Initially Punya was rejected and shunned by most, to a larger or lesser degree – she even caught a few unkind sniggers. Then all of a sudden there was a perceptible change in attitude, people began recognizing her and became very friendly towards her. As expected Punya was over the moon, she blossomed under the attention and she threw herself whole-heartedly into her curricular and extracurricular activities. She had a neat hand for drawing and was in great demand during cultural festivals and it was during her involvement in one such event that she met and became close to Vinay.
Vinay was a regular guy heavily into organization of college functions and to be singled out by him was a huge boost for the shy and retiring self-effacing girl – she could hardly believe her luck and accused him of being a softie and a champion of underdogs. He stoutly and hotly denied these baseless allegations and protested that he believed in the beauty of the mind and yearned for a meeting of minds, a matching of wavelengths – Punya’s heart fluttered and throbbed, she was nervous and distracted, thrilled and petrified at the same time. She treasured and savored each moment spent with him and couldn’t wait to go to college each evening.
Even Khushi noticed and ribbed her, “Kya baat hai Poo, bahut sundar lag rahi ho? Your face is glowing, kaun hai who?” her eyes twinkled mischievously as Punya blushed prettily and hurriedly embarrassedly disclaimed, “Nahi nahi aisa kuch nahi hai Bhabhi.”
“Haan haan theek hai theek hai,” Khushi didn’t pursue the matter further for Arnav had put down his newspaper to stare critically at Punya; Khushi rolled her eyes and shut up though she did wink at Poo as she hastily left for college.
Arnav folded up the newspaper with a distinct crackle, “Kya chal raha hai?” he asked in relatively mild (deceptive) tones.
Khushi shook her head innocently and shrugged, “Kya chal raha hai? Kuch bhi toh nahi?”
“Don’t mess with me Khushi,” he warned softly, “abhi you were saying something to Punya.”
“Oh please Arnav,” Khushi was exasperated, “I was just teasing her, waise bhi agar koi hai bhi toh bura kya hai?” she challenged.
“Khushi please,” he raised his hand wearily, “Please spare me your fairy tale spiel, find out who this guy is, could be some fortune hunter, main koi risk nahi lena chahta,” he stated quite categorically, “waise bhi one can’t be too careful with any of these men…”
Khushi swished passed him muttering quite audibly, “choron ko saare nazar aatein hain chor,” she gave a gasp of shock as Arnav caught hold of her wrist and pulled her to his lap, “Yeh kya kar rahein hain aap, koi dekh lega,” she hissed trying to escape his implacable grasp as she looked around worriedly.
Arnav was unconcerned, “Bolne se pehle sochna chahiye tha,” he dismissed, “Kya boli tum, main chor hoon?” he raised his eyebrow.
Against her better sense, Khushi relaxed against him no match for the RV or those eyes, “Maine kab bola?” she sniffed, “But now that you say – if the shoe fits,” she added provocatively.
“Kya churaya?” he said skeptically, “And please no cheesy lines about your dil and all that,” he gave a theatrical shudder.
Khushi managed to thrust him away and slide on to the seat beside him, “Of course ab toh aapko cheesy lagega yeh sab, par sach toh yehi hai na,” she looked at him challengingly.
He raised his eyebrow and said soulfully, “Par Khushi phir toh tumne bhi mera dil churaya hai,” heaving a deep heartfelt sigh.
“Rubbish,” Khushi stood up decisively, “Aapke pass dil tha hi nahi toh churati kahan se, jo bhi tha, that you dedicated to your business and mere pass jo tha woh chura liya and now I am trapped with no escape route,” she pouted giving him a wounded look.
Arnav was unfazed, in fact looked quite pleased – he lithely got to his feet and trapped Khushi up against the pillar, “And that is the way I like it,” he murmured softly, “you at my mercy,” he admitted shamelessly.
Khushi was aghast; her face was a round O, “That is so unfair,” she decried hotly, “Aise thodi na hota hai, ya toh mera dil wapas karo ya phir apna do.”
“Oh but Khushi, didn’t you just say that is just so cheesy?” he smirked, stole a deep satisfying kiss before striding off to make some more damdaar deals – at the door he did turn back to steal another look at her flushed adorable face as she muttered, “Laad Governor hi nahin chor bhi hain,” his low laugh echoed in her heart for the rest of the day and the RV hummed incessantly in her ears for the rest of the day till she went quite bonkers.
Yes of course bonkers, zara socho, RV ho aur Arnav na ho toh bechari ko kaise lagega?
Khushi had a pleasant and sort of euphoric day initially but then she became irritable and tetchy (pssst Ramiya ko bhi jhaad padi thi – hmmph waise bhi long overdue tha, Ramiya bhi aajkal kisi ki sunti hi nahi thi bas apni man marzee – roz koi na koi bahana bana kar gayab ho jaati thi – hmmm kahin wahan bhi koi khichdi toh nahi pak rahi? Inbesitgation karika padi) bechari karti bhi toh kya karti – ya toh Arnav ho ya phir yeh RV ka off button ho – ufff grrrr sheeeee she tried all sorts of tricks but saare fail ho gaye and then to make matters worse – there was an irate mail from a customer who had fallen sick apparently after eating a meal supplied by her precious AKC and if she didn’t get out there and sort out matters and give appropriate justification and/or compensation soon woh usse dekh lega and all that.
Khushi hysterically called up all her customers to check for any reports of food poisoning but thankfully there were no such incidents. She wiped her brow in relief and dashed off a hoity-toity mail of her own insisting that nothing was wrong with the food she supplied and perhaps he should check matters at his own end.
There was instant backlash at her effrontery – she got a phone call, a dire menacing disembodied voice said shortly, “We need to discuss this ASAP; gaadi bhijwa raha hoon, come along otherwise anjam achcha nahi hoga,”
“Hum kahin nahi ja rahei,” Khushi shot back defiantly.
“Soch lo, tumhare iss nirnay ke durgami parinaam ho sakte hai,” he threatened coldly.
Coming to an instant decision, Khushi capitulated, “Theek hai, but I will come in my own car,” she stated her terms and conditions, “Text me the address.”
“Oh no no, I will send the car, don’t be late, I have other more important things to attend to,” there was a click as the phone was disconnected.
Fuming, Khushi paced up and down, so overbearingly autocratic, how dare he talk to her like that? Samajhta kya hai apne aapko? Uski himmat kaise hui humse aise baat karne ki – after all woh bhi KKGSR thi – khair usse toh woh chhodegi nahi.
Click here for Chapter 350