“Biwi...!” Balwindar Singh sat on her bed. She looked away. He placed his hand on hers and she withdrew. This was their everyday ritual for past decade. She had gone into unbreakable shell and Balwindar Singh tried to keep himself away from her. They both hardly spoke to each other. She had buried herself in books and he in his business growing it exponentially. If at all they spoke with each other, it was about business strategies.
“Biwi, listen to me! I met Das!” Balwindar singh said in a low tone. She looked at him.
“We are going to Delhi and I plan to stay there for some days” he said softly.
“Ok!” she said looking out of the window. “We will go to Nainital..!” he proposed. “Not in winter!” she dismissed. He looked at her side profile. A pale, fair, fragile face with an emptiness filled in her eyes. He had a knot in his stomach. “Biwi, he held her hand tightly with a lump formed in his throat. She patted on his hand and said.
“I will come wherever you take me!” he kissed her hand in gratitude. She smiled at her miserable husband faintly and looked away to hide her tears. This was the rare thing that Balwindar Singh got upset and emotional. He was a solid rock and never let anything out of his heart. She knew how broken he was behind the facade of his jovial behaviour. She felt helpless.
“Balwindar, we will go to our Pind first and then to Delhi..!” she suggested. “Really? Will you come?” Balwindar asked in disbelief. She nodded. “After almost a decade!” she said looking lost.
“Ok. Don’t worry! I will make all the arrangements!” Balwindar Singh said getting up excitedly. She looked at him. “Don’t worry Biwi.. trust me! I will make it convenient for you!” he said hurriedly going out to make arrangements for their stay at Hussainiwala in Ferozepur, Punjab. They had a family mansion and huge piece of land near Hussainiwala village. Balwindar Singh prayed Guruji. “I will make her stay a memorable one!” he thought resolutely. “I want to see The National Martyrs Memorial for the last time in my life! I don’t know whether I will go there again..!” she thought closing her eyes.
******** ******** ********
“Kya hua hain issay? What has happened to her?” he looked at her curiously. She was avoiding everybody’s gaze and was turning her face away.
“Chaliye, Lavanya ji..!” She took Lavanya away under the pretext of training. Lavanya went to her room with Khushi and ASR’s eyes followed the duo. Khushi engrossed herself in training Lavanya and telling her stories of ancient culture. She didn’t come out for a long time.
“Khushi, are you alright?” Anjali held her hand. “Ye..Yes!” Khushi forced a smile on her face. “It..It’s the winter..!” she blamed on the weather for her swollen eyes and red nose.
“Umm... Anjali ji, I may not be able to come here for a week!” she said feeling guilty. “No problem Khushi...!” Anjali permitted to Khushi’s relief. She already had told Lavanya. She felt a surge of pain in her heart. “Not only for a week, but forever!” her heart cried out.
“Kay hua?” he was standing before her. She hung her head. “N..Nothing!” she said turning around to go away. He gripped her. “Tell me, what it is!” he ordered looking at her face. “N....nothing!” she tried to free herself. “Ok! Your leave is not granted!” he said releasing her. She flared up. “I don’t work for you, Mr Raizada!” she said turning her back on him and moving out of the house. He glared with clenched fists.
***** ***** *****
“Khushi..!” Amma called out in despair. Khushi turned her face. “I am alright Amma!” she said brightly. Amma turned her to face her. “You had promised me..!” she said looking at Khushi’s face. She forced a smile on her face and said, “Yes Amma! I did! And don’t worry, everything will be alright!” she turned and went inside. Amma and Payal wept for her for a long time helplessly. Payal had confronted Buwaji for hurting Khushi and in turn got a tight slap from her. Amma came in between to Payal’s rescue.
“Amma, we will stay in one room. We will work hard, but I don’t want to stay here!” Payal said desperately. Her Amma hugged her tightly. “Stop thinking about that. Think about Khushi now! We got to bring her out ..!” Amma knew Khushi well. She was going into shell. Something must be done to bring her back to normal. Payal cursed Buwaji for doing this to her sister.
“Payaliya...!” Buwaji called out and Payal ignored her completely going into babuji’s room. Khushi had stopped talking to anyone. She didn’t even go to bubuji’s room. Amma felt tormented. But Khushi had made up her mind. She wouldn’t even visit Mandir. She kept to her work without a word.
“Khushi...!” Payal put her hand on Khushi. “I am tired, Jiji!” Khushi said from under the blanket. Payal withdrew her hand. She knew, Khushi was not to be disturbed.
********* ********* ********
“Khushi, are you not going?” Payal looked at the time. Khushi shook her head. Payal came and held her hand. “Khushi.. go! You will atleast get that much time away from this house!” Payal pushed her out of the house. Khushi went to Raizada house.
