Khushi sighed resignedly, “Achcha Nani, hume maaf kar dijiye aage se dhyaan rakhoongi, ghar time se aajaoongi, ab toh theek hai na?”
Nani turned away but allowed Khushi to massage her legs and then put some oil on her head – she was soon fast asleep.
Poo and Khushi tiptoed out, “Bechari Nani,” Khushi said, “She is getting on in years, now she really gets stressed and psyched if she even thinks she would have to manage and make decision about what to eat! I shouldn’t have gone,” she rued.
“Nahi Bhabhi,” protested Poo, “I was here and she didn’t have to really do anything.”
Khushi smiled a bit sadly, “Hum jaante hain Poo, but she is basically lonely, she misses her son and even Arnav, who is never here,” she heaved a sigh, “even the children are growing up and have interests and routine of their own aur agar hum bhi gayab ho jayenge toh pareshaan toh hongi na?”
“Toh iska matlab hai that you have to compensate for the others as well?” Poo asked incredulously.
Khushi smiled and shrugged, “Kuch aisa hi samajh lo, waise bhi as people grow old, they become like children,” she smiled, “Now we just have to remember that have three children at home, par yeh sab chhodo,” she changed the topic, “What happened to you?”
“Me? What happened to me? Kuch bhi toh nahi,” Poo flushed and looked away as she denied the charges.
Khushi looked at her keenly, “Nahi kuch toh hua hai,” she nodded her head decisively, “Chotti ka diagnosis tha ki Boo is sad, mera diagnosis hai ki Poo is angry and rebellious, par kyon?”
Sudden tears clouded Poo’s vision, she hastily turned away with a muffled, “Kuch nahi.”
Khushi sighed and gently steered her towards the lobby sofa, “Come sit here and now tell me,” she shook her finger at Poo warningly, “And don’t give me all that rot about ‘kuch nahi’ and all,” Khushi said, “That wont cut any ice with me, waise bhi Arnav will be here soon, unko bata dena sab,” she said slyly.
Poo made a face at Khushi, “That’s not fair!” she burst out
Khushi shrugged carelessly, “Everything is fair in love and war!” she declared loftily.
“Love and war?! Aur yeh kya hai?” Poo asked stiffly.
Khushi pinched Poo’s cheeks, “This, my dear, is love, love for you,” she said with a wealth of affection in her voice.
This time Poo couldn’t control her emotions and the tears spilled over – she threw herself into Khushi’s arms and bawled her eyes out. Khushi let her even though her heart sank, she hadn’t expected such a storm of emotion, Chotti was more right than she was! Or may be she had collected herself in view of the chaos at home because of her absence, Khushi sighed, she couldn’t even call one evening her own without feeling guilty.
“Achcha achcha ab bahut ho gaya, chalo rona bund karo aur batao kya hua?” Khushi wiped Poo’s tears and slowly the tears dried up and the day’s events came tumbling out.
A fierce anger built up within Khushi and her eyes flashed dangerously, “how dare he? Kuan hai woh zara naam aur pata toh batana.”
Poo blew her nose and smiled at Khushi, “Nahi Bhabhi iski koi zaroorat nahi, this is my battle and I intend to fight it bas aapka aashirwad chahiye,” she got up and restlessly walked about, “Pata hai Bhabhi, when I first got to know, I was very hurt and upset, I wanted to run straight home and cry in your or Nani’s arms, I was desperate for my safety net, my bubble where nobody could ever reach me or hurt me,” she swallowed and paused, “But slowly over the day, I realized that I couldn’t stay cocooned all my life,” Poo said reflectively, “Waise bhi I am better off knowing the truth and what if I had gotten to know later much later,” her voice dropped to a whisper, “Suppose I had got married to him?” she shuddered and stiffened, “Nahi, I cannot imagine spending my life with such a man.”
Khushi looked at her with a sense of déjà vu – history had almost repeated itself and RM had been saved another ‘sham-episode’ she shuddered mentally and whole-heartedly agreed with Poo, better to know now than later, she reached out and squeezed Poo’s shoulder.
Poo smiled and shook her head, “Nahi Bhabhi don’t feel bad for me, aapko pata hai, strangely enough I am feeling liberated, I finally feel free, I feel like I suddenly don’t care for the acceptance of this world, I want to live on my terms, Chotti was right, I was sad and depressed when I came home but then now I am just angry and rebellious,” she suddenly laughed, “Like I used to be – the dabangg Punya of yesteryears, pata hai Bhabhi, when I was in my village I was very aggressive and bold, I was a big chatterbox and participated in sports and debates,” she shook her head, “dramatics, oh everything and anything, I feared nothing and I believed I could do anything and then one day,” her voice sank and then firmed, “Just because I refused a guy to his face he threw acid on me.”
She was silent as she recollected those agonizing days, “I was shattered, my life came to a standstill, I was shunned by all as if I was the guilty party, as if I was the one who had committed a crime, I couldn’t believe the injustice of it all – everyone just kept saying ‘you must have said or done something ladka nahi toh aisa kyon karega?’ I don’t know which was worse, the pain of the acid burn, the injustice of it all or the ugly face in the mirror,” tears rained down her cheeks but she brushed them away carelessly, “Phir fate brought me here,” she smiled, “Deva came into my life, and of course aap sab, and everything was alright, I forgot everything as I wrapped myself in the layers of love that I got from all of you, nothing mattered,” she paused, “but somewhere along the way the old ‘Puniya’ was lost, she lost her outspokenness, her confidence and instead became subdued, beholden,” she stopped suddenly with a stricken look, “Don’t get me wrong Bhabhi!” she hastily interjected, “I needed all this to heal, to recover and to move on, and today when I overheard Vinay, it acted as the jolt that I needed,” she smiled faintly at Khushi, “I finally felt a glimpse of my old self, the part I thought was dead and buried, aap samajh rahe hain na what I am trying to say?” she asked Khushi hesitantly.
Khushi smiled and nodded, “Yes I think so.”
Relieved, Poo smiled gratefully at Khushi as she squeezed her hands, “Thank you Bhabhi, I knew you would understand,” she hesitated, “And you will understand when I tell you what I want as my Rakhi gift,” and told her.
Khushi looked at her suddenly alert, “Dekho Poo,” she said warningly, “Just because I said I understand doesn’t mean I will agree to this wild scheme of yours,” she frowned disapprovingly and then shrugged, “Meri chhodo, Arnav won’t agree,” she said comfortably.
Poo looked squarely at Khushi, “I will convince him, provided I have your blessings.”
Khushi looked at Poo in surprise, there was a strange sort of confidence and a sense of purpose, determination emanating from Poo, the shy, diffident, hesitant retiring sort of Poo who yielded under the slightest pressure was nowhere to be seen. Where so far there had been affection admixed with sympathy and pity for the ‘poor thing’ now respect blossomed.
Khushi nodded, albeit reluctantly, “Ok done, I will give my blessings,” she raised her hand, “Provided you can convince ASR,” She said meaningfully, “Mind you no tantrums, no shouting or slanging matches, if you can convince him, I will have no choice but to agree to your decision.”
Poo smiled happily, “Ok done, but aapko bhi promise karna padega, that you wont say anything to ASR,” She stressed, “And if he does ask you to intervene, I am not asking you to support me but you have to promise that at least you won’t gang up against me.”
Click here for Chapter 356