Sunday, July 29, 2012

SS - D-Day Plus One


D-Day:
Arnav Singh Raizada looked blearily at the clock on his bed side table as the alarm went off. He hadn’t slept all night and his head was pounding mercilessly. He pushed himself to a sitting position on a bed that he’d tossed and turned all night long. Raising his long, lean frame off the bed, he headed to the bathroom. Perhaps a quick jog followed by a cold shower would clear his head.

***

In Laxminagar, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada had been lying in bed, wide awake. She had not slept all night. How could she? Today was the last day of her life as Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. From tomorrow she would be Khushi Kumari Gupta again. She sat up in bed and looked at the clock. Six-thirty - time for him to be up and about, probably going for his morning jog right about now, she thought. She lay back in bed, absently fingering the mangalsutra round her neck as she watched the early morning light come in through the windows as the sun came up on another hot day in Delhi.

***

Sweating profusely after his jog, he sipped some water, splashing some on his face, as he opened the door to Raizada Mansion. Nani was already up, he saw, and in the temple. Soundlessly, he headed to his room. He didn’t want to face anybody today, no loving questions about his absent wife, or queries about if things were okay. Right now, things were beyond not okay.

Back in his room, he showered and changed into his three piece suit. All black, like his mood. He hadn’t felt like shaving and the two-day stubble gave him a dark, closed look. He looked in the mirror as he tied the black tie, but all he saw was a man who had failed.

He came down the stairs, laptop bag in hand to find his sister and Nani sitting at the dining table. Thank God, his sister seemed to be getting better! She looked a lot happier now. Although he was aware that she never mentioned his absent wife or her family.

‘Chotey,’ said Nani, ‘Are you going to Laxminagar today?’ as he pulled out his chair and joined them.

‘No, Nani. I won’t be going there today.’ He noticed the sudden lightness in his sister’s face. ‘I have a ton of work to catch up on. Besides, tomorrow I leave for London’.

‘London again, Chotey?’ Nani said. She looked anxious. The memory of what the previous trip to ‘London’ had wrought was still fresh in their minds. Di tensed up again. He reached across and touched her hand. ‘I’ll be fine,di’, he reassured her. ‘This time nothing will happen.’

Nani frowned. ‘Does Khushi know?’

Before he could respond, his di got up. ‘Nani, I am going for a walk,’ she said. ‘Chotey, take care, and make sure you take your medication,’ she said in that slightly regal tone of hers.

He nodded. They watched Anjali leave, and then Nani turned to him, ‘Chotey, you didn’t answer my question. Does Khushi know?’

He shook his head avoiding her eyes. ‘I’ll tell her today’, finished his cup of tea and stood up. Nani nodded. She didn’t know what was wrong but he looked tired and unhappy. Something was bothering him. Probably the fact that his wife wasn’t here and he was missing her, she thought. It had been almost two weeks now that Khushi had left for her maternal home.

He let the driver drive him to work, sitting in the back, leaning against the headrest, eyes closed, and thinking back on the past eleven days. He had tried. God knows he had tried, in every single way that he could think of, to get her to open up. She had refused. He had tried silliness, love, coercion, blackmail, seduction, tenderness, humor, anger – he had tried it all! He had opened himself up to her as he had to no other person. He had laid his soul bare for her to take. But she had not responded.

The damnedest part was that he knew she loved him, was in love with him as much as he was in love with her. He saw the desire flare in her eyes when he touched her. The pain in her eyes when he’d hurt his back. The love in her eyes as she handed him his medication. The smile in her eyes when he’d turned to her after he’d been smiling at something and looked at her eyes. Her eyes. He could live in those eyes and die in them. He was still struggling to believe that she would deny giving them another chance. Why was she putting them both through this?

***

Khushi looked at the clock, eight thirty. He would probably have finished his breakfast by now and was headed to work. She hoped he had taken his medication. What was he wearing? She shook her head, willing herself to stop thinking about him. Twenty-four hours and then this charade of a marriage would be over! She couldn’t stop her heart from breaking, but at least it wouldn’t be trampled on by Arnav Singh Raizada anymore.

