Mrs Raizada

I CANNOT FIX ON THE EXACT HOUR or the spot or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago.* But it was sometime during that wet December of twenty-eleven when I realized that I had fallen irrevocably in love with Khushi Kumari Gupta. Her spirit, her integrity, her resilience—her refusal to be anything other than who she was—had became a standard of Heroineship for me.

And at the risk of having my fidelity questioned, I confess, Sisters, that I stopped watching Khushi months before she left the stage. For me, her story was complete once she rescued her kidnapped husband, who by then had finally—finally!—realized that she was entirely innocent and that he was entirely in love.

That was enough for me.

The richest stories are those which leave me just short of satiation; stories which leave room for my own imagination to expand. I left our Beloved Heroine before the curtain call, confident that whatever challenge she would encounter thereafter would be resolved, by her own power and united with the force of Arnav Singh Raizada’s love.

You may imagine how grieved I was to discover that within days of Arnav’s rescue, he and Khushi parted.

A full year would pass before they would see each other again.

This is that story…

THERE IS IN EVERY DISPOSITION a tendency to some particular evil, a natural defect, which not even the best education can overcome.* In Arnav Singh Raizada’s case, this defect was pride. Granted, it was a pride which commanded respect; even those disgusted by his hauteur could not sneer with outright derision, for what the CEO of ASR Group had accomplished in his young life was unprecedented.

But they knew not how his pride had impoverished him.

Pride had long kept Arnav from realizing that he loved a firecracker who went by the name of Khushi Kumari Gupta. And when finally he did realize it, fate dealt him the bitterest blow. What happened next you need no reminding of. You recall all too well the manner in which he forced our Heroine to marry him and how he made her suffer—

Arnav suffered too, Sisters—do not doubt it! And his trials never came to an end. Once Shyam’s duplicity was exposed and conditions for happiness were favourable, Khushi made a devastating announcement.

She wanted their marriage annulled.

Her reasoning was just: Whatever her feelings were, she could not reconcile herself to the fact that Arnav had coerced her into an unwanted marriage. Yes, Shyam had been at the heart of that deception, but Arnav had been her judge and jury. She could not build a promising future upon such a repugnant beginning. She believed that the best thing for her was to return to who she was before Shyam entered her life.

Oh, Sisters!—what can I say? You know the strength of Khushi’s affections. You know with what a conflicted heart she must have come to this decision.

But here comes the greater part of this surprise: Arnav supported her decision.

Wait!—not her decision, but her right to decide. Yes, it broke him completely, but when the Raizadas and Guptas accosted Khushi to change her mind, he made them stop. Even when Anjali—still reeling from her own loss—begged Khushi, with clasped hands, not to leave the family at such a challenging time, Arnav prevented her influence.

He saw that Khushi, cognizant of Anjali’s fragile state, was in danger of wavering, and he immediately stepped between his wife and his sister. “No, Di,” he said, “For too long has Khushi sublimated herself for family. Both her own and ours. If she feels she must leave, none of us will attempt to weaken her resolve with our selfish demands.”

You can imagine how hearing such words from such a man may itself have weakened Khushi’s resolve. But she thanked him silently, with eyes bright with tears.

Arnav could not speak either. He could only feel most acutely what he was losing. Moreover, he was ashamed at how his abominable pride had kept him from seeing what had stood before him for months. A woman of uncommon strength and principles. Too late, but he saw now what a woman such as Khushi, with high notions of honour and integrity—yes! religion too!—could bring to a man’s life. It was remarkable for Arnav to recognize all these things, but he did, even though he could not express it.

He led Anjali away, drawing strength by making a resolution in that instant that while he had life in his veins, Khushi would never suffer again.

BUT TO ARNAV’S SUFFERING even a full year had brought no abatement. Indeed, he did nothing to lessen his pain, for he felt he deserved it. He fanned the flames of suffering. With emotional self-flagellation. And a punishing work ethic.

How doubly sad then that as this fiscal year was closing and the newspapers were awash in ink regarding ASR Group’s year of unprecendented growth, its CEO looked upon it as an annus horribilis; the worst year of his life.

And it was evident in his appearance.

He had lost weight. He kept a beard, partly from neglect, but mainly to conceal the sharp angles of his face. And his hair, before always short, now nearly touched his shoulders.

But the real loss was that gleam in his eyes; that sensual-something which had always held Khushi spellbound. Now there was only a dark sea of nothingness. And equally dark shadows beneath his eyes. No wonder! For the man hardly slept. He would pass out for four or five hours each night from sheer bodily exhaustion—often on the same pale green recliner where he spent his evenings working.

Arnav was at that recliner now, with the laptop open before him. A light tap on the open bedroom door brought his eyes up.

It was his cousin, Akaash.

Arnav’s countenance registered surprise. Akaash and Payal, along with their infant son, had gone to Lucknow to visit the Guptas.

