“Come on Arnav!” Khushi burst out, “Surely you don’t expect to say No!” she fluttered her eyes at him in an exaggerated manner.
Arnav relaxed a bit and smiled faintly, “Khushi tum sach main sanki ho, paagal,” he hesitated, “But still I would like to know,” he looked at her sternly, “the truth and nothing but the truth, and don’t worry about me getting mad if you say No, for I really can’t throw any stones can I?” he hesitated and said slowly, “In fact I would find it difficult to believe anything other than No,” he spread his hands and said honestly (digging his own grave), “I wouldn’t have believed you.”
Khushi’s eyes snapped, she stood up, “Haan haan hum jaante hain aap kitna vishwas karte hain hum par, if something like this would have happened with me and even if you had been there, you would have still not believed me, there is no smoke without fire aisa hi kuch bol dete aur apne Seat of Judgement par jaa kar beith jaate,” she snorted angrily, getting all worked up and agitated.
Arnav looked abashed, “Khushi,” he said in a placating tone, “Nahi aisa nahi hai, now you are exaggerating…”
“Ohh really,” Khushi faced his aggressively, hands on her hips all her wounds ripped apart, fresh and oozing blood, “What happened when we were returning from Preeto’s wedding?” she watched in satisfaction as the blood ebbed from his face, she nodded her head vindicated, “I told you all the details that day itself, that he was a paying guest in our house, you could have had that easily investigated didn’t you, at least asked my parents or even Jiji? But nahi, you had already tried me and found me guilty,” all the anger suddenly vanished leaving her hurt and broken – once again. She drooped, the injustice still rankled and the memory of those horrific days enough to make her want to cry her heart out.
“Khushi, I know,” Arnav’s voice had a wealth of regret in it, “I am sorry, I wish I could undo it, but I can’t, but I really am sorry, look let’s forget what I asked you, let’s leave it shall we, come it is late…”
“Nahi!” Khushi jerked his hand away raw and emotional, “I just can’t switch it all off just like that and you know what the worst part is? Then was a long time ago, then I can excuse you by saying you didn’t know me, you were worried about Di, you had been cheated by Sheetal and Shyam, but even now you say, you wouldn’t have believed me?” her voice rose and then broke; she was near tears, “Nothing has changed has it?”
“Khhhuussshiii,” Arnav tried to take her in his arms again but she moved away stiffly, rejecting him, “I didn’t mean it like that! I just…just said that so you didn’t feel inhibited in speaking the truth,” he scrambled to save himself.
Khushi looked at him disbelievingly, “Yeah right! Good excuse Arnav,” she glared at him, hurt choking her; she clenched her fists in an effort to clamp down on her emotions. She didn’t want to argue with him, not now – she was emotionally and physically exhausted, drained. Besides, what was there to argue about, she could scream till she was blue in the face but that wouldn’t, that couldn’t change his thinking, that would take time (hey DM aur kitna time?), over time perhaps he would come to trust her, till then she would have to just bear it as well as she could – at least he was honest about it, there was no point in spoiling the present over something that couldn’t be changed was there? Life was short as it is, they had a holiday coming up, one that was long overdue, the first ever with their children, was it worth it?
“Theek hai, you want the truth right? Toh suniye,” she swallowed and came to a decision, “Yes I would have believed you, for this is not you, waise bhi hume toh first hand experience hai na – room partner jo reh chuke hain,” she raised her hands, “Par zyaada khush mat hoiye, if somebody had said you had committed a murder and then even if you denied it, I would still believe it, kyonki gusse main toh aap kuch bhi kar sakte hai,” Khushi accused him flushed and annoyed, her good intentions to let things be going for a toss.
Arnav looked at her ruefully and murmured, “Lagta hai you will murder me before I can murder anyone else! And rightly so, I am an idiot, I didn’t mean it like that really, I would have trusted you,” he looked at her a bit guiltily, “Err at least I think so, matlab I would have probably not handled the issue so calmly, so maturely but deep down inside I would have known that you could never do such a thing,” slowly his voice firmed, the initial hesitancy of a skeptic and doubting Thomas giving into the insistent call of his heart, Khushi would never do such a thing, what the hell was he thinking! “I am sorry, Khushi pata nahi main kya bakwas kar raha hoon, I think all the stress of the past few days has caught up with me and fried my brains,” he apologized, “I can only say thank you,” he picked up her hand and stood up, “Thank you for believing in me, thank you for loving me, thank you for being you,” he coaxed her softly and tried to take her into his arms again.
