Poo’s expression and change of color was rather interesting to watch – confused, to dawning understanding to downright horror; she went pale, then red and then again pale. She burst into heartrending tears.
She suddenly stood up straight and tall, “Aaap aisa soch bhi kaise sakte hain!” She thundered and quite forgot that she was in awe of Arnav bhaiyya, as she stood there shouting at the mighty ASR, waving her finger threateningly at him, “Agar aisa hai toh main abhi ghar chhod kar jaa rahi hoon.”
She was quite inconsolable and extremely insulted that Arnav could even think that she would ever do such a thing, she was quite ready to pack her bags and leave RM then and there. Arnav looked helplessly at the others while Di poked Nani, “Why aren’t you convincing Poo like you convinced me? Main bhi ghar chhod ke jaa rahi hoon!”
Nani shook her head, “Nahi, Poo sahi keh rahi hai, there is no call for it right now, at least not for those who are living under one roof, baad ki baat aur hai, woh Chotte ka decision hoga, kya dena hai kya nahi, abhi let her learn the ropes, get the feel of things phir dekhte hain kya hota hai,” she decreed.
Arnav reluctantly nodded his head, but Poo was still madder than a wet hen; she turned aggressively to Nani, “Phir dekhte hain kya hota hai!?” she repeated incredulously, “If there is any such possibility I would rather leave home right now,” she was quite agitated and devastated at the mere possibility of being an ungrateful wretch even if it was in the distant future.
Arnav stepped in, “Nahi Poo,” he said gently, “Nani ka woh matlab nahi tha, aur na hi mera,” he looked a bit sheepish and said reluctantly, “Actually mine was more of a business decision and nothing personal, trust me,” Awkwardly and unconsciously imitating his Di, he reached out and cupped her damaged cheek gently and looked into her eyes, “Okaay?”
Her anger vanished in an instant and she dissolved in a pool of tears, all over Arnav’s coat; he consoled her as best as he could looking pleadingly at Khushi who shook her head remonstratingly at him, “Poo chalo chup ho jaao, nahi toh ab tumhare Arnav bhaiyaa hi ghar chhod ke chale jaayenge! Arre dekho Chotti bhi aagayi apna Ganga Jamuna saath main lekar, kahin isse bhi apna hissa toh nahi chahiye?”
Poo was mollified and slowly hiccuped to silence and then was horrified. Hurt and upset, pata nahi Nani ko kya kya bol gayi, she sank down in front of Nani and held her ears, tears streaming down her cheeks, “Hume maaf kar dijiye Nani, hume aap ke saath iss tarah baat nahi karni chahiye thi,” she sobbed into her hands.
Before Nani could say anything, Poo was flanked by Devansh and Chotti; they rounded on Nani, “Boo kyon ro rahi hai, aapne daanta? Sorry bolo,” they insisted.
Poo was even more horrified; she hurriedly wiped her face, “Nahiii! Main toh mazaak kar rahi thi, hai na Nani?” she attempted to smile.
Nani smiled but shook her head and said softly, “Mujhe toh woh wali Poo chahiye jo apni Nani se ladai kar sakti ho, wohi toh hai is ghar ki beti,” she put a hand on her head and caressed her, Poo slid into her arms and hugged her tightly. Unwilling to be left out, Chotti and Devansh jumped on to the bandwagon.
Khushi’s eyes sparkled with unshed tears, she looked at Arnav and said softly, “Yehi duniya ka dastoor hai; ek rishta khatam hone ko aata hai, toh naye ban jaate hai,” he nodded and put his arms around Khushi and Anjali and held them close – ‘par yeh wale rishtey kabhi khatam nahi ho’ something very much like a prayer dropped in on DM’s feet and She smiled.
Even though Khushi had exhorted and lectured Arnav on being ‘practical’ and accept Aakash decision, she couldn’t resist from trying to convince her Jijaji via Jiji, despite strict instructions from Arnav not to do so.
Clearly Khushi hadn’t changed all that much – besides ek try toh banta hai – and surely her Jiji must be upset and unhappy over the turn of events and needed her support and comfort, Khushi convinced herself.
