“Oh nothing much,” Khushi dismissed airily, “The boys are going for a football match.”
Chotti relaxed, “Oh football match,” she wasn’t interested any more.
“To Kolkata,” Devansh fired the first round; Chotti stared at him in consternation, “With Mamma, Daddy, Ankit and Mamu,” Chotti tottered as she reeled under the volley of shots; but Chotti being Chotti made a speedy recovery, “I want to go too,” she stated emphatically.
“Lekin Chotti, you hate football, tum bore ho jaaogi,” Khushi tried to placate her.
“Even you hate football,” Chotti shot back.
“Yes,” Khushi sighed, “But somebody has got to look after the boys right?” Chotti frowned at Khushi unconvinced, “What if one of them got lost in the crowd?”
Chotti stamped her foot and stood her ground, “I want to go too,” she reiterated.
“Too late Chotti,” Guddu spoke up from where he lolled about on the sofa, “There are no tickets left,” then to make matters worse, “Oh what fun it will be! Football, yummy food in Kolkata, the zoo,” he waxed eloquent rather dreamily, “Ankit, Maamu, Mamma and Daddy,” and the unkindest cut of all, “No naggy whiny cry-baby along,” he completed triumphantly.
Bas phir kya tha, Chotti had no choice but to use her Brahmastra, she opened her mouth and let out a loud wail, “I don’t care I want to go too, Daddy please,” she wept heartrendingly.
Arnav gathered her into his arms and soothed her glaring at Devansh but it falied to reach his target simply because Guddu was away in his own dream-world where nothing could touch him aur yahan Chotti was inconsolable; finally he heaved a deep sigh, “Awright sweetheart, if you are so upset, I wont go, you and I will stay right here – let them go ok?”
Chotti stopped wailing like a banshee to consider this deal – daddy not go to Kolkata for football for her? Pretty neat she admitted but then Daddy would be busy with his work she guessed, besides she would have to go to school while Da lived it up, “Aap office nahi jayenge?” she asked suspiciously.
Trapped, Arnav’s eyes flickered towards Khushi – Khushi tightened her lips, I should let him deal with Chotti, it would serve him right, she thought mutinously. Just because I don’t let the kids nag and pester him, he probably thinks that it doesn’t matter whether he stays at home or office, usse pata toh chale ki jab woh nahi hote toh kitna miss kiya jaata hai unko.
His silence was confirmation enough for Chotti, besides usne bhi kachchi goliyan nahi kheli thi, “Waise bhi aap toh hamesha hi office main rehte ho, shayad aapke paas Kolkata jaane ka time hi nahi hai, isi liye aap pretend kar rahe ho that you are staying back for my sake,” Chotti declared shrewdly and confidently. Arnav was stumped and Devansh devastated by the way Chotti massacred his ‘plan’ to befool Chotti.
“Arre Chotti chhodo na, now don’t be a dog in the manger,” Khushi took matters into her own hands, “Waise bhi you don’t like football and I have another better option for you,” she paused while Chotti stared at her with misgivings and steeled herself for another sop, “you can go for a sleepover at Preetho maasi?” Khushi offered.
Aah that was more like it! Thought Chotti delightedly, deprive Da of daddy’s company and have that rare sleepover! She pulled a long face and said sadly, “Theek hai as you say Mamma, but you have to get me a gift from Kolkata,” she really knew how to drive a hard bargain.
Khushi smiled and hugged her, “Of course sweetie,” relieved to see that the bomb had been defused.
“And no gifts at all for Da and Ankit,” she wasn’t done yet.
“Chotti,” Khushi said warningly at her, “Yeh kya baat hui,” she said sternly.
Chotti instantly backed down, “Nahi I was just joking,” she hastily added demurely, “Its alright let Da and Ankit enjoy,” she heaved a deep sigh, “Main kuch nahi boloongi,” she said piously.
Khushi looked at her suspiciously and laid down the ground rules sternly, “Chotti, I am warning you, no rona-dhona or any of your nautankis while we are away, nahi toh no gift for you, theek hai?”
Chotti nodded innocently angelically, “Don’t worry Mamma,” she said soothingly, “You go and enjoy with the boys, while I will look after the house,” she offered rather grandly.
A crack escaped Arnav before he strode off to attend the meeting Aman had organized for him.
“Why does Daddy work so hard?” Chotti complained, “Even on Sundays he works,” she said with disappointment.
Khushi’s lips firmed as her heart broke for the little girl but she said evenly enough, “It takes time effort and dedication to earn money,” she said, “Money doesn’t grow on trees hai na? If he doesn’t work hard, how will he earn money to buy all the things for this house? And everything is so expensive these days, the football tickets itself must have cost an arm and a leg, ab he has to work extra hard to replenish all that money,” she tried to inculcate the value of money while excusing Arnav.
Chotti looked accusingly at Devansh, “All your fault Da, all because of you Daddy has to work so hard, I am so glad I am not going,” she said loftily, “Otherwise he would have had to work even harder,” she declared – all gila shikwa forgotten in her sympathy for her beloved Daddy.
Devansh sat up, “Good for you Chotti!” he cheered, “And to make sure you don’t miss anything, I will keep sending you the pics of the match, of the zoo, the food that we eat….” He swiftly made his escape from the sofa where he was sitting as Chotti lunged for him with a screech of annoyance and ran off shouting triumphantly, “the boat ride, the dinosaur museum,” Chotti’s scream of frustration drowned out the rest of his plan as she chased him around RM.
Click here for Chapter 343