Khushi weakened and melted, she could never resist that look in his eyes, that lost little boy expression, but then at then stiffened at the last minute and attempted to reinstate her position on the high horse, and said sternly, “Ek shart par.”
“Anything Khushi anything,” Arnav promised recklessly, besides who cared when one’s very life was at stake.
Khushi extricated her hand from his clasp and pulled him up, “Why did you get so angry? I understand that day you were disturbed and upset over Mamaji and the fact that you were worried about leaving me alone here and,” she hesitated, “Perhaps you were right in scolding me, so I am not even going to talk about what happened that day. But why get so angry over a simple haircut?”
Arnav sighed and thrust his hands into his pockets, shuffled his feet, Khushi waited patiently, silently, letting him gather his thoughts, finally he shrugged rather helplessly, looked at her with twisted lips and said, “I didn’t like it.”
Khushi made a face, “I think that is very clear to all of us, the question is why?”
He too made a face, “I don’t like surprises.”
Khushi shook her head, “No Arnav, you will have to do better than that.”
Arnav struggled to decipher his thoughts and emotions, something he had avoided like the plague ever since he could remember, and was strongly tempted to stride away to office, his sanctuary, but Khushi’s steely glance and his remorse held him captive, he sighed, “Everything is changing,” he burst out and then said mutinously, “I don’t like change,” he scowled fiercely and crossed his arms, looking remarkably like Ankit.
Khushi was astounded, “Change! You call a haircut change? In that case I shouldn’t change my clothes as well?” Khushi taunted Arnav.
Arnav looked away and sat down on the recliner, his back to her, clenching and unclenching his hands, Khushi came and sat gingerly on the bed in front of him and again waited patiently. After a while he burst out, “Sab kuch badal raha hai, and I don’t like change,” he reiterated mutinously.
Khushi heaved herself to her feet awkwardly and sat down beside him and put a hand on his entwined fingers, and asked softly, “Kya badal raha hai?”
Arnav clutched her hands for support and suddenly the words began to flow, “First Di got married and went away, then Mamaji and all went away, Nani too wanted to go away, who knows soon someday she will want to go and stay with Mamaji,” he shrugged helplessly, “Mamaji is not well, everyone is growing old, pata nahi kab kya ho jaye, and you,” He turned and glared at her, a pale reflection of ASR.
Khushi was surprised, “Hum! Humne kya kiya, hum to waise hi hain, hamesha aapke pass, aapke saath, par aap hain ki….” She trailed off and swallowed hard even as she squeezed his hands.
Arnav firmly clasped her hands, “Haan tum, you are the only constant in my life who is bound to me, whom I can take for granted; tumhe nahi pata nahi hai Khushi what is your role in my life, you are my sheet anchor, the one person who will always be there, whom I can blindly depend upon; on the way back from Mumbai, I was in a bad mood, everybody so shaken and emotional at Mumbai, the deal had gone wrong, I determinedly held on to your familiar comforting soothing image, and WHAM, I saw you and I just saw red,” He shook his and looked away, “It hit me suddenly, even you are not the same, you are often not here, I have seen you vanish into some secret world of yours, smiling at some unknown thought, soon you will have a baby, a baby that will occupy your time 24/7, you will no longer be just Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada, my wife, jispe sirf aur sirf mera haq hai, you will be ‘Amma’ who will be at the beck and call of a new person for the next 20-25 years, and you will have no time for me,” his voice sank to a broken whisper, “I guess I rejected you before you could reject me,” his voice trembled and faltered, he swallowed and attempted a smile, “I tried to reclaim the lost glory of ‘mujhe koi farq nahi padta, but I guess that is lost forever isn’t it?”
Khushi’s heart nearly broke for this complex emotional man who was in reality just a little boy, he had lost his mother, his Di too had gone away, he had clung grimly on to Nani and now he was afraid of losing her! And what could she say to allay his fears and concerns? He was right, she would be busy and emotionally invested elsewhere even if it were his own child, while he… no wonder he over-reacted! She would have to be extra cautious not to let him feel like a third wheel, she swallowed hard and said, “I am sorry I cut my hair, agar mujhe pata hota I would have never…”
He suddenly got up and paced the floor, “While I am trying to accept and digest all these changes, making an effort to convince myself that I will have to learn to share you, change will happen, change is good, that change is for better, you go and get a haircut!” ASR turned and stared regretfully at her, “Itna sab kuch ho gaya tha and Mamaji ill health sharply focused our temporary state on this earth, I just wanted to forget it all and I came back home, determined to win the deal but first and foremost I was so looking forward to the comforting familiarity of your smile, your eyes, your hair, and you, you go and have a bloody hair cut! And I just lost it completely,” His hand squeezed her shoulder almost painfully as anger surged back, Khushi gently rubbed his hand where it lay on her shoulder; he quickly released the pressure and massaged her shoulder tenderly, guiltily, ““I guess I just took out my apprehensions and insecurities on your haircut.”
It was Khushi’s turn to feel guilty and sorry; she raised her hands to her ears, “Hume maaf kar dijiye, if you want I can wear a wig,” she offered reluctantly, “Par bahut garmi hai…”
Arnav’s expression lightened as a laugh slipped out, “Crazy woman, come here,” he hugged her gently, “You look beautiful to me no matter what,” he bent his head and kissed her softly.
He raised his head, “But you are right, its just a hair cut and I shouldn’t have dragged this thing for so long,” guilt and self-loathing racked him, “Because of me you had to stay alone, suffer alone, and in this condition too, Khushi I am sorry, I had no right to react like this, this is so not done, I am really sorry Khushi,” Now Arnav was swept away by the force of his emotions and Khushi had a tough time trying to control him.
“Koi baat nahi Arnav,” she snuggled close to him, “Hum samajhte hain, I can finally see the big picture, the haircut was just an excuse to vent, the problem lies elsewhere doesn’t it? In a way it is good I guess, I got to see your perspective, I should have understood that there is more to it than met the eye,” She too was in tears, she had no real solution to his conflict, he would have to deal with it on his own, he would have to grow up, she had never once thought about how her motherhood would impact Arnav, hey Devi Maiyya sab sambhal lena, she vowed to be more sensitive, more in tune with his sensibilities.
Arnav rose to the occasion and consoled her as best as he could, but ASR was beyond recovery as a myriad range of emotions hit him and assaulted his senses, it was only after he clutched her softness for a considerable length of time and after Khushi had taken control of the situation and ministered TLC, CPR etc that ASR revived somewhat.
He brushed back the hair from her face and held her face up and gave her a thorough lookover, his eyes soft and tender, till she blushed, “Actually, the haircut does suit you know, but you look like a cute little pregnant baby. The police will come and put me away for not only marrying an underage girl but also getting her pregnant!”
Khushi punched him and buried herself in his arms, that is, as far as that was possible with a ‘fooball’ in the middle.
Arnav’s phone rang, Khushi looked at him surprise, he sheepishly took it out and made to switch it off, but Khushi held his hands, her eyes twinkling, he looked away, “Woh….woh main,…I was at my tethers end, so I did a bit of research on google and zeroed on this one to use as my ring tone,”he admitted reluctantly. Encouraged by her brilliant smile he went further as to admit, “I even downloaded ‘Jalebi bai’ as back up support to make you smile,” he grinned ruefully, “And today, the damn phone didn’t ring all day!”
Their laughter washed away the remnants of any hurt feelings as they reached a new level of understanding.
Click here for Chapter 140