So far so good but then a wily young wolf was waiting for just such a chance and he jumped at it, “Hey Angel,” Jatin drawled towering over the bunch of freezing girls huddled on the porch calling for their cars, trying to avoid getting wet, “Want a lift?”
Chotti turned to him in surprise, “How do you know I want a lift?” she asked suspiciously.
He grinned and bared his teeth, “I got big eyes and even bigger ears,” he waggled his ears for emphasis; Chotti couldn’t help giggling – he really could waggle his ears, “Relax, didn’t you just yell across the crowd to your ‘best friends’ Abhishek and Nikita?” he made a tsking sound, “Kya hua tujhe dump kar diya unhone?” he mocked her grinning maliciously.
“Nahi,” Chotti turned away in a huff, “Aisa kuch nahi hai, they are both going directly to a common family function which is the other way,” she waved a hand, “I hate winter rain, so cold and gloomy,” she shivered, “its just 6 pm and look it’s already pitch dark.”
“Let me do the honors, Princess,” Jatin bowed theatrically, “My carriage awaits your Royal Highness.”
Chotti looked at him in resignation, “I wish you wouldnt call me that,” she protested.
“Your wish is my command, my dear Angel,” he leered not unattractively, Chotti giggled even as she tried to be stern, “You are too much Jatin,” she said primly, her eyes twinkling, “And I am not going anywhere with you alone!” she declared.
“Alone!” Jatin was affronted, “Arre bhalai ka toh zamana hi nahi raha,” he made a sad face, “I was just trying to help,” he said in an injured tone, “Chalo chhodo, hey Rekha, Sneha, come let’s go, Miss High and Mighty doesn’t believe in going with the low gentry,” he sneered.
Chotti bit her lip, “I am sorry,” she said in a small voice, “drop me too please,” she said prettily, “if its not too much of a bother?”
“Haan haan tabhi toh offer kiya tha,” he hustled the girls, “wait here, I will bring the car,” he dashed off into the drizzle pulling the hood of his jacket over his head for protection.
‘Coming with a friend’, Chotti texted her mom, ‘may take a while, there are other friends to be dropped as well’
‘Ok’ signed Khushi in relief and turned to managing Di as well as she could not to mention the barrage of hysterical phone calls from the strong men of the family.
It was a merry party that crawled its way through the rain induced traffic jammed roads of Delhi (yes no hope in sight on that score!) – Rekha insisted on stopping for an ice-cream amidst a lot of protests, “Come on its freezing! Is this any weather for ice-cream?” howled Sneha. But it fell on deaf ears as Jatin gallantly took a detour even as Chotti whined, “Late ho raha hai, Mamma will be waiting, I have to go to the ho…”
“Oooo better hurry up warna humari Chotti ke bodyguards ASR aur DSR will come charging on horses,” Rekha and Sneha went off into hysterics whilst Chotti pouted, “All of you are just jealous,” she sniffed superiorly.
“Jealous!” Sneha grimaced, “I feel sorry for you, almost like living in a prison,” she shuddered.
Chotti stiffened, “Aisa kuch nahi hai, I feel very cared for waise bhi neither of them are in town,” she sighed.
“Who’s not in town?” It was Jatin; he was back with the icecreams.
“My dad and Bro, thanks,” smiled Chotti as she accepted a cone, “Ouchhh!” she greedily took a big bite.
“Kya tumhare ice cream main baraf hai?” chorused the others; they all burst into laughter, “Ohh dammit, Mom’s calling,” Sneha picked up her phone, “Yeah Mom, just another 10 min, I promise,” she pushed Jatin and motioned him to hurry up.
Reluctantly Jatin turned around in his seat, “At least let me finish the ice cream,” he grumbled.
“Angel, you feed him while he drives,” ordered Sneha, “Jaldi karo, my dad will be home soon and there will be hell to pay if I am not home by then,” she moaned.
“Achcha!” Chotti turned around and glared at her, “And you were the one ragging me about overprotective family huh!”
“Naa,” denied Sneha, “Dad is not being overprotective,” she scowled, “He just doesn’t like me to be away from my books for too long,” she grumbled, “He thinks that out of 24 hours I should study 20 hours, anything less is sacrilege,” she hurriedly finished off her ice cream, “Jatin don’t forget you are dropping me first huh? Please jaldi karo!” she poked him.
“Me second,” Rekha piped up, “Waise bhi mine is just a bit ahead.”
“Sure!” Jatin dropped off Sneha and then Rekha.
“Gosh, bahut late ho gaya,” Chotti looked at her watch, “Mom’ll be worried,” she fussed, “Kitna traffic hai,” her heart sank as she surveyed the vast expanse of vehicles, vehicles and more vehicles.
“Why don’t you text her again and tell that because of the rain there is traffic, not to worry,” offered Jatin helpfully.
