Geet walked into the study and sat in a corner of the leather sofa, drawing her legs up underneath her as if to make herself as small as possible.
He sat watching her; unable to think of any reason why she would forgive the man who had hurt her so much. After a moment, the familiar urge to be near her overcame his anger; he stood and walked over to where she was sitting. He sat next to her, close but not touching; a moment later, he felt a touch on his hand and looked down to see that Geet had laid her hand over his. Turning his hand over, he interlaced his fingers with hers, then waited for her to speak.
“Maan, main samajh sakti hoon ke aap ko kitna ajeeb lagta hoga ke main Dev ka yahan rehna bardaasht karti hoon, ke main uss se baat karti hoon, ke main uss ke saath acchi tarha peysh aati hoon. Main agar sochoon ke ussne mere saath kya kiya, to main bhi nahin samajh sakti ke main uss ko kaise bardaasht karti hoon.
“Maan, I can understand how strange it must seem to you that I can tolerate Dev’s presence in this house, that I talk to him, that I’m nice to him. If I let myself think about what he did to me, then I can’t understand it myself”
“Magar sach to yeh hai ke main woh sab baatein apne dimaaq ke ek aise hisse mein band karchuki hoon jahan woh hamesha dabi rehti hain. Woh mera guzra hua kal hai. Humari shaadi ke baad maine chaaha ke woh sab baatein bhool ke hum ek nayi zindagi shuru karein. Maine sirf yeh chaaha ke aap aur main apni zindagi khushiyon se bharein, aur agar main apne dil mein yeh kadwaahat bhar ke rakhti, to main kabhi aage nahin badhsakti.”
“But the truth is that I’ve locked all those memories away in a box in the corner of my mind, somewhere where they will always be suppressed. That’s my past. After our wedding, all I wanted was to leave the past behind so that we could start a new life together. All I wanted was for you and me to fill our life with happiness, and I knew that if I kept my heart filled with this bitterness, I would never be able to move forward”
They sat there in silence for a long time, each lost in their own thoughts, until she finally said “Sach yeh bhi hai; main aap ke saath itna khush thi ke main apni nayi khushi mein thodi si bhi purani kadwaahat nahin milaana chahti thi. Woh meri zindagi ek dafa barbaad ka chuka tha; main kyun usska asar apni nayi zindagi pe hone deti.”
“It’s also true that I was so happy with you that I didn’t want to mix even a drop of bitterness into our new happiness. He destroyed my life once; why should I let him affect my new life as well.”
“To maine woh sab baatein bhula deen, aur sirf ussko ek badi bhabi ki nazar se dekne ki koshish ki. Aur sach yeh bhi hai, jiss din se woh meri zindagi mein lauta, humari mangni ke din, uss din se aaj tak ussne sirf ek devar ki tarha hi raha hai, ussne sirf mujhe apni bhabi ka darja diya hai”
“So I made myself forgot everything, and tried to look at him as if I had only ever been his elder sister-in-law. And the truth is, from the moment he came back into my life at the time of our engagement, from that day till now, he has always behaved the way a younger brother-in-law would, he has always given me the respect due to an elder Bhabi”
Geet was silent for a while, then spoke again.
“Maan, Dev badal bhi gaya hai; agar woh wohi aadmi hota issne mere saath itna bada dhoka kiya tha, to shayad main itni jaldi apni kadwahat nahin bhula sakti thi. Magar jab se ussne aap ko khoon diya hai, jab se woh iss ghar mein laut ke aaya hai, mujhe badla badla sa lagta hai. Jiss aadmi nein mujhe apne jaal mein phansaya tha, yeh Dev won nahin hai.”
“Maan, Dev has changed; if he had been the same person who deceived me, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been able to forget my bitterness so quickly. But since he turned up to donate blood to you, since he came back to this house, he seems to have changed. The man who trapped me in his web, this Dev is not the same man”.
“Kya woh itna badal gaya hai ke tum ne jaake kissi aurat se usske liye sifaarish ki? Priya Paatil se jaake Dev ki acchaiyyaan karsakti theen tum?
“Has he changed so much that you can go and plead his case to another woman? How could you go and say anything good about Dev to Priya Paatil?”
She looked at him with a spark of anger in her eyes, then said, “Do you honestly think I would lie for anyone? Do you think I would lie for him?”
She tried to pull her hand away but he held on tight, unwilling to let her pull away.
