⭐New⭐ Arhi FF | Iss Darr Ko Kya Naam Doon: Chapter 3 - Part 3/3 (75%)

Romance

Rizz-ington thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#1


A N  A R H I  F F

----

Iss Darr Ko Kya Naam Doon

Image


Summary:

Khushi is an internet famous 27 year old fashion designer from Lucknow. She has a chirpy and childish demeanor yet could not be more mature, brave and compassionate. She is the apple of her father's eye, loves Salman ji, cricket, keeping track of star signs and making jalebis is toh her therapy! She is desperate to expand her business outside the social media and start her own label in fashion. Willing to work hard, armed with her ever sharp wit and an optimistic twinkle in her eye, she is on a serious look out for a big-break opportunity to establish herself in the tough world of fashion business. And this could not happen in the most bizarre manner as she literally falls into it. Who knew ending up at the wrong place, at the wrong time would IN FACT turn out to be the opposite - right place, right time and right....person?

The fashion industry however is dominated by the King of Indian Fashion: Arnav Singh Raizada, popularly known for his bridal and ethnic wear. All of the who's and who of the fashion world in India looks up to the Raizada for its exquisite traditional indian wear. Everyone wants a "Raizada" wedding lehenga for their wedding or anything with the "Raizada" label on it. And now, as the brand gears up to expand globally, Arnav Singh Raizada aka ASR is now on a spree for assembling a team to get this transition right and is looking for someone that would make this re-positioning as a global venture a resounding success. But "life" does not stop happening because you have an obviously important international expansion to make, does it? 

On his trip for a pivotal fashion show (among other things) to Lucknow, a woman practically hijacks his runway and unironically stumbles right into his arms! The design she is wearing comes to be the most celebrated look of the show. It is not a Raizada design but no one has figured it out. This irks him to no end for reasons he isn't able fully understand even though the event is a huge success. Arnav has a legacy of being the best in his business. And being the control freak that he his, he has to ensure that this Lucknowi designer does not get snatched up by his competitors who are always clawing at his throat to get ahead of him. He is known as the King of Indian Fashion for a reason after all!

Read on to find out what happens when Arnav drags Khushi to Delhi to work for him and these two crazies struggle to overcome some critical personal and creative differences while working together. Will this choice be the worst decision of their lives? Will it be the beginning of their doom or the start of something new?


Author’s Note:

Iss Darr Ko Kya Naam Doon is a combination of "fix-it" and "canon-based" fanfiction of an Indian TV show from 2011 called Iss Pyar Ko Kya Naam Doon which is about lead protagonists Khushi played by Sanaya Irani and Arnav played by Barun Sobti.

It is an old-fashioned romance style in a progressive setting. The story takes place in 2023 of Lucknow and Delhi. The language used here is a mixture of English and Roman English. The essence of all the charachters remains same except for a few changes made to make them more progressive and relatable. Khushi and Payal are educated and modern individuals who were brought up in a traditional middle-class environment. Nani belongs to an old Rajasthani royalty that no longer exists and Arnav has immediate paternal roots in an old Nawaabi family from Lucknow. Arnav and Khushi's encounters will be less toxic and more filled with fun near hostilic yet healthy romantic tension as compared to the show and Shyam's charachter will not be a villian. Basically my vision is to retain all the essential canon events from the show and adding more compelling and favourable twists & turns to the story. Sort of like a remake but make it way less toxic, way more wholesome, way more sexy/romantic, more progressive and a more nuanced charachter growth. Bit of a 2.0 version of the original show, in some ways.

Anyone who hasn't watched the show won't have any problem following the plot/significance of the canon events and will be bound to fall in love with the crazy enemies to lovers chemistry that us fans of the show know and LOVE about Arnav and Khushi's romance. Hope yall have as good a time reading it as I know I will have writing it. Enjoy:)


Genre:

Drama | Romance | Comedy | Wholesome | Family Drama | Friendship | Social Issues


Tropes:

Enemies to lovers | Slow burn | Canon-based | He falls first | Office romance | Forced proximity | Grumpy MMC and sunshine FMC | Meaningful romantic encounters |  Fix-it canon events | Fake Marriage/Marriage of Convenience (TBD)


Trigger Warning: (Light-Medium Level)

Childhood Trauma | Suicide | Depression


The Vibe is:

Immersive | Dramatic | Wholesome | Romantic Tension | Office Drama/Romance


Disclaimer:
This is a fan fiction, meaning that all events and occurrences in this book are all fictional and all are part of my imagination. Any resemblance to actual life events and people, living or dead, are all purely coincidence.

I do not own the charachters Khushi Kumari Gupta, Arnav Singh Raizada or any of the related characters. The Iss Pyaar Ko Kya Naam Doon series was produced by Gul Khan and is owned by 4 Lions Production. This fanfiction is intended for entertainment only. I am not making any profit from this story. All rights of the original story belongs to 4 Lions.

The story however is mine. All Rights Reserved. Please do not steal my work or copy it. If you use any of my content for your own work, please credit me. I did not work hard on coming up with a storyline and taking my time to write my thoughts out in order for someone else to take credit for it. Please be respectful of me and my work. Thank you very much.


Follow on Instagram for Chapter Upload Updates:

@issdarrkokyanaamdoon


Preview of Chapter 1:

👇 Scroll down please


Table of Contents:

👇 Scroll below preview please

Edited by Rizz-ington - 2 months ago

Created

Last reply

Replies

35

Views

6.7k

Users

7

Likes

77

Frequent Posters

Rizz-ington thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#2


Chapter 1 | Sheesh Mahal: Preview

-----

Note: Complete chapter now available two posts below 

*Scroll down*


At the Gupta Sadan in Lucknow, the entire Haveli was filled with laughter, fun-teasing, group singing, dholki and shahnayi. All the Gupta relatives were flocked across the haveli whose walls surrounded a cut out open space decked up in a blanket of moghre ke phool, forming a floral tent over the courtyard and the mandap set up in its center. The excitement of all the guests attending was palpable. The bride was loved by all her relatives and it was a long awaited wedding as Payal was the first of her generation to be getting married. It's been 15 years since the Guptas had hosted a marital occassion, hence the much awaitedness and joy-filled eagerness. If Khushi was the apple of her father's eye, Payal was that of the entire khandaan's. As far as anyone in the family was considered, she was perfect and could do nothing wrong. None of the cousins or Chachis or Mamis held any envy against that because the reputation wasn't very far from the truth. Payal was that go to sister who all the cousins went to with their problems for advice or help. And was one of the most favored immediate few who all the aunties would turn to for any rant or frustration. She would always be there for them.

All the cousins; girls, boys, men and women alike were gathered under the floral ghoonghat in a corner, singing popular wedding songs where a certain Buaji was leading with her dholak skills. Madhumati looked at the time and panicked. She immediately passed over the dholak and rushed to check with mandap arrangements. The priest should have been already here.

She moved about every corner, fussing over every detail of the arrangements for her favorite niece, Payal bitiya's wedding. Ultimately, she ran out of breath from all the running around in her brother's Haveli. "Garima! Huff...huff...dekho toh sahi kahan reh gayi hai yeh Khushi....uff..huff" hollered Khushi's Buaji to her brother's wife while pausing in between to puff her phus phus as she likes to call her inhaler. Garima told her she was being too paranoid. But how can she not fuss about it, she had been waiting for this moment for far too long for her Payal bitiya. Her simple, beautiful titilya, an epitome of grace and pure gentleness! She thought fondly. Haye her bitiya, she deserves all the love there is in this world and Madhumati would stop at nothing today to make sure this is - in every aspect, the happiest day of her bititya's life! 

Hey Nandkishore, sab kuchh badhiya rehne dena meri Payalya ke liye, she prays mentally. 

So far all the arrangements are going in order but if only her niece would be here to help her with the decorations around the mandap. Fashion designer hoon, kehti hai yeh maharani. Hmm! Kya faida in design degreeon ka agar apne Bua ji ki hi madad naahi kar sakat hai khudki sagi behen ki shaadi ke liye! she ranted mentally. "Arey, behen ki shaadhi hai, sau sau kaam mein haath batana rehta hai dulhan ki behen ko aur yahan dekho yeh sasuri, chipkali ke jaise pata nahin kahan gayab ho hogayi hai!" she continued the ranting outwardly, still huffing and puffing.

Nandkishore knows she loves that girl to death and nobody can be more proud of her than Madhumati but sometimes she drives her mad with rage like nobody else. uff! ugh! she huffed again. She had to take another quick puff, leaning for support against the railing of the haveli's first floor's corridor. "Yahan BHI nahin hai yeh chatori!" she mutters scanning the courtyard from the corridor for the aafat ki pudhiya as she refers to her younger niece often. Yeah Bua ji had more than a few nicknames for her.

Meanwhile, in the other corner of the haveli, Payal is almost ready in her room. Standing in front of the mirror, wearing a regal-looking handwoven Lucknowi Chikankari sari in burnt orange color with an intricate heavy zari-work and chamki lace. A red organza ghoonghat with swirly design embroidered with golden thread, sprinkeled with chamki and bordered with shriveled golden color fringed lace, adorned her head. The sari snugly complimented her hour glass figure. And the white stone jewellery comprising of a wide breadth choker, a huge teeka, huge ear studs and thick kangans bookending a large set of plain golden bangles she was wearing contrasted her sari like the metaphor of how opposites attract. 

