As hinted earlier (and as expected) the CLP was spoilt rotten by RMwasis and the GMwasis added their two cents bit of carbide; often there would be fights as to would get to hold her (pssst once Ramiya got an earful from her normally cool boss for the dal got burnt all because she had slipped off to play with the little one right next door and the customers had to do with Pulav and Raita [but then this was a Ramiya special so the AKC patrons were finger licking good]).
And while Devansh himself was quite the protective elder brother, he did grudge the extra attention she got, especially from his mamma. Khushi would excuse herself and try to soothe his ruffled feathers by saying, “abhi chotti haina?” Anything and everything she did was because she was Chotti, so why was she so much in mamma’s lap, Chotti hai na; why did she scream so much, Chotti hai na; why did she have no teeth? Chotti hai na; Why did she get to sleep with Mamma and Daddy? Chotti hai na; Why couldn’t she walk? Yeah Chotti hai na; Devansh had an inexhaustible stock of questions regarding his sister and this was a ‘one answer fits all’
One day Devansh rebelled, “Deva bhi Chotti,” he declared mutinously; what the, hadd hai, she got everything godi godi main aur main? So not fair, why be Deva? Being Chotti was so much more faydamand.
Khushi pulled him into a tight hug and gave him a long cuddle, “Chotti nahi, Chottu!” she kissed him and then listed out all the advantages of being Deva rather than Chotti; initially, feeling very ill used and neglected he looked disbelievingly at her, but then was slowly won over – being Chotti meant she had to sit in a lap, she couldn’t even ride the trike, go to school, go for sleepovers to Booji’s house, play or round around with Ankit or Di, she could only drink milk; no chocolates and no Maggi for her – Deva looked at his mum stunned – what! No Maggi? Poor Chotti, no wonder she cried so much, he too felt like crying for her; he let his mum pull Chotti on to her lap and he sat with companionable silence with her, possibly thanking DM for not making him Chotti but bechari Chotti, he became quite emotional and sentimental about her pitiable condition from which only a bowl of Maggi could revive him. 😉
Khushi heaved a sigh of relief as that crisis blew over but then Arnav wasn’t too happy with the fall out.
You see hua yunh ki Khushi was so floored by her own brilliance in handling Devansh and his offended sensibilities that she used the ‘Chotti Brahmastra’ so often that woh Nglika se Chotti kab bangayi pata hi nahi chala. Chotte of course protested, but it fell on deaf ears.
Kya? Details chahiye? Achcha baba theek hai, toh suno (or rather padho) – their conversation went something like this, “Devansh, Chotti nahi woh Angelika hai.” Arnav laid down the law.
Devansh looked at him strangely, “Nahi Ngelika Chotti hai.”
Arnav rolled his eyes and explained patiently (well he did try to control himself), “Devansh, uska naam Angelika hai, Chotti nahi,” he held his breath ignoring Khushi who was hovering behind Devansh.
Devansh sidled up to Arnav and climbed on to his lap and explained just as patiently (well a bit more passionately perhaps), “Woh Maggi nahi kha sakti, woh Chotti hai na?”
“Devansh,” Arnav was fast running out of patience more so because Khushi was silently giggling as he struggled to win this debate “Main keh raha hoon na, woh Chotti nahi hai, Angelika hai,” he said a bit sternly.
Devansh looked back at him equally sternly and insisted, “Woh Chotti hai, Mamma ne bola,” having waved the Supreme Court ruling, he slid off his dad’s lap onto his trike and zoomed away, the argument clearly over.
Haan toh hum kahan the? Achcha haan yaad ayaa, the growing up of the Princess, with a little bit of a hiccup – sab kuch theek chal raha tha – achcha and what was the hiccup? Angelika refused to crawl.
Initially everyone just brushed it away as during winters children are naturally kept away from the floor so how would she learn to crawl? But then winter gave way to spring and summer was upon their heads, most importantly, she began to talk! Hardly 9 months of age and quite a chatter box. She would sit on whichever throne (lap) caught her fancy, and imperiously call out, “Pooooo! Naaaannnniiiii, Annnnaaaa (strangely instead of Daddy she preferred to address him as Arnav – she preferred to copy her mum I guess), Mammmaaa, Daaaa (actually Devansh, but her ansh was silent so it came out as Daa and stuck that way – quite a pair weren’t they – Di for Chotte and Da for Chotti!)
