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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tangent Worlds. Ch-5, 'Destined Destinations'

                                TANGENT WORLDS
                        Part: 5
                          Destined Destinations

As they entered the Lucknow station, the announcement was being made,
“Yatri kripya dhyan den, Katihaar se Delhi tak jaane wali 230468 Amrapali Express kuch hi samay mein platform sankhya 3 pe aane wali hai. Dhanyawaad.”
“Passengers attention please, train no. 230468, Amrapali Express, from Katihaar with destination to Delhi will be arriving shortly on platform no.3. Thankyou.”

While Khushi was trying to catch her breath, Sumit once again grabbed her hand and together they ran towards the over-bridge, his one hand clutching hers while with the other one he dragged a trolley-bag. And the moment they disappeared from the view, merging with a throng of dissimilar yet similar people, Madhumati entered the station. Halting at the entry she scanned the crowd adjusting her glasses while waiting for her breathing to normalize a bit, but then not finding anything or rather anyone that interested her she made her way towards the enquiry.

“Hai re Nand Kisor! Aye Babua make way for me. How shameless has this new generation become, they have lost all their decency and respect for elders. Aree hato, rasta do Nand Kisor.” and as she reached the counter, pushing people standing in the line she finally asked,
“Aye Nand Kisor, what is the position of the train to Delhi?”
“Kaki, there are two of them now, which one are you asking about?”
“Aye Nand Kisor, tell me about both and make it fast.”
“Ok, Lucknow-Delhi Mail would be departing shortly from platform no.5 and Amrapali Exp. would arrive any moment now on platform 3.”
“Jeete raho Babua!” and with that she made her way towards the over-bridge. 

