Thursday, 16 October 2014

167. OS 7: The Other Woman (Part 34)

Part 34

Khushi walked out of her office and came to a stop near the security guard’s cabin.

It was raining cats and dogs and many other animals of a zoo. The sky was a deep, dark violet and it was darkening rapidly. Street lights and headlights of vehicles appeared dim through the heavy sheet of rain.

Khushi’s lips twisted in annoyance with herself. This morning she had left her umbrella on the table next to her bag so that she wouldn’t forget to take it with her and then promptly walked out of the house with her bag and no umbrella. ‘Now what will you do, Khushi Kumari Gupta?’ she asked herself. ‘Will you walk home in the rain like a bheegi billi?’

Maybe she could borrow an umbrella from the guard. She looked around for him, but he was missing. She frowned.

There was no other go. She would have to get drenched. ‘Your non-existent Mama is not going to appear here to carry you home on his shoulders. Walk, Khushi,’ she exhorted herself.

Khushi put a foot out tentatively. Cold water seeped in through her jooti and chilled the digits of her foot.

 She shivered.

“Khushi,” came the low call.

Her non-existent Mama had appeared? She peered through the rain and darkness.

Intimidating Singh Raizada stood there like a dark giant, holding an umbrella open over his head.

Khushi blinked. ‘Now you have started seeing him everywhere. Khushi, tumhara kuch nahi ho sakta,’ she told herself.

He moved a step closer. “Khushi, come on. I will drop you home.”

His husky voice woke her up from her stupor.

“You are really here?” she asked in doubt.

He smiled.

She peered under the umbrella to see his smile.
“Yes, you are really here. Nobody can smirk like you,” she said.

He covered her with the umbrella, passed his free arm over her shoulder and tugged her close.

“Kya kar rahe hein ap? If someone sees us...” she looked around with panic-stricken eyes.

“In this dim light?” he asked.

Khushi tried to insert her hands between the press of their trunks, but he hugged her closer to prevent her from puting any space between their bodies.

“You are Besharam Singh Raizada,” she whispered her half-hearted complaint.

“Only with you,” he breathed, his eyes on hers.

Slowly they walked together, wading through the steady stream of water. Slowly, Khushi’s arm lifted and curled around his waist. ASR clenched his jaw, praying for self-control. Heavy rain battered the umbrella, but Khushi and Arnav, wrapped in each other’s warmth, remained oblivious to the cold and the deluge.

They reached his car.

Reluctantly he took his arm from her and opened the door.

 Khushi crawled in and he shut the door after her. He walked around the car and slid in to his seat, folding the umbrella.

Khushi phoned Buaji and informed her that Arnav was giving her a lift home.

Buaji chuckled. “When did the goonda become your protector, Titliyya?”

“Hum phoone rakhte hein, Buaji,” a hunted Khushi quickly cut the call.

“What did Buaji say?” Arnav asked.

“Woh..woh....nothing,” Khushi said.

“Nothing?” Arnav was sure she was being economical with the truth.

 “I forgot to take the umbrella today morning,” Khushi confessed to change the topic.

“Good,” Outrageous Singh Raizada said.

Khushi’s lips parted in shock, but she pursed them, unwilling to rise to extreme provocation.

He started the car and drove towards Laxmi Nagar.

‘Is this the way he woos me?’ Khushi wondered. ‘Picks me up like a drowned kitten and drops me home?’ She looked him up and down with doubt in her eyes. 'If it were Salman Khanji...'

“Did you say something, Khushi?’ he asked, feeling her eyes on him like a touch.

“No..oo..” she stammered.

 She looked out of the glass window. It was raining heavily. The roads were full of two-wheelers driven by people covered in water-resistant coats and hoods, buses sending waves of water to hit the pavements, cars and rickshaws navigating the roads with care. Shops were open and light from them spilled out on to the roads.

They passed a row of small tea shops and dhabas. Men and women were sitting inside sipping hot tea and snacking on delicacies. Khushi shivered in cold and promised herself a ginger tea as soon as she reached home.

She felt him slow down and park the car.

Khushi looked at him in alarm. Was something wrong with the car? Had the rains damaged it?

