Ab Kya Boloon MainAnother Saturday morning at the Raizada household.
Shyam had already left early for his trip, and breakfast was over. Arnav was in his garden waiting for a ‘Good Morning’ text, feeling just a wee bit nervous, after the previous night, covering it up by pottering around his plants.
Akash went looking for Di. He found her folding laundry in her room. Apparently, this was the favorite pastime of women in the Raizada household. That and cooking. He walked in and said, ‘Di.’
She raised questioning eyes to him. ‘What is it, Akash? Can it wait?’
‘No, Di,’ he said. Outside the window he watched Arnav watering his precious plants as he chatted with someone on his Bluetooth. ‘Come on down, Di,’ he was positively giddy with excitement.
‘Why down?’ she frowned. ‘Can’t we talk here?’
He popped his eyes wide and gazed towards the window. She followed his eyes, watching Chotey for a bit, before it finally hit her. Her eyes now as wide as his, she said, ‘did you..?’
He nodded vigorously. She dropped the clothes in her hands. This was way juicier than laundry, especially with her beloved Shyamji gone for the week.
The pair of them headed down to the study and sat down.
‘Di, last night I was talking to Payal,’ he whispered, building up to his moment of enlightenment, as they both leaned with their heads close to each other.
‘And?’ she asked wondering at all these dramatics. Really, he should grow up, after all he was getting married in about two week’s time; and here he was, behaving like a teenager with ants in his pants.
Before he could say anything further, Nani’s voice came over their shoulders, ‘what are you two whispering about?’
‘Nani, Akash was telling me something about talking to Payal,‘ she glared at him. Really? This was what he wanted to talk about?
Devyani Raizada sat down next to them and proceeded to settle the pleats of her sari. ‘So what did Payal bitiya tell you?’ she asked kindly.
Akash shook his head. It wasn’t important. ‘What is important is that I found out who Bhai is seeing,’ he blurted out, finishing his thought.
‘Khushi bitiya,’ Nani calmly dropped the bomb.
‘Dadi? you know?’ asked Akash stunned.
‘Nani?’ Anjali too spun around to look at her grandmother, who had a self-satisfied look on her face.
‘Yes, of course,’ she said, looking mildly surprised at her two grandchildren who looked as if she’d just announced that she would be dancing to ‘Reshmi ujala hai’ ** at Akash’s sangeet.
‘Akash, how does this fit into what Payal told you?’ Anjali was completely confused.
‘Dadi, how did you know?’ Akash still looked slightly dazed at the mental image of his Dadi dancing .. oh Yuck! As if last night .. never mind... Akash’s mind was running in all kinds of different directions, scarred forever by such frightening thoughts.
His Dadi looked at him pityingly, ‘Akash, I am your grandmother. You don’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs,’ she said. ***
‘But we don’t even eat eggs,’ he protested.
Anjali had been looking from one to the other during this, completely baffled at the turn the conversation had taken.
‘Wait! What have eggs and Payal got to do with Chotey?’ she wailed.
‘Nothing, Di,’ Akash held his head in his hands, now completely confused as well.
‘Chotey likes Khushi bitiya,’ Devyani summed it up succinctly in one sentence, with a knowing air.
‘Oh!’ Anjali’s hand went up to her rounded mouth. ‘Is she... ?’
‘Yeah, Di,’ Akash mumbled, ‘she’s the one he’s been having dinners with.’
‘Oh!’ she said again.
‘So I am thinking, we should go to their house and ask for her hand,’ Devyani said.
‘Of course, Nani,’ Anjali jumped up from her seat, ‘let’s go right now.’
‘Anjali bitiya,’ said her Nani. ‘Calm down. We’ll go later today. I have to call the Guptas first, but the talk of the rishta must be a surprise for them, okay?’
Anjali nodded her head obediently.
‘Akash,’ he looked up dully. So much for his Eureka moment, he thought. ‘You will not tell Payal anything.’ Devyani wagged her forefinger at him. ‘We’ll go this evening to their house.’
He nodded to show his compliance as well.
‘Oh, I must tell Shyamji,’ an ecstatic Anjali announced, her fingers flying over her phone’s buttons. To her immense disappointment, the call went straight to voicemail. ‘He must be busy,’ she thought and hung up, pouting.
