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Friday, May 24, 2013

Arhi TS: Untouched Part 2.

                              UNTOUCHED                                              
                               Part 2
                               A Year Later {1983}

Arnav Singh Raizada wanted her.
He was dwindling in the desperation of his want… slowly but surely burning in it. His foot moved over the clutch of his Toyota MR2, as he firmly pressed the accelerator with his other foot, shifting gears to further speed up the already speeding vehicle. The relatively clearer roads of Delhi at around mid-night further gave him the opportunity to unleash his unbridled passion… but a misplaced passion it was, for the actual object of his fiery and fierce passion lay wrapped in the comfort of her innocence… blissfully ignorant of the storm that roared within him, threatening to ravage the very last shred of sanity he had clutched onto for his dear life. How could she not see… how could she not hear… how could she not feel it?
Arnav Singh Raizada wanted her.

His mind wandered back to that decisive night, it had become a habit lately it seemed, when suddenly his mask of carefully cultivated control had come undone, laying bare the passions and desires that befit an animal more than a man, a highly cultured one at that… well at least according to ‘the Book’ it did. He had wondered about the suddenness of this want and the magnitude of its escalation had worried him to no end… oh hell who was he kidding, he was terrified dammit! And yet all he knew was, he wanted her.

The sound of sehnai mixed with a flurry buzz of random sounds… noise, had filled the air… an indistinct buzz, a dim haze, that was world for him in its complete essence… utter mayhem. His posture reeking supremacy, his stance authority, his nose aristocracy and his eyes… well they were closed… shutting off the world, even if momentarily… attempting an escape, even when aware of its impossibility. Well no amount of Off-Broadway or Off-Off-Broadway could prepare you for when you are actually thrown amidst the chaotic drama called life and no amount of Nietzsche and Beckett could prepare you for the actuality of absurdity. Arnav by twenty-seven had learnt this lesson well and hence harbored no delusions of any possible alternative or escape… and yet he just wished to mute this bedlam even if for just a moment. Was it too much to ask for? And as if in answer to his silent plea a sudden hush enveloped the surrounding, only to be filled with the melodious cham-cham of… anklets?

The frown lines across his forehead eased and a calm that seemed like a distant dream suddenly appeared within reach again… just a few more steps and he could touch it, embrace it… But just like that, it had melted into a dream again… untarnished, untouched, unreal. The melodious chime had stopped.  Frustrated, he had opened his eyes to a vision of fire, well that is what she seemed like in that heavily embroidered red and gold lehenga

His eyes searched desperately for the source of that melodious chime, probably the only hope for his salvation… but the voluminous lehnga did a pretty good job shielding those from his maddened gaze… and yet a pair of unbelievably delicate toes managed to peek. And as his gaze got fixed on those unearthly toes covered in intricate patterns of henna, he was reminded of something that he never thought, he even knew, ‘apke paon dekhe, bahut haseen hai. Inhe zameen par na utaryega, maile ho jaenge.’ ‘So beneath all this façade of cynicism, Arnav Singh Raizada was after all a closet romantic.’ Some invisible force lifted the contours of his lips and he couldn’t stop a loop-sided smirk from taking residence on his face, well temporarily though. For the next moment his eyes scanned through her form, and as he saw her sitting in front of the holy fire, a chilling realization dawned upon him… HE WANTED THE BRIDE… Shayam Manohar Jha’s bride.
***********************************************************

She glanced at the antique wall clock and then at the food spread across the huge antique oak-wood dining-table for the nth time, stifling yet another yawn. It had lately become an everyday thing, him returning home at these ungodly hours and her stifling yawn after yawn, splashing cold water on her face, forcing herself to be awake, waiting for her husband, who didn’t care… AT ALL. Why would he… what was she to him? Oh yes, a trophy wife… whose sole purpose was to accompany him to those excruciatingly tedious parties, linking her arms with his, wearing a smile on her face… a smile that was no different from any other smile in these parties. Well, appearances were all that mattered in this dreary world of power and politics and Khushi was tirelessly working on her mask… mask of a happy wife of a perfect man who would be just the ideal leader to guide the nation to its ultimate success and happiness. Who cared if she was barely seventeen, even eight year olds were trained for cold-blooded combat in this lethal arena of politics.