“Shall we have tea?” Mind-reader Singh Raizada asked.

Khushi shook her head. Had he really said what she had heard or was her head playing up?

Arnav nodded towards the shops, delighted that he had succeeded in surprising her.

Khushi nodded, not trusting her voice.

She watched him with incredulous eyes as he picked the cleanest joint and led her in to its bright confines. She watched him talk to the proprietor and inspect the food on offer.

She told the boy who came to serve them, “He is diabetic. Chai mein shakkar mat daliye.”

“Ji, ji,” the boy nodded. “I will take care to avoid sugar in your husband’s tea.”

Khushi looked down at her locked fingers. Husband?

Thirty minutes later, Khushi looked at the two empty cups of tea and the many plates on their table.

“We really ate so much?” she asked Arnav.

“Hhmmm,” Arnav leaned back in his chair. He couldn’t remember enjoying an evening more. Khushi had chatted, all inhibitions gone. She had talked of her childhood, the mischief she had gotten up to, dragging Payal behind her, the ways in which she provoked Buaji, her neighbours, her colleagues at Shyam’s office, her parents...

He had listened, a smile on his face, his eyes tender and amused. He had even burst out laughing a couple of times, visualising her driving people out of their minds with her antics.

He had spoken too, very unusual for him. In a few words punctuated with pauses, he had talked of his work, his plans for the firm, his family, his love for Akash, how he had no time to design clothes anymore, how his workload had increased dramatically the last few years...

Khushi said with a frown, “Do you own the business or does it own you?”

Arnav raised his brow.

“Don’t think you can scare me with your eye brow. Hum Khushi Kumari Gupta he,” she chided him.

Arnav lowered his head to hide his smile.

“You have only one life. I have only one life. What is the use of working day and night and becoming old and then thinking that I should have done this or I should have done that?” she asked reasonably.

He looked at the child-woman before him. She was wise beyond her years sometimes.

“Look at my parents. They had only started to live when an accident killed them without asking them whether they wanted to die or not, whether they were ready to die or not. The same thing will happen to me and you and everyone sitting here. What is the use of lamenting after death that you didn’t get to design a dress? Kaun sunega aap ki shikayath? Lord Yama?”

Arnav could only look at her and think.

“And for whom will you design clothes after death? For Lord Yama’s buffalo?” she asked reasonably.

“,” he replied.

“Aap hamein dekhiye. I have to work. Jiji has to work. That is how we manage at home. We don’t have a choice. But you do. Then why are you killing yourself working?” she asked.

“Good question,” he praised her.

“All my questions are good, par kya karein, Buaji does not appreciate my intelligence,” she pouted. “She thinks I am mad.”

“I wonder why,” he murmured, his eyes twinkling.

Khushi snorted. “You eyes are smiling again. You are laughing at me, aren’t you?”

“No, Khushi,” he caught hold of her hand. “I am just happy to be with you.”

She stared at him for a moment. Then she said weakly, “That’s a given. After all my name is Khushi.”

As he parked before Buaji’s house, the rain had died out.

“Our first date was fun, Khushi,” he said softly, his eyes lingering on her expressive features.

“Date? Woh kya he?” she asked.

He smiled. “When girlfriends and boyfriends go out together.”

Her mouth rounded in an Awww. “You are my boyfriend?” she asked.

He nodded, suppressed laughter hurting his tummy.

She thought aloud, “I have a boyfriend?”

“Don’t you want one?” he asked.

She looked suspiciously at him. “It is OK,” she admitted. Then she asked eagerly, “Suniye, will you write love letters to me?”

He stared at her.

“Prem patra? Will you write them? With lots of poetry?” she asked, her eyes dancing with eagerness. “When Pappu wanted to court Minu, he asked me to help him write a prem patra.”

“Who is Pappu?” Arnav asked faintly.

“Kamla Chachi’s son. He is seventeen,” Khushi informed him. “Minu is Vimla Mausi’s daughter. She is his neighbour.”

“I see,” Arnav said. So he had to behave like a seventeen-year old knucklehead to woo Khushi? Write letters, prem patra filled with poetry? What the!

“I have a boyfriend,” Khushi leaned back, feeling all victorious, full of a sense of achievement.

