“Aap? Aap toh humare Laad Governor hain, aur hum aapke ghulam!” she twinkled at him.
He looked down at her ruefully, not too displeased with the epithet bestowed upon him, he flicked her nose, “And don’t you ever forget that!”
“Ji Swami!” Khushi bowed obsequiously.
He laughed, he swung her up in his arms and swiftly strode off with his precious burden as she hissed one of her favorite dialogues, “Kya kar rahein hain aap, chhodiye hume” and all that. Khushi fell silent as she suddenly she realized they were alone. The shrieks of the children had faded away as had the music; they were now by the poolside. Arnav seated Khushi on the chair by the poolside and sank down beside her.
“Yahan kyon laye hume? Sab kya sochenge?” she was embarrassed.
“Sochne do!” he brushed it off rather arrogantly, “Tum theek ho?” he asked abruptly.
She crossed her arms, “Haan hum theek hai, par…”
“Par kya Khushi?” Arnav queried her.
“Par hume bhi khelna tha Holi, woh bhi Guddu ke saath, kitna mazaa aata hai na?” she was disappointed at having to sit out on Holi once again.
Arnav sighed and took her hand, “Pata hai Khushi, life main woh important nahi hai ki kya mila ya phir nahi mila, woh important hai ki what you choose to appreciate or moan over…”
Khushi looked at him with a confused expression, then her brow cleared, “Hey wait a minute, yeh humari lines hai…”
He placed a finger over her lips and murmured, “Tumhe yeh dikha ki maine Holi ki arrangements karwai, par yeh nahi dikha ki tumhe alag se yahan par le ya taki tumhare saath time spend kar sakoon?”
She slowly blinked at him, her eyes soft and tender. He tenderly scanned her face, and brushed away the shagun ka teeka, “So many years have passed; so much has changed, yet nothing has, isn’t it?” he said in a soft whisper.
Khushi looked at him wonderingly, “True, poolside ko hi dekh lijiye,” she pouted and went back to her pet grouse, “par aap toh wohi khadoos A..S..R hain na, abhi bhi Holi nahi khelte! Hmmmphh Laad Governor kahin ke.” she complained, though she couldn’t really stop the smile from lighting her eyes. Love shone out of her eyes, Arnav’s eyes too reciprocated in kind.
She clasped his hand in both her hands and continued, “Aapko pata hai, aapko toh koi faraq hi nahi padha hai, bus hum hi badal gaye hain poora ka poora, kabhi kabhi toh lagta hai ki Khushi toh mano gayab hi ho gayi, hum toh bas Mrs Raizada hain ya phir amma,” she made a face and looked away sadly, she flicked him a glance from the corner of her eyes.
Arnav looked down at her with a glint in his eyes, and murmured softly, “Lagi shart?” confused, she swung around and looked at him questioningly.
He took his time to brush away her locks, dust the traces of gulal from her cheeks, drink in the glow in her face; holding her captive with his eyes he murmured softly, “Khhhushiii,” she melted in an instant, the world vanished, there was just them and the soft breeze playing their song, it rose to a crescendo…and then another note intervened, “Mamaaaaaaaaa!”
“Gudduu!!!” Khushi jerked up and rushed to the door, there was Poo with a colorful soaking and tearful Devansh, who had had enough of the fun and games, bas ab amma ke baahon ka jhoola ho, thoda khana ho aur phir sona ho. To give Devansh credit, something seemed to have gone into his eyes (like mother like son eh!) which was making him cranky and irritable; Poo had been unable to diagnose the problem correctly, hence the rest of the RV, like countless others, floated away, unheard, unappreciated.
Well not really, the memory of that all too brief but intensely sweet RV lingered in both their memories for a long time and never failed to bring a warm tingly feeling even during the most boring of board meetings or while going through the dismal accounts of AKC.
Holi celebrations over, Khushi’s parents stayed for a couple of days before heading back to Lucknow. They all left with a pang for they had really become attached to Devansh and the others. Especially Buaji; the little boy had stolen her heart.
The day before they were all to disperse to their respective cities, everyone was gathered in the lobby and Devansh was playing football in the lobby and it toppled his water bottle over, he stopped in his tracks and put a hand to his head and burst out spontaneously “Hai le nankishole!” there was a sudden silence before everyone burst into laughter, thrilled and proud, he puffed up, went red in the face and continued without missing a beat, “Tittalla, eee kaa hai!” he pointed to the fallen water bottle.
