The phone rang again, he disconnected again. It rang again and again. Irritated he switched off the phone.
He drove furiously on the empty road.
Suddenly he heard a noise, a faint one but then it was unmistakable, “Arnav!, Arnav!!”
“What the!” The car screeched to a halt. He got out of the car, and opened the boot, a smile already crinkling his eyes.
There was Khushi sitting pretty as you please, smiling mischievously at him.
He pursed his lips and glared at her, but failed miserably.
He bent down and scooped her out.
“You are impossible Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada” he said before yielding to his baser instincts and kissing her thoroughly.
Breathless Khushi pushed him away, “Arnav! We will be arrested for inappropriate behavior in a public place!”
Arnav rolled his eyes and sat her in the car before walking to his side. Inside he stole another kiss and whispered, “Love my surprise.”
Khushi smiled happily back at him while he started the car.
“So you planned it all?” He said
She nodded, “With some finishing touches, tips and help from Di, Nani, jiji and jijaji. And yes HP as well, to put my suitcase in the boot along with yours.”
Arnav shook his head and muttered, “Crazy woman, I hope you haven’t emptied the petrol tank?”
She shook her head and they both laughed. Khushi started swaying and singing:
Aaaj mausam hai suhana
Nainital jaane ka hai bahana
What the what the
Arnav looked at her, laughed and joined her singing.
Arnav touched Khushi on her neck, she squirmed, “Arnav, what are you doing?”
“Nothing Khushi, there was an insect or something, seems to have gone inside.” Arnav said.
“What!” Khushi squirmed even more, “don’t tell me!”
“I am telling you, looked like a cockroach to me,” he continued helpfully. “There are lots of them in the boot.”
“Stop stop the car right now,” Khushi screeched.
Obediently Arnav stopped the car in front of a convenient public convenience.
Khushi scrambled out of the car, Arnav followed her leisurely and then brought out a packet from his bag, “Here take this along in case someone runs away with your clothes again.”
Khushi scowled at him, grabbed the bag and ran inside.
Arnav waited patiently.
The wait was worthwhile.
Khushi came out smiling shyly looking stunning in a red lehenga choli with an exquisitely embroidered duppata.
“You tricked me,” she said without much heat.
“What do you think, only you can trick me?” said Arnav gruffly staring at her.
“It is beautiful, thank you.” said Khushi’s heart was in her eyes.
Arnav couldn’t take his eyes off her, “You’re beautiful.”
Khushi blushed and cleared her throat, “Chalein?”
He continued to look at her mesmerized “Let me look my fill, I am tired of stealing glances at you. The calendar photo shoot, during the Nainital trip, at the shopping mall, the list is endless.”
“Kya?” Khushi said astonished, “Stealing glances, really? All those times you were so rude and mean to me!”
“You looked stunning and took my breath away each time. And I was rude and mean to you because I felt I was on shaky ground and attack is the best form of defense,” he admitted sheepishly.
Khushi blushed even more and pulled him to the car, “I am hungry.”
“Me too,” he growled, but he allowed her to lead him to the car.
At the Manjitda dhaba, the sardarji and his wife were mighty pleased to see them. Yet surprised at her attire, “Puttar”, she said hand on her chin, “do you always wear your shaadi ka joda?”
Khushi laughed and said, “No aunty only whenever I come to your place!”
They all laughed and Sardarji asked for their order, which Khushi rattled off before he finished speaking.
Arnav rolled his eyes and asked for a bottle of mineral water.
Sardarji went off while Khushi glared at him.
“No way Khushi I am not eating here, their food is so chilly and you know I can’t tolerate chilly food,” said Arnav.
“Oh really?” Khushi propped her chin on her hand and looked at him. “And what happened that day when you had the whole katori of dal made by Lavanyaji. That dal had was thousand times chillier than any food could ever be.”
Arnav’s lips twitched as he shrugged, “I was angry that day; but I did have to pay the price the next day. I had Aman deliver a fire extinguisher.”
Khushi burst out laughing, “Serves you right! Now eat up or I will be angry. Ok just have this paratha and some hot tea. Theek hai?”
Arnav reluctantly gave in.
Udhar, Anya did not come to the park that day and Anjali thought it prudent not to risk incurring her father’s wrath again so she desisted from enquiring about Anya’s health. Yet she couldn’t help feeling worried and spent a restless night dreaming not about her lost child but Anya.
The next morning, Anjali’s phone rang. It was Anya, hysterically crying, “Anjie Anjie, Daddy is not getting up.”
Anjali found Kshitij almost delirious with fever. Nanny didn’t have fever, but was very weak and in general unwell. Only Anya seemed to have recovered, though she was still coughing. Anjali called the doctor and quickly started sponging Kshitij’s brow which was burning. Anya anxiously hovered over him all the while. Kshitij opened his eyes after some time and peered at her from bloodshot eyes; Anjali stiffened as he grimaced and then mumbled, “Anjie you came back,” he wandered off into his hazy world.
The doctor came soon enough and prescribed medicines for Kshitij and Nanny. Anjali again sent for HP who helped clean up and rustle up a simple meal. Anjali requested the doctor to send a nurse for a couple of days as she did not want to risk having Anya coping all alone as both adults seemed to be out of commission. Anjali stayed long enough to ensure Anya had her meal and was settled with the nurse.
Even though Anjali was very worried, she resisted the temptation to call up the next day. Instead she contented herself by calling the doctor, who reassured her that the situation was under control. Yet she longed to hear Anya’s bright chirpy voice. To distract herself she buried herself in her work.
A bit later in the day received a bouquet of red roses with a note – Thank you, from Anya, Nanny and Kshitij. Anjali stared long and hard at the card, trying to decipher the reasons for sending the flowers and message being conveyed. Was it just a simple thank you, was it a dismissive thank you, thank you but no more thank you; was it more than just a thank you, did it include a ‘sorry’ as well; did it give her permission to call up and enquire about their health; or should she send the driver with some food; or should she just ignore the whole thing and wait for Anya to come to the park. What if he refused to send Anya to that park?
Hey Bhagwan, she was going mad, stop it she told herself sternly, a thesis on a simple thank you! She needed to get herself examined by a psychiatrist.
Oh no! Not that route again.
Click here for Chapter 20