Edited by YellowBoots - 11 hours ago
Chapter 20: The Elephant in the Room
Khushi was so lost in her thoughts that she did not realise when Shyam walked in to the living room.
“Gudiya, wapas kab aayi? Party kaisa raha,” he asked her, forcing her to stop staring at the TV that was on mute. She had come home an hour ago. True to his word, Arnav had dropped her home. Their ride from the farmhouse to Chandni Chowk was a silent one. She had stolen a few occasional glances at him while seated on the passenger seat. But his face was impassive, his concentration firmly on the road. Khushi did consider initiating some chatter, some small talk. There was the weather which seemed to have taken a turn, with some kind of storm in the air. Or something about the surprising amount of traffic that were encountering en route to Chandni Chowk at this late an hour. Perhaps a stray comment on all the New-On crowd whom they had met and indulge in a post-mortem of sorts. But none of them seemed promising and she decided not to. She read Arnav well by now. His bleak moods, his hesitation and even his affection. But now she sensed that the Arnav of the yore was back. The same Arnav who once gave her a ride from Siri Fort to his home, Except that there was no disapproving Gullu Bhaiya driving them. There was a disapproving Arnav instead.
She was not sure why exactly had Arnav turned from disarmingly affectionate to undeniably cold towards her in the course of the evening. Of course, she knew it was to do with their very awkward encounter with Anand Raizada. But at the same time she could not pin-point to the actual moment that things took a turn. At the beginning, her encounter with Anand Raizada was awkward, but almost anticlimactic in its normalcy.
“Khushi, how are you?”
“Fine, Uncle.. Sir. How are you? How is your health?”
“My health.. what,” Raizada Senior began, looking confused and even alarmed, before offering her a smile, “Oh you mean that attack from a long time ago. How long has it been, seven.. eight years. You were so quick on your feet, as I recall. I am good and alive, thanks to you, I suppose.”
Perhaps it was that comment that had upset Arnav. Many years ago she did ensure that he got immediate medical attention when she had inadvertently entered the Senior Leadership floor and had witnessed Anand Raizada collapse. But that hardly called for an extravagant comment that she had somehow given him life. That too over something that happened so many years ago. Especially considering everything that transpired after.
“That is good, Sir. We.. I.. was just going to get some dinner,” she had said, looking at Arnav, whose attention now completely on his father.
“Of course, I won’t keep you, Khushi. It was good to meet you. Enjoy with your friends,” Anand Raizada said to her smiling.
As she hastily walked away from the Raizada men towards the food area, she was acutely aware of two pairs of eyes that were following her. She considered the very wide spread of food on display, and realised that suddenly she barely had any appetite to speak of. She felt strangely let down by how normal her conversation with Anand Raizada had been and at the same time how distinctly uncomfortable she felt in that moment.
“Madam, will you like to start with a soup,” one of the catering staff asked her and she nodded, not because she liked soup, but because she needed some warmth after the sudden aloofness of Arnav. One moment he was holding her hand possessively and now he had abandoned her, making himself scarce. A familiar feeling enveloped her heart, full of foreboding. But she decided to seek him out and speak with him. She had done nothing wrong, neither had he. There was no reason for them to both have this weird feeling of what was it, guilt. Not again. Not after all these years.
She waited to get her soup before she went to look for Arnav, and felt a shadow behind her and turned to see it was the other Raizada, the one she did not want to see, Anand Raizada. She offered him a smile and was about to walk away, when Anand Raizada stopped her with a, “Khushi!”
“Yes, Sir. Did you need something,” she asked doubtfully, her eyes scanning over the crowd to see if Arnav was anywhere around.
“Khushi, I am glad we could meet today. I just wanted to say something,… about Poonam..,” he trailed off, visibly struggling.
“Sir, Purani baat hai woh, please aap aage kuch na bole,” she said in an almost pleading voice. Thankfully there were no familiar faces around and she felt a little, safe as a result. But where was Arnav?
“Yes, it is old.. but what my family did to you must still feel new and raw.. I have made some mistakes in the past, but not in your case, Khushi… Poonam should not have said and done what she did. You must forgive..,” he said when Khushi cut him off.
“Sir, it is honestly fine.. I want to lay it to rest.. I have moved on with my life, you should also,” Khushi said, and even as she said it, she knew it was nothing but the truth.
“You are a practical sort, so much like Poonam, in fact,” that explains so much.
