Sunday, 28 June 2015

225. OS 11. An Uncomplicated Wife (Parts 10-12)

Link to my new short story: Taking Care of You

“I thought I was dreaming when I first saw you," he said.

 “How did you know it was me?” she asked. “I could have been anybody. A thief even.”

He smiled wearily. “I don’t know many thieves who would look at me with anxious eyes and then cry because I was sick,” he mumbled.

Is it possible for love to bloom, sight unseen? Juhi and Abhay are strangers who know each other better than they know themselves. One night changes the equation and the even tenor of their lives and puts all their doubts and fears to rest.

Link to my first e-novel; A Home for Meenakshi

"I love the way you love, Meenu," he whispered, his eyes on hers. "Such loyalty, such passion..."

Meenakshi Sharma, an orphan, lives in Varanasi with her uncle, a chronic bachelor who wants her to become a professional musician. She unwillingly relocates to Delhi to study under a renowned musician for eight months. Staying for rent in the outhouse of the Agrawals, she meets Aditya Agrawal, an attractive young man brooding over the memories of his horrendous past. Pulled between her uncle's expectations of her and Aditya's love for her, Meenakshi struggles with her feelings. How can she disappoint her uncle who had devoted his entire life to her upbringing? How can she pretend to be blind to Aditya's feelings for her? A romance that moves between the alleys of the holy city of Varanasi and the modern city of Delhi.

A blog for my VMs:

Part 10

Khushi jumped.

“Kya hua, Khushi?” he asked.

“Nothing, Arnavji,” she managed to say. “Err...dinner? Aap dinner lenge?” she asked. “I will serve food,” she muttered even before he could answer her query. She spared a scared look at the night sky before rushing downstairs.

He looked out at the rain. ‘Please keep pouring. Keep the thunder and lightning going,’ he prayed. ‘Don’t stop anytime now.’

He went down to dinner and sat silently as Mami waxed eloquent about her serial and Nani asked questions about the story. Di was down for dinner for a change and she looked much better, her face animated as she listened to Mami’s dramatic enactment of the story.

Arnav’s eyes were on his wife’s pale face. Each time lightning streaked the sky, her face took on a ghost-like pallor. Once when her eyes fell on his intent eyes, she tried to smile, to act as though the drama in the skies didn’t matter to her.

But he was not fooled.

She was scared of lightning and he was going to exploit her fear to gain a foothold in her life and heart. He had to do it. There was no other way. His loose mouth had closed all doors to her heart for him.

He looked out. ‘Please don’t stop,’ he begged silently to the rain.

“Bhai, about tomorrow’s meeting,” Akash started.

Arnav frowned at him.

What was wrong with Akash? Why did he want to waste time discussing business when he could focus on his wife? Akash had no idea of the concept of family time. He, being the older brother, would have to set Akash right.

“Later,” Arnav said curtly. “Focus on Payal now. Tomorrow will do for work.”

Akash’s spoon fell from his hands. Payal stared at Arnav.

Anjali’s mouth fell open.

Mami stared at Arnav, speechless.

Khushi alone missed this historic moment, having gone into the kitchen to get a spoon.

Nani looked around, confused. “Yeh aap keh rahe hein, Chotey?” she clarified.

Arnav decided not to favour his relations with an explanation, especially as he didn’t have any explanation to give.

Khushi returned to the dining hall. Arnav stood up.
“I am done. Khushi, come to bed soon,” he instructed before walking away.

“Khussi bitiya, have dinner,” Nani urged.

Thunder boomed.

Khushi jumped. She decided to forgo dinner to hide in her blanket. “No, Naniji, I am not hungry. All those golgappe...,” she mumbled before running up the steps to their bedroom.

All stared at her till she vanished from their sight.

“Now bhat hajj happened to hamre bahuriya?” Mami asked.

No one ventured to attempt an answer.

Lying in bed, Arnav watched Khushi as she rushed to the bathroom to change her clothes. He pulled her pillow closer to his, hoping that she wouldn’t notice in the dim golden light.

She didn’t. She was too busy trying to keep the fear from her face. She jumped into bed, pulled the blanket up to her neck & shut her eyes. Tight.

