Arnav looked after Khushi with a warm glint in his eye, “Never mind about your bua, I will catch her soon enough; you tell me, you said you wanted to talk to me? Well here I am all ears.”
Anya looked doubtfully at CSR, she wondered where to start; there were so many things she had to tell him.
Arnav smiled at her obvious confusion, “Ok no rush; here let’s sit by the pool side.”
So they sat down by the pool side, that is, Arnav sat while Anya danced and skipped around him, her initial confusion and doubts forgotten.
“You are so late, if I hadn’t made the plan for the zoo tomorrow, I would have never been able to go to the zoo,” she complained.
“Sorry Princess, oh hang on, just a minute,” he hauled up his bag lying on the floor and dug out a box of chocolates, “A peace offering.”
Delighted, Anya hugged him, “Nutty chocolates, you remembered, You know I can now take them from you without daddy scolding me,” she confided, “Because I have 4 times right not 3 times right like we discussed last time.”
“Really?” Arnav was interested in this new relationship dynamics, “How? Not that I object, but still I would like to know.”
Anya willingly explained, “See, Mamma called me her baby, and as you are her other baby, we are brother and sister too right?”
Arnav stared at her, his heart full, his throat choked as he struggled to speak.
Unmindful of his emotions, Anya carried on, “I wish I had know earlier, then I could have tied a Rakhi on you instead of mamma, after all Rakhi is supposed to be tied on a brother not a sister. Anyway,” Anya shrugged off her disappointment, “Mamma was just Anjie then, so it’s ok, but next year, if daddy and mamma allow it, I will tie a Rakhi to you ok?”
Still choked, Arnav nodded his acceptance of the honor. Anya surveyed Arnav’s expression carefully and drew her own conclusions. “Are you upset with me for leaving your Di alone with Daddy?”
Arnav looked at her questioningly, while she sat on his lap and put a consoling hand on his shoulder, “Don’t worry CSR, she is in safe hands,” she leaned forward confidentially and said, “Even Daddy loves her, I heard him say so and she does too, isn’t that great?” She looked expectantly at Arnav.
Finally Arnav rose to the occasion and spoke, “That is great,” with no hint of sarcasm or any other undertone whatsoever.
Pleased with the response, she further confided, “It is a secret, but I am allowed to share with you, chotibua and Aisha,” she lowered her voice and whispered conspiratorially, “Daddy and mamma are mak…no trying for a baby!”
Again Arnav was speechless, laughter bubbled up inside and he had a hard time controlling himself; she had parental permission to share this secret with him!!! Must have been at gunpoint, he thought to himself, and immediately regretted as the vision created threatened to break through his gravity, but that would never do he realized, Anya would never forgive him.
He exerted immense self control on his facial muscles as never before, ok perhaps similar to when he caught Khushi and Lavanya freaking out to Ladki badi hai kamal ki; Khushi’s expressions when she spied him had been hilarious and he had had one of the toughest fights with himself not to burst out laughing, it was only by focusing on reprimanding Lavanya that he had managed to maintain his dignity, but Khushi had still broken through his as yet ‘unsmiling’ record soon afterwards when she smeared herself with the besan, he mused.
His self control restored by these distractions, it was with reasonable composure that he managed to respond rather huskily, “Very good,” he cleared his throat.
“Exactly!” Thrilled, Anya raised her hand for a high five, Arnav responded dutifully, “But” she cautioned Arnav, “They are just trying huh? Daddy insisted, no pressure, if she doesn’t have a baby, we won’t be sad ok? She already has two babies right?”
Arnav swallowed hard, his Di was in safe hands, exactly where she should be, unable to resist this time he hugged the little girl gently, “Thank you little sister,” he said gruffly as he flicked her nose.
She wrinkled her nose and said pertly, “You are welcome Bhai.”
Just then Khushi came to call them for dinner. While Anya visited the washroom, Arnav saw his chance and swept Khushi into his arms and left her thoroughly breathless and flushed.
So much so that Anya noticed and jumped right in, “What happened Choti bua, why is your face so red?”
Khushi touched her cheeks, embarrassed, while Arnav smirked, she glared at him.
Anya looked from one to the other, “Did you two fight again?” she asked resignedly.
“Sort of,” Arnav murmured as he went to the washroom.
Khushi made a face and took Anya downstairs with her. Dinner was happy meal, full of chatter, mostly Anya’s though her incessant questions forced the others to contribute equally to the conversation. After dinner, Anya called her parents to take a roll call and check up on their well being.
Anjali spoke to Chotte as well and said, “Anya ke saath pata hi nahi chalta who is the parent and who is the daughter! I am sure all of you must be enjoying her company. We are really missing her chatter,” Di sighed.
“Yeah right Di,” Chotte chortled into the phone, “Here I was told by Anya that you would be busy in….”
“ARNAV!” Di cut in agitatedly, “Achcha achcha theek hai theek hai bye.”
Arnav laughed; his heart light; it had been ages since she called him ‘Arnav.’ It had been reserved as a special reprimand for him when he had crossed his limits as a child; he felt about 12 years of age, life was finally coming back on track, he looked fondly at Khushi and Anya.
Anya accorded Arnav the honor of putting her to sleep. She bid goodnight to everybody, including Badi Nani giving her an extra warm hug, even though she was going to sleep in Nani’s room.
Arnav accompanied a loudly (though quite tunefully) dhinka chika singing Anya up the stairs, he looked back at Khushi with a rather helpless expression, didn’t look as if Anya was the least bit sleepy. Khushi laughed at his expression, good practice she thought.
Arnav rolled his eyes as he correctly read Khushi’s expression; he was rather tired himself and had visions of dozing off while Anya kept chattering. Bade miyan toh bade miyan, chote miya subhanallah. Hopefully she would be like her bua in sleep as well as and fall asleep in an instant.
After brushing and changing, Anya settled down comfortably on Nani’s bed and patted the bed to call Arnav who was fiddling around with some stuff in Nani’s room. Arnav sighed and put down a photograph and instead of sitting by Anya’s side he lay down on Nani’s side and sighed as his body relaxed. He felt cozy and comfortable and was ready to doze off himself.
“CSR,” Anya said from somewhere far away, “Do you miss your Dadi very much?”
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