But Kshitij simply grinned at him, “You can’t scare me with that look! Do you know why?” Arnav shrugged clueless and curious, (after all, he had spent years perfecting that terrifying glare), “because when you do that – you look exactly like Ankit,” he chortled, Arnav looked ruefully at him, while a smile tugged his lips, well that explained a lot of things! “Never mind who I look like, I am going back to the hospital in a couple of hours and that’s that!” he hastily sneered.
“Yeah,” Kshitij nodded his head understanding, “I know you got a lot of work over there, you will help Khushi change the baby’s nappy,” Arnav blenched, “feed your son,” Arnav flushed and looked away, “rock him while he cries or perhaps give him a bath?” Arnav looked at Kshitij in horror, “Yeah maybe you should go.” Kshitij leaned back in his chair.
Arnav hesitated and then burst out, “But I need to be with Khushi, she would expect…”
“You to hold her hand?” Kshitij butted in, “Come on Arnav, she doesn’t have any hand to spare! Her hands are full, this is the moment she has been waiting for all her life, let her manage it as best as she can without having you breathe fire at her neck, do this, don’t do that!”
Arnav sighed, “Yeah you are probably right, I will be more of a hindrance rather than a help, but,” he was torn, “I can’t just leave her alone can I? After all he is our baby.”
“You want to help Khushi right?,” Kshitij leaned forward, Arnav grimaced and looked away, he nodded, “Then take care of yourself! Who do you think sent me to ‘bulldoze’ you?” Arnav swung around to look at Kshitij in surprise; Kshitij nodded his head emphatically, “Yes, I go to congratulate my little sister and admire my nephew and what does she say, ‘Bhaiyya take care of Arnav, woh bimaar pad jayenge’, come on Arnav, you can give her that much peace of mind surely? Besides,” Kshitij looked hurt, “I thought you would thank me for steering Anjali off your case? She was ready to put you into Ankit’s cot!”
Arnav lips twisted and he nodded his head reluctantly, he could see the force of Kshitij’s arguments but dil hai ki manta hi nahi, he shook his head, Di bhi na! “Ok fine, I will go back only after a decent night’s sleep…”
“A word of advice Arnav, unwanted though it maybe,” Kshitij interjected, “get used to staying in the sidelines, you have had your moment in the sun and now it is your son’s turn, if you hang around, hiss and fume at every little wail, or regurgitation, Khushi’s would definitely get even more stressed and torn between paying attention to you or her baby. The best way to help Khushi at this juncture is by supporting her…from afar, be with her, but only when she wants and needs you; her first priority is her baby, don’t make her choose, and don’t worry, she will come back to you,” Kshitij grinned and waved his hands, “in a couple of decades.”
Arnav looked at Kshitij ruefully, his brain cloudy and foggy, yet Kshitij was right, “Relax,” Kshitij got to his feet, “think about it, there is no rush, you need to sleep it off,” he held out it hand, “Congratulations once again Arnav,” ASR shook his brother-in-law’s hand, emotions overcame him and he spontaneously hugged him, over the years, pata hi nahi chala, kab Kshitij had become an integral part of their lives, how dependent they were on his strong calm presence, “Kshitij,” he said rather emotionally, “Thanks for everything.”
Kshitij hugged him back; he raised his hand and stopped just short of cupping his cheek, and put it on his shoulder and patted it affectionately and said lightly, “Chotte tum bhi na,” in remarkable imitation of Anjali.
A crack of laughter escaped Arnav, he ruefully nodded his head, “Pata chal raha hai, Khushi ke bhai ho!”
The two men smiled at each other joined in love for the women in their lives and a healthy respect for each other, Kshitij frowned at him, “Ab so jaao,” he ordered peremptorily, “Nahi toh….
“Ok ok,” Arnav gave up and admitted he was beat; he was almost swaying on his feet and once he hit the bed, he crashed out for 10 hours straight.
Khushi wasn’t so lucky; she could barely snatch an hour of undisturbed sleep and mushkil se do-teen ghante hi soi hogi poori raat main, what with the baby waking up every hour for a feed or a change along with the discomfort and pain that accompanies a surgery. She had no scope to rest. Even though Garima stayed up with her to help her take care of her grandson, Devansh wanted only his mum. He scrunched up his face and wailed and wailed even though Garima tried her best, but woh nahi mana.
Garima looked apologetically at Khushi, who lay in an exhausted daze, “Khusi, ee tumhre paas jaana chahta hai, humra paas chup hi nahi howat hai,” as she continued to gently rock and walk the baby, hoping to let Khushi catch her breath and recuperate. A dizzy and weak Khushi nodded, “Hum tab se aapko yehi toh keh rahein hain, LG ka beta hai, aise nahi manega,” she struggled to sit up, wincing, her eyes grainy and head throbbing, there was not a single part of her body that wasn’t screaming in pain, she leaned back against the cushions with a sigh and held out her arms; miraculously, the moment Khushi held Dev, he fell silent and immediately fell asleep, he was home, safe in his mother’s arms.
Khushi looked tenderly at her beautiful sleeping baby, love overriding all other emotion and concern. She spent most, if not the entire night tending and nursing her baby; not that Garima got much rest, she was constantly at Khushi’s side, helping her sit up, go to the washroom, change the baby, hold him for sometime while he slept so that Khushi could get some well deserved rest; ultimately neither got little if any rest. But Garima could look forward to some undisturbed sleep the following day as Payal, Anjali, Buaji and even Naniji came to support Khushi by turns, but there was no respite for Khushi.
The days and nights rolled into one endless cycle of change and feed; no matter who held him, from day one Devansh made it very clear that all he wanted was his mum and woe betide if his simple demand wasn’t instantly gratified; not that Khushi had any choice in the matter, even if she wished, she couldn’t deny his cry, his plea, his demand, Khushi no longer existed, she was just a mother, who neither expected nor got any sleep or rest, her aches and pains ignored and relentlessly thrust away into the far recesses of her mind, the baby came first, he was so tiny, he needed her and he would get her. People came and went but Khushi didn’t really register even though she smiled and made the proper responses on auto-pilot, even with Arnav.
Arnav dutifully came twice a day and grimaced helplessly at Khushi’s state, there was nothing he could do to help her, damn damn and triple damn, he hissed to himself, she looked so pale, so wan, her eyes were bloodshot, hair disheveled, dark circles under her eyes but Devansh wanted only his mum, he sighed, clenched his hands ‘ab main kya karoon? Kisko daantoon, Khushi ko, ki Devansh ko? Well, he shrugged to himself ‘maine toh nahi bola tha Khushi ko that I want a baby’ he justified rather defensively to himself and strode off to his office and threw himself into his work.
Click here for Chapter 179