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 for now. She thus decided to move from there, but the gaze though giving her goose-bumps 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... He had his back towards her and seemed to be talking to a saree clad figure standing in front of him. Khushi felt a strong urge to know who this woman was, and so forgetting all about her fallen luggage or her very inelegant posture, she craned her neck further to catch a glimpse of the woman who stood secure under the shadow of the tall, black suit clad man. But that was hardly required, for the very next second he bent down and a dark-rough-skinned middle-aged woman, elegantly wrapped in a cheap seeming saree came in view. Well, the adjective cheap was relative actually, for the man with her, who was at the moment touching her feet, looked every bit as expensive as the Rolex of his wrist-watch, Armani of his suit and Prada of his shoes. The staring could have gone on for quite a while, but the woman smiling down at the man, frowned slightly and then her dark eyes locked with her hazel ones. Khushi turned back embarrassed at being caught blatantly peeking and stumbled once again, but getting herself and her things together this time she all but ran towards the exit.
Arnav heard the loud stumbling, hurried ruffling and some supposedly hushed mumbling behind him, and was instantly reminded of the lass in red. He turned back, wanting to catch a glance of what lay behind the fiery red and gold shawl, but all he glimpsed was a black slithering snake erupting from within the all-consuming flames, as the woman ran towards the exit as if chased by the hounds of hell. He was bewildered at that bizarre need he felt to wrap that black shiny snake around his skin and feel its texture. And that need in him was strong... very strong, really strong, like gravity almost... pulling a stray drop of rain, directing its course, deciding its destiny. Bizarre, isn't it?
"Arnav bhaiya!" the happy chirping voice demanded his attention, as if it was her fundamental right, and he gave it to her because it really was. A rare honest smile graced his lips as he ruffled her curls.
"How was your vacation Palak?" Arnav asked the chirpy kid.
"It was great Arnav Bhaiya, I did so much masti. No no, actually it was also a little boring, you see there were so many people there and I didn't know anyone but they were all very nice and they all knew me. Amma said, they were all our family but they were so many I haven't seen such a big family ever. But the wedding was fun. The bride was so pretty, fair and all dressed up and oh, red is now my favorite color. But the groom wasn't very nice and not at all handsome, not like you or Aakash bhaiya. He was black as coal, poor Kuhu di, she is so pretty... But then I am also black as coal and you know all the kids down there teased me and called me Kali Ma, and most of all that irritating Jagiya..."
"Breathe bitiya breathe, your Arnav bhaiya is not going any where." her mother said smilingly when Palak showed no sign of stopping in the near future.
"Okay bhaiya I'll tell you rest of the story at home." she smiled at Arnav Bhaiya.
"So there is more to it?" Arnav said with a teasing glint in his eyes, something reserved exclusively for his doll and she made a face at it. He gave her an indulgent smile and then led them towards the car park.
"Hmmh, yehi natija hota hai zyada angrezi batiyane ka." muttered the woman in bright magenta saree, as she reentered the front lawn.
"Aree Bahenji, I heard some gossip, but is it true?" a woman in peacock-blue saree asked in a hushed voice.
"Aree what did you expect, where the elder goes, the younger follows, aur kya." the pink saree woman sported the look of the worldly wise.
"Guptaji's elder daughter you mean? But didn't she die in some accident in Delhi, a few months ago?"
"I'll believe she's dead when I see her dead-body. Kaun jaane kahan muh kala kiya hai ki apne parivaar wale bhi sab palra jhad rahe hai. AH! looks can be so deceiving, who could have ever thought that the ever shy and quiet Payaliya would bring shame to her family. And their younger one, hey bhagwaan, she was born a tornado, what better could you expect."
By then their high-pitch-hushed voices had managed to gather a little crowd. Well isn't a bite of juicy gossip better than the juiciest of sausages at such gatherings.
"What are you talking about Bhabhi ji?" enquired a round bellied man in a Bhagalpuri silk kurta.
"Aree wo dulhan bhaag gayi, aur kya." replid the woman in magenta.
"Kya?" several voices echoed all at once. The news spread in a flash and soon there were people assembling in big and small groups, like a pack of wolves gathering around the carcass of the dead, staking their claim on the bits and pieces of its bloodied flesh... feeding and flourishing...cold-blooded... un-caring... unflinching even.
