Khushi sat shocked and lost in thought for a long time trying to understand if Chotti’s outburst was a manifestation of her sibling rivalry or was there any basis? Nahi nahi, aisa nahi ho sakta! Both were so dear to her, how could she differentiate between them? Could parents ever differentiate? Her parents, adopted parents had never differentiated but…but Buaji had, she swallowed, that was just because I was such a crackpot and a headache, aur Chotti toh, nahi nahi, there is nothing like what Chotti accused her of but no doubt she would have to be more careful. But what can I do if Chotti is more demanding and unreasonable than Guddu? I will have to scold her more won’t I? Was that being partial? Her head was going round in circles, she sighed unhappily and pressed a hand to her aching head, Babuji…
The incident shook up Khushi considerably and she was forced to rouse herself from her self-induced fear psychosis and do some serious soul searching and self-analysis. She realized that come rain, come storm, she had no choice but to stand tall and unyielding as a tree for her children, for her Arnav. They needed her, depended on her and missed her. Not only that, they analyzed each and every gesture of hers with a microscope and woe betide if she slipped up or made the slightest of mistake – there would be hell to pay.
Chastened and feeling terribly guilty, Khushi attempted to make it up to Chotti. Of course it didn’t take much, just a smile, a hug meant for her and only her, was enough to bring her back on board all bright and her usual chirpy self (and earn herself an approving glint in Arnav’s eyes). But nonetheless, Khushi felt the tremors long after the perpetrator had forgot the tearful outburst.
Khushi took up the reins of RM once again, if not with the complete sparkle of Sankadevi but at least with a semblance of equanimity which was positive and indicative of the imminent return of ASR’s crazy madcap wife, provided her father recovered and that too completely. And if for that if he too had to send up a prayer or two to her best friend, well harz hi kya hai, Khushi ke liye kuch bhi karega – err well at least she was back in her full spirits and zest.
Pleased (and flattered) with Arnav’s supplication, DM unbent and Babuji was declared out of danger and in no time he was shifted out of the ICU to the private ward and then to RM. There were heartfelt sighs of relief all over and the subtle air of gloom and doom (despite the children’s joie-de-vivre) at RM vanished in an instant. The hushed tones gave way to loud bursts of chatter and laughter liberally interspersed with Buaji’s HRNKs.
Arnav rolled his eyes and attempted to sneak away to his office at the earliest opportunity, pausing a while to grab an eyeful of his visibly flushed biwi valiantly trying to uphold her dignity in front of the kids as Buaji seemed determined to reveal all her childhood foibles to the bachcha party (Guddu was rolling on the floor laughing unable to imagine his mother being such a Sankadevi).
“Pata hai ek din ka kari tumhri amma?” Buaji intoned in hushed tones, “Ooo jaakar mirror ke samne khadi huyi, ek daravani shakal banai aur khud hi darr gayi!”
“Oh Mom,” gasped Guddu, “Did you really do that?!”
“Arre apni amma se kahe poochat ho,” Buaji jumped up affronted, “Hum ka jhoot bolat hain! Bolo Titaliya bolo?”
“Reh…ne dijiye na Buaji,” protested Khushi weakly, “Aaap kya purani baato ko lekar…”
“HRNK! Purani hain toh ka hua? Sach toh hai na?” Buaji waved her panch kilo (thoda weight loss hua tha tension ke chakkar main) ka haath before coming to rest her fat little fingers on her chin her eyes wide with surprise, “Hain batao batao?”
“Ha…an,” Khushi waved her hand dismissively, “Toh kya hua? She said airily, “I was very small then and it was dark and eerie, I was alone in the room, aur ek baar Chotti ne bhi toh…”
“Ek aur kissa suno,” Buaji shushed Khushi, “Ek baar ee log were playing hide and seek and ee Maharani had a brainwave, she got into the cupboard and shut the door on herself!”
“Phir!” there was a chorus of voices.
“Phir kya! Nobody could find her and she was too puny to open the door from inside and by the time your Dadaji came to open the door to take out some important document, ee Sankadevi was near fainting from suffocation,” Buaji clapped a long suffering hand on her forehead, “HRNK if that day your Dadaji had not opened the door when he did, tumri amma toh,” she shook her head and waved her hand heavenwards.
All eyes swung to Khushi who smiled weakly, “Woh I didn’t realize and the door was a tight fit…” she tapered off lamely. Her phone beeped, relieved she hurriedly picked it up – despite a near death experience you still shut yourself up in my cupboard! – Khushi looked up. Arnav was standing across the room, his eyebrow raised with his ‘unbelievable’ expression.