She looks ethereal, simply beautiful! Like a Nawabi Dulhan. Khushi found herself tearing up at that thought with happiness. Nothing like the joy of designing a look that manifests dreams into an almost reality. 

"Haye meri jeejiiiiiiii kisi ki nazar na lage tumko, kitni khubsurat lag rahi ho! Bilkul ek rajkumari jaisi - jaise koi Nawabi Dulhan!" she screeched with excitement, putting a tiny black smudge swiped from her kohl lined eyes behind Payal's ear. 

"Bas bas Khushi kitni dramebaaz ho tum" chided Payal with a shy smile. 

"Kya hai?! Sach hi toh keh rahe hai hum! Aap bhi na jeeji, bekar mein hi hamari tareefon ko deflect karti ho jaise koi jhooti tareef kar raha ho. Fashion Designer hai hum, ek parakh mein yu hi samajhte hain kya jaj raha hai aur kya nahin" she replied with a sassy snap of her fingers. 

"Haaan haaan main sab jaanti hoon, baaton baaton mein tum bas apne banaye designon ki tareefein lene ke bahane dhundti ho" Payal playfully scolded, pulling her sister's leg. 

But she knew better than to actually believe what she said. She knew her little sister's works were nothing if not her heart and soul put into a piece of clothing - the more important the occasion, the more meaningful and beguiling the designed outcome. It's reflective of her sister's personality and soul - filled with love and the promise of leaving you feeling cherished. Payal isn't sure how she will live without her baby sister. She is going to miss her so much! 

Her thoughts were interrupted by her sister's moaning about how ungrateful she is being and how lucky the family is to have such a talented gem like herself in their family.

Payal swatted her silly behen’s hand away and  kissed her cheek in silent gratefulness. Words were not Payal's enemies, except when it came to expressing her feelings under such tumultuous overwhelm of wedding anxiety. She felt deeply for all the brides for going through the wedding pressure. However, she forced herself to focus on the present and thanked her sister for her thoughtfulness and meticulous care in making this day special for her. Khushi, knowing how her sister felt without her needing to say anything more than just looking at her with those expressive eyes, took her in a tight hug and fought her tears again. 

Payal broke the hug and pushed her sister away, lightly scolding her for almost ruining her mascara and told her to get over her design and stop fishing for compliments. Someone's gotta keep their self-assured enough sibling grounded, right? Khushi knowingly held her tight one more time and left to get the file which was the main reason why she came here before she got distracted with her Jeeji's bridal glowz.

Payal recognised the file and asked though she knew the answer "Ghar ke kagaz?" Khushi nodded in confirmation.

"Karna zaroori hai kya Khushi?" said Payal, fearing the confrontation.

"Aapko pata hai na Jeeji, dahej kanooni jurm hai. Mujhe pura yakeen hai Jeeja ji ko agar pata chala toh woh aisa bilkul nahi hone denge" Khushi replied.

"I know Khushi, par phir bhi aise shaadi ke kuchh ghante pehle itni badi baath convince karne ki koshish-"

"Aakhri koshish Jeeji, I promise! Iske baad jo bhi hoga tumhari bhalai ke liye hi hoga. Tum dekhna, Devi Mayya hamare saath koi na insaafi nahin hone dengi" said Khushi trying to muster confidence in her sister and convince her to let her do this. But concern marred Payal's forehead along with panic at the realisation of the possible repercussions of what her little sister was attempting to do as she said "Mujhe tumpar pura yakeen hai Khushi lekin tumhe pata hai na Tej ke parents ne zaroor force nahin kiya hoga  par woh expect kar rahe the ki papers ab tak mil jayenge? Babu ji aur Amma ko pata bhi nai hai ki tu ne unse property ke papers lekar apne paas hi rakhliya. Khushi woh abhi bhi samajh rahe hain ki Tej ke Papa ke paas hai papers is waqt!" Payal's voice quivered at the end, at the realization when she is said that, panic fully setting in. The reality of the situation had fully hit her. 

Khushi, beginning to sense this shift in her sister, grabbed Payal by her shoulder before she changed her mind and said "Jiji please sambhalo apne aapko, anth bhala toh sab bhala. Kisi ko koi fark nai padhega jab hone wala Damaad khud Dahej ko mana karega. Aap jaante ho na Tej Jeeja ji ko, woh padhe likhe insaan hai. Achhe insaan hai. Aap khud keh rahi thi ki kitne achhe vichaar hai unke shaadi ke baare mein. Unhe dahej ke baare mein pata lagega toh dekhna woh khud Babuji ko property ki ownership lene se mana kar denge" .

Payal shook her head, still uncertain, "Woh khud believe nahin karte honge dowry culture mein, par woh apne maa baap ki baat ko taal payenga? Unhe manaa payenge? Mujhe nai lagta woh apne parents ko mana kar payenge. Sonch unki zaroor achhi hogi lekin woh aise nahin lagte ki woh apne maa baap ke khilaaf jaa sake"

"Phir toh aisi shaadi se achha hai ki na ho, par main jaanti hoon woh aisa kadam nahin uthayenge. Hum apna ghar nahin kho sakte Jeeji. Sirf Babuji ki Mithayi ki Dukaan kaafi nahin hai hamare kiraye kharche ke liye. Hum aisa nai hone de sakte hain. MAIN aisa nahin hone doongi! Aapko pura haq hai Dahej dene se mana karne ka. Agar aap koi baath se comfortable na ho toh baath aage badhne se pehle hi cheezen clear karleni chahiye" she said, an undefeatable determination settling in her. Payal noticed it and realised there was no way to make her righteously ziddi sister consider otherwise, so she resigned and anxiously hoped for a miracle to save her marriage and the ancestral haveli that has been in her family for generations." Payal plopped on her bed, her mood sombre in uncertainty while only moments ago they were gushing and teasing, forgetting the risk that they were taking to their family's reputation if this didn't go as planned. Nothing to do but wait and see how this unravels, so wait Payal did as she saw her little sister run past Bua ji who screamed at her for running away from chores at her own sister's wedding. The biggest chore of the wedding is what Khushi is running towards Buaji, let's hope there is a wedding after all for her to resume with the rest of the shaadi ke kaam, Payal grimly thought.

Buaji took two more puffs from her Phus Phus before she went downstairs in search of Garima to complain more about Khushi because Nandkishore knows if left to her little brother, Shashi Babua, he would only encourage her antics further. She shivered at that thought and made her way to Garima to get everything in line for the baraat they are expecting soon.

Khushi was driving her V*spa at the highest speed she could manage without putting her life and lives of those around her at risk. The tin can they used for getting milk rationed for making the sweets in their shop was still hanging by her scooter's side. She didn't have enough time to unchain it from the vehicle. Suddenly, she slammed the brakes hard just moments before she hit the auto rickshaw coming from the opposite direction. The auto driver started fuming at her for her recklessness. He was not wrong, it was a close call. She had forgotten in her haste that it was a one way street. But she was running late, and her sister's future was in line so she muttered a string of “Maaf kijiyega” to her Devi Mayya, promising an extra helping of prasad if she reaches her sister's in laws on time even if she has to break a few traffic rules and sped her way down the street braving the onslaught of rage and curses from the people she tried to move around on that narrow one way lane. 

“Bhaiyya ji dekh ke!!!!” 

”Ek-minute Chacha ji!” 

"Maaf kijiye bhaisaab, humare Jeeji ki izzat ka sawaal hai!!!" she warned and apologized profusely to as many people as she could and just zigzagged her way between the oncoming vehicles, barely stopping this time. There is only so much time she had to explain her emergency to everyone on the way. With any luck and Devi Mayya’s kripa, she should be able to intercept her hone wale Jeeja ji right when they are starting from their home with the baraat. She switched on the GPS on her phone and put in the name of her Jeeja Ji's Bungalow: Shaastri Nivas.

She reached the area and checked the address on the phone. Maps showed that she is standing right in front of the Shaastri Nivas, Sheesh Mahal lane. But all she could see was a road in front of her. Stupid app, iska bas chala toh mujhe kisi nadi mein hi dooba de, she thought. The house was supposed to be sharing the same road as Sheesh Mahal which had huge boundary walls built with large grey stones and surrounded the entire estate. It was said that the property had belonged to a Nawabi Khandaan of Lucknow in the old days. It had passed down from generation to generation for 200 years until recently when it was acquired by a new owner. Rumour has it that the new owner is an estranged relative belonging to the same Nawabi khandaan. She usually doesn’t indulge in rumours but this one was unavoidable as the whole city has been talking about it. It was intriguing for sure as to what happened after the mysterious death of its last owner, Ahraan Singh Malik after which the property was practically usurped by his brother. Nawaab Sahab's wife had died the same night as him. How and what did actually happen? No one knows till today. People also say that Nawaab Sahab Ahraan Ji's own brother kicked out his children who would have otherwise inherited the property. Even after fifteen years have passed since then, people still whisper about it. That's why it was a big deal to hear that the Mahal got sold. There were also rumours about the family being under huge unpayable debts for a decade. Good to hear that karma may be taking its due from the traitor brother, if the stories she heard were true that is.

