As expected, ASR kicked up a fuss (by the poolside), “What nonsense Khushi, iska kya matlab hai? How can we send Poo off with just a simple wedding?” He angrily thrust his finger into her face, “Tum aisa soch bhi kaise sakte ho?!” he said accusingly.
Khushi drew a deep breath and prayed for patience, it was hot and sultry uske upar se yeh Arnav – gusse key eh doondhe bahane, hai Ram yeh hasna bhi na jaane, pata nahi kab chill karna seekhenge.
“Haan haan, I told Poo that,” she said in soothing tones, “Par woh bhi galat nahi hai, it wouldn’t be good if her relatives poured into the city in hopes of sustenance from us,” she halted, “haan agar village main something needs to be done, we can think about it, but the idea of having people live off us as parasites is something that she is afraid off,” she hastily raised her hand, “humari baat toh suniye, hum maante hain that you are more than capable of dealing with such opportunists, but I was thinking more of Poo, just think how difficult it would be for her if her relatives began imposing on her goodness? The less they are aware of her financial status and that of Aman’s, the better it is for both of them,” she shook her head worriedly.
Arnav shook his head impatiently, “Khushi I really think you are making a big deal about nothing…”
“I have an idea!” Khushi said excitedly, “Why not have a simple wedding at Benaras, which is very near their village? That way her relatives could easily come over and nobody need to see where Poo lives or will live?” Arnav still looked unconvinced, “And,” she continued in the tone of one who knows she has an ace up her sleeve, “When we come back after solemnizing the wedding, you can throw as big a reception as you wish, hum mana nahi karenge,” she looked expectantly at Arnav.
Arnav looked at her in reluctant appreciation, “Tumhare paas har cheez ka solution hai na?”
Khushi raised her shoulders and nodded proudly, “Of course,” she made a face, “Except for when you are in ASR mode,” she frowned at him.
A faint incredulous smile creased his face, “ASR mode,” he repeated incredulously, “really Khushi, what’s that!?”
Khushi nodded her head vigorously, “Haan aapko nahi pata? Aapke bahut saare avatar hain – ASR, Arnav, Chotte and Daddy,” she ticked off each one on her finger.
Arnav looked at her in amusement his eyebrow raised, “Itne saare personalities! Would you be so kind as to elaborate?” he crossed his arms and waited.
“Hmm,” Khushi tapped her cheek thoughtfully, “Let me see – Daddy-mode toh pata hoga? You are indulgent, caring and patient when with the children, par kabhi kabhi,” she frowned at him, “ASR-mode main tab bhi chalein jaate hain – the one who is impatient, cannot tolerate fools, is single minded and often ruthless when on his one and only maqsad in life,” she pulled a face.
Arnav looked at her wryly, “And that is?” he prompted curiously.
“To crack deals,” she shook her head, “ASR has to win, always and at any cost,” she stressed, “and do you know what the worst thing about ASR is?”
Arnav shrugged nonchalantly, “Even if I do, I am sure you are itching to tell me,” he gestured, “Go on tell me, I can take it,” he said rather arrogantly.
“Yehi yehi – isi ki baat kar rahe the hum!” Khushi instantly erupted waving her finger at him, Arnav narrowed his eyes and spread his hands innocently, “Whaat?”
“Zyada baniye mat,” she shot back, “I am talking about your ego, its huge, massive,” she spread her hands to emphasize the point, “Aur aapke ego ke aage nobody can stand, koi bhi nahi,” she looked at him speculatively, “Haan of course I have not seen your ego clash with Chotti or Guddu, ho sakta hai they win, especially Chotti,” she shuddered theatrically, “But then I hope that day never comes for then sab kuch tehes nehes ho jayega!”
Arnav rolled his eyes, “Come on Khushi, itna bhi bura nahi hoon main aur na hi mera ego itna bada,” Arnav was offended.
Khushi fluttered her lashes at him, “Hum aapki baat thodi na kar rahein hain!” she twinkled irresistibly at him, “Hum toh ASR ki baat kar rahein hain!”
