Friday, 27 May 2016

ncofl... never on a new year: chapter 9

khushi wondered why the green looked hazy, out of focus.
something warm and wet touched her cheek, her vision cleared. it was a tear she realised.

that choking sensation near her throat was still there. khushi shook her head not quite conscious of what she was doing... her breathing was getting irregular again. how would she make arnav ji understand? it wasn't safe here, anything could happen.

as the words filtered through, a darkness seized some corner without name, a suffocation rose. it was filling her chest, her ears, her forehead, her nose, she reached out blindly and her fingers touched a soft cool surface.

khushi blinked. what was that? it was so smooth.


asr glared at the laptop screen. why wasn't he being able to keep his mind on what mattered, dammit!

khushi was being childish. she had to stop it, that's all.
he took a sip of coffee exasperatedly.

di was just like this... worry about the most ridiculous things, go crazy without assessing anything, annnything... rationally.
why couldn't they think, use their minds a bit, he thought for the nth time. everything came from the wrong place. that damn dil.

he turned suddenly and grabbed the bale of mooga. how could a natural yarn have a sheen like this? a colour like this?

didn't khushi understand? didn't she understand anything? didn't she understand... him?

a funny twinge shot through his heart.


the leaf was bright green and almost sparkling. she watched her finger stroke it. she was standing in front of a tea bush, holding a tea leaf. khushi frowned and peered closer, allowing her mind to move away from what she couldn't even look at too clearly. she had walked around distractedly after changing into her churidar, trying to grapple with that worry and she must have wandered into the tea garden across the road.

the blade was wide and the edge curved in an arc all the way to the tip, there was something comforting about its shape. the gloss on the surface was deep, the patina shone, khushi rubbed the leaf, feeling its suppleness, staring at it, wondering about what she had no idea.

she had seen girls with baskets on their backs hanging from a strap on their heads, come down the road in groups and enter the gardens the last couple of days. salman ji had told her they were the tea pluckers, in assam they were called coolies.

coolies? khushi blinked again. arnav ji was a coolie... yes... but he was not a tea plucker, he carried luggage. he was a porter in new delhi station... he wanted to send her away. no, he wanted to hold her in his strong arms, keep her here. arnav ji...

salman ji had told her how the coolies were really tribal people brought here from bihar and other places as labourers, when the british people started the tea gardens almost two hundred years ago. the coolies had a miserable life, she remembered her friend looking angry as he'd said that.

angry... gussa... arnav ji was angry... he was jwalamukhi. her jwalamukhi... the leaf in her hand was blurring again.
khushi took a deep breath and concentrated on what salman ji had said.

his father tazdiq ji had over the years started taking a lot of interest in the the lives of the workers... without whom, the tea estate would be quite useless. there would be no tea, salman ji had grinned. tazdiq ji had started cutting down work hours, improved the state of the huts where coolies lived, raised the pay, got a group of doctors from gujarat involved in a women's health programme, the men were big drinkers often, tazdiq ji hoped the simple sports activities he was encouraging would help in some way in curbing that... he'd set up a school with his own family's money. rehana ji supervised the running of the school, she also encouraged the older girls to come at least once a week to her home and showed them things on the internet. one of the girls had just been accepted into a college in calcutta, everyone was pretty happy about that. salman ji was sure, there had been a lot of drinking in the village that evening.

khushi frowned, she had not met any of the pluckers. they were not all young girls, many were much older women... experts at their work. they worked really fast, their fingers moving without faltering, tearing off the leaves and tossing them into the basket at the back, they knew exactly how to break off the tip of the stem with two leaves and a bud, that's what was needed to make really good chai.
two leaves... khushi smiled, two.. always two...
two strings... babu ji always said the syrup had to come to that density... do taar.

the leaf was intensely green and yet... the tea... khara...

brown that gleamed gold as it moved. how did that happen, how did green turn to... why were arnav ji's eyes so brown? why couldn't she think of anything else when he smiled, when his eyes were like tea without milk. moving glinting deep brown.

khushi took a ragged breath in. arnav ji.
she knew she couldn't stop him. she wouldn't be able to bear it if the eyes dimmed. even that bit...