This time she let him (woh bhi kya karti, that lost little boy with the hand caught in the cookie jar expression besides he did look as if he had been put through the sugarcane juice machine and of course —tedha hai par mera hai) and allowed the RV to wash over them and cleanse them of the horror of the past few days.
The next couple of days were a blur of activity for Arnav and Khushi –passports, Visa, packing, shopping etc; Di played with the kids to her hearts content whilst she got over her jetlag. They had an uneventful flight, though Arnav was very excited (yes Arnav was more excited than anyone else – Khushi was mostly exhausted with all the packing and the demands of the children amongst worry of what Chotti could eat or not eat etc etc whilst Arnav just had a normal day at the office after passing on the demand for tickets and other frivolous arrangements to Aman!).
Anyway Arnav was very excited about his first flight with the kids and dragged Devansh all over the airport showing him planes and stuff, Angel had dozed off in her Maami’s godi. Then Devansh was sleepy and became cranky because of all the excitement and information overload and Khushi had to step in to take matters into her own hands (before the LG too became cranky and sleepy!).
London weather held up and allowed Khushi and Anjali to roam the streets with impunity with the kids in tow whilst Arnav wrapped up his deal. Khsitij and kids landed up the following day and their cup of joy overflowed – Arnav was quite distracted and restless as he sat through the monotonous yet crucial deliberations on the final day – he made his escape at the earliest possible chance.
Arnav was disgusted to see them all chattering away in the hotel room, “What the hell!” he protested, “Yahan ghoomne aaye hain ki baat karne?”
They looked at each other sheepishly, whilst the kids continued to play with a new game Ankit had brought, “Haan theek theek hai,” Khushi tried to calm him down, “Actually the kids were so happy to see each other and then Ankit showed off his new game, bas all of them sat down to play, even Chotti!” Khushi said proudly.
Arnav glared at her, “Aur tumko toh bas baat karne ka mauka chahiye na,” he looked at Anjali, “Aur Di bhi kuch kam nahi hai,” it looked as if even Khsitij was going to get an earful but Anjali hurriedly stepped in, “Achcha baba, chalte hai na, we were actually waiting for you, Chotte, how could we go without you?” she managed to soothe him down – finally they went and painted the town red. Actually that was the plan, but the America returned counterparts were rather tired so they decided to return to the hotel for some much needed shut eye. Anjali very considerately offered to take Devansh and Chotti along with her (awww wasn’t that sweet of her) so ultimately Arnav and Khushi went and painted the town red and didn’t return till the wee hours of the morning.
Thankfully their flight was much later in the following day and the two families parted as the Raizadas went off to Switzerland.
Instead of a hurricane tour consisting of city hopping, Arnav chose to spend the few days available at one place. All he wanted to do was spend some quality time with his beautiful family sans any distractions and that is exactly what he did. It wasn’t that they did anything special or that he bought Khushi loads of gifts, no didn’t do any of those things – but he did give his family the most precious gift of all – his undivided attention and love; loads and loads of it. It was there for all to see, in his indulgent behavior, the soft tender look in his eyes, the relaxed stance, the faint smile on his lips. Khushi couldn’t just stop staring at him.
It was a wonderful trip with nothing going wrong. The kids were healthy and happy, the weather was awesome, Arnav was on his bestest behavior so much so that Khushi began viewing him with some suspicion and kept checking him for fever or some such ailment, “Aap theek toh hai na? Aap ASR hi hai na?” she worried while he just smiled angelically, “Tum bhi na Khushi,” and hoisted Angel up on his shoulder while Devansh sat on the stroller as he was exhausted with all that walking. Actually you should have seen him, he had shed his 3-piece suit and opted for some casual clothes – jacket and jeans, half the time Angel’s furry monkey bag hung from his shoulder, in fact he wore it quite proudly like a badge of honor – and frankly that is what surprised Khushi, she fully expected him to balk at having to care for or carry the kids – pleasantly surprised of course.
