Chapter 294: Chotti Vanishes

Poo looked around disbelievingly – this was her home now! Rejected by her kith and kin only to be adopted by another! Joy and thankfulness flooded her heart, truly if a door closes, not just a window, but a whole house had opened and welcomed her in. She sat shyly and awkwardly at the dinner table, hardly able to eat in her excitement and nervousness.

But then slowly, over weeks she got used to her changed status, she now shared Nani’s room. Nani was glad for the company (to tell the truth, ever since her fall she was a bit nervous about going to the washroom at night and it was comforting to know that help was just a shout away – waise more often than not Poo would get up on her own and accompany Nani to the washroom, insist that she not lock the door, that she would wait outside) while Arnav and Khushi were relieved, it was rather stressful for them to keep worrying, wondering if she were alright. Poo joined IGNOU for a correspondence course on Accountancy. Arnav gifted her a laptop and she made full use of it. She stayed up nights, reading, learning polishing, determined not to let at least her adoptive family to be ever ashamed of her ever or regret adopting her.

Khushi tried to teach her children to say Boo instead of Poo, but then they weren’t interested and neither could they really grasp the importance of her changed status; she was Poo, and that was it.

Poo laughed and said, “Rehne dijiye Bhabhi kya faraq padta hai? No matter what they call me, I know it is from their heart and that is all that matters to me.”

Khushi nodded as she hurried with their dressing; after a long time, they were going out for dinner and a movie, all four of them,“Poo, here just quickly tie up Chotti’s hair and take her downstairs, while I finish dressing, nahi toh woh Laad Governor will soon come barging upstairs all fuming and boiling at the delay.”

“Chotti, choodi pehenega!” Demanded Chotti.

“Nahi Chotti,” Khushi rolled her eyes, dammit, she berated herself, I should have waited for her to leave before taking out the bangle box, “Jeans ke saath choodi nahi achcha lagega,” she tried to explain the disastrous combination.

Silenced and appreciative of such a fashion faux pas, Chotti submitted to having her her tied up, “Chotti bhi saree pehnega!” she offered her solution.

“Uff Chotti!” Khushi moaned, “Abhi time nahi hai! Dekho Daddy and Da will go without us,” she warned her direly.

Now that stumped Chotti; she had no appropriate retaliation as she stared at her mother horrified and shocked. So true! Daddy may not leave without her but Da might- he was really mad at her – she had been baaad today, she acknowledged guiltily.

Pssst… Devansh had spent a wonderful afternoon drawing and coloring dinosaurs; he had proudly shown them off to Khushi after she returned from AKC. She had been properly impressed and appreciative; she praised and admired his handiwork…jo Chotti ko bilkul bhi pasand nahi ayaa. The little green monster reared its ugly head and when nobody was looking, she quietly ran her crayons over the beautiful pictures drawn by her Da, marring them beyond recognition. Devansh was furious and came to fisticuffs with her. She started bawling and RM was in uproar.

Khushi was hard put to manage a howling Chotti and a justifiably mad Devansh; she stared horrified at the pictures ruined for ever as he yelled, “How dare you Chotti! Tumhari himmat kaise hui, main tumhe kabhi maaf nahi karoonga! (or words to that effect anyway 😉 ) Mamma why did Chotti have to come to our house, couldn’t she have been born somewhere else? I hate Chotti,” he declared passionately (usse bilkul bhi bardasht nahi tha ki koi bhi uske aur uske pyaar ke beech aaye 😀 ),” He had stomped off with his precious sketchbook tucked under his arm. Khushi had wholeheartedly sympathized with him and given Chotti a severe dressing down, and Chotti was appropriately chastened (at least for the moment!). She had tried to apologize and make it up to him by offering her doll, but he wasn’t appeased and gave the royal ignore and cold shoulder to her.

She was suddenly terrified that Da would actually go off without her. She pushed Poo and ran off with her hair only half done; Poo ran behind her, “Arre Chotti, baal toh bana lene do!” But her words fell on deaf ears; she ran at top speed to prevent the unthinkable from happening.

ASR and Devansh were already in the car and ASR was getting impatient, he tapped irritatedly on the steering wheel, yeh Khushi bhi na, kahan reh gayi, he fussed and looked at his watch for the thousandth time. It wasn’t that late, but still, time was time.

On the other hand, Devansh sat quite still next to his father, lost in his thoughts; Arnav peered into his face thoughtfully, what was up with him he suddenly wondered, a bit embarrassed, he should be the one fussing not me!

“Devansh, kya soch rahe ho?” he asked.