arnav ji loved what he did. his work meant so much to him. he had created his business out of nothing practically... that drive, that determination... yes, it was terribly dangerous here... but people worked and lived here still. kanumoni ji, helena ji, bahadur ji, salman ji's parents, the coolies... and yes, thapa ji...

she wondered if rehana ji was scared for tazdiq ji ever. and she instantly knew, yes, she was. perhaps every day. but still, she was here with him. and tazdiq ji who was so good, maybe... could be who he wanted to be because rahana ji let him be?

what a strange thought, khushi shook her head again.

her heart raced at the thought of arnav ji smiling up at her, confident, sure of himself, with just a bit of teasing in his eyes... or anger... or, khushi gulped, the way he looked at her at times... shimmering brown eyes.

she started to walk toward the bungalow. suddenly, she wanted to drink a whole glass of hot tea. with elaichi.


he got up slowly and walked over to the swathe of mooga still lying on the grass. he bent down and picked it up, and holding it up he let his eyes run over the fabric.


khushi saw his shoes first. she stopped in her tracks and looked up.

asr stood there. khushi started, her heart leaping. what was arnav ji doing here?

asr walked up to her nonchalantly and lifted her chin with his fingers, for a long moment he looked into her eyes.
she watched not quite understanding what he was doing. why he was here.

he let go of her chin and stepped back, then he said, "okay... okay! i won't come to assam any more."

khushi felt her heart flip.

"nahiiin!" she whispered, asr stepped closer again and stroked her cheek with slightly unsteady fingers.


"it's okay," he said almost in a whisper. khushi shook her head and said, 

"aap ko aana hi hoga!"

(you have to come!)

asr stared at her. he was sure she didn't know what she was saying. she was in a such a state. he could have kicked himself, she was so frantically worried for him, and he had not understood that. of course, she had been irrational. she was like that. he would be rational. no, what the! he had to admit it, actually he wouldn't. the poor girl... he started to draw her to him, but she pushed him away.

"nahin, arnav ji! you must do the work with mooga you want to do. hum aapko khush dekhna chahte hain... hum... hum... i will manage, dekhiye... assam is beautiful, dekhiye... nothing will happen. hum jaantey hain..." khushi's voice was steady, but he could sense the fear, the worry underneath.

(no, arnav ji, you must do the work with mooga you want to do. i want to see you happy.. i... i... will manage, see... assam is beautiful, see... nothing will happen. i know...)

he felt something grow and fill his heart.

"khushi, tum kitni bahadur ho, you're so courageous," the grain in his voice grazed her skin. his eyes were twinkling. no they were glinting. with... khushi looked for the word she was seeking. pride? yes, with pride. really?

khushi giggled a little and threw herself into his arms. her chest dashed against his as his arms came up, strong and never unsure. he held her tight. she reached up, hungrily catching his lips with hers, she began kissing him. he needed to make love to her right now, he decided, and swung her up in his arms. she moaned and bit his cheek and put her slightly bruised lips on his again.

neither noticed it as it fell from her hand. a perfect tip of two tea leaves and a bud.


she sat on his lap and rocked slowly as he held her, his face against her hair. his hand stroked her bare skin, she settled closer against his chest, absentmindedly running her fingers through the springy hair that extended from somewhere below his collar bones, all the way down.

"hey!" asr stopped her playful fingers. she laughed lightly and nuzzled his neck.

"i mean it, i can get the work done without actually coming here... you know technology... khushi? stop it!" he was laughing now. the sound made her toes wriggle. she started to pull him down onto the bed.

"you're mad!" he said, his voice inadvertently husky, even though he meant to be stern.

"hum bahadur!" khushi made a face, "samjhe aap!"

(i am brave... you understand!)

