The long road to the mandap: A short story

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Sep 25, 2012

The long road to the mandap: A short story (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 58 times)

Khushi stood near the huge glass doors in the lobby waiting, not so patiently for the arrival of her groom to claim her as his own. As the muhurat for the wedding was rather late in the night (1.00am) most of the guests had left leaving only the family members, who were scattered all over the big house, probably catching their breaths before the rituals started. Khushi was tired and sleepy, all the wedding jewellery and the heavy lehnga was making her uncomfortable, she wondered how Arnavji was faring. She was the one who wanted all the rituals and rasams and here she was heartily tired of it all, wishing that it could be all over so that she could just go and sleep. She smiled, she was sure to get an earful pretty soon from her beau for making him undergo this torture.

There he was, she could hear his voice, raised in anger, at least today he could have kept his cool, must not be wanting to wear his turban or some such thing, she shook her head resignedly.

She saw Nani and Di move towards his room, yet the shouting continued, now she could even make out Dadi's voice. Khushi's heart sank. Dadi gave her the jitters and even when she had apparently accepted her as the Bahu and given the bangles to her she had had a bad feeling which refused to go away. Nervously she looked up and wondered whether she should go and investigate, because it was Dadi she hesitated. Soon, hearing the ruckus, Aakash, Payal and NK also went upstairs, while Khushi waited in dread, fearing the worst.

Khushiji, wondering what is happening? Hum batate hain, that leering voice said in her ear.

She spun around and glared at him, Aap?

Yes, me, I will tell you what is happening upstairs.......you see Dadi had just revealed to Saale Sahab that Garimaji, your mother was the one who had an affair with his father....she was responsible for the death of both his parents.......tch tch.....bechare saale sahab.....I don't think he is taking the news very well.....gloated Shyam

Khushi felt dizzy, her hands became icy cold, what rubbish are you speaking, this is not possible.

Shyam: I knew you would say that, so I brought proof, after all I am a lawyer.....here see this photograph...

Khushi nearly fainted with shock as she stared at the photograph.......amma......and yes that was Arnav's babuji all right.....she tottered to the sofa and slumped down on it.....no she couldn't believe it.....Amma would never do such a thing....be responsible for breaking a family....no impossible......there must be some other explanation.......but what if Arnavji refused to listen.....what if he felt compelled to marry her.....she wouldn't be able to bear it if he felt obliged to wed her....and then face his scathing scorn, his hate......no no he loved her too much.....he would calm down....he would listen.....but what if amma.....what if....what if....it was all too much for Khushi.....she felt like......

So Khushiji......what do you think.....what will saale sahab do now......why do you think he is so angry now....do you think he will still marry you.....do you think Dadi will still accept you....will your Di still welcome you with open arms.....and what about Naniji........her bahu....the daughter of her daughter's murderer......Khushiji.....there is still time.....come with me....I love you more than saale sahab ever could.....I will marry you.....I will keep you safe from these dysfunctional people.....

Shut up shut up....screamed Khushi....get away from me....leave me alone....leave me alone do you hear me......go away....go away.....

Ok ok...there is no need to shout.....I was just trying to help, Shyam walked away with a swagger.

Khushi sat there wringing her hands, what should I do, should I go an talk to Arnavji....no everyone would be there....it was a deeply personal family matter...it wouldn't be right....yet she couldn't sit here could she.....let me go and talk to amma....yes amma would be able to sort it out....must be some misunderstanding.....amma would never do such a thing.....she would first sort it out with them.....thankfully the shouting had ceased.....hopefully now that the initial shock was over...they were rationally discussing this thing....she got up and started walking towards their room.........she was stopped on the way by HP.....

HP: Khushi babhi, Arnav bhaiyya is calling you to the pool side, please go this way as he want to talk to you alone.

Khushi, nodded her thanks and quickly turned to go, her heart thudding madly, hey DM, let everything be alright, please DM.....raksha karna...

As she came near the pool side she found it deserted, she walked towards the other end, thinking that he might be at the other corner as he would want some privacy and maybe the others were still in his room.....

Suddenly a shadow jumped at her but before she could scream a strongly smelling piece of cloth was clapped over her mouth and nose.....she collapsed with a thud and hit her head on the edge of the pool while she lost consciousness.....

TBC

Sep 26, 2012

....Chapter 2..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 58 times)

Arnav grabbed his car keys, pushed through the crowd gathered in his room and stormed off into the night. Garima and Buaji who had by now emerged from their room, with Babuji looked apprehensively at him. Garima in particular looked worried and agitated as she nervously wrung her hands. They waited in the lobby fearing the worst, wondering what had happened, when Payal came rushing down the stairs, crying hysterically. She threw herself into Garima's arms and said, Amma, what is this that Dadi is saying amma.....stop them....please stop them......tell them that this is not true.......

Garima froze and her arms dropped from around Payal as she stood stiffly.....slowly the other members of the family came down the stairs to the lobby where they were standing.....

Nani: Where is Chotte?

Buaji: Woh....he just charged outside....

Nani: And Khushi?

Everyone looked blankly at each other....no one knew.....

Garima was weeping and shaking uncontrollably and she kept muttering Khusi, Khusi.....Payal led her gently to the couch and made her sit down.

Nani called HP to get some water....when HP came with the water, Nani asked him, Have you seen Khushi, HP?

HP: Haan...woh...Arnav Bhaiyya wanted to talk to her alone by the poolside and she went there....

Nani, nodded her head and said, theek hai....She must be with Chotte....hope they sort out this thing soon....Aakash call up Chotte and find out...

Aakash tried calling up Bhai and Khushi, but both phones were switched off.

Nani: Try again in a little while. Garimaji.......you must have heard what Sumi said from Payal.....but we would, or at least I would like to know from you the truth.....or at least your version....because I simply cannot believe what she is saying.....that you had an affair with my daamadji.....

Buaji, stunned and shocked into silence, finally found her voice, HRNK, haan Garima....what is all this....why don't you speak up and tell Dadiji.....that nothing of the sort happened..... that it is all a lie....

Dadi, cut in, what can she say.....this is the truth and nothing but the truth.....she cannot deny it.....here is the proof....so saying she passed the photo to Buaji.....

Buaji stared at the photograph unbelievingly.....iiiii sab ka hai....nandkishore

Shyam smiled evilly as he watched from the sidelines, holding his sobbing wife in his comforting

embrace....

Garima, continued to wring her hands and attempted to speak, please listen to me jiji.....please try to understand....I didn't know he was married......

Dadi: Bas, we don't want to hear any of your pathetic excuses.....get out of this house immediately....the wedding is off.....

Nani: SUMI.....shant ho jaayie.....let her speak.....and nobody is leaving till this thing is sorted out....till Chotte and Khushi don't come back....that is final.....Garimaji.....aap kahiye

Garima: I swear I didn't know he was married.....he didn't tell me was married.....I was madly in love with him.......but the day I got to know.....when Dadiji came and told me.......I was shocked and horrified.......I confronted him and walked away.....and then I got news of the double tragedy.....I went to see.....but I came away because I couldn't bear the guilt....I wanted to end my life too......when Shasheeji saved my life.....Jiji....please understand....It was not my fault.....I could never ever knowingly break up a family....you know me.....you tell me....could I ever do such a thing.....never.....never....you ask Shasheeji if you don't believe me.....

Buaji: Garima.....I can't believe that you hid such a big thing from all of us and for so long.....no wonder you didn't want to meet Dadiji.....always hiding from her......that shows you had a guilty conscience......otherwise you would have said something earlier....you would have confessed at least to me...I can't believe it Garima.....you have broken my trust.....