Khushi looked around for the entrance to Shaastri Nivas. The whole lane looked quiet except for one section of it. She followed a classical dholki music coming from an entrance nearby to her left. It has to be the band warming up for the baraat, she figured. No other house in the entire Sheesh Mahal Lane even showed the sign of a wedding. So she ran towards it and entered a lawn filled with people dressed for the wedding and the house behind was decked in flowers and lights. She felt a bit relieved to see that at least the wedding was not cancelled. She just needed to find Tej ji, convince him and get the hell out before anyone finds out. She realised she was still wearing her helmet so she removed and smoothed her hair in a mirror in the hall.

“- try to make sure all the participants are ready and lined up, what's the big fuss. The show has already begun for god’s sake!” a lady said in a rushed tone.

Before she could realise what was happening an arm grabbed her and kept dragging her into a room at the end of the hall where the dholki music seemed to be coming from. Are they taking her to Jeeja Ji's parents? Are they Jeeja Ji's friends? The lady holding on to her was wearing a saree and jhumkas. 

“What are you doing here? This is not the time to be roaming around, the show has already started! This is why I wanted you all to get ready together…..” she went on and on. 

What show? Is she talking about the baraat? Does she think I am from Dulha’s side? Khushi puzzled. 

She couldn't figure out what exactly was happening until she was pushed through the door where the dholki music grew louder and half a dozen people swarmed around her fixing her hair, makeup and outfit. Someone started unpinning her dupatta and re-draped it around her so that it covered her head. She had looked around to see a group of women there wearing their dupatta in similar fashion. There were people running around donning headphones with ipads in their hands and wearing black t-shirts with the word "Crew" printed on it. 

Suddenly she realised that she was at the wrong location. 

“Hey Devi Mayya!!!!!” she said as soon as the realisation set in. 

“Yeh kahan aa gaye hum??” she muttered to herself. She seemed to be at the wrong place - with a very time sensitive task at the wrong time!!!! From the look of her surroundings, It seemed she was behind the stage being prepped up to go on it and......walk the ramp.

She was at a fashion show.

Correction: A bridal fashion show!!

And dressed the way she is for her Jeeji's wedding, she has been mistaken for a model there!!!

...Scroll below for the complete chapter


--------------


Author's Note: 

That's all with the preview folks! Hope yall found it interesting enough to continue. I sure am enjoying the storytelling process so far. I am currently in the middle of making final edits to the first 2 chapters. Let me know what pace you would prefer - if you would like me to upload this story 2 chapters at a time or 1 chapter at a time is way better and also if there is particular canon event of the show you would particularly like me to pay attention to. Until then, stay tuned for more!❤

Edited by Rizz-ington - 2 months ago
Rizz-ington thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#3


Table Of Contents

Will be updated real time as the story progresses


T I P P I N G  P O I N T

---

Chapter 1 | Sheesh Mahal: Pg-1 *Scroll down*

Chapter 2 | Flashback: Pg-2

Chapter 3 | Fashion Show (Part 1/3): Pg-2

Chapter 3 | Fashion Show (Part 2/3): Pg-3

Chapter 3 | Fashion Show (Part 3/3)Pg-4

Chapter 4 | Di


S P A R K S  &  C H A O S

---

Chapter 5 | Mannat Ki Chaabhi

Chapter 6 | Lo Chale Dilli

Chapter 7 | ASR

Chapter 8 | Lavanya se La

Chapter 9 | Mamiji

Chapter 10 | Sharth Kyun Contract Hai Na

Edited by Rizz-ington - 2 months ago
coderlady thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#4

Love the plot. It will be an adventure. Diving right in.

coderlady thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#5

Khushi is trying to salvage her sister's wedding and ends up at the wrong place.  She is looking like she belongs there.

Rizz-ington thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#6

Thank you for the kind words.❤❤ Excited to hear it!

I am currently in the middle of posting the first chapter. A bit stuck in the editing ordeal. The spam filter keeps delaying the posting process. Do you know anything about how to get past it? Is there a limit to the number of times a word (say for ex: a name) can be repeated? If yes then how many times?

Edited by firni82 - 7 months ago
Rizz-ington thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#7


Chapter 1  | Sheesh Mahal

Sheesh Mahal, Lucknow

Sheesh Mahal, Lucknow

At the Gupta Sadan in Lucknow, the entire Haveli was filled with laughter, fun-teasing, group singing, dholki and shahnayi. All the Gupta relatives were flocked across the haveli whose walls surrounded a cut out open space decked up in a blanket of moghre ke phool, forming a floral tent over the courtyard and the mandap set up in its center. 

The excitement of all the guests attending was palpable. The bride was loved by all her relatives and it was a long awaited wedding as Payal was the first of her generation to be getting married. It's been 15 years since the Guptas had hosted a marital occasion, hence the much awaitedness and joy-filled eagerness. If Khushi was the apple of her father's eye, Payal was that of the entire khandaan's. 

As far as anyone in the family was considered, she was perfect and could do nothing wrong. None of the cousins or Chachis or Mamis or Tayis or even Buas held any envy against that because the reputation wasn't very far from the truth. Payal was that go to sister who all the cousins went to with their problems for advice or help. And was one of the most favored immediate few who all the aunties would turn to for any rant or frustration. She would always be there for them.

All the cousins; girls, boys, men and women alike were gathered under the floral ghoonghat in a corner, singing popular wedding songs where a certain Buaji was leading with her dholak skills. Madhumati looked at the time and panicked. She immediately passed over the dholak and rushed to check with mandap arrangements. The priest should have been already here.
She moved about every corner, fussing over every detail of the arrangements for her favorite niece, Payal bitiya's wedding. Ultimately, she ran out of breath from all the running around in her brother's Haveli. 

"Garima!" hollered Khushi's Buaji to her brother's wife while pausing in between to puff her phus phus as she likes to call her inhaler, "Huff...huff...dekho toh sahi kahan reh gayi hai yeh Khushi....uff..huff". 

Garima told her she was being too paranoid. But how can she not fuss about it, she had been waiting for this moment for far too long for her Payal bitiya. Her simple, beautiful titilya, an epitome of grace and pure gentleness! Haye mari bitiyashe thought fondly. 

Madhumati believed Payal deserved all the love there is in this world and so she would stop at nothing today to make sure this is - in every aspect, the happiest day of her bititya's life! 

Hey Nandkishore, sab kuchh badhiya rehne dena meri Payalya ke liye, she prays mentally. 

So far all the arrangements are going in order but if only her niece would be here to help her with the decorations around the mandap. 

Fashion designer hoon, kehti hai yeh maharani. Hmm! Kya faida in design degreeon ka agar apne Bua ji ki hi madad naahi kar sakat hai khudki sagi behen ki shaadi ke liye! she ranted mentally. 

"Arey, behen ki shaadi hai, sau sau kaam mein haath batana rehta hai dulhan ki behen ko aur yahan dekho yeh sasuri, chipkali ke jaise pata nahin kahan gayab ho hogayi hai!" she continued the ranting outwardly, still huffing and puffing.

Nandkishore knows she loves that girl to death and nobody can be more proud of her than Madhumati but sometimes she drives her mad with rage like nobody else. 

"Uff! Ugh!" she huffed again. She had to take another quick puff, leaning for support against the railing of the haveli's first floor's corridor. "Yahan BHI nahin hai yeh chatori!" she mutters while stretching and swiveling her neck, scanning the courtyard from the corridor for the aafat ki pudhiya thinking she must be slumping somewhere gobbling her favourite jalebiyan.

Yeah Bua ji had more than a few nicknames for her.

Meanwhile, in the other corner of the haveli, Payal is almost ready in her room. Standing in front of the mirror, wearing a regal-looking handwoven Lucknowi Chikankari sari in burnt orange color with an intricate heavy zari-work and chamki lace. A maroon organza ghoonghat with swirly designs embroidered all across with golden thread, sprinkled with chamki and bordered with a kairy style zardozi work across all four corners, finishing it shriveled golden fringed lace, adorned her head. The sari snugly complimented her hour glass figure. And the white stone jewellery comprising of a wide breadth choker, a huge teeka, huge ear studs and thick kangans bookending a large set of plain golden bangles she was wearing contrasted her sari like the metaphor of how opposites attract.

Hayeee she looks ethereal, simply beautiful! Like a Nawabi Dulhan. Khushi found herself tearing up at that thought with happiness. Nothing like the joy of designing a look that manifests dreams into an almost reality. 

"Haye meri jeejiiiiiiii kisi ki nazar na lage tumko, kitni khubsurat lag rahi ho! Bilkul ek rajkumari jaisi - jaise koi Nawabi Dulhan!" she screeched with excitement, putting a tiny black smudge swiped from her kohl lined eyes behind Payal's ear. 

"Bas bas Khushi kitni dramebaaz ho tum" chided Payal with a shy smile. 

"Kya hai?! Sach hi toh keh rahe hai hum! Aap bhi na jeeji, bekar mein hi hamari tareefon ko deflect karti ho jaise koi jhooti tareef kar raha ho" she said pretending to be offended, "Fashion Designer hai hum, ek parakh mein yu hi samajhte hain kya jaj raha hai aur kya nahin" she replied with a sassy snap of her fingers. 

Payal rolled her eyes at that but snickered all the same.

