Tears of anguish rolled down Anya’s cheeks as a storm of emotions shook her delicate frame. This couldn’t be true! Sherry couldn’t be getting married! You are such a fool she berated herself, trying to get a grip on herself. Of course he would be getting married, after all he had never by word or deed indicated anything other than casual friendship; and look at you, she sneered at herself pata nahi what khayali pulao you have been cooking up all this while, just like some old Hindi film heroine, she was disgusted with herself.
Aisha soon came looking for her and forced her out of her hideout and spoke sternly to her, “What is this nonsense Anya? What are you dreaming on and on about? Still hankering for the moon? Grow up Anya,” she blasted her and soon they had a full fledged slanging match; but one that forced Anya out of her dumps and she managed to make it through the rest of the evening, without drawing too many queries to her swollen overbright eyes.
Anya slowly made her peace with the situation (not that she had much choice with Aisha harassing her and taunting her tragedy queen avatar). Of course the fact that college started soon enough and their shift to the hostel was a big help. College, particularly hostel life was fun, and kept them busy and Anya out of her dumps.
Aisha convinced Anya to join the Cultural Club and soon they were neck deep into theatre, music, dance and other events. What with classes, maintaining their rooms, keeping track of washed vs unwashed clothes, ironed vs unironed dresses, in between extracurricular activities and rushing off home every other weekend, Anya was too busy during the day to mope and too tired at night to think too much about Sherry (though she did manage to find time to dream about him).
Aisha and Anya found a great gang of friends and Anya slowly lost her pinched unhappy look, much to Aisha’s relief. She felt terribly guilty for introducing Anya to Sherry in the first place.
The years in college passed swiftly as they often do when they are fun and action packed. Both Anya and Aisha were popular and Anya in particular had a big fan following, largely thanks to her histrionics on the stage. Aisha continued to be friends with Yatin and was in a sort of a long-distance relationship with him. Long distance meaning he was in the other college of engineering in Delhi, but often came over during weekends to meet Aisha. They were in a comfortable relationship (and since Anya approved of Yatin and had given her permission) it was more or less expected that they would, when the time was right, tie the knot.
Anya too found a boyfriend of her own. A friendly outgoing girl, she was friends with many but then she was friendliest with Anand, one batch (and a couple of years in age) her senior.
They had worked together in a play and had hit off right from the beginning and soon they were a ‘couple’. Anand was a happy go lucky boy from a middle class family with a pleasing personality and was easy on the eyes as well. It wasn’t difficult for Anya to be in a relationship with him or share her first ever kiss with him. She was a bit disappointed with the crossing of that much hyped ‘lakshman rekha’; ‘quite wet and tasteless’ was how she described it to Aisha.
Aisha was surprised, “Really?” she blushed and confessed, “I thought it was rather sweet and,” she turned a tomato red and coughed embarrassed.
Anya tossed her mane disdainfully, “Nope not sweet at all! And definitely not cough cough at all!” she looked at Aisha and said thoughtfully, “Actually come to think of it, I think Chotti’s slobbering kisses are much sweeter!”
Aisha was aghast, “Nonsense!” she shot back, “What a comparison,” she looked doubtfully at Anya, “Err maybe your ‘tastes’ lie elsewhere?” she said a bit hesitantly, suspiciously as she moved a bit away.
Anya burst out laughing, “Don’t flatter yourself Aisha! And would you just relax? This is not the end of the world you know?” she shrugged off the incident and avoided going that path, much to Anand’s disappointment and frustration.
Anyway, the days flew by and soon it was time for Anand to leave college. Anand would have liked to give a stamp of permanency to their relationship and in fact even proposed to Anya but she gently turned it down, saying she wasn’t ready to take their friendship to the next level; not while she was studying and in college at least. He had no choice but to accept her decision and hope for the best.
Frankly, Anya wasn’t interested in any serious relationship just yet, she was bent upon building a career for herself and she was here to study and the rest was just time pass. To be honest she had liked Anand a lot and enjoyed his company, and he had a lot of sterling qualities, but he just didn’t make her heart go dhak dhak.
She still remembered how Mamu and Mami had looked at each other at the dining table, so many years ago; just looking at them her heart had gone dhak dhak, she wanted that – either that or nothing at all, thank you very much.
Waise bhi there was only one person who still made her heart flip a beat or two at the mere mention of him or even the thought of, but that, she gritted her teeth, was history now.
Worse, now that Anand had left college, instead of missing Anand or dreaming about him, Anya again began to dream of Sherry! What the! She was quite disgusted with herself. She had been feeling sorry about refusing Anand and had wondered if she had made a mistake and whether she had been hasty in her decision. Yet she hadn’t felt it was quite right for her to string him along when she was quite sure that her heart wasn’t really involved. But kahin na kahin she had thought that once he left, she would miss him and ‘absence would make the heart grow fonder’ but yahan toh ‘not only out of sight out of mind but Sherry back in mind and heart’ hadd hai! She castigated herself on numerous occasions; she dare not discuss with Aisha who was sure to give her an earful.
Anya sighed, today even Aisha wasn’t around to offer her a shoulder or even give her a blasting, “Oh for heaven’s sake Anya, he is married and with kids for all you know! And look at you still moaning on and on about that man! Grrrrr.”
