Chapter Five: Appetence

When I look around me and find myself alone, I sigh for you again; little sigh, and vain sigh, which will not bring you home.

–Emily Dickinson

 

Humans seem to have a strange relationship with time, almost adversarial. It seemed like it was a tyranny of the moment; when in joy, time flies and when in sorrow, time lingers. So what of people like me, thought Khushi, who seemed to be caught in a past that seems to be more alive than the present?

Holding NK’s picture frame in her hands, she realized that time was marching on, but he seemed frozen in the frame that bound him in more ways than one. In a few months it would be two years since he died and left her behind, she thought. Her penchant for remembering the exact number of days insisted it was one year, seven months and ten days since he died. The clock ticked in her head, an incessant tick-tock and her feeble walls of restrain did the arithmetic.  Perhaps this is what survivors did, count the days and minutes of their own survival. Khushi wasn’t entirely sure when she began, perhaps when her parents died? She remembered those seconds turning into minutes, which slowly turned into hours which morphed into days leaving her in a fugue that was at once familiar and strange. It still felt like all it took was just one second for everything to change. All it took was also a few seconds at different intervals for her to lose her friend, her lover…. She shook herself vigorously out of that memory, forcing herself to close her eyes and breathe, counting every breath.

 

While the inevitable clock ticked, he would stay frozen in his thirty two-year-old dimpled smile. She had taken that picture of him when he was walking towards her, forcing her to walk backwards. He wanted her to stop taking his pictures, complaining that they didn’t have enough of hers. He was going to grab the camera from her. Her shot captured his eyes, intent with his wicked smile, throwing his dimples for the entire world to see as he reached for her camera. Her lean fingers traced her Naren’s cheeks, his dimples and slowly moved to his lips.

 

She missed his kisses, those toe-curling, knee-buckling kisses that used to stop time for both of them. She missed his fingers in her hair, holding her head while he kissed her, slowly, as if he had all the time in the world. She missed how his body would catch hers when she leaned into him as her knees gave way. She closed her eyes, willing her mind to recall the sensations as she brought her lips to the cold glass that trapped his image, beyond her reach. There was no warmth there as her lips felt the lifeless glass. The shock of cold glass forced her eyes open only to realize the harsh reality of his absence.  This gut wrenching frustration is what death leaves behind, she had come to realize. There was no negotiation with death, no warranty or no guarantee and no return policy; when he was gone, he was gone. That was that.

 

The ring of her cell phone brought her back to the present. Yet she was loathe to leave her past, these few elusive moments when she could travel back in her mind to be with him. The insistence of the rings compelled her to return to her present. It was Lavanya calling her.

 

“Hey! Are you guys coming soon? I need my troops to rally for me and the twins are asking for Mira!” It took Khushi a few seconds to gather herself. Lavanya was quick to pick up on it. “You okay babe?” concern in her voice. For some reason that concern irked her at that moment. It was the weight of it, the untold pressure that she felt to allay Lavanya’s worry, while scrambling to hold her own pieces of broken self together for Mira and Amma.

 

“Khushi?” Lavanya’s voice rang through insistently.

 

“Yes. We are leaving in a few minutes” reassured Khushi, placing the photo back on her bedside table gently before walking out of her room towards the living room.

 

“Er.. Khushi,.. are you still there? Thought I should let you know, Akash and Pallavi will be there too. Okay?”

 

“Of course.” Why was Lavanya worried about Pallavi and Akash being there? That seemed strange to Khushi as the three of them, Akash, Lavanya and Khushi met every sunday, almost every week. When NK was alive, all four of them met often, but this once a week get together became a ritual for the three of them after NK died. Khushi knew that Lavanya and Akash missed NK as much as she did or perhaps more. They had been buddies and friends since their undergrad days in Delhi. The three of them welcomed Khushi into their fold in Delhi then, and now the two of them became Khushi’s axis for strength and support.

 

This lunch was going to be at Lavanya’s place. André Mendez, Lavanya’s husband had known Khushi and Akash for as long as he had known Lavanya. In fact, André and NK were grad-school buddies and it was NK who was instrumental in Lavanya and André getting together. This every-sunday- lunch, which often turned into dinner, was a highlight not only for Khushi, but for Mira as well as she got to play big sister to Lavanya’s and André’s twins.

 

“Are we leaving soon Mommy?” Mira’s curls bounced as she pushed her glasses up her slim nose.

 

“Yes. We are waiting for Paatti. Can you go check on her darling?” asked Khushi.

 

Soon they were driving down the interstate with Mira in the back seat on her booster and Manorama, belted in the front seat. It took some convincing, but Manorama finally gave in to Khushi’s arguments about wearing salwar-kameez rather than her usual saris. Khushi could predict with ease that Manorama’s crisply starched and ironed cotton sari would meet its crumpled end within the first few minutes of her visit with the twins. The ensuing image of Manorama with Lavanya’s twins brought a smile to her lips as she drove the near empty roads on Sunday morning.

 

Her mother-in-law was a woman of confirmed customs.  And wearing anything other than a sari while going visiting was something close to sacrilege for her. Since her husband’s demise, Manorama abided by this self imposed strict code of widowhood upon herself. She gave up her usual adornments, including her diamond nose ring, denied herself all color in her attire. It took NK and Khushi months to convince her otherwise. She did slowly acquiesce to wearing her nose pin and eased color into her wardrobe, but she still refused to wear a bindi on her forehead. However none of these codes were applicable to Khushi, Manorama declared vehemently. She was from another generation and all the codes held relevance to her and her generation alone. Most definitely not for Khushi.

 

It wasn’t about adherence to these cultural codes for Khushi. It was that she didn’t desire adornment. It held no appeal, it was as if bereavement and sorrow left no room for anything else. The emptiness she felt echoed in every aspect of her life. It filled her entire being and soul.

 

Widowhood was not about the denial of material things, it was about the absence of desire for such adornment.

 

It was as if there was no room for any more joy or happiness in life. For Khushi, the only exception was Mira, her only source of happiness and joy. Her hand slowly reached for NK’s wedding ring that she wore on her neck as a pendant. Her eyes caught her thin wedding band that she continued to wear on her own left hand.