“You? What are you doing here?” he asked angrily seeing her at the main door. She looked down. “Work!” she said. “But you were on leave!” he was puzzled. “You cancelled!” she retored and he smirked. “Is she back to normal?” he looked into her eyes. The emptiness stabbed him. “She is not the same!” he concluded letting her in. She went straight to Lavanya’s room. He shrugged. Lavanya went out for her regular spa visit for her skin care. Khushi went to Naniji.
“Khushi bitiya, have breakfast with us!” Nani invited. “Nani ji, I had at home!” she said going into the kitchen. He stared at her. “Something is wrong!” he concluded getting up and going into the kitchen. She was busy preparing tea for everyone.
“I don’t want!” he declared and she looked up at him. He gazed waiting for her response. There was none. He came out puzzled.
“Nani send my tea to poolside!” he said and left. Everyone looked puzzled. He waited for her.
“Khushi bitiya, Can you take this to poolside?” Nani asked Khushi a favour. Khushi went away with the tray. She kept the tea on the table and turned.
“What the..! why are you here?” he asked her angrily. She pointed at the tray.
“I had told you, I don’t want tea!” he yelled. She looked astonished. “Bu..But Nani!” she spoke a word after a long time.
“Nani? So Nani sent you here?” he clenched his fists taking a step ahead.
“Why can’t she stop interfering ...!” he blurted angrily. Warning bells ringing in her head, she stood in his way.
“No! Please...!” she pleaded. He glared at her.
“No.. I mean.. its ok. I will take it back..!” she turned to take the tray back. He still stood there furious. She turned with the tray. “Take it back..!” he ordered “And tell her..!” he was stopped.
“No!” she forze. Taking back the tray meant a definite row between them. She stopped and looked at him furiously. He waited expectantly. She turned to go without a word more. She walked past him, and went away. He followed only to see that she had closed her eyes, contorted her face and was taking a sip of sugarless tea.
“Yukk..!” she somehow gulped. “Tasteless like me?” he returned her taunt and she opened her eyes in shock.
“You could have requested me to drink it!” he said picking up the cup.
“And why would i request you, when I can manage myself?” she retorted coming back to her fighting spirit.
“Ok..!” he thrust the cup in her hand. She contorted her face. He smirked. “Kadavi hain!” she blurted drinking it.
She went out. “Nani!” where is my tea?” he was asking. And she turned back angrily.
“What? Just now you said you didn’t want it!” her voice raised.
“Watch your tone!” he warned her. She looked at Nani embarrassed. Nani was watching both of them.
“Why did you make me drink, when you wanted the tea?” she was furious and took a step ahead aggressively.
“What? You drank that tasteless tea?” asked Anjali giggling and Khushi ran into the kitchen. Arnav smirked sitting at the table. Nani smiled broadly. Anjali raised her eyebrows.
“Bhai..!” Aakash came in. Arnav shut his laptop hurriedly. “Bhai... you have a big meeting tomorrow with the financers. I just came to remind you!” he said sitting on the chair.
“I know! I am prepared!” he said confidently.
“Best Luck, Chote!” Anjali looked at her brother proudly.
“I don’t need luck to bag the project, Di! I write my own destiny!” he said smugly.
“By which pen?” came a question from Kitchen door. Khushi was standing with the tray with popped out eyes in bewilderment.
“What?” he asked back.
“You said you write your destiny! Which pen do you use?” she asked looking at the tucked pen at his shirt pocket.
“It requires something else, which you do not have!” he said contemptuously. She frowned, keeping the tray with a thud. He smirked. She looked lost in her own thoughts. “Can we write our own destiny?” she was not sure. He went away without drinking tea again. She sat in his place looking al lost.
“Khushi..!” Anjali nudged. Khushi came back to her senses and picking up the tray went into the kitchen muttering. “Wish I could write my own destiny!”
“I don’t know what, but Nani, Kuch toh hain, inn dono main!” she said looking at her younger brother’s vanishing figure. Nani smiled inwardly.
“I want to know, what it is..!” she thought.
******** ********* ******
“What the? Arnav glared at the screen in shock. “How is it possible?” he read and re read the email and the scanned photos. He read it once again and his expression changed. He dialled the number.
“Di, where is Jijaji?” he asked. “Oh! He had some urgent work. Why chote?” she asked. He opened his mouth to tell her about the email but thought otherwise.
“I need to be sure! This is not possible!” his heart didn’t want to accept what his eyes saw and what his brain assimilated.
“Does he have a connection or is it a coincidence...!” he gaped at the scanned documents. He dialled commissioner’s number narrating his doubts.
“ Sir, I want to reopen the case. As I am the affected party!” he said. “Yes Sir, I will do that!” he said disconnecting.
“Aman, fix a meeting with our lawyer in half an hour!” he ordered. “I have to reopen this accident case.. No matter who is involved in this.. I must find out...! Why Jijaji had a joint bank account with Prashant? Something is missing here... I have to find out the missing link!” he stood up clenching his fists.
“Jijaji!” he gritted his teeth in rage.