Devansh perked up, “Did you know birds evolved from Dinosaurs?” his eyes were shining even in the darkness of the car as he launched on monologue of the Archeopteryx and the evidence in support of his statement. Arnav was impressed with his son’s knowledge but realized he was on sticky ground when Devansh began quizzing him on various dinosaurs and their khasiyats. He hurriedly tried to distract him, “Devansh who school main aaj drawing competition tha na? How was it?”

Devansh shook his head disgustedly, “Daddy, the topic was ‘my favorite animal’ I drew a dinosaur,” he shrugged, “But then even Nitin drew a dinosaur, BUT,” he was very annoyed, “But he drew grass as well! Pata hai, he doesn’t even know that there was no grass during that time!” he looked incredulously at his father at the sacrilege, Arnav nodded his head commiseratingly, “Oh really! How could he not know that?”

“Yes!” they both sat in silence contemplating the ignorance and foolishness of mankind in general. “Daddy,” said Devansh feeling happy to be spending this time with his father (minus grrrrChotti…couldn’t they donate her to somebody else, he often wished; although you will notice he desisted from complaining to his father about Chotti 😛) discussing the love of his life, “Daddy can you tell me the name of two dinosaurs whose name you don’t know?”

Arnav stared at his son stumped! Laughter bubbled up even as he understood the psychology behind the question; he wanted to show off his knowledge to his father and didn’t quite know how!

Careful not to laugh at his face or demean his own position in his son’s eyes, he ruffled his hair and said truthfully, “Whatever I know is definitely less than yours,” Devansh was gratified and proud of the acknowledgement, “But can you tell me why your mum and sister are taking so long to get ready?”

Devansh sighed and crossed his arms and said in a long suffering tone, man-to-man, “Girls always take a lot of time to get ready.”

Arnav nodded and began tapping the steering wheel again, “Yes but why?”

Devansh shrugged and said vaguely, “They have to do a lot of work, like wear ear-rings and stuff,” they shared a knowing look when Chotti banged on the door, “I want to sit the front too!” she wailed.

“Nothing doing, come on Devansh, go to the rear seat, Mamma will sit here,” Arnav ordered. Ignoring Chotti completely, Devansh quietly slipped to the rear seat.

Chotti had no fight with that! “Daddy!” she squealed excitedly, “Germany gave three goals to Netherlnds aur Netherlnds gave two goals and even then Germany won the match!” she boastfully shared that bit of exciting unheard of football news with her dad.

Arnav met his son’s eyes in the rear view mirror; he knew who her ‘source’ of information was. They both rolled their eyes and both desisted from correcting or explaining to her the intricacies of the game, “Oh really! How exciting!” Arnav made appropriate noises even as she got into the car chattering away, “I got two stars in school today,” she informed him rather proudly, “Da didn’t get any,” she rubbed it in with great relish.

Arnav looked sympathetically at Devansh wondering if he was hurt by her thoughtless comment, but he just crossed his arms rather mutinously, “That’s great Angel,” he complimented her for the accomplishment, trying to tread the fine line between giving Angel her due without hurting Devansh’s sentiments, “So what did you get the two stars for?”

“One in drawing,” she dimpled at him.

“A pink T rex which is BIGGER than an orange diplodocus,” cut in a thoroughly disgusted and affronted Devansh at the thought his dinosaurs being thus portrayed.

Uhoo, not good at all, Arnav thought to himself, he could see trouble brewing if Devansh’s darkening brow was any indicator, “And what was the other star for?” he cut in hurriedly.

“For not talking during the drawing class,” Arnav couldn’t help but grin at that, truly a remarkable feat for Angel, he reached out between the seats and gave Angel a well deserved hug and a kiss.

“Mamma kahan hai?” fussed Devansh, bored of waiting, especially now that they weren’t talking about the love of his life (or maybe he too didn’t appreciate the attention Chotti was getting from Daddy, that too after committing double sacrileges).

“Mamma ko phone karna hai,” Chotti piped up and held out her hand; Arnav handed over the phone, yeah he too was beginning to get irritated; they were getting late dammit. He dialed her number before giving her the phone, but Chotti disconnected it and insisted, “Angel phone karega, number kya hai?”

Chotti had recently developed a fascination for numbers and had mastered 1-10 and didn’t leave any opportunity to show off. She was particularly jealous of her brother who kept using the landline phone to call up Mamma and Daddy to talk to them (mostly about the length and breadth of dinosaurs); she would often hang around by his elbow, nagging him to hand over the phone to her, or even sometimes to call them up for her. He was of course the lordly big brother, dismissing her like a pesky fly, uff Chotti and brushing away her demands to ring them up by saying loftily, “Chotti disturb mat karo, kaam kar rahein hain.”

