Sure enough Nani was awake, praying; she looked up at their entry and thanked DM for making her children happy again, they came forward and touched her feet. She hugged them and as her emotions got better of her, the tears overflowed; soon there was Ganga Jamuna and Saraswati (yes Saraswati too made an appearance, albeit a brief one). She blessed Khushi about a zillion times and then turned to Arnav and caressed his face, “I am proud of you son, that you love Khushi so much, but I must say, you still don’t really understand your Khushi or what gives her khushi; Khushi is one person who would gladly bear any punishment, guilt or hurt rather than think badly of any of her loved ones, especially not you Chotte. What did you think that by saying your fainting attack was a natak, you relieved her from the pain of guilt? No you just replaced that with another pain, a greater pain that of accepting that the man she loves is deceitful and cruel to boot; aapko toh pata hoga na aisan hone se kaisan lagat hai?” Nani got quite worked up and emotional.
Khushi hurriedly stepped in to save her Laad Governor, “Haan Naniji, don’t worry he still has to get an earful from me, hum aise nahi jaane denge unhe, aap pareshan mat hoyie.”
Nani shook her head and said resignedly, “Dekha Chotte, you hurt her terribly and if DM had not intervened this could have gone on forever, yet look at her; she is saving you from my wrath.”
Arnav looking suitably chastised, “Nani…”
“R..rehne dijiye na,” Khushi jumped in, “It’s very late,” she yawned and sighed, “I am very tired and hungry.”
Of course that put an end to any further conversation as the comfort of the youngest expecting bahu took precedence over all else.
Dinner over, Nani hugged and blessed Khushi once again; she glared at an unusually downcast and subdued Arnav, then melted and hugged him too. His expression lightened, a bit. Khushi too noticed that Arnav was quiet and withdrawn, and she also noted that he hadn’t yet expressed any emotion so far at her pregnancy per se. He had not even congratulated her or come to think of it even expressed his joy at approaching parenthood. She sighed, now what was going on in that jalebified brain of his? No wonder she was feeling dizzy.
She suddenly felt tired and yearned to sleep it all off, but then there were still some things to be sorted out and the sooner this was done the better it would be. Some thing was still eating into Arnav, and Khushi couldn’t rest till she had gotten to the bottom of it.
Once inside, Khushi scanned his face searchingly, while he got restive, “I am going to change,” he mumbled and turned away.
But Khushi held him by the hand and stayed him, he froze, she hesitantly came forward and faced him, reluctantly he looked down at her, she picked up his hand and held it close to her and clasped it with both her hands, “Aapko pata hai, I can bear any burden in this world, if I could just have you by my side,” her voice broke, “You cannot imagine the agony of not having you by my side, there was nobody else I could really talk to about it and look at what you made me do, I talked to Nani!” she put her hands to her hot cheeks, “Pata nahi woh kya soch rahi hongi! And it was worse, not knowing why you were behaving in this cold uncommunicative manner; I almost went crazy thinking all sorts of things, tabhi toh I got so influenced by Kamlesh Khabri.” She held her ears and said softly, sincerely, “I am sorry, hume maaf kar dijiye,” as tears slid down her cheeks.
“Khushi, tum kyon sorry bol rahee ho, tumhe sorry bolne ki koi zaroorat nahi, I didn’t think how it would appear to you, I am sorry Khushi,” muttered Arnav as he gently removed her hands from her ears and wiped her tears with his thumbs as he cupped her face tenderly, unable to say anymore.
Khushi voice trembled and broke, “Agar phir se aisa kiya toh hum saans hi nahi le payenge,” she controlled herself with an effort; Khushi held out her hand and demanded, “Promise me that you will never take such a step again, you will always discuss with me your concerns and then WE will decide how best tackle it,” she nudged him with her eyes to take her hand.
But Arnav just stood there with an inscrutable expression, finally he said, “Khushi why do you think I would…”
“Who knows what you will do next and here I thought I was the Sanka Devi, buaji theek kehti hai, aap bahut hi sanki hai! Suna nahi Nani ne kya bola tha! Ab aap akele nahi hai, aur hum biwi hain aapki, haq hai hume aapke har ek decision par! Especially those which have a direct bearing on me and our family, don’t you think?” Khushi posed a tough one.
