Chotti handed Arnav his morning paper as he reached for his morning cuppa following the medical rasam; she sidled up to him and wheedled, “Daddy aap bhi chalo Maami ghar?”
Arnav straightened the newspaper and dropped a brief kiss on his daughter’s head, and chucked her under the chin, “Sorry sweetie, got a busy day ahead, Aman will kill me,” he took a sip of his tea.
Angel pouted; she picked up his phone and pretended to call, “Lo Aman? Daddy ko mat dantna, Daddy ka chutti hai aaj, theek hai? Ok? Ok byeee,” she put the phone down and grinned angelically at him; he grinned back at her, “Pest, ab Aman chutti dega mujhe!” he shook his head at her, “Mamma ko le jaao,” he offered her his substitute.
“Uffo Daddeee,” she smacked her head, “Aap sunte nahi ho kya? Mamma is busy, woh nahi ja sakti.”
A frazzled but victorious Khushi entered their room; she had finally managed to pack off Devansh to school. Saturdays were a big pain for all parties concerned, especially because Devansh had school and Chotti didn’t. Thankfully this bhed bhav was only one year, from the next session, both had school on Saturdays and hopefully peace would finally reign. Chotti was unhappy and lonely on Saturdays as Da went off to school, while Devansh was jealous of Chotti, ‘how come she gets to stay at home, while I have to go to school, not fair,’ he would grumble without fail each Saturday. He would try all his repertoire of tricks to get out of going to school and it took all of Khushi’s self control and innovative measures to send him to school without losing her temper. No wonder she was looking so frazzled. Uff yeh ladka bhi na, “Arre Chotti yahan kya kar rahe ho, jaldi ready ho jao, Mami aati hi hongi, Nani ko pehle apne friend ke ghar jaana hai, chalo chalo jaldi karo, Boo kahan hai?” Khushi hustled her away.
Arnav’s arm snaked out with the intention of completing his dream, but Khushi hissed, “Yeh kya kar rahein hain aap, chhodiye hume, Poo aati hi hogi,” her struggles intensified, she pushed him agitatedly, “Dekho Chotti kaise dekh rahi hai.”
True enough, Chotti was viewing them with keen interest and in fact seemed to be on the verge of making some pointed unanswerable remark; Arnav let Khushi go, but with a warning, “Humari baat abhi khatam nahi hui hai,” Khushi grinned mischievously at him and after making sure Chotti wasn’t looking at them, stuck out her tongue at him with a ‘catch-me-if-you-can’ expression (with a bit of ‘you-got-a-hope’ and ‘kripya-intezar-karein- aap- queue-main-hain’ thrown in) before vanishing from the room.
Psssstttt actually that was just a cover up – actually bechari woh toh kehna chahti thi – ‘phir-jaane kyon-de- rahein-hain? Jabardasti-toh-kar-saktein-hain-na? Haq-hai-aapko-pati-hai-aap-humare’ and all that stuff.
Since Arnav knew his Khushi pretty well, he read both set of messages quite clearly – with only one thought in his mind, he was ASR, woh kissi queue vue main khada hota, woh jahaan par khada hota hai, line wahin se shuru hoti hai and damn right, biwi ho tum meri, haq hai mera – basically that he wanted his Khushi dammit!
But then Khushi bhi karti toh kya karti, she was so busy being a full time mamma (not to mention a DIL, a homemaker, an entrepreneur), fursat kahan thi uske paas Arnav ke liye? Ya phir even Khushi ke liye?
But then a leopard doesn’t change his spots does he? Nope – not even if he becomes a daddy several times over – agar usse apni Khushi chahiye toh bas chahiye!
ASR looked after her with a rueful expression his eyebrow raised, “Just you wait Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada.”
About an hour later, RM fell silent – breakfast was over and Chotti left with her Nani and Maami; they had offered to drop Poo off at AKC. Arnav slipped the tie around his neck and busied himself with it, “Kya hua Khushi, aren’t you getting late?Abhi tak ready nahi hui?”
Khushi shook her head, “I am not going to AKC today.”
Arnav closed the gap in two quick strides and clutched her by her arms, “Kyon!!! Tum theek ho?”
