Work pressure prevented Kshitij from carrying out his intentions to meet Anjie, moreover he had to put his plans of ‘discreet enquiries’ also on hold due to monetary issues. Already he had put a private agency to investigate the whereabouts of his family. He did have a nest egg stashed away, but that was for Anya, in case of any eventuality and he didn’t want to dip into it unless it was an emergency. Kshitij contented himself by sternly warning Anya not to ‘bother’ Anjie and that she should try to make friends with her own peers.
Anya was in tears, “But why Daddy, I don’t ‘bother’ Anjie. I don’t force her to come to the park. She comes on her own because she enjoys my company. She told me so.”
Kshitij knew he was taking the wrong tack with Anya, but he still blundered on. “Anya, you are too young to understand all this, so just do what I say, don’t argue with me. Just because she said something doesn’t mean it is true. Adults often say one thing but mean another.”
Anya wiping her tears, “So what do you mean when you say don’t bother Anjie.”
Fortunately for Kshitij the school bus arrived just then. Phew, he shook his head, that girl was one smart kid, he thought proudly, she had neatly tripped him up.
Arnav who did not have any monetary constraints and had a business that ran by itself (!), not only put a private detective to dig up on Anya and her family, but also intended to land up at the park to meet the little girl and judge his sister’s involvement. He had tried to question his Di but that conversation had not gone off too well.
“Di who is this new ‘friend’ of yours,” Arnav barged in one evening.
Anjali had been narrating Anya’s chatter to Nani and Khushi and they were all laughing. The apparently innocuous question acted as a bucket of cold water and Anjali’s laugh faded as she stared at Chotte. “What’s the matter Chotte? Relax! She is just a little girl. What would you have done if I was seeing a man?”
Chotte stared at this Di, surprised. What a drastic change! She was so casually even jokingly talking about seeing a man. Did that mean she was seeing a man, who was it, if he so much as hurt his Di he would…he calmed himself; but it was too late. Di had read his expression.
“Nahi Chotte, relax, I am not seeing another man, tum bhi na, you are too much, the way you behave as if I was made of glass. I am a big girl and I have to deal with whatever is written for me in my kismet, you don’t have to keep jumping in with your sword ready. And besides, Anya is just a little girl; what could she do to me, kidnap me?”
They burst into laughter, while Khushi’s eyes mocked ‘I told you so’
Arnav clenched his fist and walked off, she could break your heart, he thought.
“Aur yeh main hone nahi doonga,” he angrily threw his coat on the bed.
“Haan, yeh aap hone nahi denge because before anybody else breaks her heart, you will break it first,” Khushi glared at him.
Arnav closed his eyes in frustration and then shook his finger at her, “Khushi just drop it, I don’t want to argue with you.”
“What! Aapki tabiyat toh theek hai na,” Khushi all solicitous concern.
“Khushi I am warning you,” Arnav again shook his finger
Khushi entwined her finger with his and forcibly brought it down, “Lagi shart?”
Arnav caught hold of her hand and pulled her to him, “Shart? What shart?” he mumbled distractedly, busy on matters more important and urgent.
“Don’t try to distract me. Hum shart wali baat bhule nahi hai”, Khushi retorted after a while. “I bet that something good, something big will come out of this friendship; my heart tells me so; what does your dimaag say?”
Arnav, “My ‘dimaag’ says your ‘dil’ is mad. Okay, lagi shart, but what are the stakes?”
Khushi shrugged, her eyes twinkling, “Same as before, winner can get the loser to do anything; kuch bhi.”
Arnav extended his hand. “Deal” and he pulled her to him as she extended her hand, “let me have a sneak preview of the ‘anything’.”
After a while Arnav raised his head and said, “Waise bhi Khushi, no matter who wins, both will be winners eh?”
Khushi squared her shoulders and swiftly swiped her index finger under her nose and said, “Dekhte hai,” and stalked off haughtily, only to bang into the door.
Arnav threw up his hands and rolled his eyes.
Anya didn’t come to the park the next day, Anjali missed her and regretted not taking her phone number. I gave her my phone number but didn’t take hers, she berated herself. The next day also she was not at the park, Anjali got worried, she asked the driver to take her to Anya’s home, where they had dropped her off. She got out of the car and asked the guard if he knew where Anya lived. And he did know and wonder of wonders he even knew Anjie! She had talked about her ‘friend’ to everyone!
Smiling and shaking her head, Anjali rang the bell and waited for a long time. She was about to ring the bell again when she heard shuffling sounds, and after a while the door opened. The Nanny was standing there wrapped up in layers of clothing, obviously ill.
Anjali was shocked, “Kya hua? Where is Anya?”
Nanny opened the door wider to let her in. “She is running a temperature and today even I am not well.”
“Hey Bhagwan,” said Anjali as she swiftly assessed the situation. Though the house itself was in a posh locality, the decoration was Spartan and strictly utilitarian. She could see the kitchen from where she stood, a pile of unwashed utensils witness to Nanny’s ill-health.
“Have you eaten?” Nanny coughed and shook her head.
Anjali went to the door and sent Mohan home to bring HP and she also called HP and asked him to come over with some necessary grocery and vegetables which she dictated on the phone.
Unerringly she went to Anya’s room, where the little girl was sleeping fitfully and softly moaning now and then. Anjali sat down and placed a cool hand on her hot brow. Anya seemed to calm down then blearily opened her eyes, “Anjie you came!” She sat up and threw herself into Anjali’s arms and started crying.
Click here for Chapter 17