 

“Mommy, are we bringing my swimsuit?” Mira’s question forced her out of her thoughts. Nodding her head to indicate that they indeed were, Khushi slowly pulled into Lavanya’s driveway.

 

As she predicted, it was a rambunctious meeting between Manorama and the twins. Lavanya’s identical twins, Gagan and Neron, pounced on her as if in a race to see who would slobber her with their kisses first. Khushi could see that Gagan was now sitting on her lap with Neron hanging on to her back, as they took turns showing her their new toys and finding reasons to climb into her lap. It was her mother-in-law’s ability to morph herself to suit the children and play with them accordingly. It always brought a smile and warmth to Khushi’s heart to witness this grown up play like the children she was with. She saw this in NK first, and realized that he was like his mother through and through.

 

The boys’ names were the equivalent of Akash’s and Naren’s names, one in Hindi that Lavanya chose and the other in Spanish that André picked. It was a testament of Lavanya’s and even André’s love for both Akash and NK. It pinched Khushi’s heart that Lavanya’s boys will never know NK as they were just about a year old when he passed away.

 

Khushi sighed at the sight in Lavanya’s backyard. Lavanya had turned the sprinklers on so that the children could cool off in the summer’s heat. All three kids were now running through the sprinklers, squealing with delight and laughter. Akash, André and Pallavi were sitting under the big umbrella, with Manorama watching over the children as they ran around the manicured lawn. Pallavi had her legs stretched on to Akash’s lap, her last trimester fatigue clearly visible on her face. She had four weeks before her due date.

 

Pallavi was the latest addition to their circle of friendship. Pallavi and Akash Myer were going to be parents for the first time. Their marriage was one that was arranged by their parents. It worked for both of them very well. Khushi and Lavanya knew that it wasn’t easy for Pallavi to enter this tight knit friendship circle. But Khushi was grateful for Pallavi’s generosity when it came to Akash’s friends. She stood by him when Akash dealt with NK’s death, not only emotionally, but also in terms of organizing his death ceremonies, hospital bills and other logistics of NK’s passing. Even though Pallavi was the newest member of this coterie, she was no less significant than the rest. Khushi could see Akash’s tenderness towards his wife as he massaged her swollen feet.

 

Back in the kitchen, Lavanya was preparing lemonades for all, specially spiked ones with beer and vodka for adults and with crushed ice for the kids, Pallavi and Manorama.

 

“All well with you babe?” Lavanya asked as she reached for the glasses behind Khushi.

 

“Huh Uh” murmured Khushi, stealing a piece of sliced watermelon from the bowl that Lavanya had arranged.

 

“How was lunch?”

 

“Lunch?” Khushi knew what Lavanya was referring to, but wasn’t ready to talk about it yet. She leaned over to pick another sliced piece of watermelon. Lavanya was quick to move the bowl from Khushi’s reach and looked at her pointedly without saying another word. If Lavanya’s eyebrows rose any further, they would be lost in her hair.

 

“Lunch with Arn…er… ASR?” asked Khushi.

 

“Unless you had a rocking date with someone else hot that I don’t know of.” Pat came response from Lavanya.

 

With a sheepish look, Khushi conceded with a smile. “It was nice Lav” she shrugged, turning to look out of her big kitchen window. André was carrying Mira piggyback with his twin boys clutching his legs, one kid on each of his legs. He looked like he was being attacked by the three kids with loud squeals.

 

“Nice? That’s it?” Brevity was Lavanya’s tactic to get Khushi to talk.

 

Khushi turned away from the window to face Lavanya. “What do you want me to say Lav?” she asked. “It was … awkward, very awkward initially, strange and surreal after that. Weird for the rest of the time until we started talking about his son, Mohan.” She had a small smile on her face at that thought. Shaking her head, she said, “It was nice.”

 

“What did he want?”

 

“Huh? Nothing, he didn’t want anything.” Khushi was puzzled by Lavanya’s question. “He wanted to talk…He wanted to know what I do, work wise I mean.” Khushi could feel her face warm up. “He wanted to know what happened to NK.” She stopped. “He is a cardiologist, I guess he was curious.”

 

She looked out of the window again. Some one needed to rescue André from these three kids, she thought. All three had climbed on to him now, and André was lying on the blanket being tickled and pummeled. It looked like he was having way more fun than the children.

 

“And?” Tenacity, thy name is Lavanya thought Khushi.

 

“That’s it. I told him. I cried. He held my hands. He left.” Khushi extended her palms out to herself and looked at them anew, as if they held all the answers to Lavanya’s questions. She could see the thin ring on her finger, but that was all. She shrugged her shoulders in silence. Lavanya was puttering something.

 

Khushi looked outside the window without paying any attention anymore. Her mind went back to that moment of sheer distress she felt when she had explained how NK had died within a matter of hours. How her life had rocked and splintered to pieces in those very hours. She kept going back to that moment when Arnav held her hands within his and when words were dispensed with and solace was exchanged with compassion and fellowship. She looked quickly at Lavanya and looked away unsure of all that happened at that lunch.

 

“And?” Lavanya’s dogged questioning continued.

 

Before Khushi could form any answer, Akash walked into the kitchen. “I have been sent to fetch reinforcements of the cold kind and return ASAP” he announced with great drama. But within a moment, his drama took a back seat when he exchanged pointed looks with Lavanya. “Hey Khush” he said with a smile, dropping a kiss on her head and enveloping Khushi into a big hug. “So, how did the lunch go with ASR?”

 

“It was fine” replied Khushi looking away from Lavanya and Akash.

 

“Oh, so it has moved up a notch from nice to fine?” asked Lavanya with a raised perfectly arched eyebrow.

 

“I am sorry Khushi, I didn’t know that he was going to knock on your door.” There was contrition in Akash’s tone.

 

“Geez guys, will you two just chill?” Exasperation poured out of Khushi. “It was a lunch in a restaurant, and it was fine. It was awkward for a while, but he was just..” she paused trying to find words that felt appropriate.

 

“Kind and sympathetic. That’s all. Nothing else happened. He wanted to convey his condolences to me. He wanted to know what happened.. And.. Nothing else.” Khushi’s eyes flashed at both of them and her cheeks were pink with exertion. Was this an attempt at convincing herself Khushi wondered. Her protest seemed just a tad louder than warranted.

