“One more hour.”
She whispered, holding the phone close to her chest, as she glanced outside the window from the presidential suite at the Oberoi.
The Oberoi, Gurgaon, was the venue they had selected for their Shaadi and for the Reception tomorrow evening. The resort referred to itself as “an island of green and blue”, which was a precise description. A vast urban modern sanctuary, surrounded by vibrant green walls and reflection pools spread throughout the property.
“Your soon to be husband is only a few minutes away with the Baraat in tow. I hope my soon to be wife is ready!”
She smiled, looking at the text that just arrived.
“She has been ready for an hour now, waiting to see her soon to be husband. Less than an hour left till I see my prince at midnight.”
Khushi glanced at her reflection in the mirror, unable to believe that it was her. She looked every bit a bride, from her traditional kundan jewelry down to her gold and diamond studded strappy heeled Jimmy Choos. The designer lehenga, custom made to fit her like a glove, hugged her hips, flaring out at the bottom. The red cascading up to lighter hues of pink silk, embellished with stones, zari, and pearls with a green thick border. Every inch detailed to perfection, not only on the lehenga but also the short choli with an open back and multi layered dupattas.
She had yet to see such a stylish piece on another bride, and what made this entire ensemble special was the fact that it was from Arnav. During her wedding shopping, his designer friend who also was an Wharton alumni, showed her this piece that Arnav had expressed interest in when he was in Delhi. While she had the option to choose any lehenga, but she had fallen in love with this immediately knowing this was his choice.
Now, she couldn’t wait for him to see her.
“Forty-five more minutes.”
He whispered, looking at his new watch that shimmered in the dark, as the car pulled up to the resort. His family had already gathered outside, singing and dancing as part of the Baraat.
The anticipation of seeing her, the wedding itself, had him on edge today. And seeing the craziness outside waiting for him, he would rather sit inside the Bentley until it was time for the ceremony.
While his family and Khushi wanted him to ride in on a horse, he declined in true ASR form and made his own arrangements to arrive here.
Arnav Singh Raizada on a horse, that too wearing a cream colored Sherwani embroidered with Lucknowi work, paired with a Jamawar shawl, was not going to happen. While he wasn’t a fan of hanging the shawl on his shoulder, he did it to make her happy. She had specifically selected this for him, and after what happened when he first refused to wear a kurta for the Mehendi, he decided it was best to go along rather than against it.
And now, he couldn’t wait for her to see him.
He took a deep breath, composing himself, as Aakash opened the door for him.
“So Bhai, are you ready to get shackled down, losing the eligible bachelor title? After tomorrow’s press release, many hearts are going to break…”
“You better not let your Behena hear you say that, otherwise she might terminate your existence. I just want to get this wedding over with, so I can go off on my honeymoon with my wife. Have fun in my absence, little brother.” He laughed, squeezing Aakash’s shoulder.
Anjali walked towards them holding an excited Adi, who was up way past his bedtime. He looked around in glee, as everyone danced with the music blaring around them.
“Let’s go you two, we need to go inside now to get ready for the ceremony. There isn’t much time till midnight.”
Without waiting for them, Arnav took Aditya out of Anjali’s hands and started walking ahead.
“Most men want to run away on their wedding day, but Bhai is running towards his wedding.”
Anjali smacked his arm, and they both started laughing and dancing following Arnav.
And if they weren’t mistaken, their brother had danced a few steps with Adi as he joined the others.
“It’s so nice to see him so happy, I can’t believe my Chote is getting married.”
“Where are these girls? We only have thirty minutes.”
Khushi paced around in the suite, and upon hearing the door open, she slowly walked towards them holding up her heavy lehenga that was weighing her down.
“Khushi, you look so pretty.” Lavanya exclaimed, admiring her.
“Why are you guys late? There isn’t much time left, we need to go down now…”
Anjali shook her head, and put her hand on Khushi’s shoulder.
“Khushi relax, you are not going to be late, no one is going to allow that to happen. You will see him exactly at midnight, promise our dear Rajkumari.”
Khushi smiled at her friend, and relaxed, when she hugged her.
“Thank you. All three of you look so beautiful.” She said, looking at the women dressed in their finest sarees and jewelry.
“You are the most beautiful bride I have ever seen! Wait till Arnav Bhai sees you, and you see him.” Payal said softly, engulfing her in a hug.
