Thursday, November 22, 2012

Chapter Eleven

The Way To A Man's Heart...

Khushi and Lovely had a good laugh about something they discussed as they descended down the stairs. Everyone had gathered for afternoon tea around the table.. they looked at them…  Nani ji happily smiled watching lovely and Khushi spend time together.

As Lovely took a seat next to Nani ji, she said, “Nani, I love your Khushi!” and winked.

Nani ji said proudly, “Our Khushi bitiya is just like that… she wins everyone’s heart!”

Shyam immediately looked up at Khushi with a disgusting smile but his eyes were admiring her. Khushi gave him an angry look and looked away. Anjali was sitting next to him. She said to Shyam, ”Here you go! Your chai…!”
Shyam was so occupied with his anger that he did not notice that Anjali was talking to him. Anjali noticed his angry face, surprised she asked, “What happened? Did I say something wrong?”

Nani ji, Khushi, Karan, Mami ji everyone looked at Shyam…Shyam immediately straightened his face and said with a smile, “Arey, Rani Sahiba! You…. You are just too much! You worry so much about me! I was just busy thinking about a complicated case on hand.”

Karan’s sharp eyes were not missing anything. He winked at Anjali and said, “Wow! How can anyone think about work when such a beautiful dame is sitting by the side! ….I wouldn’t!” His eyes were full of mischief.

Anjali curled her lips as smile spread across her face… Affectionately she said in a scolding voice with fake anger, “Karan… “

With a steady gaze Lovely was watching Karan carefully… so did Khushi.  Nani ji smiled, ”Karan bitwa, you are such a fun guy!”

“Haaye, what should I do, Nani ji, humari toh tabiyat hi kuchh rangeen hai…I have a heart that loves to love!” Karan said in a filmi style… everyone including Payal burst out laughing..

Payal said, “You know, our Khushi is also filmi, just like you!”

Nani immediately added, “Yes, Khushi bitiya is so fond of movies….. she dances so well too…”

Anjali chirped in enthusiastically, “Lovely, you must see Khushi ji dance at least once!”

Khushi turned bashful with all the praise….felt embarrassed, “Di, no… I don’t dance anymore…. I used to earlier.. . but then.. things were different….”

“Arey, no, Khushi ji! What are you saying?..... Mami, remember that night…Bali in Delhi?” As soon as Anjali said this and winked at Mami, Mami covered her mouth and suppressed her laughter…
Khushi lowered her gaze as images of her passionate dance with Arnav flashed back in her mind…  a shiver ran down her spine… filling her heart with longing..

“Bali in Delhi? What’s that? What do you mean?” Lovely asked.

“Hello Hi Bye Bye! Ms Lovely,  Arnav bitwa was very busy.. no time for honeymoon, so, Sasuma and Anjali bitiya, created hotel in here… in the Raizada Mansion…… for that reason..we brought Bali here in Delhi..” Mami answered enthusiastically..

Anjali said with a bright smile on her face and affectionate eyes, “That night… I tell you…. Chhotey and Khushi ji… they danced their heart out! Ahhhh…..!”

“What ..ASR and dance! I can’t believe it!” Lovely said.

“Ahh.. you will be surprised, Lovely! They both dance together so well.. so well.. you got to see it!” Anjali could not stop raving about Arnav and Khushi’s dancing skills.

Payal said, “And the Sangeet… before my wedding.. remember that, Di? “

Nani said nostalgically, “Yes! That was the first time we all saw Chhhotey dance on the stage!”

Karan jumped in immediately, “Ok, then it’s done!”

Everyone around the table was taken aback with surprise… They all looked at Karan curiously…

Karan slowly rose to feet with style, everyone else followed him… and they all came to the lounging area… got settled… suspense was killing them.. curiosity was mounting….

Finally Karan  announced, “OK then! It’s decided! Let’s make a plan for tonight! No one will sleep tonight!…hum log achhi si mehfil jamayenge…we will have a fantastic family get together tonight…. antakshari… some dance..and great food…what say? “

Nani ji’s face filled with smile… she nodded happily in agreement.. Anjali though hesitated, “But tomorrow.. we have the pooja…”

Mami said excitedly, “Anjali bitiya, I will get everything ready this afternoon! .. and the pooja is also in the afternoon at the temple tomorrow.  That should work out fine!... Say, yes..!”