“Yeah, I’ll do that,” Chotti accepted the suggestion gratefully.
Windows rolled up, heating and music up on high it was really cosy inside the car and they both rocked and sang to their favorite songs playing, “Awesome collection you have Jatin,” Chotti congratulated him, “Here finish off the last bit of your ice cream.”
“You should see my collection at home,” he boasted through a full mouth, “Hey why don’t you come over to my place, see my stuff, grab a bite, I am starving,” he whined.
“Starving?” Chotti said disbelievingly, “Abhi toh ice cream khaya,” she pointed out.
“Unth ke moonh main dana,” he dismissed the ice cream, “I am desperate to really dig my teeth into something,” he threw her a look, “Come on be a sport, save a dying man, waise bhi you wont get anything to eat at the hospital.”
“Nahi nahi,” Chotti protested, “Bahut late ho jayega,” she fussed.
“Just five minutes, we’ll just grab a burger or something then we’ll be off, you can feed it to me,” he leered as he leaned towards her suggestively.
Instinctively Chotti shrank back in her seat, “Nothing doing,” she said sternly, “Drop me at the hospital or let me take an auto,” she said stiffly.
“Relax, don’t be so missy missy, here I’ll just call up our excellent khansama sahab and he will have two burgers ready, we’ll just pick them up from the gate, theek hai?” he dug out his phone, “and waise bhi the road ahead looks completely clogged, bylanes will be clearer, what say?”
Chotti shook her head uncooperatively even though it seemed churlish to refuse. In fact she was feeling guilty for dragging him out of the way, surely there could be no harm in allowing him the detour, may even speed things up a bit, she chewed on her fingers, but she was sure if she went to his house, they would get delayed indefinitely in faltu ka social niceties, “No chance,” she said firmly, “Please drop me first,” she insisted, “You wont die,” she said hard heartedly, “Abhi ice cream toh khaya hai na,” she reminded him.
“Fine fine,” grumbled Jatin. He picked up his phone and swore, “Oh damn! Ab toh ghar jaana hi padega meri jaan!”
Chotti glared at him disapprovingly, “Just ‘punning’!” he threw up his hands in mock fear, “my phone is dead, now my mom will throw a fit, I will just go and pick up the power bank, the burger and then be off theek hai?” he swiftly changed lanes without waiting for Chotti’s response.
“Why don’t you use the car charger?” protested Chotti holding up the bunch of leads.
“No…no, it’s useless, doesn’t work,” he dismissed casually.
Chotti plugged in hers, “mine’s charging just fine, see.”
He shrugged, “Pata nahi, mera nahi hota, takes ages and the phone becomes very hot, so I prefer not to use it,” he turned up the volume and began whistling to the song playing.
Chotti suddenly felt uncomfortable even though she couldn’t quite put her finger on it.
“Well here we are! Didn’t take too long did it?” he smiled winsomely, her doubts vanished, she smiled back, “Come in will you, I will just grab the power bank and a packet of biscuits, I will sacrifice the burger in honor of your Royal Highness,” he said exaggeratedly.
Chotti laughed at his over-the-top antics, feeling a bit guilty for being so grouchy and suspicious, “Sure,” she nodded, “I’ll just wait here and talk to Mom.”
“Arre nahi nahi, its not safe,” he urged, “Come along in and meet everybody, I insist,” he held her door open, getting wet in the rain. Seeing no other option, Chotti got out of the car and followed him into his swanky home, “Please do come in,” he opened the door with a flourish, “Mom!” he called, “Dad! Yoohoo I am home and look who’s here with me.”
He looked around, “I guess they must be upstairs, come let’s surprise them, waise bhi Mom has arthritis may as well spare her the bother, hai na?”
Chotti nodded smiling, sweet of him to care so much for his mom, “Such a huge house and so artistically decorated,” she admired the décor.
“You should see my room,” Jatin boasted, “Completely separate, with my own personal gym, home theater even a kitchennete! Have a peep,” he opened the first door on the landing.
“Wow!” Chotti peeped in, “It IS grand,” she admitted, though privately she thought it too flashy and obscenely opulent for her liking.
“Actually,” he said a bit sheepishly, “It’s my elder brother’s, he’s gone off to the States and I immediately snagged his room,” he confessed in a self-congratulatory tone, “here have a drink,” he thrust a glass into her hand.
Chotti stared, “Drink? Arre nahi nahi, lets go na, its really getting very late, chalo, come on please, just pick up your power bank and lets go,” she urged.
“Yeah sure, boy I am really thirsty,” he downed his glass and to Chotti’s shock he poured himself what looked suspiciously like a hard drink. She glanced warily at the apparently innocuous drink in her hand and instinctively resolved not to drink it and put it down, “Jatin, where are your parents?” she asked uneasily and edged towards the door.
Click here for Chapter 474