“Humsafar” translates literally to “travelling companion” and this is where English can be so limiting. In actuality, “Humsafar,” an Urdu word, conveys a perfectly nuanced reference to one’s soul mate. It alludes to a partnership, a companion or significant other that helps you face the complexities of life’s pleasures and challenges. ” – Merium
When I thought about how I viewed Arnav and Khushi three years later, this was it for me. I saw them both as unable to part with each other while working on their own flaws. I also wanted to keep it known that where they have come from is a large part of where they are going now. To accept the past is to an extent embrace the future.
I struggled a lot when trying to keep to their original characteristics since its been long when I actually wrote on the real AK. Usually I stick to AU grounds where I have half of the control over my characters, here I was always on the edge-backspacing constantly as I wrote. Now I cannot alter them anymore, hence I present you with a piece that makes me think that somewhere along the line our beloved characters would have ended up in a similar situation.
A huge thanks to Jigs for inviting me to join the celebrations, and to be in the company of some wonderful writers. Also Sita, I truly appreciate you taking out time to give me feedback. Thank you so much dear.
Khushi loved watching rainfall early in the morning. The pitter-patter of droplets took her back to her childhood swarmed with memories of the good old days, when she would drag her elder sister out into the rain, dancing flippantly as if they were part of a Bollywood film. Upon returning home, drenched from head to toe, their mother would be parading around giving them an earful of reprimand. Then their father would bring them each a chocolate in a bid to lessen the pain of fever and soften the effects of their mother’s words.
It was only yesterday she was running through the streets of Lucknow, teasing her friends, weaving jalebis at her father’s shop, and acting like a complete juvenile at school. Now she was wife to a shrewd-yet-lovable man, and soon to be a mother of his child. To be a wife was wonderful but the feeling of motherhood bespoke of miracles.
Placing her hand gently alongside the swell of her belly, she fondly remembered her husband’s reaction to their pregnancy. His genuine shock followed by some fainting was a first for her, never detracting from the fact he loved them both; child and mother. In fact in his attempt to seek an apology for his reaction, he made her jalebis to celebrate the news. Even though the delicious treats were semi-burnt, raw from inside, and hard enough to chip her tooth, she wiped the plate clean with a lot of help from Lakshmi (Nani’s pet goat)just to appreciate his efforts coveted with love.
Truth be told no one ever thought behind all that arrogance could live a man with a heart made of glass. Just like the rest of Delhi, she had pegged Arnav Singh Raizada to be a spoilt, out of control jackass with some salvageable rugged looks. He had been incorrigible to her. In fact redemption had never been his strongest suits but how could she turn him away. She was an empath, him a narcissist. He was a man tortured by his own demons bringing his irreparable life to a halt, she a flightless bird with hopes of picking up her wings and stitching them back together .
For someone who gave up his childhood to fight adversity on its face with a malicious smirk—he simply had forgotten to live. No emotions were allowed in the vicinity of his heart.
To his pure luck, one day love came trapezing into his life blowing everything out of proportion. Suddenly nothing was in his control anymore. She wore him down like the wind tore down ferocious terrains. He remained as he were unabashedly phlegmatic forcing the curvatures of the wind to adjust to him. It was she who learnt to love the man for who he was; in his own way he too absorbed her into his world. For the world he donned a impermeable mask, callous and calculating, at home he was her husband. Just her Arnav. Someone who would scavenge out an ice-cream parlor at two in the night to get her favorite, chocolate caramel, peanut coated cone. Someone who would endure three hours of torturous Salman Khan flicks only to see her full-blown smiles, or hear her cheeky whistles as she suppressed the urge to get and dance in a darkly lit theater. He would put up with her childish quirks, non-stop chatter mouth because her craziness was part of the package she came with. Moreover he would single-handedly reach high above, across the expanse of darkness, onto the glimmer of the navy blue canvas and grab one of the brightly lit stars for her—if only she asked him. She never did.