 

“Okay then.” Akash raised his eyebrows and his hands as if to say that he was backing off. “Kind and sympathetic is good.” He reiterated. “No, Lav?” He turned to Lavanya and Lavanya nodded her head emphatically in agreement. Both of them high-fived each other with identical smirks on their faces.

 

“Arggggg!” Khushi rolled her eyes at Lavanya and Akash and was about to stalk out of the kitchen when Akash caught her wrist and pulled her back into an apology-hug. Soon Lavanya joined the group hug and all three of them stayed together. This was what helped Khushi many a times, to stay afloat when all semblance of sanity fled and her entire world crashed. And her world did crash periodically and frequently after NK died. This silent and very tangible connection with Lavanya and Akash was her stronghold. It may have helped all three of them.

 

An exaggerated clearing of throat soon followed by, “Err.. I can come back later, if this orgy is still in session” André announced with a grin. This was a sight André had come to expect whenever Khushi and Akash were at home with Lavanya. It was also a testament to the tight friendship that was also a kinship that formed amongst all their friends after NK’s passing. André had seen what NK’s death had done to his wife. Her despair often evident only to him, when she sobbed quietly into her pillow first and then in his arms.

 

“The drinks are on the counter, and don’t forget to take the watermelon as well.” André picked up the tray with the drinks and the fruit and bent down to kiss Khushi on top of her head and walked out calling, “Whoever is the last to get the drinks is a jackfruit!” Shrieks and giggles erupted in the backyard with pandemonium being the theme of the moment.

 

While the backyard was rowdy with both kids and adults alike, the kitchen turned silent with the three friends in their hug. Akash was the first to speak, as he moved to make space to face Khushi. “KK, I am glad it was fine and nice as you put it. If you are okay with it, we both are happy.” KK was Akash’s term of endearment for Khushi, a shortened version of Khushi Kumari Gupta. It was also a name that yielded the most ribbing and teasing, especially the kumari part, and especially after her wedding.

 

Akash and Lavanya were two sides of a coin, thought Khushi. While Akash was the softer, kinder one, Lavanya was often the one with strength that complemented Akash’s gentleness. Slowly moving out of the group hug, she nodded to no one in particular. She needed to breathe and sort her chaotic thoughts. She walked out to the backyard to join the tired but boisterous crowd. Akash and Lavanya exchanged looks and followed her. They needed to organize lunch.

 

OoOoOoOoOo

 

Post lunch somnolence saw the twins fast asleep in their room and Manorama taking a reluctant nap in the guest bedroom. Akash and Pallavi opted to sleep on the chaise lounge. Pallavi refused Lavanya’s offer of her bed, claiming symptoms of heartburn. She preferred to sleep upright, she said. André found himself on the picnic blanket, giving in to his need for a nap.

 

Adrian Mendez, André’s twin brother, showed up at lunch time and was now playing angry birds with Mira and losing by a mile if Mira’s periodic grunts and cries of victories were any indication. Another engineer and single, Adrian was a frequent visitor at André’s, and particularly on those days when Khushi made her visits. He was a kind and a gentle soul, less boisterous than his twin, but adored Mira and the twins. Lavanya and André were aware of Adrian’s interest in Khushi. It was impossible to ignore Adrian’s insistent eyes following Khushi from afar. Initially Khushi was completely unaware of Adrian’s attention, but lately there was a determination to his interest that Khushi had begun to notice. And having noticed that Khushi was finally aware his intentions, Adrian’s pursuit assumed a persistence that put Khushi on alert.

 

As soon as André fell asleep, Khushi pulled Lavanya to her feet and demanded, “Let’s go inside. It’s getting too hot here for me.”

 

“Does the hotness have anything to do with a certain twin’s unrelenting and may I add, unfulfilling regard for a certain happiness?” Lavanya giggled at her own clever verbosity, flicking a glance at Adrian who had his gaze locked on Khushi.

 

“Will you please stop?” Khushi pleaded softly “And get us going from here?” She continued “Please?”

 

Keenly aware of Adrian’s stare burning her back, Khushi walked swiftly into the house with Lavanya. She should have worn her jeans and kurti she thought. Instead here she was in shorts and a tank top, dressed for a hot afternoon in the sun.

 

“Is this what you were referring to, when you said, Akash and Pallavi were going to be here? Is that code for Adrian now?” Khushi demanded as they walked into Lavanya’s bedroom.

 

“Err.. sort of, huh.. maybe.” Lavanya said with nonchalance. “But what’s wrong with him Khushi? He is a nice guy, a good looking guy, if I may say so myself, given that he is my husband’s identical twin.” Lavanya smirked. The only difference between Adrian and André was the color of their eyes. While Adrian had light brown eyes, André had grey eyes. Both men were tall and had statuesque features.

 

“This is not for me. I don’t think I will be ready for this. Ever. Lav.” Khushi said softly, fingering NK’s ring that was held in the chain she wore around her neck.

 

All laughter fled from Lavanya’s face. Sadness settled like a shroud around the two friends. Lavanya slowly brought her own fingers to NK’s ring and caressed it. “I miss him so much, it hurts my stomach. There is pain in my jaw, in my neck and right here in my heart” she said softly, continuing to gently stroke his ring. “That bastard! He was supposed to be here, flaunting those damned dimples. I miss him.” Tears rolled down Lavanya’s cheeks and found fellowship with ones flowing down Khushi’s.

 

Arms circled each other and Khushi laid her head on Lavanya’s shoulder, breathing in her perfume. Two hearts bereaved for what they both lost. But hearts mended and sought life again. Lavanya knew that. She pulled back slowly to look into Khushi’s face. It was more a study, a contemplative look that she had.

 

“Do you think you’d want NK to live like how you are living if the roles were reversed, Khush?” Lavanya had a knack of stating harsh truths with such economy of words, thought Khushi.

 

Lavanya’s king size bed was covered with a quilt which had an intricate repeating geometric pattern. Khushi traced the squares absentmindedly, pointedly avoiding Lavanya’s question. How could she answer that question? How could anyone? Lifting her gaze to meet Lavanya’s she said, “I don’t know how to answer that question.” Honesty was the best policy.

