Nani stared after them in stunned shock; she looked at Manohar, “Ka hua? Humne aisan ka keh diya jo Aakash bitwa aisan bomb ke tarah phat gaya?”
“Arre kucho naahi Amma,” Manohar tried to pour oil over troubled waters, “Aisan hi kuch chota mota business misunderstanding…”
“Na chota na mota, definitely some major issue,” Nani said thoughtfully, “Chotte aur Khushi bitiya ne bhi kuch nahi bataya,” she spoke more to herself than her son.
“Nahi Amma, its nothing serious,” insisted Manohar, “just a small misunderstanding, now that you have come, we can talk it over and you can convince Aakash that nobody blames him bas sab theek ho jayega, sab pehle jaise, trust me Amma,” he exhorted.
‘But blame him for what?’ wondered Nani.
Filled with misgivings, Nani reluctantly agreed – she didn’t want to leave her children fighting and squabbling – she owed them one last try; humse hi kauno galati hui hai ka hey Devi Maiyya? She looked heavenwards for an answer.
Nani called up Arnav and Khushi and spoke to them at length on Skype but without much success, “ Chotte, Khushi bitiya eee sab ka hai, bataya nahi, why this animosity with Aakash?”
Arnav shot a guarded look at Khushi, “What animosity Nani? Kuch bhi toh nahi,” he denied all knowledge.
Nani sighed, “Nahi Chotte jhoot mat bolo, I know there has been some major difference of opinion between you and Aakash, woh toh bina pooche hi itna kuch bol gaya and you are not telling me despite asking? Khushi bitiya tum batao,” she insisted.
Arnav came to the foreground pushing Khushi to the background, “Bola na Nani there is nothing to tell, you just relax, meet everybody, have a good time and come back soon.”
“Ji Nani,” Khushi smiled, “kuch bhi toh nahi, bas sab busy hain, bas aap jaldi se sab ko mil lijiye, take lots of photographs and come back soon, all of us miss you very much Nani, especially Chotti, pata hai Nani, last night she carried your pillow to her room ‘isme Nani ki smell hai’,” she laughed.
Nani felt her breath catch ‘oh Chotti don’t love me so much that you cannot let me go when the time comes’ she thought as fear at her impending departure touched her for the first time – they all loved her so much, how would they cope when the time came? Hey DM sab ko Shakti dena. She shook her head, at least on that score she could be sanguine as far as her ‘other’ family was concerned, they couldn’t care less if she was in this world or the next – there was a silver lining in every cloud!
But time was in short supply and she needed some answers fast, since both Manorama and Aakash seemed to be avoiding her and Nani didn’t feel too comfortable with the revised and upgraded version of Payal, she cornered Manohar once again, “You have to tell me exactly kya problem hai dono brothers main, kuch toh hai,” she nodded firmly.
“Na…nahi Amma aisan kauno baat naahi,” protested Manohar unconvincingly.
Nani straightened and adjusted her pallu and shook her head as Manohar tried to cover up some more, “Nahi I am convinced, I have had the feeling for a long time that both Chotte and Khushi are hiding something from me, but I didn’t really pay much heed to it and put it down to miya-biwi ka nok-jhok, but now I am not so convinced,” she looked straight at her son with a steely glance, “Could I have the truth please?”
Mamaji sighed defeatedly, “Actually there was a joint business venture between Chotte and Aakash bitwa, but the consignment did not reach the client on time due to a natural disaster because of which there were heavy penalties,” he paused and continued painfully, “Ideally insurance should have taken care of this but Aakash, who was in charge of this aspect failed to pay attention to the fine print as a result Chotte incurred heavy losses,” he looked helplessly at his mother, “I reasoned with him to at least share the cost with Chotte but I think he knew that it was completely his fault and if he offered to pay half, he was worried that Chotte might insist he pay the entire amount, so he just backed off completely and washed his hands off the whole thing laying the blame at Chotte’s door. I did try to reason again and again with him, but,” he shook his head helplessly, “Koi meri sunta hi kahan hai?” he sat there looking defeated and dejected.
Nani sighed and closed her eyes, regretting coming here. She had wanted to clear her doubts and get back her peace of mind par yahan toh…no wonder they say ignorance is bliss. Only saving grace so far had been Palash who seemed just like any normal teenager – maybe she should go away from here and sooner the better. Bas ek baar Yash se mil loon – pata nahi woh kaunsa shock dega she thought bitterly, after all hai toh Manorama ka hi pota na and now even Payal was happily following her footsteps.
Unable to resist, one day Nani accosted Payal, “Eee sab ka hai bitiya,” Nani tried to control her outrage rather unsuccessfully, “Roz party? Aisa kaunse family main howat hai, what about the impact on the children?”
“Oh the children are all grown up and busy in their own lives, Yash is hardly here and Palash is also on his way out, just another year or so Dadiji aap chinta nahi kijiye,” Payal smiled reassuringly, “Waise bhi it is such a relief, Dad has taken over Yash and Palash completely under his wing, they have a separate section of their own upstairs wahan koi disturbance nahi hota,” Payal said, “Dad keeps them on a tight leash, hume kuch karne ki zaroorat hi nahi padti.”
‘Dad!’ Nani stared at her taken aback and unconvinced, “Par what about family time? What will the children learn? What about sanskaar? Don’t you miss them, don’t you want to spend time with them?” she adjusted her pallu and said disapprovingly, “I am very disappointed with you, I didn’t expect this from you,” she waved her hands agitatedly, “All this partying, complete Western lifestyle, even food and…and look at the kind of clothes you wear,” she sniffed disparagingly.
There was silence, a long silence.
“Ab kuch nahi bologi? Kuch justification nahi dogi?” Nani taunted relieved to finally have found a scapegoat to unleash her seething emotions which she was incapable of dealing with in a rational unbiased manner and neither were her beloved Chotte, Anjali or Khushi around to support her, give her a sense of belonging – how could she even begin to express how she felt like an outsider in her own son’s home? Pain and anguish tore at her and she lashed out at the first convenient target – the real outsider Payal, the snake in the grass, the wolf in sheep’s clothing, thought Nani getting all agitated and worked up.
Click here for Chapter 441