Garima: Nahi Jiji, don't speak like that.....I did not want to destroy Khushi and Payal's married lives....that is why....I knew Dadiji would never believe me.....she never listened to me then.....she didn't listen to me after the Haldi ceremony.....believe me Jiji.....I didn't know.....he didn't tell me....he broke my trust.....I loved him so much.....

Buaji, disgustedly, You have broken my trust....my faith...here keep your beloved's photo with you....she thrust the photo into Garima's hand and turned to go....

Garima held on to Buaji's hand, Nahi jiji, please don't desert me like this.....I swear on my two daughters.....I swear on DM....I didn't know.....if I had I never never would even think of such a thing...

Nani: Ek minute, Madhumatiji......maybe Garima is telling the truth.....maybe she was cheated.....it happens to the best of us.....people can sweet talk and fool even the most hardened of us.....as we have seen....she looked meaningfully at Buaji

Buaji, darted a look at Shyam and stiffened, then sullenly slightly nodded her head.....

Nani, satisfied at having made her point, continued, and if Garima is able to swear on DM, on her two precious daughters.....I am rather inclined to believe her.....and moreover even if this is true....Sumi why should the wedding be called off....what is Khushi's fault in this....that Garima is her Aunt.....what about the fact that your son was an equal party to this affair....is he blameless....and by the same standard....Chotte is equally culpable.....why call off the wedding?

Dadi: I will not be taken in by this female or this female's niece....they are master manipulators.....this one destroyed my family.....and another one is also going the same way...she failed with one and nearly succeeded with Arnav.....but I will not let this happen....

Nani: SUMI, please don't speak about things which you are not well aware of....you don't know the whole story or Khushi......please calm down and I feel the decision should be that of Khushi and Chotte....let them decide as they are the ones to be most affected.....

Nani, thoughtfully, Sumi you had met Garimaji that day when you gave the bangles to Khushi....why did you not say anything to us that day..... I noticed that there was some tension between you two...... why did you wait till today?......the wedding day.....

Shyam grimaced....damn Nani...he hugged Anjali close and whispered, Rani Sahiba, I have a bad headache....I am feeling suffocated....I think I will go out for a bit of fresh air....you are alright na...

Anjali, all solicitous concern, Do you need any medicine, shall I make tea, go and lie down, shall I come with you...

Shyam, smiling bravely, Nahi nahi don't bother...I am fine...I would not have said anything....but I am feeling very suffocated....it will not look nice if you also come with me....this is a very serious situation I know...... but I cannot really do anything here.....I will be back soon.... .....if I feel unwell then maybe I will go and lie down.... dont worry about me.....

Sep 27, 2012

....Chapter 3..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 61 times)

Arnav zoomed off in his car, driving the night streets of Delhi rather recklessly.....his mind blank....he just drove around the city like a madman.....focusing on driving not thinking....or trying not thinking what Dadi had just said....about that night 14 years ago....that today was his wedding....that Khushi was waiting for him.....damn damn and triple damn.....he raced the car further as if to run away from it all.........till he was exhausted and spent.....broken and defeated he went to his sanctuary.....his mother.....she would help him.....only she could......

It was dark and the lone light at the end of the garden gave an ethereal sense to the whole place....almost instantly a sense of calm descended over him.........help me mama.......patience Chotte patience.....he could still hear her....as he nagged her again and again.....when will this become a tree mama....her soft laughter..... her warm embrace......restless once again, he cried, mama, like a lost little boy as he stared at their tree ...... what should I do mama.........

Their tree never failed to amaze him....inspire him......a symbol of patience and determination ....a tender delicate sapling left all alone, exposed to the harshest of elements.....would have been so easy to give up....to yield....yet she stood strong, tall and proud....her gnarled twisted branches witness to life's scars...... yet she embraced life with open arms....... as if to defy nature to do her worst..... Undeterred and ever graceful....through the myriad seasons of time...

He sank down under the tree as if to soak in her strength and patience and sat quietly, looking up at the sky at his mother twinkling brightly in the night sky....... He closed his eyes and tried to listen to her voice in his heart.....after an eon........he could hear her clearly as if she were standing next to him.........what is done and gone can never be undone.....look ahead my son.......be happy....if you are not happy how can I be happy?.......listen to your heart.....would you be happy without her.......what purpose would be served by not accepting her.......who would be avenged?......what would be the purpose of such a revenge.......would I come back to life?......whom would you be punishing by not marrying her?..... Khushi, yourself or me........or all three.......you told her right here just the other day.....that she was my bahu from that day......so why this confusion.....she is already my bahu.....the pheras are for the rest of the family....the society.....would my son desert my bahu in her time of need, at the first sign of adversity as a married couple?...would I be proud of such a son?........is any of this her fault?......you punished her once for a fault that was not hers for your sister's sake........now you intend to repeat that mistake again........ for my sake? For how many people's fault is she going to pay.........

He sat there for a long time.....mulling over all that his heart was telling him...shutting out everything else....he sat till he could no longer see his mother .....it was time.....he had already broken his promise to Khushi to marry her today.....but this would be the last promise he ever broke....he vowed.......he took a last look at his sanctuary.....silently promised.....I will be back soon mama.....with her....

He drove back home at breakneck speed and dashed into RM, shouting Khushi, Khushiiii

Everyone was sitting in the lobby turned to look at him......Anjali came hurrying forward, Chotte.....where were you...I have been so worried...your phone was also switched off...

Chotte: Di, where is Khushi.....I need to talk to her....

Di: Khushi?....but we thought she was with you...

Everyone looked around in consternation....where was Khushi? Where could she have gone and that too without telling anyone...

Arnav, looked angrily around, Where is Khushi? Everyone is here and no one knows where Khushi is....What The.....I was gone for a few hours and none of you could take care of her....KHUSHIIIIII

Di: Chotte, she is not at home....we have checked....we thought she had gone with you....

Arnav: Gone with me....Di didnt you see how I was....do you seriously think I was in a rational enough state to take Khushi along with me of all people.....Khushiiiiiii

Dadi: Arnav, it is good that girl is no longer here, at least she has more sense and shame than her maasi who is still here....I say good riddance to bad rubbish...

Arnav:DADI....dont talk like that about Khushi..........I have made my decision ... I am going to marry Khushi and that is final .....but where is Khushi?

Anjali: Chotte, what....

Chotte, fumed: Di please...kum se kum aap toh.....at least you should understand

Dadi: ARNAV, what, even after knowing the truth, you want to marry that girl? Are you in your senses Arnav.....her maasi trapped your father for his money.....destroyed our family.....

Arnav: Stop it Dadi, what her maasi did or did not do is not Khushi's fault.....just as what Dad did is not my fault...besides.....you cannot clap with one hand can you?

Dadi: Unbelievable.... I can't believe this....what spell has this girl cast on you?.............she has trapped you in her web of deceit for your money........are you so blind that you can't see it?

Arnav: No Dadi....I can't see it.....and you still don't get it do you....I love Khushi.........and I know she also loves me......maybe even more than I could ever love her... nothing else matters ........

Dadi: But Arnav....

Arnav, raised his hand: But Dadi.....even if what you say is correct......even if she wants only my money.....she is welcome to it....all my money is worthless......my life is worthless without her.....

Dadi: Arnav, don't be so foolish and emotional, use your head.....don't be led astray by your heart....

Arnav: Right Dadi, let me use my head then......where did you get the photograph from?

Dadi: That is not important Arnav, what is important is that we got it before it is too late.....before the wedding....

Arnav: No Dadi....it is too late...Khushi and I are already married.... ....we have been husband and wife for the past 6 months so it is too late to do anything.....I was just doing this for your sake.....if you object......sure we won't go ahead with the rest of the rituals.....but Khushi remains my wife......with or without your blessings......

