na jayate mriyate va kadacin
for the soul there is never birth nor death
nayam bhutva bhavita va na bhuyah
nor, having once been does he ever cease to be
ajo nitya sasvato ‘yam purano
he is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval
na hanyate hanyamane sarire
he is not slain when the body is slain

~~~ bhagwat gita ~~~

she could feel the graze of his thumb on her cheek bone, a tremble in it. a tremble that became a shiver inside her that traveled down her breath straight to her diaphragm and then dropped to the pit of her stomach.

what was he doing… this was not right… like this? how could he touch her like this?

she felt his warm breath on her eyelids and she couldn’t think anymore.

his mouth came close, the taut thin bow shaped upper lip, the lush, full lip below. through half open eyes she gazed mesmerized at the characteristic dragged down edge on the right… an imperfection. so why did her fingers want to touch it? feel it, stroke it… kiss it. kiss it? what was she thinking.

“khushi!” a hoarse whisper, thick and guttural, she’d never heard him sound like this before, all she wanted to do was take that utterance, the way he said her name, into her and keep it there forever.

then she felt his lips on hers. gentle as an early april drizzle… she’d never felt a man’s lips on hers before either, never known it would be like this. she was not supposed to be doing this something said inside her, but she couldn’t heed that, her lips had already pressed back in acquiescence… no, delight.

salt, earth, and a sensation of falling from a dizzying height. she allowed her lips to stay locked with his, not knowing what she should do next, yet wanting to do so much.

his lips nuzzled against hers and then the pressure grew harder and he began to kiss her with unreined passion. his breath had quickened, his teeth nipped her tender mouth, his tongue made her feel terrible things. “khushi,” he whispered between little sharp bites and searching kisses… “kiss me,” he breathed into her mouth. his hands gripped the back of her head and pulled her closer to him, his body was beginning to press against hers… an urgency shook him.

his lips left her mouth and marked a trail of featherlight hungry kisses from her temple to her cheek, “kiss me, i said, dammit ” he demanded as he began to head back to her mouth.

she opened her lips wanting to obey that command, her ears were filled with a loud deafening noise… dhak dhak… dhak dhak. her lips began to close over his.

no… no. no. suddenly she froze. no. she couldn’t do this, not like this, this was all wrong… so wrong.

she pushed hard against his shoulders, he fell back startled, and before he could say anything, she slipped out of his reach and ran. round the pool, and up the stairs, she had to get away from him as fast as possible. while she still had some resolve.


the salt was still on her lips, and the rain… she wanted it to drench her… how could she!

in her rush, she’d forgotten to say goodbye to lavanya ji, anjali ji, nani ji, everyone. she’d even forgotten to stop an auto. she was half running, half tripping down the road as though pursued by the devil.

“hey devi maiyya,” her lips formed a silent prayer. she closed her eyes and prayed.

her heart pleaded with her beautiful mother goddess, how could she be so weak… how could she let him touch her… he belonged to another woman, lavanya ji was his girl friend. she lived with him. she cared about him. and what was wrong with this man? wasn’t he in love with his girl friend? didn’t he respect her? their relationship? how could he do all that, that … those things he was doing… with her? he was really bad. rakshas. laad governor.

then she saw devi maiyya’s face in her mind. a little smile on it, as though asking her if indeed that was all it was. he did badtameezi and she suffered.

“nahin… matlab… aise nahin,” there was no escaping devi maiyya’s kind loving gaze.

(no… i mean… it’s not like that.)

the suv screeched to a halt next to her. she jumped back in terror, what was wrong with the driver, did he want to -?

“gadi mein baitho, khushi,” his voice was harsh. he wasn’t looking at her, just straight ahead.

(sit in the car, khushi.)

she was shocked, her mouth forming that trademark “o”.

“didn’t you hear me… i said, get in the car…” gritted teeth, fire in his breath.

that anger got her going. “nahiin, aap hear me… main aap ke saath…”

(no, you hear me, i won’t go with…)

before she could say another word, he was out of the car, around it, and gripping her upper arm… “khushi!”

she heard the anger, his gussa.

she heard the other thing, just below the gussa.

