“ARNAV!” Screamed Khushi dashing in between them just in the nick of time, “Arnav,” she glared at him her arms spread out protectively, “Arnav, please relax, let’s discuss this…”
“Discussssss?” hissed Arnav his eyes bloodshot and shaking with anger, “What the hell dammit, discuss karne ka kya hai, hatt jaao Khushi,” he pushed her aside roughly, “tumne suna na kya kaha issne,” he said in a dangerous voice.
Khushi stumbled and straightened, she hurriedly thrust herself between them again, “Nahi Arnav,” she said firmly, “Don’t jump to conclusions, abhi uski baat khatam nahi hui hai,” she turned around and looked at Sherry who was stood their with a closed expression, his fists clenched; her suspicions strengthening, she turned back to Arnav, “Aur mujhe nahi lagta that he was going to say what you think he was going to say – Shyam Manohar Jha,” she moved back to be able to see Sherry’s expression.
And as Khushi expected, Sherry wore a bewildered expression, “Shyam Manohar Jha?” he echoed, clearly hearing it for the first time, “Who’s that?”
“Never mind,” Khushi waved her hands, “Let the boy speak Arnav, he is willing to come clean so there is no need for you to jump to conclusions, waise bhi,” she looked at Sherry consideringly, “Bahut der se I have had my suspicions, but then as I said, let him say it,” she gestured for him to speak.
Sherry nodded his head and murmured, “Well well, Khushi Maam definitely seems more prescient than either of you,” he looked over at Di, who was seated and holding on to Khsitij for dear life, her eyes wide and fear-filled; he looked back at Khushi and said sardonically, “Or should I say Khushi Bhabhi?”
“Bhabhi?” Arnav forgot himself to repeat incredulously and looked blankly at Khushi and Di.
They looked at each other with confused expressions while Sharath stood there with a queer poignant expression on his face – proud yet regretful.
His lips twisted as he attempted a semblance of a smile at Arnav, “Not only you, other people too can change their names.”
ASR stared at him, his head spinning, “who are you?” he uttered with foreboding.
Sherry bowed facetiously, “Sharath Singh, at your service, Bhai,” he said with a sort of grim humor, he paused, “son of Sunita Singh and Shamsher Malik.”
There was a pin-drop silence.
Finally Anjali struggled to her feet and moved forward dazedly, “Sheru?” she whispered disbelievingly as she reached to cup his face.
Sherry’s throat worked frantically, “the very same Di,” he bent down to touch Anjali’s feet – she stared at him dazed, Chachaji son!
“Chotte!” she called urgently, “Yaad hai? When he was born tum kitne naraaz hue the? Itna chotta aur itna bhaav?” she laughed happily her eyes sparkling with tears of joy, “Aur dekho kitna bada ho gaya hai! Chachiji kahan hai?” she hesitated, shooting a nervous glance at Arnav, who wore a watchful alert expression and had stiffened at the mention of, “aur Chachaji?”
“Ohh so that’s his game plan!” Arnav BP shot through the roof, “the underhanded scoundrel sent in his son to do his dirty job, trap my niece in this fashion, well we’ll see about that,” once again Arnav went for Sherry’s throat, “Main tujhe zinda nahi chhodoonga!” and proceeded to demonstrate exactly how.
Sherry didn’t really protest or retaliate (possibly the suddenness of it took him by surprise – even Khushi who was very alert to Arnav’s action was caught by surprise for she was busy working out the relationship) and it is not really clear what would have been the natural progression of ASR action (i.e success in his mission or a healthy dose of his own medicine) for a mini hurricane thrust itself between them, “Maaamu!!!!!” she screeched in alarm, shielding Sherry with her slender frame, trembling like a leaf in a storm partly from fear and partly due to weakness.
“Anya!” both Arnav and Sherry started; they fell back in surprise – Anya took advantage of the lull in the proceedings to turn to Sherry, “Sherry!” she called urgently, “its fine! Everything is fine; don’t worry,” but that was all she had time to say before Arnav gently pushed Anya away. “STAY away from her!” he threatened direly, “Anya TUM bhi sun lo, stay away from him, he is bad news,” he warned severely.