Nani: Calm down Chotte...Haan Sumi....tell me who gave you the photo and when did you get to know about Garima....you didnt need the photo to identify her did you....you told me you would never forget her face did you not.....the tension between you to on the day you gave the bangles was very evident...yet you chose to keep quiet....you decided to come forth only now....at the time of the wedding? Why Sumi why....

Dadi: Yes, I got to know earlier....but I wanted Garima to undergo the same agony that we underwent 14 years ago.....

Arnav: Great Dadi....even if it is at the cost of your own grandson's future, life and happiness?.....I hope you enjoy your revenge....but where is that Khushi.....she really drives me crazy....where could she have gone.....

Suddenly he turned to his Di and snapped, where is Shyam?

Anjali, rather taken aback with his tone, woh....he was here till sometime ago....but he had a headache....maybe in the room....HP......can you see if your Jijaji is in our room?

In a while HP came back: No didi, he is not in his room...

Anjali, looking apprehensively at Chotte, Achcha, let me call him

Arnav paced up and down restlessly as she moved away to call him.

Anajli: Kahan hai aap.....I was so worried, everyone is here only you are not here.....you know Khushi is missing........Chotte is very angry... he is asking about you.......yes....achcha........come soon

Anjali to Chotte: Woh...he is just outside taking a breath of fresh air....he will be back in a few minutes...

Chotte, grunted, not satisfied....he was getting a bad feeling...... Khushi, Khushi wish you had a little more faith....a little more patience....I was coming back.....oh really he jeered himself....you are fine one to talk.....suppose she had left you standing at the altar.....

Khushi...where could she have gone....Laxmi Nagar?....he asked Buaji

Buaji shook her head....the keys are with me....

Damn, said Arnav, then suddenly without another word he dashed out of RM and drove off in his car.

He went to the temple, Khushi was sure to be here.....only she wasn't.....yet he could feel her here....he had met her here so many times....how could she not be here.....where was she....Hey Devi Maiyya...unconsciously his heart echoed Khushi's chant...help me find her......I kept running away from her and she kept crossing my path......... now when I need her....... She is nowhere to be found.... is this what is called as kismet?....... give her back to me........ he sank down on the steps....

Just then his phone rang....it was an unknown number.....he picked it up....hello?.....

Arnavji, hum Khushi bol rahe hain.....

Sep 28, 2012

....Chapter 4..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 58 times)

When Khushi came to, she found herself sitting on a chair with her hands and feet bound and all her jewelry was missing. She looked around fearfully. It was a ramshackle house and in the faint light of the early morning she could make out bare minimum furniture and a lot of trees could be seen from the windows...somewhere in the outskirts.... Probably a lonely area....otherwise they would have gagged her as well....in the dark recesses of the room she could see two men sitting and dozing....they woke with a start stood up with a jerk as the main door crashed open and there stood.....Shyam leering evilly as always....

He swaggered his way to where Khushi was and said: How are you Khushiji, sorry that we have to keep you here in this state....the moment you assure me of your cooperation......you will be released immediately.....hum waada karte hain Khushiji....

Khushi glared at him, aap, I should have guessed it....who else could it be....

SMJ: Yes who else indeed.....I couldn't bear to see you deserted at the altar.....you see I love you so much.....saale sahab is not worthy of you......come marry me....I will cherish and treasure you as no one else can...

Khushi again glared at with disgust and anger: Don't talk to me like that....aren't you ashamed of yourself....

SMJ: Ashamed of what...... of loving you....not in a million years....you thought that my love was like that of Arnav's...weak and inconsistent.....no my love is strong and pure....it can withstand all tests.....even when you betrayed me....pretended to be my confidante and ally....when you hinted that we were a team ....a unit...my love for you increased manifold.....here was someone who was worthy of not only my love, but also my respect and admiration.....I am a huge fan of yours Khushiji....marry me....

Khushi: SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP

SMJ: Shout as much as you like....there is nobody in the vicinity who could hear you.....why are you so angry as if I have insulted you....it is an honorable gesture....waise bhi....what will you do now.....your Arnavji will never accept you....who knows he may even start a court case against your mother.......your family will be destroyed....just like Dadiji intends......but don't worry.......I can help you....marry me.......forget him...he is not worth it.....

Khushi: I don't want to listen to any of your rubbish anymore....let me go.....

SMJ: So easily.....you must be out of your mind.....I promised to marry you last year....and marry you I will....at any cost.....

Khushi: You must be out of your mind....how will you force me to marry you....by putting a gun to my head....go ahead...kill me....go ahead....I don't care...

SMJ: Oh I know that very well my dear.....you don't care about your death....but what if I kill your Babuji....very simple....just use a pillow to suffocate him....think about it Khushi....

Khushi, finally afraid of this man, WHAT....you are bluffing....you would never do such a thing....

SMJ: Don't tempt me.....I can do so.....in fact....did I tell you.....I am responsible for your father's condition.......he underestimated my love for you......I provoked him and precipitated that attack when he caught me with Rani Sahiba.....I refused to give him his medications.....if your family had not returned just then.....he would now be watching us from above.....

Khushi, horrified, aap....aap....nahi nahi...I can't believe it....

SMJ: Ahhh finally you seem to be appreciating me....shall I tell you more? You and Saale sahab got me thrown out of RM.....but I forced you to bring me back.....you think it was destiny that we lost our baby....no my dear....that was me.....I choreographed the miscarriage.....and all of you danced beautifully to my tunes.....I brought back Dadi....I stole that photograph from your amma.....need I say more......So will you marry me...or should I kill or maim some more......

Khushi's world spun and she fainted.....when she came to in a while, SMJ was talking on the phone.....WHAT....Khushi is missing.....saale sahab is angry....he is asking about me.....don't worry Rani Sahiba....I just stepped outside for a breath of fresh air.....I will be back in just 10 minutes....

Khushi's heart leaped....Arnavji was looking for her, he was asking about Shyam's whereabouts....all was not lost...hey Devi Maiyya raksha karna.....she prayed fervently...... ....

SMJ, swiftly came to Khushi and leaned threateningly over her chair, I have to go now....I will be back in the evening.... there is a temple nearby....everything has been set......be prepared to marry me or face the consequences....and now I want you to call Arnav and convince him that you no longer wish to marry him....spin him any yarn.....I am sure you can think of something....if you can fool me you can fool anyone....but one wrong word....one hint....and be prepared to say goodbye to your father...and the others one by one.....and I don't make idle threats.....

Lallan, Rocky...here take this....her phone....dial Arnav's number and untie her hands.....let her talk to him and let her convince him that their wedding is off........and mind you....one wrong word...you call me....get that....pay close attention to what she says....I wish I could stay, while she talked....but....anyway both of you....you keep a close watch on this girl....and let me know if she says anything....anything suspicious....get it....SMJ vanished in a hurry through the doorway.....

Khushi heaved a sigh of relief and looked speculatively at the two goons....she feigned dizziness and pleaded for water....they looked confusedly at each other...wondering what to do...then Lallan deigned to move and arrange for water.....Khushi's mind was working at top speed.....they would make her call Arnavji soon....what to say to him....would he even listen to her...would he even take her call.......she would worry about that later....first how to pass the message without arousing the suspicion of these two.....she shuddered when she recalled what Shyam had just revealed to her......and she had thought he was upset at the loss of his child.....

Rocky untied her hands and gave her the bottle of water. Then he handed her phone to her.....here you heard the boss....call him up and tell him the wedding is off.....Khushi took the phone.....but as the battery was discharged....she couldn't even switch on her phone....she looked at Rocky....now what....

Rocky was flummoxed and looked at Lallan....then Rocky had a brainwave and handed her his phone....call from this phone....do you know his number.....for a second Khushi debated lying....but decided that would be counterproductive....she nodded her head and took his phone....

