Khushi was chatting (or rather trying to chat) with her parents, holding Devansh firmly in her arms, she was tired of running after him as he crawled all over the house and insisted on investigating dustbins, shoes, even the WC! And he did all this very well knowing he wasn’t supposed to be doing it, for before undertaking any forbidden or likely to be forbidden task, Devansh always shot his mother a naughty mischievous glance and that was what usually alerted Khushi that pucca he was up to no good. Uff and she would charge off after him as he crawled away at top speed chortling with glee, “Koi khel hai kya yeh!” she would huff as she finally caught up with him, he would loll unrepentant.
At the last instance he had emerged from the kitchen looking remarkably like Casper, the friendly ghost, Khushi shrieked in alarm before she realized that he had been investigating the flour bin! Khushi was exasperated and exhausted; she now understood why Yashoda maiyya had to tie up Krishan Kanahiya!
She had always felt Yashoda had been rather harsh on her son, koi aisa karta hai kya! Tie up one’s own son, he was so cute to boot, thoda toh naughty hoga, par kitna? Itna toh bachche ke khushi ke liye kar hi sakti hai, kaisi kathor amma hai and all that! But now, now she was totally totally in tune with Yashoda’s sentiments, poor thing, bechari karti bhi toh kya karti. Sometimes she felt Devansh was on a special ‘amma satao abhiyaan’. She cleaned him up (again!), “Achcha toh aap sochte hain ki amma aapko phir se tub main dalengi hain na, phir paani se khelenge! Ji nahi, hum aapke chalaki ko khoob samajhte hain, hum aapko sirf sponge karenge, samajhte kya hai apne aapko? Bahut bade Laad Governor?”
He grinned toothlessly at her and began his song, “aaaaaa, aaaa, aaaaa”
Khushi patted his open mouth gently and the song changed much to their delight “waaa.waaa…waaaa”.
Khushi sighed and picked him up, “Chaliye ab bahut ho gayi aapki badmashi, ab bas godi main hi rahenge aap, Babuji ko phone karke abhi aapki shikayat karte hain!” She wished he was here, maybe she could talk to him, she had been able to talk to him for only a couple of minutes last evening, Anya had wanted to talk to him as had her parents and Buaji, the phone traveled all over MM and by the time it came back to her, the battery had discharged and she couldn’t find her charger. Phir Gablu had thrown a fit, he was excited, hungry and sleepy, a deadly combination. And the evenings before that were also similar, but what nagged her was that Arnav didn’t seem his usual curt self, he sounded almost upset. Initially she had put it down to her own over-active imagination, just because hum miss kar rahein hain doesn’t mean that he is also missing us, she castigated herself, but as the days passed, she wondered how he was faring alone, and kuch poocho toh ek hi jawab, ‘I’m fine Khushi’.
She looked at the clock and hesitated, he didn’t like it if she called him at the office unnecessarily, pata nahi meeting main hai ki nahi, waise bhi woh toh khush honge na, hum nahi hai! Never mind, she would call in the evening, “Hum bhoole nahi hai, shaam ko complainiyange tumhare Babuji ko!” she gave him another cuddle as she bore him off.
She took him to the lobby and attempted to speak to her parents holding him in her arms. He was quiet enough, perhaps tired out with his morning’s activity but he looked around him with interest (perhaps he was doing a recce of his next target!). Suddenly Devansh began bucking excitedly against Khushi and began gurgling in earnest, “Kya hua?” Khushi was puzzled, “Aap toh aise kood rahein hain ki jaise aapke Babuji aa gaye ho!” she turned around and yes, there he was! “A…Aa..aaap,” she squeaked as if she were seeing a ghost, had her imagination conjured him up, she thought rather wildly.
“Ha..haan main,” he strolled forward and neatly plucked Devansh from her arms, “He was the first one to notice me!” he threw him up in the air and caught him as Devansh squealed and shrieked in delight, “Yeh mat sochna ki main tumhare liye aaya hoon!” He hugged an ecstatic Devansh, “Main toh Devansh ke liye aaya hoon aur dekho kitna khush hai yeh mujhe dekh kar!”
