Monday, 29 September 2014

162. OS: 7: The Other Woman (Part 27-28)

Part 27

Khushi walked home slowly with Buaji and Payal, the wheels in her head turning furiously to come up with an explanation for the necklace. She tried to cover it with her dupatta but knew that even if she succeeded in fooling Buaji, she would still have to answer her Jiji’s queries once they were settled in bed.

“Titliyya, chup kyon ho, Nandkisore?” Buaji asked at her unnatural silence. “Has hunger turned you speechless?”

Khushi smiled weakly.

“We will reach home in a minute, Khushi,” Payal consoled her. “I will serve food for you as soon as we get home.”

Khushi nodded, her fingers touching the expensive necklace lying under the dupatta like a serpent around her neck. She drew in a deep breath to compose herself. That Wily Singh Raizada! What could she do with him?

“It was so nice to meet the Raizadas in the temple, Nandkisore!” Buaji remarked contentedly.

Payal nodded her agreement.

“Such a sanskaari family, just like our Arnav bitwaa and Shyamji,” Buaji opined.

Khushi’s eyes flew open in alarm.

Buaji had fallen in love with the Raizadas? What would she do if that Impetuous Singh Raizada dragged his family to her house and proposed marriage? Khushi touched her forehead with her hand in panic. Buaji adored him and liked his family. ‘If they come home with his proposal, Khushi Kumari Gupta, you will find yourself married to him whether you want to or not,’ she warned herself. ‘Your own Buaji will tie your arms behind you, gag you and lay you down at that Gabbar Singh Raizada’s feet.’

She clutched her heart. She had to pre-empt him, present the case before Buaji before he did. She thought of the ways and means to do this as she entered her house.

“Let’s have dinner,” Buaji invited the girls. They abandoned their thali, washed up and joined Buaji at the table.

Khushi stared at the food on her plate, devising tactics to defeat Villain Singh Raizada at his own game.

Once the Guptas were seated in the living room after clearing the table, Buaji noticed the necklace.

“Khussi, when did you buy this? Kitne ka he? Did you get it in the fancy store near Vimla’s house?” Buaji asked. “Lagta bilkul sona he, Nandkisore! How cleverly people make imitations these days!”

Payal looked at Khushi, waiting for an explanation. Khushi had left the house for the temple without the necklace around her neck. Where had she gotten it from?

Khushi drew in a deep breath to still her heart. Take this, Smug Singh Raizada, she thought.

“Buaji, I told you that a man had proposed to me,” Khushi began.

“Yes, Titliyaa. Don’t worry about it. Arnav bitwaa knows the boy. He said that the boy will never hurt you, Nandkisore,” Buaji consoled Khushi.

Her mouth fell open. When had that Manipulative Singh Raizada managed to make himself her protector in Buaji’s eyes?

“Tum bilkul chinta mat karo, Sanka Devi. Arnav bitwaa sab kuch theek kar dega,” Buaji patted her shoulder.

Khushi imagined herself hitting a smirking Abominable Singh Raizada on the head with a pillow...or something harder.

“The boy came to the temple today,” Khushi said baldly. She would show him what she was made of. “He made me wear the necklace. I think it is made of gold.”

Buaji gasped. Payal stared at Khushi as though she had never seen her before.

“He told his family that he wants to marry me. They came to the temple today to meet me,” Khushi stated.

“Kaun, Nandkisore? How come we didn’t see them?” Buaji gasped.

“The bheed, Buaji. The temple was very crowded,” Payal muttered.

“They should have come and met me,” Buaji declared. “You are not an orphan for them to approach you. I am still alive, Nandkisore! I want to know who will marry my niece without my permission or knowledge!”

Khushi took a deep breath. It was a big gamble, but there was no other way out.

“You met them,” Khushi said.

Buaji frowned.

“Paheli mat bujhao, Khushi,” Payal said, distressed.

“The Raizadas,” Khushi muttered.

“Hein?” Buaji exclaimed.

Payal collapsed in her chair.

“The Raizadas?” Buaji’s eyes widened in astonishment. “Who is the boy?”

“Your Arnav babua,” Khushi admitted.

Buaji clutched her heart. “Arnav babua?” she asked, her voice almost inaudible.

