The door bell was ringing and ringing. Arnav Singh Raizada woke up with a start. Huh? What was going on? Why wasn’t HP answering the door?
He crawled out of bed, his eyes going automatically to the other side where Khushi slept, except she wasn’t there. She hadn’t been there in a while, ever since the wedding had been fixed. She was still at Gupta House. A smile tugged his mouth at the thought of his beautiful wife. Yes, she was still his wife, regardless of what the world thought, Arnav thought of her as his wife.
The commotion outside took his attention away from his reverie. Yes, Arnav Singh Raizada even had reveries these days, all occupied by the wide eyes of Khushi Kumar Gupta .... Singh Raizada.
The commotion was coming closer. He frowned wondering what the heck was going on?
‘What the - ‘, he thought, before the door slammed open. He stared at it.
She was a little over five feet, tall, slim - well more curvy than slim - and wore a pair of snug jeans. A cut-work pair of beige booties covered her well-manicured feet. A baby pink top with shoe-string straps clung to her ample bosom. A pair of glasses hid deep brown eyes. Her hair was half-way down her back, the morning sun picking out the purple in the red. Purple hair?
Arnav stared at her and then said, ‘what the f-’!
She looked at him and said, ‘Why the heck don’t you just say fuck, man? I mean it’s not like we don’t know you mean to say ‘fuck’, you know’.
He stepped back. Okay, he couldn’t say ‘What the-’ anymore. So he started with, ‘Who the hell are you, anyway? And what do you mean by barging into my bedroom without knocking?’
HP still stood in the doorway staring at this mysterious woman!
‘Oh come on!’ she said exasperated. ‘Listen, dude, everybody just barges into your room anyway, so why not me?’
‘Who? Dude, your bedroom is the Grand Fucking Central Station - Dadi, Nani, Di, Mami - I mean, come on dude, never heard of locks?’
He stared at her as she launched on her tirade.
‘Listen, dude, lemme just say that your KKGSR’s DM sent me here.’
She sighed. ‘Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada. Devi Mayya.’
‘Yeah. Okay now listen. We’ve decoded a bunch of stuff. By the way, can I just sit down now?’ She plonked herself on the lounger. ‘Geeze, this is hard! How the hell did you sleep on it those nights?’
‘How did you-?’
‘Look I’ve worked with the whole team. And this is what we’ve decoded. Plus we think you need to stop thinking with your Chotey and think with that Harvard brain you supposedly have under that mop you call hair.’
By now Arnav had flopped on the bed staring at this virago.
‘Hello. Hi. Bye. Bye,’ Mamiji’s annoying chant for the first time was a welcome sound to his ears.
SHE shut her eyes in frustration. ‘Mamiji - Enough with the Hello Hi already! Besides, what the hell is wrong with you? Why do you treat Payal so badly? I mean look at her, She’s this real sweet girl who doesn’t open her mouth. But you treat her like shit. What’d she ever do to you? And what’s with the clown make-up? Lady, you need to take lessons- ’ Whatever she was going to say was drowned out by Mamiji’s loud wails as she ran away from the room.
SHE took a deep breath and turned to him, opening her mouth to continue.
‘Okay, Stop!’ he said before she could say another word, holding up his left hand. ‘Who the hell are you?’
She shook her head at him and said, ‘It doesn’t matter who I am.’
He narrowed his eyes, putting on his best Akdoo ASR look.
‘Aw... Look at you, ‘ she smiled and tugged on his cheeks. His mouth fell open. ‘Look, I’m only here to help you.’
‘HELP me? With What?’ he couldn’t help it. SHE was like a tornado and he was getting sucked into it. ‘Look - at least tell me your name,’ he said.
‘GirlOfFire’, she said.
‘Huh? What kind of name is that?’
‘One that I’ve had since the days of free internet email. Now... we’ve got work to do.’
‘Work?’ What the fuck was she talking about?
From the bag on her shoulder, she took out an ipad, and a folder of printouts. ‘Look, we dont have much time,’ she said.
‘No time for WHAT?’
‘Oh till Snakewa attacks you again.’
‘Yeah. Shyam. That asshole of a brother-in-law you should have got your sister divorced from ages ago and sent to jail. Instead you land him two tamachas and thats IT? Like, Dude, he tried to kill you!’
‘How do you know?’
‘Never mind that. Listen you know that time you were romancing Khushi with the roses in the hallway? And the whole clan walked in? Well see - that reminded them of the temple marriage’.
‘Yeah the one between your dad and this other woman.’ He narrowed his eyes. ‘Dude, no point looking at me like that. See we also thought that was Shyam’s sister. But turns out it wasn’t so. And then your sister is having twins. Besides there’s the spinach that Khushi gave you.’
‘I know,’ she shook her head sadly at him. ‘I mean even the sonograms don’t show that other baby, but you know what all those pickles jars in GH-’
‘The WHAT in the WHERE?!’ She shut him up with a wave of her hand.
‘And the numbers on the clock. I mean your name means Ocean, right? And Khushi was carrying two pots of water and you spilled one. So you have to do something with water!’
‘WHAT? WHAT-ER?’ he was now reduced to echoing her incomprehensible statements. ‘Look. STOP!’ he yelled.