Khushi's heart stopped then started beating madly when she heard him say "Hello"

She prayed for strength and said, Arnavji, hum Khushi bol rahe hain....

The conversation went on predictable lines initially, as without any further ado, Arnav started blasting her right left and centre....interspersed liberally with "How dare you Khushi".... tum theek ho....."tum samajhti kya ho apne aap ko"...... ........etc etc...........he was in full flow......she let him....it was music to her ears....her heart sang with joy....she controlled her tears and reluctantly stopped him.....

Yes Arnavji....hum theek hain....I just called to say....that after yesterday.....I can't marry you.....

WHAT....are you crazy.....

Crazy aap.....the way you behaved....you left me standing at the altar.....how could you......I could never marry you.....I HATE you...

Khushi, relax....I know you are angry.....we were all upset....we can sort this out.....come home....we will talk it out....

Nahi Arnavji......I cannot and will not change my mind....I should have refused to marry you on the day of the Bachelor's party itself..... you were so drunk.......and the way you were cavorting with so many girls.....chchiii.... ....I couldn't believe my eyes....I can't marry such a man.....

WHAT TTTT....Khushi...what rubbish are you talking....

Yes Arnavji....I am speaking the truth....listen can you hear the temple bells....I would not be lying standing in a temple would I.....I hate you and I hate amma also....you can tell her that.....I am never coming back home again.....

Khushi....

Arnavji, don't try to look for me as I am going away......I met an uncle of mine...a Mr Kanahiya Lal.....my father's brother....he had come for the wedding.....I am going away with him....he is very nice and he will look after me......and in fact he has also promised to get me married to his friend's son Mr Murli Manohar.....this evening itself.....so it is goodbye from my side....you don't deserve me and always remember that I hate you......Hamesha.....hamesha....she put the phone down, buried her face in her hands and burst into tears.....

Sep 29, 2012

.....Chapter 5..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 59 times)

Arnav stared at his phone dazed....was this girl for real.....she was certifiably mad.....what the hell was she saying.....crazy did not begin to describe it......"Khushiji jo bhi karti hai....uski koi na koi wajah hoti hai".......out of the blue, Aakash's statement echoed in his mind....that incident with the Sethi brothers........she was saying something........she was passing a message..... ..........with a gun pointed at his head, he had said I love you......she said I hate you.....hamesha.....all a message......clearly she did not have much faith in his deductive powers so she added that bit about the bachelor's party........she was in danger........his blood ran cold.......then anger flared in his breast........that Shyam was at the bottom of this he was sure.....he was missing this morning.........Kanahayia Lal, Murli Manohar..........yes Shyam for sure....but he could not afford to lose his temper....he could be putting Khushi's life in danger.....

He jumped and began dashing down the stairs, then stopped and came back and folded his hands, like he had seen Khushi do....thank you....keep her safe.......and then dashed off again....while calling his school buddy..... Raman Shukla..... the Assistant Commissioner of Police.....pick up the phone dammit...pick up the phone.....thankfully he picked it up....still groggy from sleep....after all it was early morning......Arnav rushed to his house.....he was waiting in the garden with the tea tray....

RAMAN......ASR started

Whoa ASR.....relax.....what's the emergency.....just yesterday you got married and already so hassled, Raman ribbed him...

ASR shook his head....didn't get married.....couldn't get married...

Raman: What.....I was there last night...I even had dinner...lovely dinner it was too...of course I didn't stay for the wedding...ok ok...begin from the beginning

ASR: No time for the beginning....very long story....may be later.....first.....Khushi, my bride is missing....she called me just now.......I think she has been kidnapped....

Raman: Did she tell you that she had been kidnapped?

ASR: No....but she was talking weird.....about stuff that hasn't happened....and she was clearly lying....she said she didn't love me....didnt want to marry me....

Raman: Buddy, maybe she doesn't....I mean girls do change their minds.....maybe she is not lying....

ASR, angry, No dammit.....she was lying....we spoke just before the wedding ....everything was fine and now this.....besides she would never do this on the phone....she would come and chew my head off in person....and....and she she spoke about being angry with me for my behavior at the bachelor's party, me drinking and cavorting with girls....

Raman coughed: Well, again maybe, you did go over the top...... and you didn't invite me.....he looked at him reproachfully...

ASR, really mad now, Stop it Raman.....this is serious...I didn't invite you because there was no bachelor's party....I just pretended to throw one.....which Khushi gate crashed.....and she very well knows that I was not drinking and neither was I cavorting with any other girls...........so she was passing a message to me........clearly she was forced to make that phone call and she was instructed to break off the marriage in such a manner so that I would be mad enough not to bother looking for her.........and........ there were some family skeletons which....which could make it easy for me to believe the worst.....

Raman: Since when has she been missing?

ASR: Err....I am not sure....nobody has seen her since last night....

Raman: What!!....since last night....and you are coming now....what about the wedding?

ASR, embarrassed, don't ask....something....some disturbing facts came to light....I was very disturbed....so I disappeared for the night...trying to sort out my thoughts....and everyone at home thought Khushi was with me.....while I thought she was at home.....so we just got to know that she is missing....and then I get this strange call from her....I mean stranger than her usual standards.....

Raman, all business now: ok....I will accept that she is missing...maybe even kidnapped....but what do you think is the motive......clearly not ransom......do you suspect anyone?

ASR, clenched his teeth and bit out: Shyam Manohar Jha, my jijaji...

Raman: What!...Di's husband.....are you out of your mind?

ASR: No Raman.....actually a lot has happened over the last couple of months....I debated whether or not to discuss with you....then decided against it as I thought to save my sister and my family the public glare....maybe it was a wrong decision....I should have got to the bottom of it......some time ago I was kidnapped and an attempt was made to murder me.....Khushi saved my life and even though there was no proof we know that Shyam was behind it all...

Raman, all worked up: Kidnapped, attempt to murder....and you could have at least discussed it with me......what the hell ASR....what were you thinking...

ASR, looked away: Yeah well.....I was a bit preoccupied....clinching a deal

Raman: Clinching a deal!....you really take the cake ASR.....I mean is the deal worth more important than your life?

ASR shrugged his shoulders, a half smile on his face and said softly..... yeah...you could say that

Raman: Unbelievable Man.....ok I want all the details later....but tell me...this Shyam may have plotted to kill you for your wealth....but why kidnap Khushi?

ASR, eyes bleak: He....he has....he has a thing for Khushi.....he was two timing my sister and Khushi and even got engaged to her.....then when Khushi got to know the truth....she broke off with him.....but I don't think he has given up on her and now maybe.......oh.....wait a minute....Khushi said something....yes that she was going away with her paternal uncle Kanahiya Lal....never heard of him before.....and that he would get her married this evening to his friend's son Murli Manohar......ASR, leaped up and started pacing up and down....that Shyam.....I bet he was the one to instigate Dadi to create the mess with the photo.....and now he has kidnapped her and plans to marry her by force.....RAMAN....don't just sit there....otherwise I swear I will kill that man.....in fact that is best idea I have had so far......

Raman: ASR, chill man chill.....she said married in the evening na....there is loads of time....you go home and keep an eye on him....in the meanwhile I will send plainclothes men to tail him if he goes anywhere.....now give me the phone number from where the phone came and also Shyam's number....I will get her location from the phone calls.....dont worry....you go home and freshen up.....let me do my job.....and DON'T DON'T let Shyam know that you are on to him.....otherwise.....Khushi's brilliant message will all go for a waste.....and Khushi's life would also be in danger.....Raman added for good measure to ensure ASR's compliance with his instructions.

ASR nodded curtly and drove off after passing on the phone numbers.....just a little distance away, he stopped the car and called Raman....I just remembered another thing Khushi had said....she said I am not lying...can you hear the temple bells...I wouldn't be lying in a temple would I? I think she was trying to say that there was a temple nearby....if that is of any help....

