Oh it’s not that suddenly Nani didn’t love Anjali anymore or that she loved Chotte more (err well not too sure about that), it was just that (as has already been touched upon earlier) she was getting on in years and set in her ways. When her son had fallen ill, the mother had taken over and nothing mattered, but here, that urgency was missing. Moreover, Ankit was a big boy and didn’t need her as much as Chotti did. Nani had gotten used to Chotti dogging her every step, pestering her with questions, even while she was attempting to pray to DM. Khushi often scolded Chotti and tried to take her away, but Nani would stop her, “Nahi bitiya rehne dijiye, this is how she will learn about Devi Maiyya,” she smiled affectionately at the little girl clinging to her, “Sach poocho toh DM ko bhi achchi lagti hai iski pyaari pyaari baatein, pata hai kya pooch rahi thi?”
Khushi shook her head, Nani laughed and said, “Keh rahi thi, doesn’t ‘Daiya get tired of holding all those things in her hands? And look at her, she doesn’t even eat all those things that you give her to eat! And still she is so strong!”
Then whilst Chotti was away at school for a couple of hours, Nani would snatch a few precious moments of her own and catch her breath before beginning her impatient wait for her homecoming. Nani would while away some time with Poo, teaching her English (pssst Nani prided her own English proficiency skills but that pride was sadly bruised in view of her grandson’s enviable accent 😛 hence Nani had shunned English completely but finally and belatedly (like Anjali) Nani found her calling and basked in the adoration of her besotted and awestruck fan following –At GM, Nani realized she missed this rasam as well).
Of course when Chotti came back from school at around noon, the whole of RM would echo with her squeals and childish chatter gladdening Nani’s heart. A couple of hours later, the big boy would triumphantly swagger in, all muddied and battle scarred from his day out in the field, thrilled to have survived yet another day at school (wasn’t half bad, he admitted grudgingly if only he didn’t have to get up so early he grumbled and of course if there were no classes). Nani would sit with him while he had his lunch whilst she told a story (a new one each day otherwise Nani would never hear the end of it), Poo would rock Chotti in her arms. Sometimes, she fell asleep half way through or on other days she would go upstairs to Nani’s room and take a nap with Nani on Nani’s bed. Devansh usually followed them and obediently lay down till either sleep claimed him or Nani fell asleep. He would then quietly sneak away to do all the things which Chotti wouldn’t let him do in peace.
Evenings at RM were special as well and Chotti even shared her early evening cup of tea.
It was rather interesting, the evening tea ceremony – every evening Nani had two cups of tea, once alone (that is BC – before Chotti) and once with Khushi. Ever since she had been a year old, Chotti had shown a great interest in the steaming cups and soon had started insisting on a cup of her own – oh not to drink but to inhale the fragrance – she simply loved it. So whenever tea was being made, Chotti always got some tea in her special tiny Barbie cup and saucer in which she buried her nose and inhaled deeply and sighed in pleasure as if she had just had a ‘chuski’ of the most kadak adrakwali refreshing chai – the sight was a treat to watch and never failed to bring a smile to Nani’s face or indeed any other lucky viewer (only one of the reasons why Nani missed RM so much!).
Khushi would trip in around 5 pm; they would share a cup of tea (of course with Chotti sniffing and inhaling intermittently from their cups) over which Khushi would regale Nani with the day’s happenings while Nani too brought Khushi up to date with the activities of her aankhon ke taare. It was a jolly time with much laughter, screams and chatter echoing in the huge lobby of RM, toys scattered all over. Nani’s heart would overflow with emotions and she would wait for her final icing on the cake – her beloved Chotte. He would come, throw himself into his favorite couch across her seat and grunt, “Nani sab theek?” and without waiting for an answer, dive into his mobile. Nani would smile and shake her head indulgently at him; she noted the quick but intense glance he threw her before immersing himself into his phone. One by one the children would appear and jump on top of him, nag him and pull him away to play with them, give them his full attention. Nani would sit and listen to their shouts and screams, while she watched TV, sometimes Chotti would come over to give her company while at other times Devansh would fight with her for the remote as he wanted to watch his favorite cartoon show. This despite having another TV, but nahi usse toh Nani ke TV par hi dekhna hai and Nani would have to watch with him as well! Nani would sometimes get irritated and they would bicker like kids, while on other days she would shake her head and resignedly give in and; her days and heart was full – she gave thanks to DM for such a wonderful life.