RM was in uproar, Buaji couldn’t stop raving, HRNK she went over and over again, much to Devansh delight, he stared at her in absolute fascination as if memorizing her words and actions, “Kitna hosiyar hai yeh bitwa HRNK! Aai Khusi! Hum tumko kab aisan daante humka toh yaad hi naahi,” she marveled.
Her heart bursting with pride, Khushi cuddled him close and pouted, “Kya Buaji, ab pata chala na, aap hamesha hi aise daant te rehte ho, tabhi toh Gablu ko pata chal gaya! Hain na Guddu?” She gave him a tight squeeze, “Guddu Buaji hume kya bulati hain?”
He looked a bit blankly at her; Khushi gave him a hint, “Titaliya kaun hai?”
His brow cleared, he smiled and chanted while patting her cheek, “Tittallaaaa, a Khussssiiii, a Khussssiiii, sankadei sankadei ee ka hai? eee ka hai?” he chortled in delight as he soaked up all the attention.
Buaji’s massive frame shook with emotions, she put a hand to her head, “HRNK, ee ladka toh bahut hi nautanki hai!”
“Tanki, tanki, tanki,” he shouted excitedly standing on the sofa beside his mum and made circling motions with his hands ending the circle on his ears.
Everyone cracked up, Buaji copied him but clamped up her lips and shook her head at him and wiped her eyes.
Keen to show off her son’s nautanki abilities, Khushi gently prodded him, “Aur Badi Mami kya bolti hai?”
He looked at her confused, there were so many people! Khushi shook her head, “Yash, Pash Dadi?” she reframed her question.
His eyes swung to Manorama, “Lo hi bye bye!” Mamiji preened and returned the greeting enthusiastically, “Hello Hi Bye Bye!”
“Achcha Guddu,” Khushi shook her son to get his attention, “Bua kya bolti hai?” she pointed to Anjali sitting right there.
Devansh looked at her, “Anki Anki! Nanya! Debu Debu?” he pinched his own cheeks, “A babwan!” he looked slyly at his father, “Otte tumbina!” he grinned toothily and clapped his hands along with Anjali; Arnav rolled his eyes resignedly, unable to really hide the glint of pride in his eyes, “Devansh!” he called him, who happily trotted over to his father and clambered up his knee, “And what does your amma say?”
He stood up on the sofa, uncaring that he was swaying dangerously, Arnav hurriedly steadied him; Devansh put his hands on his hips and frowned at Arnav, “Laalgoner kake!” he pursed up his lips and blew his imaginary bangs away from his eyes. He got a tight squeeze and a resounding kiss from his dad while Khushi blushed as if she had been the one to get hugged and kissed!
The others rolled about in fits and RM echoed with their laughter, “Hello Hi Bye Bye! Yeh toh zaroor bada hokar hero banega, Oscar jeet kar laiga!” declared Mamiji.
Anjali pulled Devansh to her and said, “And what does Baaddy say?”
Devansh frowned at her, “Daddy,” he corrected her, Arnav smirked superiorly at Khushi who sniffed at him and pretended to ignore his victorious smirk, she smiled a small smile to herself, Anjali affectionately pinched his cheeks “Achcha baba, theek hai theek hai, Daddy, what does your Daddy say?”
They all held their breaths and waited for Devansh to emulate the mighty ASR, “What…” burst out Ankit before Anya clapped her hand over his mouth and hissed, “Chup!! Let him say, don’t put ideas into his head, who knows he might have something else in mind?” she admonished him.
Anya was right! He didn’t disappoint her; in fact he surpassed all their expectations, “KHUSHIIIIIIIII! (angrily and loudly) Khushi (softly) Khhhussshii (tenderly) Coochie? (coochie cooing),” in remarkable imitation of Arnav’s myriad emotions where his mother was concerned.
It is difficult to say who was redder, Khushi or Arnav.
“What the!” burst out both of them as they looked at each other in consternation; their eyes met and tender warmth enveloped them. They had been so sure he was going to present ASR’s world famous ‘What the!’
But then it took Devansh to make them realize that Arnav’s favorite phrase was now something completely different.
Umm I plead creative license for Devansh’ precociousness aur kuch zyaada hi kuch jaldi hi itna saara nautanki ke liye. But then again, Khushi ka beta hai, need one say more?
Click here for Chapter 224