Maybe if she shut her eyes, she could pretend that the light and sound show wasn’t happening in the sky.

“Khushi, tum theek ho?” came the soft question from her husband, the husband who didn’t want his wife to make any waves in his life.

“Ji...” she mumbled, trying to hide under the cover. What was the use of telling him how scared she was? It would disturb his sleep and he had to be fresh as the proverbial daisy to tackle his business issues tomorrow morning. Anyway complaining was not the haq of Shri. Arnav Singh Raizada’s uncomplicated and convenient wife, nor did it fall within her list of duties.

She sighed silently.

She would have to stay awake all night. Otherwise he would find her clinging to him like a limpet. She shivered and tried to attain a foetal posture. Maybe the lightning would believe that she wasn’t here if she curled up tight like a millipede and go away to scare some other poor soul.

She felt his hand touch her shoulder through the blanket. Her eyes flew wide open in shock.

He applied pressure on her hunched shoulder and turned her towards him.

Her eyes were surprised and scared as they looked into his.

He gently folded her into his arms, pressing her head against his heart.

It was a moot point if he or she was more relieved.

His lashes fell to cover his eyes at the feel of her soft warmth against him. He pulled the blanket and secured it around their joined figures.

Slowly her fingers grasped the collar of his t-shirt.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were scared, Khushi?” he asked softly.

Khushi swallowed. “I didn’t want to be a nuisance,” she muttered.

He frowned.

“Woh—you wanted an uncomplicated wife who would let you work...I didn’t want to disturb your sleep,” she mumbled.

He could kick himself. He wanted to tell her that he didn’t mind being disturbed by her, that hugging her all night was a pleasure rather than a nuisance...but how could he convince her of his change of heart? How could he tell her that the ASR before shaadi and the Arnav after shaadi were two different people? How could he make her understand the change happening within him when he couldn’t wrap his head around it himself?

He dropped a gentle kiss on her forehead.

She stiffened in surprise.

He whispered, “I don’t mind being disturbed by you, Khushi. I—I like taking care of you.”

Khushi’s eyes resembled saucers. Was she dreaming?

Lightning flashed across the sky to be followed by the boom of thunder.

She shivered.

“Sleep,” Arnav Singh Raizada told his wife. “I am here.” He dropped another kiss on her fragrant hair.

Khushi opened her eyes to see her husband looking at her with his molten chocolate eyes.

Why were his eyes so close to hers?

She blinked.

She was lying in his arms under the blanket. In a flash, all the events of last night rushed into her head.

Flushing, she tried to extricate herself from his hold.

“Where are you going?” he asked in his husky voice.

“Woh—Teej,” she mumbled.

“Did you sleep well last night, Khushi?” he asked, his arms still tight around hers.

She nodded, trying to look away. “Thank you,” she said softly.

“Thank me,” he insisted.

“Ji?” Khushi frowned.

“Kiss me,” he said easily, turning his cheek towards her.

Khushi stared at the lean, manly cheek darkened by stubble.

Arnav waited, holding his breath.

Slowly her lips touched his skin. He shut his eyes at the sensation.

She withdrew, feeling unsettled, adrift.

With great effort Arnav released her, ordering his arms to let go.

She scampered away and off the bed, her face flushed.

He lay watching her run to the bathroom, feeling as though he had won a battle.

Part 11

Khushi came out of the bathroom wearing a red sari, her wet hair coiled in a towel-covered bun. Her eyes were carefully averted from her husband as he lolled on their bed.

He watched with fond eyes as she moved to stand before the mirror. She untied the towel and began to dry the long, silky strands with nervous hands, very conscious of his attention. She combed them neatly and fastened a band around their thick length. She placed a bindi on her forehead with shaking fingers and applied sindoor on her maang under his intent supervision.

She turned to leave, relieved to be able to get away from his eyes.

Arnav got out of bed and stretched leisurely.

She stopped short.

He sauntered up to her and bent to press his lips to her scented cheek.

“Good morning,” he murmured, his voice huskier then usual with sleep and the feel of her soft cheek against his hard lips.

Khushi jerked, her startled eyes rushing to his. A rosy hue spread across her face and neck.

