Anjali was giggling and talking to Nani when Arnav came home that evening. Upon asking, Anjali said,
“We were talking to Akash. He just called from US. It’s Akash and Payal’s first wedding anniversary tomorrow and Akash is planning to give a surprise to Payal. He wasn’t willing to reveal what his surprise is, to us too. So, we were wondering what it could be? In a way, it is your anniversary too, Chote. What are you planning to do?’, asked Anjali.
Arnav hadn’t forgotten what it was the next day. He looked around and asked for Khushi.
“She went to the nearby market. Should be coming back anytime now … Oh, there she is … ” replied Anjali.
Khushi entered just then, saw Arnav, smiled at him and went into the kitchen to make tea for him. Arnav went into his room to get refreshed. As he put his coat on the recliner, his mind went back to that day, a year back.
He was so happy that day. He had finally accepted to himself that Khushi made a difference to him. He wanted to confess to her, wanted to open the door to his heart and let her in. But, upon opening the door of the terrace, whatever he saw and heard, it was devastating. And to make things right he forced Khushi into agreeing to marry him, left her with no options.
It was a stormy night. But the storm rising in their hearts was more ferocious. Arnav dragged a teary eyed Khushi up the temple steps and brought her in front of her Devi Maiyya. Not wasting any time, he tied the mangalsutra around her neck and smeared her hair with sindoor. “Now you are my wife, but only for six months”, he declared. No clarifications, no explanations. Except for hate, he gave her nothing.
Arnav never forgave himself for the way her treated her that day and during the days that followed. How could he? He loved her so much. But he didn’t know that then. He knew she was special, but it took time to realize that she was his life, he couldn’t live without her.
Khushi came in with the cup of tea. Arnav looked at her, she wasn’t in her regular chirpy mode. Must be about tomorrow’, he thought.
Arnav took the cup of tea from her and made her sit on the bed. Putting the cup on the table, he sat next to her and held her hand in his.
“Khushi, I know what it is tomorrow. And I know you are upset about the way I treated you last year. Khushi I know what I did is beyond forgiveness. Mistrusting you was the biggest mistake I ever did in my life. I feel very very bad about it. Punish me, Khushi. Whatever it is you say, I am ready to do.”
Khushi held Arnav’s face in both her hands. “Ye sab aap kya keh rahen hain Arnavji?. What are you saying? Why would I punish you? Arnavji, you did what your instinct told you to do. I was always yours and you made sure that remained yours. Infact I am thankful to you. If you hadn’t married me that night, Shyamji would have devised some plan to trap me and my family. What he tried to do with you, with Di and what he did to his own child, it shudders me. Makes me believe that he would have gone to any extent to get hold of me. By marrying me, you saved me from his clutches. I agree I was angry with you then, but with time I came to know the reasons and started understanding you much better. Believe me, not for one minute did I regret being married to you. All I wanted was your love and trust and you’ve given me so much of it that I’m overwhelmed.”
Overcome by emotion, Arnav hugged Khushi tight. Khushi continued, “Arnavji, tomorrow is a big day for me, the day I became your wife, the day I became Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada.”
Suddenly Arnav realised something and released her from the hug. “Really? Then, what was that wanting to take pheras and the remarriage and all?” inquired Arnav softly. Poor guy had gone through so much to retain Khushi as his wife, now he wanted answers.
“Arnavji, I never insisted on a grand marriage. I was already your wife. I only wanted to complete the rituals. I wanted to make our bond strong and complete. So that there wouldn’t be anything or anyone to take me away from you. I wanted to be with you, always, hamesha. But, everyone came to know about it and I couldn’t say anything.”, she smiled and hugged him.
“Then why were you looking so upset today?” inquired Arnav.
“I was missing Jiji. It is her first anniversary and I can’t even hug her on her big day. If Jiji and Jijaji were here, I would have given them a grand celebration. But I am happy Jijaji is giving her a surprise, she will be happy. Wonder what that surprise is?”
Arnav gave an all-knowing expression. “Err Khushi, I know what the surprise is. I will tell you but promise me you won’t tell anybody, okay?”
“Okay, I won’t tell anybody. Please tell me, tell me.”
“Akash and Payal are coming to India next week.”
“What? Really?” exclaimed Khushi.
“Yes, and once they come here, we will give them a grand exclusive wedding anniversary party. This party is a surprise for both of them. ” After a pause, he continued “Khushi, not only you, that day I hurt everybody, especially Akash and Payal. It was their wedding day, the happiest day of their life and I spoiled it for them. This time, I want to make sure that their special day isn’t ruined by anyone or anything.”
Khushi was in tears by the time he finished.
“Arnavji, did you notice? The way we are, ajeeb, so were our marriage rituals. Our engagement, sangeet, mehandi, haldi all had taken place and we never realised it. Our engagement, wedding, both took place in Devi Maiyya’s temple. She brought us together, isn’t it?”
“Khushi, now don’t start again. It was me who came to the temple to tie the bandage on your finger. It was me who brought you to the temple to get married. And now you are crediting all to your Devi Maiyya?” . Arnav always loved to tease her whenever she brought this topic up.
Khushi made an ‘O’ with her mouth , “Arnavji, aap … “, and once again they started quarelling on the topic for the umpteenth time.
Meanwhile, Anjali came to Nani who was sitting in the hall. “Nani, I was just passing from their room, they have started again” laughed Anjali.
“What? Fighting again? Ok, that’s good. Sometimes, I get worried when they don’t fight. Now, Khushi bitiya will feel better. She was looking upset after talking to Payal.”
“Yes Nani, looks like this fight is going to go on for a long time” Anjali giggled.
Little did they know, that Arnav had learnt to silence his wife and lead her into a tussle of a different kind.