The door opened before Anjali even rang the bell; Chotte stood there with a thunderous expression, Khushi warningly tugged his hand. Chotte controlled himself with an effort and said in an even tone without looking at Kshitij, “Everything Ok Di? We have been waiting for so long; Rakhi is today you know na, not tomorrow?”
Anjali pulled a face, “Haan baba haan, sorry, woh who traffic bahut tha…”
Chotte forgetting his resolutions, “Haan Di, Rakhi hai, traffic toh hoga na, why did you have to go?”
Anjali smiled and put a hand on Chotte’s face and said affectionately, “Sorry bola na, waise bhi ek purana waada nibhana tha,” she said cryptically.
Khushi looked at Arnav exasperated, “Achcha achcha, can we have this discussion later? Let Di come in and our guest too,” she glared at Arnav and smiled at Kshitij and welcomed him inside.
Kshitij was staring at her with a strange expression; Anjali caught his expression and smiled gleefully to herself, “Come in come in, let me introduce you to everyone.”
Kshitij entered RM which was decorated beautifully and there were lights everywhere and he could see Anya talking nineteen to the dozen to an older lady, Anjie’s Nani he presumed.
Anjie’s brother was just the fire eating dragon he had pictured him to be but his wife puzzled him, something very familiar about her, she reminded him of someone, but he couldn’t quite place his finger on it, he shook his head.
Anya caught sight of her father and she came running and jumped right into his arms shouting, “Dad, dad, oh I am so glad you came; now the party is complete.”
Anjali smiled as she came forward, “Yes Anya as usual you are right! Kshitij let me introduce you to everyone; here this is my Nani, my Mami, her son (and my cousin) Aakash, his wife Payal.
Kshitij touched Nani and Mami’s feet and shook hands with Aakash and smiled at Payal.
Anya piped up, “And this is my father Dr Kshitij Kumar Goyal!”
Everyone laughed, and Mami rolled her eyes, “Anya don’t bhorry, we knowz.”
Khushi stood quietly at one side as if the cat had got her tongue while Garima suddenly moved forward and said in a whisper, “Kishu bitwa? Is that you?”
Buaji put a hand on her head and whispered, “HRNK!” while Babuji smiled broadly and nodded his head.
Kshitij looked at Garima dazed, then looked at Khushi who stared back at him; unbelievingly he looked at Anjali, who nodded her head vigorously smiling her eyes sparkling like diamonds; Arnav watched this byplay with a suspicious frown on his face, Di noticed it and clutched his arm excitedly and said softly, “Watch.”
Kshitij moved forward as if in slow motion and wrapped his arms around Garima and exclaimed, “Buaji”!
Garima shed tears of happiness murmuring, “Kishu bitwa,” over and over again.
Khushi looked at Di unbelievingly; Di nodded her head and said with a tinge of sadness, “Finally, this Rakhi, I managed to ‘arrange’ a brother for you.”
Tears flowing down her cheeks, Khushi claimed her hug from Kshitij as well, “Kishu bhaiyya, it is you na? I should have recognized those jalebi curls,” Khushi cried.
Kshitij laughed and hugged her hard, “Yes Khushi, it is me, tell me do you still love jalebis?”
“Oh yes!” Everyone chorused in unison, while Khushi laughed and said, “And do your dimples still show up when you are upset or stressed out?”
Kshitij laughed and affectionately tweaked her ear.
“You know Khushi,” said Kshitij, “ever since Anya started talking, I started missing you very much; she reminded me so much of you, except for her curls she is just like you.”
Garima nodded her head smiling, “Yes, humne kahan na, Anya is just like Khushi at that age.”
Suddenly everyone was laughing, crying and talking at once. Nobody could hear the other and nobody cared.
Except Anya and of course, CSR.
Anya stamped her feet (CSR exercised immense self control and desisted from following suit), “Will somebody please tell me what is happening? I also want to laugh and cry at the same time!”
Anjali again took charge of the introductions, “Anya dear come here, let me introduce you to everybody.”
“But I already know everybody,” she objected, “Daddy doesn’t know anybody.”
“No sweetheart, I have introduced Daddy to those whom he didn’t know, the others he already knows”, said Anjali.
Anya was even more confused while Arnav just looked dazed.
Anjali took Anya to Garima and said, “Anya this is your father’s aunt and your Dadi; and this is your Dadaji and this is another Dadi and this is your father’s cousin and hence your Bua, rather Chotti bua and this is your Badi bua.”
Anya looked confusedly from one person to another trying to work it all out, and then Arnav, who had either not been paying attention to this lesson in family history or was not too quick in decoding relationship complexities, too piped up plaintively, “Will someone please explain to me what is going on?”
“Chotte tum bhi na!” Di smiled, “Here meet your ‘saalababu’, Khushi’s cousin Kshitij. His father and Garima Aunty were brother and sister just like us,” she explained, talking to both Chotte and Anya, “As Kshitij’s family had migrated abroad they had lost touch with each other and in fact Kshitij has come back to India in search of his family.”
Anya’s eyes were round as saucers, “Does that mean we are all family?”
Anjali laughed and said, “Yes!!”
Anya went crazy then, she ran around hugging each one and repeating their new names, Dadi, ek aur Dadi, Dadaji, Choti bua, Badi bua, she stopped at Aakash and said, “Who is this uncle?”
Nani smiled and said, “Bitiya that is Bade phuphaji.”
“Pooh Paah ji? And this is Chote pooh paahji?” Anya experimented with the difficult words.
Arnav rolled his eyes, “No thanks Anya,” he drawled, “I refuse to be ‘Poohed or Paahed’ by a chit of a girl, uncle is fine by me.”
Anya looked at him, hands on her hips, looking more and more like Khushi, despite the curls, “Hmmm, I think I shall call you what suits you best, CSR!” she imitated his frown and stuck out her tongue at him; Arnav gave in to the child in him and he dashed towards her giving a blood curdling yell, she ran off squealing. He caught up with her by the stairs and hoisted her up on his shoulders and brought her back like a triumphant soldier waving his imaginary sword over his head, while she screeched with laughter.
Everyone joined in the laughter.
Anjali looked at Kshitij who was still looking shell shocked and even a bit pale now that the initial excitement had worn off, “Are you ok?” she asked softly.
“I am feeling dizzy.” He muttered.
Anjali quickly made him sit down and insisted he put his head between his legs; he obeyed and emerged red faced a few moments later only to find himself surrounded. He flushed with embarrassment, “Woh, I was feeling dizzy, skipped lunch today…”
“Pata chal raha hai Khushi ka bhai hai,” said Arnav in an aside.
Mami’s snicker was the loudest.
Arnav was moved by his wife’s joy at being reunited with her long lost brother that too on Rakhi; yet a streak of possessiveness, a desire to remind her that she was still first his, made him follow Khushi to the kitchen, hug her from behind and murmur in her ear, “I win the bet, what you were hinting at didn’t happen; Di was ‘arranging’ a brother for you; get ready to face your ‘punishment’ tonight,” he smirked.
Khushi turned in his arms and hugged him happily before pushing him away, “You got a hope, I won the bet, I clearly said something good will happen and is se achcha kya ho sakta hai?”
She suddenly looked thoughtful as spied her brother talking to Di and then muttered, “Picture abhi baaki hai mere dost!” and walked away with a tray loaded with food.
Click here for Chapter 35