His darkness was her light; she was his light, untamed, almost close to being bedazzling.
“What are you thinking? ”
His sultry, yet drowsy voice broke through her reverie. He wrapped his arms around the subtle curve of her stomach coaxing her to lean against him. When his hands played around with the knot on her robe, she whacked them away.
It had stopped raining now, wet droplets clung to the glass door, sliding down effortlessly one at a time.
“So, what is my wife thinking about at six in the morning? ” He whispered once more, his lips hovering near her ear. Slowly moving down to her neck, nibbling softly. “I know you must be thinking about our son, there’s still some time. ”
After their last appointment at the gynecologist, it had been revealed they were going to have a baby boy. Since surprise was not really something he was comfortable with, Khushi had acquiesced with his need to know the sex of the baby. Daughter or son, he would have loved either with open arms, mostly he was only hoping for a healthy baby.
Shaking her head, Khushi nuzzled closer against his chest. “I was thinking about this man who still kind of makes my world spin today. ”
“You were thinking about me? ”
“Yes, Arnav I was thinking about you.” She affirmed surprised by the incredulity in his voice. “I was thinking about how far we have come along. Just you and me. ”
“Any regrets? ” He questioned, positioning his chin on her head.
It may have been a silly question for her, but to him it was a viable concern. Now and then little assurances from his wife kept him from feeling like he was the on edge. It was strange, till this day he feared someone owning his heart completely, even though life with Khushi was all, and more than he could have imagined. His silence became jaded against her twinkling bangles, his fears lost to her non-stop chattering, and his frowns found home in her exultant smiles.
All those doors shut closed, she pushed them wide open for him.
Khushi cleared her throat, “maybe only one”. Her timbre meant serious business. “I will not name our son Aryan Singh Raizada. No way. I cannot have another ASR in the house. You know Nani told me that when you were only a toddler, you would raise hell just because you couldn’t still for a moment. She blames it on your name. Mr. Ocean with all your impertinent waves causing turbulence everywhere.” She spluttered going into her own little zone, where it was only her and her amiable complaints. “Now imagine me running behind our son all day, then you come home and see me all drained, with shadows underneath my eyes, maybe even some dry baby food smeared on my cheek—you will instantly fall out of love with me. Eventually forget me, marry some other beautiful woman who doesn’t smell like dirty diapers and can probably keep her face clear. Arnav, how am I going to do this? They make it look so easy; feed, burp, change diaper, sleep, and repeat. But that’s not all. It’s a baby and I can’t speak his language. How will I know what he wants. How will we know when he’s crying because he hasn’t burped, or because he is hungry? It’s all so complicated. How do mothers do it? ”
Dumbfounded, Arnav stared.
“Stop staring, Arnav!”
“You know I’ve read somewhere baby food is healthy for the skin. Plus you’ll look cute.”
She hit him on the arm. “You are not funny!”
“Really? You always laugh at my jokes.”
“That’s to keep your fragile ego intact.”
Irritated, Khushi pushed away his arms, rotating to face him. She crossed her arms against her chest, her eyes deplorably eyeing him. This time she meant serious business. He wouldn’t be let off the hook so easily. Then he smirked. She all but gave into that comforting, and intimidating smile.
“Come here.” Holding out his hand, Arnav encased her hand within his own. Joining them with a simple movement, just like him to disarm her with a simple gesture. He continued speaking. “There was this timid woman standing midst my workplace clinging onto the hem of her scarf, taking in my scalding glares. I was livid at her for ruining our upcoming calendar shoot, but she had this look in her eyes….it was as if she knew some secret I didn’t. Using silence she spoke to me in a millions ways. I admired her for hours when she posed as a replacement in a cinnabar-colored sari, her hair wildly caressing her delicate fears, almost enchanting enough to cast a ring of fire. Had I touched her I would have burned. I wish I had touched her that day. It would have saved me months of pinning afterwards. Perhaps that’s where the problem lies…”, pausing, he settled on her face. “Khushi because you understand me so well sometimes I take you for granted.”