As Aakash walked in, he asked, “Who are you guys conspiring against? Tell me!”

Karan briefed him about the plan for the fun night... Mama ji, who followed Aakash also heard everything and excitedly Mama ji said, “O, wow! This is a great idea! We haven’t had a fun family night in a very long time...”

Nani ji, Mami nodded happily in agreement.

Shyam said nothing.. he just stared at them. Khushi went quiet.. very unlike her…. That did not go unnoticed by Anjali. She said to Khushi, “Khushi ji, why are you so quiet? Did you not like the idea?”

Khushi said with some hesitation, “Di, who… it’s… that… I was…. thinking…”

“Say it, Khushiji! What happened? What’s wrong? Is there a problem?” Anjali fired question after question in a concerned voice.

“No, Di!... I was… thinking about him…. he does not like noise…. You know...” Khushi hesitated… did not complete her sentence…looked at Anjali with suggestive eyes…

Khushi remembered… the images of Arnav telling her how he did not like noise come alive in her mind…Anjali understood… Mami and Nani too..
Mami said in a mellow tone, “Phati Saree, you are right! Arnav bituwa toh ek dum se angry young man hui jayee yeh sunane par.. Arnav bitwa will be an angry young man if he finds out!”

Lovely asked puzzled, “Why?”

Anjali said, “You know, our Chhotey does not like noise…”
Nani said, “But….Anjali bitiya, you know what to do… you do have a solution… remember?” Anjali looked at Nani ji with questioning eyes.

“What is that, Nani?” Aakash asked with curious eyes.

Nani winked at Anjali… Mami looked at them suspiciously.. Anjali smiled as if she understood what Nani said, “Oh, yes! Nani, you are so smart!”
She turned to Khushi and said, “There is only one person who knows how to make Chhotey agree to this… and that is you, Khushi ji! Remember…when you got Chhotey to agree for Sangeet on Aakash’s wedding?”

“It’s…. that…. Di, I….. I.. me…..” Khushi stuttered… she did not know how to say it.. Shyam’s anger started mounting as Anjali kept reminding everyone about the special relationship Khushi shared with Arnav…..
Nani said to Khushi, “Bitiya, please, do it for the sake of our guests! For Lovely and Karan!”

Mami chirped, “Hello Hi Bye Bye..Arnav bituwa…. Phati Saree…. you must get him to agree… otherwise…. No Fun…. foolishhtop!”


Lovely and Khushi were in the kitchen…Lovely was teaching Khushi how to make gourmet pasta.  She showed her how much water she needed… how it needs to come to a boil before dropping the pasta in… then she showed her all the veggies they cut before boiling the pasta… next step she showed her how to get all those ingredients cooking together in olive oil…
Finally... she showed her how to garnish..

When the  dinner plate was ready…. Lovely threw away her chef’s hat and said, “Voila!” ..”Here… Khushi, pasta is ready for your Arnav ji!”

Khushi got worried, “What if he does not like it, Lovely ji?”
“Oh, Khushi! Don’t worry….” Lovely said in a confident voice, “I know… ASR just loves this pasta… this used to be his favorite!.... Now go and surprise ASR!.... go...what are you waiting for?”

As Khushi brought pasta to the table, Mami started sniffing…, “Wow… something smells so nice!” “What is this?” Mami asked looking at the plate Khushi put in front of Arnav.

Lovely came in with a huge serving bowl in her hands full of pasta. She declared “ASR, Khushi has cooked the gourmet pasta dish for you!”
As Arnav looked at Khushi, Khushi gave him a sheepish look and said nervously, “I don’t know how it has come out...”