But then she was in for a rude shock.
Payal was quite curt and matter-of-fact about the whole thing, “Khushi, rehne do na jo ho raha hai woh hone do, nobody will change their opinions and decisions just because somebody else is saying so, aur sabhi apne jagah sahi hai,” her tone hardened, “Waise bhi Aakash has my support, sahi toh keh rahein hain – kab tak aise Arnavji ki ghulami karenge?
Khushi was shocked, “Ghulami?” Yeh kya keh rahein hai aap Jiji,” she quavered, “Aap toh Arnavji ko jaante hain na, unka aisa koi matlab nahi hota, woh toh bas unka dhang hi aisa hai,” Khushi tried to explain and dismiss Arnav rather autocratic and sometimes overbearing attitude, “Aur Jijaji toh yeh baat bachpan se jaante hain, isme naya kya hai?” she sniffed, put out at anybody else pointing fingers at her RV partner.
“Rehne do Khushi, mera moonh mat khulwaao,” Payal snapped most uncharacteristically, “Achcha hoga agar tum is process main na interfere karo, bekar main humara –tumhara rishta aur bhi kharab ho jayega,” she disconnected the phone.
Khushi was stunned by the viciousness in her voice, she stared at the dead phone in her hand, “Ho jayega nahi Jiji, ho gaya,” her tears fell thick and fast.
Khushi was very distressed and didn’t quite know whom to talk to; Arnav was out of the question – he would chew her head off if he got to know she had tried to ‘interfere’ and Nani was upset as it is. She tried to get some support and solace from her parents, but Buaji categorically warned her, “HRNK! Deikho Khusi hum kahe dete hain, you are not to talk of this business issue with any of us, for us both are our damaads and we cannot afford to take sides or comment on who is right or wrong, HRNK,” she huffed all the way from Lucknow to Delhi.
“Par Buaji,” Khushi objected, “I wanted to talk about Jiji, she was so short and curt with me, isme humari galati kya hai?” she swallowed hard.
“Nahi Khusi, kauno ki koi galati naahi hai; Payal is supporting and siding with her husband just like you are, in such a delicate situation, change in attitudes and bitterness is bound to creep in and if you intend to maintain a healthy relationship with your sister, best you don’t discuss this matter with her or with us, for we don’t want to take sides or lose either of our daughter or risk offending either family,” her mother’s soft tones soothed her somewhat; Khushi reluctantly dropped the topic and talked of this and that.
But then there was no denying it, she couldn’t quite get over the way Payal spoke to her – tears slid down her cheeks – kya se kya ho gaya. Never in her wildest dreams had she imagined that her Jiji would ever say anything to her in any tone other than the soft affectionately scolding tones; she shook her head resignedly DM ka khel bhi ajeeb hai. Khushi had wished so hard for them to be married to two brothers so that they wouldn’t need to be separated ever – well of course DM had granted her wish, with a twist! Just because she hadn’t bothered to spell out the fine print to DM – she raised her head and pouted – Hey DM itna toh aap samajh hi sakti thi! No wonder they say, be careful of what you ask for, you may get it – aapko toh bahut mazaa aaa raha hai na. Tatasthu bol diya aur do behno main jhagda bhi karwa diya! Isse toh achcha…she shook her head at DM, jaaiye ab hum aapse kuch nahi maangenge, jo parosna hai parosiyam hum ussi main kush ho jayenge.’
Her little spat with DM didn’t really help either and Khushi was depressed and morose the whole day; she tried to cheer up for the kids but wasn’t quite successful, she preferred to bury her nose in her files. She greeted Arnav normally but clearly it wasn’t enough, “Kya hua?” shooting a penetrating glance at her face.
She smiled brightly and took his bag, “Kuch nahi, just a bit tired, I guess,” she turned away.
“Liar,” he breathed softly tenderly into her neck; she turned around and buried her face into his neck and burst into tears, “Sab kuch badal gaya Arnav, sab kuch badal gaya, but why Arnav why, Jiji bhi,” she sobbed and hiccupped as Arnav tried to make out the words and what exactly had transpired.