Spreading a hand on the table she rested her head on her forearm, closing her eyes, wondering, like she often did, what her life would have been like had she had enough courage that night to just walk out of the altar… and towards her freedom. A sigh escaped her lips, ‘if only she had had the courage…’ As she laid there in a semi-awakened state, the darkness behind those shuttered eyes was soon filled with images… images of that night, for the clasp of that nightmarish reality had never slacked on her. Relatively freer of the conscious control, her subconscious conjured that night again…

It seemed like past, present and future were all flowing into one another, submerging the neat boundaries of time, an invention man prided himself on, and yet wasn't it just another of his hollow hubris, for when were they ever really separate? As she sat beside that lecherous man who didn’t even ignite fear or disgust in her anymore, she could hear the Pandit chanting some mantras that didn’t mean anything to her, she saw right through the sacrificial fire, her stare blank. The only thing she could actually feel was a burn on her back… as if something was piercing right through her. The comfortable shroud of numbness slipped a little, as she shifted her head slightly to the right and her gaze locked with his. Something flared that very moment… a fire more destructive than the one that had consumed Sati. What was it? Desire… Passion… Desperation?

What she saw in those hypnotic eyes screamed danger for her, and though she couldn’t clearly decipher the message, yet she could feel something similar bubbling inside her but what she knew by now was that sensation was a dangerous territory, numbness was just so much more comfortable. His gaze disturbed her, disrupted her sense of peace and dismantled her guard, and as the hold of her recently found solace slack a bit, she felt vulnerable once again, alive... but vulnerable and that terrified her. ‘Who was he? And why did he have so much power over her?’ the inexplicibility of the situation tormented her already bruised heart. He seemed as arrested as she was, just as lost and probably even equally affected and yet he just sat there, unmoving, like a statue. She looked once at the man sitting beside her, holding her hand for some ritual, sickly massaging it under the pretence and she shrank in disgust once again. Her gaze flitted towards the stranger again and as he held her gaze, she couldn’t help but wonder, what if he would have been the one sitting beside her, holding her hand and offering ritualistic aahutis in the sacrificial fire? She wasn’t sure if she would have been happy even then but one thing that she knew was, it would have been different with him… good different… at least better. But when had fate ever cared about the goods and the bads, it was as reckless and relentless as ever. Khushi sighed in resignation and willed herself to look away from where her heart had her eyes glued.

She heard some shuffling and that finally brought her back to reality, to Shyam Manohar Jha and his mother Mohini Jha. She was whispering something to her son and he seemed shocked at first and then frustrated, enraged in fact. Mohini told the Pandit to halt the incantations for a bit and then moved towards the visibly confused and aghast Guptas, Shyam followed her, their knot wasn’t tied yet and how she wished it remained that way. She subconsciously moved her duppata to herself. The entire Jha and Gupta clan went inside and Garima warned Khushi to just wait there for it was inauspicious for the bride to move out of the altar until after the wedding. ‘But why just me, why just the bride, every single time!’ she had wanted to protest, but as always, she just held back, for arguing didn’t become a good woman or so they said.

When everyone went inside she sat there alone, the pandit was giving her weird glances and so was everyone else. She turned to find her friend Preeto and saw her avoiding her eyes and hiding behind her mother. She wanted to see him once again, the stranger, to know what he thought of her but the thought of seeing malice and disgust in those gorgeous brown orbs made her close her own light honey ones. Why did it matter so much? She asked herself, but she had no answer, she just knew that if she would see distrust and hatred in his eyes her… her… whatever was left of her universe would crumble down. With her eyes shut, she could now hear the buzz growing around her and slowly the incoherent buzz became faint whispers. She heard someone saying, ‘wonder what she must have done?’ and then another random voice said, ‘she looks so sweet and innocent, such a beguiling exterior.’ and then she heard a man, probably her neighbor Sunil uncle say, ‘you can never truly understand a woman, they are just the biggest con artists ever, you must have heard of a woman’s triyacharitra and that too in Kalyug, good lord save us.’ She wondered how many of them really knew what had happened and if they didn’t, how could they be so sure that it was her fault, this entire mess? And yet somehow, it always was... it always was the woman.

