“Angel, stop crying,” ordered ASR gruffly, trying not to panic, “tell me kya hua? Achcha Da ko phone do.”
“Da is also hurt,” she managed to say in between her hiccups.
“Da is also hurt matlab?” Arnav’s heart sank, beads of sweat sprang up on his brow, “Excuse me would you gentlemen,” he offered curtly before striding off accompanied by his loud and clear BG score, “Haan bolo Angel, I am coming home don’t worry, tell me kya hua?” he softened his tone and spoke gently, “You are my bestest bravest little sweetheart aren’t you?”
Arnav’s words worked like a charm, Chotti’s tears dried up instantly and she seemed to recover her composure, “Nani has fever and Da had gone for football practice and coach uncle called to say they have taken Da to the hospital as he got hurt while playing, Mamma’s phone is not reachable, where is Mamma? I want Mamma,” said Chotti her voice beginning to wobble again.
Nani had fever, Devansh in hospital, Khushi not reachable! Arnav’s blood froze, “Ghar chalo jaldi,” he snapped to the driver, “Angel sweetheart, did they give any details, which hospital, phone number anything?”
“Yes,” Chotti perked up with news of her father’s imminent return, “Coach uncle gave me his number,” she obediently and importantly dictated it to Arnav, “Ok Angel, you go and make me speak to Nani will you? I am holding the line,” while waiting for Chotti to obey his instructions he called up the coach.
But even his phone was out of reach – dammit ab kahan dhoondne jaaoon Devansh ko? He ran a frazzled hand through his hair. And Khushi? Where the hell was she? he grimaced angrily feeling out of his depth and quite panic-stricken.
“Haan Angel, Nani se baat karao,” he spoke into his other phone.
“Nani baat nahi kar rahi hain, she is sleeping,” informed Chotti.
“Kya matlab baat nahi kar rahi!” panic stricken Arnav snapped, “Shakuntala ko phone do,” he ordered peremptorily, “Kya hua Nani ko Shakuntala, woh baat kyon nahi kar rahi hai?”
“Pata nahi Bhaiyya,” Shakuntala said in worried tones, “Shayad bukhaar zyaada hai isliye, main cold compress kar deti hoon.”
Arnav spent what was his worst half-hour in recent memory sitting helplessly in the car as it crawled and inched passed the myriad vehicles thronging the streets of Delhi. He swore in frustration and barked into his telephone trying to pull strings to try and locate Devansh and Khushi (Di and her family were also out on a short visit to Bangalore).
Dammit Khushi kahan ho tum?
Arnav was out of the car even before it stopped and entered RM at a half-run, “Angel sweetie, here I am don’t cry, everything will be alright,” he said with a confidence he was far from feeling, “Come let me have a look at Nani, then we will look for Da,” he released her from his fierce hug.
Nani did have high fever but the cold compress had worked, she opened her eyes drowsily mumbled “Khushi,” and then drifted off. Arnav sighed frustratedly, where the hell was Khushi; uska phone kyon nahi lag raha; she should have been home long ago, if she was stuck somewhere she could have called up and informed – dammit Khushi kahan ho tum? Aur Devansh? Usko ko main kahan doondhoo? Here Angel was beginning to fret again, “Where is Mamma?”
He strode off without answering, “Get me the Police Commissioner,” barked into the phone, “Yes Mr Dwivedi, this is Arnav Singh Raizada,” he tempered his voice with great difficulty, “I have a problem, could you help me please?”
Arnav put the phone down and paced the lobby, worry gnawing at him yet trying to marshal his thoughts and rein in his growing panic, Devansh was hurt but the good news was that his coach was with him and at the hospital, but which hospital and even more important, how serious was he? How could he locate him in the city dotted with hospitals aur coach ka bhi phone nahi lag raha – no doubt the police commissioner had assured him quick results but Arnav knew it was easier said than done.
Aur Khushi woh kahan hai? Uska phone bhi switched off aur itni der ho gayi – agar usse bhi kuch…! He clenched his fists, trying to get a grip on his emotions – everything seemed to be collapsing around him and he felt helpless and ineffectual in stemming the tide of emotions engulfing him, suffocating him.
He swore loud and long as he restlessly paced the RM lobby, calling up someone or the other every other minute while Chotti watched him from her position on the sofa, all scrunched up, wide-eyed, scared and hungry, “Mamma,” she whimpered unhappily.
After an aeon, the RM door swung open and Devansh limped in supported by Khushi.
Arnav stopped in his tracks while Chotti flew to them “Mamma! Da!” she hugged them both and burst into huge sobs. Khushi gathered her into her arms and rocked her gently shushing her making soothing noises. Arnav slowly moved forward almost unable to believe that his nightmare was over, that his family was safe and with him.
Khushi smiled at him – bas phir kya tha – his blood pressure shot throught the roof – udhar half the state police was looking for her and Devansh and here she walked in cool as a cucumber and had the temerity to smile at him? What the ****!
He thrust his face into Khushi’s as he yelled, “Where the hell were you dammit? Ek phone nahi kar sakti thi? Do you even have any idea what I went through in the past couple of hours? Kabhi kabhi dimaag ka bhi istemaal kar liya karo! Phone kyon nahi kiya? Late kyon ho? Answer me dammit!” Relief had instantly given way anger and if Chotti wasn’t in Khushi’s arms ASR would have seized her by the arms and shaken her like a ragged doll.
Stunned, Chotti stopped crying and clung to Khushi staring fearfully at Arnav; even Devansh seemed upset, “Daa…ad!” he faltered. Khushi’s temper shot through the roof as well – she too had had a harrowing day and here the kids were already upset aur yahan Laad Governor apna Tandav karne main vyast hai, “Abhi batate hai,” she said softly through clenched teeth, “Andar toh aane dijijiye,” she forced a smile but he refused to yield. The children were staring at them almost fearfully, Khushi gritted her teeth and held on to her temper with great difficulty; she contented herself by glaring stonily at him – not in front of the kids dammit – and brushed past him.
Arnav turned away angrily and picked up Devansh who had a bandage on his left ankle and carried him to the sofa, “You ok buddy?” he asked gruffly.
Relieved, Devansh nodded his head, “Yeah Dad, just an ankle sprain but you should have seen the goal I made,” his eyes sparkling he prattled on about the game. Arnav listened with half an ear, still fuming and shaking with anger (and fear – agar dono main se kisi ko kuch ho jata toh?).
Chotti looked sadly at her mother, tear drops still clinging to her eyelashes, “Mamma,” she whispered, “It’s bad when you are late, but its worse when you come back after being late.”
Khushi didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, she hugged her precious little bundle close and whispered back, “I am sorry sweetie, don’t worry about Daddy, he is just stressed out and will soon be fine,” she reassured with a confidence she was far from feeling, “I think he must be hungry as well,” she muttered, “Tabhi toh aise bachchon jaise,” she said in a light comical tone – to her relief Chotti relaxed and giggled into her hand.
Khushi smiled woodenly and let go of Chotti – Arnav was in a flaming temper and Chotti said Nani was not well! Her heart thudded with trepidation – something told her things were likely to get worse before they stabilized.
Click here for Chapter 381