“Kuch nahi,” Khushi instantly unclenched her hands and schooled her expression, “Nani bula rahin hai kya? Chalo let’s go,” she caught hold of Chotti’s hand and marched out but not without a parting shot, “Waise bhi Daddy is very busy in his mega international affairs,” there was a fine edge of bitterness in her tone.
Frustrated Arnav sighed and sneezed loudly and in rapid succession, damn cold he thought bitterly and then urgently set about arranging for the tickets – Khushi was right, tickets were all but sold out and he had to pull strings just to organize a couple of tickets – just then his phone flashed. It was a message from Khushi ‘Forgive me for interfering but I thought I should remind you that IF you are booking tickets please don’t forget that Ankit is also expecting to go for the match.’
Arnav stared at the message in vexation he had forgotten dammit – pehle nahi bata sakti thi instead of wasting time in sending such a long convoluted message he thought resentfully. It took some more time (and a lot of money) to book the extra seats and ASR was able to dash off a triumphant sms ‘booked 4 seats’ as if pehle hi kar liya tha.
Devansh was happy but not ecstatic, “But Daddy can’t you come?” he was still disappointed he was so looking forward to seeing the match with his father.
Arnav regretfully shook his head and ruffled his hair, “Sorry son, I am rather tied up during those days with some international clients and will be flying to Singapore the next day,” he shrugged helplessly, “Your mom is going with you…”
“Mom!” Guddu shook his head disgustedly, “She doesn’t know anything about football, she doesn’t even like football,” Guddu was unappeased, “Please Daddy it will be no fun without you,” he pleaded while Arnav stared helplessly at him.
“Guddu,” Khushi spoke softly from the doorway avoiding Arnav’s eyes, “Betu don’t tease your Daddy so much, he also wants to come but you know na that he is busy?” she pulled him close and hugged him, “Haan mana ki I don’t know anything about football but I promise to read up about the players and you can even quiz me on them, how about that?” Guddu grinned at the thought of grilling his mother but disappointment still lurked in his eyes, “Aur waise bhi Ankit and Mamu are also going,” she casually added.
“Mamu and Ankit?!” he instantly brightened, “Phir toh khoob mazaa ayega, but if Dad…”
“Bas now you have to think of a way to appease Chotti,” Khushi interrupted hastily, “otherwise she will throw such a tantrum that she will refuse to let anyone go!”
Devansh nodded and scratched his head thoughtfully – who knew better about her lung power – he suddenly felt sorry for her, bechari how would she bear the triple blow – Da, Anki bhaiyya and Mamu. Dammit woh pucca kuch na kuch nautanki karegi – kuch toh urgently socheka padi.
He brightened and clicked his fingers, “Idea! We could pretend that even Daddy is going with us and then when she begins to cry and fuss, Daddy could ‘sacrifice’ and back out saying that he wouldnt go just for her?” he grinned mischievously.
Arnav was impressed and startled into looking at Khushi but she avoided his eyes and stood by the doorway stiffly; Arnav reached out and ruffled Devansh’s hair, “Not bad! Yeah she will like the idea of ‘winning’ and I am sure she will be convinced enough to let you all go without much of a fuss,” Arnav said dismissing Chotti and her nautankis.
Not a chance in hell, Khushi thought to herself, woh itni bewakoof nahi hai, khud hi dekh lena, she sniffed to herelf refusing to speak to him. As Devansh dashed off excitedly to share the news with his friends who were also going, Khushi stomped off to the kitchen while Arnav stared helplessly at her retreating back; he stiffened he didn’t have any time for all this nonsense waise bhi bahut time waste ho chuka tha, where was Poo dammit. Thankfully she appeared just then. He sent off Poo to the office to coordinate with Aman and send him certain details. He returned to work uninterrupted and in peace for the next couple of hours.
Khushi was not in a good mood, aise kab tak chalega, she thought to herself, work would always be there, if not in this form then in the form of some other crisis which would demand his attention and time – but the children were growing up fast – they needed and missed their father par woh samjhe tab na. He was lucky to get the tickets, he must have paid a fortune she guessed but then not everything could be bought with money – time ka kya, woh toh chala jayega na and he would never ever get to spend time with his children at this stage ever again. Besides he loved football, how could he not go? Kab tak aise maniac ke tarah work and work and then more work. Didn’t he realize that he too needed a break dammit, she fumed to herself. There was nothing she could say that would budge him she knew and nothing to be gained – instead very likely there would be raised voices and lost tempers which would only upset the children. Best that she kept quiet.
