Hey, you all! Thank you for your responses and support, I’m always grateful. But the response seems to be worsening recently, and I’m not sure what to make out of it. I do miss reading from all the old readers. Please do tell me if the story is going off-track or is too slow, I’ll try working on it. Or else, if it seems just too boring, I’ll try wrapping it up quicker than I’d thought. Anyway, here’s the next episode; Happy Reading!
PREVIOUSLY, Saanjh and Twinkle share their grief; Yuvraj thanks Twinkle for providing Aarohi a family; Twinkle and Kunj have a heated argument, but later, he begins opening up to her
EK TUKDA PYAAR – EPISODE 24
Twinkle shut the sliding door of the balcony and began drawing the curtains when she heard the approaching footsteps in the room and a small smile lingered on her lips, “Did you tell Mummy, you’re staying here today?”
She turned around a second later, after drawing the curtains properly and looked at Kunj waiting at a distance – near the bedpost. She arched her brows and looked at him, her face scrunching quizzically. After an entire day’s work, she could see the subtle reflection of tiredness on his face and she pursed her lips, wanting to apologise.
Twinkle: Maa is so stubborn at times. I’m sorry about the dinner; she’s – I don’t know. I guess, she was just too excited.
Kunj (walking toward Twinkle): It’s fine, Twinkle. Don’t get so worked up. (standing in front of her) But at least, someone likes my presence, isn’t it? Tumhara bas chalta toh, you wouldn’t have ever called.
Twinkle (shaking her head): Ji, that’s because I’m practical. And now (moving away) that you’ve agreed to stay for the night, what’re you going to change into?
Twinkle stared at Kunj, trying to question him, but he wrapped his fingers around her wrist and pulled her closer. She felt a tension repel in the air and she looked up at him, a wave of shock coursing within her. He stepped closer to her and she drew herself, stepping away from him – trying to ignore the scorching heat that transpired in the air between them.
Twinkle (pressing her palms against his chest): Darwaza khula hai.
Kunj (leaning in closer and whispering): Maa is a good keeper of secrets.
When Twinkle looked up at him several seconds later, Kunj held a set of clothes in his hand and smiled at her. Twinkle stepped back, leaning against the curtained door and folded her hands across her chest.
Twinkle: Aarohi knew, too?
Kunj (tilting his head): Of course, not. I couldn’t disclose it to her when I was meant to surprise her, na.
Twinkle (nodding her head): Right. Phir, why didn’t anyone bother informing me?
Kunj (stepping closer): Because Mrs. Sarna (looping his fingers through the beltloops of her skirt and pulling her closer to him) I wouldn’t have known otherwise how intent you could be on sending me away.
Twinkle (wrapping her hands around his neck): When you get late for the meeting tomorrow morning, then you’d understand my perspective. Tab karna surprise aur romance.
Kunj (shaking his head): Uff! Stop being so practical all the time, Twinkle.
Twinkle: Vaise, did you try looking back into things that Sanjana liked? I was talking to Mummy the other day and…
Kunj (interrupting): Tum ho na abhi paas mein, I don’t have to look back into the past. I can forget it easily, with you by my side.
Twinkle (in a soft voice): You’ve always tried forgetting, Kunj. For this one time, can we try recalling and reliving the good memories, so we can move on from there? (looking at him with a softness fleeting over her features) For me?
Kunj (inhaling a deep breath, but with a tentative voice): Okay. What did Maa tell you about Sanjana?
Twinkle (stepping back and picking up her phone from the table): So, Maa was telling me, Saanjh really loved songs – especially, old Hindi songs. So, I made a playlist out of those and I thought, if you listen to them, it’s really going to help.
Kunj (staring at her questionably): Really? A playlist now?
Twinkle: Music therapy is a real thing. It really is very helpful. And we can try, isn’t it? Even if it doesn’t have a huge impact. I’m sure, nothing’s going to be negative.
Kunj (fixating her with a disinterested look): I love music, but you really want to do this?
Twinkle looked up at him and pursed the small smile that lingered on her lips. She’d talked to one of her friends who’d used music therapy as a cure for several of her patients and Twinkle hadn’t wanted to get psychological help, yet. She’d thought, if she could help him, she’d like to try. After all, getting psychological and medical help was always an accessible option.
Kunj: Fine! If you want me to do this, we’ll do it. (holding up his clothes) I’ll change and come before that.
Twinkle nodded and looked at his retreating figure. Kunj had helped her overcome numerous fears of hers in the marital life, and if there was one bit, she could do for him, she wanted to try. She inhaled a deep breath and grasped the phone in her palms, tightly.
She could only hope for the better, after all.
Twinkle arranged the pillows against the headboard and neatened the bedsheet on her side of the bed and looked at Kunj busy scrolling through his phone. She heaved a deep sigh and sat on the corner of the bed, relaxing into the comfort of the multiple pillows. As a second ticked by, she loosened the hold of the band on her hair and pulled it out, gently.