Society in its complete glory!' Sumeet entered the front-lawn and grimaced as the casual callous bitterness hit him right in his throat, he had an urge to throw-up... without the natural sweetness of his life, without his Khushi, how was he ever going to swallow even a single slice of life. His shoulders slumped, he felt tired, the kind of tired one feels after experiencing every minutest detail of each and every micro second of heart-break... the tiredness one feels from holding on to that last bit of a shredded almost non-existent thread, that you know you should let go of and yet you don't, you can't... the tiredness of knowing and yet pretending to not know... of feigning hope to even yourself. But now was not the time, a lot had to be done, he would rest later, after all somewhere in his heart he knew that this tiredness was going to last through his life.
Khushi stepped out of the station, struggling with her luggage and trying to take out the paper with the exact address of her current accommodation when out of no where she was swarmed with a flood of auto-walas and taxi-walas. She stood there shocked and harried with no idea of how to handle the situation and the fact that these were all strangers and men and some were very strange men didn't help either.
"Madamji auto karlo"
"Kahan jaana hai madam"
"Aree madam taxi karlo."
"Bhaiyaji, South Campus chalenge?" she tried hiding the nerves that were threatening to drown her that very moment.
"Haan haan madamji change na" one of the auto guys answered.
"How much?" she didn't really know what to expect.
"Bas 450, madamji." even her grossly exaggerated thought process couldn't have imagined that.
"Kya?" she almost let out an involuntary shriek. "Leave it bhaiyaji I'll ask someone else."
And yet a few minutes later she was still standing with auto and taxi-walas surrounding her, asking 400 and 500 bucks for the ride and for someone who could have booked a taxi for the entire day, visiting very nook and corner of Lucknow in barely 300, this was unimaginable and ofcourse unethical.
"Madamji, come with me, I'll drop you there in just 100 rupees." a slightly dark, burly man approached her.
"Hmm!" this was getting weirder with every passing minute. But the taxi driver didn't give her another minute to process things as he just got hold of her luggaege and gave it pull. Khushi was still in two minds, the scale dripping more towards accepting the ride though.
"Tell me you are not THAT stupid!" she heard someone hiss, a force pull at her and losing her stand at the abruptness of it, she lost her footing, which was already quite precarious with that burly man in the process of pulling her luggage from her hand, and fell face forward. She anticipated the fall, the collision with the hard-cold ground, the pain that followed and the public humiliation that more often than not tagged along. But to her utter shock, none came. Well, she did feel something solid underneath her, but it wasn't cold... and what was that sound, that rhythm? After days of restlessness, she felt tired and this rhythm, this almost musical beat was now lulling her to relaxation, pulling her to sleep and covering her with a pleasant, aromatic haze. She felt someone lift that warm haze off of her face; she could feel the rough yet warm touch of something skimming through her facial plane. She felt too lethargic to open her eyes, the haze was too comfortable to let go of. And then out of nowhere she shivered, that slightly roughened touch was somewhere down the slope of her neck, the newness of that intense pleasure robbed her of her breath. The rhythm of her own thudding heart brought her back to reality. Reality had never been so gloriously destructive, Khushi Kumari Gupta had an epiphany then, this was the visual manifestation of sublime... yes that was it... those eyes, those stormy orbs staring right into her soul.
"J..J..Jii?" Khushi blinked her eyes, unable to comprehend the situation, both his accusation and her reaction. But the accuser seemed just as dumbfounded as her. What was he looking at, Khushi wondered and what was that look. The slightly darkened patch of skin around his eyes resembled a bank or maybe a muddy beach shaded under the shadows of his long lashes and the centre of it all, the centre of her universe in this bizarre moment, probably on some parallel timeline, his eyes. Those fathomless oceans of coffee or maybe sepia, ah! the aesthetically pleasing miniscule differences of colors seemed outrageously frustrating to Khushi at the moment. She craned her neck a little, pulling her face further closer to his eyes for a more concentrated inspection, desperately wanting to know the exact color of those murky oceans.
