Exam ka khauf entangled everyone in its jaal. Even Nani wasn’t exempt – she couldn’t even watch her favorite TV shows in peace. Nani was hard of hearing and would put on the TV at full blast as she enjoyed her favorite dharmik serials (err she was also quite fond of the lastest Bollywood songs as well) much to the children’s disturbance. There was loads of door slammings, grumblings, cotton stuffings etc until Arnav got wind of the issue – he gifted a pair of wireless earphones to Nani – these she accepted albeit reluctantly, “it just isnt the same,” she grumbled privately to Anjali, “I am tied to the chair, it doesn’t work well if I move away or something and besides my ears hurt,” she whined.
“Oho Nani, kuch hi dino ki toh baat hai,” exhorted Anjali shooting an apologetic glance at Khushi.
“Achcha Nani I will shift Devansh’ room to the other side,” Khushi quailing a bit at having to disturb him at this crucial juncture, besides pata nahi maanega bhi ya nahi, she crossed her fingers surreptitiously.
“Arre nahi nahi bitiya, kauno baat nahi, don’t mind me,” Nani said apologetically, “I am making a fuss over nothing, pata nahi budape main bachchon jaise,” she shook her head and blushed a deep crimson, “Aww Nani,” both Anjali and Khushi fell on her simultaneously and hugged her, laughing in relief. Both had been worried about this new cantankerous avatar of their beloved Nani.
Already Guddu was behaving in a most hyper manner – he was at the peak of grumpiness and irritability brought on by stress, mostly of his own . The need to excel and top in everything ate into him and any roadblocks on the way were ruthlessly pushed aside leading to many a skirmish with Khushi often being caught in the middle.
“Khushi!” Arnav barked early in the morning even as Khushi desperately tried to snatch a few more seconds of that awesome dream – Guddu receiving the Nobel Prize for… “Khushi!”
“Whaaa?” Khushi woke up all bleary eyed, “Kya hua?” she asked worriedly as soon as she got her bearings, though she couldn’t help feeling a twinge of disappointment – Guddu ko kis cheez ke liye Nobel Prize mil raha tha…nahi nahi…kis cheez ke liye milega – yeh toh pata hi nahi chala – after all morning dreams came true right?
“Haan haan you finish your beauty sleep while your son stays up all night slogging away,” Arnav sneered, “pata bhi hai, that your beloved Guddu was up all night studying? Why don’t you tell him to chill a bit? Itna bhi kya padhai? And what’s the pressure all about?” he fussed like an over-anxious mother hen.
“Oho Arnav,” yawned Khushi wearily, “I was with him till about 2 am phir I sent him to bed and then only I came here,” she flopped back on the bed.
“Nonsense,” shot back Arnav, “I checked in on at 4 am then also he was studying and even now he is at it,” he pulled the bed covers, “Go and tell him to go to sleep,” he ordered.
Khushi sat up, “Uff Arnav,” she pushed her hair away from her face, “bachcha nahi hai, if he wants to study let him, problem kya hai, after all its his study leave right now and he can sleep during the day if he wishes, which I can’t,” she pulled the covers back over her head as she sank on to her pillow again.
Arnav paced the floor angrily, “Yeh kya natak lagaya hai Devansh ne?” he fumed, “and what the hell is he trying to do, kill himself? Khushi, Khushi, I am talking to you dammit!”
“Oh!” Khushi mumbled sleepily, “I thought that was a rhetorical question, because we have been over this a zillion times but you don’t seem to get it do you,” she sat up and leaned against the pillow she propped against the headboard, “He wants to get into Aerospace Engineering at IIT Mumbai and he is taking no chances – neither with his boards nor with his entrances,” Khushi explained with exaggerated patience, “Ab kuch chahiye toh mehnat toh karni padegi na? You would have also done in your time?” she pointed out, “Haan if I was making him do it under gunpoint then you would be right in attacking me, under the circumstances I don’t see what you are complaining about, nahi padta toh samajh aata,” she shook her head and closed her eyes.
