Monday, February 11, 2013
Chamkili. ch-4 'Shadows in the Dark'
by Srija Singh
Chapter IV: Shadows in the Dark
November had knocked the doors and was warmly welcomed by all. The seasonal visitor was accompanied by its ever faithful companions, the Chill and the Mist. Night got dressed in his jet-black robe and was riding his horse, Dark, thinking about the overtime he was supposed to endure for the following three months, at the very least. The Wind was clattering her teeth together cursing the Chill that had decided to pursue her like a road side Romeo, despite her consistent refusal to his proposal for the past… well since the beginning of time. The Wind couldn’t help but wonder, why did people, and especially those drowning in romance or engulfed by misery took her teeth clattering as some sort of whisper, as if she had nothing better to do. She was sure, this girl or woman or girl, oh whatever, sitting or actually leaning was having the very same thought at this very moment.
Khushi sat leaning against a road-side tree, facing the wilderness that flanked the roads of
South Delhi. She could hear her, uh … hear Arnavji
shouting her name like some mad man in his fit of madness.
“KHUSHI! KHUSHI! Answer me Dammit! KHUSHI!”
Khushi willed away his voice and instead she tried focusing on the sound of the wind blowing and the rustling of the leaves. She wondered what the wind and the leaves were talking about, could it possibly concern her misery, she didn’t know. She needed to talk almost as desperately as a drug addict needed heroine, but she had to control the urge as she was sure her husband would hear even her slightest whisper. But couldn’t he also hear her heart-beats? Or maybe he used to… who knows.
Arnav’s heart told him to wait, to search her once again. His heart knew Khushi was there some where, hiding… from HIM. But he wasn’t the one to be ruled by his heart always and decided to listen to his oh so brilliant, in fact brag-worthy Dimag that told him it was stupid to run around in the wilderness again and again and that if Khushi would have been here, he would have found her, already. And so adhering to the callings of his superior brain he decided to head back to Shantivann, where he hoped Khushi would have gone, furious over him. He reversed his SUV, deciding to follow the same route he took while coming here, hoping to catch his Khushi on her way to their home… though, he should have learnt to listen to his heart in matters pertaining his Khushi.
Some time passed and the cries of her name faded and she knew he was gone, he was gone… just like that! He left her alone in this dark wilderness, but didn’t he vow to protect her, to stay by her side forever, then how could he just leave. But the noise of the receding car confirmed her fears that he was indeed gone.
A sigh escaped her lips finally. She got up and walked towards the road. And a while later if someone would have passed that deserted road they would have seen a woman with tear streaked face and silent sobs standing in the middle of the street alternately looking towards the two opposite directions and yet not taking a step towards either.
After some time passed, well she didn’t know how much, she started walking, lost in her own thoughts.
‘Where does this road go? Where am I going? Where would I reach if I walked to the end of this road? What would I do if squares came? How will the turns I take affect my journey and what if I don’t turn anywhere, I don’t make any choices and let the road guide me, pursuing it to its end?’ her mind was blank. And still a small voice escaped her lips.
“How did I come here?” She stopped in her tracks as the images of a happy, truly happy girl, dancing with a broom, trying to cheer her Jijji and Amma came to her mind. ‘Was that really me? Sure of her actions, knowing what was right and what wrong, and trying to make the wrongs right… But she seems happy, truly happy, how could that be me? And if that was the real Khushi then who was this shadowy figure standing alone on this deserted road in the dead of the night. “A NOBODY.” Arnavji’s voice boomed in her mind, silencing every other thought. She needed to talk to someone at that very instant and no, Devi Maiya or Lakshmiji wouldn’t do this time. She needed some answers. She looked at her mobile, there were thirty-seven missed calls from her husband in the past one hour, but she couldn’t deal with him right now. She dialed the very next number on her call-log. Lavanya picked up on the second ring.