Khushi then looked at Anjali, “Di, it’s my first time.. trying a foreign dish…”
 Nani ji said affectionately, “Khushi bitiya, don’t underestimate your own efforts… You tried to cook something that Chhotey likes so much... that’s good enough!” Then Nani ji looked at Arnav and said, “The emotions that go into making something special for someone are important than how the dish turns out.. right, Chhotey?”
Arnav blurted, “What the..” As Khushi heard it, she felt bad. She tried to pull the plate away… Arnav looked at her puzzled. He held on to the plate and said, “Chhhodo… kya kar rahi ho.. Let it be.. what are you doing?”
“Ji, I thought… you did not want to taste it...”
Arnav gave her a puzzled look.. a question in his eyes….
Khushi said hesitatingly “You said…. ‘What the..’”
Arnav shook his head and rolled his eyes as he pulled the plate back in front of him, “Unbelievable!...  That was not for you…”

Arnav reached for his fork.. all eyes were on him… as he started chewing everyone kept looking at him for any reaction…. as soon as he swallowed, Lovely asked, “So?” Arnav looked at her… made no gestures… instead he took another bite… and started eating with his gaze towards the plate.

Lovely kept looking at him… waiting for his verdict…. Khushi got nervous… her eyes welled up… a tear was about to roll down her eye when Arnav looked up at Lovely and said, “It’s alright!”
Anjali could not hold back, “Only alright?... How can you just say only alright, Chhotey?”
Lovely repeated, “Just alright, ASR?”
Arnav’s gaze settled on Khushi who was on the verge of crying..
Shyam was irked by all this attention on Arnav and Khushi… he kept looking at them angrily… Unaware of Karan’s constant gaze glued on his face…

Arnav’s eyes did not leave Khushi’s face as he said slowly to Khushi, “It’s good!” Khushi’s face immediately reflected relief, a smile spread on her face, but a tear trickled down anyway…  As she wiped her eyes discreetly…Anjali looked at her affectionately…


Later that afternoon:

Everyone was in the lounging area… as Khushi started walking towards the stairs with a tray in her hands Anjali said, “Khushi ji, all the best! I am sure that you will get Chhotey to agree…!”

Lovely gave a thumps up, “All the best, Khushi! Come back soon with a good news!” Khushi smiled but her heart started beating faster with nervousness…

Karan turned to Payal and Anjali, “Come on, guys! We should start making preparations for the fun evening… Come on!”
Everyone got up enthusiastically… Mama ji was ahead of everyone in full force


When Khushi entered the room Arnav was working on his laptop. Khushi slowly walked over to him…. then she handed him the bowl and said in a soft voice, “Halwa…sugarfree…. For you! ” Arnav took a spoonful and gulped it down hurriedly as he started working on his laptop again… He choked… started coughing… Khushi came running.. started rubbing on his back, "Arnav ji.. are you okay?” She quickly reached for the glass of water on the table and held it to Arnav’s mouth… Arnav took few sips… as his cough slowed down and Khushi put the glass away, their eyes talked to each other.. a memory from the night when Arnav had gotten sick after Khushi did not have dinner for him came alive… that night Arnav had choked the same way and Khushi had run to his rescue..

As his throat settled…Arnav’s eyes noticed that Khushi was nervously crumpling her saree with her right hand standing next to the bed… deep in her thoughts..
 “Khushi..” Arnav called in a soft voice.

Khushi was lost in her thoughts, “Khushi..” Arnav called again… it broke her thoughts…
She looked at him nervously… he asked in a soft voice, “Tum thik ho?... Are you alright?
“Yeah… I am alright… Di.. was……Di…” Khushi did not know how to broach the topic….
“What happened to Di?” Arnav jumped to his feet as his face filled with worry...”Dammit… say something! What happened to Di? What’s wrong?” He grabbed Khushi by her arms… his eyes were demanding an answer..

Khushi said nervously, “No,… nothing…. Di is fine… she asked…. Me… to.. ask you…”
“What the…! Since when does Di need you to have me ask about something?” his eyes filled with disbelief...
Khushi nervously added, “Di wants to have a family get together tonight…. Some antakshari… some food… something like that...” she deliberately skipped telling him about the dance.. It was going to be the next big task for her…. to bring him downstairs…
“Everyone has their heart set on it...” Khushi added with pleading eyes.

“Who’s idea was it?..don’t tell me that you did not plan this, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada! I know you and your ideas very well!” Arnav said as his eyes gazed into hers searching for an answer….
“No…. it was not me! Honest to God!.... It was Karan ji…, Lovely ji and Di…they made the plans. I came to ask for your permission for all their sake…...” Khushi’s voice trailed off as she looked Arnav into the eye…. her eyes innocent… pure… reflected the truth she spoke… Arnav’s heart started melting… His hold on her arms got tighter… stronger… he pulled her closer…his gaze steady on her face… he looked her deep into the eye and whispered... “Fine!....but… Khushshii… it’s just because YOU asked…” They kept gazing in to each others eyes…Rabba Ve

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Chapter Ten

                         Does Shyam Have A Connection With Sheesh Mahal?


