Everyone heard Chotti out in complete silence.
They looked at each other in stunned silence unable to say anything.
“What?” Chotti looked at them, “Kuch toh boliye?” the ravages of the traumatic evening all but gone in the comforting company of her loved ones, “Wasn’t I brilliant?” she grinned cheekily.
It was Anjali who spoke first, she clapped her hands, “Brilliant truly brilliant!” she praised, “Maana padega Chotti,” she said admiringly, “Hai na Chotte, Khushi?” who still sat with shell shocked expressions.
“Par idea kahan se aaya Chotti?” Anjali couldn’t help but ask.
Chotti grinned like a cat who has just licked a plateful of cream, “In the washroom I was hysterically searching for some weapon, anything when I found a packet of,” she coughed, “condoms and on it there was this image of a red ribbon, the logo of AIDS and then out of the blue I recollected the World AIDS day celebrations that we had at school last month and suddenly I had this idea,” she sighed ecstatically almost, “It all just magically fell into place,” she hugged her mother, “As if Devi Maiyya herself planted the idea into my head,” she declared.
“Oh Chotti, my brave girl,” Khushi finally found her voice and proceeded to strangle her, “Mom!” protested Chotti.
“Kuch ho jaata toh!” Khushi shuddered and loosened her hold though she didn’t let go of her completely.
“Sab humari galati hai,” Di said in a small voice, “If I had been more careful none of this would have happened, Khushi wouldn’t have had to stay with me, Angel ko akele nahi aana padta, Chotte wouldn’t have to rush from his meeting,” she sniffed dolefully.
“Arre nahi Di, aisa kuch nahi hai,” Khushi rushed to reassure Di. Chotti also went and hugged Anjali, “Oh don’t worry Mami, dekha na I know how to handle these guys,” she boasted.
Arnav sat quietly, the three ladies looked at each other worriedly. Khushi nodded to Chotti, who slowly walked towards him, “Daddy?” she said softly as she sank down beside him, “Its ok promise I am perfectly fine, look,” she held out her hand, “I am not even trembling any more,” she stood up and sat down next to him, “Mom, I am hungry.”
“Oh yes sweetie, wait, I’ll just get you something,” she grabbed her purse and walked out with a worried glance to Arnav.
“Daddy,” Chotti shook him, “Kya hua?”
He shook his head silently.
Chotti snuggled up to him and hugged him; it was rather ironic that she was the one comforting him and the irony was not lost on Arnav, who roused himself with an effort and awkwardly patted Chotti and kissed her head.
“You know Daddy I was so scared so scared, I thought I was going to faint,” recalled Chotti.
“Shhh,” muttered Arnav squeezing her shoulder but Chotti shook her head, “Main theek hoon,” and indeed she was – it was easy to go back to that horrific time while holding on to her Daddy, “Aapko pata hai what turned the table?” she looked up at Arnav.
He shook his head, “When he said deal or no deal, something just snapped inside me, first I threw up and then once I splashed cold water all over my face, I calmed down, tab aapki ek hi baat yaad aayee -nobody could give a Singh Raizada a raw deal and get away with it,” she giggled and hugged him really hard.
Arnav smiled faintly and chucked her under the chin, “Gupta Singh Raizada,” he corrected her gently, “Such plans are your mother’s specialty!” he said ruefully recalling her Arnav Singh Raizada ko satane ke sau tareeke. There was a rustle at the door; it was Khushi with a packet in her hand. She walked in and handed it to Chotti.
Khushi finally looked at Arnav who reluctantly raised his eyes and met her eyes. She blinked but he looked away, guilt and regret clearly written in his eyes.
Chotti hungrily bit into the samosa, “Gosh Mom,” she spoke through a full mouth, “I am glad you didn’t get a burger!” she shuddered, “I don’t think I could ever stomach a burger or ice cream in my entire life!”
Arnav’s eyes hardened, he put his arm around Chotti, “Forget it, don’t think about it,” he looked at Khushi, “Why don’t you take Chotti and go to Lucknow for a few days, Buaji and your father are both unwell aren’t they? Unko bhi achcha lagega and a good change for Angel, while I wrap things up here,” he said grimly.
Khushi blinked and swallowed, “But Di ka kya?”
Arnav shook his head, “Manage ho jayega, I will call Anya, she can stay for a couple of days, by that time Kshitij will be back,” he shrugged, “Aur main toh hoon hi, you go,” he insisted.
Khushi nodded gratefully, “Haan yehi theek rahega.”
“Uss Jatin ka phone number aur address dena zara,” he abruptly asked Chotti.
Chotti froze, “I don’t know the address, somewhere in Green Park, I think I saw the Metro station near it, I just have his phone number, kyon Daddy, what are you going to do?” she asked almost fearfully.
Arnav patted her head, “don’t worry, that is my department, jo sahi hai wahi karoonga.”
“But what Daddy?” insisted Chotti.
“Nothing sweetheart, I am just going to make sure he doesn’t bother you ever again, bas, now relax,” he got up, “Just text me his number will you?”
He paused at the door, “Khushi,” he called and went out.
Khushi followed, “Ji?”
“Khushi just talk to Angel once again will you,” he looked away, “Kahin kuch chhupa toh nahi rahi, I mean kuch hua toh nahi, maybe show her to a doctor,” he trailed away, unable to believe that Chotti had actually escaped unscathed.
Khushi nodded, “Aap chinta mat kariye, I will double check with her, par sirf aapki tassalli ke liye, I am sure it happened as she narrated, she is a very brave and smart girl,” Khushi said proudly.
Arnav looked at her, “Tumhari tarah,” he said softly.
Khushi smiled but shook her head, “Nahi humse dus kadam aage, I wonder what she would have done at the Sheesh Mahal,” she looked at him provokingly, “I toh cried and cried, if she had been there pucca she would have made you cry,” she deliberately stated, trying to make him come out with what was obviously on his mind.
But Arnav shied away from the topic; he looked away guiltily and said gruffly, “Better not tell Devansh about this, no point in worrying him.”
Khushi nodded thoughtfully, “You are right, I will tell her,” she rolled her eyes, “But you know Chotti, pata nahi if she will be able to keep it to herself,” she shook her head, “Waise bhi woh Jatin school main…
“Leave Jatin to me,” snapped Arnav, “Lemme talk to the Police Commissioner, he will not be going to this school ever,” he declared grimly, “Mera bas chale toh I would have him put away behind bars for life, but I know his being a minor will be a factor,” he stiffened, “Who knows he just might be an adult, phir toh…”
“Arnav,” Khushi put a cautionary hand on his sleeve, “Don’t overdo things huh, we don’t want all this to backfire in any way now or later,” she looked at him, “Aap samajh rahein hain na hum kya keh rahein hain?”
Arnav nodded, “Don’t worry, bola na, I will handle it, there will be no repercussions, trust me.”
True to his word, Arnav managed everything. Jatin’s parents were decent people and horrified by their ladla bête ke kaale kartoot, though his mother wasn’t too surprised. There had been similar incidences earlier as well but she had preferred to draw a veil over them and shield Jatin from his father’s ire, which probably was the worst thing she could have done. Jatin’s father’s outrage knew no bounds and was all for sending him to a juvenile reform centre but his wife conveniently collapsed. Ultimately, Jatin was packed off to Siberia…err Moscow to complete his education.
By the time Khushi and Chotti came back from Lucknow, Jatin had already left the country and nobody in school quite knew why or where. And Chotti being older and wiser, held her tongue, *cough cough* well may be a few exceptions.
Click here for Chapter 478