15 July 2020
Khushi waved goodbye to Devansh from the doorway as Poo led him out to the car for his trip to the school. Khushi put a hand to her back to rub the now almost constant pain; was it more than usual? She wondered as she grimaced uneasily.
“Kya hua Khushi?” Arnav popped up from nowhere.
“Kuch nahi,” she smiled and waved him away as well.
In their room, Khushi grimaced as a wave of contraction hit her, she bit her lip, yes looked as if it was time; damn, Arnav ko kyon bhej diya? Perhaps he hadn’t gone too far, she picked up her phone and dialed; she could hear his phone ring, in the room. She swung around; there he was, standing by the door.
“Aa…ap,” she squeaked in surprise.
“Haan main, tumhara ‘kuch nahi’ didn’t inspire much confidence so I came back to check,” he looked at her in a considering fashion, “And I was clearly right, hospital chalein?” Arnav put his arm around her; she swallowed and nodded.
They left for the hospital and Khushi was taken directly to the labor room. Arnav got into the business of waiting and informing the family. As was predecided, after school, Nani and Poo took Devansh directly to Di’s house. Anya was adamant on going to the hospital this time, even Nani wanted to go, so they quietly sneaked away, leaving the two boys happily playing under Poo and Vimla’s supervision. Of course, Khsitij stayed back at home as well, no point in crowding an overcrowded hospital.
Arnav and Anjali were glad of the company, anything to distract them from the agonizing wait. And Anya’s excitement was infectious and her almost constant chatter helped while away the time and keep morbid thoughts away. Also the labor seemed to be progressing just fine and DM willing she would be having a normal delivery this time.
About 4-5 hours later, the door swung open, all gathered turned hopeful eyes to the doctor. She smiled and said, “Congratulations! It is a girl and both mother and daughter are doing fine!” she smiled and softly closed the door.
Anya gave a triumphant shriek and punched the air, “YES!” she shouted and then clapped a hand over her mouth as she realized she was in the hospital, she silently jumped up and down in joy and hugged everyone in turn, “It is a girl Anjie!” She hugged Arnav and Nani. Anya dug out her mobile and rushed out into the corridor, “I want to tell, I am gonna tell,” presumably to intimate her dad and other family members.
Anjali sat down with a thump and whispered, “It is a girl,” and inexplicably burst into gut wrenching sobs. Arnav rushed to her, but Nani was closer, she put her arms around her, “bas bas, Anjali bitiya, ee toh khusi ki baat hai, kahe rowat ho?” she patted and soothed her.
“Di! Kya hua!” Arnav was worried and stood helplessly while Nani consoled her. It took a long time before Anjali calmed down enough to speak coherently, “Hum bahut khush hain,” she managed to hiccup between her sobs, “Hum sach main bahut khush hain,” she clasped her Chotte’s hand and hugged Nani, “Hume toh laga tha ki ab is ghar main kabhi beti nahi paida hi nahi hogi,” she started crying again, “Rajkumari humse aise roothi ki bas,” she bit her lip and shuddered in an effort to rein in her tears, “Par ab lag raha hai, ki usne hume maaf kar diya,” Nani caressed her, “Haan Anjali bitiya, humka bhi ee laagat rahi, ki Devi Maiyya hume kabhi bitiya ka sukh nahi denge, par ab,” she too began crying and Arnav had his hands full trying to offer comfort and support to the women in his life. He felt out of his depth and Khushi wasn’t even here, dammit. He wished she were here, she would know what to say and do, idiot he berated himself; how could she be here?
Thankfully Anya came rushing back, still jumping up and down in excitement, “Oh when can we see the baby, when can we see the baby! Mom why are you crying! Badi nani, you too! CSR are you also…!”
Arnav shook his head embarrassed, “No no, nothing just something in my eye, talk to your mom,” he diverted her attention away from him; he walked to the window and surreptitiously wiped his eyes.
“Anjie?” suddenly Anya was all concern and serious; she threw her arms around Anjali and rocked her like a baby, hugging her fiercely as if to soak up her sorrow. Anya’s presence did what Arnav or Nani couldn’t; she made an attempt to control her emotions and smile through her tears, “I am fine sweetie, just became emotional…a baby girl,” her voice broke but she rallied around and scolded Anya, “You were the one who wanted a girl for so long and put the idea in my head too!”
