Khushi looked at Arnav surprised, “Aise kaise Arnav, not my business? They are family aren’t they?”
Arnav nodded his head reluctantly, “Haan par phir bhi tumhari toh aadat hai self-sacrificing Mother Teresa banne ki,” Arnav immediately recovered, “Aur waise bhi that would be Nani’s decision right? Do you think everybody is a fool and that they don’t have the brains to come up with this option on their own?” he was at his cutting best, “Do you think Nani didn’t think of this, agar Nani ne bhi nahi socha toh at least Di would have thought of it? And would she not have discussed it with Nani and Khsitij?”
A highly chastened Khushi mumbled indistinctly, “Nahi…woh Ankit kitna upset tha, hum toh bas aise hi ek solution de rahe the.”
“Lagta hai Nani ki baaton ko dhyan se nahi sunti ho, ‘life main har cheez ka solution nahi hota’ kaha tha na Nani ne?” Arnav scolded her, “Have you given a thought to how Angel and Devansh would cope with Nani’s absence?” and then as if it was wrung out of him, “And have you thought how you would manage if Nani did decide to go over there?”
Khushi looked at Arnav overwhelmed, almost stunned – this was most unexpected.
In fact to tell the truth, she had forced herself to suggest Nani as a solution because she felt that this was what both Arnav and Anjali wanted but were too polite to say so to her face and she had felt selfish for thinking of only her convenience, hence she had felt constrained to suggest Nani.
Possibly never had his irritated sigh sounded like the sweetest RV or his glare evoked such a song in her heart – he actually considered her in the same breath as Di!
As the import of his words sank in, she lit up like a thousand bulbs and a glow suffused her face.
And what a liar she was! All these years she fooled herself into believing ‘hume faraq nahi padta’ and ‘humara pyaar aur unka saath hi kaafi hai’ but clearly kahin toh faraq padta hai dammit otherwise why would she want to break out into a jig at the thought that she mattered even where Di was concerned!
“Kya hua?” Arnav took in the sudden glow in her face, the sparkle in her eyes, her ethereal beauty tugging at his heart strings; she didn’t reply but continued to glow a small smile curving her lips; he shook his head, “Tum sach main paagal ho! Yahan par main tumhe daant rahaa hoon aur tum ho ki,” he threw up his hands in disgust.
Khushi laughed and threw her arms around him and gave him a tight spontaneous hug, “I love you, love you, love you love you” she breathed soulfully into his ear before leaning away to look into his eyes; Arnav rolled his eyes and said, “Come here you crazy woman.”
She sank into his embrace for a few blissful moments before Ankit’s woeful image intruded again, “Par Ankit ka kya hoga? Kitna chhota hai woh abhi,” she knotted her fingers.
Arnav shook her gently, “For the last time I am telling you, drop it. Let Ankit’s parents decide what is best for their son, we should not interfere, everyone has their priorities and perspectives and they should be free to live their lives as per their choices and dreams.”
He seemed to be talking more to himself, convincing himself rather than Khushi, “Kya hua?” Khushi asked softly, he looked different –serious – not stern or upset perhaps a bit resigned, a little disappointed.
As they reached the poolside, their children came running eager to show off their new gifts especially the balloons. Arnav and Khushi dropped their conversation and attended to their demands and made appropriate interested noises, Khushi felt a sudden urge to cuddle them feeling a bit guilty, did they too miss her, pine for her? But then Devansh had a brainwave he wanted to ride his trike around with the balloons flying behind. He hopped on to it and called to his sister as well (she could finally be of some use – she could hold the balloons) and vanished just as suddenly from the scene.
Arnav sighed and sat on the swing pulling Khushi along with him, “Di talked to me about Ankit,” he paused, “And that Khsitij feels she should be spending more time with Ankit while Di…” he hesitated and then fell silent.
Khushi’s heart sank; uhho not good, pucca a storm was brewing and consequences could be far-reaching, yaad hai na last time, Khushi swallowed and castigated herself. Arnav ki to adat hai, to speak without thinking, I must remember not to get upset if he does pass a casual comment against Kishu Bhaiyya; she had a sudden urge to defend her brother, sahi toh keh rahein hain after all what could be more important than the happiness of your children?
‘Kuch mat bol Khushi, kuch mat bol, khabardaar jo munh khola, pucca kuch galat keh degi aur phir jhagda ho jayega, remember this is Di we are talking about and of course Kishu bhaiyya,’ she reminded herself sternly, she stole a look at his profile, he seemed disturbed somehow, ‘pata nahi Arnav kya soch rahe hain?’ Khushi bit her tongue, “Arnav?” she compromised and restricted herself to just that much.
But Arnav was not forthcoming so Khushi tentatively ventured a bit further (against her better sense but then laaton ke bhoot baaton se kahan mantei hain?), “Di kya Arnav?”
“Kuch nahi Khushi,” Arnav prevaricated, clearly unwilling to discuss his sister and perhaps implicate her.
“Par kuch toh soch hi rahe hai na?” Khushi prompted him.
