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Arnav was all smiles as he graciously and gratefully acknowledged everyone’s good wishes and help in the difficult times. Only the twins were not too happy – they were not allowed to clamber all over Arnav and they made their displeasure very loud and clear and if Didis weren’t happy could Devi be far behind?
Finally Arnav was forced to unbutton his shirt and display his scars to convince them that he was hurt and hence couldn’t indulge them – they were stunned and shocked into silence. Bas from then onwards Keira Maira tiptoed around him their eyes big and wide, “Ohh Anno ko chhott lagi, shhh no talking, Anno ko chott lagi,” they shooed away everyone from his room (actually Anya set them this welcome task) but they themselves hovered around the door peeping curiously as Khushi helped him take off his shirt and put on casuals. The moment Khushi or Arnav would look around and catch their eye they would run off giggling and come creeping back at the first opportunity.
Bechari Devi missed all the fun for her mother bore her off not trusting her to be able to keep pace or peace. But then she got a lion’s share of everybody’s attentions, which in the times of Keira and Maira was no mean feat – Devi happily lapped it all up – akele akele.
This was of course the fun part – most of it was a slow and painful recovery process one that ASR chaffed at. Well to be honest, anybody would be impatient and unhappy with the state of affairs. He was after all the top boss of his company and piles of files had accumulated, decisions were pending as were many a signature. Actually Khushi had been tackling that angle as well – Aman would screen and forward the most urgent files, which Khushi would again screen and only then pass it on to Arnav while in some cases, she had signatory powers. The ones she signed, she diligently recorded it for ASR’s consumption as and when he was in a suitable state of health – crossed her fingers and held her breath. But she needn’t have worried ASR and Arnav were on the same page for once – Khushi main hi un dono ki khushi thi.
Khushi sat in companionable silence beside him staring at his bent head as he assiduously checked the balance sheet (prepared by Aman and crosschecked by Khushi) looking up every now and then to make an observation, a comment or just to simply catch her eye.
“Kya soch rahi ho?” Khushi started from her reverie to find Arnav staring at her. She hesitated reluctant to break the fragile bond of peace and bonhomie – was truth worth it? What if she said, yeh soch rahi thi DM ke tarike bhi ajeeb hai – No doubt I had pleaded with her to make things right between us but that she would do so by arranging such a crisis – she shuddered, “Kya hua Khushi?” Arnav put down his file and looked at her curiously.
Khushi smiled tremulously and shook her head, “Kuch nahi.”
“Kuch toh hai,” he insisted.
Khushi sighed and settled for sharing the other thought preying on her mind, “Chotti ke results ke baare main soch rahi thi.”
Arnav frowned, “What about them?”
Khushi hesitated, she didn’t want to worry him but she needed him to be there for Chotti when and if the situation arose, “Chotti’s boards went off pretty well I think, even her teachers are confident of her having done well but,” she paused and twisted her fingers, “But I think she messed up her entrances,” she looked away without elaborating further.
Arnav’s lips tightened, “Aapko toh pata hi hai how hell bent she is upon doing MBBS aur agar nahi mila toh…” Khushi trailed off.
Arnav put out his hand and squeezed her entwined fingers, “Don’t worry we will cross that bridge when we come to it,” Khushi nodded gratefully.
Wohi hua jiska Khushi ko darr tha – Chotti didn’t get through the medical entrances, at least not well enough to qualify for the Delhi colleges. She was heartbroken and terribly upset. She cried buckets and was quite inconsolable, “Never mind Angel, you want to do MBBS tum karo, you cleared Manipal didn’t you, wahan se kar lena, its not an issue sweetheart, you know that don’t you?” Arnav tried to cheer her up, apne dil par pathar rakhkar – aur koi time nahi mila heart attack ke liye he castigated himself.
“Ye…es,” sobbed Chotti, “But all my friends have gotten into Delhi colleges and Manipal is so far,” she wailed, “I had studied so hard it’s not fair.”
Feeling terribly guilty, Arnav looked helplessly at Khushi.
Ultimately it was Devansh who handled her, “Dad let me talk to her,” he said authoritatively, “Come Chotti let’s go for a chat,” he dragged her upstairs to the terrace, “Ab bolo kya problem hai?” he confronted her.
Chotti wiped her eyes and glared at him, “Are you deaf? Didn’t you hear what I just said,” she snapped and turned away.
Devansh turned her around forcibly, “Yes I heard and I couldn’t believe that you could be so self-centred and selfish,” Chotti stared at him in shock, “Kabhi toh look beyond yourself! I couldn’t believe my ears isiliye I am asking you again problem kya hai?”
“Selfish and self-centred?” Chotti repeated unbelievingly, “From where did you get that?” she asked aggressively, tears forgotten.
“It’s not fair, I worked so hard,” Devansh mimicked her.
“Haan toh?” Chotti was all at sea.
“So basically you are blaming Dad for having his heart attack because of which you couldn’t give your exams properly, kabhi socha how Dad must be feeling?” Devansh glared at her, “That because of him you have to suffer, tum yeh nahi dekh rahi ho that he has whole heartedly accepted your decision to go in for medicine despite his wish for at least one of us to join his business, he is ready to send you far away so that you can live your dream aur tum ho ki – its not fair I worked so hard,” he threw at her.
Chotti paled, “Maine socha nahi,” she mumbled.
“Socha nahi,” spat Devansh, “toh ab socho, think how upset and guilty Dad must be feeling, do some damage control, you know he is not hundred percent ok still, pata hai ki nahi?” Chotti nodded her head dolefully feeling very small and petty, “now make sure you make him feel better warna mujhse bura koi nahi hoga,” he threatened.
“I will,” promised Chotti abjectly, “I really didn’t think how it would appear for him, I am sorry, main abhi Dad ko jaakar sorry bolti hoon,” she turned and made to rush off but Devansh grabbed hold of her hand, “Hey hey, tumhare paas brains hai ki nahi?” he tapped her head.
Chotti looked at him askance, “Now what?” she shot back, hands on her hips.
“Kya bologi Dad ko?” asked Devansh, “I am sorry Dad, I didnt mean to hurt you, its not your fault that you fell ill, I will be brave and self-sacrificing and happily go of to Manipal just so that you don’t feel guilty, sheeshh,” Devansh turned away disgustedly, “Yeah that’ll make Dad feel loads better.”
Chotti just stood there feeling foolish and small, “Toh kya kahoon?”
Devansh rolled his eyes, “Yeh bhi main hi bataaon? And with these brains you are going to become a doctor? Heaven help those unfortunate people who come to you for treatment!”
Chotti pulled at his sleeve dejectedly, “Bataon na.”
Devansh ran a hand through his hair, “You have to say something that will convince Dad that you are actually keen if not desperate to go to Manipal, tabhi he will stop feeling so bad and guilty.”
“But I don’t want to go to Manipal,” Chotti mumbled.
“Fine!” Devansh threw up his hands, “Do what you ‘want’ to do, I don’t have anything more to say to you,” he stomped off while Chotti stood there staring after him.
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