
“Yes ! you know I am still on holiday”
“Khushi quit bouncing and stand still while you talk It’s sending me dizzy”
“On the rota for the Seafront I’m replacing Akaash with you – OK”
“What ? –no –so all the time you’re here I’m down there – No way – Akaash can stick to the rota given ?”
Khushi casually walked up to Arnav and started playing with the buttons on his shirt “Please Arnav”
She knew exactly what she was doing. He knew exactly what she was doing. She was seducing him but he was letting her.
“I could stay an extra week since I need the recuperation time as I am not completely well enough to travel. We get to see each other all week”
“With Nani and Di and Payal and the world around so I get no time with you !”
“How about I work it so that we go out everynight and you and I get to be alone everynight –does that make the deal sweeter”
“Yup – but whats the real reason ?”
“You work it out – but for now can I have some thing I have been missing?”
Khushi clutched his collar and pulled his head towards her “This stupid”
A long time later they both surfaced and sprang apart guiltily as there was a loud knock on the door .
“Bhai can I come in ?”
The entire week was spent going out as a foursome and then on the pretext that they wanted to be alone Khushi and Arnav would leave Payal and Akaash alone. They would meet back up in a couple of hoursand go home together.
It was on one journey like this that as they got out the car that Khushi went up to Akaash- “Akaash stop a minute” lifting the corner of her dupatta to his face she wiped his lips “pink suits my sister better”
Arnav just looked stunned, Akaash was stuttering like a blithering idiot and Payal wished the floor would open up and swallow her.
“Better me than Nani ,Di or worse your mother !”
“You mean all the while we have been ….”
“Slinking off -yes Arnav they have been doing exactly the same as us! Shall we continue this discussion upstairs in your room later?”
Akaash and Payal looked like two naughty children caught with their hand in the cookie jar. Not knowing what to do or what would the outcome be.
It was decided that the girls would return home next week and then Akash and Arnav would break the news that Akaash and Payal wanted to get married.
Later whilst on their own on the pretext of work and figures coming in from the Seafront Arnav asked Khushi “ Jaan what about us ?”
“I lost what do you mean what about us?”
“How about us getting married?”
It was Khushi’s turn to look dumfounded “you told me you were the marrying kind”
“Till I met you –then I changed”
“Don’t be so stupid Arnav –Khushi took a gulp why spoil a good thing – you and me get on fine for now why ruin it?”
“Khushi everyone knows about us –it has got to be the best open kept secret”
“Why ….why can’t we carry on the way we were Arnav why do you have to bring marriage into it ?”
“What are you scared off Khushi –commitment –that’s a load of rubbish- you are a one man show and I am that man -what is it why don’t you want to commit ? Scared I’ll get bored – never. I never want to be at the side not being able to claim that you are mine, letting someone else look after you –undress you –that’s my prerogative and right from now on not NK’s! I am not there just for the good times to be had but for the bad as well , when you’re scared and lost. When you feel that you have not enough courage to take the next step. We will do it together.”
“Arnav I can’t give you a complete and happy life so no no marriage”
“Crap Khushi what do you mean you can’t give me a complete and happy life ? You’re running away from a challenge – I never thought you would”
“I can’t give you everything a normal wife would”
“Sorry I disagree you will give me everything I need to complete myself what other crap are you talking about ?”
“Arnav I never know from check up to check up where I stand.”
“I never know from day to day what fate has in store for me neither do you that’s why it’s called life. A few shared moments with you will suffice. I would rather spend my time with you ,however much or little. We will create an abundance of memories together so that others can say live life like Arnav and Khushi did, love as they did and never be scared to face whatever comes your way. People will talk about the way Arnav and Khushi lived and loved for ever –not how they died. Our lives will be so wrapped in happiness Khushi people won’t be able to talk about death. Every day we live together we don’t cheat death we touch our dreams. So I’m asking when are you going to marry me ? There is no if about this question. There is only a date required.”
Khushi looked up at Arnav she was ready to capitulate –play the game of chance, take the biggest gamble of her life choose her partner come what may. “Arnav I can’t have children”
“Khushi marriage doesn’t equate to having children”
“How can I deny you that pleasure?”
“How can fate deny you being a mother Khushi? You don’t have to give birth to a child to be a mother or father – it is the care and love you bring them up with that makes them your children. It is the knowledge and values that you imprint on them that makes you a parent, it is the time you spend looking after them, caring for them , being there for them. They may not look like you or me but by being our children they will have your craziness tempered hopefully by my common sense. We may not be able to give the gift of life but we can certainly give them us! They will be completely and whole hearted wanted by us – any more objections –or will two weddings for the price of one be OK !”
“Forever the businessman Arnav”
“No, Akaash is looking to get married in 6 weeks so either we go after or together!”
“6 weeks is fine”
“Finally the woman agrees –come here! You made me work really hard for this I need a reward?”
“Will be there tomorrow –right now this is our time !
Epilogue to follow soon
“Nothing’s wrong, I just wished you had told me I was your first “
“Was it that important?”
“For me and you! I would have been gentler and that would have been less painful for you and that I was your first that is very special to me, where did all that stuff in the shower come from ?”
Khushi was bright red “I wanted too”
“Stop looking at me like that otherwise I’m going to start making love to you again and that will be painful for you so soon after! OK explain yourself and NK ?”
“Whats there to explain ?” Khushi was confused what was he getting at. “He is my best friend, partner in crime. I have known him since forever .He looks after me and me him. I adopted him into our family. Gave him proper certification papers to say he was officially also a Gupta and my buaji , amma and babuji were also his. He doesn’t like me liking you – he thinks you’re no good for me”
“I know he doesn’t like me. Khushi where do we go from here ?”
“Spend time with each other get to know each”
“Khushi – I’m not the marrying kind”
“I know – I’m looking for fun no strings attached so don’t worry about the marriage thing” Throughout this conversation Khushi didn’t once look Arnav in the eye. She was the marrying type, she wanted the whole package, she was head over heels with him. But …..fate had intervened a long time ago ,and taken her dream.
How long could she be happy like this , how long would he want her? At least this way she had a chance of some happiness even if they were only borrowed from someone else for awhile. A song played through her head on a loop the words stuck in her brain.
“The gods may throw the dice
Their minds as cold as ice
And someone way down here
Loses someone dear
The winner takes it all
The loser has to fall
It’s simple and it’s plain
Why should I complain?”
Khushi decided that she would take each day, one day at time enjoying each moment for what it was worth.
The SeaFront flourished under Khushi management style , whilst Khushi flourished under Arnav.
Every second weekend Arnav was down spending time with Khushi discussing business, politics ,The Seafront, future current business deals that Arnav was involved . In short Khushi had woven herself unknowingly into every part of Arnav’s life. Arnav and Khushi lived for the weekends when they could be together. Her madness hadn’t lessened, while she was at work she worked really hard and when she played, she played really hard.
To Arnav’s surprise she had just discovered hot air ballooning and was loving it. Every opportunity he was dragged along – he went because he enjoyed being with her. Arnav made a startling discovery he enjoyed spending time with her be it in their room or up in a hot air balloon or watching the sunset. He was at peace when in her company. He could relax around her and recuperate ready for the next business deal.
A year had come and gone and NK wedding was fast approaching Khushi .
Arnav didn’t even realise when it happened but his weekends were now Friday ,Saturday ,Sunday Monday and he used to fly back on Tuesday nights.
Khushi lay with her head on Arnav shoulder absent mindly drawing patterns on his chest.
“Ok Khushi out with it what’s cooking in your brain?”
“What , why do you think there’s something cooking in my brain”
Arnav flipped her onto her back in an instant and stared into her eyes, “I know every inch of you , every look , every breath –what makes you happy what makes you sad and that crinkled look when you are not sure of the outcome. All day you have the crinkled look – so you have been trying to solve a problem and you’re not quite there so you are going to test out some crazy hair brained idea on me. What have you discovered that you want us to try ? Anything new in bed ?” Arching an eyebrow suggestively
“You know I’m game for anything you want to try –anything !”
