Happy 10th Anniversary IPKKND!


A decade on and I remain tangled in those fairy lights like Khushi was just before a Diwali whose jaadu will remain with us always, by a poolside that holds the best memories for all IPK fans. I am a willing prisoner of eyes that speak the language of the soul and glitter with an iridescence that surpasses the electrical variety. My heart thrumming to the sound of a Rabba Ve wrapping itself around two seemingly vastly different people. 


Love can reduce anyone to anything.” He had said. 


I have come to accept that it most certainly can! 


It’s been 10 years to the day when we first looked up at the sound of a chopper streaking across the Lucknow sky, our gaze shifting from staring at a beautiful, incongruously dressed girl perched on a scooter. The Rumi Darwaza rising majestically behind her as her rajkumar-to-be winged his way into her city. Into what was also once his city aeons ago, as we came to see. 


And see we did, didn’t we?! Again and again. What an amazing journey it was from the moment Arnav Singh Raizada first laid eyes on Khushi Kumari Gupta at his fashion show (and me on Arnav Singh Raizada;)), to the last moment we saw them in the same frame together. They spoke of a hamesha, and we took that to heart. The lows as much as the highs. 


I first posted on this blog to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the show, thinking how astonishing it was that I, and so many others, still spoke about and fangirled over something that was last seen on our screens so long back. Clearly, “so long back” is relative! 10 years on and the love I have for the show hasn’t changed. I’ve watched other shows since, but never with the same passion and fervour. It has never been the same. It can’t be the same.


As much as the show itself, actually even more than that, it has been the amazing people I have met and interacted with over the years that spring to mind when I reflect on the past decade. Talented, witty, incisive, creative, warm; people who have made me look at myself with different eyes. Encouraging me to open up and express myself creatively. We came together because of our love for all things IPK but so many of us found common grounds beyond the show. Our SKD blending seamlessly into our AD. 


I still can’t believe the things I have done over the last few years thanks to the influence of IPK. Putting my reflections out there has to top the list. Although, the madness of going to Mumbai to watch Barun’s first foray onto the big screen and doorstepping him at his hotel when he had come to London for the premiere of Tu hai mera Sunday are not far behind! 


But, I don’t regret a moment of it. It has been an exhilarating ride. Thank you to each one of you for enriching my life in different ways. For making me look at life from different perspectives. For indulging me with your thoughts on my reflections. For the banter, the chats, the laughs. 


And a huge thank you to all the outstandingly talented writers of our fandom. They have played a major role in keeping ArHi alive for us. As have the super creative VM and Gif makers. Thank you to each one of them. It makes me furious even now when I think of all that was taken down by the Sitara channel. A special mention to Ismailvegamze who had painstakingly posted the best scenes of IPK on youtube. I still remember the almost kiss Scene 122 which had crossed 2 million views before you know who had a go at it. 


I can’t not mention IF where most of us started our journeys. It’s not a patch on what it was in its heyday of course, before they decided to self annihilate with their ridiculous treatment of writers and voluble commentators. But, it’s where I formed friendships that are very dear to me. 


And last but not least, a heartfelt thank you to all the cast and the crew of IPk who created the magic that brought us all together.  


As I write this, so many memories tug at me. The first time I plucked up the courage to say something on a story I was reading, the first time I met someone who I had only known through their words, the first time I posted a story, the first time a writer replied to me, the first time I was trolled… and so many, many more. 


I would love to know how your IPK journey has been. Let us make this a celebration that is as colourful as Khushi’s wardrobe and Mamiji’s makeupiya and as lush as Arnav’s garden. 


So, raise a glass of lassi / kala khatta / champagne and tuck into a few jalebis to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of a show like no other. Please get someone to force feed you a slice of cake as well, while wearing a dupatta that billows out and wraps itself around that someone. Feign a trip, fall and catch yourself if Arnavs are scarce on the ground. After all, we are ajeeb in our commemoration of our chhoti si duniya


The best duniya there is, right?! 


With a dammit wala love,



Rab ne Bana di jodi



It was the night of the first full moon of the year. Dusk had just fallen and everything at Shantivan embodied its name. Peace and serenity enveloped the mansion and its surrounding gardens.


He stood gazing out across the expansive lawns. The lights had just come on and the lush green grass glistened after its evening watering. This was his favourite time of day. A time to pause and reflect on the day gone by. And a time to get his fill of her with no interruptions.


She spent the day darting around with nary a pause. Giving him tiny, unsatisfying glimpses. Her brocade and her gotas and her Pom Poms dangling along merrily as she whizzed past. The tinkling of her silver jewels announcing her arrival long before she came in view and lingering long after she disappeared from view. His heart beating in sync with the sound.


It wasn’t long before the moon rose to hang low over Shantivan. Bathing it in its silvery light. He waited with bated breath for her. He knew she’d be there soon. Taking dainty steps to revel in the coolness of the grass. Her milky skin glowing in the moonlight. The elegant arc of her neck turned up to pay homage to the elements. Waiting for the appearance of the stars to twinkle down on her. Their twinkling, their homage to her beauty, his lovelorn heart was convinced.


She was here. His senses went on high alert even before the wind whispered of her arrival. It was uncanny how it happened. Every time. It was no wonder they said Rab ne bana di Jodi whenever they spoke of him and her.


As he gazed at her, the brown in his eyes melting, he reflected on just how much she had come to mean to him. The journey from indifference to awareness to faraq was sprinkled with myriad memorable moments. And now she was as important to him as the breath he drew. It mattered a great deal if she was there or not. An unwelcome thought crept up catching him unawares, making him shiver.


What if… what if… he lost her. No, no. He couldn’t allow that to happen. He had to make her his. For hamesha. He would take steps to do just that. Today. In fact, now.


He strode up to her and dropped down on one knee. Undaunted by the blank expression looking back at him, he spoke softly.


“Will you be mine for hamesha? Tumhe toh pata hain tumhare bina meri saansein ruk jaayengi.”


He looked deep into her eyes searching for an answer. Fortified by what he saw, he decided to make matters official immediately.


Allowing the wave of impetuous courage, some would say foolhardiness, to carry him inside the mansion, he knocked on the slightly ajar door of the matriarch of the house. Entering when she called him in, he reminded himself that Jab pyaar kiya toh darna kya. Ignoring the mocking voice of his subconscious telling him that  love can reduce anyone to anything, he stepped up to her and bent his head slightly.


“Naniji, I have come to seek your permission for a proposal.” He hesitated as the old eyes looked at him quizzically.


“I seek a forever with L.. L..Laxmiji.” HP blurted out in a rush. Adding defensively when he saw the dawning horror on her face, “The Fangirls on IF said ours is a match made in heaven!”


Nani shook her head in despair. She would have to have a word with Chhote to try and curb the outrageousness of his fangirls.



I wrote this for a Valentine OS / Drabble competition on IF. Their theme was ‘Proposal’ with ‘characters from IPK’. So, this popped up in my head. If not the spirit, I stayed true to the letter of the law 😉 I was inspired by a gif I had seen years back. Here is the link: https://i.imgur.com/9LcNk.gif


Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow…


It was one of the most glorious sunrises I can remember seeing, and I have spent a fair number of dawns obsessing over and photographing the riot of colours I see outside my window! It’s got to the point where I’m embarrassed to share the pictures with friends and family. Here she goes again…


But, this one was special. The intensity of each colour was striking in the glorious vista that spilled as far as the eye could see. There was a symmetry in the way the clouds framed the rising ball of flame, dissipating into gossamer wisps as they rose further. The yellows and the oranges melted to bleed into shades of pink as they rose higher against the backdrop of the azure skies.


Wanting to bask in these golden rays, I promptly set off for the park. Early sunday morning would mean an empty park. Which it was, but the sun had also decided to play peek a boo with the clouds! Par for the course though, given the vagaries of weather my city is famed for.



