“Achooooo!” Arnav was in a foul temper, this was his nth sneeze since the morning, his nose tickled and trickled, his throat itched and he was feeling feverish as well – what a waste of a beautiful rain-drenched Sunday morning. Ek toh itne dino baad hi was feeling relaxed (after resolution of the Anya-Sherry lou isshtory) and had been looking forward to spending quality time with his family before plunging back into work and now this stupid cold – he frowned ferociously.
“Bas bas,” Khushi reprimanded Arnav, “Itna bhi kya gussa? Ek cold hi toh hai?” she raised her eyebrows at his petulant and grumpy expression.
“Do you have any idea how awful I am feeling?” he glared at her, “Ek cold hi toh hai,” he repeated rather bitterly, “Want to share my cold and see how bad I am feeling?” he offered threateningly.
“Ohhh,” Khushi shook her head, half commiserating half incredulous, “Now you are behaving like a real baby, Chotti dekhegi toh kya sochegi?”
“Daddddyyyyy!” Think of the devil, here he was – albeit in an angel’s garb. “Daddy, “I want to ask you something,” she panted, unable to hold in her curiosity any longer.
“Don’t come too near,” he snapped, “I have a terrible cold better you stay away from me,” he ordered.
“Oh good!” was Chotti’s reaction, much to Arnav’s amazement; he raised his eyebrow and looked Khushi in astonishment – she too found it rather weird even by Chotti’s standards, she shrugged and shook her head denying all knowledge of Chotti’s current direction of ‘khurafati’ thinking process, “Good matlab? Aise koi bolta hai kya? Dekh nahi rahe ho Daddy kitna pareshaan hain?” Khushi hastily butt in before Arnav’s expression turned blacker.
“Nahi,” Chotti brushed away her mom (though she did stop in her tracks), this was between her and Daddy (of course mamma was involved but question toh uske aur Daddy ke beech ka tha!), “Daddy I have a question to ask you,” she said rather importantly.
Arnav’s expression lightened, there appeared no immediate danger of his daughter coming too close and catching a cold, “Haan dolo?” he said encouragingly if not correctly, ab bechara woh bhi kya karta – his ‘dose’ was totally blocked.
“Dolo?” Chotti was instantly diverted, “Dolo kya hota hai?” she giggled.
Arnav made a face and rolled his eyes, “Arre Chotti, your daddy has a bad cold na? Toh his nose is blocked and that his why his unable to pronounce accurately,” Khushi hastily explained.
“Dolo,” Chotti repeated and giggled into her hand, her eyes twinkling mischievously, “Bolo bolo?” she ordered.
“Haannn haaann bolo,” he managed with a strong nasal twang.
Chotti clapped and nodded her head moving on to more important technical matters (rather grill Daddy dearest about his latest takniki kharabi and consequences thereof 😀 “Daddy, how will you kiss Mamma now that you have a blocked nose?”
Arnav froze and he looked up amazement at Khushi who was looking equally stunned, “Chotti yeh kya keh rahi ho?” Khushi heaved a big sigh and plonked herself on the nearest chair – this was clearly going to take some time to unravel aur bina depth tak giye, bina baal ki khaal nikale Chotti chhodne walon main se nahi thi.
“Just now I saw Jiju kissing Di,” she revealed blithely uncaring as Arnav stiffened and glared at Khushi.
Khushi glared right back, she shrugged and said in a sotto voce, “Relax at least they are engaged aur aapne kya socha tha? Ki saab aap ki tarah hote hai shaadi karke bhi, room share karke bhi,” she broke off and looked provocatively at him.
Arnav looked back at her in amazement, “What! Did I just hear a note of complaint and accusation for being a gentleman?! Unbelievable – here I exercise immense self control aur tum ho ki,” he shook his head.
Khushi shook her head mournfully, “Hume kya pata – self control tha ki interest hi nahi tha,” she sniffed and crossed her arms as she looked at him dolefully, only her eyes giving her away.