“Am I disturbing you, Bhai?” Akaash asked, poised at the dehleez.

Arnav waved him in, leaving the recliner to stand.

They greeted each other with that half-pat-half-embrace that stands for affection between men.

“Back so soon?” Arnav queried. “Have Khushi and Payal remained behind? Er, Khush and Payal.”

It was not the first time Arnav had referred to his nephew by the feminine variant of his name. Nor would it be the last. Yes, it had been a startling decision to christen the newest addition to the family with a name which could only exacerbate Arnav’s loss each time he heard it. But Nani had chosen the name with deliberate intention, and as we all know, Nani’s will was never refuted.

Of course, in the moment of Nani announcing the name, all eyes in the room had slid to Arnav to measure his reaction. They didn’t know what to expect of this changed Chotte. Previously, he might have lashed out in protest. Or wordlessly left the room. But the changes in Arnav this past year went beyond his appearance. He had deepened. Grown more circumspect. More placid. They watched him gently press his mouth to that tiny curled fist. He said: Welcome to the Empire, Khush. Our future is in your hands now.

“Yes,” Akaash was explaining, “Khush and Payal will remain in Lucknow for a few more days. The family insisted.”

Arnav asked, “How is everything there?”

I think we know Akaash’s empathic nature well enough to know that he could see Arnav’s real question was ‘How is Khushi?’—but Akaash couldn’t speak of Khushi yet. He needed to build up to it.

“Super,” he replied. “Bawji’s speech and mobility are fully restored. But, of course, you know that from the therapist’s reports. And the new halwai is working out well. Although Bawji still insists on going into the shop each day to sit behind the counter to lend his experience. Payal says it all seems exactly as before—as though they had never left Lucknow.”

Arnav gave a nod and waited in hopeful silence.

But Akaash continued with more inconsequential details: “Amma and Buaji couldn’t stop thanking me for the improvements to the haveli. They especially love the garden. They spend more hours there than indoors. The landscapers have executed your design beautifully. Honestly, Bhai, I’ve been forced to wear borrowed feathers all week. The family believe I’m responsible for arranging everything. The private therapy for Bawji. The re-purchase of the shop. Hiring the halwai to run it. Sending the workmen for the renovations. Theek hai, I understand why it must be so, but I felt quite awkward accepting gratitude for your gifts—”

“—not gifts, Akaash,” Arnav interrupted. “Reparations.”

He didn’t enlarge, but Akaash understood him. Arnav believed that his one act at the Lucknow fashion-show, detaining Khushi against her will, had unleashed events which forever changed life for the Gupta family. Khushi had expressed a wish to restore her life to what it was before Shyam had entered it, and Arnav felt it incumbent upon himself to restore her life to what it was before he entered it. As best as he could.

“Khushi knows you are their true benefactor,” Akaash said. “I see it in her eyes.”

The mention of Khushi’s eyes made Arnav’s own eyes darken with emotion. “How is she?” he asked, his voice not fully under his command.

It was now time.

“It is highly probable that she will soon marry,” Akaash said.

HOW COULD AKAASH BE SO CASUAL—nay, so callous!—with his words? I expected more compassion from him, Sisters. If he had to make such an announcement then surely he could have chosen better language.

Of course, his words knifed into Arnav’s chest, leaving him almost too breathless to speak. What’s more—soon after Akaash delivered that sentence, he turned away from Arnav to face the pool.

“How do you know this?” Arnav managed to say.

“She expressed her wishes to Payal and myself.” Then adding insult to injury, he added, “we were hardly surprised. Why it has taken this long is more surprising. She is beautiful. Charming. Vivacious. So full of—”

“—I don’t require you to remind me of her attributes, Akaash,” Arnav interrupted.

Akaash seemed to ignore the interruption, continuing, “As she said to us, she needed to allow enough time to pass. A gap to close the door on the past. And begin fresh. She seeks a new beginning.”

Arnav was aware that he was not breathing. “Does she speak in generalities?—Or is there someone in particular?”

“There is someone,” Akaash replied.

This definitive statement seemed to animate Arnav into movement. These past few minutes, he had been frozen in one spot, but now he began to pace the floor, from recliner to bed. And back again. He asked, “How long has she known him? Is it someone from their neighbourhood? Have her parents looked into the matter properly?” He came to a stop in front of Akaash and grasping his shoulders, he said, his voice insistent, “listen, you need to look into it thoroughly, Akaash. Find out if this—this—this person is legitimate. What is his history? What is his education? His family? His character? His means? Can he support Khushi in the manner she deserves?—”

Akaash tried to interrupt Arnav as this stream of commands and questions fell on his ears, “Bhai—bhai—BHAI!!!”

“What the—!”

Akaash removed Arnav’s hands from his shoulders and said, “I know the man she hopes to marry. His history is slightly dubious, but he’s not altogether bad.” Arnav frowned at this unpromising report. Akaash continued, “And we’re all confident that she’ll smooth out his rough edges.”