“Go...good morning,” she stammered. What was wrong with him? Why was he kissing her and looking at her as though she mattered to him? She was his convenient wife, wasn’t she? Was a convenience-seeking husband supposed to look at his uncomplicated wife with eyes that shone? Kiss her? Where was the rule book for such an arrangement? Her body and brain became numb in confusion.

“Are you going down for the pooja?” he helped her out of her frozen state.

She nodded vigorously.

“I will be down in a few minutes,” he murmured.

She could only nod and scurry away from his presence. Maybe maintaining a distance between them would enable her to think logically about their arrangement.

Akash sat at the table, dressed in formal clothes, ready for a day at the office. Payal placed a filled plate before him. He smiled at her and leaned forward to eat.

“You are not fasting, Akash?” Arnav asked as he slipped into his customary seat across Akash.

The piece of paratha Akash had lifted to his mouth fell to the plate as he stared at his brother in shock.

Mami drew in a deep breath, surprised. The air got trapped somewhere in her chest and Anjali had to thump her back to get her to breathe again.

“Fast? Akass bitwaa?” Nani asked, staring at Arnav as though he were an alien.

“Of course,” Arnav said casually. “Payal is fasting, isn’t she?” he asked.

Payal nodded, her eyes wide.

“You want Akash to fast with Payalji?” Anjali asked to clear the point.

“Of course,” Arnav sat back, relaxed in his blue t-shirt and white trousers.

The Raizadas stared at him.

“Chotey,” Anjali called slowly. “Why aren’t you dressed for office?”

“I am working from home today,” he declared. “I suggest you get home at least by noon, Akash. You don’t want to be late to break Payal’s fast.”

Akash blinked, his eyes round orbs behind his specs.

Nani sagged in her chair in shocked wonder. Her Chotey had become an expert on matters related to marriage and fasts? Kab? Kaisen? She looked hopefully at Anjali and Manorama. Was her Chotey finally settling into his marriage with the girl they had picked for him?

“Ye hamre Arnav bitwaa hi he?” Mami asked to tease Arnav. “Hello Hi Bye Bye, hajj a bhoot entered his body?”

Arnav looked at his phone as though he had not heard Mami’s comment. A slight flush alone gave away his feelings.

Khushi joined them, bringing a plate of hot parathas for Arnav. She began to serve him quietly.

“I don’t want paratha, Khushi,” he told her softly.

“Ji?” Khushi‘s face was a picture of shock. “Shall I make toast for you?” she asked after a moment.

“No,” he replied softly.

“Hamre Arnav bitwaa ijj phasting with you,” Mami informed her.

Khushi’s mouth fell open.

“And he ijj not going to his ophice,” Mami enlightened Khushi.

“What?” Khushi frowned.

“Our new bridebroom ijj aphraid that if he goes to ophice, he bill not be able to give you water and food aphter pooja,” Mami explained with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Arnavji, you don’t have to do this,” poor Khushi tried to dissuade him, feeling her head spin at this change in his personality. Why was he changing the rules of the game half-way?

“I want to, Khushi,” he told her quietly, his eyes determined and direct.

“Arnavji,” she tried to protest.

He stood up, his eyes determined. He made to move towards her.

Khushi wisely gave up the fight. What was the use of arguing with a stubborn bull of a man? And what if she tried to reason with him and he kissed her again on the cheek, this time before his relations?

Like a very good girl, she took his plate and walked away towards the kitchen.

“Khushi!” came the call from the bedroom.

Khushi jumped.

“Khussi bitiya, see what Chotey needs,” Nani said urgently. “He is not used to fasting. Maybe he is feeling dizzy.”

Anjali and Mami looked anxiously in the direction of his room.

Before they could move, Arnav came to the landing of the stairs. His eyes fell on Khushi standing in the living room.

“Didn’t you hear me calling you, Khushi?” he asked crossly.

“Ji,” Khushi replied softly. “I was about to come to you.” She walked up the steps to join him. Silently he led the way to their bedroom.

“Hamre Arnav bitwaa ijj like a hen with one chick, Hello Hi Bye Bye!” Mami exclaimed.

Nani and Anjali laughed. Payal looked away with a smile on her face.

