Despite the impending onset of labor and intermittent cramps, Khushi was really feeling very stressed and worried thinking about Arnav’s likely state while she was otherwise preoccupied, bechara Arnav, her heart went out to him, pata nahi kaise manage karega, favorite punching bag hi nahi rahega toh kya karega. Raksha karna Devi Maiyya, inka dhyan rakhna, apni toh jaise taise kat jayegi, inka kya hoga janabe aali (oops KMami slipped out again). The pain, the excitement and the anticipation had clearly sankafied Khushi even more, one moment she was gasping with pain, clenching her hands and teeth in an effort to prevent even a hiss from slipping out, then worrying, ‘pata nahi LG kaise react karga’ and the next moment she would be squeezing Arnav’s arm, her face shining with excitement and joy at the thought of their baby. A reluctant smile tugged Arnav’s lips, ‘paagal’ he muttered softly as he squeezed her hand lying on his arm.
They reached the hospital soon enough and Khushi was swiftly and efficiently transferred to the stretcher and wheeled away for examination. Khushi urgently motioned the doctor, “Doctor, doctor please prescribe some painkiller, please.”
“Haan haan,” soothed the doctor, “let us first examine you then we shall see what to do, waise I don’t think you need any painkiller right now. Relax.”
Arnav rushed up, “Doctor, is she is saying, she must be in great pain, why don’t you give her the painkiller dammit!”
The doctor rolled her eyes, damn he was handsome, nahi toh I would have blasted him right now for teaching me my job, “Dekhiye, please control yourself, don’t over-react, we have the situation under control.”
“Oh really!” ASR was really mad now, chit of a girl with a condescending air too, pata nahi hai kya main kaun hoon, “Situation under control! How the hell can you say that, when all you have done so far is wheel her into the hospital?” he wasn’t finished yet, but Khushi’s insistent tug on his arm stopped him, “Stop it Arnav, let me talk to the doctor.”
Khushi smiled wanly at the doctor, “Inhe maaf kar dijiye doctor, hum inki taraf se maafi maangte hain, actually I wanted the painkillers for him not for me. While we were coming, he fell down and hurt himself, can’t you see he is limping and see he has a huge bump on his head, he is in great pain, please kuch de dijiye inhe?” she pleaded, the doctor softened, aww she was such a sweetheart, even in this state more worried about the snarling lion than about herself! She shot a look at ASR who was staring at his wife besotted, “Khhushiii” he murmured huskily, (ab Khushi ka toh pata nahi, the doctor got goosebumps and hurriedly left to arrange for painkillers for the lucky gal’s husband).
The doctor offered him a couple of tablets, he took them rather reluctantly after taking a look at Khushi’s pale but determined face, “Humne kahan na Arnav, hum andar nahi jayenge jab tak aap,” she gasped and clenched her hands.
Arnav hurriedly swallowed the painkillers and squeezed her hands one last time before she was wheeled away.
As the doors swung open and banged shut on Arnav’s face with a decisive clap and the corridor ahead swallowed his Khushi, Arnav’s heart sank and it was with a leaden feeling that he walked to the nearest available seat and sank down with thud. Khushi, whispered his heart, a dreadful feeling of loss and fear suffocating him, he clenched and clasped his hands, he closed his eyes, let her be safe he wished fiercely, almost unknowingly to Devi Maiyya. He sat like that for a long time till he felt a touch on his shoulder. He looked up, it was his Di with her husband, and Arnav stood up and hugged her for support. Anjali hugged him back and soothed him. Embarrassed he disengaged himself, “Di I am fine, you go back,” he swallowed and looked away, “I will call you if….” he trailed away.
Anjali cupped his face affectionately, “Chotte itna tension mat karo, sab theek ho jayega.”
Arnav nodded his head reluctantly, “Main theek hoon Di, this will take a long time, so you go home and rest, main hoon na, waise bhi there is nothing to be done here, I have taken a private room, I can sleep if I wish to,” he shrugged self-consciously, “Waise the medicine Khsitij prescribed seems to be working, suddenly I am feeling remarkably cool,” he grinned faintly.
