Dinner would have been a silent and somber affair but for the children who were in their usual high spirits and their joie-de-vivre spilled over to the adults as well. For sometime they forgot the painful realities of asli duniya and allowed themselves to be diverted by the antics of their children.
Anjali and Khsitij had a dinner engagement and hence even Ankit was here and of course an argument broke out between Devansh and Ankit.
“You are such an ignoramus,” Ankit jeered his younger brother, showing off his vocabulary.
“I am not,” Devansh stoutly denied, not very sure what it exactly meant but confident that coming from Ankit and judging by his tone it was nothing complimentary.
“Of course you are,” retorted Ankit, “I bet you don’t even know which the capital of India is.”
Before Devansh could win or lose the bet, feeling left out and determined to prove that no matter if Da was an ‘igno-something, she surely wasn’t – so aav dekha na taav – Chotti dived right in, “I know! I know what the capital of India is,” she excitedly raised her hand forgetting she wasn’t at school, “It is ‘I’,” she looked proudly around the dining table clearly awaiting the oohs and aahs – she was met with blank stares.
Finally Khushi ki dimaag ki batti jali and she whispered it around the table – laughter and oohs and aahs followed, Arnav went so far as to give her a tight squeeze, his expression light and carefree.
“Nahi buddhu,” Devansh sneered, “Capital of India is not I it is Delhi!”
“Arre nahi buddhu!” exclaimed Ankit triumphantly, “Capital of India is not Delhi, it is New Delhi!”
Immediately an argument broke out with Devansh accusing Ankit of quibbling over semantics and Chotti wailing, “But Maam told us that ‘I’ of India should be capital.”
Amidst such invigorating dinner table conversation and hullabaloo, the adults had no scope to fall in to dumps and instead they wisely gave in to the fun of the moment and were rewarded with an enjoyable and memorable dinner.
It was late and the children were finally asleep; Arnav sat beside them soaking in the peace of their soft snores, he looked up as he felt Khushi’s presence behind him. He turned around and put his arms around her and buried his face in her warmth – seeking and finding solace. They stayed there for a long time, as Khushi gently ran her fingers through his hair.
Khushi stirred, “Nani intezaar kar rahi hain,” she whispered.
He reluctantly nodded his head and accompanied her downstairs.
“Toh kya karoge ab Chotte?” Nani broke the silence. Arnav raised anguished eyes to Nani, “Choice kya hai Nani,” he said rather bitterly; his lips firmed and he stiffened, “Aur kyon bhi chahiye? Usko uska hissa chahiye mil jayega aur baaki bhi abhi se divide kar doonga taaki whenever the question arises, there would be no delay or altercation,” he looked at Khushi who was ready with her protest; he raised his hand, his lips curling, “Oh trust me Khushi, the issue will arise sooner or later with Ankit, with Devansh,” his shoulders drooped defeatedly, “Who knows with Anya and Ang…,” his voice trailed off.
Khushi squeezed his shoulder reassuringly, “DM par bharosa rakhiye, sab theek ho jayega.”
“What nonsense Khushi,” Arnav flared up, “kaise theek ho jayega, and what is ‘theek’? Aur waise bhi I am not sure I want to continue as before under the changed circumstances,” he said grimly, “If Aakash wants out, I too want out, I am tired of cleaning up after him, he repeatedly makes the same mistakes over and over again and half the time I am just covering up his goof ups,” he burst out.
“Chotte!” Nani looked up in surprise, “Why didn’t you say anything before?!”
“Kya bolta Nani?” Arnav sighed and sank onto the sofa, “This is not something to be discussed at home aur adat hai mujhe uske liye cover up karne ke liye, but aur nahi, I too have had enough, let’s go ahead with this separation; waise bhi,” he looked challengingly at Khushi, “Jo hota hai achche ke liye hi hota hai na?”
Khushi nodded her head, albeit reluctantly. But then evidently Arnav himself didn’t really believe the age old dictum for Khushi woke up in the middle of the night to find Arnav’s side of the bed deserted. She got up with a jerk and padded to the poolside; he stood there staring at the stars, his hands thrust into his pockets. Khushi walked up to him and slid her arms around him from behind, he started and then clasped her arms closer to him, drawing strength and comfort from her touch.
“Why can’t things go on as they were, sab kuch itna achcha chal raha tha,” rued Arnav, his voice thick with regret.
Khushi hugged him tightly, “I too wish, but as they say change is inevitable; aur waise bhi actually speaking sab kuch achcha toh nahi chal raha tha na?” she came around to face him, and reminded him albeit hesitantly, “Aap hi ne toh kaha, that Jijaji was doing shoddy work which was impacting business and brand ARDesigns? Aise kab tak chalta Arnav?” she slid her hand into his and held it close to her heart, “Don’t be emotional about this; aapko practical hona padega,” she exhorted.
He squeezed her hands briefly before turning away his throat working convulsively, “I am trying Khushi,” he finally said, “But it is difficult to let go when you can see your loved one falling into a pit of his own making; I feel duty bound to stop him caution him, par woh hai ki sunna hi nahi chahta,” the words suddenly began flowing, “Bachpan se lekar aaj tak I have always looked out for him, actually honestly speaking he doesn’t have a very good business sense, and neither does he have the perseverance or the vision to look into either the fine print or the implications of a deal. Of course he has improved over the years but he is hasty in his decisions and swayed by petty considerations such as building contacts, doing favors, getting concessions etc only to have them backfire. I have cautioned him time and again but woh sunne tab na! Knowing all this how can I let him carry on ahead alone when I know he is bound to get burnt and that too badly,” he pleaded with Khushi.
