“Here,” Devansh handed the last packet of namkeen to Chotti as there was no place in his bag of goodies, “For you,” he grinned wickedly, “phir you can compare how the namkeen tastes after 2 years,”
“Mommmm!” complained Chotti, “Dekho na Da is leaving today and phir bhi he is being so mean to me,” she whined.
“Mean?!” Devansh’ eyebrow disappeared into his brow, “Ek toh I sacrifice one packet especially for you and this is the thanks I get,” he wore an injured expression, and then spoilt it immediately by adding slyly, “I saw you looking greedily at all the namkeens, I didn’t want to get a tummy upset,” he scooted out of harm’s way just in the nick of time.
“Guddu,” castigated an exasperated Khushi as Chotti’s lip began trembling, “Kyon pareshan kar rahe ho usse, kam se kam aaj toh baksh do,” she pleaded frazzled as she tried to tally and match her list before they left for the airport.
“Theek hai theek hai, now I am going ab koi pareshaan nahi karega, now Chotti will actually start believing she is a Princess, there will be no one to show her her place,” he picked up a bag and walked to the waiting car, ignoring Chotti’s loud complaints.
Only Arnav was going to drop Guddu to his college – of course Khushi and Chotti would have loved to go but Chotti’s school was reopening in just a day so they thought it best if Arnav dropped him and Khushi could go and check in a couple of weeks to see if he required anything.
Khushi hugged her son, hanging on to the thought ‘I will see him soon very soon’ determined not to let the tears flow, “Mom,” muttered Guddu in her ear, “Keep an eye on Chotti will you?” Khushi looked at him in surprise but he was dead serious and nodded his head for emphasis, “Yes Mom, she is such a gullible idiot, koi kuch bhi bolta hai immediately maan jaati hai,” he said darkly, “I was there, so all the boys kept their distance and now they will all befool her at the first opportunity,” he paused, “Maybe I should have listened to Dad and joined IIT Delhi, then I could have kept an eye on her,” he fussed guiltily.
Khushi stared at him distressed – he wasn’t just a chip of the old block, he was a big chunk! Thank DM that he was off to Mumbai, it wouldn’t do to encourage his obsession with his sister she rued, “Arre nahi nahi, you exaggerate, sab theek ho jayega, hum hai na, waise bhi we all have to live our own lives and experiences, you concentrate on yourself and your studies,” seeing his expression she put up a hand hastily, “Haan baba haan, I will keep an eye, no both eyes, on her, theek hai?” he nodded reluctantly.
The drive to the airport was short and mostly quiet with only Khushi bombarding Guddu with housekeeping instructions, “Keep your dirty clothes, in the laundry bag only, don’t keep it all lying around, remember it wont all magically disappear when you return from sch…I mean college,” she cautioned, “And count your clothes before giving to the Dhobi and if there is none around, soak it in the washing powder like I showed you and then rinse and wring it out and spread it out to dry, don’t let it all accumulate, Arnav you better find out if they have housekeeping support or not, pata nahi kitne din tak bina bedsheets change kiye rahega,” she shuddered.
“Oh Mom, please chill, I will manage,” frowned Devansh.
“Exactly what Ankit told his Mum,” pounced Khushi direly, “And he got bitten to pieces by bed bugs! That reminds me, pehle hi insecticide spray kar dena, don’t wait for them to come and bite you and don’t forget to use the mosquito repellent, I don’t want you to catch dengue, malaria and oh be careful don’t eat or drink from the roadside stalls no matter how hungry you are,” she was on an unstoppable roll and could have gone on and one but they had arrived at the airport, “Wahan paani achcha nahi….
As Arnav got out of the car he had visions of his starving son suffering from multiple diseases and seriously considered not sending off Devansh at all.
Devansh allowed his mom only a brief hug, glancing around embarrassed, “Ok ok fine mom, bye see you soon, yes yes I will take care of myself.”
“Hey Chotti bye, see ya soon and,” he turned to her who was rather quiet, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t approve of theek hai?” he poked her.
Chotti rolled her eyes, “Yes Daaa,” she flared, “Do you approve of my breathing?” she snapped.
“Yeah just focus on breathing and your studies nothing else ok? I got my eyes on you,” he gestured with his fingers to his eyes and then to hers.
Chotti stuck out her tongue at him and completely forgot to be sad about his leaving, “Come back soon Dad, we love you and will miss you,” she sang out pointedly and gave him a big hug.
Devansh just grinned and waved before vanishing inside the airport pushing his loaded trolley.
Khushi’s shoulders sagged but she immediately straightened, she didn’t have time for all this rona dhona. Afraid that Chotti would be down in the dumps, she had a hectic day planned ahead with Anjali – parlor, movie and maybe even shopping. Chotti and Di really enjoyed themselves, Khushi did too but it is tough to feel quite comfortable when it feels as if a part of oneself has been wrenched away. And of course, she was worried about Arnav – akele kaise manage karenge, kabhi toh kiya nahi, she fretted to herself.
Khushi very well understood his frame of mind and in fact had suggested that he could stay with Chotti or leave Chotti with Di but nahi Chotti will be upset and lonely I don’t want to leave her alone and tum wahan Mumbai kaise manage karogi akele isse toh achcha Devansh ko akele hi bhej doon and all that aur waise bhi Laad Governor ko kaun samjhaye?
And as Khushi had anticipated, Arnav was completely out of his depth, with the practicalities as well as emotionalities of the entire exercise. Ek toh he still wasn’t really convinced about the need for Devansh to go to Mumbai, and now that Nani was no more, it made even less sense to him. In fact all he wanted to do was hold them all together in one place and make sure none left – par aisa toh ho nahi sakta na.
But try telling ASR that and you get an extremely volatile situation. He started off by yelling at some brash upstart who tried to jump queue and then the food was stale – he raved and ranted till he was quite blue in the face while Devansh was a tomato red, “Dad,” he hissed as they finally deplaned at Mumbai, “If you pick another fight I swear I will go off alone to my hostel,” he threatened.
Arnav glared at him, “Maine kya kiya?” he protested, “They serve us rotten grub and I am just supposed to swallow it? We could have food poisoning for all you know,” his voice rose and his BG score was audible over the din of the airport.
“Aaram se bhi toh baat kar sakte the?” Devansh grumbled as he waited by the belt for their luggage, “And what’s the need to declare to all and sundry what a big shot you are,” he cringed.
“Aaram se baat karne se koi farq nahi padta,” asserted Arnav arrogantly, “Aur yahan, might is right, batana toh padega na?”
Devansh snorted, “I should have come by myself, I don’t know why you had to come along,” he grumbled and leaned over to collect his bag as the belt rumbled past carrying a truckload of luggage. Just then another guy also lunged forward causing Devansh to stumble and would have in fact fallen on the belt if it weren’t for ASR’s lightning quick reflexes, “What the hell do you think you are doing!” ASR toh waise hi bahane dhoondh raha tha ab toh usse mauka bhi mil gaya.
“Sorry sorry,” fumbled the genuinely repentant young man, “my fault, really sorry,” he apologized profusely.
Thoroughly embarrassed and after casting a quelling look at his father who was clearly not ready to be appeased by anything less than his pound of flesh – mere bête ko, mere bête ko dhakka diya main tera khoon pijaoonga was clearly written on his face – Devansh swiftly grabbed his other two bags, dumped them on his trolley and quickly moved off, uncaring of whether his father was following or not.
Click here for Chapter 461