Anjali looked at him doubtfully, “Are you sure Chotte, there is no problem, I can stay, ab toh Ankit bhi theek hai…”
“Nahi Di, thanks, I am truly fine” Arnav shook his head decisively, “Both you and Khsitij please go home and rest, I may need you later; I promise to call you at the slightest news,” Arnav brooked no argument from either of them and firmly pushed them away, “Waise bhi I am feeling sleepy, must be the effect of the medicine,” Arnav gave a big yawn, “I think I will take a nap in the private room I booked for Khushi, here Khsitij take this gate pass for Room 361, east wing, its on the other side; if you don’t find me here, you can directly go there to find us,” Arnav began walking albeit a bit unsteadily towards the private room.
Anjali looked at Khsitij and shook her head with a ‘Chotte bhi na’ expression as they followed him to the private room, Khsitij shrugged, “The anti-anxiety medicine could be making him drowsy and good if he can sleep, actually there is not much he can do except wait, in fact much better for all concerned if he does manage to sleeps it off; I will just inform the hospital staff and they will inform him and us in case there is any need.”
Anjali nodded her head reluctantly, not very comfortable about leaving Arnav alone, but that did seem the best practical solution, and Arnav was already asleep; she sighed, caressed her sleeping baby brother (and soon to be papa! Or was it Babuji?) and went off with Kshitij.
Arnav waited in the room till he was sure they had left and then went back to wait outside the labor room, not all sleepy or comfortable about being so far away from Khushi, he couldn’t share her pain, but at least he could be near her, perhaps she could draw some strength and comfort from that, like he did.
Arnav sat alone outside, this thoughts with his Khushi, resigned and reasonably calm, his Di’s presence (and the pills!) had worked its magic. He did wish he could ask her to wait with him, but he knew that would be selfish of him and Khushi would probably need her more tomorrow, and besides Di needed her rest too, Ankit had been unwell for the last week or two and was cranky to boot.
He sighed and looked at the clock, 1 am, should he inform her parents now or a bit later? Later he decided, Khushi wouldnt like it, Nani ko disturb nahi karne diya toh….ok maybe a couple of hours later, he would inform them and then make arrangements for their travel to Delhi.
He got up and paced the corridor restlessly, he wondered what was happening inside, his lips twisted, she would be in so much pain; he looked at the clock for the nth time, just 1.30 am am, he grimaced, still a long way to go, at their last visit to the doctor, she had warned him that it was going to be a long wait and that he would have to be calm and patient. Khushi had been brainwashing him since then and was clearly not very convinced by her own pep talk and that is why had insisted he take those medicines, probably hoping he would sleep through it all. Useless medicines, he sneered to himself, couldn’t even make me sleepy; little knowing that without the pills he would have been either thrown out for creating a ruckus or been admitted in the hospital with a heart attack.
Tired of pacing, he sat down and closed his eyes; images of Khushi through the years assaulted him, strange it was so difficult to recollect a life without Khushi. She had changed so much over the years yet her essence was the same. She had made active efforts to blend into his lifestyle unasked, every time he had been pleasantly surprised at her efforts match up to him. She could now speak English fluently, she had acquired a range of western wear, followed Hollywood movies and fashion styles, learnt to use chopsticks and what not.
Yet given a chance she still wore traditional suits (though thankfully no patchwork stuff), preferred Indian cuisines (though pregnancy may have impacted that permanently!) insisted on speaking with him in shudh Hindi, for the sheer pleasure of seeing his stumped expression he strongly suspected. A faint smile creased his face, or perhaps she was apprehensive of making a faux pas and having to bear his ribbing! Yeah that would be the other reason. Yet despite all this and more, Khushi herself was unchanged.
As the pills further worked their magic, ASR relaxed and he gently drifted down memory lane.
Click here for Chapter 163