When she couldn’t take it anymore, she just got up and headed inside the house, she could hear some shocked gasps following her movements and the Pandit called her back saying how inauspicious it was for the bride to leave the altar before the wedding rituals were done, she halted in her tracks and a sardonic smile played on her lips, ‘was it ever right? Couldn’t they see it, how blind could someone be?’ and with that thought she moved ahead in her tracks and as the ritualized betel leave and the consecrated yellow thread fell from her hands, she didn’t bother picking those up. Once she was inside she headed towards the inner living room from where she could hear loud voices coming her way,
“Mohiniji please, I beg of you, please think about our family’s name. The rituals have already started, the entire town is here, how will we explain it to everyone. I beg of you please don’t do this.” she could hear her father pleading.
“I am sorry Shashiji but I really can’t do anything about it, you should have told us about your financial condition sooner now there is nothing that we can do.” Khushi saw her would-be mother in law tilt her chin up in arrogance as she came and stood by the door.
“But Mohiniji, you never said anything about dowry, you said you just wanted an alliance with our family, so what has changed now?” she could hear slight frustration in Aakash’s tone, well a delightful temper wasn’t one of his accomplishments.
“Look son, there were so many rich families who  wanted to have an alliance with us but we still chose your family because I don’t believe that money is above everything and knowing your Amma and Babuji I was assured that they would have definitely raised their daughter well. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll get my only son married into some beggar household. We have some status in the society and now that our daughter is betrothed to Arnav Singh Raizada, we really need to maintain some standard.” Khushi wondered why the name sounded familiar. She was busy figuring out where she had heard the name before and also wondering about her level of detachment from all the drama, when she saw her father throw himself at Shyam’s feet,
“Shyam babua, please save us this social infamy. This will mar our family’s reputation, who would ever want to marry our daughter after this.” She heard him break-down, finally. The man who had been the rock of the household for all these years now lay crumbled on the floor, defeated by life, finally.  She fisted her hands into painfully tight balls, shut her eyes and yet she didn’t utter a word. Well Shashi had himself taught her that ones karma is one’s own and one cannot share it with anyone. Her father had brought this upon himself, upon her and upon their entire family and now he’ll have to face the consequences of his choice. All she could do was turn around and there he was… the stranger… 
*******************************************************

Arnav jerked his car to a stop in front of a humongous structure, Shantivan. And yet somehow since that momentous night his steps would always falter a bit before entering his own home. He so desperately wanted to leave it behind, that night, but for reasons he didn’t want to acknowledge, it had become the centre of his universe. As he strode towards the entrance, he couldn’t help but wonder what his life would have been like had he taken a different route that night, would life have been easier or would he have lost the very source of gravity that gave him a sense of belonging? His brilliant brain that had lately been reckless and destructively distracted conjured the image of those honey springs once again… those enchanting honey springs that knew the charm to heal and invigorate but could also curse one to a life of such painful longing that even death seemed helpless to free you of this misery.  And that night those springs were flowing…

 While sitting outside he just longed for her to look at him once, he wanted to assure her that things would be fine. But well she didn’t, ‘was she afraid of him?’ the thought didn’t sit very well with him. He could hear the hushed whispers about her character or rather about her characterlessness and he was enraged, how the hell could these morons not see that that broken woman in red was all that was good and pure left in this world. At one point he was at the verge of just getting up going up to her ‘and… and… and what?’ What the hell was he supposed to do? His generally practical dimag was acting funny tonight, and well dil wasn’t something he believed he possessed. He was still struggling with himself when he saw her leave and as he caught her eyes for a fraction of a second, he could see agony tearing her apart and well, that was it for him, he followed her inside, not caring what others said about him, about her. ‘She needed him and he would be there for her, no matter what.’

He had seen the entire drama unfold in front of his eyes and he was disgusted at the thought of having a matrimonial alliance with a family like that. Oh yes it was an alliance, nothing more, nothing less, a bond based entirely on mutual political and economic aspirations. He had witnessed the cold in her eyes when her father had thrown himself at Shyam’s feet. He didn’t understand her… or maybe he did, wasn’t he going through the same with his marriage? And then as she turned around her moist eyes met his inquisitive ones across the length the corridor, and he knew all the answers right then, he knew her right then for in her tears he had witnessed the helplessness of a daughter but also the rage of a woman failed by the ones who claimed to know and love her the best.