“Lavanyaji. Hum Khushi…”
Twenty minutes later the headlights of her car fell on a shadowy, almost stone still figure with only the slight involuntary trembling giving away the figure as a real woman, who otherwise could have been easily confused with a beautifully carved statue. La parked her car and came out to see Khushi, a dark, shadowy figure, leaning against some random tree-trunk, lost in her own world, not taking any notice of the commotion around her, her face streaked with dried tears, silent, involuntary sobs rocking her slim form at irregular intervals. La wondered what caused the constant trembling, cold? Or pain perhaps? La’s first thoughts were ‘is this really Chamkili? The Chamkili? My Chamkili?’ Tears escaped the confines of her eyes, but NO, she knew she had to be strong she couldn’t let her best friend suffer a fate like hers or… maybe worse. ABSOLUTELY NOT. She rushed by her side and shaked her out of oblivion,
“Chamkili. Chamkili. What happened? Are you okay? Chamkili.” Though Lavanya had wiped off the tears from her face in a desperate attempt to be strong, or atleast seem so for her only friend, who needed her, and La could see just how desperately she did, and yet the fear in her voice and her stance was palpable.
Khushi stirred from her semi-unconscious state and gave a small guilty smile to Lavanya.
“Lavanyaji you came. I am really sorry for troubling you in the dead of the night, but I didn’t know who else to call. You are my only friend here. And Arnavji… And I tried, I really did, I tried to find my way back home. But I couldn’t seem to move and everything became so hazy. And Arnavji said… And I got lost, I didn’t know where this road went and where I had to go. I don’t know where my home is anymore and Arnavji…”
“Ssh Chamkili. Look at me, you’ll be fine. I am here now and I will take you home, okay…” and the forts couldn’t hold anymore as Lavanya broke into sobs only to be shocked out of her state as Khushi almost screamed in her faint voice,
“NO.” the effect of mere attempt making her shake even though the sound wasn’t very strong, but no less sure.
“Okay darling, let me take you over to my place, okay? But we need to leave right now, you just relax sweetheart, I have got you.” La tried to soothe her friend while helping her on her feet, but it gave way and Khushi felt herself harshly falling on the ground…
At that very moment Arnav jerked the car to a stop. Something pinched at his heart and it hurt, it hurt a slight bit more than it was already. He knew Khushi needed him, and he needed her even more. He moved out of his car and slammed the door shut, and still the loud bang couldn’t penetrate the thumping of his heart that roared in his ears. He was almost deaf with that roar and still he could hear her sobs from some where, some where… but he didn’t know exactly where. If only he would hear his heart… or rather hers that was now with him, he would have gotten all his answers. He was halfway to their house and still something told him, that it wasn’t the place he should be at that moment. Somehow he knew, his heart did, that she was not there.
“Khushi!” a tortured, almost animalistic growl escaped his throat as her name penetrated through the Mist, disrupting further its chaotic pattern.
He had to do something. He fished out his cell-phone and called home, fighting an urge to call Khushi for the 40th time, he needed to be more pragmatic and he knew that an upset, angry KKGSR was no better than an upset, angry ASR.
“Di, please call Khushi.” Pleasantries and preambles have their own time and place and Arnav knew that it wasn’t this.
“Khushiji? But you took her with yourself, just an hour ago or so. How could she be home? Chote is everything okay? Is Khushiji okay? Did you two fight again?” Her brother’s tone and question had alerted Anjali’s senses that something was not quite right and post-Shyam Anjali didn’t hide from problems, she faced them head-on.
“Di just call me if Khushi comes home and don’t let her leave before I get home.” He paused for a second before continuing further, “And if necessary lock her in. Okay?”
“But Chote…” her brother didn’t wait for her reply. Nothing but his Khushi was important at the moment.
Arnav sat back inside the car. Taking a moment to decide his course of action, finally deciding on heading back to the same spot where he had lost Khushi almost an hour ago. Having made his mind he reversed the SUV and headed back making a few important calls on the go.
… She prepared herself for the solid ground, for the pain, she called out to him but knew he wasn’t around, she had run away from him, from her Arnavji. But it never came, the cold, hard ground, the expected pain. Lavanya’s hands came around her in a swift motion, helping her up and even when Khushi stood on her woobly feet, La didn’t let go and kept her arms strongly around Khushi, helping her towards the car. Once there she helped Khushi inside and tied the seat-belt, and even though in a semi-unconscious state, the act, very familiar to Khushi now, reminded her of her Prince, her Rakshasha, her lover and her love, her Arnavji and a small sigh broke from her lips,
“Arnavji!” How could one man mean so many different things and make her feel such varied but no less intense emotions. She’d never know, for though love was a revelation and yet when your lover was Arnav Singh Raizada, it was no less a mystery.
Her sigh once again refreshed the stock of tears in Lavanya’s eyes. But holding herself together she came to the driving seat and drove off towards her house.