Arnav took his finger away as Khushi felt like she was drowning in his eyes… she wanted to let go… and go with the flow... but she had this tremendous urge… she had to do this… She held his hand as he moved the finger away, his other arm still holding her snug to his body; she looked deep in his eye and said in a whisper, “Arnav ji….”
“Hmmm...” Arnav was lost in those eyes… his senses getting blunt...
“Arnav ji, since your return… you have been very different… Why are you being so nice to me all of a sudden?” She thought for a moment before saying, “I have not been able to bring the truth out yet!”
A tear trickled down her eyes… rolled down her face...
Arnav’s eyes turned soft… his jaw muscles relaxed… gaze turned gentler… as he looked at her tears, his heart went out to her…
Khushi had to push further, “May I know why you are being so nice to me?”   

Arnav’s face and eyes changed. Many emotions reflected on his face and his eyes within next few moments…he first looked puzzled, as soon as her question started sinking in… his face turned firm, eyes harder, colder, anger started mounting… a blaze appeared in his eyes and he clenched his teeth as the jaw muscles tightened… He held Khushi even closer, tighter… her twisted arm started hurting… he looked at her face… she was in pain… he realized that he had twisted her arm really hard and that it was causing her pain. He immediately loosened his grip on her hand, untwisted it, took her hand in his, rubbed gently where he had hurt her, his eyes softened again, slightly apologetic, he gulped as he was aware that he had hurt her. He held Khushi by her shoulders… brought her over to the bed, sat her down on the edge of the bed… Khushi kept giving him puzzled looks through tear filled eyes….. tears ready to roll down..

Arnav knelt in front of her, held her hand gently again and looked deep into the her eyes… said in a heavy voice, “Khushi, you never asked me.. but, let me tell you… I missed you a lot!”
“Jiii?....”What?” Khushi’s eyes initially widened, then tears started trickling down her eyes and a shocked face changed into a slightly brighter one as a smile broke through the tears on her face… Khushi’s other hand reflexively grabbed his hand that was holding her hand in her lap… Arnav looked at her and gradually stood up, tugged on Khushi’s hand gently so that she got pulled back up on her feet… she still was in a trance.. she did not know how to interpret what he just said.. “So… does Arnav ji….No! No.. how is this possible? ..Why would he miss me?”  She looked at him again.. he seemed so genuine… his face had the boyish charm and no pretense…

She said with quivering lips…”This ….I… what.. is.. happening.. to me…Arnav ji?”

Before Arnav realized, Khushi fainted … Arnav grabbed her quickly as she fainted and lost control. He placed her on the chaise, reached for the glass of water. As he sprinkled water on Khushi’s face, he felt a tiny knot in his stomach.

”Khushi” “Khushi…” Khushi..” he tried to being her back to consciousness…his hand caressing her face gingerly.. his eyes full of concern.

Khushi, slowly opened her eyes… noticed that Arnav was sitting right next to her on the chaise…. She struggled to move… Arnav held her gingerly and sat her up by his side.. Khushi looked at him with vulnerable eyes… His eyes softer and his gaze caressing.. Rabba ve…

Khushi looked at him with vulnerable eyes…her eyes asked him, “So… do what I think is right?.... did you really miss me?”

 Arnav did not answer that question; he wrapped one of his arms around her shoulder and pulled her closer… rested  her head on his shoulder…..few moments of quiet ensued... then he asked Khushi, “Tum ab thik ho, Khushi?” “Are you alright, Khushi?”

Khushi realized that her head was still on his shoulder, she pulled back quickly… embarrassed… she jumped to her feet nervously.... unsteady on her feet… Arnav stood up supporting her… ”Don’t fall down again, Khushi!”
Khushi did not make eye contact; he still was holding her by arms on either side… gradually his hands slid down her arms as his gaze stayed fixed on her face… Khushi’s face reflected the awareness of his touch all over her arms.. a shiver ran down her spine… Dhak Dhak  Dhak Dhak..

