Beads of sweat dotted Khushi’s brow. Just one more row of flowerpots to water and then she would escape to the welcome coolness of the house. It was technically her husband’s job to water the plants but like many of his other tasks, this one too slid to her by default.
But it wasn’t his fault poor thing. She thought fondly. He had come back late last night after picking up Deva from the airport. She hummed happily as she washed her hands, while idly planning lunch – something that Guddu would like and Chotti wouldn’t object to, not an easy task.
“Good morning!” Khushi sang out to her beautiful family gathered in the drawing room buried in their respective devices.
“Chotti, move, let me sit here in front of the AC.” Khushi leaned to catch the blast of the AC, “it’s terribly hot!” she groaned. She turned to glare at Arnav. “I thought you were sleeping,” she accused, “why didn’t you water the plants? One thing you do and that too…”
“Because it is going to rain by this evening,” Arnav smirked, “I am not such a fool as you to waste my energies watering them when it…”
“But they were thirsty now!” Khushi protested.
“Says who?” Challenged Arnav.
“Your precious plants that’s who!” Khushi shot back. “If you can’t hear them…”
“You can hear them, but you can’t hear your own son who is hungry…”
“I thought he was asleep!” Khushi protested. “How was I to know everyone would be up and about at 8 am on a Sunday morning?” She ruffled Deva’s hair looking at him searchingly.
“Mom!” Guddu jerked away. “What’s for breakfast?”
“Poha?” She couldn’t help worrying about him. Not after what he had told her last night. Despite the late hour, as if he couldn’t wait to unburden himself. “Guddu,” there was a note of pleading in her voice.
Deva disappeared behind the newspaper, giving his tacit approval and avoiding her worried loving eyes.
“Yech!” Chotti grumbled. “So boring. Can you add scrambled eggs to it?”
“No!” The newspaper rustled and Deva emerged to glare at Chotti who stuck her tongue at him.
Khushi looked at Nani who smiled and nodded.
Khushi gulped in a final gust of icy cold air, before heaving herself to her feet and trudging to the sweltering kitchen. She did love cooking especially for her family but of late it was becoming more of a chore. Probably it was the heat or perhaps she was going through menopause…oh well this too would pass. In the meanwhile there was breakfast to be made and different tastes and palates to be pleased. And Guddu…
Arnav sauntered in. “Why are you cooking? Where’s HP?”
Khushi threw him an exasperated look at him over here shoulder. “Don’t you ever listen to what I say? Didn’t I tell you they have gone home to attend a wedding?”
“Hire someone else!” He drank some water from the fridge.
“By the time I find someone, get them trained, they’ll be back.”
“Good. It’s good to have back up support,” he peered over her shoulder. “So much oil? Do you want to kill us all or something?”
Khushi glared at him. “Don’t you have something better to do?” her voice was honeyed sugar.
Arnav wasn’t listening to her. “It’s so hot in the kitchen! Why haven’t you switched on the fan?” He flicked the switch and turned the fan towards her.
“Thanks Arnav,” Khushi rolled her eyes, “but the blast makes the flames flicker and it really takes ages to cook.”
“Nonsense! I’ll ask the AC chap come and fix one in the kitchen.” He denied her claim and supported it in the same breath. “Where’s my phone?”
“No! Arnav please! We’ve had this discussion, I don’t want an AC in the…” But Arnav was gone.
Khushi chopped up the potatoes into small chunks feeling irritated. Her irritation rose because there was no real reason for her irritation. She should be happy there was going to be AC in the kitchen but yet her thrifty nature couldn’t quite digest the unnecessary luxury. Plus she had a dinner planned with Di and all, how would she manage with workers traipsing in and out of her kitchen?
ASR she fumed. He never listened. That was his problem. Neither HP nor Shakuntala were around and now unknown people would tramp in and out of her spotless kitchen messing it up. And with Guddu home for a short time…ungh! What was the point – the AC guys were going to come. Like it or not.
“Thanks Ma.” Deva muttered without looking up from the newspaper.
“Did you come home to read the paper?” Chotti grumbled. “I had to beg Ashubh to give me Sunday off. May as well have not taken the favor.”
Deva perked up. “Shubham and you are still at it?” His eyes danced as Chotti flushed and got all hot and bothered. “What do you mean at it?” She snapped.