Arnav’s car came to a halt with a screech and he thought he had heard the sound of a receding car just when he had arrived. Terror filled him and he rushed towards the direction of the noise and… Silence.
“Khushi!” Another of his heart wrenching screams made way and this time it didn’t go unheard.
“Damnit!” Arnav bellowed. Standing there in the middle of no where, he turned around, taking in the surroundings, trying to find Khushi. Something struck him and triggered a distant or maybe not so distant memory. Images of him manhandling Khushi and shouting at her flooded his memory. It was the same place where in his fury he had broken the frame containing their picture, where he had accused her of having an illegitimate relationship with Shyam.
‘…Because you don’t have a character.’ His voice roared in his mind torturing his soul. Why did he do it always, torture her and in the process torture himself, inflict unbearable pain on her that made his heart bleed as well.
“Sadomasochistic moron” he reprimanded himself.
Back then he had questioned her character and today he had nullified her very identity.
‘… A NOBODY.’ His own voice tormented him once again.
Arnav Singh Raizada needed to get it straight that he and Khushi were two halves of a whole and that he was as much her as she was him. He knew very well that he was wrong then and that he was wrong now. That he had wronged her beyond all justifications and still she had somehow found it in herself to understand him, forgive him, to accept… no, embrace him with all his vulnerabilities and deficiencies… to love him with all her soul. Will she be able to do it again or had he damaged her… damaged their relationship beyond repair? A frustrated growl escaped his throat as he banged his hand on a nearby tree.
Lavanya would have stopped the car, had not Khushi’s faint touch and the look in her eyes told her otherwise. So she kept driving, torn between two people she loved, probably the most. And hence almost three hours later when Khushi opened her eyes and the haze finally cleared out, she found herself in an unfamiliar room. Momentarily disoriented and then shocked, she was about to shout when she saw Lavanya enter the room with two mugs of steaming hot beverages, adrak wali chai, she could recognize the smell anywhere. Taking a sip Khushi said,
“So you still remember?”
“Huh?” Confusion apparent in Lavanya’s tone.
“I meant the tea. You remembered exactly how I taught you.”
They both smiled, reminiscing the old days when they had both lived in illusions, one believing that the one she loved, loved her back and the other that her dhak dhaks when near a certain someone were the doings of acidity and had nothing to do with the man in question. Not a single word was said and no one knew how and when their silent smiles turned into full blown laughter. And when it finally stopped Lavanya cautiously breached the unavoidable topic.
“Khushi, are you happy?”
“Aree Lavanyaji why wouldn’t I be.” Khushi answered in a tone she hoped was convincing enough. “Oh your tea is growing cold, let me warm it up for you. Where is the kitchen? And I must say you have a beautiful house. By the way, how long are you going to stay here, in
Khushi felt her friend’s hand on her shoulder and she knew she coundn’t dodge her. And if she was honest with herself, she didn’t want to anymore. All her life she had kept many secrets buried in her heart for the happiness of those she loved, never letting anyone see her hurt, well Arnav was an exception to that rule. But with Lavanya equations changed. She was unrelated yet her own, she was distant and still close. Khushi wanted to be free of the load she had been carrying for what seemed like forever now.
“Lavanyaji, how did you meet him. I mean, you dated right?”
La was not sure where Khushi was going with this. But well, she had nothing to hide.
“Umm. Let me think. I think it was at that party… oh no, yes now I remember. I was already working for his company but I had never talked to him as such. And then there was this big fashion event and I was handling the backstage stuff. But then one of his models messed up, some drug issue you see, and I handled the situation by calling in one of my model friends for help, well actually offering her a hefty amount in return and also making all the necessary arrangements, like fitting and stuff, and finally I managed to pull it through. ASR was very impressed with my ability to handle this last minute mess and he immediately promoted me to his PA’s post.” Lavanya paused here for a short while, not being able to decide as to whether or not she should narrate what followed and finally decided to choose some details and leave out others. “Well, then he sent me some expensive present and asked me out for a business party and we both wanted similar things and so a relationship of convenience started, and that’s just it.” She didn’t venture into further details, not wanting to upset Khushi any further.
“I stumbled off the ramp and fell into his arms.” said Khushi in a barely audible whisper.
“Sorry?” Lavanya wasn’t sure what Khushi was going on about.
