Finally Holi arrived.
Giving in to popular demand (masterminded by Anya), ASR (yes ASR!) agreed to have a small pool (more like a big shallow tub) put up at the bottom of the lawns where the children could play Holi to their heart’s content. But in return, ASR bargained for diplomatic immunity – he would not play and neither would he be forced to play.
Anya argued with him for over an hour but then she conceded the deal. The stakes were too high.
All the kids had a blast. Anya insisted that the adults too (minus ASR of course) take a dunking in the ‘tub’ and woe betide if they protested too much, instantly all the kids would be swarming all over them like bees and pummel him or her till then gave in. Khushi and Garima were excused on doctor’s orders.
Nani was the most sporting, followed by Mamiji. Even Anjali and Payal had to step into the tub. Khsitij, surprisingly, put up a big fuss and the children cheered loud and long when they finally managed to force him. The twinkle in his eye gave him away, it was clear to the discerning that he had put up an act that so that the children could have some additional fun, at his expense.
This year Devansh had no qualms about joining in all the fun, largely because where his Big Bro and Di went, he simply had to follow suit. And it was the same with Palash. And of course the water was an irresistible attraction and Devansh got his long unfulfilled desire to explore a pool. It took Poo over an hour to clean him up and make him recognizable as ASR’s son.
ASR tucked his hands in his pockets and watched the entire messy hullabaloo with a superior smirk alongside a morose Khushi.
Khushi stood watching with a wistful expression on her face, “Aapne jaan bhoojkar hume pareshan karne ke liye itna badiya intezaam kiya na? Aapko pata tha na ki hum iss saal hum paani main nahi jayenge?” she took out her frustration on him.
Arnav’s eyes crinkled but he said blandly enough, “Yeah I guess you are right! Tumhe pareshan karne main bahut mazaa aata hai,” he put his arm around her and gently steered her away from the crowd. He hiccuped. Khushi stared at him in astonishment.
Was that ‘bhang’ that he had been drinking?
“Aap ne bhang piya?” Khushi burst out.
He shrugged, “Haan toh?!”
“Par aap toh bhang nahi peete!” she was taken aback.
He shrugged, “Can’t get through all this nautanki without a bit of exogenous ‘support’,” he leaned forward and whispered into her ear, “Waise bhi shaadi ke baad main bahut kuch karta hoon jo pehle nahi karta tha,” he waited till his warm intense gaze had its desired effect, she blushed rosily, “Mera ‘turnover’ jo gaya hai!” he wrapped his arms around her.
Khushi hastily looked around and pushed him ineffectually; she gave up and laughed, she said admiringly, “Aapki yaadasht toh badi achchi hai!” then a bit surprised, “Aapko kaise pata Mamiji ne yeh kaha?”
“Woh… I dunno,” he shrugged, his brow cleared, “I think Aakash ne kabhi bataya tha…”
“Aur hume Jiji ne!” Khushi laughed again.
Arnav looked at her glowing face and brushed aside her bangs, “Khushi, I love you Khushi, you know that don’t you?”
Khushi smiled at him mistily and nodded her head, “Haan, I too love you, par aap aise kyon bol rahein hain?” she was surprised.
He looked at her regretfully, “I am so busy in my work, I hardly have any time to spend with you, tumhe bura lagta hoga na?” he shook his head, the bhang making him maudlin and sentimental, “Nani ko bhi jabardasti Delhi main rok liya; she must also be unhappy here,” his shoulders drooped.
“Arnav,” she cupped his face and turned him towards her, “Kya hua? Aap kya baat kar rahein hain hume kuch samajh nahi aa raha hai,” she frowned at him, “Yeh sab bhang ka asar hai!” she declared.
He shook his head and turned to leave, she held him back by his hand, reluctantly he turned back to face her, “Khushi,” he murmured softly, “Uhh…I was wondering, everything ok between you and Nani? I mean you get along fine right?” he hastily corrected himself at her dumbfounded expression.
“Me and Nani! Kyon? Aisa kyon pooch rahe hai?” Khushi was justifiably amazed at the out of the blue query, then worried, “Nani ne kuch kaha kya?”
“Nahi nahi,” Arnav quickly dismissed her concern, aware that he had botched up, he had been a bit worried and concerned about the relationship between the two of them ever since his conversation with Aakash. And a bit guilty too, in his preoccupation with his work, his love, his child, he had as usual not really bothered about what was going on in the house. He really had no clue as to what kind of relationship Khushi and Nani shared, neither had bothered to give him any feedback and he too hadn’t bothered to keep track. But Aakash’s outpourings left him mildly shaken as his questions had struck a chord, it was a well known fact that two women in the same house was bound to lead to unpleasant ego clashes, but then he consoled himself, maybe he was making a mountain out of molehill, neither had complained and best you keep your nose out of such matters, let them sort it out, he told himself. But then when had he ever listened to reason, ‘still I should know, it is my responsibility, after all I forced Nani to stay here and suppose she is not happy?’ he worried. Nahi, Khushi would never, he had been sure but still, a niggling doubt demanded clarification and the bhang loosened his tongue, hence the outpourings of guilt.
“Phir?” Khushi questioned him round eyed.
“Nahi,” he shrugged, “Aakash said something and I just wondered…” he trailed off unwilling to go into the details. But then he didn’t need to, it was suddenly all clear to Khushi, she nodded her head and was suddenly serious, “Oh! Jijaji bhi pareshan hain?” she knotted her fingers, “Jiji is also very unhappy,” she looked at him and put her hand on his shoulder, “Hume kuch karna chahiye Arnav.”
Arnav looked at her astounded, “What do mean Khushi! Hum isme kya kar sakte hain,” he protested, “Husband-wife ka problem hai, personal hai, we can’t just interfere like that!”
“Husband-wife! Personal!” Khushi glared at him, “Aap aisa kaise keh sakte hai, aapke bhai hain, aur humari Jiji!”
Arnav looked helplessly at Khushi, “Haan par,” he raised his hands defensively, “Ok ok, we will think about it later, maybe talk to Nani about it,” he knew he was making a big mistake (Khushi would surely hold him to his promise), but anything to postpone the discussion so not suited for his current state of bhang induced nasha. The mighty khadoos ASR was grappling with a strong wave of nostalgia, his Khushi was still his Khushi, his heart swelled with joy and gratefulness and as the unfamiliar emotions flooded him he felt as if he were on top of the world.
Khushi instantly brightened and nodded her head happily, “Theek hai,” she hugged him, “Aur aap humare aur Nani ke baare main chinta mat kariye, Di aur Nani dono humare ‘best friends’ hain!” she smiled at him brilliantly.
Arnav hurriedly clutched at the slipping edges of ASR’s cloak. He looked down at her a bit put off, “Achcha! Woh tumhare best friend hain! Aur main kya hoon?”
A/N Hello friends! A big thank you for participating in the discussion and here’s another question – Which do you think is the best way to help Payash? Feel free to drop in with your own unique ideas in the CB as well. And don’t worry about putting any ideas in my head, for remember this is a flashback and it has all been said and done! Cheers!
- Arshi could arrange for Payash to get away for a honeymoon to reconnect
- Khushi could try a reverse drama on Aakash, tell him Payal was terminally ill or something
- Nani could recommend that Payash separate out from Mama/mami?
- None of the above (hope to see the naysayers in the CB!)
Click here for Chapter 223