Madhumati decided to check the Lucknow-Delhi Mail first, for it could leave any moment and then she could go check the other one, while in her heart she prayed her beloved God that she got lucky the first time itself. And it seemed that he was in a good mood, for as she was crossing through the over-bridge, she caught sight of something yellow, and not the mellow, sophisticated version of it but the bright, chamkili shade. ‘Now only Sankadevi would have guts to wear that.’ And thus forgetting about her earlier plan she took sure steps towards where she had seen the vision in yellow. As Khushi turned around, her eyes widened first in shock and then as the image of Buaji standing right in front of her sunk in there was pure terror in those huge, beautiful eyes. And, oh what a vision it was. The first thing that came to her mind was to run away and hide somewhere. And well as was true of her nature she acted on impulse but it seemed like Buaji knew her niece a little too well and so anticipating her move, she gripped her delicate wrist pulling her back as turned to make a run for it, and a bit too roughly at that making her hiss in pain.
“Aaaau Buaji that hurt!” Khushi whined but Madhumati still didn’t let go of her hand. Just then Sumit returned back to the spot carrying two bottles of mineral water, a packet of achari masti lays and a box of sweets in his hands, completely unaware of the older woman’s presence.
“Khushi, they were out of jaleb… Aaaa!” and he too screamed as Buaji’s free hand pulled his ear.
“Buaji what are… Aaaau” and he screamed again as her hand left his ear only to slap the back of his head.
“You idiots, what were you thinking? You were supposed to get married today, in fact you still are. Just come back with me.” her stern face deemed no opposition and so none came, hence she continued,
“Hey Nand Kisor, what would have happened had someone else found about this stupid letter of yours, there are so many guests in the house and all they need is something to gossip about. What am I going to do with you Sankadevi.” and saying that she turned around and tried pulling Khushi along with her but she felt resistance, not the overtly physical one for Khushi knew she stood no chance there, but a more subtle kind of resistance. Though subtle, it was no less sure or strong, and Madhumati could feel it. She turned around facing her dearest niece once again, witnessing her moist eyes and some tear drops threatened her eyes as well.
“Titaliya?” she looked at Khushi questioningly.
“I cannot do it Buaji. I just can’t.” she looked down, desperately trying to withhold the tears that threatened to spill any moment now.
“Bitiya, you do know what this will do to your life. Your name, your position in our society will be maligned forever. And what about our family’s name, your father’s honor?” and saying that she lifted her face, and looking directly into her glistening eyes, she further said,
“Titaliya, it will destroy your chance at having a normal, happy life forever. Are you really ready to give all this up.” she said gently cupping her Titaliya’s cheeks gently.
“There is no family without Jiji, Buaji.” her voice was strong, her tone certain. She continued,
“And about society, well they weren’t there to help her when she needed them, so why should I care now.” both her eyes and voice flared with anger.
“And what about you Titaliya, what about your life, your happiness?” This in fact Madhumati was most worried about.
“Buaji, I wouldn’t be able to look myself in the mirror again, I’ll lose all my self-esteem… If I don’t go now, I’ll be killing my conscience and how will I even take Devi Maiya’s name ever again. I wouldn’t be happy if I lose all that’s me Buaji and seeing me die everyday will kill all those whom I love and who love me. I am selfish Buaji, I have to save Jiji for myself as well, for I won’t be able to live with myself if I don’t. I’ll die if I don’t.” her voice broke towards the end, but then her Buaji embraced her imparting all her strength to Khushi.
“You have made your choice Bitiya and let me warn you that it’s not an easy one…” Khushi looked at her Buaji with wide gloomy eyes to which the older woman smiled, and covered her with a red shawl with golden border.
“But it is the right one Titaliya.” and Khushi smiled, sure at last that her family was not lost to her.
“Buaji, the wedding? Babuji? Amma?” Khushi almost chocked, unable to form any coherent sentence.
“Bitiya all choices have their own consequences, good and bad and we have to accept both. And you don’t worry Sumit and I will manage it over here and I hope you weren’t planning on accompanying her to Delhi, because then we might as well have had the wedding…” Buaji trailed off and the until then silent Sumit spoke, trying to save Khushi the embarrassment,
“Arre Buaji, how can your Nand Kisor ever leave you, hmm? In fact truth being told I agreed to marry this Jhalli just because of you, you know.” and he smiled one of his super cheesy smiles, he always kept reserved for Buaji, while she slapped him across his arm gently, according to her at least. just then the train finally entered the platform and they started to hurry.
“Sanka Devi, where are you going to stay, have you thought of all that or did you just get up and leave in your sanak.” she asked while they moved towards S7.
“Buaji, I got enrolled in this All India Literature Seminar and they have residing facilities within the campus, so you don’t have to worry.” but as she saw her Bua giving her unsure glances which were soon turning into angry glares, she soon improvised,
“Oh Sumit told me about it, he planned everything.” Buaji visibly relaxed at it. By then they had already reached Khushi’s seat and while Sumit was settling her luggage, Buaji took out some hefty cash and looking around carefully stuffed it in Khushi’s bag. Well knowing that her Bua had no direct source of income except for her Fufaji’s pension money, which she would miserly spend and diligently save, Khushi was obviously not very happy taking money from her so she tried protesting, not just ceremoniously but actually.
“Buaji, I have money. I have saved so much already and besides Sumit lent me the amount required for enrolment and other official stuff, so I really don’t need it.”
“Sanka Devi, musibat kabhi bata kar nai aati hai, samji, so just quit arguing and take it and if you don’t want to spend it, just take it for safe-keeping. You’ll be all alone there Titaliya, you have no idea how worried sick we’ll all be here, just keep it for my peace of mind. And oh that reminds me, here is my phone and yes let me take out the sim-card from it, that won’t be very safe, but get a new number as soon as you get there and call me… but no that could be dangerous, always call Sumit bitwa and that too from some public number, ok?...” she was so lost in her tirade that she missed the train whistle signaling its departure.
“Buaji, we should get down, the train would be leaving any moment now.” and with that he grasped her hand and led her to the exit, with Khushi following them in the tail and as they were about to get down Khushi couldn’t control herself and engulfed or rather tried to engulf her Buaji’s huge frame in a fierce embrace.
“Arre Titaliya, it’s not like you are leaving forever. Your Jiji awaits you Bitiya and we shall wait for the two of you. Nand Kisor and Devi Maiya are always with you, don’t worry.” she patted her back and gently pried her hands away and then looking in her glistening eyes with her own misty ones she said,
“I never thought I would say this, but your buaji will miss your sanak Sankadevi.” and the train finally moved slightly jerking the two women and Sumit came to their aid, helping the older one down and smiling at the younger one.
“Take care Khushi.”
“Hai re Nand Kisor! How could I forget, Garima gave this to me to give it to Khushi. Aye Khushi!” and she tried running towards the gate but Khushi was no longer there, in a flash Sumit grabbed the little pouch from her hand and made a dash towards the window of Khushi’s seat.
“Khushi, your Amma gave this to you.” he said passing the pouch to her through the window, still jogging to match the train’s momentum.
“Amma?” she sounded confused. But right then Sumit shoved it in her hand. Khushi looked up a little surprised as he held on to her hand, it seemed like he wanted to say something… But he didn’t… and he let go of her hand, standing still looking at her as she sped off with the speeding train. She squeezed her eyes shut trying to shut off the image of him, waiting? She didn’t know. But the truth was she did. She knew that he would have waited for her, would probably still wait for her… like he wanted to wait for her… and yet she couldn’t bring herself to comfort him with just some words… that… that ‘she would come back so hold on, wait for her.’ and she knew he would have been ecstatic, even if he’d have to wait his entire life. And even though she knew she would come back, she didn’t really know if she would ever return back to him. For while their old bond lay in a disarray and at least she couldn’t envision a new one, the one that he wanted.
“Hmm!” a sigh escaped her lips. ‘He really loves me, doesn’t he? But why can’t I find it in myself to love him back.’ Khushi thought to herself as the image of a waiting Sumit flashed back in her mind and she clutched the little pouch in her fist to her heart… as Amrapali Expresses headed towards its destination, Delhi… and took her to her destined destination…

