by, Srija Singh
Thursday, January 31, 2013
Chamkili. ch-3 'enveloping darkness'
by, Srija Singh
by, Srija Singh
Ch. III: Enveloping Darkness
"What just happened?" Khushi questioned herself.
One moment we were so close that it almost felt like we might just melt in the heat and become one, one body, one soul. Two imperfect halves, both merging, flowing, into one-another and emerging as something perfect, almost divine. And the next moment he was gone, just like that, without even sparing one glance, one last glance. As if he couldn't see me, as if I was invisible, as if I didn't exist.
She felt pain. No, it wasn't the idea of pain that was hurting her. She felt it, very acutely through her senses. And as if on it's own accord her hands moved up and clasped the cloth of her kameej, just where the heart laid buried inside. The pressure of her hands increased with every passing moment, her eyes clenching, holding the gates, imprisoning the molten pain inside. She dug her nails deep into her flesh, attempting to shift that heart wrenching pain somewhere else, but her entire body felt numb, she couldn't feel the pain as her nails bruised her skin, she couldn't feel the pain of her bruised ankles, she could feel nothing but that one hurt, originating from somewhere inside, she couldn't tell exactly where, and engulfing her entire self. So she gave up, her hands relaxed near her chest as she tried to feel her heartbeat and... Nothing. She couldn't feel a thing. It was just that pain, somewhere near heart that told her that she was still alive.
The sensation wasn't new to her. Khushi Kumari Gupta had felt it when she finally understood what death meant, when she acknowledged that her Amma Babuji would never return back and that her nightmare was indeed a nightmare, but one that lasted forever; when her Amma had denied her the right to call her Amma, making her an orphan all over again; when Arnavji had freed his hand from her grip and left her crying, hurting at the airport, left her alone once again. Little Khushi had come to identify her existence with this, almost toxic pain, that never left her side and so to hide it from those, who had given her a family when she had none, given her a sense of belonging, when she didn't know where she belonged, she did strange things that earned her the title of 'Sanka Devi'. The act had been so intricate and prolonged that she had diverted herself as well and that 'Sanak' had actually become a defining feature of her natural self. But hidden behind the 'Sanka Devi' was a tortured soul.
Arnav was the only one who had seen glimpses of her tattered self, somehow her defence mechanisms had failed in front of him. And so she started to heal. She healed when she hated him; she healed when she loved him; because with Arnav she never had to pretend. She would tremble when she saw anger raging in his eyes, and she could shout and push him when she was angry; she could yell his name in her throes of passion one moment and be a pampered kid in the next. She could remove the mask and be herself, finally. She could be herself with him because for the first time, she felt that normal sense of belonging, that kids have with their parents. She knew she was loved for being herself. For the first time she didn't hesitate to take what was offered, she knew he was hers, in fact she could finally demand and not feel obliged to say 'dhanyawad' in return. She finally had a place where she was sure she belonged, she belonged with him. Didn't she? But then why was she holding herself back once again, why did she feel the need to hide herself once again?
She got up, applied some balm on her sprain and decided to go downstairs and meet Arnavji's guests, she is the bahu, the wife, and it was both her duty and her right. These questions and thoughts tormented her even more when she was alone. Khushi wondered how Di endured being alone every single night, and her heart hurt once again for a kindred soul who was probably more lost than she was. But then, acknowledging that one was lost was the first step towards finding your way back, and Di had finally reached that point, she would surely find her way back now. But where was Khushi?
She heard a woman's shrill laughter as she neared the living room.
"So the mighty has fallen. ASR married! I can't believe it." Khushi heard the stout, slightly short heighten woman speak and she couldn't help but smile. Little did she know that the very next moment it would be wiped off.
"You know Vikram, I always knew they'd end up together. I mean they are just perfect for each other, nai!"
