This vacation was probably the best ever for Khushi, yet when anybody asked, ‘kya kiya’ the honest answer was ‘kuch nahi’. Actually kuch nahi kiya, all they did was that they chilled out as a family (very textbook stuff and very tough let me tell you for as somebody said [sorry I forget who] there is no such thing as fun for the whole family); they would perhaps take a steamer ride and soak in the picturesque surroundings, or take the cable car trip to the top of Mt Titlis or simply take a stroll around town, aimlessly, allowing their children to take the lead. They loved to play in the park or just hang around the lake, feeding the ducks who were very tame and had no hesitation in walking right up to them in search of goodies, most of them were taller than Chotti and almost as tall as Devansh. Surprisingly Devansh was more afraid than Chotti. No amount of coaxing would convince him to venture closer not even when they tried to invoke his male ego, ‘dekho Chotti bhi chali gayi’ and all that.
But Devansh was adamant and declared nonchalantly, in fact, one could even say, proudly, “But I am a COWARD!”
The people around erupted into laughter and applauded him for his bravery in admitting to his very natural and human failing!
Khushi leaned towards Arnav and murmured, “Chotti toh hum par gayi hai, aur Devansh…” she trailed off provokingly.
Unfazed Arnav lazily raised his eyebrow, “Oh really? Havent you heard of the saying ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’?
Khushi fluttered her eyes at him, “Oho toh aap Chotti ko fool bula rahein hain?”
Arnav shook his head, “Nope, she is too young to know better but then that is not applicable to you,” he grinned delightedly at her offended expression.
“Hey come on Khushi, sahi toh bol raha hoon, yaad hai kaise kitne shaan se kaha tha ‘aapke pachees hazar hum lauta denge’ he looked at her, “Paise bhi wapas nahi kiya aur,” his voice dropped to a husky murmur, “Aur dil bhi chura liya,” he openly accused her of embezzlement and theft.
Khushi objected strongly, “Hawww I returned that money, fair and square with interest if you please, kitni aasani se bhool gaye na woh ji shart haar gaye the,” she reminded him hotly, seething at the unjust accusation, he grinned unrepentant and held out his hand, “Aur mera dil?”
She fluttered her eyes at him, “Aapko kya kaam dil se? Bechara akela unused padha tha kisi kone main, ab humare pass hai toh aapko wapas chahiye, galat baat Arnav bahut galat baat.”
Arnav looked at her ruefully, “Wrong answer Khushi, you were supposed to say, ‘exchange main humara dil diya hai aapko,” he imitated her voice.
Khushi looked triumphantly at him, “Yehi toh humari khasiyat hai, I never do the expected; waise bhi I don’t trust you with my heart, so I will take care of both our hearts, thank you very much,” she sniffed disdainfully.
“Theek hai, rakh lo sambhalkar dono apne pass, but be careful, someday aisa ho sakta hai ki mere paass dono ho aur tumhare pass kuch bhi nahi?” Arnav warned Khushi.
Khushi was suddenly serious, “Actually that is the reality even though both are with me, I am just the bank, a safe deposit so to speak; I don’t dare to call your heart mine,” she swallowed, “or even my own heart mine,” she looked at their children busy eating chocolates and then looked at him again and smiled faintly, “haan kabhi kabhi apna manne ki galati bhi karte hai, par sach toh yehi hai na ki kisi par bhi haq nahi hai humara,” her voice broke just the teeniest bit; oblivious to his surroundings Arnav pulled her into his arms and murmured, his eyes tender yet wearing a self-satisfied smirk, “Sahi kaha, everything that is most important and dear to me I give to you for safe-keeping,” he looked around, “Who needs a Swiss bank when I have you as my personal Bank? Right Khushi?”
Khushi stared at him struck, ‘Laad Governor ne bolna kya shuru kar diya humari bhi bolti bund kar di’ she thought as she dissolved in the RV. Ab kya bataaon, even the street musicians by the corner were so caught up in the vibes of the moment that RV started flowing from their violins and harmonica, which was of course overridden all too soon by the shrieks of their own personal party poopers who decided right then to have fight over who would get last piece of chocolate.
Anyway so it continued, their nok-jhok, khatti meethi silly lovers talk, and as all good things come to an end so did their idyllic holiday and it was all too soon that they were back in the sweltering heat of Delhi, tanned, exhausted yet happy to be home – after all there is no place like home is there – especially after a vacation.
Once home, they slid back to their usual routine as if they had never been away. Di and her family returned as did Nani – with Mamaji in tow. She wasn’t happy with the progress in his health, he was still very weak and had lost a lot of weight and Nani didn’t have much faith in the Mumbai doctors, she wanted to take a second opinion from their family physician. Besides, frankly she had had enough of MM and RM’s call was too strong to be put off any longer – Chotte’s unfortunate little adventure had finally reached her ears – her heart went out to her little baby but couldn’t bear to leave her other baby on the tender mercies of her bahu either, so she took Manohar along with her to Delhi– much to Mano darling’s secret relief. After all she couldn’t sacrifice her samaj sewa for pati sewa could she? Wasn’t society’s well being more important than that of one man? Manorama’s impassioned justification convinced everyone except for Nani who just sniffed and whisked away her son till she was satisfied.
