Haha! Two reasons-
1. In the show, Khushi actually says that even though she has never met him, Amanji was nice enough to send her a gift for her birthday.
2. In my story, I've taken the liberty to time Aman losing his wife with Khushi's office days to explain his absence then and the fact that they hadn't met before.
Thanks for your likes and comments!
Thank you for your kind words! When you have time, do check out my earlier story- The Beginning of a New End, upto one point this story will run in parallel with it so you can correlate but more importantly, I wrote that one for the exact same reason you have mentioned- closure.Edited by thetelleroftale - 1 months ago
When Anjali opened her eyes, it took her a few seconds to realise that she was not in her own room.
Sitting up, she noticed that Nani was already up and about. Closing her eyes, she said her Friday morning prayers, asking for strength to endure whatever lay ahead. From Amanji’s frantic call last night to his well-intentioned but ominous text message, she knew that whatever BT had found was not going to be easy.
“Good morning, bitiya” Nani said, as she emerged from the bathroom. “Sab theek toh hai? Aap raat ma idhar…?”
“Arey nahi, Nani” Anjali said, quickly. “Raat me inke kharaton ke vajah se hume neend nahi aa rahi thi, isliye hum yahan chale aaye.”
Nani pursed her lips at the mention of Shyamji but reassured her that she did not mind in the slightest and that Anjali was always welcome.
Turning to the mirror, she proceeded to dry her hair with a towel.
Watching her, Anjali was overcome by a storm of childhood memories. Summer holidays spent with Nani and Nanaji, relishing her fabulous cooking and going out on walks with him, getting up to all sorts of mischief with Chotey and always playing pranks on Akash, the youngest and most innocent of them.
Running a hand through her own hair, Anjali thought of how she had inherited their length and texture from her mother, who in turn had inherited it from Nani. As a little girl, Anjali had aspired for hair like Nani’s and had watched and tried to copy the way she cared for it by religiously applying oil and washing with the mildest of cleansers.
In front of the mirror now, she saw Nani struggling to hold up the sodden towel and reach the back and ends of her hair.
Anjali got to her feet at once, insisted that Nani take a seat in front of the dresser and whipped the towel out of her hands.
“Aap rehne dijiye, bititya” Nani protested, but Anjali was having none of it.
Gently drying the now graying roots and thinning strands, Anjali helped her dress it in her usual bun and pin the pallu of her saree over it.
“Bitiya, Akash kehet rahe ki Chotey aur Khushi bitiya Laxmi Nagar ke paas ma ek ghar me rehet hain” Nani said, meeting her gaze in the mirror. “Aur who Bali se bhi laut aaye rahe…toh hum sochat rahe ki hum ek baar unse mil aavat hain. Byah ke samai, Chotey kehet rahe ki hum unko milne jaa sakath hai.”
Anjali, who had vowed not to meet them until she resolved the question of whose word was true, assured Nani that Chotey and Khushiji would be happy to see her and offered to arrange a car for her but declined the invitation to join.
When she returned to her room, she was relieved to find that Shyamji had already dressed and descended to the dining room for breakfast. It saved her from finding an excuse not to be alone with him as she dressed and got ready.
Applying sindhoor, she looked at herself in the mirror. Last night, even before Amanji’s phone call, she had been shaken by Shyamji’s hints at intimacy and trying to conceive again. Given that it was what she had been hoping for since he was returned to her, she didn’t understand her own reaction, or rather, the lack of it. Was it because she hadn’t recovered from the trauma of losing their raajkumari? Was it because of Chotey’s words? “It’s my word against his.”
Or was it because she knew now that Shyamji had lied to her face? One part of her insisted that it was a small, insignificant lie about where he had gone but another part reminded her that if there was one lie, there could be others or perhaps, there had been others in the past.
She would know soon enough, Amanji had promised that BT had discovered the truth.
When she went down to breakfast, NK bhai seemed to be entertaining everyone per usual. As she sat down, Shyamji smiled and asked about her plans for the day. This was so unusual that she almost dropped the butter knife.
If she lied, she would be guilty of the same crime as him. Misleading her spouse about her whereabouts.
She was saved from her rambling when he laughed and said,
“Rani Sahiba, hum jaanthe hain ki aap shaadi ki saalgirah ke liye kuch intezaam kar rahin hain, hain na? Humse toh aap jhoot bol hi nahi sakthi!”
She looked away to find that her family wore expressions of varying degrees of distaste.
"Salgirah ke kuch din baad hi saale sahab ka janamdin bhi hai" Shyamji continued, "Kyun na dono avsar saath me manaaya jaye? Akhir puraane gile-shikve door karne ka isse acha mauka hume nahi milega. Aap sab ki kya rai hai?"
"Arnav bitwa toh hum sab ko ekdum bye-bye bol diye" Mamiji said, uncharacteristically sombre. "Humko nahi laagat hai ki who humre saath koi jashn manae khaatir agree karega"
"Aur waise bhi, Bhai ko apna birthday celebrate karna pasand nahi hai" Akash said.
Shyamji conceded, saying he was only trying to patch things up between everyone. Presently, he left for work and she announceded that she too was heading out. No one looked particularly surprised, perhaps presuming she was off to the mandir again.
When she arrived at the café half an hour later, they were just opening the doors. As the cleaners were still finishing up indoors, she was offered a table in the garden.