"okay, let's see how brave!" he lunged at her.

she yelped and tried to run away. he caught her without effort, lay down on the bed and pulled her over him. as she sat there on his stomach straddling him, legs on either side, he watched her body gleaming against the shadows. the light from the lamp in the corner was warm, it played over her, illuminating a hollow here, a curve there, streaking off a strand of flyaway hair. her left breast was a lighter shade of gold, his eyes traveled down along the dip of her waist, the flare of her hips, down her long supple thigh. he lifted a hand languidly and touched her knee. a thought came through the darkness. innate... intrinsic... gold.

he took a deep breath, then smiled up at her and said in his crisp, no nonsense way, "i love you, khushi..."

she had no time to react as she felt herself lose balance, topple, and the next moment, his face was looming over hers, his chest was pressed against her diaphragm, her navel, he was holding her arms down on either side, his hands gripped hers.

for some reason her eyes went to the scar on his left eyelid. bike accident, he'd told her tersely once when she had asked what caused it. for some reason, khushi longed to touch it just then.

she struggled trying to free her hands.

he grinned and whispered, "dammit!"

and she felt his mouth, warm and urgent, on her nipple. she writhed. her hands were still tightly gripped in his.


"people have gone crazy trying to make gold... it can't be made... no amount of alchemy will do the trick... yet a tiny worm on a tree..." asr paused.

his mind wandered to bare skin a lighter shade of gold in the half light. he swallowed hard.

he'd been right, of course. love was indeed a dangerous thing. far more dangerous than he'd ever calculated though.

"asr? you there?" lavanya asked hesitantly.

"lavanya," came the terse reply, "work on it, we need a name that gets the story!"

asr switched off the phone and turned to greet his host.
assam was back to normal this morning but the workshop was closed for bihu, the harvest festival. surojit gohain, the owner, had kindly offered to meet him here though since he was leaving the next day.

mr gohain was an elderly man with a head of silver grey hair, his skin was pale and fair, it was beginning to get that papery look of age, wrinkles were apparent near his eyes and the corner of his lips. he had small, refined features, his eyes seemed to belong to someone younger than his years. he wore a hand knitted, not very well fitting maroon sweater over his white shirt and khaki trousers; a light blue checked muffler was wrapped around his neck.

his attire was in complete contrast to his visitor's sharply cut grey woolen jacket, trousers and matching waistcoat, which he wore with a charcoal grey shirt. the monochromatic palette was broken by an ochre tie, its single knot impeccably tied.

mr gohain said pleasantly, "i will try my best to get the fineness, mister raizada. we have not been asked to consider this before... but i am sure we can experiment..."

"thank you, mr gohain. that's what i'd hoped to hear. i'll be back in march. maybe you'll have some success by then?" asr had a feeling that indeed would be the case.

they discussed a few things, then asr took another look at the premises. today the click-clack-click-clack from the looms was missing but the silkworms were busy as usual in the large boxes where they fed on som and sual leaves, that would soon turn into the cocoon and yield the rare yarn. the silkworms would die in the process. collateral damage.

asr wondered about the ethics of silk making, not for the first time. it was a cruel world, as it had always been, he thought with a tight smile.


khushi sat down next to rehana ghaznavi and said, "hum aapko dhanyavaad dena chahte hain, rehana ji. aapne hume kal ek mahatwapoorn baat sikhayi!"

(i want to thank you, rehana ji. yesterday you taught me something very important.)

"yesterday, my dear?" rehana was mystified, "but i didn't teach you any golf yesterday... i had meant to but..."

"kya?!!" khushi almost shrieked as she cut in, "no no, rehana ji, much more important than that... about life... about you know... woh jo hum... arnav ji... aap... tazdiq ji..." she petered off not knowing exactly how to say what she wanted to.

(no no, rehana ji, much more important than that... about life... about you know... the thing that i... arnav ji... you... tazdiq ji...)

"what is golf if not life lessons, khushi," rehana clasped khushi's hand, "but tell me, what are you talking about..."
khushi struggled with her words as she gazed at salman's mother sitting beside her in her perfectly creased white slacks and a rose pink chikkan top, her hair brushed back neatly, a light lipstick her only make up.  her beige pashmina shawl lay on the sofa, there was an unmitigated warmth in her eyes, her smile.

"nahin, bas, i was very scared yesterday... then i understood... how brave you are... how much you love tazdiq ji..." khushi blurted out.

"what? i didn't understand... i am brave?" rehana looked puzzled.