“Arnav!” Nani yelled yet again as her grandson headed for the door and without giving her a backward glance made his way towards his SUV. On his way out he saw Aakash’s car entering the mansion premises, and he glimpsed a wasted Aakash on the back seat while the driver, Mohan, pulled in the car.
‘What went wrong?’ Arnav wondered and it wasn’t his fault if he couldn’t figure it out for about a year ago things were fine, Aakash was exactly what a 24 year old, MBA student should be like, normal and most importantly happy, well sort of at least. So what changed? he had no answer to that for he was not the most sensitive of men but even when he had tried asking Aakash what the problem was, his younger brother had just brushed him off telling him that’s exactly how rich, young men live. And well didn’t Arnav himself live such a life, although his imbalance was sort of balanced and subtle and not as glaring as Akash’s. The emptiness and pain and vulnerability did exist in his life but he had long since mastered the part of a cold and calculative business tycoon, hiding Arnav behind that immaculately played persona of Arnav Singh Raizada. But Aaksh’s wounds lay uncovered, his vulnerability too obvious and living in the world they did, it could actually destroy him.

Not knowing things related to those close to him frustrated Arnav to no limit and seeing the emptiness in their eyes and yet being unable to do anything about it tortured something inside him, it hurt… his heart? Well he couldn’t be too sure. What had he not done to safeguard his siblings against those nightmares that haunted him every night, to protect them from those tormenting memories which he relived every single day of his life? But it seemed like life finally caught up with them, well with Aakash at least. And that is what made his resolution to protect his sister from all that was dark and ugly and… well real, all the more fierce and concrete. And that could only happen, if she was under his wing, always and hence his search for the perfect husband for her and the perfect ghar-jamai for the Raizadas. Shayam Manohar Jha was actually a good option as he was mature, self-dependent, seemed family oriented and had no objection about any of his clauses. And also that Anjali liked him worked in this guy’s favor. So far he seemed like the perfect match for his barely twenty sister. Although, the background check he had ordered would take some time and so would his final decision. And his contemplation was hindered as his phone rang just that moment.
“Yes Aman.” The lines on his forehead collected in a frown as he heard what his PA had to say.
“I don’t care Aman I told you last week it self that I won’t be available today, you should have taken care while fixing this meeting with Kapoors and Sons co.”
he again listened and literally shouted at the end of it,
“Are you implying that I am lying or that I am careless… answer me dammit.” he then visibly calmed a bit as his PA probably apologized.
“See the meeting is design centric, right? So just consult Meghna, she’ll be able to handle that. And I’ll be there in the evening for the meeting with the Brazilian delegates. Call me if there is some problem. Ok.” and with that he disconnected the call.