It was freezing out there, belying the warmth of earlier. That warmth had been a momentary aberration I realised as the day wore on. There had been significant overnight frost and large swathes of grass lay stretched out with the glistening white vying with the green. It was very still and even the leaves on the trees remained unmoving. Almost like they were waiting for what was to come. My gloved fingers were losing feeling rapidly, yet I was reluctant to cut short my walk. It just felt so invigorating being out there.


The water in the pond barely had any ripples on it. Most of the ducks had wisely tucked into themselves on the grassy shores, with some waddling around giving me baleful looks for intruding in their space. I like to keep a respectful distance from them in winter, having been chased by a couple of them when I ran out of bread, and they hadn’t run out of hunger! Luckily it had been an early winter morning on that day as well, many years back. So, no witnesses to my mortification!



An hour or so after I got back home, I saw some flurries float by outside, gaining momentum rapidly as the wind tossed them about. It was such a thrilling feeling looking at them. We don’t get much snow here, and not every winter. The snow shower continued for a few hours. Which meant the flakes settled on the ground as the world turned pristine white. The sky remained ominous, quite a contrast from what it was at dawn, and I couldn’t see very far into the distance. But, the sheer whiteness of the snow lit up the ground.



It wasn’t long before the shrieking and laughter of gaggles of children wafted up from all around as they poured out of their homes. Running around, slipping, making snowmen even though the snow was fairly powdery and there wasn’t an awful lot of it. I didn’t even know there were so many kids in the vicinity! We have been in lockdown since forever, and this must have felt like being liberated from a cell for them.



Snowfall brings with it a strange silence. And the sounds of joy that rent this silence was so uplifting. It made me reflect how the simplest of things can bring such joy in even these most trying of times. The snow was gone as quickly as it came. Leaving the streets silent and deserted again with icy little patches to catch the unwary. And dotted with droopy blobs of what were snowmen, made lovingly by little and large hands yesterday. A reminder of the unexpected happiness that was showered on us briefly. But, it also left behind ringing sounds in my head. Sounds of untrammelled happiness.



The last few months have had the dark shadow of grief creep into every crevice of our life. Maybe that’s why I was so moved by a simple snow shower. It may sound whimsical but it gladdened my heart immensely. Seeing the simple and innocent joy in the beauty nature bestows on us. Seeing shiny eyes raised heavenward, willing that snowflake to land on an upturned face.


Especially when it’s so unexpected.



A Basket Full of Love

“Arnav, Arnav, Arnav”

The chant reverberated around the court as thousands of voices willed the man in the centre to score. Seemingly oblivious to the cacophony surrounding him, Arnav Singh Raizada fixed his eyes on the hoop and neatly tossed the ball. There was a sudden silence as fans and foe alike held their breath. The ball arced up and came to rest precariously at the edge of the basket for a second before it tipped in , just as the final whistle was blown. The entire stadium erupted in wild applause.

He had done it! He had equaled his idol’s record of the highest points scored in a single game. He sank to his knees as the enormity of the moment sank in, before flinging his head back to look heavenward, tears glistening in his eyes. Within seconds he was surrounded by his teammates who lifted him up and carried him round the court to a standing ovation. Every electronic scoreboard in the stadium flashed his record equalling score, ‘ASR – 81’.

It was a while before he found his feet back on the ground, and Arnav knew exactly what he wanted to do next. He slipped off his Number 23 jersey and flung it in the crowd. To the casual onlooker it may have appeared as a random throw, but he was not an ace shooter for nothing. He knew exactly where he wanted it to land. Smirking as he saw it caught by the intended recipient, Arnav turned away to deal with the cameras and microphones waiting for him.

“OMG! Did you see that, Khushi?! He deliberately threw it for you. I told you he fancies you. I’m now even more convinced he does.”

“Don’t be silly, Lavanya. You and your wild theories. I may know all there is to know about Arnav Singh Raizada, me and a few million others that is, but he doesn’t even know I exist, for god’s sake.”

“He’s noticed you alright, Khushi. Mark my words, he wanted you to have this particular jersey. And please keep it away from me. It’s sweaty and it’s smelly. And no, Eau de Arnav is not my thing.”

Lavanya scrunched her nose as Khushi flung her arms around her again, squeezing her for the nth time since her hero had scored that 81st point. “He did it, he did it, La. This is so, so emotional. I don’t even know how to feel right now.” Khushi stared at the jersey in her hand, looking over Lavanya’s shoulder tearfully, her voice hoarse from screaming.

Khushi was basketball mad and ASR mad, although the jury was still out on which of those came first. Hoops had never been Lavanya’s thing, but she reluctantly tagged along to all of Khushi’s favourite team’s home games. Someone had to keep the woman from invading the court each time someone fouled ASR. The culprit’s blood would no doubt be spilled otherwise!

Making up her mind, Lavanya held a dazed Khushi firmly. “Khushi, before you say no, hear me out. This is a sign from your Devi Maiya. ASR achieving what he did on your special day means something.  And him throwing his jersey for you today of all days is not random. And I for one refuse to let you not grasp this moment. You and I are going down there and we’re going to wait for however long it takes for ASR to leave the venue. You have to, have to ask him to sign this. You just have to.”

Vociferous as Khushi was in her fangirling, she was the complete opposite when it came to approaching ASR. He was known to be generous in his interactions with fans, but Khushi got all tongue tied at even the thought of speaking to him. Even if it was only to ask for an autograph. Lavanya knew she would have to take matters in her own hands.

ASR had been something of a prodigy and had risen through the ranks in a spectacular fashion.  Being the only player of Indian origin to have made it on the NBA circuit, he had created quite the buzz on his debut. His agility and uncanny ability to see gaps with his high basketball IQ, left his opponents floundering in his wake. He, meanwhile, was already at the other end scoring another three pointer.

“I saw what you did there, Nannav.” NK rounded on Arnav the moment they got back to the sanctuary of the lockers, finally done with all the press commitments.

“I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, NK.” Arnav grabbed a towel and headed towards the shower.

Ignoring his friend’s response, NK pressed on. “You wanted that girl to have that jersey today, didn’t you? I’ve seen you looking out for her at all the home games. And I’ve seen the dismay on your face on the days she isn’t in her usual seat. Nannav, my friend, admit it. You fancy her rotten. I can see it. There’s an extra spark in your game on the days she’s there.”

“I’d stay away from those fan fictions if I were you, NK. They’re addling your brains.”  Arnav shouted over the sound of the spray as water hissed out from a number of directions. His tense muscles groaning in relief as the hot water beat down on them. The adrenaline pumping in his veins slowly seeping away.

A wry smile made its way across his face as he acknowledged the truth in NK’s words. It had been a few months now since he had first begun to notice her. He had been on the bench having been pulled out by the coach to give a rookie a chance as they were running rings round the opposition. Most of the crowd understood that and there was a mixture of cheering and booing at the decision. Just as the noise subsided, he had heard her.

“No one puts Raizada on the bench. No one.” Amused at the outrage in the voice, he had turned around to look for the source. And what he saw had floored him. A beautiful, and very irate, girl stood there fulminating, looking ready to burst. Arms akimbo, dressed in a number 23 jersey, she was glaring at the coach. The girl next to her was trying desperately to get her to sit, but she was having none of it. Continuing to shout even when her words were drowned out by the crowd.

He had spent more time looking discreetly at her than at the game being played. Something that had never happened to him, ever. That, as much as the girl herself, had played on his mind over the next few days until the next home game. As he had stepped on the court, his eyes had automatically gone to the area where he had first seen her.

And, there she was. It had soon become a ritual for him to look for her the moment he stepped on court. By some strange twist of fate, the times when he had failed to spot her, his team had ended up losing. He soon came to look upon her almost as his own personal good luck charm. There was just something about her. He was well acquainted with fans and groupies and kept a safe distance from the latter. But, she, she was something special.

Not that he was going to let NK, nor anyone else for that matter, get an inkling of his thoughts. After all, he was Arnav Singh Raizada, and didn’t he always say he wrote his own destiny. Superstitions that afflicted many a sportsman were not for him.

