The atmosphere at RM was grim and there was no respite in sight. It was all of course Khushi’s fault – she decided to put her foot down, at least a quarter century too late.
But woh bhi kya karti, it was not a question of her feelings, it was about her son – the very same son who had to be woken up for breakfast and lunch on weekends had to now work weekends. The Guddu who would rather starve than help himself to something from the fridge had now to juggle between work and studies – Khushi’s heart broke for her ladla bachcha, itni kam umar main itna sab akele kaise kar payega and she had a convenient scapegoat. She was furious with Arnav for not making the effort to put things right.
Its not that Arnav didn’t try to break the impasse but that he did it in his usual high-handed manner that it didn’t cut any ice with either Khushi or Devansh.
Initially, Arnav didn’t take Khushi’s accusation seriously. He genuinely believed that Khushi was over-reacting and aisa ho hi nahi sakta that Devansh would be able to manage without taking money from him. He thought it was just a passing ego tussle between them and necessities would soon bring Devansh back to heel.
But, within a month or two, it struck Arnav that the joint bank account between Khushi (which he operated on Khushi’s behalf) and Devansh was untouched – so where was he getting his money from? He wondered, job toh abhi shuru kiya hai, itni jaldi salary toh nahi milegi usse, he fretted. Waise hostel main hai toh what would be his expenses, he justified to himself, all the fees were paid for, pocket money nahi bhi hoga toh manage ho jayega, haan phone recharge – he smiled grimly to himself and instantly recharged Devansh’s phone online, well he can’t return that can he? He smirked triumphantly to himself and went about plotting some more to bypass his son’s sankalp not to take anything from his Dad, “Khushi, Devansh ke liye kuch bhejna hai toh pack kar do, Mr Mehra is going to Mumbai, he has kindly agreed to hand it over to him.”
Khushi stared at him shocked, “Aapne Mr Mehra, itne bade businessman ko bola to act as the delivery guy? Kya sochenge woh? I could just as easily have sent through the courier!”
Arnav waved his hand dismissively, “Don’t over-react Khushi, he only offered, waise bhi unka vested interest hai, his daughter is interested in the college and he wanted to have a look personally before allowing his daughter to apply for it,” Arnav shrugged, “He wants Devansh to show him around,” he turned away, “tell Devansh to do the needful and also mind his manners.”
Khushi was assaulted with a cocktail of emotions – she seethed at Arnav’s dismissive autocratic behavior while simultaneously her heart sank – pata nahi how Guddu would react to being handed a gift parcel from home? Better warn him, she chewed her lip, I hope Mr Mehra ke saath koi badtameezi nahi karei.
But of course, she had brought him up better than that – they not only got glowing reviews of the college from Mr Mehra but also of Devansh – his helpful nature, his politeness, his brilliance – bas apni beti ke liye uska haath mangna hi baaki tha, or perhaps this was Mr Mehra’s way of paving the way for a future alliance!
Perhaps Mr Mehra had hinted something to this effect for Guddu rang up his mother to vent, “I hope this wasn’t Dad’s way of fixing up a girl for me?” he asked point-blank.
“Arre nahi nahi,” Khushi fumbled and mumbled glaring at Arnav as she couldn’t help wondering was that the way the wind blew? “And in any case you are too young to think of marriage,” she said loudly so that Arnav couldn’t miss hearing her, “Not for another 10 years at least,” she stated emphatically, categorically.
“And the girl would be of my choice not some convenient business deal,” insisted Guddu.
“Haan of course, the girl would be of your choice and not some convenient business deal,” Khushi repeated mostly for Arnav’s benefit.
Guddu grunted and Arnav walked off.
That was one tension off Khushi’s head (nahi nahi shaadi ki baat nahi kar rahi – that the parcel delivery went off without any overt incident). But any gratification that Arnav (or Khushi) may have had by sending gifts to Devansh and thereby attempt to bypass his zidd to be independent was roundly trounced by DSR. He retaliated by sending a parcel of his own – gifts for everyone from his first salary – a branded personalized pen for ASR, a saree for his mother, a colorful dupatta for Chotti, chocolates for GM residents and little pink dresses for Keira, Maira and baby Devi.
Khushi sat surrounded by the gifts – she picked up her saree with trembling fingers unable to see clearly because of the tears blinding her. She buried her face into it and burst into heartrending sobs, what a proud day for her, if only she could feel happy about it! Instead there was a just a dreadful clutch of bottled up emotions in her throat, saara paisa toh yahi khatam ho gaya hoga, such a beautiful saree, the most beautiful one in the whole world, she clutched the saree closer and sobbed into it as if she were holding Guddu close to her.
Arnav stared at her helplessly, he discarded the pen in his shirt pocket and tucked the new pen carefully in its stead – a gush of emotions tore through him as well, “Isme itna rone wali kaunsi baat hai? You should be celebrating and look at you, just look at you, koi dekhega toh poochega, who died,” he attempted to let off steam.
Khushi froze, her tears dried up and anger came to her rescue, she shot to her feet, “Rone wali baat nahi hai? He must have spent all his money, kuch bhi nahi bacha hoga uske pass, he wont take money from us, all the food I sent he distributed amongst his friends, ab kya karega, uske pass toh kuch bhi nahi bacha na?” the tears started flowing again, “Abhi kitna chota hai, abhi se he has to count his pennies, and for what?”
Arnav’s skin stretched tight across his cheekbones, the veins in his arms stood out in sharp relief, “Don’t exaggerate Khushi,” he snapped, “itna bhi chota nahi hai, at his age, in fact it was earlier, much earlier, when I started working evenings not just weekends to supplement our income,” he said loftily belittling her son’s efforts.
Khushi was instantly up in arms, “Aapki majboori thi, circumstances were such that you had no choice, you were forced to it, but it is different for him, he has us so why should he have to torture himself, abhi toh khelne khane ke din hai,” Khushi’s heart broke for her little boy, “Aapko pata hai, he washes his clothes himself because giving clothes to the dhobi is very ‘expensive’?”
Arnav looked at her shocked. “Can you imagine Guddu washing clothes to save money? Usne toh kabhi kapde utha kar wash main bhi nahi dala,” she waved her hand around, “He always used to leave them lying around on the floor and look at him now” Khushi broke down as she looked at the gifts strewn on the bed, “He could have used his salary to pay the dhobi but nahi he had to go and send gifts for all of us,” the tears fell thick and fast.
Arnav recovered, “It’s good for him Khushi,” Arnav said rather hard-heartedly, “Adverse circumstances will make man out of him,” he declared unrepentantly, he spread his arms, “Look at me, a self made man,” he said arrogantly.
Intense rage shot through Khushi at what she could only call Arnav’s utter pig-headedness, “Haan toh theek hai, in that case let me help him mature and grow up faster, ek kaam karti hoon,” she completely lost her cool, “main bhi suicide kar leti hoon pucca duniya ka most successful space researcher ban jayega,” she slammed the door shut on her way out.
Click here for Chapter 471