As they made their way down the elevator walking towards the Grand Ballroom, she smiled as they kept her distracted filling her in from the Haldi to Arnav dancing outside with the Baraat right before they came upstairs.
But her heart could only think of one thing… Arnav.
She entered the Ballroom from the back entrance, where everyone from the bride’s side waited to greet the baraat. Her mother came to help her, while the other three ladies went back outside to join the Baraat.
Shashi and Garima smiled at their daughter, who resembled a princess, decked up as a bride. The moment they had dreamt of since she was born, was finally here. They wrapped their arm around her from each side, hugging her before the ceremony started.
Khushi impatiently stood behind everyone, as they blocked her from being seen with the doors opening to the ballroom.
“Ten more minutes.”
Arnav thought to himself, glancing again at his watch, as he stood to the side waiting for the doors to open. Today was a day about patience and waiting, but now he was beyond that, wanting to barge inside to see her.
He sighed, as the doors opened, ready to march in to find the woman he was eager to see. But Anjali wrapped her hand around his arm, slowing him down.
“Arrey, slowly, first Khushi’s mother has to take your aarti.” She softly said to him, and smiled.
Garima smiled at Arnav as she did his aarti, then applied a small tilak on his forehead. After she showered him with flowers, she welcomed them all inside the venue. Both families greeted each other, as happiness and laughter flowed in the air.
Moments later, the countdown began to ring in the New Year, but for two people the significance of the countdown was slightly different.
Arnav closed his eyes, standing in place, per instructions thrown at him by his family. His heart starting to pick up its pace, but he slightly relaxed, taking in a familiar scent approaching him.
Khushi closed her eyes, taking slow steps towards him with her mother leading the way. She fidgeted with her pallu, but smiled feeling his presence as she came closer to him. She stopped, feeling her mother squeeze her shoulder.
They now stood in front of each other, with their eyes closed desperately wanting to open them. Everyone around them, counting down to the last ten seconds, as they counted along softly.
“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six…”
“Khushi, give me your hand…”
He whispered, seeking out for her hand and finding them directly ahead of him. She squeezed his hand tighter in acknowledgement, as they counted the final five seconds.
“Five, four, three, two, one!”
They opened their eyes, adjusting their blurred vision and smiled brightly at each other, as their heart raced rapidly.
“Happy New Year!” They all shouted, the noisemakers blasting, claps resonating around them.
He took her hand closer to his, softly kissing her palm on top of the jewelry that adorned it before letting go of her hand.
As she stepped back, he took in her appearance. His hand automatically covered his mouth, swallowing the lump in his throat. His heart skipped a beat, as he held his breath. Was that his Khushi? She looked so different, majestic, as she stood gracefully in front of him. Arnav Singh Raizada was blown away by the stunning beauty in front of him.
She shook her head slowly, seeing his eyes filled with fresh tears, which reflected hers. He nodded, pushing back the tears, as did she.
Her Arnav stood in front of her, looking elegant just as she had imagined he would. When she selected his attire for their shaadi, she didn’t expect him to go through with it but he did. She smiled at the shawl draped over his shoulder, then gazed up at him, awestruck at the handsome man who was about to become her husband.
“Should we start the Varmala ritual?”
They forced their gaze away, hearing Nani, to see everyone around them getting ready.
She glanced up at him, feeling her cheeks burning at the intensity of his gaze fixed on her. She looked away blushing, taking the garland being handed to her by Payal.
He curved his lips, catching her cheeks change color. Just as he was about to lean his head down, he felt himself being lifted in the air by NK and Aman. And seeing her frowning, he laughed. It was nice to see she was also impatient.
“I could easily walk away, then see what ASR does to you both if you don’t put him down.”
She raised her eyebrow at the two men holding him up, who had no intention of putting him down. Just as she was about to turn away, she gasped when Aakash came over raising her up and perched her on his shoulder.
“Why worry when your Bhaiya is here? Go for it Behena!”
Aakash moved her closer, as Arnav bowed his head down. She excitedly placed the garland around his neck, and winked at him, hearing the applause.
He leaned down taking the garland from Shyam’s hands, and smiled at Khushi before placing it slowly around her neck being careful not to ruin anything.
“I love you.” He mouthed, making her heart swell, before they both were placed on the ground.