“ARNAV – FOCUS !”
“Ummm I’m taking a break”
“NK’s wedding and all and I haven’t really spent any time with Amma and Babuji and Payal”
“I need you to cover maybe two weekends and Amaan going to cover two weekend and if need be Akaash is going to cover two weeks.”
“Exactly how many weeks are you going for ?”
“Stop scowling Arnav I’ve not had a break in about a year and a bit – I’ve planned all the cover and with you guys around there should be no problems “
“No – No way –can the manager of the Sea Front be away for so long. You can do it in two week stretches”
“Arnav be reasonable its NK’s wedding i need two weeks for just that , then I want a break at home for two weeks and then I want two weeks to….. to…. mess around “
“No Khushi you will be gone 6 weeks – no way I forbid it!”
“What ? You forbid it – who are you to forbid it ? My boss well I’ve organised cover , My lover – well that’s all you are my lover –no strings attached remember –you don’t do marriage –you can’t forbid me !” Khushi was furious by now in a rage to match Arnav’s .
Khushi got out of bed and stormed out of her suite slamming the door behind her. She needed time away from him to calm down and think the rocks her favourite place.
Arnav couldn’t believe what had just happened , she had stormed out on him – six weeks what would he do without her – as it was he hated going back to Shantivan –Di was there but for him he only felt at home here around Khushi . He was in love with her. She meant everything to him.
He couldn’t imagine his world without her she had carved a niche in every facet of his life. What had she said – no strings attached – forget strings he wanted every rope and chain that he could think of tying her to him.
Arnav though how he had treated her over the last year –he had not let the press get a whiff of her –infact there had been no pictures of him and any girl in the papers. In fact the only person that knew about them was Aman.
He hated this feeling –he had never fought with Khushi before –they disagreed yes but that had been all silly things like when she had tried to get him to wear a floral beach shirt. He shook his head and laughed – she won her argument –he had worn it –not that anyone saw but he had worn it for her.
Compromise that’s what love and relationships were about. Arnav thought to himself he had better go and find her what had he said to her forbid – well that would be a red rag to a bull for Khushi he better sort this fight out pretty quick or knowing her it would escalate into something ridiculous.
Arnav found her on the rocks “ Khushi I’m sor ..err … I mean …six weeks is fine”
He couldn’t see her features clearly but he could make out that she had been crying.
Arnav felt his heart tearing in two. He came up behind her and placed his armas around her “ Khushi I am really really sorry – please forgive me –you know that I can’t see you cry- forget six weeks you can have eight or twelve weeks off-I only said no because I am going to miss you . Here we have no rules it’s just you and me but the minute we step out I have to think about your family , mine ,NK .
“Arnav I can split my break up”
“No I was being selfish- you take whatever time you want shall we go back”
He was already trailing hot kisses down her neck setting her on fire.
“I’ve heard make up sex is meant to be the best”
“Arnav Singh Raizada – you are incorrigible”
“But you love me” Arnav had meant it as joke part of friendly banter .
Khushi looked into his eyes “Yes I Do” and she kissed him taking him into a whole new world.
Who organised weddings in the middle of the monsoon season NK needed his head seeing to. Khushigot wetter and wetter, there was no letting up on the rain, first the train had been delayed then her battery had run out now there were no cabs running ,she had got an auto in the end only to have it break down and now she was walking dragging her suitcase behind her cursing every step and NK along with it. Stupid wedding, stupid rain , stupid train ,stupid auto. She was exhausted cold wet and tired, she had been in wet clothes for about three hours. The chilly wind didn’t help. Anyway Khushi told herself she been in a lot worse situations with all the different things that she had done over time. But now she was beginning to feel decidedly unwell, her head had begun to ache, her throat felt sore her back ached. How much further – finally the right road – everything was beginning to blurr , the rain just lashed down mercilessly on her but Khushi was beyond caring –Shantivan her goal . Focus on the goal. It wouldn’t be long soon she would be seeing NK and Arnav they would be all at Shaantivan.
At Shantivan Arnav was growing impatient he hadn’t seen her in two weeks and she should have been here at 10:00 am and it was 8:00 pm now and she was answering her phone. Where the hell had she got to – knowing her and this rain she was probably dancing in it –no concern for those waiting on her. He had enough.
“NK have you heard from Khushi ?”
“No – the last text I got from her was that her train was delayed but she should be here by 1 or 2 . Knowing her she seen the rain , she will either be dancing in it or having a water fight with a group of people or just plain staring at the rain with no thought about who was waiting for her. I don’t mind all the crazy stuff she gets into but not this – She is going to get such a blasting from me”
Di , Nani and Mami were watching Arnav and NK have this conversation it was surreal to watch. Both were angry at her but NK was angrier and actually behaving responsibly.
The doorbell rang, two voices in unison “Khushi!”. Both fell over themselves trying to get to the front door leaving the other three spectators watching in astonishment as the two boys almost fought to answer the door.
Di had never seen Arnav behave like this.
“Nani ji , Arnav has been spending a lot of time in Goa over the last year “
“The manager of the Seafront is Khushi – is she not ?”
“Nani Ji we haven’t heard anything in the papers about Arnav and his errr …..models have we …….for about a year “
“Nani ji say something!”
“Let’s go and meet this Khushi girl who NK and Arnav seem to be falling over.”
Both were relieved to see Khushi – drenched and red face.
Nk started “Where the hell have you been? Do you know that i have been getting worried about you ? Do you even think of anyone but yourself when you go into your Khushi mode? GET IN NOW! Do you never think of the risks. It’s not always about you sometimes it about those of us you leave on the side while you plough through your world wondering when you are going to press your self destruct button”
Arnav couldn’t have said it better.At least they were both on the same page regarding this.
Di and Nani gaped , Arnav screaming at someone yes. But this was NK , mad fun loving easygoing NK. He was having an absolute explosion at the poor girl.
They all watched her as she came in dripping pools of water. Shivering looking flushed, with her lower lip trembling and tears brimming in her eyes.
“Namaste Nani ji” she bent down to touch N ani’s feet stood up and the world was truly spinning. She caught hold of her head as if it were spinning and not the world around her. NK and Arnav were at her side in an instant
“Khushi are you OK” NK was the first to ask
“You are so busy shouting at her has nobody noticed she is soaking wet” Di stated the obvious.
NK put his hand to her forehead “ she is burning up- Khushi can you hear me – sorry hon, how long have you been in these wet clothes, you’re shivering but burning up”
“Trying to get here since 3:00 I feel like crap! Sorry Nani ji”
“S*** Khushi you and me we are going to take a shower like old times then we are going to get you into dry clothes and then we’ll think”
Nk scooped Khushi up “What you waiting for Arnav an invitation, go put the shower on in my room on hot”
“Just do it”
Di and Nani were not sure at what they were more shocked at NK shouting at Arnav ,Arnav listening to him or the fact that NK had said showers like old times.
NK held Khushi in the shower both fully clothed letting the hot water cascade over them washing away the Dehil rain letting the hot water seep into her body slowly letting the heat return to her.
“Di help me get her clothes off -Arnav go see if she has any dry clothes in her suitcase – forget that grab a T shirt from my cupboard for now .”
Arnav watched helplessly what could he say without giving away his secret. He had more right than NK to look after her. He wanted to hold her keep her safe, yet here he was at the sidelines watching as though he were a stranger in front of Di . They were looking after her and all he could do was watch.
“Arnav what you waiting for we’ll change Khushi- wait outside if we need help we call.”
Arnav’s temper was at boiling point, he was the love of his life being stripped by another man. He was being told to get out , he was about to punch him if he said another thing . The only thing that held him back was the state of Khushi.
“Arnav I think we need a doctor ASAP”
Finally he had a job to do for Khushi .
NK picked a dry Khushi in his arms who was delirious by now. Arnav took one look at her without even thinking or arguing as to why was he turning down another man’s bed for his love he did just that.
