3. Abhagin

Gas Burner (Abhagin)

“Abhagin! Shukar kar ki yeh log maan gaye! Warna tujh jaisi apshaguni ladki se kaun shaadi karega? Jo iss duniya mein aate hi apni Amma ko kha gayi! Ab yeh magar machh ke aansoo ponchh aur neeche chal! Baarat aa gayi hai!”

Her aunt stormed out of her room leaving a desperate bride behind. Khushi looked at her reflection in the mirror. A pale, tear stricken face stared back at her. Dressed in the customary, heavily embroidered red lehenga choli with traditional Lucknowi gold jewelry, Khushi looked every inch the bride. Except for her face. Her face was that of a girl who had just lost the last shard of hope she’d had.

Lifting her beautifully hennaed hands to wipe her tears, she stood up to go downstairs to her fate.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A gentle shake pulled her out of her beautiful dream. “Khushi, sweetheart, what’s wrong? Why are you sitting here crying in front of your mirror?”

Khushi looked up, slightly dazed, crashing down to reality. Her husband was staring down at her with concern in his eyes.

“N… Nothing. I was just missing my family.”

“Do you want to go visit them this weekend?”

Khushi attempted a smile. “Sure.”

She got up and left their bedroom, unaware of the pair of eyes that followed her exit, deep longing and a touch of sadness in them.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Chopping vegetables with unwonted vengeance, Khushi stopped for a second and sighed.

What had become of her life? She was meant for greatness– for stardom, and here she stood chopping vegetables in the kitchen. Dressed in a functional synthetic saree, mangalsutra and sindoor in place, she looked just like any other middle-class housewife in their building.

And why not? A voice taunted Khushi. You are after all, just another middle class housewife.

Khushi nearly dissolved into tears at the thought. She cursed her luck. She had cultivated ONE dream ever since she’d become Ms. Chandni Chowk at the age of sixteen– that of being a famous movie-star.

Just like Kareena Kapoor.

But as the daughter of an ordinary middle class accountant, she had known in her heart that she would never be able to fulfill that far-off dream. That thought, however, hadn’t helped in resigning Khushi to her fate. She still day-dreamed of being a matinee princess. A queen of tragedy like Meena Kumari– whose tears would move the nation. A dancer like Madhuri Dixit– whose moves would captivate and enthrall men and women alike. A stunning beauty like Madhubala– whose ada and grace brought grown men and young boys alike to their knees.

And that is why, Khushi still spent a large part of her time dreaming up tragic sequences and scenarios in her head and acting them out in front of her mirror and also surreptitiously practicing her dance moves when her husband wasn’t at home.

Her husband.

Khushi sighed again.

There too she felt short-changed. Her parents had found an eligible boy for her soon after her graduation and she’d been married before she could come up with a plausible reason as to why she couldn’t marry this boy.

Her parents had asked her, of course. But what was she to tell them? That he was too nice? That he didn’t fit the description of the rakish, brooding, dark millionaire she had set her heart on, after the first time she’d read a Mills & Boon novel under the covers with a torch?

He was alright to look at but he was ridiculously good.

Other than being a software engineer with a job that paid well and ensured not only an apartment in the better part of town but also their own car, he was well-mannered and considerate.

He hadn’t laid a finger on her because he’d sensed that it made her uncomfortable. He’d said that they’d wait till they knew each other better. He was thoughtful and insisted that she eat her dinner and go to sleep before him if he was working late. He’d even asked if she wanted to get a job or something since she might get bored at home! A job! How was she supposed to explain to her staid, practical husband that the only job she’d ever wanted was out of bounds to her? Honestly, he knew nothing about her! Oh! She had to be the unluckiest girl in the neighbourhood!

Her cell phone rang all of a sudden, shattering her pity-fest.

The caller ID told her that it was her best friend from college– Amrita.

Amrita had married an NRI businessman just a couple of weeks after Khushi’s own wedding, and flown off to the States right after.

Ever since, she’d had no word from her.

Khushi had assumed that it was because Amrita had been too caught up in her new life in New York City.

And now two months after, this phone call out of the blue.

“Hello Amrita? Kaisi hai? It’s been so long! America jaate hi hum sab ko bhool gayi? Aur tere pati kaise hain? Main bahut naraaz hoon tujhse–“

A broken whisper halted Khushi’s barrage of questions.

“Khush, main tere ghar mein do din ruk sakti hoon?”

A tiny frown appeared between Khushi’s brows.

“Haan bilkul, par tu aa kab rahi hai? Or kuchh hua hai kya? Tu aise kyun baat kar rahi hai?”

“Khushi–” Amrita broke into heaving sobs.

Now Khushi felt terrified. “Amrita, kya hua? Tu ro kyun rahi hai? Kucch to bata!”

Khushi felt her heart grow numb with shock and horror as Amrita sobbed out her story. How her husband had taken away her passport and cell phone as soon as they’d landed in the States, how he’d turned out to be incredibly abusive and jealous– not allowing her to go anywhere, meet anyone without him. How her parents absolutely refused to listen when she’d managed to call them from a payphone outside a restaurant. How her husband had punished her when he’d found out. How the abuse had escalated until she’d been ready to commit suicide to get away from it all. And how finally, she’d seen a window of opportunity one day and had taken it, when her husband had forgotten the keys to his locker behind. She’d retrieved her passport and cell phone and enough money for a plane ticket and had run away with only the clothes on her back.

And now back in Delhi, she had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. She needed a place to stay in for a few days until she figured out what she was going to do next, and had thought of Khushi.

“Amrita, tu ro mat, sab theek ho jayega! Main hoon na! Tu wahi ruk, main abhi airport aati hoon! Bas ek ghanta aur.”