Finally the penny dropped.
“Mana kiya tha na, Payal se baat karne ke liye?” he instantly snapped, “Dammit Khushi why do you insist on poking your nose in useless stuff!” he threw up his hands.
“Jiji and me are not useless stuff,” Khushi flared up, “I just wanted to make sure that things were ok between us, but she was so short and curt, as if…as if we weren’t sisters ever, we are just Jethani- Devrani,” her voice broke.
Arnav hissed impatiently, “Khushi mana kiya tha na, ki Payal se baat mat karo, especially now when tempers are running high? Par tum toh kuch samajhti hi nahi ho, ja phir samajhna hi nahi chahti,” he paced up and down, and then came and stood in front of her, “Who knows, perhaps it was Payal who sowed the seeds of discord in Aakash’s head?”
Khushi stared at him stunned, Arnav nodded, “Aakash shaadi ke pehle toh aisa nahi tha; who knows Payal main have encouraged him to move out to Mumbai and now to separate out?”
“Nahi! Jiji kyon aisa karegi?” Khushi fired up in her sister’s defense.
“Haan toh galati meri hain na, I am the one who is autocratic and overbearing!” he shot back and strode out of the room, appropriate BG loud and clear.
Shocked and stunned, Khushi could only stare at him – Arnav humara woh matlab nahi tha…but you shouldn’t have said that about Jiji either.
Alone in their room, Khushi stared out unseeingly to the poolside, the sad RV for company, ‘hey DM ghar main jagde kum the ki ab Arnav aur mere beech main bhi kara diya?’ Was Arnav right? Was it Jiji who instigated Jijaji? Or was it just what Arnav said about himself?
And which was worse?
“But,” Sunita looked at her son warningly, “Let’s not divert from the original topic of conversation, speaking from experience, I advise you not to rush into anything; as they say act in haste and repent at leisure; and what’s the hurry beta? Take your time, understand each other, let Anya grow up a bit more, see the world, build a career for herself, before jumping into a physical relationship; that always complicates matters I feel,” Sunita couldn’t stop herself from interfering.
Sherry nodded, a bit shame-facedly, he had been cursing himself ever since that kiss, he had forgotten himself – but never again, he vowed to himself (at least not till she completed her graduation he hastily amended), hoping he hadn’t scared her away forever.
Sunita echoed his thoughts as she began feeding him, “She is special, so take care not to scare her away.”
Actually it was a touch and go – Anya was shaken to the core with her brief brush with the intense heat and passion. And despite being sure of her feelings for Sherry (as is possible at that age – hmm actually at any age), she wasn’t quite ready for that kind of a relationship with him (or anybody) and hence was rather reserved with him and met him only for a couple of intensely awkward minutes over the next few days.
But then as Sherry was his usual casual dismissive and sometimes teasing self, Anya began having doubts as to her reading of the kiss and in the absence of any repeat episodes (maha or otherwise) despite ample scope, she put it down to her overactive imagination and happily dived back into her normal natural ebullient self with Sherry.
Sherry heaved a sigh of relief and ruefully shook his head, his mum was right, he had almost scared her away and all said and done, she was just a baby, he thought tenderly as he looked at her through hooded eyes as she laughed and chatted with his mother.
Sherry made steady progress and was hobbling around the room on his crutches within 3-4 days. On the fifth day, the doctor declared him fit enough to be discharged. Both Anya and Aisha came to help Sunita pack the unbelievable amount of stuff that had accumulated in the hospital room. In return and in appreciation of their support, both were treated to home-cooked food at Sherry’s place, a modest yet tastefully decorated little bungalow with a pretty little patch of garden.
Sherry’s house was pretty near the hostel and the girls were given an open invitation to drop in whenever it suited them especially if they were hungry. The girls were greedy enough to take up Sunita on her rather generous offer, especially on the weekends they didn’t go home; which was pretty often as this was their final year.
Funny how much mischief one can get into even while one is drowning under academic pressure isn’t it?
Click here for Chapter 311