Khushi shook her head warningly at Arnav, who was clearly melting and in a minute or two would declare that where his Angel couldn’t go, he too wouldn’t go, “Chotti,” she said sternly, “Itna drama mat karo, trust me you wouldn’t like it, yes there would be dancing, pretty clothes and jewelry and all but only late at night; before that there will be a long boring session of speeches and other people receiving awards, not just your Daddy and you would have to sit quietly throughout, can you do that?”
Chotti looked helplessly at her mother, and then nodded her head vigorously, “Yes I promise Mamma, I will be a good girl mamma, please, even Di, Boo and Nani are going,” she pouted unhappily.
“Oho Chotti, I will stay back theek hai?” Poo butted in but Khushi glared at her, “Nahi Poo you are not getting out of this one so easily,” Poo blushed and Khushi shot a glance at Arnav who just rolled his eyes and strode off, leaving Khushi to manage as best as she could while he…he went and chewed up some unfortunate person on the phone, “Every year, you make Chotti your excuse and not go, this time you have to go, no excuses,” Poo looked at her in dismay, “Oh but,” Khushi raised her hand and shook her head sternly, Poo fell silent, worriedly wringing her hands.
Khushi reached out and clasped them comfortingly, Poo looked up at Khushi who nodded her head gently; Poo sighed and straightened her back and nodded determinedly, Khushi smiled approvingly and cupped her cheek; she turned her attention back to Chotti who was keenly following this by-play, “And you madam have no choice, you are not going, but if you promise to be a good girl, you can stay the night over at Preeto maasi’s place?”
Chotti was ecstatic, she loved Mili and Lilly, Preeto maasi’s daughters; she gave a whoop of delight but then immediately controlled herself and shrugged casually, “If you insist but,” she looked consideringly at her mother and wheedled, “But I want to go shopping for Boo’s dress,” Khushi looked at her resignedly but only conceded, “We’ll see,” and walked away signaling the end of that particular skirmish.
She shook her head at Arnav and nodded towards his daughter, “Bilkul tum par gayi hai! Never satisfied with a deal, always on the look out for something extra!”
Arnav looked like the cat that had got the cream.
So it happened that Chotti went to Preeto’s house (yes she went shopping and bought a formal party dress for herself as well). In fact, she called up her friends and floated the idea of having a ball of their own. Both the girls of course were game and they set about decorating their room with streamers and sparklers while Chotti coaxed Boo into packing a meal fit for princesses and went all decked up as a Fairy Princess complete with a magic wand to have a party of her own.
Arnav had more reason to look like the cat that had got the cream – bas he had only one problem, he couldn’t decide whom to look at, his daughter or his wife. Finally he decided to personally drop his daughter off at her friends’ place before coming back to ogle his wife with undivided attention and quite shamelessly.
The boys? Oh the boys were happy to be in their usual tatters though for a minute Devansh nearly passed out when he saw Chotti all decked up and ready, he turned pale and said hoarsely to his mother, “I think I have a sore throat, I don’t think I can go for the party,”
Khushi laughed and ruffled his hair, “Come on Guddu relax! Only Chotti is going and that too to Preeto maasi’s place, all the boys are staying at home,” Devansh gave a whoop of delight and hugged his mom, “Yayy, Mamma you’re the best!”
Khushi hugged him back but shook her finger warningly, “But no playing football in the living room ok? Remember what happened last time?”
“I promise!” Devansh promised and dashed off to share the good news with his cousins, who were looking worriedly at each other.
Khushi shook her head, the boys were really too much and she would have in any case sent off Chotti to Preeto’s place – she did feel lonely and out of place whenever all the boys were together – they all ganged up and ragged her no end. Par woh bhi kuch kaam nahi thi, she would extract her pound of flesh later and milk Arnav’s sympathy for all she was worth.
Kya? Oh you want to know what happened the last time the boys played football in the living room? Oh nothing much except that Devansh’s well aimed and perfectly timed kick landed the football (and him) in hot soup – literally and figuratively. There was a pot of soup simmering on the gas and was just about ready to be served when the football fell with a plop right into it – a few drops of the hot soup fell on Chotti and Khushi who in the vicinity at that time.
Bas phir kya tha – it is a miracle that the RM roof didn’t blow off that evening and if it weren’t for Nani’s timely intervention, Devansh would have got the thrashing (earful toh mila hi) of his lifetime as Arnav was petrified at thought of what could have been.