Arnav asked, “Did you hear something?” Khushi was barely able to breathe, looked at him coyly and nodded “No!” Her heart started beating faster… Dhak Dhak Dhak Dhak … She placed her hand on her heart and closed her eyes as she gulped.
Arnav held her hand and said, his face still serious, “Khushi.. I want to…. say something……”
Khushi opened her eyes. Arnav looked her into the eye … his gaze penetrating.. yet gentler… He could not take her eyes off of her… she just looked so mesmerizing as she stood so close to him.. shy.. bashful…

He repeated as if he was in a trance, “I wanted to say something to you..” his husky voice gave her goose bumps… Anticipation mounted in her heart… “Hmmmm….” Khushi said... Her breathing now was so heavy that she could barely catch her breath… her heart was pounding loudly…

Arnav leaned forward… brought his mouth closer to her ears and said in almost a whisper, “This saree…This saree looks beautiful on you!”
Stunned Khushi looked up… Arnav had said something totally different than what she expected…
Her heart filled with disappointment... all of a sudden, she pushed him forcefully and moved away… turned around and let her tears roll down.. Once again Arnav Singh Raizada had managed to disappoint her after building such anticipation… As Arnav watched her… the disappointment….. the anger…. the anguish… his heart could not control itself.. he felt her heartache…..her anguish found a place in his eyes… he moved closer.. Khushi looked up through her tears…angrily she tried to escape to the poolside, when Arnav reached for her and swiftly pulled her into his embrace… Khushi struggled… but Arnav did not let go…Khushi finally broke down in tears, held on to his collar and allowed her tears to trickle down once more as Arnav’s soothing hand rested on her back…
As he soothed her he said to himself, “Wish… I just wish.. that I could tell you why I am being so nice to you!... Khushi…Kaash… …”


Anjali was about to leave the kitchen. She gave instructions to Hariprakash to bring some flowers for the pooja.. the worship.. for the next morning.

Just then Karan walked in…”Hey, sweetheart! How are you?” he asked jovially. Anjali gave him a broad smile and said, “I am fine.. and you?.... Is Lovely here too?”

“Yup! Lovely said that she planned to spend the whole day with Khushi ji today! So, I thought why not spend my day with you? Not a bad idea, right, sweetheart?” ” Karan said flirtatiously… Anjali smiled, shook her head to say, “Alright”. Then she said, “I do have to step out this afternoon for something… but before that… certainly! I can spend some time with you, no problem!”
They both smiled. As they walked towards the lounging area, they decided to sit at the dining table. Anjali called HP, “Hariprakash ji, please, get some coffee for Karan ji!” “Okay, Didi!” HP replied.
As they sat at the table Karan kept staring at Anjali…. It made her very uncomfortable… She finally asked, “What?.. Why are you looking at me like that?... Karan ji, do I have something on my face?”

“Sweetheart, drop this ‘ji..wee..’.. ! Just call me Karan…it will feel so nice to hear that from you!…” Karan said flirtatiously.

Anjali replied, “Ahh.. it’s a bit difficult but.. I am willing to try…”
Just then HP came with the coffee… Anjali and Karan started sipping on their coffee.. Karan started telling Anjali what they did at ASR’s office earlier the other day.


“Knock.. Knock…” someone knocked on the door…

Khushi looked at Arnav… he was still holding her tight... close to his heart… she felt so secure in the warmth of his embrace that she had almost forgotten that this is not how it was supposed to be!
The knock got stronger… louder…
Khushi pulled away from Arnav…her eyes pleaded to him to let her go… he released her from his embrace… she ran to the bathroom…
Arnav walked up to the door…opened it…
It was Lovely. She said as she looked over his shoulder, ”ASR, I am looking for Khushi! Have you seen her anywhere? Is she here?”

Arnav said in a calm voice, “She is in the bathroom… freshening up! Come in. please!”

Lovely said as she walked in, “Listen, I plan to spend rest of my day with Khushi today!”

As Khushi stepped out of the bathroom Lovely looked at her and said, “Khushi, can we spend the day together?” Then she mischievously added, “Only if… ASR is willing to share you with me.. I guess!”
Khushi nodded as she blushed, “Yes, Lovely ji!”

