"Khushi! Careful! Watch where you are going. You would have tripped and dropped the hot subzi all over yourself, you silly girl." Admonished Payal as she held Khushi to stop her from tripping and falling, " what were you thinking of? Or rather why were you not thinking?" Asked an exasperated Payal. Her sister was an adorable, chulbuli young thing, always upto some mischief and her attention somewhere else. And if Khushi had dropped the malai kofta that her sasuma had specifically asked for, Payal shuddered to think of the barrage of verbal complaints that Manorma would let loose.
"Kuch nahi jiji" mumbled the young lady in question as her eyes darted again to her Arnavji sitting in the living room talking to his friend Sheetal. It had been like this for the past few weeks. Arnavji and she had run into Sheetal, Arnavji's friend from his Harvard days in the market few weeks ago. She was new in the city, along with her young son Aarav and no place to stay. Khushi being the good kind soul and the impulsive thing she was, could not let the young single mother and her son, stay alone when her friend had such a big house. So she insisted on getting her home and staying with them, till Sheetal could find a house to move into.
Arnav had been taken aback by Khushi's insistence that Sheetal stay with them and had expressed his displeasure subtly to Khushi but when had he ever been able to say no to Khushi?
Her Arnavji! Always the grumpy Laad Governer! He had tried, not very subtly she must confess, to tell Sheetal that she should stay elsewhere. But Khushi would not hear of it.
Arnav had tried protesting, but then Anjali's happiness at having a child in the house had sealed his lips. He could see how talking to Aarav had brought Di to life in just those few hours. Against his misgivings, he had given his assent for the mother and child to say in his house, much to Khushi's delight.
The first few days had been nice, Khushi mused. It had taken some cajoling from Khushi to get Arnav to come sit with the family, Sheetal and Aarav. But slowly he had relaxed and Sheetal and he would talk about college days and she had seen Arnavji laugh at some old memories and sometimes even talk animatedly about college. Her loving heart was so happy to see her Arnavji relax and enjoy a few moments she knew how hard he worked for the family and the weight he carried on his broad shoulders.
And then slowly she had started to feel alienated in her own home, from her own husband. It seemed that Arnavji seemed to have time to spend with everyone except her. Or was she being unfair? He did still come to bed and chat with her; they talked about her and his day and then promptly fell asleep. But the time they seem to spend together seemed to getting shorter and shorter. Arnavji seem to be spending longer and longer in the family room with Sheetal and their family. The man, who could barely sit in the lounge after dinner would loiter around chatting with Sheetal and Anjali and the conversation would often revolve around Aarav, his similarities with Arnav and how having a child in the house made the whole house full of laughter and joy. And Khushi could see how Aarav's presence had made a differenec to Di. And that stopped her from saying anything to Arnav. Arnav was spending more time with Di as well, even though it also meant he was spending more time with Sheetal but the important thing was that Di was happy.
She had, in an inexplicable bout of courage, even explained some of her insecurities to her husband, who had laughed them away and assured her that he only loved her. Sheetal was just a friend. And she trusted him. Even when she had got to know that at one point in time, Sheetal had been more than just a friend. And then the little boy Aarav. He was so much like Arnavji. And they seemed to bond so well. Just like father and son.
But she trusted her Arnavji. Then why did she feel so unsettled and her heart so heavy, she wondered as she placed the subzis on the table and turned back to the kitchen to get the rice. Arnav had told her time and again that the servants were there to serve, but she liked doing this for her family. And if she was honest, she did this more so now so that she could escape to the kitchen and not see how comfortable Arnavji was with Sheetal. It seemed to her that every day Arnavji seem to be drifting away from her and it didn't seem to bother him at all.
She could hear Arnav and Sheetal talk in fluent English.
Something that she could not do.
She saw how Sheetal wore clothes that women of Aranvji's society and workplace did.
Something that she did not do.
She saw how Sheetal talked about and discussed work with Aranvji.
Something that she could not do.
She saw how Sheetal and Arnavji had so much in common college, friends and experiences.
Something that she, Khushi Kumari Gupta, a halwai's daughter from Lucknow, could never do.
She saw how Sheetal called him Arnav .
Something that she could not bring herself to do.
Note: While they are more authentic and true to the characters, I struggle a little to read stories where Hindi dialogues are written in English. Not because I can't read or understand Hindi, but because it is not easy nor fluid, reading Hindi that has been written in the English script. So for the ease of my own writing and hopefully for reading comfort, I have written dialogues which were meant to be in Hindi, in English. These have been highlighted in red. So shall ask the readers to take a leap of faith and assume that where the dialogues are in red italics, they are being spoken by the character in Hindi even though I have reproduced them in English!! Confusing? Hope its not and you will understand as you read along.
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