Unaware of the hilarity he had caused in his family members, Arnav shut the door of their room, locking her in with him.

“What were you doing downstairs?” he asked standing before her, his gaze serious.

“Ji, I was checking the clothes the dhobi left in the morning,” Khushi explained earnestly. “Checking if he has brought back all the clothes we gave him.”

“You are fasting and that too for the first time, Khushi. You should be more careful of your health,” he ordered.

“I was just counting the clothes, Arnavji. That’s all,” she tried to reason with him.

He moved quickly towards her and before she knew it, he was standing very close to her and his hands were cupping her face.

Her lashes fluttered. If only he wouldn’t touch her! It was easier to be the wife he wanted when he didn’t touch her.

“Sit here, Khushi, with me,” he ordered and pleaded at the same time. “Don’t move a finger. What if you faint for lack of food?”

Khushi swallowed.

He took his hands from her face but only to clasp her shoulders and to make her sit on their bed.

“Sit here where I can see you,” he instructed.

“Err...Arnavji,” Khushi stammered. “Why are you fasting?”

“Because you are,” he replied, his eyes on hers.

“Arnavji, I am sure your family does not expect this from you just because you are married,” Khushi tried to make him understand. “You can have food, go to work.”

“Maybe, but I don’t want to,” he replied.

Khushi looked down at her clasped fingers on her lap. Should she ask? She swallowed hard. Why should she be scared of his answer? She had nothing to lose.

“Why?” she asked, her sound so low that he wondered if he had imagined her question.

He looked into her direct eyes.

Why did he want to fast with her? Remain with her when work was waiting for him at office? Answers rushed to his head, flooding it with pictures, images, feelings, dreams, wishes—but how to put them in words?

“I—I...” he began.

She waited.

“You are my wife,” he finally said.

She looked away for a moment. Then, lifting her eyes to his, she asked, “What does an uncomplicated wife do?”

He stared at her, speechless.

“Woh kya he, it is difficult—I—I don’t know how to—I have no experience in being a convenient wife...or any kind of wife. If you tell me what I am supposed to do, I can manage better,” she said softly, her face revealing her helplessness.

“Khushi, I...” he began.

She waited.

“I—I wanted an uncomplicated wife,” he tried.

“Ji,” she nodded, accepting his outrageous demand as normal.

“No, I mean, I wanted an uncomplicated wife. I don’t want one now,” he explained, feeling his heart thudding in his chest.

Khushi looked down at her hands, trying hard to keep her face expressionless and eyes dry. She had tried so hard to be the wife she thought he wanted and it had all boomeranged right in her face. Her eyes burned with unshed tears. She blinked.

“I see,” she managed to murmur. “Your family, my family...I don’t know how they will react,” she said, feeling tears clog her throat.

“What the!” he exclaimed.

“Woh when we separate,” she elucidated.

“Who is separating?” he asked, perplexed.

“We,” she clarified. “You don’t want me.”

He stared at her slack-jawed. How did he manage to mess up every conversation with her? he wondered.

Part 12

Monday, 22 June 2015

224. OS 11. An Uncomplicated Wife (Parts 8 & 9)

Link to my new short story: Taking Care of You

“I thought I was dreaming when I first saw you," he said.

 “How did you know it was me?” she asked. “I could have been anybody. A thief even.”

He smiled wearily. “I don’t know many thieves who would look at me with anxious eyes and then cry because I was sick,” he mumbled.

Is it possible for love to bloom, sight unseen? Juhi and Abhay are strangers who know each other better than they know themselves. One night changes the equation and the even tenor of their lives and puts all their doubts and fears to rest.

Link to my first e-novel; A Home for Meenakshi

"I love the way you love, Meenu," he whispered, his eyes on hers. "Such loyalty, such passion..."

Meenakshi Sharma, an orphan, lives in Varanasi with her uncle, a chronic bachelor who wants her to become a professional musician. She unwillingly relocates to Delhi to study under a renowned musician for eight months. Staying for rent in the outhouse of the Agrawals, she meets Aditya Agrawal, an attractive young man brooding over the memories of his horrendous past. Pulled between her uncle's expectations of her and Aditya's love for her, Meenakshi struggles with her feelings. How can she disappoint her uncle who had devoted his entire life to her upbringing? How can she pretend to be blind to Aditya's feelings for her? A romance that moves between the alleys of the holy city of Varanasi and the modern city of Delhi.

