Arnav shrugged and gave his approval, partly because he was convinced and partly because he didn’t want to disappoint his paagal but cute wife [besides the glow on her face as she pleaded her case with so much passion was quite irresistible], “Sounds good to me Nani and if we can pull off such an NGO, the scope is tremendous with benefits for ARD as well, we get homegrown quality products, they get a ready-made market, the really talented ones can be absorbed in ARD, plus it makes for great PRship and has tax benefits as well!”
Nani sighed and nodded, “Jaise aap dono theek samjhe,” she raised her hand, “Par pehle Manohar aur Aakash se ek baar baat kar lena,” she advised.
“Ji Nani!” Khushi hugged her ecstatically and prayed to DM, “Hey Devi Maiyya, sab theek kar dena!”
With Nani’s blessings the plan was set in motion and slowly but surely, everything fell neatly into place. I wouldn’t go so far as to say all problems were sorted out, Mami and Payal still had their khatpat, but on a different plane.
Mami was quick to realize Payal’s potential and capabilities and went all out to encourage her involvement in the NGO and stopped harassing the house help and instead began nagging Payal to take up more responsibility and put in more work hours at the NGO! Payal became a proud asset for Mamiji to be showed off and flaunted to her kitty party fraands HHBB. Her heart swelled with pride and joy at being blessed with such a gifted bahu, bas bas ab bahut ho gaya, nahi toh makeupiya ka touchupiya karika padi! Mamiji also got space and time with her ‘kaleje ja tukda’ Aakas bitwa and she could bear with some equanimity Payash time, ‘businesswa discuss karat hain’, she consoled her jealous heart.
More importantly, the two men in her life were pleasantly surprised to see Manorama’s new dynamic avatar and took in with awe the unveiling of her hitherto unknown skills. They marveled at the way she got clearances, registered the NGO ‘Cheshta’ (Mami had wanted to call it ‘Teeraay’ but she was overruled by Aakash with the help of Arnav) she bulldozed the girls parents (with her war cry ‘teerai toh karne do!’) till, quite frazzled and exhausted, they gave in to her wishes. She kept a strict eye on the girls, monitored their coming and goings, kept them girls motivated and pushed them till they gave their best.
But her special skills lay in fundraising; she was an absolute genius at it. Her unique brand of Engliswa was a big hit by the Mumbaites and they just couldn’t have enough of it; one sponsor promised to donate a generous amount if only she would come to his office and address his staff at least once a month on any topic of her choice; provided she drafted her own speech. Mamiji was speechless, no not even HHBB.
Mamiji went from strength to strength and bit by bit, she utilized her ‘negative’ characteristics to set up a successful NGO. Much to her own surprise! Actually Aakash had not really been wrong about his assessment of his mother’s motives for wanting to set up an NGO. She had initially wanted to set up an NGO just to make a style statement and to show that snobbish ‘Englis speaking So and So’ that angreji was not the criteria for doing anything bhell, HHBB.
The burning motive behind the desire to set up an NGO was no doubt petty one-upmanship, but Mami herself never got to know when the NGO became her passion, her life’s mission. Each time a student came back to her with a box of sweets wearing a victorious smile of having earned her first salary, Mamiji swelled up with pride and joy. She was inspired to work harder, bulldoze more parents, exhort money from sponsors, till she was quite a well known personality in several elite circles, HHBB notwithstanding. She blossomed and basked in the reluctant respect she could see in the eyes of her son and husband; sniff, even Sasuma, first time in so many yeaarzzzz. HHBB
After a couple of years at a Holi get together, Mamaji said laughingly to Nani, “Amma hume aapse kuch complainiyaana hai!” he waved his hand towards Mamiji, “Manorama toh dikhti hi nahi hai aaj kal, Khusi bitiya se bol kar kauno plan wan banvaiye, taki humri bhi mulaquat ho jaaee apne patni se!”
Mamiji blushed and preened, “Dhatt! Kaisan baat karat ho!” Khushi laughed and waggled her eyes as Arnav and pulled at her imaginary collars, he just stared back at her, hands in his pockets, she looked at him questioningly, he shrugged and declared publicly, “Itna mat kush ho Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada! Yeh sab toh maine hi tumhe bola tha karne ke liye,” Khushi’s face was a perfect O, “ What rubbish! Nan..!” she protested, he grinned cheekily while his arm snaked out and crushed her to his side, she froze, “Kuch keh rahee thi tum,” he asked innocently, she dumbly shook her head, “Good,” his lips twitched.