"rehne dijiye, rehana ji, i can't explain... bas, thank you!" khushi gave rehana a quick hug and opened the packet of jalebis she had brought along.

(let it be, rehana ji, i can't explain... just thank you!)

"thank you, my dear, for being such a good friend to my boy, he is so far away from home... mmm... these are delicious..." rehana said enjoying her jalebi.

she took khushi for a walk around her garden. the flowers were in full bloom. roses in at least ten colours, elegant gerberas on long slender stems, sprightly multi-hued phlox along borders, dahlias, hollyhocks, orange nastertiums with their round leaves, calendula in tones of yellow, purple and golden pansies in little patches, sweetpeas pink and pretty on a trellis... winter was the time for flowers in assam.

khushi gasped and sighed and crouched to peer or touch or just grin at in delight. rehana led them to the back of the house where she had her kitchen garden.

"gajar, mooli, gobi, matar, sab kuch?" khushi almost yelled, staring in astonishment at the beds of vegetables.

(carrot, radish, cauliflower, everything?)

rehana tried to hide a smile.

"hmm hmm," she replied, "also potato, tomato, coriander, spring onion, ginger, garlic, summer veggies during season, and yes, fruits! strawberry, plum, mulberry... you know setoot... mmm, pineapple, passion fruit... jack fruit..."

"bas bas, rehana ji, i am hungry already!" khushi said happily, looking around, thinking maybe when arnav ji came here again, he'd ask her to come along? her eyes widened at that and her lips went into their customary "o" formation.

she covered her mouth with a guilty palm and muttered to herself, "haw! what am i thinking! how can i leave everyone and go with him like that... hey devi maiyya, i am becoming very bad i think, raksha karna!"

(hey mother goddess, i am becoming very bad i think, protect me!)

"see you this evening at the bihu feast," rehana said to khushi at the gate as she was about to leave.

"yes, rehana ji, i have never seen bihu! it's okay if i wear a saree, na?" khushi asked.

rehana frowned suddenly and shook her head, "yes... but, khushi... oh how could i have forgotten to ask! i hope you liked the mekhela i helped arnav choose for you!"

khushi looked nonplussed, "kya?!!"



the sun had begun its descent. the river was calm, water shimmered and reflected the pinks, mauves, oranges of sunset. flocks of birds glided above, chattering, banking gracefully toward home.

he held her hand firmly, feeling the sand beneath his feet, the water splash and reach the rolled bottom of his trousers. he turned to look at her. she had a beatific smile on her face as she stared at the sky. her red and yellow dupatta floated about her in the breeze... her pompoms were dancing as usual, the gota was bright, even in this light.

he looked down and noticed that her churidar, which couldn't be rolled for this walk along the shallow edge of the river, was completely wet till her knees. tiny fish swam around their legs, the sand where the dihing met its bank glistened like a long wavy endless ribbon.

he took another step and broke her reverie, she nodded her head as if in approval and pranced along. the half built bridge jutted out behind them reaching for the other side.
he kept walking.

she remembered suddenly and looked at him. he was in his waistcoat and shirt, the jacket and ochre tie had come off and were left in the jeep. laad governor, she said in her head, nowadays the words had started sounding too loving she noticed and frowned a little, but soon returned to the contemplation of the man who held her hand and strode... even in the river he was wearing his waistcoat buttoned down. then she saw the rolled trouser legs, below that a bit of shin, then ankles... the feet with straight toes, brown skin... wet.

she forgot what she wanted to say.

from somewhere in the distance a song floated up. you could hear drum beats. anticipation gathered in the dusk.


 a mad girl, a driven man, a rage... and love. it's addictive.

video credit uploader

i grew up in assam... images from those days stay in the mind, a sense of home. assam is beautiful, rich, it has a quality all its own. an intensity. an innocence. but there is sadness too and enough violence and blood. the struggle is often between these two reflections of a wild and beautiful land. guess where there is extreme beauty, there's bound to be devastation as well. i am a tea drinker and assam tea is absolutely wonderful. the coolie's life has always been difficult. i hope you enjoyed the chapter and its emotions.



ncofl... never on a new year: chapter 8

kanumoni held the end of the chadar and with deft, quick fingers twisted the material. in an instant, a series of three triangular folds fell across the edge of the fine white cotton with motifs in black and red, the tassels bobbed playfully. she tucked the point she was holding from where the pleats started, into khushi’s petticoat, over the mekhela. then she leaned closer to take the rest of the chadar around khushi, letting the other end fall over her left shoulder in a pallu. khushi watched her completely absorbed. in lucknow and delhi, no one wore mekhela. she’d never seen one before… and it was so pretty.

