Devansh’s wails could be heard much before he landed up in their room and Khushi was already half way across the room when he entered at top speed, his face all scrunched up, “Guddu!” Khushi was worried and surprised.
Without any break in his stride or consideration, Devansh ignored Khushi, neatly avoiding her outstretched arms and ran straight to Arnav. He threw his little arms around Arnav’s legs and burst into louder wails, “Devansh!” Arnav too was surprised, he picked up the little boy in his arms, “Kya hua!” he looked at Khushi who came and soothingly patted the little boy, “Guddu, betuuuu ka hua, mamma ko batao?” she cajoled and coaxed him.
But he threw his tiny arms around Arnav’s neck and continued crying noisily; Arnav became emotional and distressed upon seeing his son like this. This was definitely a first, Devansh chose him over Khushi! And those tiny arms clinging to his neck, his tiny knees digging into his chest – an indescribable cocktail of emotions swept Arnav (hmmmm ok ok, I shall try –let’s see – 20 % worry 20 % concern 5 % fear 5 % anxiety 25 % love 25% crowing – Devansh chose him over Khushi) – he felt out of his depth and the familiar feeling of wanting to blast or burst – and here was Khushi, the every ready convenient scapegoat, who would ‘understand’, he took a deep breath (next time I will try harder he promised himself), “Dammit Khushi do something!”
“Mamu!” Anya burst into their room just then.
“Anya!” both turned to her in relief, “Kya hua isko?”
Anya shook her head reassuringly, smiling, “Nothing to worry guys, he is fine, he is not hurt or anything, but got emo seeing the movie.”
“Emo seeing the movie?” Arnav and Khushi looked at each other in confusion, as Arnav rocked Devansh and patted him consolingly. He hiccuped and turned around on hearing Anya.
Anya held out her arms, “Come Deva, come, let’s go watch the movie,” she grinned mischievously.
Devansh turned his head away rejecting her and clung to Arnav instead; but thankfully he had stopped his wailing and was gently hiccuping and sniffling. Khushi went around Arnav and wiped the little boy’s face and nose, she kissed him and murmured soothingly and held out her arms, but he rested his head on Arnav’s shoulder and generally gave her the royal ignore.
Khushi was surprised (and a little hurt too), “Kya hua Anya?”
“After chatting with Mom and Dad on the phone,” Anya said, “I went to the movie room,” she waved her hand, “they were watching some stupid cartoon,” she shrugged, “I didn’t much care for it so I asked them to change it; but then there was an altercation about what to watch, finally Devansh chose Lion King.”
Arnav and Khushi looked at each other confused, so big deal! Lion King was one of his favorite movies and they had watched it innumerable times, Khushi more than Arnav of course, but then where did the problem lie?
Anya nodded her head at their confusion, “Wait I am coming to that, the thing is that today, Ankit decided to ‘educate’ Devansh and equated Simba with him,” she pointed to Devansh still stuck to Arnav, “and his father that is Mamu, with Mufasa, the Lion King and Queen Sarabi was Mami, Scar the evil one was Ankit while I was Nala, anyway,” she brushed it away and got on with the story, “the upshot is that Devansh found the parallels interesting and after a couple of repeated statements cottoned on to it and became very excited and involved in the movie, uttering Mamma, Daddy, Deva and even hit Ankit when Scar was being evil,” she shook her head, “And Ankit encouraged him growling menacingly whenever Scar came on screen,” Anya shrugged, “Well you know what followed I guess, the inevitable happened, Mufasa died and that is when Deva rushed out of the room, actually we didn’t notice as were busy watching the movie; Badi Nani had already left sometime ago and Poo had gone to get water, she came back and asked ‘where is Devansh’, that is when we started looking for him, Poo must be on the other side of the house, ahh there she is,” Sure enough Poo was at the door along with the culprit, an unconcerned Ankit, “Can we go back and watch the movie now?” he wailed.
At the sound of his voice, Devansh stiffened and clung even more fiercely to Arnav (100% smug), “It’s ok Devansh,” he soothed, “Main theek hoon, see Daddy is fine,” he smiled reassuringly at Devansh, whom he managed to detach with great difficulty from his neck; Devansh smiled tremulously at him, “Phain?” he patted his cheeks and went back to resting on his shoulder.
Arnav sighed, “Anya, restart the movie will you?”