Brushing aside the hope that today may be the day she would be waiting for him, he made his way towards the exit, his entourage in tow. Although the stadium was empty of spectators by now, there were many staff and officials waiting to congratulate him on his achievement today. A rush of emotion threatened to overwhelm him as he recalled the moment he had scored that point. Tamping it down he stepped outside the exit doors.

Momentarily blinded by the hundreds of flashes going off, he paused for a second. Raising his hand to wave to the waiting crowd, he couldn’t believe his eyes at who was waiting for him right by the door. His jersey clutched in her hands.

Today was more than just a good day.

He felt a soft breeze surround him as his eyes met hers.

Her eyes…

He reached for the proffered jersey as she smiled up at him hesitantly.

Her smile…

He saw her nervously tuck errant strands of her hair behind her ear as she waited for him to finish writing a message for her.

Her hair…

She’s beautiful…

Handing back the jersey to her, he turned to go.

Pausing mid step, he looked back, nodding towards the jersey she was holding reverently, and whispered huskily.

“Call me?”


The idea for writing this was sparked by a prompt from my dear friend, Jignasha, whose birthday it is today. So, I thought,  what better way to celebrate than to bring together two things she is passionate about, ArHi and Basketball. I have more than likely got muddled up with the correct terminology of the sport though!

I hope you will join me in wishing Jignasha, Happy Birthday!


Dear Jignasha,

Tumhare janamdin par

Maine tere liye hi saat rang ke sapne chune

Sapne surile sapne

Sab hanste, Sab khushi ke

Teri aankhon ke khwaab lehraye

Teri Rasili rahon mein

Lots and lots of love to you, today and always,







This drabble may not be everyone’s cup of tea and I completely understand that. I thought I should forewarn you before you read… 


She kissed him gently. Her lips clinging to his smooth forehead as her hands caressed his face. The cloying smell of roses and sandalwood filling her. She traced the small scar below his left eyebrow, its origin a mystery to her.


Tumhare har sawaal ka jawaab dena jaroori nahi hain. 


Laad Governor.


Her hand came to rest over his heart. Almost as if it had a mind of its own. Homing in to where her own heart lay.


Jab tum mere paas hoti ho… hamari dhadkanein ek ho jaati hain.


Her fingers curled tightly, bunching his kurta, her heartbeat thundering in her ears. Drowning out the sound of grief that echoed all around her. Her entire being focused on the beloved face in front of her even while drowning in the well of tears that lay pooled inside her.


Hamari aankhon mein se ek bhi aansoo aapke dil ko hazaar baar chhot pahuchata hain. 


Har baar…


Hum jaante hain  


Her glazed eyes remained hauntingly dry.


She looked ahead blankly as Naniji ran distraught hands over her head, her shoulders, her face, murmuring words she couldn’t hear, a mother’s love pouring in rivulets down her lined face. The empty floor lay strewn with rose petals, a pall of incense smoke hovering over them. She was incognisant of how she came to be seated on the sofa.




His husky whisper quelled all other sounds in the room. Feeling the need to be away from the oppressive weight of the numerous eyes surrounding her, she stood up suddenly. She turned beseeching eyes towards Naniji. Imploring her to let her go.


The wise eyes had seen more than their fair share of suffering over the years. Who knew better than her of the moments when the only place to look for solace was within yourself.


She stood by the french doors of their bedroom. Looking out blankly at the dancing shadows cast by the late afternoon sun, as it peeked through the swaying branches of the tree by the poolside. A soft breeze sashayed along the surface of the pool, gently urging the still water into ripples that glistened with a million rainbow coloured flecks. Vivid bright petals from the gulmohar trees that bloomed riotously in the Shantivan garden floated in with the breeze. Settling themselves on the carefully pruned plants that ran along the walls surrounding the pool. His plants.


A sudden gust blew one end of her dupatta across her face. Caressing her face gently before billowing out. She uncrossed her slender arms slowly to reach out for the dupatta as memories arose of another face it had swathed in a storeroom months ago. His face.


A heaviness settled inside her even as a strange sense of calm enveloped her. She turned to walk into the room that lived and breathed him in every inch of space. Her feet carrying her to the recliner of their own accord. She bent to pick up the book lying there. Its pages fluttered in the soft breeze that followed her in.


Lowering herself on the chaise, she lay back holding the book against her heart. The words contained in it swirling in her mind’s eye as they tossed random memories of her life at her. Each time the kaleidoscope paused, his melting brown eyes would be there, calming the storm inside her. In those earthy hues was his soul, a heaven she was a part of. Carefully opening the book, she took out the red rose that lay lovingly preserved between its pages.


I wish ki tumko duniya ki saari khushiyan mile.


She held the rose to her heart as a deep quietude filled her. She felt an immense sense of peace in that moment.


Khushi mujhse vaada karo ki mujhe kabhi chhod kar nahin jaaogi. Main tumhare bina nahin jee paaonga.


A promise she fulfilled. Hamesha.



The doctor pronounced the time of death as between 5 and 5:30pm.


“5:12” he was corrected somberly.


It was when his pyre was lit.






This drabble came about when I was wondering what would happen if Arnav did die after being shot in the show. The producers had planned to introduce a new love interest for Khushi, but, I feel that in such a scenario, she would simply cease to exist. I have always visualised their love, their connection as being almost otherworldly. 


Not the best of times to write of ArHi dying, but the images wouldn’t leave me. So, here we are. Thank you for reading. Stay sane and stay sanitised! 





Iss Ajeeb Khwaab Ko Kya Naam Doon

Iss Ajeeb Khwaab Ko Kya Naam Doon-2

Banner credit my dearest Jignasha ❤



Shyam Manohar Jha was a worried man. A very worried man. And worry wasn’t something that sat easily on him. He had always been a doer rather than a worrier. His finely trained legal mind automatically started looking for solutions often even before problems fully surfaced. Now you may argue that the outcome of his solutions were quite often at odds with his intentions, but such is life. And no one could accuse him of not dealing with the cards life dealt him with. Be what they may. Because in his view of the world, each problem hid a possibility to be exploited.


So his current state of worry was even more of a concern for him. He closed his eyes in frustration as he ran his fingers through his lush mane to clasp his hands behind his head while leaning back on the recliner by the Shantivan poolside. Involuntary twitches having a field day on his face.


The architects of Shantivan had taken inspiration from the Palace of Illusions in the Mahabharat it seemed, so his privacy was guaranteed. Each room had access to the pool, yet by some marvel of construction, no one could see anyone else unless it was by design. It even had a flight of stairs adjoining it which went nowhere or everywhere depending on the time of day. Sometimes a bedroom lay behind the bank of french doors on one side, and sometimes behind them lay a vista of the universe with specially twinkling stars. Some of which, strangely,  promptly toppled over when glanced at by the resident Laad Governor of the house. In fact, all in all, he had yet to figure out if there was really just one pool or a multitude of identical ones!


Groaning at the absurdity of his thoughts, he forced his mind back to the matter at hand. Signs that had been staring him in the face for months flashed before him mockingly. How in the name of all that’s Lucknowi had he missed them!


The dwindling numbers in the retinue of staff at Shantivan which was now down to just one Prakash brother and the ever faithful Mohan. And they remained  probably because they wouldn’t go even if they were asked to. Serving the Raizadas was a tradition that went back to their great, great, great… whatever. Service before self was an outdated notion in today’s world, according to Shyam. There now remained a solitary watchman at the gate where once had stood a minimum of two fully armed guards at any given time. The fleet of cars that had dotted the imposing driveway were down to just two. And one of those two survivors literally took each day at a time in the hands of  the scion of the house.


The silver that once graced the dining table of Shantivan was replaced with steel and pyrex. The array of cuisines that had the table groaning in previous years was replaced with simple, basic fare. The mango juice twinning with the orange juice, with both tracing their origins to Frooti rather than fruit.


