The Veil Is Lifted
Shreya received a grand welcome at the Kharbanda residence. All the traditional ceremonies of welcoming a daughter-in-law were conducted in full. The house was decorated with flowers, lights and glittering fabrics draped over pillars and the banister of the staircase. Every corner of the house was illuminated. All the servants came running for a glance of their new mistress.
Shreya too was very excited to see her new home. It was indeed very close to what Madhav had narrated to her. As the clock struck 10, Ridhima escorted Shreya to Kunal’s room on the first floor. She helped Shreya to sit comfortably on the bed, and drew all the curtains of the room.
“Well, I’ll just ask Bhai to come over,” Ridhima teased.
Shreya kept looking down, not saying anything. Ridhima laughed and left the room.
Shreya then raised her head to look around the room. It was very spacious and painted in light green. Next to the bed was a small side table and some steps away was the door to a balcony which was directly opposite the main door of the room. Adjacent to the balcony door was a wall, which had two paintings. Further down the wall was the bathroom. Right in front of her about a few feet away the wall was covered with a big red cloth. How come repair work was still being done in the groom’s room? She thought.
On the left of the room, starting from the farthest end was a dressing table. Next, there was an open door which led to another small room, a walk-in closet. On the other wall was a 52-inch TV and a sofa set with a stylish centre table facing the TV. Then there was a rocking chair and a small bookshelf at the end of the room. Shreya was very impressed with Kunal’s taste.
She heard footsteps coming up the stairs. She felt shy and quickly pulled her dupatta down to cover her eyes.
The sound of footsteps grew louder. Shreya could feel Kunal approaching. The footsteps stopped near the door and then Shreya heard the sound of a latch. She was nervous and excited at the same time, her heart beating fast and her face flushing pink. The footsteps came closer, and finally halted as he sat right in front of her.
He held the edges of Shreya’s dupatta between his fingers, and very delicately raised it. Shreya however continued to look down. He then placed his index finger on Shreya’s chin and lifted it up. Shreya raised her eyes shyly to have a look at her groom. And as she did, her pink tinged face turned crimson and the expression of shyness changed to horror. Shreya screamed, “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
She got up from the bed, extremely agitated. “I beg you, please leave immediately. What is wrong with you? Who the hell are you?” He too stood up from the bed, looking right into her eyes. “See, you really need to leave. My husband could be here any moment. I’ve already had much pain and trouble because of you; I beg you not to repeat it.” Shreya was almost pleading.
He, however continued gazing at Shreya. She realised that her words had had no effect on him. She ran towards the bedroom door, opened the latch and
rushed down the stairs. Ridhima and Anuradha were still sitting in the living room.
They were shocked to see Shreya hurrying down. They stood up to know what the matter was. Shreya was breathing very fast, and ran straight into Anuradha’s arms for comfort. Anuradha stroked her back. A minute later, he had also come down. Shreya was pointing to him, still stammering out of shock. Anuradha looked at him and asked, “What’s the matter, Kunal? What did you say which was so frightening to Shreya?”
Ridhima added, “What’s wrong, guys? It’s your first night, what kind of fireworks is this?”
“Trust me! I just showed my face.” Shreya’s heart almost missed a beat. The voice was Kunal’s. But the face…!
Shreya, however, unconsciously did point to him, and looked at Ridhima, “Kunal?” she stammered.
Ridhima jokingly answered, “Why, Bhabhi? Is he not Kunal? Were you expecting some other Kunal?”
Anuradha held Ridhima’s hand and laughed too. “Shreya, what happened, dear?” Shreya stood gaping. And then she somehow managed to gain some strength, “Nothing, Mom, I was just hoping I could get a medicine for a headache?”
Ridhima quickly pulled out some tablets from a nearby shelf, while Kunal turned and went back to his room. Ridhima again escorted Shreya to the room, and then closed the door as she left. Kunal was now standing near the balcony door facing outside, but he turned when he heard the door closing.
They looked at each other, the words they had said echoing in their minds. But at times, very dear things are taken away from us due to the evil of a few frustrated souls. And that doesn’t deserve my forgiveness. I did settle a score with someone. My way may not have been fundamentally correct, but then how else do you really teach a lesson? How else does someone really know how deeply it hurts?
Shreya glared furiously at Kunal. He was exactly as Madhav had described, but she knew he was no hero. Rather, he was a villain.
Kunal moved few steps closer to her, staring hard. “I hope today was the first and last day that such an unwanted reaction came from you.”
“How can someone stoop so low?” She said whimpering.
“Really !! Well, I give you all credit there, my dear wife. You taught me that.”
“Don’t you dare call me your wife,” she shrieked.
“I repeat; I don’t want any unwanted reaction or nuisance. You need to learn to keep your voice down."
Shreya also moved a few steps closer to Kunal. “Shut up! I am leaving right now.” As Shreya turned to walk towards the main door, a strong grip clutched her arm.
“Not so soon, my dear. You’d been really hard to find.”
“Let go of my arm right now,” Shreya said in a tight voice twirling her wrist.
“Well, on second thoughts, you are more than welcome to leave.” Kunal’s tone changed dramatically. “Please go ahead, and tell them who I am and what this is all about.” He scowled harder.
“I must say, you are not only a great planner; but actually a schemer. Now I realize why you asked me to come over to the coffee shop, all alone. And the next time you actually met me as yourself, you ensured my eyes were shut!”
“See, even I can be a schemer.” Kunal narrowed his eyes. “I am indebted to your parents for putting your picture on the web. And my mother for discovering it accidentally and suggesting you as a potential daughter-in-law.”
“And marriage is the only revenge you could think of?” She said fuming.
“Yes, indeed. The best way to ensure that you cry all your life. To ensure that you live a life without love, like me.” Kunal pushed Shreya’s arm away in anger.
“Oh really! Only you had a heart full of feelings? I too had a beautiful life until your curse struck me.” Shreya blasted. “God dammit. You STARTED it!”
“You deserved it!”
They were glaring at each other like a bull and a matador.
“So !” Kunal said folding his arms and wearing a crooked smile. “So, Mrs Shreya Kunal Kharbanda. What are your options now?
Number One. Leave right away, and let’s clean our dirty linen in public. And give pain to your parents, too.
Number two. Stay and Suffer.
I leave you to choose—your suffering or your parents’. Let’s check how much your small world really matters to you.”
Shreya’s expression changed as she inferred the gravity of the matter. She was now thinking, and not just reacting.
“Well, I guess I need to give you time to reflect on the matter.” Kunal smiled harshly. “Be my guest for today, and I hope you have a comfortable night in my room.” Kunal bent to pick up a pillow and bedsheet, and walked towards the sofa. “I have a lot in store for you tomorrow.” He smiled devilishly. “And most importantly, I hope for better behaviour tomorrow onwards. I hope the Kohlis taught their daughter to be respectful towards her husband. And if not, be mentally prepared to learn the hard way.” Kunal lay down on the sofa.
Shreya stood in the middle of the room completely immobile and dumbfounded. What joke is fate playing on me?
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