Arnav sat up and said resignedly, “Nahi, bolo?”
“Yeh jo kangan diya aapne hume,” she pointed to her new bracelets, “I will give to our child, if she is a girl, I will give them to her on her wedding day and if he is a boy, I will give to his bahu,” she smiled happily.
Arnav’s lips tightened, she put a hand on his shoulder and squeezed it reassuringly, “Par aap ghabraiye mat, hum khud unhe denge, theek hai?”
He nodded and kissed her hands, “And what about these bangles?”
She played with the bangles, her first gift ever from him, and said softly, “They are very special, I will carry them with me beyond this life,” she saw Arnav was looking confused, “Jab ek suhagan ki maut ho jaati hai toh uske solah shringar kiya jata hai, toh hum yeh pehen ke jayenge, yaad rakhna aap.”
Arnav’s face darkened and he got off the bed with a jerk, “What rubbish Khushi!” he snarled, “Over my dead body!”
Khushi too got up, lumbered over to him and clapped a hand on his mouth, “Shubh shubh boliye.”
He removed her hand and clasped it in his hands, “For the first and last time I am telling you, decide what you want to do with those bangles because if you are going, you are going in white,” he suddenly tugged at her bangles, “Otherwise I am taking back my ‘gift.’
Khushi snatched her hands away, “Aap aisa nahi kar sakte hain!”
“Main kuch bhi kar sakta hoon Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada,” Arnav bit out angrily as he reached for her hands.
“Nahi, hum suhagan ban ke hi jayenge aur yeh pehen ke jayenge,” Khushi too was adamant as she hid her hands behind her.
“Achcha toh tum mujhe akela chhod ke chali jaogi?” Arnav said huskily, “Apna promise thod dogi?”
Khushi hugged him, “Who can beat death? Jab jana hoga, tab toh jaana hi padega na, hum hi pehle jaayenge.”
Suddenly Arnav’s mood improved, he had a glint in his eyes, “Lagi shart?” Arnav murmured softly, she nodded confidently; his lips curled, “It’s a deal,” and sealed it with a kiss.
Like all traditions that need to be maintained, there was a knock on the door and HP entered with a trolley laden with goodies. Khushi was even more excited than Arnav and greedily watched as he investigated the tray; he laughed at her expression and shared his plate with her, “Yeh mat sochna tumhe khila raha hoon, main toh baby ko…” he laughed as she punched him.
She sighed happily as she swallowed another delicious bite of tiramisu, “Yeh kitna achcha hai, pehle kabhi nahi khaya!” she said almost delirious with bliss.
Arnav grinned at her, “Kab se khilane ki koshish kar raha hoon, par tum ho ki maanti hi nahi ho, aaj maine hi Nani ko bola tha tiramisu rakhne ke liye.”
Khushi swallowed another bite, her eyes closed, she was in heaven, “mmmm,” she opened her eyes and darted a look around and then motioned him closer and whispered, “This is awesome, perhaps even better than jalebi!”
Arnav’s expression was like ‘seriously’ but then he burst out laughing, “Great, but why are you whispering?”
“Shhh,” Khushi shushed him and whispered, “Jalebi ko bura lag jayega na.”
“Really!” Arnav rolled his eyes, “Crazy woman.”
Khushi polished off the last of the tiramisu, well she had offered it to Arnav, meetha mana and all that, but he had been happy to see her gorge on it, “Kitna mazaa ayega na, agle saal hum jiji ke godh bharai par jayenge,” Khushi was excited about Payal’s pregnancy.
Arnav nodded but Khushi noticed that his lips tightened, “Kya hua?” she asked concerned.
He shook his head, “Aaj bataane ki kya zaroorat thi?” he burst out, “today was your day na?”
Khushi looked at him in surprise, “Kya baat kar rahein hain aap! Today, I am supposed to be kept happy and what greater joy than knowing my jiji is expecting another baby?”
He looked at her pityingly, “You are so naïve, you take people at face value, actually she wanted to steal your thunder!”
“Steal my thunder!” Khushi was astounded, “aapko sach main aisa lagta hai?”
He nodded his head.
Khushi too nodded her head knowingly, “Achcha, haan toh jiji badla le rahi hongi!”
It was Arnav’s turn to be surprised, “Badla?”
“Haan” Khushi vigorously nodded her head, “Humne unki shaadi wale din unki ‘thunder steal’ jo kar liya tha!” she fluttered her lashes at him.
Arnav’s lips twisted as he rolled his eyes, “Theek hai theek hai, but I still think she could have announced it later.”
Khushi was annoyed now, “Aap aisa kyon bol rahein hain, hum aapke parivar walon ke baare main kuch bolte hain kya?”
Arnav immediately backtracked, “Oh I didn’t mean anything by it, it just occurred to me so I said it, probably nothing in it, here try this,” he held up a spoonful.
“Yeh kya hai?” Khushi protested and withdrew not too keen to try the new dish.
“Pear gelato, try it, achcha lage ga,” Skeptically Khushi tasted it, but thankfully for jalebis, there was no additional threat to its supremacy. But Arnav’s purpose was served, Khushi’s attention was diverted and she forgot about his comment, or at least pretended to forget.
But Arnav had an elephantine memory, he kept a strict watch on his in-laws to check for any partiality, he made a special note of Buaji’s activities.
Ab dhoondhne se toh Bhagwan bhi mil jaati hai, partiality kya cheez hai, kyon? Sure enough Arnav found ample grist for his mill; there was Buaji, as usual scolding Khushi, “HRNK ee deikho Sanka Devi ko, tab se khud khaye jaa rahi hai, chatar chatar, apni jiji ko kuch naahi diya tabse, eh?” she poked Khushi.
Khushi made a moue at Buaji and complained, “Hum kya karein Buaji, humne poocha tha par jiji kuch le hi nahi rahi hai toh hum kya karien?”
“Huddd,” Buaji scoffed Khushi, “Pyaar se khilaogi toh zaroor khayegi, do humka,” she took away Khushi’s plate and held a spoon to Payal, and said softly lovingly, “ee lo Payalia, thoda khaye lo, achacha hai, deikho deikho.”
Arnav’s lips tightened and he clenched his fists, he would have surely blasted then and there, how dare Buaji take away Khushi’s plate? But the thought of his wife’s reproachful eyes and the knowledge that his explosion would make his wife unhappy, stayed his tongue lashing (he was learning!).
Babuji butted in gently, “Arre jiji rehne dijiye na, Khushi ko khane dijiye, oo nahi khayegi toh kaun khayega,” he firmly restored the plate back to Khushi, who began gorging happily as she proudly taunted Payal with her eyes at having won this round and stuck out her tongue. Payal shook her head at her.
Arnav’s eyes softened, Babuji was the impartial one in the family, even Garima had not been forgiven for having slapped Khushi, how dare she (Arnav had a convenient memory you see), but Babuji, he was fair and just, he really did care for Khushi, sometimes Arnav felt even more than his own daughter; that of course, Arnav could condone and digest very easily, after all Khushi was special and who could resist her?
He crossed his arms and smirked looking every inch like the Laad Governor he was.
Click here for Chapter 153