The lush gardens surrounding the house were silently wilting, with the only plants to smile were the ones by the poolside which were tended to by Arnav Singh Raizada himself. Shyam looked around trying to spot any new exotic saplings. They used to be planted in twos he recalled. One for nurturing and one for Laxmi to nibble on. Nani liked to indulge her darling Laxmi and Arnav liked to indulge his dear Nani. Unbelievable!


But the one thing that brought this parlous state to a head in Shyam’s mind was Arnav’s wallet. The one which he had deliberately knocked down from his hand earlier today, looking for the key to Arnav’s safe. The Raksha dhaga had been a mere ruse which Nani had lapped up blindly. He knew Arnav would give in to the emotional blackmail and would compromise by carrying it in his wallet. Far from procuring it from a wise sage, Shyam had sneaked it from the temple in Shantivan itself. But, the tattered state of the wallet had left him horrified. As had the state of Arnav’s worn out shoes which he saw up close when he bent down to retrieve the wallet. He was well aware that despite the famous H on them and on Arnav’s belt, they did not even have a passing acquaintance with the well known store on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. After all, he was the one who had bought them on behalf of his gullible wife for her beloved brother. Pocketing the difference. A very large difference thanks to his judiciously compiled Chandni Chowk contact book.


Thinking of the money focused his mind on the grave situation at hand. Seems like he wasn’t going to need the key after all. What was the point of trying to alter a Will if there was nothing left to will! His heart skipped several beats as it went into freefall at the thought of an unkempt ASR struggling to make ends meet. Visions of Arnav in a dhobi’s garb hauling a sackful of unwashed laundry popped up in his eyes, vying with images of him driving an auto on the streets of Delhi. And then it dove off into the murky waters of the pool at the thought of being saddled with a clingy Anjali forever. A hamesha that had endless puja and vrat and aap bhi na on loop. Shudder. Her brother would insist his Di went to her marital house for a better life with her husband.


He saw his master plan begin to unravel before his eyes. Anjali had only ever been a means to an end. He had played her like a string and she had hummed every note obediently. Life had been going along smoothly with him being able to take frequent time-out under the pretext of work when it all got too much. Astonishing how words can be deployed so effectively to conquer minds with no blood being spilt.


They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but in the case of Arnav Singh Raizada, the way to his heart was through his sister. And that is exactly what Shyam Manohar Jha aspired to. Yup. You heard it right. Shyam’s heart beat for the one and only ASR. From the moment he had seen him in a courtroom all those years back, giving evidence against a fraudulent employee, his eyes flashing fire, he had been a goner. He was practical enough to know that there was no way in hell this uber sexy god would give him a second look, so he had begun to devise a plan to keep him in his life in whichever way he could. And marrying his sister was the best one. Sure she was easy on the eyes, but Arnav Singh Raizada was that much easier on the eyes. Breakfasts had been the best time of day at Shantivan. Pranam and undying gratitude to Nani for insisting everyone be present together for that one meal.


The worry gnawing at him receded slightly as Shyam traced the watch around his wrist lovingly. It was one Arnav had given him. Well, to him and Anjali. Looking down it struck him that he hadn’t seen Arnav wear a watch in ages. Things were truly dire it seemed. The last time he had seen him wearing one was on New Year’s Eve. Shyam had been hanging around in the shadows waiting to catch a glimpse of him in the first hours of the new year, when he had seen him stride in with Akash in his usual heart stopping way, railing against NK and Khushi. It seemed Arnav had gone with Akash to Laxminagar.


Khushiji. Dejection hit him with force as he leaned forward, sinking his head in his hands.


The bigger hindrance in his path than Anjali ever was. He had seen the way Arnav and she had looked at each other at the fashion show in Lucknow, and saw what neither of them saw. The shattering of his dream. He winced as the pain hit him again. He had tried his best to lure her away from Arnav, ingratiating himself with Buaji, slumming it in Laxminagar, but all to no avail. The pair of them actually went and got married and he had nary an inkling of it all.


Of course, he had instantly questioned the veracity of their announcement. But a mini stroll through the pages of IF, that bastion of truth,  and that thought, well hope, was summarily dismissed. They were man and wife. Those rabid fangirls kept a tight grip on the minutiae of ASR’s life. Their madness and obsession with him was second only to his own. One of the comments by one Arshi67 had him rolling his eyes at the paagalpan that had engulfed the lot of them at the news.


That night the bells tolled in agony while the heavens wept. The susurration of the restless wind whispered of the travesty that was being heaped upon the innocent. The rising moon hid behind the darkened clouds, unable to bear witness to two hearts being torn asunder. Each step they took up those temple steps left behind shattered pieces of a nascent hope…”


And they have the temerity to call me manic!


But he knew Arnav and Khush’s marriage was the beginning of the end for his dreams. He could see that. Khushiji was not the sort to run away when times get tough. He knew that much about the dratted girl. She wouldn’t abandon Arnav, wealth or no wealth. She would be right there by his side like an albatross around his, Shyam’s, plans.


The idea to doctor the Will had always been part of his master plan to keep Arnav with him. Getting rid of Anjali would unite them in grief, and with him having a controlling share in AR, he would forever be in Arnav’s life.  But, this plan also seemed to have slipped through his fingers like grains of sand. And now the ruins of his dreams were staring at him like that stain on Arnav’s carpet. The diligently cultivated patience of years, fed with the promise of sweet rewards now meant nothing.


They say some dreams remain just that, dreams. Ajeeb to some maybe. Hopes and Ambitions for some maybe. A Temptation to get Entangled in the wistful desires of whispering souls for some maybe…


He let out a howl of agony as his finely tuned devious mind made a valiant last ditch attempt to shake off the thoughts those crazy fangirls were stuffing in, messing with his fine mind, holding his hand and making him write this stuff.


It was no wonder that Shyam Manohar Jha was a worried man.






A bit out there I know, but if Shyamji can’t be out there then who can, right?! Karela or Jalebi, you tell me. This came about because of a comment I’d made on Listed! https://listedbyjigs.wordpress.com/ As always, Jignasha is uppermost in my mind when I write, but a special shout out to @Sherya and @Bookworm for their comments leading to mine in the first place 🙂 




To Jignasha, with love



A quiet silence surrounded Madhumati as she sat at her dining table, gazing unseeingly at the bottles of achars kept there. A gentle early morning breeze fluttered by as it meandered lazily through the open windows and doors of her house in Laxminagar. Occasionally teasing the ends of the red bandana tied tightly around her head. Bringing with it whiffs of the slowly awakening outside world. The sun had only just begun to tinge the edges of the late monsoon clouds which hovered over the city. Ready to stamp its superiority over them, even as it played an indulgent game of peek a boo with them.


A sudden burst of a motorcycle being revved rent the silence, startling  Madhumati. It must be that Mooa Bedi, was the first thought that crossed her mind. She was convinced he’d made it his mission in life to ruin her peace, one way or another. Forever turning up at her doorstep with random requests and offers of assistance. Even going as far as roping in his assistant, Happy Singh, to do the honours when he himself was out and about. All her threats falling on deaf ears, his benign smile never seeming to slip an inch.


All of which had been a source of great mirth for her niece, Khushi, who had spent many an hour chortling away at imagined scenarios of her Buaji and Bediji whizzing around the streets of Delhi on his scooter. Her steeped in Bollywood, khurafati mind had never been short of ideas, and years of marriage had done nothing to change that.


A soft smile made its way to Madhumati’s face as she thought of her niece. She epitomised her name. Spreading happiness wherever she went. Racking her brains, she tried to remember the parody Khushi used to keep teasing her with…  Ah, yes!


