Finally Anjali met Anya at the park; she was thinner and paler but chirpy as usual. Anjali asked after Nanny’s health, Anya nodded and thanked her. Hesitantly Anjali asked about her father – apparently he was much better, but had taken the day off.
That evening Kshitij came to the park to pick up Anya. He sat for a while with them on the bench and was clearly ill at ease. After a while he sent off Anya to call Nanny who was sitting at the other end of the park, he cleared his throat and said formally, “Thank you for your help, Maam, it was most kind of you. I really don’t know what we would have done without your help. And I was so rude to you the other day. In my defense, I was afraid, guilty and felt things were going out of my control,” he swallowed, “I also felt insecure and jealous,” he said in a small voice. “Forgive me?” he apologized sincerely.
Speech over, he looked pleadingly at her. Anjali turned a bright red, she mumbled and fumbled as she was not prepared with her ‘welcome’, ‘no problem’ speech and instead focused her attention on Anya who had returned with Nanny.
Determined to atone for his sins, Kshitij said to Anya, “Why don’t you introduce us Anya.”
Anya happily did the honors and her embarrassment fading, Anjali recovered enough to say shyly, “Hello Doctor.”
“Hello Maam, thank you once again, bye, see you around,” and they were gone.
Anjali sat down with a thump, her heart still thudding. She was floored by the direct honest approach and the heartfelt apology. She chastised herself for not having responded more generously or more sophisticatedly. Anyone would think she was a gauche teenager; no wonder she got along so well with Anya she thought self-deprecatingly.
En route to Nainital
Arnav and Khushi left the Dhaba soon after their meal and headed to their destination where Arnav had already made bookings for them. They had dinner at the hotel’s classy restaurant while strains of the song ‘Teri Meri’ floated in from the ballroom adjoining the dining area.
She looked at Arnav pleadingly, “Please could we join them, please?”
Arnav’s expression clammed up, “You know Khushi I dont like all this stuff.”
Khushi, pushing her luck, “Come on Arnav, It will be fun, try it, who knows you may just like it.”
Arnav was annoyed, “Kyon? Aren’t you enjoying my company?”
Khushi was upset. “Nahi Arnav, you are twisting my words. It is not that, but this song is special, at least for me and I thought it may be for you as well.”
Arnav tried to pacify her, “It is special for me too. But is song is playing all over the country! That doesn’t mean I would start dancing every time I hear it!”
Khushi laughed and teased, “But that day you did start dancing, in front of a huge gathering of family, friends, business associates and colleagues and that too with me, your arch enemy, to top it all, voluntarily losing your bet! What was the high and mighty Mr Arnav Singh Raizada thinking?!”
Arnav looked at her tenderly, “All I could think of at that moment, was that you were in trouble and I just couldn’t bear to see you upset. I just had to do something to make you smile again; after all one good turn deserves another!”
Khushi reached out and clasped his hand lying on the table and said softly, “Thank you. It was a magical, almost heavenly feeling, being in your arms that night.”
Arnav’s eyes became heavy lidded as he put his other hand on top of hers and whispered softly, “For me too.”
They smiled at each other.
Just as the strains of Teri Meri faded away, Khushi pouted and made one last attempt. “I am very upset now as well,” She pulled a sad face.
He laughed, leaned forward and tapped her nose, “Tumhari naak laal ho gayee hai”
Laughing they made their way up to their room spent a wonderful romantic night (and morning) with oodles of ‘jadu’ ‘nasha’ ‘madhoshiyaan’.
As Arnav’s meeting was scheduled for around 11 O’clock, they had a leisurely breakfast and at Khushi’s insistence went for a boat ride at lake. Khushi’s clumsiness and excitement nearly resulted in an impromptu swim in the lake, but Arnav’s quick reflexes and more than a year long practice paid off as he saved her a dunking and gave her a tongue lashing instead.
He dropped her off near the market complex, sternly warning her not to wander off, or get lost or be inattentive to her surroundings or…
“Achcha achcha, now go before you are too late for the meeting.” Khushi got down from the car.
Arnav grunted, “I will be back by 3 O’clock and we will leave straightaway for Delhi as otherwise we will be very late in reaching home.”
Khushi dutifully nodded her head and turned happily towards the market.
Arnav stared at her retreating back and called, “Khushi, here take this.” and thrust a bundle of notes in her hand, driving off before she could thank him.
Khushi was even more excited, now she could buy gifts for everyone! The marketplace was huge and bustling with people and activity, Khushi took a deep breath and plunged right in.
At the meeting, Arnav concentrated on the deliberations and negotiations. He was keen to wrap it all up in the minimum possible time, not only because he was in a hurry to reach home, but the thought of Khushi wandering alone in a new place was rather worrisome. His efforts paid off and he was free by 2 pm. He had some lunch packed and vacated the hotel room taking their already packed luggage to the car. He went to the market and phoned Khushi.
“What the!” Her phone was out of reach! He tried repeatedly with no success, getting more and more irritated with each attempt.
Frustrated, he got out of the car and entered the busy marketplace to physically locate her. He spent about 45 minutes going from shop to shop in the square with no luck.
Initially annoyed, now Arnav was simply worried, he looked around helplessly, “Kahan dhoondoo is ladki ko?” Can’t even shout out her name in this melee, he muttered to himself.
Click here for Chapter 21