“Geet, I’m sorry. Look, I’m sorry, that’s not what I meant. I just can’t understand what you could have told her that didn’t make her hate Dev”
She continued to try and pull her hand away for a moment then gave up, leaving her hand trapped in his.
“Pata hai Maan, I think she really loves him. I told her everything, everything; every detail, the way he charmed me, the way he wooed me, the way he destroyed me simply because he couldn’t control his lust……owww”
He jumped as she let out a cry of pain, then realised he had almost crushed her fingers in his as she had been speaking. Pulling his hand away, he stood and walked away from her, aware that his anger was still far too close to the surface.
“Maan, I told her every possible detail, and at the end of it, she asked me the same thing you did; how could I bear to be around him. I told her the same thing; that I did it for myself, did it for my own happiness, but that I also thought that Dev wasn’t the same man he had been then”
As he turned to look back at where she was sitting, Geet looked up at him and said “You know what she said to me? She said that his past actions were abhorrent and that she had told him that already. Then she said that the man she knew now would never do anything like that again; that she wouldn’t let him. If she was in his life, she would make sure that he never got the chance to give into his weakness ever again. She loves him, with all his flaws and weakness and with everything he’s done, she still loves him”
After a moment, she said “Maan, how do you know about Priya? Why were you asking me about Dev today, after such a long time?”
“Uss ne aaj mujhse baat ki, Dev ne. He wants me to talk to Dadi, to ask Dadi to back off and stop talking about his shaadi.”
“Did he say why?” she asked
“He doesn’t think he deserves any happiness. I can’t say I disagree with him.”
He heard a little sound escape her lips, then saw her expression.
“You think I’m wrong? You think he deserves happiness after what he did to you?”
As she hesitated, he said “Geet, tum batao na, kya soch rahi ho?” “Geet, just tell me, what are you thinking?”
“I don’t think you should get involved. I think we should just stay out of their lives and let them sort it out. Sawaal ye nahin hai ke whether I think he deserves happiness or not, sawaal sirf yeh hai ki usski qismat mein kya hai. Humein beech mein nahin bolna chahiye. Oopar wala sab sambhalta hai; usske paapon ka praschit to usse karna hai, par sirf oopar wala jaanta hai ke kab, kahan aur kaise. Humein sazaa dene ki zaroorat nahin hai, oopar wala sab khud sambhaalta hai.”
“I don’t think you should get involved. I think we should just stay out of their lives and let them sort it out. The question is not whether I think he deserves happiness or not, the question is simply what is written in his destiny. We shouldn’t interfere. God manages everything; Dev will pay for his sins but only God knows where, when and how. We don’t need to punish him, that’s not our job.”
Their eyes met and held as she spoke; he could see her belief in her eyes and knew that somehow she really had reached a place in her life where Dev meant nothing more to her than simply her devar. Her wishes meant more to him that his desire to punish Dev, so he took a deep breath and nodded.
“Theek hai, Geet. Agar tumhari marzi yeh hai, to yahi sahi. Maine tumse pehle bhi kaha hai, tumhari khushi meinhi meri khushi hai”
“Alright Geet, if that’s what you want, then that’s what will happen. I’ve told you before, all I want is you happiness, that’s all”
Their eyes met and held again, but after a moment her eyes dropped as if unable to bear his scrutiny for another moment. As she went to stand up he came close to the sofa, blocking her escape route. She blushed and sat back again, refusing to meet his eyes as he crouched down in front of her.
“Geet” was all he said.
He waited (and waited) till she finally looked up at him.
As their eyes met and held, a thousand messages flowed between them. He brought his hand up to stroke her cheek, relieved when she didn’t flinch away.
“Geet, tum mujhse kyun door rehne ki koshish karrahi ho? Kya tum mujhe maaf nahin karsakteen? Kya tumhare dil mein mere liye thoda sa bhi pyaar nahin raha hai?”
“Geet, why are you trying to stay away from me? Can you not forgive me? Isn’t there even a tiny bit of love left for me in your heart?”
Her eyes filled with tears that spilled over and rolled down her cheeks; he brought his other hand up so that he was cupping her cheeks and used his thumbs to wipe her tears away.
“Geet, aansoo nahin. Please aansoo nahin. Tumhara ek aansoo dekhke main kamzor padjata hoon. Main tumhari khushi ke liye kuch bhi karsakta hoon, main tumhara zindagi bhar intezaar karsakta hoon, bas tumhare aansoo bardaasht nahin karsakta hoon.”