“I am sorry sir, I don’t understand,” Khushi wondered what was he trying to say.
“Phir kabhi vistaar se boloonga, abhi you enjoy the party,” Anand Raizada said with that now familiar smile to her. Where was Arnav, she wondered again.
“Sure, sir, aap take care kijiye. And, I am nothing like Poonam Raizada.. mam,” she managed to say.
“Yes, sir. I don’t think I ever can be like her. Or want to,” she continued.
If Senior Raizada thought that she was being rude, he didn’t say anything and offered a wry smile and waved, before disappearing into the massive buffet. After the encounter with Anand Razada, she went to look for Arnav and got waylaid first by Lavanya and later by Aakash and Aman. It was Arnav who finally found her and said,”Sorry to break up this party, but don’t you want to go home?”
And that is how she found herself in his car, being driven home, in total silence. What had she done wrong this time?
Arnav was annoyed with himself, he had missed one turn and there he was back again doing a godawful long detour to Chandni Chowk, as he drove Khushi home. Khushi sat next to him, quietly, though he could feel a pair of eyes on him looking at him questioningly, every now and then. He knew she wanted answers, something from him, anything at all - this must have been tough on her.
Yet another farmhouse encounter with one of his parents, but at least this time it was the right one. Or the wrong one, he couldn’t say for sure. And that was the most maddening thing for him, the fact that he could not say for sure what was going on his father’s mind.
Between his parents, his father was the more accessible one. Though he was not involved with him and Di in the strictest sense, but at least he was available for an occasional talk, a careless ruffling of their hair, thoughtful presents - one that was easy to buy a child’s affection with truth be told. But most importantly his father was fallible, and that is what endeared him to his children, at any rate Arnav. In the quest for South Delhi perfect lives, dad at least through his acts showed that occasional failure was okay, and one needn’t be perfect. But fallible was one thing, but broken was something else. And maybe, just maybe had he not considered this aspect of his father. Observing his father with Khushi, he was taken by how awkward it was for both of them - and in questioning Khushi all those years back, they had also questioned Anand Raizada after all. And how then did his mother choose to stay on with this man if she believed him to be so vile, of such a transgressions, that too repeatedly.
His father was a charming man, the original “looker” of the family, and he had heard stories about how he was a bit of a Casanova in his younger days. Until he met his mom, the formidable. And by all accounts his parent’s was not one of those high society marriages where the man would have a roving eye and the woman would look the other way. Neither of his parents were like that, or at least he hoped that they were not. They were dysfunctional, yes. Not demonstrative of their love, always measured with each other, what then had prompted them to behave in such a dramatic fashion he could not quite understand. But hearing something his father tell Khushi, I have made some mistakes in the past, not in your case. What could that mean? What were these mistakes? And could that explain mom’s overreaction.
Mom, he sighed, even as they got stuck in one more traffic jam. He stole a sideways glance at Khushi, she looked forlorn now, her eyes determinedly now on the car dashboard. He wanted to say something to her, to reassure her that all was okay between them, this encounter with his father notwithstanding. But he couldn’t. When he had followed Khushi after his initial shock he had unintentionally listened to the conversation between his father and Khushi. If his father likening her to his mother was shocking, Khushi’ firm denial and almost recoiling of horror at the comparison was even more telling. He knew rationally that she had all the rights in tech world to feel that, but did only his mother have to bear the burden of all this. Why wasn’t it that Khushi felt the same animosity towards his father. He also recalled a conversation from long ago with Anjali Di, where she had remarked that a man may not be his father’s son, but could he truly ever cut the invisible umbilical chord with the mother. Back then it seemed like one of Di’s harebrained pop psychology mumbo jumbo, but now it hit him. How could Khushi think of Arnav as blameless, or worthy of her forgiveness when she could never forgive his mother.
But he wanted her forgiveness. And then some more. And it didn’t matter there was the crazy past that seemed impossible to navigate. Or the fact that his former best friend, his cousins, all seemed too hung on her. No, he could not subject her to the silent treatment. That was wrong and unfair.
“Khushi,” he looked at her, just as the car entered the bustling Chandni Chowk, “I heard what you and da..”
“Is that Shyam Bhaiya,” Khushi said, distracted, looking outside the window. He looked out in the direction that she was looking and sure enough in front of an ICICI Bank ATM there was the Runaway Shyam. But what really caught his attention was the man Shyam was in conversation with, who handed him some money and shook hands with him. It was another runaway kid, Mihir Gupta.