Raman: Ok, carry on.....I will keep you posted

Oct 3, 2012

.....Chapter 6..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 70 times)

At RM, everybody was still where ASR had left them and Shyam had also joined them.....they looked up with great hope at him.....but he refused to meet anyone's eyes and walked off to his room....then half-way up the stairs...he stopped and spoke to Payal.....Take your parents home....they must be tired....Aakash drop them home....maybe Payal would like to stay with them.......and all of you take some rest....it has been a long night...

Everyone was stunned and stared in shock at him......Shyam and Dadi had ill-concealed smirks on their face....even Mamiji had a satisfied look on her face....

Aakash: But Bhai....

ASR glared at him and said, just do it Aakash...

Nani: But Chotte, Payal......and what about Khushi....did you....

ASR: Nahi Nani....and I don't want to talk about Khushi....and I don't want anyone else to talk about her either.....he strode off to his room....

Speechless, they all stood there just looking at him...amma and Payal went off into a fresh paroxysm of tears, swiftly followed by Anjali.....Shyam gleefully rushed forward to comfort her....

Aakash gently touched Payal on her shoulder, she controlled herself and nodded her head....and they slowly moved out of RM....

Nani slumped down on the sofa and Mami tried her best to console her.

NK stood staring at ASR, and then suddenly he appeared to come to a decision and charged off behind him.

NK: NANNAV.....would you please tell me what the hell is going on....where is Khushiji and why are you behaving like this?

ASR, pulled NK into the room and said: Where is Shyam?

NK, suddenly alert: Downstairs with Di, why?

ASR, closed the door and said: NK, I think Khushi has been kidnapped and I believe that Shyam is behind it....I had to pretend I am angry with Khushi so that he doesn't suspect I am on to him....the police are working on a few leads........NK...will you keep an eye on him....if he moves out....let me know....I don't trust myself around him.....

NK: Sure

ASR: Oh...NK....can you tell me why you guys thought Khushi was with me....I mean something must have made you think so?

NK: Oh....I don't know...can't remember...just a general impression I think....oh yes now I remember...Nani asked HP if he had seen Khushiji and HP said that you had called her to the poolside....

ASR: But I didn't....so why did HP say so? Ok....just send HP to me.....umm tell him to get me some coffee.

HP: Arnav bhaiya coffee...

ASR, taking the cup: HP why did you tell Khushi that I wanted her to go to the poolside? I didn't tell you did I?

HP: Nahi of course not....one of the numerous waiters who had come to help out at the wedding, he told me to pass on the message to her...

ASR: Would you recognize this man if you saw him again?

HP nodded his head, ASR waved him away....and then called him back....dont talk about this to anyone....I mean anyone.... understood....HP nodded his head

ASR walked to the poolside and called, Khushi.....where are you Khushi.....hope you are safe....restlessly he walked around the pool trying to retrace Khushi's steps....she would have come from here and if someone wanted to kidnap her, he would have to take her out from here.....and then he saw.....a brown spot on the white edge of the pool.....blood....Khushi's blood....he was sure of it.....

A shadow fell on ASR, he swiftly got up, it was Aakash....Woh Bhai.....I dropped them home....Payal...

ASR: Where is Shyam?

Aakash, confused: Uh...I think he has taken Di to their room to rest.....

ASR: Ok, look Aakash, I am sorry for boxing you into a corner....I had no choice....I couldn't risk alerting Shyam....

Aakash even more confused: Bhai....

ASR, took him to his room and said: Aakash, that man has kidnapped Khushi....she is in danger....you saw me near the poolside....there was blood on the edge of the pood.....Khushi's I am sure....the police are trying to locate her from the phone call she made to me a while ago....look, can you do me a favor...HP just told me that one of the waiter's had asked him to pass a message to Khushi to meet me by the poolside....which I didn't.....so who did? I want you to take HP to the catering company and ask HP to identify the waiter who passed the message and then take him to Raman and have him interrogated...I will call Raman and brief him......ah and take a couple of photographs of Shyam along with you.....

Aakash nodded his head and turned to go.....

ASR: Aakash, be discreet...don't let Shyam suspect anything....and perhaps you could call up Payal and explain the situation.....apologize on my behalf.....It was all an act for Shyam.....I didn't mean to....

Aakash reassuringly clasped his shoulder: It's ok bhai....I will explain.....they will understand....

ASR paced restlessly up and down the room, pausing only briefly to freshen up and change his clothes.

Dadi came to gloat but he turned his back upon her and refused to entertain her. She passed a few acidic remarks....which ASR bore with remarkable restraint....defeated she left him alone.

Soon afterwards Nani too came, she was in tears and clearly on the point of collapse.....ASR turned his back to her as well....yet the emotions were in deep contrast.....unable to extract any information or reassurance from him....she turned to go....suddenly Chotte came forward and hugged her tightly and whispered.....everything will be alright....I promise.....she stared at him unbelievingly....he nodded his head and then put a warning finger on his lips.....she looked startled and then comprehendingly nodded her head.....comforted she went out of his room.

Nervous and impatient, he gave a zillion calls to Raman. Irritated, Raman finally stopped picking up his calls, instead sent a terse SMS, 'STOP calling.....will contact u'.

Aakash returned a couple of hours later and informed him that the waiter who had passed the message to HP had also been instructed to pass on the message by another waiter who was now missing. However, luckily, another waiter could provide the address of the missing waiter as they were neighbors and the police had gone looking for him....

ASR was getting more and more fidgety and antsy as time passed, unable to wait any longer he went off to meet Raman.....half way through, he received a message from NK ..."preparing to leave RM".....ASR immediately alerted Raman so that he could put his men on Shyam's tail.

Soon he barged into Raman's office, did you send somebody to follow Shyam, could you trace the phone call?

Raman: Whoa buddy, hold your horses; yes to both questions.....the phone trace, the waiter all were very useful leads.....I was just about to leave...

ASR: Leave, leave for where?

Raman: The hideout....where else....and yes there is a temple nearby....smart girl that bride of yours...or maybe not....... if she is actually wants to marry you....

ASR: Cut the jokes Raman, let's move....

Raman: Let's move? You are not coming.

ASR: And who is going to stop me?

A wide grin split Raman's face: YESSSS....Finally I have the answer to that ASR.....oh boy... I've waited years for this one.....

Raman schooled his expression to a disdainful one, strolled up to ASR, folded his arms with an attitude and drawled: Seriously ASR......I got the whole police force with me....

ASR, backing down: Ok ok...but... but.....you owe me one

Raman: What!...owe you one....what the hell...

ASR: Remember class 9 maths exams.....you would have flunked if....

Raman, hastily: Ok, ok, but no histrionics ok....just a quiet sober, silent spectator...ok

ASR, blandly: Sure Chief

Oct 4, 2012

.....Chapter 7..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 58 times)

Anjali was restless and disturbed. The way Chotte had snapped 'where is Shyam' echoed in her mind and her agitation was reinforced by the fact that Shyam was missing and he didn't return in the promised 10 minutes....in fact it was more than half an hour....thankfully Chotte had not been home to witness his delayed return....yet she herself could not shake off the bad feeling.....Chotte kidnapped....Shyam accused....now Khushi missing and was Chotte suspecting Shyam? Was it more than a simple misunderstanding.....was there some truth in the accusations....did Shyam dangle after Khushi....or was Khushi pursuing Shyam....both were inconceivable....

Yet, little gestures, little signals which she had carelessly brushed away, clamored for attention.