Payal gasped, “Arnavji sent you the sari? And gave you this necklace? Khushi, are you sure?”

Khushi grimaced. Would she lie about something like this?

“Arnav babua wants to marry you? Why, Nandkisore?” Buaji asked, unable to believe that her pagal niece could catch the eye of such a suljha hua gentleman like Arnav babua.

“He is mad,” said Sanka Devi.

Buaji and Payal looked at each other.

“You are calling him mad?” Payal asked. “You?”

“Yes. He is crazier than me, Jiji,” Khushi declared. She yelped as she felt Buaji take firm hold of her ear.

“Buaji, chodiye hamein,” Khushi squealed like a stuck pig.

“How dare you call Arnav babua a goonda? He is a kidnapper, hein? He kidnaps girls for fun, does he Nandkisore?” Buaji fumed. “I told him that he was a goonda!” she lamented. “You Parmeswari!”

“He is a goonda, Buaji,” Khushi affirmed, struggling to free her ear from Buaji’s unyielding fingers. “He kidnapped me.”

“Hein?” Shock made Buaji let go of Khushi’s ear.

“Buaji, baith jaayiye. I have a lot to tell you,” Khushi sighed. She made Buaji sit down beside her and narrated the kidnapping and the reason for it.

Buaji hit her head. “Arnav babua’s sister thought that you and Shyamji were having an avaid rishta?” Her eyes were round in shock.

Khushi nodded.

“And Arnav babua believed her?” Buaji felt heart-broken.

“He didn’t know me then, Buaji,” Khushi found herself defending Criminal Singh Raizada. “I told him I was innocent. He didn’t believe me. So I phoned Shyamji, made your Arnav babua take me to his house where Shyamji was and cleared up the mess in the presence of his family.”

“Acha kiya, Nandkisore,” Buaji sighed in relief and hugged Khushi. “You are pagal, sanki and on most days you eat my bheja. But no one can call you immoral or lacking in manners. Arnav bitwaa galti kiye rahe, bahut bada galti kiye rahe.”

Khushi and Payal nodded.

“He wants me to forgive him, Buaji. He apologised many times, but I,” she swallowed. “He proposed to me because he feels bad about what he said and did.”

Buaji and Payal looked at her, their eyes serious.

“I don’t like his family and I don’t want anything to do with a man who wants to marry me to atone for his mistakes, Buaji, Jiji,” Khushi said in a low voice.

Buaji and Payal looked at her in silence for a long moment.

Then Buaji asked, “He sent you the flowers, didn’t he?”

Khushi nodded.

“The sari?” Payal asked.

“Yes,” Khushi admitted.

“And now this necklace, Nandkisore?” Buaji asked.

Khushi nodded, leaving out the jalebi. Why clutter the issue?

“Return it, Titliyya,” Buaji said. Payal added, “Yes, Khushi. It is too expensive a gift.”

Khushi smiled, relieved. “Don’t worry, Buaji. I will courier it to him tomorrow morning.”

Buaji heaved a big sigh. “How could Arnav bitwaa think that you were a bad girl, Nandkisore? Let me see him. I will ask him how he could believe that Madhumati Gupta’s niece could do such ghatiya deeds.”

Khushi took the opportunity she had been handed. “Buaji, he may come here with his family.”

“Hein?” Buaji asked, surprised.

“To make a formal proposal,” Khushi warned them.

Payal and Buaji stared at her.

“Please refuse them, Buaji. I don’t want to marry in to Shyamji’s family. I don’t want to live with his family,” Khushi appealed.

“Devyaniji and Manoramaji seem alright,” Buaji muttered in all fairnesss. “Manoharji too seemed a gentleman. Shyamji is a good man, Nandkisore.”

Khushi pursed her lips. She tried again. “They are very rich, Buaji. You should see their house. It is larger than, larger than...” Khushi looked for a comparison and failed. “It is like Salman Khanji’s house in his phillums, bilkul like  a palace. We are a very ordinary family living in Laxmi Nagar. I won’t fit in there.”

Buaji nodded slowly. “Arnav bitwaa...” she wailed. “I never thought he was such a fool, Nandkisore!”

Khushi grit her teeth. He was not just a fool. He was much more but she could not sully Buaji’s ears with her views on Rogue Singh Raizada.