"Haaan haaan main sab jaanti hoon, baaton baaton mein tum bas apne banaye designon ki tareefein lene ke bahane dhundti ho" Payal playfully scolded, pulling her sister's leg. 

But she knew better than to actually believe what she said. She knew her little sister's works were nothing if not her heart and soul put into a piece of clothing - the more important the occasion, the more meaningful and beguiling the designed outcome. It's reflective of her sister's personality and soul - filled with love and the promise of leaving you feeling cherished. Payal isn't sure how she will live without her baby sister. She is going to miss her so much! 

Her thoughts were interrupted by her sister's moaning about how ungrateful she is being and how lucky the family is to have such a talented gem like herself in their family.

Payal playfully swatted her silly behen’s hand away and kissed her cheek in silent gratefulness. Words were not Payal's enemies, except when it came to expressing her feelings under such tumultuous overwhelm of wedding anxiety. She felt deeply for all the brides for going through the wedding pressure. However, she forced herself to focus on the present and thanked her sister for her thoughtfulness and meticulous care in making this day special for her. 

Khushi, knowing how her sister felt without her needing to say anything more than just looking at her with those expressive eyes, took her in a tight hug while stifling her tears. 

Payal broke the hug and gently pushed her sister away, lightly scolding her for almost ruining her mascara and told her to get over her design and stop fishing for compliments. Someone's gotta keep their self-assured enough sibling grounded, right? Khushi knowingly held her tight one more time and left to get the file which was the main reason why she came here before she got distracted with her Jeeji's bridal glowz.

Payal recognised the file and asked though she knew the answer "Ghar ke kagaz?" 

Khushi nodded in confirmation.

"Karna zaroori hai kya Khushi?" pleaded Payal, fearing the confrontation. "Bhale hi Tej aise...len den ke culture mein nahin believe karte honge lekin

"Aapko toh patha hai na Jeeji, dahej.." Khushi said pausing mid-sentence as she noticed the way Payal nearly flinched at that word but nevertheless reiterated "...dahej ek kanooni jurm hai. Mujhe pura yakeen hai Jeeja ji ko agar pata chala toh woh aisa bilkul nahi hone denge" she reassured Payal.

"Will you stop saying that word please?" Payal cringed.

"And will you stop being in denial? Dahej ko dahej nahin toh phir kya kahenge?" Khushi reasoned earning a glare.

"Mujhe patha nahin, it's just makes me feel so weird about the whole thing. Jaise kisi ki burayi ho rahi ho" payal confessed.

"You know why we are doing this right?" Khushi reminded.

"I know, I know, par phir bhi aise... shaadi ke kuchh ghanton pehle itni badi baath convince karne ki koshish-"

"Aakhri koshish Jeeji, I promise! Iske baad jo bhi hoga tumhari bhalai ke liye hi hoga. Tum dekhna, Devi Mayya hamare saath koi na insaafi nahin hone dengi" said Khushi trying to muster confidence in her sister and convince her to let her do this. 

But concern marred Payal's forehead along with panic at the realisation of the possible repercussions of what her little sister was attempting to do as she said "Mujhe tum par pura yakeen hai Khushi lekin tumhe pata hai na Tej ke parents ne zaroor force nahin kiya hoga par woh expect kar rahe the ki papers ab tak mil jayenge?

Payal had started pacing in the room at this point, her mind racing with the all the possible ways this could go. She said, "Babu ji aur Amma ko pata bhi nahin hai ki tu ne unse property ke papers lekar apne paas hi rakhliya." 

Her voice quivered as she said "Khushi woh abhi bhi samajh rahe hain ki Tej ke Papa ke paas hai papers is waqt!" panic fully setting in. The reality of the situation was fully hitting her. 

Khushi, beginning to sense this shift in her sister, grabbed Payal by her shoulder to force her to look her in the eyes before she changed her mind and said "Jiji please sambhalo apne aapko, anth bhala toh sab bhala. Kisi ko koi fark nai padhega jab hone wala Damaad khud dahej ko mana karega. Aap jaante ho na Tej Jeeja ji ko, woh padhe likhe insaan hai. Achhe insaan hi honge akhir aapne jo pasand kiya hai" she smirked lightly, trying to lighten the mood but sobered immediately when her Jeeji's apprehension remained unchanged and continued "Aap khud keh rahi thi ki kitne achhe vichaar hai unke shaadi ke baare mein. Unhe dahej ke baare mein pata lagega toh dekhna woh khud Babuji ko property ki ownership lene se mana kar denge."

Payal shook her head, still uncertain, "Par woh apne maa baap ki baath ko taal payenga? Unhe manaa payenge? Sonch zaroor unki modern hogi but mujhe nai lagta woh apne parents ki baaton ko mana kar payenge. Woh aise nahin lagte ki woh itni badi baath pe apne maa baap ke khilaaf jaa sake. Tujhe yaad nahin us din jab woh humein dekhne aaye the, kaise har baath par woh apne parents ki rahe maang rahe the. Woh toh phir jab akele mein baath hui thab mujhein laga ki unki aur meri shayad jum payegi."

Khushi silently considered that for a moment then said "Phir toh aisi shaadi se achha hai ki na ho, par main jaanti hoon woh aisa kadam nahin uthayenge. Hum apna ghar nahin kho sakte Jeeji. Sirf Babuji ki mithayi ki dukaanein kaafi nahin hai hamare kiraye ke ghar ke kharche ke liye. Hum aisa nahin hone de sakte hain. MAIN aisa nahin hone doongi!"

Khushi tightened her hold on her sister's shoulders and looked at her with a confidence that she didn't completely feel as she said, "Woh aisa nahin karenge Jiji." 

She needed her sister to be on board with this. For her own good. She needed her to understand the guilt she is feeling is understandable(all thanks to social stigma) but unwarranted, "Aap ko pura haq hai dahej dene se mana karne ka."

"Aur waise bhi, dahej ho ya nahin, agar aap kisi cheez se uncomfortable ho toh baath aage badhne se pehle hi in cheezon ko clear karlena chahiye. Itna toh tum bhi samajhti ho, humein patha hai" she coaxed, slowly dropping her hands, an undefeatable determination settling in her. 

Payal noticed it and realised there was no way to make her annoyingly righteous ziddi sister consider otherwise. Additionally, it was only practical that they retain their haveli as Khushi was right, money from their sweet business was not enough to sustain them with rent and other living expenses. So she nodded in resignation and anxiously hoped for a miracle to save her marriage and the ancestral haveli that has been in her family for generations.

Payal plopped on her bed, her mood sombre in uncertainty while only moments ago they were gushing and teasing, having momentarily forgotten the risk they were taking to their family's reputation if this didn't go as planned. Nothing to do but wait and see how this unravels, so wait Payal did as she saw her little sister run past Bua ji who screamed at her for running away from chores at her own sister's wedding. 

The biggest chore of the wedding is what Khushi is running towards Buaji, let's hope there is a wedding after all for her to resume with the rest of the shaadi ke kaam, Payal grimly thought.

Buaji took two more puffs from her Phus Phus before she went downstairs in search of Garima to complain more about Khushi because Nandkishore knows if left to her little brother, Shashi Babua, he would only encourage her antics further. She shivered at that thought and made her way to Garima to get everything in line for the baraat they were expecting soon.

Khushi was driving her V*spa at the highest speed she could manage without putting her life and the lives of those who had the misfortune to come in her way at risk. The tin can they used for getting milk rationed for making the sweets for her sister's wedding was still hanging by her scooter's side. She didn't have enough time to unchain it from the vehicle when she took it out for the ride.

Suddenly, she slammed the brakes hard just moments before she almost hit the auto rickshaw coming from the opposite direction. The auto driver fumed at her recklessness. He was not wrong, it was a very close call. 

She had forgotten in her haste that it was a one way street!

But she was running late, and her sister's future was in line so she muttered a string of “Maaf kijiyega” to the rickshaw drive and mentally to her Devi Mayya, promising an extra helping of prasad if she reaches her sister's-in-laws on time even if she had to break a few traffic rules. 

Then sped her way down the street braving the onslaught of rage and curses from the people she tried to move around on that narrow one way lane. 

“Bhaiyya ji dekh ke!!!!” 

”Ek-minute Chacha ji!” 

"Maaf kijiye bhaisaab, humare Jeeji ki izzat ka sawaal hai!!!" she warned and apologized profusely to as many people as she could. But eventually just zigzagged her way between the oncoming vehicles, barely stopping this time. There is only so much time she had to explain her emergency to everyone on the way. With any luck and her Devi Mayya’s kripa, she should be able to intercept her hone wale Jeeja ji right when they are starting from their home with the baraat. 

She switched on her mobile data on her phone and typed in the name of her Jeeja Ji's Bungalow: Shaastri Nivas.

"Beech raaste mein tujhe yaad aaya Khushi", she chided herself while waiting the location to load, "where did you think you were going, breaking all traffic rules like you own the road?"

She reached the area and checked the address on the phone. Maps showed that she is standing right in front of the Shaastri Nivas, Sheesh Mahal lane. But all she could see was a road in front of her. Stupid app, iska bas chala toh mujhe kisi nadi mein hi dooba de, she thought. The house was supposed to be sharing the same road as one of the huge boundary walls of Sheesh Mahal, built with large grey stones and surrounding the entire estate. It was said that the property had belonged to a Nawabi Khandaan of Lucknow in the old days. It had been passed down from generation to generation for 200 years until recently when it was acquired by a new owner. 