Why did Chotte suddenly decide to come and play Holi. More importantly, why in retrospect did it seem like more of an attempt to stop Shyam from coloring Khushi rather than he himself wanting to play Holi. At that time, the incident had seemed so sweet and she was rather overwhelmed that finally her Chotte had decided to come out of his seclusion, but on deeper thought there appeared to be more than what met the eye. Her husband also seemed inordinately interested in their affairs and more than once she had found him in Chotte's room. Valid excuses perhaps, but still......

A sinking feeling seemed to engulf her, suddenly she yearned for the peace of a temple.....it had been so long.....already feeling a bit better, Anjali informed Nani that she was going to the temple. Nani requested Anjali to get some medicines for her. Anjali nodded her acquiescence.

She had the car stop at the chemist shop, where there was some ruckus ongoing. The shopkeeper was yelling at a poor lady who was crying and pleading hysterically. Anjali stepped in and enquired, "kya hua"

Kuch nahi madam, this female was going to run away without paying for these expensive medicines. I am going to call the police...

The lady burst into fresh tears, "Please forgive me, I know it is my fault and I agree I was trying to leave without paying...but please don't call the police....I am in a lot of problem....both my husband and child are sick and I don't have any money....I was taking the medicines for them....forgive me please..

Anjali again stepped in and calmed the shopkeeper down, bought Nani's medicines and paid for the lady's medicines as well.

Anjali gave the medicines to the still crying lady and said, "Come, now stop crying, here these medicines will help your loved ones recover quickly....please do stop crying....ok..ok..you will make me cry as well....come let us sit on the steps of the mandir....maybe come inside and take DM's blessings....you will feel better.....

At her kind words, the lady became even more distressed and started crying even more. Anjali gently guided her and made her sit down near the mandir and asked her, "Kya hua, is there something else as well?"

Controlling herself with an effort, the lady sniffed and said: I am being punished for my bad karma....you are so nice...you saved me from the police and even bought the medicines for me.....and look at what I did to you.....sobbed the lady

Anjali was confused: What are you saying....."what you did to me"....I don't even know you...

The lady shook her head and said: No, I think you have forgotten we have met before....then also you helped me....you gave me money.....but not for me but for....she paused and hesitated......

But for.....questioned Anjali

The lady became agitated again and started wringing her hands, "Hey DM, what should I do...should I tell her the truth and break her heart or ....."

Anjali was even more confused, "tell the truth obviously.....no matter how bitter....the truth is a must..... waise bhi you can't lie sitting in the mandir can you?...tell me"

Swallowing hard, the woman finally came clean, "You still don't remember do you....one day you gave me money at the behest of Shyamji.....saying that he wanted to help me but he didn't have enough money......he instigated me to con you into giving that money which he took from me and in return promised to expedite a court case of mine....

'Yes', Anjali nodded, 'I now remember the incident faintly, but why did he take the money from you and not directly from me?'

Woh...he wanted the money to buy a ring....a ring for some "Khushi" ....

The scales fell in an instant from Anjali's eyes as the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle neatly fell into place.

The ring, Shyam's earlier frequent absences, Khushi fiance's name, breaking of her engagement, Khushi's father's agitation at seeing Anjali, the clandestine marriage, the discord between the two, Chotte's kidnapping...Khushi's accusations and now Chotte's loaded question..........something seriously wrong somewhere.... .....her advice came back to haunt her.... 'no matter how bitter....the truth is a must'.... she had nowhere to hide.......wordlessly she climbed the stairs to DM... her only hope..... her only solace...her guiding light.....time to make the choice...between truth and deceit.....between Chotte and her husband.....

Strange how she could have blanked out the truth for so long...even though it had been thrust into her face again and again.....she had deliberately covered her eyes each time.....refusing to acknowledge the truth which everybody else had accepted in the house....nobody trusted her husband ....except for Dadi and of course her......yet now a chance meeting with a stranger whisked away her blindfold in a split second and nothing would ever be the same again....no matter how hard she tried....she couldn't put on the blindfold again....

As her world came crashing down, Anjali sat alone in a corner silently sobbing her heart out.......finally spent, she quietened and her eyes hardened. Nobody cheated a Raizada and got away with it........ it was time to get to the bottom of it all....

Oct 5, 2012

.....Chapter 8..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 68 times)

Anjali went to Laxmi Nagar and confronted Payal, who did not need much coaxing to come out with the whole Shyam saga.....Anjali listened quietly to the whole story while Garima and Buaji looked on apprehensively.....then she went to Garima and said.....this is what happened with you as well....hai na?....only difference being mama got to know earlier than you and here Khushi got to know before I did....Anjali's voice broke.

Garima hugged her tightly and they both shed bitter tears of anguish for their lost love...the betrayal... and impact on their loved ones.

Garima controlled herself and said to Anjali: Bitiya, I have one heartfelt request please don't make the mistake your mother did.......I will regret it to my dying breath.....but trust me....it is not worth losing your life....too many people love you...your brother looks up to you as his mother.....don't make him go through the same pain again...

Anjali nodded her head: You are right, he is not worth it....Chotte and Khushi have undergone so much for my sake ....even knowing the truth...Khushi fought with Chotte, brought back Shyam all for me....I could never do this to them....in fact it is time I put things right.....as only I can relieve them of the burden....I have to go home now....

Payal: Di can I come with you...I know Arnavji said that I should also...but then Aakash called up and said that Khushi has been kidnapped and that...that...Sh..Shyamji is behind it...

Unable to speak Anjali nodded her head and took Payal's hand and they both left GH for RM.

At RM, Anjali was relieved to find Shyam sleeping and taking advantage of the situation she went to Nani's room and poured out her woes to Nani and Mami. Nani knew much of the story, while Mami was horrified to know Shyam's true colors. Nani comforted her as best as she could, all the while afraid that Anjali too would go her daughter's way. Payal came with Aakash and he filled in the rest of the developments regarding Khushi's kidnapping including HP's testimony and involvement of the police and that Bhai had just left for the police station.

Mami was silent as she felt guilty for misjudging Khushi and was even polite to Payal. Anjali was sobbing throughout....she was torn between sorrow at the loss and betrayal of her love, and pain and anguish for Chotte and Khushi....what all they had borne just for her....and now Khushi's life was at stake.....her heart sank.....God forbid if something should go wrong.

After a while NK joined them with the news that jijaji had left RM with a hand bag in tow. He informed them that as instructed by Nannav, he had alerted him and he in turn had alerted the police. Now they had to wait for further news.

Almost immediately Anjali got a call from Shyam to inform her that his close friend's mother had suddenly passed away, so he had to rush and would probably be late in returning. The air in Nani's room was thick with tension and into this bubbling mass of emotions Dadi came back after her siesta, fresh and ready for another bout with the RMians.

'Still mourning about the wedding which was not destined to happen', Dadi taunted. 'And what is this girl doing here? Didn't Arnav throw you out as well, do you not have any shame?'

Nani: Bas kijijiye Sumi, bas, enough is enough, you are miles away from the truth....

Dadi: I know the truth, the whole truth, and I have revealed it yesterday, that is the ultimate truth. Come let us purify the house and start afresh, Aakash, tell this girl to leave here immediately.

Aakash: I will do nothing of the sort, Payal's rightful place is by my side as is Khushiji's besides Bhai. Do you even know that she has been kidnapped?

Dadi: Kidnapped!!...another drama to gain sympathy, I know these people's tricks very well. All of you are such fools, only Damaadji appears to have some sense....

Anjali: Bas kijiye Dadi bas kijiye, what do you know of us and what do you know of your damaadji....you return from your Ashram after 14 years and you expect to know what has been happening in our lives and what is best for us?

Dadi, surprised: Anjali bitiya, I was just trying to remove the blindfold that these people insist on wearing...

Anjali: Nahi, Dadi, you are the one who has a blindfold on, not us, in fact mine was the last one to be removed and I will remove your blindfold. I will tell you what kind of a man your beloved and trusted damaad is and what Khushi has done for this family. But then given your nature, I doubt if you will believe me, better to see with your own eyes.