She leaned gratefully against him, “Haan haan hum theek hai, just thought I needed a break, I feel as if I have been running non-stop and need to catch my breath.”
Arnav’s lips thinned, “Kitni baar kaha hai Khushi, itna mat overdo karo? Kitni baar kaha hai, let’s take a holiday, let’s take a few days off and go somewhere just the two of us? Or even the four of us? Par tum ho ki maanti hi nahi,” he dropped his hands and turned away frustrated. “Kabhi it’s that the kids will feel bad, kabhi Nani, kabhi Ankit would also like to go but he has exams, kabhi kuch kabhi kuch, Nonsense!” he was disgusted.
Khushi sighed and slipped her arms under his from behind, “Dekha do minute baat nahi kiya ki aap daantne lage hume,” she pouted tragically, “Jo time mila hai usse bhi barbaad karke rakh diya,” she sniffed suspiciously.
“Theek hai theek hai,” Arnav hurriedly backed off as he finished knotting his tie, “You take rest and enjoy your me-time while I slave away at the office,” he neatly turned the tables as he leaned over to pick up his coat.
Khushi glared at him, “Jee nahi,” she shot back, “koi rest-vest nahi, hume safai karni hai,” she hotly countered.
He shrugged on his coat, “Kiski? Apne dimaag ki?”
Khushi helped him tug it on and buttoned him up and said sweetly, “Woh toh aapke jaane se hi ho jayegi,” Arnav’s eyes softened as he looked down at her; he sighed and gave her a brief kiss before striding away.
Khushi suddenly felt lonely and bereft, the me-time didn’t seem so good after all; she had been feeling that she was hysterically running from one thing to another and all she wanted to do was sit and stare into space without a thought, a care or chore on her mind.
But even better would have been some time alone with Arnav, an unheard of luxury these days; oh they did go out for dinner, parties and stuff but that wasn’t the same as just spending time alone, with each other, or just be around each other. She wouldn’t have minded even if he had stayed back home and worked while she went about her chores, at least she could have looked up to see him once in a while without her attention being demanded by somebody or something else. She grimaced ‘bas kar Khushi, dekha nahi, woh toh Chotti ki baat ko hi nahi maane aur tere saath zaroor time spend karenge!’
She smacked herself, she really was very greedy and selfish, she had so much to be thankful and grateful for and look at you, grumbling and moaning away, hankering for the moon, ab bas bhi kar Khushi, she berated herself.
She opened the cupboard and emptied out one of the shelves on the bed; it did desperately need some cleaning besides it was therapeutic; oh wait a minute, she hurriedly dug out her phone and hit the music folder, set it on full volume and attacked the mess on the bed. She had downloaded all their songs on to her mobile and whenever she felt low or nostalgic, she would just play them to feel rejuvenated and refreshed.
Ooh la la ooh la la, she sang and swayed as she sorted the clothes and grinned at the memories they evoked, ahh what a lovely family she had, and Nani! What a superb dancer she was, she must remember to play it for her, they would surely share a hearty laugh over it, she wondered idly about Lavanya, who was now settled in Sydney. She must remember to drop in a mail, to her, it had been a long time she thought guiltily. Usually it was Lavanya who called up to enquire, but that too had been some months ago now, she hoped everything was fine, but of course she must be busy with her twin boys; but NK could have called up couldn’t he have? But anyway she immediately put in a reminder to call them up on Sunday.
There was a knock at the door, it was HP. She hurriedly switched off the music, “Ji HPji?”
“Babhi woh market jaana tha,” he said.
Khushi nodded and rose to hand him money and another list of baby stuff she wanted, “Yeh lijiye and make sure you lock the door when you leave, theek hai? Shakuntala ka kaam bhi ho gaya na?”
HP nodded, “Usko bhejoo kya aapki madad ke liye?” he waved his hand at the pile of clothes on the bed, but Khushi waved him away “Shukriya HPji,” HP bowed his head obsequiously before leaving.
Khushi got back to the musical-cupboard therapy and grinned in delight as her version of “didi tera deewana’ began to play (haan woh sangeet wale din video recording hui thi na).
