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“It’s Ok Arnav,” Khushi said awkwardly, “It’s not your fault.”
Arnav shook his head, his eyes bleak, “Par hua toh meri wajah se hi na,” sighed, “And the worst is I cannot make it alright, not with money not with clout, damn I feel so helpless!” he raged, “aur koi time nahi mila bimar padne ka?” he castigated himself roundly, “To destroy her dream and hard work like this,” he leaned back against the chair and closed his eyes, his lips a pale white.
Khushi looked at him worriedly hoping he wasn’t working himself up to another episode, “Koi baat nahi Arnav,” Khushi put a reassuring hand on his clenched fists, “Aisa nahi hai ki she wont be able to follow her dream, doctor banna uska sapna hai from where she does is not important, waise bhi Manipal is a good place especially for under-graduation and she always has the option of coming back to Delhi for her PG,” she squeezed his hand, “dekhna five years will pass in a blink.”
He opened his eyes and glared at her, “Five years!” he bit out frustrated.
Khushi faltered but recovered quickly, “Haan aur kya dekhiye na, Guddu’s two out of four years will soon be over, pata hi nahi chala hai na?” she said brightly, “Dekhna Guddu will convince her and she wont have any issues,” she predicted confidently.
He grunted and closed his eyes again, refusing to be consoled, “Five years so far away, pata nahi akeli kya karegi, she is so fussy about food also…”
“Arre toh achcha hai na,” Khushi said stoutly, “hostel jayegi toh sab seekh jayegi, Guddu was also so fussy and now look at him, he eats everything, hostel will be good for her I am sure,” she said robustly, “and good for us too, shaadi karke sasural toh jaana hi hai,” she slipped it in slyly.
Arnav sat up, “wohi toh jaana toh hai hi, toh why go now?” he looked at Khushi, “Do you think she could drop a year and try again next year?” he said hesitantly unwilling to let his Angel leave home quite so early.
Khushi looked doubtfully at Arnav, “I can suggest but I very much doubt if she would agree, what if next year also she didn’t get through? Besides, I think uske ego ko bada jhatka laga hai, and frankly there is no foolproof way to prove ki aap bimar nahi hote toh she would have definitely cleared that exam,” Khushi said hoping to soothe Arnav.
But uska effect toh ulta hi padh gaya – Arnav was up in arms, “What the ****! Of course she would have gotten in aisa ho hi nahi sakta that she wouldn’t have been able to clear the exam under normal circumstances,” he glared fiercely at her, “Manipal clear karna bhi itna easy nahi hai, dekha na kitne achcha scores mila hai aur tum ho ki…” he spat at her up in arms in defence of his beloved Angel.
Khushi rolled her eyes, “Ok ok fine fine,” she threw up her hands in surrender, “it was just a thought, chhodiye na bekar main tension le rahei hain aap, Devi Maiyya jo bhi karti hai soch samajh ke karti hai and this is probably Chotti’s niyati our niyati and who can fight that?” Khushi invoked philosophy.
Arnav wore an unconvinced expression, “Aapko toh pata hai na jo bhi hota hai, achche ke liye hota hai?” Khushi exhorted.
“Isme kya achcha hai?” challenged Arnav rather rudely.
“Umm,” Khushi tapped her chin thoughtfully an imp of mischief stirring within her, “Shayad DM wants to give us some scope for romance?”
Arnav looked at her incredulously, “Romance! Pehle nahi kiya aur ab is umar main karenge? Are you serious?”
“Aur kya, har cheez ka quota hota hai na, poora toh karna hai na?” Khushi emphatically defended her hypothesis, “DM ne socha, bechare tab nahi kiya ab sahi, kyon?” she waggled her eyebrows and twinkled at him drawing a reluctant grin from him, “You are crazy,” he muttered in a long-suffering tone, “Ab yehi karna bachta hai,” his voice was faint.
Khushi perked up, “Did you hear that?”
“What?” Arnav looked at her and fell silent as Khushi put a finger to her lips.
