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Friday, March 15, 2013

Arhi FF, Tangent Worlds. Ch-3 Family Honor.

                                TANGENT WORLDS
                      Ch-3, Family Honor

Arnav entered his house located in one of the most posh localities in New Delhi. He decided to head straight to his study, he needed to be focused, this was important.
But first…
“Hari Prakash! HP!”
The poor man came running to his boss,
“Yes, Arnav Bhaiya. Should I get you something?”
“A black-coffee in my study, and make it QUICK.”
And without waiting for an answer Arnav strode towards his study.

Once inside his study, he took off his coat and tie and flung them at the recliner before settling himself on the same, resting his fiercely pounding head against the sturdy but comfortable head-rest and closed his eyes. In about ten minutes time, there was a soft knock at the door and he turned to see his younger sister Anjali hesitantly standing at the door with the coffee tray in her hands.
“Bhai, wo actually… actually I…”
“Oh, come in. But why did you get it, where is HP?”
“Umm, its nothing Bhai, I just didn’t see you all day, so I thought I’d get it myself.” and with that she came in the study and placed the tray with his coffee mug on the table.
“So, how is college going? Anything I missed out on?” Arnav asked, his eyes closely studying his sister.
“Nothing much Bhai, studies are going fine but no rush you see as my exams just got over.” she walked towards the flower-vase in the corner of the room, removing the flowers from the vase and then putting the same ones back in, continuing further,
 “And then I had a little fight with Dadi about joining salsa classes, she was suggesting contemporary, but I really want to learn salsa. Oh, and there is this national seminar thing being organized by my Department…” she took the dust-cloth and started dusting some random files, some that needed it and some that didn’t.
“…and we need to submit a synopsis of our topic in order to get in, and I was thinking its worth a shot, would look really cool on my CV.” she moved to the window, removing the curtains and then closing them the next moment,
“Oh I have just been blabbering, so how was your day, anything new? Hey Bhai I heard you were meeting some Shyam person in the Oberai today, oh my friend was there, she saw you. Anyway, so how did it go?” She stood near the window, her back to his front but he could still see her fidgeting with her dupatta. A devilish smirk graced his lips as he decided to play along.
“Oh, that was just a business deal, nothing that would interest you Anjali.” he said as if to just brush her off and taking the bait she turned around facing him.
“No. Yes. Umm I know Bhai, but the thing is… umm, oh yes, you see the thing is that recently, I have been reconsidering your suggestion, you know about doing MBA rather than Masters in literature. So I thought that keeping track of such meetings would help me. You know it could help me understand people because I know how important it is in the business world.”
Hmm so she had the Raizada in her, but he was the Alfa and he would decide what was right for her and when to let her know of his decision concerning her life. After all he would only choose what was best for her.’ Arnav thought to himself, proud of his younger sister’s manipulative skills but prouder of himself for seeing right through it. Finally he said after a small pause,
“Anjali, its past midnight now and you shouldn’t be up so late. Go sleep, we shall discuss your career some other time.”
“But Bhai I…” Anjali tried to prolong the discussion, knowing what Arnav thought of her Shyamji was very important for her.
“Goodnight Anjali.” his tone beckoned finality and his sister of 20 yrs took the hint.
“Goodnight Bhai.” and saying that she moved to the door, her face drawn long in sadness when his voice stopped her,
“Anji you trust me, right?” and it was in moments like these that the carefully constructed mask slipped, giving one a glimpse of the man, the real Arnav, vulnerable in love, scared of getting hurt, not as sure of life as he would like others to believe he was. But to catch that momentarily glimpse one had to know him, and Anjali prided herself on knowing the most of him, the most possible extent anyway and how could she ever deny that man, her brother anything.
“Yes Bhai, always.” she smiled one of her warm smiles for she knew he needed it.
“Goodnight then.” he finally dismissed her with a barely there smile, moving towards his locker, withdrawing a medium size file. Sitting down with his coffee and the file, he glimpsed at the wall clock, 0:45 and he opened the file titled ‘Shyam Manohar Jha’.
Khushi was slumped beside the couch in their drawing-room. She still had the phone-receiver in her hand. ‘How long had it been?’ Khushi wondered. ‘Minutes, hours, well it surely couldn’t be days but…’ she looked at the receiver in her hand once again as if to convince herself for the nth time that what had happened had actually happened and was not something her overworked, crazy mind had conjured but… it was just too good to be true. ‘Was that really her? But… but, how could it be her?’  Khushi was struggling with herself, as much as just a glimpse of her old self back, as she thought back to the conversation she had had a while ago. She had picked up the phone to hear the broken sobs of someone… a girl…a woman… HER? But before she could say anything else some other woman had taken the call on the other side and had politely apologized saying that her little daughter liked making prank calls. But Khushi knew that voice, probably better than she knew her own, after all she had grown-up listening bed-time stories from her, seeking her advice when something troubled her, fighting with her when Hrithikji's and Salmanji's movies were coming on the same slot… how could she ever not know that voice, her jiji’s voice.

