Khushi’s phone rang and her darling son’s face swam up. “Guddu! How are you?” She was all smiles. She looked at the clock. Almost noon. “And why aren’t you asleep? Everything okay?”
“Oho Amma meri would you take a breath and let me speak?” he laughed. “Yes everything is fine! I was working late and felt hungry. So naturally I remembered you.”
Khushi scanned his face. He looked stressed. And scrawny. “Did you eat something?”
“I am sick and tired of cornflakes.”
“Oh my poor baby. What do you feel like eating?”
“Umm let me see…no never mind.”
“Nothing. I don’t want to give you more reason to mope and feel guilty.”
“Nonsense! Who’s been feeding you all this rubbish? I know!” Khushi smacked her forehead. “The International Broadcasting Radio has been shooting off her mouth! What did she tell you?”
“Nothing Mom. I haven’t spoken to Chotti for a few days now. What should she have told me?”
“No. No. I was just wondering. Yeh Chotti has this habit of making mountains out of molehills…”
“What are you rambling on about? Did you have a fight with Dad or something?”
Khushi shook her head. “Eat something. I want you see you eat. I know make an omelet. You can do it while talking to me and then it won’t seem like a chore.”
“Good idea.” Devansh brightened. He placed the phone at a convenient height and pottered about his tiny kitchenette. “It’s really hot over here. I think just as much as Delhi.”
“How are your studies going on?”
“Okay I guess.”
“Why are stressed?”
“I am not stressed!” he waved and smiled at her. “Look I am perfect.”
Khushi looked at him. Her heart ached to hold him. There was something definitely bothering him. His smile didn’t quite reach is eyes and the corner of his lips were just like his father’s when he was upset.
Kuch toh hai Guddu. The fact that you called me is proof enough.
“It’s okay if you don’t want to tell me…”
“There’s nothing to tell Amma. And what did you two fight about? Actually, I don’t want to know. Must be something silly.” He rolled his eyes. “But Mom, please don’t let Dad bulldoze you into something you don’t want to do.”
“Humph!” Khushi snorted. “As if I would!”
“Of course you would! You have been doing it for years now.”
“Rubbish! What is the matter with all of you? Am I a babe in the woods that everybody feels the need to give me advice! It is time you all looked out for partners and settled down. Koi hai kya?” Khushi slipped it neatly.
Guddu laughed. “Cool Mom. Really cool! But no. Nothing. Zilch. And I am happy this way. See my perfect omelet!” He held up the plate. “And here’s my toast.”
“Who is she?”
“No one Mom.” He began eating.
Koi toh hai. Kuch toh chakkar hai. Khushi forbore to press the issue. Hey Devi Maiyya take care of him.
“Look who’s here to talk to you Guddu!”
“Who?” He looked up. “Bua! How nice to see you.”
“Dev beta kaise ho?” Anjali was all smiles and tears.
“I am good Bua. How’s Anki bhai?”
“He’s fine. He is going to the States in a week or two.”
“Really?” Guddu perked up. “Tell him to look me up. I will text him.”
“Of course he will meet you. How could he not?”
“Cool.” Guddu yawned. “I think I will go to sleep. Maybe I was hungry.”
“Maybe nahi. You were hungry. You should take better care of yourself. How can you sleep or work if you don’t eat?” Khushi was off.
“Okay okay fine fine. Bye bye.” He signed off.
“He’s lost weight hasn’t he Di?”
Anjali bit her lip and nodded. “Yes.”
“I wish I could send him food. How sad I cook for everybody but my kids don’t get to eat.” She drooped.
“Come on Khushi don’t think like that. This is their journey. They have to learn to take care of themselves. We won’t always be there. Isn’t that what you always said to me when I worried about Ankit?”
Khushi smiled wanly at Anjali. “Achcha toh aap badla le rahi hain?”
“Aur kya!” Anjali reached out and cupped Khushi’s face, “I have been waiting for an opportunity to return the favor.”
“I think something is bothering Guddu.” Khushi sobered.
Anjali nodded. “Possible and very likely too. But we cannot do anything can we?” she said briskly. “There is no point is fretting over something we cannot change. Right?”
Khushi gave a rueful smile. All her exhortations were coming back to her. It was easier to said than done!
“Waise bhi. Ankit is going soon. I will tell him to find out. I am sure it’s nothing more than an exam or project.”
Khushi nodded cheering up. “Yes. I am sure it’s nothing serious. Maybe he was tired from a long day.”
“Exactly. Let him be. You can call him up again in a day or two. Right?”
“Yes Di.” Khushi squeezed Anjali’s hand. “Thanks Di. Aap kitni samajhdar ho gayi hain!” Khushi marveled.
“I was lucky to have two good teachers.” Her eyes crinkled. “Kshitij and Khushi. Besides, it’s easy to give advice isn’t it?”
Khushi nodded sheepishly. “Would you like to have tea?”
“Sure. We can discuss Chotte and his latest transgressions over tea.”
Khushi stilled and looked at Di. “Don’t tell me Di you have also come to plead Chotte’s case?” Hurt flashed in Khushi’s eyes.
Di put a reassuring hand to Khushi’s cheek. “Would that be so bad?”
Khushi’s eyes dropped. She played with her fingers. “Everyone is blaming me.” Her voice was low.
Anjali put a hand over restless fingers and gave a squeeze. “Nobody is blaming you.” When Khushi looked up with a protest in her eyes,” at least I am not,” she added hastily. “And neither did Devansh. We just want what’s best for you.”
“Which is?” Khushi asked.
Anjali coughed. “Not to be at loggerheads with Chotte?” She wore her best innocent face.
Khushi laughed. “Di aap bhi na. Kisi bhi tarah you will support your darling Chotte.”
“No no! Aisa kuch nahi hai. I am all for punishing him but the problem is you will also suffer. Isn’t it?”
Khushi’s eyes dropped. She fidgeted. “Yehi toh mushkil hai. If I ‘punish’ him, then I end up hurting myself as well. That’s why half the time I forgive him or ignore his thoughtless comments but then that just makes him worse,” she glowered. “He really takes me for granted.” Khushi’s face was stern.
“Yes! Exactly. So, it is time to do something ki lathi bhi na toote aur saanp bhi mar I mean sudhar jaaye?”
Khushi made a face. “Is that even possible?”
“Is this KKGSR speaking?” Di was scandalized. “Haar man gayi kya?”
Khushi’s eyes narrowed. “Of course not!”
Di giggled. “That’s my Bhabhi. So any ideas?”
Khushi stared into the distance. Time for some highhanded behavior of her own – after all she had the training from the best of the best. Not that she was any less on her own. Khushi giggled to herself.
“I will need your help Di.”
“Anything!” Di assured her.
Toh kya kehte ho?