On the other hand at GM, the mornings were terribly long and lonely; time hung heavily upon Nani’s hands. After the initial morning hullabaloo, once everyone had left for their respective destinations, none of them returned before 3 pm.
During lunch, Nani would sit with Ankit and Anya at the dining table and listen to their welcome chatter and sometimes Ankit would pester her for a story. But soon lunch would be over and they would disappear to their respective rooms.
Nani would smile fondly at them, heave herself to her feet and go for her afternoon nap, alone. She would later share her evening cup of tea with Khsitij who would have by then dragged Ankit away from his computer. They would sit for some time talking of this and that till it was time for Khsitij’s patients, he would murmur an apology and excuse himself, sternly bidding Ankit to be a good boy and do his homework.
Of course Ankit would dutifully nod his head and even make desultory attempts at his homework. All too soon he would beg for a break and then it would be TV cartoon time till it was time for his football or tennis and Nani would again be alone.
But Nani being Nani bore it all with immense fortitude and equanimity unlike some of the other Raizadas at RM.
In fact, the scene at RM was nothing short of mayhem.
That day, Chotti returned home in particularly high spirits. They had been to the rail museum and she had so much to share with Nani. And in any case, she looked forward to this special time alone with Nani – it was like girl time, Nani, Poo, Chotti and sometimes if DM was kind enough, even Mamma. Nani and Poo were also happy to see her after a long gap so gave her their undivided attention which Chotti lapped up greedily (She was a bit torn though – she wasn’t quite sure if she was happy that Da wasn’t here to take away her share of attention or unhappy that he wasn’t there to witness her dominion).
Anyway coming back to today – today there was no Nani and worse she hadn’t even taken her permission! Away without leave! Unki himmat kaise hui – CLP ke saath itna bada dokha ? Hume kabhi bhi itni badi insult bardasht nahi karenge! She pressed her lips and drew her brows in a ferocious frown and crossed her tiny plump arms but then decided silence would get her nowhere, she opened her tiny pink lips and let out a heartrending wail, “Naaaaaaaaniiiiiiiiii” and so on and so forth.
Poo tried all the tricks in her books to distract her but Chotti was stuck on her song – Naaaaaanniiiiiiiiiii – and was extremely cranky and irritable; she refused to eat and moped; she peeped into each and every room calling “Nani? Nani?”
Finally Poo called up Nani and made her speak to Chotti. After listing out her complaints to Nani and slightly reassured that Nani would soon be back and after having given Nani a peak into her trip to the Rail Museum and fact that she had been chosen to play a peacock, she calmed down slightly. She waited impatiently for Da to come back; she wanted to be the one to tell him that Nani wasn’t home!
Seeing her Da, Chotti lost all semblance of control and she burst into tears, “Nani chali gayi, Nani chahiye, Nani, Nani.” Initially Devansh too was taken aback but then had made a quick recovery (after all he was a man and could hardly cry that too in front of Chotti) squared his shoulders and said scornfully to Chotti, “Pucca Nani doctor ke pass gayi hogi, she will come back soon, hain na Poo?” Poo dutifully nodded, anything to stop that siren.
Chotti hiccuped to silence, Da was never wrong, if he said so, it must be true.
