Arnav grimaced as he held her shuddering frame in his warm loving clasp. Dammit, he cursed himself, all you can do is think about yourself, phir se rula diya na, he berated himself.
But then, possibly this was the best thing Arnav could have said (short of yelling at her) to shock her out of her doldrums – Arnav needed her, she had no choice but to stand strong and straight – and by DM that was what she would do.
Much to Arnav’s relief, Khushi pulled herself together with a massive effort, “I am sorry,” she mumbled indistinctly, “I don’t know what happened to me…”
Arnav shook his head and handed her his handkerchief, “Tum theek ho?” he asked abruptly.
Khushi nodded tearily, just then Devansh came charging in, “Maaaa,” there was a note of panic in his voice, “I can’t find my file on Dinosaurs!” he tugged at her hand urgently, “I have to go to school tomorrow, they are taking us on a special tour of the dinosaur fossil exhibition that has come from the States, can I go to school, please Mom!” he pleaded desperately.
Khushi hurriedly wiped her tears and smiled wanly at him, “Arre I never thought I that day would ever come when you would beg to go to school!” she teased him, he grinned back unfazed, “School thodi na jaana hai, dino exihibition par jana hai,” he defended himself, “Besides only schools are being given permission to attend the exhibition otherwise I would have asked Dad to take me,” he revealed unabashedly, “Mom! My file, I need to submit it in school, please,” he pulled at her and Khushi allowed herself to be led away with a backward glance at Arnav.
Devansh was of course dinosaur crazy and ever since he had been bitten by the dino-bug, Khushi had encouraged him to collect whatever information he came across in a file. In fact it had been started by Khushi who began collecting newspaper and magazine cuttings wherever she came across so that she could show him at a suitable time (mostly dinner time for he would then unmindfully gobble up his dinner lost in a daze dreaming of the magnificent creatures). Over the years, Devansh added to this file and had even showed it to his class teacher. She had been very impressed both with the file and his encyclopedical knowledge about dinosaurs, and now before the upcoming trip, she wanted him to give a presentation to his class on dinosaurs. Devansh was over the moon but then where was his precious file? Kahin Chotti ne toh…!
His fears were unfounded for Khushi soon located the file at the top shelf where she had neatly stored it away from possible damage and out of reach of Chotti. Guddu cradled his precious file almost reverentially, “You are the best mom,” and immediately waxed eloquently and extensively on what all he intended to include in his presentation. He was a picture of excitement and zeal as gesticulated wildly while pacing the floor using his mother as a sounding board as to what all he intended to educate his ignoramus peers regarding his dinosaurs. Khushi just had to nod and go along with him while she cleared up his room – it was a mess as nobody was allowed entry without his permission and he never gave his permission. Unless of course Khushi cracked the whip (and that had been quite a few days now, what with Babuji being ill and all), “Bas bas Guddu,” Khushi, straightened the bed sheet, “if you overload them with information, they will be bored…”
“Bored!” Devansh stopped in his tracks, “Bored about dinosaurs!” he was round-eyed and disbelieving, “Not possible, and if it so, I refuse to tell anything about them,” he crossed his arms and stood there with a mutinous and highly insulted expression –jahan dinosaurs ki kadar nahi wahan uski bhi koi jagah nahi.
Khushi rolled her eyes, she neatly stacked up his books on the table and turned to him, “That’s your job Guddu, that’s the challenge you have, to convince your friends who don’t know anything about dinosaurs what they are missing out on,” she pulled him to her, “But first you have to grab their attention,” she made a sudden motion with her hands, “Pictures of T. rex, diplodocus, brontosauras,” she excitedly clicked her fingers, “I know! How about this one,” she rifled through the file, “here this one, where you can easily see how big they were in comparison to man, elephant,” she grinned triumphantly, “That will stun them right?” Devansh nodded eagerly, “And then slowly you can reveal some interesting tit-bits rather than dry boring facts, ask Yash bhaiyaa to help you na?” she nudged him.
“Mom!” Devansh wailed, “why can’t you do it with me?” he pleaded.
Khushi sighed and drooped, she suddenly remembered her father, while talking to her son she had for a few moments forgotten everything, “Ah Guddu, how I wish,” she ruffled his hair.
Devansh looked at her critically and then instead of pestering her, he capitulated and gathered up his file, “Never mind Mom, I will do it Yash Bhaiyaa,” and walked out. He stopped at the door and came back to her and gave a tight hug, “I missed you Mom,” he muttered indistinctly before rushing off.
Khushi sat there stunned, stuggling to swallow the lump in her throat – how could she have been so blind and self-centered?
Khushi barely had time for some introspection and a guilt trip, when Chotti came barging in, “What was Da talking to you about?” she demanded aggressively, suspiciously.
“Nothing Chotti,” Khushi turned away to hide her emotions, “Just talking about his presentation on dinosaurs,” she said dismissively as she continued to tidy up Devansh’s room.
“You always have time for Da!” Chotti instantly accused her mother of favoritism, “You never have any time for me,” her lower lip trembled ominously.
“Oho Chotti yeh kya baat hui,” Khushi instantly turned around surprised, “When have I never given you any time?”
“You never have any time for me!” Chotti stamped her foot and reiterated hotly, “You love Da more than you love me,” declared Chotti before bursting into tears.
Horrified, Khushi hugged the violently sobbing little girl, “Arre meri Gudiya! Aise kyon keh rahe ho? How can I love one more than the other?”
“You do, you love Da more than you love me,” Chotti was adamant and shook her head defiantly as she stood stiffly within the circle of her mother’s arms.
Khushi closed her eyes and looked heavenwards, hey DM, not this, not now please, as if plate main kuch kam hai!
“Come on Angel, be a good girl, come to me,” Arnav stood beside them coaxing Chotti; he picked her up in his arms, “Come we will play Brainvita and see if you can beat me, ok? Don’t mind your mother, she is worried about her Father, he is in the hospital right, that’s why she is a bit preoccupied that’s it,” Arnav poured oil over troubled waters and grudgingly a still sniffling (but unconvinced) Chotti allowed herself to be carried away.
Khushi felt grateful to Arnav for his prompt handling of a potentially volatile situation – that is until she met his eyes – his eyes were clearly accusing.
He agreed with Chotti!
Khushi was dumbfounded at the preposterous allegation – Chotti toh bachchi hai par Arnav? How dare he think thus of me? And what if I return the compliment vis-à-vis Guddu? Khud toh he clearly favors Chotti over Guddu and he has the gumption to accuse me of partiality. Samajhte kya hain apne aap ko? Resentment and hurt festered in her bosom and she had an irresistible urge to go and have a free-for-all slanging tu tu main main match with Arnav. But she controlled herself with an effort – this wasn’t the time or the place.
Besides she didn’t need to prove herself to anybody, not to Arnav not to herself.
Or did she?
Ok friends, time to share your thoughts. Which one (or more) do you agree with?
- As a child, I too felt the same way as Chotti does
- As a mother, my child too has accused me of partiality
- I admit to being partial to one of my children
Click here for Chapter 390