“NK Don’t leave me – he’s coming to get me”
“Khushi I’m here no one is going to get you while I’m here”
Nk climbed into bed still holding her. Arnav she is still shivering throw another blanket over us.
Di , Arnav watched as Khushi clung to NK tossing and turning muttering.
“He is going to win. He is going to catch me. NK help me” She was screaming in her delirium.
“ Khushi wake up he’s not going to get you. I’m here look at me Khushi look for me I’m here run towards me Khushi run.”
Everyone watching on knew this was an oldnightmare one that NK was used to handling. Arnav watched getting paler and more worried where was that damn doctor.
Then as if on cue he arrived .
“Hi doctor and NK gave the fast rundown on the events and what he had carried out and then he dropped his bombshell. Arnav felt as though someone had taken the rug from under his feet. He felt as though his world was being torn apart, he couldn’t breathe. The blood pounded in his ear. He felt as though he was dying . The sound of NK statement reverberated in his ears ,they would haunt him throughout his life “She is currently in remission”
Arnav had to get out now out of this room he needed to breath , had he heard correctly . Di saw Arnav’s face ashen white and fear in his eyes. Instinctively she knew – this girl lying there was no ordinary girl – she was his life. Di followed Arnav to his room and watched him violently throw up. She placed her hand on his shoulder, Arnav stopped washed his face and sat with his face in his Di lap “Why Di ?”
“Chote ,why is for later – do you love her ?”
“Yes Di – she is my life”
“Is she why you have been spending so much time in Goa –did you think I wouldn’t notice? But that is for later – Now she needs you – Go to her – no one is going to say anything – whatever it takes – go now let’s find out what the doctor said –he should be finished by now”
My Gap Year
They made the most of their holiday surfing, scuba diving and partying late into the nights. NK did his best to distract Khushi he knew she was hurting from rejection.
The two weeks were spent simply chasing fun. Then it was time to return back to reality 6 months were almost over. They would have a week at home and NK would return to his life and she would start her new job as assistant manager at the Sea Front. Babuji and Payal knew. She had a temporary 6 month contract depending on the outcome there might be an option to renew. Khushi wanted to see the Sea Front without people knowing who she was.
Khushi spent a week at home and Babuji broke the news that Khushi was leaving to pursue her dream. Tears and threats were used to try and stop her but Khushi’s Babuji pushed everyones’s objections to one side. Remember what’s best for her –not us. That’s how we make her decisions. It didn’t take long for Babuji to convince Buaji and her mother to let her go.
Khushi finally rang NK – trying to break the news of her new job. He was going to kill her when he found out about her new 6 month contract.
“Look NK Its celebration time , you bring the jelabi and I’ll bring the chocolate”
“What are we celebrating ?”
“My new job”
I’ll be round after I finish mine or I’ll be looking for a new job!”
Later that evening all that could be heard was shouting and a door slamming, as NK walked out of Khushi’s room.
“Babuji are you really letting her go to this job – it’s madness –there will be no one to look after her – Buaji you agreed to let your Titaliya go?
Amma you too –is it only me who see’s problems ahead”
A long time ago NK had entered their lives with his crazy hindhi and brought back laughter to the Gupta household. He had become the adopted son and called everyone by the names that Khushi called them.
It was NK’s madness that slowly brought Khushi out of the darkness , he had bullied her, cajoled ,teased and dared her into living again ,feeling again and making the most of a second chance.
“Let the world know that Khushi Kumari Gupta exists and make your mark on this world”
“We have to let her go and spread her wings”
“Amma , I’m not saying she shouldn’t try to fly –just not all the way to Goa! This is not a good idea. I’ve told her I’m not talking to her ever again if she carries on with this madness!”
“So what time are you meeting us tomorrow or are you spending the night eating rubbish with her watching Salman Khan movies?”
NK looked up at the silent laughter in Babu ji’s eyes.
“I’m going to get some golgappa and chaat and four of our favourite movies – but I’m still not talking to her ever again”
Everyone laughed –it didn’t matter how angry Khushi made you , everyone always forgave her in the next breath. NK was no different.
They all looked at each other unspoken questions all were afraid to ask – what if ?
“Gol guppa I need to go get them now!”
Aman had interviewed her originally along with Akaash and now was settling her into her new role as assistant manager of the Sea Front. All day to day runnings, costings promotions she wanted to run was up to her.
She had to send a daily report to Aman , Akaash and Arnav via email. They had 6 months to turn this hotel into a profitable business or it would be sold off.
The Sea Front was buzzing, the new manager was arriving the suite had been prepared, everyone and everything was pristinely presented. It was a she.
Rumours flooded the entire work force, she was hard, cold, calculating , ruthless , with a temper to even match Arnav Singh Raizada’s.
She was meant to be a heartless, callous, cold minded and unfeeling. People were worried their jobs were on the line.
Staff watched nervously as the car drove up, the door open and a set of legs clad in white trouser with killer heels. She had on a white trouser suit and large sunglasses covering most of her face. Her hair hung down her back in a mass of long curls.
She definitely cut a striking figure and exuded sophistication, class and power. This was a person to watch. The bell boy looked at her “this way maam” there was something so strangely familiar about her.
She was led into the offices, which she already knew –never go unprepared that had always been her motto. She waited patiently listening to the increasing volume that was emanating from the internal office. She instantly recognised that voice Arna , her heart missed a beat and her stomach felt queasy. Courage Khushi , this is your hotel ,these are your staff and these are your problems. Taking a deep breath Khushi stood up and about to knock at the door.
The poor secretary realising what was about to happen stooped –“Please maam – sir will be with ..”
Khushi stopped the poor girl in mid flow held up her hand and knocked loudly on the door and then let herself in without waiting to be asked in.
“Good morning Mr Raizada , I believe you may have an issue with one of my staff care to share so that matter may be resolved quickly and amicably to the best possible resolution.”
“It’s not polite to swear” cutting him off again.
Akaash and Amaan looked up incredulously, their new assistant manager had walked in and interrupted Arnav midflow –now the fireworks would really fly.
Arnav recognised Khushi instantaneously, no amount of dressing up could hide her. She looked amazing –but what was she doing here? Gone was her bandana and ripped jeans, now stood before him one classy lady in a channel white trouser suit exuding confidence and power from every pore.
“There is a discrepancy in the amount of boxes of alcohol ordered and the stock in the cellar”
“How many boxes?”
“Mixed or a particular type ?”
“Raj ,unless you can settle the outstanding bill immediately, I suggest that you return the bottles in the thity-five minues and let me check the inventory and seals or the Blue Ostyer can keep you- oh and if your not back in 35 minutes I’ll be round to 49 Saroach road to collect in 40mins”
“Yes maam” looking absolutely bewildered – he had been getting away with the missing boxes till she turned up –she knew where he lived and where he taken the missing boxes.
Akaash and Amaan looked amazed at the turn of events Arnav hadn’t exploded , their employee was still alive and she was still alive after interrupting Arnav.
“Bhaiya- this is KKG”
Khushi removed her glasses and smiled. “I believe we have met”
Arnav couldn’t believe his eyes it had been about 4 weeks, he had images of her in his head – she had truly screwed with his brain. Now she was back. Flesh and blood – his new assistant manager and no NK around. Arnav’s mind was whirring, thinking he had to find out what was going on between her and NK. What was the current situation?
Over the next 3months a working pattern emerged Arnav would fly down alternate weekends to Goa to check on the Seafront’s progress.
SeaFront was finally making strides, it service levels had improved , it had launched signature dishes and events. The staff loved Khushi , she was strict but fair and knew when to let her hair down. Finally the Sea Front was making a comeback –it was the happening place –the most fun themed parties, the best service , the place which offered an extreme range of activities and yet the most romantic settings.
It had become the most talked about place recently and was fully booked for the 4 months.
Arnav and Khushi had fallen into a comfortable relationship working to the same end making the SeaFront a success.