“That’s hardly satisfactory!” Arnav protested.

“No?”

“No! We’re talking about Khushi’s entire future here. How can you be so fucking reckless—?”

Akaash was not at all offended. He gave a careless shrug and said, “I don’t think she can be stopped. She’s told us that she intends to marry him. It seems she loves him. She never stopped.”

As Akaash spoke those words, he slid open the door which led to the pool area, and stepped out. He walked away without looking back.

And there in the twilight stood the former Mrs Raizada.

* From Jane Austen’s -Pride & Prejudice-.
Advertisements

144 thoughts on “Mrs Raizada

  1. I thank all my lucky stars that I stumbled into this amazing beautiful heart touching words. You have no idea how much I miss Khushi….your Khushi the strong one…….I recently emailed you about the same .Well anyways ….am used to heartbreaks now…sighing in KKGSR style.

    Just one request…Please dont stop writing

    Smitha

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your message. I love Khushi too. During challenging times I continue to draw on her as a model of virtue, resilience and strength. And I haven’t stopped writing. I will resume posting on mayahill.com in early September. Should you wish to be notified, please send me an email to me@mayahill.com

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Maya, I don’t know if you are still reading the comments .. but there is no way I could reach you since you are no longer active in twitter and my favourite blog Mayahill is not available. So I’m trying again to see if this message reaches you .. just want to say how much I loved your stories .. I even said this before that your Khushi was my obsession as long as it was available online .. Your portrayal of Arnav in that story was what I wanted to see throughout IPKKND, but unfortunately the makers lost him somewhere along the line while trying to make it Khushi centric.. however you kept Arnav’s soul intact (as our beloved laad governor 🙂 ) until the end of it.. for that thank you so much and hope to see you back again soon..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you for your generous note. And your continued interest in my work. mayahill.com will be reactivated in early September. If you wish to be notified, please send me an email to me@mayahill.com

      Like

  3. I am not able to access the site… Mayahill.com
    Can someone pls help…

    It says this site is temporarily out of service.. Pls help someone

    Like

  4. “haath mein hai ret sa.. Issaq tera..
    Is paar tu hai, us paar main..
    Lagta hai dooboonga, is baar main..”

    And now that she has fell for him to never come out but rise. This is the love which needs no further foundation. Thankyou for making Arnav understand the ever true meaning of life, “agar wo laut kar aaye, fir wo tumhara hai..”

    Thank you for giving Khushi the strength we all know she had, but it was somehow seen as a habit, as an axiom. You restore the importance of all things important.

    Much love,
    Reveur

    Like

  5. Your story Khushi was easily one of the very best I have read. Yet to find another story that captivated me as much!!
    This OS shows glimpses of that same Khushi!!

    Would love to read Khushi again — will check your blog!!

    Like

  6. Thanks Maya for such a lovely story….ipkknd ended 5 yrs back but it is still alive with all of us.
    Loved the last episode but i am also sad that it ended nevertheless am eeagerly waiting for next story.
    Thankyou for keeping Arnav & Khushi alive in my memory as the way i wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. You know, I was thinking about something else when I started reading and somehow I skipped checking the writer of this story but then I was like, “wait isn’t this Maya Hill 😀 ”

    Maya, this is my third time reading this particular piece, seeing how I’ve already read Mrs Raizada twice ever since you put it on your website last year. Yet, I couldn’t help the tears that sprung to my eyes, the breathlessness and the sharp pain in my heart as I read how amazingly you penned arnav’s pain and grievances throughout the chapter.
    I don’t know how you do it Maya, but you do, you make me feel every single feeling the characters go through. Khushi and Mrs Raizada are one of my all time favourite arshi stories and it is mostly due to your unique and thorough way of building the story, describing the characters and their states of mind, and of course your little interactions with your readers through the chapters in the “dear sisters..” Sentences I’ve grown to love and look forward to.
    Other than getting to imagine my own version of the story while reading, I feel like I’m sitting with you, listening to you tell that story in your own playful and interactive way.
    Don’t ever deprive the world of your talent please, I still remember how impatient and restless I was waiting for you to set up your website and put the rest of ‘Khushi’ after I hit the wall on IF. I couldn’t accept that I wouldn’t get to read the rest of it. But you know what would have been worst ? Not getting to read it at all.

    Like

  8. hey, it was beautiful! Arnav truly did the right thing letting khushi go. He understood that he cannot make her stay for his selfish reasons. Even though he thought she was going to marry someone else, he thought of her well-being moving his hearbreak aside.

    Want to read more of your stuff. going to mail you to request for access.

    -arshina

    Like

  9. Loved it… strong writing apt for the emotions.. I was literally shaking with Arnav and wanted to walk back and forth…but Akash departing words give me hope…that kushi can love only Arnav

    Like

Comments are karmic manifestations of love!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s