Khushi’s horrified round eyes swung to clash with Arnav’s bleak eyes. There was a moment of pin-drop silence which was broken by Shashi’s sudden fit of coughing – immediately there was a babel of voices interspersed with Buaji’s HRNKs, “Arre aap theek toh hain,” Garima fussed as she rubbed his back.
“Bitiya, jao jaldi apne Dadaji ke liye paani lekar aao,” Nani pushed Chotti, who promptly dashed off, “Guddu pankha tez kardo,” He too jumped up to do as bid.
Shashi’s bout of coughing subsided but Garima insisted upon wheeling him away to take some rest, urging Buaji to assist her.
“Nani, aap chai peeyenge?” Khushi asked brightly even though she was terribly annoyed with Buaji for raising unnecessary sensitive topics in front of the children – aur Arnav ka gussa toh satve aasman par chad gaya hoga she thought worriedly – aur sahi bhi hai, what was the need for Buaji to run away with her tongue – aur mujhe Sankadevi bulati hain, she fumed.
“Haan bitiya peelenge chai, Gudiya dekhna bitiya humri chashma kahan hai,” Nani looked around searchingly.
“Naniiii!” Both Guddu and Chotti burst into giggles, “Your specs are on your nose!”
Nani raised her hands – yes indeed her specs were on her nose, “Hey Devi maiyya!” she moaned, “eek a ho raha hai humka?”
“Arre nothing to worry about Nani,” Khushi sat down beside her after giving instructions to HP and handing Nani her medicines, “Yeh toh kuch bhi nahi, do you what happened that day with me?”
Everyone shook their heads; she looked at Arnav and said softly, “Aap bhi chai pijiyena?”
Arnav dithered a bit, still reeling a bit from the shock of having his infamous ‘act’ being revealed to his kids but then the immediate crisis seemed to have blown over – but the threat still loomed and when the denouement occurred how would his children react?
“Daddy don’t go!” pleaded Chotti.
He smiled and ruffled her curls, “Theek hai, if you insist, I will stay for a cup of tea.”
Chotti was all smiles, “Haan Mamma what were you saying?” she prompted Khushi.
Relieved to see Arnav back in his usual humor, Khushi cheered up immensely (nahi toh for a moment uski toh saanse hi ruk gayi thi – yeh Buaji bhi na! Hadd karti hain), “Haan, last week at the office, just as I preparing to leave, Preeto maasi ka phone aaya tha so I chatted with her for a few minutes while putting away the files, shutting my computer etc ,” she warmed up to her narration, “Then Preeto asked, ‘Kya kar rahi ho?’ so I said nothing just wrapping up for the day, picking up my things but I can’t find my mobile!” she looked around expectantly at the others.
They gazed at her wide-eyed, “Mamma!” burst out Devansh, “Were you talking on the mobile?”
“Exactly!” Khushi moaned as she clapped a hand on her head, “Mera toh dimaag hi kharab ho gaya hai, but,” she raised her hand and shushed the hysterical audience, “but there is more, do you know what Preeto said?”
They shook their heads; satisfied, Khushi leaned forward triumphantly and said, “usne kaha – oho you can’t find your mobile? Shall I give you a ring? Now where the hell is my mobile?”
Even Arnav burst into laughter. Only Chotti was a bit slow on the uptake, “Kya hua?” she wailed.
“Arre buddhu,” Devansh sneered at his kid sister, “Preeto maasi was also talking to Mamma on the mobile na?”
Khushi nodded her head; Chotti smacked her head, “Uffo Mamma, aap dono bhi na!”
Khushi laughed and shook her head, “We are getting old,” she declared ruefully.
“Arre naahi naahi bitiya,” said Nani bracingly, “It’s nothing like that, it’s just the pressures of work and life in general, there is so much happening and so much to manage and handle, this confusion is bound to happen.”
“Mamma!” Chotti butted in, “What did Buaji mean when she said ‘apne Jiji ki saadi karne aayi thi aur saath hi khud bhi saadi kar li?’
Khushi froze, this time she didn’t even dare to meet Arnav’s eyes, “Chotti dhoodh nahi piya abhi tak!” she said sharply and then hurriedly softened her tone, “Come on drink up fast, we have to work on the school project on Health Awareness hai na?”
Devansh hurriedly downed his glass and quickly made his escape before his mum decided to question his preparation for the the upcoming Monday test on Geography.
Chotti obediently picked up her glass but she wasn’t so easily diverted, “But Mamma, what did Buaji mean?” she was like a dog with a bone.
“Nani yeh lijiye aapki chai,” Khushi served her and then passed a cup to Arnav as well.
“Naniji aapka phone,” said HP as he handed her the instrument.
“Mamma!” wailed Chotti, determined to get to the bottom of things.
“Oh kuch nahi,” said Khushi airily as she casually sipped her tea, mind racing and heart thudding furiously, she dropped her voice theatrically and leaned forward and said conspiratorially, “Woh kya hai na, from my very childhood I had this dream that Jijji and I should get married to two brothers so that we are never separated and when Jijji was getting married to Chachu I was very sad,” she paused for dramatic effect, “Aur main toh sankadevi hoon hi, so I had this brilliant idea why not get married to your Chachu’s brother!” she laughed, “isiliye Buaji ne aise kaha, achcha chalo chalo, jaldi karo, phir then there wont be enough time for your project,” she hustled Chotti before she started off again – Khushi could clearly see the wheels turning in Chotti’s dimaag.
“Oh!” Chotti was all round-eyed and white mustached, “And Daddy agreed?” she looked at Arnav disbelievingly.
“Ha…an, of cour…se!” blustered Khushi, drawing Chotti’s attention back to herself, “Why would he not agree?” feeling she was back on terra firma, she looked coyly at Arnav, “Waise bhi he was crazy about me and was wondering how to go about proposing to me so he jumped at the opportunity that was handed to him on a platter,” she said tongue firmly in cheek.
“Is it so Daddy?” Chotti turned to Arnav for confirmation.
Arnav looked at Khushi who stared back at him, her eyes wide clear and soft, he slowly nodded his head, “Yeah I was crazy about your Mum and was just looking for an opportunity to marry her,” he repeated.
“But Daddy,” protested Chotti, “You are supposed to propose her not the other way round!”
Arnav wore a hunted expression and Khushi jumped in again, “Oho Chotti tum bhi na baal khi khaal utarne expert ho, actually I just hinted little bit and would have ultimately gotten married to your Daddy but then your Daddy was in a hurry and didn’t want to wait for all the rasams etc, so he insisted we get married then and there!” Khushi sent up a prayer hey DM, kuch karo is Chotti please distract karo, jaldi before things become worse and even more entangled.
But DM was in a contrary mood, determined to punish Arnav just the teeniest bit, ek aadh heart attack kabhi kabhi sehat ke liya achacha hota hai, “Why were you in a hurry Daddy?” Chotti turned to Arnav.
Arnav was completely cornered and so unprepared was he about ever having to justify his actions to his children that ASR also refused to come to the fore and neither did his BG score, he was just simply petrified that the truth would be out, would his children be able to ever forgive him, would they still love him, respect him if they knew the truth about their marriage?
Click here for Chapter 392