 

“Alright, how about this one then? Do you think NK would like you to live like this, without making any attempts at seeking happiness for the rest of your life?” Another one from Lavanya’s quiver with an aim to die for.

 

“I don’t know Lav. I don’t know.” Khushi shook her head emphatically. This question was not the one she wanted to hear, nor contemplate or consider. There was too much risk involved in even acknowledging the question.

 

“Well, I know.” Lavanya was soft, but within her softness was a firmness that Khushi couldn’t overlook. “If I died first, I would want André to find love. I would never want him to be alone, never feel lonely, ever.” Lavanya was unequivocal in her words and in her opinions. Khushi knew of another person who did not mince words. No prevarications with Arnav Singh Raizada.

 

“Promise me that you will think about it, please?” Lavanya asked. Khushi nodded, more to conclude this line of thought, this conversation, than to concede. There was too much at stake here.

 

“So, now spill your beans about your lunch with ASR. I am neither happy nor am I satisfied with nice and fine.” Lavanya sat straighter, pulling Khushi towards herself. Both friends leaned against the tall upholstered headboard and stretched out their legs.

 

“What do you want to know?” A question reminiscent of her conversation with ASR.

 

“What did he say? What did he ask? What did he want? What does he do? Is he married? What do you know about him? What did you eat? What did he eat? Everything.”

 

“Woah.. hold on.. hold on..” Khushi smiled.

 

“Well, he didn’t want anything Lav. He didn’t know that I was a speech pathologist. He is a cardiologist, so I guess he was curious about NK’s cardiac arrest. He wanted to know the details of what happened.” Khushi traced the squares on the quilt with a precise rhythm that it was almost hypnotic. She shook her head and looked at Lavanya.

 

“He is divorced but is on good terms with his ex-wife, Maya. And she remarried right after their divorce.” Khushi waited for Lavanya’s reaction. Lavanya stayed silent, urging her to continue. Khushi took a deep breath and said, “He has a six year old son, Mohan Singh Raizada.” A smile crept on Khushi’s face. “He is beautiful, he has Arnav’s eyes” she said softly. “I got a distinct impression that that little boy rules Arnav’s life completely.” Her smile widened to extend to her eyes now. “Oh and Mohan stays with Arnav, not with his mom.” She finished with a flourish. “There is something about him.”

 

“Arnav Singh?” Lavanya interrupted.

 

Khushi shook her head, “No. Mohan. I mean, Mohan. There is something about that boy, I am not able to put my finger on.” She furrowed her brow recalling that anxious face in her mind’s eye as he reached for his father in the poolside photograph. “Anyway, he is cute.” Khushi looked at Lavanya and said, “Mohan, not Arnav, ok?”

 

“Hmmm” Lavanya murmured having noticed that it was Arnav, not ASR now. She looked at Khushi waiting for her to continue.

 

“That’s it Lav. Oh, we went to Medfest and I ordered combination platters for both of us. We both had water to drink.” Khushi straightened in her seat to mark the end of her presentation.

 

“Is he still in town?” Lavanya persisted.

 

“No, he left that night. He texted me from the airport. I think Akash dropped him. He stayed with Akash during his trip here.”

 

Akash called Khushi every Wednesday afternoon to check on her. It was their new routine. ASR was Akash’s first cousin and both men claimed a close relationship, as close as siblings. But that’s all she knew about their relationship. Khushi knew that both Akash and Lavanya were aware that she had a past with ASR, that something happened between the two of them. But they were not privy to the details of what happened.

 

“He, Arnav, that is,.. sent me a text after he reached Delhi.” Khushi felt compelled to offer this piece of information.

 

Had a good flight and am home now safe and sound. As promised here is my text – A.

 

Her phone had pinged in the middle of her session with a client and her heart soared silently. She had not responded to that text, unsure if she was expected to, while a part of her wanted to.

 

“So? Did you text him back?” Lavanya asked gently.

 

Khushi shook her head and looked down.

 

“What happened Khush? Why don’t you text him back?”

 

“What about NK?” Khushi asked. Tears pooled in her throat and she didn’t want Lavanya to see more of them today. They cried enough already.

 

“What about NK?” Lavanya repeated as if the question had no bearing on this conversation.

 

Khushi shook her head. There was so much she didn’t want to know, didn’t want to ask or even acknowledge. There was too much at risk here. “What if I ..” Khushi stopped for a breath. “What about NK?” Memories were fickle. She, of all, should know that. Her fear slipped out into the open and now it sat between the two women.

 

“Oh Khush!” Lavanya enveloped Khushi into a tight hug and rocked her back and forth as she would her twins. “Is that even possible Khush? Is it possible for you to not have NK in your heart? Your soul?” Lavanya shook Khushi gently. “ Isn’t Mira a part of you and NK? And more importantly, if you forget something, we will find it together Khush.” Lavanya’s reassurance was the last straw. Tears turned into sobs. I am okay, I will be okay. The mantra and deep breaths helped Khushi regain her calm.

 

“This is exactly why I didn’t want to talk about lunch.” Khushi exclaimed.

 

“This is exactly why I wanted you to talk about lunch.” Lavanya retorted with a smile and a gentle squeeze. “Text him back Khush. It’s the polite thing to do after all.” Lavanya teased. She waited for Khushi to regain her breath.

 

“What happened between you two Khush? All those years ago? You didn’t tell me anything then. And I didn’t want to push. Will you tell me what happened between you and Arnav Singh Raizada?”

 

Of all things, Khushi did not expect Lavanya to ask her this question directly. She looked at her friend with eyes that held a torment that she had pushed into the dark recesses of her mind and soul. Was she ready to unleash them now?

 

94 thoughts on “Chapter Five: Appetence

  1. A chapter to savour slowly. Mirabell, you write Khushi’s sense of despair and hopelessness with heart stopping beauty. The bleakness that envelopes her is almost tangible. This one particular line speaks of it so evocatively, “Perhaps this is what survivors did, count the days and minutes of their own survival.”

    As I have always told you, for me, Manorama and Khushi’s bond is what touches me most deeply. She truly is a child of her heart. The manner in which she embraced her even before NK’s passing speaks of that.