Anya turned to leave with Ankit in tow, who whined in protest, “But why do we have to watch it from the beginning?” Anya shushed him and tried to explain to him the fall out of his attempts to educate his cousin. Their voices faded away.
After a while, Arnav carried Devansh to the movie room and as expected Devansh put up a fuss the moment he realized where he had returned, he kicked, screamed and stiffened alarmingly, “Daadddyyyyy,” he howled loud and long.
Arnav shook his head, his lips twisting; aah the poor little boy was so upset because he thought his dad was hurt and dead! Did he even know what dying was? Better to learn this way than in reality. He held him firmly, unyielding, he didn’t want this association of his to fester and perhaps grow into something bigger, “Dekho Devansh,” he forcibly turned him to face the screen but then who bhi ASR ka beta tha, itni jaldi thodi na haar manne wala tha! Waise bhi woh pal chhap chuka tha uske dimaag aur dil main.
He put up considerable resistance to any sort of justification or glossing over of the harsh realities of life but then after a brief struggle, Arnav and Khushi together managed to get him to see Simba playing happily with Mufasa; he perked up, his eyes brightened and he chortled in delight, his cheeks still wet with tears, “Daddy phain!”
Arnav hugged him, tears pricking his eyelids, “Yeah Guddu, yeah, Daddy phain; just phain,” he put his arm around Khushi and hugged them both; perhaps a prayer of gratefulness, of thankfulness escaped his heart, although one cannot be too sure.
They watched the movie for a short while longer before edging out of the room, on the pretext of playing football. They thought it best to avoid risking a repeat performance and possibly traumatizing the little boy once again.
The rest of the day passed in a happy blur, football followed by a noisy lunch presided over by a satisfied Nani as she looked at her happily chattering brood.
Lunch consisted of various cuisines, in view of the honored guests and their individual preferences. Nani preferred home-cooked food, Arnav of course Italian, Devansh ate dalia, kichdi and other baby food, but then in the presence of his siblings, he would reject these outright and demand a share of Ankit’s noodles or Anya’s tandoori chicken. Khushi gorged on baby food though like Guddu, she too felt herself drawn towards the ‘other’ stuff, much to her dismay. And that was because she was drooling at the sight of the luscious chicken; she licked her lips even as she shuddered.
“Kya hua Khushi?” Arnav was concerned.
She looked at him in dismay, “Hume khana hai…par par hum kaise kha sakte hain,” she moaned distressed; she glared at him, “Sab aapki galati hai! Hey Devi Maiyya! Ab hum kya karein! Hum kaise khaayein chicken!” she looked longingly and disgustedly at the forbidden yet tempting dish.
Arnav looked at her confused, he looked at Nani, who shook her head; he followed her gaze and suddenly his brow cleared, he put his arm around her and laughed, “Oh Khushi! Yeh tumhare saath hi kyon hota hai!”
“Haan,” she agreed dolefully, “Pata nahi! Ab hum kya karein?”
Arnav reached out and put a piece of chicken on his plate; he took out a little bit and offered it to her, she blenched and shook her head. But then she couldn’t help drooling either as well, “Yeh kya natak hai!” she groaned, “Aisa thodi na hota hai kisike saath!”
Arnav laughed, “Haan par tum toh tum ho!” his voice softened and he coaxed her gently, “Come on Khushi, try it, it is good for the baby you know, waise bhi dalia kichdi is not enough, you need to increase not only the quantity of your diet but also the quality, come on try it,” she hesitated, “For us,” he insisted softly.
She acquiesced, albeit reluctantly, “Achcha hai?” Arnav asked expectantly.
Khushi nodded her head; unhappily, he grinned and squeezed her shoulder, “Just think of it as rather medicine for the baby!”
Khushi sighed and gave in but with poor grace, “Sab aapki galati hai,” she grumbled, “Aapko achcha lagta hai, aur khana hume padta hai, hummmphhh Laad Governor kahin ke, khana bhi unke pasand ka hona chahiye!” she was thoroughly disgusted, Arnav looked at her amused yet sorry for her. He could imagine her plight, he gave her another hug as he fed her another bite; she accepted it reluctantly, pouting at him.
His look turned warm, slowly a hungry intense look crept into them as he continued to gaze at her; she felt hot and cold all over, she knew she should be protesting, objecting, sab kya sochenge, but she lived for that look dammit – almost helplessly, shamelessly she blinked back at him, a delicate flush on her cheeks; the RV drowning out the childish treble and the clatter of cutlery.
Click here for Chapter 253