She sat back, looking at him surprised. He jumped up and started pacing, fingers raking through his over-gelled hair and getting stuck in them.
‘Look - I still dont know who you are? Why are you here? and why the fuck am I even listening to you?’ His voice was rising with each question. His panther-like strides brought him in front of her. He leaned down, his voice dangerously lowering, ‘I should have you locked up.’ There was menace in his husky voice.
She looked up at him with adoring eyes. ‘Wow! I could drown in those caramel eyes!’ she whispered.
‘What?!’ he straightened up. ‘Look let’s start all over again, okay?’
She sighed. ‘Okay. I already told you about the pickle jars and the temple marriage. I still have to tell you about NK.’
‘NK? What about him?’
‘See - he doesn’t just speak in Hindi .. he speaks in code.’
‘Yeah - lemme give you an example,’ sounding like a teacher explaining to a very small child. ‘Yesterday he said Jalwa, Dhaar, Tamacha, Machhi and he wanted to see a horror movie.. Did you guys see a horror movie?’ He found himself nodding almost mesmerized by the speed at which she talked. ‘So which JAWS was it?’
His mouth popped open. ‘Told ya,’ she shrugged nonchalantly. ‘So listen to NK, besides he is Khushi’s sakha’.
‘Yeah and you’re her Alfie. And only you can bring her out of the Maze of the Minotaur,’
‘The WHO? the WHAT?!’
‘Dude,’ she was getting exhausted with his constant interruptions. ‘Did you even go to Harvard ? You keep saying WHAT like you don’t know what I’m talking about.’
She sighed. ‘Okay. Listen - if you went to Harvard, why the heck didn’t you follow up when you saw that wire? And if I were you, I’d fire that security guard of you’se. He’s an idiot. Let in Shyam TWICE!! Who do you think put the glass in your sis’s doormat?’
‘What?! Glass in Di’s room?’ He jumped up ready to run out of the room.
‘Relax, Dude. Besides there’s the gloves under the bed and the will under the cradle. Meantime, I gotta tell you about the clocks!’
‘What? Clock?! What do clocks have to -’
Right at that moment Dadiji walked in followed by Naniji.
‘Arnaw,’ she said, ‘Who is this woman? And what is she doing here?’
‘Lemme handle this, dude.’ She got up and strolled up to Dadiji who was a good couple of inches taller than her. ‘Dadiji, hmm?’
‘What are you doing in my grandson’s room?’ she thundered.
‘Helping him,’ nonchalantly.
‘Helping him with what?’
‘Clearing the wool from his eyes and his head.’
Dadi held up her hand. Stop sign.
‘Dadi - I have to ask you this. Were you a cop in the ashram?’
Dadi breathed in deeply. ‘How dare you? Did your parents not teach you etiquette?’
‘Actually they did. But apparently yours didn’t.’
‘What?!” - ASR
‘What?!’ - Dadi
‘Beti...’ - Nani
‘What The-’ Mamiji who was hanging around in the corridor.
‘Yeah - manners, courtesy, etiquette. Call it what you like, Dadiji. My parents taught me to respect other PEOPLE... See that Grandson of yours over there? He worked his arse off to get to where he is. And you come in here and think you can rule the roost? That HIS happiness doesn’t matter in HIS house? Who the heck do you think is feeding you? Huh? Huh?’ She leaned in close to Dadi almost nose-to-nose.
Dadi went an interesting shade of red, a little paler than a beetroot.
‘And you are in cahoots with Shyam and Anjali - letting her sneak off to visit that no-good hubby of hers and ‘ she stopped, poking her finger at Dadi’s chest.
Arnav was standing there nostrils flaring, eyes narrowed in anger. A vein jumped in his forehead. ‘Dadi is this true?’ he ground out.
Dadi just clenched her jaws much like her grandson.
‘Get out of my house.’. Pause. ‘GET OUT!’
‘Whoa! that was good, my boy,’ she patted him on his back.
“yeah - Im gonna go too. But dude, next time you gotta kiss KKG - make it quick, huh? cause you get interrupted too much. Whole Grand Central station thing..you know,’ she said. 'Besides the SP nuns might catch you at it,'
He sighed and sat down again head in his hands.
‘Please just go,’ he said.
‘I will, just as soon as I tell you about the last decode,’ she said. She tapped her iPad and brought up some pictures.. ‘See here? Where you and Khushi are standing apart? Now that means separation, but in this picture you are together, but at the back. That means you’re gonna take a back seat to what Dadi will do. You cant do that dude, it’ll fuck up you’re entire life! Dude you’ve gotta have your SR before he comes back in!’
‘That’s it! I've had enough!!’ he said, picking up her papers and thrusting them in her hands. ‘Leave NOW, before I call the police.’
‘Alright, alright, no need to be so rude,’ she said. ‘Don’t say I didn’t warn you.’ And with that she was gone out of the room.
He lay there wondering what the hell just happened. His cell phone rang. Khushi. He smiled as he picked up the phone.
‘Arnavji,’ she sounded flustered. ‘You won’t believe what just happened.’
‘What happened?’ he had a vague premonition which turned to certainty as she spoke.
‘This girl came to our house. Said her name was Redwine. Now what kind of name is that? Any way she had the strangest things to say..’
He groaned and lay back in bed.