“Ouch!” Anjali yelped as both her brothers rushed to do her bidding; she glared at them, especially Arnav, “Itne zor se koi choonti kaat ta hai kya!”
Arnav retired hurt, “Baat hi toh maan raha tha! There’s no pleasing you,” he grumbled as he winked as Sheru; Anjali shook her head at him and turned her attention to Anya and her brother cum damaadji, “I can’t believe my luck,” she clasped her hands and sent up a prayer of gratefulness; she squeezed their entwined hands, “Pata hai Anya, Sheru is my other baby after Chotte,” she looked towards Arnav and her eyes crinkled and she wrinkled her nose happily before she caught Chotti’s stern glare, she bit her lip, “I mean Arnav,” she hurriedly corrected herself before carrying on, “Iska naam Sher Singh bhi humne hi rakha tha!” she laughed as she looked at Arnav, “Cho…Arnav tumhe yaad hai?”
Arnav made a wry face, “Haan Di aur yeh bhi yaad hai that you said he roared like a tiger isliye his name should be Sher Singh,” he shook his head disgustedly, “when it was more like a mewling cry, pata nahi kahan se aapko sher ka roar lagta tha!”
Anjali shook her head, “Yeh Arnav bhi na, didn’t appreciate the new entrant at all, especially since Chachiji was no longer free to tell him stories while he had his lunch,” Arnav rolled his eyes and looked away a bit self consciously, “it was impossible to sit down for a decent meal with him after returning from school if Chachiji wasn’t there, even Mamma couldn’t take over!” Anjali was totally lost in her memories, “Aapko yaad hai Chachiji?”
Sunita nodded her head as she smiled gently and said softly, “Haan Anjali bitiya, aur phir we had to rejig our schedule to suit his highness!” she looked at him fondly and said admonishingly, “Tera saal ka ho gaya tha par phir bhi kahaniya sunni thi! I think it was more to stake his claim over me than any interest in the story, kyon Chotte?” she looked at him knowingly Arnav had the grace to blush. Sunita laughed rather triumphantly, she moved forward and hugged him tightly, “Oh how I missed you both! How I wish things could have turned out differently,” she spoke through a suddenly tight throat as regret filled her and tears sprang to her eyes.
Anjali moved forward, “Haan Chachiji me too, pata hai, after we…we left, for so many nights I could hear Sheru crying, I would wake up hearing his cry and then start crying myself,” she too was in tears.
Arnav put his arms around both of them, “Come on now Di, aap hi toh kehti rahi hain to forget the past and look ahead, waise bhi jo hai nahi, jo chala gaya uske baare main sochne se kya fayda, we should appreciate and cherish what we are blessed with at the present moment nahi?” he looked down at his Di, who smiled through her tears and cupped his face, “Arre wah,” she said softly, “humare Chotte toh sach main Arnav ban gaya hai,” she laughed as she hugged him, Arnav held her close and looked over his sister’s head at Khushi – she blinked and smiled her brilliant smile.
Anjali wiped her eyes and went over to Anya, “Excellent choice Anya aur koi gadbad karein na toh bata dena kaan kheench kar pitai laga doongi iski,” she laughed, “aur Sheru,” she turned to him, “Anya ki guarantee meri!”
“Nahi Di,” Sheru shook his head, “I don’t need any guarantee but yes the fact that she is already part of my family makes it a double blessing,” he leaned forward to hug Anjali gently.
“Double blessing ka toh pata nahi,” Anya rolled her eyes, “confusion galore zaroor hai!”
They looked at her with questioning expressions, “Ab,” she sighed exaggeratedly as she hugged Khsitij, “Will Sherry call daddy Jiju or Dad?”
“What is in a name sweetheart?” Khsitij spoke as he scanned her face, “So long as you are happy?”
Anya vigorously nodded her head, not unlike Anjali, too full to say anything she hugged her parents, “It is unbelievable isn’t it?” she laughed, “I mean of all the men in the world…!” she shook her head, amazed and astounded at the chances, at destiny and how DM worked her magic – she had prayed so hard and for so long to actually belong, now and forever to the Raizadas and here she was joined to them forever and beyond – sahi main upar wala jab deta hai toh chappar phaad ke deta hai – not only this life but for the next saat janam she would be bound to him, “Shaadi kab hai?”Chotti had again escaped from the kitchen where Khushi had sent her off to help Boo, “Kal?”
Everyone laughed, “I wish!” muttered Sherry as Anya blushed a rosy red.
“Chotti!” Khushi bustled in with a laden tray, “Come on now sab ko bulao, call the boys in for dinner,” Chotti was suddenly very busy laying the table, hassling her brothers to come in and wash up; Poo and Anjali pitched in to help while Anya was shooed away firmly by Poo after being hugged and congratulated, “He seems very nice,” she whispered shyly; Anya dragged her to Sunita and Sherry, “Have you met Punya?” she said.
Sunita warmly embraced her as Sherry nodded smilingly, “Ah you mean Poo don’t you? How do you do? I have heard so much about you!” he shot a look at Anya, “In fact I probably knew everything about you all, except…” he shook his head reprimandingly at Anya – clearly it would be sometime before he would forgive her that omission – and justifiably too.
Poo flushed and muttered something incoherently before excusing herself. There was much chatter and hullabaloo as the Happy Singh Raizadas sat down to their dinner. Anya was perhaps the most excited and had to be coaxed and cajoled into eating, even her father was forced to reprimand her. But she was unrepentant and uncooperative – she just nodded brightly and carried on chatting with whoever she was busy with kabhi Mamu kabhi Anjie, toh kabhi Nani, Chotti, Guddu Anki, Sunita, Khushi oh the whole gang except Sherry who sat beside her frowning, his brows darkening by the minute. She ignored him, she really was too full, she couldn’t eat another morsel, not if her life depended on it, she felt as if she were flying aur Sherry ko dekho – jaise khane ko nahi, usse hi khaa jayega!
Suddenly he leaned sideways and murmured, “I am having second thoughts.”
She turned to stare at him, “Second thoughts? About what?”
“About marrying you,” he said quite casually.
Anya’s was a perfect O; he leaned closer and murmured even more softly, “Err, perhaps you don’t know, I like to clutch a soft substantial cushion while sleeping but abhi when I held you in my arms, your bones were poking me,” he pulled a long face.
Anya’s face was a study as she slowly turned a crimson red; she pulled a face but she reached out for another paratha and as an afterthought added a generous dollop of butter. She stole a glance at his face – Sherry’s expression lightened and he grinned lazily, his eyes knowing and soft – she blinked at him.
Achcha toh that was the trick – gusse se darr nahi lagta – pyaar se meltiya jaati hai
Click here for Chapter 337