Rumour has it that the new owner is an estranged relative belonging to the same Nawabi khandaan. She usually doesn’t indulge in rumours but this one was unavoidable as the whole city has been talking about it.

Every gathering, every reel with lucknow hashtag along with the comments section, newspaper gossip columns, whatsapp groups and tv entertainment news had been abuzz chattering and doing panels speculating on what will happen next. It was intriguing for sure as to what happened after the mysterious death of its last owner, Ahraan Singh Malik after which the property was practically usurped by his brother. 

Nawab Sahab's wife tragically had also died the same night as him. The family shared that she had an ongoing sensitive medical condition which drastically worsened upon hearing her husband's death. How and what did actually happen? No one really knows much else till today. The family announced that she had some health issues which got worsened after hearing her husband's news of death. People also say that Nawab Sahab's own brother kicked out his children who would have otherwise inherited the property. Fifteen years have passed since then, but people still whisper about it. So, naturally it was a big deal to hear that the Mahal got sold. There were also rumours about the family being under huge unpayable debts for a decade. Good to hear that karma may be taking its due from the traitor brother, if the stories she heard were true that is.

Khushi looked around for the entrance to Shaastri Nivas. The whole lane looked quiet except for one section of it. She followed a classical dholki music coming from an entrance nearby to her left. It has to be the band warming up for the baraat, she figured. No other house in the entire Sheesh Mahal Lane even showed the sign of a wedding. So she ran towards it and entered a lawn filled with people dressed for the wedding and the house behind was decked in flowers and lights. She felt a bit relieved to see that at least the wedding was not cancelled. She just needed to find Tej ji, convince him and get the hell out before anyone finds out. She realized she was still wearing her helmet so she removed and smoothed her hair in a mirror in the hall.

“- make sure the rest are ready and lined up, I don't want another case of missing. The show has already begun for god’s sake!” a lady said in a rushed tone.

She heard click clack of heels and before she could realise what was happening an arm grabbed her and kept dragging her into a room at the end of the hall where the dholki music seemed to be coming from. 

“What are you doing here? This is not the time to be roaming around, the show has already started! This is why I wanted you all to get ready together…..” she went on and on. 

Are they taking her to Jeeja Ji's parents? Are they Jeeja Ji's friends? The lady holding on to her was wearing a saree and jhumkas.

Wait, did she say show? What show? Is she talking about the baraat? Does she think I am from Dulha’s side? Khushi puzzled. 

She couldn't figure out what exactly was happening until she was pushed through the door where the dholki music grew louder and half a dozen people swarmed around her fixing her hair, makeup and outfit.

"I found another one lost in the hall! What is happening guys? Are we really finding it that difficult to keep track of our main assets of the show. Didn't we have teams specifically assigned for this purpose?? What is going on guys? This far from how we rehearsed - million times!" she scolded.

Someone started unpinning her dupatta and re-draping it around her so that it covered her head, dangling a bit over her forehead. The border work on the dupatta was so heavy and wide that they had to pull it down till it reached her chest, so her jewellery also can show. Someone else was was ironing the pleats of her lehenga. She was too stunned to say anything or to shun anyone away, for the first few moments. She looked around to see a group of women there wearing their dupattas in variations of similar fashion. 

One woman in an exquisite fish cut white gown passed by with her sheer white veil trailing from her head behind her like she was a princess. There were people running around donning headphones with ipads in their hands and wearing black t-shirts with the word "Crew" printed on it.

Suddenly she realised that she was at the wrong location.

“Hey Devi Mayya!!!!!” she said as soon as the realisation set in. 

“Yeh kahan aa gaye hum??” she muttered to herself. She seemed to be at the wrong place - with a very time sensitive task, at the wrong time!!!! From the look of her surroundings, it seemed that she was behind the stage being prepped up to go on it and......walk the ramp.

She was at a fashion show.

Correction: A bridal fashion show!!

And dressed the way she is for her Jeeji's wedding, she has been mistaken for a model there!!!

She KNOWS it's a fashion show because of course she does!! She is a fashion designer, how could she be one without knowing how the backstage scenes of a fashion show looked like!!!

There were scores of models moving around what looked like one of the largest backstages she has ever seen. 

A third of the space was accomodated for the models to get their hair and make up done. 

Another third was occupied by two humongous green screens with a variety of props set up in either corners where a simultaneous photoshoot was going on of the models who just returned from the ramp - for online promotion, Khushi guessed. 

The remaining third was set up as a base for all the light and sound technicians or other moving pieces involved in the event.

Everything clicked in place. Hence the decked up house and the wedding music! 

Her outfit was basically a wedding dress that she had designed for herself. A snugly fit green blouse ending at her mid-waist, formed a sweetheart waistline tracing her underboobs, embroidered all over with silver zari-work, the sleeves fit snugly as well and had holes for her thumbs giving an edge to the look, the back of the blouse was non-existent except for an elegant mesh of tiny pearls, a satin lehenga in green with closely pleated large ghera with fine silver gota work encrusted with pearls and cushioned with multiple layers of white mesh inside. And an extensive pastel pink organza dupatta scalloped with an intricate yet heavy flat pearl and chamki work all around its border. Her hair were snatched back in a sleek finish and woven with a thin golden ribbon into a plait behind her that completed the look. 

Overall it was a heavy ensemble. She had almost lost her balance when she got on the scooty due the size and weight of it. Got quite a lot of looks for it too. That must have been quite a sight of her wearing lehenga choli. No wonder a little kiddo asked if she was running away from her wedding. Others mostly just stared in that typical non-apologetic unabashed Indian stare. Any other situation, she would have found it hilarious. 

Ideally, she shouldn't have to wear anything too heavy but she went into such an immersive creative zone while designing this lehenga choli that she let herself have it. She may not be the bride but she was still dulhan ki behen so it's okay, she had thought. The outfit turned out to be glorious. So much so that it can pass off as a bridal-look if she was not standing next to her Jiji. And here, judging by the outfits of all the models around her, they must have assumed she was also a model of this show. SHOW. This was what the lady was talking about before she started dragging her confused-self from the mirror! 

“Hey Devi Mayya kahan phass gaye hum!! Kya kar rahi hai Khushi, leave it to you to accidentally end up at a fashion show. No no, a bridal fashion show. Wearing what? Oh yes, a bridal outfit. Bua Ji sahi kehtin hai, tu Shankadevi hai. Yeh log humein stage pe dhakel ke hi chhodenge” she despaired as she tried telling the crew around her that they made a mistake.

But no one seems to be able to focus on what she was saying. The showstopper apparently was the main topic of the hushed discussion….and panic, based on their high-pitched tones of urgency. 

“Arey wohi toh main bol rahin hoon!! Yahin par toh thi Karina! Kahan kho sakti hai!!!!”, the lady who had dragged her whispered right behind Khushi. 

“Aise kaise, matlab kuchh bhi!? The Guards better find her, its almost her turn to get on stage” someone else shrieked. 

As if on cue, her walki-talki started buzzing with a guzzling wind-type noise. The person on the other side requested for attention and said "Showstopper for stage, I repeat showstopper for stage. Over." 

The lady from the hall suddenly looked at her and said to her team “Okay, listen up guys. Ek kaam karte hain, jitne bhi models hain un mein se last jo bhi hoga, hum unko show stopper bana denge, hey tumhara naam kahan hai list mein?”

Khushi was about to point out that she won't find it there because she was not a real model but before she could say anything the woman interrupted her - “Chhodo woh list Shindey ke paas hai, woh yahan nazar nahin aa raha, aur talkie pe puchhungi jab tak show ho jayega!!!" 

With arms akimbo she appeared to be trying to get hold of the situation, she said to Khushi "Look, there are only two models left: you and Tanya" frowning she looked at Khushi, her gaze passing up and down over her, "And between the two of you, I feel your outfit seems more appropriate for the show stopper reveal. I don't know why ASR didn't choose this look for the grand finale. If I wasn't in London for the official work for Raizada, I would have fought tooth and nail for this one. It feels more on brand with the goals we are trying to accomplish today. Hmmm.." she checked the overall look one more time muttering something to her assistant about jewellery and instructing the hair stylist designated for the showstopper to let Khushi's hair remain as is replace the golden ribbon in her hair with a silver as it would compliment the gota on her blouse. "What have you been doing all this time not getting your make up done. Anyways, let's go with you. What's your name? I better pass it to the MC right now" she finally said to her. She looked like she was almost done when she looked at Khushi's ghoonghat and sent her assistant to get a dupatta from their respository with very specific description. She handed a silver organza dupatta with an exquisite white pressed pearl work around it.

The woman urged impatiently then swiveled her head towards the noises coming from the stage and turned back to Khushi "Quick!!! Tanya is on stage now!!” the woman nearly screamed. They really wanted to keep this mishap of a missing show stopper under wraps.

Khushi felt trapped. 

There seemed to be no other way out of this except through it. 

Before she could think of a way of backing out "Khushi Kumari Gupta” she blurted. 

No, what am I doing??? I need to meet Tej ji, the baraat must have started by now, she thought a minute too late. 

