“You know the Nanital trip was significant in many ways,” Arnav mused, “Away from any sort of office distractions, with only your crazy antics for company,” he looked at her, “Actually I think that is when you spun your jaado ka jaal around me,” she smiled bashfully at him.
“I am serious Khushi,” said Arnav, then he suddenly wore an arrested expression, “Ohh how could I forget! That was when I had the first inkling of the over-riding protective instincts that you evoked in me!” he clenched his hands, “I swear I could have killed that guy for hurting you.”
Khushi put her hand on his hands, “Why did you get so angry?” she made a face, “And when I asked you, you dumped me on the road,” she pouted.
Arnav nodded and sighed, “Haan Khushi I think I was shaken with the force of my emotions, but shuru se hi, while I had no compunctions about hurting you, I couldn’t bear the thought of anybody hurting or scolding you, not even Di.”
“Haan,” Khushi jerked her head knowingly, “Hum aapke personal khilona hai na, personal property, hmmph.”
“Shaayad.” Arnav shrugged and spread his hands helplessly. “Let’s go downstairs shall we? Bahut der ho gayee hai,” Arnav said hurriedly as he saw the dangerous turn the conversation had taken.
“Ji nahi,” Khushi put her hand on him, “I am really feeling good and happy after a long time and most importantly at peace,” she caressed their baby, “Perhaps our baby is also happy to have the company of both Amma and Babuji, aur woh bhi bina ladai jhagda kiye,” she pulled a face.
Arnav put his arm around her tenderly, “True,” he moved a bit back to be able to look into her face, “Ok, anything for the baby,” he grinned slyly.
Khushi punched him, he hugged her close, “You know the best way to keep our baby happy?”
She shook her head, “No, what?”
“Keep Amma happy,” he flicked her nose, she stared at him, ‘Arnav Singh Raizada ne bolna kya seekh liya, humari hi bolti bund kar dete hain’.
“Haan haan, theek hai theek hai,” she spoke gruffly, her heart full, “don’t think that I will let you go off without completing the story.”
“Story!” Am I a story-teller?” Arnav was affronted.
“Ji haan, baby ko sunna hai, amma ke liye babuji kab kyon kaise choodiyan kharidi,” she raised her hand she said with a superior expression, “poore details ke saath, jaise ab tak bata rahe the bilkul wuaise, pleaaaaase!” she suddenly pleaded.
Arnav looked at her ruefully.
“Kahan tha main?” he tried to recollect, “Haan, for a long time, the major emotion I associated with you was that of anger, or that was the name I put to the complex mish-mash of emotions you evoked in me,” he again looked meaningfully at her till she blushed and clarified further, “Of course I am not including the rare instances of guilt, remorse, fear, worry or the way my heart went out to you when your father was ill and at the hospital,” he hugged her close as if to atone for and return the hug, offer the comfort and support he had been unable to offer when needed and expected the most.
“Then, when NK came,” Arnav continued, albeit sheepishly, “I experienced an emotion I had never ever encountered in my whole life. It was a totally novel emotion and I was at a loss as to how to deal with it or even understand what had hit me,” Arnav looked away, as if embarrassed, and clearly hoping to leave it that, but Khushi shook him and her eyes prompted him to come clean, his lips twisted, “it was only later; much later, that I identified it or rather accepted that I was jealous and insecure,” he muttered.
Khushi laughed and clapped her hands, “I knew it! Tabhi toh I asked Nanheji to help me select those bangles for me,” she grinned mischievously.
His lips thinned, “Yeah, I remember,” his eyes wore a faraway expression, Khushi too recollected the way Arnav had pulled away her hairband, she hurriedly said, “haan phir?”
“Phir kya,” the spell seemed to have broken or jealousy reared it ugly head again, “You were so comfortable with him, laughing and chatting with him, and that NK, he turned up at your place on New Year’s eve as well,” Suddenly his mood improved, he smirked, “But whom did he meet, Buaji!” he chortled with glee, “Bechara NK, his recurring nightmare, he really believes all this nonsense you know, whoever you meet on New Year will be the person you spend your whole life with, till now he dreams of Buaji saying, ‘I do’!” Arnav burst out laughing.
“Achcha,” Khushi challenged, “Toh all this is ‘nonsense’ huh? Aur humare saath kya hua? Kahaan aap aur kahaan hum,” she pointed to opposing directions, “Sab aapki ki wajah se hua,” she shook her finger at him, “Agar aap us raat ko humare kamre main nahi aate…”
He put a finger to her lips, “If I had not come that day, toh,” he grinned mischievously and put his hand over their baby, “Toh aaj tumhara yeh haal nahi hota!”
She made a face at him, buried her face in his shoulder and laughed with him; after a while she said, “Hum bhoole nahi hai abhi tak, woh choodiyan?”
“Yeah yeah, choodiyan nahi aafat hai, I should have never bought them, pata nahi kya kiya unka?” he grumbled at being forced to reveal his innermost secrets, he relented under Khushi’s scolding eyes, “I was getting antsy about NK, he stole you away from under my nose and then he vanished, aur phir mujhe tumhari tooti hui choodi mili,” he shook his head, “That terror, that unimaginable feeling of loss, just like that day by the hillside, it shook me up well and proper, all defenses, all facades, all ego was meaningless, I had this almost irresistible desire to declare my feelings,” he shot a darkling look at Khushi, “How dare NK buy you anything?” He shrugged, “I guess I wanted to show you, what NK can do, ASR can do better!”
Khushi threw her arms around him awkwardly, “And ASR can do better!” she declared heartily.
ASR looked down at her with a glint in his eyes, and said softly, “Of course I can, par Khushi, tumhe kaise pata?”
Khushi looked at him confused, then the penny dropped and a blush suffused her face, “ARNAV!” She exclaimed scandalized, she hit him, he burst out laughing, “Bolne se pehle soch toh liya hota!” He was suddenly serious, “Khushi, it has been one roller coaster ride hasn’t it?” Mujhe toh pata hi nahi maine tumhe kitna hurt kiya, just because of my fears, my insecurities, my prejudices, my ego, and worse, how many times more I will hurt you,” he shook his head regretfully and clutched her hand for support and reassurance, “Don’t ever leave me Khushi, sambhal lena Khushi.”
Khushi put her free hand on his and teased gently, “Aap hi toh sambhalte hain, hum jab bhi gir jaate hain?”
Arnav shook his head, “You may be weak physically and unstable, but I am weak and unstable emotionally, sambhal logi na?”
“Hamesha,” she smiled into his eyes.
Er kuch zyaada hi cheesy ho gaya kya?
Click here for Chapter 149