“Dad?” Devansh straightened and tried one last time.
Stormy eyes clashed with cool steady ones with the slightest hint of challenge.
Pride swelled up until Arnav thought his chest would burst. He reached out and enfolded his son in a bear hug.
“All of the above.” He admitted gruffly looking at Khushi but she didn’t meet his eyes.
She was busy thanking her beloved Devi Maiyya and hence missed the chance of a micro-mini RV.
Ah well such were the times…
Devansh hugged him back even as Chotti joined them. “I’ll also miss you all but this is my journey. I have to go it alone.” He grinned. “Aur woh toh aapne suna hi hoga – if you love something let it go, if it comes back it is yours else it never was.” He looked back at his mother who was standing there with a half-relieved half-in-expectation-of something dreadful-yet-to-happen expression. “Waise if everyone is so worried about me,” he said thoughtfully, “Perhaps I’ll take Mom along with me. She can help me set up house, teach me how to cook etc and come back when everyone is confident about my capabilities. Right Dad?”
“Sure,” Arnav agreed before Khushi could say anything, “Waise bhi she has nothing to do out here. Akele bore hi hoti hai yahan par. Hai na Khushi?”
“Ji.” How could a heart break over and over again she wondered dully. Itna asaan hai mujhe jaane dena? Aap manage kar lenge mere bina?
“Great idea Da!” Chotti gave her enthusiastic approval. “Don’t worry about Dad, I…”
“Tum kya karogi Chotti?” Khushi looked at her. “Tum toh college mein hogi na?”
“Haan toh? I’ll come down on weekends…”
“Your weekends are also jam-packed,” Khushi retorted, “Yeh do din chutti ke liye kitna rona dhona natak…”
“Unbelievable!” Arnav was incensed, “Main koi chota bachcha hoon? Why does someone have to take care of me? I can manage on my own. Pehle bhi kiya tha na, aur ab bhi ho jayega.” He dismissed their concerns.
“Lekin Arnav humari baat toh suniye…”
“Don’t look for problems where there are none,” He brushed her off. “Koi rocket science nahi hai. Waise bhi HP and Shakuntala hai na. Aur kya chahiye?”
Tees saal ki company kuch bhi nahi? Khushi’s heart squeezed painfully. It’s not that she had any objections to going but did he have to be so dismissive of her? She took a deep breath. She didn’t want to cry. Not in front of the children. And certainly not in front of him.
“Haan,” Chotti butted in, “Rocket science jo padhne jaa raha hai, usse help chahiye,” Chotti giggled as she linked her arm through her Dad’s.
“Ok.” Khushi nodded distantly. “Waise if Guddu wants hum kaise mana kar sakte hain right?” She smiled at him. “Par tumne toh kaha tha ki once you settle down then I should go?” she asked.
“Haan, but then I thought why should I do all the hard work? Woh bhi alone?” He grinned at her as he put his arm around her. “Have Mom. Will uthao fayda.”
“Chalo kisiko toh zaroorat hai meri.” She couldn’t help saying while wondering why exactly had Guddu changed his mind? Was he protecting her? Or…”
“Guddu sach sach batao,” she cornered him later.
“Why did you change your mind? Pehle bola tha baad mein, now abhi jaane ko bol rahei ho?”
“What’s the big deal Ma?”
“Nahi I want to know.”
“Nothing. If you don’t want to go, just say so. I won’t force you.” Guddu neatly turned the tables with a hurt expression. “I guess Dad is more important than I am.”
Hey Devi Maiyya now I have to choose between them?
Despite misgivings and a nagging question – is this his way of protecting me from his father – she let the matter drop and set about soothing her jigar ka tukda.
And apart from a niggle here and there she didn’t get much scope to investigate the matter further. Di had a heart attack and they had to rush back.
Only it was a case of acidity but led to so much dhak dhak that Khushi’s heart nearly stopped beating. Ab aap toh jaante hi hain Arnav bitwa kaise hain. Poora sheher sar par utha liya RM and GM ki toh baat hi nahi kar rahi.
Kshitij was out on a conference but Ankit was there usne sambhal liya. Not before Mamaji got wind of it and nearly turned into Kans Mama (on the verge of smashing Ankit’s head against the hospital wall) but the reports arrived and all heaved a sigh of relief. Although Arnav was still shuddering and shaking, what if Di ko kuch ho jaata.
Udhar Khushi was even more terrified. Hey Devi Maiyya Raksha karna. Kisi ko kuch ho, uske pehle mujhe utha lena. I don’t want Arnav to spend the rest of his life in jail for murdering his wife.
Suddenly the idea of going far from the madding crowd was very attractive. She couldn’t wait! Yehi theek hai. He thinks he can manage without me na? Toh karei!
Isme harz hi kya hai?
Perhaps absence will make the heart fonder.
But what if out of sight out of mind? Her heart faltered. She stiffened. So be it. Pata toh chale. This blow hot blow cold was too much for her. She was too old for this cat and mouse game. Better to know and move on than agonize over every word, every gesture, every non-glance. Enough was enough. Devi Maiyya was showing her the way and she would be the fool not to take it.
While the adults had their respective versions of a heart attack, the kids had a blast. Isi bahane Guddu, Chotti and Ankit met after a long time.