Sheetal and Arnav had both looked up shocked. But before Arnav could correct the blunder his eyes fell on his wife standing at the entrance. What did he see in those eyes? Jealousy? Hurt? Pain? Insecurity? Or perhaps all those emotions, all at once? But the very next moment he saw her eyes shine with resolve, perhaps, as she made her way towards the group sitting in the drawing room.
Pooja had continued with her bantering,
"Gosh! I can't believe it! The coolest couple in the campus and now Mr. and Mrs...'"
"Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. Namaste." and Khushi took her rightful place and stood beside her husband. Pooja and Vikram looked taken aback. Sheetal looked uncomfortable, if not hurt and Arnav Singh Raizada was amazed, and pleasantly so, he loved it when Khushi took charge. He finally snapped back from his momentary loss of words and took his cue from his wife, introducing her to his friends.
"Guys, there seems to be some confusion. Meet my wife, Khushi. And Khushi, these are my college friends, Vikram and his wife Pooja."
And now it was the guests' turn to be shocked. Arnav looked at his wife and smiled, probably conveying a silent apology and thanks and she smiled back. And it struck him again,
"Oh not again!" he murmured to himself which was followed by his swiftly getting up and turning to his wife,
"God Khusi! Your ankle sprain! I am so sorry it completely escaped my mind, did you apply some balm? Come with me right now I'll help you with it. How did you manage to come down all by yourself. You should have called me. What the hell are cell-phones for damnit!"
This sudden outburst of concern, guilt, and anger embarrassed everyone present but the mighty speaker. Khushi turned red for this was no less than Public Display of Affection for her, as Arnav was about to lift her in his arms, oblivious of anyone and everyone but her. She looked at him and kept her hand on his shoulder, barring the movement of his hands,
"Calm down Arnavji, I am absolutely fine. I already applied the medicine and its not hurting anymore. Really! Please, you just relax."
"Are you sure? I still think we should get it checked."
"Arnavji let's just wait till tomorrow, if I still feel any discomfort I'll let you know. Okay?"
Arnav visibly calmed after knowing that the sprain had been tended to and sat on the sofa again but not before helping Khushi to her seat. And it was only after that that Arnav finally noticed the stunned expression on the visitors' face, which finally embarrassed him.
"Oh! wo actually Khushi had sprained her ankle during basketball today, so..."
"Ah! Well hello Khushi. It's a pleasure to meet you. I mean the woman who made ASR fall head-over-heels must be something. What say ASR?" Vikram smiled at Khushi trying to lighten the situation, further continuing,
"By the way, I am Vikram, ASR's college friend and this is my wife Pooja." and with that he extended his hand towards Khushi, who was slightly flabbergasted at the gesture, finally joining her hands together in a namaste which inturn left Vikram flabbergasted. Pooja on the other hand was busy scrutinizing Khushi, the first thing she saw was Khushi's extremely 'chamakdar', rainbow suit, and that was enough for Pooja to decide that the woman was not her level and definitely not at all worth all the attention that ASR showered her with. She couldn't understand that what did ASR, The ASR, see in this chit of a woman or girl?
"Hey Khushi, its really nice to meet you, and by the way, really nice dress."
The obvious sarcasm escaped no one, Khushi looked embarrassed and turned to look towards Arnav. He wasn't looking at her, but she could see the anger starting to stir inside him and Khushi of all people knew that an angry ASR was not really fun to be with, so she diverted the topic.
"Oh thanks, you look pretty well yourself. Waise Poojaji Vikramji, please tell me something about his college days. You see he hardly ever talks about those days."
Vikram once again tried to save the situation,
Oh what can I say, he was the college stud. Class topper, basketball champ and the hero of bike races. Remember ASR, wow that still seems like yesterday."
Khushi saw from the corner of her eye that Arnav had relaxed a bit and she sighed in relief. But then came Pooja,
"Ya he was the college hero, every girls dream man. But ASR only had eyes for Sheetal, they were just so much in love, rt Sheetal, ASR?"