She bent her lashes trying to cover her pain from him, as if saying,
‘I am sorry you had to witness all this mess.’
And he took a slow, determined step towards her, replying without words,
‘Don’t hide yourself, I’ll find you.’
She raised her eyes and attempted a smile, saying wordlessly,
‘I am fine.’
He frowned, unrelenting,
‘It doesn’t reach your eyes.’
She shuttered her eyes for a second and then met his gaze a bit more confidently, making a little more effort, so that her smile seemed more convincing, as if saying,
‘Really everything is fine.’
And he smiled a bit holding her gaze, words were not needed,
‘It will be. I promise.’
Her smile seemed a little genuine by then and then something occurred to her and looking deep into his eyes, she asked wordlessly
‘Who are you?’
But the answer never came as Shyam’s figure crowded her vision. Probably he hadn’t seen Arnav yet, or the tightening of his fists, flaring of his nose, vibration of the vein on his forehead and the red, enraged eyes would have warned him to run for his life. Arnav was now in the hearing range and he could hear the snake hissing,
“Wish I had finished what I started yesterday, but anyway we can finish it some other time, its not like you’ll ever get married after this. I am sure even if useless otherwise you’ll be a good fuck.”
Arnav’s gaze was now fixed on Shyam’s sinister face that was further darkened by the sickening smile that it flaunted. Arnav wanted to punch that smile out of his face but he could do nothing because Khushi didn’t need anyone to do it for her. Her slap resounded in the entire corridor and all the faces turned towards her, Most of them gasped in horror, but Aakash smiled indulgently and in Arnav’s eyes one could see the glint of pride and amazement. Funnily enough it wasn’t the tears of helplessness in her eyes that helped him make his final choice. No, it was her dangerously alluring charm and her free-spiritedness that sealed the deal for him.

Mohini was cursing Khushi and her entire family in the name of Ram, how dare she being a woman, slap her son. HER SON! She thanked her stars for saving her family from such a disgraceful Dayan, what would have become of their family had they gone ahead with the marriage.
“Your daughter is possessed by the demon. Sita-Ram Sita-Ram its Kalyug for sure, women insulting their would-be husbands, slapping them. Ram Ram!”  She said adding stress with exaggerated hand gestures. She then turned towards Arnav, finally spotting him in the vicinity,
“Arnav beta, now don’t you blame us for our decision. Aree, we were in fact reconsidering our decision because I felt pity for this girl and for this family and this is what we get in return? Come Arnav beta, Shyam, we will leave now, or who knows next she would slap me, this shameless girl.” She grabbed her son’s wrist pulling him out but he resisted and so did her would-be son in law.

Shyam had been quiet all this while, but there was something so aberrant about his silence that it terrified Khushi to the core, much more than his menacing words had earlier. Arnav sensed her power slip as Shyam took a step towards her and involuntarily she shifted back, only to feel the stranger’s hand gripping her waist, enabling, in fact forcing her to maintain her stand. Breathless with shock and excitement at his first touch, she stared unblinkingly at his beautiful face, all other thoughts lost in the haze of the new found ones. And yet the object of her fascination currently had no eyes for her as he was fixing his nemesis with an unwavering gaze. And then it happened, he saw the mask slip off Shyam’s face and he witnessed unadulterated vengeance, pure malice and naked insanity. He couldn’t see an ounce of humanness in this man standing right in front of him and he was glad Khushi hadn’t seen what he had.

Shyam then all but hissed, the sound of his voice anything but human,
“Don’t forget this day… because I won’t.”
Khushi had shifted closer to Arnav, wrapping her hand around his arm, not wanting to see this man, she hated so passionately and he in turn engulfed her form a little more securely. Shyam started moving out when Mohini said,
“Aree Damadji aap bhi…”
“He is no longer the son-in-law of our family Ma.” and with that he had moved out taking his mother with him.

There might have been some commotion in the room because, obviously all the Guptas were indeed quite broken, but the man and the woman, practical strangers, standing in the corridor, her clinging to him and him holding her, have no recollection of it whatsoever. They didn’t know how long it had been when they heard someone shriek,
“Babuji!”
And finally the spell broke. Khushi snatched her hand from his arm, where it had been wrapped for god knows how long and stepped back, self-consciously righting her perfectly placed dupatta. She ran to her father as she saw him huddled at the foot of the arm-chair fiercely clutching his chest. Arnav hurriedly dialed the number of Dr. Goenka, his acquaintance, who also happened to be at the wedding. As he stood there at the door, he took in the entire scene, her father’s short breaths, her mother’s teary wails and her bhai and bhabhi’s attempts at controlling the hazzard and then his gaze zoomed at her, Khushi, well he assumed that was her name. She was standing at a little distance from the others and he saw a tiny drop of tear hanging at her lashes. It wasn’t the tear drop that was tearing him apart, after all it was only natural to cry in such a situation and he knew that he could handle. It was the look in her eyes, that haunted look, a mixture of fear, desperation and… guilt? His right hand moved to clutch at the cloth covering the left side of his chest. The numb pain he was feeling there seemed so unreal, so inexplicable… so impossible and yet it scared him because he knew exactly what it meant.