Arnav and Khushi quickly exchanged glances with each other… Arnav’s eyes asked her, “Are you alright?”.. Khushi’s eyes said… ”As alright as I can be..”

Arnav pulled out his tie from the closet and as he put it on, he said, “Well then… I am going to the office. Lovely, when do you have to meet with your clients?”
Lovely said, “Oh, yeah, the meeting is tomorrow 11 AM, in your office..!”
Arnav said as he rolled his sleeves up, “I will have the conference room set up for you. Aman can take care of the arrangements for you!” He then picked up his laptop and jacket; he said as he left, “You guys have fun! See you later!”

Lovely walked over to Khushi and asked, “So, what shall we do now?”
“Lovely ji, I love to talk.. do you?... We can chat whole afternoon! And yes, will you teach me how to make pasta? Arnav ji loves pasta but I don’t know how to cook it! …” Khushi started talking chirpily.
“Sure… sure… In fact, even I don’t know much of cooking but, pasta and all.. that I know how to cook… pretty well, if I must say so myself!” Lovely said as they walked down the stairs and headed towards the kitchen.


Anjali laughed hard at Karan’s joke….held on to her tummy and said, “My stomach is hurting now.. you have made me laugh so much! Please.. have some mercy….stop now..”

Karan raised both his arms half way and said, “Okay..,Okay...calm down..”

He then looked around and asked, “I don’t see your hubby… where is he?”

Anjali said with a sulked face, “He left for work early in the morning… he has no eyes for anything else but his work!”

“Not even you?” Karan asked a little pointedly.

“Yeah, not even me!” Anjali said as she curled her lips and thought of Shyam leaving in a hurry early that morning.

Karan said, “Then it’s very wrong! You.. and someone does not pay attention… impossible!”

Anjali realized where he was headed. She quickly corrected herself, “Ji…? That’s not what I meant!”
Karan flipped back in his jovial mood, “Khair.. Let it be.. You tell me, is Mr. Mahohar Jha related to your husband in any way?”
Anjali hesitated a bit…. Nervously she said, “You know, the reality is that I don’t know anything about his relatives.”

Karan’s eyes widened with surprise, “Why? Did you elope to get married?”

“No! Not that! It’s just that we have always lived here.. even after we got married..” Anjali struggled to find words… She nervously looked around... Karan sensed her awkwardness.
He said, “Hmm.. it’s so unusual… But.. I won’t bother you with my questions anymore. It is just that Mr. Manohar Jha was a big hotelier in Lucknow He wanted to purchase Sheesh Mahal. He had big plans to covert it into a five star hotel. He did a lot to obtain it..…but he could not.. I have heard that same Sheesh Mahal was purchsed by some young chap last year!... Long time back… Mr. Manohar Jha had to face bankruptcy because he could not get Sheesh Mahal and he had already invested so much into the effort…“

Karan watched Anjali’s face change colors… as he spoke. He rushed to say, “Oh, I am sorry! What am I talking about!.. I should have known that you had nothing to do with it! Please, forgive me!”

Anjali was deep in her thoughts.. she said, “It’s alright….” But her thinking wheels started churning…”It seems to me that I should ask him about this Mr. Mahohar Jha .. especially when it relates to Sheesh Mahal…”
Karan waved his hand in front of her and snapped his fingers to bring Anjali out of her trance…
She smiled at him as her spell broke…


Payal was on the phone with Buaji…”Buaji, how are you?”

Arey, bitiya! You have called after such a long time! We miss you a lot…. I .. your Amma… and .. Babuji… everyone! .. And Khushi? How is she?”

“Buaji, Khushi is alright too. I miss you all a lot. I was thinking of coming over after the pooja tomorrow.”

“Is everything alright?” Buaji got worried sensing the weight to Payal’s words.. Payal said, “Yes, everything is alright! It’s just that I had something to discuss with you.. about someone..”

“About who?” Buaji asked

“I will tell you all about it when we meet,” Payal said.

Mami watched Payal from outside the room, listened in on her conversation, said, “Hello Hi Bye Bye! It’s my job to do investigationwa? How come this Khoon Bhari Taang is undertaking some investigationia?”