Arnav stood frozen in shock at the doorway as Anya’s words hit him, “I hate her,” she declared passionately, “I am never going to speak with her, she doesn’t understand me, she doesn’t care about my feelings at all,” Through a haze, he saw Anya throw her arms around Khushi and burst into tears.
He stared at the two of them as Khushi hugged Anya trying to soothe her, console her; his was mind in a whirl, why was Anya so upset with his Di? Di could never hurt anybody knowingly, that too Anya! But there was no denying it the poor girl was so obviously distressed – surely it must be just a misunderstanding! Anya’s sobs tore into him; he had a special inexplicable soft corner for Anya and hated to see her like this; emotions clogged his throat. Unable to bear her agony, her heartrending sobs, he made to go and physically wipe away her hurt, a fierce protectiveness engulfing him. He clenched his fists; were his suspicions correct, did she and Di argue over some man? He gritted his teeth and his eyes turned cold, uski toh main…He caught Khushi’s eyes and urgent wave; he hesitated and reluctantly turned away.
Khushi was right, it was best that he shouldn’t interfere; he would probably mess it all up anyway, Arnav thought as he slowly walked away. Arnav knew how poor his own EQ was and besides seeing the bawling little girl had already messed up both his dimaag and dil, he was desperate for an outlet, an immediate solution (like bashing up the culprit – but then what if it was Di!); dimly, some minuscule sensible corner of his brain categorically warned him that an instant solution wasn’t feasible.
He stomped away, his heart heavy and dull, Anya was hurt and upset with his Di! And Di had left her here and gone off! How could she? He wondered uncharacteristically critical of his beloved Di. He immediately backtracked and covered up for his Di – perhaps she didn’t know that Anya was upset, he excused her. But then that was worse! How could she be so callous and indifferent to the little girl’s plight? And not only that! She had gone off with her husband – Khushi would never – Yes… that must be it! Khsitij must have forced Di – yes that was it, Di must have wanted to stay back and he must have forced her – he sighed and shook his head, he knew he was being irrational and clutching at straws trying to excuse his Di; but at least he shouldn’t blame anybody without knowing the whole story, as Khushi had told him time and again.
Khushi, suddenly he yearned for Khushi’s comforting presence, he was restless and on the edge, Khushi would know how to soothe him, calm him down; no matter how mad he was, if he but gave her the chance, she was sure to extract a smile from him, ensure a lightening of his heavy heart. Just thinking of her, made him feel better.
He peeped into the movie-room; the boys and Poo (even Nani!), were too engrossed in the noisy cartoon playing at full volume to even notice him. He winced and shut the door. He set his lips mutinously, he wanted to be with Khushi, just now, his lips set grimly; he loitered in the corridor undecided before striding off to the poolside, maybe his plants could soothe him. Or perhaps his subconscious dragged him back to the place where his khushi was!
The moment he reached the poolside, Arnav felt his tensions ease, he unclenched his fist and picked up the watering can; he suddenly froze as he heard Khushi say, “How…how old is he?”
He stood still, straining his ears, “He is 24,” Anya’s defiant tone floated clearly over to him. His heart sank, damn the guy, he thought viciously as he curled his fingers around the can’s handle, wishing it were that guy’s neck, ‘how dare he befriend such a naïve innocent young girl! Di must have lost her cool and that is why she in turn was mad at them! Di ki koi galati nahi hai isme, he thought relieved, bekar main hi main…’
“I see,” said Khushi softly.
Dammit Khushi, is that all you can say, he raged silently, he put the can down, intending to blast Anya and lay down the law with her; he stopped in his tracks as Anya began speaking, “Yeah, it is no big deal really, it is not like I am moving in with him or something! I just told mum very casually that I really enjoyed Sherry’s company, that he was so mature and sophisticated, suddenly she threw a fit! It was unbelievable, it was like the middle ages or something, you know she forbade me to keep any kind of contact with him, threatened to get my Fb account de-activated, take away my phone and what not!”
Arnav hesitated, even by his standards, that did seem a bit over the top (actually what he meant was that he was ‘allowed’ to throw a fit, go OTT after all he was ASR, he was Chotte, but Di – Di was the sweet bechari soft malleable one, one whom the world took advantage of and it was his kartavya and dharm to protect…ok ok I better stop now- becoming suspiciously like a rant); he suddenly felt an empathy towards Anya, he too hated being told what he could do and what he couldn’t; in fact, the best way to get him to do something was ban it (as is the case with most children). He faltered in his defense of his Di absolving her of all guilt, reluctantly he admitted, that perhaps, just perhaps that could have been handled better. Now I wonder what that interfering pagal wife of mine will say, he thought resignedly; sure to mess it up even further, he stood on standby mode, ready to rush in if need be.