It was three in the afternoon when the now-familiar white SUV pulled up in front of the Gupta house. The Raizadas had arrived en masse - this time for another rishta, and just like last time, the Guptas were blindsided. But more on that in a bit.
Khushi stood in the kitchen, hearing the excited chatter going on in the living room, while she brewed cups of tea. Rough fingers trailed softly up her back that was laid bare by the plait she had made. She jumped and turned around, more than pleased to see that it was Arnav that was standing there, and not Shyam. Why did that thought pop into her head? She had to talk to Arnav about her uneasiness, she thought.
‘Hi!’ he said with a tender smile. It was strange and new to him to be talking to her in her own house.
‘Hi,’ she responded to his smile, blooming like a flower turning to the sun.
‘I need to talk to you,’ he said in a low voice.
She looked at him alarmed. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Shh.. ‘ he said. ‘Just come with me.’ He held her hand, and quietly led her out of the kitchen. Following her directions, he led her to her bedroom, shut and locked the door.
She stood there nervously, twisting her dupatta in her hands, fervently wishing she had a jalebi close by ... or a two ... or a plateful. That would do.
He came close to her and lifted her chin up so she could meet his eyes. Devi Mayya! He wasn’t going to do anything inappropriate now, was he? Her eyes showed her fear and he leaned forward to just kiss her on her forehead.
‘Do you know why we are here?’ he asked her.
She shook her, mesmerized by the intensity of his caramel eyes, and the resounding dhak-dhak of her heartbeat.
Taking her hands in his, he looked at them, comparing them. Hers so tiny, and fair and slim. His, so big and dark, and engulfing hers. And yet, when he entwined their fingers they just fit. Just like everything about her fit into him. The way she fit into his arms, his thoughts, his heart, his life.
Raising her hands to his lips, he kissed her knuckles and then said, ‘Khushi.’ And stopped.
She looked questioningly at him. What on earth was going on with him?
He straightened up, as if resolving something, and then slowly went down on one knee, ‘I know you deserve more than this, and probably a better man than me. But Khushi Kumari Gupta, will you marry me?’
She looked into his eyes, seeing the uncertainty and pleading in them, the hope and the very slightest hint of fear at the possibility of rejection. Arnav Singh Raizada was on his knees, asking her to marry him, and waiting, holding his breath to hear her answer. She could never resist him, not those eyes, and not her own heart. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth.
‘Titaliya?!’ she heard her buaji in the background. ‘Where are you? Are you bringing the tea or not?’
‘Coming, buaji,’ she yelled in reflex.
Arnav closed his eyes. Talk about ruining a moment, he thought, his head hanging in despair.
‘Arnavji, I have to go,’ she twirled on her feet, and then felt her dupatta being yanked. He had it firmly in a hold.
‘Khushi? you never answered my question,’ he said mildly, his hand wrapped around the dupatta, that was slowly slipping off her neck.
She walked back to him and held his hands. Tears pooled in her eyes. Arnav Singh Raizada, Laad Governor, Rakshas, on his knees before her still. She tugged him to his feet, and threw herself into his arms. He had to bend down to hear her whispered ‘Yes’, because it was so soft.
She pulled back from him and he let her go, smiling at her, flicking her nose with a finger, before he turned around and walked away to the living room, giving a short nod to his grandmother on the way.
In the living room, the conversation had wandered around until Khushi brought the tray of tea in. Arnav jumped up to help her, before pulling out a chair for her to sit on. Payal was already sitting next to Anjali on the sofa.
‘Madhumatiji, you know for a long time, we thought our Chotey would never get married,’ Devyani began, sipping on her tea. ‘But finally, he has agreed to get married and we’re so happy about it.’
‘Oh! This is wonderful news, indeed,’ said Madhumati Bua, beaming, while Garima nodded enthusiastically. ‘Have you started looking for a girl?’