Part 28

Khushi looked at Payal who was sleeping soundly, curled up under her blanket.

She looked down at the necklace in her hands. It was beautiful, very beautiful and maybe very expensive, worth more money that she had set her eyes on in her entire life. And it belonged to his mother who had died in his childhood. Her fingers closed around the piece.

She slowly placed it in a jewellery box and fastened the lock. Should she courier it to him? Or should she hand it over to Shyamji? Thinking about the appropriate way of getting the necklace to its owner, she placed in in her cupboard under her clothes and locked it.

She crawled in to bed.

That man! That Sneaking Singh Raizada! He had carried out a stealth raid on her defences today, she thought. Her cheeks tingled where his warm, hard lips had pressed in to her plump fulness. The skin of her neck burned where his fingers had trailed.

His fingers should be imprisoned for causing such a hulchul in her, she thought. Not just his fingers. His lips too. And his eyes....Khushi turned her head to bury her face in her pillow. Her days were spent battling him and now he was taking over her nights too? Hey Devi Maiyya!, she called silently.

She woke up the next morning, freshened up and strolled in to the kitchen to help Buaji.

“Take bath and dress, Titliyya. Don’t you have to go to the office today?” Buaji asked.

“Let the office open, Buaji. I will take the box and courier it,” Khushi replied.

Buaji hit her on the head. “Not the courier’s office, Khussi. Shyamji’s office. Don’t you have to go to work?”

Khushi jumped, her frantic eyes rushing to the clock.

“Buaji, I am late,” Khushi yelled, running towards the bathroom as Payal left it.

“Khushi, are you going to take bath without fresh clothes?” Payal teased her.

“Hey Devi Maiyya! Raksha karna,” Khushi pleaded as she turned direction and ran for her clothes.

Khushi returned in a few minutes, all bathed and dressed. She had no time to tie her hair. She left it unbound. 

Payal stuffed a paratha in to her mouth as Khushi looked for her jootis. She hung her bag across her trunk after placing the box with the necklace in it. Then she ran to open the door, still chewing. Payal ran after her, holding a glass of milk.

Khushi pulled open the door and stood transfixed, as though struck by a thunderbolt.

“Kya hua, Khushi?” Payal asked. She peeked over Khushi’s shoulder and gasped.

Their yard was covered with flowering plants in pots. It looked like a sea of colour.

“Yeh kaa he, Nandkisore?” Buaji asked in bewilderment over their heads.

“Looks like Arnavji was busy last night, Buaji,” Payal quipped, hiding a smile.

“So many plants? How did he bring them here and arrange them in our yard at night without making a sound, Nandkisore?” Buaji wondered.

Khushi was incapable of speech.

“Madhumatiji?” Kamla Chachi was on detective duty. “When did you buy these plants? Where did you buy them from? Hamein bhi bataayiye. I will ask Chunnu’s father to buy us a few. Do they deliver the plants or do we have to carry them home?”

Buaji hit her hand on her head. “Now what reply shall I give her?” she muttered softly.

Khushi knew what reply to give and whom to give it to. She marched out of the house, ready to do battle.

A red rose bush hooked its thorn in her dupatta and stopped her as though urging her to think twice.

Khushi turned around to glare at the roses on the plant.

She bent to break one red rose from its stem. She then flounced out holding the rose in her hand like Emperor Akbar.

She flagged down a rickshaw.

“Bhaiyya, please take me to Shantivan,” she requested, giving him the address.

She rang the bell with a finger trembling in fury.

Hari Prakash opened it and looked at Goddess Durga standing at the door step but with a red rose in her hand.

“Is Arnav Singh Raizada at home?” Khushi bit out.

“Yes, please come in. I will inform Arnav bhaiyya,” HP invited her in, wondering if the beautiful girl had come to gift a red rose to the khadoos of the century. He looked at her in wonder, fully appreciative of her mettle and pluck. “Arnav Bhaiyya is having his breakfast. Will you wait in the living room?” HP asked.

Khushi walked in without bothering to reply. Like a heat-seeking missile, she moved towards the dining space.

Silence fell over the table as all stared at Khushi who was glaring at Arnav.

