Baccha party over, the Raizadas, Guptas and Goyals moved into the house as the hired help cleared up the mess and carried a huge mound of gifts inside and put them in Anya’s room. Arnav put a fast asleep Ankit on the couch as Anya returned, flushed, disheveled grimy but glowing with happiness, the party wasn’t over yet! They were all here, she extracted proper birthday greetings, blessings and hugs from each one again; she squealed happily as her pile of gifts touched the roof, “But Anya, please don’t make it a habit to wear salwar suits,” said Khushi unable to control herself.
Anya was disappointed, she had been so proud, “But why?” she wailed.
“Because you look all grown up and big,” Arnav spoke up, “Be careful, otherwise, your parents may just decide to marry you off!”
“Marry me off!” Anya was astonished, “I am just eleven!”
“Yeah so?” Arnav shrugged, “Nani was married by then, right Nani?”
Nani smiled and shook her head, “No I got married pretty late, at sixteen, but yes my mother got married when she was eleven!”
Anya clutched Anjali, “No I am not getting married!” she ran to her father, “Promise me you get me married off, I will never wear this again!”
Everyone laughed as Khsitij comforted her, “Darling can’t you see your Mamu is teasing you? But I agree, you do look all grown up and big in that dress and I too don’t like it,” he pulled a face; Anya looked down longingly at her dress and made an answering face.
Nani cleared her throat and said to Arnav with evidently supressed excitement, “Chotte, I can’t keep quiet any longer!”
Arnav smiled at Khushi and said softly, “Me neither!”
Everyone else looked on in surprise, “What?!”
Arnav slipped a hand around Khushi’s shoulder even as she blushed adorably; he picked up her hand and clasped it tenderly as he said proudly, “We are expecting a baby!”
The whole of GM was in uproar, not a single sentence could be heard clearly as everyone spoke at the same time, everyone descended on the happy couple in a rush to share their happiness and joy and bless the new entrant. It was a miracle or measure of Ankit’s exhaustion that he slept through the whole cacophony. Anya stood quietly apart, a faint flush on her face, she mumbled, “I am going to wash up and change,” and vanished from the scene.
Arnav nudged Khushi; she looked at Anjali and Khsitij in surprise; they too were taken aback, what was wrong with Anya, she didn’t even smile, abhi toh theek thi!
Anjali made to follow Anya, but Khsitij held her back by the arm and shook his head, “Let her be, I am sure she will be back soon,” reluctantly Anjali dropped the idea, though she did keep looking over her shoulder, biting her lip.
“HRNK! Humri Sanka Devi Amma banne wali hai! HRNK,” Buaji repeated over and over again, “Humka to viswas hi naahi howat hai!” her arms aching with numerous repeats of the de-nazarofying business.
Garima smiled brilliantly, eyes sparkling with tears as she hugged Khushi ectastically, she went so far as to lose her inhibitions and hugged Arnav as well, he too accepted and returned the hug warmly. Khushi was over the moon. It was Babuji’s turn to greet the soon to be Amma and Babuji! Khushi flushed a bit but his joy was a treat to behold and Khushi thanked her BFF for arranging that everyone was here to share their joy. If only Jiji could have been here! But never mind, they could Skype, but what was the matter with Anya?
Anjali was thrilled to bits and just wouldn’t stop saying, “Humare Chotte is going to be a papa, I just can’t believe it, hain na Khsitij!”
Khushi piped up, “Papa nahi Di! Babuji!” and promptly hid behind Khsitij and Di, while ASR glared helplessly, Di too joined in the fun, “Sorry Khushi, you are absolutely right, yeh to papa nahi, Chotte Babuji hain!” GM echoed with laughter, while Arnav looked on besottedly adoringly at his glowing laughing wife, after the initial jhatka, he didn’t quite mind the Babuji tag, but since it made Khushi so thrilled to have found a weapon to rile him that he continued the ‘natak’. His reward? Her triumphant brilliant smile, he so loved that expression of hers, but of course only when he ‘let’ her win!
There was another round of sweets all around and Anjali was relieved when Anya too appeared, she had changed into her usual wear and looked like the little girl that she was; Anjali noticed that while she seemed fine, she was a bit stiff and formal, she came forward and hugged her Mamu and Mami, congratulated them and fed them sweets as she had seen her mother do. She quickly excused herself claiming exhaustion; and actually it had been a long day for the little big girl and thankfully there was no school the next day, Anjali nodded her head, “Yes Anya, you must be tired out, go to sleep, we will open the gifts tomorrow, ok?”
Anya brightened up and nodded her head, she bid goodnight and apologized gracefully for being a spoilsport, but Khushi couldn’t help but feel something else was eating into the little girl. She had never seen Anya like this before, so stiff and awkward! She sighed and here she had been thinking Anya would be the most thrilled! Arnav caught her expression and hugged her close and whispered gruffly, “All the excitement has probably tired her out,” Khushi smiled and nodded her head.
Anjali hustled them to the dining table where the table was loaded with goodies. Khushi drooled and plunged right in, an amused Arnav followed suit but more decorously, “Ghar pe khana nahi milta kya?” he taunted her.
“Bhai ke ghar ke khane ka swaad hi kuch aur hai, aur woh bhi jab sabji amma ne banai ho, kyon amma, yeh wali sabji aapne banai hai na?” Khushi asked her mother, Garima nodded shyly, “Aur yeh rabri, Buaji ne, right?”
“HRNK,” nodded Buaji de-nazrofying both of them rather emotionally.
Arnav’s lips tightened a bit, Khushi rushed in, “And if it is Di’s house toh phir wah kya kehna!” she twinkled mischievously at Arnav, he looked ruefully at her.
“Uncle,” said Arnav, “I hope that you all will stay with us for at least a few days before heading back to Lucknow?”
Khushi looked hopefully at her parents as they dithered, flustered at the invitation, “Aunty, your daughter misses your cooking; perhaps you could fatten her up a bit?”
Everyone laughed and Khushi pleaded, “Haan Amma, maan jayeea na?”
Garima looked pleadingly at Babuji, after hesitating a bit, he nodded and said, “Theek hai, how can we refuse such a warm invitation, but we intend to go to Mumbai after staying here a week or so and then while on the way back, we will spend a couple of days at your place.”
Khushi was thrilled; she gratefully squeezed Arnav’s hand under the table, he clasped her hand and raised it to his lips for a quick kiss; Khushi was red with embarrassment, hoping against hope that no one had noticed, she snatched her hand away, yeh Laad Governor bhi na, she fumed, he swung from one extreme to another. She glared at him, incorrigible as ever, he lazily grinned back at her.
Click here for Chapter 122