She narrowed her eyes and firmed her lips, abhi mazaa chakhati hoon, “Pata nahi,” she said casually, “I was just going around minding my own business when out of the blue, this rakshash just popped out from nowhere and smashed my phone to pieces,” her eyes spoke volumes as she met his look unblinkingly.
“Haww Mamma! Aise kaise?” Chotti was all wide-eyed and properly horrified.
“Haan Khushi,” Arnav recovered himself, “Aise kaise, pucca you must have done something,” he passed the ball back neatly into her court with a challenging yet pleading look in his eyes.
Khushi looked from Chotti to Arnav, both staring at her expectantly, one filled with eager curious admixed with pleasurable fear and the other? Defiance tinged with apprehension – the image of him sleeping with Chotti clutched close to him and the way he had woken with a start muttering ‘Khushhiii’ flashed across her eyes – she melted.
Suddenly Khushi wanted to laugh – Gosh they were no better than Guddu and Chotti squabbling away pointlessly when there was so much to do – but still, she couldn’t let off Arnav so easily could she?
Khushi relaxed, “Haan probably my fault,” she admitted gracefully, “Actually the rakshash was going about minding his own business when mischief struck me and I yelled ‘Boooo’ into his ear, bechara,” she shook her head pityingly, “itna darr gaya tha ki he grabbed my phone and smashed it to pieces.”
Khushi gleefully took in Arnav’s embarrassed countenance, while Chotti stared at her mother wide-eyed and then burst into laughter, “Oh Mamma! You are pulling our legs right? Rakshash toh hote hi nahin hai na?”
Khushi pulled the little girl into her arms, “Yes sweetie, I am just joking,” she pulled her nose affectionately, “There is no such thing as a Rakshash,” she echoed and looked at Arnav; he thrust his hands into his pocket and looked away.
“Oh look Maami has come!” Chotti squealed and escaped from her mother’s clasp, “Ankiiiii!” she charged off at top speed determined to be the first one to tell all that had happened at home in their absence.
Khushi paused a moment, hoping against hope, giving scope to Arnav to at least mutter an apology, but of course she waited in vain – Jo ‘I love you’ gunpoint par bolta hai, usse aur kya koi expect kar sakta hai!
She sighed and shook her head and walked off to greet Di and her family.
It was a full house at RM, Devansh proudly showed off his wheelchair driving skills, so much so that Chotti wished that she too had hurt herself and was on the wheelchair! Nani was grumpy and irritable – unused to this avatar of Nani, Anjali backed off hurriedly, staying only briefly pleading tiredness from their journey.
It was late by the time everybody left and like the day before, Arnav slept with the children while Khushi bunked down with Nani. The next few days were also similar and it was almost a week before Nani improved enough to venture out of her room.
Poo came to spend a night at RM so that Khushi could get a decent night’s sleep but then Guddu insisted that she sleep with him, after all he too was ill and if Dad could sleep with him, why not her. Chotti also joined in the clamor and Khushi gave in. Arnav stomped off in a huff – unable to protest, first Nani, then Guddu, phir Chotti, kahe bhi toh kya kahe – Khushi meri hai aur sirf meri hai? No doubt the children had first claim on her, but then he didn’t have to like it did he?
Left with no option, Arnav switched to ASR mode – he huffed and puffed till he almost blew down his office and home. Khushi rolled her eyes and prayed for 48 -hour days, kaise manage hoga sab kuch?
Moreover, Khushi was worried about Arnav. Since the multiple crises on a single day, Arnav would not only call up home and her at odd hours of the day but he still got the jitters and would often wake up sweating “Khushiiiii,” it was always the same dream – it was dark and he was running after an ambulance.
“Shhhh, hum yahan hain,” Khushi would soothe even as her heart went out to her man, poor thing must have been an awful experience for him, abhi tak he was having nightmares. But if she dared to even suggest that he had been petrified there would be hell to pay! ASR aur panic – ho hi nahi sakta!
She sighed and shook her head – she did try to make it a point to leave a message for him, even if she were going to be late by half-hour and mindful of the network fiasco, even check if her phone was working and that she was connected – but clearly that was not enough.
And worse, there was more in the offing.
Khushi’s phone rang in the wee hours of the morning, “What the!” Arnav swore as it penetrated his consciousness earlier than Khushi’s. He shook Khushi awake, before sliding back on to the pillows for some more shut eye, “Haan Kishu Bhaiyya,” said Khushi suddenly alert, “Sab theek na? Itni subah subah phone?” her heart was thudding hard.
“Yeah Khushi, actually I am at the hospital, woh,” he hesitated, “Phuphaji…”
“Babuji! Kya hua Babuji ko?” Arnav too sat up; he took the phone from Khushi’s trembling fingers and put it on speaker mode, “Haan Kshitij bolo?” he too prompted.
“Haan Phuphaji was uneasy the whole night and when Buaji told me I rushed him to the hospital, looks like he has had a heart attack,” he revealed. Khushi’s parents and Buaji were on their annual children-visiting trip and were currently staying at GM.
Khushi instantly paled and her throat closed up, she couldn’t breathe, “Nahiii,” she whispered painfully.
“Shhhh Khushi,” Arnav put his arm around her giving her the warm comfort and support of his strength, but she barely noticed, “Abhi kaise hain?” asked Arnav.
“It’s too early to tell,” Khsitij said in a non-committal tone, “Tests are still being done and reports are also awaited,” he paused, “Waise bhi the initial couple of days are crucial…”
“Babuji,” whispered Khushi brokenly, Arnav’s arm tightened around her, “Ok Kshitij, we will be there soon,” he disconnected the phone, “Come on Khushi, let’s go to the hospital,” he said gently and pulled her to her feet.
Khushi turned dazedly towards Arnav, “Babuji,” was all she could say before tears rolled down her cheeks and she began sobbing softly.
Arnav drew her into her arms and rocked her gently, “Shhh Khushi,” he said rather awkwardly and inadequately.
But Khushi was inconsolable, “Agar unko kuch ho gaya toh hum seh nahi payenge,” she shed bitter tears on Arnav’s shoulder drenching his sweatshirt while Arnav helplessly held her within the circle of his arms, letting her cry, unable to think of any more platitudes or words of consolation – it was déjà vu.
“Come on we have to go to the hospital,” he said sternly, clamping down on his own rising storm of emotions at seeing his Khushi breakdown like this – and worse he was helpless.
Click here for Chapter 388