At this point she was practically being dragged on to the stage already. It was dark. She could barely figure out where her arms and legs were. Murmurs from audiences on either sides was the only sign that she was really on the stage.

The woman from hall was briefing her in urgent whispers about what to expect on the stage.

According to her, all she had to do was to walk with panache, twirling and posing intermittently on the way front and back. She was told to act on instinct, not to look at any cameras except the ones at the front of the stage and do whatever the situation demands except to make it back in one piece without tripping over herself.

"Oh and" she added "ASR will be introduced once that is done, you will have to walk with him again..you know - showstopper's walk with the designer."

Khushi could barely nod as someone was adjusting her dupatta aka ghoonghat over her face. The length was being adjusted as someone else was adding a maang teeka. She was wearing jewellery now - super expensive ones from the weight and feel of it.

"One last thing, don't start walking as soon as you hear the music wait until you hear the lyric 'banno'. Okay?"

Khushi managed to only nod again. She quickly fixed her posture, schooled her expression to a nearly poker face in preparation. All this had happened in such a short span - within minutes that her legs felt a little wobbly.

She got five more secs to process the information dump when the announcer in a deep rich male voice introduced her for the grand finale.

“And now......ladies and gentlemen! It’s time for the grand finale of the Raizada wedding collection: Dulhan-e-Hindoostan, everybody.......please welcome..... our show stopper....Lucknow’s very own....Khushi Kumari Gupta!”

The last thing Khushi thought as the music started playing was how did the announcer know she was from Lucknow.

Music began playing, punctuated with defining pumps of bass so strong that she could literally feel it in her bones. It was a very popular remix version of the song Yeh Ladka Hai Allah from Khushi's favourite movie K3G. 

The crowd started roaring, clearly excited from the hype being generated. 

These people were really pulling all stops for this showstopper reveal. This was definitely not a small event. No wonder they were panicking so hard backstage. 

The entire hall's ceiling and ramp was adorned with humongous chandeliers whose lights were currently flickering in synchronization with music.

She had listened to this version on reels several times before. In fact, she had used this audio to make a reel for her own fashion page on Insta. This, along with the fact that she was a trained kathak dancer, helped recover from the shock of being on the stage and under the flood light, a lot faster than it would have probably been for someone who is NOT a professional model. 

The lights were blinding for a second yet she managed to begin walking right on the instructed cue of "banno" lyric, trying her best to not look down at her uncomfortable heel-cladden feet and imitated those models she used to watch on TV. 

She forced herself to maintain a straight confident posture throughout and walked with the veil trailing behind her. Like she was meant to be here, on this stage. Each step was slow, deliberate and mindful like it was another dance performance for her and this was nothing but a choreography sequence. 

She used her instincts as a dancer and the timing of the thumping beats of the famous bollywood song to channel appropriate expressions and make those intermittent poses she was instructed about.

On reaching the front of the stage, she posed by shifting her weight between the legs, elegantly swiveling her hips sideways. Then with an elegant sweep of both hands, she finally revealed At the same time, with a smooth flourish she slowly lifted her left hand and grazed her dupatta ever so lightly with her fingers while slightly tilting her head and gaze down like she was portraying a shy bride. Then moved the hand down to rest on her waist with another graceful sweep, turning to go back. 

She also had her experience posing online wearing her designed clothes to thank for. Where to look, how best to pose to, the expressions, the energy to be projected to translate the vibe of an outfit and create an impact enough to draw attention. Khushi had channeled every second of that in this entire performance. 

She thought she managed to be graceful enough until half way through, when returning back, she had paused to pose and mistakenly glanced at the front row on her right just to see people’s reaction.

A second that was too costly for her.

The stage was bracketed by a stadium-like seating for audience on either side. She didn't have to raise her eyes too far to see who all were sitting in the far-back of the crowd. The whole set up reminded her of the Victoria's Secret Show.

Speaking of the Victoria's Secret Show, there was also lot of foreign crowd - people of various foreign races, mixed with prominent Indian personalities from various industries including Bollywood. She may or may not have spotted more than a few Hollywood celebrities as well. 

The enormity of this occasion suddenly unnerved her. 

Just as the beat dropped with background score Her gaze then fell on a brown man lost in thought, in the same front row, in a well-fitted black tuxedo, who upon catching her stare started glaring at her intensely, eyes roaming all over her like she owed him a debt or something. She looked away smiling when people started clapping - they were giving a standing ovation. People were looking with awe. 

If she didn’t have an urgent task at hand it would be quite a validating moment for the designer in her.

A moment later, the man got up too but to walk over to her side so fast taking long strides that she got startled and stumbled on her right foot! Damn these heels she thought in horror as she fell..........off the stage. 

The entire audience collectively gasped in sudden shock. She hit something hard that was not the floor. She looked up to see the same man who glared at her earlier, holding her close to his chest with an intense stare. She couldn't help but look back up. The way he was bent over her watching with an unnerving intensity....and smirk. He was part smiling there and yet had an ominous presence about him. He also had a strong nose and sharp features she noticed when he clenched his stubbled jaw casted with a five o' clock shadow. And those eyes....brown....no, chocolaty brown. She shook herself mentally from this irrelevant line of thoughts and tried squirming herself out of his grip.

"Wait, don't move. Stay still for awhile " he whispered earnestly. "Please" he added.

Khushi amended but couldn't help blushing a deep shade of red. It only worsened when she noticed the way she was scrunched up and plastered across his chest, her fingers clutching the man's lapel of his shirt for dear life.

This is so embarrassing!!!! Mujhe yahan se pehli fursath se bhagjana chahiye tha. Itni beizzati jo karaali kaafi hai, bas aur nahin chahiye, she thought internally while externally her face presented the perfect picture of anticipation and pleasant surprise. When she looked up, a sense of familiarity started niggling her at the back of her mind.

Just then the announcer confirmed her suspicion as he introduced "Ladies and Gentleman.....the designer of the hour.....the man himself....the King of Indian Fashion......in flesh the ASR: Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada" 

Alas, it was not her day it looked like, as the man holding her moved back to the stage where there was a staircase to the side. He climbed them up and gently dropped her on to the stage. Then taking her hand in his, whispered in her ear like he was saying something intimate, “It's alright. Just keep walking” he said. So she did and looked up at him to find him smiling at her. His hands were warm and firm, a contrast to her own that were cold and slightly trembling. 

The audience had bought the performance and were cheering for the grand finale. A bunch of them wolf-whistled. They had loved the outfit but went crazier for this stunt apparently.

Instinctively, she smiled back while looking at him, playing it off from what it looked like - he was trying to improvise to give the impression to the audience that her falling into his arms was pre-planned. To make it look like it was actually part of the show. Like in a fairytale, where a princess was just saved and swept off her feet by her prince and they are now heading towards a happily ever after. 

His smile had slackened for a second when she had smiled at him as if he was taken aback. It felt like his whole being was focused on her for that godforsaken moment. God, he was even more good looking in person Khushi thought grudgingly as she continued to grin back at him. More hooting. The fashion press was going crazy with their cameras. Khushi for a moment thought she was going to go blind with the frequency of the flashes going off.

Wait, so he is the designer of this collection right?? Heyy Devi Mayya raksha karna!!! 

Yeh designer matlab THE Arnav Singh Raizada hai, toh phir unhe toh pata chal gaya hoga ki hum ghus petiya hai. Isliye humein aise ghoor ghoor ke ghusse mein dekh rahe the. 

Humein toh aana bhi nahin tha yahan. Itne bade designer se mile bhi toh aise milna tha kya? Kahan phass gaye hum!!!! she thought. 

Luckily she managed to complete the walk without any further disaster. The remaining models were lined up for the final walk. There must be atleast hundred and fiftty of them, Khushi estimated. A man with a walkie-talkie in his hand was murmuring on the device, requesting for a cue to signal all the models to get on stage. "Aaaaaand here we go" he said upon receiving confirmation. Another remix version of a song from K3G - Bole Chudiyan started playing. The whole atmosphere amongst the crew backstage was charged with excitement.

About two minutes of relief before the man - Arnav Singh Raizada, grabbed her by the arm and started dragging her to the hallway where she came from. She then noticed the 'woman from the hall' looking at her with concern as she called after the man draggin her away "ASR! ASR!"

“Excuse me!" she said indignantly but he continued pulling her.

"Haath chhodiye mera" she insisted but still seeming to haven't heard her, he kept dragging. 

"Haath chhodiye mera!" - still no response.

"Haath chhodiye!!!!” she said loudly in the most stern tone she could manage while digging her heels on the floor. 

Arnav, finally seeming to hear her through whatever weird frenzy he was in, dropped her hand instantly. He looked abashed and seemed to regret it a little. But Khushi had it enough, it was weird enough to be dragged by the other girl and forced to unwittingly participate in this high profile fashion and now again this man was dragging her like he owns her, this was getting out of hand. *pun unintended* 

“Kya kar rahe hain AAP?" she said, squaring her shoulders and glared up at him.

"Tameez se pesh aiye zara!  Arey, aise hi kisi bhi ladki ka haath haq se pakad lenge kya aap? Had mein rahiye!”, she scolded.

The man lifted his hands in surrender and said “Sorry, mera woh intention nahin tha. Main tumhe hurt nahin karunga. I assure you.” He emphatically took two steps back as he said that. 

