Arnav stared at her and retreated behind his mask, “You don’t need to bother yourself over that Angel, that’s…private,” being Arnav he would rather refuse to answer than attempt spin an implausible yarn – that was Khushi’s specialty.
Angel looked at him consideringly, “Please?” she coaxed winningly.
“No,” Arnav said sternly.
Angel looked at him shrewdly, “Is that the reason we are no longer on ‘talking terms’ with our Mumbai counterparts?”
“Chotti!” Khushi entered carrying some stuff as well as Arnav’s medicines, “Bachchi ho bachche ke tarah hi raho,” she advised brusquely.
“Unbelievable!” Chotti threw up her hands in despair, “not a minute ago you exhorted me to grow up!” she stomped out of the room, not not before she threw one final glance at her Dad motioning him to call up her Chachu and fix up everything to her satisfaction – Arnav’s lips twitched involuntarily. Chotti grinned triumphantly confident ki kaam ho jayega.
“And you Mr Arnav Singh Raizada,” Khushi emptied her arms on the bed and slapped the strips of medicine by his table, “What is going on? Why is Chotti discussing about not being on talking terms with our Mumbai counterparts? Who has to apologize to me?” she faced him and looked straight at him, “or should I cal up Aman?” and waited.
Arnav looked back at her ruefully, “That was Aakash on the phone,” he said baldly.
Khushi’s mouth dropped open and her hand flew to her mouth, “Jijaji!” she said incredulously, “How come he called?!”
Arnav hesitated and then settled for the half-truth, “He…he called to apologize and…and offered to make good the damage,” he said a bit jerkily.
“Apologize!” Khushi clutched his hand eagerly, “Aapne kya kaha?”
Arnav shook his head, his lips pinched and drawn, “Yehi that he needed to apologize to you,” he looked down at her with haunted eyes, “I wanted to tell him that no offer or apology can make good any damage done,” he said bitterly.
“Oh Arnav,” she put her arms around him and hugged him tightly, “if only you knew how wrong you were!” she looked at him and smoothed away the lines on his face, “No doubt a ‘sorry’ cannot make a dead man alive but then never underestimate the power of a single ‘sorry’ to heal the deepest of wounds,” she clutched his hands, “If you are angry with him for my sake, please please just drop it for nothing would give me greater pleasure than to be on the same page as them, trust me when I say I don’t miss not having AKC, really truly, in fact I wonder how I would have managed if it had been there! Sab Devi Maiyya ne karwaya tha, she knew I would be too busy and happy with my family, that I needed to relax, enjoy life,” she spoke passionately and convincingly.
Arnav’s expression lightened the tiniest bit, Khushi sighed and leaned against him, “Kabhi kabhi I really wonder at Devi Maiyya pata nahi kya soch kar she granted my wish and dekhiye na kya ho gaya, no wonder they say be careful of what you ask for you may get it!”
Arnav frowned as Khushi rambled on incomprehensibly, “Khushi?”
She looked up at him and smiled a bit sadly, “Aapko pata hai, ever since I was a young girl I used to pray to Devi Maiyya that let us sisters get married to two brothers so that we may never be separated,” she swallowed and looked away, “Unhone ‘thatastu’ toh bol diya, but first it was a forced marriage, phir woh sahi hua toh she sent Jiji away to Mumbai and now I cannot even call her up and wish her on her birthday, her 50th birthday,” hot tears fell on Arnav’s hand as he forcibly raised her head.
He gathered her close and rocked her even as he swore to himself – damn damn and triple damn.
His thoughts went back a couple of weeks ago.
“Yeh lijiye Prasad,” Khushi offered him the pooja ka thal.
“Aaj kaunsi pooja thi? Sunday ko bhi fast rakhti ho kya?” Arnav asked as he reflexively held out his hands.
“Fast nahi,” Khushi shook her head, “Par haan ek special Pooja rakkhi thi.”
“Kya hua?” Arnav looked at her closely, “Tum theek ho?” something was wrong somewhere, she looked emotional and something else.
“Haan hum theek hain,” she smiled without meeting his eyes and attempted to walk away, “Kiske liye pooja thi?” he insisted.
“Woh…woh…Jiji’s 50th birthday today na, isliye,” she smiled but a tear slipped out.
“She didn’t take your call,” Arnav stated coldly.
“Nahi nahi aisa nahi hai,” Khushi rushed to defend, “I only didn’t call, I didn’t want to disturb her, pata nahi if Jijaji is around and he got to know, he might not like it, waise bhi,” she swallowed, “If I hear her voice I don’t think I will be able to control myself,” she almost broke down but she rallied and smiled brightly, “but I sent her flowers and I am sure she will know who sent them, hum theek hain truly don’t worry,” she squeezed his hand and walked away while Arnav stared at her helplessly cursing himself and his family for always always knowingly or unknowingly hurting Khushi over and over again.
Well maybe it was time to mend the bridge and…and follow Angel’s dictates he thought wryly to himself, “Well jaise tum kehti ho, your Devi Maiyya know best doesn’t she, aur jo bhi karti hai achcha hi karti hai?” he said huskily.
“Haan,” nodded Khushi still feeling low, “But sometimes it is hard to maintain faith, to understand why…” she trailed off as the memories of the yester years rose up fresh and starkly horrific as ever – it was as if she had determinedly packed away all the hurtful memories but now that a couple had been aired, the rest also came tumbling out.
Arnav’s lips twisted as his heart went out to her – to see Khushi down and out was almost more than he could bear, he tipped her chin up, “Who knows She did it to teach me a lesson?” he said huskily, “to bring me back into her fold?”
Khushi’s eyes flew to meet his, “And are you back in her fold?” she asked incredulously.
“Well,” he shrugged self-deprecatingly, “Roz Prasad toh le hi leta hoon na? Aur kabhi kabhi mandir bhi chala jaata hoon and that too without much of a fuss isn’t it, and if you keep a pooja say for Devansh’s exams I am hardly going to refuse to come is it?”
Khushi stared at him doubtfully – all true enough but she was unable to decide if he really did believe in DM or did he do all that for her sake? She narrowed her eyes, pucca he was just pulling her leg but then again was that a gentle hint to keep a pooja for Devansh? Phir toh Devi Maiyya ki jai ho! A brilliant smile lit her face, “Aap bhi na!” she said in excellent imitation of Anjali complete with crinkled nose and cupping of his face – he grinned thrilled to have got his bright chirpy Khushi back. Anything for your smile sweetheart he thought as he hugged her close, chahe woh DM ki pooja ho ya phir… shake hands with Aakash.
Khushi suddenly stiffened and looked up at Arnav, “But why did Chotti disconnect the phone?” she asked mystified, “And why did she spin that yarn about Aman, dinner and what not? Kya khichdi pak rahi hai yahan?” she asked suspiciously.
“Oho Khushi, kitna bolti ho tum,” a thoroughly exasperated and cornered Arnav had no choice but to use his Brahmastra to shut up Khushi.
The ecstatic RV lost no time in breaking upon them in a triumphant rising swirl so much so that Guddu had to shut his door.
Click here for Chapter 447