A new pattern was set over the next few weeks. Anjali would go to the park to meet Anya and Kshitij would come to pick her up and he would spend a few minutes each day with Anjali, depending on Anya’s desire for one ‘last ride’ or time to say bye to her growing brood of park pals. Kshitij was an easy going open person and Anya had clearly inherited her ‘chatterbox’ genes from her Dad. Each day Anjali would gather some new information about him.
He had cut down on his work at the clinic because his daughter needed him; he was looking for a job more suited to his qualifications and taste; he had come across some promising openings; he was constantly worried about Anya, what would happen to her if something happened to him; that is why he had come to India in search of his family; his father’s family. His mother’s family was scattered all over the globe.
After a couple of days, Kshitij said, “You are a very good listener ma’am; I keep talking and you never speak anything about yourself.”
Anjali laughed, embarrassed, “You are exaggerating doctor, it just seems that way because, I have nothing interesting to say, I am very boring kind of a person.”
Kshitij shook his head, “And that is so not very true ma’am; you talk to Anya alright; even though you may not have told me I know all about your family, courtesy Anya.”
Anjali laughed again even more embarrassed, she would have to watch her tongue around that minx, she thought fondly.
He took Anya’s hand and left grinning wickedly as he read her thoughts.
As it was rather late when Arnav and Khushi came back from their trip, they did not meet anyone at night. The next day was a working day and Khushi also had to report to the college to collect course books and complete some other formalities so she was unable to distribute the gifts. Besides she wanted to first show them to Arnav.
Arnav returned late in the evening to find the bed littered with boxes, packets, colored strings and wrapping paper.
“What the!” he stopped in mid stride.
Khushi came rushing forward and dragged him in, “Oh good you have come, I have been waiting for you. See these are all the things I bought from the market at Nanital.”
Arnav sank down on the recliner, “Dikhao.”
“See this is a holy book stand, one for Nani and one for Buaji. These are woolen jackets for Jijjaji and Babuji and look warm closed shoes and woolen socks for Amma, she has very cold feet na. And these are bangles for Jijji and Di and look I got matching bangles for Anya as well. They were so cute and tiny I couldn’t resist them”, Khushi displayed her purchases proudly.
“You didnt get anything for Hari Prakash?” asked Arnav sarcastically.
“Hari Prakashji? Oh yes, here it is I got a muffler”, she pulled it out triumphantly from under the pile. “But why are you so angry” she looked at him bewildered. Then her brow cleared, “Ah I get it!” She clicked her fingers. “You think I didn’t get anything for you.” She pulled his cheeks and said, “How could I forget you my dear Laad Governor!”
She took out a wallet and 6 pairs of socks.
His face was a study, “What the! This is what you bought for me?”
“Haan!” Khushi stood with her hands on her hips, “Have you seen the state of your wallet? So embarrassing to see the great Mr Arnav Singh Raizada carrying such a shabby wallet. Aapko shayad faraq nahi padta par hume toh padta hai. And the same goes for your socks, your socks have holes in them, girls were staring at the holes in your socks when we went to the temple. I wanted to buy you a pair of shoes as well but I wasn’t sure of the size.
Arnav glared at her.
Khushi pulled his cheeks again, “Achcha don’t be angry, I bought this sweater as well for you. Do you like it?”
Arnav took the sweater from her and wore it, it was a perfect fit. He took off the sweater and put it on the bed and pulled her to him, “Khushi, what did you buy for yourself?”
“For myself? But why would I buy a gift for myself, besides I don’t need anything and you did gift me the beautiful lehenga choli remember?” Khushi hugged him.
Arnav pushed her back by shoulders and cupped her face, “At least sometimes you could think about yourself?”
She snuggled back, “You do that, I have too much on my plate as it is.”
Arnav smiled as he hugged her tightly, “I will.”
Then after a while, Arnav complained, “But that wouldn’t be fair would it, my share would be so much more than your share!” He disappeared before she could work that out and retaliate.
Another day Kshitij filled in Anjali about his family’s migration to the West.
His father had had a small restaurant in Delhi and his mother was a physiotherapist. As the restaurant was not running well, his mother’s relatives in Canada had advised them to come over. So they had moved to Montreal when he was about 17 years of age. Initially his mother was the sole earning member and then later his dad took undertook some training and joined as a chef in a big Indian hotel.
Kshitij too loved to cook and invited Anjali over to dinner, “After all I have already sampled your wonderful cooking.”
Anjali blushed and said, “Thank you doctor, some other day perhaps.”
A few days later, Anya came bearing a box full of ‘malpoas’ a gift from Dad,” she said proudly.
Anjali was embarrassed beyond words but didn’t have the heart to refuse the little girl.
At RM, the sweets were much appreciated by all (except Chotte) and gobbled up in no time. Chotte frowned but mindful of Khushi’s warning eyes, wisely restrained himself from commenting.
Unable to dismiss the incident completely; and with the private investigator failing to find anything suspicious, Arnav dropped in at the park one day. Sure enough Di was hobnobbing with that girl. He walked up to them and waited for them to notice him.
Anjali froze, “Chotte! You! Here!?”
She surreptitiously crossed her fingers, let Kshitij not come just now, please DM please and then blushed. Again she was behaving like a gauche teenager, let him come, who cares, I haven’t done anything wrong. DM please.
“Relax Di, everything is fine, I was just passing by so I thought I would just say hello to your new friend.” said Arnav.
Anjali stiffened but nevertheless she introduced them formally, “Chotte this is Anya, Anya this is…
“I know, I know”, piped up Anya excitedly, “He is Chotte Singh Raizada your brother, right?”
Both Anjali and Chotte turned a bright red, Anjali from trying to control her laughter and Chotte of course from anger, “What the…!”
Anjali’s phone rang, it was from office; she excused herself while Arnav glared at the unfortunate girl.
Unfazed she stared back at him and suddenly jumped on the bench so as to come to his eye level, crossed her arms defiantly and said, “So what do you think? Do I pass?”
Arnav was taken aback, he didn’t expect to be so transparent, at least not to a six year old and neither was he expecting a direct attack.
“Pass? What do you mean?” he prevaricated.
“You said you came to say hello to your Di’s new friend. You’ve seen me, but you haven’t yet said hello, so I asked you, what do you think, am I good enough to be her friend? Anyway take your time there is no rush”, she dismissed him airily.
What cheek, that too from such a tiny one; if he wasn’t so mad he would be laughing. There had been only one other girl who had had the guts to talk to him like that. An unwilling smile tugged his lips; he could see why his Di was so fascinated by this girl.
“Truce?” He held out his hand, “Hello I am ASR.”
Anya willingly shook his hand, “Hello, I am AKG.”
“What!” said both Arnav and Anjali.
“Yes, that is my name, Anya Kumari Goyal,” proudly declared Anya.
Arnav rolled his eyes, “I wonder what would happen if KKG and AKG meet.”
“What would happen? We meet everyday.” Anya shot back.
Arnav looked at her askance.
“KKG is Dad, Kshitij Kumar Goyal.”
“Okay, I am leaving before more coincidences are revealed,” declared Arnav and retreated for the day.
Thankfully Kshitij did not turn up that day or even for the next two days. DM seemed to have really heard her prayers she thought. First he sends sweets and then he doesn’t even come so that I can say thanks to him. Of course that was the only reason she wanted him to come.
Click here for Chapter 23