“Maamu,” pleaded Anya, “Ek baar just listen to me will you, it isn’t like it appears, it is all a misunderstanding,” she turned to Sherry again, who was eyeing her hungrily, yearningly regretfully, “Anya,” his voice barely above a whisper, he raised a hand, a trembling hand and carefully brushed a flick away from her face, “Yeh kya haal bana rakhkha hai, don’t do this to yourself, please, nobody is worth it,” he was almost pleading.
Anya’s face lit up like a thousand bulbs, she grabbed his hand, “Oh weren’t you listening to me? It’s all a misunderstanding – Ab sab theek ho jayega, tum dekhna.”
When Sherry shook his head disbelievingly, almost pityingly, Anya rolled her eyes, “Look,” she raised the sleeves of her shirt and showed off her newly acquired bangles,” when he just looked blankly at her, she stamped her foot, “Ask your Ma,” she pointed towards the door, “Ma’s here?” Sherry was incredulous.
All eyes turned towards the door, Sunita stood there with hesitantly unsure of her reception – all the players seemed to have frozen – again it was Anjali who moved forward. “Chachiji?” and hugged her uninhibitedly welcomingly.
Relieved, Sunita too hugged her back tears of joy and regret streaming down her cheeks, “Kahan kahan nahi dhoonda tum logon ko? Aur mile bhi toh aise,” she looked reprovingly at Arnav and Sherry who were still on their guards; hurriedly Anjali intervened, “Aap kahan thi? Chachaji ke saath Sheesh Mahal main toh nahi the?” she shot a questioning look at Arnav, who shook his head decisively.
Sunita tried to brush it away, “Chhodo na kya puraani baton ko lekar beith gaye…”
“Oh but purani baatein bahut hi important hai and I for one insist on knowing the full truth and nothing but the truth,” ASR was not about to let his suspicions, apprehensions or grouse be brushed away so easily.
Sherry took exception to the obvious sneer and derogatory inflection in ASR’s voice – after all he was talking to his mother, “Just a minute,” he snapped instantly, his fists clenched as he shook off Anya’s clasp over his arm, “What the hell…”
“Sheru!” his mother instantly reprimanded him, “he is older to you and you shouldn’t use that tone with him.”
“Achcha?” Sherry nodded his sarcastically, “doesn’t it apply to him as well?” he threw ASR a blistering glance, “he started it first!”
Arnav’s expression became even more thunderously (if that were possible) incredulous, “WHAT! I started it?! No way! You were…”
Sunita and Anjali looked at each other and rolled their eyes. “Chotte! Sheru! Stop it both of you,” they spoke almost simultaneously; Sunita put a hand on Sherry’s shoulder, “Nahi beta,” she spoke a bit sadly yet acceptingly, “Chotte has a right to be angry with me, I failed him, I failed your Di when they needed me the most,” she met their eyes with anguished ones of her own as she said pleadingly, “But I tried, I really did.”
Anjali melted though Arnav was still stiff and unyielding, “Kya hua tha Chachiji?” Anjali moved forward to clasp Sunita’s hand reassuringly.
Sunita shook her head regretfully, “When your Chacha revealed his intentions to throw you people out while both of you were still reeling from the shock of the horrific death of your parents,” she said her voice raw with pain, “I pleaded, begged and fought with him but to no avail, he insisted on throwing you both out, while I watched helplessly,” she swallowed, “What more could I do, Sheru wasn’t even a year old,” she looked into the distance as if reliving a time gone by, “But then I couldn’t sleep nights, thinking of you both, alone in this world, I loved you both so much, as much as Sheru,” her voice broke, “I made a decision and walked out for I couldn’t stay a moment longer with such a depraved man,” she stood tall and proud, “I went to my parents place for a couple of years, but,” she shrugged, “it didn’t really work out, they are old-fashioned and of course money is a consideration,” she excused them while glossing over the most difficult years of her life, “So I moved on and out to Delhi and took up some odd-jobs till I found myself a teacher’s job in the same school as Sheru and slowly built up a life of our own, away from your Chacha – I have had no contact with him since – that is one thing I will always be grateful for,” she squeezed Anjali’s hands and looked at Arnav, “With my limited resources, I tried to look for you both but you had vanished,” tears sparkled in her eyes, “I cannot tell you how many sleepless countless nights I have spent wondering about how you both were,” she shook her head and smiled her eyes brimming with tears, “But I am happy to see that you are both well,” hesitantly she held out her arms to Arnav who stood still, trying to verify the truthfulness in her version. He looked at Anjali who nodded vigorously her eyes sparkling with happy tears, “Chotte, don’t lay Chachaji’s sins upon Chachiji’s door,” she said softly and put an arm around her, “She seems to have suffered just as much, if not more, on account of her principles,” she shook her head, “to make it on your own that too with a small baby by your side is no mean feat.”
