RM was once again empty but of course not silent for Devansh was more than enough to fill up its convoluted complicated corridors with his screams of laughter and pitter patter not to mentions his wails of anguish and howls of protest as he tripped and fell or his mother refused to give him another ice cream.
Devansh ran off on his short sturdy legs in his hurry to appeal to the highest authority who had yet to disappoint him and pleaded heartrendingly to Nani, “Ikream! mama,” he pointed accusingly to his mother, who had followed him to Nani’s room; Khushi rolled her eyes, “Nani, kitna chalu hai yeh ladka!” she rued.
Nani hugged the unhappy little boy and urged, “Kuano baat nahi bitiya, thoda de do na bitiya?”
Gablu fixed hopeful eyes on Khushi within the circle of Nani’s arms; Khushi glared him, “No chance Guddu, ramanchi nahi chalegi! Chalo sone chalo, bahut raat ho gayi hai,” she ordered him categorically. But not ready to give up so easily, he clutched Nani tighter and let out another heartrending wail, “Khana hai!”
“Haan haan bitwa,” Nani soothed him and pleaded with her eyes to Khushi.
Khushi shook her head, “Nahi Nani aapko pata nahi hai, he was coughing the whole night, bilkul bhi sone nahi diya, hai na Guddu? Kaise khanse the? Nani ko dikhao?”
Ever ready to show off, he obediently and neatly fell into the trap, Nani was shocked, “Arre yeh toh bahut gadbad hai! Humka toh maaloom hi naahi!”
“Koi baat nahi Nani,” Khushi consoled Nani, “Hume bhi kal raat ko hi pata chala, aur aaj saara din masti karke ayaa hai Bua ke ghar se, subah se dikha hi kahan hai aapko Guddu! Waise bhi Nani, din main theek rehta hai, hamesha raat ko hi bad jaati hai iski khansi, isiliye hum nahi dena chah rahe isko ice cream,” she said firmly.
Nani was torn, Khushi was right but the little boy had come to her with so much hope, how could she bear to refuse him? “Bitiya, thoda sa pigla kar de do?” she suggested hopefully.
Khushi sighed and shook her head, “Tabhi aapke pass aata hai yeh badmash, chalo ikream khane,” she held out her hand, the tears miraculously vanished and he flashed Nani the most beautiful of smiles before skipping off happily with his mother; Nani looked after them mistily, her heart full, aww that smile.
Nani’s smile broadened as she saw Arnav enter her room, “Isse kya ho gaya Nani?” He asked looking their disappearing backs, “Abhi itna ro raha tha aur abhi itna khush!”
Nani smiled indulgently, “Haan ooka ice cream khane ka man tha aur khansi ke wajah se uski amma ka man nahi tha dene ka…”
“Haan toh aapke court main case le aya Devansh hain na Nani?” Arnav could see through his son’s tactics very well.
“Haan toh ka hua bitwa,” Nani protested, “aap bhi toh apun Dadi ke pass jawat rahe,” she smiling reminded him.
Arnav shook his head ruefully, “Yeah, main bhi kisko bol raha hoon!” he shuffled around the room, fiddled with her things; he talked desultorily of this and that, he played around with her stuff some more and replaced them distractedly, randomly, messily, “Ka baat hai Chotte? Kono baat hai ka?” An observant Nani asked.
“Nahi, kuch nahi,” he prevaricated, “Woh,” he hesitated, “Kaun jeeta?”
Nani was surprised, “Kaun jeeta? Hum toh kauno khel naahi khelat rahe?”
Arnav rolled his eyes, “Devansh toh khush ho kar chala gaya, par aap jeete ki Khushi? I mean apne kya order kiya? Devansh ice cream khayega ki nahi?”
Nani was even more astonished, “Order! Jeeta! Eee sab ka hai Chotte? Kauno jung chal raha hai ka koi yeehan par?” she sat down on the bed.
Arnav shook his head ruefully and sat down beside her and put his arm around her, “Nahi Nani main toh bas aise hi….”
Nani put a hand on his knee, “Naahi Chotte, kuch toh baat hai.”
Arnav got up and restlessly paced her room, “Main soch raha tha, aap khush toh hai na humare saath? Aapko jabardasti yahan par rok kar koi galati nahi ki na? Aap toh kuch batate nahi ho mujhe aur nahi Khushi, toh mujhe pata kaise chalega?”