She steadied herself with Payal straightening the garland around her neck. She glanced in his direction, as Aakash assisted him, and Anjali took his shawl off.
They started making their way to the end of the Ballroom where an opulent mandap, covered with an array of flowers comprising mostly of roses and orchids, was set up on the stage.
Sensing her careful steps, holding the side of her lehenga, he grasped her hand in his. She smiled as he helped her along the way, making her sit down first. Only sitting down once she was comfortable.
Her eyes widened when he leaned in close to her, speaking softly in her ear.
“I hope you hired a pandit that chants fast, I want this done in less than an hour.”
She shook her head and motioned him to fold his hands. But she smiled inwardly when he frowned at her following her instructions.
The pandit recited time old chants that have been around for thousands of years to carry out their Shaadi.
When it was time for the Kanyadan, Khushi’s father came up behind them placing her hand in Arnav’s, signifying he was handing over his daughter. She looked on emotionally, leaning her head on her father’s arms. Knowing the importance of this ritual, Arnav took his other hand, placing it over his. He nodded to her father, silently promising to always take care of Khushi.
A moment later, the pandit lit the fire, instructing Khushi to place her hand on top of Arnav’s. They listened attentively, following each step explained to them. Both becoming serious about the rituals and vows that will declare them husband and wife.
Khushi glanced at Arnav periodically, surprised seeing him engrossed in the rituals. Her heart warmed when he smiled at her with their hands joined together.
Anjali excitedly came over for the Gath Bandhan. She placed one end of the joda securely on his shoulder, then tied the knot to the end of her pallav. With teary eyes, she wrapped both of her arms around them.
“I tied your Gath Bandhan so tight, that no one will ever come in the way to pull it apart. Khush raho.”
She kissed them both, then placed Khushi’s hand in his, before going back to stand with her husband, who was cradling a sleepy Adi in his arms. Both smiled at each other, recalling their own wedding.
Arnav stood up, then assisted Khushi, as they prepared themselves to be legally married by taking their Saat Phere (Seven Vows). With each phera (circle) around the agni (fire), both took each vow seriously in front of their family, friends, God but most importantly to each other.
Their entwined hands uniting them as one, as Arnav took the lead circling around the first three times reciting their vows. With Khushi leading the remaining pheras. Their family and friends showered them with flowers, praying and blessing the jodi with a lifetime of happiness together.
Before taking the last phera, they stared at each other. After this vow, they will finally be one. She smiled up at him, before proceeding to take a step forward as he recited the final vow before her.
“We are one, as husband and wife. You are mine, and I am yours forever. I promise to love you and be faithful, not just as my wife, but as my friend.”
“In front of God and our loved ones, now I am your wife. I promise to trust you to do the right thing for us, our love, and our life. We will love, honor and cherish each other hamesha.”
As they completed the last phera, Khushi felt her emotions surfacing when they stopped, taking their seats once again. She fixed her eyes on the agni burning before her, pushing back the overwhelming tears that threatened to fall.
Tears of happiness.
He could see the myriad of emotions going through her, and all he wanted was to take her in his arms which were craving to hold her now the ritual that held the most significance in declaring them husband and wife was complete.
But hearing the pandit, he turned his attention back to him, who handed him the mangalsutra with instructions to place it around her neck.
He grinned, taking the long double strand, black beaded necklace with an diamond pendant from him. At last he was going to be able to touch her.
He leaned towards her slowly placing it around her neck. She shivered, closing her eyes, feeling his fingers slide across her neck as he clasped the sides of the mangalsutra together. He smiled, hearing a soft moan escape her lips, when his thumb circled the nape of her neck.
Both took in the closeness of being with each other. She shook her head slowly at his mischievous gaze when his fingers continued to linger on her neck after he finished. She knew this wasn’t the right place or time to feel the sensations he was awakening, and decided it was time to end it, before her cheeks matched her lehenga.
“We don’t have all night, Mr. Raizada.” She murmured, under her breath in hopes he would stop the tortuous touch he was leaving.
He sighed in defeat, pulling away, amused at her response.
He glanced at the little antique gold pot being held towards him. Taking a pinch of sindoor, he raised his hand towards her forehead.
Feeling his touch, she closed her eyes, her breathing quickening as he gently lifted the Maang tikka, moving it to the side.