A blog for my VMs:

Part 8

“Khushi, aren’t you coming to bed?” Arnav asked, shutting his laptop.

“Woh, Arnavji, I offered to sleep with Di tonight. She has nightmares throughout the night,” Khushi took a set of nightwear from the wardrobe.

Arnav clenched his jaw. It had been two weeks since Shyam had been killed. The Raizadas had recovered from the drama that had occurred in their house. Even Di was better. But he was seriously perturbed. He hadn’t managed to spend even ten minutes alone with his wife. And Khushi was looking tired.

“Why can’t Nani sleep with her?” Arnav asked, trying hard not to sound miffed. “And Di has sleeping pills, doesn’t she?”

“Ji, Di does. But sometimes she wakes up crying,” Khushi explained. “She is very upset that she believed a man who put your life in danger,” she sighed. “She feels guilty.”

 Arnav sighed. Di was much better, but not fully recovered from her trauma. He had tried explaining to her that she was not at fault, but she was in no condition to forgive herself.

“And Nani stayed with me and Jiji as we sat up last night with Di. How can we put Naniji’s health at risk? Aren’t you going to the office tomorrow?” Khushi asked.

“Yes,” he replied. Except for short visits to the office, he had worked from home for the past two weeks.

“We will manage here, Arnavji. You can get back to your normal routine and work till evening,” Khushi offered.

Arnav grit his teeth. She was in a hurry to push him out of the house.

“Good night,” he bit out.

“Good night, Arnavji,” she murmured as she moved to the bathroom to change into her pyjama set with pink bunnies on it.


Arnav sat at the breakfast table feeling very put out. Khushi had served him and then vanished. He scowled at the toast staring up at him from his plate.

He looked up. Payal was serving Akash and he was smiling at her. Arnav clenched his jaw. Where was his wife?

“Good morning, Saasuma. You looks much better today,” Mami commented.

“Because Khussi bitiya slept with Anjali bitiya last night, I could sleep well,” Nani remarked.

Arnav bit his tongue, feeling madder by the minute.

“Bhere ijj she?” Mami asked.

“Khussi bitiya went to give Anjali bitiya her breakfast,” Nani smiled before taking a sip of her tea.

Arnav looked towards the steps leading to the top floor, hoping that she would return soon.

“Chotey, have you finished breakfast?” Nani asked. “You look pale. Are you not feeling well?”

“I am fine,” he said brusquely.

Arnav sat waiting for Khushi to join him for a few more minutes till he couldn’t linger any longer without arousing suspicion. Finally he got up, dragged his coat on, grabbed his bag and marched away towards the door only to stop short.

Khushi was descending the stairs, a tray in her hands.

She smiled at him. “You are leaving for office, Arnavji?” she asked.

Her smile was a balm to the turmoil in his chest. Her attention helped curb his sharp tongue.

“Yes. Khushi, these are my numbers,” he said, giving her his card. “Call me if you need anything.” The police had returned his laptop and her clothes and phone.

“Ji,” she replied.

“Did you call Lucknow today?” he asked, hoping to keep the smile on her face.

“Ji,” she said. “Buaji, Amma and Babuji asked after all of us, especially Di.”

He nodded. “Have your breakfast,” he reminded her.

“Ji,” she replied.

He lifted his hand and gently ruffled her hair. “Take care,” he said before leaving.

Khushi stood there clutching the tray in her hands, a strange look on her face.


Arnav looked at his phone for the hundredth time in one hour. Why hadn’t Khushi called yet?

“ASR, shall we go down to the conference hall? The marketing guys are waiting,” Aman reminded him.

“Yes,” Arnav stood up, pocketing the phone. “Aman, what is Mehul doing?” he asked as they walked out of the room.

“He has completed his B.Com,” Aman replied. “He is looking for a job.”

“Find a place for him here,” ASR ordered.

Aman looked at him in wonder. “Really?” Aman asked. ASR was fanatical about employing people only on the basis of merit. No recommendations were entertained by him.

