“What?” Khushi spread her hands helplessly, “I didn’t know either! These kids are in contact with each other aur inse hi ab khabar leni padegi.”
“Actually Mami, woh I was in the States so he messaged me a couple of times for some info,” Ankit said casually, “that’s why I know.”
“And probably because he didn’t want us getting on his case before he had something concrete in hand.” Khushi said ruefully.
Ankit pursed his lips and inclined his head. “Well that too.”
“Too nahi, wohi bas.” Khushi shot Arnav a glance.
“So why don’t you tell us how Chotti is?” Arnav asked Ankit.
“Oh she is fine,” Ankit said airily waving his spoon, “too deep into studies to get into any sort of trouble,” raising an eyebrow, he smirked at Arnav. He looked back ruefully at Ankit while Khushi burst out laughing.
“Ankit is such a mixture of Chotte and Khushi that it is quite unbelievable,” Anjali marveled, not for the first time.
Khushi turned to Ankit. “Weren’t you supposed to come next week?”
Ankit nodded. “I deliberately gave a wrong date to Mom. You know na how hyper she is? She is so excited that she can’t sleep or focus on anything and even calls me up at odd hours, ticket hai, passport hai, khane ko kuch hai? She is a nervous wreck by the time I come home,” he cast a sly grin at his mother who wore a guilty look, “and ends up sleeping more than I do!”
“Nonsense Ankit, how you exaggerate,” Anjali protested, “Kshitij just look at him,” she complained.
“Mom, it was Dad’s idea,” Ankit let the cat out of the bag.
“What!” Anjali was up in arms. “You knew he was coming?”
Khsitij grinned comfortably as he patted her. “I was just looking out for your health.”
“And your peace of mind.” Arnav murmured.
Khsitij coughed. “Well that too.”
Anjali was still reeling at the shock – itna bada dokha! She rounded on him, “Oh tabhi you kept hassling me – no kishmish in the kheer, no kishmish – I should have guessed then!”
Kshitij nodded, “Yeah I gave you such a big hint, only Ankit doesn’t like kishmish in the kheer but then you were on your own trip, Chotte ko pasand hai, Khushi ko pasand hai…”
“So did you put kishmish or not?” Ankit asked.
Anjali bit her lip and cast a guilty look at Khsitij. She nodded.
Kshitij threw up his hands, “Dekha meri toh koi value hi nahi hai iss ghar main.”
Khushi leaned forward and gave his hand a warm squeeze, “Haan, aap toh priceless ho!”
Kshitij smiled at Khushi. “Ankit, unless you want your mother to forget you completely, you better shift back to Delhi immediately.”
“Haww,” Anjali’s lips turned down and her eyes sparkled with tears, “ek toh you two keep secrets from me and now you,” she sniffed.
“Never mind Mom,” came over and put an arm around her, “I am a big boy now, you don’t have to worry about me, main aise hi kheer khaa loonga.”
Instantly Anjali was all smiles. She served him a generous bowl calling to the others, “Come for lunch, isne toh kha liya. He was hungry I guess. He came in around 11 and just slept off. He just woke up.” She smiled and gave him a hug. She nudged Khushi and they giggled. “Arre yeh kya Ankit?” Anjali tweaked his ear, “didn’t you just claim to be a big boy? Main aise hi kha loonga and all that? What’s that?” she pointed accusingly at pile of raisins by his bowl.
He grinned sheepishly. “I guess growing up has nothing to with food likes and dislikes,” he defended himself.
“Achcha baba, if you are so hell bent upon proving that you are all big and grown up, how about getting married?” Anjali ruffled his hair as she sat down beside him, “Khushi, paratha for you or rice?”
“Married?” Ankit pulled a face, “such an outdated notion and quite out of fashion.”
“That maybe applicable for your US, not India,” Anjali countered.
“Aur kya,” Khushi seconded, “wahan toh clothes bhi out of fashion hai, but here,” she flashed a look at Arnav under her lashes, “if clothes were out of fashion here, socho tumhare Mamu ka kya haal hota!”
Arnav rolled his eyes, while Ankit joined in, “Mom ka bhi!” Khushi and Ankit did a hi-five even as Anjali glared at them both. “Now Khushi don’t you encourage Ankit,” she grumbled.
Khushi opened her eyes wide, “Encourage Ankit? Nahi nahi Di, I am all for the institution of marriage,” she flashed another look at Arnav, who stared at her over his glass of water.
“Great!” Anjali smiled and turned to Ankit, “So have you found a girl or should we look for a girl for you?”
“Come on Mom, I am just 25 years old, bachche ki jaan loge kya? Nobody gets married at 25, nobody not even girls, so just chill ok for at least another 10 years. So,” he slid an arm around her, “in 2050 you can ask me if I want to get married.”
“Hey Bhagwan!” Anjali clapped a hand to her head, “Ten years later! Woh bhi ask? Pata nahi whether I will be alive…”
“Di!” Arnav glared at her.
Anjali shook her head. “Achcha sorry baba.” She smiled at him. “But isse kuch samjhao, I can’t wait that long to hold my grandchild in my arms…”
“Oh that!” Ankit smiled at his mother, “woh toh I can arrange the moment you want.”
Even Kshitij put down his spoon and looked questioningly at Ankit, while Arnav and Khushi exchanged glances.
“Kya hua?” Ankit looked at them. “I meant I don’t plan to have kids ever. The world is overpopulated as it is.” He spread his hands helplessly. “I would prefer to adopt orphans, why produce more children when so many children are desperate for a home…”
Anjali who had been staring at him in growing shock and horror launched herself on his neck and proceeded to strangle him, sobbing softly, “Oh my betu has become so big and talks even bigger, awwww, my baby, boohoo.”
Embarrassed, Ankit hugged her and met Khushi’s sparkling eyes over her head. She raised her glass in a toast. Even Kshitij had an approving glint in his eye.
“Relax Di,” Arnav spoke up, “it happens.”
“What?” Khushi asked as Di sat up and wiped her face.
“Yehi,” he waved his hands, “lofty ideas, ambitions and dreams to save the world and all that.” He wore a self-deprecating expression, “Who knows better? And then along comes a madcap, a whirlwind and all our dreams, hopes and plans were blown to smithereens.”
Khushi narrowed her eyes and glared at him, “Pata nahi tha ki the mighty Arnav Singh Raizada couldn’t withstand such a puny storm,” she relaxed and tapped her cheek thoughtfully, “waise baat toh sahi hai. Pata hai Ankit, you Mamu swore never ever to get married and look at him now.” she fluttered her eyes at Arnav. “But,” she raised a finger, “ek baat hajam nahi hui – save the world? Really? I thought your policy was might is right?”
Arnav had the grace to look abashed. “I was talking about Ankit.”
“I am with Mamu on this, no shaadi and definitely no kids,” Ankit declared firmly.
Anjali and Khushi smiled at each other. “We shall see,” their tone was positively gloating as they got up from the table.
Ankit’s lips thinned and the easy going look disappeared. He seemed to be wrestling with himself but then decided to take the bull by its horns. “I said no shaadi,” he said softly, “But I am okay with live-in.”
“What!” Anjali sat down with a thump completely horror struck.
“Haan toh?” Ankit said defiantly, “It’s not really such a big deal Mom. In fact, it’s the norm now.” He waved his hands, “Ask any parent.”
Arnav fiddled with his phone studiously avoiding Khushi’s eyes.
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