Chapter 44: Diwali Postmortem

Anjali’s heart sanka as she looked at Anya’s tensed expression. “What?” she questioned almost fearfully.

“When you marry dad, you will be my new mommy, but does that mean you will no longer be my friend; what should I call you? Anjie or mommy?” asked a clearly worried Anya.

Anjali felt dizzy with relief, “Anya darling,” she exclaimed, “You can call me anything!”

Anya pulled a face, “But it would sound so strange if I said to my friends, ‘come meet my dad’s wife, anything’ don’t you think so?”

Anjali laughed till she got a stitch in the side, seeing her Anya too joined in and soon they were both rolling on the bed; upon hearing the commotion, Nanny came rushing, she smiled at the sight and went back to her work.

Finally they calmed down and Anjali wiped her eyes and said, “Anya dear, I will be both, your mommy and your friend, do you know a girl’s best friend is her mum, after diamonds of course?” she giggled.

Anya was relieved, and clapped her hands, “But what to call you? I like calling you Anjie but I want to call you mommy too.”

Anjali swallowed the sudden lump in her throat, “I would love that too! Ok let’s see, in public call me mommy, but when there is just the two of us call me Anjie, it will be our little secret.”

Anya’s eyes sparkled and she gave a whoop of joy, “Yay, three cheers for Anjie-Anya BFF” and gave an ecstatic hug to a teary eyed Anjali.

In the car

“Khushi when did you say your exams were?” Arnav asked Khushi.

“We will talk about that later, Mr Arnav Singh Raizada, first things first, what are you trying to hide?” Khushi cottoned on to his tactics immediately.

“Hide, what is there to hide, and am I scared of you that I would want to hide something from you, tum apne aapko samajhti kya ho?” said Arnav attacked (the best form of defense Khushi correctly deduced).

“Haan true, who am I to…?” Khushi agreed sweetly, “Anyway let’s forget that, what were we talking about? Oh yes, Chamko detergent powder, how I won 2 silver coins and how you were jealous and angry,” she stopped. Bingo! Arnav’s ears had again become red.

She stared, her antenna on high alert; the jigsaw pieces suddenly fell neatly into place, taking the blame for breaking the flower vase, her sudden stroke of luck, winning not the promised silver coin but 2 silver coins, his sudden objection to her leaving RM in order to return one of the coins; she put her hand on his chin and turned his face towards her and said wonderingly, “You put those coins in the packet.” It was a statement; not a question.

That he was reluctant to meet her eyes confirmed it.

She rewarded him with the most brilliant smile ever, while he had a self-deprecating half smile on his face, “What’s the big deal?” he muttered.

“It is a big deal, for me,” Khushi choked, her eyes sparkling like diamonds, “Hume toh vishwas hi nahi ho raha hai ki that Laad Governor could go to such lengths and that too for me.”

“Come on Khushi,” Arnav protested highly embarrassed at his khadoos image being so ruthlessly dented, “it was just two silver coins!”

“Nahi Arnav, I am not talking about the coins, one or two or a zillion, it is that you thought of it, that you took the pains, why?” Khushi grilled him.

Arnav shifted gears as the traffic finally started crawling, he was silent, Khushi waited patiently all the while looking at him, he finally looked at her and said softly, “You were so upset, I couldn’t bear it. I did the only thing I could think of to put a smile on your face, the sparkle back in your eyes.”

“Tab se,” she smiled her brilliant smile.

“Tab se,” he nodded, smiling.

Suddenly she made a moue, “And then the very next minute you take away everything and cut me to pieces. What happened on Diwali?”

“Ahh Diwali,” Arnav looked trapped, “Oh let’s forget it Khushi, all that is water under the bridge. Let’s talk about something nice, like Di’s shagun, it’s tomorrow right? What time are your parents coming?”

“Achcha, toh now Di’s wedding is now a ‘good’ thing? No chance, Mr Arnav Singh Raizada, I won’t get a better opportunity than this, you are completely at my mercy, DM is with me, look it is raining so heavily and there is such a huge traffic pile up; Diwali ka post-mortem toh hoke rahega,” Khushi stuck to her guns.

Arnav sighed, he knew he was cornered, with no place to run, no place to hide, “I regret everything about that Diwali, I wish Di had not mixed up the sarees, I wish you had not looked so ravishing, I wish you had not sprained your ankle, I wish I had not returned your anklet, I wish, I wish I had kissed you, damn the phone,” he banged his hand on the steering wheel, setting off the horn, “I wish I had not remembered Sheetal, I wish I had not succumbed to my ego and declared my intention to marry Lavanya, I wish I didn’t have to drop you home, I wish you had not left the purse in the car, I wish my insecurities had not provoked me to cut you with my unjust words, I wish you had not looked so beautiful, I wish you had given some indication, some hint, some hope that you cared for me, just me, I wish you had the sense to understand what I was trying to say when I put the payal on, when I moved to kiss you, but no, you want it all in black and white!” he attacked.

Khushi had been listening to his monologue in silence, a myriad of emotions flitting across her expressive face, but the final accusation was too much, “Achcha, toh I want it all in black and white, really! And you are a master of the unsaid right? What about the time at the hospital, when I hugged you in full public view, cried like a baby on your shoulder and you didn’t even have the courtesy to offer a word of support? I have never been so embarrassed in my whole life, I fail to understand what possessed me to do so, I mean why I would expect you to support me, the man who dropped me from the first floor of his office, nearly killed me by sending me to a dilapidated building, baat kartein hain, hmmph, you should have understood then, that you meant something?” she retaliated in full measure.

“See, you yourself don’t understand why you did such a thing and then you expect me to understand what you meant, I mean seriously Khushi!” Arnav raised his hand to his brow, “meant something,” he snorted.

Khushi sank back in her seat, unable to deny the force of his argument, “Hmm, true, both of us were so confused, we really didn’t know what hit us,” she conceded.

Arnav shook his head, “I wish, in fact, I have wished a zillion times that I had had the guts to say I love you that Diwali and who knows we could have totally avoided the ensuing mess,” he ended in a ragged whisper as guilt and self-loathing choked him.

Khushi caught hold of his hand, “Don’t be too harsh on yourself Arnav, it is all DM ki marzee, this was how it was meant to be.”

Wisely, Khushi desisted from pointing out that if Arnav had not released the fashion show footage to the media, perhaps Shyamji’s and her path may never have crossed at all. That guilt would probably be more than Arnav could ever bear.

Oh well that was also DM’s doing in any case, she rationalized.

***

Click here for Chapter 45

 

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