They sat in an evening unusually in the foyer having coffee discussing events , figures, menus. They maintained a high public profile in the foyer, the manager and owner keeping a watchful eye on the coming and goings of the guests and staff of the Seafront.
While Arnav was around, Khushi never brought up her kiss, and Arnav never mentioned it. They were happy to be in each other’s company.
“Khushi I won’t be down in two weeks –I am trying to plan the launch of my next fashion show”
“Oh” Khushi was disappointed she looked forward to the time they spent together.
Arnav temper was at flash point he missed being around Khushi –it kept him sane . Now the new season launch venue had been cancelled. Everything was going pear shaped.
He arrived at Shantivan to find everyone seated for dinner including NK.
“What you doing here NK?”
“Having dinner Nanav”
Shaking his head – he would never change what did Khushi see in him . Di interrupted this is Maya NK ‘s fiancée , he has brought her round to introduce to the family.
Arnav smiled a true smile ,not often seen one from the heart.
“Excuse me I have a venue to find for my fashion show – Nani I’ll be going and be back in about a week OK .
Arnav packed his bags and organised for his helicopter to fly him down to Goa.
Now there was nothing stopping him. NK was engaged – Khushi was a free agent.
It was not quite dawn – he knew where he would find her. He grabbed a steaming hot flask of tea and wandered down to the rocks – there she was sitting on the rocks watching the sun rise.
“Hi Khushi would you like ?”
She smiled back “Yes Please”
Once the sun had risen he noted that she had a wet suit open and pulled down around her waist while she had a gold bikini top on. Two ieeny weeny scraps of triangular material which hid little.
Khushi caught the direction of his gaze
She blushed as she felt herself burn under his gaze. She felt her nipples go taught and pert and strain under the fabric bursting to get out. Arnav saw her reaction before she jumped up and zipped her wet suit full up.
“Time to ride”
Before you go Khushi two things I am moving the fashion show launch to the Seafront and this.
Slowly and confidently he lowered his lips breathing in her Jasmine scent. The instant their lips met a flash of electricity shot through their bodies. She was lost to the sensation, to the moment. Arnav savoured the sensuousness of her soft lips, his tongue probing ,caressing looking for more. Khushi felt a tingling in her toes as the warmth spread through her body. Arnav had lit the flame of passion between them. It left her feeling dizzy and light headed.
“Are you going back or staying ?”
“Staying – most definitely- only if you want me too”
“ Can I ride ? Will ….will you wait for me to ….ride ?”
Arnav nodded in anticipation. “I’m not going anywhere”
Khushi rode the waves thinking deciding what to do next . Arnav watched her ride wave after wave trying to catch the biggest and ride for the longest time ever.
Returning to shore she placed her board next to Arnav
“It took you a long time to decide Arnav”
“I’m not the one who went off to rides the waves”
“You left last time !”
“I had no choice”
Khushi grabbed his hand and pulled him back towards the hotel as they approached the Seafront she let go of his hand and focused on carrying her board.
They sat in the foyer eating breakfast and discussing events as per normal.
“Shall we continue this discussion upstairs so that i change out of my wetsuit.
“I thought you would never bloody ask !”Arnav muttered
As soon as the lift door closed Khushi saw the passion flaring in his eyes.
“Don’t forget there are security camera’s installed in every lift- courtesy of Mr Arnav Singh Raizada”
“Sometimes That Arnav Singh Raizada comes up with stupid ideas” Scowling clenching his fists .
Khushi just laughed and held her sides.
“hey look on the screen Khushi maam and the Devil himself”
“he looks like he is gonna blow”
“Naw look at Khushi Maam she is laughing she make short work of his temper – don’t worry”
“Wish we had camera’s in their room”
Arnav slammed the door shut
“Hey watch it Mr Arnav Singh Raizada damage hotel property and I’ll have you thrown out.
“Shut up Khushi – come here” As he pulled her towards him and she crashed against a solid mass of muscle she felt the rising passion between them and gulped .
“I need to wash the sea of me first.”
“Need help?” he muttered in her kissing her salty neck and nibbling her lobe .
Khushi ever the adrenalin junkie “I’m not sure that I can get myself out of this wet suit alone”
“That’s it Khushi you asked for it now and grabbed her hand and pulled her into the bathroom.
The next part is for mature readers if you don’t want to read it leave it alone till the next chapter 8
Khushi woke up , it was pitch black , she quickly made a flask of steaming hot tea . She had about half an hour to drag her date out of bed.”Hi “
“Who’s this ?” Arnav asked sleepily answering his phone.
“what time is it ? what’s wrong ?” Arnav glanced at his watch 4.30 am.
“Open the door !”
“What door ?”
“I thought you were an intelligent man the door to your brain – the door to your suite ,I have knocking on it for the last 10 minutes “
“Are you outside ?”
“Jeez you’re slow in the mornings -why else would I say I have been knocking on your door “
“I’m coming, what’s wrong ?”
Arnav opened the door to his suite and to his surprise Khushi fell in. She had been sitting crossed legged leaning on the door for support.
Arnav was still on the phone to her talking whilst he opened the door.
“what the ….”as he jumped back
“Oww ” Khushi lay there on the floor having banged her head looking upwards
“God you have long legs”
“What ? are you Okay ? Whats wrong ?”
“I’m fine ,nothings wrong , why are still talking on your phone when I am in front of you. I’ll survive the head injury “
Then Arnav exploded -”Do you know the tim ? What is the meaning of this ? How dare you…”
“Khushi placed her hand over his mouth “Shut up Arnav -Its 4.35 and we are going to miss it if you don’t change – get a t and your shorts and if you must bring your phone you have 5 mins and brush your teeth “
Removing her hand from his mouth “Explain “
“You owe me a date- I am collecting “
“At 4:35 “
“4:36AM Hurry “
“You belong in a lunatic asylum , I know ,I know give me five “
What the hell , he had better go along with her crazy plan it would be less painful and he could be back to work by 9.00am . Who the hell went on a date at 4.30 am in the morning and where did one go.
“Come on hurry we are going to be late “
Twenty minutes later she had Arnav seated on a secluded spot on the beach watching the sun rise drinking a steaming hot cup of tea.The sun could be seen peeping over the horizon as it wiped away the darkness painting the sky with hues of pink and burnt orange .
Look Arnav how beautiful -look it’s welcoming a new day – another day for us to discover something that we have not done before.
Both sat on the rocks leaning into each other enjoying the peace as dawn silently broke into the world waking up nature along its way.
The sun shone down and the world had risen “Come on Arnav “
Shocked Arnav looked down -What the hell-when had that happened their hand were entwined -he had never taken the time to just sit and watch and the pure unadulterated beauty of of a sunrise before and experience the world at peace .
He felt himself and thoughts being dragged back to the present moment – Khushi was tugging on his arms – “lets go – ever surfed?”
“Yes – a very long time ago thinking back to his summer break in his uni days “
“It’s like riding a bike – can you ?”
“Ride a bike ?”
Soon both Arnav and Khushi were surfing along with a couple of regulars who were always the first in.
Arnav watched did this girl know every one and talk to every single person. She was on a date with him and she seemed to be spending more time with the world at large than him . S***! what the hell was he thinking – She was NK ‘s girl . He knew he didn’t like that fact . It sent a sharp pain through him and a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. Arnav this is a bet not a date-use your head -explaining to himself. A small voice in the back of his head kept rearing its head NK doesn’t mind , he knows , she is a free agent . He knew he was attracted to her -girls like that knew the rules But NK ? That was just to close to home both of them after the same girl.
“Breakfast ?” Oye Arnav back to me Khushi said clicking her finger in front of his face “Breakfast”
“Yes lets go back to the Seafront “
“What no ! follow me “
A 10 minute walk hidden further down the beach was a small shack . He could see that the place was buzzing with people -but they weren’t the holiday makers or guest or tourist – they were the taxi drivers and workmem.
“Khushi you can’t be serious -HERE ?”