“baideo, see, do you like it?” kanumoni asked, still adjusting the back, making sure the mekhela was level and not dragging on the floor.

khushi had turned back to see what kanumoni was doing. her eyes sparkled, she grinned… she was in a mekhela! she’d always enjoyed dressing up, and this was a whole new kind of dress! like a saree. but, and this is what tickled khushi no end, not a saree. she wondered what jiji would think of it. maybe she’d get one for jiji… and mami ji… and also amma. bua ji? maybe not. khushi frowned as she contemplated how many mekhelas she’d take back home.

“baideo?” kanumoni’s voice broke into her thoughts.

khushi started and then turned swiftly. the mirror was right in front of her. she looked at herself and began to smile.

“kanumoni ji!” she exclaimed, touching the pleats, running her fingers over the unfamiliar motifs, “yeh kitna sundar hai… aur hum…” she shook her head gleefully and jumped up and down a little, “kitne sundar lag rahe hain… hai na?”

(kanumoni ji, how pretty this is…. and i… i’m looking so pretty, aren’t i?”

kanumoni had to smile at that.

“yes, baideo… very beautiful,” she said. she’d never been asked by a guest if she could try on a mekhela. kanumoni had gone running to bahadur to determine how to tackle this. bahadur had spoken to salman and he’d suggested baideo wouldn’t mind it if kanumoni got along one of her mekhelas, so she had. she’d decided white would suit her very fair skinned baideo. she was pleased she had an almost new one for her.

“i am so happy rahena ji decided not to go out today!” said khushi talking fast, in her mind she thought, thank you, devi maiyya, for saving me from that laad governor wala game. she really was not looking forward to golf even if she thought salman ji’s mother was a nice lady.

“thank you, kanumoni ji, aap ne hume kya shandar naya dress pehenna sikhaya!” she bestowed another wiide grin on the young girl, eyes shining bright.

(thank you, kanumoni ji, you’ve taught me to wear such a magnificent dress!)

“aap ke assam mein sab kuchh kitna achha hai… that cup of tea in the morning from your own garden with ginger and cardaomom, haye mazaa hi kuchh alag hai! bua ji kitni khush ho jaati… yeah! i’ll take tea for bua ji, yeh achha rahega… ” she turned and pirouetted before the mirror looking at herself from different angles.

(in your assam, everything is so nice… that cup of tea in the morning from your own garden with ginger and cardaomom, oh it’s such a joy! bua ji would have loved it… yeah! i’ll take tea for bua ji, that’ll be good… )

“i hope rehana ji is all right! wonder why she cancelled?” khushi frowned suddenly, even as she examined her reflection.

“bandh, baideo…” kanumoni said in a low voice.

(strike, baideo…)

“what? bandh? you mean nothing is working? here… in assam? why?” khushi was surprised. a bandh or a shut down of all services happened once in a way when there was some trouble, but here in this peaceful place?

“it’s always like that here. something or the other… always, baideo…” kanumoni’s voice was growing smaller, a sudden heaviness about her expression, making her look older, a little tired… khushi watched the innocent face take on a different air. what was the matter?

“two managers in jorhat gardens were kidnapped last week… they say the police caught many people from the area, the other party has declared bandh…” kanumoni explained.

“kidnapped? from where? why?” khushi was nonplussed. she couldn’t believe anything like that could happen here.

“not far, baideo… they kidnap all the time… ask for money… sometimes ask for other things… no one can catch them… sometimes they kill also…” kanumoni sounded sad, almost helpless.

when the feeling came and gripped khsuhi, she had no idea what it was.