What fresh hell, Arnav thought, and stopped the car, signally to Khushi to get off.
“Arnav, what were you saying,” Khushi turned to look at him before she got off.
“Nothing, Khushi,” he said, for there really was nothing to be said.
“So how was the party,” she asked her husband, “as he settled down on the bed with a book.” She was still catching up on work emails, and decided in that moment that the deluge would not stop and she should stop aspiring for zero mails in her inbox. She closed the laptop and settled down next to her husband. Surprisingly, Anand who responded with non-committal grunts took the bait and put his book away and turned towards her, like he actually wanted to engage and talk with her.
“It was fine, the usual suspects had shown up. You should have come too, you know. Minu was very disappointed,” he said, looking rather thoughtfully at her, like he wanted to say something more, but not quite sure how to. This was something that had been the cornerstone of they relationship the last few years.
“Yeah, yeah, I am sure she wanted me to be there, to shove the Werner deal on my face,” she offered wryly. She honestly had no quarrel with Minu, she was not like those vacuous and vacant kitty crowd of her circle, but there was too much water under the bridge, Too bad though, she was fond of her son, Aman, one time best friend of her son, now strangely distant. He was unsure the role her son had played in this distancing, but sometimes she worried if he was lonely. Of course there was her daughter, and her son-in-law who had become Arnav’s centre and everything else, but friends, she was unsure. But at least Arnav went for Aman’s party, so maybe things were getting better.
“Arnav was there, right,” she anyway decided to confirm.
“Yes, he was. He and Aman seem fine now,” Anand said, weirdly enough echoing her thoughts.
“That is good, I am glad Aman is doing fine now. He used to be such a precocious child and quite a handful, you remember,” she said, now feeling nostalgic about times.
“I am surprised you remember,” Anand said.
Of course, she was the career mother, a cross that she had borne for the last many years. To her children, they always felt reprioritised over work. Which was far from the truth, just because she didn’t rustle up brownies at home, or teach them macrame didn’t make her a bad mother. Yes, she had mistakes, many of which she regretted, but sometimes the double standards of her own family annoyed her.
“You know the surprise person there was Khushi. Isn’t it strange this girl had all but disappeared, and she is now suddenly back,” her husband interrupted her thoughts.
“Yes, the same. Don’t you feel what we did to her was wrong?” Her husband offered tentatively.
“We? I thought I was the sole villain in this sordid episode, Anand,” she said, not bitterly, but hurt.
“You know that is not what I meant. But.. I feel that Arnav has these feelings towards her..”
“Has he said anything? What kind of feelings? Why won’t our children ever tell me anything?”
“No, he has not told me anything.. but I know he has this feelings of guilt towards her, and we should not make him have to bear this burden. For his sake, we need to do this right.”
“There is no do-over here, Anand, let’s not be naive. She has moved on with her life, as has Arnav.”
“But must children bear the burden of their parents mistakes?”
“Perhaps not. But what is the solution you have? Make Khushi a shareholder in Raizada Industries?”
“Poonam, you know that is not what I meant, anyway I would rather sleep now. My back is hurting again.”
She was annoyed with her husband for doing his usual cop-out and get the last word in. As always, lots of suggestions, but nothing concrete. But she was also concerned about his health, after the recent surgery.
“Are you okay? Should I check with the doctor? This pain is coming very regularly nowadays, not a good sign.. that too after the surgery.”
“I am fine Poonam, just give me a Restyl, and I will take one and get a good night’s sleep. Things will be better tomorrow.”
Once Anand tucked himself in, she took out her laptop and began downloading emails again. This was so typical of Anand, to sleep and hope the morning would solve everything, like some kind of magic. But she knew, there was no magic. Or do-overs. She was also certain of the fact that her son’s feelings were not that of guilt, but something more. She also knew therefore imminent heartbreak was around the corner for him.
She looked at her laptop and opened a compose mail.
Sorry that could not attend your party today. Heard from Anand that he had a rolling good time catching up with all of you. He also said that Aman is looking happy and cheery again. Touchwood.
I know that you already know the Chawlas and they are looking for a husband for their daughter - Juhi. Since you have been away from the circuit for a while, I must tell you that Juhi is an exemplary young woman - very intelligent, very clear headed and a very warm girl. I feel that she will be perfect for Aman. Plus, the family is great too. In fact, Aman knows her because they went to school together, she was a batch or two younger than the boys. Sharing her horoscope with you. If I am crossing a line here, my apologies. Absolutely not my intent.