But just moments later her thought process took a bleaker turn, as the image of her father, pale as dead, crossed her mind. And her mind took her a few months down the memory lane, to another such call that had changed their lives forever. Shashi Gupta stood still as a statue, the phone-receiver glued to his hand when Khushi’s loud “Babuji.” made him stumble backwards and almost fall but Khushi was near enough to reach him in time and break his fall. A very distraught Shashi Gupta had informed his family that the call was from Payal’s hostel and the warden had just informed him that some accident had befallen their Payal, and he was required there urgently. The very concerned father had boarded the very next train to Delhi and that was the last they saw or heard of him for the next two days at the end of which he had returned, grim faced and alone, and had announced to everyone that Payal didn’t survive the accident and that he had stayed back to finish all the funeral rites in Delhi itself. The entire Gupta household went under shock, but the relentless efforts of their neighbors and friends the Kapoors and the Nigams reeled them back to life, everyone but Khushi.

Khushi had a hazy memory of what had followed, some rituals probably, as she recollected something about a grand feast on the twelfth or thirteenth day following her Jiji’s death. Were they celebrating it, her confused mind hopelessly tried to put the pieces together. Relatives, friends and acquaintances had gathered and mourned, initially, which was then followed by incessant gossiping about, why didn’t Sashi bring Payal’s body back and that the entire fiasco reeked of some scandal, finally winding up with some sagacious comments on the drawbacks of sending young girls to dangerous cities like Delhi, all by themselves and that too for studies, what good could one expect of such disastrous decisions. After all even Sita Maiya had to face the consequences of trespassing the Lakshman Rekha, it’s a pity that (wo)men never learnt anything from their past mistakes. Sulekha Bua was trying to explain some such thing to Khushi, or was it Sapna kaki…

She had smiled then… as she was smiling now, one of those empty smiles that you hope to never see, because if you did you know it shall haunt you forever.
“You have become so much more than just my Jiji, Jiji.” Khushi muttered to herself, “You are now, Payal Gupta, the cautionary tale.” and she smiled again. Something about the situation reminded her of the poem she had read a while ago, ‘Goblin Market’*, was it? How befitting it was to their situation, tale of two sisters Laura and Lizzie… Payal and Khushi, though she wondered who the Goblins were in their story? But not now, for now she would revel in the fact that her Jiji was still alive, yes she was sure it was her Jiji on the phone just moments ago… had life offered her a chance to be Lizzie, to save her Jiji, her Laura…Khushi wondered.  Khushi decided to tell her family about the call, about her belief… how happy would Buaji and Amma be… and her Babuji… no their Babuji, he would smile again and for real this time, unlike the plastic smile he had been sporting since past several months.