At ten, she went into her bedroom to check on her phone. Usually, he called as soon as he arrived at the office. Perhaps she had missed it, because she had it on the charger. There were no calls or missed calls or voice messages.

***

He realized he had been looking at the laptop screen without reading a single word. He shook his head. He had a business to run, and people whose livelihood depended on his business running. He had to focus. But he couldn’t. Finally, he called his lawyer, Mr. Roy.

‘Ah, Mr. Roy, I need you to draw up some papers. I’ll send you the details. I need this done today…’

Finishing his conversation, he hung up the phone and stared at it for a long while. His hands were itching to dial her number, but he wasn’t going to give in. Not anymore. He was done. He had nothing left to offer her. If freedom was what she wanted, then that is what she would be getting. He resolutely focused on this work again. A dead numbness settled in where his heart used to be for a very short while. Arnav Singh Raizada had lost this game.

Then the slow buildup of anger replaced it.

‘AMAAANN!!’ he yelled, ‘Where is the Singhania file?’ when that unfortunate showed his face at ASR’s door.

***

By five o’clock, Khushi was a nervous wreck. It had been a very tense day for her. She had been jumpy and nervous and absent-minded till her mother and buaji had finally decided that her sanak was way past the danger mark. She could not settle down. It wasn’t helping that Amma and Buaji kept talking about ‘Arnav bitwa’ this and ‘Arnav Babua’ that. She felt like screaming for them to stop. They thought it was so cute that he wanted to come and spend nights at their house. They wanted to know if he’d called and would he be coming over today, seeing as he spent most of his time there these days anyway! But they were realizing that their Damadji had not called his wife all day, nor had he shown his face at their door!

She jumped when the phone rang, it was her cell phone. She picked it up and saw that it was him. Finally! Her heart did a little jump.

‘Khushi?’ he said.

She loved the sound of that voice, she would know it anywhere. ‘Yes, Arnavji’.

‘Khushi, I need you to go somewhere with me tomorrow. Be ready at nine sharp. I’ll pick you up’.

‘What, tomorrow?’

‘Don’t you understand something when it’s said once, Khushi?’ he chewed out the words. ‘Yes. Tomorrow. Nine in the morning. Be ready’, with that he hung up.

She stood glowering at the phone. Who the hell did he think he was? Tomorrow? Didn’t he remember that today was the last day of the contract? That tomorrow she would no longer be his wife?

‘Who was it, Khushi?’ her Buaji asked eagerly, ‘Damadji?’

She was still looking at the phone in her hand, ‘yes, Buaji. He wants me to go somewhere with him tomorrow. Nine o’clock in the morning.’

Buaji beamed. This was good. At least he was taking her out, but nine in the morning was a bit odd to be going out, wasn’t it? Probably wanted to spend the whole day with her, she thought, smiling. Poor Sanka Devi had been all jumpy today until his call came. How much they loved each other, these two. He couldn’t stay away from her for one day even!

D-Day Plus One:

Khushi, was ready and waiting for him at nine o’clock. She wore a pale pink saree that almost blended into her skin tones. She didn’t wear her mother-in-law’s bangles, instead two thin gold bangles adorned each arm. That and her mangalsutra was all the jewelry she wore. Pale pink lipstick outlined her lips, emphasizing the slightly blue smudges under her eyes.

He drew up to the Gupta house and for a moment sat looking at it. For the last time. This would be the last time, ever that he would come to this place, he thought. He was in black today, too. In mourning for a marriage that had never even got off to a start before it was ending. He got out, walked up the steps and rang the bell.

She opened the door almost immediately. His breath caught in his throat as he saw the misery in her eyes, probably reflecting the misery in his. She still wore his mangalsutra and his sindoor, he saw. But he realized that she would probably have too much to explain to her family if she went out with him, without the symbols of their marriage.

Her mother and aunt came up behind her, right on cue. He smiled slightly at them. ‘Namaste, Buaji. Namaste, Aunty’. They nodded at him.

‘Won’t you come in for a cup of tea?’ her mother said.

‘No, aunty. We have an appointment, and we can’t be late for it,’ he apologized. ‘Khushi, shall we go?’

‘I’ll get my bag,’ she said, avoiding his eyes.