The spell was broken then. The moment she had craned her neck, twisting awkwardly in his tight grasp to get closer to him, looking deeper into his eyes, a slight frown marring the planes of her forehead, as if she was trying to read his eyes... read him and there was nothing scarier for Arnav Singh Raizada than someone trying to figure him out... someone who knew him and as he glimpsed a tiny shred of understanding in her eyes, he was jolted out of the warm, strangely familiar haze that seemed to have enveloped the two of them. He straightened himself, righting her in the process.
She was gawking at him, with no idea of anything whatsoever. And, finally in control of himself, he gave a slight push to this despicable... beautiful... no absolutely despicable... enchantingly beautiful creature in front of him. What the f**k was wrong with him', he mused. She let out a shocked yelp at that abrupt and according to her completely uncalled for push, bewildered at what she had done to deserve the verbal and physical lashing that she was getting now and that too by some strange man, whom she didn't know and who probably didn't know her. But then it struck her...
"Could it be?" she mumbled under her breath.
"Where the hell do you think you are going?" his voice was steely, opaque and so were his eyes, completely devoid of the penetrable depth that she had witnessed just a while ago.
"Hey Devi maiya!" she was sure now, his question had confirmed all her doubts. Ofcourse, how could she not see, he was one of his father's men, and they had found her already? What was she going to do now? She hadn't even started with her search yet and she had already been caught.
"Raksha karna Devi Maiya." She called her guardian deity for help and did the first thing she could think of... Twice in the same day, she ran for her life. Longer legs and quick reflexes, however, gave her pursuer immense advantage over her and twice in the same day Khushi Kumari Gupta was caught before she could actually flee. His tight steely grasp binding her, bruising her and... branding her...
"What the f**k are you trying to do? What was this stunt for?" Arnav was genuinely amazed and excessively annoyed at this strange woman in front of him.
"Dekhiye hum chilayenge." Khushi gave her aggressor a fair warning... though her staggering voice didn't make it sound as threatening as she would have wanted.
"Aacha! Chillao." He said simply, not a single dip or rise in his tone.
"Choriye hamen... D..dekhiye h..um sach mein chilaenge." She warned him again, though the threat seemed as convincing as Harry Potter without Voldermot.
"Chillao." He hissed.
"See, I am telling you right in the beginning, don't try to force me, hum Lucknow nahi Aayenge." She said with some steel in her voice, finally.
"Kya?" Arnav was dumbfounded once again.
"yes, you heard me, you'll not be able to take me back to Lucknow, I will shout and gather everyone around and then they'll all beat you to..."
"What the f**k are you on about? Why would I take you to Lucknow? Hell! Why would I take you anywhere?" both were at a loss of word because of the strangeness of the situation now. Khushi was the first to figure out that there was some miscommunication and that she was safe for now... Probably.
"Then what were you yelling at me for? What do you want from me?" she asked, completely confused now.
"Well, I was just trying to take the measure of your idiocy." He said matter of factly and it was the plainness of his tone that affected her more than what he said.
"Ji!" her eyes were huge as saucers.
"Were you really going to take his cab?" he asked in all seriousness.
"Ji?" she was still unable to comprehend anything. Did she hit her head somewhere recently?' she wondered.
"Are you really so dim-witted as to actually hire his cab?"
"Wha..." but he didn't let her finish.
"Didn't it occur to you as to why would someone offer you their services for less than half of the normal rate?" he was genuinely intrigued by her apparent naivety now.
"Ji wo..." what was she to say now. Well ofcourse she had acted very foolishly and worst of all she had acted without thinking.
"This is Delhi you know, not More's Utopia." He had said it in a flow but then he wondered if this girl clad in bright salwar-suit and with that lost look on her face would actually get what he was implying. But the recognition in her eyes told him, she did. And to his utter frustration, this bewildered him all the more. She knew about Thomas More but lacked basic commonsense?' he thought astounded.
"Come, I'll drop you to your destination." The absolute surety of his tone brooked no argument and the way he tugged at her hand, pulling her with him left no space for even its possibility.
But, there was only so much that Khushi could take and this strange man had crossed that line long ago. HOW DARE HE!' she heard a roar somewhere inside her and in that moment, neither commonsense nor common-courtesy mattered. Everyone and everything ceased to exist in this parallel universe that had just the two of them and boiling hot rage... loads and loads of it. She'll show him!'