Arnav reluctantly nodded his head, “Haan par Khushi, main aisa hi hoon, I am a loner by nature, and I have been taking decisions since I was fourteen years of age, you can’t expect me to change overnight!”
“Achcha toh that means you won’t promise? I always have to be on my guard, on tenterhooks ki pata nahi when the Laad Governor decides something is good for me and I have to swallow it willy-nilly and worse I won’t be given any reason or justification,” Now Khushi was getting all worked up because she could see from Arnav’s mutinous expression that she would be losing this argument.
He looked away and said rather reluctantly, “Ok Khushi, I can promise to try to be more open next time, but I am not promising anything.”
Khushi made a face, she knew this was the best she could hope for, itne jaldi toh yeh badalne se rahe and besides he looked so stressed out! Her heart went out to him; he had done all this because he loved her so! But still…aisa koi karta hai kya! She flounced away to the bathroom to change and freshen up.
He was still standing where she had left him, a muscle ticking in his jaw; he forced himself to unbend and turn to look at her, he tenderly picked her up and deposited her gently on the bed; he drew up the covers and went to change. She was asleep by the time he came back, he went over to her side and stood looking down at her for a long time, he bent down and kissed her forehead and whispered, “Congratulations…Amma’; then he bent down and kissed her belly, almost inaudibly he said gruffly, “Hi there little one, welcome home.”
He turned to go, but Khushi pulled him by the hand, he froze; reluctantly he turned back to face Khushi as she sat up but refused to meet her eyes; she searched his face wonderingly and then said in a whisper, “You are still keeping your options open!”
Startled Arnav looked at Khushi, “I don’t know what you mean,” even as a flush suffused his face and ears, he turned away, but Khushi drew his face towards herself by his chin, “Really?!” softly, tenderly, as love for this crazy convoluted complex man overwhelmed her.
“You think I don’t understand what is going on in that shatir dimaag of yours,” she smiled at him mistily, “You don’t want me to know exactly how thrilled you are with this news just in case this turns out to be a false hope and my hopes are shattered. You want to have that option of consoling me by saying ‘it’s ok Khushi, never mind, I never was really very keen in any case,’ hai na? But don’t you understand Arnav, whatever will happen, will happen, no matter what, we just have to be strong enough to face it and in any case, hume poora vishwas hai, Devi Maiyya humare saath hain; Let us at least enjoy and savor this moment?”
Arnav looked away, feeling rather foolish not only at how easily Khushi saw through him and that it did seem a rather flimsy reason, not to celebrate the much awaited moment and acknowledge his joy; ever since he found out that she had stopped her pills (he found a strip of unused tablets) he had been on high alert and had watched with growing dismay, her disappointment and unhappiness at another month passed with no news. He had been doubly upset, because he too had been secretly hoping for a little khushi of his own but in the process his Khushi was being hurt, again and again and he just couldn’t bear it. Hence this brilliant plan.
But Khushi was right, there were so many things that could go wrong and it would be impossible to have a back up plan in each case, at least they had this moment, their first baby, a once in a lifetime event and just because he was afraid he couldn’t take away Khushi’s happiness.
He shifted under the covers beside Khushi and hugged her close, “Yes you are right Khushi, actually I am very happy Khushi, I can’t wait for our little one,” he hesitated and then confessed, almost shamefully, “but I am scared as well.”
“Hum bhi bahut khush hai, aur darr bhi lag raha hai,” Khushi hugged him tightly, “Aapko pata hai, when we share our joys, it is doubled and when we share our sorrows and fears they are halved?”
His face awash with emotions, Arnav nodded his head and said sternly, “But Khushi I am warning you, No ‘babuji’ for me, don’t you dare!”
“Hmm… dekhte hain; depends on your good behavior.” Taking a leaf out of her Laad Governor’s book, Khushi kept her options open.
Click here for Chapter 119