Arnav looked at her with a strong sense of foreboding.

“Will you take me to see Salman Khanji’s phillums?” she asked. “Woh kya he, Jiji doesn’t like him. And Buaji doesn’t like phillums with dishoom dishoom.”

Arnav looked at the eager light in her eyes and found himself nodding.

“Shukriya,” Khushi was nothing if not polite. “Ab hum chalte hein. It is getting late.”

“Khushi, thank me,” he demanded, his husky voice sending a thrill down her spine.

“I just did,” she said in confusion.

“Not like this,” he said.

“Then?” she asked.

“I can’t give you pappis but you can kiss me,” he suggested.

She gasped.

“Try it, Khushi. It is not very difficult. And you may even like it,” he teased her, his face straight.

Khushi looked at him, misgiving in her eyes. Naughty Singh Raizada would be the death of her, she thought.

He tried to look innocent. “After all, I am your boyfriend,” he offered the clinching argument.

Khushi thought furiously. She was safe anyway as he couldn’t kiss her. Would giving him a pappi be dangerous?

“Woh...girlfriends give pappi to boyfriends?” she clarified.

“All the time,” he reassured her.

Khushi inspected his face. Where should she kiss him?
His lips beckoned but that way lay danger. She quickly moved to safer areas. His nose, his forehead, his eyes, his cheeks...How would it feel to touch her lips to his stubble? How would it feel?

She unconsciously bit her lower lip.

Arnav swallowed. Hard.

Slowly her face came closer to him...and stopped. “Promise you won’t do anything?” she asked.

“Promise,” he croaked.

She moved closer. He shut his eyes.

He felt her lips settle on his eye lids, one after the other, her lips feeling like the caress of a petal.

He drew in a deep breath filled with her jasmine scent.

It was going to be a very long 2 months, he thought.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

166. OS: 7: The Other Woman (Part 33)

Part 33

“Hum theek nahi he,” Khushi complained. “Not since the day I met you.” She buried her face in her hands. “You have plagued me like a disease, abused me, followed me, showered me with unwanted gifts and now...” Tears fell from her eyes down her cheeks.

“Khushi,” he tried to comfort her. He reached for her hand, but she moved her face away.

“You Pappi Singh Raizada!” she wept. “Giving me pappis and jhappis whenever we meet.” The citrusy scent of his aftershave swirled around her.

“Khushi, don’t cry,” he pleaded.

Khushi looked up at his pale face with wild and wet eyes.

“Khushi, I need to talk to you, explain...” he began.

“Is this the way you explain? By kissing me? And that too on my hont?” she rubbed her fingers against the sensitive curves that were pink from his arduous attentions. "Aap ko pata he, no one has ever kissed me on my hont."

She tried to stand up and then her ankle reminded her that it was hurt.

“Aaaa...” she screeched, falling back in to her chair.

“Let me,” he began, reaching for her leg.

Khushi pushed at his shoulders. “Go away. I don’t need your help. I will manage even if I have to crawl to Laxmi Nagar.”

“Khushi, your ankle will start swelling soon. Let me see to it,” he tried to persuade her to see reason.

Khushi looked doubtfully at her ankle. Would it swell up to suit him?

Arnav took the chance offered by her preoccupation and quickly took hold of her foot, placing his palm against her sole.

She shivered. “Kya kar rahein ho aap?” she asked.

“Thoda dard hoga,” he warned her softly. Then he quickly caught hold of her foot and twisted it.

“Aaaa...” Khushi cried. She pushed at his shoulder. “You Cruel Singh Raizada! It hurts.”

He twisted her foot again, his eyes tormented but determined.

Khushi let her fingers claw at his shoulder, transferring some of the agony to him. She bit her lower lip to stop herself from screaming. She shut her eyes tight. A couple of tears leaked out and ran down her alabaster cheeks.

She felt something soft touch her cheek.

Her eyes flew open.

His finger was drying her cheek.

She moved back in her chair.

“Put your foot on the ground and apply weight on it, Khushi,” he instructed.

Khushi obeyed him unwillingly. Her eyes flew open and she stared at him slack-jawed. “Yeh kaisa jaadu he?’ she asked. “It doesn’t hurt anymore,” she exclaimed.

