“Haan haan, theek hai, theek hai Mother India,” Devansh mocked Chotti even as guilt swamped him. In his eagerness and rush to ‘show’ his father, he completely forgot to factor in his Mom.
It struck him that in so many months, he had never called her up, it was always she who called him, half the time he didn’t pick up her phone and whenever he did, he was curt and short, not because he was annoyed or anything just that he was mast in his own world. He felt so detached and far away from home, plus he was busy and completely at home in his new home. College, new found freedom, taste of independence, everything was just so challenging and invigorating that aur kuch yaad hi nahi raha
But Chotti was right, he had been very selfish and self-centered.
“Hey Mom, what’s up?” he called her sometime later.
“Guddu!” Khushi was surprised, “Sab theek hai na?” she asked anxiously.
“Yeah Mom, why?” asked Guddu.
“Nahi usually you don’t call na,” Khushi said a bit relieved but still antsy, “Kaise chal raha hai sab?”
“Great Mom, and good news! Hostel main finally Laundromat lag gaya, yippee no more washing clothes!” Guddu said happily.
“Oh wow! Really? That’s super, I was so worried about your clothes,” Khushi confessed terribly relieved, “bed sheets change bhi karte ho kya? Aur towel?”
“Yeah yeah Mom I will,” said Guddu making a mental note.
“What! Itne dino main nahi kiya? Cheee,” Khushi was disgusted.
“Mom, I have some more news for you,” Devansh hurriedly diverted the topic.
“Kya?” asked Khushi.
“I will come home for Diwali,” he coughed, “provided you send me the ticket,” he said in a rush.
There was silence at the other end, “I…I thought this would be a good way to meet everybody at one go, right mom?”
There was a strangled sound at the other end, “Umm Mom, I know you are busy running around, doing the hospital rounds and stuff, so maybe Dad could book the tickets?” Devansh said casually, too casually.
“Mom? Are you there? Can you hear me?” Devansh asked.
“Yeah, yeah, sure will do,” Khushi said huskily, “Just so happy that we will be seeing you soon,” she choked on the words.
“Oh Mom, please no rona dhona, I am coming home toh yeh halat hai, jab jaaoonga tab kya karogi?” he teased.
Khushi gave a shaky laugh, “Thank you Guddu, love you beta, miss you so much!”
“Yeah Mom, me too, see you soon bye,” he rang off. Strangely it felt good to climb off the high horse, he thought it would have been tough and he would feel irritated and humiliated at having to offer the olive branch, yet all he felt was a sense of rightness and feeling on top of the world – he was going home yaayyy. Mujhe pata hi nahi chala how much I missed home! Marveled Devansh. Gosh poor Mom was so pleased, I really am mean, he thought guiltily.
He fiddled with his phone, I should call Chotti up and say thanks, yet he hesitated, pucca she will crow and say I told you so! Nahi nahi zyaada bhav khayegi, I’ll just by her an extra special gift.
His phone beeped. It was a message from Chotti ‘Look what you did!’
It was a photo of his Mom – her familiar beloved face lit up like a thousand watt bulb captured brilliantly by Chotti with the caption – ‘Mom’s first real smile in ages. Thanks Da.’
A weird suffocating feeling engulfed Devansh; he felt as if he couldn’t breathe, a big stone was stuck in his throat, his vision blurred. He crashed into somebody, “Hey man watch where you are going ok?” he lashed out and instantly steadied his nerves.
“Kya bola?” Arnav, who was as usual hovering around, pounced the moment she put down the phone.
Khushi turned to him excitedly, “Guddu is coming home for Diwali!”
Arnav’s face was a study – where will he get the money from, itne paise hai bhi kya? Kahin train se toh nahi aa raha? ticket bhejoo, lega mere se? Poochoon kya? He blinked and began fiddling with his phone.
“Umm he said that since I am busy I should ask you to book his tickets,” Khushi said carefully.
Arnav froze. He turned away, “Sure,” he said gruffly and walked away.
Chotti came prancing, shooting a questioning look at Arnav, “What happened Mom? Why is Dad looking funny?”
Khushi shook her head ruefully, “Kuch nahi, Da grandly allowed his Dad to book his flight tickets for Diwali toh he is feeling all emotional and…”
“Ohh Da is coming for Diwali?!” Chotti clapped her hands, “That’s great!”
“Yeah isn’t it?” Khushi said happily, “Finally something to look forward to, everybody is so ill at home,” she sighed, “I wonder what made him change his mind,” she looked at Chotti.
Chotti smiled mischievously, “God works in mysterious ways,” she said piously.
“Chotti?” Khushi questioned her, “Tumne kuch kaha na?”
“Haan toh, he was being pigheaded, wasn’t he? Somebody had to say something, aaptoh kuch bologi nahi apne laadle bête ko,” she grumbled.
“Aww, thank you sweetie,” Khushi enveloped Chotti in her arms, “Thank you so much, tumhe nahi pata main kitna khush hoon aaj,” she declared.
“I know Mom,” Chotti hugged her back, “And you are most welcome, Dad ko bhi kuch bolna ho to bata dena,” she said cheekily.
“Chotti!” Khushi said scandalized.
Chotti grinned and blew her a kiss.
Khushi remembered Chotti’s offer as she handed the keys of the Laxmi Nagar house to Arnav and tried to catch his eye to convey her heartfelt thanks, but he refused to meet her eyes. He just grabbed the keys and was off before she could say anything.
She stared after him, confused and bewildered. Yeh ek nayi problem thi – earlier he would glare at her, eyes shooting sparks, but at least he used to look at her, but these days, he had taken to avoiding meeting his eyes. And that was something quite intolerable to Khushi, for often just a glance, the warm caress of his eyes had been enough to charge her up, right her world, make her feel as if she were on the same page with him, par ab toh uska bhi scope nahi dete – par kyon?
Gussa toh nahi hai, but then why is he avoiding my eyes? What is the matter with him? No matter what I just cant seem to reach him. Perhaps if I really had a major show down with him, physically shook him he might spill what was eating into him, but short of that hum kuch bhi nahi kar sakte thought Khushi despairingly. Chotti ko boloon toh bhi kya boloon, that your Dad won’t even look at me? Bas kar Khushi, she castigated herself, pagal ho gayi hai kya, Chotti ko beech main kyon la rahi hai, usse kyon pareshaan kar rahi hai? If only Nani had been there…
But she wasn’t and all Khushi could do was watch helplessly as the gap between them yawned bigger and bigger. And the worst of it all was there was no conceivable reason for it – they had everything, yet they had nothing.
Hey Devi Maiyya yeh kya ho raha hai, please sab theek kar dijiye na, hum pata toh chale Arnav ko kya hua, she prayed over and over again, a dead dull ache in her heart, a spasm in her throat, which refused to go away no matter how much she laughed and chattered with her parents and children.
Arnav ke bina sab kuch pheeka aur adhura hi tha.
Click here for Chapter 481