Finally it was time for Rakhshabandhan, Anjali was all smiles and a flurry of preparations. She went from room to room overseeing the decorations, delegating the food to Khushi but checking up on her every now and then. Everyone was happy to see Di this excited, but nonetheless a bit puzzled too.
Early in the evening, Anya came with Nanny, announcing that Dad wasn’t coming as he was busy.
Anjali’s face fell, “What! Where is he?”
“Oh he is at home but he told me to tell you that he is very busy,” Anya said innocently.
“Busy? Rubbish!” Anjali charged off to their place while all the RMians looked on in surprise.
Khushi looked wonderingly after Di but when she saw the confusion on the little girl’s face, she rushed forward to smooth things over and welcomed her and made her comfortable. And the ice was well and truly broken after Khushi gifted the bangles she had bought from Nanital for her (Mamiji was of course even more upsetiyafied, “humri status toh HP aur aaoootsider se bhi lesswa hai”).
They were pink and a perfect fit. Anya was over the moon and her joy was infectious and soon the entire RM clan was under her spell of her spontaneous and open affectionate nature.
Garima in particular was captivated by her; she said to Khushi, “You know she reminds me of you at her age.”
“Why at her age, Aunty? Even now Khushi and Anya appear similar,” Arnav butted in.
Khushi glared at him and busied herself with the arrangements. Arnav came over and said, “Worried that you will soon be losing your bet. Hope you remember the terms, ‘kuch bhi,’” he murmured in her ear.
“Why should I be worried?” retorted Khushi, “besides you have already reassured me that no matter who wins, both will be winners, hain na?” she batted her eyes flirtatiously.
Arnav smiled, lopsidedly.
Anjali rang the bell, long and hard.
Kshitij opened the door and stared at her, “What happened, something wrong with Anya?”
“She is fine,” Anjali bit out, “But I have a bone to pick with you. Why did you not come along with her? I specifically invited you over for Rakhi and then you just sent her! Why?”
Kshitij shoved his hands into his pockets and stubbornly shook his head, “I am not coming.”
Anjali astonished, “But why?! I didn’t mean to tell you in advance, but I have a surprise planned specifically for you.”
Kshitij held his ground with a mutinous expression, “I don’t like surprises and I am NOT coming.”
Anjali flabbergasted at this sudden character change. She always found him to be easy going and adaptable person and now this sudden inexplicable mulish behavior.
She took his arm, his hands were still tucked inside his pockets and pulled rather ineffectually, “You will have to come, or at least give me a better reason than that!”
Kshitij jerked his arm away, “Don’t push it Anjali, I said I am not coming.”
“But why? And I did tell you I would never speak to you if you didn’t come, do I mean so little to you?” she pouted.
“I would rather you didn’t ever speak to me than….” He clamped his lips tightly.
Anjali stared at him surprised, “Than…than what Kshitij?”
Kshitij refused to speak another word and stood there with a mulish expression on his face. Anjali stared at him mystified. What on earth was the matter with the man! He was looking so stressed out with his lips pressed like that; strangely this expression made his dimples stand out in sharp relief (!)
Anjali getting annoyed at his pig-headedness, “Fine, be that way, she said sweetly, “then we are all coming over here,” and turned to leave.
Kshtiji gritted his teeth “OK FINE, I don’t want to go to your house because I refuse to have a Rakhi tied by you.”
There was pin drop silence.
Anjali froze. Had she heard him correctly, did that mean what she thought, did that mean….? Her heartbeat drowned out all rational thought processes and she stared and stared at him at a loss for words.
Kshitij stared back at her partly defiant, partly apologetic, partly pleading, and part, her heart fluttered and stopped beating, part ‘something else’.
Her eyes questioned him hesitantly, he blinked and then there was just ‘something else’ in his eyes.
Anjali closed her eyes, afraid to believe what she was seeing. When she opened them, ‘something else’ was still there and if anything more than before, she felt faint and breathless, almost as if she were drowning. She felt like laughing and crying at the same time.
She controlled herself and looked at his hands still firmly tucked away out of sight in his pocket and an impish devil in her prodded her to say softly, “Hum toh aaj aapko Rakhi bandhwake hi chodhenge.”
Kshitij stiffened as he stared unbelievingly at her, he jerked out his hands to shut the door on her face, but she raised her hand, “But I… I won’t be the one tying it.” she completed.
Kshitij exhaled in a sigh of relief, “Anjie, don’t you have any consideration for my feelings? I nearly died just now.”
Feeling very nervous and shy, Anjali shied away from the topic and said, “Come let’s go. Everyone is waiting and must be wondering where I disappeared to, Hey Bhagwan, I wonder what they must be thinking.”
Kshitij just stood there and looked suspiciously at her, “So if not you, who IS going to tie a Rakhi on me?”
Anjali turned away, “Come on let’s go, we are getting late.”
Kshitij pressed his lips into a mulish expression (and the dimples showed up again) and asked skeptically, “What’s the guarantee?”
“Guarantee?” Anjali was surprised.
“Guarantee that you won’t be tying a Rakhi around my wrist?” asked Kshitij skeptically. And that fire-eating brother of yours will have my hide once he sees that you left the Rakhi celebrations to call me and then you don’t even tie a Rakhi on me.”
Anjali clapped her hands admiringly, “How well you know Chotte without meeting him too.”
Kshitij clammed up, “Mocking me are you? Well that is what I would do if I thought some unknown person was dangling after my sister or Anya.”
“Sorry baba,” Anjali was contrite, “Nothing of that sort will happen, achcha ab chalein?”
Kshitij was again off and shook his head, “No I am still not comfortable.”
Anjali, praying for patience not wanting to reveal her ‘surprise’ just yet, said placating, “Achcha, tell me what would make you comfortable?”
Kshitij instantly cheered up, “How about if I tie a mangalsutra?”
Click here for Chapter 33