He glanced at her. She was looking out of the window in that darkness, unfocused, folding her hands. He kept focusing ahead on the road.
“Damn it!” he banged his fist on the wheel and she shuddered. He looked at her slowing down. She wiped off her cheeks.
“Khushi..!” he was husky. There was no response. They were passing through the city.
“I will go from here!” she said resolutely when the car stopped at the traffic signal. He gaped at her. “What?” he raced at the green signal.
“Stop the car!” she said without looking at him. He stopped with screeching breaks. She tried to open the door. He had locked it. She tried in vain.
“HAMAIN UTARANAA HAIN! I want to get down!” Finally she looked at him.
“KYUN? Why?” he had turned to face her resting his elbow on the wheel and looking at her intently. She avoided his gaze and looked out of the window.
“BASS UTARANAA HAIN!!” she declared.
“Why?” came the same question. She knew, he was provoking her to speak. She was desperate to get down.. to go away from him. Her gaze crossed the road. Her devi mayya came to her rescue.
“HAMAIN MANDIR JAANA HAIN..!” She got him. He looked at the Mandir at the other side of the road and repented having stopped the car there.
“No, you can’t go!” He was determined too and ignited the engine.
“I want to go to the Mandir..!” she yelled. “Stop the car!” she gripped his wrist. His rage mounting, he said in a threatening voice,
“BHAAG JAANAI KI SOCHANA BHI MATT! Don’t even think of running away…!” he said gripping her wrist with his other hand. She wrenched it free.
“I never run away from the problems… I face them!” she looked at him with hatred.. He glared at her..
“What do you mean, Khushi?” he was deadly enough to give anyone shivers of fright. She blew her head off.
“Don’t you understand? You are my biggest problem!” she raised her finger. He glared at her finger and she immediately took her hand back.
“HUM BHAAG NAHI JAYENGE..! I won’t run away..!” she said glaring back at him.
She opened the door and started walking around the car to cross the road. He gazed at her. She felt relieved. She knew she would have enough time to think, in his absence. His eyes followed her till she disappeared in the crowd.
She prayed her devi mayya and thanked her for saving her.
“Hey Devi Mayya, Raksha Karana! Hamain Nahi Pata, Hamaare sath yeh sub Kyun ho raha hain! I don’t know why this is happening to me! Devi Mayya, what should I do to get out of all this..! The more I try, the more I get entangled. Please give me strength…! “ A faint sob left her.
She sat there resting her back against a pillar putting her head down, unable to think further. She had nowhere to go. Only her devi mayya could save her. “Devi Mayya, whenever I pray, why do you have to bring him in front of me? He is the one who created all the problems for me. I know you are enjoying at my plight…I don’t know why!” she muttered furiously looking at her Devi Mayya’s smiling face.
“May be you want more sweets from me… but I am not going to prepare prashad for you, unless to bring me out of this mess! Why do I have to end up in a mess always? You don’t find anyone to entertain yourself, so you choose me…!” she mumbled sulkily. But she had calmed down at her Devi Mayya’s feet.
“Hmm thank you! That Monster doesn’t come here. At least I am at peace here!” she closed her eyes.
“Beti, Prashad..!” Panditji kept a Laddu on her palm. She smiled touching Panditji’s feet. He blessed her. She sighed and turned to leave. She was about to eat prashaad and froze. He was waiting on the stairs for her.
“What? YEH RAKSHAS YAHAAN BHI NAHI CHODEGA… AB INAKE SAATH PRASHAD BAANTANA PADEGA! This monster is stalking me everywhere. Now I have to share the Prashad Laddu with him..!” she frowned taking down her hand from her mouth. She descended.
“Hmm .. Have Prashad!” she said offering him half of her laddu, frowning.
“HO GAYA TUMHARA ? Finished? Now lets go!” he completely ignored. She got enraged.
“Prashad!” she held out prashad. He again ignored. She stood facing him blocking his way.
“Eat! “ she ordered him. He raised his eyebrow flaring up his nose in anger. She was angry too.
“Eat..else I am not coming!” she started climbing the stairs again.
“No! wait!” She came back. She put a small portion on his palm. “I know, you can’t eat sweet!!” she muttered putting the rest in her mouth. He ate in one gulp and said “Ab Chalo!” she followed.
“Wait.. I want to buy something..!” she said loudly. He stopped, turned and grabbing her hand said with gritted teeth.