Oh that day had perhaps been the most exhilarating day of her life. She had been so mad at Arnav for his supercilious taunts and barbs, she had been determined to show him ki woh bhi kuch kam nahi thi. She had decided to attack him publicly where all he could do was fume and glare in impotent anger, she had gloated to herself as she had penned the parody especially for him. And then he had gone and stunned her; she had almost missed a step in shock, he was laughing, that too uncontrollably! She had all but melted in a warm puddle there and then, but victory march in her head had held her in good stead, she had made that teen naam wala rakshash laugh! A no mean feat! Anybody could anger him, after all ‘gusse ke woh dhoonde bahana’, but never in her wildest dreams had she dared to hope that he would find it even remotely amusing.
This had definitely been a first!
Oh she didn’t count that incident when she had absent-mindedly slathered besan all over her face setting him off. She hadn’t intended to amuse or entertain him nor annoy him. But here she had…she squeaked in alarm as a pair of arms sneaked up from behind, “Jhooth! Sab Jhoooth,” he growled in her ears.
She dropped the saree and turned around in his arms in surprise, “A..aap?”
“Haan m…mm…main; kyon? Were you expecting someone else?” he mocked her even as he pulled her closer, “waise bhi maine kaha tha na, humari baat abhi khatam nahi hui?”
“Aur Aman ne jaane diya aapko?” she taunted him softly.
He looked ruefully down at her and gently flicked her nose, “Ab meri khushi kea aaage Aman kya cheez hai right?”
Her heart soaring, she snuggled closer, he came back for her!
She pouted, “Jhooth kyon bola?”
“Because it is all lies,” his arms crushed her punishingly, “Aur tumhari himmat kaise hui sabke samne mera mazaak udane ki?” he looked down challengingly at her.
“Himmat hi himmat hai, koi shaq?” she grinned cheekily up at him as she slid her arms around his neck, “par jhooth kya hai?” she insisted.
“Jhooth ki main ‘kaante se parathe khata hoon’,” he raised his eyebrow, “Main toh toast khata hoon!”
“Wohi toh! Agar parathe khate toh fork se hi khaate,” she retorted laughing up at him.
“Aur what about aatho peher dil par hai tala? Hmmm?” he said softly, “Agar yeh sach hai toh tum kaise ghusi andar?”
“Khufiya raaste se,” she whispered conspiratorially, “Woh kya hai na, ‘hansa toh phansa!” she grinned up at him.
He looked at her softly and tenderly, “Yeah actually that is true,” he said musingly, “but that wasn’t when I slipped and fell at your feet!”
Khushi looked at him strangely, “Toh phir? Don’t tell me it was when I slathered besan all over my face?”
He shook his head and jerked his head towards the music; hawa hawai and ek do teen were over and now, ladki badi kaamal ki was playing.
She looked at him a bit confused, “But you were so angry that day!”
Arnav nodded, “Yeah that was the only way I could stop myself from bursting into laughter, your expression as you caught sight of me was priceless,” his shoulders shook with amusement, “Sankadevi indeed!” he sobered up, “And then you charged off home because of that urgent cryptic phone call from Buaji, I can’t tell you how worried I was!” he enfolded her in his arms and let the peppy number play itself out and slide into their haunting special song.
As the strains of Teri Meri filled their rooms; almost unconsciously and involuntarily, they began to sway to its hypnotic strains. There was no further need for words aur Teri Meri kab RV ban gaya kisiko pata hi nahi chala as they reconnected and recreated their own special brand of magic in a few stolen hours where time appeared to stand still as they made the most of the time fate had been kind enough to hand them.
It was a memorable (and long overdue) morning for both of them away from the hustle bustle of ‘asli zindagi’ jahan miraculously sirf aur sirf woh dono thee with no interruptions whatsoever (DM ki jai ho!)
But then as all good things must come to an end, it was time for life to begin again beginning with the arrival of their ‘ladesar’ or ‘jigar ka tukda’ aka, Devansh from school.
Now Devansh had had a very educative day at school and he didn’t like what he had learnt, not by a long shot. He was disgusted with everybody, including his parents, his mom in particular (he had high expectations from his mother and usse unse yeh umeed bilkul bhi nahi thi) and was determined not to talk to her ever again.
Click here for Chapter 300