Peace reigned at RM, and Chotti agreed to break her fast with Da as company. And then it was time for Chotti’s afternoon nap – she was so used to taking them with Nani. She missed her warm cuddle, her soft breath on her face as she told her stories till her lids closed. Bechari Poo was quite at her tethers end trying to rock a highly upsetiyafied CLP to sleep. Telling a story turned out to be counterproductive, because she wanted it the way Nani said, or Mammaaaaaaaaaaaaa, the new raag began.
Finally almost miraculously, the unthinkable happened – silence descended – apparently DM too had had enough of the bhopu, she sighed resignedly.
Poo put her down on Nani’s bed for a minute as she adjusted her dupatta which had come loose. As a highly distressed Chotti sank onto Nani’s pillow, tired out from her long day, she suddenly felt Nani. She buried her face in Nani’s pillow and inhaled deeply, there! Nani was here! She could smell her, feel her soft cuddle, she smiled, “Nani aa gayi,” she clutched the pillow and closed her eyes in bliss; almost instantly she was fast asleep. Poo heaved a deep sigh of relief and shook her head, bechari Chotti, kitni thak gayi thee phir bhi so hi nahi pa rahi thi.
A worried Khushi who had been keeping track of the dramatic scenes being enacted at RM, heaved a sigh of relief, for the moment. She fully realized and appreciated the unobtrusive and silent manner in which Nani took care of the kids and also how much they were attached to her. The last time Nani had gone to Mumbai, Khushi too had gone to Lucknow and hence this had never really been driven home so clearly. But it was clear that the kids were very much attached to Nani, Chotti especially so, or rather obviously so. Ho sakta hai, Devansh was equally, or perhaps even more attached to Nani, but being a man (and a chip off the old block) it was below his dignity to show his true feelings and so he contented himself by being more cranky and irritable (he also teased Chotti mercilessly and was more mean to her than usual).
Nani’s mobile had never been put to so much use. Oh yes she did have one – in her cupboard. She had never felt the need to have one, but now in anticipation, and to avoid the bother associated with the landline, Khushi dug it out and knowing Nani, even bought a mobile sling bag so that Nani could keep it hanging beside her and not misplace it at the first opportunity, “Par Bitiya hume charge varge nahi karna awat,” she protested when Khushi handed it over to her the next day.
“Ankit!” Khushi called, “It is your duty to make sure Nani’s phone is charged ok? And make sure to put it back into the pouch after it is done,” Ankit nodded his head confidently, “Sure Mami, will do,” he reassured her.
Chotti was diverted enough to stop her complaints and pleadings, “Nani ghar chalo, ghar chalo” (Nani was of course torn, but very flattered too) and focus on the phone. This was interesting! Talk to Nani on the phone! Big people did that, she could too, she agreed grudgingly and she knew phones needed to be charged, regularly and often otherwise they would light up and then you couldn’t play games on them or even listen to songs – it was her self-appointed duty to ensure that her father charged his mobile. Here too, she took it upon herself to make sure Nani’s phone remained fully charged. She would call up Nani to chat with her or generally complain about Da and his contrariness; after she was done she would ask to speak to Ankit and then prod him, “Nani phone chalge,” till he was quite fed up.
But still chatting on the phone is a poor substitute for actual physical presence isn’t it?
Since the children at RM did not take kindly to Nani’s absence, especially upon return from school, Khushi made arrangements to be home for a couple of hours during the afternoon hours so that she could compensate for Nani’s absence. She was of course largely successful but then it really was a big strain on her rushing up and down and also delayed her return in the evenings. Finally Arnav generously pitched in (for a couple of days) by coming home early in the evenings and again leaving for office after Khushi came – sort of a relay race with hardly a moment to more than greet each other. This of course was not a sustainable plan, so after a few days, Khushi began taking the kids over to GM, where they would spend their afternoons with Nani and Ankit. This was what worked best for all concerned.
Things chugged along in this fashion albeit in a rushed and haphazard manner but at least the kids weren’t unhappy although Khushi could do with some rest – but then she was happy so long as the kids were happy and the situation seemed to be under control – till things took a turn for the worse.
Click here for Chapter 286