“Live a little – do you know they serve the best adrak walli chai and alloo puri around -look its frequented by the local workers therefore it has got to be good . “
“It’s not exactly clean “
“Arnav I’ll get you a tetanus shot after OK try the food , it is awesome “
5 minutes later they were sat at a table drinking tea out of a glass and eating alloo puri out of plates made from leaves.
She watched Arnav gobble down three plates . She smiled “Aunty Ji put it on my bill “
“What no Khushi ” Arnav reached into his pocket for some money to settle the bill .
“No Arnav – this is a date that I have asked you on -you are not paying for anything today and besides you can pay next time ” Khushi laughed and pulled him lets go .
“Where to ?”
“Now that would be spoiling the fun by telling you- just relax leave the businessmen behind become Khushi’s friend for the day – how good are you at swimming ? We are going gullying next”
“What exactly is gullying ?”
Khushi jumped around clapping her hands like an excited child – “You have never been gullying ? OMG where have you been living for the last decade ? I’m not going to tell you just follow-and don’t look so worried . Do you know it takes more muscles to frown than smile -in your words -a waste of energy ! Come on we have a long walk “
As they walked up a steep hill following a well beaten track Khushi and Arnav chatted. She asked him questions about his family and uni life and Arnav without realising shared his memories with her. Some thing he never did with anyone. The laughed and talked and rested and walked . What they themselves hadn’t realised was that they were walking hand in hand helping each other supporting one another till they were at the top of the hill – all of sudden there were buildings and people.
“Hi khushi fresh meat to the slaughter ?”
“Something like that Steve”
“Khushi what does he mean Fresh meat to the slaughter ?”
“You will find out soon enough be patient – your a gully virgin – I have to take things slow or it might hurt but once in ,you will find the experience exhilarating and fun , the buzz you get you will want some repeat action but take care its your first time you might be a bit sore “
Khushi’s eyes sparkled with laughter and mischief.
“What exactly are YOU talking about ?”
“Gullying -of course -where is your mind that’s the real question ?”
Arnav looked at Khushi shaking his head with a smile -he knew exactly where his mind was with that last conversation – he would have liked to be her first – to taste those lips and sink into her … What the F*** Arnav where was his brain taking him. NK NK NK – he had seen her sleeping with NK his younger cousin. She belonged to him – or did she . Khushi seemed to belong to no one – she seemed to be a free spirit taking her fun where she she could find it and with whom. Gilrs like that knew the rules. NK knew the rules about girls like her. What had he said “he was worried about Arnav -”. How did she manage to weave this spell around him. He wanted her , he desired her as only a man can .
“Arnav why you scowling and frowning – I told you it’s a waste of energy – come with me and look at this “
From the vantage point he could see the breathtaking view of multiple cascading waterfalls pouring into water pools below .
“Okay lets go gullying first – right give me everything you got watch ,phone wallet T shirt “
“T shirt ?”
“You got a spare with you ? No – i thought so slippers and T shirt “
Arnav watched as Khushi packaged everything into a bag and including her T shirt leaving her wearing just a bikini top .
He could help but admire what was on view . God he would like to get his hands on them. The little voice in the back of his head. She is not for you -unavailable that was probably why he was behaving like this.
Khushi saw him staring “I normally have a tank top – I hadn’t planned on gullying that was a spur of the moment idea – we go down together as its your first time OK”
“Lead the way “
Finally he saw what gullying was a run they sat on a mat and slid down a natural gully track down the mountain side it .”Lets go Khushi “
They sat in tandem Khushi at the front and Arnav behind his legs lying beside her . He held her to him hand around her waist pulling her into him as the sat on the mat. They were pushed off the gentle and then the speed increased after each bump and bend it got faster and faster -it was though they were in a bob sleigh run except there was no ice just a wet slippery mud slide.
” Watch out The mud pool next “
“Did she say Mud Pool?”
Crash there ride came to a halt – Yes he had heard correctly they were both in a mud pool.
The ride had given him a real adrenalin high or was it the fact he was withKhushi. But now he was watching her laugh they were both covered from head to toe in mud .
Arnav had to let go and laughed hugging her to him . “Thankyou I have not had so much fun in ages on a date.”
“Well you have never been on a date with Khushi before ! right lets go get this mud of us “
“Do you remember those waterfalls and plunge pools thats how – follow me – do you like this little bit of heaven on earth”
Arnav was staring at Khushi -”oh yes I do “
They spent the next hour letting the cascading waterfall waterfall wash the mud of them and spent another hour lazing in the plunge pool.
So are we going back to the real world yet Khushi ?
“No we are going to climb up the small water fall in the water flow till the top have a snack ahe then walk to the opposite of the hill and take a hand glider back to the beach or as close as i can get us to the beach.”
“Arnav – get with the program and stop saying what .”
Soon he was trussed up in a harness and they were both climbing the cliff face against the water flow till the reached the summit.
Wet exhausted and tired they rested at the top. ” Well at least you can’t say you were thirsty Arnav ?”
Both dried off eating hot food and having coffee They laughed and chatted and indulged in each others company .
Hi Steve “
“Khushi you taking a paraglider down ?”
“It will get to late if you don’t hurry we need you down before the next tide and the sunset so we can pack away “
“Come on Arnav before they say we have to walk down “
“Ready ,Arnav -run run run and the next minute there was no land under their feet they had run out of land they were off the cliff face the slope was gone they were both free sailing upwards free into the blue sky , They wheeled and circled and soared through the sky riding the thermals – the wind embraced them , there was no hurry , no urgency just freedom.
Slowly the multi coloured chute stared to descend and lose height and soon they stumbled as they hit the sand -back to reality back to the world.
Khushi undid their harnesses
“Lets go back to the seafront – I need to catch up to NK and my shift will be starting in a few hours.
Did you enjoy your date ? Did you learn to live a little outside you perfect ordered world ? You’re phone “
Arnav looked at his phone he felt as though he had been doused with a bucket of cold water .54 missed calls -F-I-F-T-Y-F-O-U-R missed calls – what the hell ….
Khushi looked at him pondering ,wondering , she knew his rules ,she knew her rules – what the hell- live a little – take a risk – experience life -otherwise what was the point of living , embrace each moment and make it wor
thwhile ,make a memory and share it , be remembered.
Arnav leant over -Khushi cupped his face between her palms and gently placed her lips on his , nibbling his lower lip caressing it ,licking it . Arnav heart jumped and raced pounding his lips parted ,he needed extra air , and then he was lost, tongues collided and crashed tasted and caressed . They both surfaced from an earth shattering kiss breathless eyes glazed with passion revealing the latent passion between them. The fire was burning between them. They needed air.
The phone rang reality set in Arnav looked at the display -reality NK.
“Answer it Arnav – that was the perfect kiss after a perfect date – i hope thankyou she kissed him on the cheek and left “
Arnav’s head and heart were both in turmoilworking against each other fighting and trying to reason with logic. Give up Arnav toldhimself -This is Khushi -there is no rhyme or reasoning where she is concerned.
The phone rang again ! NK
“Hi, NK “
“What the f*** Nanav I have just seen you and Khushi – I wanna talk to you now -no in 15minutes first i need to talk to khushi. I ‘ll call you – Nanav I trusted you !”
The phone was cut .
“Crap crap crap – he was exactly in the mess that he didn’t want to be in . How the hell was he going to explain or negotiate his way out of this! He had to think .
Just a simple fun short OS to bring a smile ;something light and fluffy
A Girl Like That
Khushi sat there in the garden having a drink staring into the pool gazing at the reflection of the moon. She hated these events.She was forced to come and make polite chit chat with society’s rich and famous who hadn’t got a clue. They sat around in there designer clothes pretending to be completely knowledgeable about the true state of poor. But in reality they had no idea for some it made them look good for others it was a tax loophole. Whatever it made them give her cause money but she had to come and listen to their crap and smile , yes sir no sir three bags full sir so that they would give generously to her cause. But her face ached from smiling and her brain ached from all the small talk. Inconsequential. She had escaped, who would believe it this little piece of heaven existed inside this mausoleum, this was not a home –this was a show piece. There was nothing here that demonstrated that it was a loving home. Nothing personal she noted –no photographs no toys , everything orderly matching in its place. It reminded her of her operating theater white ,cool and clinical everything correctly located for easy access.