They walked out together. He held the car door open for her as she got in. She looked so beautiful, he thought, stamping on the thought before it started in his head.

‘Where are we going?’ she asked a little nervously. He didn’t say anything, just glanced at her and kept driving.

They arrived at a tall office building, and took the elevators to the tenth floor. She glanced sideways at him. He was looking straight ahead, the familiar glower on his face. She dropped her eyes and didn’t see him look at her bent head and close his eyes.

They were ushered into a room, and from behind a desk, Mr. Roy stood up. He leaned over his desk and shook Arnav’s hand. ‘Please have a seat, both of you.’

Arnav held her chair as she sat down looking nervously at Mr. Roy. He smiled reassuringly at her, but it wasn’t a real smile. This was always so awkward. He cleared his throat.

Arnav sat looking deceptively relaxed in his chair. She stole another glance at him and could see the tension lines in his jaw. He wouldn’t look at her. She sat on the edge of her chair.

‘Mrs. Raizada, Mr. Raizada,’ he began. ‘I understand that you wish to dissolve your marriage. I’ve drawn up the annulment papers per your request. But before you sign, Mrs. Raizada, I’d like to explain to you what exactly are in these papers. Mr. Raizada and you will be separating based on irreconcilable differences..’

Khushi stared at Mr. Roy, his words echoing in her ears. They were really doing it. They were getting divorced.

‘Mr. Raizada will be paying you a monthly alimony of ____ thousand Rupees for the rest of your life. However, in the event that you do marry again, this alimony will be stopped.’

Her breathing was getting heavier.

‘You will also relinquish your rights to any of his properties. The only property you will retain will be the property in Laxminagar. That house has been transferred to your name.’

Laxminagar property? What property? Her mind was whirling as he continued to explain each of the clauses of the paperwork. He was droning on and on, and all she could see was his mouth opening and closing. She couldn’t make out any of the words he said.

Finally, he said, ‘So, Mrs.Raizada, I would advise you to go through these papers one more time. If you have any questions please let me know. Or if you wish to change any clauses, then please let your lawyer know. If you are agreeable to the terms, please sign these papers, here..’ he pointed out the highlighted parts, ‘ here.. and..’ turning pages, ‘… here’. He held out a pen for her.

She couldn’t breathe.

To not see Arnav again.
She stared down at the papers in front of her.

To not wake up next to him again.
To not be held in his arms again.
It was all blurring in front of her eyes, as darkness crept in from the sides.

To not have him hold her when she fell.
To not be able to look into his eyes and drown in them.

There was a roaring in her ears.

To not be able to see that smile again.
To not hear him call her 'Khushi' again.

She gripped the edge of the table as her heart seemed to stop beating,

To never see Arnav again....
She couldn't breathe.

Each word that Mr.Roy had said had been like a death knell in his ears, as he had listened with his eyes closed. He knew those clauses, he’d put them there. But suddenly he was aware of her, she wasn’t well. He spun in his seat in time to see her head loll forward as she fainted. ‘Khushi,’ he called, his right arm automatically coming in between her head and the desk. He carefully leaned her backwards until she was cradled in his left arm. ‘Khushi?.. Khushi!’ He tapped her cheeks lightly to wake her up.

Mr. Roy was already at the door calling for water. He turned around to see Arnav Singh Raizada tenderly pick up his wife and lay her on the sofa. He couldn’t see how her left hand had curled into her husband’s collar nor the tears in his eyes as he gently loosened her fingers. He took the water over the distraught husband. Why on earth were they divorcing? This couple was crazy about each other. Arnav took the water from him and he said, ‘I’ll wait outside.’

Arnav nodded his thanks. He took a little water and sprinkled it on her face. He was crouching down, his face level with hers. ‘Khushi? Open your eyes, Khushi,’ his frantic calls finally got through to her. She opened her eyes and saw his face, filled with the same fear she had seen the day she had fallen off the cliff. He closed his eyes in relief.

‘Arnavji?’ she saw the tears in his eyes. For a moment, she looked at him, and then threw herself at him, her arms going around his broad shoulders, her face buried in his chest. He staggered a little in his precarious position, and then lifted her up so he could sit on the sofa, too. She was crying, heartbroken. He couldn’t take it. The tears fell down his cheeks as he held her fiercely against him, his face buried in her hair.

