Some weeks later
“Hello Daddy,” chirped Chotti as she lolled on the lobby sofa desultorily surfing TV channels, “Late as usual,” she scolded him, “Gosh TV is so boring nothing going on,” she switched it off, “how was your day Daddy?”
Arnav ruffled her hair, “Daddy!” she squealed and leaned away smoothing her hair, “I just had it straightened,” she grumbled.
“I liked your curls better,” he grumbled as he tugged at his tie and sank down beside her, “HP,” he raised his voice.
“Kya chahiye Daddy? Water? I’ll get it,” she jumped up and swayed dangerously before collapsing in a heap in Arnav’s arms.
“Angel!” uttered a shocked Arnav, “KHUSHIIIIIIII.”
“Kya hua?” Khushi and HP both came running, “Chotti, Chotti, jaldi paani paani lao, sweetie, uttho uttho na kya hua achanak?”
Moaning a bit, Chotti came to soon after, “I am ok,” she smiled wanly, “Just a bit dizzy that’s all,” she brushed it off.
But of course Arnav and Khushi weren’t ok, they dragged her wily-nily to the hospital where she underwent a battery of tests whilst Khushi got a taste of the ASR of yesteryears.
He threw a major tantrum and there was no evidence of a subdued, chastened or even decaying ASR – he was very much alive and kicking.
The worst was when the doctor smiled reassuringly and said, “Not to worry Mr Raizada nothing major, just a case of malnutrition.”
Considering the possible diagnoses, this was probably the least worrisome but ASR too it as a personal insult.
“What the ****! Malnutrition? That happens in children who live off the streets doesn’t it? Jinko khane ko nahi milta? What the ****” He raved and ranted and of course turned to his favorite punching bag (this time possibly with some justification), “What the hell Khushi, you cannot manage your own daughter?” he roundly castigated her, “You love to feed people right, what happened with your own daughter?” he was well and truly riled and didn’t care what Khushi or anybody else thought – Chotti’s pale ghost-like figure had sent the shivers down his spine, “Tum karti kya ho saara din?”
Khushi closed her eyes and prayed for control, he is upset that is why he is saying this, she repeated over and over again to herself, aur sach kahe toh galat bhi nahi hai, “Please listen to me Arnav,” she unsuccessfully tried to interrupt his tirade, “Koi baby nahi hai, that I have to stand at her head and feed her with my own hands!” she attempted to justify herself, “Nahi khaye toh hum kya karein? Hum toh bol bol kar thak gaye, sunti hi nahi hai humari,” she complained, “Morning I give her breakfast, she says she will have it in the bus, how am I to know she distributes it to her friends?” Khushi threw up her hands and continued speaking trying to drown out Arnav’s voice jo ki rukne ka naam hi nahi le raha tha, “Tiffin ka bhi yehi haal tha, ab it never entered my head that she wasn’t eating her tiffin at all! Dinner pe toh aap bhi hote hain na? Did you see her pocket the rotis? Nahi na? Aap hi bata dijiye at this age am I supposed to sit at her head and monitor what she eats and how much?” she nodded her head grimly, “Theek hai, zaroorat hai toh I will do, not an issue at all if Chotti wants to be treated like a baby so be it?” she glared at a subdued Chotti.
But the damage was done for it spelt the return of the ASR who pounced and growled at every turn; he demanded feedback on Chotti’s meal plan for the day, exact intake, body weight measurements – twice a day! Khushi bhi bol bolkar thak gayi, “Please Arnav back off will you? Nothing is going to change overnight, 12 hours main toh bilkul bhi nahi,” par uski kaun sunta hai? Woh bolti hi reh gayi aur baaki apni marzi karte rahe.
“Ab khush ho?” Khushi trained her guns on Chotti, “Attention chahiye tha toh pehle hi bol dete aise itna natak karne ki kya zaroorat thi?”
“Arre relax Mom, I am just fine,” pleaded Chotti.
“Haan dikh raha hai,” snapped Khushi, “I have a good mind to keep you hospitalized till you are overweight!” threatened Khushi seriously.
“Mom!” wailed Chotti, “Please meri baat toh suniye!”
“Dad ki bhi sunu aur tumhari bhi?” Khushi smarted from the tongue-lashing she had received from Arnav but it was compounded by guilt and worry; how did I not notice Chotti ka kya kar rahi hai? How could I miss it?
Well that was easily answered if one was calm and dispassionate about it – Khushi was preoccupied with her parents. Plus she took pride in Chotti’s ‘maturity’ and thought she was grown up enough to manage her own affairs – therein lay Khushi’s mistake for kids never grow up do they? If it is not this then it is the other, zara sa dheel diya nahi ki saara raita fael jaata hai.
Anyway Khushi toh ration paani lekar chadd gayi Chotti par – lekin Chotti toh itni jaldi baaz nahi aane waali thi.
She was determined to sweet talk her way into the good books of everyone before sneaking back to her old ways of skipping meals at the first opportunity – she loved her slim figure and in a perverse sort of way, all the attention she was drawing.
Thankfully DM was feeling sorry for the poor frazzled Khushi whose plate was overflowing, she gave a gentle nudge to the treating physician who too was blessed with a teenage daughter, “Mrs Raizada,” Dr Disha spoke pointedly to Khushi as she wrote out the prescription during discharge, “Make sure she has these supplements, I have attached a meal plan for her as well, but,” she sighed and took off her glasses, “since that is clearly not going to be followed, better buy a wig and some good cosmetics for your daughter.”
“Wig? Cosmetics?” puzzled, mother and daughter looked at each other.
“Haan aur kya, Chotti madam will insist on dieting hai ki nahi?” Disha looked penetratingly at Chotti who flushed and looked away.
The doctor nodded her head in a satisfied manner, “haan abhi toh periods have gone haywire,” she looked critically at Chotti, “skin has already become sallow, splotchy, now soon you will grow a beard,” she shrugged casually, “and lose hair,” Chotti’s eyes widened, “in clumps, phir toh make up and wig hi kaam aayega na?” Dr Disha said blandly handing the prescription over to Khushi.
Chotti froze in horror, she looked suspiciously at both of them, “Y…you are kidding me right?”
“No,” the doctor leaned back and crossed her arms, “But you can continue in this fashion and find out for yourself,” she paused, “I hope you are not too keen on having babies later in life?” she asked blandly, “Who knows what irreparable damage you may be doing to your delicate biological system?”
Chotti seham si gayi, worry replaced her cocksure devil-may-care attitude which had clearly screamed I-am-going-to-do-what-I-want-to-do-kar-lo-jo-karna-hai.
Khushi let her be, hiding a relieved smile, shukriya Devi Maiyya lagta hai teer nishane par lag gaya.
Back home, Chotti recovered her bearings and confidence – what did anybody know? Bekar main darane ke liye bol rahein hain yeh sab, bas school jaate hi I will be back to my shenanigans, she told herself. But the next morning (having been primed) she noticed that hair strands were indeed rather liberally scattered on her pillow. Horrified she rushed to the mirror and hysterically examined her face minutely. Sure enough, her skin looked so awful with white spots but thankfully no beard. Relieved, she blamed the new shampoo, I will just go back to my old one, maybe oil my hair, some vitamins and I will be as good as new, she grinned to herself, skin bhi aur hair bhi. Periods were a pain in any case, baad ki baad main dekhenge, she pushed it away. Humming she went in for her shower and gasped in shock, there it was, an unmistakable patch of hair on her stomach. Pehle toh nahi dekha! OMG what if it appeared on her face next!
Yikess! Chotti almost passed out in the shower – this time out of sheer panic.
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