“Really,” Arnav confirmed.


Arnav walked into his house in the evening, his eyes looking for Khushi.

“Ask Khushi to come up,” he ordered HP who had opened the door for him.

“Arnav bhaiyya, Khushi bhabhi is not at home,” HP revealed.

Arnav frowned at this unwelcome news.

“She has gone to the temple nearby with Payal bhabi,” HP said.

“I see,” he mumbled before walking upstairs.

“Shall I bring tea, Arnav bhaiyya?” HP asked.

“Yes,” Arnav replied.

He sat waiting in their bedroom for an hour, pretending to work before he heard the doorbell ring.

He sat up. She would come into their room soon.

Five minutes passed. Then ten. Then thirty. But there was no sign of his wife.

He looked at his new phone. He could call Khushi and ask her to come up. He rang her number.

Payal picked up the phone. “Arnavji?” she asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Khushi is kneading dough for roti. I will place the phone at her ear,” Payal offered.

“Arnavji?” Khushi’s sweet voice floated to his ear.

“Where are you?” he asked.

“In the kitchen, making dinner. Are you at home, Arnavji?” she asked.

“Yes,” he bit out.

“You returned early?” she asked in surprise. “Why? Mamiji told me that you normally return very late,” she explained. “Did you have tea?” she enquired.

“Yes. HP gave it to me,” he informed her.

“Acha,” she responded. “Arnavji, shall I cut the call? My hands are covered in dough.”

He cut the call. How could he fight with dough for her attention?


He waited eagerly for her to join him in their bedroom. Dinner was over. Mami was sleeping with Di. There were no more excuses for Khushi to stay away from him.

The door opened.

He looked up eagerly.

Khushi entered the room and shut the door behind her.

“Arnavji, can I have a pill for headache?” she asked, almost squinting at him.

After a moment of shock, he pulled himself together.

“Of course,” he said, rummaging in his medicine kit. “Kya hua, Khushi?” he asked.

She took the pill saying, “I didn’t sleep well last night, Arnavji. I was scared Di would cry.” She swallowed the pill. “I will change my clothes and be back in a moment.” She went away.

Ten minutes later Arnav and Khushi were in bed together, Khushi at one end of the humongous furniture and Arnav at the other.

He turned his head on the pillow and looked at her across the vast distance separating them.

She had her eyes shut. The blanket was drawn to her chest. Pink roses on the neck and arms of her white pyjama set beamed at him.

He sighed soundlessly. Who was the sadistic idiot who had ordered this bed for him? It could hold an army in comfort. There was a mile between him and Khushi.

He looked at the even rise and fall of her chest. She was asleep.

Arnav slowly moved his pillow closer to her and edged to lie by her. His eyes rested on the creamy skin of her face, the strands of silky hair spread on the cream silk pillow, his mangalsutra resting on her throat, the sindoor in her maang, the nosepin with a diamond winking from it...

Lightning flashed across the sky and thunder boomed.

Khushi frowned and moved restlessly. As he watched, she turned towards him, curling up against his length. Her fingers found the neck of his t-shirt.

Part 9 (Friday)

Arnav wound his tie around his neck, looking at Khushi. She was folding freshly-washed clothes and placing them in neat piles in his wardrobe, her attention fully on the clothes.

“Khushi,” he called.

She looked up with a smile. “Are you done, Arnavji? I will serve breakfast for you,” she offered.

“Are you scared of lightning and thunder, Khushi?” he asked, trying to remind her of having clung to him at night.

She frowned slightly. “Ji, a little. Why?” she asked.

“Because you clung to me last night when it rained,” he explained, a teasing smile on his face.

The smirk was lost on her as a look of horror dawned on her face. “I disturbed you? I am sorry, Arnavji. It won’t happen again,” she apologised.

Arnav’s mouth fell open in shock. What the!

But before he could explain his intent, Nani called Khushi. “Khussi bitiya, please come down if you are done upstairs,” the elderly lady said from the corridor before walking down.

“Ji,” Khushi replied before scurrying down.

Arnav unthinkingly pulled the tie too tight around his neck and jumped when he choked.

Khushi served breakfast to Arnav and made to leave for the kitchen.