Hope to see you soon.
A mother had to do what a mother had to do.
“Jun, are you even listening to me,” she said, as her husband was dozing off on their living room diwaan.
“I am the new mother, and I am the one who is sleep deprived and here you are constantly sleeping the moment you get a two minute window,” she complained. Of course she didn’t mean any of it. Jun was a very hands on father and did more diaper changes of Thumpa than she would be willing to admit. He also was having a gruelling time at work, the hours and the tension. She could sense that he was trying not to burden her, but telling her only half of everything that was bothering him at work. But nonetheless, she liked to give him a hard time.
Suddenly Jun got up and headed to the fridge and took out a plate of chamcham.
“HP,” he asked.
“No, from soon to be Bhabhi!”
“Khushi?” Jun asked as he swiftly downed two chamchams. Though she wanted to stop this, because once Jun started eating sweets there was no stopping him. But she didn’t blame him, they tasted and felt like little clouds of sugar. Plus, he had a hard day, so it was okay.
Lunch with Khushi went surprisingly well. She came bearing sweets. Thumpa took an instant shine to her and plonked herself on her lap staring at her like Khushi was magic.
They spoke about a lot of things, initially she carefully steered the topics to neutral ones, like Delhi University, INP, Chandni Chowk and so on, avoiding mother and the brother as much as possible. But then something that Khushi said got her attention.
“Anjali Di, why did you quit photography?”
“How did you know that I was into it,” Anjali asked her, surprised.
“There was this photo you had clicked of theTaj Mahal. It is raining that day and it was beautiful. I was gifted that photo in a frame by someone,” she said, but looked nervous by then, like she had revealed too much.
“Someone, surely you mean by idiot brother,” she said laughing, suddenly remembering the first time she had met Khushi, a school-girl who insisted on waiting outside their home, rather than be alone with her little brother. It still made her laugh.
“Yes, I mean no. I mean yes. Actually another classmate of mine, ours gave it to me, but I knew it was Arnav. In my previous life, as in life before New-Ons sometimes boys would give girls this miniature Taj Mahals, you know because they like.. liked them.. so this was strange for me, I could not show it to my parents because they would have not understood..” She had trailed off.
Anjali decided not to probe anymore, sensing Khushi was beginning to put up the walls again. But she was surprised at this. She remembered that photo very clearly and how she had helped her brother shop for a gift at Dilli Haat. There was a mirror, with intricate leather frame that she had suggested that he pick up, but he refused saying that she was not that type of girl. She had tried arguing that every girl needs a good mirror or at any rate a clean reflective surface. But he had been adamant and said this girl was different, a little deep. She had wondered how deep could sixteen year olds anyway be. Anyway a photo frame was selected. She had asked her brother if he liked this Ms Deep and he gave her one of those pained looks and had said, no, she does not like me I think. But added that she was sad, and everyone deserved something on their birthday. And so that is why she had given her little brother the rainy Taj photo, for this deep and sad girl, maybe she would appreciate it.
Now in hindsight, as this memory still vivid, she realised that even then Arnav did not say he did not like this girl. He probably did. And she probably did too, what with the cheesy Taj Mahal message that came her way. And so it was possible, in the Wonder Years, when class and privilege while form chasms, are not so tough for us to get past, before everything that later went down, just maybe, her brother and Khushi might have had a brief, transient and unacknowledged moment.
“Jun, we need to something about this Arnav and Khushi thing, I mean is something even possible with everything that went down.. I really want my brother to be happy.”
“I know what we should do,” Jun said and she looked at him eagerly, “Nothing. Nothing at all. What your mother did scarred this girl and your brother for almost a decade now. Don’t ruin the next decade of their lives.”
She had to agree that he was right. What kind of future did they anyway have? This was real life, not a movie. But she anyway sent a message to Aakash saying, Hey, wanted to speak to you about something. Why don’t you come home for lunch over the weekend or next week.
The universe could have plans, but a sister had to do what a sister had to do.
He picked his phone and checked again, there was no message from Khushi. After he had dropped her off home, rather in front of the ATM where he had spotted Shyam and Mihir, and she had said a hurried bye, there had been nones from her. The episode with his father and him subsequently spotting Shyam and Mihir together had also thrown him off, his mind still unable to think of any plausible explanation, and on how to bring it up with Khushi. There was no easy way. He even considered putting his private investigator on the job, but to do that without telling Khushi seemed wrong. He really needed to discuss it with someone soon, he just wasn’t sure, whom.