Shashi’s glance flicked from Arnav to Khushi and watched as his daughter blushed a slight shade of rose. His eyebrows rose as he realized what the Raizadas were really here for. He liked Arnav. Quiet, strong and responsible. Oh, he’d heard tales about how much of a slave-driver he was, and what a bad temper he had. He was also aware of the epic proportion fights that these two had had. On the other hand, Shashi trusted his gut when it came to people and he knew that this was a man that he would trust his daughter with. There was something remarkably honest and solid about him. More importantly, he would wouldn’t turn his daughter into a tame bahu, instead he would let her become the fiery lioness she was destined to be. Shashi Gupta had already given his blessings to this union, but he turned respectfully to Devyani as she continued speaking.
‘Yes, it is and no, we haven’t. You see, that is why we are here today. We would like to ask for you daughter’s hand for our Chotey,’ she smiled graciously.
‘Khusi?’ whispered Garima.
Arnav heard her, just like last time, but this time he just smiled. Khushi straightened in her chair and looked at her father.
‘Khushi?’ Shashi looked at his younger one. ‘Are you okay with this?’ He had already read her answer in her eyes, but he needed to hear it from her.
‘Arrey, Nandkishore! How will she not be okay with this?’ Madhumati shoved her brother on his shoulder. ‘Such a good family, and such a good boy. We couldn’t have expected better for her. Of course, she will marry him,’ she said loudly, smiling broadly.
Khushi looked on with astonishment in her eyes.
‘But let her speak for herself, Jiji,’ Garima the pacifist stepped in softly, hesitantly.
‘We’re not throwing her to the wolves, Garima,’ Buaji was quite authoritative about this. ‘This is a wonderful thing for her. If you search all of Delhi, you would not find a better boy, I am telling you this! Yes!’ She said with finality, folding her arms.
The Raizadas sat stunned at this outburst.
‘But, jiji, let Khushi at least say what she wants,’ Garima was still trying to make her point - albeit rather weakly. At the back of her mind were all the fights that she’d heard about between Arnav and Khushi.
‘Nandkishore! This is what happens when you give your daughter too much freedom. I will not say anything, but if she doesn’t accept this rishta, she will be making a mistake. A big mistake, I tell you!’ Madhumatiji would not be budged.
‘We cannot force her, Jiji,’ Garima tried one last time.
‘Hain? Force? Who is forcing her? No one is forcing her.’ Madhumatiji was outraged. ‘She just needs to agree to this rishta. That’s all!’
Finally, Devyani could take it no longer. She looked at Khushi and said, ‘Bitiya, what do you have to say?’
Khushi looked from Naniji, to Buaji to Garima and finally to Arnav, looked him in the eye, stood up and asked, ‘Ab kya boloon main?’ helplessly.
Arnav looked at her in astonishment before standing up himself, grabbing her upper arms and pulling her close. ‘Just say yes, dammit,’ he gritted out.
‘Yes!’ she said, nodded her head frantically.
Everyone heaved a huge sigh of relief!
It was on the way back to Shantivan that Anjali got a call from Shyam.
‘Rani Sahiba, I saw you called me quite a few times. I only just got off work. What’s the matter? Is everything okay?’ As always he was concerned about his wife.
She glowed and smiled and said, ‘Shyamji, we missed you today. You know, Chotey finally agreed to getting married!’
‘Really?’ he was thrilled. ‘This is excellent news.’
‘And you know, Shyamji, he even picked the girl himself,’ she said.
‘Is this the same girl that he has been seeing?’ he asked conspiratorially, lowering his voice.
‘Ji. And you will never believe who it is. And since it took Chotey such a long time to make up his mind, we didn’t want to waste any. So, we’d gone to their house today itself. As a matter of fact, we are on our way home from there. We completed the shagun,’ she happily informed him.
‘Oh wonderful!’ he exclaimed. ‘I am sorry to have missed this. Please forgive me, Rani Sahiba.’
‘No problem, Shyamji,’ she said sweetly. ‘Just make sure that you take enough time off to attend all the rasams and the weddings.’
‘Of course, Rani Sahiba, both my Saale Saabs are getting married! How can I miss even a single rasam?’
Anjali smiled at that.
Arnav, who was driving, flicked his glance towards the mirror and caught sight of his sister giggling away at the phone and smiled to himself. He knew he’d made her very happy today and a warm glow filled his heart.
‘But Rani Sahiba,’ said Shyam, ‘you didn’t tell me. What is her name? What does she do? Is she pretty? After all, if she has to be a Raizada bahu, and that too my Saaley Saab’s choice, I am sure she is very pretty,’ he said proudly.