The doctor had diagnosed Shashi Gupta with a minor stroke and had recommended some medicines along with complete rest and no mental stress. How ridiculous his advice had sounded to even himself, but alas duty was duty. Aakash had instantly sent a servant to get the medicines, while Garima sat there beside her husband, slowly rubbing his palm, trying to soothe his pain, sobbing quietly in hers. The guests had returned with the baraat, this indeed turned out to be one of the most entertaining nights for most, providing them with gossips to last for months to come. But he didn’t leave, well he couldn’t, those eyes won’t let go of him.

Arnav decided to not intrude on the family and so he made himself comfortable in the outer living-room couch. He might have dozed off for a while, but when he had finally opened his eyes the sight that greeted him didn’t seem any less surreal… he was gazing at an ethereal nymph and it seemed that she was there just for him… or why would she be wearing red? But then as she was handing him a glass of water, some of it spilled on his shirt, jerking him out of the sleep induced haze.
“Oh I am so sorry, I just thought you held the… the… but no its all my fault, its all my fault…” her hands were violently shaking, there is only so much one can take and she had crossed that limit long back and somehow Arnav felt he knew more than what he had seen tonight. He held her hands in his and placing the glass on the side table, he slowly enveloped her in a warm embrace, one of his hands holding her firmly by her waist and the other running soothing circles on her back and she stayed there, cocooned by him feeling safe and wanted after a long time, in fact she felt human after a long time of feeling like an object that could be bartered and tattered, used and abused as per one’s requirements. And so she wrapped her arms around his form as violent sobs raked her form…

She had stopped crying for sometime now and yet neither of them made any effort at moving out of the embrace, neither wanted it to end… ever. But alas! like all good things do, this did too… A creaky door opened somewhere and Khushi opened her eyes, stepping out of the embrace instantly, shock over their intimate position evident in her eyes. She ran back inside and as he saw her retreating figure, he knew that no amount of political and financial success would mean anything if he couldn’t share his life with her. Once his decision was made, he approached the elders of the family, who were more than happy to abide by it… and yet again no one… NO ONE bothered asking the woman in question… after all she was just a kid, barely sixteen, what would she know of life… they knew better.

“Amma Babuji, I want to talk to him alone.” all eyes turned towards her, but she had already started walking out of the room.
“Arre Khushi what are you upto now? Wasn’t ruining one wedding enough? If you want us dead just say so why are you putting us through all this. Khushi!” Garima called her daughter but she didn’t even look back once, Arnav followed behind.

“I don’t need your charity.” she said without any prelude.
“I am in politics, I don’t do charity.” and he was just as blunt.

He opened the doors of Shantivan and there she was, dozing off at the dining table, her head placed atop her stretched arms… the woman he could not live with… the woman he couldn’t live without… the bane of his existence… his wife, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada.

Author's Note: Hey guys, so I know its late but you have no idea how busy life has been, for starters I am now done with my Masters and so any day now I'll be kicked out of the hostel and hence in desperate need of an apartment and a job. So I guess you'll forgive me for the delay. But yes please do let me know what you thought of this part. And well this was supposed to be a three shot, but there is so much more that remains to be told and this is already 9 pages on word document, so I really couldn't have gone any further. Anyway I'll be splitting the 2nd part in A and B sections, coz well part B is basically a followup from here. Will try and update part 2B sooner.

Love,
Srija :) 




5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank God Khushi didnt marry that reptile Shyam Manohar Jha, dont want to comment on Mohini Jha its becoz of these type of women that encourage their sons to behave like animals.

Arnav & khushi had an instant attraction towards eachother and he was the only one who understood what Khushi was feeling admist all the chaos surrounding her. Its good that he married her but intrigued about the distance between them in their marriage. Guess will have to wait patiently for it in ur next update.

pmehra300 said...

Thank goodness khushi got married to arnav
shyam is such an a**h**e he's never going to change at all creep
Please update the next chapter
Dying to read more

Dima A. said...

its amazing like puzzle ..khushi get married with arnav in final...plz updated to know more

Anu Reddy said...

Awesome Srija!! Wow so Arshi are married, Shyam got a good lesson but I am sure he will be back.... Cannot wait to see what happens next!!!

my slave,myfamily said...

plz update untouched plz i am waiting for the update