Anjali sat down with a thump, how could she have forgotten? Natasha, his first wife! They too had argued over her involvement with her job, her lack of commitment to their daughter and now again. Her heart sank, was that how Kshitij viewed her? That she didn’t care about the children? Nahi he wouldn’t think that would he? Not only was her child’s future at stake but even her marriage! Her blood ran cold as she remembered Nani’s gentle words of advice to her not so long ago, “Bitiya, it is not good to be away from home so often, not only your children but even your husband misses you.”
Anjali had laughed, “Nahi Nani, Kshitij is not like that, he encourages me to fly, he is happy to look after the children.”
“Haan bitiya, DM bless him, he is a wonderful person, but tell me, if he was away so often from home, how would you take it? Just because somebody is not complaining or protesting doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t feel it. You should try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes,” Nani had reprimanded her gently but then the children had descended and Anjali had conveniently forgotten about the conversation. But it came back now to haunt her, taunt her.
Anjali forced herself to calm down and dispassionately weighed her options and priorities – it was pretty clear. Her decision made she looked at the practical aspects of it, it didn’t have to be all or none, she could find a middle path couldn’t she? She didn’t have to leave her job completely did she? All she needed to do was to cut down on her traveling and make sure she was home latest by 6 pm. Not so hard was it? Yet to tell the truth in some corner she did feel a pang, why couldn’t she have both, even here she would have to settle for limping rather than walking. She was immediately ashamed of herself and steeled herself to be a mother first and foremost. Her dreams could wait, would have to wait, there was time enough, she reiterated to herself again and again. It was time for Di to come back to the forefront once again, time to bury her insecurities, make her ambitions take the backseat.
Pulling out her diary, Anjali noted ruefully that her schedule for the next week was actually very jam-packed with events, each of which were her babies, conceived and put together entirely by her, she couldn’t just drop them like that! No she needed at least a week or two before she could afford to take it easy and take a back seat at ARD. Funny how she never realized how much work hours she was putting in at ARD! Work was so much fun, life was so full who had the time to think?
Anjali bit her lip how to manage the next two weeks or so? Should she take time to wrap up her commitments and slide into domesticity later or should she go cold turkey? She tapped her pen against her teeth and coming to a decision, she hurriedly got ready and went over to RM.
Anjali poured out her woes to Nani; they were joined by Khushi a little later. If Anjali was hoping for moral support from Nani, she was sadly disappointed. Nani despite her modern outlook on life belonged to the older school of thought and in fact didn’t mince her words. Reiterating her earlier stance, Nani adjusted her pallu and said sternly, “eee sab toh theek hai bitiya, but humre liye toh, a mother’s first priority are her children, no matter what,” her lips firmed, and she straightened her back, looking very stern yet regal, “Isi liye hum apni bititya Ratna ko bhi maaf nahi kar paaye ab tak; she had no business committing suicide, what about her children? Ek baar bhi unke baare main nahi socha? Ek baar bhi nahi socha what would happen to her darling daughter who was to get married the very same day! Aur Chotte? She very well knew how dependent he was on her and yet she chose to give priority to her hurt, her betrayal? What about the way she betrayed her own children?” her eyes flashed dangerously, “Men will be men, and I expect nothing better from them, but she! Even more than damaadji, I blame Ratna, once you become a mother your first priority is your children, humre liye toh yehi ek sach hai, baaki sab jooth.”
Anjali bit her lip and looked downcast, she felt small and self-centered, “Ji Nani, I realize now, it is my fault, and I will rectify it, I realize now that instead of striking an optimal balance between work and home I leaned too much towards work,” she hesitated and said musingly, “Actually I didn’t realize how much of a mother Anya was to Ankit or that Ankit missed Anya so much,” she swallowed, “Happy in my work I saw only what I wanted to see,” she held Nani’s hand, “Par hume ab humare galati ka ehsaas ho gaya hai, I fully intend to find that balance, I promise to increase the time I spend at home, perhaps even give up traveling, but Nani, I need your help,” she shot a look at Khushi and said in a rush, “Woh kya hai na Nani, I need to finish of the commitments I have taken up and these will take a week or ten days at the most, so please could you come and stay with me for a couple of weeks Nani, please, Nani?”