Khushi sat a while longer lost in her thoughts not realizing that that time had moved on . She slipped of her shoes and dipped her feet in the cool inviting water drawing circles in the pool ,humming a tune to herself, with her face staring up at the moon.
Arnav was glad it was over, everyone had gone home. He had opened his house up to the world for Di and her cause. Anything for Di, that would help distract her from her current personal crisis Shyaam. They were in the middle of a very public acrimonious divorce.
He heard humming ,yes humming from the pool already having taken his shirt off went to have a look what the hell- a waif like ethereal creature bathed in moonlight humming a haunting melody
“She walks the night in a long black veil
She visits my grave when the night winds wail”
Was she real or just an apparition ? Would she vanish if he spoke ?
“Can I help ?”
Startled out of her world back to reality she jumped up
“Oh you scared me, You using the old shirt trick to escape – I just plain hid”
“Excuse me ?”
“Them out there, I had enough so I came in here and hid they won’t miss me for another hour so I can get some peace time – how about you ? Did you spill something on your shirt accidentally on purpose, to get out of that of group of that mutual admiration society patting themselves on their back when majority of them are smug pompous conceited and vain individuals who want nothing more than to have a name on a wall plaque.
“I hate these events too”
“Join me nobody will miss us , this water is soothing, roll your trousers up instead you might enjoy it scowling. Look up there can you see that constellation of stars – that’s Orion – the hunter . Do you know my mum said he was one of the greatest hunters in his time and as long as he was in the sky he would protect me. So what are you running from ? Let me guess the same type of people that I am. The elderly overzealous mother who is trying to get a catch for her daughter.”
Khushi picked up his left hand “–see no wedding band hence your on the market. You have a great six pack , so the girls will be running after you ,you’re wearing a diamond studded Rolex – yeh so you must have money –Patakha! You were running away”
“Excuse me I wasn’t running away”
“Oh its Ok –I won’t say anything to anyone –he who runs away lives to fight another day!”
“I wasn’t running away !”
“Yeh Ok I believe you I spilt something on my shirt mister”
Khushi laughed and it sounded like little tinkling bells. Arnav found himself smiling at her inspite of himself.
“What are running away from ?”
“Pompous old men –they drag me out when they need extra dosh –I hate this side of the job”
“What do you like about your job ?”
“now you’ve started me off on my soap box ……..”
“Do you ever stop to take time to breath – you been talking nonstop for about an hour”
Khushi laughed “ I won’t apologise for talking about something I love. What are you passionate about ?”
“Time keeping and punctuality”
“I should have guessed that Mr Rolex that’s my worst weakness-timekeeping I am actually quite good these days usually maximum I run late is about 30-40 minutes and that’s with me trying. My time keeping would probably melt your brain if I had to work for you”
Arnav laughed –something had had not done in a long time.
“You look about 10 years younger when you laugh – you should do it more often”
Khushi raised her hands to his forehead –“look no wrinkles”
Arnav swallowed hard , he felt as though her touch was burning him.
“Hey what time is it on that fancy time piece or is only for show ?”
“Piss!” Khushi clamped her hand over her mouth “Sorry! I’ve screwed up again . Look the party will be over we need to get out of here without being seen by the owners or what will they think of us –told you y time keeping was rubbish –where were you with your always so punctual? Come on then, where’s your shirt? Put your shoes and socks on and let’s get the hell out of here before we get caught.
“You could just use the front door”
“Are you mad ? Imagine talking to the owner oh by the way your party was so boring that we ran away or by the way we were so caught up in each other that we didn’t realize the time ?”
“But we were”
“And who’s gonna believe you or me –those old matrons will stop coming after you! I don’t want your reason for not being able to get married laid at my doorstep”
Arnav just laughed until tears rolled out of his eyes “You’re worried about my reputation, not yours?- unbelievable”
“Oh shut up and stop being so loud where’s your shirt ?”
“mmm I’ll get it”
“Quick put it on” Before Arnav knew what was happening Khushi was helping him button his shirt and tucking it into his trousers.
“Did you have a jacket ?” Arnav nodded his body shaking in silent laughter most women he knew couldn’t wait to get him out of his clothes and this one she was putting them on faster than he could ever remember having them taken off.
“Come on” grabbing Arnav’s hand “ I saw some steps this way – do I have to do everything”
Soon they were in the outer complex of the compound “Okay now what are you looking for , maybe I can help I am quite familiar with these surroundings”
“S***- sorry that’s twice you have made me swear now I’ll have to say sorry twice over to Devi Maya !and it’s your fault this time”
“How ?” This girl was unbelievable!
If your familiar with this garden, then the night watchman will know you, and all hell will break loose! He will tell the owners who in turn will spread the news, you were caught leaving the party with a girl long after it had finished; your reputation will be lost and I will be in trouble with the hierarchy for not managing to do a simple task as attending a function without drawing –what was it the wrong kind of attention to the cause.”
Arnav could literally see the cogs turning in her mind trying to solve a problem which in reality didn’t exist. He was sorely tempted to tell her but he hadn’t had this much fun in a long time and he didn’t want it to end.
“Okay lets go “
“Where to ?”
“We are going to have to over the wall ?”
“What its 12 foot high!”
Look you said you knew the garden there must be a bush or tree or something we can climb on-you then give me a boost –I’m on the wall and i’ll help pull you up then we jump down the other side and all this before dawn.”
“you are just not mad but certifiably insane and I must be too to be going along with this harebrained scheme where one of us if not both of us will break our necks “
“hey if we fall ,you go first at least that way I’ll have a softer landing and not break much and one of will get away !”
“Hey if you fall on top of me I will be squashed and both our..”
“I know, I know our reputations will be lost!”
Arnav did something he had never done before he hugged a girl who he had known but a few hours “where have you been all my life”
“Okay Okay enough of that mushy stuff first let’s get us out of here. Can you think of a tree or a bush?”
Soon they had both scaled up a tree which was no mean feat for either one in leather soled shoes and the other in a sari tucked in all the most imaginable ways possible. Before they knew it they were on the wall and both jumped down together.
“Now what do we do next ?”
Khushi straightened herself up and sorted her Sari out .
“Why of course we walk back in to the main gate.”
“WHAT”exploded Arnav . All that effort to go back into the main gate this girl was so unbelievable. “WHY?”
“It’s simple secret fund” She dug her hand into her bra and pulled out 2000 rs –cab fare for me and you 50 :50- we will tell the watchman our car broke down we walked back and to call us two cabs and we can go home –simple!”
“Some of us don’t have that far to go muttered Arnav so that Khushi didn’t hear”
Arnav watched Khushi walk up to the night watchman who seeing Arnav was extremely confused looking at him Saab your car’s broken down ? But it is the ..”
“Call a cab now !” the watchman shook his head he didn’t understand his boss at the best of times this was not the time to start trying now.
In about 10 minutes a cab arrived Khushi grabbed the taxi . Thanks see you around the next one will be along shortly . See you Byeeeeeee. As the cab drove off.
“Thanks for the entertainment – your name is ……”.
She was gone. It wouldn’t be hard to find out who she was , she obviously worked for the charity in some capacity. How many crazy girls could possibly work for them.
Now why couldn’t Di introduce him to a girl like that- a girl like that he wanted to marry – fun loving not scared and intelligent.
He turned to the night watchman “cancel the other cab”
“Saab sub teekh tho hai ?”
“Yes you bhabhi is a bit mad!”
The night watchman thought to himself –“My bhabhi is a bit mad – what was he talking about he wasn’t even married – who was calling who mad. “Good Night” letting Arnav back into his house through the main gate.
