Dully Khushi bent over and picked up the pieces of her shattered phone – phone par hi kyon gussa nikalte hain? Kya itne saalon main kuch nahi badla? Bachche dekhenge toh kya sochenge?
Khushi flopped back on the swing and stared unhappily at the empty room – Phone ko chhodo, that was replaceable but yeh aapne kya keh diya – aise kaise keh diya aapne – how can I just close down AKC just like that – what about the employees unka kya? Khushi shook her head sadly, how very ironic, there was a time when she had wanted to close it down and Arnav had reminded her of her social responsibilities and today – tears clogged her throat.
She swallowed, nahi nahi, he didn’t mean it, he was just panic stricken because so much had happened and that too all together! It must have been dreadful for him, she thought and her hurt faded a bit – even though she still seethed at the injustice of it all. Woh karein to professional aur main karoon toh business business khel rahee hoon, Mother India hoon? She stiffened and clenched her fists even as worry gnawed at her – kahan chale gaye? Must be driving the streets of Delhi at full throttle, dammit kuch ho gaya toh?
Aur main aisa karoon toh? That would be inexcusably irresponsible of me, she thought bitterly.
Restlessly she got to her feet; no, she couldn’t afford the luxury of sitting here and pampering her morbid thoughts full of self-pity. Nani ko dekhna hai, Guddu ko bhi and where was Chotti? She wondered suddenly, had she gone to sleep? On her own? Highly unlikely. Shrugging off her intense desire to just crawl into bed, pull the sheet over her head and wake up only when things were all good and hunky dory, Khushi pushed herself to her feet. She peeped into the room that was adjacent to theirs, nope no Chotti. She went to Devansh’s room – a full house here, relieved, she noted wryly.
Guddu was sleeping on the bed while Arnav was sprawled over the futon with Chotti in his arms – both fast asleep. Khushi tiptoed forward and attempted to take away Chotti for fear they both would roll over but Arnav’s arms immediately tightened around his Angel “Khuuusshiiii” he moaned fearfully – he opened his eyes blearily and stared into Khushi’s startled eyes – he looked confused and dazed for a moment. But only for a moment – his eyes hardened and lithely got to his feet carrying Chotti in his arms and put her down gently beside Devansh and pulled the futon near the bed and settled himself on it rather aggressively.
Fine be that way, Khushi firmed her lips and her eyes shot sparks, she turned her nose up in the air and swished away – kuch toh kaam aaye, she sniffed disdainfully to herself, at least she wouldn’t have to shuttle between Nani and Guddu. She settled herself for a long night beside Nani whose fever had again risen – she was cranky and delirious. Khushi finally dozed off by the side of Nani’s bed in the wee hours of the morning – where Arnav found her sitting on the floor, her head on the edge of the bed holding a piece of cloth in her hand.
The room was witness to the night that was – bed clothes strewn all over, a hot water bottle, a bucket, a mop, a bottle of Dettol, a pile of Nani’s clothes on the floor – he leaned over careful not to disturb either of them – he grimaced as he straightened, Nani was still warm to his touch.
Khushi woke with a start, “Guddu?” she asked immediately worried.
“Theek hai,” he said curtly and strode out of the room.
Nani moaned, she really was very sick, her cough had become worse and she suffered bouts of coughing causing her to throw up as well. Khushi hurried to her, waise bhi it was time for her medicines; fever toh hai abhi bhi, should I call the doctor she thought worriedly. Just then Shakuntala bustled in, “Bhabhi!” she called out urgently, “Why didn’t you wake me last night? I would have stayed with Naniji, I really got an earful from Bhaiyya,” she twisted her fingers agitatedly.
“Haan koi baat nahi,” soothed Khushi, “waise bhi Nani was continuously asking for me only, toh tum kya karti? Achcha abhi safai kar do aur Nani ka dhyan rakkho, I will call the doctor and freshen up tab tak.”
“Bhaiyya already called the doctor, he is on his way,” Shakuntala informed.
“Achcha,” nodded Khushi and rushed to freshen up before seeing to breakfast and Chotti’s tiffin – usko bhi toh roz kuch naya chahiye hota hai. But first a look-in at Guddu – he wasn’t in his room but Khushi could hear him – as usual engaged in a verbal duel with Chotti at the dining table – theek hi lag raha hai, thankfully no worries on that score, she thought relieved. Arnav kahan hai, she wondered briefly before dashing off for a quick wash up.
“Kaisa hai mera Guddu?” she asked him affectionately as she returned a short while later. Bright eyed and fresh, he turned to Khushi and declared rather triumphantly, “Main theek hoon Mamma, but I can’t walk, Dad had to carry me downstairs so no school right?” he gloated as he shot a crowing look at a glowering Chotti.
“Yeah I guess,” Khushi agreed reluctantly.
“But Mamma, don’t you remember, when Da’s friend Neeraj Bhaiyya broke his leg, there was arrangement in school for a wheelchair? Now our school is disabled-friendly,” she took great pleasure in the announcement especially as Da’s expression fell almost comically, “After all koi itne din kaise school miss kar sakta hai?” she asked piously, “Haan of course Da wont be able to play any game,” she said sadly, “He can study during the games period,” she grinned wickedly.
“Haan haan bas bas, bahut hogaya chutter putter tumhara, drink up your milk, main abhi breakfast laati hoon, Guddu tum bhi, yeh lo breakfast bhi aagaya,” HP appeared carrying a tray laden with toast and eggs. Arnav emerged from the kitchen, dressed and ready for the day – Khushi’s eyebrows rose, achcha toh ab breakfast ka intezaam inhone kiya?! Dekhte hain kitne din yeh shuaq rehta hai, she thought cynically.
“Yech! Toast!” moaned Chotti, “Aaj toh idli-day hai na?” she whined.
Arnav’s superior mask slipped, Khushi stepped in, “Aaj emergency day hai, bahut late ho gaya hai in any case, now don’t fuss and eat up your breakfast quickly,” Khushi served them breakfast and served Arnav as well without looking at him, “Guddu you too – you are going to school,” she decreed.
Guddu stared horrified at his mother after sparing a moment to scowl fiercely at an angelic Chotti who wore a beatific expression as she daintily nibbling her toast, “But Mamma,” he wailed, “how can I go? I am not even ready,” he couldn’t hide the victorious note.
“Never mind,” Khushi said briskly, “Chotti toh abhi jaa rahi hai, I will send a note to the Principal through her so that they can have a wheelchair ready for you, waise bhi first period PT hai, so for once you can join in a bit later, now hurry up,” she hustled him.
Devansh’s dreams of long uninterrupted days on the computer (with no pesky little irritants around) came rudely crashing down, he wanted to protest the unfairness of it all, plead ill-health, anything to get out of going to school but then desisted – dal toh waise bhi nahi galne waali thi plus Dad was sitting here and he looked very stern and serious. Heartbroken he allowed HP to carry him to his room.
“Here Chotti, give this note to the Principal will you?” Chotti proudly and confidently nodded her head as she stowed it away safely in her bag, “And Chotti, umm… humara ph…phone kh…arab ho gaya,” she said, “If you need anything, just call your Dad, he is always available,” she threw over her shoulder as she walked away to help Guddu get ready while HP took Chotti to the bus stop.
Arnav froze – he dragged his eyes away from the article he had been perusing (‘Nufone server crashes lakhs suffer’) and carefully folded up the newspaper and put it away.
Click here for Chapter 384