Wah, wah  Ramji

Jodi kya banayi

Buaji aur Bediji ko

Badhai hai Badhai


Not to mention chirping to that blushing idiot each time she saw him near the house,


Mere saamne wali khidki mein 

Ek chand ka tukda rehta hai

Afsos ye hai ki woh Bediji se

Kuch ukhda ukhda rehta hai


When she well knew ki main ukhad na loon uss Bedi mooe ko if he steps out of line! None of my remonstrations ever had any effect on her though. Sanka devi that she was. Is, even now. As irrepressible as ever.


Madhumati remembered how the younger Khushi used to flit about the haveli in Lucknow chattering away non-stop with the quiet Payal in tow. Forever planning new pranks and giggling away wickedly. One of her favourite ones used to be to steal her parandis (plaits) and use them as reins of imaginary horses. Neighing and going clippity clop around the house as she swung them wildly. Sometimes she used to cut them up and plait her doll’s hair with them. Hiding behind her father when her mother tried to whack her. And her indulgent father always took her side, pacifying his sister with, “Jiji, bachhi hai, let her play. I’ll bring you more tomorrow.”


At that, Khushi used to sidle up to Madhumati and give her a bear hug from behind.


Acchi Buaji, Pyaari Buaji

Rusa Rusi chhod de

Jaldi se ek hansi de de

Tu gussa gussi chhod de


Eliciting a reluctant smile from the adults around her. It had been impossible to stay cross with her for any length of time.


Khushi often reminded Madhumati of her own younger self. Maybe that’s why she had been stricter with her growing up. Her innocence, her selflessness often scared Madhumati. Life is not all roses and jalebis, and who knew that better than her. After her husband’s untimely death, everything had changed in a heartbeat. He had been a quiet man who had adored his larger than life wife. The quiet sparrow to her preening macaw. Content to spend evenings out on their verandah listening to old songs on his transistor radio, with half an ear on his wife’s ramblings.


He had been her rock solid shield against the taunts of their family about her childlessness. Initially they used to affect her, but as time wore on she became inured to them. Especially after her husband had insisted on moving out of the family home to their own small rented place in Laxminagar. It was he who had encouraged her to start her chikan kari sari business, to channel her free time usefully. Teaching her how to manage her finances, “Life doesn’t come with guarantees, Madhu”, he used to say when she complained that that was his department. They had been happy together in their own little world. Until it all came to an end with his sudden demise. Shashi babua had been a pillar of support, had wanted her to come live with them in Lucknow. But, Madhumati had refused, not wanting to be a burden on anyone. Her self respect hadn’t allowed her to do that. She had somehow made ends meet with the moral support of empathetic neighbours, and the understanding landlord, Shukla.


When, years later, Shashi babua had sent Payal and Khushi to stay with her in Delhi, her house had once again felt alive, despite the circumstances under which they had to come. The two girls had eased into her home so easily, filling it with sound and colour and activity.


But, it had also brought into her life Shyam. Shyam Manohar Jha. The lying, cheating, scoundrel. Madhumati’s thoughts faltered as memories of the past flooded in. How easily had that man ingratiated himself into their life and made a gullible fool of her. With his constant, “Buaji, let me make you some tea… buaji, let me look at your pension case for you… buaji, I have no one here and your home feels like a home away from home… buaji… buaji.” And she had basked in his phony flattery and concern. Lapping it up unquestioningly.


Not a day went by when she didn’t thank Devi Maiya for pulling her family back from the brink of devastation. She shuddered thinking about what could have happened, and of her own part in nearly ruining her niece’s life. How could she ever begin to forgive herself for that. Not that Khushi had ever by word or gesture made her feel guilty. It was her own conscience that clawed away at her.




And just like that the melancholia dissipated. Flooding the house with sunshine once again. Khushi bounded inside the house and hugged Madhumati tightly from behind.


“How are you Buaji? What thoughts were you lost in? Why have you left the door open? And you used to complain about me being forgetful! Hmph!”


“Let me breathe and you take a deep breath as well!” A delighted Madhumati heaved her ample self up from the table to turn around in her niece’s embrace.


“Where is my aloo puri? And my jalebis? You’ve forgotten what today is, haven’t you?” A miffed Khushi pouted looking at the dining table.


“You think I could ever forget this special day, parmeshwari?! Janamdin mubarak ho bitiya. Hamesha khush raho.” She kissed her niece’s forehead tenderly, framing her face in her hands.


“Your aloo puri and jalebis are waiting for you in the kitchen. Hamesha ki tarah. Don’t forget to offer them to Devi Maiya first.” she shouted to Khushi’s back, shaking her head at her eagerness. No one looking at her would guess she was a mother of three children. But, for Madhumati, she would always be that child who would rush to hug her on her visits to Lucknow, despite getting scolded for her naughtiness. As loving and large hearted as ever.


Moments later an adorable 8 yr old boy, Ishaan, rushed in. Followed by his harried father shepherding in five year old twins. A boy and a girl, Aryan and Ariya, who were a charming replica of their father.


“Where’s Amma?” the children chorused, looking around curiously.


“In the kitchen, I’m guessing.” their father replied wryly as he bent to take Madhumati’s blessings.


“Jeeyat raho, babua.” Madhumati stroked his head lovingly. Arnav was the apple of her eye. Her favourite of all the Raizadas. She still recalled how he had stunned her by asking her to tie the raksha dhaga to him on his engagement. When he does something, he does it wholeheartedly. She admired how his young shoulders carried his responsibilities effortlessly and without any fanfare. Quietly making the Guptas part of his own family. Above all, she loved the love he had for her Khushi. As she had once said, “He too was a sanki, and just what her maha sanka devi needed!”


He understood what Khushi meant to her Buaji and made sure that each year her birthday celebrations started here in Laxminagar. With Buaji’s aashirwaad. Arnav and Khushi had made sure that the children were well acquainted with their Nani bua. Bringing them over at least once a week to spend time with her. Giving her the most precious commodity of all. Time and love.


As Madhumati bustled about setting the table for breakfast, Ishaan kept up a steady chatter as he rushed around after her. Regaling her with blow by blow details of his many three pointers in the previous day’s basketball game, before going on to update her on his latest level reached in his favourite Fortnite, and the new game his father had bought him, some K something. Her incomprehension no bar to either of them.


The twins were busy helping their Amma carry the food from the kitchen to the dining table. Keeping up a constant flow of questions as their young minds jumped from one topic to another. Wanting to know from their Nani bua about all the goings on in the neighbourhood since their last visit. Aryan sneaking in two jalebi from the platter for his sister and him, much to Madhumati’s amusement. Haye re Nandkishore! Like mother, like children!


As Madhumati looked around her full table, her heart felt full to bursting with overwhelming love. Families don’t always have to be borne of you to be yours.






Madhumati’s character has been an interesting one. She tended to rush headlong into situations with her heart leading the way. Shades of Khushi I felt. Her larger than life persona was fierce in the protection of her loved ones. I loved the bond of mutual respect she shared with Arnav. So, I thought I’d try and look into her life a little. 


I wrote this OS as a birthday present for my dear friend, Jignasha. Do join me in wishing her on her special day. 


My dear Jignasha, 


You are so much more than a friend for me. You are family. Our Arnav said it best with his wish for Khushi, “I wish ki tumko duniya ki saari khushiyan milein.” And my wish for you is just as heartfelt <3, though sadly not in his uber sexy, husky voice 😉 May all your wishes and dreams always come true. May you live life to its fullest, in all its myriad hues, with each hue imbued with joy and laughter and the love of your near and dear ones.


Love always,






“Mommy, look! It’s a shooting star! Quick, make a wish!”


I look down to see my 7 year old daughter’s face all scrunched up, hands joined together in prayer, muttering soundlessly as she peered up eagerly at the night sky.


A memory from a long time ago sprang forward. Of another night, in another country. Of another face which had radiated much the same excitement.


Jiji, Jiji! Toot ta hua taara. Jaldi, jaldi , jaldi


An insistent tug at my hand brings me back to the present.


“Mommy, what did you ask for?”


Jiji, tum ne kya maanga?


I shake my head in amusement at her inquisitiveness as I bend down to hug my baby girl. My Inaara.