It was a charming, functional garden with neat rows of shrubs interspersed with flowerpots. Her mother’s garden had been different, more disorganized and less clinical, more to do with nurturing than aesthetics.
She had always missed her mother the most on her worst days, remembering small details about her, words she had said that eluded her mind in normal circumstances.
When Amanji arrived, she was so lost in thoughts about her mother that she didn’t notice until he walked right up to the table.
He greeted her and sat down, passing a folder to her across the table. The coffee she had ordered arrived and pushing the file aside, Anjali reached for it.
“Suniye” she said to the waiter, “One more coffee, please.”
Amanji looked like he was about to argue, he checked his watch and with a small sigh, sat back and nodded to the waiter.
“Aapki beti kaisi hai, Amanji?” Anjali asked, “Unka zukhaam kam ho gaya?”
“She’s fine now, thank you” he said, “Anjaliji…”
“Unke baare me bataiye na, kya woh shararthi hain ya fir silent type hain?”
He let out a loud snort. “Silent? Aur Pari? Anjaliji who bohot badmaash hai, aajkal toh uski shehthani had se zyaada bad gayi hai”
Peering at her with an inscrutable expression, he glanced from her face to the file and back before continuing,
“Parson usne Amma ko bola ki woh Nana-Nani ke yahan jaa rahi hai aur unko ki woh humaare ghar vaapis aa rahi hai” he said, “Aur beech me basti ke baaki bachon ke saath ice ka gola khaane chali gayi.”
Anjali couldn't help but smile, remembering the time Chotey and she had done the same.
“Wohi ice gola jiske vajah se usse sardi-zukhaam hua tha in the first place” he said, recalling how strict a telling off he had given her while wiping off her sticky fingers.
He told her how she had predictably gone into her now well-rehearsed tirade about what a monster he was, Mummy hoti toh nahi daanthi, Mummy chahiye and the out-of-control spiral from there.
"Hum aaj bhi har dukh me, har bimaari me unhe yaad karthe hain" Anjali said, "Choti-se-choti taqleef me bhi muh see Mamma hi nikaltha hai, aur fir Pari toh choti bachi hai"
The hardest part for him, he confessed, was knowing that Priya would most certainly have handled everything better even though no one knew better than him how naughty Priya herself had been as a child.
Shaking his head, he told her of the time when as children, Priya had snuck him out of the house in the middle of the night to the khabristaan behind their basti. She wanted to complain about their strict schoolteacher Rifat Bibi to her late husband and convince him to give her a ghostly talking to about being nicer to them.
Anjali couldn’t help laughing as she pictured it. Then she thought of how Amanji had not only lost his wife or the mother of his child but his best friend from childhood.
"Aap isiliye abhi bhi ussi basti me rehte hain?" she asked, the words out of her mouth before she considered that it might sound indelicate.
She was sure that Chotey paid him well, so there had to be a different reason why he still stayed at the basti and rode around his sturdy but old motorcycle.
She apoligised for the intrusiveness for her question but hoped that he would continue talking, anything to keep from looking at the file in front of her.
“Nahi, nahi” he said, at once. “It’s not that. ASR is very generous. It’s just that…jab Priya bimaar thi, we had a lot of expenses and oopar se I had taken a lot of loans and advances to take her abroad for treatment. Doctors had warned me that there was no use but I…I couldn’t give up and fir vaise hi hua, she passed away before we could go.”
Spotting the look of pity on her face, he continued,
“Don’t worry, its not as if I am struggling” he said, “It’s just practical to stay there because Pari can grow up around Amma and her Nana-Nani. Priya was their only daughter, and they miss her a lot. Plus this way, I’m able to save money…after all, sab kuch Pari ke future ke liye hi toh hai.”
Anjali nodded, trying to discretely wipe the moisture in her eyes with the napkin. Their coffees arrived and they sipped in silence for a few minutes.
“Anjaliji…aap file dekh lijiye” he said, eventually.
“Hume nahi dekhna, Amanji” she said, placing her cup down and turning to him. “Aap hi bata dijiye, yehi likha na ki Shyamji hume dhoka de rahe the? Ki unhe Khushiji se…pyaar ho gaya tha? Shayad unki galathi bhi nahi hai, woh hai hi itni pyaari aur hum…humaara pair…”
“Don't talk rubbish!”
He opened the folder and thrust it under her nose. His expression had hardened, and his eyes were steely as he looked at her.
She lowered her gaze and tried to read but her vision had gone blurry. It took her a few attempts for the words to make sense. The document seemed to suggest that in addition to his infidelity, Shyamji had made attempts on her life in the past?
She remembered the number of times he had saved her from hurting herself and therefore she could recall with ease the number of times she had been in peril. It seemed inconceivable that he had meant to hurt her. To get rid of her?
Sunny…Rocky…the words started swimming in her head.
It hadn’t been only about Khushiji or her, either. The file continued, in its clinical documentation of events. Anjali felt like she was reading a novel or a news report about someone else. Her hand flew to her mouth when she got to the part about Chotey’s kidnapping. So it had always been about the money.
She was only vaguely aware that Amanji had received and answered a call on his mobile.
“Anjaliji, BT ka phone tha” Amanji said, “Laptop se kuch aur information mila hai aur hume turanth hi office bulaaya hai. Chaliye.”
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