Anya was nibbling her toast at the dining table, swinging her legs and jabbering away with Nani as Khushi and Arnav finally came down for breakfast. She spared a moment to look approvingly at their clasped hands and RV faces before turning back to repeat her question to Nani, “So Badi Nani, do you remember now?”
Nani smiled and adjusted her pallu and said, “Remember what bitiya?”
“Whether Bade Nanaji’s moustache tickled you when he kissed you?” Anya asked just as Arnav pulled his chair at the table.
Arnav froze and grinned wickedly at Nani, “Haan Nani, do tell us?” he winked at Aakash.
Nani gave him a look that would have made lesser mortals fade away silently from the scene, but this was no mere man, his grin widened and he raised his eyebrow, the faintest of color stole up her cheeks as disdainfully she denied any memory, “Nahi bitiya, humka kucho yaad naahi.” She calmly poured herself a glass of water.
Arnav leaned forward and roughly brushed his bristly cheek against her soft cheek and murmured, “Nani, ab kuch yaad aaya? Remember the mango tree in the courtyard? I was on it when Nanaji came and…”
“Chotte!” Nani was finally flustered as everyone giggled silently in deference to her years, except of course for the re-reverted incorrigible Chotte who laughed aloud and snitched another hair pin and triumphantly pocketed it.
Nani sighed and patted her bun, “Pata hai Anya, your CSR used to flick my hairpins and collect them. Once I found a whole boxful in his room!”
Arnav looked a bit sheepish but soon recovered enough to retort as he reached for his toast, “It’s been so many years and you still can’t catch me!”
Nani looked resignedly at him and called out, “Hari Prakash, when you go to the market remember to bring me two dozen boxes of hair pins!” The house echoed with laughter as everyone noisily dug in to their breakfast and chattered merrily.
Under the chatter, Khushi leaned over to Arnav and whispered, “Achcha toh chori karna aapki purani aadat hai!” (eh Kk99ipkknd – wonder if you here?)
Arnav turned to look at her, “What do you mean?”
“Zyaada baniye mat” Khushi huffed, “Humari amma ka payal bhool gaye kya?”
The tips of Arnav’s ears turned red as he valiantly tried to cover up, “You leave stuff lying around, somebody picks and keeps it safely and this is the thanks one gets,” he huffed back.
“Achcha?” said Khushi disbelievingly, “Aur humara dil ka kya, woh bhi toh bade hoshiyari se bina bataye, chupke se chura liya, even though I had kept it safely and not lying around?”
Arnav looked at Khushi, and whispered back, “Oh that was just tit for tat, chori pehle tumne ki thi,” as a smile slowly spread across his face.
He was rewarded with Khushi’s brilliant smile.
Suddenly they were alone amongst the RMians, till the phone (damn Aman) rang and Arnav left the dining table. Khushi looked after him regretfully, RV slowly fading away.
He came back in a while, grim faced, “I am sorry Anya, something urgent has come up, and I need to go to the office.”
Anya stared at him disappointed, her lower lip trembled as she valiantly tried to control her emotions; Aakash said, “What is it Bhai, let me handle it, you carry on.”
Arnav shook his head, then he looked at Anya, he said, “Ok let’s see, Aakash you too come along, maybe I could leave in a couple of hours, ok Princess?”
Anya dolefully nodded her head, her experience with ‘let’s see’ not being very encouraging.
Arnav looked at Anya regretfully, he came close and whispered, “Hey Princess, can you do me a favor? Make sure your Chottibua dresses up smartly, can’t stand this suit of hers!”
Anya thoroughly agreed with Arnav as she disdainfully surveyed Khushi’s well worn confusing green-blue suit which could be donned back side front, she perked up a bit and gave a thumbs up to CSR.
Arnav left grinning at a suspicious Khushi, only to be accosted by Anya near the main door, “CSR!” she called urgently, as she doubtfully surveyed his brown three-piece formal suit, “You can’t go to the zoo in that!”
Arnav looked down in surprise, “Why not?”
Anya giggled, “Why! Because the animals will think you have come to give them a dressing down!”
Arnav rolled his eyes, “Ok ok, here’s the deal, you get Khushi to wear jeans, I too will wear jeans, deal?”
“Deal”, Anya shook hands with Arnav, waved him goodbye and skipped back to the dining table, “Chotti bua, chotti bua, come let’s go and get ready,” she dragged her up by the hand.
Khushi stood up willingly but rather confused, “Get ready, but I am ready!”
“Oh no no, you are so not ready, come,” Anya imperiously pulled Khushi.
In their room, Anya made Khushi show her entire wardrobe; Anya rejected all till she came to a big package tucked away in a corner, “What’s this,” Anya dragged it out.
“Oh that!” Khushi smacked herself, “I totally forgot about it, those are some clothes, Reeta had insisted I purchase, but I have not worn any of them except one at a formal dinner. I don’t really wear such kind of clothes,” she suddenly drew out a pretty churidaar, “Though this is nice, I wonder why I never wore this, or this?” She held them up against herself in the mirror and admired her new clothes, “Which one should I wear Anya?” she called upon expert advice.
“None,” came the instant response, “You will wear this,” she held up a pair of jeans and a pretty pink kurti.
“Oh no I couldn’t wear jeans, what will everybody think?” Khushi demurred.
But Anya was having none of it; she pushed Khushi and finally pulled her trump card, “I am just following CSR’s orders,” she said rather loftily. She immediately spoiled the image by giggling and saying, “If you wear jeans, CSR will wear jeans too.
So it was a jean clad Khushi who greeted Arnav when he came rushing back to RM a couple of hours later, he stopped in his tracks as he surveyed her trim smart look; Khushi blushed and said, “Woh Anya insisted,” she wagged her finger at him, “Ab aapko bhi pehna padega jeans, that was the deal right?”
Arnav nodded his head, “Sure, a deal is a deal,” he turned and then came back, “By the way Khushi, I am planning on a bonfire tonight.”
“Bonfire?” Khushi was surprised, “Kyon?”
“I want to burn all your clothes, all those ghastly patchwork stuff that you wear, what an eyesore Khushi,” Arnav moaned painfully as he closed his eyes and shuddered theatrically, “It is a wonder that I still love you,” he murmured slyly.
“Achcha so that is how you think! Don’t you know according to our culture clothes are just a tool for covering up and preserving our modesty, what matters is the heart and the mind,” Khushi was sad.
“Please don’t give me all the bullshit Khushi, if the dresses worn by the mythological figures are any indicator, clothes barely covered anything leave aside modesty,” Arnav was quite scathing in his response. “Be thankful I am not insisting that you wear the ‘blue dress’, he provokingly threw at her, waiting with glee for the next round of fireworks.
Click here for Chapter 83