‘Shyamji, you have no idea. She is very beautiful and from a very good family,’ she chuckled. ‘Wait, let me send you some pictures of their shagun. I’ll send them to your Whatsapp account, okay?’
‘Okay, Rani Sahiba,’ he said. ‘I’ll wait for them.’
‘When is Jeejaji coming back?’ Arnav called from the front seat.
‘Chotey wants to know when you’re coming back?’ she relayed to him.
‘Oh, I hope to finish off by Tuesday, Wednesday at the latest, I should be home,’ he assured her.
‘Okay, then we’ll see you soon,’ she said and hung up.
Shyam smiled indulgently at the phone. She hadn’t told him the girl’s name, but it must be from one of their own circle of friends, he had no doubt. Whistling to himself, he walked into the washroom to shower.
Twenty minutes later, refreshed and changed, he settled down on the bed in his hotel room. Ordering from room service, he picked up his phone and clicked on the Whatsapp icon. He waited while the images loaded and then clicked download.
One by one, the images showed up on the big 4.8-inch screen of his Samsung GS3 in all their HD super AMOLED glory.
Khushi and Arnav with the rest of the Guptas.
Khushi with Arnav with the rest of the Raizadas.
Khushi and Arnav with Mamaji, Mamiji and Naniji.
Khushi and Arnav with Akash and Payal.
Khushi and Arnav with Anjali.
Khushi and Arnav just by themselves smiling at each other, his arm around her waist.
He slumped on the bed. Bile rose at the back of his throat. Khushi engaged to Arnav?! His own Saaley Saab?! How? Why? When? What happened to his Saaley Saab’s famous ‘aukaat’? He swore then, roundly and fluently and colorfully, letting the stream of cuss words fly out of his mouth for a full minute. Why hadn’t he seen this coming? Why had nobody told him?
He sat for a long while, thinking .. thinking and finally picked up his phone and dialed.
Monday mid-morning at work, Arnav was reading through a report that Aman had sent. He’d specifically asked for it and it was in his email inbox. There was nothing untoward going on, from what he could see. Nothing that jumped out at him. Nothing that he could point at and say, that’s it! And yet, why was there a niggling sense of something not quite right?
Khushi was sitting at her desk. She glanced up at the blinds drawn across his cabin. Usually that was as good as a big fat sign saying, ‘Do not Disturb’ and most people understood that. She needed to talk to him, and yet, what could she say? Your Jeejaji creeps me out? He’s given me lifts two days in a row and I don’t like how it makes me feel? I don’t like how he touched me when he was offering me balm for my headache. She slapped her head. How could she tell him that? It seemed so silly and yet... it made her so uneasy. And Arnavji always knew what she felt .. well, almost always. And now that they were to be married, shouldn’t she be sharing everything with him? With that thought in mind, she picked up a pen and pad, and moved towards the staircase to his cabin.
She was almost at the top when she passed Aman going down. They smiled at each other.
‘Congratulations, Bhabi,’ he said in a low voice, before continuing down.
Khushi blushed and grinned to herself, before knocking on Arnav’s door.
‘Come in,’ he looked up smiling as his PA and now his fiancee walked through the door. He got up and walked to her, shutting the door, before taking her in his arms and kissing her thoroughly. Satisfied for the moment, he sat her down in the chair across from him and said, ‘what’s the matter? Did something happen?’
‘I don’t know, Arnavji,’ she hesitated a moment. ‘But I really need to tell you this,’ she said rapidly.
He raised his eyebrows and said, ‘tell me what?’
Aman was heading to the cafeteria when he heard Khushi’s name. He swung around to see a courier asking the receptionist for Khushi’s whereabouts, and promptly detoured towards him.
‘What’s the matter, Pam?’ he asked.
‘Sim, Sir,’ she corrected him.
Pam, Sim, they all sim-med the same to him, he thought with a mental snort.
‘Delivery for Ms Khushi Kumari Gupta,’ the courier said.
‘I’ll take it,’ Aman said, quickly signing on the receipt, and picking up the manila envelope. Whatever was inside was heavy and stiff. He shrugged and went to the cafeteria where he brewed a cup of coffee, dark and bitter, before heading back upstairs. Khushi was still not at her desk, he noticed.
