Devansh too was growing by leaps and bounds; he was of rather a serious disposition, preferring the company of books. The more Chotti talked, the more silent and reserved he became, as if he had handed over the responsibility of talking to her, or possibly he was dumbstruck that somebody could talk so much or even that Chotti didn’t give him scope so much as to get in a word edgewise, she would question, she would answer, a complete audio package; often she didn’t require any audience either. She could chatter non-stop to her dolls, or even herself in the mirror.
Once she was entertaining herself by talking to her image in the mirror, her latest obsession (you see she was her own favorite), when she decided to scare her image by making a scary face – she put her fingers in her mouth, pulled her lips apart, stuck out her tongue; she widened her eyes menacingly and growled realistically, “Mammaaaaaa” she shrieked in fear and ran away from her own reflection.
Everyone had a hearty laugh, while Devansh just rolled his eyes, crazy Chotti and went back to reading the newspaper.
These days Devansh would pore over the newspaper, like his father, he felt big and important. Initially he started with the cartoon and sports section, and then he began doing the Sudoku puzzles. Slowly he began reading the headlines and by seven years of age (2025) he was heavily into the newspaper.
Khushi was very proud of her son, little realizing the fall out of too much information overload at such a young age.
Khushi had the first inkling of trouble when Devansh began calling her up if she were late in returning home. Then, as winters set in and the days became shorter, he began calling her up just as darkness set in, regardless of the time, “Mamma, come home, now,” he would order peremptorily.
Khushi was stumped, “isse kya ho gaya,” she asked everybody in the house, but they too were clueless, except for the fact that the moment darkness set in, he would get restless and peer outside fretfully and once even dragged HP to the main gate jumping up and down worriedly by the gate, “Mamma kab ayegi mamma kab ayegi?”
Initially Khushi had found it cute and her heart warmed at the thought that her little boy was so worried and concerned for her but then his obsession went on increasing, and it was the final straw when he insisted upon going to the market with her one evening to get some grocery.
“Are you sure Devansh?” Khushi was astonished, Devansh hated going to the market and look at him, today Ankit and Anya were home and even Chotti wasn’t interested in accompanying her, and this Devansh wanted to go with her, no he was insisting on accompanying her! Kuch toh gadbad hai!
“Kuch chahiye market se?” she asked him point blank, “Tell me, I will get it for you,” she offered, “You know you will get bored and then nag me to death, jaldi karo jaldi karo and all that.”
“Nahi,” Devansh was adamant, “I am coming along with you, may be I can’t protect you but at least I can shout and scream for help.”
Khushi was stumped, kya bol raha hai yeh ladka, uske toh kuch samajh nahi aa raha tha, but there wasn’t time for more as she was short of time; she finally sent off HP to the market, determined to get to the bottom of this with Devansh at the earliest possible.
“Kya hua Guddu, why do you keep calling me up and waiting for me in the evenings? You know it is winter season and it becomes dark by 5.30 pm and I can only come home according to the time not how dark it is? Pehle toh aise nahi karte the? Besides, Daddy comes even later, how come you don’t call him up?” she grilled him gently.
Devansh busied himself with his T rex and mumbled, “Daddy can protect himself.”
Khushi was puzzled; she looked at Arnav lounging by the poolside door, “Protect himself?” she echoed. “But why should I need ‘protection’?” she was bewildered.
“Oho Mamma,” he shook his head at her ignorance and said seriously, “Don’t you read the newspapers, women get robbed and raped in car parks, especially when it is dark, so you shouldn’t be out of the house so late and in the darkness,” her seven year old son laid down the law of the Raizada parivaar.
Arnav crossed his arms and nodded his head seriously while Khushi threw up her hands (she decided against quizzing him about what Devansh understood about raped), she gave him a tight hug, “Thank you sweetie, I will keep that in mind but you stop worrying about me ok? I can take care of myself and in any case if it is very late and dark, I can always come back with Daddy, ok?” she said reassuringly.
Devansh leapt up from where he was sitting and stood protectively between his mother and father, facing his mother, his arms outstretched, “He…he can also rape you!” he protested rather agitated.
Khushi’s eyes flew to Arnav behind Devansh’s head; his expression was a treat to watch – shocked disbelief clashed with overwhelming gales of laughter; the latter of course won and a broad grin split his face. He of course had the luxury of smirking while Khushi was forced to control her expression. With a superhuman effort she maintained a neutral expression whilst she casually reassured him about his Daddy’s perverse and depraved intentions especially in the car park, “Oh don’t you worry Guddu, you forget, I know karate, I can floor your Daddy anytime I want,” she boasted confidently.
ASR raised his eyebrow tauntingly while she waggled her eyebrows challengingly daring him to refute her claim in front of Devansh, who was still viewing Arnav distrustfully and looked at Khushi doubtfully.
Arnav sighed, his eyes promising just retribution at a more suitable time, “Relax Devansh, I promise not to rape your mother ok?”
Only half convinced, Devansh grudgingly, suspiciously nodded his head and gave in to the call of the exciting and promising screams of his siblings in the lobby.
Arnav of course wasted no time in mauling and molesting Khushi amidst her protesting giggles and threats to yell for help from Guddu. But then Brahmastra ke aage kuch kaam karta hai kya?
Finally deciding that this obsession wasn’t a very healthy thing, Khushi enrolled him into music classes, hoping to distract him and keep him off her case. And wonder of wonders, he took to music like a duck to water and thankfully, slowly got over his obsessive paranoia about this mother’s safety and urgent need to protect her from all the males of this world.