Arnav tried to stop her. “Khushi, have breakfast,” he ordered, wanting her to sit by him.

“Ji, I will have it later,” Khushi smiled. “I am not hungry now.” She began serving Mami and Nani.

Arnav wanted to take hold of her hand and tug her to sit by him but his family was ghooring at him.

“Bhai, shall we leave?” Akash asked diffidently. “The meeting with Joshi is at 9.”

“Yes,” Arnav replied curtly, standing up to leave.

Akash bid a fond farewell to Payal and left for the car. Arnav moved to the door, followed by Khushi.

“Stay ready to go out with me at seven tonight, Khushi,” he ordered. It was no use cajoling her and he was fed up of being relegated to the periphery of her life.

“Ji?” Khushi asked.

“You haven’t seen Delhi before, have you?” he asked. “I will show you the city.”

“Ji,” she muttered uncertainly. “But...are you sure, Arnavji? I mean, your work...”

“I will manage,” he replied loftily.

“Ji,” she nodded, confusion filling her beautiful eyes.

At six he called Khushi. “I am in a meeting, Khushi. Are you ready?”

“Ji,” she said, her voice low.

“I will get there at seven,” he promised.

“Ji,” she said.

At seven thirty he called again. “Khushi, something has come up. I have to liaise with the London office. Akash and I will be home around eight thirty.”

“Ji, it is alright,” she said softly.

It was not alright. He wanted desperately to be with her, to take her out, share a candlelight dinner with her by the pool in his favourite restaurant where he had made reservations for nine....

He sighed.

“The figures don’t match, ASR,” his finance manager demanded his attention. “Sawhney is hiding something.”

Arnav nodded and tried to turn his attention to business.

He called Khushi two more times, finding it impossible to leave the office any moment before ten. Each time she was calm, accepting his excuses with perfect composure. She asked about his dinner and he replied that he would grab something. With a heavy heart, he called the restaurant to cancel his booking.

He and Akash finally reached home at 10.30.

A yawning HP opened the door to them.

“Where is Khushi?” was Arnav’s first question.

“Upstairs, Arnav bhaiyya,” HP replied.

He walked up on quick feet. Maybe he could take her out on a long drive along the vast roads of Delhi.

The door to their bedroom was shut but not locked. He gently pushed it open and came to a stop at the sight of Khushi.

She was asleep on his recliner. Dressed in a gorgeous peach and pink net brocade saree, she looked beautiful as only a new bride could look. There were matching bangles on her arms and his mangalsutra on her neck. The sindoor in her maang stood out against the creamy skin of her forehead.

He dropped his bag and walked to kneel by her.

“Khushi,” he called gently.

She was too deep in her world of dreams to hear him.

He placed his hand on her slender shoulder and gently shook her.

Her eyes opened slowly. She looked unfocused at his face for a long moment before sitting up, tugging her pallu to cover her chest fully.

“Arnavji,” she murmured.

“Khushi, I am sorry,” he apologised.

“It is alright, Arnavji. You have to work. Did you have dinner?” she asked.

“A sandwich,” he replied.

“I have kept the dishes on the dining table, Arnavji. Shall I go down and heat the sabzi? Will you freshen up and come down?” she asked.

“I don’t want dinner, Khushi,” he replied. “Come out with me. Let’s go for a drive, Khushi.”

“Arnavji,” she hesitated. “It is late. We are both tired. Maybe another day...” she suggested, trying hard to stop a yawn.

“Tomorrow, Khushi?” he asked hopefully.

“Ji,” she replied.

They changed into their nightwear and slipped into bed.

Khushi slept as soon as her head touched the pillow.

Arnav lay staring at the ceiling.

It was lowering to realise that he had been happier hiding in the small cave with Khushi than sleeping on this huge bed with her. At least his work, the massive bed, his Di and Khushi’s hundred duties hadn’t plagued them there. 

And she had cuddled close to him day and night.

Arnav’s phone rang.

“See to the file, Aman,” Arnav instructed as he picked up the phone.

Aman nodded and left.

Arnav looked at the display and experienced a moment of shock and thrill. Khushi was calling him? She was really calling him?

“Khushi,” he managed to speak.