Anyway, everyone associated with the Ching Laja Princess was concerned and doctors were consulted and a battery of tests conducted, variety of advice taken, bitter tears shed with no success – it was Nani who diagnosed the problem. Actually she had been out of town for the last couple of months, she had gone to Mumbai to sort out things and then stayed back to ensure that things remained under control. And since nobody wanted to disturb Nani, they hadn’t communicated their concerns to her. Ultimately Nani came back, much to Devansh’s relief, he had missed her terribly, he clung to her and refused to let go of her. She was touched beyond words, “Haan haan bitwa,” she caressed and hugged him joyfully, “I too missed you loads and loads,” she looked at Khushi and confessed, “I am afraid Palash is quite annoyed with me, I kept referring to him as Devansh; aur humari Chotti kaisi hai?” Nani was careful to greet Devansh first so as to not to offend his sensibilities.
As Devansh got busy unpacking his gifts, Khushi offloaded her worries to Nani, “Dekhiye na Nani, Chotti hasn’t even started crawling yet,” she was almost in tears.
Arnav grimaced and paced the floor; he banged his foot against the table and let out a string of colorful expletives – Devansh was out of ear shot but Angelika’s eyes were as usual trained on him, “Bluddeee eeelll!” she drew out with great relish and pleasure; feeling proud at having all eyes trained upon her she clapped delightedly and repeated, “Bluddeell,” fortunately for them, she got a bit involved and confused with the exact sequence of tongue and lip movement that the exact sound escaped her and it soon faded from her memory – but then aise kab tak chalega, sooner or later she would manage to memorize it wouldn’t she? Khushi glared at a sheepish Arnav who looked away, a small smile tugging his lips, his Angel was brilliant!
Nani took Chotti in her lap, “Maalish toh kar rahi ho na?”
Khushi nodded, “We took her to several doctors, some say it is nothing to worry since reports are normal; others just shake their heads and say ‘wait and watch’,” she sniffed unhappily.
Nani was her usual comforting self and picked out several examples from her vast experience of how so and so had crawled late but caught up later etc etc. But a couple of days later, as they sat down for dinner, Nani said, “Now I know why she isn’t crawling!”
All eyes turned towards her and even Poo stopped serving to look at Nani, “She is constantly being carried; she is never put on the floor, she gets what she wants by asking for it or simply holding out her hand, tell me why she should bother to crawl?”
Arnav and Khushi looked at each other in dawning hope, “Sach Nani? Par doctor ne toh aisa kuch nahi bola,” Khushi said, “Aur Guddu started crawling so early!”
“Doctor ko bataya tha kya?” Nani shot back, “Devansh wanted to explore the world, he wanted to do want Ankit was doing so he had the incentive to try and move, but our Chotti is more interested in talking than exploring so she doesn’t feel the need to try and move at all, especially since somebody or the other is always at her beck and call.”
So now the RMwasis put patthhars on their respective dils and let Angelika be hoping to force her to move – she still refused to crawl but then after a month or so, just before her first birthday, she started walking (Chotti hai toh kya hua, thi toh woh Ching Laja Princess na – below her dignity to crawl eh?)
After the initial wobbly steps, she mastered the art of walking pretty quickly and in no time was pitter pattering all over RM. Her first birthday was celebrated with much fanfare where she showed off her pretty white lace frock complete with crown, secure in the knowledge that she looked the prettiest of them all (psst Arnav looked remarkably like Devansh did when he had gotten his first star)
Soon afterwards, Devansh turned three and here the princess wore a red off-shoulder gown to match her mother’s dress, while Arnav and Devansh wore matching suits. A framed photo of the family adorned ASR’s office table. His eyes often strayed to the photograph; he couldn’t quite decide who looked the best and settled for age-wise reverse order.
Devansh was a big boy now and had graduated to a big school. He now went to school in a smart yellow bus wearing a smart uniform, collar tie the works, the only drawback – no ducks and bunnies in this school. He was quite heartbroken and Khushi had to schedule several counseling sessions to convince him about the merits of the big school, okay he could go some days to feed the ducks and bunnies and on other days she would feed them, soon Chotti would be going to school and she could feed the ducks and bunnies; okay fine if he insisted he could keep going to this school, Chotti would go to the big school, theek hai? – That of course clinched it for Khushi – aisa kabhi ho sakta hai kya? Toh off he went to do ‘ehsaan’ to big school and his mum. Slowly he adjusted to his new school as well, although he lived in continuous hope ki aaj shayad bus nahi aayegi, that it would be too late to be dropped to school by even the car, or that the alarm wouldn’t ring which would mean Khushi couldn’t wake up in time to send him to school, which was quite often.