    Lavanya’s tenaciousness and Akash’s gentleness is both what Khushi needs. What a lovely friendship they share. And the fact that their own bond with Naren was so strong, allows Khushi to lean on them. She knows they are coming from a place of pain themselves. Their words aren’t just well meant, but ultimately meaningless, platitudes and sops.

    I’m loving revisiting Second Chances ❤ As Keats had said, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever: Its loveliness increases; It will never pass into nothingness.

    Liked by 17 people

    1. How beautiful and appropriate as always, Ruch. The sheer magnitude of her bottomless sadness…and deep seated loneliness…..as a reader you want to reach out and envelop her in a hug. That is a pain everyone experiences at some stage – losing someone you care about to death…..the fleshing out of this scene breathes life into it just a little bit more than most narratives!

      Liked by 7 people

    2. As always you express everything so beautifully .
      Manorama and Khushi’s bond is something that has touched me deeply too . A MIL like her is truly God sent .

      To have friends like Lavanya and Akash … Truly a blessing ❣️

      Liked by 1 person

    1. This was absolutely achingly beautiful, your words, M, hit a chord that makes you feel a gamut of emotions for NK’s girls. I always say this, so bear with me as I say it again, never ever have I wanted Khushi to be with someone other than Arnav. IPK sort of brainwashes you with that pairing. But Khushi’s poignant thoughts about her love, makes me want NK back in her life. To live their life.

      That moment where she doesn’t want to move on thinking she will forget him, shows how much she was connected to him, loves him. He will always be a part of her. Nothing and no one can change that.

      Second Chances is what this story is about, and that is what I want now for Khushi… I hope that she gets a second chance to live her life again, and find love again.

      Absolutely brilliant my dear SS!

      Love and hugs hamesha,
      Jigs ❤

      Liked by 15 people

      1. Jigs dear you explained how strongly I felt about this chapter too. Never ever I felt another name of the protagonist should come back to life and hold her close to his heart and sooth her pain away. It was painful to read and You even felt the anger when Lavanya calls to remind Khushi about their meet😂

        A lovely chapter Mira! I know this will open the the past of Khushi and Arnav and it will break our heart further before we see the glimpses of second chances and for that we need lots of mental strength to hold on. You definitely have a way to shake us up at the core.

        Liked by 11 people

    1. This story it’s not just about Arnav and Khushi, it’s so much more.

      Friends like Lavanya and Akash are so few in number these days. But them holding on together is just so beautiful.

      I love Manaroma, we have been fed enough by desi-tv that the MIL is supposed to be the villain. But this 💕

      The conflict that Khushi faces that if she moved on it would be disloyal to NK is heart wrenching. I feel like giving her a hug and telling her it’s okay or will be okay.

      I’m so happy that you are back with this story. I missed it a lot♥️

      Liked by 3 people

    1. Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day… unseen, unheard, but always near, still loved, still missed and very dear.

      NK continues to live on in the hearts of his family and dear friends through photographs and stories that keep him alive in their memory. And it is these very memories that every so often sneak out of grief-stricken Khushi’s eyes and roll down her cheeks.

      Khushi is extremely fortunate to have Manorama as her mother-in-law. Manorama is her rock, she is not an in-law, but a mother to a daughter. She loves her as much as her only child NK. I am certain she will encourage Khushi to seek a second chance at love and happiness with Arnav. She knows Arnav’s presence affects Khushi. Her wise eyes noticed the bloom of color on Khushi’s otherwise pale face the day Arnav came to condole.

      If Manorama is Khushi’s rock then Akash and Lavanya are her pillars of support. They want to see their friend live a full life again. Khushi’s refusal to move on is really fear that her memories of NK will fade and get replaced by someone else. Khushi’s forlornness and anguish makes one’s heart break wide open for her.

      Like Lavanya I too want to know what happened between Arnav and Khushi ten years ago? Why does a glaze of distress touch Khushi’s eyes at the mention of her past with Arnav?
      Mira, I will wait patiently for the story to unfold as you slowly peel back the layers. 😊

      Liked by 7 people

    1. Khushi is lucky to have found a support system in her husband’s best buddies and their extended families. NK was as dear to Aakash & Lavanya as he was to Khushi. It may seem silly to compare a spouse’s love to that of friend’s, but the point is they can understand Khushi’s loss and what the family is going through, because they miss NK as much as they do. In many ways, their presence helped Khushi, Manorma and Mira move on with their lives to whatever small extent they have managed to.

      I found it really sweet that Lavanya & Andre named their kids after Aakash & Naren – Gagan & Neron ❤ Loved both names.

      Adrian Mendez, the new entry! He seems to be a nice guy. But is he THE guy for Khushi? Point to be noted – when Lavanya tried to steer Khushi towards Adrian, her response was “This is not for me. I don’t think I will be ready for this. Ever.” But when they spoke about ASR, her immediate reaction was “What about NK?” Khushi, who has been counting the exact days since the time NK left their lives, is afraid she might replace his memories with someone else’s. That’s a silver lining, right there! Lavanya may not be aware of the exact equation between Arnav & Khushi, but she is intuitive enough to know he has affected Khushi a lot more than she chooses to show. Lavanya has Khushi’s best interests in her mind when she is encouraging her to explore whatever there is with ASR rather than pushing Khushi towards her BIL. Also, I find it surprising that Lavanya and Aakash have no clue about what transpired between Arnav & Khushi 10 years ago. Especially Aakash, because they are cousins and claim to share a close bond. That also makes me wonder, did NK know anything about them? I think he did and probably even knew Arnav personally. Just a gut feeling. Okay, I am just getting ahead of myself. Before someone tempts me with another alluring promise of farrey, I think I should stop here 😝

      Liked by 9 people

  2. Although I missed Arnav in this chapter, you still had me hooked with your tale of Khushi and her friends missing Naren. I am at work crying unabashedly while reading your beautiful story. Thank you so much for these lovely words ❤

    Liked by 5 people

    1. A meditation on love, loss, loyalty…
      Gulzar’s lines float to mind, “ek sau solah chaand ke raatein, ek tumhare kandhe ka til”
      The fear of seeking happiness, why do we equate it with been disloyal? And often we focus on loss of a person from the perspective of their immediate family, but what about friends? Here you see the grief and sense of loss that Lavanya and Akash feels, which is no less than Khushi’s or Manorama’s. What a blessing it is to have that sort of friendship in one’s life.
      At the risk of sounding like a severely stuck record, what a pleasure it is to read this story of yours Mira! And I can’t help but feel thankful to have got this opportunity again to enjoy it.