Anjali took out her phone and called up Chotte: Chotte, where are you?

Chotte: Umm...Di...some urgent work...I will be back soon...don't worry.

Di: Chotte, tell me where you are going. You are going to rescue Khushi from Shyam's clutches aren't you?

Silence

Di: Yes Chotte I know the truth and he is not here and you must be following him to his hideout where he has imprisoned Khushi, hai na? Chotte, say something, see I know all and now I insist that you tell me exactly where you are going, I too want to go and I want to catch him red-handed. Chotte, you can't deny me this...

Chotte: Di, relax, Di...everything will be fine, please Di...I am sorry Di.....this is a police matter....I can't tell you Di.....Raman is taking me along only under duress...

Di, determined: Chotte, give the phone to Raman...give it to him...

ASR reluctantly offered the phone to Raman. There was a brief but silent war between the two, finally Raman yielded and said: Yes Di?

Di: Raman, I don't care...that man, my husband......I will go mad if I sit here anymore......give me the address or else....no arguments....give me the address immediately....otherwise....I swear I will jump from the terrace...

Raman glared some more at ASR and then, pleaded, cajoled and even begged for reason, but Di was adamant and at her emotional blackmailing best, Raman capitulated but with poor grace. He tried to assert his authority by directing her not to bring anyone else with her, but he was talking to thin air.

He handed ASR's phone back to him, fuming: Great! Now I not only have to catch Shyam red-handed, and catch him before he hurts Khushi but also before Di lands up for her pound of flesh. God alone knows who else will be accompanying her. And to top it all, I am taking YOU along with me...unbelievable maaannn.... Leading a police operation or directing a bloody soap? he stepped furiously on the accelerator.

ASR prudently held his tongue and as an added precaution, studiously avoided Raman's eyes for the rest of the journey.

Oct 7, 2012

.....Chapter 9..... (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 69 times)

Khushi spent the large part of the day strapped to her chair, uncomfortable and disturbed. She was upset not so much about her predicament as that by Shyam's revelations. To say that she was horrified and shocked would be an understatement. The fact that she had been instrumental in Shyam's return to RM was also eating into her conscience. Exhausted from upheavals of the last twenty four hours, Khushi dozed off in parts only to wake up with a jerk with the beginnings of another nightmare involving Shyam.

After a while of this Khushi gave herself a strict talking to and resolved to grip on herself and think ahead so that if needed she could save herself and her family from this evil monster. Her captors offered her food and she gagged at the thought of food that too bought by Shyam....no wait, not Shyam, definitely Arnavji's money....besides she needed her strength. She forced herself to eat.

She still seethed with anger, if only she could be free, she would show that monster. Although she was fairly confident that Arnav would have got her 'message' she knew she couldn't underestimate Shyam either. Doubts assailed her, what if Arnavji did not 'get' her message, what if he was late for the wedding....no no that would be inconceivable....she had to have a backup plan....the day dragged painfully slowly....

Yet all too soon Shyam was back swaggering in with his hated leer: Toh Khushiji, how are you? Sorry to keep you waiting and that too in this position. Aap toh jaante hain....how much I care for you, but unfortunately due to some misunderstanding, you don't care for me as much. If only you did, I would have given you a grander wedding than your Arnavji ever could. But never mind, I am fully confident that given time, you will grow to love me.

Khushi, glaring furiously: Never, ever, never

Shyam: Never, is too long a time, Khushiji. We shall see, come it is time to wed, you know the routine, exchange garlands, sindoor and pheras, what you missed with saale sahab, rendering your 'marriage' null and void. Be a good girl and I will give you a gala wedding ceremony with all the trappings, bigger and better than the one saale sahab organized for you. And there would be no 'miscarriage' this time I can assure you, to spoil any of the functions, he winked evilly.

Khushi, screaming: Shut up shut up, I don't believe you, I don't believe anyone could be so vile, so demonic.

Shyam: Dekho Khushiji, you are again underestimating me. Although that works to my advantage, but since you are going to be my wife you should at least realize my real value, the true depth of my capabilities. Come let me tell introduce you to the great Mr. Shyam Manohar Jha so that you can have the privilege of being the only person in this whole world who knows the whole truth about me.

Shyam then proceeded to describe with great relish and graphic detail how exactly he ensured her Babuji' silence, his intricate plans which gained him entry into RM and how he sowed the seed of rebellion in Rani Sahiba's mind and made sure that Khushi caught a glimpse of him leaving RM.

Khushi listened to him in growing horror and disbelief. No doubt he had told her this earlier, but somehow, in some corner of heart, she had not really believed it....at least not that bit about plotting the murder of his own unborn child....first by replacing the medicines and then..... she had passed all that off as too fantastic to be real and that it was just for effect to ensure her cooperation....but now...as the details were laid bare...she was forced to accept that it was no confabulation but real and that made it doubly dangerous for her....she had to be calm...delay as much as she could so that Arnavji had ample time to be able to come up with some plan to save her....that is if he still wanted to...her shoulders slumped...but only for a few moments...he would come...her heart told her...he would come...

Shyam, broke into her thoughts: Hum jaante the, Khushiji, that you would put two and two together. I knew your soft heart would not be able to see your darling Di is such distress without her beloved patidev, Shyam gloated.

I also knew that you were the only one in the house who had the guts to overrule Arnav, and you fell so neatly into my plans.....it just strengthened my belief that we are meant to be together....and my love for you increased manifold.....come let us be bound forever in the holy bonds of matrimony.

Khushi shied away like a nervous filly further into her chair.

Shyam: Don't be like that, see I bought a new Shaadi ka joda specially for you. Go wear it and all your jewellery is also here. Ah you thought I had stolen it hain na....how could you Khushiji...to think so lowly of me....I took it all away for your own safety. See it is all here in this bag, here take it and get dressed.

Khushi, quailing yet holding her ground: Nahi, I am not going to do anything of that sort.

Shyam, annoyed: Don't force me to force you Khushiji....then just as suddenly he calmed down and in fact looked quite pleased.

Shyam: Theek hai Khushiji....as you wish....actually there would be added pleasure to marry you in the shaadi ka joda that was bought for you by Arnav.....I will send him a wedding photograph for sure....he sneered, while Khushi despaired.

He had Lallan and Rocky, who were lurking silently in the corner pick up the chair to which Khushi was bound and then marched off to the temple, just a stone's throw away. At the temple, arrangements had been made for a wedding and Khushi brightened upon seeing that a pundit was also present. He took one look at the chair bound bride and went as white as his kurta and started stuttering. Khushi ticked him off her nonexistent list of potential helpers and her heart sank.

Then anger flared in her breast, what was that Laad Governor thinking, how dare he take so long, just let him come, she would surely blast him, no that would be letting him off easily, she would torture him and slow boil him in oil, and he said he loved her.....arrrgggghhh

Khushi focused on her anger, it was better than the cold panic that was setting in, her hands and feet were feeling senseless and shaky, her mind was shutting down, she yearned to drop off into a long nap from which she never wanted to waken. No this would not do, she needed to be alert and active, she would deal with Arnavji later, first she needed her wits about her to deal with this inhuman monster. Think Khushi think, hey DM raksha karna raksha karna.

Shyam came and leaned over her chair and hissed: Khushi, I hope you are convinced and ready to marry me without any fuss. I am going to untie you and expect you to cooperate. If you don't, well I have a man waiting in Laxmi Nagar, just a phone call would be enough to send your dear Babuji to the crematorium. The choice is yours.

Khushi controlled herself and nodded her head.

Shyam untied her hands and feet. Khushi sat there wincing and rubbing her numb hands. Her ankles were throbbing with pain and her legs were all shaky from fear and weakness. She tried to stand up but failed.