Anya looked at her wisely, understanding yet sensitive enough not to probe too deeply lest the evidently thin veneer of control again disappear.
Relieved to see his sister in good hands, Arnav slipped out hoping to get a look in at his precious wife and his brand new daughter. A daughter! There was a funny sort of a clutch in his heart, a little girl, just like Khushi, or may be Di, or perhaps Anya, a bit of Nani, could even be Ma herself – Arnav regretted coming out of the room into the corridor, not that anybody was around, but still it wouldn’t be done for anyone to see the mighty Arnav Singh Raizada bawling like a baby himself. But that is exactly what he felt like doing. He walked rapidly and purposefully down the corridor, taking deep calming breaths; in his hurry and preoccupation he crossed the DM’s idol unmindful, but then he halted a couple of steps away and turned to look back at her; the clutch in his throat eased somewhat, he strode off again.
He met the doctor at the doorway who assured him that everything was fine, it was a normal delivery, the baby was slightly underweight (2.3 kgs) nothing to worry about (so far), yes Khushi was as fine as was possible under the circumstances, yes he could go in.
He dashed in without any further ado and not a moment too soon for the Sister had just handed their precious bundle to Khushi. The Sister considerately left them together (actually she didn’t, she hovered about in the room for a couple of minutes as she shamelessly ogled ASR – but of course the three were otherwise preoccupied to notice or care). Arnav walked forward in a daze, all the emotions rushed to overwhelm him once again, “Khhushiii,” he said huskily, unable to say thing more.
Not that there was any need.
Khushi tore her eyes away from their baby, her eyes brighter than the stars; she held out a free hand, “Come meet your little girl,” she pulled him to them and said proudly, “Look, isnt she beautiful?”
She was indeed beautiful, a tiny pink bud, a little angel as she slept peacefully at her mother’s breast, her hand clenched into an impossibly teeny weeny fist –his breath caught in his throat. He ran his giant finger down her soft cheek; she was so small, so delicate – a fierce protectiveness engulfed him, his arms ached to hold her but he was afraid to hurt her; he settled for slipping his arms around both of them, “Thanks Khushi,” he finally breathed. They stared down adoringly at their daughter, uncharacteristically it was Arnav who spoke first, “A girl, after such a long time,” kahin na kahin Arnav too felt overwhelmed and touched by the arrival of their daughter, almost like clinching a long awaited, long coveted deal; hmm well it was a bit different in the sense that he never felt so emotional about a deal 😉 not even Khushi (triumphant yes exhilarated yes on top of the word yes but wanting to burst into tears? Never).
He wished he were Devansh’s age, so that he could just…he gritted his teeth and looked around hopefully, perhaps he could find something to be angry about, yes his breath eased a bit, yes that was his treatment find something to throw a fit about.
Khushi soft touch on his cheek brought him back from his desperate quest, she turned him to face her and tenderly shook her head; the fragile control broke, tears rolled down his cheeks, “Dammit Khushi,” he said growled but spoilt it by sniffing, she smiled tremulously at him, “Zyaada hanso mat,” he countered a bit embarrassed at her knowing grin (well that was what he thought), “Dheere dheere tumhari position neeche hoti ja rahi hai,” he taunted even as he slipped his finger into the clenched fist; she immediately grabbed hold of it and clung to it, he looked at through a blur – her clasp couldn’t even completely encircle his finger – he looked at Khushi in awe, completely enslaved.
“Dheere dheere neeche!” Khushi was amazed, “Upar kab thi?”
Arnav put his free hand on her cheek and resorted to a gruff, “Tum theek ho?”
“Changing the topic huh?” Khushi challenged softly, clearly abashed, he looked away and shrugged, “Pata nahi kyon I am feeling very emotional…”
“Haan,” Khushi nodded her head, “Aur cover up karne ke liye kuch bhi bol denge!” she looked at him ruefully.