Since most of the city (oho theek hai theek hai – Lucerne – khush?) was meant to be seen on foot while Angel had her stroller, Devansh walked it but of course he too was not so big – either he would take a break on the stroller or ride piggy back on his dad’s shoulder. Arnav was extra solicitous of Khushi as well, especially meals for she couldn’t stomach their food and he made sure to visit an Indian restaurant so that she could have her preference.
Khushi looked at him warily, “You are really spoiling me you know, humari adat kharab ho jaayegi!” Arnav just shook his head, “Come on Khushi, main itna bhi bura nahi hoon, I am just being me,” Khushi sighed and rolled her eyes, “Wohi toh, most annoying and disturbing, ghar pe yeh yeh wala aapka ‘me’ kahan chala jaata hai? Hmmmpphhh – this ‘me’ is buried in layers and layers of ASR, Chotte, teen naam wala rakshash and DM only knows who else!”
Arnav simply grinned and pulled her into a hug; in keeping with the dictum of when in Rome do as Romans do, he gave in to his impulse and kissed her as well, quite thoroughly too. Khushi was predictably very embarrassed; she hissed and snapped while Arnav was even more amused and inspired to go for repeat performances, on several occasions.
Even the kids were spoilt rotten and they were over the moon to have their parents with them 24/7 and Angel specially refused to leave her father, she even followed him to the shower cubicle as he tried on the knobs to show Khushi how they worked; as Arnav fiddled with the knobs, Angel piped up from behind, her hands on her hips, “Plessule nahi hai kya?”
Arnav swung around in surprise and stared questioningly at Khushi, she smiled weakly at him, “Woh, Lucknow main paani ke pressure se Buaji bahut hi pareshaan thi na, she must have thought….” She trailed off.
Arnav shook his head and rolled his eyes, “Duniya ke sabse bade nautanki saare mere ghar main hai!” he moaned.
“Haan, aur aap bhi kuch kam nahi hai,” Khushi shot back, “Par yahan par sabse bada nautanki to yahan ke taps hain!” she glared at the demure blameless projections that masqueraded as taps, “pata hi nahi kaun kaise chalta hai, I feel so foolish standing in front of a wash basin waving my hands hysterically around the tap like some ancient ritual trying to invoke the Tap Goddess, ufff,” she moaned, “Every washroom seems to have a different rital – boojo toh jaane types – it is so embarrassing, and I feel like an idiot trying to extract water, seedhe seedhe desi wale nahi laga sakte kya?
Arnav laughed, but Khushi wasn’t done complaining yet, “Aap hanse rahe hai? There is more,” she smacked her head, “Worse, there is no there is no way to turn to off the water and I am so used to turning it off that I invariably try to do so before I remember that the taps shut automatically, you have no idea how stupid and idiotic I look as I desperately try to switch off the tap and in my hurried attempts I end up invoking the Tap Goddess again and then there is another bout of regurgitation and another ritual begins.” She rolled her eyes, “I have to remind myself to just stand and wait for it to turn off on its own., aur pata hai, in the train, here my hands were all soapy and I couldn’t get the tap to release any water, I waved, I begged, I pleaded, I even banged it because it looked exactly like the one in our trains, but nahi woh bilkul bhi nahi maane,” she shook her head frustrated, “Finally I spotted a green button miles away from the tap!”
Arnav rolled on the bed laughing at Khushi’s predicament but more so at her theatrical and exaggerated enactment.
Khushi looked at him, her heart overflowing with love for this man, she wished she could capture the moment forever, “But the one that took the cake was at the restaurant washroom – I kept waiting for the tap to turn off on its own, but the water kept flowing and I was getting more and more irritated and then,” she smacked her head, “I realized DM had answered my prayers – it was a normal tap with a knob – I just didn’t realize when I had turned it on!” Arnav burst out laughing once again.
Her heart overflowing, she clicked a quick snap for her collection.
Click here for Chapter 276