“It’s way past your bedtime young lady. Let’s get you indoors and in your jimjams.”


I march the protesting child inside as she continues coming up with reasons as to why she should be allowed to stay up. “What if the star is coming to wish me for my birthday tomorrow? Won’t it be sad if I’m not there to say thank you?”


It is with much effort that I control my laughter at some of her even more outlandish scenarios.


After much splashing in the bath and more tall tales being fabricated, I am finally able to tuck her in bed. An indulgent smile crosses my face as I see her clinging on to her favourite doll, Poori Kumari, the keeper of all her secrets. It had been a first birthday present from her favourite Maasi, largely the reason why it occupied pride of place in her heart.


Hearing the door open, I drop a kiss on her forehead and turn around to see Aakash walking in. “Daddy…” her sleepy whisper echoes with her adoration for her father. I look on fondly as he bends to kiss his darling Inaara good night. A sight that never fails to gladden my heart.


Their bond reminds me of my own with my father. A quiet love which was firm but always fair. A man whose geniality hid a strong core of fierceness where his family’s well being was concerned. Something which nearly cost him his life all those years back. I whisper a prayer thanking Devi Maiya yet again for pulling us all back from that abyss.


Later that evening as I sit in the lounge with a cup of tea, I look across at Aakash who is engrossed in a book.  His glasses sliding halfway down his nose before he absentmindedly pushes them back up.


All of the sudden another memory rushes through the mists of time. Of a room in Laxminagar. Of Buaji’s glasses perched wickedly on an inquisitive nose and of fluttering eyelashes…






Jee Payalji…


Jee Aakashji…


A soft laugh escapes me, causing Aakash to look up at me quizzically.  Seeing me shake my head he throws a smile at me and goes back to his book.


Jiji, aap dono iss se aage kuch bolte bhi ho kya?!


Khushi… It’s only been a couple of days since I last spoke with her, but I don’t know why I’m feeling overwhelmed with so many memories of her today. Maybe, I do though.


She was of the same age that Inaara will turn tomorrow when she first came into my life. She had looked at me warily with those innocent hazel eyes, when Babuji had urged her to go with me to what would now be mine and her room.


This is your Payal jiji, bitiya.


I don’t know what she had seen on my face, but she had put her hand in my outstretched hand and curled her fingers around mine. I remember feeling a fierce protective instinct rush through me as I looked at that tiny hand in mine.


It had been months before the wariness in those eyes had made way for laughter. Months before the hesitant tinkle of her dainty payals had turned into a mischievous melody that made all of our hearts sing. Months before the silences were filled with chatter. But, the darkness of the night still brought with it remembered pain and loss. When she would curl up against me, shivering, praying to Devi Maiya to take the demons away.


But, they did come… a Rakshas disguised as a Rajkumar… and a Rajkumar disguised as a Rakshas…


And when she needed me the most, to my eternal regret, I doubted her. I who had been her confidante, the receptacle of all her thoughts from the moment those tiny hands had curled in mine, had doubted her actions. I know she has forgiven me, in fact knowing her she wouldn’t even think there was anything to forgive, but I don’t know if I can ever forgive myself.


That turbulent period in our  happy go lucky lives had taken away so much from us, but it had also given us so much.


I still don’t know exactly why Arnavji and she took that step to get married the way they did, but I’m sure it must have had something to do with Shyamji. There had been a strange tension between her and Arnavji in the initial months. Much as Khushi had waved away my concerns, I had not been convinced. I could not speak to Aakash about it because for him, Bhai’s word was final. It still is. And I understand that.


Even during our marriage, Aakash had wanted to wait for his Bhai before proceeding with the rituals. At that time I had equated it with me wanting my sister to be with me at an important milestone. But it went beyond that. The more I saw of Arnavji, the more I realised just how much of the responsibility of the family he shoulders. We all adhere to his decisions because he has earned that right.


Today, it is because of Arnavji that Aakash and I are content in our quiet world here in the States. He had been able to see that being away from Delhi was the only way for both of us to come into our own. For Aakash to learn to take his own decisions. For our relationship to flourish. He had asked Papa ji to set up the branch here soon after we got married, well knowing of Maa ji’s nature.


It had been a wrench to be away from all that was familiar and more importantly from Khushi. I remember him reassuring me before we left that he would always look after Khushi. And he has stayed true to his word.


There is an innate honesty in both him and Khushi. And the same determined instinct to protect and care for their family and their loved ones. He had been the first person to come up to me to quietly ask if I was okay after the Radha Krishna debacle at the Mahila Samiti function.


Where he may be more astute in reading people, my Khushi will always think with her heart. I’m glad she has her Arnavji who gives her the freedom to be what she wants to be.


Khushi meri patni hai, woh jo chahe kar sakti hai, jahan chahe ja sakti hai…


The Khushi I see today is all that her name, Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada, conveys. A woman of note. Not to mention, Sankadevi, Titaliya. The one who flitted from one prank to the other dragging me along on her various escapades.


Jiji, chalo na..


When could I ever resist her for long. Although I still am unsure how she persuaded me to do the Naagin dance at Bitto didi’s wedding! Centre stage has always been my Khushi’s position while I have been content to bask at the sidelines. A listener to her raconteur. A long suffering, yet compliant, guinea pig to her gleeful teasing.


Khushi ki bachhi!”


“Daal daal kachhi!


As her Arnavji says, “Paagal hai, par cute hai.”


And, as I know, “Bachhpan se.”


I look out the window at the twinkling stars that are so beloved of her and thank Devi Maiya for granting her her wish.


“Humnein sirf itna maanga ki hum sab iss tarah saath rahe, khush rahe, aur hamari zindagi hamesha jalebi ki tarah meethi rahe.”


Hearing a soft snore, I see that Aakash has nodded off. A swell of affection fills me as I walk over to gently shake him awake. “Shall we go to bed? It’s still a couple of hours until it’s time to wish Inaara at midnight.”


“My baby is growing up so quickly. I can’t believe she’s going to be 8! I hope she isn’t too disappointed Khushiji isn’t here to wish her this year. Although, I’m sure she’ll have the entire family at Shantivan assembled and ready at exactly midnight our time to facetime. With Bhai being made to come home from the office in the middle of the day as well!”


“That she will!” I laugh at Aakash’s words, imagining her doing just that. But I still wish she had been here with me like she is every year. The jury is still out on whose smile is bigger on this day every year, Inaara’s or mine.


I look at the family photographs lining the wall along the staircase as we walk up to our bedroom. My eyes lingering wistfully on one of Khushi with a 5 year old Inaara. This had been taken at the Zoo just after she had scooped up a running amok Inaara in the penguin enclosure. Both of their faces radiating joy.


Hearing the unexpected ring of the doorbell, I place my hand on Aakash’s shoulder. We’re both surprised given it’s late, but there’s a part of me that smiles knowingly.


Could it be?


I ask myself, staying still as he climbs back down and heads to the door.


I see him glance at the camera and even before he turns back to me, I know.









The title is both a name blender for Khushi and Payal and also a reflection of the mood of my whimsy. The credit for which, and for making the whole story presentable, as always goes to Jignasha  ❤ She just gets me, every time ❤


Khushi’s daroongi lekin karoongi attitude allowed us to see her love more easily. But, Payal, I feel, loved her just as much in her quiet, understated way.


I would love to hear what you feel 🙂


Love always,




Nostalgia banner


This past week saw Children’s Day celebrated in India on November 14th, and it reminded me of a piece I had written after watching an episode of the serial, Yeh Un Dinon Ki Baat Hai, where the leads were celebrating their last day of school. Little knowing that they were celebrating the day that separates childhood from adulthood. Which is what it feels like to me when I look back.


That episode had evoked a plethora of nostalgic memories for me. The excited, yet nervous, anticipation of the life that lies ahead. Taking the first tentative step towards adulthood, while still largely clueless about what it really entails. Our mind’s eye visualising glorious days free from the shackles of rigorous discipline, little realising that the freedom will come steeped in responsibility.


