To read the first part first, click here
“I don’t!” Khushi denied hotly. “We have a deal, school tiffin and lunch their way and dinner my way.”
“School tiffin is fine,” admitted Arnav, “but decide on a common menu for lunch not a spread worthy of a wedding reception…”
“Rubbish! See this is rajma for Chotti and she likes a bit of mango chutney to switch flavors. She prefers roti while Guddu like rice but since he doesn’t much care for rajma…”
“He doesn’t like rajma?” Arnav was surprised.
Khushi grinned and winked. “Actually he does like it but since Chotti likes it, he pretends he doesn’t.”
“It’s a matter of principle,” Khushi stuck her nose in the air, “you wont understand.”
“Make me.” Arnav insisted.
“See, it’s like this, one if he and Chotti like the same thing, then what’s the difference between him and Chotti right?” Khushi asked Arnav who rolled his eyes, “Oh come on Khushi!”
“And,” continued Khushi, “if rajma was on the menu how on earth was he going to know if that was for him or for Chotti? Now if I made kadi that would be for him and only him…”
“What rubbish Khushi!” Arnav exclaimed, “that’s so complicated thinking and I doubt if…”
“See!” Khushi wagged an accusing finger. “I said you wouldn’t understand!” She walked off in a huff.
“Did Deva really say all that or did you think it for him?” Arnav followed Khushi upstairs.
Khushi glared at him. “I didn’t think it for him, I know that’s his thinking. If you spent more time at home and with them you would also know it.” She paused. “Waise on second thoughts I doubt if you have enough heart and brain to…” she bit her lip as ASR’s lips thinned.
“Don’t transfer your convoluted thought processes on to my children.” Arnav stressed. “And don’t create complicated issues where none exist. Just lay down the law and watch them toe the line.”
“Oh!?” Khushi’s eyes flashed. “So you think you can make them toe the line?”
ASR raised an eyebrow. “Haven’t you seen me in office?”
“Hmm, true.” Khushi tapped a thoughtful finger to her cheek. “Waise,” she coughed, “I don’t remember ASR being very successful in making someone toe the line.” She bit her lip and watched with glee as he went from a haughty confused expression to a sheepish one within a span of few seconds.
“Nonsense!” He made an instant recovery. “Someone used underhanded tactics besides being as slippery as an eel.”
“Huh!?” Khushi’s mouth fell open. He put a hand under her chin and popped it shut. He walked out into the poolside.
Predictably, Khushi came charging after him. “What underhanded tactics?” she challenged aggressively her eyes glowing with righteous indignation. “You were the one…” she thrust a finger into his face.
He entwined his finger with hers and brought it down. “I was the one who wanted to play a fair game but you…” he said reproachfully shaking his head.
“But I what?” Khushi demanded aggressively.
“You were supposed to take the measurements, but you,” He tapped her on the chest, “got someone else to do your dirty work.” He raised a hand as she opened her mouth to retaliate, “You were supposed to take dictation not tape it…”
“…and I was supposed to start crying and beg pardon not take up your challenge head on,” Khushi completed her eyes sparkling with the light of battle. “And you couldn’t resist the challenge I represented could you?” She waggled her eyes at him.
Arnav’s lips twitched. “I do love challenges.” He flicked her nose and turned away.
“Not so fast Mr. Arnav Singh Raizada,” Khushi caught him by the hand. “Since you love challenges so much, I have one for you.” She grinned at him with a cat-got-the-cream expression.
Arnav raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?” He said arrogantly. “You will give me a challenge? You?”
“Yes. Me.” Khushi crossed her arms. “Actually two challenges, if you manage to rise up to even one, I will…I will….”
“You will what Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada?” His voice was deceptively soft.
“I will do whatever you want,” she said recklessly, “for a day,” she added hastily at the glint in his eyes. “And if you lose, it’s the other way round. Deal?” she held out her hand.
Arnav looked at her warily. “At least tell me what the challenge is?”
“Scared?” Khushi taunted.
“Of you?” He scoffed.
Khushi giggled and nodded. She relented. “Don’t worry. It’s something I do everyday.” She shrugged.
Arnav reached out and firmly clasped her hand and jerked her close. “Deal.” He breathed huskily into her ear.
“So, what’s the challenge?” Arnav asked, much later.
“Ah the challenge!” Khushi gave her hair one final brush and turned to face him. “You have to collect Chotti and Guddu from school and take care of them until dinner.”
Arnav frowned. “And?”
“That’s it!” Khushi smiled brightly.
“That’s it?” Arnav said disbelievingly. “What’s the catch?”
“No catch.” Khushi straightened his tie and helped him with his coat. “Just do what I do everyday, for just one day.”
Arnav shrugged. “Sure. Any day. Just tell me when.”
“Tomorrow!” She paused. “Not tomorrow, Thursday.”
“Why Thursday?” Arnav was suspicious of the glint in her eye. “Why not tomorrow?”
Khushi shrugged. “Nothing special.” She dismissed airily.
“Khushi…?” Arnav warned.
“Okay fine!” Khushi capitulated. “On Friday, Guddu has his weekly test and Chotti her project submission.”
Despite the air-conditioning, Arnav broke out in a sweat. He could already see Khushi’s knowing gloating grin.
It was already 3.30 pm and the kids hadn’t even had lunch yet.
There was no way Khushi was going to win this battle.
Buck up ASR he pepped himself, buck up.
*** to be continued ***
A/N Since ASR is busy strategizing on how best to clinch the deal, the next post will be on D-Day i.e. Thursday 😀 And in case you are wondering how to pass the time until then here are a couple of links to short stories – go on make my day, read at least one!
Click here for Part III