“Hello, where are you lost,” a voice said forcing him out of his thoughts. It was Payal, they were meeting for coffee at Kimaya Travel Cafe at Hauz Has Village. He got up and gave her a quick hug and they both sat down. Payal looked well, her elevation in the ranks of INP had now made her slightly “famous” he realised, as a number of young people seated at other tables looked at them curiously. He could imagine some silly report in the Times of Delhi tomorrow, where there would be uninformed speculations.
“Sorry, I didn’t see you come in. How are you doing? You look.. good.”
“Yes, I have been well. Life is crazy busy, and thank god for it.. after everything..”
“Of course, I can imagine,” he decided not to ask her what she meant by after everything.
“So, how are things? How is your mom? I read about the Taffer contract being won by Aman. This after the Werner one, must have been upsetting for her.”
“She is okay. Actually that contract was being managed b Aakash, who is of course disappointed. But you probably know that already?” He let that be a question. He was surprised that Payal was suddenly tracking movements in AR Enterprises. Was it Aakash, or because of her now deeper involvement with INP, he wasn’t sure. The Taffer contract was awarded to Aman the day after his party, but mom was convinced that the Sabharwals had been privy to this information and hence the party. Honestly, Arnav did not know what to make of this new Aman. Firstly, he was more and more difficult to read and now newspaper reports were pitting him against Aman - he didn’t like that. Plus, the added complexity of Khushi. He found all of this confusing.
“Oh! I did not know that.. Aakash and I are.. not in touch, Arnav.”
Ah. So that was the case. He felt a little sorry for the pair of them, if the two of them had feelings for each other and were now both unattached, why then were they not able to get together. Was this still too complex and without any easy way out, given how much all their lives were so interlinked.
“Arnav, I am sorry. I should have been honest with you. That was the very least. And I have always prided myself for being very straightforward, so I am sure you must be disappointed in me. But trust me, I am far more disappointed in myself. I had always like Aakash, and we had been in touch even through the last few years.. I don’t know what happened. I think he could see the good in me.. I felt sort of like a normal girl with me, but still I am sorry, I should have been honest with you. After all, you are my best friend, and maybe only one” Payal continued.
It was true, this quality that his cousin had. He was the Mr Congeniality of their group. Which is why from Lavanya, to Payal, to Khushi, everyone felt some kind of connection with him. He knew that he was a terrible boyfriend, lover, and ultimately fiancé to Payal, perhaps Aakash would do much better.
“It is okay, Payal. I felt a little hurt before, but now I am okay. Don’t sweat this. And while you don’t need anyone’s blessings, please don’t feel at all that I anyway stand between you and Aakash.”
“Funny. There is no future between us. Firstly, I am also not sure what I feel for Aakash, and this time I want to be hundred percent sure. No offence,” she added smiling at him.
“None taken,” he told her, it was an almost reflex action, but also the truth, “but what other reason do you have?”
“I mean, you said firstly, so I am assuming at the very least there is a secondly.”
“Oh yeah, the bigger reason is I have zero idea about how Aakash feels about me. And a strong hunch that there is someone else?”
“I know. Khushi?”
“No, not her. I think if they ever get together, it will be like the two of us. They seem perfect for each other, but they are not.”
“Wow Payal, I don’t believe there would be a day that we would be sitting at this weird cafe and discuss and dissect the love lives, or the sorry state of it of our friends. Doesn’t it feel a bit topsy-turvy?”
“Maybe. But I don’t know who Aakash is interested in, but I know there is someone. That is all.”
“Hmm. So who else are we left to discuss? Divyesh?”
“Haha, funny. He will probably get together with some B list starlet, perks of being a washed up cricketer.”
“Ouch. He turned out surprisingly sorted to be honest. Anyway, I need to head now, I have a meeting with the AR Board. It was good to talk, Payal.”
They got up and walked out when a few photographers accosted them and they had to oblige them for photographs. He wanted to walk away, because he didn’t want all those conjectures, but Payal insisted that he stay and he didn’t want to make a scene.
“Why did you pick this place by the way? Isn’t this too bohemian for your tastes?” He said crinkling his nose at the prayer flags that adorned the door.
“I had no idea. Aakash had once mentioned this, so I thought why not check it out.”
“Ah! Maybe those feelings that you are so so unsure about, you shouldn’t be?”
