“Hey Buddy, how you doing?” Asked Kshitij gently as he sat down beside Devansh.
Devansh sat hunched, clenching and unclenching his fists, “How…how did this happen Mamu,” he asked fiercely, determined not to let the tears flow again, “She wasn’t even ill! I even talked to her yesterday!” he shook his head disbelievingly.
Khsitij gave his shoulder a quick sympathetic squeeze, “I know, I know its tough to accept, but this was probably for the best,” Devansh swung around in shock and glared at him, “for your Nani.”
Khsitij shook his head, “Now now don’t fly off the handle but just listen calmly, she was after all old…”
“But there was nothing wrong with her!” Devansh burst out.
Khsitij nodded, “Yes apparently there wasn’t anything wrong, but something was wrong wasn’t it? She did have a weak heart and she succumbed to it,” he paused and then said in a clinical tone, “Death was probably instantaneous and she didn’t feel a thing,” he turned to look at Devansh, “Don’t you think a much better way to go than to have suffered a prolonged and slow agonizing death, which kills not only the victim but also the victim’s family?”
Devansh sat silently, “Well anyway,” Khsitij said briskly, “No matter how angry you become, one thing is for sure your Nani wont come back,” he put his arm around Devansh to soften the blow, “But you can make things easier for your mother,” he hesitated, “Chotti ka toh rona hi bund nahi ho raha, your Bua is also upset,” he shook his head worriedly, “there are a million things to be done, customs, rasams, dealing with her own grief while arranging for food for so many people and what not, Khushi akele akele kya kya sambhalegi,” speaking more to himself than Devansh, “Well I better go,” he stood up, “You ok?”
Devansh straightened, “Where’s Dad?” he asked.
Khsitij coughed, “Your father is also very,” he paused, “distraught, he is in his room.”
“Room?” Devansh looked puzzled, “what is he doing there, doesn’t he need to be here, arranging stuff?”
Khsitij scratched his head wondering what to say, “Umm,” he shrugged, “We all try to deal with grief in our own ways, I think he is working or trying to work in an attempt to shut out the world,” and went out of the room.
Khsitij paused by the doorway, “The least you can do for your mother,” he shook his finger at him, “Don’t add to her stress, and if you can, do share some of her burden,” he looked straight at Devansh, “It’s time to grow up Guddu,” and shut the door gently behind him.
Devansh stared at the closed door for a long time; he squared his shoulders and went downstairs. He was relieved to see his father too going downstairs just ahead of him.
“Chotte,” started Anjali as she spied him coming down the stairs, “kahan ja rahe ho?” she asked tearfully as he was holding the car keys, “Bahar,” he said curtly.
“Chotte,” said Di sobbing piteously, “Don’t go out please, it’s not right…”
“Aur jo Nani ne kiya that is right?” he instantly rounded on her.
“Nani ne kya kiya Chotte?” Anjali put a hand on his shoulder, “this is not something we can control, yeh toh hona hi tha, I suppose we should be glad that she didn’t suffer and she was able to go peacefully,” she sniffed and wiped her tears.
“Aisa hai toh why the tears?” he sneered, he waved his hands around, “Why the hell is everybody so upset!” he shouted, “Yeh toh hona hi tha aur aise hua toh achcha hi hua, toh come lets celebrate why the hell is everybody crying?” he shook off Di and strode off.
“Arnav!” Khushi was by his side in a flash, “Don’t go please not in this frame of mind besides there are a number of formalities to be done, Nani would expect you to follow customs and traditions,” she attempted to hold him back.
But he shrugged her off as well, “Don’t worry I will be back in time, bola na message kar dena I will come back,” he smiled coldly at her, “don’t worry I wont smash the car,” Khushi looked at him with trepidation – is halat main pata nahi kya kar de Arnav, given the frame of mind he was in – he was capable of anything and she was helpless to stop him or accompany him. There were a thousand things to be done, “Arnav please bahut kaam hai, I need you to help me,” she coaxed him tearfully, holding herself together with an immense effort.
“I don’t believe in all these rasams and customs, you do, arrange karna hai toh khud karo don’t expect me to assist you,” he snapped rudely, “Main ja raha hoon,” he brushed past her.
