Khushi stared after him wonderingly, the Rajkumar was back, ab kya hua, she felt dizzy and confused, she closed her eyes, maybe she was dreaming, and Arnav was still in the office, “Here drink this, you will feel better,” there was Arnav standing there looking strange and different, he seemed to be laboring under some strong emotion, Khushi felt too weak and tired to decipher it, waise bhi it seemed ages since she had looked him in the face. She looked at him and then at the glass of milk he was offering.
She sat up with a jerk, panic stricken, dizziness forgotten, so that was it, he was trying to… “Nanijiiiiiiii, bachaao Nanijiiiiii” Khushi ran from the room while Arnav stared after her dumbstruck, “What the! Khushiiiii careful! Khushi relax,” without waiting to even keep the glass of milk he ran after her.
Khushi barged into Nani’s room and climbed on the bed and sat huddled behind Nani, her breath coming in short gasps, Arnav skidded to a halt beside the bed, “Khushi yeh kya pagalpan hai,” he huffed.
“Door rahiye humse, door rahiye,” Khushi clutched Nani tightly, “Naniji inse kahiye yeh chale jaye.”
“Par hua kya Khushi bitiya,” Nani was quite puzzled, itne saal ho gaye shaadi ko, kabhi aise nahi hua.
“Naniji hum Amma ban ne walein hain aur,” She glared at Arnav, “Aur yeh Babuji.”
“Babuji! What the!” There was a clatter as Naniji’s stuff fell to the floor as he thumped the glass of milk on the table, “No way Khushi, tum ko Amma ban na hai, bano, I refuse to be Babuji,” He crossed his arms and said, “Dad is fine by me.”
Nani was over the moon, hey Devi Maiyya tera lakh lakh shukar hai, she hugged Khushi happily and got up to hug Chotte close as well, “Arre yeh to bahut khushi ki baat hai! Phir aap dono kahe itna ladat ho?”
“Naniji, yeh aapke Chotte toh Babuji ban na hi nahi chahte,” Khushi sat up on her knees and poured out her troubles to Nani, “aapne suna na, inhone kya kaha abhi, aur yeh hume doodh main …”, she faltered, and clapped a hand on her mouth, horrified at herself, yeh hum kya bolne ja rahe the! No! This couldn’t be true; she could stake her life on it. Arnav would never do such a thing like that! What was she thinking! Sach main hum pagal ho gaye hain kya, is this the effect of pregnancy? Hey Devi Maiyya raksha karna, pehle se hi kam paagal the kya!
She finally registered Arnav’s shocked expression, “Khushi tum sach main aisa sochti ho?” the anguish in his voice cut her deeply.
She shook her head dumbly, how could she explain, she herself was at a loss, she suddenly reached out and drank the glass of milk in a gulp.
“Hume maaf kar dijiye Naniji,” Khushi achieved a semblance of normalcy, “Humara who matlab nahi tha, sab yeh Laad Governor ki galati hai, itne saalon se keh rahe hain but he refused to agree to my one wish, he even refused to talk to me about it; I have thought and thought about what could be the reason till I went crazy, you just saw the extent of my pagalpan just now. But what could I do Naniji? Aap hi bataiye, aisa koi karta hai kya? What rational explanation could be there for his continuing refusal? Toh phir toh hum Kamlesh Khabri ki baat ko hi maanenge,” she trailed off, spent.
“Kamlesh Khabri, I am going to destroy that man, he has created enough trouble already,” Arnav hissed angrily, turned on his heels and strode away. (Yup ASR BG playing loud and long).
Khushi looked dolefully at Naniji, suddenly her brilliant smile broke through, “Naniji hum Amma ban ne walein hai aur aap phir se Badi Nani!” She hugged Nani ecstatically, her heart suddenly soaring with joy and happiness, all the doubts and worries vanishing in an instant; there was no Rakshash, she suddenly just knew it. Nani hugged her back and they both shed tears of joy.
“But Naniji, do you know why Arnav didn’t want a baby all this while, abhi toh bole the that he is fine with being Dad?” Khushi was confused, ‘kya jalebi ke tarah pencheeda aadmi hai, no wonder I love him,’ she shook her head at herself.
“Mubarak ho bitiya,” Nani was all smiles, she caressed and blessed Khushi, “Khush raho bitiya and as for Chotte, nothing to worry, he is like that only. He cannot bear to see his loved ones in any trouble and if feasible he will take the blame the problem on his own shoulders to spare them any heartache.”
Khushi looked at her confused, “Hum kuch samjhe nahi Nani.”
