The white SUV was speeding away on the Yamuna Expressway, heading towards Agra. Arnav and Khushi had started early in the morning for this road trip. Arnav had a meeting in Agra and decided to take Khushi along to spend the evening at the Taj Mahal. Khushi was thrilled, as this way, while Arnav was at the meeting, she would also be able to spend some time with Preeto, who now lived on the outskirts of Agra. It was a double joy for her.
“Khushi, where did your friend ask you to wait at? Is there any landmark? And why don’t you want me to take you directly to her house? It would be easier, isn’t it?” said Arnav.
“Arnavji, I have not been to her house before. And she said that her house is a little away from the main road, but walkable distance. So, she asked me to wait at the bus stop. We’ll meet there and she’ll take me to her house” said Khushi.
“Ok then, let her come. I will drop you both at her house”, said Arnav.
“Offo Arnavji, you don’t understand anything. Once we are at her home, how will we talk freely with her family members snooping around? So, we decided we will stroll outside for some time, eat some yummy chat and then go home. And anyway, won’t you be late for your meeting if you come with us?” asked Khushi with a naughty smile.
Arnav shook his head, trying hard to hide his smile and asked, “Ok, ok. Now where is this bus stop?”
“She said opposite this restaurant called … Oh, wait. She messaged me the name of the restaurant. Let me check … Here it is, it’s called Kadvi bhi, namkeen bhi, meetha bhi'” ‘I’ve heard this before … This name reminds me of someone.” thought Khushi.
“What sort of a name is that? … Ok, I think I can see a restaurant at a distance. Must be the one you said. Has Preetika arrived? ” asked Arnav.
Khushi called up Preeto who told her that she would be at the bus stop in 2 minutes. The couple soon reached the bus stop which was opposite to the restaurant. Khushi got down from the SUV while Arnav looked around the area.
“Khushi, not too many people in this area. You sure you will be ok? Shall I wait till your friend comes?” asked Arnav.
“That’s ok Arnavji. She will be here any minute. Anyway, I can take care of myself. And you don’t have much time left for the meeting to start, isn’t it?” said Khushi trying to pacify her husband but was clearly unsettled with the unknown surroundings.
Arnav gauged her nervousness, saw something which gave him an idea. He coolly bid her goodbye and drove off. Khushi waited at the bus stop for Preeto who refused to show up within those 2 minutes that she mentioned. Her uneasiness increased. She was looking intently at the street diagonally opposite to the bus stop from where Preeto said she would come, but there was no sign of her. ‘Now where did this girl vanish?’ Khushi was wondering when a heavy hand fell on her shoulder.
Khushi got startled and shrieked loudly alarming the lady in the opposite restaurant. Khushi turned around with fear only to heave a sigh of relief. It was Arnav, who was enjoying every bit of his prank.
“Arnavji, it’s you! You scared the daylights out of me” said Khushi while trying to catch her breath.
“So, this is how you will take care of yourself, is it?” asked Arnav stepping towards her. As if on reflex, Khushi started stepping backwards. Meanwhile, the lady in the restaurant was watching these two at a distance. She couldn’t see their faces clearly but from their body language she came to a conclusion and decided to lodge her plan of action.
At the bus stop, Khushi stopped going backwards and asked him what he was doing there instead of going to the meeting. Arnav replied, “You forgot your phone as usual Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. I just came to return it. And where is your friend? Isn’t her two minutes over yet?”
“There she is!” said a relieved Khushi as she saw Preeto who had finally emerged from the street. Just then, Arnav got a call from Aman. “I am on my way Aman, will be reaching soon … Khushi, I will call you once the meeting is over. I will come to Preeto’s house to pick you up. I am sure I will be able to find it. Ok? Bye.” Saying so, he hurried to his SUV which was parked a little further away and sped off. He didn’t notice a certain lady coming after him from a distance.
“Don’t worry puttar. I will fix this eve teaser …”. Khushi was watching her husband go when she heard a lady shouting. Before she could turn around towards the source of the voice, the lady whizzed past her, with a big stick in hand, trying to shoo off the so called eve teaser’.
The lady halted only when the SUV sped off. “Haa, he ran away. You can now relax puttar” said the lady and turned around. Khushi and the lady, both recognized each other at the same time. “Khushi!!!” said the lady. “Manju Aunty!!!” said Khushi.
It was Manju Sodhi who used to be the canteen in-charge at AR Designs at a time when Khushi too was an employee . She has a son and a daughter. Her son had got a job in the US and her daughter shifted to Bhopal after her marriage. When Manju’s husband retired, they decided to move to Agra, where they had spent many years together before moving to Delhi. Her children too were born here. So, Agra always held a very special place in their hearts. Manju then quit her job at AR Designs and opened a restaurant called Kadvi bhi, namkeen bhi, meetha bhi’ on the outskirts of Agra.
“Oye, whom do you call Aunty?” said Manju but soon smiled and continued “But you can call, you have the right” saying so they hugged each other.
“Auntyji, that was no eve teaser, that was my husband,” explained Khushi. That’s when Manju noticed Khushi’s marital symbols and exclaimed, “Oh you are married and you look so lovely. I am so happy for you” said a delighted Manju and hugged her again.