School days had a charm all of their own.


The special thrill of a martinet of a teacher calling in sick. Free time never tastes as sweet now.


The untrammelled  joy of rains causing school to close for the day. Allowing us to spend the day with friends, playing tag with the waves on Marine drive while eating bhuttas. Why does walking there not feel the same anymore.


The piling into a car in unbelievable numbers because no one wanted to be the one left out of the fun en route. When did we start seeing that as being squashed.


The careful pooling of our monies to hang out at Sea Lounge with one bhel and two cold coffees with ice cream between ten of us. Just because we could.


And one day it all changes. Just like that.


It’s funny how literally overnight our mental equation with our school, our teachers, our friends, changes. Indulgence casts a halcyon glow over all perceived ills of the past years, as we laugh them away in the glow of hindsight and perspective.


The crazy fun of writing messages on uniforms, the running up and down of school corridors casting pitying glances at the juniors still slogging away, the persuading of the peon to divert the staff room chai to us, the mental bonfire of all the needlework we had been made to do (would have been literal if we could find all the pieces!), the pang of knowing we may now never see so many of the people who had been an intricate part of our lives since forever.


The last day of the best days of our life.


Sach mein, un dinon ki baat kuch alag hi thi…




I would love to hear of your special memories of your school days. Be they from the hazy distant past, or the not too long ago. They remain ensconced in a special corner of our hearts, don’t they? As Gulzar has written, “Ae Umr, kuch kaha maine, par shayad tu ne suna nahi, tu chheen sakti hai bachpan mera, par bachpana nahi.


~ Ruchi



Happy Birthday Jignasha!

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“I’m running away tonight.”


Khushi announced as she stormed into the room banging the door shut behind her.


“Anywhere nice, darling?”


Well used as she was to her friend’s dramatics, Lavanya didn’t bat an eyelid as she nonchalantly continued her stalking on India Forum.


“Lavvu, didn’t you hear what I said?! I said I’m running away, as in running away from home. For ever. I don’t mean just going round to Vimla chachi’s!”


“I’m sure that will be lovely, Chamkili”, Lavanya replied absently as she continued peering into her laptop. “I wonder if this woman is the MID for that other one who had insulted Barun in the IPK3 forum…hmm, I’ll have to have a word with…”


Before she could continue with her investigation, her laptop was summarily snatched from her and thrust aside. Wincing at the disrespect being meted out to her most favourite possession, she gave in and settled back in her chair to listen to yet another one of her friend’s tirades.


“This is serious, Lavvu. My life is finished. Finito. Amma wants me to get married! Me! It’s… it’s cradle snatching!”


“Well, not technically cradle snatching as you are nineteen, Khush, besides…”


But Khushi was in no mood for logic, as she continued with her ranting. She was incandescent at her parent’s decision. Well her mother more than her father, she opined, because Bauji would never have agreed to this had Amma not put pressure on him. Yup, no doubt about it. That can be the only reason why he would agree to a random rishta. There was no mistaking that Khushi was her Bauji’s girl through and through.


Making a mental note to speak to Garima aunty to get to the actual truth as opposed to Khushi’s version of it, Lavanya looked at her friend who was now pacing up and down. Shoving evermore fistfuls of channa in her mouth as she did so.


“Why don’t you come and sit here and tell me more, Khushi. Seeing you like this is making me dizzy. First of all, where did this fellow pop up from?”


She was convinced her friend must have misunderstood something somewhere along the line. Garima Aunty and Shashi Uncle loved their daughter to bits and would never just marry her off like this. But first she needed to get more information from Khushi.


“Some Shaadi.com relative of Buaji’s, I’m sure. Amma Bauji are being so cagey about the details. All they’ve said is that the boy is coming to see me tomorrow. Bas. With Buaji adding her two bit… The rishta is too good to ignore, Sankadevi, hum kahi deyat hai.”


Khushi had always had imitating her aunt down to a T, much to Lavanya’s amusement. But, this did sound serious, especially given… as a thought suddenly struck her.


“I wonder, Chamkili, what if the mystery man is Arnav?! Maybe Shashi uncle has guessed how you feel about him.”


“What?! Him…that Laad Governor?!”


Ignoring Khushi’s outburst, Lavanya continued dreamily, warming up to her idea.


“Hayee, just imagine if it is Arnav. The one and only Arnav Singh Raizada. ASR. Gosh Khushi wouldn’t that be amazing? Waking up to that view every morning… staring at that perfect profile… losing yourself in those pools of melting chocolate when he opens those eyes…”

“Will you stop with your fangirling already, Lavanya! And if that turns out to be the case, you can marry him!”

Ignoring the slight lurch in her heart at Lavanya’s words, Khushi tried to ignore the images her words evoked, quelling the pang in her heart at the thought of Arnav with anyone else.


“Sigh, if only I could… but sadly ASR has eyes only for you. Have you seen the way those caramel eyes melt into limpid pools of honey when he stares at you? I could be one of Buaji’s achar ki barnis for all the notice he takes of me.”


“That’s because he’s plotting of more ways to irritate me. I bet he’s got a whole diary filled with ideas, How to annoy Khushi Kumari Gupta in seven simple steps. Wait, not a diary, he’s probably got a spreadsheet all neatly laid out. Complete with instructions for Aman as well!”


She had known Arnav since she was three years old, her family having moved from Lucknow to Delhi to a house adjoining the  opulent Shantivan. While the Guptas were not quite in the league of the Raizadas, her parent’s Lucknowi background had endeared them to the Raizada matriarch, Devyani Raizada, who was a Lucknowi herself before marriage. And the tiny, chatterbox of their daughter, Khushi, had instantly captured her heart as she flitted about giggling and spreading happiness wherever she went.


Soon, all the inhabitants of Shantivan had come to dote on the little girl. All that is except Arnav. The eight year old had been used to ruling the roost and lording it over everyone until she turned up. Nudging him from his perch as the sole and whole in the clan’s hearts.


Everything about her had annoyed him. Not that it seemed to bother her as she never failed to rush up to hug him each time she saw him. Even as the adults oohed and aahed at her cuteness, he would stomp away grumpily, muttering, Unbelievable, as he did so.


The most galling times for him, he had told her in later years, were when his Ma made jalebis for her, or for little Miss Sunshine, as he had nicknamed her. She had been his Ma, damnit. And then to make matters worse, he would see his Di personally sit and feed her those blasted orange coils. Yuck, he would mouth! Her squeals of pleasure and shining eyes had made him want to smash everything in sight.


As time went on, he took to playing pranks on her at every opportunity he got. The first few times she had gone crying to Ma and Di, and got him a few punishments in the process. But, as she grew older, she started giving back as good as she got. Not that she got hauled up for any of it! Of course not. Their Titaliya could do no wrong. The injustice of it all had maddened him.


Khushi grinned wickedly as she thought back to those times. Such fun it was. Although, he did used to get his own back.


She remembered the times Arnav had been forced to wait for her at school. Unable to refuse his Mom, he used to retaliate by making her run to keep up with him, laden with her heavy bag in the heat. He used to come back and push her along even, shouting at her scowlingly!


With the passing of the years, they had both became busy in their different schools and with their different interests. Khushi’s visits to Shantivan became more infrequent and she made it a point to come when she knew he wouldn’t be around. Perversely, this seemed to irritate him more. He had a sixth sense where she was concerned, Di used to tell her laughingly. Knowing she had been before anyone could say anything.


The only times they met now was at festivals and birthdays, which were always celebrated with much fanfare at Shantivan. Those days would find her rushing all over the place, trying to do everything for everyone. Her lehenga spilling with gotas and pom poms, her anklets tinkling merrily, her bangles jingling non stop as she gesticulated animatedly. Vocalising the words had never been enough for her, oh no… her entire being had to be involved.