Arnav finally moved forward and touched Sunita’s feet before being enfolded in her embrace, “Tum toh bilkul bhi nahi badle,” she laughed as she kissed his forehead, “Wohi tevar, wohi gussa,” she flicked his nose, as if brushing away his anger (much like she used to do when he was a child), “Sheru’s antics used to really remind me of you, I missed you both so much,” she hugged them both again, thanking DM for letting her find her other two ‘jigar ka tukdas’ – actually Sheru had been born very late into Sunita’s marriage and till then Anjali (more like a sister) and Arnav had been showered with her maternal love and indulgence.
Arnav looked down at Sunita, his expression soft and warm, he too had been fond of her and her betrayal had hurt; he turned to look at Sharath but then his eyes fell on Anya – Arnav’s expression hardened; Sherry’s lips twisted and Khushi instantly noted the remarkable resemblance between him and her husband – no wonder Sharath looked so familiar!
“Yeah,” Sheru nodded his head, “Well that’s the story of my life and if there are no more secrets to be revealed,” he said rather bitterly, “May I request all of you to kindly leave my office and let me get on with my life?”
“But Sherry,” Anya piped up brightly, “We still have to talk about us.”
Sherry ran a frustrated hand through his hair, “Were you not listening or did you not understand?” he bit out with ill-concealed annoyance, “As I said, there is no ‘us’ there can be no ‘us,’ he hissed angrily, “or are you so dumb that you couldn’t work out by yourself that by virtue of my blood relationship to you as an uncle,” he was at his cutting best, “Uncle! Don’t you get it? Yeh rishta nahi ho sakta – don’t you get it – it would amount to incest dammit!” he slammed his fist on the table.
Anya forcibly turned him around and shook her head gently, “No Sherry, you are the one who hasn’t got it,” she again raised her hands and revealed the kangans that she was wearing, “Don’t you recognize these, they are your mum’s,” Sherry stared at them disbelievingly and then looked at his mother; Sunita was standing with her arms around Anjali and Arnav; she nodded smilingly unable to say anything, “But…but I don’t understand,” bechara Sherry was most bewildered – he really didn’t get it, “How is this possible?”
Anya shook him, “You should have listened to Ma and told me the truth right away without doing all this filmy sacrifice,” she waved her hands agitated, “bekar main kitna drama ho gaya,” she sniffed in annoyance; she sighed exaggeratedly and taking pity on poor Sherry – not fair to keep him in agonized suspense not when her heart was dancing with joy and all she wanted was to be in his arms, “Sherry Sherry,” her voice bubbling with happiness and excitement, “I am your sister’s,” she pointed to Anjali, “that is my mother’s adopted daughter, so that means, technically,” she pointed to both of them, “you and I are not related by blood and so there is no problem!” she laughed happily and clapped her hands joyously her face glowing, “isn’t that wonderful?”
She watched excitedly as the penny dropped – Sherry’s face went from a confused bewildered questioning expression to a murderous one.
“ANYA!” he roared, not unlike ASR; he thrust his face angrily into her face and shook his finger threateningly, “Do you mean to tell me that for the past decade or so tumne apne bakbak se mera bheja fry kar diya – Mamu yeh Mamma woh Chotti aisi Guddu waisa, Ankit ne yeh bola, Poo, Nani, how your Maami is also you Bua – aur itni badi baat nahi bataya mujhe? Iska matlab kya hai dammit?” Sherry was furious.
A/N: Kaisa laga yeh khulasa?! Come on gals – itne dino se bore kar rahi hoon –ek line aapke taraf se toh banta hai na – even if it is to unload a truckload of bricks
Click here for Chapter 331