Nani was confused and looked questioningly at Khushi who was standing silently at the door, she shrugged helplessly, just as confused, “Ka baat kar rahe ho Chotte? Saaf saaf bolo,” she advised.
He flicked a helpless glance towards Khushi who has silently appeared and now stood by the door,”Devansh kahan hai?” he asked her.
Khushi pointed behind her, “Woh so raha hai, Poo beithi hai wahan, akhbaar padh rahi hai,” she forestalled his next obvious question.
Nani smiled, “Khushi bitiya bahut achcha kiya jo uske liye Hindi paper lagwa diya; you know she reads very well!” she laughed, “Pata hai, whenever Devansh sits down to play with his building blocks, she reads the paper out to me with her own special comments on each topic!” she adjusted her pallu and suggested, “Bitiya, bahut dino se soch rahi thi, Poo ke padhai ke baare main kuch socho, bahut hosiyar ladki hai, aur utsuk bhi, pata hai, these days she tries to read the English paper as well, she often asks me to help her with the difficult words.”
Khushi nodded her head thoughtfully and looked at Arnav, “Sahi keh rahe ho aap Nani! Hume pehle hi is par dhyan dena chahiye tha, pata hai uski Maths bahut strong hai, within seconds she can add up the total and in fact has taken out errors in the sabjiwala ka hisab so many times.”
Nani nodded her head, “Kauno baat nahi bitiya, better late than never,” she turned to Arnav, “Haan Chotte aap kuch keh rahe the?”
Arnav sighed and sat on a chair and turned towards Nani; he held her hand and said, “Kaafi dino se soch raha tha Nani, par mauka hi nahi mila,” he made a face and looked away embarrassed, “Actually pata hi nahi kya boloon, kaise boloon, par kuch toh bolna hai,” he burst out.
“Chotte!” Nani was fast losing patience; Khushi came forward and sat on the arm of his chair and put a supporting hand on his shoulder, he seemed to relax and tried again, from the beginning, hoping (quite rightly) that between them they could sort out his concerns better than he could articulate them! “Woh…jab Aakash ayaa tha, usse baat hui thi, woh bahut pareshan tha, pooch raha tha ki aap main aur Khushi main jhagda hota hai ki nahi, it seems Mami and Payal really hassle him and box him into a corner. I thought about it a lot; come to think of it, it is not really surprising, even in the office we often face such situations where there is a tussle for supremacy, hierarchical issues, insecurities, pettiness ego problems etc etc, and I guess that is also likely to occur between ladies of the house. But then neither of you has made any such complaints to me, so I was wondering…” he trailed off, not really sure how to express his concerns.
“Achcha! Ab samjhe hum!” Khushi got up and sat beside Nani and hugged her, “Aapko jalan ho rahi hai, aap hum dono main jhagda karwana chah rahe hain!”
Nani laughed and caressed her affectionately, while Arnav looked at her ruefully, “Yeh mat bhoolna woh pehle meri Nani hai,” he staked his claim on his Nani.
Khushi’s face was perfect O, “Achcha ji!” she glared at him and hugged Nani closer, “Aur aap yeh mat bhoolna, ki Nani hume aapse zyaada aur aapse pehle se samajhti hain!” She looked at him superiorly, “Waise bhi rishtedari mein kaunsi badi baat hai, woh to ek sanjog ki baat hai, dosti main aap humse muqabla karke dikhaiye! Aur ek aur baat, Nani par koi ‘test’ hoga na toh pucca hum jeetenge!” she challenged him and scoffed, “aap toh bas thodi der ke liye shaam ko mil kar chale jaate hain, par saara din, hum aur Nani khoob mazaa karte hain! Hain na Nani?” she attempted to rope in Nani over to her side.
Arnav looked wryly at her, ready to do battle to claim first preference with Nani. Touched, Nani smiled and raised her hand to forestall him, “Bas bas, bahut huwi gawa, kaisan bachan logan ke tarah ladat ho!” she suddenly laughed as she remembered an incidence from her childhood, “Bachpan main humri Nani se kahani suni thi,” they looked at her expectantly, “In earlier times, boys and girls were often married off very early, Nani had a friend whose grandson was married when he was about 8 years old to a 4 year old girl; for a long time they slept with Nani’s friend, poor lady, all those years, she was forced to sleep on her back, because if she dared to turn to one side, the other would throw a fit!”
Arnav and Khushi looked at each other sheepishly, Nani laughed and held out her arms and hugged them both affectionately, overwhelmed by their obvious love for her.
Click here for Chapter 225