Khushi was impressed, “Achcha?!” she raised her eyebrows, “This I have to see! Itne saalon main ASR ke saath chaar lafz nahi bola hoga aur ab you are ready to do battle with him?”
Poo laughed a bit embarrassed, “Battle kahan Bhabhi,” she protested, “aur waise bhi aap bhool gaye, jab property division ki baat aayee thi, then he did agree to my request, albeit at Nani’s behest,” she added hastily, “par aap dekhna, iss baar bhi maan jayenge.”
Despite her promise to Poo, Khushi wavered and thought that perhaps it would be prudent to prime Arnav – Even though she could empathize, if not agree with the stance Poo had taken, ASR was not going to see it that way. Yet Poo was so confident of convincing ASR – what if she failed? Her self-confidence would be shattered, what if she retreated into her shell again? It had taken her so long to find herself again, what if she…bas kar Khushi, tu aisa nahi kar sakti Khushi told herself sternly, this battle Poo would have to fight herself and indeed as many battles as possible. As Poo said, it was time to let her fly, let her find herself, be herself, not mollycoddle her and protect her from every hurt, every danger that lurked, even if the first test was ASR himself – even if it meant one step forward two steps backward, she needed to do this on her own, in her own way and on her terms.
She hugged Poo fiercely, “I like this new Poo very much! Ab peechche mat hatna!”
Poo nodded her eyes sparkling, “Kabhi nahi,” she vowed.
Just before Rakhi, Arnav as usual asked Poo the perfunctory question, “Kya chahiye Rakhi ke liye?” not really expecting a concrete answer for usually Poo would get flustered and mumble something incoherent and hide behind either Nani or Khushi and on occasion had also rushed off behind Chotti and Devansh. And then Arnav would look ruefully at Khushi who would smile and nod her head, ‘I will get something appropriate’.
He may very well have left the ritual to Khushi rather than take the botheration of repeating the same old routine each year, but Khushi insisted, “Waise bhi you both hardly talk to each other and she is so shy and tongue tied in front of you, aise hi dheere dheere she will get used to you and become free with you one day,” she predicted, rather presciently, if one may say so.
Poo shot a glance at Khushi who nodded encouragingly; Poo took a deep breath and squared her shoulders, “Haan chahiye,” she said firmly, ASR’s eyebrow’s shot up at the faint defensive yet aggressive note in her voice, he too shot a glance at Khushi, “Haan bolo?”
Poo backed down and said hurriedly, “Aap please mujhe galat mat samajhna,” she pleaded, “I am really very grateful and appreciative of all that you have done for me, my intention is not to belittle your kindness or even reject it but this is really important to me and I really do feel this is something that has to be done…”
“Ok ok,” Arnav raised his hand, “Would you just get to the point?” he said a bit impatiently.
Poo looked pleadingly at Khushi who shook her head and crossed her arms, resignedly Poo raised her eyes to Arnav and said in a rush, “I want you to put a clause put in the property papers or adoption papers, or wherever it is relevant,” she gestured a bit vaguely, “that no matter what happens, when and if I ever get married, I will never have any claim on any Raizada property, wealth or any material good,” her voice rang clear and firm.
Arnav stared at her and then looked at Khushi, his lips thinned and eyes hardened, “I was right wasn’t I Khushi? He was a fortune hunter isn’t he? Who’s the guy, tell me Poo,” he breathed fire.
Poo was taken aback, in her preoccupation with arguments to convince ASR she had overlooked this angle – that ASR was omniscient or that he would fish out an inconsequential bit of information and simply put two and two together, “Nahi, aisa kuch nahi hai,” she mumbled in her usual incoherent manner.
“Khushi tum batao,” ASR ordered, but Khushi shook her head decisively, “Bhai behen ka mamla hai, apas main sort kar lo.”
“Poo?” ASR asked questioningly.
Poo steadied herself and bravely looked at him in the eye, “Nahi Bhaiyya, its not important who the guy is, what is important is what I have learnt from it,” she paused trying to gather her thoughts, “You have given me so much, indeed you have given me a new life, filled with acceptance, affection, apnapan, education, confidence to stand on my own two feet, I don’t need anything else except aap sabka aashirwad,” Just as Arnav opened his mouth to retaliate, she carried on hastily, “Bhaiyya please let me speak, yes there was somebody in college who intended to use me to get to you,” her voice was cold, hard and steady, “But thankfully I got to know of it early enough and trust me there is no permanent damage, in fact, on the contrary, things have become crystal clear to me, I am determined that nobody in my family should have to bend or compromise because of me, you have made me capable of fending for myself and now I ask for your trust and faith that I can and will be able to make it on my own, when and if needed,” she suddenly smiled, “In all likelihood I am never going to get married so this clause is a mere formality, for my peace of mind maan jaayea na, please,” she requested earnestly, “Moreover if I do ever get married, I will be confident and sanguine it is for me and me alone that he is marrying me not because he has his eyes on your bank account, this clause will ensure that.”
Arnav was impressed with Poo’s eloquence, far-sightedness and strength of character, he looked at Khushi and saw approval there as well as a hint of sadness, regret – if only she had been not so apprehensive about hurting Di, if only she had been a little less kind, a bit more cruel and forthcoming, a bit more far-sighted that in enabling Shyam to maintain his façade she was doing more harm than good, if only… Arnav blinked at Khushi, she swallowed and nodded; neither of them wanted history to repeat itself.
Arnav nodded reluctantly and patted Poo on her shoulder, “Ok as you wish,” Poo was overjoyed – convinced ASR! Unbelievable! Ecstatic, she forgot herself so much so that she threw her arms around Arnav and hugged him, “Thank you thank you thank you! This is the best present ever!”
“Crazy girl,” Arnav rued, “Lagta hai ki Bhabhi ke saath rehte rehte tum bhi pagal ho gayi ho!” he shook his head and escaped, but not without a backward glance at Khushi who stuck out her tongue at him.
He laughed wickedly, promising retribution at a more suitable time.
High on her success in convincing ASR coupled with an innate hesitancy in questioning him regarding whether the needful had been done, Poo didn’t follow up on whether the clause had actually been included or not. And of course ASR who was busy making deals (in between err taking retribution) conveniently forgot about implementing the clause. It was only later, much later, when Poo started going to A&Designs that Poo remembered to go through her papers and confront ASR about it. Since Poo was adamant and in fact quite upset with his ‘oversight’ ASR had no choice but to give in allow her to have the clause included in her papers.
Anyway to come back (finally!) to the original point – it is on this backdrop that Aman and Poo were thrown together, each with his and her own respective baggage.
Sparks were bound to fly – of course nothing compared to Arshi standards for Aman was not so hotheaded or quick to lose his temper although he did have a solid ego and was shaken that a chit of a girl could just come in and throw his orderly mechanized life into disarray.
Click here for Chapter 357