“Arnavji, I am sorry to disturb you while working...,” she began.

“Khushi,” he interrupted her. “It is perfectly alright.” How could he tell her that his heart was dancing a quickstep at the sound of her sweet voice?

“I just called to say that we went out with Mamiji. She showed us the sights in Delhi,” Khushi said easily.

Arnav was speechless. He had wanted to introduce Delhi to Khushi!

“Woh, Di has been stuck at home all month. So Mami suggested that we go out. Di seems happier after the outing,” Khushi reported.

What could he say to such kindness towards his sister?

“I—I wanted to—Khushi—we could go out for dinner,” he suggested.

“Arnavji, we had golgappe. I am full,” she refused politely.

Arnav looked at the ceiling of his office with fraught eyes. How could he spend some time with his wife?

He returned home at the usual time.

As soon as HP saw him, he informed him, “Arnav bhaiyya, Khushi bhabhi is with Mamiji.”

“What happened to Mami?” Arnav asked, frowning. Had she switched her nursing duties to Mami?

“Nothing happened to her,” HP said smiling. “They are watching a serial. The heroine is from Lucknow.”

Arnav wanted to say a great many things, but he manfully stayed silent.
He marched to the stairs and took the steps slowly, trying to make as much sound as possible. But the Rabba Ve song blaring from the TV drowned out the sound of his shoes.

“Is something wrong with your leg, Arnav bhaiyya?’ HP asked, confused.

“No,” Arnav bit out. The levels he had to stoop to get his own wife’s attention!

“Khushi,” he called loudly.

Khushi came running.

“Arnavji, you are home?” she asked. “Woh..I didn’t hear the door bell,” she admitted, a slight flush on her face.

“HP, tea,” Arnav ordered.

“I can get it for you,” Khushi offered, turning towards the kitchen.

“No,” he said quickly. “Come with me. I need to talk to you,” he said.

“Ji,” she murmured and walked up with him.

“What were you doing?” he asked.

“Watching a serial with Mamiji,” Khushi said in a low voice.

Arnav wanted to smile at the look on her face, as though she were ashamed of her means of entertainment.

“How did you like Delhi?” he asked.

She smiled. “It is very nice,” she said.

“You enjoyed the outing?” Arnav asked, hoping that she had missed him.

“We had golgappe and Di smiled,” she declared the mission a success. “Soon Di will forget about that bad man and learn to live again.”

He nodded.

“Arnavji, I wanted to ask a favour of you,” she said slowly, hesitantly.

His heart lifted.

“Anything you want, Khushi,” he promised rashly.

Would she ask for a honeymoon? He would take her wherever she wanted to go. Paris, London, New York...even the moon. Or did she want jewels? Diamonds as big as an egg? Or sarees? He would buy her a chain of boutiques if she so much as nodded.

“Woh—woh kal teej he,” she said, her voice low.

He frowned. What the!

“It is our first teej. The family expects us to fast. I mean, Jiji and me. Not you and Akash jiju,” she explained.

He frowned more furiously. After exhausting herself running around looking after Di, Khushi was going to starve too?

“Can you return at six in the evening?” she asked.

What kind of request was that? He blinked.

“You and Jiju have to feed us. I mean, give us water and food after the evening prayer,” she explained.

He swallowed. “I will be here, Khushi,” he promised.

Khushi heaved a sigh of relief. “Arnavji, I have never fasted before,” she confessed. “This is my first teej.”

“Khushi, you don’t have to do this,” he tried. He really didn’t want her endangering her health for him.

But she misunderstood him.

“Arnavji, we are husband and wife. Naniji, Mamiji, Di and Jiji don’t know what kind of wife you wanted or why you married me. They just know that we are married. So they will expect to see me fasting and you breaking my fast,” she explained quietly, seriously.

He stared at her, his mouth dry. Why had he blabbed about his marriage plans, his expectations from a wife and his schedule for the future? He should have kept his mouth shut!

“I will get here before six, Khushi,” he promised.

It began to rain heavily. He looked out at the night sky. A serving of thunder and lightning too, please, he pleaded with the heavens.
As if in answer to his prayers, lightning streaked across the sky to be followed by thunder.