Khushi stopped in her tracks and looked at her son in surprise, “Kaisi baate kar rahe ho Guddu!” she expostulated, “How can I enjoy if you are not? And you think we came here because I like this place?” she shook her head, “Tum log khush ho toh main toh kahin bhi khush reh sakti hoon and if you all only don’t like this toh for me all my efforts are worth nothing,” she swallowed and looked away, “tum me se koi bhi pareshaan hai toh hum kaise khush ho sakte hain?”
Devansh looked at her in surprise, “I don’t understand you Mom, sabko apna apna dekhna chahiye, humara itna load mat lijiye, jaisa aapka mann karei na aap kijiye,” he insisted.
Khushi stopped in her tracks and stared at him resignedly, “Achcha toh you mean to say, if I feel like crying I should just start crying hai na? If I feel like being grumpy and morose I should go ahead and do that without worrying about how it will impact you all hai ki nahi?” she challenged.
“Sure! Exactly!” Devansh looked at her approvingly, “Yehi toh main keh raha hoon, you cannot please everybody so just do what you like, don’t bother ki woh kaise handle karega, aisa hoga toh waisa ho sakta hai, etc etc, just live life on your terms bas,” he waxed eloquent on his life mantra, “Duniya jaaye bhaad main!” he extolled.
Khushi looked at him in a disbelieving manner and began walking without another word concentrating on catching up with Arnav and Chotti who had moved on ahead quite a bit. Feeling rather pleased with himself at having successfully imparted some gyan on life to his unworldly wise mum, he lengthened his strides to match her trot, “It is a lovely place,” he admitted looking about him critically.
“Kya lovely?” snapped Khushi, “Wohi aasman wohi clouds wohi pedh,” she paused, “You carry on with Chotti and Arnav, I am going back to the hotel,” she said abruptly.
Devansh looked at her in surprise, “Kya hua, don’t you want to see the puppet show? You were so keen on it?”
Khushi shrugged, “Chotti was keen, I wasn’t, just tell your Dad will you, I am going back, its just across the street from here,” she quickly turned and crossed the street and disappeared from sight.
Devansh just stood staring at her wondering what had happened suddenly; he then dashed to catch up with the others, “Dad!” he huffed, “Mom’s gone back to the hotel.”
Arnav stopped, “Why? Isnt she coming for the show?”
Devansh shook his head, “Nope, pata nahi, she was fine, then suddenly, she just walked off,” he said.
Arnav dug out his phone, “Tum theek ho Khushi?”
The phone crackled and after a brief conversation he disconnected the phone and wondered what to do – Khushi seemed ok but wasn’t like her to go off on her own, but he couldn’t send the children off to the show alone could he? Besides, Chotti was looking forward to it, Khushi ko achanak kya ho gaya, he wondered a bit irritably feeling helpless – karei bhi toh kya karei?
Devansh said, “I could go to the hotel and be with mom, I don’t mind missing the show.”
Arnav shook his head decisively, “No you are not going off alone anywhere, come on, she said she is fine, just not in the mood, chalo we are getting late for the show,” he hurried them.
They returned to the hotel a couple of hours later, bright and fresh from the play which was actually very entertaining and funny, even Arnav had laughed out loud a couple of times (when he was not busy texting Khushi that is).
“Mom!” Chotti knocked at her door, “The show was super! You missed it I am sure you would have loved it,” she chattered brightly as a disheveled Khushi opened the door, “Hmm,” she mumbled and crawled back into bed.
“Kya hua?” everyone crowded around her.
“Nothing,” she mumbled from under the bedclothes, “Just didn’t feel it it.”
Arnav instantly reached for the intercom, “I’ll ask for the doctor,” he asserted.
“No I am fine dammit!” Khushi sat up and yelled, they all froze, “Can’t you all entertain yourselves for one evening,” she threw up her hands in despair, “have dinner, take a breather, whatever, just let me be,” she flopped back on the bed and pulled the covers over herself.
“That’s not fair Khushi,” said Arnav, “You insist that we are a family and we should do what the majority wants and not each to his own etc etc and now you don’t follow your own rules!” he reprimanded her.
Khushi sat up and snapped, “Yeah I am sorry for dragging everyone around and making you all do things against their wishes, and from now on I will follow your rules, each to his own, good night,” she lay back and covered herself, “I am just fine please let me be, you go and have dinner, or whatever, I am not hungry,” she said grumpily.
They all looked at each other stumped and worried – kya ho gaya Mom ko, they had never ever seen her like this – any of them could do it but Mom never. Arnav stepped in casting a worried glance at the bed, “Come away, let her be, maybe she is just tired, she’ll be fine in the morning,” he said.
“But shouldn’t she eat something then?” wondered Guddu who himself was famished and ready to collapse due to hunger.
“We’ll see,” said Arnav distractedly, “Pehle let’s eat, maybe she have some soup or something later,” he cast a backward worried glance and then determinedly hustled the children out to the restaurant.
Dinner was a sad and depressing affair with everybody just picking at their food though Arnav did try in fits and starts to cheer up the kids but without much success.
“Mom, please have some soup,” coaxed Chotti as they returned to the room soon afterwards, “please for me, you are hungry that’s why you are feeling low,” she declared knowingly.
Khushi shook her head as she sat up and crossed her arms stubbornly, “I don’t feel like it,” and began morosely flipping through the TV channels and settled on some tragic old Hindi movie that was playing.
“Oh Mom, don’t watch all that dreary stuff,” pleaded Devansh, “you will feel worse and so will we!”
Khushi looked at him, “I feel like feeling worse and why should you feel bad?” she shrugged, “After all each to his own, do what you feel and duniya jaaye bhad main, that’s your mantra isn’t it?” she challenged him.
Devansh looked at her ruefully, “Oh so this is a practical demonstration to teach me a lesson is it?” he said with dawning understanding, “retaliation because I said you should do what you feel like and not bother about the others?”
“No,” Khushi shook her head, “I just accepted that possibly I was at fault because I was forcing you all against your wishes and decided to adopt your strategy and go as you like,” she shrugged and put her thumbs up, “Actually this is great, and this could grow on me, just follow my own mood and forget about the world,” she lay back and drew up the covers again.
“Ok ok, I am sorry Mom,” said Devansh defeatedly, “I guess in a family we can’t live like that, we have to try and make an effort otherwise our depression is liable to affect the others as well, point noted Mataji,” he pulled off her covers and forced her to sit up; he bowed obsequiously.
Khushi grinned wanly – she was actually depressed, upset but mostly tired – tired of putting up a bright cheery face when all she wanted to do was go back to RM and find Nani sitting in her favorite chair! And what was the point in forcing the others when they clearly hated her for it? It was like banging your head against the wall and when both Arnav and Devansh had snapped at her, something just broke within her, she just couldn’t go on pretending anymore – pretending that she was ok with Nani’s sudden departure, kuch galat nahi hua and that if she determinedly looked the other way – their nightmare would go away.
But the fact of the matter was for how long and how far could she continue to run away from the harsh reality. Nani was no more and nothing she did would ever bring her back – and if she couldn’t accept it, how would the others? And now because of her moment of weakness, she had hurt and upset all three of them – made things even worse, khana bhi nahi khaya hoga theek se, she thought guiltily. She sighed, she was a fool, a selfish fool at at – she knew she could never win, so why did she try?
She took a deep breath and threw off the covers, “come lets go out for an ice cream,” she said cheerily and pushed and pulled her reluctant disgruntled family out into the moonlight streets, playing her usual crazy self – once again denying her own anguish.
Click here for Chapter 459