PREVIOUSLY, Twinkle and Kunj celebrate Diwali and discuss their future plans.
EK TUKDA PYAAR – EPISODE 30
FOUR YEARS LATER,
“I’m waiting outside while you finish up, Kunj.”
“Sure,” his voiced leaked over the distance as he cleaned the table and put away the leftovers from their meal.
Twinkle turned around and walked out to the patio as the soft sunlight fell upon her. She stared outside at the lawn and smiled to herself, softly. The weather had slowly been changing after the celebrations of Diwali had ended the previous week and she was eagerly looking forward to the winter, like usual. As the wind brushed against her face, a wave of contentment coursed within her and she draped the shawl over herself, casually.
She looked outside as Aarohi and Ashi sat under the tree in the garden and played a boardgame with each other. She noticed their changing expressions through the course of the game and smiled as the two of them cheered each other with every passing move.
“Bohot kuch badal gaya hai in paanch saalon mein aur ye kehna ki, it hasn’t changed my life – or, our lives – would be a blatant lie. The last five years have made me realize that not everything in life is temporary; some things are definitely meant to be, but a lot has stayed with me too. And some, I believe, may stick with me forever.
Ashi and Aarohi are slowly growing up, and with each passing day, they teach us something new and so unbelievably fresh. Like, Kunj is recently beginning to learn how to tie a tie while sipping his tea, and I’ve been learning how to feed a pre-schooler roaming around the house. Kunj doesn’t believe me when I say that Aarohi had never troubled me with her meals. In the initial few days, he found it very surprising that I wasn’t accustomed to that habit of children. He’s told me quite a few times by now, that Myra had annoying eating habits as a child and I’ve always laughed at how he’s been pretrained.
This garden is usually where we spend most of our afternoons during the weekends. Kunj goes around the garden, teaching the girls about gardening and I sit here, in the patio, staring at three of them, reminiscing my times with Maa as a kid. She tries visiting us once a month, but she says, with growing age, the travel is beginning to become a little difficult.
Often times, we’ve considered moving back to Amritsar, but Chandigarh is beginning to become our sanctuary and the kids like it better here, with the frequent visits of Yuvraj and Saanjh. Kunj says, we’d think of it a few years later, but (chuckling) I know, he wouldn’t. He keeps telling me that every corner of this house holds a memory of the kids, and he cannot let go of it.”
“What’re you thinking?”
Twinkle looked up at Kunj and shook her head, before walking away and sitting on one of the chairs. She let Kunj settle opposite to her, and she looked back at the kids, smiling softly. The two of them finished their game and stretched themselves under the shade of the tree. Seconds later, they began walking around the garden, slowly brushing their fingers against the flowers.
Twinkle (screaming over the distance): Ashi, don’t remove the warm clothes! Aarohi!
But the kids couldn’t hear her and she looked at Kunj, shaking her head. “I’ll just come, wait.”
He stared at her retreating figure as she walked over to the kids to button the sweaters on them, and he smiled to himself. Twinkle knelt down before both the kids and adjusted their sweater, while Kunj fished out his phone from the pocket and clicked a picture of the three of them together. He stared at the processed photograph and leaned back against the chair, revelling in the tranquillity.
“Takdeer bohot ajeeb cheez hoti hai. Bohot martaba ye aap pe hasti hai aur bohot martaba, ye aapko hasne ka wajood deti hai. (Fate is a strange play. A lot of times it laughs at you, but a lot of times, it also gives you the reason to smile.) Five years before, I wouldn’t have thought of the life I have now. I’d have laughed at myself, much rather. But now that I think of it, stumbling upon Twinkle was just the beginning.
In the past few years, we’ve been through a lot and with each passing day, both of us are learning and growing. Parenthood has been a very dominant phase in these few years, and I think, both of us are struggling, but we’re also enjoying it. Aarohi and Ashi have quiet some age difference, and it’s strange how our behaviour with them needs to continuously change.
(chuckling) Aarohi believes she’s grown-up and we must treat her like an independent individual. There are a lot of times when the two of us want to laugh, but tackling an annoyed Aarohi isn’t very easy. I’ve told Twinkle several times, that Aarohi is a lot like her and I think, Aarohi is very proud of that. Ashi, on the other hand, has inhibited a lot from me, or that’s what, at least Twinkle says.
But Ashi keeps her mother wounded around her finger. Every night, when I and Aarohi watch a series of her favourite animated characters, Ashi runs around the house not willing to sleep. The two of us have often laughed at how Twinkle runs behind her, calling her by various terms of endearment, but Ashi wouldn’t listen. Twinkle says, Ashi just loves me more and that’s why, she troubles her. But maybe, Ashi loves her a little more.
Just like, Aarohi says, but I love Partner a little more!”
Twinkle: Uff, ye bacche bhi na!