“Ab Chalo, Varna Uthaakar Le Jaunga..!” his threat shuddered her. “Hitler!” she contorted her face frowning. He dragged her. “This girl drives me crazy..! KYA KYA KARANA PAD RAHA HAIN, ISS LADAKI KE LIYE!” he muttered in frustration. She smiled wickedly.
“Suna Humne!” she said from behind and he frowned. “AUR BHI BAHUT KUCH KARANA PADEGA AAP KO! You will have to do a lot of things for this girl!” She said loudly in the crowd smirking.
“DEKHATAIN HAIN!” he yelled back.
“What? Where are you taking me? This is not the road…!” she was looking around in shock. He was driving on different road taking her to the other side of the city.
“Stop..Stop! You are lost… this is not the road… we have to turn back!” she was panic. He drove without a word.
“Arnav ji… we are lost… this is not the road… we are moving in opposite direction..!” she said losing her courage. His heart leapt out when he heard “Arnav ji..!” she didn’t even notice she had called him by his name. He drove on with goose bumps.
“Stop..!” she lost her patience and yelled. He looked at her.
“MAIN KABHI JHOOT NAHI BOLATA..! I never lie!!” he said with a glint. She flared up and looked at him to retort.
“What? I think you have a very short memory!” she said disdainfully.
“No! I said you were with me and we were going out for dinner!” he said smirking..
“What? No!” she screamed and he curled up his lip wickedly.
“So you are with me, Khushi Kumari Gupta… and we are going for dinner!” He declared and she felt doomed.
“I am not hungry.. I want to go home..!” she protested after a while. He ignored.
“I want to go home!” she yelled. He rolled down the window and smirked.
They were in old Delhi approaching “Paratha Gali” the appetizing aroma in the atmosphere made her sniff and take in the smell closing her eyes. She saw big, round, stuffed parathas before her eyes and inadvertently kept her hand on her tummy. He was watching her. “Paratha gali?” she said dreamily and then coming back to her senses, said ..
“I am not hungry!” she protested weakly. He smirked. He parked the vehicle and before he could open his door, she had got down and had entered a roadside stall. He followed smiling.
“What you want to have?” he asked picking up the menu list. “Let me see!” she snatched the list from him. She short listed the items and asked..“What would you have?”
“Nothing!” he dismissed. “Why?” she was shocked.
“I don’t eat roadside food!” he brought disgust on his face and she smirked. Her eyes flashed with malice. “Now I got you, Mr. Raizada!” she bit her lower lip smirking.
“Ok..but I can’t eat alone.. I need company..!” she said looking innocent. He ignored her.
“Order your food!” he ordered her.
“Ok. Never mind! If you don’t want anything, I will find out a company!” she said, looked around and he startled. “Beware Arnav!” his mind gave him the warning of earthquake. A family with lot of children entered the stall and Khushi’s eyes lit up.
“I will invite them for dinner..!” she pointed at that family of around 8-10 people, grinning wickedly.
“No!” he yelled. “Ok!” she sat back on the plastic chair.
“Umm.. that fellow seems to be alone. I will call him! He will be a good company!” A particularly obese man was standing looking at the list.
“Bhai Saab!” Khushi called out loudly getting up from the chair again. Around ten-fifteen bhai saabs turned in her direction.
“No! Wait!” Arnav held her hand and pulled her back on the chair.
“Alright! I will eat!” he gave up. “Ok… but you don’t eat this roadside food.. ”she said sarcastically! he flared up his nose to retort but looking around sat back and said.
“I will try!” she grinned, satisfied and then she was on the ordering spree. Parathas, chaat, lassi, Golgappe, imarati…! He gaped at her speed and capacity.
“Eat!” now she ordered him. She had won this round. She started rummaging in her bag and taking out money.
“What are you doing?” he asked flabbergasted. “Paying the bill!” she said taking out money. He held her hand.
“Are you mad?” he asked her angrily.
“I am being practical..! I don’t want more deductions from my salary!” she fed him the cherry of his own words after having eaten all the food she made him to eat.
“Shut up Khushi!” he pushed her back on the chair and paid the bill. She burped satisfyingly. He brought disgust on his face but couldn’t stop a hiccup and a burp together, making a little louder sound, pressing his hand on his mouth. Khushi raised her eyebrows with a wicked smile..
“Downmarket Choice..!” she blurted looking away with a winning grin.
“SUNA MAINE!” He spat back refusing to eat anymore of his own words.