Khushi made a face and smartly shot off – Just shows I prefer to face death than you!
ASR acknowledged the compliment graciously and with a smirk, setting Khushi’s teeth on edge.
Not content with letting Buaji hog the limelight, Chotti piped up, “Pata hai Buaji Da ne kya kiya tha ek baar while playing hide and seek with Lillee and Millee, Preeto Maasi’s daughters?”
“Ka bitiya?” asked Buaji.
“It was his turn to play the den and we all hid underneath the bed, giggling and thrilled that he would never think of looking for us there, we happily braved the cobwebs and stifled our sneezes, while gloating how we had fooled him as he didn’t come and find us,” said Chotti.
“Phir?” asked Buaji interested.
“Phir kya, time passed, 5 min 15 min, half hour, but Da didn’t come neither did he call out admitting defeat, naturally we got restless, so we emerged all dusty and irritated from under the bed,” Chotti paused for dramatic effect, “And what do we find?”
“Kya?” Buaji was all ears as were the others.
“Da was on top of the bed under which we were hiding, coolly reading a book on dinosaurs! He wasn’t even looking for us!” Chotti was justifiably incensed.
“Well I couldn’t find you and then I got bored,” Devansh defended himself.
“Then you should have called out and admitted defeat!” Chotti protested.
Devansh ignored her, “Buaji I cannot believe Mamma was so crazy as a child!”
“Aur ka,” Buaji’s entire body shook in support of her statement, “Aise hi nahi hum ooka ‘Sankadevi’ bulawat hai,” she shook once more and then leaned forward (Chotti held her breath in pleasurable anticipation and horrified expectation – surely Buaji would topple over now – unable to bear the suspense or the excitement she giggled into her hand), “And why only as a child? Abhi bhi Sankadevi hi toh hai! Aur ee chatanki Sankadevi ko ka howat? HRNK!!!”
“K…kuch nahi Buaji,” Chotti hurriedly straightened her expression but not before exchanging glances with her mother; Khushi immediately cottoned on and frowned ferociously at her – rather difficult to do when her own eyes were dancing merrily as waves of laughter bubbled up her throat. Her childhood hopes, fears and expectations would surely come true today – Buaji would indeed topple over! Khushi hurriedly pushed a stool under the overhanging folded leg of Buaji – ab koi khatra nahi, much to Chotti’s everlasting (and of course her own) disappointment. They both giggled.
“Kahan Buaji?!” protested Devansh, “Maine toh nahi dekha…”
“eee deikho, HRNK,” moaned Buaji, “Dekho kaisan bachcho ke tarah khi khi karat hai,” she snorted disgustedly.
“Arre Da,” Chotti butted in pityingly, “Tumko dinosaurs or football ke siwa dikhta kya hai?” she arched her eyebrows superiorly, “Abhi ussi din toh apna phone thod diya tha,” she shook her head at her mother with a long-suffering expression. Khushi stiffened and glared at Arnav whose lips twitched and he blinked back lazily at her. Khushi put her nose in the air and looked away huffily.
“Aaain? Phone thod diya?! HRNK,” Buaji smacked Khushi on the side of her head, “Ab toh sudhar jao, saadi ho gayi, bache bhi bade ho gaye aur tum ho ki, HRNK!”
Devansh looked suspiciously from one to the other, “Phone thod diya? Mom ne?” Ho hi nahi sakta!” he declared confidently, “how come I don’t know anything about this?” he looked accusingly at Chotti, his personal audio bulletin.
“Aise hi hoga if you keep yourself drowned in your own world,” sniffed Chotti loftily, “That day after you got hurt and Nani was also unwell, remember?” she prodded him, “Well the phone slipped and fell from Mamma’s hand and that is how her phone broke and Daddy had to buy her a new phone,” she explained patiently for her ignoramus brother.
“Oh slipped and fell!” Devansh shook his head, “The way you said, it sounded as if she had deliberately smashed her phone in a fit of anger or something.”
Khushi’s eyes flew to Arnav’s who immediately looked away. Devansh frowned as he noted the by-play, “Mamma…”
“Arre Sankadevi toh bachpanhi se hi aisan hai,” interjected Buaji unwilling to let go of the limelight, “Pata hai, karne aayee thi apne Jiji ki saadi aur saath hi khud bhi karli apni saadi! HRNK, kauno samjhao iss Titaliya ko!” Buaji seemed blissfully unaware and uncaring of the potential implications of her thoughtless words.
Click here for Chapter 391