      “Will you tell me what happened between you and Arnav Singh Raizada?”
      Ha, can’t wait!
      P.S: Widowhood. My paternal grandmother became a widow at 36, with six kids, the eldest a 17 year old girl and the youngest a year old. My earliest memories of her is of this strong independent woman (as a child I used to accompany her to the family owned land, mostly paddy fields, to oversee work! almost like going to office she would spend the day, morning to evening overseeing whatever seasonal work was happening), one who didn’t wear anything colorful. I wonder now how her life (her inner life, did she even have the luxury of pondering on it?) must’ve been like, those years when she was still a young woman.

      Liked by 12 people

      1. I think you say it well when you speak of your grandmother! The way in which the denial (of all adornment) was accepted… I agree. Thank you or sharing your grandmother’s story here my friend. ❤

        Liked by 6 people

  3. I know what I am up for when startrd reading this chapter…but still it hurts like hell.. thank you Mira..for todays dosage of tears…not every one have gift like this with the words….

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Hi Mira. A friend of mine suggested this story so I thought to give it a read, n I hv fallen in love with ur story. U r such a talented writer I cud jst feel the pain of Khushi , ur words involved me so much tat I actually cried with her… Thanks for this beautiful piece of writing…. Will be waiting for the next chapter.

    Liked by 6 people

  5. Wonderful part
    Was able to feel Khushi’s pain…..
    Hopefully, Lavs and Akash are going to be a strong emotional support system for her
    Thanks a lot Mira 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  6. My heart broke for Khushi the first time around and again this time. The poignancy of her thoughts and feelings 💔. You write so beautifully Mira taking the reader on this journey along with Khushi. They feel her despair and also gain strength from Lavanya and Akash.
    “What if I …? ” In those 3 words lies all her apprehensions and fears.
    Can’t wait for the story to move forward and for Khushi to give herself permission to even consider a friendship. Thanks for opening the story again and sharing it with us. Thanks for second chances !!!

    Liked by 5 people

  7. Mira, it’s wonderful to read the chapters again. As I started reading my memory started painting the scenes exactly as they were painted before. Amazing …isn’t it ?!!!

    I guess it’s your powerful yet delicate way of writing…

    Thanks again for this wonderful story.
    Keep writing.
    Love and hugs
    Vandana

    Liked by 3 people

  8. Lovely uodate MB – the ache of losing a loved one is written very well – it doesn’t go away – the loss is felt through out your lifetime – with time, the intensity reduces but doesnt go away at all
    Khushi is blessed to have manorama, Mira, lav and Akash in her life – such wonderful characters
    Great uodate MB
    Will wait to read more

    Liked by 3 people

  9. I forget what Khushi’s answer was to Lavanya’s question at the end from last time but I think it has always been a mystery what happened between Arnav and Khushi. Lavanya is such a great friend for being with her throughout and I love her character which is so relatable. Curious to know what Khushi has to say and totally excited for their trip to India!!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Emotional and Beautiful Update

    Khushi’s fear of not wanting to move on in her life is justified because she thinks what if she forgets Naren and his memories even though it is impossible. She and NK made a beautiful memory in the form of Mira through her Naren will always be a part of her life. Naren has always been her best friend before he became a lover and husband and that is what makes most difficult for Khushi to even think of giving a second chance to her life in finding love and happiness again. Loved how the rules Manoramma follows after she lost her husband doesn’t want Khushi to do the same. Manorama’s bond with Khushi will always be beautiful whose goal now is to see her chellam happy.

    Akash’s and Lavanya’s bond with Khushi is Amazing. Both are true friends who lend their support to Khushi and be there for her anywhere/anytime. Lavanya’s convo with Khushi was much needed where she is able to talk her heart out. Naren’s void has left a great impact on his friend’s lives. They miss him so much. Just with little encouragement from these two along with Manorama’s support waiting for Khushi to give herself a second chance in finding love again.

    Eager for the next one

    Thanks
    Chinnulu

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Wow… This one chapter came bouncing back in memory as i read it… The loneliness she feels is heart breaking.. The memories that pull her in are in a way her anchor.. She is at an abyss without him. Howevermuch she wants to be strong for those who remain, the feeling of lying forever with the one that has left, seems stronger. Atleast, at moments like the one here. That feeling of desperation, depression and helplessness can easily take one under. Its lucky therefore that she has such strong pillars of support in Akash and Lavanya.

      Manorama shines through once again.. In the way she doesnt impose on her beliefs and widowhood customs on her DiL.. The way she accepts openly the people who are a source of strength to Khushi in dealing with her now fractured world. .. The way she loves the twins as she does her own grandchild and doesnt let her upbringing, her customs or her generation’s ideology mar any of their lives. Kudos to such a strong woman!

      The two friends are nosy, but not to a point of annoying.. Its heartwarming to see them pry her feelings out and to hold on to her when the wave of emotions strike. She sure has moved from ASR to Arnav and has opened that window of discussion.. So her friends may finally may see the relationship behind those ‘closed’ chapters.

      Love love loved the way Khushi’s emotions lit up talking about Mohan. That child pulls at her heartstrings from the time she set eyes on his picture. Knowing the what and why, I still cant contain my excitement to when they meet.. I can only imagine what our first time readers are going through 😁

      Ps: summarized this time.. As my two little monkeys were clinging on as i read 🙈🙊

      Liked by 5 people

  11. Mirabell,

    As someone who reads obsessively and voraciously, I consider myself pretty emotionally inured to all kinds of writing – sadness, gloom, horror, romance. Yes, I enjoy the experience and look forward to the plot moving forward and like the characters enough to be engaged with what happens to them, but really that is usually where the empathy ends……

    And then, there’s Second Chances. When I first read the story I was obsessed with giving the story alternate spins in my mind, anxious until you showed up with the next chapter (sometimes after extended intervals😉), nostalgic and chopping at the bit for Khushi and Arnav to get back together….and recreate what they had in the past, miserable when Khushi longed for NK and wondered why he abandoned her when he promised her a lifetime of togetherness, saddened on Arnav’s behalf that maybe Khushi could never love him enough to let NK go in her mind and commit to her…..phew! As you can see, a sheer kaleidoscope of emotions! And it is all happening again with an intensity that can only be put down to the sheer excellence of your narrative. I did mention this once before on your first telling of this beautiful story – while other stories move in a linear fashion from point A to point B, this one is so compelling because it moves from one layer to another to another…deepening the reader’s engagement and immersing them in it. Thank you for all the beauty you bring to the characters. If one can actually see them in front of you as you read, that needs to mean a job superbly done! Take a bow.