“That’s how I first met him, stumbling and falling off the stage in front of a huge sophisticated audience and landing straight into his arms. In fact there was an entire coverage about the happening, something called ‘aise dhoondhti hai or phasati hai aaj ki larki ek ameer sajan’ something along the line.” A small smile played on her lips and La followed the suit.
“Lavanyaji, I still remember how badly hurt I was back then but as the time passed and I fell deeper and deeper in love with him, even such troubling memories would make me smile.” Khushi drew in a long resigning breath and continued further,
“But, that is how it is, that is how it has always been. I stumbled into his life, his world, I don’t belong here. What did Poojaji say, ‘Harvard weds Halwai…’ and hurt as it may but that is the truth of my life, our life. It’s not my place to be, its not…”
“Conventional! I agree. But don’t you dare say that it’s not right because there isn’t a thing more right that I have seen in my life.” Lavanya squeezed her hands gently, smiling at her friend warmly.
“But Sheetalji and you, you belong here. It would have been so easy, so natural.”
“No Khushi, it might have been more convenient and customary maybe, but not natural. Natural is what you share with ASR. The love, the chemistry you share is a gift that nature doesn’t bestow on every other person. Believe me.”
Why did Khushi sense some pain in Lavanyaji’s last words, she couldn’t tell. And Lavanya continued,
“But Khushi, I am missing my Chamkili.”
“Jii?” Khushi wasn’t sure what Lavanya meant.
“My Chamkili was a woman of spirit, someone who could light up a room with her smile and not someone who hid her tear-streaked face in shadows. Truly saying, for a moment I couldn’t recognize the woman I saw on that deserted street. For she wasn’t my Chamkili and that I was, no actually, I am sure of. Who was she?”
“A NOBODY” Khushi didn’t realize that she had said it out-loud and the moment she did, she was sure Lavanyaji would hear Arnavji in those words.
“What the hell do you mean.” Lavanya’s anger escalated as she realized the extent to which Khushi was suffering and also realized the extent to which Arnav was responsible for it.
“Did ASR say that? Did he? How dare he? You are bloody too good for him. He should probably worship you, bow down in front of you and here he is calling you a…”
“But he did.” Khushi’s faint voice did nothing but confuse Lavanya a little more,
“I mean he did bow down in front of me.” And images from a few days back floated in her memory, images of Arnav offering himself to her in their sacred haven, their
, their mother’s garden. Her eyes moistened
as she recalled his words, ‘tum mujhse
kahin zyada aachi ho, special ho… tumhare saamne banta hai.’ and a small
smile crossed her face. Khushi didn’t hear Lavanya’s shocked gasp as she was no
longer in that room with Lavanya, she was with her Arnavji. And with a sudden
movement she got up from the bed, her restlessness very palpable, Eden
“I have to see him. I need to be near him. Hey Devi Maiya why did I leave him. I have to go to him, right this moment.” And she started running, only to be stopped by Lavanya but Khushi wouldn’t listen anything, not even the practical fact that was not very safe driving in
3am. She just knew she had to be with him, anyhow. And finally Lavanya
Khushi entered Shantivan, and the commotion there disoriented her for a second and then she freaked. There were armed men every where. ‘Had something happened? Was everyone okay? Did Shaymji do something again? Di? Arnavji, where is he?’ But not a single word made it out of her mouth. And then she saw him. He was at a distance, talking over phone, no literally screaming over it and she could hear each and every word very very clearly.
“I don’t give a damn about your position and my language. I want my wife with me right now, don’t you fucking get it! Involve more forces if you have to, I don’t care. I just want her. NOW.”
No one told him she was standing behind him. Well, he didn’t need anyone telling him, he could feel her presence as the hair on the back of his neck rose acknowledging her presence, as the odorless air brought to him that fragrance that was exclusively hers, that he had become addicted to. As he felt his heart near again, for the one who had it was near him. And like hell would he let her leave again, EVER.
He turned around with a jerk, shocking Khushi out of her trance and the next thing she knew, she was pulled in his arms and his lips invaded hers in a kiss that spoke just one thing. POSSESSION.
PS: Dedicated to all my readers and very specially to my dearest friends lara3110 and Nidsubh007 for believe me when I say I am a very lazy person and after the show ended I might have given up on this story, hadn't it been for your constant insistence and encouragement. Hope you enjoyed this chapter. Loads of love :)