Arnav was in a fix, finally he said, “Actually some friends and relatives of Nani may also come, it’s a surprise so just make it a bit more,” he waved his hands expressively.
“Oh achcha toh aisa kahiye na, why make such a song and dance about it?” Khushi shook her head.
“Oh that reminds me,” Arnav started guiltily, “We need to have a sort of a stage somewhere with some seating arrangements around,” he looked around helplessly vaguely.
Khushi looked at him exasperatedly, “Last minute par batate ho, pehle kyon nahi kaha?” she fumed.
“Tabhi toh kaha tha that let the catering be done by a professional,” Arnav snapped.
“What! Aapko humse achcha professional kahan milega?” screeched Khushi who was highly offended.
“Oho mamma, relax,” Chotti piped up, “You manage the food, Dad and I will take care of it here, right Dad?” Arnav nodded gratefully and walked off with her.
Khushi frowned, dal main kuch kala hai, arre nahi dal hi jal gayiii, she charged off into the kitchen.
But by afternoon, a team from a reputed catering group had arrived (courtesy Laad Governor of course) and shooed her out of the kitchen. And then Anjali arrived and whisked her off to the parlor. Khushi fussed but then gave in – after all who doesn’t like to be pampered?
Arnav was taking active interest not only the party but also her dress – he had brought a saree for Khushi and insisted that she wear it, “Blue saree and you?” she asked incredulously.
“Haan toh?” he shrugged, “Red se bore ho gaya,” he explained as he leaned casually against the door.
“Ohh! Red se bore ho gaye!” Khushi pouted, “Next you will be saying that humse hi bore ho gaye,” she grumbled.
Arnav’s lips twitched, “Akalmand ke liye ishara kaafi hota hai,” he straightened and came over to her and flicked her nose, “Mind you, tum wohi pehen rahi ho,” and walked out, “And hurry up, you have just 10 min,” he strode off his phone to his ear.
“Laad governor kahin ke!” fumed Khushi but nevertheless obeyed his orders as she hurriedly draped the beautiful saree – Devansh’ words echoing aap hi ne spoil kiya hai Dad ko.
“Mom!” wailed Chotti from the doorway just as Khushi took the pin from her mouth and pinned up her pallu. Khushi turned and her eyes misted over – Chotti was looking stunning in a pale pink saree even though the pleats were clutched in one hand, “Help me please!” she begged.
“Oh sweetie!” Khushi croaked, as she moved forward, “I didn’t know you were going to wear a saree,” her eyes sparkled like jewels, “You are looking gorgeous!” unable to help herself, she put a kala teeka from her eye and put it behind her ear.
“Oh Mom!” said Chotti as she handed the unruly pleats to her, “It was meant to be a surprise! Shaku massi was supposed to help me but she vanished, am I looking nice?”
“Nice doesn’t even begin to describe it my dearest Chotti,” Khushi smiled at her daughter as she neatly slipped the pleats into place, “except,” she frowned, “You are looking so grown up!”
“Oh yes!” Chotti was maha pleased, “Exactly my point! I am no longer a baby! Sab ko pata hona chahiye,” she declared, “All done?” she asked as she patted her pleats and adjusted her pallu.
“Khushi!” Arnav called out impatiently, “Kahan ho tum, abhi tak ready nahi hui and Angel is also not in her roo…” he stopped short as he caught sight of the mother-daughter duo – a vision in pink and blue – he blinked as he looked from one to the other his mouth wide open wearing a stunned expression, “Oh Arnav,” gushed the proud mom, “Isnt she looking gorgeous?”
Arnav closed his mouth and then opened it again but no words came out – Chotti laughed delighted at the impact, “Daddyyy say something!”
He just reached out and hugged her tenderly, she squealed, “My hair!”
He carefully smoothed it down, “Stunningly gorgeous,” he finally managed to utter.
Chotti clapped her hands, “So is mom right?”
Arnav looked over to her, “Yeah,” he nodded his eyes warm and tender – Khushi blushed, “Chalo chalo ab der nahi ho rahi?” she hustled them.
Downstairs, they were mobbed by a horde of people and Kshitij’s camera clicked almost nonstop as there was a chorus of compliments.
The best of course (at least for the moment) was, “Yash, Palash!” Khushi couldn’t believe her eyes, “Tum dono yahan! So lovely to see you here,” she hugged them again and again – kitne bade ho gaye hain – aur kitne handsome lag rahei hain dono – she couldn’t stop gushing, “Oh Di yeh surprise aapne plan kiya, Jiji nahi aayi?” she looked hopefully around.
Seeing Khushi’s expectantly hopeful expression, Di melted but then, “Oh,” shrieked Chotti, “look! Boo is here!”
“Err,” Di mumbled and repeated thankfully, “Oh look Poo is here, oh she is glowing isn’t she,” she enfolded a blushing Poo into her arms, “Aman tum bhi pregnant ho kya,” she crinkled her eyes and giggled.
Embarrassed, Aman hastily pulled in his tummy, “Woh Ma makes so much khana for Poo,” he explained sheepishly.
“HRNK ee ne socha amma khana nahi khaye toh babuji ke khane se kaam ban jayega!” said Buaji amidst a burst of laughter.
The Gupta parivar strongly missed the presence of their beloved Payal, but each hid their sorrow from the other lest their joy be dimmed and gave thankfulness for the blessings of the moment – at least Yash and Palash were here. And just like the old days – all the boys ganged up and mercilessly teased Chotti, “oho toh by wearing a saree you want to show everybody that now you are big girl and its time to look for a suitable boy for you is it?” said Guddu slyly.
“Haan, I know someone who would be perfect for you, tall dark and handsome,” extolled Yash.
“Really?” Chotti sneered disbelievingly.
“Mere batch main ek ladka hai, if you like I could talk to him,” he shrugged, “maybe he could give his security guards the slip and meet you.”
Impressed, Chotti’s eyes widened, “Your friend has security cover?”
“Haan,” nodded Yash, “Uska kaam hi kuch aisa hai.”
Chotti nodded understandingly, “Achcha does he specialize in putting dangerous criminals behind bars?” she said with pleasurable excitement, even though a faint error bell rang, “But you said he was your batchmate?” she asked suspiciously.
“Haan,” Yash grinned widely, “woh kya hai na, parole toh milna itna aasan nahi hai, bas sirf exam dene aata hai college woh bhi under security cover,” he winked and did a high five with Ankit and Devansh, whilst Chotti slowly digested the piece of information, “Whaaaatttt,” she screeched and rushed towards him and would have fallen if it weren’t for four pairs of hands which reached out to steady her.
She shrugged them off angrily, “Just you wait till Di comes,” she fumed, “Just you wait and why just Di, I will put Kida Makoda tumhare peechche, phir dekhna,” she gloated superiorily.
“Kida Makoda?” Yash and Palash barely had time to look at each other questioningly when the little devils tripped in looking adorable in matching pink frocks, even Anya was wearing the same color saree as Chotti was (Di had spent a lot of time color coordinating the ladies).
Of course now the entire attention shifted to Keira and Maira who unlike other toddlers positively blossomed under the doting attention of all the gathered people. In fact, when Anya prompted the girls, Keira promptly rose to the occasion followed a little later by Maira singing ‘Appy to you’ much to Nani’s delight.
“Sorry Chotti,” muttered Anya, “I couldn’t risk their being in this mood till midnight.”
“Never mind Di,” Chotti shook her head, “Nani ko toh pata chal hi gaya hai, but there are more surprises to follow,” she giggled conspiratorially with her.
Just then the doorbell rang.
Click here for Chapter 453