Arnav looked at her resignedly and flopped down on the swing by the poolside, “Toh ‘main’ kaun hoon?”
“All in good time,” Khushi said loftily, “Ek taraf aap ASR hain aur doosre hi taraf Chotte bhi – the one who wants all the attention, pampering, socks kahan hai and all the works,” Khushi was ruthless in her analysis.
“Socksss!” Arnav vehemently denied this baseless allegation, “What the ****! Maine kab maange socks tumse ya phir kisi se bhi?” ASR spat.
Khushi slid her arms around a stiff and unyielding Arnav, “Wohi toh! ASR ka ego maangne nahi deta aur Chotte ko milti nahi,” she grinned mischievously up at him, “toh aap puraane wale socks hi pehen ke chale jaate hain!” When Arnav burst out into one of his still rare (and precious) gusts of uninhibited laughter, Khushi smiled triumphantly.
“You know you are crazy – tum sach main paagal ho,” he accused his smile still lingering.
Secretly thrilled with the compliment, Khushi rushed to disclaim, “Nahi nahi! Hum pehle aur bhi paagal the aapke saath rehte rehte hum toh ab bilkul bhi crazy nahi rahe,” she lowered her lashed demurely.
“Crazy nahi my foot!” Arnav said incredulously, “Tum toh paagal ho hi, mujhe bhi paagal kar diya!” he shook his head resignedly.
Khushi laughed and clapped her hands delightedly; unable to resist, Arnav reached out and drew her into his arms and gently rocked the swing, he put a hand under her chin and raised her head, “And what about ‘Arnav?’ he said softly as he looked deep into her eyes.
“Arnavvv,” breathed Khushi huskily, “What can I say about him? He is my world,” she blinked at him, her face soft and tender.
Dissatisfied Arnav looked at her questioningly. Haltingly Khushi attempted to describe Arnav to Arnav, she shrugged, “If ASR is the one who sent me to the dilapidated guest house, Arnav is the one who brought me back, if ASR is the one who cut me to pieces with his cruel unthinking words, Arnav is the one who overruled ASR’s ego to say sorry,” she paused and then continued, “if ASR is the one who chews my head off because I didn’t pick up his call on the first ring Arnav is the one who shoos away the children and brings me a hot water bottle; if ASR is the one who fumes and throws a fit if I am ever later than him in coming back from office, Arnav is the one who books my tickets to Lucknow because he notices I am worried about Babuji,” she swallowed and smiled her brilliant sparkling smile at him, “Aur bhi bahut kuch hai, sunna chahenge?”
Arnav wore a self-deprecating half smile, he shrugged embarrassed, “This Arnav sounds like an emotional fool,” he looked away.
“Aapko lagta hai na ki just because Arnav is a caring softie that makes him weak and unimpressive?” she shook her head, “But for me Arnav is the strong one, the one who has the real gumption to own up to his mistakes, the only one who can defeat ASR’s ego,” Khushi stood up and pulled him up to stand facing her. She held his hand and enfolded it tenderly between hers as if they were the most precious thing in the world, “Arnav is the only one who by a single glance, the simple blink of an eye, the faint twitch of his lips, the touch of hands the caress of his warm breath raise me from the depths of despair to the heights of joy and turn my bones to water,” her soft whisper faded away into the darkness.
Arnav stared down at her with his mouth twisted. A warm breeze ruffled Khushi’s bangs and they fell over her eyes, Arnav raised his free hand and trailed a gentle finger over her face straightening her locks and tucking them behind her ears, unable to say anything – not that there was any need for his eyes said it all.
Aur mauka dekh kar chauka marna wala RV, which had been hovering and humming over (and around) them expectantly right from the beginning, swung into its full scale exhilarated expanded uncensored version prompting Arnav to swing Khushi up into his arms and stride back to their room.
Khushi reached out and hurriedly slid the door shut and drew the curtains, allowing only the amorous RV to accompany them.
Click here for Chapter 375