“no, aman, complete media ban… that’s it… what?!! main ne kaha na, nobody, no newspaper, magazine, channel.. no a no b, no z… no one. i want complete silence for a while. please make sure that happens.” he finished his call abruptly, picked up his jacket, shrugged it on smoothly, and turned to leave the room.
“khushi!!!” he called out, obviously in a hurry, “khushi, where are you… i’m getting late!”
“thahriye… ek minute, ek minute,” she rushed in from across the pool, her aarati plate in hand, responding to the impatience in his voice. the grain in it changed at every turn and twist sending all sorts of tremors through her. and it added to her breathlessness.
“okay okay… relax,” he said when he saw her in that state… “i’m only getting a bit late, no need to get that hassled.”
her breathing audibly hitched. did he have no idea what that “ralax” did to her every time?
“wo… n.n.nahi, arnav ji… just that… ok, aap bahut mahatwapoorn kaam ke liye jaa rahe hain… hume aarati karne dijiye, asha hai ki aapko poori safalta mile…”
(“er… no… you’re off to a very important meeting, let me do an aarati, wish you complete success…”)
“ok,” he said with that indulgent look which always came into his eyes when the women of his family appeared with their aarati plates, lamp lit, and loads of love in their eyes. especially, these eyes… his cooky, crazy, totally her own person wife. he always felt a flip in his heart when he thought of her or saw her.
he stood obediently, head a little lowered as she raised the plate and made the mandatory three circles around his face, then she dipped her thumb in the red vermilion in the little silver bowl and went to make a “tilak” on his forehead.
his hand came up swiftly and gripped her arm… “khushi, stop!”
“don’t put that! i can’t go to a meeting with that!”
“kyun nahin? issme kharabi kya hai…”
(“why not? what’s wrong with it?”)
“kharabi… khushi, why don’t you understand!!!” his voice grew urgent, irritated, gravelly, “this is a meeting with the world’s largest luxury and fashion house… i have to look the role… aur waise bhi, you know i don’t like all these things…” he pursed his lips, clearly annoyed.
“par yeh bahut bada kaam hai, aap ko bhagwan ka aashirwad..”
(“but this is a huge task, god’s blessings…”)
“khushi,” his voice had grown a little cold, “i’ve told you many times, i believe i make my own life… you know i don’t believe in what people call god. i have never stopped you from doing what you like… don’t you think there should be some understanding of how i see things. especially because this meeting is so so important?”
contrarily enough, though she absolutely did not want to see him leave in a bad mood, wanted him to go feeling calm and strong, she felt angry and couldn’t stop herself from showing it. “theek hai, aap jaiye phir, hume aap se kuch nahin kahna,” she blurted out and stalked off
(“fine, go then, i don’t want to talk to you.”)
“khushi…” he tried to cajole her with a softening voice, but she was adamant, face resolutely turned away.
he looked at his watch, he was going to be late… he had to leave now. again he pursed his lips, this time a note of helplessness.
he walked up to her from behind, when he was really close he bent down and placed a gentle kiss on the the nape of her neck, “wish me luck,” he murmured against her skin, and before she could turn around, he was gone.
did my breath stop for a second, thought khushi. she could feel tears sting her eyes sharply. why, why was it always like this with them.
it was late when he got in, she was almost asleep, the room was dark except for the dim night light in the far corner. he walked in, careful not to make any noise. but she’d been worrying about him… that meeting, she had to know how he was feeling after it. was it good or was he despondent? beaten? eyes still closed, she breathed out slowly and started to listen for the signs. if he were not upbeat, happy… oh, please no… don’t let that happen… don’t even think like that, khushi… achhi achhi baatein soch (think good things)… this is too important for arnav ji… and she listened.
she heard him pick up his change, go to the bathroom… gargle, brush… he must be having a quick shower now, then the silence as he toweled himself dry, changed.. and the door opened, a sliver of light hit her eyelids, she grimaced involuntarily.
“khushi?!!” he whispered.
she stayed silent, eyes closed.
she felt him walk over to his side of the bed, get in. then a rustle of bedclothes as he shifted closer to her, very close, she could feel him exhale somewhere near her ear.
her breath began to change… growing faster. arnav, uff why can’t i be calm around you.