Despite her best efforts, her eyes would seek him constantly. She would peek at him from the corner of her eyes when she thought he was otherwise occupied, looking away hurriedly when her eyes snagged with his.  Each time that happened a strange sensation would consume her. What_the! This was that stupid Laad Governor, not her favourite Sallu, damnit! But her heart seemed determined not to listen to her.


And then he went off to study abroad. She could never forget that summer. Her heart had felt so heavy and restive and she just couldn’t understand why. Helping Anjali di as she did his packing, it was all she could do to not burst into tears.


The few times he had come home for his holidays, he had seemed so remote from the boy she had come to know. She had felt awkward and gauche in front of him. Answering in monosyllables to anything he asked. Until the days leading up to her sixteenth birthday, when everything had changed.


Arnav had graduated and had decided to travel before beginning work at a company in New York. Nani and Ratna aunty had put their foot down and insisted he come to Delhi for at least a couple of weeks. Not being able to refuse, he had come towards the end of August, reaching late at night. By the time he had woken the next morning, it had been quite late. Shouting for Hari Prakash as he walked in the kitchen looking for coffee, he startled Khushi who had been told by HP that no one was home. She had been standing on a ladder just about to reach for the flour to make samosas for Anjali di, when the unexpected shout made her miss a step. Bracing herself for a fall, she had instead found herself in Arnav’s arms. She had felt his husky, Hi, reverberate right down to her toes as he looked down at her. Forgetting to breathe, she had just stared up at him, unable to move, until his cell phone had gone off, breaking their trance.


Thinking back to that moment still made her shiver, as a warm blush swept her face. Those had been heady days when the burgeoning awareness between them had swept aside everything else. The feeling had been too special to even confide in Lavanya, her best friend.


On the day of her birthday, she had sought the blessings of her favourite deity, and was coming down the steps of the temple, when she had seen Arnav leaning against his car, his Aviators shielding his eyes. He had come up to her and silently led her to the square behind the temple. Hundreds of pigeons had been fluttering around there, pecking at the scattered grain. Sitting her down on a bench, he had knelt down and taken her hand in his. Brushing her knuckles softly with his lips, he had clasped a bracelet around her wrist.


“Happy Birthday, Khushi.”


The first time he had ever wished her. And the first time he had kissed her. Even just thinking of that moment suffused her heart with warmth, despite the fury fulminating in her at her parents autocratic behaviour.


Lavanya looked at her curiously as she saw the change in her friend. Sure of the reason, she decided to tease her a little.


“Or maybe it’s Bankelalji. Your favourite halwai. Maybe Aunty and Uncle know that the best way to Khushi’s heart is through her stomach.”


Ducking to avoid the chanas flying her way, she rolled on the bed in laughter.


“Or maybe it’s Happyji at the Kirana shop, so that you can have an endless supply of your favourite soda!”


Khushi jumped on her at that, attacking her with tickles. The two friends laughing hysterically as they collapsed on the bed. Relieved at having improved Khushi’s mood, Lavanya sat up and took her hand in hers.


“Have you spoken to Arnav about this?”


“Of course I have, but all he could say was, if that’s what your parents want, then what can we do. You must do as they say. After all parents will always have our best interests at heart. Unbelievable! Since when did SRK’s atma take residence in him?! Why do you think I’m so furious that I’m running away!”


“Hmmm, this sounds fishy. Or as Mamiji would say, something black in the dal… And not at all like ASR…”


“You are such a pankhi, Lavvu!”


“Woh toh I am, but I’m sure there’s more to this.”


“Whatever! You know what, I’m going to go with this rishta. Let’s see who this namoona is. Let’s see how Arnav likes seeing me with someone else. Maybe that will bring out SRK’s Vijay Agnihotri in him!”


“On that note let’s treat ourselves to your favourite Gol gappas and your Amma’s khichdi” Lavanya jumped up and held her hand out to Khushi. The two spending the rest of the evening chattering away, indulging in their favourite pastime of breaking into song at the strangest of prompts. Leaving Garima shaking her head at the mercurial mood swings of her daughter.


The next day, 9th September, Khushi woke to sunlight streaming in on her face. Blinking, she opened her eyes slowly savouring the warmth. Flinging aside the duvet, she sprang up. It’s my birthday! She looked around eagerly for her parent’s present. She tore open the wrapping to find a beautiful anarkali in the most exquisite shade of carmine. Even as she rushed to hold it against herself in front of the mirror, the previous day’s events came to mind. The random rishta…


She thought back to her birthday last year when Arnav had snuck in through the window at midnight to wish her. Her Laad Governor had to be the first to wish her. She remembered the kisses he brought her birthday in with… and also the silver wrapped other sweet kisses he had given her, making her promise to eat one of the tiny sweet delights every 15 mins for the whole day… telling her to think of him every time she did so.


Determinedly pushing aside her thoughts she went out to seek the blessings of her parents and Buaji.


“Tumko duniya ki saari khushiya mile” her Bauji kissed her tenderly on her forehead, before giving her a red velvet box.


“Another present, Bauji?”


“Another? I had wanted to see my bitiya’s face when she saw them, so I hadn’t kept it in your room this time.”


“But, the dress…”


Khushi paused as a small hope stirred in her. Maybe Arnav… nahi nahi Khushi. Stop with your wishful thinking, she remonstrated with herself as she opened the box to reveal the most beautiful pair of jhumkas.


Turning to hug her Amma in delight, she had just opened her mouth to ask her about the dress when Lavanya arrived, distracting her with her favourite flowers and a huge box of Tiramisu. Squeezing the life out of each other, the two went off to seek Devi Maiya’s blessings.


Khushi looked longingly over at Shantivan as they went out. Couldn’t he even be bothered to call, or even message, but that dress…


As the evening drew near, she grew more despondent. No one from Shantivan had called to wish her. This had never happened. Ratna aunty always made her favourite jalebis on this day. And Naniji herself made Mathura Aloo puri for her.Why was everyone being like that.


She changed into her new anarkali at Lavanya’s insistence, giving in reluctantly. The tiny kernel of hope in her still flickering exigently as she put the finishing touches to her make up before going down. Seeing the smiling faces and twinkling eyes of her family, contrarily had tears springing up in her eyes. Could they not see how unhappy she was. Just because she had made an effort this morning to be cheerful, did they think she was alright with all this. Did her wishes and dreams not mean anything to them.


Before she could venture further into the room, the doorbell rang. Frowning, she looked at the time. Wasn’t there another half hour before those rishta walas were due to arrive. How keen were they?!


She walked over and opened the door only to freeze in shock at the sight that awaited her. Naniji, Ratna aunty, Mamaji, Mamiji, Akash, Payal bhabhi, Anjali Di, all stood there, dressed in their finest, laden with covered trays in their hands.


Bringing up the rear was the Laad Governor himself looking drop dead gorgeous in a royal blue jodhpuri and sporting a devilish smirk.


“Will you not let us enter, bitiya?” Naniji’s amused words brought her out of her stupor as she hurriedly stepped aside to allow them in, bending to seek their blessings as they did so.


Arnav waited until the rest of the family had gone in before stepping forward.


“Hi… Happy Birthday, sweetheart.”


“You.. they…what…how…”


“Lost for words, Khushi Kumari Gupta?… soon to be… Singh Raizada…”




I have written this story for my dearest friend, Jignasha. It is her special day on 09/09. I hope you will join me in wishing her a Very Happy Birthday!


Jignasha, my darling, you transcend the word ‘friend’ for me. I actually don’t think I could vocalise what you mean to me. But, I know you will say, “main samajhti hoon”. You allow me to be me with you. You even put up with my random shayaris, patiently listening to me go on and on! The hours we spend chatting and laughing and discussing nothing and everything are special for me. I admire the way you approach life, giving your best in everything you do. The way you are able to look beyond the petty, life is too short to hold grudges. You are so very dear to me and I hope you know you will always remain close to my heart.


Love you hamesha.