“Come now, Arnav. I only came to a coffee shop I was recommended to. I at least did not land up at a mithai shop he runs,” she said giggling.
“Let’s no go there, Payal, let’s not,” he said and gave her a quick hug and sprinted to his car.
“Ankita, theekh se batih, thoda jaagt de aunty ko,” Khushi told Ankita, as they were in the metro riding to Vasant Vihar.
The metro was getting crowded, but Ankita had decided to place her kit bag and take over a seat. They were heading to get Ankita some fitness gear and Arjoon Bose, Anjali Di’s husband who came to know about Ankita was helping her get some funding support. While Khushi was vary about getting involved with Arnav’s family, but Arjoon had insisted that he and his work were very removed from the Raizadas, and it should not be such an issue. So, here she was heading to Anjali Di’s house to meet Arjun Bose, Now that she had already gone to Anjali Di’s house once, she felt less awkward about the trip today. Plus, they had an adorable daughter, Thumpa, and Khushi didn’t mind the trip. Also she had not so subtly managed to find out that Arnav would not be there.
When Arjun had called her to come home along with Ankita so that he can meet her before recommending her for the scholarship that was funding at risk children she had been doubtful. But it is the weekend, you might be having other guests, she had said. Arjoon had laughed at this and said, “don’t worry, Arnav won’t be there.. or mom.”
She was reassured that she would not run into Poonam Raizada, that was one meeting she wasn’t ready for. About not meeting Arnav, honestly she felt a little deflated, he had gone very quiet on her. No calls or messages after he gave her a ride. She was unsure if he was upset with her, because of something that she had said or done, or for reasons unknown to her. If it were the former, she felt that he had no reasons to, and if latter, there was nothing she could do. Maybe it was naive of her to think that Arnav and she could have a friendship that could ignore the big elephant in the room.
“Wapas un Raizada logon ke spath phir se kyun ghul mil rahi ho,” Maa wanted to know when she had informed that she was heading to meet Arjoon. Khushi didn’t want to correct her mother saying that Arjoon was not a Raizada, but the truth is he was. Sometimes, she had to think, was she the one doing this to herself each time - walking into trouble, setting herself up for something to go wrong? Our was it that she now no longer saw this as the world of Raizadas, but the world of Arnav - someone whose opinions mattered to her, whose people and relationships mattered to her, who was generally speaking important part of her life. Not hearing from him for a week had made her restless, almost a little moody. Even Baba had noticed that, and had been concerned, wondering if Shekhawat was bothering her again.
However, when Shyam advocated that Khushi must go and meet Arjoon, because Khushi was “samajhdar”Maa had relented. She liked having Shyam around. He had now taken over a lot of the Tewari work, encouraging her to focus on her soon to join Alchemy stint. He looked after the accounts, managed Faisal Bhaii and now two assistants, supervised the renovation - things were almost looking up. And with Baba pitching in with the menu and supervising the food quality, business was better, everything seemed better. The Shekhawat issue had now also been forgotten by the Chandni Chowk grapevine, as something new had captured their imagination. And Shyam seemed to constantly champion Khushi, her causes, help along her battles. It was good to have an ally.
“Theekh hai, lekin yeh Ankita ko sapne mat dikha. Usse chi Chandni Chowk mein hi rehnah hai” Maa had warned.
“Arrey Maa, sapne mein tax thodi lagt hai,. Chandni Chowk se Greater Kailash, tuna chi door nahin hain,” her brother had said laughing.
While a few months ago, Khushi would have gravitated towards her mom’s brand of pragmatism, but now she was increasingly inclined towards her brother’s strange hopefulness, Across her she saw co-passenger reading the Times of Delhi and she saw a picture of Arnav and Payal on the page, along with a headline that said, Kiss and Made Up?
By the time Ankita and she reached Anjali Di’s home, she was not feeling so positive after all. They were let in by the help, who seems new. He informed that Arjoon had stepped out for five minutes and had wanted them to wait. As they sat in the living room, she wondered if Anjali Di was around. And in a few minutes, the help got them chai and biscuits. He also took a tray inside the room with tea for someone else. When the door opened, she could hear Anjali Di and Arnav talking.
“So now Khushi has a shady brother in the mix?” Anjali Di said.
“I don’t know Di, I mean, there is something that needs to be figured out. But her brother might be mixed up with the wrong people, maybe. Or maybe there is something perfectly innocent and coincidental about it,” she heard Arnav say. Were they discussing Shyam? But why?