Arnav knew the extent to which Pooja had exaggerated the situation, he saw Khushi's pained expression and also Sheetal awkwardness, but before he could do anything about either, they all heard a woman speak,
"Oh really? That seems a little funny, considering ASR let his old love go so easily."
Lavanya knew just how to make an entry. She walked towards the group, a middle aged man following her.
"Ya, I mean considering its ASR we are talking about, and people who know him even a little would know that he is not the kinds to 'let go' you know, when he thinks he has to have something or that the 'thing' belongs to him. I am sure you must have known how ASR had chased, pursued, persuaded, blackmailed, and even begged to have Cham.. I mean Khushi in his life." Lavanya Kasshyap wasn't really sure of the extent of correctness of her statement, what she was most definitely sure of, though, was of the absolute truthfulness of the sentiment it conveyed.
"And you are?" Pooja narrowed her eyes as she asked.
"Oh I am Lavanya, Lavanya Kashyap. One of ASR's exes you know, like your friend, Sheetal, right?" and saying that she turned towards Sheetal.
'Wow! So, a college friend, his wife who most definitely had a crush on me back in college, two of my exes and my wife and amidst all this Arnav Singh Raizada, What the f**k!' And while Arnav was busy cursing the stars he didn't believe in, Lavanya had waved him a little Hi, and literally lunged herself at Khushi, both the girls embraced each other like sisters lost in some 'Kumbh ka mela' , yes girls, women didn't do stuff like that with so much excitement in public, or did they. ASR had no idea.
"Hey ASR, Khushi, I just can't tell you how good it feels to be back. And meet Karan Singhania, my fiancée " Lavanya gestured towards the middle aged man beside her and smiled, as he smiled warmly at her, and then extended his hand towards Arnav and Vikram, finally taking his seat beside La.
"It's a pleasure to meet you Lavanya. I am Pooja by the way." while her face expressed anything but pleasure. And Pooja continued,
"So Khushi, I am sure your family must be into some sort of business, right?" Pooja had deliberately asked, while the wife's looks and dressing sense had already told her otherwise. But Khushi oblivious to such sophisticated sarcasm and manipulations, answered genuinely,
"Oh yes. But how did you know?"
"Really?" Pooja looked visibly shaken at the reply and so did Arnav and Lavanya. Khushi's family's business? And then it struck to both Arnav and La as what was to follow, but before either could do any damage control, Khushi had blurted out,
"Yes we own a sweet store at Lucknow. And our jalebis and pethas were very famous all over the city. Everyone in Lucknow knew the address to our halwai shop, though its been closed for a while, but I hope I could do something about it..." Well our Sanka Devi had once again drifted off track, without realizing and it was Pooja's anything but 'good natured' joke that brought her back.
"Oh so Harvard weds Halwai! Rab ne kya jodi banai." Pooja laughed at her own joke, while everyone else looked uncomfortable. Khushi saw Arnav losing his temper and she held his hand entwining her fingers with his, and she knew it would work, she was the only one who possessed the miraculous power to calm ASR when everything and everyone else seemed to fail.
"Oh am sorry guys, poor joke I know. BTW, Sheetal whats new with you? I am sure you must be in the designing world right! You were one talented designer. So where are you working now?"
"Umm! I am currently employed at AR, Arnav's fashion house. And nothing much. But what about you guys? What's new in your lives?" Sheetal answered, still visibly uncomfortable at the course this discussion has taken.
But Pooja wouldn't take the hint,
"Oh nothing much, we are just fine. Vikram has inherited our family business of Restaurant Chains and I assist him in its management. BTW, you guys remember
that inter-college competition in our final year. Arre, the one where ASR and you won. OMG, I still remember, his shrewd business skills combined with your brilliant designing skills could do wonders. What did we call your team? Vikram what was that name? Oh yes, Awesome Twosome. You guys just rocked together. Oh I am so sorry Khushi we have just been blabbering about our past days, so what do you do? Do you assist ASR at AR Designs?"
