A Tangled Web – 1






 Arnav swiftly tapped his phone. “Damn!” Her phone rang on the bed.

“Uffff!” Khushi appeared at a trot. “Where’s the fire?” she panted. “Ek toh itni garmi uske upar se…”

“What the hell Khushi! Kahan thi? Kab se bula raha hoon. Didn’t you hear me?”

“Forgive me O Lord and Master,” Khushi bowed low before collapsing on the recliner, “for daring to go to the loo without your explicit written permission.”

“You could have answered ‘coming’ or something?”

“I did.” Khushi was sugar sweet. “Didn’t you hear? Or you were too busy shouting? And I was downstairs. I had to come upstairs on the double.” She massaged her legs. “Kuch toh reham karo. I am not as young as I used to be.”

“Same goes for me too.” Arnav was gruff. “I nearly got a heart attack…”

“What did you think? That I had run off with Banke Lal?” she put a hand to her heart and fluttered her lashes at him.

Arnav stared at her perplexed and then burst out laughing. “Banke Lal! You are crazy Khushi. Tumhara cracked dimaag hasn’t changed one bit in these past few decades.”

Khushi sighed and shook her head. “But of course not! Change karne ke liye time chahiye. And where was the time in all these years?”

“So you mean you will change now that the kids have grown up and flown the nest?”

Khushi’s eyes opened wide. “Kids? Oh no they weren’t any hassle. Woh toh aapke tune par dance karte karte waqt ka pata hi nahi chala.”

ASR’s eyes glittered. “Oh so I am the ‘hassle’ the bother, the…? ”

“…headache, the pain in the…” Khushi laughed at him.

“Pain in the what Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada?” ASR and Arnav had a bit of a tussle.

“Khud hi fill in the blanks kar lijiye na.” Khushi waved her hands. “Oho, chodiye yeh sab. Why were you busting an artery looking for me? Just roll call?” she waggled her eyes at him.

A reluctant sheepish smile tugged his lips. “No. I have to go to Singapore in the first week of June.”

“Ji Laad Governor sahib! Message received over and out.” She turned away.

He caught her by the arm and pulled her back. “What message?”

“Yehi that packing should be undertaken as per your needs.” She tapped her cheek. “You didn’t tell me for how many days?”

“You didn’t let me tell you. I was still speaking when you turned away.” ASR had come to the fore with flashing eyes and thinned lips.

Khushi gasped and clapped a hand to her mouth. “Oh no!”

“Kya hua?” ASR vanished and Arnav appeared in full force.

Khushi raised tragic eyes to him. “Wohi hua jiska darr tha!”

“Kya hua Khushi?” Arnav clasped her tightly by the arms (not quite sure if he was holding her or holding on to her 😉 )

Khushi wrung her hands. “Apse infection lag gaya!”

Arnav let go of her and looked at her with a wary expression. “Mera infection? Meaning?”

Khushi fluttered her eyes at him. “Yehi… baat aadhi sun kar chale jaane ki?” She held up an innocent sad face to him though the twinkle in her eye was very much evident as Arnav looked at her ruefully.

“Tum aur tumhara nautanki.” He turned away and began randomly throwing suits on the bed.

“Chodiye! I will do it. How many days are you going for?”

“A week.”

“A week! Oh!”

“What?” Arnav was keeping a close watch on her face.

“Nothing. I was just thinking I would have to ask HPji to take out the bigger case. Only the overnighter is here.” She turned away.

“You will be okay alone?”

“Why would I not be?”

“That’s no answer. Just think about it Khushi – nobody at home – not for a day or two but for a week. Yaad hai na last time kya hua tha?”

“Haan yaad hai. Aapne jaan boojhkar hume daraya tha. Besides, that was ages ago and I didn’t have the experience…”

“Abhi experience hai? Kabhi akeli rahi ho?”

“Nahi. But after spending decades with you, aapse zyaada kisi cheez se darr nahi lagta.” Khushi fluttered her lashes at him.

“Very funny.” ASR wasn’t pleased.

“Oho, aap toh naraz ho gaye.” Khushi put a hand on his sleeve. “Hum toh sach main mazaak,” she coaxed him with a smile, “nahi kar rahe the.”

She laughed at his expression.

A rueful smile tugged his lips.

“You are coming with me. Aur main bhi mazaak nahi kar raha hoon.”

“Oh no Arnav! I really can’t go. I would love to of course but…”

“Kyon? Koi Board meeting hai?”

Khushi’s smile faltered just the tiniest bit. “Board meeting nahi bhi ho, but I have a lot of commitments. I promised I would help out Mrs Verma with her charity event. And then Manjula…”

“Cancel all that.” ASR dismissed them.

“I can’t do that! I promised them…”

“To cook for them? To run errands for them? They can get somebody else.”

“That’s a low blow Arnav.” Khushi was cut to the core.

“Haan toh maine galat kya bola? People take advantage of you aur tumko dikhai nahi deta. I just don’t get it, what’s the need to get involved in these kind of activities?”

“Perhaps I enjoy it.” Khushi shrugged.

“What’s there to enjoy?” ASR was incredulous.

“Each to his own Arnav. You enjoy your work and I enjoy…”

“I work because I need to earn money for my family…”

“Nonsense Arnav. We have enough for our needs. You work because you love the power that it brings.”

“So what’s wrong with that. One should work but that should bring tangible results – wealth, power, status – tum jo karti ho usse kya milta hai?” ASR BG score prepped up.

“Well for one it gives you scope to belittle me.” Khushi held herself steady.

Arnav’s face was a study.

Instantly contrite, he reached out a hand, “Khushi mera woh matlab…”

Khushi jerked away. “Sometimes I really don’t understand you Arnav. What do you want from me? The whole year round, you ignore me and focus on your work. You exhort me to develop my own circle, keep myself busy and then jab aapka mann kare you show me my place and demand that I should chuck all my commitments and go running with you.”

A nerve twitched in ASR’s jaw. “Fine! Do as you please.”

“Yehi toh baat hai.” Khushi threw up her hands in despair. “What I please never pleases you.”

ASR strode out in sync with the overloud ASR BG score.

To be continued…TRP ratings awaited 😉 😀

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