Khushi returned to RM in a couple of days telling herself sternly to quit fussing about Guddu like a over-hysterical mother leaving her premature baby at the hospital. He appeared to have taken to hostel life like a duck to water and had made friends. He was happy with his choice of college and subject. Khushi had no fears or illusions that Devansh was missing home or moping about family. In fact he was already looking ahead and planning his life – one that would take him farther away from her – Khushi thought with a bittersweet pang. Chalo achcha hai, she consoled herself, this is what every parent bring up their children for – so that they can soar high and live their own dreams.
Now if only Arnav too could accept that just as easily. But he was clearly stuck in a time warp – he wanted to keep his children home, under his direct supervision and control.
Khushi was actually furious with Arnav – surely after heading a business empire for so many years he would know something about dealing with people? Or did that give him the right to rough shod over people and their fragile sensitivities? Kam se kam he should have given some leeway, some consideration to his son? How could he be so thoughtless and cutting to his own son? Maana ki Arnav was upset, maana it was because he felt out of his depth that he had lashed out, mana ki this would have never happened if she had been there…nahi nahi, she was done making excuses for him, bahut ho gaya, this time she wouldn’t justify his actions, this time she wouldn’t forgive him – after all he had made the unpardonable mistake of hurting her son.
It took Arnav almost two days to realize that Khushi seemed out of sorts, which did nothing to improve her temper. The thing is, he was so busy and preoccupied with affairs of the state that he was only too happy to hand over the reigns of RM (that is whatever little he had in his hand) and throw himself back into his work with renewed vigor and gusto. Ek aadh baar poocha bhi, gruffly, “Tum theek ho?” and “Devansh theek hai?” even “sab theek hai?”
Each time Khushi would nod her head, “Haan,” and a relieved Arnav would nod in return and vanish on whatever official business was pending, ruthlessly quelling any lingering doubts and suspicions.
But eventually the tiny niggle grew to such gigantic proportions that even ASR could no longer avoid acknowledging its presence and bowed to Arnav’s relentless promptings, “Something wrong Khushi?” ASR asked reluctantly.
Khushi opened her eyes wide, “Why? Whatever gave you the idea?”
ASR’s heart missed a beat without quite knowing why. He coughed, “Pata nahi, aise hi laga mujhe,” he mumbled suddenly on the back foot.
“I am flattered and honored that aapke pass time hai to think of something other than work,” she remarked rather bitterly, before grabbing a pile of clothes and swishing out of the room.
ASR stared after her in surprise yet with a sense of inevitability – dammit he knew kuch toh gadbad hai par phir bhi socha nahi tha ki he would be right (and then they accuse women of being complicated).
“Khhushiiii,” he called huskily but she didn’t even falter. Arnav paced the poolside and racked his shatir dimag, “Angel,” he spoke to his trump card, “I wanted to take your mother for a movie, any idea what she would like to see?”
Chotti was of course over the moon with delight at the romance of it all and planned a grand dinner, dancing and movie – bilkul jisko kehte hain the works. But then Chotti being Chotti also went and spilled the beans to – Di, Poo, Shaku massi and ultimately Khushi as well.
Khushi’s temper shot through the roof – sirf laad governor hi nahi ab toh manipulative Laad Governor hain, she seethed with an all consuming rage – instead of sorting out the problem, instead of taking the bull by its horns, instead of trying to actively and sincerely trying to find out what exactly the problem was – he was trying to sugar coat the bitter pill by using such ghatiya underhanded tactics. And to make it worse, he had involved Chotti into it, knowing very well that would in itself cramp her style and curb her tongue.
Khushi wanted to dash off right away into their room and have it out with the LG himself but then (as ASR’s shatir dimag had banked upon) she didn’t want Chotti to be caught in the crossfire or feel guilty about triggering a slanging match. She controlled herself with an effort and after some time sent him a text message ‘ don’t bother planning any ‘surprise’ for me; hum aapke saath kahin nahin ja rahe’ and waited for his reply – which never came.