“Exactly what I am trying to say here,” Arnav shot back forcing Khushi to open her eyes, “You tell him he is welcome to pick a private college of his choice in India or abroad, I will not object to the stream he wishes to pursue,” Arnav gave in unable to see his son slogging away so hard.
Khushi shook her head, “You still don’t get it do you? Aap hi ka beta hai, you put his back up and now he won’t take any ‘charity’ from you, woh dikha kar hi chodega that he can get his subject of choice on his own.”
Arnav stared helplessly at Khushi, “But…but I didn’t mean it like that!” he protested as he ran his hand through his hair, “I just meant that it would be nice if he joined A&Ddesigns and besides what does he know, he’s barely 18 years of age,” Arnav defended his actions.
Khushi wore a rueful expression, “Oh please rehne hi dijiye aap ‘nice if he joined A&Ddesigns,” she mimicked, “if only you were as nice while laying down the law,” she rolled her eyes as combed her hair with her fingers and twirled it into a bun.
“Well excuse me for wanting the best for my children,” Arnav snapped, “he has a ready made empire that anybody would kill for and what does he have to do, an ordinary graduation, enjoy college and do an MBA bas aur kya, but nahi, yeh toh tumhara beta hai, he must complicate things, he must ‘earn’ his status, even if it means going bonkers by the end of it hai na?” Arnav was at his sarcastic best.
“Ji nahi, ‘complicate’ karna toh aapka department hai,” she said sweetly, “Guddu is just following his dream,” she said rather loftily as she remembered her dream – oh he was going to give a wonderful acceptance speech where he spoke highly of his mother and oh dammit! She swore to herself, tabhi Arnav had to wake me up grrrr.
“Achcha?” Arnav looked at Khushi, “Toh if Angel wants to follow her dream…to be an actress or a model, you will allow her?” he asked incredulously.
“Haan why not?” Khushi said airily, surreptitiously crossing her fingers, “Uski dream hai toh pursue toh karna hi chahiye, aur waise bhi aapke liye toh achcha hai, ek model ko paise bhi nahi dena padega,” she waggled her eyes at him, “Hua na fayde wali deal? Kyon?” she teased him.
“Kya bakwas kar rahi ho Khushi,” he snapped instantly, clearly unable to digest the very thought.
“Come on Arnav chill,” coaxed Khushi, “Kids are growing up fast and they are mature enough to take their own decisions,” she reassured him gently.
“Mature enough to take their own decisions is it?” Arnav came and stood by the bed, “Angel can’t decide if she wants to eat a Vanilla or a Chocolate ice cream, career decide karegi!” he spat scornfully.
Khushi rolled her eyes and smack her head, “ufff Arnav, fine do what you think is right, just don’t put me in the middle jo bolna hai khud ja kar bolo,” she shot back equally aggressively but then added hurriedly, “nahi abhi nahi, exam ke baad huh? But just a word of advice, don’t be such a control freak,” she made to get out of the bed.
“Control freak aur main!” Arnav was highly offended.
“Aur kya,” Khushi grandly swept off the bed clothes, “Be aware they have learnt to walk and now will sooner or later all fly the nest,” and promptly tripped on an edge of the bed sheet and would have fallen flat if it weren’t for Arnav’s (still) quick reflexes, “Yeah yeah, all but you,” he murmured softly as he leaned over her, “I have clipped your wings and you are completely at my mercy.”
Khushi pursed her lips even though she couldn’t help but blink at him, “Haan and don’t you forget that,” she shot back impudently, “Ek hum hi hain jo reh jaayega aapke paas, so better be nice to me ok?” She straightened and made to move away, but he stalked her and trapped her against the washroom door, “Exactly how nice are we talking?” he murmured his eyes boring into hers.
Khushi gave in and slid her arms around his neck, “Who said anything about talking?” she murmured huskily.
Taking its cue, the RV instantly rose to a crescendo making further talk impossible.
Click here for Chapter 449