Unfortunately, Khushi couldn’t really spend any time with either her parents or her sister; you know the kind where you have a personal heart to heart, partly because there were so many people but mostly because Devansh left Khushi with no time, space or energy. She would start a conversation thread and then immediately charge off after Devansh who felt as if he simply must conquer MM – on all fours, ‘godi is for wimps’ was clearly his mantra. And despite Anya being a responsible big girl, Khushi thought her too young to be able to take care of Devansh all alone, who was becoming very naughty and unmanageable by the day.
And Devansh chose Mumbai to learn how to get off the bed. Earlier Khushi could dump him on the bed and go about her tasks confident that he was safe as he quite scared of heights and balked at venturing too near the edge of the bed. Khushi grinned triumphantly when she noticed his weakness and used it to her advantage. But not for long! He soon got the hang of it and broke free of his ‘prison’, carefully reversing his way off the bed, legs hanging down, sliding till he touched solid ground and then crawl away at top speed. Devansh seemed to have an uncanny ability or sixth sense which told him that ‘this is the moment, Amma is busy just go’, and in a split second he would have vanished. Khushi ran after him, calling him and wishing she could show off this new trick to Arnav, oh how he would laugh, his eyes crinkled; tears pricked her eyes.
She missed him dammit.
Despite the hullabaloo, her dear ones, their love, the homely chatter, Khushi desperately missed a special pair of eyes. She would be happy with a glimpse of a bent head working on the laptop. She would often look around hoping against hope but then sigh and smack herself. With her now crazy unscheduled daily schedule circling Devansh, she barely had time to interact with Arnav (or even herself!) but she did manage to catch his eyes a couple of times in a day and that was what she survived on, but now even that was missing. She pulled a face and shook her head dismissively, “hmmph Laad Governor kahin ke, hum kyon miss karein unhe, woh toh khush ho rahe honge ki koi nahi hai unhe disturb karne ke liye! Aaram se full pe AC chala kar poore bistar par apna raj jama kar soyenge, hain na Guddu?” She gave him an extra tight cuddle, one for him, one for Arnav.
Arnav sighed as he banged his file shut and rubbed his eyes wearily. It was past 8.00 pm, work was done for the day (actually long ago), but he didn’t feel like going home. Yesterday, at RM he had felt lost and lonely, with almost an eerie sensation of being alone at Sheesh Mahal!
The silence of the mansion suffocated him and it had been just one day! And he had blithely assented to 5 days!
Yesterday, Arnav had gone back home after office as usual. It had hit him as soon the main door swung open, the cold almost deathly silence, the clinical neatness, not a cushion, not a chair out of place; he looked down, no car lying strategically to trip him up.
There was just HP and a lone lizard for company.
He went upstairs and threw off his tie. He changed and went to the poolside seeking solace and company from his beloved plants. Some comfort of course but the silence was killing, if he tried hard enough he could almost swear he could hear Khushi calling out to their son and his answering gurgle, he reflexly looked down, was that Devansh pulling at his pyjamas?! No, just a gush of breeze.
He sat down by the poolside chair and dug out a ball from behind and stared at it, perhaps he should have gone to Mumbai, it wasn’t as if he couldn’t spare the time, yes there had been a couple of important meetings but nothing that couldn’t be re-shuffled and adjusted to suit his convenience. But then he had actually been looking forward to the peace and quiet, but unfortunately he didn’t like it as much as he thought he would!
It was Devansh whom he missed the most, the scuffle, the shuffle, the rattle, the clatter, the chatter, his uninhibited joy and excitement upon his return from office, the way he insistently tugged his trousers till he was picked up, his chortles, his nonsensical blabber and shrieks of joy. Arnav swallowed the lump in his throat, in such a short time, Devansh had firmly caught hold of his heart in his tiny fist and Arnav hadnt even gotten to know! Like mother like son, he shook his head wryly. He grumbled about the messy room, the crowded bed but he couldn’t find a moment’s peace in this neat room or the empty bed. He dozed off late at night with the TV blaring; he switched it off only in the early hours of the morning.
No wonder Arnav dreaded going back home today.
Arnav grabbed his coat and strode out of ARD. He knocked at GM door, Kshitij opened the door, Arnav held up his hand and said sheepishly, “I got beer.”
Kshitij welcomed him in, “Yeah great, you owed me a drink, but I guess I could make do with beer. In any case tomorrow is a working day, can’t afford to have a hangover, beer is just right, come make yourself comfortable.”
Kshitij and Arnav relaxed over a couple of beers while watching football on TV. In the meanwhile Vimla cooked dinner for them.
“So how’s fatherhood treating you?” Asked Kshitij genially.
Arnav’s lips twisted, “Like a spare wheel!” he shrugged self-deprecatingly.
Kshitij guffawed, “Well put! And best place to be, in the background! You should be required only in situations of emergency and better hope that your services are not required at all!”
Arnav nodded his head ruefully, “I guess you are right! If I am not needed that means all is well right?”
“Yeah” Kshitij too nodded his head, “Get used to it buddy, and in fact better to be the spare wheel, that way you won’t get into unnecessary arguments with your wife and spoil whatever little time you do manage to spend with her!”
Arnav nodded his head, “Yeah I know I know,” then shook his head mournfully, “But easier said than done and if I know myself I will either interfere or be entirely absent!”
Kshitij leaned forward and patted ASR in commiseration, “I understand, tough job, this parenting business, just just trust your instincts, interfere when you want to and ignore when you don’t want to, in other words, go with the flow. Get it?”
Arnav sighed, “If I were to go with the flow and my instincts, I would be in Mumbai right now!”
“Well what’s stopping you?!” Kshitij was surprised.
Arnav was equally surprised, he turned to stare at Kshitij, “I don’t know! Exactly! What is stopping me! Dammit, that is exactly what I shall do,” He finished his beer and banged down the glass on the table, “I am going to Mumbai tomorrow, want to come along?”
Kshitij shook his head regretfully, “Sorry dude, got some unavoidable appointments tomorrow, you carry on.”
Arnav nodded his head, “Yeah I sure will!”
Ultimately Arnav couldn’t go the next day; there was some urgent unavoidable business so he had to spend another night at the spookily silent RM alone. But then perhaps it was good in a way, it made him realize once again just how much he was dependent on his family. Strange, he mused, once known as a loner, was now an out and out family man, was it good or bad?
He shrugged, well too late to worry about it, jo hai so hai!
Click here for Chapter 189