She wouldn’t mind the latter even (at least they would be discussing her favorite topic Sherry – come to think of it, Anya and Devansh were quite similar weren’t they – hankering for extinct/ out of reach beings 😉 , she thought morosely, feeling quite lonely and unhappy.
It was the summer of 2027 and they were now in third year of college. Aisha was away for a week as she had gone off to attend a wedding in the family. Of course Anya had other friends too but since it was a weekend, most had gone off home or out of campus, whilst Anya had a project to finish. But somehow she just wasn’t in the mood, she felt restless and wished she too had gone home; maybe she could have done the project from home? She grimaced to herself as she scuffed her toe on a stone, oh never mind, she would manage as well as she could she thought. Let me go to the market and buy some of the stuff she needed for her project, she cheered up. She dug out her Scootie and rode out of college to the market, a little distance away, with her list.
On the way, there was a deserted patch of road, where she saw three men attacking one lone man. She immediately pressed the ‘help’ alert button linked to the nearest PCR van on her scootie before recklessly, driving right into them. Startled, the men stopped hitting the man and ran helter skelter to avoid being hit by the girl in the shining helmet. Feeling charged up and rather vicious, she relentlessly chased them down, thankfully they ran away. Anya halted her victory ride, and rode back to check on the fallen still man, “Sherryyyy!” she gasped in shock.
Arnav advanced slowly and true to habit Khushi walked backwards; she was looking gorgeous in a red saree, the soft breeze by the poolside gently ruffling her short hair, “Yeh kya kar rahein hain aap,” she squeaked in alarm, her eyes wide as she shot a nervous look around wondering what he was doing. But today Arnav was determined to have his say, nothing would stop him today, he could suddenly find no reason to hold back any longer, logic gayee tel lene, bas ab bahut ho gaya, enough is enough, he thought, only one thing made sense, he leaned forward till their breaths intermingled, her lashes fluttered; his lips brushed hers and he murmured softly, barely audible above the combined dhak dhak of their hearts, “Khhushiii, I love you,” he breathed huskily, his chest contracting. Her eyes wide with shock flew to his face even as he reached out to take her into his arms, but suddenly she reached out and shook him, “It’s laaate it’s vellyyyy laaatttte, get up Dadddeeeeeee getttt upppp!”
Arnav groaned and blearily opened his eyes to find his daughter sitting on his chest shaking him and shouting into his ear, “Angel! What the!” he burst out of his dream-drugged state. He looked around, there was Khushi, fixing up Devansh’s school bag, she was looking at him, her face flushed, soft and tender, she blinked at him and vanished. Arnav sighed and turned his attention to his daughter, sapne main bhi interruption! He rued and shook his head as he cuddled his favorite girl. But had he said those words aloud? He wondered fleetingly before being swept into his girl’s world of chatter and more chatter.
It was Saturday and her off-day; but Da had school, bechala, she pouted gleefully; he had already snapped at her twice and even growled at her once and literally pushed her out of the room, she complained dolefully; She was very excited and thrilled that she and Nani were off to Maami’s place for some girl time; Mamma wasn’t coming and Boo was going to offishssh, she informed Arnav; she was his self appointed home secretary determined to bring him up to date with the happenings at RM. (Oh btw, I think I forgot to mention that even though Poo insisted what is in a name, Anya didn’t agree with her and made sure that as the eldest daughter of the family, her younger siblings called Poo by her rightful name i.e. Boo; she went all out to implement necessary changes in their psyche and soon her efforts paid off – all the bachcha party were now addressing her as Boo as if that’s what she always had been. Also Poo had finished her Accountancy course from the National Open school and had started going to AKC in the mornings, now that both Chotti and Devansh were off to ‘big’ school).
“Utho Daaddyyy,” Angel pushed him, “Brush karo, chai peeeo,” now she was his mother and helpless against her relentless nagging he obediently followed her instructions.
She waited patiently for him to finish his morning ablutions and after he had sat down, she handed him his tablets one by one (Khushi had laid them out in a little box for Chotti liked to mother her father); she would religiously count them out, “one, two, four, three khatammm!” She was a pro at this, as she was doing this for several months now and could identify if a pill was missing (mamma pink wala nahi hai, she would frown and castigate her mother, she would sigh, uff and smack her head, agar main nahi hoti toh iss ghar ka kya hota! She even objected if a pill wasn’t of the same size or shape as usual (due to change in brand of a particular drug or even drug change by the doctor); she would kick up a fuss and both Arnav and Khushi would have to waste precious minutes of the morning explaining and apologizing for the inconvenience. She would stand at his head and insist on popping the pills one by one into his mouth till he had had all his ‘dwai’. Of course as she grew older and busier in her school routine, often she would have to skip this routine of hers, though she never failed to ask him, “Daddy dwai liya?” she would raise four fingers to indicate the number of tablets – in fact, sometimes she would show an incorrect number of fingers, three or five to cross check if he knew how many or which tablets he was taking.
Khushi wasn’t quite sure if she should be a doctor or a lawyer when she grew up.
Phir se ek bonus chapter but err koi zabardasti nahi hai, bore ho gaye toh kal bhi padh sakte hain…
Click here for Chapter 299