Nani smiled and narrated, “When Chotte and Anjali bitiya were forced to flee Sheesh Mahal, they were able to carry with them only a few of their belongings. One of these was a precious photograph of them as children. The glass cover was shattered and Anjali was heartbroken as she had broken it, but Chotte took the blame on his head because he couldn’t bear it that she was so upset with herself. This is your Arnav; he will do something to protect you from being hurt even if it means that he himself is painted black in the process.”
Nani smiled at Khushi’s still blank look, “Khushi bitiya, aap ko yaad hai, in the early days of your marriage when Chotte fainted because he had not eaten?
Khushi nodded as her expression darkened, how could she forget, that was when he had pulled a fast one on her, pretended to faint in order to pay her back for irritating him with her ‘Swami’ act, ‘kaisa lagta hai bina koi galti kiye guilty feel karna; tum mujhe kitne dino se jaanti ho, well dino se kya farq padta hai, kitna bhi jaan lo kabhi kabhi kisi ko pehchanna mushkil ho jaata hai, right? Kal raat mujhe kuch nahi hua tha, main bilkul theek tha, surprised huh? maine dawai bhi le li thi, mujhe bhook bhi nahi lagi thi and to top it all up, main behosh bhi nahi hua tha, sab kuch ek natak tha, hisaab jo barabar karna tha, understand?
The words were etched forever in her memory, the sneering supercilious tone still rankled and even more so the irony of it, who better knew how it felt to be punished for something she had not even done and worse not even know what she was being punished for.
Nani smiled and said, “Anjali had told me about the incident, humare Chotte ki yehi toh khasiyat hai! Usse bardasht hi nahi hota ki jo uske sabse zyaada kareeb hai, unhe koi bhi pareshaani ho ya phir koi bhi dard pahunche, is liye us ehsaas ko door karne ke liye humare Chotte kuch bhi kar sakte hain, phir chahe jhoot bolna padhe ya phir apne sir koi galat ilzaam.”
Khushi stared at Nani in shock, “Iska matlab…”
Nani nodded her head, “Haan bitiya, he lied that day, he did faint, but he couldn’t bear to see you so upset and guilty, jo bhi hua, use tumhe dukh pahuncha, pareshaani hui aur apne aap ko kosa, aur Chotte ne jhoot bola ki job hi hua woh ek natak tha, taki tumhe bura na lage, isse Khushi bitiya yeh pata chalta hai ki Chotte ko aap ka kitna khayal hai, aur woh bhi tabse!”
Khushi felt dazed and confused, she wished she could fly into his arms, she ached for the warm comfort of his arms, but how did that explain this new ‘natak’ of his, why go to so much trouble, and make her more pareshaan rather than less pareshaan, “Par Naniji, how does this explain his objection to starting a family?”
Author note: 24/09/2019: As you may or not be knowing I have been off my blog this year for various reasons. Mostly loss of confidence and absence of inspiration. And lack of notifications made me believe that the era of SS was over and indeed if it ever had been. Yet to my surprise when I went behind the scene, I find that 40 to 50 visitors visit my blog and this particular page has had over 2000 views in recent times. Yet my blog for all practical purposes is a dessert, a wasteland. It would be nice to know that someone is out there, at least once in a while, especially when you are feeling like Eeyore…
“Hello Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Hello Pooh. Hello Piglet,” said Eeyore, in a Glum Sounding Voice.
“We just thought we’d check in on you,” said Piglet, “because we hadn’t heard from you, and so we wanted to know if you were okay.”
Eeyore was silent for a moment. “Am I okay?” he asked, eventually. “Well, I don’t know, to be honest. Are any of us really okay? That’s what I ask myself. All I can tell you, Pooh and Piglet, is that right now I feel really rather Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. Which is why I haven’t bothered you. Because you wouldn’t want to waste your time hanging out with someone who is Sad, and Alone, and Not Much Fun To Be Around At All, would you now.”
Pooh looked and Piglet, and Piglet looked at Pooh, and they both sat down, one on either side of Eeyore in his stick house.
Eeyore looked at them in surprise. “What are you doing?”
“We’re sitting here with you,” said Pooh, “because we are your friends. And true friends don’t care if someone is feeling Sad, or Alone, or Not Much Fun To Be Around At All. True friends are there for you anyway. And so here we are.”
“Oh,” said Eeyore. “Oh.” And the three of them sat there in silence, and while Pooh and Piglet said nothing at all; somehow, almost imperceptibly, Eeyore started to feel a very tiny little bit better.
Because Pooh and Piglet were There. No more; no less.
Click here for Chapter 116