Shyam sighed impatiently and said: Jaldi Khushiji, jaldi, I want this over and done as quickly as possible.

Not if I can help it thought Khushi mutinously. Trying to buy time, she grimaced and winced in pain, stood up and fell back in the chair again. She said, 'I am trying, can't you see, I will need a little time, you are even more inconsiderate than Arnavji and you say you love me,' she pouted.

Shyam was instantly all solicitous concern and care: Of course Khushiji, hume maaf kar dijiye, I should have understood, these idiots bound you so tightly', he turned and glared at them standing quietly at one side. 'But,' he continued, 'we do need to hurry, once this formality is over, you can take as much rest as you want'

'But I must able to stand at least' Khushi snapped, while she rubbed her legs. When she could no longer delay things any further, Khushi stood up shakily, Shyam rushed forward to support her.

Khushi angrily shrugged him off, 'Leave me alone, I am capable of walking by myself'.

She walked slowly towards the mandap, her heart thudding madly, hoping against hope, yet a sinking feeling engulfed her.

Oct 8, 2012

Chapter 10 – End of the Long Road (By Dhalia) (Thanked: 123 times)

As Khushi walked towards her doom, as a last ditch effort, she tried to catch the pundit's eyes, but he refused to look in her direction and determinedly kept his eyes focused on the task at hand.

Arnavji, where are you, she called silently out to him. She trembled alarmingly as fear and despair overwhelmed her. Khushi knew she couldn't hold off any longer, her hour of reckoning was here, it was do or die. Her babuji's plight, Amma's humiliation, an innocent baby's death, a mother's anguish all flashed before her eyes and in an instant, a furious rage coursed through her veins, energizing her. She swiftly bent down and in a single motion drew out a log of burning firewood from the havan kund and with eyes blazing, waved it like a flaming sword.

All four men jumped back in alarm.

'KHUSHIJI!' shouted Shyam, 'don't be mad, leave that, you will hurt yourself'.

Khushi, still shaking, but with anger, 'Yes, I have gone mad, I don't care what happens to me and beware, your end is near Mr Shyam Manohar Jha, your end is near'. She rushed forward towards him, while Shyam turned and skipped sideways to avoid being lashed by the burning log, yelling to the others to help him, to stop her, do something.

All the other three men seemed to be frozen, staring at her visage in awe, wonder and dawning fear. Seeing her reckless behavior, none of them seemed inclined to risk their own safety and in fact moved back to a safe distance and watched in horrified fascination as Khushi chased Shyam around the havan.

The search party burst in upon them at this juncture. At this interruption, there was look of almost comical relief on Shyam's face while Khushi seemed disappointed at being deprived of her rightful target.

The policemen quickly arrested the three men standing by the side but before Raman could even move towards Shyam, ASR leapt forward with an angry roar and went for Shyam's throat. Shyam's feeling of relief vanished instantaneously as he was relentlessly and ruthlessly choked helplessly in ASR's vice-like grip. Raman tried to detach him from Shyam but in vain. Raman kept exhorting him to release him, but ASR was beyond reason and would have choked the life out of Shyam if Khushi's warning scream had not pierced his consciousness.

Arnavji, leave him alone, varna....

Startled, ASR loosened his hold on Shyam's throat, 'Varna!!?' and looked around at her and then quickly jumped back in alarm and surprise.

Khushi stood just behind him, still holding her flaming 'sword'," move away or you will get hurt," she bit out as she lunged towards Shyam.

By now the rest of the RMian gang had joined the circus and each grabbed a ringside view of the unfolding drama, effectively cutting off Shyam's escape.

Khushiiii, yelled ASR, have you gone mad, you will hurt yourself. Come away, let the police do their job.

YES, I have gone mad, yelled back Khushi. When I tell you what this inhuman monster has done even you will go mad. Apart from being guilty of betraying Di and trying to kill you, do you know that he tried to kill Babuji as well, that he is responsible for this condition of his?

There was a collective gasp of surprise from the gathered audience.

'And' Khushi continued, these are minor transgressions compared to what else he did, in fact he boasted that he planned the murder of his own unborn child, by first giving harmful medicines and then by ensuring Di tripped and fell, thereby losing her baby.

This revelation was greeted with a shocked silence and Khushi taking advantage of the situation hit out at the cowering Shyam, leaving burn marks on his arms and thighs. Unfortunately the burnt end of the log of wood broke and fell down, yet undeterred, Khushi kept bashing him up while he screamed in agony and pleaded for mercy.

Suddenly Khushi found herself joined by Di also carrying a burning piece of log. In a calm even tone she spoke to Khushi, "Move away Khushi, this is my pleasure" Without waiting for a response, Di swung swiftly and she to began hitting Shyam.

Anjali got in a couple of well aimed vicious strikes before she was quickly disarmed by Raman just as ASR coming out of his stupor, disarmed Khushi, while the police took a very compliant and willing Shyam into custody.

Her anger and fury spent, Anjali stood sobbing defeated and lost, her family gathered around her offering solace and support in her hour of distress and grief. ASR was unsuccessfully trying to calm down his still wildly angry lady love.

Raman caught ASR's eye and mouthed, 'come to the police station tomorrow' and quietly left the scene of the crime with his prisoners in tow.

The rapidly unfolding event of the past two days and its myriad and extreme shades of emotional roller coaster ride had left Khushi distraught and traumatized. The long awaited wedding, the joy the happiness, the song on her lips, the dance in her heart, all had been all ruthlessly crushed under the weight of Dadi's accusation, her mother's humiliation, being dumped at the altar, kidnapping, horrific revelations topped by the just concluded drama all merged into a messy mass of emotions and something snapped within her.

She jerked herself free from Arnav embrace and yelled, "Get away from me, you are just as bad, you dumped me and left.....

Arnav, shocked, "Khushi, how can you say that, I didn't dump you, I was upset, I came back...

Khushi, " Yeah right, came back, I bet you took your own sweet time in coming back.....

Arnav, guiltily, "Khushi....

Khushi, "There...I can see it on your face....took your own sweet time didn't you...and here I was kidnapped, what if I had been raped, murdered....but no....you were upset....that of course is more important....and why did things reach this stage....you knew he was not a good guy...yet you just sat on that information twiddling your thumbs....you could have got him investigated, saved us all the trauma....look what havoc one man has brought to our lives....Babuji paralysed......Di...Di's baby murdered by her own father... Hey Devi Maiyya.....she sank down sobbing hard....her anger turning into intense grief and guilt......All my fault....why am I blaming you....all my fault....she scrambled to her feet....all my fault....I don't deserve to live...I always bring bad luck to the people I love, my parents died in an accident, Babuji paralyzed, Amma humiliated, Di....betrayed......the baby...the baby....leave me Arnavji...leave me....she screamed as she ran off into the darkness.

Both Arnav and Payal started off behind her, but Aakash stopped Payal and shook his head.

Arnav caught up with her easily enough, but it was not so easy to calm her down as she was at the end of her tether, exhaustion, excitement, hunger all taking their toll. She kept hitting him with her fists, so he imprisoned her in his embrace, but she kept lashing him with her verbal volleys, alternately taunting, attacking and blaming herself, simply refusing to listen to anything that Arnav attempted to say.

Finally, Arnav swooped down and swallowed up her tirade.....peace and silence descended......after a while when they came up for air, Arnav tipped her head up by a finger under her chin and said softly...."Tum theek ho"....she gulped, opened her mouth and then closed it again, shakily nodded her head and buried her face in his chest.

Arnav smiled exultantly as he crushed her closer; finally he had found his Brahmastra, the ultimate weapon to silence his feisty beloved.

THE END (Hope they lived happily ever after)

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dhalia