Kunj jumped out of his reverie and twisted toward the garden to look at the kids. Aarohi wiped the tears from Ashi’s face and tickled her, trying to lighten her mood. Seconds later, her whimpers turned into soft laughter, and echoed in the garden. Kunj smiled and looked back at Twinkle, seeing her as she removed the loosely draped shawl from herself.
Kunj: What did Aarohi say now?
Twinkle: Nothing! As usual, that I love her more. (shaking her head) She’s always behind Ashi.
Kunj (smiling): She is, but have you seen how she’s the one to quieten her, too? I feel like, she does it on purpose. Let her be; once Ashi grows up, she’s not going to be able to do this.
Twinkle: I know. I feel like, Ashi has also reduced Aarohi’s insecurities, na? Remember, how after our marriage, she used to be so insecure?
Kunj: Maybe. But she’s also growing up, and she knows, she’d have us no matter what. (seconds later) By the way, what happened at the clinic?
Twinkle: I don’t know. Yuvraj told me, they’d call us later in the night. He said, he’d let Saanjh take rest for some time first, after returning. He was saying, she had been getting really tired the past few months. Fortunately, there’s only one more month left now for her delivery.
Kunj: Yeah, thankfully things are…
Aarohi: Maa, Ashi’s fighting with me!
Twinkle: Hm. What did the two of you do now?
Aarohi: I didn’t do anything. She was asking for my sweater and I told her that she can have it later, but she wants it now. I was just telling her that I can’t give it to her now.
Twinkle (standing up): Baccha, you’re not this innocent also. (patting her cheek) Go inside with Dad, I’ll get Ashi inside.
Aarohi: So soon?
Kunj: Soon? It’s going to get dark now, and then the whole night, the both of you will cry about mosquito bites.
Aarohi: Dad! You know, days are shorter in winters. Don’t fool me that it is late.
Kunj (pushing Aarohi inside, gently): Haan, Beta. I know, you’ve been studying really hard at school, but don’t try to outsmart me.
Ashi (from behind mimicking Aarohi): DAD!
Kunj tucked Ashi to bed and switched off the lights in the room, before slowly closing the door. He walked out to the living room and saw Twinkle massaging her shoulders. He knew, the weekends allowed them more time, but running behind the kids usually exhausted Twinkle. After she’d began practicing as an independent lawyer, she was at home most of the days and was always, distributing her time between the household chores, her own work and the kids’.
He stood behind her and began massaging her shoulder, while she leaned back and rested, slowly beginning to unravel from the exhaustion. She loved the parenting phase, but it also tended to become slightly tiring at times. Mainly because, she’d never ran behind Aarohi for her activities, but Ashi wasn’t the quiet kid. She was mischievous and she absolutely loved troubling Twinkle.
Kunj: Do you want me to get you coffee?
Twinkle (sighing): No, it’s fine. I don’t think we have it stocked either. (holding his hand) Just come sit with me for a while.
Kunj sat down next to her and she leaned on his shoulder, letting herself relax. He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer to himself, slowly brushing her back. He tapped on his phone and played some of Twinkle’s favourite songs to relax her. Despite of what either of them said, Kunj knew the kids really exhausted her, but he was always awed at how Twinkle never complained or surrendered.
Twinkle: Thank you, Kunj!
Kunj (continuing to brush her back): For what now?
Twinkle: I was just thinking today of how life has changed in the past couple of years, and you were my first step toward this change.
Kunj: So were you, Twinkle. None of this would’ve happened if we hadn’t met each other.
Twinkle (softly): I know, and I’ll always be thankful for coming across you. You’ve changed me in so many ways possible. (looking up) You’ve helped me gain a new perspective towards life.
Kunj: Really? And how is that?
Twinkle: You know, there was a time, I was really ungrateful to life for what I had and I complained about it. I was only really grateful for Aarohi. But you made me look at life differently. You made me realise, ki uss har ek pal mein aisa bhi bohot kuch hota hai jo bohot acha aur naya hota hai. That life isn’t just about the thorns, it’s about those rose petals too.
Kunj: And you helped me realize, how important it is to love oneself; you know? You taught me, ki jab tak aap apne aap se mohabbat na karo, aap kisi aur se mohabbat nahi kar sakte. I don’t know how I never looked at it that way, but maybe, it was meant to be learnt from you.
Twinkle: I think, we complete each other, Kunj.
Kunj (smiling and pulling her back to himself): I think so!
“Kaun tujhe yun pyaar karega, jaise main karti hoon…”
Alright, that’d be it for this FF. It’s been about 7 months since I began writing this story and never had I ever thought that this story would become so dear to me in so many possible ways. I think, this story offered me a chance to reflect on my thoughts and I’m so grateful to the story, the platform and of course y’all for that.
Thank you for providing me this amazing readership! Because this story wouldn’t have been anywhere without your love and support, and I’ll always be grateful to you guys.
This story occupies a huge part of my heart and of my laptop too, haha (about 81,200 words and 157 pages).
For one last time, please do share your views if you’ve ever, ever enjoyed this story. I will definitely take out time and reply to each one of you.