Anya was now in class eleven and had always enjoyed studying but in a casual way. But ever since her talk with Nani about Aisha, she had turned into a complete nerd cum geek focusing on studies hoping to use this as a means to distract Aisha. And wonders of wonders, her strategy worked, the more effort she put in and excelled in her studies, the more Aisha was provoked and encouraged to study even harder. After all she was the Guruji! And as their competitive spirits kicked in, there was just no stopping them – sometimes Anya won, sometimes Aisha – it was an addictive exhilarating game, in which they were both winners. Seeing their single-minded devotion and focus, Khsitij got a separate porta-cabin built on the terrace where they could study to their heart’s content and Aisha often ended up staying over at their place.
The fallout was that Ankit became very lonely.
Once Anjali had joined ARD full time, Kshitij had cut down on his work. He worked half days at a clinic and then he was home, pottering about in the garden or learning/playing music. Of course he had had grand visions of being the ‘mom’ for his kids in the absence of Anjali – but with kids things never go according to plan do they? Moreover what Kshitij didn’t realize was that much of a mom’s job is just to be there – to be available for her children if needed (and hope that she isn’t needed!). The kids were happy that their father was home and was referred to in the event they couldn’t open a bottle of ketchup or they wanted to order something, but by and large they were happy in their own world. Ankit was happy playing with his toys although he preferred his Di’s company and Kshitij found that time hung heavily on his hand – biwi not at home, kids mast in their own worlds – slowly he began seeing patients at home in the evening a couple of days a week, a couple of hours in the late afternoon. Things reset to this changed schedule and everything fell into place.
Anjali was on top of the world, happy at home, – thrilled to bits with her family; and professionally too she was soaring, she had started a new brand ‘Ankiya’s and had opened a boutique of her own, she often traveled in and out of the country for shows etc.
But then slowly as Anya grew older, the pressure of studies increased, she became more involved in academics, Ankit became isolated. He was jealous of the time Anya spent with Aisha – he felt angry and irritable; nothing held his interest except computer games and football. Homework became a major bone of contention, voices would be raised, doors would be banged and food not eaten – mostly by Ankit. Kshitij was quite at his wits end, he was more than happy to cut down on his appointments to be with Ankit but he understood and heard the message loud and clear – I want my mum dammit.
Khsitij tried to explain to Anjali but she took it lightly and teased him, “Oho Kshitij kaise psychiatrist ho? You can’t handle one seven year old child, that too your own son?”
Khsitij looked at Anjali ruefully and shook his head, “He misses you Anjie, he needs you, I can’t make up for his mother can I?”
Anjali still refused to accept it and laughed it off, “Oho Kshitij seedhe seedhe yeh kyon nahi bolte that you are missing me? Why are you hiding behind Ankit?” she pouted.
Khsitij shook his head, “Achcha baba, I am missing you – now what do you propose to do about it?”
Anjali patted his cheek, “You are a big boy, you can take care of yourself waise bhi,” she crinkled her nose at him as she smiled mischievously at him and said, “it is good to miss your wife, pyaar badhta hai, hai na?”
Khsitij sighed, “Anjali you are missing the point, this is not about you or me, this is about Ankit, with Anya busy studying, he feels a vacuum in his life, which only you can fill, half the time he goes to bed without his dinner because I didn’t let him eat some junk food or the other, his studies are suffering, he cannot even do simple addition subtraction sums, he has become rude and destructive – do you want another Chotte on your hands?”
Anjali glared at Khsitij, “Isme Chotte ko beech main laane ki kya zaroorat hai, aur Chotte itna burra kya hai?”
Khsitij reached out and held Anjali’s hand, “Anjie, I didn’t mean it like that, but you will admit your Chotte is not the world’s most suljha hua person, that his EQ is rather dicey,” he shrugged helplessly, “I just don’t like the fact that despite having a mother, a super mom at that, he should be deprived of her touch and care.”
Anjali’s eyes pooled with tears, “Theek hai, if you say so, I will leave my job.” and sniffed valiantly.
Khsitij threw up his hands, “I am not saying that Anjali, I am giving you the facts as they are, according to me, the rest is up to you, adjust your timings, leave your job or take up another assignment,” he banged the door on his way out.
Anjali bit her lip as she jumped, Kshitij was really mad at her now, he never banged doors, she did that if she were annoyed with him (like when he had forgotten their dinner date), her heart sank, maybe he wasn’t exaggerating, and maybe Ankit did need her? But she needed the job; the job defined her – motherhood and wife-hood was no longer enough, she not only enjoyed her job but also reveled in the power of her position, she felt charged up and on top of the world, the hustle bustle of the moving crowd around her asking for her, demanding her opinion, her advice, her suggestions, surrounded by clothes of different colors, textures shapes, designs, she loved it all – could she give it all up? But what other choice did she have?