“Pata hai Khushi, our thinking and understanding of our world, its people is based on our own experiences and our emotional reactions. As a child, I remember being extremely attached to my mother and thought the world of her. And so for my children too I assumed that they were only attached to you,” he shrugged self-deprecatingly, “I always thought I was just a sort of a favorite armchair or a handy piggy back ride,” his lips twisted.
Khushi’s heart swelled and overflowed, “But aapko pata hai na aisa nahi hai, they too love you a lot, miss you and need you?”
Arnav clasped Khushi’s hand, “Haan Khushi, but I would have probably never realized just how much if it weren’t for the fact that Devansh was so upset with me for not being available during and after your Lucknow trip,” he shrugged a bit self-consciously, “Till that time, I came to my children because I love them, when I wanted to meet them and when I missed them; I always thought that for them it would be enough that they had their mother with them, but it was then and while we went on the trip that I realized that they need their father as well.”
Khushi sighed and leaned against him, “Bringing up children is one of the most difficult tasks, more so because there is no training school or coaching classes that one can attend, we just go by our instincts and our experiences as a child, what we missed, what we aspire, what we feared, what we cherished, which we in turn pass on as legacy to our children knowingly or unknowingly,” she looked up at him, “But do you know the best gift we can give to our children? To be available, just in case they need us,” she smiled and shook her head, “Aapko pata hai, sometimes when I am late from office, I feel so guilty and worried, I fret all the way back home, fuming at the traffic, looking again and again at my watch as if I am late for some exam and when I do reach home, the kids often give me the royal ignore and stare blankly at me, most of the times not even look up and I feel like such a fool for over-reacting and over-estimating the importance of my presence,” she paused, “But then soon Chotti comes and sits beside me, happily showing her doll or simply playing with it on her own but all the while leaning against me or just cuddle me; soon she is off again running after Guddu while Guddu,” she laughed, “he is already too much of a man to want a cuddle, but then even while busy putting his jigsaw puzzle together, without even raising his head, he calls out at regular intervals, ‘Mammaa!” I reply ‘haan Guddu?’ But then he shakes his head and carries on,” she laughed again, “Lagta hai, as if he is taking my attendance, making sure that I am here, and that is what motherhood is all about – being there – just in case they need you, hain na?”
Arnav looked at Khushi in surprise, “Oh does he do that?” he laughed and shook his head, “Strange! Now that you say, I remember that as a child I would be happy and content in my own world of books, sketching, football whatever, but whenever I was home I would ever so often call out to Ma, she would reply, “Kya hua?” and I would shake my head and say “Kuch nahi” Often Ma would laugh and ruffle my hair, “Roll call le rahe ho?’ Arnav’s lips twisted regretfully, “I would get irritated and shrug her off not understanding what she meant, but I do understand now,” he was silent for a while, “It was my way of checking if she was still within hailing distance, even though I was busy, happy in my own world, I wanted her near enough to be within reach.”
“At your beck and call, hai na, kyonki hum sab aapke ghulam hai, haina?” Khushi teased him softly.
There was a faint flush on his cheeks but he didn’t deny it, still in a reminiscent mood, he continued, “I remember I also used to hate doing homework alone, either Ma or Di would have to sit with me otherwise I would refuse to sit down,” he looked at her, “Perhaps that is why I can understand what Ankit must be going through, he just wants his mum to be there.”
They were silent for a while, “Did Di tell you what she planned to do?” Khushi asked carefully choosing her words and tone.
Arnav shook his head, he sighed and shrugged rather helplessly, “I guess it is a very personal decision and a very personal choice and nobody really has the right to dictate what is right and what is not,” yet Arnav’s voice lacked conviction.
Khushi looked at him questioningly, willing him to elaborate, “Matlab?”
He sighed, “The choice a mother has to make between her career, her priorities, her ambitions, her inclinations, her potential and her family, especially children is tough,” Arnav said as he spread his hands helplessly, “I know I should not be judgmental and Di should have the freedom to make her choice but yet when a child’s future is at stake, I can’t help but feel, she doesn’t really have a choice does she? Di of all people should understand what parents mean to children, how much we have suffered,” he swallowed and added hastily, “Yet I do understand her craving her desire to soar, to be all that she can be, an impossible situation where either way Di loses in one way or another and I can’t help her.”
Interestingly, Arnav was quite calm and reflective about it, even detached. No clenched fists, no hissing, no agitated muscle tic on his cheek well perhaps a slight twist in his lips. Possibly he was growing up, or perhaps on this matter, he empathized more with Ankit and sided with Kshitij – a mother’s place was by her child. But it was surely because it was his Di that he was willing to consider her dilemma and even made an attempt to understand her conflict and the difficulty of choosing between her career and child; but there was no doubt in his mind as to what that choice should be.
Even though the situation seemed to be under control at RM, it was a different story at GM where the strain in the air was palpable.
Aur aap logon ko kuch nahi kehna? Di ke for or against?
Click here for Chapter 283