Chotti burst in, “Mamma!” clearly very distressed and agitated, “Daddy came and said sorry didn’t he? We are staying here aren’t we?” Chotti wore a tense anxious look; her eyes darted around the room looking for her father and then clouded as they clashed with the closed door, “Mammaaa!” she pleaded fearfully, “please say we are staying here? Please mamma! I will go and call Da!” she turned to go.
But Khushi reached out and stopped her. Guilt flooded Khushi – hey DM hum kya karne ja rahe the! My children certainly don’t deserve this – to be uprooted from their home, to be asked to choose between their parents – nahi nahi surely my ego and self-respect is not bigger than my love and responsibility towards my family? Pehle bhi toh reh chuki hai na iss ghar main without Arnav’s love so why not now?
“Mamma!” Chotti threw herself into Khushi’s arms and burst into heartrending sobs, “Don’t go Mamma please, don’t go, I don’t want to go please Mamma!” she begged piteously.
“Achcha achcha, bas bas,” Khushi wiped her tears, “Kuch bolne bhi dogi ki nahi!” she kissed her and hugged her, “haan your Daddy said sorry to me,” she shrugged and smiled brightly at her, “actually he was sleepy and tired,” she rolled her eyes comically, “And you know how I love to talk, toh itna bakbak kiya hi your daddy lost his temper,” Chotti’s tears disappeared and she giggled into her hand. But then her eyes wandered to the closed door, “But why is Daddy sleeping there?” she asked suspiciously.
“Oho Chotti tum bhi na!” Khushi gently pulled her nose, “bola na, he was sleepy and tired so I only said kahin main phirse bakbak karoon aur aap disturb ho, it is better you sleep in that room,” she gave her a daughter a final tight squeeze and gave her a gentle push, “Ab jaao tum bhi so jaao, its really very late and you have school tomorrow, chalo chalo,” she hurried her.
But Chotti wasn’t taking any chances, “I want to sleep with you, wait I will go and tell Nani that everything is fine and that I am going to sleep with you,” she dashed off before Khushi could say anything.
Khushi sighed and got off the bed and desultorily began clearing the bed – hey DM sahi kiya na? Aur koi option bhi toh nahi tha…
“Mamma!” squealed Chotti panic stricken as she came charging back to see her mum holding the suitcase, “Kahan jaa rahe ho!” her voice wobbled threateningly.
“Oho Chotti,” Khushi shook her head at her, a catch in her heart, bechari bachchi kitni ghabra gayi hai, “I am just clearing the bed sweetheart, where will we sleep otherwise hmm?”
Relieved, Chotti came forward to remove the other knick knacks on the bed; she climbed on to the bed and cuddled her mother, “Mamma, promise you wont leave home ever?” she asked seriously.
Khushi hugged the little girl fiercely to her, “I promise sweetie, I promise that I will never leave home,” she muttered over her head; Khushi looked down at her, and twinkled at her, “That is until you and Da give me permission to do so!”
Reassured, Chotti giggled and declared, “That will be never!”
Khushi looked down at Chotti’s bright happy little face with the shadows of the horrific trauma of the evening still pretty much evident – guilt smote her – how could I have been so selfish?! How could I forget that my first responsibility is to the children? Hey DM aapka lakh lakh shukar hai ki itni badi galati karne se hume bacha liya.
“I am sorry Chotti,” she said jerkily, aghast and horrified at herself for putting her daughter in the midst of the miya-biwi ka crossfire – sahi main Nani aur bachchon ki kya galati thi?
“Koi baat nahi Mamma,” Chotti cuddled up to her mother, “So long as you promise not to leave home ever,” she reiterated.
“Haan baba,” Khushi rued, “I already promised that remember? Ab now you have to promise me something,” Khushi said seriously.
“Kya? Anything!” Chotti promised, recklessly, grandiloquently.
Khushi flicked Chotti’s button nose as she looked down at her dear little sparkling face with a catch in her heart – hey Devi Maiyya is smile ko kabhi kisiki nazar na lage, “You have to promise that you wont talk about what happened out here with anybody,” she swallowed hard, “Mamma and Daddy are both ashamed at losing our tempers and we don’t want anybody laughing at us.”
Chotti was silent, “Not even Da or Maami?” she asked in a small voice.
Khushi shook her head, “Nahi Gudiya rani, I just want you to forget about everything like a bad dream, ok?”
Chotti nodded her head, “Ok Mamma, I promise,” she declared willingly and cuddled up to Khushi; she was soon off into her sapno ki duniya.
Khushi readied herself for yet another fitful night but the warm clutch of her daughter was balm to her soul – for the first time in many days, she felt at peace. Gut instinct told her that she had done the right thing. All said and done, she was first a mother aur phir chahe uske liye she had to overlook her own anguish and humiliation – for simply put, when it came to her children, ‘Khushi’ didn’t matter, she hugged the little girl fiercely – mera sab kuch tum dono ke liye hi toh hai, phir chahe Arnav kuch bhi bolein ya phir mera zameer.
Once she had taken the decision, much of her agitation and conflict eased. She lay still as she attempted to dissect and analyze the events of the past few days in a more rational and dispassionate manner. But that was easier said than done and soon restlessness again gripped her. She gently eased herself away from Chotti’s clasp and walked to the poolside.
Leaving home was not an option, she reiterated. Her self-respect and ego were inconsequential when compared to the stakes – the children and Nani deserved better, she couldn’t do this to them. Besides even if she did decide to walk out, it couldn’t be a unilateral decision on her part, the children were old enough and had the right to have a say in what would have a life changing impact on their future. She would have to take them into confidence and win their trust before taking such a drastic step.
Aur jo bhi kaha ho Arnav ne, this was her house too and she had every moral and legal right to stay here if only she could overlook her own petty ego issues. She swallowed, and no matter what Arnav feelings were, on his part too, he would have to bear her presence for the sake of the children – the fact of the matter was that after two decades of a marriage, their individual emotions and concerns were insignificant compared to that of their family – their family was supreme and they owed them that.
Khushi had realized her mistake as soon as she had begun packing – it had hit her then – all her instincts had screamed at her – yeh galat kar rahi ho Khushi, yeh sahi nahi hai, when one partner loses it then the other has to be strong and when it came to the crunch, she didn’t matter.
Control yourself, stop thinking about yourself, the voice had urged over and over again, how can you do this to Chotti, just look at Nani – agar unhe kuch ho jaye toh who would be responsible?
Once that battle was won and she was no longer in dilemma about what was the right thing to do, a semblance of peace flooded her and rational thought returned. Khushi broke off from the shackles of her twisted emotionally charged thoughts and turned her attention to Arnav – Arnav the man she loved and not just the heartbreaking words uttered by ASR.
Click here for Chapter 404