Arnav walked up his drive absent mindly replaying the events of the evening. Yup ! he had found the girl that he was going to spend the rest of his life with.
Arnav had left , Nk was still spluttering
“NK baba give it a rest .”
“Khushi he saw us , he got the wrong idea about us ,you ,i mean you and me!”
“He saw us in this state fast asleep -your reputation , babuji ,my mami, and my Nani -what are they gonna say ?”
“I swear NK are you sure you are not the girl -isn’t that my line -he’s not going to say anything to anyone ! Stop stressing and being a girl “
“He scares me !”
“OK time to change and catch the waves”
“Khushi -how did you ever become my friend ? You are adrenalin junkie and a fun seeker . The total opposite of me “
“No NK , You’re the same you’ve just grown up and got a job and i haven’t got there yet !”
Khushi wore her distinct bandana style and set of to surf leaving NK to chase after her .
“Hi NK , it seems you can’t keep up with her “
“Arnav she is going to send me to an early grave that girl”
“promises promises – its good to find someone who can wind you up as much as you can wind others up . No seriously NK , Your mum and mamiji are worried about how you took time out and set off on this mad journey across India “
“It’s not mad its an adventure – and if the truth be known it was stifling in the office the scenery had got boring . look I had better catch up to her or else she will drown me before tonights performance “
“That was some performance – it put life back into this dying soul – we might need you here a bit longer. I had come down to stop this money pit from losing anymore money – you may have found one way “
“Look why don’t you hire Khushi she’s fabulous and she ‘s got a degre…..”
“I have already hired her , keeping her here that’s another problem -girls like that they flit around like we change socks “
“Arnav I’m not sure what you are talking about – but Khushi is a good girl from a good home who enjoys living . Is that a sin ?”
Khushi had been riding the waves but NK hadn’t come as she returned to the beach she saw him talking to the khadoos Arnav Singh Raizada.
“Oye you joining us “
“You are being summoned !”
“I am not summoning him ;I want to go further out to ride the bigger waves -and I can’t do that alone ! You’re interfering with my free time “
“He’s all yours “
Arnav watched on as the couple laughed there way into the sea- NK seemed to be enjoying being with this girl- he was totally besotted with her but there was something about there chemistry he could quite put his finger on. They had gone out quite far to the red marker -did she always have to take things to the edge. He saw them paddling on the surf boards and then suddenly jump up -both saw the big wave coming and both rode the wave like professionals all the way .
“Khushi thank you for dragging me along on this trip”
“NK i wouldn’t have made it without you , you know what my family said “
It was coming up to sunset Khushi came into the bar grabbed two drinks and left back to go sit on some rocks and watch the sun go down.
Arnav saw Khushi “Don’t worry I ‘ve paid for them ASR “
“That wasn’t what i was going to say, can you think of any other gimmick to get people to come to us ?”
“Have a beach party – this is a beach stop the formal attire and have some fun put some torches up mark a volleyball court and have a party – you will draw in the younger crowd who will flock in and get the place buzzing and lose the suit gain some beach shorts and t for the night .Now my sunset is calling me . I need to watch the sun go down before my shift starts “
He saw Khushi run across the sands and climb up the rocks to meet a silhouette both individuals sat there watching the world go to sleep.
By the time their shift started the beach party was well on its way and the place was buzzing cocktails were flowing out. The seafront was given a new lease of life. Within the week it was the happening place to be different nights meant different things , different themes -it may not be formal but the place oozed fun and the hotel room’s oozed opulence.
The balance was being worked out but the seafront may not have to be sold.
Khushi caught Arnav in the morning “May I have a word about an idea for the afternoon and the evening and into the next day. I will organise it you pay the costings and i guarentee the return will be phenomenal for at least the next three days – No one can resist one of my parties”
“Khushi what if we lose who is going to pay ?”
“Live a little, take a risk on me ,you might just find you actually like me!”
“Don’t worry that will never happen – you’re NK’s girl “
“I’m no one’s girl – I don’t come with a label attached – property of …..if lost please return to ….I belong to myself ! to live and and enjoy -no rules ,no ownership papers required ,no fixed abode”
He looked at her, she was NK’s girl. That was the long and short of it. By the looks of it he needn’t worry she was not the settling down type husband ,two children in tow.
“You’re idea -go ahead let me know the costings what’s your cut in all this ?”
“If it’s a success and you make money you have to spend the day with me Khushi style -that will be enough torture for you deal ?”
“Stop smirking and find yourself a t and pair of surf shorts and slippers I’ll be round in three days to collect .Pukka its a date “
“Nanav what have you agreed to -you haven’t made a bet with her have you ? “
“If I win he is going on a date with me “
“Khushi -you can’t do this – he ‘s my elder brother “
Arnav felt bad was he encroaching on NK’s territory but it was her suggestion, not his ,she was NK girl he should have said no . Arnav was about to say no to the whole deal when he heard Khushi reply “NK iit’s only a date – he will live . I won’t eat him up “
“Khushi he not used to you – or the madcap things you do – I will hold you personally responsible if he get’s hurt “
NK was worried for him – he wasn’t jealous. He had always thought him a bit strange bordering on the bizarre. Khushi matched him perfectly.
By later on in the morning he saw the erection of a large multi colored canopy ,a sun screen of sorts constructed from brightly colored helium balloons in different shapes and sizes , anchored securely .
A floating jetty was constructed into the shallow waters and secured there The path was identified by large white domed balls. A secure canopy housed floating lanterns and floating candles A huge number of color pump guns containing neon colors were there what had the girl organized.
“Hi Arnav we need to increase the catering by double and increase the alcohol stocks to three times sale or return. The night of the three moons is launching you may also need to lay on extra staff – thanks bye “
“Khushi i need to talk to you these bills for the extra food or alcohol who will cover it “
“Arnav chilllax “
“NK ‘s salary will cover it worst case scenario from his proper job “
“it’s easy to spend someones money !”
“I am making you money – now get ready for your date “
The party launched of at lunch time under the balloon canopy , people came to play games eat drink and party the fun was full on. Arnav had never seen so many people at the seafront the tills were chinging continuously and the staff were working full out to the extent that Arnav was also helping out. Till the extra staff arrived . There was a lull in the early hours of the evening – take a break this is before the storm.
“Hey Arnav – how’s my bet looking -costs covered yet ? she walked away knowingly “
“I’ll be wearing the surfing shorts tonight “
“Thank the lord ,you’re finally out of that 3 piece as nice as it is – not on a beach “
Those who could got a few hours shut eye. The sun was setting Arnav went instinctively to find Khushi sitting on the rocks a bandana in her hair watching the sun sink.
“Come and join me and watch the world get ready to sleep whilst the seafront wakes up “
“How did you know it was me ?”
“I just did. Look Arnav feel the peace, see the shimmering as the sun kisses the sea and disappears beneath it setting it on fire for an instant. Look and stop to see the beauty of nature”
Arnav sat next to Khushi watching the sun sink and saw the moon rise along with a handful of stars. He had never felt so at peace sitting there all his troubles and demons were far away.
Khushi jumped up ” party time -time to flash mob and twitter watch and learn.”
Out of no where people started arriving the white globes glowed at night they lit the way to to the floating stage.
Arnav saw Khushi party , make cocktails dance and sing her heart away ,-they set of scores of floating lanterns and candles into the sea carrying peoples hopes and wishes and dreams .
And then the neon splash paint glow in the dark party started after midnight. the seafront was electric people danced gyrated and partied covered in neon paint they glowed.
As the sun started to rise people dissipated and Khushi looked at Arnav – “cleaning crew is here to set up for lunch time , I had better take NK back to the room we all need to rest before round two remeber we called this a three day affair .”
“She ran up to NK and grabbed his hand -bed NK we start all this again in less than 6 hours “
Arnav felt a pang as he saw her run of towards their room to sleep or to … he left the rest unsaid. She was NK’s girl he kept repeating it.