“No, let me finish. I know I often keep my words to myself but I’m not well-versed as you in explaining my feelings. I know I’ve done things which I’m not proud of, awful things which can never be taken back. Now as I look towards being a father to our son I hope I can be a good one. You are the cornerstone of my being, without you everything falls apart.”
“You may lack warmth in some areas but your assiduity in other areas makes up for it…” She trailed off giving him a look of appraisal. “Oh, and I love you.”
“Khushi, have you no shame!”
“You are my husband.”
“Someone has become brazen.”
“If I didn’t become so brazen I wouldn’t be pregnant right now feeling incredibly bloated all the time.” She then went on to add an afterthought that had become her favorite tagline in the last few months.“You are never coming close to me ever again!”
Ignoring her taunt, Arnav smiled. “Can you imagine I, Arnav Singh Raizada will be a father in two months? I feel like our son is going to be the perfect split between the two of us.”
“I was there the night he was conceived, Mr Raizada. I can confirm you are indeed going to be a father.” Forgetting her momentary anger, Khushi walked into his arms, wrapping her arms around his back. Since she was in her last trimester, her bulging belly kept her from fully embracing him, whereas before she could hide herself completely in him.
“You are going to be a wonderful mother. You’ll be so natural at it, and probably spoil him rotten. ”
Khushi let out a short breath. “No I think that’s what you will do. He will come running to you every time I forbid him from doing something. Which is strange because I never saw you as the nurturing types.”
“I like being the good parent. God knows I don’t know how to be a parent but I am willing to try.”
“There’s nothing to it. Just take a deep breath and get ready for a life filled with the unexpected. Oh and a lot of patience.”
“I am great with the unexpected. It’s a good business trait to be aware of your surroundings and exercise patience more than often. ” He brushed it away with a careless sweep of hand.
“I agree.” Khushi broke out of his hold waddling around to reach the bed. “So, yesterday Nani managed to hunt out your old bassinet. She brought it up to the baby’s room with Aakash last night.”
Quick to jump to his own conclusion, Arnav was already handing her an excuse. “You don’t have to use it. I will talk to Nani and—.”
She interrupted him.“But I do want to use it, Arnav. I love that I get to see a piece of your past and share it with our son. Sometimes we must let the past be only the past.”
Her affectionate words had him reaching out to her. “Di tells me it’s the only place where I slept quietly otherwise I was always restless.”
“Like how you’re restless now—” Entwining her hands across her enlarged belly, Khushi stared at her husband. She could read his nervousness in her sleep. He was as transparent as her despite his refusal to believe so. “Baby R, I think your father is anxious to meet you. How about you?” She gasped when she felt a hard nudge like the baby was communicating with her. It was precious, but painful. “Well, I guess he is just as excited about the meet and greet.”
Picking up her husband’s hand she placed it alongside the noticeable swelling wanting him to experience this moment with her. The baby was literally turning and pushing against the flesh of her stomach. The movements had gone from small flickers to full-blown kicks in the last two months.
Amused, he took away his hand slightly uncomfortable with intimate awareness of his own child.“It’s like he is playing football in there.”
“Well he wouldn’t be arranging meetings in there would he?It’s a baby, Arnav!” She quipped, sarcastically.
“Calm down your son, Raizada! I feel like—oh, ouch.”
“How am I supposed to calm him?”
“I don’t know sing a song! Dance, tell a joke or do something. Perhaps tell him about your boring meetings?” Leaning back on her arms, Khushi allowed her head to fall back feeling the strain in her neck. “Just talk to him. The doctor said it soothes them.”
Clueless, he looked to his wife for help but her eyes were closed. It was peculiar to be talking to a human being living in his wife’s stomach, of course that was his partly his creation however it still felt bizarre. In fact this whole getting ready for the baby process was turning out to be quite tedious. There were just too many things to learn, and with a wife like his—she didn’t miss a single step.