‘I can’t do this anymore,’ she sobbed, ‘I can’t. I can’t be without you. Please don’t break my heart anymore’. He listened in astonishment. ‘I love you too much. I can’t breathe without you,’ she was hiccupping as she spoke.

‘Khushi,’ he moved her away a little so he could look into her face. She looked at him with tear-drenched eyes, lips trembling, her long fingers clutching his lapels. ‘Khushi,’ he repeated, ‘please tell me. Please. I need to know. Why do you want us to separate? Tell me what is in your mind,’ he pleaded.

Her eyes searched his face before she whispered one word, ‘Di’.

He swallowed, searching for the right words. ‘Khushi, di is hurting right now. She needs me to help her heal. I can’t leave her. But I need you beside me to help me with her. I can’t do this alone. I need you there with me’.

‘But she is always reminded of what happened when she sees me.’

‘I know. Time is something we have to give her.’ He looked down, thought for a minute. ‘Us getting separated is not a solution, Khushi. I am not letting us go. I can’t. I almost did once before, and I know I can’t do it again.’

‘Once before?’ she asked. He shook his head, cradled her head in his hand and brought it to his shoulder. She felt his voice in his chest, as he spoke.

‘I love you, Khushi Kumar Gupta Singh Raizada. My strength lies in you. Without you…’ he stopped. He took her hand and placed it on his heart. She looked into his eyes, as she felt the strong, sure beat of his heart under her fingers. She read all that she needed to in his eyes. She slowly rested her head back on his shoulder. There was contentment in her face. ‘We’ll do this together, Khushi.’ She nodded.

He wiped the tears from her cheeks, and handed her the glass of water. There was a discreet knock at the door. He moved over to open it. Mr.Roy came in. He looked from one to the other.

‘Mr.Raizada?’

Arnav looked over at his wife, now sitting up on the sofa. There was love and joy shining in his face. ‘You can put those papers in the shredder, Mr.Roy’, he said. He walked over to the sofa, helping his wife stand up with an arm around her. With a smile at her he said, ‘I’m taking my wife home.’

16 comments:

  1. Madhu . . Fab Fab Fab .. echoed my feelings exactly .. hope the second round to their marriage starts on this kind of poignant note .. Loved how you showed both of them breaking down just by the thot of not seeing the other ... its so in line with what was shown to us from the beginning of the show ... U know what struck me while reading this .. is how little has Khushi thot things thru .. typical fashion .. has she realised her family reaction to her separating from Arnav .. ...no guesses once again a knee jerk reaction from the lady .. which will need to be put right by her more mature husband ..

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  2. wow!!!!! i am speechless.... its great!!!!
    don know wat more to say......

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  3. Absolutely fantastic Madhu!!!!! the emotions........WOW just WOW!!!!

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  4. Amazing...Madhu...Brilliant

    -Sam

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  5. Just discovered this blog by accident and boy am i glad.
    You are really good...........
    Going to continue reading some of your other works.

    Liza

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  6. It's amazing.. You have shown their feelings, their emotions so beautifully...

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  7. Madhuuuuu!!!! I'm crying!!!! This was splendid... If only it had happened this way in the show too...

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  8. i really cried when iwas reading this

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  9. "I cannot breathe without you Arnavji..."

    Madhu you are freaking awesome!

    Arnav's strength is only Khushi.

    Anjali was hurting and I really like how you have described that little scene during breakfast. Really subtle.

    Jammy-

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  10. Fabulous Madhu! wish they had used this before the Dadi track!
    Loved it a lot!

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  11. This was beautiful. Fisrt you show how Anjali stil feels heart broken about her own marriage, the thought of Khushi being the other woman is breaking her heart...I can just feel it. You show how miserable they are without each other, how everyone can see that these two love each other. Then you feel her hearing the words, and the feeling of a nreaking heart comes through, not just hers but his too.

    I loved the end, she always had a heart of gold, but leaving him..not being with him... oh I had tears in my eyes! But the end was just beautiful. Really Beautiful thank you

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  12. i will always read it again and again

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  13. i will always read it again and again

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