“khushi…” he whispered right by her cheek, “you awake, baby?… okay i will whisper because you don’t want me to know you’re up… you’ve been fretting the whole evening, haven’t you… and praying for me? sitting in front of devi maiyya… talking her into making sure i succeed?’
her eyes flew open… how did he know!
“i know,” he said as though hearing her thought… then he kissed the eyelid nearest him lightly, a smile on his lips, “i know you can’t ever let me go like that… you made up with me in your mind, said you’d try and understand how i saw things, then missed me like mad, looked at your phone thinking you’ll call me… then thought, no, i don’t want to disturb arnav ji, he needs to “focus” now… sorry khushi, i keep saying these strange words… but you know…”
she couldn’t let him go on like this, she raised her hand and put a finger on his lips, “shhh, aap jaise bhi shabd istemaal kartein hain, theek hai… yeh aapka tarika hai… par…?” the question she really wanted to ask…
(shh, whatever be the sort of words you use, they’re ok, it’s your way… but?…)
he kissed the finger she’d laid against his lips, and grasped her hand in his drawing in to his heart. then he caught hold of her by both her shoulders and swiftly tugged, landing her on top of him…
she was startled, eyes widening, squeal of “arre!!!” escaping her lips, and she saw his face…
head thrown back, he was smiling hugely, that drugging, utterly male, take on the world smile of his, his chin thrust forward, the stubble as always perfectly shaved, and even in the half light, his eyes shone like bright jewels of a rare chocolate hue, swirling cognac, brown earth drenched in rain. she felt a shiver run through her. he was so beautiful when he smiled triumphant. this is how she always wanted to see him.
she let her hands slide up and cup his face, looking at him wishing the moment would never end.
he caught her eye, quietly he said, “we did it.”
before that could sink in, he was up in one quick motion with her, carrying her in his arms, “yes!!! you and i, we did it, my darling sweet paagal khushi kumari gupta singh raizada.”
“kya?” she squeaked as he started to twirl around with her…
“kya? khushi? that… wo… for which you prayed… the deal is done… it’s ours… we succeeded, khushi… your prayers, my focus… came together and got it done…” he was laughing and talking in a rush.
to watch arnav singh raizada enjoying triumph in business was a pleasure of a very precious kind.
khushi started to grin. “kya!!!” she exclaimed in delight.
he sat down suddenly with her on his laps and nuzzled her neck, he whispered “kya kya karna band karogi…, ” and laughed at his nonplussed wife, lover, life, “you and i have pulled it off, and baby, there is no such thing as my success for me any longer… okay, i can’t say filmi things the way you like them, but jab se tum meri zindagi mei aayi ho, it’s become our world, not just mine… no success of mine is possible without you… and it is always our win… always.”
“hamesha,” khushi stroked his hair, his nuzzling head, eyes closed, just enjoying him “win…” she was smiling…
he picked her up again without a word and took her outside, by the pool on the recliner. up there the stars twinkled. he lay next to her and watched them for a second, then turned and kissed her deep on her lips, long, slow, wandering, searching kiss.
“er, so did you put the tilak on my photograph?” he said suddenly just as she was about to drown in all sorts of sensations.
“kya?!!!” she yelped, “aapko yeh bhi pata hai?”
(“what? you know this also?”)
“yes, my ziddi, pyaari, completely lunatic biwi, i know that too… and i know a few other things as well,” he winked suddenly, her eyes grew saucer like, lips forming that “o” that was all hers, “want me to show you?” he said as he reached out and touched her flat belly, sliding his hand up to her waist.
the pool, the garden, the skies watched silently. only butterflies fluttered. hush, don’t tell anyone anything, asr has banned all media for a while.
the news broke a week later. ar had tied up with the world’s largest luxury house and would be opening boutiques around the world. the news was a complete surprise to the industry. no one had heard that the powerful conglomerate was in talks with anyone in india, let alone ar. how had this young man pulled it off… media started all its speculation, cogitation, analysis, prediction, projection, gossip… aman got a bonus and a break.
and the young man concentrated on further refining his knowledge of certain things.
hope you had fun. wrote this one in 2013 when something was on abort barun and the media… can’t remember now what it was… or maybe, we had not seen him for too long and were missing him in pagal vein. the story marks that, i guess. thanks for reading.
want to quickly read another one shot? here goes… a monsoon story