“Okay, apparently there’s a story going around for three years now— it’s about this mighty businessman unharnessed he fell in love with the girl who had eyes wider than her dreams encapsulating him.”
Khushi groaned, putting a full-stop on his story. “Please anything but that story. Trust me it was not as romantic as you make it sound. ”
“Fine! Hi there—this is your father. I know you are impatient as your mother to come out. I think you will be just like me, whereas your mother thinks you are like her. I guess time will tell only if your mother learns to keep her euphoria and anger off her toes. Her craziness can reach the sky, and probably it has already reached you too. Maybe you’ll be the one to calm her down at times?”
“How nice of you to introduce his mother as being crazy. Son, your father is right up there on the crazy scale probably beating me by ten points.”
“At least I don’t talk to goats.”
“She is a part of our family! And at least I don’t need my secretary to remind me about our anniversaries.” Khushi etched out each word.
“See right there…who in the world celebrates ten anniversaries in a year?”
“I do! Those are important dates. If I didn’t remember you would forget. Mind you I remember all these dates along with handling my own business. Yes, Lavanya does help me at times when she is not busy strutting away in her corporate suits. The fact remains I do a lot more than you.”
Confectionery Delights was a roughly sketched dream turned into a reality for her. A project which started as a self-dictation of learning to thrive without her arrogant husband, ultimately it became a turning point in her own growth. She learned the knit-grit of the business world going in with a novice mind, eventually charming her way into success with confidence and hard work. Taking out loan had been difficult with no financial backing but her father came to her aid, giving her a chance to accomplish her own sense of purpose. She started out with two workers now there were over twelve employees at her store. Persistence came handy at times she wanted to give up, still clambering on to the next bump she flourished over time. The best part was she did everything on her own, mostly.
“My point has been proven. Anniversaries? You are mad woman.”
The flickering nudges increased inside Khushi as their argument sped further. The baby could feel the heated moment, and joined in wanting to share his opinion also.
”Are you seriously calling the mother of your child mental?”
”Khushi, you do realize instead of calming him down we are only aggravating him further. ”
”You started it!” They both said in unison only to break into laughter hearing how absurd they sounded.
“Look he stopped! Arnav, he stopped kicking me.” Khushi announced lifting her head. “I think he doesn’t like us arguing.”
“No, he listened to my request because he knows it is pointless to argue with you.”
“I agree, I’m always right. One more thing he listens to me more than you.”
Arnav could not believe his wife. She was still stuck on proving herself right. “Khushi are you jealous of our bond?”
“Why would I be jealous? I’m only crushing my ribs, kidneys, and intestines to fit him inside me. ”
“You know you are the oddest woman I’ve come across.”
“How romantic. Don’t you have a meeting today?” She scoffed. “I think I would like to take a nice, long bath and sleep some more. Then I have some e-mails and invoices to check. The maternity leave is beginning to take a toll on me. I hate sitting idle at home especially with my gigantic stomach sticking out. Even Payal is getting ready for her upcoming exams and Di has Ananya to keep her occupied. You know maybe I could visit the store today?”
Shaking his head, Arnav placed his phone in her hand. “You cannot go into the store today, since I told Aman to clear my schedule. Today I’m at my wife’s service all day. I will do anything she asks me.”
“Anything?”Khushi’s eyes widened with mischief seeing him nod. The little surprise he pulled on her left her pliant, frustration immediately vanished. She rubbed her hands in glee knowing well he could read her intentions with a single glance.
To the eyes of the world they appeared to be a mismatched pair, however it worked them being the jagged pieces they were. Despair, or pure coincidence may have brought them together, unhindered they strummed their own capricious rhythm despite the broken strings. Sometimes all they needed was a little fine tuning among the temper tantrums, and small bits of happiness.