He applied a streak of sindoor in the parting of her hair as a little trickled down on her nose. He couldn’t stop staring at the beautiful woman, who he marked as his forever.
A smile spread across his face, when she opened her eyes to meet his. Her eyes widening, as he leaned in closer, and whispered in her ear.
“Now you are officially mine, Mrs. Khushi Singh Raizada.” He kissed the top of her forehead, before pulling away hearing the pandit.
“Yeh vivaah sampann hua.”
And now they were married.
Those four words declared by the pandit, making it reality. Her hazels shimmered, his moltens glinted with a promise to each other of a lifetime of love and happiness as husband and wife.
The night continued as they sought blessings from their elders, and received wishes from their family and friends. Both sharing their special moment with everyone as they attempted to eat, while photos were taken that will serve as memories of their special day.
As the night came to an end, Khushi’s heart ached, seeing her parents emotional state at the time of Bidai. A moment that is inevitable for a daughter after her Shaadi, but never easy for any parent, especially for their beloved only child.
Shashi folded his hands for the first time in his life, as he looked up at his son in law with a heavy heart.
“Arnav bitwa, my Khushi is my life… this father’s only wish in life is to see her happy. Please…”
Arnav shook his head, sucking a painful breath, putting his hand over his. Unable to see the anguish in her father’s eyes, Arnav reassured him softly.
“Uncle, I promise to always keep our life happy, and be by her side forever.”
Shashi nodded with a small smile, placing his hand on Arnav’s shoulder, and pulled him in an embrace.
“I know you will Bitwa.” He whispered.
Khushi’s eyes filled with tears, watching Arnav and her father. As tears streamed down her cheeks, wrapping her arms around her fragile mother. Both staying still, holding onto one another as they sobbed. An emotional Nani came over, putting her hand on Garima’s shoulder. She folding her hands together towards Nani.
“Garimaji, Khushi bitiya is coming to our family as our daughter. We promise to take care of her just the way you have.”
She nodded, taking a few emotional steps towards her daughter and husband, as they embraced each other one last time.
Arnav’s tender gaze was fixed on them as they said goodbye. He looked away, pushing back his emotions, unable to see the tears in Khushi’s. He knew how much they meant to each other, and made a promise to himself to always make sure she would have them by her side whenever she needed them.
Arnav helped Khushi into the backseat after she threw her parents a flying kiss, and waved goodbye. After he was seated, he nodded for Bala to drive off. But she continued to look back, waving with tears flowing until they were out of her sight.
The thought that she wasn’t part of them anymore, or the fact her home where she grew up was no longer hers, sent a crushing pain in her heart.
She continued to weep, looking up at Arnav. He shook his head, wiping her tears away with his handkerchief and pulled her into his arms.
“Shhh… sweetheart…” He chanted, wrapping one arm around her, while rubbing her back with the other. She kept her face buried in his chest, moving closer to him trying to compose herself.
“Whoever made this ritual was one cruel bastard…”
He let out a deep, husky laugh, making her smile, feeling his body vibrate against hers. She peeked up at Bala, who also smiled hearing her comment in the front seat.
“Which is why you don’t need to follow it. Khushi, they will always be your parents, and you their daughter. No ritual will change that. And, I will never stop you from seeing them, whenever you want, whether it be in Delhi or New York. They will always be a part of our life. Theek hai? Now come on, let’s fix this beautiful face before we get home. You know how much I hate to see you crying, and today you have cried enough for a lifetime.” He furrowed his eyebrow, intently cleaning the streaks left by the tears off of her face.
She smiled up at him, feeling the warmth of his touch. She couldn’t resist raising her hand and caressed his cheeks. Something she had been longing to do all night. He took her hand, placing a few kisses on her hand down to her wrist. He didn’t hold back placing a kiss on her lips.
She blushed, pulling away a moment later, gesturing towards the front seat. He shrugged his shoulders, pulling her back in his arms, where she snuggled for the rest of the ride.
After the car pulled into the driveway, Arnav helped Khushi step out of the car. She glanced up at the mansion in front of her, her husband’s home and now hers as well. Her sasural, as her Amma would say.
How will she adjust to this new lifestyle as Arnav Singh Raizada’s wife?
Part 7 will be posted next Friday, December 22nd, see you then!