Om Mangalam bhagwanu Vishnu…
The bright golden flames of the holy fire danced to an unknown taal as it consumed the ghee. The sacred chants reverberated across the sanctum creating a tranquil air. The divine atmosphere soothed the chaotic minds of the two participants of the Havan. Their hearts constantly chanted prayers for the welfare of one another; both found the eye of the storm the circle of calmness raging inside their respective souls as their minds engaged in the pooja with at most sincerity their eyes closed and hands folded.
Sarv mangal mangalye
shive sarvartha sadhike
saranye thrayambake gowri
The pandit concluded the hawan asking the couple to pour the ghee into the fire once more. The couple stood up to seek blessings from the pandit.
“Kalyanam Bhava. Saath janmo keliye jude rahe aap dono ki Jodi” The pandit left them with a smile. The intensity of their prayer had touched his heart; he had seen a dearth of such devotion among their generation and to his old eyes such devotion reflected the selfless love they were capable of. The couple looked at each other startled by the Pandit’s words. Bihan’s eyes carried angst, the pandits words moved him from the eye of the storm and threw him back into the raging wind. He gazed into Thapki’s eyes for a moment laying bare the agony of his heart, the pain he experiences at the mere thought of her separation from him. Thapki almost staggered seeing the pain in his eyes. Before she could comprehend what it meant Bihan broke the spell and moved towards the door.
“Tumhari har nazar mmm..mujhe tumhare aur kheech raha hai. Mm mujhe darr hai Bihan. Darr hai tumhare paas akar tumhe khone ki. Darr hai ki shayad…” she didn’t dare utter those words out loud. She turned around to face the idol once more. She closed her eyes and prayed for her husband.
“Aakhir kya chupa rhe ho tum mujhse Bihan?” She gazed sadly at the retreating back of her husband and followed him with a sigh. She had more pressing things to do now. She had to stop Bihan from going home.
“Bbbihan…ruko..arrey suno toh” Thapki ran to him. Bihan was taken aback by her tone. The day was turning out to be very intense for them but she was ignoring it all and trying to maintain the good camaraderie between them. He felt relieved and smiled without turning around walking even faster.
“Arrey bbihan…ruko na…ruk kyun nahi rahe ho” She pleaded.
“woh kya hai na…Tumhare awaz se mujhe kuch ghadbad lag raha hai issiliye nahi ruk rahan hun.” Bihan said as he searched for the bike’s key in his pocket as they reached the bike still not facing Thapki. Thapki scowled putting her hands on her hips. Bihan saw her reflection in the rear view mirror and grinned delighted to see an annoyed Thapki. Thapki caught his grinning face in the mirror and scowled with more intensity. Bihan finally found the bike’s key and was about to start the bike when Thapki snatched it from his hand.
“Arrey!…oh chuk chuk gadi …bike ki chabi de do mujhe”
“Nnnahi dungi.” She said crossing her arms. “Jab tak tttum meri baat sun nahi lete tab tak.”
“Meri maa…Kya chahiye tumhe, batao!” He folded his palms in front of his dear wife.
“YYyeh hui nah baat…mujhe ghumne jaana hai.” Thapki said excitedly.
“Toh jao na…hume kyun tank kar rahi ho?” Bihan tried to take grab of the keys.
“Poori baat suno Bbbihan, mujhe tumhare saath ghumne jaana hai.” Thapki shouted while trying to keep the keys out of Bihan’s reach. Bihan became still at her words. She wanted to go out with him, his heart beat with a twinge of hope but he trampled it down.
“mmmatlab, mei dilli teek se nahi dekhi hai ab tak, mere saath ghumne jaane keliye koi dddosth bhi nahi the uss wakt jab hum yahan shift hue the aur shaddi bhi jald…” she trailed off as she realized the course her words were taking. Bihan tried not to look affected. “Khair…bbbaath yeh hai ki mujhe iss sheher dddekhni hai aur tumhare siva koi dosth bhi nahi hai jo mujhe ghumne le jaa sake …toh please Bihan..hum shyam tak ghar lautenge” She pleaded with folded palms knowing that he won’t be able to say no to her request. She wanted him to stay clear of the house at any cost and this was the best idea she could come up with. She always wanted to spend some quality time with him ever since they developed a bond. She lied about not knowing the city; she had gone out with her friends many times before but never with him and that made a difference. Meanwhile Bihan who was so very happy at Thapki’s request tried not to show his excitement.