Frankly Nani’s heart sank a bit at that, she hated leaving home. She was rather old and set in her ways and liked things the way she was used to, her corner of the bed, her fixed daily routine, her morning tete-a-tete with Devi Maiyya (made all the more special and enjoyable with an adorable little assistant rushing to hand her stuff, scatter flowers, ring the bell, all the while chattering with a seemingly inexhaustible stream questions [good thing Chotti was an early riser so didn’t interfere with her school timings but to tell the truth Nani would be relieved when Khushi did take away Chotti to get ready for school – finally Nani could concentrate on thanking DM for making her life so full of life once again]) etc etc. True she had gone over to Mumbai, but that had been a mother’s call and overridden every other consideration. At the first possible instance she had come back to RM, bringing her son along with her. And now again? But how could she refuse Anjali bitiya?! And besides there was no reason to, she was in the same city, and that too for only a couple of weeks yet her heart sank; she looked at Khushi for help. But of course Khushi too was in Dharam Sankat, she could hardly protest that she also needed Nani; she just had a wild hope that perhaps Nani would refuse – but on what grounds?
“Haan haan Anjali bitiya, kauno baat nahi, bas ek baar Khushi bitiya se to pooch leo?” Nani neatly passed the ball to Khushi’s court.
Khushi was flustered, “Hum kya kahe Nani jaise aapki ichcha,” still hoping against hope but Anjali swiftly hugged Nani and then hugged Khushi, “Thank you! That is a load off my heart, bas jaldi se I will complete the tasks at hand waise bhi bahut din ho gaye, Nani hasn’t come to stay with me, right?”
Both Khushi and Nani nodded their heads, reluctantly. Since both kids were away at school, they thought this the ideal time to put their plan into action – you see they thought if they kids didn’t ‘see’ Nani going, they wouldn’t realize Nani had left and hence would not object to her sudden disappearance.
Khushi of course was equally worried about the reaction of the other kid in the house, Chotte. Pata nahi kaise react karenge, Khushi fretted, if I had objected he would have surely given me an earful, and now that I have let Nani go, he sure to pull me up now as well, ufff yeh Laad Governor bhi na! She nibbled her fingers and had a brainwave. She called him up from AKC to inform him – after all phone par kitna gussa kar lenge? Besides it would give him some time to absorb and digest the unpalatable fact.
And as Khushi expected, when Arnav got to know of the shenanigans behind his back, he wasn’t too pleased, “How dare you Khushi? tumne Nani ko jaane kaise diya? Mujhe ek baar phone karna bhi zaroori nahi samjha?”
Khushi rolled her eyes, hume toh pata tha aisa hi kahenge, shukr hai, he didn’t add you must be very happy na that Nani is out of your hair or something equally cutting, “Oho Arnav, phone hi toh kar rahein hain! Aur hum ya aap kya kar sakte the? Di ne bola chalne ke liye aur Nani maan gayee, hum kaise mana karte?”
“Kyon tum kyon nahi mana kar sakti, the kids need Nani, they are so attached to her aur waise bhi…” Arnav generously gave Khushi broad sweeping powers post facto and of course he needed Nani back at RM because the kids loved her so much and they would miss her terribly, “Drop it Arnav,” Khushi cut in, “she has already gone and that too for just a couple of weeks, in any case, Di needed her support, aapko toh pata hai na,” Khushi trailed off, unwilling to open that chapter – who knew what turn that would take, that too with Arnav’s current frame of mind.
“Couple of weeks!” Arnav burst out.
Khushi sighed, “Aap toh aise kar rahein hain jaise Nani kabhi gayi hi nahi hai! Just some time ago she went to Mumbai for a couple of months didn’t she? Tab you didn’t kick up such a fuss, ab kya ho gaya?”
“That was different, Mamaji wasn’t well and we were very worried about him, there was no option, aur tum bhi toh nahi thi,” he paused, “Ji haan,” Khushi cut in, “And you were very busy, too busy to miss her right? And waise bhi, Di needs Nani, can’t you see that?”
There was silence at the other end, in his annoyance at Nani’s sudden exit without any prior priming he had conveniently overlooked that reason for her leaving, grudgingly he let the matter drop (well what choice did he have, it was fait accompli but it is interesting isn’t it that he had forgotten about Di’s need?) He banged the phone down rather violently (err not very sure if his violence was directed completely towards Khushi). And it was like the good old days for Aman, a snapping growling ASR BGfied day at the office; his pet squirrel (CatB) got an extra dose of nuts so that it hung around long enough to hear about Aman’s exciting day at the office. 😀
At GM, Nani settled down as well as she could but to tell the truth, she wasn’t too happy either…
An extra Chapter 285 mostly because one was more of a bhashan and for chipping in 😉