    As Jigs said, I have never hoped for Khushi to be with anyone other than Arnav in all the stories I have ever read about our favorite SKD couple. But the sheer gorgeousness of your NK and the relationship he shared with his friends, his mother and above all with his wife, make me nostalgic for what they had!

    Akash and Lavanya are such wonderful friends…..with people like that at your side, you are always up to coping with any misfortune. Andre and his brother….what can I say, such fabulous examples of what family should be. Manorama here is Khushi’s rock and so interestingly portrayed. We all relate to people like her because we have someone in our families just like her. My own mother was a widow at 38. She is not only one if the strongest women I know, for unflinchingly bringing me and my sister up alone in a traditional city like Chennai and empowering us to become independent people in our right capable of supporting our families, but is my eternal source of inspiration. Even today when people tell me about having to take care of aging parents, I am wonders-struck at god’s blessing- she still looks after us!

    Thank you for bringing so many vicissitudes of life and thought into this story….cannot wait for the floodgates of the past to open. My favorite part!💕👏🏻🌹

    Hugs,

    Anu

    Liked by 7 people

      1. 💕🙏🏼 Don’t get to indulge my whims and fancies as often as I used to, which would be reading about Arnav and Khushi all day, among other things! Will be here as often as I can! Hugs.🙋🏻‍♀️

        Liked by 4 people

  12. The survivors guilt is all consuming.
    The point about widowhood about not interested in adornment than it being a custom followed by a bygone generation religiously is so apt. mirabell you have us thinking throughout even as we feel their loss and their current life…

    Liked by 5 people

  13. Ah M I don’t know what to say after I read this chapter, I somehow found my self crying with Khushi. I think only someone whose lost a loved one can understand what she is feeling and that’s exactly what Akash and Lavanya feel.
    I love the bond between Manorama and Khushi it so pure.
    Amazing and touching as always.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Hi Mirabell..what an amazing chapter….cried along with kushi and lavanya….It is difficult to come out of this sorrow,this lonliness…but time is the healer…Memories remain and pain will lessen…you are truly a gifted writer…Thanks for giving us this wonderful story….

    Liked by 2 people

  15. It is so difficult for Manorama and Khushi. But they both find strength in each other.

    Lavanya is a gem. And we would also love to know what happened between Arnav and Khushi.

    A sad but strong chapter!! ❤❤

    Liked by 2 people

  16. My heart is aching for khushi….. seeing her like this is heartbreaking…..even though I wanted Arshi to be together still I really wish NK was alive… alteast she would never have suffered like this….. She is even feared to move on in fear of forgetting NK…..
    Sometimes we don’t want to move on because we fear to loss the person who gave us so much happy times… Here khushi already loss NK but she is holding on to memories so tightly…she doesn’t want to loss it…. But she needs to understand that no one can take NK’s place in her Heart….. but she needs to give herself a chance to find happiness again

    Liked by 2 people

  17. Lavanya epitomises what
    good friends mean in our lives. She is Khushi’s true mirror. She know her strengths, needs and regrets. Her insecurities that she may not even want to admit to herself.
    Loved how she steered the conversation to Arnav as she understands that Khushi considers him more than a acquaintance ( there was discomfort but no rancor when Arnav and Khushi met so I am assuming that the split was mutual)

    Liked by 5 people

    1. There are so many things I wanted to say about this chapter when I first read this chapter.
      The unanswered questions;
      ‘why?’ ‘Why me?’ being the foremost. Then, ‘How?’ ‘How could a seemingly healthy man, in the prime of his life, be dead in a moment?’
      Can one ever get over the shock of it? How does one move on from it?
      You know, I was thinking, had NK’s death been the result of an accident, Khushi would have at least had someone…something to project her anger at…but NK died of a heart attack…she has nothing left except pain and maybe futile anger at this intangible thing called fate…
      The power of your words makes me feel every emotion Khushi feels. The helplessness, the wretchedness, the desolateness.
      She is a survivor, no doubt, but, isn’t the price of survival pain and tears?
      Widowhood – While I don’t think anyone should be forced to wear/not wear something they do not want, I get why Manorama donned the attire of a widow. After all, she had been conditioned to dressing a certain way, behaving in a certain manner, all her life. And habits of a lifetime are difficult if not impossible to change. But, I rather surprised myself by absolutely getting Khushi’s need to want to don the robes of widowhood.
      Why should I dress up? For whom? Why, when the eyes that usually glint with admiration are no longer part of this world?
      Such must be the thoughts that run through her mind. It is real and so natural.
      It is a shield that both protected and restrains her. She is not yet ready to let go. It’s almost as though she wants the world to know her pain.
      And finally, the guilt of even thinking of moving on. Human beings are so complicated, right? Women, even more so. Why should one feel moving on equates to betrayal? Is it because moving on would mean letting the memories of a love that was your life, get pushed deep into the recesses of your mind? Or is because one thinks that the only way to honor the love you lost by grieving? Maybe it is because you don’t feel entitled to any happiness when the person you vowed to share that happiness with is no longer there. Sigh… I really don’t know.
      But, what you have written is so real and so very natural.
      Mira, This is an exemplary read and I am so honored to be a part of this journey.

      P.S.1. I loved Lavanya, Andre, Akash, and Pallavi!
      P.S.2. Whatever was the relationship Arnav and Khushi shared in the past, it is evident they both had moved on. So the unfurling of their relationship would be almost brand new. They are different people now and I can’t wait to see how their relationship progresses.

