As nobody paid any attention to the tiny toddler amongst their midst (no not even his Di, well she did pick him up and put him out of harm’s way, but that was it; after all they were playing musical chairs and the competitive spirit was high), Ankit looked around morosely, he brightened, his dad was sitting on his haunches, trying for the ideal angle for his photo album, with an excited squeal, Ankit leapt on to his back and stuck on like a limpet; much to Ankit’s delight, his dad gave him his due and allowed him to hang on to his back while he clicked snaps; Ankit chortled with glee, from his vantage position he had a ring-side view of the happenings, he felt safe and master of all he surveyed.
Suddenly Ankit gave a yell and slipped from Khsitij’s back, thankfully the camera was hanging around his neck, as otherwise the camera would have fallen as Khsitij lunged to catch Ankit before he dropped with a thud, “Totte!” he ran as fast as his legs could carry him and launched himself into Arnav’s arms, “Whoa, big boy!” he caught him neatly.
Immediately he jumped to Khushi, shrieking, “Coochie!” and then instantly to the otherside, “Nani!” Arnav somehow managed to avoid a collision between Ankit’s head and nose and had a tough time managing the squirming, jumpy, yeah Anya was right, Mankie! Anjali and Khsitij too came over, of course more sedately to greet them laughing at Ankit’s obvious excitement. Suddenly Ankit wriggled out of Arnav’s arms and ran away inside the house; they all laughed wondering now what!
Soon another avalanche descended upon them in the form of Anya, “There you are! You are so late! I missed you,” she complained.
Arnav, Khushi and Nani stared at Anya in surprise, she had turned eleven today, no doubt a big girl but today she looked so old and mature! They stared at her with mixed feelings. She had chosen to wear a salwar suit complete with a flowing duppata, which had been neatly tied around her waist during the games, but on spying her guests, she had been vain enough to pull it loose and arrange it carefully before rushing off to greet them, she smiled triumphantly at their expressions, “Well aren’t you going to wish me happy birthday? How do I look? Why are you so late, I have been waiting and waiting,” she attacked, even as she modeled for their benefit while Anjali and Khsitij looked on proudly.
They barely had time to wish her, and Arnav to murmur, “Miss us? Really? I don’t think so,” looking at the bunch of children scattered all over the GM lawns; but then like a swarm of bees they made a beeline for Anya’s special guests, giggling, pushing and shoving each other, finally Aisha came forward and simpered, “Hello HSR, long time no see.” She and the others giggled, Anya frowned at them, but failed to pull it off, “They are the ones who have been reminding me ever so often about how late you are!!!”
Arnav turned a deep shade of red; Khushi had an uncontrollable fit of coughing, while the rest hid their smiles as best as they could. Arnav’s savior came charging through the crowd bearing a ball bigger than himself and dragged him away to play football with him, cutting through the mob by sheer lung power; ‘Excuse me’ Arnav muttered as he vanished from the scene, blessing Ankit for his timely entry. The girls dispersed in a disappointed murmur while the adults broke into uncontrollable laughter; they had spied the mighty Mr Arnav Singh Raizada surreptitiously wipe his brow with his handkerchief.
Khushi rushed off to meet her Babuji, while Nani too followed, rather sedately, Amma and Buaji came out from inside the house where they had been helping Vimla with the food. There were greetings, smiles and blessings all around, everybody talking all at once. Arnav came back in a while with a squealing Ankit held atop his shoulder; he noticed that the little boy was tiring as he had not yet fully recovered from his recent illness and thought it best to cut short the football session, besides he thought he should greet his in-laws too. In a while, the hosts went off to wind up the party while Arnav sank down beside ‘uncle’ and indulged in social chit chat; Ankit clamored for Khushi’s attention, while Nani chatted with Garima and Buaji.
In a while Anya came back and dragged Arnav by the hand, “Come and play at least one game with my friends, Mami you too please.”
Khushi smiled and winked, “I think HSR is the one they want! I will stay with Ankit,” she tickled Ankit and he gurgled happily.
Arnav looked pleadingly helplessly back at Khushi who simply grinned. Seeing no choice, Arnav gave up protesting and hobnobbed with the mob with good grace, everyone wanted to shake his hand and take photographs with him; he was quite taken aback by his popularity. He had the opportunity to finally meet Abhinav, Anya’s beau or possibly ex-beau, he wasn’t quite sure of the latest status, it could have swung either way by now as Abhinav was as tall as Anya; Abhinav too shook hands with him, “I watched you play football with Ankit, wished I could join you,” he looked around him rather disgustedly, where the girls clearly outnumbered the boys. Arnav nodded and grinned, appreciating his dilemma. Arnav hung around till Anya’s attention was focused on him, and slipped away the moment she became involved in the game they were playing.
Khushi played with Ankit and chatted happily with her parents, holding back her secret with glee waiting for everybody to be free before announcing it and besides it wouldn’t do to take away the focus from Anya’s birthday.
Vimla appeared with Ankit’s dinner (
dahlia dalia), which Ankit reluctantly agreed to eat provided his Mami did the honors; Khushi was only too happy to comply. Ankit’s appetite had not fully returned and it took quite a bit of coaxing and creativity on Khushi’s part to make him eat at least half of his share.
Dinner over, Vimla appeared to take Ankit for a wash and change for bed, but he refused to leave Khushi and clutched her tightly, ready to bawl at the top of his voice, hastily they dropped the idea and averted a major crisis. Vimla brought a wet towel to wipe up the mess. He gurgled happily, drowsily. That’s how he liked it best, a comfortable cosy throne with his subjects staring adoringly at him, talking about him, but where was Di and Totte, no Di would be angry, Mamu, where was Mamu, he struggled to raise himself and look for him, but his body was too heavy for him, he slipped his thumb inside his mouth as his lids closed unwillingly.
Khushi looked down tenderly at the sleeping boy, his fingers entwined in her hair; she smiled her heart full, she felt complete, this is how it felt, to have a baby of your own, she felt a warm funny sensation at the bottom of her stomach, she clutched Ankit closer and looked up to find Arnav’s eyes on her, mirroring her thoughts; the shrieks of the children and low murmur of adults chatter faded into the twilight, holding the sleeping innocent baby in her arms, both Arnav and Khushi finally had the feel of approaching parenthood, a myriad emotions flooded them and they shared these across the verandah through their eyes.
Arnav slowly came forward, still holding her with his eyes and came close, she stood up, he held out his arms to take Ankit; just as Khushi allowed him to take Ankit, there was a flash of light as Khsitij captured a rare and beautiful photograph with both of them holding Ankit, a light breeze playing with Khushi’s tresses.
Unfortunately it was a still camera, otherwise it is likely Khsitij would have been successful in recording the RV playing loudly in the background as well.
Anyone reading about Sonu/Titu and Lovely? No? Oh. Hmm. Well anyway hum apna kartavya nahi chodenge click here for Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner
Click here for Chapter 121