Hadd hai, she fumed to herself, is he so callous and unfeeling that he doesn’t even care to find out why I sent that message? Probably is relieved that I refused to go she thought bitterly to herself, maine toh koshish ki thi, Khushi ne hi mana kar diya toh main kya karoon, duty done, let me get back to my ‘mistress’ with a clear conscience Khushi thought as she viciously and ruthlessly chopped up the veggies.
“So Angel it seems you let the cat out of the bag,” Arnav said mildly to Chotti at the dinner table casting a covert glance at Khushi’s closed face.
Chotti flushed guiltily whilst Khushi stiffened. She glared at Arnav why drag Chotti into this? Himmat hai toh seedhe seedhe baat kariye, she challenged silently, “Yeah sorry Dad,” she admitted in a small voice, “But still it will be fun,” she brightened and looked at Khushi.
Khushi swallowed and reigned in her temper and resentment, “Yeah I am sure it will be and so sweet of your father to go to all the trouble,” she drawled in a saccharine loaded voice, “But I really don’t feel up to it,” she declined gently shooting an apologetic smile at Chotti with a fierce glare to Arnav.
“Kyon kya ho gaya?” Asked Arnav blandly, “Are you by any chance mad at me or something?” Mauka dekh kar (Chotti) shield pehen kar Arnav casually slipped in the question.
Fury shot through Khushi, she opened her eyes wide, “Arre nahi nahi, hum aapse kabhi naraaz ho sakte hain kya?” Arnav winced at the overly sweet response.
“Toh phir why are you refusing to see the movie with me,” he challenged her.
Khushi shrugged, “I don’t feel like,” she paused, “Agar aapka itna hi mann hai, why don’t you take Chotti and Di? I am sure they will really enjoy,” she predicted confidently.
Arnav’s self confidence was beginning to wear off and he now wore a hunted expression, “Tum bhi chalo,” he said gruffly, “I thought you liked movies?” he raised his eyebrow.
Khushi met his eyes squarely, “Lagta hai your database regarding me is out-dated, I used to like movies, please note it for future reference,” she stressed and then clammed up for Chotti had put down her phone.
Arnav waved his fork, “A leopard doesn’t change his spots,” he said softly.
“That,” she looked unsmilingly at him, “is unfortunately true.”
“Kya hua Mom?” Chotti butted in, looking curiously from one to the other.
“Kuch nahi, finish your dinner, I was just telling your father that aajkal I don’t like to see movies,” Khushi explained.
“Why not?” Chotti prompted.
Khushi shrugged, “I guess, I have lost the habit, in so many years, I have seen so few movies, that I now don’t have the patience to sit through a pointless song and dance routine not to mention misleading romantic drivel,” she got up from the table and then, unable to resist, snidely as an afterthought, “Or maybe I have convinced myself I don’t like movies anymore, a case of sour grapes,” she looked at Arnav who flushed guiltily; partially satisfied, she turned to Chotti, “Come on Chotti ab utho bhi, school hai na kal? Chalo let’s go, say goodnight to your Dad,” she hurried away ahead. Ever since Nani had passed away, Khushi had taken to sleeping with Chotti for she still woke up crying for her. Even when Khushi had gone to Mumbai, the RM wasis had had to shift to Di’s place.
Arnav stared at her retreating back smarting at the way she had rejected his olive branch and worse, all avenues of re-initiating peace talks were indefinitely postponed.
Waise toh LG was content to let things slide but once he had set his mind, he couldn’t bear to be made to wait – especially not by Khushi. Uska toh mann kar raha tha ki he just grab hold of Khushi and yell ‘tumhari himmat kaise hui mujhe ignore karne ki’ but he controlled himself with an effort (a first!). He had very clearly read the warning in her eyes – not in front of Chotti dammit.
Dammit ab kal tak wait karna padega he thought irritably as he mentally scanned his appointment diary for the next day.
He had no choice but to back down, at least for the moment. But he didn’t like it one bit – pehle Nani chali gayi, then Devansh cocked a snook at him and now Khushi.
What the **** was going on?
Click here for Chapter 467