He looked up to see her. His eyes softened. His lips relaxed in a smile. His gaze ran over her with possessiveness and masculine interest to linger on the red rose she was clutching as though it were his neck and she were strangling him.

“How can I get her to agree to marry me?” he wondered.

(Bhooma, Sriram, my pal, I owe you one for this edit!)

Darlings,  Rash & I will be taking a week off. Will be back by the end of the first week of Oct. Hoping to see you all then.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

161. OS: 7: The Other Woman (Part 26)

Part 26

“Payaliyya, Titliyya, meet Arnav babua’s family, Nandkisore,” Buaji invited them, beaming.

Payaliyya smiled shyly at the strangers.

Khushi stared at them as though they were ferocious animals in a zoo, barely caged.

“Payal, Khushi, this is my Nani, Devyani Singh Raizada. My Mami, Manorama Singh Raizada. My sister, Anjali Jha,” an apparently guileless Arnav Singh Raizada made the introductions.

The two girls folded their hands and murmured, “Namaste.”

The ladies responded in like.

“Khushiji, Payalji, are you both fasting today?” Anjali asked with a smile, hoping to break the ice.

“Ji,” Payal smiled in response.

Khushi nodded warily. Who knew what this mad lady would accuse her of next? Was fasting a crime? Would Shyamji come to the temple to break Mad Singh Raizada’s sister’s fast? What if the lady found fault with her for being in the same temple as Shyamji?

“We are bery happy to meets you phinally,” Mami proclaimed. “Arnav bitwaa has told us many things about you.” She looked Khushi up and down with her painted eyes.

Khushi swallowed. What had Loudmouth Singh Raizada told them about her? Would his family think that she was encouraging him even though she had made her mind clear to them over the phone? Her head spun, hunger, anxiety and helplessness rendering her weak.

“May you both get very good men for husbands. May your marriages happen soon,” Nani blessed them, a smile on her face.

Not if she could help it, Khushi thought. She wanted no husband if her only option was Pest Singh Raizada!

 She turned to look at him.

He smiled at her, his naughty eyes dancing merrily.

Khushi drew in a deep breath. What could she do with this Natkhat Singh Raizada?

Mamaji and Shyamji joined them. As soon as the introductions were over, Khushi glided towards the back of the crowd on silent feet. The last thing she wanted to do was stand somewhere near Shyamji and have his wife ghoor at her. Her brother’s ghooring was enough to drive her insane!

She felt him move back to stand by her.

She glared at him.

He smiled at her. “Kya hua, Khushi?” he asked.

She shivered at his husky voice and tried to straighten her spine. After all, she was a Bharatiya Naari, a descendant of Jhansi ki Rani. How could she let him make inroads in to her locked heart just because he had a fascinating voice...and chocolate eyes...and floppy hair...and a strong nose...and a cute chin...? Khushi drew in a deep breath and turned her head away from him to look at Devi Maiyya.

‘You have landed me in a pickle, Devi Maiyya! I am hungry. So hungry that I can swallow the world. I am thirsty. And then this Raizada and his pagal khandaan had to tapak padna here? Where did you find this man for me? Was he going for free or at a discount in some market?’ Khushi asked.

The pooja began.

Khushi stepped forward to stand by Buaji, leaving Arnav behind.

The crowd milled around them.

One after the other, the Raizadas and the Guptas did aarti.

Khushi stood aside as soon as her turn was over, deliberately not looking at Devil Singh Raizada doing aarti.

‘Khushi Kumari Gupta, focus on the peda on your plate. Concentrate on the water in your pot. Don’t look at that man. You are hungry for food, not for Rakshas Singh Raizada,’ she reminded herself.

‘Peda..peda..peda..pani..pani..pani....’ she chanted silently, her lips moving inaudibly.

As she was busy whispering her secret pani-peda mantra, she failed to notice Sly Singh Raizada positioning himself by her. The first she knew of it was him tugging her arm and pulling her to stand behind the pillar, away from the eyes of the Raizadas and the Guptas.

Khushi found herself with her back against the pillar, thali in hand. She stared open-mouthed at Determined Singh Raizada.

“Kya?” she began.

He lifted the pot of water and placed it at her lips.

Khushi gasped.

He poured some water in to her mouth. She had to swallow it or die choking.

“What...?” Khushi croaked.