Twinkle (letting her hair fall over her shoulders): What’re you doing? Don’t you want to sleep?
Kunj (distractedly): Hm… (after a short pause, he looked toward her and smiled softly) I’m not sleepy, yet. But you can switch off the lights.
Twinkle: Don’t you’ve a meeting in the morning?
Kunj: It’s a little later. (locking his phone) I thought, I’ll drop the two of you home and then attend the meeting.
Twinkle (shaking her head): I’ve a meeting, too. But you can take Aarohi along. (looking away and staring afar) She’s fitting in well there, I think. She wouldn’t tell, but I suppose she missed everyone from home.
Kunj placed a comforting hand on her and she looked back at him, her brows furrowing. The storm in his eyes had settled and a peacefulness and calmness had settled within him. The corners of her lips pulled up into a small smile and she placed a hand on top of his, looking at him, reassuringly.
Kunj: She’ll take a little more time, maybe. But everything will be okay. We’ll be a happy family.
Aarohi (from the door): Maa, are you coming?
Twinkle (turning around and widening her eyes): Haa, Haa. You go sleep, I’ll come. I might take a little time, but I’ll be there, for sure.
Twinkle: Pakka, baba. Go to bed, now.
Aarohi walked away from the room and Twinkle stared at her disappearing figure, a happiness fleeting across her features. “You should go, maybe,” Kunj’s voice unravelled in the air and she turned around to look at him, nodding her head.
Twinkle: I will. (unlocking her phone) But before that, let’s check out the kind of songs Sanjana liked.
Her fingers swiped across the screen and moments later, she pressed play, letting the softness of the songs unravel in the air. She placed the phone beside him and placed her palm over his eyes, gently shutting them. She looked at the creases on his forehead and she pressed a finger over them, trying to ease them out. Seconds later, he placed his palm over her hand when she tried getting up and she looked at him, craning her head over her shoulder.
Twinkle (smiling, softly): Try sleeping. I’ll be here.
She removed his hand and walked toward the door, trying to switch off lights. When she turned around toward him, a calmness had begun settling on his face and his levelled breathing coursed in the room, and she tried muffling the guttural sound at the base of her throat.
He seemed at peace even without her, and suddenly, she felt suffocated in the room. She hadn’t thought of her own self when she’d insisted on doing this, but now, as she saw him, she wasn’t sure if it was the right decision she’d taken.
Twinkle sat beside Aarohi, caressing her hair and looked down at her, trying to contain the tears within herself. She didn’t know, why there was a sudden sadness clinging to her. She knew, Sanjana was Kunj’s past and she was his present. And Kunj wasn’t the only one to have a past among the two of them. She gulped the throatiness in her voice and stood up, walking toward the balcony.
She opened the door to the balcony and embraced the warm air of the midnight. The thoughts swirling in her mind saddened her. She felt so selfish and cold-hearted in the span of a second. Despite his past, he was trying to move on and he was leaning onto her. She wrapped her arms around herself and walked toward the railing, reminding herself she was Kunj’s present and that was all that mattered. Moments later, when she walked back into the room, Aarohi had stirred awake in her sleep and stared at her.
Aarohi (sleepily): Maa, you’re still here?
Twinkle (nodding her head and sliding the balcony door): Haa; Did I wake you up, Baccha?
Aarohi (leaning against the pillows): No. I think, it was the wind. What were you doing outside, Maa?
Twinkle (walking toward Aarohi): Nothing. It’s very late, you should sleep, Aarohi.
Aarohi (laying down): You won’t sleep?
Twinkle adjusted the pillows on her bed and brushed away the loose strands of hair out of her face and kissed her forehead. “I will. Good night!”
When she walked back into the room and sat on her side of the bed, she leaned against the headboard and stared at the wall afar. The songs in the playlist calmed the anxious ends of her nerves and she shut her eyes, relaxing into the serenity of the night. But when Kunj’s fingers wrapped around her wrist, she looked down at their hands and then looked at him, wanting to wriggle her hand out of his. But as she saw the calmness on his face, a smile lingered on her lips and she lay down beside him, quietly.
“Bade acche lagte hain; ye dharti, ye nadiya, ye raina aur tum…”
She turned toward him and stared at him, her worries evaporating into the thin air.
