Khushi rolled her eyes and leaned towards him and spoke softly, “Aapne kuch special tips aur training diya hai kya Ankit ko?”
“Shut up Khushi,” he drawled back equally softly.
Khushi opened her mouth to retaliate but then she thought better of it as Di was really looking upset and shell-shocked.
“You are okay with live in or already in live in?” she asked Ankit with trepidation.
“Hey Bhagwan,” Anjali tottered to her feet, “koi samjhao is ladke ko.” She walked off. Khushi hurried off after her. “Di!”
“Leave me alone Khushi.” Di pushed her away. “Kya zamana aa gaya hai. Koi sharam lihaz hi nahi. Nani hoti toh…”
“Nani hoti toh kuch nahi Di,” Khushi said firmly, “I think you are over-reacting Di.”
“Over-reacting! Me?” Anjali was offended. “How can you say that? What if Deva comes and says tomorrow that,” she turned away.
“Haan Di, I agree I wouldn’t like it. But you are forgetting that both you and Nani accepted live-in for your Chotte didn’t you? Bhool gaye kya?”
Anjali froze. She threw Khushi a guilty look. “Haan Di, hum bhoole nahi hain woh. And that was almost 3 decades ago. Agar tab you could accept with some semblance of equanimity, why not now?”
Di flopped down on the nearest seat. “It’s not done Khushi.”
“Haan Di. Even I don’t like it. But kya kar sakte hain if it has become the norm today? We have to deal with this phenomenon in a mature manner not aggressively or regressively. Otherwise we may end up losing our children.” She swallowed. “Aapko yaad hai na, Arnav was ready to move out of Shantivan?”
Anjali nodded dolefully.
“Chaliye, uthiye, we need to be cool and calm about it. Waise bhi, don’t you think you should be happy that at least he admitted to it?” She shook her head. “He could so easily have hidden it and gone back to the States with none of us any wiser.”
“I suppose.” Anjali said grudgingly.
“Mom.” Ankit stood there, half apologetic, half defiant. “Mom,” he sat down beside her, “please try and understand. It’s really not such a big deal.”
Khushi met Arnav’s eyes over their heads. He shrugged nonchalantly. Khushi’s eyes narrowed and she went over to him.
“What?” he asked.
“What matlab? Hum poochte hain – what if that was Guddu instead of Ankit?”
“So you would be ok with it?” asked Khushi disbelievingly.
“Well, I can hardly afford to throw stones. And who knows, maybe they already know about the misdeeds of my ill-spent youth,” he said with a tinge of bitterness.
“So, you wont fuss if kalko Guddu arrives with his live-in girl friend and insists on sharing his room at Shantivan?” Khushi made it a point to paint a clear picture.
Arnav blenched but he bit the bullet manfully. “Sure. Like Ankit said, it’s really not such a big deal. After all you and I…umm…cohabited for six months before marrying didn’t we?” he looked blandly at her.
Khushi went red and her face was a round O. “Don’t you dare!”
“Dare what?” Arnav asked innocently.
“Dare make me a party to all this,” she waved her hands, “this messy stuff ok?”
“You amaze me Khushi, you really do?” Arnav raised an eyebrow. “Did you or did you not stay with me in the same room at Shantivan without being married?”
“Aapko achchi tarah se pata hai…”
“Yes or no Khushi?”
Khushi huffed and puffed, rather ineffectually. But only for a moment or so.
“Yes.” She accepted culpability, meekly, demurely.
It was Arnav’s turn to narrow his eyes. Uho, he knew that look.
“So we agree that we wont put up a fuss, if sometime in the near future, without the benefit of marriage, Guddu decides to bring his live in girl friend home?”
“Yes.” Arnav nodded his approval.
“And the same goes for Chotti.” Khushi added blandly.
“Kyon? Theek hai na?”
“Angel? Oh woh toh bahut chotti hai.” He dismissed casually. “We will cross that bridge when we come to it. If we come to it.” There was an underlying steely note in his voice and a dangerous glint in his eyes – drop it Khushi warna – wala look.