“arnav ji!” her mind grasped his name and she wished she could hold him, keep him safe. keep him close.

her breathing started to grow laboured without her even clearly understanding why. unsafe. assam was unsafe. arnav ji…

“no!” she almost screamed.


“aman, see my calendar for the next six months and tell me where can i get a clear ten days free…” asr sat outside in the lawn under the umbrella, his laptop and papers lay before him on the table. his brow furrowed as he listened to aman, his lips were pursed. he wore a khaki shirt over slim fitting black trousers, his neatly brushed back hair was still wet, he’d gone for an early morning swim. his eyes looked alert.

salman had called earlier to tell him about the sudden bandh. nothing would be open today across upper assam. it wasn’t possible to get any work done.

salman hadn’t been expecting asr to be quite so calm about it though. he had prepared for ire, but there was nothing he really could do, even the golf club would be closed.

“dammit!” the expletive had come as he’d expected, but then asr had said coolly, “oh, all right, salman… let’s meet first thing tomorrow morning then.”

salman was surprised. he didn’t know his boss’s mind had been working from early morning, ever since he’d woken up and it had struck him simply and clearly… yes, mooga could be done.

a new project, a new fabric, a new client, nothing got him more bristling with energy, rearing to go. no bandh was getting in the way of that. he had to talk to aman first. then he’d call lavanya… bring in jean pierre maybe… or was someone else more appropriate for this line?

“okay!” he said crisply cutting in as aman tried to explain how till august he didn’t have any time at all, “you make sure i have ten days in march, any time that month… i am flexible.”

aman almost choked. flexible. asr? then he shook his head slightly as he heard himself say, “yes, sir… i’ll get on it right now.”

he knew he had to get the ten days asr wanted. failure was not, as they say, an option. aman took a deep breath and a slow smile started to brighten up his face. he was beginning to like these challenges he realised. working with asr all these years, was he getting to be a bit like his boss? aman almost trembled at his own audacity for thinking that. then he started looking through asr’s calendar. he would find those days.

asr stretched his legs out and reached for his laptop. the winter sun felt great this time of the morning. he picked up the mug lying on the table and took a sip of steaming hot black coffee. the tea gardens stretched and undulated just beyond the fence. such splendid green… he took the bale of mooga lying on the chair next to him and opened it out, unrolling several metres of it. then he caught hold of the end and flung it up…

between blue sky and verdant earth, the golden fabric spread out, sun rays touching it and making it glint even more.
asr felt the urge to make, to create, to get immersed.
as the swathe of mooga floated down, he saw her eyes.
he blinked. he hadn’t heard her coming up from the house. the fabric fell gracefully and settled near her feet.

he would have asked her when she had come by perhaps, he would have certainly picked up the silk before the grass stained it, but there was something in the way she stood there, just looking at him, her eyes glittering, an intensity about her… he stared back silently.

without it even registering, he’d started walking toward her he noted. his arm reached out… a strange fear gripped him. 

what if khushi disappeared, what if she wasn’t there one day. he didn’t ask himself why such bizarre unfounded absolutely uncalled for thoughts came and shook him. his hand wasn’t steady when he put it on her shoulder. he gripped her hard.

she stood there still. her breath was racing, she heaved a little every time she exhaled.

he began to put his arm around her, bring her close, she looked so lovely, he wanted to hold her.

“nahin!” she whispered. he frowned.


“khushi?” he asked gently as he drew her near.

“nahin… nahin nahin, arnav ji…” khushi said shaking her head, tears mingling with utterance.

(no.. no no, arnav ji..)

“kya nahin, khushi?” he felt this inexplicable desire to hold her tight and be with her… nothing else.

(no what, khushi?)

“nahin… hum nahin sah sakte… aap… nahin.. aap assam mein kaam nahin kar sakte… hum… hum.. jo bhi ho jaye.. no, arnav ji no…” khushi was shaking her head, he movements were jerky, her words incoherent as they tumbled out.

(no… i can’t bear it… you… no… you can’t work in assam… i… i… no matter what happens… no, arnav ji, no…)

the only thing he heard was the anguish in her voice.

he swallowed hard and tightened his hold. but she was resisting…

he jerked her toward him, albeit not with too much force, she was looking fragile. what had happened to her?