ASR frowned and looked suspiciously at Khushi who rolled her eyes. “How’s the poha Naniji.” Khushi changed the topic.
“Nice, but a bit dry.”
“I know,” Khushi admitted guiltily. She got up hastily. “I’ll get some lassi for everybody, that will make it easier to wash down.” She put the loaded tray on the table and handed one glass to Naniji. “Actually sab aapke Chotte ki galti hai.” She glared at him across the room.
Arnav inclined his head resignedly. “But of course.” He murmured.
“Ji haan. If you hadn’t come into the kitchen and accused me of trying to kill you, I would have used more oil. That’s why it is so dry. I’m sorry Naniji.”
“Never mind Khushi bitiya,” Naniji patted her hand consolingly.
“But Ma you didn’t put peanuts!” Deva protested.
“Oops sorry Guddu,” Khushi smacked her forehead. “Naniji can’t chew peanuts and I have stopped putting them in, but I did roast them separately. Wait I’m just getting them.”
“And you put coconut.” Wailed Chotti peering into her bowl trying to peck and hunt out the pieces.“
“A little bit of coconut won’t kill you,” Khushi said unfeelingly, “in fact it’s good for you…”
“It might kill me.” Arnav interjected with a martyred expression. “My cholesterol levels will shoot up…”
“Sorry Dad,” Angel leaned towards him for a quick hug, “but that cholesterol is off the bad guy list.” Khushi glowed but Arnav wasn’t looking at her. He had other pressing concerns.
“What? Since when? You mean, I can have eggs?”
“As many as you like Dad,” confirmed Angel, but seeing the gleam in his eyes, she thought it prudent to add, “within limits Dad, within limits.”
“And who’ll set that limit?” Arnav arched an eyebrow.
“I will.” Khushi looked at him with a steely glint in her eyes.
“Oh yeah?” Arnav snorted. “We’ll see about that.”
Khushi put her hands on her hips. “Indeed we will.” Her glint turned dangerous.
Angel nudged Deva, who looked up and rolled his eyes. “They are still at it?”
Angel shook her head. “I don’t think they’ll ever stop bickering.”
“So,” Deva asked in an undertone taking advantage of the moment, “how’s your bickering going on? Strong? Full steam?”
Angel glared at him. “I don’t know how you can equate that with this. Besides there’s nothing going on between him and me…”
“Ahem!” Deva coughed and cleared his throat loudly, “Him. Him? Him!”
“Shut up!” Angel pummeled him with a handy cushion. “Shubham. Happy?”
“Him. Ham.” Deva mocked her. “Are you?” Deva snickered at her expression warring between a desire to strangle him and burst out laughing. She settled for flouncing off closely dogged by Guddu’s low delighted laughter.
“What was that about?” Arnav shot Angel’s retreating back and his cat-got-the-cream expression. Deva smoothed out his expression. “What?” He asked innocently. He shrugged picking up the paper. “Nothing. We’re just catching up.” He sneaked out from behind the paper called out loud enough to reach Angel. “Arent we? Dr. Chotti?”
Fists clenched, Chotti stopped in her tracks. “Mom! Tell your darling Guddu to shut up warna…”
“Warna kya?” Guddu sat up and spread his hands, “Judge sahiba!” he pleaded to Khushi, “Aakhir mera kasoor kya hai?”
“Da…!” Chotti was at the end of her tether but Guddu was just beginning to warm up.
He ignored her and continued blithely, “Yehi ki main Shubh kaam main koi deri nahi chahta?”
With a bloodcurdling yell Chotti dropped all pretense of being cool and composed and made a leap towards Guddu. But he was forewarned and jumped out of reach of her extended claws. He made a dash for the stairs confident that she would never be able to catch him thanks to the inexplicable maze that was RM.
Khushi clasped her hands and prayed for patience. “Hey Devi Maiyya! When will these two grow up?” And looked as if Guddu had come to a decision. Her heart thudded. But what had he decided? Hey Devi Maiyya raksha karna. Please. She pleaded.
A/N. Hello IPK friends – long time no see 😀 This story has remained half-cooked for ages now. Today I dug it out (yet again) and it turned out to be something else. Do let me know your thoughts on this one.