But then Khushi liked to live dangerously and loved playing with fire – besides she didn’t want to lose the opportunity of making Arnav alive to such possibilities and perhaps be open to them when (not really if) the situation arose – or have his tark vitark ready.
“Gender bias!” she pounced. “Guddu ke liye theek but Angel chotti hai! She is hardly two years younger and you know girls mature faster.” She surreptitiously crossed her fingers – Chotti khabardaar jo aise galat kadam uthaye toh DM ki kasam hum tumhe aur Guddu tum bhi…
“Khushi drop it ok. Aisa kuch nahi hoga okay?”
“Aur hua toh?”
“Mom please try and understand!” Ankit’s voice rose in frustration.
By mutual consent (and much to Arnav’s relief) they dropped their conversation and tuned into the other heated argument going on. Well actually Ankit was speaking while Anjali was (mostly) sobbing in Kshitij’s arms, “Okay Ankit, let’s discuss this later shall we?” Kshitij said in his low firm voice.
“How is later going to solve the issue?” Ankit argued, “and why not finish this right now? Look Mom,” he knelt before her and forced her head up, “okay fine tell me which would you prefer, a firangi bahu or a firangi live in girl friend?”
Anjali stared at him in shock (quite forgetting to sob). “She is a foreigner? Hey Bhagwan! Khsitij! Chotte! Kuch samjhao is ladke ko!”
Ankit stood up and dusted his knees. “Okay you can tell me your choice later. Bye Mom, gotta go and meet up with some friends.” Kshitij and Arnav had a tough time controlling a collapsing Anjali.
Whistling Ankit walked off but Khushi accosted him – he stared back at her impassively but then the glint shone through and he winked. “Bahut badmash ho gaya hai,” she tweaked his ear.
“Ouch Mami,” he grinned, “but Mom’s gotta learn and so have all of you,” he sobered, “it will happen sooner or later with one or more of us kids. Better have your defenses, acceptance speeches ready.” He grinned cheekily. “Bye Mami, please tell Mom, she will kill me if I tell her I was joking, bye Mom. Love you!” he vanished.
“Ankitttt!” Anjali called urgently, “Anya will be here soon and you are leaving?”
Ankit popped his head back. “And I will be here sooner! If I know Di, she may have missed lunch, she pucca won’t miss dinner…”
“And what the hell do you mean by that?” Anya gave a sharp tug to his ear.
“Ouch!” Ankit bit his tongue but plodded on manfully, “Di! Is this any way to greet your baby brother who has come home after so long?” he wore a lost puppy expression, “I have been at home since 11 and you could spare time only now? Dad, sahi kaha aapne, not only Mom but Di has also written me off.” He slowly edged away towards Sherry. “I wonder if this is some underhanded ruse to get her hands on my share of the property as well?” Before Anya could charge at him, Ankit pushed Sherry towards her and grabbed the twins, “Heehhwiiwaaahaa” he laughed maniacally as Anya fell neatly into Sherry’s arms. But then Ankit’s plan backfired with the girls staring at him with terrified expressions. They clung to Khushi and promptly burst into tears.
“Ankit!” Anjali and Khushi took over and the girls subsided staring at their Mamu hiccuping now and then.
It was Anya’s turn to laugh “Heeehwhiwahaha.” Familiar with their mother’s mania, the girls clapped and chortled gleefully.
Offended, Ankit peered into their faces, “Exactly what I was doing my dear girls, heehewhi…”
Keira pushed at his face while Maira slid her fingers into his thick curls and pulled. “Ouch!” Ankit gave up and hugged all three ladies.
“Dammit, I really should come home more often,” was his muffled comment as he was smothered in warm loving and chubby arms.
Apologies for the very late update! Kya karti din hi kuch aisa tha..waise I hope you have time for some lines err I mean photos on lines, unless you’ve already seen them of course.
Click here for Chapter 497