Part 4

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Maan entered his room and he immediately felt it.  The unusual coldness in it and the eerie silence that was deafening.  What was it?? He wondered as he walked into his now dark room.  In the past 20 years, his room had never been dark and this cold.  Then why was it so today?  He dint know. He was feeling so.. so.. empty.  That girl, was what he had called her for all these years had lived in the adjacent room for the past 18years without a soul outside this room knowing about.  But he knew.  Every night he knew she was there.  He could feel it if she dint sleep properly.  He could hear it if she would cough all night.  Though they never talked, the sound of her bangles and payals always told him that she was around and… well.  But today something was off.  He walked towards his closet to change his clothes.  But again his mind bought back what his mother had told him.  It was slowly eating into his mind and he knew he couldn’t get peace without talking this out with that girl.  After changing he walked towards his wife’s picture

Tume pata tha na?? he questioned it again, troubled by the newly revealed truth.  He kept looking at it as though waiting for the image to get life and speak to him. 

That is why… he whispered as he turned around, his shoulders slumped down in defeat as he walked towards the bed.  He sat down and covered his face with his hands as memories of the last night he spent with his wife flashed through his mind.  Guilt had eaten him all these years.  He had refused himself of any pleasure cos of that.  All he had done these years was to work and work for this family, for Manav, for the promise he had made to Muskan.  But today what did he find out?  He dint know what to think abt this anymore.  All his life he had walked upon the steps of his grandfather and father.  They have been very good people, they respected women, loved only their wife and had even by mistake not slipped towards any other woman.  He too wished to be like that.  But what had fate decided for him.  He had married Muskan who was filled with insecurities and then died like that only.  Then he was forced to marry the only woman he dint want to.  After all this, he had tried to fulfil his duties to his best.  But now everyone are blaming him for that also.  He dint know where he was wrong.  Was he wrong in trusting his mother Was he wrong to marry Muskan? Was he wrong to abide by the vows he made during marriage? Where was he wrong?  He dint know.  He cursed himself for believing what his mother said.  He dint know whether he could ever bring himself to forgive his mother for what unknown damage she had done by lying to him that day.  Her one lie had changed his whole life.  Not only his, but 3 innocent people’s lives.

He lay down on the bed hopping to get some sleep.  He had some sorting out to do tomorrow morning and he had planned it perfectly this time.  Thinking he closed his eyes praying for some sleep.

Past

After that day, Maan’s and Muskan’s engagement was fixed and was performed in a huge manner.  Geet had arrived only on that date of the engagement and had left cos of her exams and other stuff.  Maan and Geet dint have that much of opportunity and time to meet or greet each other.  She was happy that her Didi was getting married to a good looking boy like Maan, and Maan had begun to weave dreams like any 24 years old would who was to get married.  Muskan was a very beautiful girl.  He found her to be polite and soft.  Like any other boy of that day, he too had expectations.  He was happy that he would get a girl who would share his life and dreams with.  Who would love him and that too that kind of love that was meant only for him.  He loved the feeling that the word marriage and its associated things gave him. He understood the responsibilities of a married man from his father.  His father had always been his role model and he loved and respected him.  After the engagement, Muskan and he had started talking through letters.  The initial letters were a bit hesitant but later Muskan seemed to loosen up and this made Maan happy. 

Aapko me kese lagi when you first saw me?

Aapke ghar me sab mujhe pasand karenge na??

Everyone is happy with this marriage??

There were the usual lines that he would read in her every letter. At first he thought she was being the usual scared bride, but along the way this he understood that Muskan was a very insecure person.  She needed to be constantly told and made to feel loved and needed.  Maan had felt that as a problem as being in a big family, you cannot do that always.  He had bigger responsibilities.  But later he thought that Dadi might have chosen her for something good so he would not insult her choice but doubting it.  He had opened his heart and mind to her and Muskan had also reciprocated the same.

After the 3 month period, The marriage took place which was a grand affair.  That was the first time Maan had officially met that girl.

Geet eh sab kaha rakhooon

Geet bete zara yaha ana

Geet puttar ji gadi wale kho bata diya na

Geet… Geet… Geet… this is what he had heard the entire time he had spent in the hall.  He was getting curious to know who this Geet was and why were so many people dependent on her.  And then as thought his wishes were listened to, a beautiful girl ran through one of the door ways.  And Maan shamefully gaped at her.  She was oozing innocence and beauty.  An angel all together. 