she wanted to resist. but she had to melt. his eyes looked at her intently, chocolate champagne swirl. why was he looking at her like that?

he gently pushed her into the passenger seat of the suv, reached across and put on her seat belt. she stiffened involuntarily as she felt his lean supple chest against her.

she sat silent, all the fight just gone from her. drained.

he got back into the driver’s side, and started the car. “kahan jana chahti ho?” where do you want to go, he asked in a level voice.

(where do you want to go?)

“aap se kya matlab?” she said. “aap ke paas,” whispered her heart.

(what concern is it of yours?)  (near you.)

he turned and just gave her that long look of his. she was surprised he didn’t snap.

“mandir…” she mumbled. she needed to be with devi maiyya for a while.


he stood leaning against the banister at street level. lean, dapper in his cool casual blue shirt… her fingers had clutched that collar desperately just a few minutes ago… her face began to flame at the thought.

without a word he drove her to the devi maiyya temple. how did he know she wanted to come here, there was the ram mandir he’d dropped her and anjali ji at, and the shiv mandir too, yet…

she clambered out quickly… and with a hasty, “chalte hain,” bolted up the steps.  at the head of the steps she stopped, should she turn back once and see if he were still there, one time… why do you want to see that nasty laad governor, asked her mind, just as talkative as her.

she resumed walking.

behind, an engine started, revved and and then a car drove off.

she hurried to devi maiyaa.

fifteen minutes later, feeling just a little calmer, khushi came down the temple steps.

he stood leaning against the banister at street level. lean, dapper in his cool casual blue shirt… her fingers had clutched that collar desperately just a few minutes ago… her face began to flame at the thought.

she couldn’t see his eyes behind the shades he’d donned, but was that a smile forming at the corner of that dragged down edge of his lips!

that laad governor… how could he! she went even more red.

“aap samajhte kya hain apne aap ko,” who do you think you are, her voice shook with rage.

(who do you think you are!)

in a second the smile was gone, a lean arm whipped out, and his hand grasped hers, he dragged her toward the suv parked a little away. she tried to resist but he was not in a mood to give in… and when she persisted, he turned and without a word again just picked her up in his arms and carried her with long strides to the car.

as she struggled, something flashed in her head… was it a memory? a dark night… a night of storm… she was tired, dead beat, passing out, and arms like these had gone around her, picked her up…

but before that, fingers on her cheek bones, long slender, gentle fingers stroking her cheek…

so gentle, so lost in her.

she stopped struggling and looked at him helplessly.

what was happening to her?

he stared back at her long.


when they reached her home, she turned to say something… “ar…nav ji… aap…”

(arnav ji, you…)

“khushi… main…”

(khushi, i…)

they both spoke at once.

“yeh sab… woh sab… woh aap… main… yeh sab theek nahin…”

(all this… all that… you.. me… this is not right…)

“tum theek ho?” he asked, his voice soft, husky, the slightest grit of salt in it.

(are you alright?)

she looked at him then. hey devi maiyya, what was happening to her?


but why was he pushing her suddenly? and it wasn’t evening… it was blazing afternoon heat and light… she was falling…

her eyes closed tightly… “hey devi maiyya,” on her lips.

when she opened them, it was the blue and white of hospital walls, a man in white was standing before her… his lips were moving but she couldn’t hear a thing… why? what was…

akash came forward and held her hand… she looked into his eyes, and her knees almost gave way.

di held her from the other side and gently made her sit down… she looked up at the man in white and at last she heard his words.

“mrs raizada,” he said…

“khushi kumari gupta singh raizada,” she corrected him without missing a beat.

a man with a wicked grin was looking at her as she leaned against a wall by the poolside, and he was coming closer and closer, “khushi kumari gupta…” he teased, “singh raizada…” she had to concede. then he kissed her cheeks, left, then right, then each eyelid, then her forehead… and…

“i am so sorry to have to tell you, we tried our best… but…”

everything blacked out.

payal stepped forward and hugged her sister’s limp body in her arms and rocked her gently.


without you: chapter 2