“Oh puhhleeez,” Devansh rolled his eyes, “You giggle, you cry and not only that,” he ticked off on his fingers, “you whine and moan,” satisfied, he bit into a juicy jalebi.
“Mommm! Daddddyyy! Dekho na kya keh rahein hai Da,” Chotti complained loud and clear.
“Guddu!” Khushi said reproachfully, he subsided grinning wickedly.
Satisfied, Chotti perked up, “Waise bhi, if girls cry and giggle, boys are worse,” she looked at Devansh and gave back as good as she had got, “They shout, fight, are sweaty and grimy, plus,” she paused for dramatic effect, “they are so rude and the way they stare,” she frowned at Devansh as if he were responsible for all men and their bad manners.
“Who stares at you Angel?” Arnav interrupted abruptly.
“Everybody,” Chotti said vaguely, “Nobody,” she shook her head, “Ohhh look at the time! Momm, I have to go over to a friend’s place for a class project.”
Before Khushi could say anything, Devansh jumped in “Which friend?” he asked suspiciously.
“Oh you don’t know,” Chotti dismissed airily and disappeared to change.
As they all got up from the table, Guddu accosted Khushi, “Kiske ghar jaa rahi hai Chotti?” he said disapprovingly, “And who else is going?”
Khushi shook her head, “You know as much as I do.”
“How can you let her go like this?” he fussed, his eyes darkened, “Aapko pata nahi hai what all happens in the name of doing ‘projects’,” he muttered darkly.
“And you know?” Khushi asked him incredulously, “Tumne toh kabhi bataya nahi?”
Devansh raised his hand, “Please mom, I am a big boy, I can take care of myself,” he waved his hand agitatedly, “But Chotti!” he snorted disgusted, “Usse toh kuch pata hi nahi hota, bas baat karna aata hai aur giggle karna aata hai,” he scowled ferociously at his mother and said warningly, “Aap samjha dena usse that there is no need to talk so much or be so friendly to every Tom, Dick and Harry.”
Khushi stared at her son stunned and taken aback, “Achcha achcha, now don’t overreact,” she said a bit dazed.
“Overreact! Iska matlab aapko bhi kuch pata nahi,” he said scathingly, “Aur agar kuch ho jaye toh,” he stopped in mid-sentence as he caught sight of Chotti descending the stairs, “And look at what she is wearing!” he exclaimed disapprovingly.
Khushi rolled her eyes – well ok the dress was a bit short but itna bhi kuch nahi, “I am going along with her,” Devansh glared defiantly at his mother.
“Ok fine,” Khushi surrendered, “I will go along and see where she is going.”
“And her dress?” Devansh clearly wasn’t in a mood to let up.
Khushi walked away without answering him, only to have Arnav call her from his room, “Yeh Chotti ne kya pehna hai? Tum aise jaane dogi usse? Kiske ghar jaa rahi hai woh?” he instantly hissed.
“Relax!” Khushi disconnected the phone, “Chotti go and wear your tights,” she said softly.
“Mom! Its too hot,” protested Chotti.
Khushi shook her head, “Everywhere there is AC, and waise bhi you would have to sit on the floor for the project? It will be more comfortable and decent with your tights,” she said in a voice that brooked no arguments, “And if Da doesn’t know these friends of yours, I am coming along with you to see kiske ghar ja rahi ho and who exactly are your friends,” Khushi clarified the situation.
“Moommmm! This is too much!” Chotti was horrified, “Don’t you trust me?”
“Its not about trusting or not trusting you sweetie,” Khushi pinched her cheeks, “how can I trust someone I don’t even know, besides,” she shrugged and rolled her eyes comically, “I got no choice; orders from above,” she jerked her head and lowered her voice, “Dual orders.”
Chotti rolled her eyes and flounced away, “RM hai ki Tihar jail?”
Life continued in this manner and in no time Khushi had adjusted to her re-defined status as a purely homemaker. No doubt she missed going AKC, meeting all her colleagues, the high of a deal clinched successfully, the warm glow of satisfaction when a sated customer was kind enough to leave a note of appreciation but yet the overwhelming emotion was that of relief and a sense of freedom.
Khushi had never realized the tremendous amount of stress she was under because of AKC and now that she had put down the burden, she felt relaxed and light – light as a feather. Running a business was no cakewalk – there had been a huge responsibility on her shoulders – not just of delivering quality food on time but also ensuring enough returns to be able to pay her employees their dues and it was only after she was free of the burden that she realized how much of a strain she had been because of her responsibilities.
But it wasn’t as if Khushi was at a loose end. She still had a lot of work on her plate, as she was now busy managing Di’s business – although this wasn’t half as stressful. Besides she managed to sneak in a couple of hours for Nani and her children during the latter half of the day when the children were home. This way she didn’t feel guilty about missing out on her children’s lives and not feel guilty if she did spend some time with Arnav – that is on the rare occasions that he was available – for Arnav ka toh ab bhi wohi scene tha – office.
Once bitten twice shy – he refused to hire another assistant in place of Aman as Rajeev had left a bitter taste in his mouth – he preferred to do all the work himself. But then that became a bit much for him – there was another re-shuffle with some more juggling and Aman was back where he belonged – at the headquarters with ASR. They also hired four trainees to do the running around and groundwork, which would then be routed through Aman and then finally the big boss him self. This way they could simultaneously train and promote the most deserving candidate while adopting a divide and rule policy – talk about shatir dimaag (err even though it was a bit late in the day)
But then, working with trainees is no laughing matter that too with four trainees (bit like having quadruplets: P), where each vied with the other – kaun kitna zyaada bewakoofi kar sakta hai, seemed to be their mantra. 😛
Ek ko bola tha client ko mail forward karne ke liye toh he forwarded the entire chain of internal conversation as well much to A&Ddesigns embarrassment – needless to say he was handed the pink slip soon afterwards. Another sent out invitations for an event to all and sundry before Aman realized that details of the venue were missing!
Those days, A&Ddesigns resonated loud and long with ASR’s BG score – he was someone who didn’t suffer fools gladly and he was a man in a hurry. Usse duniya ko hi nahi apne aap ko hi prove karna tha that he was the best of the best – besides, his ego had taken a severe beating. ASR kabhi harta nahi – much as he loved Khushi, he still smarted from having to take Khushi’s help.
He was used to giving not taking.
Click here for Chapter 414