One day at the PTA meeting, his class teacher quizzed Khushi about the problematic alarm, which led to him being absent from school so often, Khushi laughed and apologized, “No no actually he is absent only on the days he is not well but I don’t like to tell him that I am not sending him to school because he is not well (for he is such a nautanki that I will never know if he is actually not well or just saying so to get out of going to school) so I tell him the alarm didn’t ring!”
The teacher too laughed, “Oh he is such a sweetheart but with very fixed ideas; he simply refuses to sit next to girls, could you do something about that?”
So began another abhiyaan, make Devansh sit next to girls and as expected, he dug his heels in, crossed his arm, drew his eyebrows and shook his head violently, and intoned solemnly, “Girls sit next to girls and boys sit next to boys.”
“Who said so?” Khushi was astonished.
“Nuput Pencil,” pat came the reply.
Khushi was taken aback, “Nuput Pencil?”
He nodded, but then after some more tehkikaat, it was revealed that she was actually Nupur Bansal and she had already left this particular school but for Devansh a law was a law. Khushi rolled her eyes, and set about explaining how important girls were and didn’t he sit in Mamma’s godi along with Chotti didn’t he? And wasn’t she a girl too? Mamma was a girl, Nani was a girl, Di was a girl; Devansh was much struck by the logic of it and grudgingly allowed himself to be seated next to girls at school. Phew! Yeh ladka bhi na!
Arnav would try and wrap up office work as early and also began carrying home as little work as possible – he didn’t want to miss out on his daughter’s antics. Besides, now, thanks to Devansh’s training (and of course Khushi’s exhortations), Arnav was more understanding and sensitive to the needs of his children. He realized that if a child clung to him, it meant that he or she was actually missing him; that if any of them were irritating him, jumping and dancing around him, it was just their way of asking for his attention because they loved him – it was whole new language of love, need and care; although Arnav was a slow learner, he was catching up fast.
Angelika was almost always the first to land up at the door whenever he reached home; she would insist that he carry her and then proceed to update him with RM events – a sort of self appointed home secretary. She more or less followed a sort of a set pattern, climb onto his shoulder, give him all the house news (Da cho laha; Da ne maala ball se; Nani achchi achhi; Mamma lappy; Poo lo lahi hai, totti doodh nahi piya so on and so forth – it fell to Arnav to investigate as per news being related, why was Devansh sleeping at this hour? Was he not well? Or scold Devansh for hitting his sister (whilst she looked on gleefully), Nani had a cold, did she require medicines, a visit to the doctor, what happened to Poo, why was she crying – oh she didn’t do well in her social studies test? Well she would have to study harder right? And why no milk? She was waiting for Annaaa dammit – she would happily drink her milk in his arms, gurgling and chattering away intermittently.
As Angelika grew older, she added to her repertoire; following the news bulletin; her woes unburdened, satisfied with her Daddy dose, she would start her share of pampering Arnav. She would tug at his tie and insist he take it off, slip off his lap and rush to bring a glass of water and look approvingly as drank water (even clapping if he finished it in one gulp or frown disapprovingly if he just took a sip or God forbid, ignore it as he was busy on his Bluetooth – well it did happen sometimes despite all good intentions). Then she would drag him upstairs to their room and hand him his slippers, lead him to the phone charger and make him put his phone to charge and push him to the washroom to change; upon returning, she would hand him the TV remote and newspaper – after ensuring that now he wasn’t going anywhere, she would heave a sigh of relief and allow him to chat with his mother as she played around or if she was feeling cranky and needy, she would sit on his lap and say, “Tom and Jelly.” And this, if I may say so, happened more often than on not when he was watching the news, especially that being conducted by Arnav’s namesake – clearly Angelika felt sympathetic towards the poor panelists who were being so ruthlessly and mercilessly hounded by the razor sharp news anchor, Arnab Goswami.
Ultimately everybody would end up watching cartoons.
No wonder us ghar main ek se badh kar ek cartoon the!
Click here for Chapter 268