Khushi looked at him resignedly, “Achcha toh ab hume bhi aisa karna padega aapko dikhane ke liye ki hum kitna khush hain!”
“I wouldn’t mind!” Arnav shrugged as Devansh slobbered and smacked him in excitement.
“Oh really! You amaze me you really do!” she got back at ASR, “Phir kahenge, yeh kya bachchon jaisi harkat hai! Waise aap aaye, woh bhi Devansh ke liye, hum bahut khush hai! Aap mano ya na mano!”
The other children too came running and soon Arnav was swamped by his relatives, and there was a burst of excited chatter and hulabaloo. Khushi stared her fill of him, content to have him in the same room, even though he didn’t spare her another glance (at least that is what she thought!).
That was the problem right from the beginning – though fandom could easily see the love-sick glances Arnav frequently sent Khushi’s way, Khushi (and in fact even Arnav!) was largely ignorant of this phenomena! And as old habits die hard, Khushi still couldn’t make out when he stared at her hungrily or besotted. She just thought ‘oh well, ghar ki murgi dal barabar’ while he thought, ‘woh toh apne aap main, Devansh main aur apne parivar main mast hai and waise bhi I am the spare wheel.’ Sigh!
Arnav took the kids for an outing to the Juhu beach as well as Chowpatty, and the Taraporewala aquarium. He graciously allowed their mums to come along as well as chaperones, though Payal gracefully, laughingly declined the honor. Yash declared himself to be capable of going with just his Mota for company. It was a fun filled afternoon and after playing on the beach they watched the sun go down in its full glory with not a cloud to mar its descent. Khushi looked longingly at all her favorites, kala khatta, bhel puri, paani puri, Khushi licked her lips and resolutely turned away.
Arnav smiled at her, amused, “Kya hua Khushi? Kha lo jab itna mann kar raha hai! Ab itna bhi kya sharmana?!”
Khushi made a face at him, “Hum sharma nahi rahe hain! Hum nahi kha sakte yeh,” she tickled Devansh who was on his Dad’s shoulder, “jab tak isse feed kar rahe hai, tab tak nahi, samjhe aap?!”
Arnav put his arms around Khushi, “Bechari Khushi, kitne din ho gaye na tumhara apna man pasand khana khaye?” unmindful of the crowd for a few moments, she let herself drown in his eyes, his empathy, she blinked mistily at him, “Aise kahenge toh kisi cheez bhi ki zaroorat nahi!”
“Mamu!” they were jerked out of the RV by Ankit who wanted balloons. Di came up and gave a knowing look to both of them and hustled Ankit away, but the spell of the moment had been broken.
But then at night, as Devansh finally settled down for his sleep, Arnav stood on the balcony, his hands in his pockets as he soaked in the sound of the crashing waves, the foam clearly visible in the moonlight night, “Gablu so gaya,” Khushi called softly, “Aap bhi so jaeeeye.”
Arnav looked at her and held out his hand, she took it but made a face, “Kya hua? Aap toh Devansh ke liye aaye the na? Ab toh woh so gaya, aap bhi so jaeeye.”
Arnav’s lips twitched as he raised an eyebrow, “Oh that rankled eh?”
“Ji nahin,” Khushi denied, “Hume kyon bura lagega? Hum toh bas yeh keh rahe the, aap jis kaam ke liye aye the woh ho gaya na, ab aap araam kar lijiye,” she withdrew her hand and turned to leave but he caught hold of her hand and swung her around into his arms, “Haan Khushi jis kaam ke liye aaya tha woh toh ho gaya,” he murmured softly, “Par tumhe toh pata hona chahiye jab main kaam ho jaata hai toh baaki pending issues ko bhi attend kar leta hoon!” he laughed at her.
“Pending issues!!!” Khushi was affronted and up-in-arms but then ASR, a successful businessman, was not only an expert at handling pending issues but enjoyed the challenge too. And thankfully the ‘primary issue’ slept through the tricky negotiations.
Click here for Chapter 190