Heart thudding Devansh watched them from behind the curtains.
Why was Dad yelling?
He looked mad enough to kill.
Devansh clenched his fists and blood rushed to his head. He didn’t care that he was too small too puny to take on his father. He would jump right in if he so much as raised his hand…
ASR raised his hand.
Devansh took a step forward.
ASR shook his forefinger in Khushi’s face.
Khushi stood her ground and said something too low for Devansh to catch.
ASR dropped his hand.
He turned on his heel and strode out.
The house reverberated as the door slammed.
“Guddu? Come on out.” Khushi called.
Devansh shuffled out from his hiding place behind the curtains. “Are you okay Mom?” his voice broke.
Khushi enfolded him in her warm embrace. “Of course darling. Don’t I look it?” She spread her arms and twinkled at him.
“Why were you and Dad fighting?”
“ We weren’t fighting. We…we were having a difference of opinion.”
“But why was he shouting so much?”
“That’s all just bluster.” Khushi tried to make light of it. “He worries and shouting calms him down.”
“That’s not done Mom.”
“It’s okay Guddu. Don’t worry. He will calm down soon enough now that he has blown off his steam.” Khushi crossed her fingers.
“What if he doesn’t?”
“He will.” Khushi sent up a silent prayer.
“Is he going to divorce you?”
“No!” Khushi hugged the little boy close. “Why do you think that?” He stood stiff and unyielding in her arms. His eyes sparkled with unshed tears.
“He was so angry.” His voice trembled and his lips quivered.
“Aww sweetheart, don’t mind him. You know he is all bark and no bite.”
“But why does he always scold you?”
“Umm, because it’s my fault?”
“Mom I am sure you have the Stockholm syndrome.”
“What?! No!” Khushi was taken aback. “Not again. What have you been reading?” She asked with foreboding.
“Why else would you take it Mom?”
“Oh Guddu, my darling,” Khushi shook him gently. “It’s not like that. He loves me very much. It’s just that when he gets upset it is rather audible…”
“It’s not fair…”
“Life is not always fair. And things are not always black and white. Just because you can hear him shouting doesn’t mean he is bad or wrong. And just because you don’t hear me shouting doesn’t mean I am good or right.”
Devansh shook his head wearing a mutinous expression. “But…”
“What happens when Chotti fiddles with your stuff? Who screams and shouts? Does that mean you are wrong?” Devansh wore an arrested expression. Khushi looked at him with a knowing expression.
Devansh struggled for a bit. “Does that mean it is okay for me to scream and shout?” he recovered and shot back.
Khushi was caught. She coughed. “No…ooo.” She was skating on thin ice. “Of course not but sometimes,” she looked at him warning, “just sometimes the situation is such that the shouting is secondary to the crisis…” She fumbled and tried to complicate matters. She didn’t want to condone ASR’s behavior but then she couldn’t let Guddu think poorly of his father could she?
“Perhaps I did something that provoked him and his reaction is justified? Besides, he may seem to have been shouting but to tell the truth it’s nothing compared to what he is capable of,” she rolled her eyes. “Considering that, this morning was a pleasant shower.” She grinned at him and tried to underplay it.
“I don’t understand. You tell me not to raise my voice but it’s okay if Dad does so?”
Khushi sighed. She was getting deeper and deeper into quicksand. And there was no lifeline. She plodded on hoping against hope that she would come up with something good enough to satisfy Guddu. Or divert his attention.
“No, it’s not okay. But he is trying and that is what matters. And old habits die hard. That’s why I tell you to control your temper before it becomes a habit.”
Guddu looked at her disapprovingly. “You are too soft with Dad.” He accused her of favoritism. “He’s mean to you and you never say anything to him.”
Khushi flushed and tweaked his nose. “You are too young to understand the complexities of a marriage.”
Dev drew himself up. “I am going to be 9 next month.”
Khushi laughed. “Of course you are! But still a long long way from understanding relationships.”
“Make me understand.” He insisted. “Why aren’t you even angry with him?”
How could she tell Guddu that she was mad enough to want to slow boil him in oil?
Khushi shrugged helplessly. “A happy life is about achieving balance. About focusing on the good things and accepting the few hiccups that come along with it. It’s about keeping the larger picture in mind. Like you hate getting up in the morning for school. You don’t much care about classes either.” Devansh gave a rueful grin at her teasing twinkle. “But you do look forward to the football sessions and meeting your friends, sneaking off to the school canteen on holidays for Chole bhature.”
Devansh gasped. “You know!”
“Of course I know. I know everything. I am your mother.” She kissed him and gave him a hug. “All that makes the effort of getting up in the morning, sitting through boring classes worth it isn’t it?”
Devansh nodded slowly.
Khushi nodded brightly and gave him a little push. “Good boy. Now go and do your thing. There’s nothing to worry about. Dad will be fine in just a bit. And don’t worry I will scold him for shouting. No pasta for him for a week.” She winked at him.
Devansh walked to the door.
He came back and threw his arms around her waist. “Mamma, you don’t have to compromise because of us.” His voice was muffled and wobbled a bit.
“Oh darling, that’s not what I meant to convey.” Khushi was aghast at how Devansh had interpreted her words.
“But that’s the truth isn’t it? You stay here because of us. Because we make it worth it.”
Khushi’s heart almost broke. Just for this she could have cheerfully murdered her beloved triple-named Rakshash. How many times had she told him to keep his volume down?
“Mom!” Devansh shook her. “Let us leave him and go away. We can manage without him.”
Khushi looked up and caught a glimpse of his shadow lurking near the poolside.
The knowledge that he was listening in on the conversation and was forced to keep quiet was comforting. She decided to punish him a little bit more. Besides, he had been unnecessarily harsh…
“Yes, darling we can manage without him.” She paused. “But the question is can he manage without us?” She looked out at poolside. His shadow moved restlessly.
“I don’t care.” Devansh was mad at his father for yelling at his mom. How dare he?
Khushi sighed. “Well I care. And so do you. Right now you are angry that’s why…”
“I don’t care!” Guddu shouted, “I hate him. I hate him.” His face was all red and scrunched up.
Click here for the concluding part