Anya continued, “I too told Mom, I didn’t care what she thought about his age, that he was way too old for me, that he was a distraction in my studies. In fact, quite the contrary! He is always encouraging me to study and forces me to think of my future, advises me about possible career choices, what subjects would suit me best!” there was a pause before she continued, “And Mami, it is not like I am going on dates with him, I just chext with him, so what? Big deal, everyone chexts these days, only they do with their peers and mine is just a bit older, is that so very wrong? You tell me Mami?”
Arnav unclenched his muscles and paused, wondering what Khushi would say to that! There was no doubt that this was an unacceptable relationship as far as he was concerned and presumably even Di and Khsitij; but then Anya was right in a way, this wasn’t the middle ages, children enjoyed far more freedom than ever before and laying down the law was no longer a viable option! He was surprised and a bit disappointed at their handling of such a delicate matter, besides Khsitij should have had more sense! He was after all a psychiatrist! Yet paradoxically, Arnav could empathize with and excuse Khsitij, for he could understand him very well indeed. Despite his training and education, because of his emotional involvement with his daughter, Khsitij had reacted instinctively, for he knew what @&*%$ men could be and the fact that they had only one thing on his mind! Arnav could very well understand and support the over-reaction; indeed who better! But then, to tell the truth, Arnav was disappointed with his Di, he had thought better and higher of her, she should have at least …
“Anya,” Khushi said in a soft non-judgmental voice, “First of all you shouldn’t think that Anjie doesn’t understand you, she not only understands you, she also understands this cruel world,” there was pause and then a fine break in her voice, which Arnav’s ears immediately caught, “in fact who better? And you are after all her baby, and the mother often takes precedence over the friend; we all do that don’t we? Don’t you mother your brothers? It is in our nature to worry about our children and you can’t really penalize Di for that can you?”
Arnav moved closer to the open window, emotions beginning to overwhelm him, trust Khushi to smooth things over, try to put things right! She was such a meddler, a do-gooder, intent on putting everything right, he thought tenderly, warmth flooding his heart.
“Well she shouldn’t have told Dad about it,” Anya clearly still in a rebellious mood, “And now that he will be home most of the time, he will sure to be breathing down my neck, monitoring and charting my chexting time etc etc” Anya was clearly thoroughly disgusted with her father, while Arnav finally understood reason which spurred Khsitij to yield to his lifelong dream to take it easy. And no wonder he and Di had that disagreement! Clearly his concerns were not baseless, but then again, was this the way to handle it? He wondered a bit doubtfully; but then what would have been the best course of action? He shook his head, parenting was a tough job, give me a business deal any day.
“But Anya,” Khushi said, “He is your father after all, he does have a right to know.”
True, Arnav thought reluctantly, but then again children did need to find their own feet, make their own mistakes; but Arnav appreciated Khushi’s position between a rock and a hard place; she couldn’t undermine parental authority neither could she belittle Anya’s maturity nor her abilities as a worldly wise woman on the threshold of adulthood!
“Know what Mami? There is nothing to know! We are just friends!” Anya protested loudly.
Friends! Yeah right! Tell me another story, Arnav sneered silently; if I could just meet the guy, I would punch him a straight upper cut – that would teach him to mess around with the emotions of an innocent little girl, Arnav’s blood boiled. He had had enough of this…this, what the hell was his name, yeah Sherry – psshhawww what a name, Sherryyyy, teri toh main…
He reluctantly let go of this satisfying train of thoughts to tune into Khushi, “Yeah I know, but ‘just friends’ is you know rather difficult between a man and a woman! Sooner or later, one or the other’s emotions, egged on by hormones, are bound to get entangled. It is difficult even when both are old enough but when one is so young and emotionally raw and inexperienced,” Arnav could feel Khushi’s helplessness yet determination not to be biased in her approach; he admitted that would have never been able to adopt her measured tones and calm collected demeanor – even Di and Khsitij hadn’t been able to! He silently applauded Khushi for the mature handling of a potential delicate and explosive situation, “the end can only be disastrous.” Khushi said.
There was silence; Arnav strained to hear, had they moved out?
“I don’t believe you,” Arnav suddenly heard Anya say disdainfully, “You are just like them,” No Anya, you couldn’t be more wrong Arnav shook his head; that was one thing Khushi was not, his heart filled with pride, Khushi could never be like anyone else, she was one unique piece in the whole dammed Universe and he was the lucky one to have her by his side and on his side – well most of the time!
Anya continued to chastise Khushi “you may not believe me but our relationship is different, besides you are all over-reacting, you can’t keep me in a protective cocoon all my life, you have to let me make own mistakes, my own choices and most importantly, have some faith and trust in me!”
Arnav grimaced and clenched his fists. She was of course right to a certain extent he admitted reluctantly but then they couldn’t just sit back and watch as she jumped into a fire dammit!
Click here for Chapter 243