Back to Reality
Khushi was happy, really really happy, and no her happiness had nothing to do with her precious Arnavji, or her jiji, or Di, or Buaji, or Happyji, or even the paan-wale bhaiyaji. She was happy for herself and a little proud too actually.
She had returned from Nainitaal that very day and she hadnt even been home yet. She and Arnavji had decided to head straight to their respective offices as she had her meeting with the foreign clients and he, well he had this and that and everything to attend to. She had been very nervous throughout the morning and for the most part of the afternoon, but once the presentation started, she began to feel more self assured. Lavanya was handling the presentation but she had the decency to give Khushi and the other team-mates their due credit. The clients seemed impressed and were quite vocal about it and they particularly praised a few designs by Khushi and even asked her a few questions regarding the same. Lavanya gave Khushi her space and even though initially the younger woman was quite nervous talking to the clients in English, explaining the relevance of subtle mirror-work on an evening dress, she actually managed to do that, enunciating each syllable of English while conversing, and the clients were impressed by her skills.
The market and design representatives of the European corporation had left KaLa, quite appreciative of the presentation and sort of sure of their decision as they openly said that KaLas collection, in its entirety, was the best they had seen yet and that even though they had one more presentation left, still KaLaa chances were in fact quite bright. Mr. Kapoor and Samay had congratulated Khushi and her Lavanyaji had all but beamed at her, truly proud and happy for her friend. Even her other team-mates, who had only given her cold stares until then, actually smiled at her while offering their congratulations. Well, in that moment Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada forgot everything else and for barely a moment, became Khushi her true spirit resurfacing once again.
"Aa gayi aap!"
For a moment there Khushi wasnt quite sure just when had she had entered Shantivan and was shocked into the realization with a very familiar voice familiar yes, but she still couldnt put her finger on exactly who it was. Subhadra Malik, there she was in all her glory.
"Dadi aap?" Khushi was still unsure of what she was seeing. Hadnt Dadi swore off ever coming back to Shantivan?
"What? Surprised to see me, huh? You didnt really think that I would leave the happiness of my heir in your hands now, did you?" Khushi stood there quietly listening to the older woman. She was wondering what she could have possibly done to invite Dadis rage again. But then reason was a silly little inconvenience that Maliks never let get in the way. She had learned that by now, after more than a year at Shantivan.
"Aree Titaliya!" Was that buaji?
"Buaji Amma, aap sab yahan? Is everything okay?" They didnt answer her though. Their heads hung low, in shame? What had she missed? She looked around the living room, trying to find someone who could explain just what the hell was happening here.
"Aree why are your asking your Buaji, ask me you phatee saree. I'll tell you whats wrong." Mamiji hadnt been this rude to her in quite a while. What the hell was wrong with everyone? A movement near the kitchen caught her attention. Payal had just come out from there. Khushi noticed that something was quite off about her. No it wasnt that she quietly stood in the corner, ever the observer, because even though she hardly ever said much that quiet strength was what actually defined her. That same strength seemed missing. Khushi's protective instincts were heightened.
"Jiji, are you alright?" she asked while walking towards her. But the answer didnt come from Payal.
"Of course she is alright. Why wouldnt she be? After all she is Garimas daughter, the ones around her are the ones doomed, not her, but all because of her." Subhadra taunted. Garima once again looked uncomfortable, ashamed even and Khushi was angry, not at Dadi but rather at her Amma. Why does she let Dadi bother her so much? Why couldnt she stand for herself for once and especially when her daughter needed her? On the exterior though, Khushi remained quiet.
"Will someone please tell me whats happening here?" Khushi was on an edge now. Enough of this drama, someone just tell her already.
"Hum batate hain." Subhadra said, and then halted for a dramatic pause.
"This woman, your sister, she is not worthy of this house, this status, or this marriage. I had always known that these were ill-matched couples..." she drew a pause again and gave a meaningful look to Devyani. Her subtle shift from this to these was not lost on Khushi. Payal, however, seemed lost in a world of her own...
"In fact, she is not even worthy of being called a woman, not when she cannot even give this family an heir."
What had Dadi just said? Had she heard it right? But that couldnt be, Devi Maiya couldnt do this to her, not to her Jiji. No of course not, she must have heard it wrong or maybe Dadi had some confusion. She had to do something, clear this up, and she would have but Madhumati pulled at her arm, signaling her to stop.
Madhumati hated herself in that moment. She had just stood there as Manorma and Dadiji had shredded Payals dignity, over and over again, to the extent that her lovely niece didnt even show signs of hurt anymore. She hated herself for not doing anything, for not stopping those women, for simply having to hang their heads in shame when they werent really at fault, or were they? Garima had been her usual self, there and yet not really. What came as a shock to Madhumati was that even Devyaniji had remained mum during all this. She lost a little respect in Madhumatis eyes in that moment. And the there was Titaliya, her brave Titaliya, she knew she was the strongest one of them all, that she would have said something and yet years of conditioning had won over instinct once again and Madhumati had ended up stopping her. After all, they were the ones with daughters, acquiescence should come naturally to them and yet it hurt...
"What are you trying to say girl, that I, Subhadra Malik, am lying? I dont come from an ill-born and ill-bred line, like yours." Dadi had been back at her derogatory remarks in an instant. She was like a dog with a bone, and everyone knew that she wasnt going to let-go of it, no anytime soon.
"In fact, Manorma, I think why should Akash and all of us suffer in all this? He deserves better."
"Sahi kahat ho Dadiji." Manorma was quick to agree as she threw a death glare in Payals direction.
"Its only fair that he marries again, and this time to someone that I approve of.." Subhadra was cut-off by someone before she could actually finish.
"Oh of course, because you are the almighty God, arent you Dadi?"