‘Bohot mushkil hota hai, kisi pe khud se bhi zyada bharosa karna – lekin, tum mujhe yakeen dila rahe ho ki kiya jaa sakta hai. Nahi karna chahti tum pe itna bharosa, ki baad mein tum mujhe todhne ki taakat rakho, lekin tum mujhe koi aur option hi nahi dete. Tum samajhte ho ki main bahut practical hoon – hadd se zyada, cold-hearted hoon – toh samajhte raho. Lekin main tumhe kabhi nahi bataungi ki tumhare paas rehne se mujhe kitna fark padhta hai; main kitna tumhara presence appreciate karti hoon. Tum mujhpe bojh nahi daalna chahte, lekin main tumse kitni baar kahun, ki tumhara bojh main kam karna chahti hoon? Tum sochte ho ki tum mujhpe bharosa nahi kar paate, lekin main tumhe kabhi nahi bataungi ki, mujh mein deewar banne ki himmat nahi hai. Tum mujhe practical samajhte ho, toh samajhte raho. Main tumhare saamne ret ki deewar banke, tumse bol nahi paungi.’[‘It’s difficult to trust someone more than yourself, but you’re making me believe that I can. I don’t want to trust you infinitely – so much, so that you hold the power to break me – but you leave me option. You think I’m too practical – very cold-hearted – so you continue thinking. But I will never tell you, how much your presence affects me; I’ll never tell you how I appreciate your presence around me. You don’t want to burden me with your worries, but how many times do I tell you, I want to lessen your worries? You think, you can’t trust me with lessening your worries, but I’ll never tell you, I don’t have the courage to shield you and hold you. You believe I’m too practical, so continue believing. I can’t tell you, I’m weak, after pretending to be a shield for you.’]
Aarohi placed her belonging inside the suitcase and looked around fondly, not wanting to leave her grandmother’s home. She blinked her eyes, trying to hide the tears pooling at the brim of her eyes. She’d begun loving her new house – she’d begun loving everyone in the family she was surrounded with – but her mother had almost begun forgetting about her.
She plunked down on the bed, resignedly, and looked down at the floor. She’d been seeking her mother’s attention since a long time, but she’d begun believing, her mother was getting lost amidst all the changes in her life.
Leela (walking inside): Aarohi! (hurriedly walking toward her) Aarohi? Kya hua, Baccha?
Aarohi looked up at her grandmother and shook her head, trying to brush away the tears, but as she saw the worried creases on her face, the tears eked out of her eyes and she looked at her, wrapping her hands around her grandmother, quickly. She’d missed the motherly embrace in so long, but she wanted to ignore the nausea as her grandmother caressed her hair gently.
Leela: Kya hua, Beta. Won’t you tell Nani?
Aarohi (after a brief pause): Nani, do you ever begin loving someone lesser?
Leela (taken aback): Look at me, first. (wiping the tears off her face) You don’t love anyone lesser, but at times, you just tend to express your love a little lesser. That doesn’t mean, they love you lesser or they stop loving you, but…
Aarohi (interrupting): Do you think Maa loves me lesser now, Nani?
Leela: No, Baccha. Your Maa still loves you the same way. She can never love you any lesser; Aap toh hamesha unki chotti Aarohi rahogi na.
Aarohi: But Maa keeps forgetting about me. In fact, Kunj Uncle remembers more about me, nowadays.
Leela: Nahi, Baccha. (caressing her hair) Twinkle is just trying to give you the space and time you’d need to mingle with everyone else. If you’re always with her and Maa keeps seeing to your needs, how will anyone there get to know either of you? (after a short pause) Aur aap ne abhi kaha na, Kunj uncle remembers more of you? You should be happy about that. Everyone is trying to make you feel at home, Aarohi. In fact, I think, you should surprise them, Beta; surprise them with something special.
Aarohi (looking up at her grandmother): Surprise with what?
Leela (smiling softly and getting up): I’ve to prepare your breakfast, but think for yourself. What would make Kunj Uncle happy – someone trying to give you the fatherly love.
Aarohi stared at her grandmother’s retreating figure, the words swirling in her head. Moments later, when Kunj walked into her room, she looked at him – a small smile lingering on his lips.
Kunj: Partner, you haven’t packed yet? Don’t you want to go home?
Aarohi (nodding her head): I want to, but I just didn’t…
Kunj: No worries, when Kunj Uncle is here. You sit here and I’ll finish your packing, don’t worry.
She stared at him as he took out her belongings from the cupboard and packed her luggage. Despite her mother’s temporary absence, Kunj Uncle had always tried to cheer her up and lighten her mood. He’d been trying to provide her with the company that she’d begun missing. She didn’t know, how she’d overlooked his presence and company. He’d always been there for her when she’d needed someone and she couldn’t be anymore grateful.
Kunj (picking up her luggage): Okay, this is done! I’ll take your luggage down. You better get ready before your Mata ji gets really mad.
Aarohi giggled at his words and looked at him, her eyes gleaming in happiness.
Aarohi (wrapping her fingers around his wrist): DAD?
Alright, that’d be it for this episode. I wouldn’t delve into the music therapy dimension as such, because I don’t have a lot of knowledge about it. I just wanted to portray Twinkle helping Kunj, so that’s why the music therapy. Thank you for reading!