Arnav Singh Raizada was not used to resistance. He ALWAYS got his way. Hence, the magnitude of shock he felt when he felt resistance from her was very new and almost incomprehensible for him. He frowned and then turned back coming face to face with a fuming woman...
"So, going with this taxi driver who offered me a relatively cheaper rate was dumb but accepting a free ride in some stranger's car is smart and logical?" And Arnav Singh Raizada was dumbfounded.
It must have been pink, a shade brighter than the dull one and a shade duller than the bright one, the just right shade. These niches that ran along the walls of the entire room must have been white on the inside, the plainness of the color emitting an almost sublime light when lit with colorful candles. The ceiling seemed to have been some shade of white, off-white maybe, and right from the centre of it, probably from that huge nail a huge chandelier would have hung. And when the sun would submerge into the horizon, retiring to its chamber after a hard day of work, rejuvenating itself for another, then this palatial figure would have come to life. Incandescent lights peeking from the niches, while hundreds of candles in the various crystal shells of that aesthetically humungous chandelier bathing the environment in its warm glow. It must have been warm then...' but suddenly the cold started to creep inside her as the creaking of the bed hinges filtered through her subconscious and she struggled once again, desperate to drown the noise...
Evenings would have been beautiful and mornings lazy... well, that part of their existence survived the rough hands of time. Well, ofcourse things were different now, the huge chandeliers, the harmonium, the tabla, the music, the dance, the colors, the life... they weren't needed anymore. And to think about it, what were they anyway, mere accessories, useless decorations? Who had any time for such useless garnishing anymore... now they got straight to the meat.'
The sound and rhythm of meat-slapping amplified... breaking the chain of her thoughts, breaking through the protective walls her mind attempted to build her every single time... And then the rhythm ceased, instead the pressure on her shoulders increased, making her bite her lips in an failed attempt to suppress the pain... the sound changed to that of continual grunting... and then finally the wetness... around her thighs and even a little of it on her lower-abdomen. That piece of meat invading her body finally withdrew, slumped and satisfied. She just lay there as he got off her and laid by her side for a little while... but time was running short, after all he had purchased her for two hours only and her boss was pretty strict about timings... now didn't they say that time was everything.' She just laid there as he dressed and before leaving he leered at her naked body once again, and then as if unable to stop himself, squeezed her breasts... she felt the pain and wanted to shout but she knew he owned her for about three more minutes and being a modern day corporate man that he was, a CEO of a relatively newer foundation at that, he knew the worth of every second and every penny. She saw an animal in him and was afraid that he would bite her, but no... all her fears were ill formed, he knew what the ground-rules were, leave no mark behind'... he was human after all.
She laid there as he finally left, staring into nothingness. But ofcourse that was too good to last...
"Aree Jhunki, madamji has asked you to get ready, your next customer is already waiting in the hall so, don't bother with bathing right now, just cleat up all the mess and use some perfume. But see to it that not a single sign of your previous engagement remains here when the new client enters. But ofcourse, you already know the rules, it's been a few months since you have been employed here." and with a smile she left the room.
Jhunki got up from the bed and then moved towards the small attached bathroom. As she put her hands on her inner thighs, attempting to wash of the wetness, the bitterness, the pain... she knew it was futile. The conspicuous amount of wetness didn't surprise her anymore... after all that was the one thing that all men wanted to give to her... expecting absolutely nothing in return... for she was sure of one thing... none of that wetness was hers... Jhunki's... or Payal Gupta's.
To be continued...
AN: Hey guys! SO how have you all been? I hope you've all been having loads of fun with the approaching winters. Now to the update, so it been many months since I last updated Tangent Worlds, I am well aware of my mistake and apologize for the same. But at some level I wasn't very sure about whether or not I wanted to take this story forward, lack of much response from my readers being the key factor here. But then I got a few mails wherein people requested be to continue with this story and so I decided that even if I have just one reader I'll write for that one reader and of-course for me, because I love writing and this story in particular is very close to my heart. So, the updates would be fairly regular from now on and I do hope that some of you would take some time out and write your thoughts about this story, so as to better help me develop it.
PS: Chamkili Update by tonight :)
Lots of love,