“Geet, please no tears, please no tears. Even one of your tears is enough to weaken me. I can do anything for your happiness, I can wait for you for the rest of my life, but I can’t bear your tears”
He took a deep breath; somewhere inside him a quiet voice whispered over and over “why not, just tell her, she deserves to know, just tell her, just tell her”.
“Geet, I love you, you have to know that. I know I hurt you, I know you might never forgive me for forgetting you, but I love you. I love you now, I love the woman I know now, even though I don’t remember anything about before. Main yeh wada to nahin karsakta ke main phir nahin bhooloonga, magar main ye wada to karsakta hoon ke main hamesha hamesha tumse pyar karoonga, hamesha. Kabhi to ye lagta hai ke main apne aap ko bhool sakta hoon magar main tumse pyar karna nahin bhool sakta.”
“Geet, I love you, you have to know that. I know I hurt you, I know you might never forgive me for forgetting you, but I love you. I love you now, I love the woman I know now, even though I don’t remember anything about before. I can’t promise never to forget you again, but I can promise that I’ll always love you, always. Sometimes I think that I could forget myself, but I can’t forget how to love you”
He realised he was begging, begging her to love him and for a moment he couldn’t believe how far he had fallen; it took less than a heartbeat to realise that his pride meant nothing if he didn’t have her.
“Geet, apne aap ko mujhse door mat rakho. Mujhe mauqa de do ke main tumhara pyaar phir se paaloon. Itne dinon se main dekhraha hoon ke tum har waqt mujhse door jaati ho, aisa hai jaise tum apne dil ko bacha ke rakh rahi ho. Main jaanta hoon maine tumhe bahut dukh pahonchaya hai, magar Geet, just give me a chance to make you believe how much I love you. Just let me in Geet, let me in, give me a chance”
“Geet, don’t keep yourself away from me. Give me a chance to make you love me again. It’s been so long and all I can see is that you’re always trying to get away from me, it’s almost as if you’re protecting your heart from me. I know how much I’ve hurt you, but Geet, just give me a chance to make you believe how much I love you. Just let me in Geet, let me in, give me a chance”
He crouched there for long moments, her face in her hands, his eyes searching hers for any sign that she had heard him; for a long time he thought that he had made no impression on the high walls she used to guard her heart.
But then, in a gesture that reminded him of the moment in the rain when he had kissed her last, she brought her hands up to cover his before bringing them down, then leaned forward to lay her lips on his.
It was the lightest of kisses, more an acknowledgment that she had heard him than a declaration of love, but it was enough for him. He fought the need to pull her close, to crush her in his arms and never let her go, knowing that he couldn’t move too fast.
Instead he cupped her face again and leaned forward slightly, deepening the kiss just enough to give his starving heart something to hold onto.
When she pulled back, he longed to pull her close again, but he held back. He was rewarded when she said “Main darrti hoon ke aap mujhe phir chod denge. Agar aisa phir hua to mera dil toot ke bikhar jaayega; main phirse apne dil ko sambhal nahin paaongi. I’ve wanted so much to let you close, but I’ve been so scared. Main aap ke baghair rehte rehte thak gayi hoon Maan, thak gayi hoon. Main koshish karoongi.”
“I’m so afraid that you’ll leave me again. If that happened again, my heart would shatter, I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again. I’ve wanted so much to let you close, but I’ve been so scared. I’m so tired of living without you Maan, so tired. I’ll try”
She smiled through her tears at the look in his eyes, but before he could kiss her again, her stomach growled loudly. The tension between them dissolved as they both burst out laughing; he looked at the clock on the wall and realised that they had been closeted together in his study for over three hours. He gave silent thanks that Dadi was out of town this weekend, visiting a friend, otherwise goodness only knew what she would have thought.
Taking Geet’s hand, he pulled her to her feet, feeling strangely light-hearted even though all she had agreed to was to try and let him in.
“Chalein Mrs Khurana, mere khayal se naashte ka waqt hogaya.”
“Let’s go Mrs Khurana, I think it”s time for breakfast.”
All the questions between them had been answered; every card was now on the table. All he had to do now was convince his wife that she had no reason to fear his love; an anticipatory smile crossed his lips as it occurred to him how enjoyable that task could be. At that moment, life was good.