At RM, Manohar made a slow and but steady recovery and ended up staying a couple of months. As expected, this period was very hectic and taxing, especially for Khushi – she often felt breathless, as if she had signed up for a hundred metre dash without knowing that it was actually a marathon cum hundred metre sprint. AKC had suffered in her absence and work had piled up; Chotti turned two and soon afterwards Devansh completed four years of age, the entire Mumbai gang landed up for their birthdays and the gala celebrations. In fact, somebody or the other from Mumbai gang kept landing up at RM to meet Manohar. Even the kids ended up spending part of their summer vacations at RM – Ankit too landed up at RM with his bori-bistar. Devansh ki toh maano lottery lag gayi, three big bhais in the house- he was delirious with joy while Chotti was very unhappy –little boys are not good for little girls (that too four) – no matter if they think of themselves as the Ching Laja Princess. They ganged up and either teased her mercilessly or ignored her completely, neither of which was acceptable to her, her wails of protests could be heard quite frequently loud and long – the boys often got a dressing down which fell on deaf ears.
It was as you can imagine a mad house – thankfully Arnav was inundated with deals to be able to contribute to the mess at home and helped Khushi by largely staying out of her hair. On the rare occasions he was home, Chotti would utilize her time with him gainfully by laying her woes at his court and demanding justice – invariably Chotte would take Chotti’s side and all the boys would be roundly castigated whilst she viewed the more than satisfactory proceedings gleefully from within the protective circle of her father’s arms – it almost made up for all the heartache and bullying – almost.
RM was buzzing with activity during the hot sweltering summer months and Khushi was hard pressed to keep up with the demands on her time. The last couple of weeks of June were in particular very difficult as Shakuntala fell prey to dengue; she was very ill indeed and her platelet count was dangerously low, in fact, she had to be hospitalized taking even HP out of circulation. Thus it fell to Khushi and Poo to manage RM as best as they could, with the help of a temporary assistant.
While Khushi often made her escape in the mornings before the kids were awake after cooking a simple lunch, the moment she returned home in the evenings the kids would crowd around her with their demands and pleas with Yash as their gang leader and of course Khushi being Khushi couldn’t refuse. Therefore dinner was usually a very lavish affair – there would be kids’ special, Mamaji special, diabetes special and normal or exotic specials for the others or guests as the case maybe. Then after dinner, they would want her to play with them, tell them stories or generally hang around with them, another non-negotiable request.
Juggling so many things at a time took its toll on Khushi and she often didn’t know whether she was coming or going, she wore a harassed air and was quite irritable, especially with Arnav.
Arnav noted the lines of strain on her pale face and grimaced angrily to himself. He wanted to pick her up and forcibly confine her to the bed, but he knew that was impossible and hence stayed out of her way, it was either that or yell at her – which would only compound her misery (finally dimaag ki batti jali eh?).
But woh bhi kitne din chup rehta, after Shakuntala fell ill, Arnav called up Aakash, “Hello Aakash, I think it would be best if Payal could come over to Delhi and stay here and help out Khushi, at least while the kids are here?” Arnav got straight to the point.
“Sure Bhai,” Aakash was agreeable, “I will tell her and she will go today itself,” he paused, “In any case she was thinking about doing so, you know na Bhai, I am going to Dubai for that business deal day after tomorrow? Yeah well, I convinced Payal to come along with me,” he coughed, “We haven’t been out together in years, not since Yash was born, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity, theek hai na Bhai?”
There was silence.
“But don’t worry Bhai, Payal will be there today, in any case we are taking the flight from Delhi, and of course Ma will be coming along with me, she will help in taking care of everything,” Arnav grunted ‘yeah right’ and put the phone down.
Another impossible situation.
Determined not to give up so easily, he confronted Anjali, “Di, perhaps the kids could stay at your place for some time, you know both Shakuntala and HP are unavailable,” he shrugged, “the replacements are not that well trained and it is all too much for Khushi, office ghar, so many kids, I am worried she will fall sick.”
Anjali cupped his face affectionately, “I know Chotte, I too feel for Khushi, it is really too much for her,” she made a face, “But Anya is in class eleven now and this is a very crucial stage for her, I don’t want her to be disturbed in any way, as it is she goes for extra classes soon after coming back from school, she comes home by 8 – 8.30 pm, has her dinner and goes back to do her school homework before going off to sleep, tell me where is the scope for her to entertain or play with the kids, ulta disturb hogi and her work will pile up,” she looked for understanding from her Chotte.
Arnav reluctantly nodded his head, “Right Di,” and left it at that, although he couldn’t help but think, ‘Di could have offered to send Vimla along’.
“Aapne Jijaji aur Di ko kya bola?” Khushi charged him over the phone.
Caught, Arnav fumbled, “Kya bola?”
“Zyaada baniye mat, kuch toh bola hi hoga, otherwise why would both Jiji and Di call up to enquire if everything was ok and if I needed help etc etc?” Khushi knew her math, especially Arnav wala math.
Click here for Chapter 277