She marched into the kitchen and shooed away both HP and Shakuntala, and tucked in her saree ka pallu – she would cook today. Actually jalebi banana ka mann kar raha tha par koi khata nahi tha and it wasn’t good for her either to hog up so many jalebis at this age – cooking lunch would be equally therapeutic she decided, rather she hoped as a kadai fell with a clatter. She hurriedly retrieved it and began by attacking the vegetables, rather viciously. But soon the familiar rhythm and smells of the kitchen had their soothing effect and Khushi calmed down.
And then Chotti arrived, “Yummmm…What are you cooking Mamma?”
Khushi smiled, “Tum batao?”
“Rajma!” she said excitedly.
Khushi shook her head and flicked her nose, “Nahi Ramja!”
They giggled, “Haan main bachpan main Rajma ko Ramja bolti thi na?” Chotti shook her head at her own childishness.
“Haan meri ma, bachpan main!” Khushi picked her up and put her on the slab behind her, “Ab toh bahut badi ho gayi hai na – shaadi kara doon?” she teased her and then turned to lower the flame as the pressure cooker sang.
“Nahi,” Chotti grinned impudently, “I don’t want you or Daddy to go to jail – I am under 18 years of age na?” she said piously.
“Badmash!” Khushi pulled her cheeks, Chotti squealed protestingly, “Besides I want to listen to stories lots of stories, pata hai Mamma, aajkal na Nani doesn’t tell me any stories,” she said sadly.
“Aww sweetie,” commiserated Khushi, “You know na Nani is getting on in years and she gets tired very easily?”
Chotti nodded her head dolefully and then brightened, “Aap sunao kahani,” she pleaded.
Khushi protested, distracted, diverted delayed but uski dal yahan toh nahi galne wali thi, so she narrated the story of Savitri and Satyavan while carrying on cooking.
Peace prevailed but only for sometime – even telling stories to Chotti wasn’t without its own consequences and pitfalls.
I hope you know the story of Savitri and Satyavan? Well for those who don’t – a brief recap.
Savitri was a pure and beautiful girl born of divine blessings who insisted upon marrying Satyavan, the son of a king who had not only lost all his wealth and kingdom but also his eyesight despite being warned that Satyavan was destined to die within the first year of his marriage. Savitri settled down in the forest with her in-laws and husband determined to thwart Yamraj the God of Death. And sure enough, just as the year drew to a close, while Satyavan was cutting firewood, he felt faint and came to lie down on Savitri’s lap. Soon he passed away but Savitri kept a vigil and because of her purity could see Yamraj as he came to collect her husband’s soul. She began following him. Yamraj was startled and impressed that a human could see him, he blessed her and offered her a boon, anything other than the life of her husband. Without hesitation she asked for return of her father in law’s eyesight, Yamraj agreed willing and went on his way but Savitri continued to follow him. He again blessed her with a boon, and one by one she asked for return of his wealth, his kingdom, his former glory etc etc. but she continued to follow him, her anklets tinkling in the silence of the jungle. Finally, Yamraj ordered her to ask for a boon for herself and be done with it for she wouldn’t be able to follow him beyond. She asked that she be blessed to be the mother of a hundred sons. Yamraj relaxed and said “Tathastu,” and turned to go but stopped because Savitri continued to stand there expectantly smiling with her hands folded, “What?” he asked.
“A widow doesn’t remarry my lord,” she whispered shyly.
Yamraj conceded defeated and released Satyavan’s soul and he was soon restored to life.
Chotti was listening with rapt attention, her expressions reflecting the protagonist’s ups and downs and then her cross-examination began, “What is a ‘widow’?
“Widow is one whose husband has died,” Khushi was busy giving finishing touches to the meal.
“Why doesn’t a widow remarry?” Chotti asked.
“This a very old story, perhaps thousands of years old and actually till not very long ago, widows were not supposed to re-marry, but times have changed and the society now allows to widows to remarry,” Khushi explained.
Chotti then went on to the next obvious question, “Mamma,” she said thoughtfully, “Can you not have children without a husband?”
Click here for Chapter 341