Clasping her phone in her hand, Khushi ran a worried hand through her hair. She needed to act immediately. Thank god it was a Sunday and her husband was at home. Unconsciously she turned to him.

Rushing to their bedroom, she found him looking through some files.

“Arnavji, woh… woh meri dost yaad hai aapko… Amrita? Woh Delhi mein hai, aur use hamaari madad ki zaroorat hai, Arnavji!”

He immediately put his files down and came to stand in front of her. Cupping her cheek with one hand he gently pushed her down onto a nearby chair, and knelt in front of her.

“Calm down, Khushi. Kya hua Amrita ko. Saans lo aur theek se batao.”

Khushi felt her eyes fill with tears involuntarily. Blinking them back she leaned into his hand on her cheek. “Amrita bahut museebat mein hai. Woh America se bhaag kar Delhi aayi hai. Abhi airport mein hai aur jaane ke liye uske paas koi jagah nahi hai–“

Arnav cut her off. “Raaste mein baat karenge. Jo bhi hai, uska wahan akela rukna theek nahi hai. Chalo.”

And just like that, he’d taken a firm hold of her hand and pulled her to her feet. Khushi felt a sense of reassurance wash over her. Arnavji would fix everything. Somehow she knew he would.

On the way to the airport, Khushi narrated the whole story to Arnav. She saw his jaw set in anger and grim determination.

Khushi didn’t know what to make of him. She’d never seen him get angry. Not when she’d forgotten to put salt in the dal on her second day in the kitchen. Not when she’d accidentally burned his new shirt while ironing it. Not even when she’d forgotten to drop off an important cheque at the bank!

But now, he looked positively furious. She gulped. What had she done now?

“Aap humse naraaz hain?” She asked in a tentative whisper.

He immediately looked at her in confusion. “Tumse? Kyun? Main bas… I’m sorry, Khushi. Main jab bhi aisi baatein sunta hoon, mujhe bahut gussa aata hai… How dare he? Don’t worry, Khushi. We’ll help Amrita. I have a lot of lawyer friends who can get her justice. Plus we’ll put her in touch with organizations that help women like her. And she can stay with us as long as she wants to.”

Grazing his knuckles across her cheek in a reassuring gesture, he focused on the road.

Khushi stared unseeingly out of the window.

How had things gone so wrong for Amrita? Her pretty, vivacious best friend– who had had a promising career ahead of her, who had been indulged by her parents all her life, who had found her prince charming and had been swept off her feet right to America. Her life had been a dream! What had gone wrong?

And for the very first time, Khushi thanked her lucky stars for her ordinary, stable life. For her kind and supportive parents. For her husband– who was willing to run to a stranger’s rescue because that stranger meant something to his wife. Her husband– whom she had mentally accused of being safe and boring. Her husband– who always put her comfort and needs above his own. Just as he’d promised to do while marrying her. And just like Amrita’s husband had promised her, Khushi realized with a shiver.

The car came to a sudden halt. They’d reached the airport. Out of habit, Arnav leaned across and undid her seat belt carefully. Khushi felt a sudden wave of gratitude and affection flood her being. Clasping his hand, she refused to let him withdraw it. She raised it to her lips and kissed his palm and then leaned forward and softly brushed her lips against his stubbled cheek.

Arnav looked taken aback although not displeased. A slow smile tugged at the corner of his lips and the corners of his eyes crinkled. He had such warm, loving eyes. How had she never noticed? She’d been so blind!

“What was that for?”

Khushi flashed him her brightest smile. “For being you. Chalein?”

With this cryptic reply, she jumped out of the car and ran toward the airport, tugging Arnav by the hand.

In that moment, Khushi knew that no matter what, she’d always have him by her side. Holding her. Supporting her. Steadying her.

How had she gotten so lucky?

___________________________________________

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th after St. Patrick– Ireland’s most commonly recognized patron saint. The day commemorates St. Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland as well as being a general celebration of Irish culture and heritage.

Commonly associated symbols are the colour green, leprechauns, shamrocks, clover leaves, etc.– all considered harbingers of good-luck in Irish folk-lore. The Irish are considered to be historically rather unlucky as a race, and good luck symbols are common among them.

The idea behind this piece was never to take our blessings for granted. Film and tv are rarely accurate representations of life. Real life is both more beautiful and more horrifying. Think about all that you have and never, EVER consider yourself unlucky! =)

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16 thoughts on “3. Abhagin

  1. It is just brilliant message which you have conveyed through this story that we should always look for brighter part of the life. I liked it very much. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Loved it. Hit the needle on the head with this one. Isn’t that one of the reasons that mothers tell their daughters to not indulge in romance books ( at least mine did ). Unrealistic expectations and inability to appreciate what we have. Brilliant. I loved it.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh this was Wonderful !

    I truly loved the way this story highlighted the way we take the simple, mundane things in our life for granted, not really appreciating their value and why this must change. With people, sometimes it’s the smallest of the things that say aplenty – in this case Arnav was really considerate of Khushi’s feelings be it her tears, or her desperation to help her friend out. He was by her side without question. That in itself speaks out loud, something that we never really appreciate enough.

    Thank you for sharing this beautiful tale ! 🙂

    Like

  4. I’m re-reading all your stories and I just realised that the first time I’d read them I’d moved on to the next story (in my eagerness) without pressing the like button at the very least.. trying to correct that 🙂

    Like

  5. Hi. My name is Syeda Buraira. I just read your one shot abhagin. My India forums id is cj-the-fool. I am in awe of your writing style. Absolutely loved the simplicity of the story. Sometimes we dream too big and forget to appreciate the small blessings we r granted with.

    Like

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