Geet tu yahan aa.. Muskan called her, bring Maan from his state.  He mentally slapped himself for this shameful act.  He dint know how this happened.  All his life, there have been innumerable woman around him, but he had never been attracted like this and now, on the day of his marriage, standing near his new wife, he was ogling another girl.  He felt ashamed, guilty and cursed himself and that girl for putting him in such a situation.  If that girl would have never been here, he would never find himself in such a situation he concluded.  In all this bashing session, he dint notice that Muskan had seen his ogling her sister.  She had thought of introducing her.

Suniye.  She called him in her soft voice

Maan looked towards Muskan and smiled.  Or he tried to smile.

Yeh meri behen Geet hai.  She introduced.  Maan had the shocks of his life.  He was already feeling guilty that he was staring at some other girl, now that girl turned out to be his sister in law. 

Hello jeeja ji… Geet smiled

Hello.. tho challe? He turned towards Muskan asking her to move out.  The bidhayi was going to happen and people were already assembling outside.

In his thoughts, he missed the small smile that formed on Muskan’s face seeing Maan ignore Geet.  Geet turned around and left.  She dint think much abt this as she had already heard that Maan was a reserved man.  She was just bothered abt how he treated her sister.  It dint matter how he behaved with her at all.

After the bidhayi, the couple were taken home and the night of their wedding was arranged.  In all these activities, Maan had very much tried to push his eyes away from Geet.  He cursed her for ruining his wedding day, and at the end of the day decided to stay away from her. The night arrived and Muskan was taken to Maan’s room.  After 1 hour, Maan and few other men walked down the corridor and again he came face to face with the girl he had sworn to neglect. 

jeeja ji… Called another girl in a teasing manner.  Maan glared at her making her shut up.

Yaar, this is not fare.  You have to pay to enter.  Said a guy who was standing next to Maan.  Maan knew of this game as his dad had informed him.  As he dint have any sisters, this last rasam was done by Geet’s sisters and cousins. He took out a wad of cash and placed it in the hands of that girl. 

Yeh teek hai the girls giggled and were abt to leave when Geet took the money from her hand

jeeja ji.. hume pese nahi chahiye… she said in a soft voice that steered something in his stomach.  Maan dint like that at all…

Yeh aap rakhiye.  We just want one promise.. she spoke again.  Promise us ki aap didi ko hamesha kush rakhoge and will give her everything and anything she needs.  Unki khushi ke alawa nothing is important to us.  She said with tears in her eyes as she understood that the man standing opposite to her holds the key to her didi’s happiness.

Maan dint like this at all.  He took this statement as an insult.  It was a blow to his ego.  Ek minute.  I know how to take care of my wife.  Mujhe ek ladki ki advise ki zaroorath nahi hai.  Samjhe saying he walked passed her leaving a very stunned and hurt Geet behind.

Maan entered the room to see his new wife sitting on the bed, all shy and curled up.  He closed his eyes and took a deep breath.  He needed to be in control. That girl outside was not important he mentally told himself.  This woman here is important.  His whole life with her was important.  And today was the start of a new life.  He wouldn’t destroy it thinking of that girl he advised himself mentally as he made his way towards his waiting wife.

He sat down near her and gently opened the ghungat to see her face.  He smiled as he saw her shy and blushing face.  She looked up towards him with twinkling eyes.  He bent down and placed a small kiss on her forehead making her blush more.  He removed the ghungat fully from her head and looked adoringly towards her.  She is your life now Maan he thought to himself as he lifted her face to look at her.

I’m going to kiss you, you know.  Tum itna sharmaoge tho fir age kya hoga he teased her.  Muskan shied away.  Before she could get up, Maan caught her and held her to himself. He turned her face and softly kissed her lips.  Slowly they descended to begin their marriage life with marking each other.

Muskan lay on his bare chest, gently moving her fingers in circles on his skin.Maan?? She called

Hmm he hummed feeling a bit relaxed

Will you promise me something?? She asked, a bit hesitant

Kya hai?? Just ask and it is yours.  He said, gently caressing her head

I know ki you don’t love me now.  She said a bit sadly

Muskan..

Nahi Maan I understand ki humari shadi is an arranged marriage tho time lagega.  But I want you to promise me that you’d fall in love only with me.  Aur koi ladki aapke zindagi me nahi ayegi.  She asked expectedly.