“You both know each other?” Preeto had reached the bus stop by then and was surprised by the meeting of the two ladies. “Yes, Preeto puttar. We used to work together once. Are you both friends?” asked Manju.
Before she could reply, Khushi started scolding her. “Where were you? You said you would come in 2 minutes and you are coming now? … And how do you know Manju Aunty?”
“Khushi, Khushi calm down. I am only 5 minutes late. My sandal had broken on the way, so I went back home to get another pair. And Manjuji is the owner of that restaurant I told you about.” She pulled Khushi closer and whispered in her ear. “She doesn’t like to be called Aunty, don’t call her that.”
“Preeto, I am special, so she has given me an exception in that matter.” Khushi giggled and turning towards Manju she continued. “So that is your place Manju Aunty! When I heard the name, I remembered all that you had told me then. It’s so wonderful to meet you again after all this time.”
The three women talked for some time and it was decided that after coming back from Preeto’s house, Khushi would spend some time with Manju at the restaurant before her husband came to pick her up. Soon the two friends bid goodbye to Manju and left.
It was tea time when Khushi and Preeto returned to the main road and stood near the restaurant. Arnav’s meeting was over and he had informed Khushi that he would be reaching there soon. Khushi informed him about the change of meeting place. Preeto’s neighbor wanted her to accompany her daughter to a doctor’s appointment, so Preeto left soon after the friends bid adieu to each other.
Khushi opened the restaurant door and entered inside. It was a big spacious area with tables and chairs in different colours, soft lilting music playing from a corner, big sized windows adorning the walls which provided some good ventilation. It was not too crowded but not too scantily occupied either. At the counter stood an aged man, looking after the affairs of the restaurant. A pair of specs tied to a chain was dangling around his neck.
He looked up and saw Khushi coming. “Arey Kusum, when did you come? You should have called. I would have come to the station”, said the man.
Khushi was confused and looked back thinking if there was some other girl behind her, but found no one.
“Sodhiji, How many times did I tell you that when you know your distant vision is poor, you should be wearing your specs? ” It was Manju who came out from a room just then and helped him put on his specs.
“This is Khushi, not Kusum. I told you about her in the morning, remember?”, Manju continued. “And Khushi, this is my husband.”
Khushi did Namaste and Mr. Sodhi blessed her. “Don’t mind puttar. Kusum is our daughter’s name, I thought it was her. She lives in Bhopal. But no problem, you too are like our daughter. You are always welcome” he said.
“Come Khushi, sit. Have lots of things to talk to you about. But first, tell me, what will you have?” Manju inquired.
“Nothing Auntyji, I ate a lot at Preeto’s house. I am full now” said Khushi.
“Maybe, but you can’t say no to these” Manju put a plate in front of her.
“Jalebis! You remembered? You are right, I can never say no for these yummy …” and Khushi started enjoying her favourite dessert while Manju chatted with her for some time.
Later, Manju got up and was about to go to make some special tea when she saw a big vehicle park near the restaurant. She went near the window to see who it was and was shocked to see ASR. “What is this kadva karela (bitter bitter gourd) doing here?” She wondered. “If he meets Khushi again, he is sure to make her upset. She is so excited to visit the Taj Mahal with her husband. I should take her away from here before he spoils her mood” thought Manju.
“Khushi puttar, come, I will show you my house. It is on the first floor” said Manju and guided Khushi to go towards the staircase. Meanwhile, she whispered into her husband’s ears. “Listen, ASR has just arrived outside. Wonder why? Anyway, I am taking Khushi upstairs before he sees her. You please see that he goes away immediately, ok?” Mr. Sodhi agreed. His wife had filled him with all the details of ASR and Khushi since morning, but he became a little tensed to face the mighty ASR. He had seen his picture in papers earlier, but never met him in person. Mr.Sodhi removed his specs to wipe his sweat when he saw a lean man entering. The lean man looked around and then came straight to the counter and asked Mr.Sodhi. “Er, excuse me. Did you see a woman in a pink dress, with open hair? She said she would be waiting here.”
“Listen young man, do you think I have no other work than to stare at young women who come to the restaurant? Now just step aside. My wife said she saw ASR, the business magnate, outside our restaurant. Why hasn’t he come in yet?” retorted Mr.Sodhi.
Arnav didn’t know whether to laugh or be angry at the man. “Well, I am ASR, Arnav Singh Raizada, the business magnate!” said Arnav smirking and continued, “Perhaps, you should wear that specs of yours.”
“Huh … what … oh … yes” saying Mr.Sodhi put on his specs and realized that it was indeed ASR. “Oh, so … Sorry … I … I … you were asking something Sir” stammered the perplexed man.
“Never mind” said Arnav, went near the window, took out his phone and called his wife.
“Khushi, where are you? You said you would be waiting here … What? … What are you doing upstairs? Ok, Never mind. Come down fast. I am waiting in the restaurant” Arnav cut the call and sat down near an empty table.
