The next few days passed in a blur as RM was packed to the brim with people – Di and Anya had also shifted here and the twins did much to diffuse the grief and make up for the anguish caused by Nani’s very much felt absence.
The twins were of course blissfully unaware of the tragedy that had hit RM and were focused on their one and only one goal in life – masti and more masti. And just a glimpse of their bright mischievous faces as they wrecked mayhem and wickedly looked back expectantly for some reaction soothed the most anguished of hearts and managed to elicit a rueful smile at the very least. They were impartial in their attention and spread cheer and joy wherever they went. Chotti who bounced back to her near normal self with their help had the foresight to dump Keira as she fell asleep into her Dad’s arms even as he pretended to be busy working on the laptop, “here Dad, just hold her for a second will you?”
Cornered, Arnav had no choice but to clutch the sleeping angel close to him – slowly the warm cuddly bundle weaved her gentle magic with her soft breaths and twitches – the super tight knots in his heart, muscles and nerves loosened and as he gazed down at the peacefully sleeping child, he felt he could breathe once more. He shifted and held her closer to inhale her baby scent letting the memories of his children wash and cleanse him – he raised his eyes to meet Khushi’s pained eyes trained on him – he blinked and her breath too eased.
The rasams and customs were over and done with in a manner that would have met Nani’s exacting standards. And now it was time for everyone to return home and pick up the threads of their lives again. It was toughest of course for the RM wasis for everything just reminded them of Nani over and over again – Nani ne bola tha achar ke liye aam lane ke liye, Nani ko toh aaj mandir jaana hai, arre Nani ke medicine ka time ho gaya, oho Poo’s baby is still in the hospital – uska jaundice toh badta hi ja raha hai, Nani woh theek toh ho jayegi na?
The atmosphere at the dining table was dull and somber as everyone’s eyes were repeatedly drawn to the vacant seat at the head of the table – a stark reminder that Nani was no more – aise main koi khana kaise khaye? Chotti’s eyes would often fill with tears for no apparent reason while Arnav wore a gaunt haunted look – he was never really much of a talker but now even his silence spoke volumes of his pain.
Devansh seemed to be somewhat successful in taking things in his stride (perhaps the butterflies in his stomach in anticipation of his imminent departure to Mumbai kept him preoccupied and distracted) while Khushi went overboard with her chatter and over the top antics to drown out the cry of their hearts.
In an attempt to distract and divert attention from their common pain, Khushi agreed to Khsitij’s suggestion of going for a vacation – a change would be good thought a desperate Khushi. She couldn’t bear to see her family suffer like this – bhaiyya was right, some time away in places where not anything and everything reminded them of Nani would be healing. She herself didn’t have the least bit of inclination to move out or plan anything leave alone enjoy but she couldn’t just afford to think about herself, so Khushi being Khushi shook herself out of her languor and stupor to arrange for a family trip.
They flew to Switzerland on a jam-packed schedule – each day of the 15 days or so of their holiday was meticulously planned and pre-arranged, nobody was given any scope to think or rest, just trot from one place to another as per the itinerary which Khushi determinedly waved in front of whoever dared to flag, “Come on!” she would jump up and down like a cheerleader on a mission, “I am 50 years of age or are you? Hurry up, we have so much to do, so much to see!” she exhorted the slacking gang while Arnav just rolled his eyes.
“Come on Mom,” moaned Chotti, “We have been trekking for hours now while you coolly sat at base camp saying you were feeling dizzy, I refuse to walk another step,” she declared firmly.
“I wasn’t faking my dizziness,” Khushi said frigidly, “I really was not feeling well, besides, I wasn’t sitting, I explored around the base camp and found a lovely museum, you must see it and oh the garden behind it is to die for! Arnav you simply have to see it,” she dragged him, “I have never seen in my whole life, such huge roses in my whole life come,” she turned back and urgently motioned her kids, who reluctantly trudged along behind their parents.
“Khushi please just stop behaving in such an over-eager gushing middle class Indian tourist,” Arnav shuddered as he looked around, “Its nice I agree but please just go easy on the excitement will you, relax,” he urged.
Khushi seemed to droop but for an infinitesimal moment, she threw back her head and laughed cheerily, “Nice! That’s such an understatement! It’s mind-blowing, such huge roses, and against the backdrop such a breathtaking scenery, come on admit it kahin aur itna sundar drishya dekha hi nahi hoga, I can bet you,” she challenged looking admiringly all around her.
Arnav rolled his eyes and pulled her away from a group of firangis who were beginning to stare, “Ok ok no need to shout, everybody talks in whispers here, haven’t you noticed,” he shushed her.
Khushi shrugged him off and insisted on dragging an irritable Chotti to every nook and corner of the garden fussing every other moment, “Kya hua Chotti theek toh ho na? Kuch chahiye? Dekho woh achcha hai na?!”
“Mom,” Guddu accosted Khushi at a convenient moment, “Why are you doing this?” he asked her deliberately falling back letting Arnav and Chotti go on ahead.
“Doing what?” Khushi asked puzzled.
“This,” Guddu waved his hands around, “Making us run from one place to another so hysterically giving us no time to even take a breather!” he burst out, “and just look at you,” he looked her over critically, “you look ready to collapse, phir kyon?” he asked wearing a bewildered expression.
“Arre nahi nahi, I am fine, just fine,” Khushi blustered and plodded on determinedly, “Bas ghoomne aayein hai, toh lets enjoy,” she looked at him worriedly, “But aren’t you enjoying?” she asked anxiously.
“Uff Mom! Just relax will you, apna sochiye,” he advised grandly, “Tell me are you enjoying?”
Khushi shook her head abstractedly, “Who cares, if you are not enjoying,” she shrugged defeatedly, “It’s a big waste,” she drooped.
Devansh put his arm around her, “Come on Mom, aap enjoy kariye na, itna load kyon lete hain aap? What does it matter if we enjoy or not? Aapko Switzerland pasand hai na?” he waved his hand at the scenic beauty all around, “look around and savor all this, don’t worry about us, we are fine,” he shrugged, “Aur nahi bhi hai toh don’t let it spoil your mood.”
Bas barah din aur…
Click here for Chapter 458