Muskan..

Please Maan.  Promise me.  I don’t want to lose you too.  I have shared everyone’s affections with Geet in the past but with you, I want it fully for me.  Me chahti hun that your love belongs only to me.  She said getting up and looking at him intentionally.

I promise Muskan that you’ll be the only one for me.  Tumare siva there would be no other one. Teek hai?  Maan said kissing her forehead, thinking it is one of her insecurities surfacing up.

Present

Maan twisted and turned in his bed.  Those eyes resembled the same or more in pain tonight.  He thought.  Why was it that her eyes never left his memory?  He got up and decided to talk to her now itself. He walked towards the room.  He raised his hand to knock on the door but stopped.  No he told himself.  She might be sleeping.  There was no sound coming from that room any way.  He turned back towards his bed hoping to get sleep again.

Manav?  Archana called as she removed her bangles and kept it in a box.

Hmmm he hummed lost in his laptop

Why dint you say anything??

Regard what Archu?? He asked looking at her.

Regarding the divorce Manav.  They are your parents.  Don’t tell me ki tum chup baitne walle ho? She questions, getting worried

Archu, that is between them.  Aur me kya kar sakta hun.  If dad wants to part ways from choti ma then I don’t think ki mere kuch khehne se its gonna make a difference.

How can you be so insensitive Manav.  Wo tumari ma hai.  And do you know, they sleep separately.  She spoke getting up from the dressing table.  She was getting desperate.  She was hoping Manav would help.

Tho?  Dekho Archana.  Just stay out of this.  Dad ko pata hai what he is doing.  Moreover it is their life.  Jab un dono ko koi problem nahi hai tho why are you getting so tensed up??  he told her as he got back working on the lap top

You are so… so.. I dono Manav.  But I guess the saying is true huh?  Jesa bhap wesa beta.. both are so ungrateful.  she said as she walked out of the room slamming the door behind her.  She dint want to face this man today. 

Manav looked on sadly.  He knew what he said was not right.  But it has been 10 years now and things were very different between him and his choti ma.

Kushi sat in her seat thinking of what future would hold for them.  At that time, a man entered.  He was holding a bag and he looked worn out.  His eyes were blood shot, a week’s beard decorated his face.  Black circles were prominent and he looked as though he had not taken a bath in a week.  Great.  She thought.  We have a weirdo as a train mate.  The Gods must be laughing on us.  She thought as she looked up.  The man harshly threw the bag on the berth and slumped down.  He then took out the lap top and started working on it.  And here she was expecting a  happy guy she thought again, sarcastically. 

After doing her activities in the wash room, Geet came out and stood near the opened door. She saw, Delhi slipping away.  Her home for 20 years slipping away.  Her life slipping away.  Did she deserve this? she dint know.  May be she did. 

Didi.. I dint do it on purpose she whispered into the night sky.  I’m sorry.  She spoke as tears fell from her eyes.  Guilt had been eating her from the day she had last spoken to her Didi.  That was the day Muskan was last seen alive.  Geet had objected marrying Maan from the beginning.  But her parent’s along with Pammi ma ji had forced her.  When Manav was bought it, she couldn’t reject it anymore.  That time, she dint know that her one decision would destroy her so much. She looked at her hands that were adored with mehendi for the party.  It was their 20th anniversary.  But God, how did it turn out to be.  She thought of how he had asked her to sign the papers and spoken to her.  Fresh set of tears fell from her eyes thinking of her life..

sanam pathar dil tum the ,

ya , pather ke hum the !

 

diye tumne jo ghaav ,woh gahre kam the

ya , mere liye 

woh jakhm kam the !

 

 

 

laali dono ki ,

kismat main thi !

mere liye ,

woh tere naam ke sindoor ki thi !

par ,

tere haatho main  ,

woh meri khusiyoon ke khoon ki thi !

 

 

duniya kahti hai ,

mera sab kuch hai aaj picche chut sa gaya !

par ,kaise kahu unse

mera sab kuch toh,

mujhe milne se pahle hi lut tha gaya !

 

 

par ,

jo baat  hai mujhe tadpa rahi

woh yahi hai ke

 

pathar dil tum the ?ya…pather ke hum the !

                                                                          poem by –nishu—

…..

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