Sherry returned soon enough bearing an energy drink, “Here drink this,” he thrust it into her hands and started the car, “Yeh kya hai?” she muttered foggily – this wasn’t a ring was it?
“Drink it up, you will feel better,” he said curtly, “by the way when did you last eat?”
Without answering him, Anya busied herself with the drink; Sherry banged his hand on the wheel, “I knew it! You mustn’t have eaten anything after breakfast because you must have gone to meet Ma around lunch? And now its almost six pm!” he was furious with her.
Anya avoided his eyes, he was of course right, she had been on tenterhooks the entire morning and had even skipped her mid-morning snack and of course she couldn’t think of swallowing a bite before leaving to meet Sunita – she had fibbed about eating out with friends and escaped – possibly that was part of the reason she felt as if she were sinking, she hurriedly finished the energy drink.
Her silence was answer enough, “How can you be so careless and irresponsible about your health?” Sherry was even more annoyed.
Anya put down the now empty can and crossed her arms defiantly, “Mera health hai, meri marzi, tumhe kya faraq padta hai?” she sniffed haughtily, boosted and buoyed by a surge of calories.
The car screeched to a halt, they had arrived at Shantivan. Sherry got out and determined to show him, Anya too got out but immediately stumbled, Sherry grabbed hold of her and swung her up in his arms, “Don’t you smart mouth me, young woman,” he said sternly and strode off.
Anya’s heart fluttered at the closeness but she was piqued as well – itna bhi kya ghooma phira kar apnapan jatana – seedhe seedhe nahi bol sakte ki…she stiffened, “Yes Uncle,” she said rather cheekily and inopportunely.
Sherry dropped her like a hot potato, “That’s not even remotely funny,” he snapped.
“Why not?” she retorted defiantly, “What’s in a name?” she said innocently, “and tumhe kya faraq padta hai?”
“Anya,” he said warningly, his finger raised threateningly but he was interrupted by the entry of the remaining gang, “Yeh kya?” Anjali looked from one to the other in surprise, “Abhi tak sort out nahi hua kya?!”
“Kuch sort out karne ke liye ho toh sort out karenge na!” Anya flounced away.
“Sheru beta,” Sunita said reprovingly, “Kya hua? Why is she so upset?”
“Mujhse uski yeh halat nahi dekhi jaati Ma,” Sherry burst out, “I feel like a heel, I should have listened to you, I should have told her the truth, then…then she wouldn’t be in this state,” he said jerkily.
“Yes,” Khushi, who had come to usher them into RM nodded, “That’s true, honesty and openness is the best approach,” she shook her head, “so many misunderstandings and so much of heartache can be avoided.”
“Par Anya ko bhi toh sach nahi chupana chahiye tha?” Arnav butted in – agar Khushi ne Shyam ka sach bata diya hota toh itna bada kaand hota hi nahi dammit – finally Arnav could overcome his guilt and lay the blame where it belonged, at Khushi’s door. Khushi dropped her eyes as the barb hit home.
“CSR!” Anya was cut to the core, “This is heights! Now you are taking his side? Over the eldest daughter of this house? Unbelievable!” she was near tears.
Arnav simply grinned and muttered in her ear, “Oho Anya tum bhi na,” he mimicked his Di, “One should humor the ghar ka jamai, right?” he put his arm around her and led her into the house.
Slightly mollified Anya glared at Sherry, “Jamai banega tab na,” she snorted her disappointment and primary grouse in a sotto voce.
Sherry ignored her, “Maam,” he addressed Khushi, “Aapko pata hai – Anya hasn’t eaten anything since morning? Aapko toh pata hi hoga how cranky she gets if she doesn’t get food every two hours? And on top of it she is not well,” he looked away.
Anjali hurried forward, “Kya! Is that right? Anya yeh toh bahut galat baat hai – Sheru is right to be so put off – bhala aise koi karta hai kya?” she scolded Anya, “Hariprakash!” she called urgently, “Jaldi Anya ke liye doodh lekar aao aur, Bournvita, Boost and Complan, job hi hai sab daal do,” she ordered, “Aur phir nashta bhi.”
The children burst in followed sedately by Nani and Poo. Introductions, exclamations, laughter and chatter where everyone spoke at the same time followed; but Sherry kept a strict eye on Anya till she finished the last drop in her glass – she made face at him as she upturned the glass to prove that she had indeed finished it. He looked away to find a pair of fine eyes trained on him assessingly, measuringly – he grinned despite himself, “Well hello, you must be Angelika or do you prefer Chotti?”
“That depends,” said our Chotti.
“Depends? Depends on what?” Sherry was a bit taken aback.
“Depends on who you are?” Chotti said in all seriousness.
Sherry shot a startled glance towards Anya, who was beginning to perk up, “Well in that case, Sharath Singh aka Sherry at your service Maam,” he bowed in equal seriousness.
Chotti shook her head impatiently, “Oh I know all that! I just talked to your Mum,” she pointed to Sunita who had won her over by her spontaneous reaction, “Anjali bitiya she is the spitting image of you! Such a darling isn’t she?”
“So why do you say it depends on who I am if you already know?” asked Sherry confused.
Chotti rolled her eyes, “Oho, what I mean is are you my Uncle or are you going to be my Jijaji?”
Clearly the little girl had been busy, made sense of the convoluted relationships and gotten to the crux of the matter and the question uppermost in Anya’s mind. Startled, Sherry’s eyes swung once more towards Anya who just shrugged and made a moue – you handle her.
Sherry coughed, “Which would you prefer?” he neatly passed the buck to Chotti.
Par Chotti ne bhi kachchi goliyan nahi kheli thi, “It is not a question of what I want, but which it is going to be,” she sidled closer to him and said in a loud carrying whisper, “But if you really want to know, I think you should marry Di, become my Jiju and then you can call me Chotti,” she offered him a win-win deal.
Laughter bubbled up Sherry’s throat, he suddenly felt relaxed – the emotional upheavals of the last couple of hours had messed up his wiring and he hadn’t quite known whether he was coming or going – he had been feeling as if his head would burst or something. He knew Anya expected him to declare his love for her but yet contrarily something was holding him back and all he wanted to really do was smash something – but this Chotti was really something else, he smiled and looked teasingly at Anya, “And why do you think I should marry your Di?”
“Because you look at Di the way Daddy looks at Mamma,” by now everyone was listening in avidly; despite his misgivings, Sherry gave in to his curiosity and asked, “And how does he look at your mamma?”
Click here for Chapter 333