Chotti’s unmistakable peals of laughter could be heard in the distance; Arnav’s expression underwent a sea change and his face glowed with relief, “Bola tha na, sab theek ho jayega? Waise bhi she really listens to Guddu,” Khushi said happily, “But I do wonder aisa kya bola hoga ki…”
Up on the terrace, Chotti’s mind raced, she ran after Devansh and caught up with him, “Kya baat hai? Achanak Dad ki badi chinta ho rahi hai?” she caught hold of his arm.
Devansh jerked his arm away, “Aisa kuch nahi hai, woh toh bas he has been so ill,” he rounded on her, “Which despite being daddy’s darling you cant see, shame on you,” he spat.
“Oho,” Chotti refused to be offended, “somebody is jealous huh? Oh!” her eyes opened wide, “Is that why you are always at loggerheads with Dad? You know he loves me more than he loves you,” she preened.
“Nonsense and if Dad loves you more, Mom loves me more, so there,” goaded, the second year IIT undergrad stuck out his tongue at his kid sister.
Chotti went off into peals of laughter, “Thus spake the future resident of Mars,” she mocked him, “Aww poor baby deprived of love and traumatized all his life because of his adorable younger sister,” she pinched his cheeks and gloated, “Not that it’s my fault, kya karoon main hoon hi itni pyaari,” she crowed.
She danced and tripped by his side, “And by the way koi galat fehmi main mat rehna, Mom loves us both equally,” she grinned cheekily at him.
He glowered at her delighted Chotti threw her arms around him, “But don’t worry you are my beshtest Da!”
Devansh stopped in his tracks, “Dekho Chotti zyaada faltu bakwas mat karo,” he shook his finger at her, “Just focus on how you will convince Dad that you have no issues going to Manipal.”
“Arre Dad ko manana toh mere baayein haath ka khel hai,” she clicked her fingers confidently, “But first yeh toh batao why this meherbaani on ‘Hitler Dad’ all of a sudden?”
Devansh shrugged, “Oh he’s not such a bad guy and he does love Mom,” his brow darkened, “In his own way,” he fell silent and looked off into the distance, “Sometimes to be able to see things clearly you need to have some distance,” he looked down at Chotti, “Maybe that’s why you should go to Manipal, to be able to appreciate the things that you have, learn independence, grow up and get some maturity,” his lip curled.
“Yes Sir, Yes Sir, Three Bags full!” saluted Chotti and rushed off ahead, “Mommm! Dadddd!”
“Arre Chotti, kya hua,” Khushi met her at the foot of the stairs, “Aisi kya emergency ho gayi, Da se jhagda hua kya?”
“Arre nahi Mom,” she dragged Khushi to over where Arnav was sitting, “Main bachchon se jhagda nahi karti,” she said provocatively as she looked over her shoulder to make sure Devansh was withing earshot.
Khushi looked at Devansh who just rolled his eyes and flopped down on the nearest sofa and picked up the newspaper, “Achcha batao toh kya baat hai, tum bhi na Chotti kabhi bin badal barsaat, kabhi badal ke saath sunshine kuch pata hi nahi chalta,” Khushi shook her head ruefully.
“That’s what makes me so adorable, hain na Daddy?” she sat on the arm of his chair and put her arms carefully around him keeping a strict look out on the newspaper raised up so determinedly dearly wishing she could see Da’s expression.
Safe behind his cover, Devansh was free to grin at Chotti’s chutzpah.
Arnav patted her knee awkwardly, “You ok?” he said gruffly, “I’m so…”
“Ok?” Chotti opened her eyes wide, “I am thrilled! Mom,” she looked over to Khushi, “Aap sahi kehte ho, jo hota hai ahcche ke liye hi hota hai, I can’t wait to go to Manipal,” she clapped her hands and sighed in ecstasy.
Khushi and Arnav looked at each other confused, “Aisa kya ho gaya achanak Angel,” Arnav asked a bit suspiciously and defensively.
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