“Kshitij,” she found him in the music room cleaning his guitar, “I am sorry, please don’t be angry with me, you always say that if we want we can find a solution to any problem, so please can you help me find a solution, I don’t want to leave my job, or even,” she trailed off guiltily.
The guitar twanged as Khsitij put it down on the chair with more force than was necessary, “Ankit is NOT a problem! He is our son and you are his mother, that is all there is to it,” he glared at her, “What ‘solution’ do you want me to offer as a surrogate mother to Ankit now that Anya is preoccupied with her studies?” Anjali flushed guiltily, “I know,” Khsitij nodded his head, “You want him to go over to RM and stay there during the day so that he doesn’t miss you right? But you forget he is growing, he needs to study, do his homework to keep pace with the class, pull up his slipping grades, woh kaise hoga, zara batana?”
“Nani ko yahin bula le?” Anjali said in a small voice.
Khsitij looked at her incredulously, “I don’t believe this Anjali! How can you be so selfish and uproot Nani! She is getting on in years and set in her ways, and now just because you need her, you will uproot her? What about your darling Chotte, the kids?” he was furious, “And do you think he will sit down and study with Nani?”
Anjali was cut to the core, “I don’t understand, why such a big fuss about his homework? Can’t he do it with you?” she attacked him.
Kshitij crossed his arms, “You really don’t listen to what I say do you? I have been telling you for so many days now that he just doesn’t want to sit down for his homework and we have a massive argument everyday and he insists that he wants you or Anya,” he raised his hand, “I know and I have tried all tricks in the book but he is adamant because he knows that is not possible and hence translates into no homework, but tum ho ki kuch samajh hi nahi aata tumhe,” His dimples stood out in sharp relief, “Ya phir samajhna hi nahi chahti?”
Anjali bit her lip, “Theek hai baba theek hai, naraaz kyon ho rahe ho? If you insist, I will cut down on my traveling to spend time with Ankit theek hai,” she put a hand on his arm and shook him gently, “In addition, Ankit can go over to RM whenever he has holidays or even after school at least a couple of days a week and we can also keep a tutor for him, problem solved!” She smiled cajolingly at him.
“Yes dump all your ‘problems’ on Nani,” Khsitij threw down the duster and walked out of the room.
The gist and the essence of this skirmish floated over to RM and its inhabitants soon enough.
“Nani, do you mind if Ankit comes over here sometimes?” Anjali said a couple of days later as she came to drop off Ankit for the day as it was a school holiday.
Nani looked confused, “Isma poochne wali kaunsi baat hai? Aur poochna hi hai to Khushi bitiya se poocho.”
“Nani aap bataiye, Khushi will have no problem I know that,” Anjali was sure of Khushi.
“Problem with what Di?” Khushi appeared with Arnav, who leaned forward to give his Di a hug.
“Dekho na Khushi, this Ankit has become very naughty and unmanageable,” she shook her head, “Actually Anya is so busy with her studies that she has no time for him and Ankit is bored and lonely,” she hesitated, and said in a rush, “Toh I thought if he came over somedays, he could have some company?” she looked hopefully at the three of them.
“Sure Di,” Arnav said, “As Nani said isme poochne wali kya baat hai?” Khushi nodded her head in agreement.
Anjali smiled happily and hugged Nani, “Thank you! Waise hum toh Nani ko apne ghar chura kar le jaane wale the, par Khsitij ne daant diya warna,” Anjali shook her head ruefully and pouted.
“Kya baat hai Di?” Arnav was immediately alert.
“Arre kuch nahi Chotte,” she smiled at him affectionately, “I told you na, Ankit has become quite a handful, Khsitij feels I should cut down on my work and spend time with him, par bachche toh badmashi karte hi hai na?” Anjali stood up, “Chalein? Aren’t we getting late?”
Suddenly Ankit came charging from nowhere, “Mamma! Are you leaving? Isnt it your holiday ever?” he complained.
“Not everybody is lucky as you are Ankit!” she patted his cheek affectionately; “Look at your Di, always studying right? It is your age to have fun and masti, enjoy yourself, I will be back before you know,” she consoled him.
But Ankit’s face became thunderous, “Nahi! You always say that, you are never home, you never have any time for me,” his face worked furiously and then he vanished before he lost his newfound dignity in public and began bawling like a baby.
Anjali looked at the rest apologetically and bit her lip, “Pata nahi Ankit ko kya ho gaya aaj kal, I think I pamper him too much,” she shook her head and smiled at Arnav, “Par tumhare saath jo galati ki I wont repeat it!” she linked her arm with his and said, “Come let’s go, we are getting late for the meeting aren’t we?”
“Sure Di,” Arnav nodded his head, he looked towards the direction where Ankit had vanished and then looked at Khushi.
Click here for Chapter 280