Chotti of course got her way via Poo or Nani but chaffed at this dependency and what Da could do, Chotti could do better, hence she refused to let Arnav dial Khushi’s number and instead painstakingly (with her tongue sticking out) keyed in the numbers as dictated by Arnav.

She was successful in dialing after the third try but just then Khushi entered the car in a flurry of motion, “Sorry sorry,” she panted apologetically, “Buaji ka fone aa gaya tha, bachchon ke winter vacations par invite Lucknow jaane ko invite kar rahi thi,” she explained as Arnav slid the car out of the gates of RM, “Humne kaha, baad main baat karte hai par Buaji maani hi nahi bolti gayi bolti gayi! Kitna baat karti hai,” she guiltily excused herself.

“Haan,” Arnav drawled as he shot her a glance, “Tum toh bilkul baat nahi karti na?” he raised an eyebrow mockingly, she blushed and looked away, “And can we talk about this later, pehle dekh lo Angel kya bol rahi hai.”

Khushi turned around, sure enough Chotti and Devansh were in a scuffle; Chotti wanted to call her mamma up as she had disconnected the call while entering the car and she wasn’t too happy about the unfinished business. She was trying to dial the number again and Devansh wasn’t cooperating with her, leading to an altercation between them.

Khushi sorted out the two of them and patiently led Chotti through her phone number, let her phone ring, then picked it up and spoke to Chotti; finally peace reigned.

The rest of way, Chotti recited her mum’s phone number loudly and proudly; Devansh burst her bubble, “Mujhe Daddy ka number bhi pata hai aur Varun ka bhi (a fellow dino fan),” he boasted.

Chotti’s face fell; she couldn’t care less about Varun but Daddy? She was his Angel dammit, tears filled her eyes, her lower lip trembled, “Daddy ko Angel phone karega,” she wailed.

Khushi glared at Devansh and hurriedly set about soothing her ruffled feathers, “Daddy is driving right? How can he talk to you on the phone, ghar ja kar karenge, theek hai? Arre dekho hum aa gaye mall, movie dekhne chalein?”

Chotti allowed herself to be distracted.

“Sorry Arnav,” Khushi muttered as she shepherded the two kids inside, “Bahut late ho gaye kya? Car main bachchon ne bahut pareshaan kiya kya?” she was feeling guilty.

“Chill Khushi, me and the kids were doing just great,” he smiled and gave her a sidelong glance, “Waise it was worth the wait,” he said softly.

She blushed and smiled at him, she had taken pains with her appearance today, after all it was not everyday that they did manage to go out together as a family; health issues of Nani, the kids, innumerable family occasions, festivals, parties and other commitments left them no time for them. In fact, of late Khushi found that she hardly could catch a few moments alone with Arnav as they settled into domestic bliss and its associated responsibilities.

Khushi gave his hand a quick squeeze before the picture perfect family stepped in for a near perfect movie about superhuman aliens who, disgusted with the behavior of earthlings, attack and take over the planet to teach its inhabitants a lesson. Actually many a lesson before they allowed them to go back to their lives, albeit with a warning, ‘shape up before we declare you incompetent to reside on Mother Earth and take over the reigns permanently.’

Ohoo phir kahan bhatak gayi

Anyway, it was a superb movie and even Chotti enjoyed it, err the parts she was awake for, most of it she slept through in the arms of her father, while Devansh stared goggle eyed at the screen, drinking in the scenes, firmly on the side of the aliens who were castigating and warning them about extinction of every other species on earth just like the dinosaurs. He wondered whether it was possible to ask the aliens to restore dinosaurs on earth, now wouldn’t that be exciting, he thought happily as he trudged out of the hall, wondering if they would be able to survive on a grassy planet and how tiny the huge buildings would look in front of them. He shivered in pleasurable excitement and grinned thinking of Chotti’s wide-eyed wonder; sure to be terrified, he thought just the teeniest bit scornfully, well serve her right! He stopped in excitement outside a shop displaying a plethora of toys, including dinosaurs. He devoured them greedily with his eyes, clutching Khushi’s hand. A PINK T.rex and an Orange diplodocus, he snorted Ufff Chotti bhi na! Now if only she had drawn an orange Archeopteryx, he could have forgiven her, better show her the dinosaurs and correct her colorful misconceptions before it was too late, He turned around and started, “Mamma, Chotti kahan hai?” he was jolted out of his day dreams.

His parents froze in terror.

***

Click here for Chapter 295

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