The red light signaled him to stop and he did. The traffic was getting worse by the moment and that wasn’t really helping his temperament. He suddenly remembered that Aman was indeed right about him not mentioning about his absence today, but then just because he knew he was wrong, didn’t mean he would accept it. Who was the boss after all? And being the boss he needed to maintain a certain image. He wondered what would happen to his image if his employs knew that a man who traveled by exclusive private jets was right now heading towards Nizamuddin Terminal to receive someone. And Arnav couldn’t help as a smug smile appeared on his face.

Entering the station he headed straight towards the enquiry,
“What is the position of Amrapali Express?” his tone uselessly formidable, habit perhaps.
“It is expected to arrive in about an hour.” the man behind the counter seemed least bothered about the fact that a muti-millionare stood in front of his counter and so did the multitude of people behind him who were pushig him to get to the counter. Arnav made his way towards a relatively empty area. He decided to wait in the car for the environment was not much of his liking.
“How many times have I told her that there is absolutely no need to travel by these lousy trains, but no, when has she ever listened to me? And her orders, do not call me, when I am in Lucknow, its family time. Bloody unbelievable! And these bloody trains, never on time. What can you expect when fucking assholes regulate this country.” and busily cursing the Indian Railways and her he made his way towards the exit, only to be stopped in his way as he felt someone pulling at his pants. And he looked down to see two huge dark eyes staring back at him.
“Arre Beta, how many times have I told you, this is bad manner. Comeon now say sorry to uncle.” but the toddler was probably another ASR in making, for she just made a face, slapped her father’s head and made her way towards a woman reading some magazine, her mother perhaps, Arnav thought.
“Sorry Bhaisaab, I don’t know why but she has huge issues with saying sorry.” the man apologized instead.
“It’s okay, I understand.” and funny as it may seem he actually did. The stranger smiled at him and made his way towards his family, perhaps? 

Dropping his plans of leaving for the SUV and sat on a corner bench fascinated by the child. For the next one hour the kid entertained the great ASR without even trying to as he ran all over the place and slapped his father mercilessly, laughed and cried and at times did both at the same time, he sang and danced unaware and unabashed in his innocence. Is it right what they say, ‘ignorance is bliss’, he wondered.

Finally the announcement was made,
“Yatri kripya dhyan den, Katihaar se nikal kar, Lucknow ke raaste Delhi aane wali Amrapali Express platform sankhya 1 par aane wali hai.”
“Passengers please pay attention…
 And as the train finally entered the station premises, Arnav made his way towards S7, yes that was where her reservation was.
“Hell, she wouldn’t even agree on an AC booking” he mumbled again.

The train finally stopped and hoards of passengers started de-boarding the train, pushing anyone and everyone around, not even caring if the great ASR was in their way and this frustrated him to no extent. As another one pushed him he turned around muttering a ‘What the!’ but froze mid-way as her heard someone shriek and then saw a flash of red… half sitting, half laying on her luggage which lay on the ground. A beautiful red shawl with intricate golden design covered her yellow-clad form and dark curtains of her waist length hair curtained her face from him. he sub-consciously craned his neck a bit to get a better view of her face. he saw her trying to get up, but she slipped again, and Arnav took a sub-conscious step towards her, but then stopped in his tracks as his conscious mind took control. And by then even she had managed to stand… her back facing him.
‘Well it wasn’t a practical possibility to save her from that fall.’ he though to himself, what scared him though was that he had wanted to. Wanting to save some stranger, now here was a first for the Raizada.

Khushi felt the continuous piercing gaze on her back. She was scared and angry… but she was also alone, hence she decided to work on the scared part, leaving out the anger part. She thus decided to move from there, but the gaze though giving her goosebumps was strangely… warm… and she couldn’t stop herself as she turned her head slightly… her eyes for some unknown reason halting on a black suit clad figure some distance from her…

PS: So guys, how was it? I know its a little slow paced, but that's how I planned it. Just be a little patient, wheels of action are set in motion now. Do drop in your comments.


1 comment:

arshifan arshi said...

nice update. well written chapter.