However, with a stern expression he said, "Tumhe pata hai na mere show mein aakar, kisi aur ki dress pehene hue tumhara showstopper banna is not normal and something to applaud.” His face got serious after that and said in a low menacingly voice, "So forgive me if I lose my sh*t when you try to hijack a show very important to my brand and company." 

"Did you really think I won't find out yeh mera design nahin hai?" he asked with a disbelieving expression.

"Ho kaun tum Khushi Kumari Gupta? Kya samajhti ho apne aap ko?" mocking her as he went on. "Kise bewakoof bana rahi ho?” 

He further overwhelmed her without letting her respond, harshly pressing on with his barrage of inquiry.

“Kiski dress peheni hai tumne? Kisne bheja hai tumhe? I will not physically hurt you but don't think for one second that I can't press charges of sabotage. Who are you wearing? Bolo!” he nearly shouted, trying to intimidate her. 

She hated that it worked to an extent. Scared of any potential legal repercussions, she decided to clarify before things got even more worse somehow. 

Ghalat fehmi ki toh koi had hi nahin rahi aaj, she frustratedly thought.

“Ek minute, ek minute!" she said in a rushed breath tried to calm him down, "Yeh kya bol rahein hain aap? Hum ghalati se yahan pahunche the. Humein toh asal mein Shaastri Nivas jaana tha. Woh ek shaadi ka ghar hai. Humare hone wale jeeja ji se milna tha."

"Yeh tumhe shaadi ka ghar lagta hai?"

"Dholki geet ki awaaz aarahi thi yahan se toh humein laga yeh unka ghar hoga. Humein kya patah tha aapke show ka theme hi wedding hai” she argued. 

Shaking his head in disbelief he asked “Tumhe Shaastri Nivas jaana tha toh yahan kaise agayi, woh us par hai. Tumhare ghar ki shaadi hai aur behen ke sasural ka ghar patah nahin? 

Wait

Aur even if tumhe shaadi ka ghar laga toh tumne kisi ko kuch bataya kyun nahi. Agar tum sach mein galti se yahan aayi hoti toh mere crew and us se bhi pehle security ko pata chal jatha unless tumne jaan boojh kar koi saazish rachane ki koshish ki thi mere cha-”

Khushi cut in to clarify “Nahin nahin! Hum toh khule aam gate se andar aaye the. Kisi ne humein nahin roka. Balki koi tha hi nahin gate ke paas. Aur humne aapke ke crew ko batane ki koshish ki thi, lekin yeh sab is tarah yun ek minute ke andar hua ki humein mauka nahin mila, woh dusri lady kehrahi thi ki models ki list kisi Shindey Bhai ke paas hai aur jab tak unse baath ho payegi show khatam ho jayega. Aur phir woh asli showstopper bhi toh nahin mil rahi thi, toh woh shayad usme invested the notice karne ke liye - ”

The man growled, more to himself than at her, "WHAT? What do you mean nahin mil rahi thi? She was supposed to be here dammit! She was here in fact. Main khud usse shaam ko mila for final fitting.......khair" he looked back at her, suspicioun filling his eyes "Woh toh mein baad mein dekhlunga lekin pehle tum se nipatloon” Khushi looked around, they were in a room and secluded from the main entrance. The door seemed shut. She needed to find a way to get away soon. 

“Dekhiye, hum maante hain ki jaane anjaane mein humse galti hui hai, humein yoon hi stage par nahin jana chahiye tha. Show aapka hai, kisi aur ka design koi aur showstopper pe achha nahi lagta, but aap fikr math kijiye kisi ko kuchh nahin pata chala." She thought and amended "Except woh *finger snapping while trying to recollect* white chiffon sari wali madam humein kheench kar joh andar le aayi thi. Unko chhodkar kisi ko koi andaza nahin hai.  Aur hum aap se vada karte hum kisi ko kuchh nahin batayenge! Devi Mayya ki kasam!”. 

The man got further agitated at that and said in a quiet cold tone “Tumne jiska pehna hua hai na.." his head tilted slightly with a piercing stare holding warning in them "..usey jakar kehdo ki yeh akhri baar Arnav Singh Raizada ke show ki taaliyon ki awaaz yaad rakhle kyun ki iske baad use apne show par uski goonj tak nahin sunayi degi. I am going to destroy them. Got it?”

Khushi usually doesn't take much personally except when it comes to her passion for designing clothes. Very few things are a source of pride for her and her designs - specifically this creation she was wearing was one of those. She already has an important place to be and even more important things to do. She can't afford to lose time. Yet she instinctually couldn't let this one slide, especially coming from the King of Indian Fashion.

"Uff thoda zyada dramatic nahin hogaya?" she couldn't help the retort, her lips were pursed with a oops I would be embarrassed if I were you look "matlab taaliyon ki awaaz yaad rakhle etc etc aisa sirf filmon mein hi accha lagta hai"

Arnav's nostrils flared but before he could incinerate her, she decided to take the high way and just cut down to business. It was about time she cleared the air. 

“Dekhiye, jaise ki humne pehle bhi kaha, humein yahan kisi ne nahin bheja. Hum ghalati se yahan pahunch gaye.Yeh humne banaya hai. Aur humein koi credit nahin chahiye iska” 

"Tumne kaha aur maine maan liya"

"Toh phir pooch kyun rahein hai aap!" 

"Main sach sunna chahta hoon!"

"Sach yehi hai ki hum kho gaye the"

"Main kehta hoon jhooth hai"

"Keh lijiye, jo lagta woh hota nahin hai"

"Yeh toh main tumhare baare mein bhi keh sakta hoon"

"What is wrong with you? I told you ki yeh" gesturing to the whole look "maine design aur tayyar karwaya hai" then pointed to the jewellery she wore on her head, neck and hands, and the dupatta that were given to her and clarified "siwaye iske, iske, iske aur iske" 

Arnav's eye brows rose eyebrows at that. As if still in complete disbelief. Talk about ego hurt. 

But she still continued because again time was of too much of the essence for stroking her ego, so she said "Hum yahan aana bhi nahin chahte the. Humein bhi sau sau kaam hai patha hai. Jeeji ki shaadi hai. Hum kho gaye hain. Shaastri Nivas jana tha hum-” 

“Ek minute!” Arnav said. 

“Toh tum sach mein keh rahi ho ki yeh lehenga tumne design kiya hai?” 

“Haan” 

“Yeh pura outfit?” 

“Haaaan” 

“Kisi ne tumhe paise nahin diye apna design Raizada ke show mein display karne ke liye for sabotage?”

“Haa - kya?! Bilkul nahin! Aisa bhi karte hain log?” 

“Tumhe pagal lagta hoon main jo tumhari banayi hui baaton ko aise hi manlunga” Arnav said.

“Nahinnn, ek minute hum batate hain” Khushi insisted, trying to take her potli out that was attached to the lehenga, to get her phone. It was a slim pouch that was sleek enough to seamlessly blend with the pleats of her lenehenga. Outside, music was still playing. Echoes of the thumping bass reverberated in the room. It was another remix. A version of the song Roop Suhana Lagta Hai.

She was trying to get her phone from the potli but the huge kangan sets in her hands were getting caught in the lehenga, making it difficult for her to get them out.

Kangan hai ki hathkadi?

She didn't want to spoil her lehenga and realised that she might probably have no choice but to ask Arnav "Can you please" she said hesitating before gesturing her waist "help me take my phone out."

"You....you want me to take your phone out?" 

"No, tch! What do you think help me take my phone out means?"

"Okay...? Just wanted to confirm" Arnav replied with annoyance.

He strode forward to stop at an arm's distance, she turned sideways to angle her hidden potli towards him. 

His expression showed that he was absolutely unsure if he should be doing as she asked.

"It's okay I won't sue you" she said seeing him hesitate.

"I was trying to find the so called potli you have your phone in" he replied defensively, bringing his hand to his neck to scratch the back of it.

"Arey haan, woh jo zipper ka section dikh raha hai na, it's right underneath it. You will have to unzip it thoda side mein to get it out"

"What?" He looked at her like she grew two horns.

"Sach mein, how else was I supposed to hide it, the look wasn't sitting right, but I wanted to make it practical, pocket was probably better but an Indian touch of potli attached on the side AND a pocket to hide it in if you don't need it, uska alag hi mazaa hai."

"Okay" he relented eyeing her facial expression one last time to check for any trap. He unzipped so slowly like he was scared that she was pranking him or something. Then grew a bit more confident when he found a patch behind the zipper. He gently pinched the potli inside to pull it out. 

"Found it..." he had to maneuver it by moving it side to side, to get it out. In that process, his knuckles slightly grazed her midriff. Khushi's breath hitched but she maintained a neutral expression. Arnav however looked mortified. "Sorry...woh..here - " he handed the potli.

When she looked up she caught him staring at her waist near the underboob for a second too long before his eyes turned away. Like he didn't realize he was doing that and had to force his eyes away for the sake of proprietary. He was so tall. She had to crane her neck all the way back to look at his face. Was he breathing a little too heavily? His jaw shuffled highlighting his strong jawline. Khushi would be lying if she said she her eyes didn't linger on the way his adam's apple bobbed when he swallowed. He cleared his throat sliding his hands in his pockets and took a step back pretending like nothing happened.

