Chotti opened her eyes, threw her arms around Khushi and burst into tears. Khushi held her and let her cry as she rocked her and patted her soothingly.
“Ab batao kya hua?” Khushi asked once she calmed down. Slowly the story came tumbling out and Khushi too could have cried – in relief. Uski toh saanse hi ruk gayi thi.
“It’s that Simran’s birthday and she has invited everybody from our class except me,” Chotti said sullenly, clearly smarting from the insult.
“Kyon kya ho gaya? Did you two fight?” Khushi was surprised Chotti and Simran were good friends weren’t they?
Chotti shook her head, “No, she is just jealous because Anmol likes me better than he likes her and she wanted to make sure that I didn’t get any scope to interact with him,” she sneered superiorly.
Khushi looked at her penetratingly, “And do you like Anmol?”
Chotti shrugged, “He’s ok,” she dismissed casually.
“So why are you upset?” asked Khushi, “Because you wont be meeting Anmol and possibly Simran may get a chance to befriend him instead? Are you worried about a decrease in your fan club,” Khushi tried to make light of it.
Chotti rolled her eyes and tossed her curls, “Oh I really don’t care about Anmol, he is actually quite a baby, pata hai he still likes to watch cartoons!” she said disgustedly.
Khushi hid a grin, “So problem kya hai?”
Chotti’s lips began trembling again and tears sprang into her eyes, “how can Simran be so mean and petty, I thought we were friends!” she wailed, “besides Dhruv was also going to be there,” she began crying in earnest.
‘Welcome to the asli duniya sweetheart’ Khushi hugged her close wondering how she could soothe and ease her pain, “Aww sweetie don’t cry, bahut ro liya,” she forcibly raised her head, “Look at you – nose red and dripping, eyes all swollen and ugly, I wonder what your classmates would say if they could see you now?” almost instantly the tears dried up and Chotti fiercely rubbed her face dry and blew her nose. She rushed to the mirror to inspect her face and was quite horrified at the picture that greeted her; she quickly washed her face and ran a brush through her curls.
Khushi watched in amusement and heaved a sigh of relief, only her ego was bruised; waise bhi she needed to learn to deal with these kind of disappointments –a teaser to life’s bigger trials and tribulations that awaited, she sighed.
“Mom,” Chotti turned to Khushi, “I know what I will do, I wont let Simran come for the dance practice,” she declared triumphantly.
“Oh no sweetie, why would you want to do that?” Khushi was quite horrified.
Chotti crossed her arms adamantly, “Tit for tat,” she declared firmly.
Khushi shook her head, “But then what would be the difference between you and Simran? You say she is being mean, petty and jealous,” Khushi ticked each one off on her fingers, “if you do what you propose to do would that not make you mean, petty and jealous as well?”
“But its…its not fair,” burst out Chotti, “Somebody should punish her for her meanness,” she paused, “could you call up her mom?” she said hopefully.
“And say what?” Khushi raised her eyebrow, “Please please invite my bechari daughter to the birthday party?” she clasped her hands together and begged.
Chotti made a face and flopped on to the bed, “Its not fair,” she repeated, “that she should be so mean and get away without being punished for it,” Chotti was laboring under a strong sense of injustice.
“How do you know whether she is getting away scot free?” Khushi pulled her to face her, “I bet she is equally anguished and pained, after all you are good friends, think of how tortured and guilty she must be feeling that because of her insecurity she is forced to risk your friendship? You should feel sorry for her and not be angry with her! Dekhna soon better sense will prevail and everything will be alright between you two,” Khushi predicted bracingly.
“Aur agar nahi hota toh?” Chotti asked skeptically.
“Then you just put it down to a learning experience and move on, maybe Simran is not worthy of being your friend and the sooner you get to know that better it is,” Khushi rose, “Come let’s practice for a bit and then I have to go and check up on Nani.”
It is rather difficult to be dejected and morose while dancing – exactly what Khushi had banked upon. Flushed and breathless, Chotti recovered from her dumps and had just one concern, “Please don’t tell Da will you? He will tease me like anything,” feeling a bit ashamed of her overreaction.
Khushi smiled and nodded, relieved that this crisis had been blown off – at least for the moment.
Khushi looked at the clock – itna late! When would she go to the parlor? Dammit, I should have gone in the morning itself, why o why did I postpone it to the afternoon, she rued. Because usually the children are busy with their own activities and give you a wide berth – par aaj hi sab kuch hona tha.
She eyed the clock once again and nibbled her finger – maybe just maybe, she could squeeze out half hour – that is if Nani was ok.
Khushi put the soaked rajma in the cooker and put the gas on; she dashed off upstairs to check on Nani – she was sleeping and her fever was down, phew. She crept off quietly to change and run a quick comb through her hair; she flew down to the kitchen where the cooker was insistently calling her – uff the evils of a big house she grumbled to herself; wonder how I managed when I was involved with AKC as well? She sighed – even now she barely had time to breathe.
Shakuntala came along with a mournful expression, “Bhabhi Lallu ka bhukhar phir badh gaya,” she was almost in tears – part worry part guilt.
“Oho, aisa toh nahi hona chahiye, jao doctor ke paas lekar jao,” she advised kindly and packed her off.
Clearly Shakuntala’s presence was not to be depended upon and not wanting to risk any obstacles to her ‘date’ with Arnav, Khushi opted to arrange dinner for the RMwasis than go to the parlor.
Khushi then took the plunge and briefed the children and Nani. There wasn’t objection from any quarter except a bit of a grumble from Chotti, “Aww mom, couldn’t we all go?”
“Chotti!” immediately shushed Devansh, “let them go na, can’t you give mom a break,” he frowned ferociously at her, “Waise bhi Nani can’t go and then who will stay with her?”
Chotti pouted and dug her heels in – her lips trembled and she wore a mulish expression – Guddu hurriedly pulled her over to one side and had a whispered conversation with his baby sister.
“Its ok mom,” she was suddenly all smiles and cooperation, “I will take care of everything and everyone I will make sure Nani has her medicines ok? Can I help you get ready?”
Khushi narrowed her eyes and looked suspiciously at both of them – Guddu looked away hastily and walked off, “Kya bola Da ne?” Khushi asked Chotti.
“Kuch nahi,” Chotti dismissed airily.
“Kuch toh hai,” asserted Khushi, “Are you two keeping secrets from me now? Batao what mischief are you two planning, nahi toh I wont go,” she threatened.
Click here for Chapter 421