Arnav looked at her ruefully, “Khushi,” he began warningly only to be interrupted by their ‘kabab’, “Uffo meri toh koi sunta hi nahi hai!” Chotti huffed very much annoyed with the going ons – here she had important technical matters to discuss and possibly her future depended on it aur yeh dono hai ki apni ladai jhagde se hi fursat nahi.
“Haan haan sweetheart go on I am listening,” Arnav hastily intervened with a final darkling look at Khushi – humari baat abhi khatam nahi hui hai wala expression.
Khushi looked back at him impudently – aur woh toh kabhi khatam hi nahi hogi – her eyes shot back.
‘Thatatsu’ he blinked back lazily at her and a slow glow suffused her face as a half smile crossed his face.
“Daddy!” complained Chotti; Arnav gave her his complete attention, “go on,” he encouraged.
“If you kiss on the mouth and if you have a cold, how can you breathe?” Chotti asked in one breath before she lost her father’s attention again.
Arnav sighed mentally and looked towards Khushi for help, who shrugged – tumhari beti hai, tumse poochcha hai, tum sambhalo – she crossed her arms, a bubble of laughter rising up her throat – uff yeh Chotti bhi na.
Arnav coughed to clear his throat, “Weelll,” he said cautiously trying to think ahead and steer clear of any pitfalls he may inadvertently dig for himself, “Most importantly, one shouldn’t be kissing at all when one has a cold, for that way you avoid transferring germs right?”
Chotti nodded but determinedly she persisted for her primary question remained unanswered, “But can you kiss and breathe with a blocked nose?” she was like a dog with a bone.
Arnav sighed and shook his head, “Dno.”
Chotti was finally satisfied at having received a straight answer but worried, “Mamma, from now on I will drink up my milk without any fuss and I will become strong and healthy, then I will never catch a cold and I will be able to kiss and breathe right Mamma?”
Khushi studiously avoided Arnav’s eyes, it would have been too much for her gravity, she nodded her head solemnly, “Good idea! And if you stick to your resolution you can sleep for half an hour extra in the morning – doodh peene main kitna natak karti ho!”
Chotti faltered and blenched a bit, milk that too early in the morning yech! But she squared her tiny shoulders and bit the bullet – ek baar jo commitment kar diya toh woh apni bhi nahi sunti – waise bhi she was old enough to know that life main kuch paane ke liye kuch toh khona padta hai! After all there was no such thing as a free lunch.
“You are sure na Mamma that if I drink my milk and eat all my vegetables I wont get a cold when I grow up and be able to kiss without any problem?” Chotti liked to get the details and fine print very clear – no hidden sub-clauses if you please.
Khushi hedged cautiously saving herself from future recriminations and accusations of befooling an innocent naïve girl, “Well that is what they say in all health books,” she sighed piously, surreptitiously crossing her fingers.
“Hmmm,” pondered the little girl as she critically viewed her father sitting with his nose buried in the handkerchief emitting a loud sneeze every now and then, “Didn’t you eat your vegetables and drink your milk?” she asked suspiciously.
Since he was busy sniffling, Khushi answered on his behalf, “Of course not, you can ask Nani if you wish, tabhi toh yeh haal hai,” she said her fingers still firmly crossed.
Chotti cast a doubtful glance at her parents and marched off to verify facts from Nani and possibly even Maami, after all two people wouldn’t dare make a fool of her, would they?
Khushi heaved a sigh of relief and looked at Arnav; she started in surprise – he seemed to have recovered miraculously from his sneezing bout, “Achanak theek ho gaye?” Khushi raised her eyebrows.
Arnav gave her an injured look, “Kahan? My dose is still blocked and I think I have fever too, but I thought it best if I avoided talking too much, you can manage her better,” he conceded.
“Achchaji,” Khushi mocked him as she moved forward to touch his forehead, “Make me the bad guy huh?”
Arnav grinned, “Waise even I am interested in knowing the answer to her question, shall we put it to test huh?” without much further ado he proceeded to do exactly that.
Kya? Test result kya tha? Well let’s just say that it is all a matter of timing and a bit like swimming underwater 😛
And no Khushi didn’t catch a cold – she ate her veggies and drank milk without any fuss you see 😉
Click here for Chapter 339