He took the peda, broke off a small piece and placed it in her mouth.

Khushi stared at him, her mouth open, the peda still within.
He placed his finger on her hanging lower jaw and pushed it up to close her mouth. Khushi swallowed the peda so that her mouth would be free to fight with him.

“Happy Teej, Khushi,” he whispered against her cheek, his lips caressing the fine, soft, silky skin of her cheekbone.

Khushi jumped, the thali shaking in her hands, the pot in danger of toppling. He held her hands holding the thali to ensure that she didn't drop it. She pulled her hands away.

Arnav put his hand in to his pocket, withdrew something and quickly placed it around Khushi’s neck. Khushi shivered as his fingers moved aside her hair and fastened the knot at her nape.

“What are you doing?” Khushi whispered. “Are you mad?” The weight of the ornament he had placed around her neck felt oddly comforting.

“Yes,” Arnav Singh Raizada murmured. He quickly stole another kiss on her cheek and looked up, his height giving him an advantage over the ladies packed around them, all breaking their fast at the hands of their husbands.

He saw Buaji and Payal look around anxiously for Khushi. He looked down at the dazed eyes of the girl he desperately wanted to marry.

“Marry me, Khushi,” he whispered.

She was powerless to do anything except stare at him.

“Buaji & Payal are looking for you,” he said softly. “Time to join them.” He led her by hand to her family.

Khushi walked on nerveless limbs to join her aunt and sister. 

He held her hand and took advantage of the crowd to walk close to her, his side pressed against hers.

Khushi threw a glance at him, goaded beyond control. This Badmash Singh Raizada would be the death of her!

“Arnav bitwa, you found her! I was looking for Titliyya in the crowd, Nandkisore!” Buaji exclaimed in relief.

Payal frowned. She whispered in Khushi’s ear, “Khushi, where did you get this necklace from? It is not yours, is it?”

Necklace? Khushi drew in a deep breath. What could she say?

“Jiji, woh...Jiji...I...Jiji...” Khushi’s fertile brain struggled with many answers as she bought time.

“Khushi?” Shyam called.

Khushi turned to him in relief.

Shyam’s eyes rested on the diamond necklace around Khushi’s neck with satisfaction. So Arnav had given her his mother’s jewellery she had set aside for his wife whenever he got around to marrying one.

“Ji, Shyamji?” Khushi asked.

“Can you come over here for a moment? I need to speak to you,” Shyam asked politely.

Buaji smiled her permission. Khushi joined Shyam and his wife.

Arnav moved to stand by her.

“Khushi, I know you met Anjali before, but it was in an unpleasant situation. I would like to introduce her to you now. She is not usually as delusional as she was that day,” Shyam began.

“It is alright,” Khushi muttered, wishing she could dump the whole Raizada family in the nearest dustbin and go home and have her dinner in peace.

“Hamein maaf keejiye, Khushiji,” Anjali began. “I was very worried that day. That is why...”

“It is alright,” Khushi mumbled.

“Your necklace! It is beautiful,” Anjali said with a knowing smile at Arnav. “Aap ko pata he, Khushiji? Arnav was given a similar necklace by our mother before she died. She wanted him to give it to his wife.”

Khushi began to hyperventilate. ‘This Outrageous Singh Raizada will kill me one day with his antics,’ she thought. 'Now I have to courier the necklace to him!'

“It looks very good on you, Khushiji,” Anjali smiled away. “Chotey, it seems made for her, doesn’t it?”

“It most definitely does,” Brazen Singh Raizada smirked.

'The whole family should be sent to Agra pagalkhana,' Khushi thought.

“Khussi, shall we go home?” Buaji asked. “You must be hungry and tired, Nandkisore,” Buaji called.

“Yes, Buaji,” Khushi agreed hastily. She bade the Raizadas a quick good bye and walked away from the temple with her family.

As she paused by the steps to retrieve her sandals, she stole a glance at him. He was standing still, his eyes on her, his entire attention concentrated on her.

 Khushi shrugged uncomfortably. If he kept on looking at her like this, she would have holes in her back, she thought. Her lips twisted in a grimace.

She looked at him for the last time, her eyes drawn to him despite her warnings to self.

Cheeky Singh Raizada winked at her.