Knocking on ASR’s door he heard the immediate, ‘come,’ and walked in.
Akash, Khushi and Arnav seemed to be deep in discussion about something.
‘Courier for you, Khushi,’ he said, placing the manila envelope in her hands.
She frowned and looked at it. There was no return address. Arnav looked at her expectantly, and she tore the envelope open. The contents spilled out on Arnav’s desk.
5x8 glossies of Arnav with women. Different women. In different poses, holding them, hands around them, dancing with them, laughing and snuggling with them.
Her normally pale skin turned paler as she looked at the damming pictures. Aman frowned as he looked at them. Arnav gulped as he looked at her. Akash closed his eyes and shook his head. Bhai was so done for!
She was breathing heavily now, her face turning pink as fury started bubbling up to the surface. Just then, a slip of paper drifted out of the envelope. She picked it up and read it. ‘Just to remind you of the kind of man you are dating. A well-wisher.’ It was printed.
Aman stared aghast at the pictures before something struck him. He picked them up and rapidly scanned through them.
‘These are all old pictures, Bhabi,’ he said.
Arnav and Akash turned sharply towards him, neither of them commenting on the familiarity of the way he addressed Khushi. She seemed not to have heard him, hot tears of fury rolling down her cheeks, hands clenched tightly together in her lap, her back straight.
‘Look at them, ASR, they are all more than a year, year-and-a-half old,’ he held out the pictures. The two other men looked at the pictures. Aman was right! These were old pictures. Someone was out to do mischief!
‘He’s right, Khushi,’ Akash said. ‘These pictures are old, they mean nothing. And Aman and I know that.’
She looked from Aman to Akash, hope dimly coming into her eyes.
‘Khushi, someone’s trying to play you,’ Akash said, reaching out for her hand. ‘They’re trying to get to you and Bhai.’ He looked at his brother, recognizing the signs of fury on his face in the pulse beating at his temple, the clenching of his jaws, the fisting of his hands, and the narrowing of his eyes. Bhai was still ominously quiet.
His older brother instincts kicked in.
‘Come with me, Khushi,’ he helped her up and put an arm around her, leading her out of the room, taking her to the quiet of his own cabin. He glanced back at his brother, who nodded shortly at him, his eyes still hot with anger.
As soon as the door closed behind Akash and Khushi, ASR turned to Aman. ‘What the hell is this, Aman?’ his voice was low, furious.
Aman shook his head. ‘Looks like someone wants to create problems for the two of you,’ he stated the obvious.
‘Who?’ the word snapped like a twig in an ice-storm.
Aman drew a deep breath and shook his head. ‘It’s just the timing, ASR,’ he spoke slowly. ‘Who knew that Khushi and you were dating? And just as your marriage is finalized?’
‘I’d tried to keep her out of the limelight,’ Arnav responded. ‘But someone could have seen us together, I guess. We do go to that Italian place quite often.’ He shook his head in disbelief. ‘Get rid of these,’ he said in disgust.
Aman gathered up the pictures, and looked at the manila envelope, a thought striking him. Perhaps the courier company might know something. The photos were headed for the shredder, the slip and envelope - those were his only clues.
Arnav sat back in his chair, eyes closed. If those pictures ever reached his in-laws, not only could he say goodbye to having Khushi redecorate his bedroom, even Akash could be affected. He would not allow that. Whoever it was, had called the wrath of ASR on his or her head. ASR was on the warpath with a foe he didn’t know as yet, but that wasn’t about to deter him. After all, his Khushi was in danger and he was not about to take it lying down.
‘Reshmi Ujala hai’ is a hit song from the movie ‘Sharmilee’. The song was sung by Asha Bhosle and Jayshree T (aka Naniji from IPK) had danced a strip-tease cabaret number to it. It was also referred to during the Payash Sangeet when Anjali/Shyam announced Naniji’s dance, with a play on the lyrics of the song:
‘Reshmi ujala hai,
aaj ki raat, aisa kuch karo,
ho nahin savera’.
If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out on YouTube @
‘Teaching your Grandmother to suck eggs’ is a metaphor used to tell a novice not to teach a master how to do their job.