“But Arnav, does this mean Khushi and you won’t get together ever? There is our mom, her brother, the problems don’t seem to end.. but don’t give up.”
“Shut up, Di. You were the one discouraging me about not going the Khushi road and now suddenly she has become your no.1 project? Please, let it go. Neither of us are naive enough to assume that there is anything for us by even attempting to go down that road. There can never be a scenario of a Arnav and Khushi,” she could hear the nearly concealed impatient in his voice.
Arjoon returned just then and immediately started speaking with Ankita, asking her questions about her family, her life in Chandni Chowk, her sports ambition. Khushi barely paid any attention to what her ward was responding, though she had spent the last two days tutoring her, She was too distracted, and just then Anjali Di and the subject of her distraction walked into the living room. If they were surprised, they didn’t show it to her.
“Khushi, I didn’t.. know you were coming? When did you come,” Anjlai Di asked her.
“Just a while back, Di,” she said, trying to sound normal. She also asked after Thumpa and Anjali spent the next five minutes talking about her daughter, the topic proving to be a good distraction.
“Khushi, maybe we can speak after you are done with Jun.. Arjoon,” Arnav said, looking at her intently.
“We are done,” Arjoon said, right on cue, “She is all yours now.”
“No,” Khushi said, altogether too sharply, “I need to go home. Ankita needs to be home by 5.”
Ankita, bless her, did not question why her mentor concocted this little lie, got up from the sofa and thanked Arjoon.
“Khushi, I will call you later,” Arnav called her as they left.
He called her that evening. After his fifteenth call, she switched off the phone.
“Ankita bitiya ko scholarship too mil jayega na,” Maa sked her as she got ready for bed.
“Pata nahi, Maa. Shayad tum hi sahi ho, Chandni Chowk se Greater Kailash kaafi door hai.” She said.
Maa patted her head and left her alone to stew with her thoughts. And there were many of them. What was Shyam up to? Did Arnav see something the day he dropped her and that is why gone cold? Did Renu Bhabhi know something, which could explain her coldness around Shyam. And did this mean Shyam was not an ally to her after all. And the fact that there could never be an Arnav and Khushi, because while Chadni Chowk to Greater Kailash was separated by fifteen metro stations in between and two different lines, but in reality was much more than that. Much, much more.
She got answers to some of her garbled thoughts when two days later in the wee hours of the morning, the enforcement directorate people came home and took away Shyam for questioning,. The warrant said - for money laundering and colluding with certain people wanted in connection of corporate fraud. Maa and Baba had been horrified, even Renu Bhabhi got teary because Aarav was bawling. Khushi was numb through all of this.
Six hours later, Shyam came back home. Arnav had posted his bail and became the guarantor.
She checked her phone and found a message from Arnav and it said, “Khushi, I think your brother is being set-up by Shekhawat. It also has some connection to AR Industries. Can you come to AR and meet us - mom and I, I think we may have a solution. Please, Khushi.”
She replied, “Yes.”Edited by YellowBoots - 8 days ago
As all of us are thrown into this crazy lockdown, and the times are anxious, I have found myself turning to stories in all forms - Netflix, TV, Instagram, Books, et al. And I have begun to realise, now more than ever, how important stories are - for escapism, to help make sense of this crazy world and get past our anxieties. Then there was some disturbing news of how a few kids from an elite school in Delhi did some pretty horrific things, and there were some tragic consequences. As a mother to a young boy, this was all very anxiety inducing for me.
And prodded by my husband I decided to revisit this little universe of Mahesh Tewari and Sons that I created. And boy, is it one complex world or what?! I am not sure what was I thinking when I created all these inter-linked characters and their weird issues. But now that I am at home, I thought I will give this a whirl again. I don't think I am now capable of writing 10000 words of update, or remember every detail of each character, but I am going to try to give short updates, and work up the courage to write more well thought out longer updates, or not. The intent is to close this story.
To begin with, I am going to pick up from where exactly I stopped last - Aman's party and the encounter with Anand Raizada. I am going to post the chapter in 4 parts. The first part is very short, but I have written that, so will post tonight. Will post Part 2 on Tuesday.
My apologies to readers who felt abandoned and thank you for those who continue to read patiently. Unsure about how many will be interested in this story, but regardless, I will be writing this :)Edited by YellowBoots - 14 days ago
Topic started by YellowBoots
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