“Ab itna r phor request karenge toh hum kaise tumhe r phor refuse karun…chalo teek hai bas hum bauji ko phone karte hai aur phir tumhe jahan bhi jaana hai hum lekar jaayenge.” He said in an exasperated tone. She happily returned him the key and Bihan scowled at her. He phoned his father to tell him that they won’t be coming home. Even though Bihan couldn’t point at the difference in his Bauji’s tone he had an intuition that something was brewing. Bauji on the other hand was very happy at the prospect of his son and daughter-in-law spending some quality time together and had a good laugh with his mother who hatched the plan.
Bihan got on the bike and Thapki settled down at the back. Unconsciously she clasped her hands on his shoulder and Bihan smiled lightly. It was going to be a long day.
It was way past lunch time when they stood before the crowded Chandni chowk. Bihan had taken Thapki to the various landmarks of Dilli, all of which Thapki had visited some time or the other. The places he took her didn’t even matter to Thapki; she had eyes only for him and he had eyes only for her. They talked and talked of everything under the sun, occasionally bickering and pulling each other’s legs, forgetting everything, the circumstances of their marriage, the trouble looming over them named Shradha, the approaching divorce everything because the one person who mattered most to each of them was before them with the difference that while one of the two acknowledged this fact the other was yet to.
Presently, they were about to enter Chandni chowk but Thapki was still trying to enlighten Bihan with the significance and history of the Lal Quila they had just visited however Bihan was not entertained by the subject. The mouthwatering aroma of freshly prepared sweets reached his nostrils as they stepped inside the chowk. Their minds were busy cherishing their moment of togetherness that they failed to register the basic need of food. Bihan’s stomach growled making him realize the lack of fuel in his system.
“Bbbihan tumhe pata hai…shajahan ne ek tunnel banana ki koshish bhi ki thi lal quila aur agra fort ko connect- Thapki trailed off as she saw Bihan leave her and head for a sweet shop. As thapki looked on Bihan bought jalebis and started having them alone without even sparing a glance in her direction. He was not even paying attention as to if she was with him or not. Thapki scowled at an unsuspecting Bihan who was eating away to his heart’s content. She stormed to him and tapped him on the shoulder. Bihan looked up and saw an angry woman before him. He guiltily took out the half eaten jalebi from his mouth and offered it to her. Thapki scowled at him but she was unable to hold back the laughter even for a minute and she burst. Bihan’s innocent expressions were so adorable that it was almost impossible to stay mad at him she mused. Bihan grinned stupidly and ordered another set of Jalebis for Thapki. They ended up bickering sweetly as they stepped out of the shop about the number of jalebis Bihan took from her plate.
The Chowk was a riot of colors. Wherever they looked they were met with the loud desi mixture of colors which shouted out the ethnicity of the place. Sweet shops like the one they just exited were scattered throughout the market place. Pulses of various colors were arranged in different baskets. Shops selling various desi craftworks competed with one another. There was the commotion of shopkeepers arguing with the customers over the price of goods and hawkers trying to grab the attention of potential customers. Like any other day the band of hawkers, shoppers and the thieves crowded the narrow lanes of Chandni chawk. Bihan laced his fingers with Thapki’s and gripped her hand tightly as they moved further into the heart of the market place. He didn’t want to lose her in the crowd. Thapki gazed at him lovingly as they walked. Bihan surveyed the shops around him unaware of her gaze. Thapki shook her head with a smile moving closer to him.
They were now in a less crowded space filled with shops selling clothes and ornaments. Thapki was looking at the colorful shops when she felt Bihan stop. Thapki gasped as she noticed the reason. Hundreds and hundreds of small spots of light scattered and danced all around them as the sunlight reflected off the intricate mirror works of garments and ornaments displayed in front of the shops.
“Kitna khoobsurat hai na Bbbihan..” She said her face lit up with wonderment. Bihan looked at her lit up face and whispered. “Bahuth.”
PS – thank u so much for the kind words readers…hope u r liking the story….