Arnav stared at her still form, frustrated and thwarted, how dare she turn away? He wasn’t done yet. Was this how she felt when he walked off in the middle of an argument? A voice in some corner of his dimaag jeered him, but he swiftly zipped it. He was dammed if he let her get off so easily, he put his hand on her shoulder intending to shake her awake if necessary to continue the argument, “Khushi tumhe kitni baar kaaha hai jab main baat kar raha hoon,” he froze – her shoulder was stiff and trembling, “Khkhuushi?” his voice softened and he turned her around gently and was horrified to see her white face, “Khuuushiii,” he gathered her in his arms and that was the end of that argument.
At least for that night.
Khushi spent a peaceful and comfortable night in the arms of her beloved. She stretched lazily looking forward to another wonderful day but one look at Arnav’s cold closed expression as he shrugged into his coat was enough to dispel her illusions, “Arnav?” she squeaked in trepidation.
“I got to go,” he said curtly and vanished.
Khushi stared unhappily after him, itni jaldi chale bhi gaye! She sighed, he was clearly still upset over last night’s discussion, he couldn’t take out his annoyance on her brother so she was the scapegoat, well at least she was used to it; not that the pain had eased any over the the years, in fact it had worsened as each time the volatile OTT reaction where his Di was concerned drove home the fact that even after so many years, that nothing had really changed, she was still on trial…
Khushi sighed dejectedly, exhausted with all the battles and the discomfort of high horses, when all she wished for was the warm comfort of his arms, was that too much to ask for? Hot tears pricked her eyes; even Guddu wasn’t home to cheer her up, may as well go to AKC, work was her panacea, the sure shot for all that ailed her, emotionally that is – well she could try couldn’t she?
The next few days continued in this vein, Arnav determinedly sitting on his high horse, while Khushi tried valiantly to keep pace, her tentative overtures being decisively and cuttingly rejected. The only silver lining was when the baby finally moved! It wasn’t much of a kick in comparison to her previous experience but a kick was a kick. Khushi hugged herself for joy, the clutch in her throat eased and she instantly wanted to share it with Arnav. But then his forbidding expression put her off and she stiffened, he doesn’t even care enough to ask toh hume batane ki kya zaroorat hai, she thought resentfully. She resisted, with great difficulty.
Arnav sat in his fortress, surrounded protectively by a pile of files. He doggedly plodded through them, attacking them with a vengeance. As always, work acted as a barrier and a shield against whatever bothered him emotionally, unfortunately it also took him back a decade or two where his work was his armor, his and his Di’s only defense against the cruel world, “Chotte?” Di’s gentle voice broke through his reverie.
“Di!” Arnav got up and helped Anjali sit, “Mujhe bula liya hota! Sab theek hai na?” To be fair, the last couple of days had not been easy on Arnav either. Di had not been coming to office, first she had fallen prey to viral fever then Khsitij had gone out of station for a conference; of course Arnav had visited GM to enquire about her health and all that but the kids had made it impossible to hold any discussion beyond that and Arnav was forced to come away with conclusions of his own, his Di was probably being emotionally blackmailed into giving up her passion and stay at home, she was clearly unhappy and he was mad, mad at the world, mad at Khsitij and most of all mad at Khushi – why?
Who knows – he just was and it felt good and strong to be mad at Khushi, unlike Khushi who felt ill and half dead if she were mad at Arnav. On the other hand, for Arnav, being mad at Khushi, made him feel alive, sort of like a master in control…
“Haan Chotte, don’t worry, I am fine,” she smiled affectionately as she cupped his face, “I wanted to tell you that I will be taking leave…”
“Leave!” ASR snapped into high alert, “But why Di, agar Khsitij ne kuch,” he clenched his teeth, Di put a consoling arm on his shoulder, “Chotte, relax, Nani ne bataya tha ki tum kitne hyper ho rahe ho,” she shook her head ruefully, “Chotte tum bhi na! Mere ghar main itna jhagda nahi hua hoga jitna tumne Khushi ke saath kiya hoga! And Khushi is pregnant! Kuch toh khayal karo!” She castigated him.
