Tears streaming down her cheeks, Khushi threw her arms around Payal, “Jiji, I am so sorry, hume pata hi nahi tha, aap itna pareshaan hain!”
Payal controlled herself with an effort and smiled bravely as she wiped her tears, “Bas kar Khushi, isme itna rone wali kaunsi baat hai; tum pareshaan mat ho, yeh toh ghar ghar ki kahani hai, thoda idhar thoda udhar, hum kuch kehna nahi chah rahe the, par haan tumse keh kar hum halka feel kar rahein hain,” she suddenly laughed, “This is what is so inexplicable, all I have wanted all these years is to share my thoughts with Aakash, it is not that I wanted any solution or that I want him to throw out his mother or even yell at her, but just a sympathetic ear, a shoulder to cry on,” she raised her hand and gestured to Khushi, “Jaise tumne abhi kiya, I just wanted to unburden myself without feeling that I will be judged or found wanting; but if I try to even raise such a topic with Aakash, at the first instance it disintegrates into a slanging match of tu tu main main,” she shook her head, “Pata hi nahi chalta kaise!”
Khushi was confused, “Matlab? Hum nahi samjhe Jiji!”
Payal sighed and tried to explain, “Kya Khushi, tumhe samajh nahi aa raha kya, tumhare saath nahi hota kya, kehti kuch ho aur interpretation or result kuch aur hi hota hai, jaise,” she hesitated, trying to marshal her thoughts, “Jaise, after Palash was born, I was feeling very suffocated and tied down at home, it is not that I don’t know there is really no solution to this, the kids need me, I need to be home, and indeed I will be for as long as I think they need me to be, but I just thought of sharing my frustration with him, in the hope of unburdening myself, but he!” She shook her head, “He blasted me for being an unnatural mother, being selfish and what not and began taking the kids out to the beach to play, without me, saying ‘yeh lo, I am giving you space and time to do your thing, phir mat complain karna!” Payal said unhappily, “Main kahan jaaoo akele? All the few acquaintances are busy on weekends, I can hardly go to see a movie alone can I? I end up going shopping with Maji,” She sighed regretfully, “Galati kari maine, I should have taken up a job, even if it more taxing, more stressful, at least I would have some time that I can call my own, even if it is spent in traffic!”
“Jiji, abhi bhi toh kar sakte hain?” Khushi encouraged this direction of thought.
Payal nodded, “Yes, I am planning to enroll for a B.Ed course and then once Palash starts to go to school, I think I too will take up a job in a school.”
There was not much scope for more as the kids woke up soon afterwards, but Khushi’s heart broke for her Jiji, she sent up a heartfelt prayer to DM, “Hey Devi Maiyya kuch toh kijiye Jiji ke liye, please,” she repeated over and over again.
RM bursting at the seams echoing with laughter and cries of the children, unwilling to be left out, Anya and Ankit too landed up for a couple of days; and Di too could be found at RM at odd hours. Ankit and Yash got on like a house on fire, while Anya bossed over all of them. It was a happy time and it was difficult to say who was the happiest amongst them.
Arnav rolled his eyes at the chaos and beat a hasty retreat to his haven, the office. Aakash and Manohar followed suit. Aakash sank down with a sigh on to a comfortable chair opposite ASR in his office cabin and looked around him appreciatively. The refurbished design was very smart and in keeping with recent trends. There was nothing that remained of the ARD of yesteryears. Everything in any case had been burnt down in the fire that had gutted their office many years ago.
Except Di’s photograph, which was exactly the same as before, even the frame, he picked it up, “Bhai, yeh…,” he said in surprise.
“Haan woh,” Arnav looked away, “I got it made again, the other was destroyed in the fire,” he shrugged, “I had got another one, but I didnt like it so I got one made just like that one again.”
Aakash nodded understanding, he felt a gush of nostalgia, the photograph was the only reminder, the link to his past in this very office, everything else had changed, made him feel like an outsider, but the photograph gave him a sense of belonging, a sense of peace and homecoming.
He sighed, “Bhai, those days were so good hai na? Life was so uncomplicated and pleasant. There was so much to look forward to and we were also so easily pleased, ab nothing really makes us happy and we don’t really have anything to look forward to, hai na bhai?”
Arnav looked at him blankly. Aakash didn’t notice or wasn’t bothered for his Bhai was not one to react or respond at each and everything that too rhetorical questions! He sighed, at least something hadn’t changed!
“Sab kuch badal gaya hai,” he mused, “Don’t get me wrong Bhai,” he hesitated, “Business is doing great and I am really enjoying my work,” a spark of enthusiasm lit his face, “It is really fantastic to see your ideas materialize and bring results,” Arnav nodded understandingly, they smiled at each other.
“Aakash,” Arnav finally spoke up, “You really are doing a great job and you have successfully built up the Mumbai branch from scratch, very laudable I must say and honestly we can even explore setting up a branch, as you wanted, in Dubai?”
Aakash went red with pleasure, praise from Bhai was something to be treasured and to be proud of, but then his face fell, “Aakash?” Arnav was concerned, “Everything ok?”
Click here for Chapter 221