“Hum samajhte hai,” Khushi was distressed at the anguish Arnav was obviously undergoing, “Angrezi main kahawat hai na, ‘If you love someone, let it go, if it comes back it is yours, if it doesn’t, it never was?’ Jaane toh dena padega na?” she tried her best to be philosophical about it, even though she herself wasn’t too convinced about it.
Arnav shook his head, “It isn’t that easy Khushi, I am indebted to Mamaji Mamiji for supporting us when we had nothing; how can I forget that? Besides I have got into the habit of looking out not only for Di but also Aakash, I…I feel responsible for him,” his lips twisted self- deprecatingly.
“Haan haan Arnav, hum samajhte hain,” Khushi soothed him, “But we have to accept, bachche bade ho jaate hai, they will fly the nest and we have no choice but to let them make their own choices, own mistakes, stumble fall and scrape their knees, seekhna toh padega na,” she smiled faintly, “Think of this as a sort of a dress rehearsal for letting go of Anya, Ankit Guddu and Chotti, right?”
He reluctantly nodded his head, “Par tumhe choice nahi hai mujhe chhod ke jaane ki,” he clutched her and shook her, albeit gently, “Pata hai na? Like it or not, is mamle main, koi option nahi hai,” he said rather sternly even fiercely.
She smiled and slid into his arms, “Jo hukum mere aaka.”
He pushed her back and insisted, “Promise me Khushi, that no matter what happens you won’t leave me, promise me Khushi.”
Khushi smiled and nodded; her heart in her eyes, “I promise Arnav, I promise,” she laughed suddenly, “Not even if you tell me to leave!” she teased.
She felt the fight go out from within him and he pulled her into his arms and hugged her; the soothing strains of the RV floated in opportunely from nowhere and wove their magic around the couple once again.
Sherry’s eyes were drawn again and again towards the door; ‘everybody’ came to see him but her…oh where was she dammit, he wondered irritably even as he made small talk with his colleague and his wife. Maybe she wouldn’t come today, she is probably relieved to be able to get rid of such a terrible patient, besides she was busy with classes and stuff, he thought morosely to himself. He lay back on the pillows, exhausted and depressed. Everything ached and he wished he could just go off to sleep and forget everything; even closing his eyes didn’t help, all he could see was her, hear her.
“How are you Sherry?” Aisha called out gently
His eyes flew open, strength returned to his limbs and a heady rush of emotions flooded his being, the world was beautiful once again – there she was and he was content to just look at her. He politely greeted Aisha and graciously accepted her good wishes along with the flowers and fruits they had brought and even made small talk with her. But his eyes were all the while repeatedly drawn to Anya as she stood beside Aisha, putting the flowers by the table from where he could see them, greet Ma, straighten the mess on the side table, check his file on the shelf.
Aisha couldn’t help but feel a pang of regret.
There was no doubt that from now onwards she would have to play second fiddle to Sherry for Anya was well and truly smitten with Sherry.
She looked thoughtfully at Sherry and grinned to herself; poor chap was equally if not even more besotted! He couldn’t keep his eyes off Anya – it was as if he was bound to her with an invisible thread and was almost devouring her with his eyes. While exchanging greetings with Sunita, Aisha saw Anya move forward to adjust his pillow and even Aisha’s heart fluttered at the instant connection, the intense longing and yearning that seems to spring up between the two; Aisha sighed dreamily if only Yatin looked at her like that, she would marry him in a flash. She shook her head, do you look at Yatin like that? She jeered herself silently. Actually the problem with her and Yatin was that there had never been any objection or hurdle to their ‘love’; their relationship was well known and accepted by both their families and everybody was ok about it and that is why this intense passion and yearning was missing from their lives Aisha tapped her foot thoughtfully, maybe she should fall ill or disappear or something, anything to see that look on Yatin’s face. She smacked herself mentally, idiot, she berated herself, instead of Anya you are worried about your own love life! It wouldn’t do for her to encourage Anya any more, she seemed to be falling deeper and deeper into this relationship without even a word about where it was headed. She determined to caution Anya about not being so hasty and so open about her feelings – she really was very transparent.
Aisha wondered what Sherry’s mum thought about it; she crossed her fingers surreptitiously and hoped that she hadn’t noticed anything amiss.
Yeah! Fat chance! You would have to be blind to miss it and Sunita certainly wasn’t – she didn’t know whether to be happy or worried. Happy that Anya seemed to be equally taken in with her son, or worried about where this love story was going or where it would end. Her heart sank, what if it didn’t work out, what if, nahi nahi, she couldn’t bear to see Sheru like that again, and Anya was such a dear child, she would hate to see her hurt – she steeled herself.
What choice did she have but to wait and watch and be there to the pick up the pieces, if need be, DM sab theek kar dena she prayed silently – a prayer that she would repeat more and more often as time passed.
Neither Sherry nor Anya cared about what the others thought, they weren’t even bothered about what they themselves were thinking for they were beyond rational thought and were just busy trying to keep up with the storm of emotions that assaulted their senses. Each felt breathless, restless and as if they were drowning – she desperately wanted to clutch his shoulders for support while his arms ached to hold her. And since they were so busy dealing with their own individual emotional roller coaster rides, each failed to notice the other’s equally pathetic love-sick condition.
They exchanged pleasantries and talked of this and that all the while staring hungrily at the other (of course when the other was preoccupied elsewhere). All too soon it was time to leave, Sherry didn’t want her to leave and neither did she want to leave. Sunita’s heart melted, she casually led Aisha out of the room, giving the beleaguered couple a few precious moments alone; unable to think of any reason to linger on, Anya too followed reluctantly, “Hey!” Sherry called urgently, “You submitted the project? What did your professor say?”
Click here for Chapter 308