Arnav looked suitably chastised, “Haan woh…” he fumbled and recovered, “Leave kis liye Di?”
“Leave iss liye because Khsitij and I want to go away for a few days before I join work full time! Khush?” Anjali scanned his stunned expression, “Di…aap?”
“Haan baba haan, I will be joining full time and we have worked it all out don’t worry, everything is fine! Oh and I will be leaving the kids at your place for the few days that we will be out of station, Khushi and Nani don’t have any problem, I presume you don’t either?” Anjali was sure of her Chotte.
Arnav shrugged distractedly, “But woh…Khsitij, he had objections didn’t he? To your joining work full time didn’t he?”
Anjali nodded, “Yes of course and valid objections too and possibly the way I placed my intentions before him,” she looked at him, “just before you guys came over for dinner that day, resulted in the ‘situation’ so to speak,” she raised her hand, “By the way which is nothing compared to ‘situations’ you can create!” she rued even as she affectionately cupped his face, Arnav looked away embarrassed.
“Anyway, the upshot is we discussed the matter like two mature individuals who are on the same side,” she shot him a pointed look and continued, “and we decided that Khsitij would cut down on his work hours and I would join work full time!” Arnav looked at her astonished while she happily nodded her head, “Chotte tumhe pata hai, part of the reason Khsitij came back to India was because he wanted to take life easy, get out of the rat race, stop to smell the flowers etc but somehow that never happened and we see this as a golden opportunity for him to get that work-life balance that he has always been hankering for! Isnt that great!” she declared happily.
“Yeah great,” Arnav looking at her thoughtfully, “Just great.”
Anjali looked at him knowingly, “I know what you are thinking now! Chotte tum bhi na!” she shook her head, “You are thinking, ‘achcha toh Di bechari kaam karengi aur while Khsitij relaxes and takes it easy! Hai na?” she openly challenged him.
A dull flush suffused Arnav’s face.
“Chotte tum bhi na” Anjali rued, “tumhe bhi na chain nahi hai, you don’t like it if he objects to my working full time, you don’t like it if he cooperates, what is your problem?”
Arnav shrugged rather shamefacedly, “Nothing Di, I just want to see you happy, and I don’t want to see you shortchanged ever!” he said rather grimly.
“Theek hai baba,” she hugged him, “I am happy, don’t I look it?” she spread her arms and twirled around.
Arnav’s expression lightened as he saw another light-hearted carefree side of his Di, she blushed, “Anya does that,” she excused herself.
Arnav smiled as relief flooded him, his Di was fine! “Haaw,” he reciprocated in kind, “Devansh does that!”
They laughed, Anjali placed her hand on his cheek, “Now go and at least cheer up Khushi, preferably apologize to her for making a mountain out of a molehill,” she shook her head again, “Chotte tum bhi na, ab toh sudhar jaao, bechari Khushi,” she moaned.
He stiffened, “Achcha toh she has been complaining about me to you!”
“Arnav!” Di scolded, “This is heights! Jab itna kuch hua tab kuch nahi bataya phir bhi you,” she remonstrated, and then looked consideringly at him, “Or are you fishing for compliments regarding your wife, kitni achchi hai and all that,” she gently prodded and walked off with her nose in the air, “If you don’t know your wife by now….” She shut the door with a bang behind herself.
Arnav looked at the closed door ruefully, ‘apologize toh skip kar bhi doon but cheer up toh karika padi!’
But then what Arnav proposes, Khushi disposes right?
Hola friends kaisan ho? Sab kusal mangal one hopes? Okay some heads up, I am traveling this week so posting will be erratic until 4th September. Will try for tomorrow’s updates and then on 30th. Will keep you posted on the weekend schedule a bit later in the week. Theek hai? Until then keep smiling and leave me lovely little notes which are my inspiration! 🙂
Click here for Chapter 235