      Liked by 3 people

  18. I think this is the first FF I gave read where I wish NK was still alive and happily married to Khushi. Otherwise like Jigs said I absolutely want Arshi together.
    The bond that Lavanya and Akash share is lovely. They are her pillars of support along with Manorama

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I am a new reader of this story and all I can say is that it is fantastic. Beautiful storyline, beautifully portrayed characters and an amazing read. Hoping to read it completely soon. Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  20. First and foremost, I don’t remember reading this story. So, it is all new to me.
    The emotions were captured nicely. The friends and their bonding was superb. I will be back with another comment later. Got to go. Very busy on the weekend starting from tonight.
    Cheers…….

    Liked by 2 people

  21. All those conflicting emotions going on in Khushi. She’s young and has so much to live for. NK will always be a part of her life. She’s too young to be alone all her life too. Thank God Manorama made sure Khushi didn’t follow the norms of a widow. La is a good friend for Khushi.
    Very curious to know what happened with Arnav and Khushi early on. Were they together?

    Liked by 2 people

  22. “Perhaps this is what survivors did, count the days and minutes of their own survival.”

    “Widowhood was not about the denial of material things, it was about the absence of desire for such adornment.”

    Mira these two statements said it all. Khushi’s turmoil; her non existing desire; her loss; her grief; her state and her being.

    This chapter is a journey through the eyes of a woman who has lost everything yet have to live for the ones that are left behind.

    Khushi-Lav-Akash such a beautiful bond they share. It’s heart warming to see them all.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. U made me cry,MB..

    I DEMAND THE BILL FOR ALL THE TISSUE PAPERS i USED..

    I used to demand it from Jenny too..
    Jenny — IPK007 .. Whose superb ficion made me addictive of Arshi FFs..

    I loved the chapter n enjoyed all the comments..
    Most of the comments were almost the length of the chapter itself..

    Though I believe in Arnav ki Khushi n Khushi ka Arnav..but my heart goes out to NK..

    IT HAS HAPPENED BEFORE..

    as2001blog … Anu’s Odyssey..

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Beautiful chapter. I don’t remember reading this chapter before .. I think reading on blog is more impactful than IF. I can imagine friends getting together and enjoying hot summer day

    Liked by 1 person

  25. Emotional update mira!
    Perhaps it could be bcoz I’m seeing a person who is experiencing the same..
    Kushi is bang on with that question, “what about NK?”.
    I think this is what people like kushi dread about second chances.. the feeling of guilt that you are betraying your lover is what they experience..
    Though lavanya tried to alleviate those feelings saying that NK would’ve never wanted her to suffer like that, it takes time for kushi..
    I loved every character in this story so far.. they are the best in their own way..
    I think the next chapter will open to the past of arshi..

    Liked by 1 person

  26. You know what’s so beautiful thing & Different about your Writings di ?
    It’ is ……Way, the finesse of Yours way of Writing ✍🏻 that makes a Reader feel, experience so many Emotions that may seems alien to some point in life, but one can feel The pain, the Feeling’s of it & some moment’s are so Realistic that it seems it has been taken out of your own life !
    The POWER OF YOURS WRITING SKILLS 🌟

    Love the Friendship Aakash, khushi , Lavanya & Their partners share with each other, providing the sincere support, strength & love to khushi, which she needed the most , so Heartwarming ❤️ ❤️

    I really love ❤️ MANORMA & LAVANYA.
    MANORMA – The Love this Strong woman holds for KHUSHI & Meera is something else❤️ She stated a Fact in the previous Chapter- where she told KHUSHI not Every Marriage, the realtionship between Husband & wife is full of Love & understanding all the time, Doesn’t matter how much time has been passed on, At last it just remains only a Husband Wife realtionship, nothing more, just duties & responsibilities at all…. I have seen this in real life too.
    &
    LAVANYA – The kind of Honest, genuinely loving friend Everyone deserves ❤️ . She Loves khushi & just wants to see her happy again, trying to make her understand to move forward in life.

    & How Sensitively you have shown the gut wrenching pain 💔, the grief , KHUSHI is going through. Didn’t we all too feel this pain at some point in life….. When we have lose someone Very dear to our heart, after Even the slightest of happiness makes us feel that we are doing injustice to our loved ones, it’s true , aisa feel hota hai….. But after a point we all have to move on in life….. After all that’s how this Wicked life works !!

    YOU ARE ONE EXCEPTIONAL, EXCELLENT WRITER ✍🏻 DI 👏🏻
    OUTSTANDING ❤️
    THANKS so very much 🙏🏻
    Love you di 🤗❤️

    Liked by 2 people

      1. And I’m truly Loving You as well as, gaining so many beautiful, learning experiences From your Amazing Writings ✍🏻 di….
        Sacchi, You are Incredibly an Top Notch, Striking Writer ✍🏻 di 😘❤️

        Liked by 1 person

  27. Khushi is still grieving for NK…they must have had a beautiful relationship….but Lav is awesome and so good for Khushi….and Akash too….dont like Adrian though for some weird reason….but yet her close friends dont know what happened with her and Arnav…..awesome chapter…….

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Loved the support system kh has in the form of la, aks & André
    The bonding between khushi & Manorama is unheard of in Indian cinema/ tv
    The way Manorama spoke about her marriage, her in-laws, & hubby was what ppl from my mother s generation had. That was their truth / story
    They had to take care of everyone , had no personal goals or ambition & I can understand how Naren literally saved her life
    Appa passed away recently miss him everyday
    Amma lost her companion of 67yrs , the one in madisar, double mookuthi, vaira thodu metti & thazhambu kumkumam, 11 pon kodi has left everything behind & says what will she do with them from now on ?
    Her only job was always to take care of him , he took care of her meds, brought washed vessels from backyard,dried clothes from hanger , flowers from garden , milk packets & paper every morning
    Manorama s story struck a chord with me
    Sorry didn’t mean to digress
    You may delete after reading meera
    Thanks

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pl don’t apologize! I am loving your thoughts. And it is your highest compliment that what I wrote resonates with you in such a personal way. Thank you for sharing! 🙏🏼

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to giaspencer011 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s