“Actually everyone is so happy to have a girl in the family,” he swallowed, he looked at her, almost warningly, “Even Di…”
Khushi nodded and caressed his cheek, “Hum samajhte hain, jaayee unhe bulaiye…”
The tiny pink buds opened and let out a wail, demanding and insistent; Arnav laughed, “Another party pooper,” he caressed her cheek with his finger, she immediately turned her head and made suckling motions –Dinner time!
His phone beeped, it was Anya, ‘Mamu can we come in please please!’
He looked at Khushi, “they want to come, what should I say?”
She nodded smiling as she fed her baby, “Ten minutes.”
The three ladies of the Raizada khandan burst in just as Khushi was burping the little one, “Di,” she proudly offered the bundle to her, “Lijiye aapki Rajkumari aa gayee.”
A highly emotional Anjali stumbled forward, Arnav led her gently as she held out her arms, unable to say a word. She rocked her gently, all the hurt, the pain, the anguish, the burden of guilt all vanishing in an instant – her Princess was finally home. Tears streamed down her cheeks as joy and gratefulness flooded her. Still unable to say a word, she reached out and cupped Khushi’s face and managed to mouth ‘thank you.’ Khushi smiled back and squeezed her hand tightly.
Anya and Nani crowded her, eager to see the new baby and oohed and aahed, “Oh Anjie! Isn’t she simply beautiful!” squealed Anya excitedly, “She looks exactly like you! Doesn’t she Badi Nani?”
Nani smiled, tears sparkling in her eyes as well, “She looks exactly like my daughter when she was born,” the tears spilled over. Arnav came up from behind them and hugged them both. Anya quickly snapped a picture of the three of them holding their precious bundle.
“Mamu,” Anya questioned Arnav, “Who do you think she looks like?”
Arnav looked down at his daughter wonderingly and said, “I think she looks like you,” he looked at Khushi; she smiled at him while Anya was over the moon.
The good news spread; congratulations and good wishes poured in; family members from Mumbai and Lucknow were expected anytime. But the acid test was still to be – Devansh.
Sometime later, Khsitij trooped in with the boys, “Mamma!” excitedly Devansh held up his transparent packet of goodies (the first of his birthday gifts at school), “Dekho kool main mila!” he had been so thrilled with the gift that he hadn’t even opened it, he was content to just look at it – actually he hadn’t been quite sure what to do with it, looked exciting and interesting, but mamma would know what exactly to do with it. Excited about going to Anki’s place he had forgotten about it but remembered to bring it along when he was informed that they were going to see mamma and some baby.
Arnav picked him up so that he could get a better view and of course prevent him from clambering on to the bed.
Khushi laughed, “Arre wah Guddu, that’s a lovely gift! Ab yeh dekho humare pass kya hai,” she happily held out her daughter while Arnav let him lean down to get a better look; he looked blankly at the white bundle and then at the colorful package in his hand, he held up his fist, “Dekho Deva gift!” he declared, clearly unimpressed with his sister.
Affronted, the little girl squirmed and let out a wail, Devansh froze (he could put two and two together if needed), he clutched Arnav tightly, “Chooha!”
Arnav looked at Khushi and rolled his eyes, “Nahi Devansh,” he corrected him gently, “Baby.”
Devansh shook his head mulishly, “Nahi chooha.”
Arnav looked at Khushi helplessly, Ankit who had been having a whispered conversation with his Di piped up, “Arre nahi Buddhu, Chooha nahi,” relieved they looked at each other; Devansh would surely listen to Ankit, his hero, “Choohiya.”
“ANKIT!” hissed Anjali in deference to the hospital, “Koi aise bolta hai kya apni behen ko?”
“I was just correcting the gender,” Ankit defended himself; Anjali shook her head even as Anya fired up, “Age toh dekho apni, gender correct kar raha tha!” she taunted him.
Aur Devansh toh apne hi trip par tha, “Chuia,” Devansh was amenable to that but what was it doing in mamma’s lap? That was reserved for him dammit; he began struggling in Arnav’s arms wanting to go to Khushi.
As his struggles and squeals intensified, Anjali took the baby and showed her to Khsitij, “Look Kshitij, our daughter,” she murmured softly to him, “part of you and part of me,” her voice broke; he put his arm around them.
Khushi looked at them as she hugged Devansh and sent up a prayer of gratefulness to DM.
Click here for Chapter 261