“And I am coming with you,” it was Devansh wearing an implacable expression, his eyes shooting daggers at his father as he put his arm around his mother, “Mom, you go, I’ll handle Dad,” he soothed her.
“Guddu?” she mumbled in a choked voice, “Yes Mom, main theek hoon don’t worry, we’ll be fine, I promise,” he gave her a tight hug, “We will be back soon, don’t worry,” he reassured her and gently pushed her inside and shut the door behind him.
Devansh coolly plucked the keys from his father’s hands and said, “Come let’s go,” he said briskly.
Arnav glared at him, “What the hell do you think you are doing?” he snarled.
“Behaving like an adult,” said Devansh in an even tone and put a hand on Arnav’s elbow and escorted him to the car and held open the car door, “Get in Dad,” he said firmly.
Arnav dug his heels in, “What do you think of me? Main koi bachcha hoon?” he shouted insulted at the way his son was behaving.
“I don’t think,” enunciated Devansh clearly, “I know,” he thrust his face into his Dad’s face, “now get in or do you want to create a scene in front of so many people?”
Feeling out of his depth as a variety of emotions assaulted him, Arnav got in, “You are not driving,” he said automatically.
“Relax Dad, I am expert now,” he soothed, “in any case Delhi traffic at this hour wont let me drive over 20 kph,” he rued.
“Then I could have also driven,” Arnav objected.
“Oh no Dad, you are looking to pick a fight, I know,” he shook his head as he eased the car on to the road.
“What would you know?” Arnav sneered disbelievingly.
“I know,” repeated Devansh, “I am after all your son,” he gave a mirthless laugh, “and that is exactly what I wanted to do the first thing when I got to know about Nani, kill someone, anyone,” he swallowed, “but killing someone won’t bring Nani back will it Daddy?”
Sudden tears choked Arnav – perhaps it was the unaccustomed use of the now abandoned childhood epithet – he swallowed them down fiercely, “Rubbish,” he disclaimed forcefully, “And where the hell are you taking me?” he diverted the topic.
“Where you want to go,” replied Devansh coolly.
“What would you know?” snapped Arnav rudely.
“More than you think evidently,” Devansh brought the car to a sudden halt by the side, “Look Dad,” he turned to him and said forcefully, “Just accept it will you? Its difficult for all of us,” he grimaced painfully, “Just don’t make it even more difficult for all of us will you?”
“What did I do?” blustered Arnav.
Devansh threw up his hands and banged them on the wheel of the car, “That’s your problem you know, aapko pata hi nahi hota how much you cause pain to others, especially Mom,” he glared at Arnav and bit out, “Can’t you see Dad, Mom is on the brink, she has her hands full, every damn body is leaning on her for support, to whom will she turn for support? For once, just for once could you think of her and not about yourself?” furiously he shoved the car into gear and drove off at top speed as they reached the outskirts of the city as Arnav sat silently beside him.
He stopped the car and jerked his head, “This is where you wanted to come isn’t it?”
Arnav hesitated and then undid his seat belt and got out slowly wondering how did Devansh know he wanted to come here – to his mother’s garden? Surely Khushi hadn’t told him – scope hi kahan tha? Little did Arnav realize that children observe parents and know just as much about them as parents do – kab kaunsa information is captured and carefully stored away for future reference and appropriate (or inappropriate) interpretation is something that parents often to fail to realize.
Arnav looked back at Devansh who switched off the engine, “I am waiting here, you carry on,” he said giving Arnav his space.
Tears clogged Arnav’s throat as a volley of emotions assaulted him – it wasn’t just grief and anguish, it was a hot rebellious rage – he hated being told what to do, yet overriding all this was grudging respect, admiration and pride – DSR had arrived.
Feeling slightly ashamed of himself – after all what had Devansh said that was not really wrong and curiously ASR didn’t really mind being reprimanded by his own son – Arnav returned pretty quickly, “Let’s go,” he cleared his throat, “ghar par bahut kaam hoga.”
Without a word, Devansh reversed the car and drove off – if he did drive a bit faster than necessary and a bit rashly as well, Arnav didn’t object – he too was in a hurry to get back.
Click here for Chapter 457