She jerked herself free, “Laad Governor kahin ke!” She fumed, “kabhi humari kimat samjhenge hi nahi,” she muttered angrily as she walked off to kitchen to get refreshements, “Haan,” he barked in her ear, she squeaked in alarm and tripped (yes into his arms!), “And that is because I know you are priceless,” he murmured for her ears alone…..rabba ve…rabba ve…raabbbbaaaaa~~~~ ve~~~~~
Ok ok let’s not get distracted (ab kya karoon ArshiD (hey are you here?) ne bola tha Arshi ko bhi fayda hona chahiye ) coming back to the heroine of that particular Holi, Nani adjusted her pallu and declared, “Kaa baat karat ho Manohar, kahe complainiyate ho? You should be proud of her,” she paused and said, “Just as I am,” she looked at Manorama and said, “Manorama, I am very proud to say that you are my bahu.”
“Sasumaaa,” gasped a tearful and overwhelmed Mamiji, was this how one felt when awarded the Nobel prize, “Sa..sachchi?” she gulped tearily.
“Haan,” nodded Nani, she smiled, “Aur humne bhang bhi nahi pi rakkhi aaj,” she held out her arms and perhaps for the first time Manorama and Devyani hugged each other. Tears slid down freely down Mamiji’s cheeks as she looked at Khushi and Arnav coming out of the kitchen; Khushi smiled mistily at her and unable to contain her emotions hugged Arnav in full public view despite her de-bhanged state!
Back to Payal
Even though all this was very taxing for Payal, yet she was happy and content. Realization of her creativity gave her immense satisfaction and she didn’t grudge any amount of backache for her passion. Her relationship with Aakash too improved; he was rather taken aback by Payal’s expertise in design and karigari, he accorded her a grudging respect and the long commuting hours became a stress buster for him. While earlier he would fret and fume at the sorry state of affairs on the roads, now he actually found them relaxing! Payal was an excellent listener and non-judgemental too. Being of a reserved nature, it took some time but Aakash slowly began sharing his work stresses and ideas; much to his surprise she was a very good sounding board! She often came up with useful suggestions and ideas, but mostly he found her restful company to be of immense support to him. Aakash was so dazzled by this new avatar of Payal that it was not long before he broke through his self imposed reservations and clasped Payal’s hand while in the car. Shocked, Payal swung to look at Aakash and shot an agitated glance at the back of the driver’s head and back to Aakash. Warm soft eyes attacked her senses, she faltered; taken aback, her lashes fluttered down and irresistibly up again, Aakash clasped her hand tighter; he casually shifted in his seat, closer to her.
A smile and a blush adorned Payal’s face even as she scolded him with her beautiful eyes; he stared at her mesmerized, as if seeing her for the first time in years.
Payal turned away and stared unseeingly out of the window; she moved her hand to hold his hand more comfortably and squeezed it warmly. Aakash smiled fatuously as he too turned to stare out of his window.
Hands and hearts linked, they shared a long overdue and much awaited RV (well as much of an RV as is possible for a non-Arshi couple ).
Mumbai’s bane had become their boon. Interestingly, it was the lack of the privacy, which made the stolen moments of togetherness even sweeter and more precious, they learnt double talk – they talked of the weather and traffic even as their eyes spoke of something completely different! Ah well better late than never I guess.
Aakash was no longer exhausted or irritable upon returning home, in fact he felt fresh and rejuvenated. He hadn’t realized how draining he had found Payal’s silent accusing looks or how upset and disturbed he felt at his mother’s constant complaints about Payal. Thankfully, all that was a thing of the past; each had found her groove, her passion, her area of expertise, her confidence, each was secure in the knowledge that each was incomplete without the other. Most importantly each developed a healthy respect and even affection for the other, a bond akin to Khushi –Nani sprang between the two unlikely couple and Manohar went for a bath in the Ganga 😀
There was another reason for the improvement in Aakash’s disposition. Payal always made sure to have something for him to munch on his return journey and even served him a cup of tea! And this was probably what worked wonders, bechare ko bhook lag jaati thi! And of course the way to a man’s heart is simple, just feed him!
Aakash would now step into MM with a spring in his step and a bloodcurdling yell on his lips, much to the delight of Yash and Palash.
Dhatt tere ki…again I got distracted….. Better get back to now (before you all start protesting Khushi ko phirse pregnant chhod diya and all that )
Click here for Chapter 228