Meanwhile upstairs, Khushi announced to Manju that her husband had arrived and she was going down. Manju tried to stop her but it was too late. Both the ladies came down quickly. Before Khushi could locate her husband, Manju signaled Mr.Sodhi to block the view of ASR from Khushi’s view. Acting quickly, Mr.Sodhi went and stood in front of ASR hiding him from Khushi’s view. ASR was baffled by his behavior. “Whaaat?” he inquired.
“No … Nothing Sir. Just wanted to ask if you need anything” he finally managed to say.
“No, I just …” before he could complete, he heard the sound of payal and got up from his seat. Sure enough, Arnav and Khushi saw each other at the same time. Manju was now ready for a showdown between them when Khushi exclaimed happily, “There he is, my husband, Arnavji …” and ran towards him. Manju looked at ASR who too was smiling at her. Khushi hugged him from the side and then introduced him to Mr.Sodhi, who was still standing there wondering what to do.
“Uncleji, this is my husband, Arnav Singh Raizada.” Before he could shake hands with ASR, they heard a thud near the counter. Manju had fainted. All three ran towards her. ASR recognized her immediately. “Mrs.Sodhi? Oh, she did say she wanted to open an eatery near Agra. I completely forgot. So, that’s why you were chatting with her upstairs.”
“Arnavji, all that later. First we should revive her”, saying so she reached for a glass of water and sprinkled some on her.
“Should I call a doctor?” asked Arnav.
“In Agra? No need to hassle poor Aman now. I think she is coming to. Auntyji, are you ok?” Manju nodded. Khushi and Mr.Sodhi helped her get up and took her inside a nearby room, while Arnav waited outside.
After making sure that Manju was ok, Mr.Sodhi went back to the counter and asked one of his employees to send some juices to the room and also black coffee for ASR.
When they were finally alone in the room, Manju asked, “What did you do Khushi? I had told you to just assume ASR as your husband. Not make him your husband for real. How did this happen? This is not true right?”
“We really are married, Auntyji, I am not lying. Why would I?” Khushi tried to explain.
“No, I still can’t believe. In that case, he must have forced you, isn’t it?” said Manju.
“Er, yes … but … no.” Khushi took a deep breath and proceeded to tell. “Auntyji, whatever might have been the varied reasons, the truth is, he decided to marry me because he loved me. And I agreed because I loved him too. All the other reasons, causes become secondary when love is involved, isn’t it?” said an emotional Khushi to Manju.
She continued, ” And I am really happy with him. My life is filled with mithaas, sweetness” and Khushi gave out a broad smile.
“Hmm … kadve karele ke saath meethi zindagi? (sweet life with the bitter bitter gourd?) Hard to believe though … Ha, ha. But looking at that twinkle in your eyes, I am ready to believe you. I bless you that you continue to smile always and stay happy. Ok, come now, I won’t delay you further. I know how eager you are to go with him … Don’t worry, I am feeling much better.”
The two women came out into the hall.
“Mrs. Sodhi, are you feeling better? I think you should take some rest” said ASR.
“I will Sir. But I can’t keep you both waiting for my sake. I think you both should leave before it is too late” said Manju.
“Thank you Mrs. Sodhi. I know you wanted to spend more time with Khushi. She will visit you soon” said Arnav. Arnav and Khushi bid goodbye to the elderly couple and left. Before leaving, Arnav turned towards Manju and said, “Please do take care” and smiled at her. Manju almost fainted again, but she held herself. She had rarely seen ASR smile except the few times when Anjali visited him at the office. Otherwise, not even when he was with Lavanya … Oh, Lavanya! If Khushi married ASR, then what happened to Lavanya? … Oh well, some other day …!’ thought Manju and smiled as the young couple boarded the SUV and sped away.
” Kadve karele ke saath meethi zindagi?’ these words of Manju kept ringing in Khushi’s ears and she kept giggling. “What’s so funny?” asked Arnav miffed with her constant giggling.
“Nothing, something that Auntyji said. Arnavji, I think our marriage must be the 8th wonder of the world.”
“Yes, just see. Whoever we meet and comes to know that we got married, either does not believe or in extreme cases faints instantly” laughs Khushi.
“Ya, right. Khushi, you know na, you are ajeeb” said Arnav smiling.
“Yes I know. And you too. And the marriage of two ajeeb people has to be an ajooba, a wonder, right?”
“Khushi, you are unbelievable” laughed Arnav.
And amidst these laughter and giggles, the SUV sped away to take the wonder couple to another wonder, the Taj Mahal, where the couple spent the evening under the moonlit sky adding to their treasure trove of beautiful memories which they would reminisce much much later.
* * *
This is the fourth & last instalment of the OS series I had written earlier, about people who knew Arnav and Khushi prior to their marriage, but had no knowledge that they had married and neither did they ever imagine that these two would end up getting married to each other and the quirky Khushi Kumari Gupta would become Mrs. Raizada, the beloved wife of the business tycoon. Their shocking discoveries upon meeting the couple and their reactions, often involving in them fainting, produce some hilarious moments, much to the amusement of the much in love couple. Hoping the readers enjoy these funny episodes and have a good time.