Arnav drew in a deep breath of relief. Before Khushi lost her wonder and went back to animosity, he quickly spoke. “Khushi, do you really think that I proposed because I feel guilty for abusing you?” he asked, his serious eyes on hers.

She looked down at him, her eyes troubled. Then she nodded jerkily.

Arnav sighed. What had his anger and his impetuousness led him to? He had gone about this backwards. He should have started with telling Khushi of his love for her and then gone about buying her gifts. The only excuse he could find was that he was doing this for the first time.

“Khushi, I am sorry for accusing you of everything under the sun. Very, very sorry for thinking you immoral. I am ashamed of myself for misbehaving with you. Please, please believe me, Khushi,” he pleaded, still on his knees before her.

Khushi nodded.

“But that has nothing to do with my proposal. I want to marry you. I want to spend my life with you. I cannot imagine spending my time with any other woman than you,” he insisted.

Khushi stared at him. Was he Talli Singh Raizada? He really wanted to marry Buaji’s Sanka Devi?

“Di has gone to live with Jiju in his house. You can live in Shantivan without the cloud of the past over us,” he reassured her.

“Why do you want to marry me? I am an orphan. I work in Shyamji’s office. I am poor and...and...sanki,” she confessed. “Even my Buaji was surprised that you wanted to marry me. She couldn’t think what had made you propose to me.”

“I love you, Khushi,” he admitted, the words sliding naturally and painlessly out of his mouth. “Nothing else matters.”

Khushi’s mouth fell open. Love? When? What? Where? How?

“I never dreamed that I would fall in love one day, never knew that something called love existed. I had the greatest contempt for love and marriage, for men who fell for a girl’s looks or her smile.” He shook his head in amusement. “And I fell in love with a girl who wanted nothing of me.”

Khushi stared at him as though he were some exotic specimen.

“And I don’t go around offering to buy girls. You are the first and the last, Khushi. I was desperate to get you away from Jiju and in my hold that I...” he sighed. “I am sorry.”

Khushi nodded.

“Khushi, will you marry me?” he asked again.

She looked at him with troubled eyes.

“What if you regret it?” she asked. “What if I regret it?”

Arnav took hold of her hand. “We have to take that risk. I have come to understand that there are no guarantees in a marriage.”

“I never...” she paused. “I never thought I would meet a man like you or spend my days running away from you.” She leaned back in her chair, tired. “I don’t know what love is. Pehle kabhi kiya nahi,” she admitted. “And I am scared. Very scared.”

“Khushi, there is no hurry,” he soothed her. “Do you hate me?” he asked her, his molten eyes seeking hers.

Khushi shook her head in the negative. She had crossed their initial phase of distrust. And what was the use of lying?

“Then let me woo you. At the end of, say a month, you can decide where you want to go with this,” he suggested.

“Two months,” she demanded.

“Two months,” he gave in without a second’s thought. It was a miracle that she was willing to give him a chance.

“But no pappi,” she stated.

“Not even a single one?” he asked, disappointed.

“No,” she was definite. “Your pappis make me forget where I am.”

Arnav hid his smile. “As you wish. I will kiss you only when you ask me to.”

Khushi frowned. Knowing him there must be some loophole in his docile agreement. Cunning Singh Raizada was slier than a fox.

“I have to leave now, Khushi,” he murmured regretfully with a glance at the old clock on the wall. He stood up and helped her stand up.

“Can you walk?” he asked, holding her hand.

Khushi walked a couple of steps as an experiment. “It doesn’t hurt,” she said relieved.

“Bye,” he murmured.

“Bye,” she said.

He lifted her hand to his lips for a quick kiss.

Khushi gasped. “This is Ramanchi. You said no pappi till I asked for one.”

“A kiss on your hand is not a pappi,” he clarified.

She glared at him.

He quickly turned her hand, pressed his lips to her palm and left the room.

Khushi sagged in to the nearest chair. Would she have to spend two months getting kisses that were not pappis from Rowdy Singh Raizada? Hey Devi Maiyya! How would she control the dhak dhaks of her heart?