But just when she was about to knock her parents’ room, not bothering about the hour because for sure it was the happiest one in so long, she heard some faint sounds coming from inside, and as she heard Payal’s name, she halted in her tracks,
“I knew it was a mistake, things would have been so much easier had I not told you the truth. But remember this Garima, nothing, NOTHING has changed. Payal is dead. And the sooner you accept it the better it would be.” Shashi Gupta had roared.
“But how can you expect me to forget about my daughter, how can to tell me to just let it go, when I know now that she is alive. She needs us, Devi Maiya knows in what conditions she is living. Suniye ji* we can atleast inform the police about it, they can help us find her. And once she is found I promise she will never return back to Lucknow, no one will ever know of it. I’ll take her to our forsaken property in Purniya, and everything will be fine. Please just…” her amma was hysteric by now, but Khushi could see a steely resolve in her Babuji’s eyes,
“Do you even realize what a scandal it would cause and with Khushi’s wedding so close? Garimaji this is the last time that I am going to say this, so listen very carefully, Payal is dead for us, we have just one daughter now, Khushi, and I hope you will not ruin her chance at a respectable life because of your stupidity.” and saying this Sashi turned his back to his wife, signaling the end of discussion, while Garima fell on the ground, near her husband’s feet as her knees gave away, resignation etched on her face as silent tears made their way through her face. Buaji came and sat near her, supporting her form as her own eyes stung with unshed tears,
“What do you expect of her Sashi, she is her mother.” Buaji’s tone was accusing.
“And I was her father but after what she did… Jiji its better for her and for our entire family that she pulls her act together, if for nothing else then for her other daughter, Khushi. And she is to get married in two weeks time and this time I’ll let nothing, absolutely nothing ruin it.” and saying that Shashi made his way out of the room when he halted seeing Khushi enter the room.
“No.” Khushi said, her tone as steely as that of her Babuji’s.
“What?” fear and confusion evident in his voice.
“I cannot and I will not marry.”
“Have you lost your mind, what madness has gotten into you. Invitations have been sent out, relatives would start arriving any day now and you… how dare you say or even think such a thing.” anger was evident in his voice.
“So what do expect me to do Babuji, passively submit, get married to whom so ever you have chosen for me and forget that I have a Jiji, who needs me, who would come running by my side when I got into slightest of troubles? I can’t let her go Babuji, I can’t, not after that call… not after knowing that she is still waiting for me… waiting for me to come get her and bring her back home.” Khushi was close to tears now, but determination was still present in it.
“It’s too late to save her now. Oh God I could have saved her, if only I had not given into her demands to let her pursue her studies and had just gotten her married as I had planned earlier… I could have saved her.” something akin to regret in his voice. “But not anymore, I will not let you ruin your life like Payal, do you understand me. You will get married to Sumit two weeks from now and I’ll see that it happens.”
“Babuji but Jiji, she just called… and… and she was crying… she needs me Babuji, she needs us. We… we have to save her… I will save her… like Lizzie… Laura… I have to save her from those Goblins. Jiji… Jjjiji is alive… I have to bring her back. Delhi… I have to go…” Khushi was hysteric as she tried to string words and form a coherent sentence, Her voice broken and violent hiccups interrupting her at regular intervals. And just then she felt a sharp stinging pain on her cheek, and she saw shock on her Amma and Buaji’s face as she held her cheek in her hand. It took a while for her to realize that her father had slapped her, for the first time in her entire life.
“Payal is never coming back, do you understand me, Never. She has lost her honor Khushi, she was raped. She is dead to us, and she needs to remain dead for the sake of our family’s name, for our family honor.” and saying that he moved out of the room.
Khushi was in shock, her Jiji… her Jiji... no… no… NO. Khushi was still fighting with herself when she felt someone jerk her back to life and she saw her Amma’s face streaked with tears.
“Khushi bitiya, everything will be alright, you don’t worry, ok bitiya.”
“But I couldn’t save her… I wasn’t there when she needed me… she had to go through all this all by herself… and my dreams…no my nightmares, she… she was calling me and I… I couldn’t understand, she needs me… I have to save her… I have to go to Delhi… she is still there somewhere, she… she is waiting for me… she called me Amma, she is still waiting for me. I have to save her and I will, I have to go.” and her tirade was broken by another stinging slap, this time it was her Amma.
“Garima!” Buaji was by her side the very next moment.
“Khushi, your Babuji is right. You need to get married, we need to let go of Payaliya… this is for… for family.” and she looked at her younger daughter with teary pleading eyes.
“Amma, isn’t Jiji family?”

 PS: So how did you guys like it, feel free to express your opinions and yes I had warned you before that this is not a 'typical' Arhi romance and I have a lot of sub plots in mind for this story. Still I hope you guys enjoy the ride.

PPS: Here is a song I love, and it is dedicated to Payal and the likes of her who go through all kinds of tortures, while trying to survive in this tyrant patriarchal system. Here is cheers to all of us, survivors :)

Take Care
Srija :) 

* ‘Goblin Market’ by Christina Rosetti.

* Listen please.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

she was raped and her father just left her there?
what was her fault that a monster did that to her?
can't believe this, how can people still be like that and not understand that when a girl is raped it is NOT her fault
thank you for writing this chapter