But before she could finish, Arnav had taken over,
"Khushi manages the household. She doesn't NEED to work." his eyes stung with anger, but again when Pooja was on a roll she hardly cared. And so she ignored ASR's burning eyes, Khushi's tearful eyes and her husband's signs to just give it a break. She continued,
"Oh I am sure, After all someone has to do it, the domestic chores I mean." the derogatory tone of her voice was not missed by anyone.
"Nahi nahi I used to manage a Dabba Service, sometime back. But then I got busy with the household'" Khushi stopped midway realizing these people infront of her would probably see her involvement with some Dabba Service as some outrageously down-market thing, and how right was she.
"Dabba Service! Seriously! So did you take some professional training? Which culinary institute did you study in? Whats your specialization? I mean you are educated, right?" Pooja mocked once again.
ASR had had enough. He felt Khushi's nails dig into his flesh as she tried to control the tears that threatened to flood her eyes any moment now. He rose from his seat and said,
"Vikram, I have an urgent meeting and my wife and I need to leave right this moment. Excuse us."
And without waiting for another second he rushed out, pulling his wife with him, not sparing anyone in the room even one glance. He just needed to go out and he most definitely couldn't leave Khushi to get hurt by this cruel woman. Arnav forgot Khushi's sprain in his anger as he pulled her out and dragged her to his SUV. Khushi hissed in pain, as the pain from her ankle bruise made its way back, the hard cover of numbness melting under Arnav's angry almost painful grasp. He deposited her in the passenger seat and took the driving seat himself and started the car at once. he was driving the car at great speed and Khushi at this moment had no courage to stop him. It was after a while that she finally found her voice and almost whispered his name,
And Arnav Singh Raizada was undone.
He stopped the car with a jerk and got out of it, pulling out Khushi alongside him.
"Damnit Khushi! Why the hell do you have to be a child ALWAYS? Why can't you just act a little more your age, be a little more mature." Arnav turned his back toward her.
"Arnavji what damnit? Why the hell do you forget that you are MY wife, ASR's wife and not some NOBODY anymore and I have a reputation in the society. Did you really think that your little Dabba service was a thing to be proud of. It was dumb Khushi, dumb and down-market."
This was followed by silence as Arnav closed his eyes, trying to control his anger. But who was he angry on? Was he angry on Pooja? For torturing Khushi, for torturing him. Of course he was angry on her, and thank god (that he didn't believe in) that that woman was not in front of his eyes this moment or God knows what would have happened. Had it not been for Khushi, he would have... But Pooja didn't matter. She was literally NOTHING to Arnav Singh Raizada and such NOTHINGS didn't bother him for long. So was he angry on Khushi? His Khushi? But didn't he love her because she was Khushi. Didn't he love and adore her innocence, the child within this woman. This child-woman, his soul-mate. No ASR was angry at himself. he was angry because he forgot about his wife's sprain, because he did nothing while that vile woman mocked his wife, because he could see the pain in her eyes and still do nothing about it. And because he had once again misdirected his anger at the victim. Why the f**k did he always have to shout at her. How could he call her a 'NOBODY' when he knew Khushi was Khushi and nobody absolutely nobody could ever be her. She was perfect, bloody too good for him. She was the warmth in his cold, dark life. She was the woman who had the audacity to stand in front of ASR, to challenge him, to bring him down on his knees, to make him want to make a fool of himself in front of a sophisticated crowd. She was the one who bloody taught him to believe again, to be his real self again. God why does he lose it with her all the time, probably because at the back of his mind he knows she is his and she would never ever leave him But that didn't justify the way he behaved or rather misbehaved with her. He had to talk to her, he had to apologise.
Arnav turned back,
But she was gone.
PS:I would like to clarify that the objective of this SS is not to point fingers at any of these characters but to try and understand, why they behave the way they do. So if you get the impression that I am taking side, then sorry but thats not the intention at all