“come here!” he cajoled, his eyes looking sombrely into hers.
she looked stricken.

“khushi?” he folded her in his arms, burying his face in the crook of her neck, her soft, thick hair with that elusive fragrance caressing him. he kissed her lightly on her shoulder blade, then rested his chin on her head, cradling her.

“you heard about the kidnappings, did you, khushi?” he asked at last… his mind had pieced together her words and the look in her eyes, the fear in her voice. he realised she must have heard about the managers. he hated the thought of her being so badly scared.

“ow!” the pain was sharp near his chest. khushi had just pushed him hard and was standing away, seething… looking at him angrily, incredulity in her hazel eyes.

“aap jaantey the?!” she said, her voice rising.

(you knew?)

he wondered why she was so angry.

“and you didn’t tell me? why? why? arnav ji… what did you think? huh? what? khushi is silly, she is stupid, she feeds jalebis to elephants! usse kya pata! mad girl! nahin batate hain… aap toh arnav singh raizada hain, hai na? kuch bhi kar sakte hain… kuch bhi!” khushi was raging now, eyes blazing, index finger jabbing the air, and a constant stream of tears pouring down her cheeks, “but aap ko shayad pata nahin… hum khushi kumari gupta… singh raizada…” her voice went up on the last word, “i have a right to know… especially if my husband’s life is in any sort of danger… any!”

(and you didn’t tell me? why? why? arnav ji… what did you think? huh? what? khushi is silly, she is stupid, she feeds jalebis to elephants! what does she know! mad girl! let me not tell her… you’re arnav singh raizada, right? you can do anything… anything! but perhaps you don’t know… i’m khushi kumari gupta… singh raizada… i have a right to know… especially if my husband’s life is in any sort of danger… any!)

she was crying by now, he made a move toward her. but she had already turned and walked away.

her sobs echoed around the garden. the mooga lay there on the grass. arnav singh raizada’s eyes darkened to almost jet, the brown lost despite the sun.

“dammit!” he swore under his breath.
he sat down on the wrought iron chair and tried to ignore what had just happened. khushi would come around, he had to get this work done now, no time to waste really. and anyway, she was over reacting.

why did women always behave in this unreasonable way?… and why was she looking so beautiful? he felt like getting up and going to her right then. she had been wearing a mekhela. where did she get it from?

“ridiculous!” he admonished himself.

what was he doing? sitting here and thinking of his wife’s mekhela.

his wife’s.

he was about to grab his laptop, but the thought stopped him. his wife…

he closed his eyes and inhaled long and deep, his diaphragm expanded as air filled his lungs. he opened his eyes and picked up the laptop. he would carry on working. he had to.
the most terrible agony writhed in her. she could hardly breathe. why hadn’t arnav ji told her?

and even if he had… how could she ever let him come here on work? no.. she wouldn’t… she wouldn’t.

it was too dangerous. there were people disappearing all the time.. what if… what if.. arnav ji… no.

she couldn’t finish the sentence. the barrage of apprehensions and fears suffocated her. she lay back on the sofa in the room and her body went limp as her defences came up trying to save her from the onslaught. she began to blank out.

just before she drifted off, words she never believed she could say went through her mind.

“no, arnav ji, you’ll have to give up your mooga project, jo bhi ho jaaye, hum aapko yahan aane nahin denge.”

(no, arnav ji, you’ll have to give up your mooga work, no matter what happens, i won’t let you come here.)
a man sat absorbed in his work. his eyes moved over numbers and figures, his fingers were sure and fleet on the keyboard. 

a bale of golden silk lay beside him.
she took off her mekhela slowly. her arms felt leaden, her legs seemed weighed down with stones. most of all her heart. oh what wretched heaviness was this?

she picked up her plain white churidar kurta with a little red edging and put them on.

it was almost evening. where was arnav ji? her body jerked, bludgeoned by a dark furious worry.

they are the most unnervingly riveting couple ever. at my age you’d think good sense would prevail,

but where’s the time or even need for that. 🙂  never thought i’d write fanfic some day, take a look at me now.

arnav and khushi, asr and khushi ji, what fabulous memories.