Instantly Aakash fell off his high horse – Bhai still cared! That was all that he registered, guilt flooded him, as did relief, things weren’t beyond repair, Bhai wasn’t really mad at him, he should have known better, he castigated himself, Bhai wasn’t like that, he was, “Aakash?” Arnav’s panic stricken voice broke into his self-flagellation, “Haan haan Bhai sab theek hai,” he rushed to clarify, “Woh actually I am planning a surprise birthday party for Nani with Chotti, shayad aapko pata ho?”
“Surprise birthday party for Nani?” echoed Arnav, “Haan she did mention something of the sort,” Arnav said guardedly.
“Yes well, uske liye hi I am calling, you see Chotti had the idea that I should try and trace Nani’s friends and relatives with the help of Dad and now that I have, I needed to organize their pick and stay so that is why I had called her,” he finished a bit lamely, “Of course I knew she wouldn’t be able to handle it but aapko toh pata hai, Di is with Ankit so,” he defended himself even as he trailed off.
“Haan sure fine no problem, mail me the details and I will see to the arrangements don’t worry,” Arnav said a bit distantly.
“I am sorry Bhai!” The dam had been breached and there was no stopping Aakash now, “Forgive me Bhai, it was all my fault, main darr gaya tha Bhai, afraid of losing everything, I am sorry Bhai mujhe aisa nahi karna tha, please Bhai forgive me Bhai, please Bhai,” he begged forgiveness most abjectly.
A red- hot rage engulfed Arnav as the memories of all the horrific days came rushing to the fore – worse – once again Khushi had to bear the brunt of it all – his rejection, loss of AKC…no dammit he wouldn’t forgive Aakash no dammit he wouldn’t forgive anybody, he raged.
But Khushi forgave you didn’t she? And how would it help her if you continue to carry the grudge? Was it worth hurting Khushi, Nani and perhaps even Chotti? He closed his eyes, “Lets just drop it Aakash,” he said curtly.
“Nahi Bhai we are all still suffering the consequences of my incompetency and subsequent unpardonable behavior,” now that he had apologized, Aakash was in no mood to spare himself (and of course its much easier on the telephone isn’t it?), “I want to make things right, I…I want to pay for whatever losses that might have been incurred, I promise I will make it good Bhai.”
“I am afraid that isn’t possible Aakash, for Khushi sold off AKC to…to save A&Ddesigns,” Arnav’s lips were a thin white line, “If you must, apologize to Khushi.”
“Momm!” Chotti’s voice preceded Khushi’s entry, clearly meant to warn Arnav who instantly froze in mid-sentence and stared guiltily at Khushi and Chotti as they stood in front of him. Khushi wore a thoroughly exasperated (with Chotti) and a mild questioning look while Chotti made comical urgent khoofiya motions behind her Mom’s back. Caught, Arnav stared dumbstruck from one to the other while Aakash continued to blabber at the other end – Chotti smacked a hand to her head and shook her head pityingly at Arnav and snitched the phone from his hand, “Sorry Dad’s a bit busy now, he will call you later ok? Byyeee,” she sang sweetly and smartly disconnected the phone.
Arnav relaxed while Khushi stiffened, “Chotti!” she was aghast, “Aise koi karta hai kya! For heaven’s sake you are almost 16 not a baby any more,” she castigated, “Pata nahi kya soch rahein honge! Kaun tha?” she asked Arnav who immediately wore a hunted expression and looked wildly at Chotti for help, who stepped up airily, “Oho Mom aap bhi na! That was Dad’s favorite whipping post aur kaun – Aman Mathur,” she shook her head and twinkled mischievously, “What would he think? Anka is probably thanking his lucky stars, that is yours truly for saving him yet another tongue lashing from Dad,” she preened and turned to Arnav, “Right Dad,” she waggled her eyes at him, looking so much like Khushi that she almost took away Arnav’s breath.
He shook his head ruefully, “Yeah that was Aman,” he mumbled indistinctly not very comfortable with this game of glib fibbing.
Khushi relaxed but only a bit, “But still Chotti, the way you behave! Seriously,” she shook her head warningly at her, “Kuch toh umar ka lihaz karo! Abhi aise unceremoniously Dad ka phone disconnect kar diya and then you go and throw a major tantrum about Guddu borrowing a pencil of yours, grow up girl!” Khushi threw up her hands in despair and turned away, “Hey wait a minute,” she instantly turned back and faced Arnav, “Why did you ask Aman to apologize to me?” she had clearly caught the tail end of the conversation and had just processed the information.
Arnav again wore a hunted expression, “Woh…woh,” he muttered cluelessly while looking helplessly at Chotti who rose to the occasion, “Oho Mom!” she drew Khushi’s attention back to her and rattled off, “Anka had called to say that he won’t be able to come for the dinner on Saturday night because he had to go out of station so I asked him to talk to Dad to see if his trip could be rescheduled but I guess it wasn’t possible to do so and he must have been apologizing for not being able to make to dinner and tabhi Dad must have said that he should apologize to you, hain na Dad?” she finished triumphantly.
Arnav nodded dazedly as he looked at her in awe – she grinned cheekily at him and swung back to Khushi to meet her incredulous stare and justifiable protest, “Dinner on Saturday?! I am giving and I know nothing about it?” she protested outraged.
“Chill Mom chill,” Chotti said in soothing tones, “I was the one who was trying to organize a dinner, its been so long since we met or went anywhere,” she sighed mournfully, “So I thought why not have a dinner at home…”
“Chotti have you completely lost it?” Khushi clapped a hand to her head, “You have exams, Guddu’s boards are just around the corner and you are going around organizing a dinner?” she was incredulous.
“It was just dinner Mom not a rave party,” Chotti threw her hands up, “Anyway Anka is not free so…anyway just for your information that was not just any old pencil that Da flicked from my room, it was an exclusive Barbie pencil and not only that – he sharpened the pencil and destroyed 21/2 Barbies!” she screeched in protest.
Feeling that he was back on terra firma Arnav rolled his eyes and sank on the recliner and watched in amusement as the two sparred, “Exclusive Barbie pencil!” echoed Khushi incredulously, “What are you? 16 years old or 6 years old? Grow up Chotti please,” she begged.
“Achcha so I should grow up?” defiantly Chotti faced her mom with her hands on her hips, “What about your darling Guddu huh? Have you forgotten the tantrum he threw because I helpfully sharpened his precious dinosaur pencil?”
“Fine! Be as childish as you like I don’t have time to stand and argue over pointless stuff I have work to do,” she spun on her heels and walked off, shooting a suspicious darkling glance towards Arnav which clearly meant ‘humari baat abhi khatam nahi hui hai’ – Arnav’s looked back blandly enough but to tell the truth his heart did skip a beat, well maybe two – oops so she hadn’t bought the Aman story after all, better think of another yarn by the time she comes back.
But before that he had Chotti to deal with, “So Dad, did you sort out the arrangements and stuff that Chachu was talking about?” she demanded.
Arnav looked at her, “How come I wasn’t informed that this was going to be such a huge event with everybody involved?”
Chotti looked at him pityingly, “I did tell you Dad! You just don’t listen to me,” she grumbled, “And who is everybody pray?” she said sarcastically, “And I did tell you it was a surprise for loads of milestone events didn’t I? By the way, what does Chachu have to apologize to Mom for?” she was now curious.
Click here for Chapter 446