Anyway, the open space near the gas counter was closed up with a thick sheet of glass and not really assured about its robustness, another screen was placed in front of it and Devansh barred from ever playing football inside the house.
At the award function
Anya was looking stunning today – she wore a sari, a red sari and her resemblance to Khushi was striking.
Arnav stopped short as he got his first glimpse of her, “Anya! Wow you’re looking so grown up and gorgeous!” he hugged her gently and put her at arms length to see her properly even as Anya preened, she knew she was looking her best, “Now will you get me married off?” she said slyly.
Arnav raised his eyebrow and looked at Khushi, “Oh so that’s why the sari and the works is it? To tell us you are old enough?” he turned to his Di.
Anjali crinkled her nose and smiled looking very proud of her beautiful daughter, “Chotte tum bhi na!” she shook her head, “Anya is just joking, remember when she wore her first salwar kurta you had threatened to get her married when she was just eleven,” she nodded her head, “Anya is just reminding you of that incident!”
Arnav shook his head, and said thoughtfully, “Oh I wouldn’t be so sure Di,” he looked at Anya who blushed – me and my unruly tongue – she mumbled to herself, “Be back soon,” she rushed off.
Khushi too nodded her head, “Haan Di, kuch toh kichdi pak rahi hai for sure, hain na Nani?”
Nani looked thoughtful while Anjali laughed off their premonitions, “Nonsense, bechari is so busy studying and her grades are excellent, where would she get the time to get into mischief?” She refused to accept that perhaps her daughter had grown up and that perhaps it was possible to mix studies with khichdi making.
Anya arrived a little while later, when the crowd around ASR had thinned a bit, with her friends in tow, “Mamu! My friends want to congratulate you,” she said a bit breathlessly.
ASR graciously accepted their wishes and shook hands with them, Anya neatly slipped in Sherry as well, introducing him as Sharath Singh. Nobody seemed to have noticed anything amiss and in fact Arnav seemed quite impressed with him and stayed to exchange more than a few pleasantries with him. Anya surreptitiously crossed her fingers and hugged herself in delight; if Mamu was convinced half the battle was won, she knew. Anjali was busy jabbering with Aisha and congratulating her and Yatin as they were to get married soon; a guilty Anya was relieved to escape her mom’s eagle eye and didn’t push her luck.
At the earliest opportunity Anya dragged her friends away from a potentially risky situation, but not without activating Khushi’s alarm bells, “You look very familiar,” she smiled a bit puzzled at Sherry, “Have we met before?”
Sherry shook his head, “No Maam, I for one would have surely remembered,” he smiled, “Anya keeps claiming that she looks like you,” he shot a look at Anya and shook his head regretfully, “But I am afraid she couldn’t hold a candle to you.”
Anya pouted and punched him hard while the others laughed. Arnav looked on with a benign complacent expression while Khushi looked at him with an alert expression, hmmm toh yeh baat hai ‘kahin pe nigahen kahin pe nishaana!’ Sharath caught her knowing expression and had the grace to blush, he smiled albeit sheepishly before Anya unknowingly did him a favor and hustled them away.
“I am pretty sure that boy Sharath has a soft spot for Anya! He just cant seem to be take his eyes off her!” Khushi murmured in an aside to Arnav after the gang left.
Arnav turned to look at Khushi, “Really? I thought he had his eyes on you?!” he raised his eyebrow as he looked down at with an expression that could still melt her bones to water.
Khushi blushed and laughed; she shook her head, “Ji nahi, he seems to belong to your school, zubaan par kuch aur aankhon main kuch aur!”
“What nonsense! Aisa maine kab kiya?” he protested offended, “I always speak what ever in on my mind.”
Khushi looked at him, “Haan but your heart is always at cross purposes with your mind,” she brushed a non-existent speck from his collar, “at least where I am concerned, and while aapki zubaan obeys the dictates of your mind, par aapki aankhen hamesha hi kuch aur bol rahe hote hain,” she blinked at him, he blinked back at her lazily, “Tum apne aap ko bahut hoshiyaar samajhti ho na?” he taunted her.
Khushi’s eyes softened and she floored him yet again with her brilliant smile, “Isme sochne-samajhne wali kya baat hai?” she preened, “Jab aapki aankhen saaf saaf yehi toh keh rahi hai!”
The RV lazily floated and twirled around them in an intoxicating swerve.
Click here for Chapter 316