The next two nights were even better and the canopy was released on the third day to signify the end of the party.
A tired Khushi made sure everything was returned to its normal place ,the cleaning crew made sure there was no evidence of the last three days.
“So Arnav – did we do good and are you ready for your date tomorrow ?”
“We did exceptional and I’m working tomorrow “
“No you are not – you’re playing hookey and going on a date with me to find out what it means to be alive . Till tomorrow “
Three and half years later
Khushi sat in the poolside next to Joe. It was usually Joe that she discussed her problems , he was her sounding board , constant companion.
Joe always knew when his mistress had problems he nuzzled his head in her lap trying to offer her some comfort.
Joe what am i going to do? I am used to this I have never known anything difference. Me myself I , I manage with you and Arnav. Neither of you let me get into any kind of trouble. I have you both to help guide me but this. I don’t think i can manage this by myself.
“What can’t manage by yourself?”
He walked across and kissed her on her lips. “In the time i have known you that word hasn’t existed in your dictionary “
Khushi ran her fingers over his face stopping to caress his lips – he patiently waited what was she looking for ? what was she worrying about ? She must be really worried to be seeing his face this way ,had someone said something to her ? There was nothing in the gossip columns about him -there had been nothing since she had come into his life -he was no longer news worthy since he was completely and totally obsessed with his wife.
Khushi come here , he heard him patting his thighs as he sat down she slid across and placed her arms around his neck and buried her face in his shoulder.
He felt the warm wetness through his shirt ,silent sobs racked her body.
What the hell had happened today ? The famous Raizada temper was rising, Khushi felt all his muscles tense like a tiger ready to pounce. “Khushi please stop and explain -I’m not like you I am crap at reading people just tell me what is wrong and I’ll fix it , if i have done something wrong i will try and fix it , if someone has said something to you or done something to you I will probably kill them “
HP chose that moment to bring Arnav ‘s tea in and started sputtering his apology when he saw his bhabi in his Bhaiya’s lap “Maaf keri yeh Bhaiya (I am sorry Bhaiya ) He quickly placed the tea down and scurried out the room as though he was on fire.
Anjali caught HP running away back to the kitchen “HP what’s wrong ?” Hp explained the senario that he had just experienced but “Anjali Di , if bhaiya or bha ..bha .. are ..are doing ….anything ….that i shouldn’t see Joe always barks and stops me- that’s how i know – but Anjali Di I think Khushi Bhabhi was crying !”
In all the time Anjali had known Khushi she had only cried a handful of times “Chote !” “Chote !”.
Arnav thought what was this place like, sometimes it was worse than the traffic at the Dehli interchange. “Di a minute I’m coming “
What should he sort out first sister or wife ? He picked up his phone “Di is it urgent ?”
“Why have you made Khushi cry ?”
“What – I made Khushi cry “
“Khushi I am really sorry i don’t know what i have done please tell me what did i do ?”
Khushi gave him a weak watery smile and indicated for the phone “Di your Chote did nothing I just need to work out something and I will tell you later -OK”
“Arnav you have done nothing – well thats not exactly true you are partly to blame”
“What ?- ok Khushi what have i done -i can’t stand your tears “
“Are you sitting down ?”
“Really Khushi ?In case you haven’t noticed you are sitting in my lap”
“Ok I know this conversation is going to be all screwed up but here goes – I’m blind I have been as long as far as i can remember “
“10 out of 10 – your blind yet you can see more than most people so that’s a null and void statement “
“Arnav you’re biased – i have had too work twice as hard as anyone to get where I am today “
“That’s the norm for you so that statement doesn’t hold water with me!”
“What you take for granted I can’t see the changing colours of the sun rising – but that doesn’t worry me be cause I have people like you to tell me what I can’t see remember you said it was like melted butter and strawberry swirling in a pot of cold blue”
“Khushi I don’t know where this conversation is leading to ?”
“Arnav I’m pregnant -”
Khushi and she was enveloped in a huge hug and followed by a passionate kiss his mouth and tongue and hands communicating his happiness to her then all of a sudden he stopped -”Whats wrong with you or the baby ?”
“Neither you or the baby ?”
“No we are both fine – the baby is at risk from me !”
“Arnav I ‘m blind how am i going to see if he or she is in trouble , needs help , what if he or she falls where will i find him or her. The smallest task , the simplest thing looking after my baby how will iI manage ?”
“Is that what all these tears are about ?– Khushi you have always managed and we will , you will.”
“A baby – finally I never thought it would happen – I don’t know I just wasn’t expecting it. Why all our bits function this should have happened a long time ago”
“errr i was on the pill and still am !”
“Sooooo what’s meant to be is meant to be – accidents happen- and this is a good one ! Khushi do you know I want minimum of three or four or five children.”
“Yeh while you’re not having them or carrying them let’s make it a half dozen !”
“Good idea – so glad you agree”
“Shutup Arnav and finish what you started !”
“I thought I already had -you’re having a baby “
Khushi grabbed his collar and pulled his lips towards her “Kiss me properly!”
The real unspoken question was never voiced – that would wait -there was nothing she could do any way. Would her child be able to see . Please Devi Maya let her child be perfect- don’t make it harder for them than it had to be.
4 years and approximately 2 months after her wedding
She hadn’t been keeping well the last few days , her back was constantly aching. She sat on her bed trying to get comfortable the baby wasn’t due for another 4 weeks – God how she wished the 4 weeks were over..
She remembered Arnav introducing her soon after they had got married -someone had whispered she can’t see , he could have done better. She flinched ,he felt it, he heard it and he sorted it . He pointed out that she saw more than most ,the person underneath where most stopped at the surface she found the real person hidden away underneath and thats who she saw their true self. He knew he wasn’t worth her but he would try his damnedest to be. Later when Khushi wasn’t there he sent a message out in no uncertain terms that they would not be attending any events or functions that were attended or supported by the likes of Mrs Mehra .
Everyone got the message very quickly if you wanted to do business with ASR never say anything derogatory about his wife or make any kind of comment about her. She was strictly off limits to everyone.
Pain seared through Khushi , Joe ‘s ear’s pricked up and he came up to her. Khushi got up off her bed to reach the the phone and a second searing painripped through her body and she passed out on the floor.
Joe came up to her and nudged her and nudged her and then turned and ran down to the breakfast table.
Looking around , he spied Arnav about to close the door and barked .
Unbelieveable now he had to say bye to Joe as well! “Bye Joe “
Everyone at the breakfast table laughed how he had changed since Khushi had come into his life 4 years ago here he was saying bye to a dog .
the set of events that followed left everyone speechles. Joe growled bared his teeth and grabbed Arnav’s trousers pulling him back in the house .
” Stop Joe , Let go “
Arnav bent down and looked at Joe looked into his eyes and and whispered “Khushi”
Joe stopped growling and whined “Lead the way Joe quickly “
Joe raced ahead, closely followed by Arnav and then the rest of the family who by now had realized that this peculiar behavior of Joe could only be down to Khushi being in trouble.
The next 3 hours that followed were the longest that Arnav and Joe had to live through. The ICU team had done their best the babies were safe and in incubators 4 weeks early – two heart beats beating in unison and one larger child hiding the other one directly behind had gone unnoticed. Khushi had suffered sever blood loss but condition was stable but unconscious. Two days later out of ICU and on the road to recovery Khushi was introduced to her babies both boys -both perfect .
Khushi looked up at Arnav and whispered the question that hung in her mind unsaid “can they see?”
Khushi they are perfect in everyway they are responding to all tests as they should.
The floodgates opened “Thankyou Devi Maya for them “
“No Khushi I thank her for all of you
- for allowing me the privileged of seeing the world through your eyes
you came like an explosion of colour
Disrupting each fragment of my black and white life
You added shades to my perception
You blended my corners, edges
You diluted my anger
You melted my heart
You gave me sight
You made me smile
You made me laugh
You restored my faith
You are my heart
You complete me
And when I think You can give me no more ,
You do exactly that.