Khushi heaved a sigh of relief.
Achcha ab aap log soch rahein hain that was the end of that? Arre nahi, picture abhi baaki hai mere dost….bas thoda aur intezaar karna padega.
Their voices rose up as one as they raised a toast to themselves.
It was the summer of the year 2024 and Anya turned 18 years of age. She had passed her class twelve exams with flying colors (along with Aisha). But they were most thrilled when they both got admission to Delhi’s engineering college, now they could be together in college as well! Their parents too were relieved even though the girls opted for staying at the hostel rather than commute from home. Their college was rather far off from their place and traffic still a nightmare. Plus the girls did want to spread their wings, be on their own, find their own feet etc etc.
Before the girls left home for their new venture, Arnav threw a gala party for Anya and her friends, a sort of a combined celebration for her coming of age, school completion and beginning of college. And in the true spirit of celebration there was champagne as well, despite Di’s ferocious scowls and prudish frowns, “Come on Di!” Arnav chided her, “This is just champagne and don’t tell me these kids don’t have a drink or two on the sly.”
Anjali was scandalized, “Nonsense, not my daughter,” she sniffed loftily, she glared at him, “Just you wait till your daughter graduates from school,” she threatened direly.
Arnav grinned easily, “Here Di, why wait so long? Angel sweetheart how about some champagne?” he offered his goblet to Angel (who was actually looking like a little angel, only the halo was missing); she obediently bent to take a sip but then the bubbles rose up and tickled her nose, she sneezed violently.
Arnav laughed and hustled away Di away. He had come over just to check if everything was as per his instructions, Chotti had insisted upon tagging along as had Di.
But Di wasn’t done fussing yet, “Chotte, I am not comfortable leaving the kids alone like this,” she worried, “Pata nahi kya karein peeche se?”
“Come on Di,” Chotte said bracingly, “They are no longer kids, they are adults, capable of making their own decisions,” Di looked even more worried, “Waise bhi Di, this is better than them planning something on their own isn’t it?” Seeing that Di wasn’t still convinced, he sighed and put his arm around her, “Ok ok fine, the place is under CCTV surveillance,” he winked at her expression.
“Mamu!!! I heard that!” Anya spoke up from behind them.
Arnav turned around in surprise, flushing a bit at being caught, “Heard what?” he said innocently.
Anya was glaring at him, hands on her hips, “You are really something you know, here I was coming to thank you for throwing such a fantastic party for me and then I get to know you have it all under surveillance!” she shook her head disgustedly.
“Haan toh? Big deal,” a relieved Anjali fired up in defense of her beloved brother, “How does it matter? Or were you planning on some hanky panky?” she said rather slyly.
Anya looked helplessly at both at them, “No!!! But it is underhanded and sneaky isn’t it? Besides, I don’t need protection from anybody, I am a blackbelt in karate,” she sneered loftily
“Oh yeah that you are,” Arnav raised his eyebrow, “Well maybe I thought the others might need protection from you!” he teased her.
“Mamu!” Anya grinned despite herself.
“Come on chill Anya,” Arnav put his arm around her and gave her a light hug, “It’s for all your safety, in any case no matter where you party there will be some sort of surveillance right? And if you got nothing to hide, you got nothing to worry, hai na?”
Anya nodded reluctantly, she hugged him and kissed Anjie and Chotti goodbye.
The party was a huge success and everybody had a blast; the champagne was a big hit with everybody – except for Anya whose heart was set on Sherry.
And Sherry was missing.
In fact Sherry was missing from her radar for quite sometime, ek toh he hadn’t sent her a birthday greeting, kahin na kahin she had been hoping now that she was an ‘adult’ their equation would change, she could challenge his habit of thinking of her as kid. But he seemed to have disappeared! His mail Id was no longer functional and neither was his FB account, even though he wasn’t really into social networking but still it had been nice to visit his page once in a while (err ok ok quite often) to feel connected to him, but then he had gone and deactivated his account! What the! Anya had been highly insulted and had taken the move rather personally; she had stored up a number of cutting, disdainful, superior witty dialogues aimed at showing him his place and was itching to air them.
But woh mile tab na!
She had sent out invites to all those who were in Sherry’s circles and casually extended an invite to Sherry as well through them. Surely someone would have informed him? She seethed at the indignity of it all; perhaps he wasn’t in the country? She consoled herself. But still he would be in touch with someone? And even if she didn’t have his new mail ID, surely he had hers, ek birthday wish toh banta hai, hai ki nahi? She sniffed disdainfully. You can hide all you like Mr Sharath Singh, I will find out exactly where you are she swore to herself. In the end she resorted to the old fashioned way; she baldly accosted Aisha’s cousin and Sherry’s friend, “So what’s up with Sherry?”
Aisha glared at Anya, but she ignored her and looked expectantly at him, “Oh Sherry’s fine! He is busy looking for a suitable match!” he winked suggestively, “After all he is getting on in years, time to marry and settle down eh?”
Anya went hot and cold all over; she felt faint.This was something she had never contemplated even in her wildest dreams! A positive person, she had often fantasized that as soon as she came of age Sherry would arrive on horseback and sweep her off her feet and lay his heart at her feet, beg her to marry her, swear that he had always loved her and was just waiting for her to come of age etc etc.
But Sherry to get married to another? Nahi nahi, she wanted to scream in anguish; mumbling an excuse, she rushed off to the washroom before she made a fool of herself.
Click here for Chapter 298