She focused back on her phone like her heart wasn't racing like she had been running for her life, the memory of his fingers grazing her waist, like a phantom wind still lingering on her skin. Her face felt like it was on fire.

After scrolling for a few seconds, she showed pictures of the dress in the making and all the sketches she made. Thank God, she had the good sense to record everything on her phone. His face still look disbelieving so she started explaining the process and explained how she made the outfit for her jeeji's wedding. Slowly, she could sense Arnav relaxing bit by bit as he saw photos. His expression stayed serious though. But she could tell that he believed her now and was hopeful that she could leave soon. 

But all he said was “Stay in this room until I come back” and then left. She was in shock for a few minutes.

What more proof does this man need? 

What does he think? I am working for his competitors - snakes that are SO DESPERATE to go this length of deception to forge pictures??? 

On second thought that actually seems plausible but doesn't make this any less annoying and inconvenient! Jiji needs me!!! She started panicking at that last thought. 

Thankfully the door opened before she could further drive herself insane with anxiety. 

It was a guard who came to return her long forgotten helmet in the hall and inform her that she could leave as soon as she signed an NDA. 

Khushi heaved a deep sigh of relief. 

She didn't need him telling her twice for her to agree to it just so she could get out of this godforsaken place. The papers took about half an hour to arrive. She was almost convinced that she was kidnapped until the bodyguard came in with a black case holding an ipad and a pen - stylus. 

Sagging with relief, she barely registered signing the documents, removing the jewellery to hand it over to the guard and almost ran to her waiting scooty near the entrance.

She was getting seated on the vehicle, adjusting her lehenga around the milk can attached on the side, when she saw the nameplate on the house across the street from the building she got out from. 

Shaastri Nivas.

Woh toh us paar hai she remembered Arnav saying.

She should have just searched for the nameplates like a normal person instead of looking for the source of dholki music, she chided herself. 

But why does the house look so quiet, not a single decoration, no music, no one in the house!? 

Did the baraat leave? Is that why no one is home? she wondered before ringing the bell. 

She considered if she should leave for home immediately to catch up with them. But something urged her to stay and try…just in case. So, she rang the bell. It was strange that she wasn't surprised to see the door opened, it could be the house help staying back home to take care of other things. 

Except it was Tej ji himself. 

He looked as shocked as she felt. It is just that he was in casual wear, not in the chikan blue sherwani that Babu ji sent. 

Like it would have been just another day for him. 

Like he wasn't planning to attend his own wedding! 

Did he know about the papers? Does he even care about Jiji? she thought frantically.

“Jeeja ji? Yeh kya abhi tak tayyar nahin hue aap? Jiji intezar kar rahi hogi na" she carefully inquired. Tej ji looked extremely uncomfortable, he could barely stand still as if he had somewhere else to be, still he said “Haan, tumhare Babu Ji keh rahe the dopahar tak papers aa jayenge, lekin shaam tak bhi nahin aaye toh humein laga shaadi cancel”. She felt something akin to dread in her stomach but she treaded on, for Jiji’s sake, “Haan woh hum ghar ke kaagaz lekar aaye the, aap se kuchh baath karni thi.” 

"Haan bolo" he said, fidgeting. Khushi was nervous now, Tej Ji didn't seem to be in a mood to listen. Like it was an effort to be standing there or even care. She dreaded what that might mean for this wedding and her Jiji?! 

Yet...she had to try...she HAD to, for Jiji's sake.

"Humein aapse request karni thi ki aapke Maa aur Papa ne jo Gupta Sadan ke kagaz ki maang ki thi use mana kardein. Please! Shayad aap iss barein mein nahin jaante the isliye.." she scrambled to find the right words to complete her fervent request.

Squirming under her gaze, he said "Suno, humne na kuchh maanga aur na hi puchha, balke tumhare Babu ji ne khud apni marzi se tumhari Jiji ke liye us Haveli ko gift karne ki khwaish ki thi, toh isme main kya karsakta tha? Mana kardeta?"

"Haan, mana kar dete" Khushi shot.

"Kyun?" he asked bewildered.

"Kyun? Kyun ki pehli baath toh dahej ek kanooni jurm hai. Aur doosri -"

"Dahej??? Dahej kaun le raha hai mohtharma?"

"Aapko sach mein lagta hai haveli ki ownership ke papers kya tohfah hai?" Khushi argued.

"Tumharey Babu Ji ne khud apni marzi se unhe offer kiya tha"

"Toh aap ne accept bhi toh kiya tha na"

"Haan toh phir sab mera thodi rehna tha, tumhari jiji bhi toh hissedar hoti thi is ownership mein."

Khushi looked him up and down to show him that she is not so stupid as he thought she must be. That she was well aware of these type of justifications that are prevalent in their society. She thought to humor him for second and confront him on his hypocritical behavior and double standards.

"Dahej nahin hai toh phir humein bathaiye, papers nahin aane par shaadi kyun 'cancel samjhi'. Dahej nahin hai right? Phir ek deal ki tarah transaction kyun kar rahe hain aaplog is situation se - humari majboori se....ki papers nahin aaye dopahar tak matlab shaadi cancel. Yeh kya baath hui bhala?" 

"Dekho, maine bola na humne koi maang nahin rakhi. Aur waise bhi Ma Papa toh baath aage badhne se pehle hi is rishte ko mana karne wale the, lekin phir tumhare Babu ji ne itni shiddat se Haveli ke baarein mein kaagaz ki baath ki toh humein laga achhe log hain, mana nahin karthe. Baat thay hui ki papers aaj dophar tak bhejdiye jayenge sign ke saath."

Her heart started beating fast. She couldn't remember the last time she was this angry in her life. She knew it! She knew this man wasn't good enough for her sister but still...still she had to talk to him, to hear it herself.

The nerve he had to spew that bullsh*t at her face. Did he really think he could gaslight her into thinking that him and his family didn't know what they were doing and get away with it? As if her Jeeji was not enough for him. Like he was being generous getting married to her. The arrogance! She had suffered enough of it from one man today. There will not be more coming from another, least of all from someone who doesn't care a hair's breadth about her sister outside the value she presented to him in the form of a real estate, she decided.

“Yeh papers?" Khushi asked as she took them out of the file for him to see and tore them vehemently. Then threw the pieces at him before launching at him with “Bhaad mein jayein aap. Kis baath ka ghamand hai haan? Aapko pata tha, aapke maa baap dahej le rahe the humse… aapko saaf saaf patha tha PHIR BHI  aapne yeh sab hone diya. Aur ulta aap is sonch ko defend kar rahe hain?" Khushi sneered at him. 

Tej opened his mouth to reply but Khushi went over him before he spewed some more pathetic non-sense of an excuse. 

"Baath ko ghuma phirane se sacchai nahin badalti Tej Ji. Kis tarah ke insaan hain aap jo itne padhe likhe hokar bhi itni ghatiye sonch ko sirf andekha hi nahin balki uski safaayian de rahe hain. Sharam nahin aayi aapko apne maa baap ko humara fayda uthate dekhte hue? Ghin aarahi hai humein ki humne aapko zara sa bhi apni Jiji ke layak samjha. Achha hua ki shaadi se pehle hi aapki fitrat samne agayi warna humari Jiji ki zindagi toh barbaad hi hojati aap jaise bikau aur bemaan insaan ke saath shaadi karke. Bhaad mein jayein aap. Nahin chahiye humein aise paise ke ameer aur dil ke gareeb logon se kisi kism ka rishta” she screamed at him. People around her started staring at them now. And Tej had the audacity to look offended to that but before he could say anything, Khushi turned and stormed off. And not before she spit at his feet with a look of abhorred disgust.

Khushi cried on the way back home. She wasn't sad that this wedding got called off. She was sad for her Jiji. She hated that Jiji would be heartbroken and disappointed no matter how much she would claim otherwise. She doesn't know if she has the strength to see her like that.

Today was a long day. 

Amma, Babu ji aur Bua ji bohot naraaz honge, she thought. She worried that her father will be furious but worst, disappointed with her. That made her cry harder. He had trusted her to see the papers to the groom’s family. Everyone in the family had trusted her with it. Her poor Jiji, inspite of her fears, held faith that she would manage to convince Tej ji. 

She cringed even saying the man’s name. That man - no, the whole family should be in jail for basically harassing her family like this. Yes, she did the right thing. Any consequences of emotional outbursts she would have to face from her family would be worth the hurt her Jiji was saved from that man. Regardless of the time and hurdles it took for her to cross and find the house, if she could go back in time do this again, she realised that she would have done exactly what she did just now. Duniya gayi bhaad mein, karein sab aur bhare humari Jiji? That was enough to make her stop crying and wipe her tears away with renewed confidence in her actions. 

Sending a quick prayer to her Devi Mayya, she gritted her teeth with determination and hurried home.

Edited by Rizz-ington - 1 months ago
coderlady thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#8

You expanded the chapter, which is nice. More to read.

coderlady thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#9

Khushi finally convinced Arnav that the design was hers. Her design got a standing ovation. That counts for something.

coderlady thumbnail
Posted: 7 months ago
#10

Hope that was just an NDA she signed. No hidden surprises there. At least her design got seen by all the powerful people, but that can come at a price too.

Top