“So is it true Anki bhaiyya?” Chotti asked him chattily.
“Is what true?”
“That you’re living in?”
Guddu looked up with interest. “Tujhe kaise pata?” Hadd hai, Chotti ko sab pata hai aur mujhe kuch bhi nahi?
Chotti smirked and tossed her head. “A magician never tells.”
Ankit threw up his hands. “Oh please! Pucca Di ne bataya hoga.” He shook his head. “Di ke peith mein kuch nahi rehta…”
“Iske bhi nahi,” Guddu accused but Chotti flared up, “How can you say that?! It was Anki bhaiyya who let the cat out of the bag about your plans to go abroad not me huh?! And I got a blasting from both for keeping secrets. And this is the thanks I get.”
“Is it true?” Guddu quickly went back to the more interesting topic at hand.
“What’s the big deal?” Ankit shrugged, “It’s almost the middle of the twenty-first century, live in is the in thing…”
“Haan woh sab toh theek hai but what I want to know,” Chotti butted in excitedly, “Are you in LUV? Photo dikhao. Who’s she? Or he?”
“Kis kiski photo dikhaoon? I have so many girl-friends and boy-friends!”
“Ek do hi dikha do!” Chotti nagged. “Waise I have seen them on Fb. Ab toh bata do?” She scrolled through her phone. “Yeh?” She pointed to a dark beauty, “Or are you in love with Andrea? She is also very pretty, so fair and her hair is gorgeous.”
“Yeah well both are my girl-friends,” Ankit said casually, “but my real love isn’t there on fb.”
“Wha…who?” Chotti sat up straightened. “Photo dikhao.”
Ankit shook his head. “Nahi. Tum darr jaaogi.”
“Darr jaaoongi? Kyon?” Chotti was puzzled.
Ankit shrugged. “She’s not a traditional beauty like Whitney or Andrea…”
“Oho! Dil ki sundar hai?”
“I am not sure she has a dil. Or even if she is a she?”
“Anki bhaiyaa!” Chotti pummeled him, “Kya bol rahein hain kuch samajh nahi aa raha.”
Ankit coughed to hid his smirk. “Haan. Woh Mars se hai na. Abhi toh vartalap hi shuru hui hai, but I don’t know what she looks like yet.”
“Very funny!” Chotti flopped back.
“It’s not! The rest of the girls are so boring but she’s really interesting. Everything is so new and different.”
“Guddu! Chotti!” Khushi called from the doorway, “Chalo let’s go. Dad’s getting late.”
“Zyaada different ke chakkar mein mat padho. Remember better an evil, boring or otherwise, you know rather than a person you don’t!” Chotti spouted gyan.
“Bas bas Chotti Devi Maiyya!” Ankit folded his hand and bowed. “Hum aur gyan nahi seh paayenge.”
“Hmmph,” Chotti got up, “I still think you fell in love…”
“And what’s love?” Ankit pursed his lips and struck a pose, “I would be happy with companionship and friendship.”
“Oh, pucca shattered by love!” Chotti hugged him and then Kshitij who was standing beside Khushi, “Mamu dekhiye na, kuch toh pucca gadbad hai.”
After they had left Kshitij cornered Ankit, “So what’s the real story son?” His demeanor gave no scope for any sort of prevarication.
Yet Ankit tried. “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Did you break up with someone and are planning on the rebound to move in with another?”
“Woo!” Ankit wiped his brow and laughed, “that’s a long question.”
“And none of my business eh?” Kshitij sighed. “I wouldn’t ask,” he apologized, “but you stay far away, alone and your mother worries about you. And now that you’ve let out that you have a cat to hide and Chotti got another angle to it,” he shrugged, “if I am to save all of us a lot of,” he coughed, “stress, it would help if I knew how to best to handle your mother.”
Ankit sighed. “I guess I shouldn’t have said anything about the live-in thing. But I just wanted to see the reaction and,” he scratched his chin, “plant a seed.” He looked at his Dad. “You’re okay with it right?”
“Well it all depends,” Kshitij frowned, “Why you are going for live-in?”
Ankit shrugged. “Why? Because I don’t like to be bound in matrimony! I prefer to be free…”
“But there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” interrupted Kshitij, “And relationships are definitely not free. Each one comes with its own baggage…”
“Ok fine! Live-in, unlike marriage, is convenient and hassle-free post break up.” He made a swinging motion, “Move in, move out, no court no alimony.”
“That’s not really true, you know that right?” Kshitij shook his head, “Live-in break ups are just as messy and can end up in court as well. Besides divorce is rather painless these days.”
“Is it?” Ankit was skeptical.
“Do you know before going in for a live-in, some couples are opting for a pre-live just like a prenuptial?”
“Exactly,” nodded Kshitij, “the need was felt because relationships are messy, married or otherwise. Commitment is commitment, with or without a piece of paper.”
Ankit was silent.
“Anyway, what I really wanted to know, is did you have a heartbr…bad experience or something? Anything we need to know? Again, I don’t mean to pry…”
“It’s okay Dad.” Ankit spontaneously hugged his father, “It’s all good Dad. Honestly. But have seen too many of my friends destroyed and reduced to shadows of their selves with this so-called love. So I for one am not interested in luv-shuv, I am looking at a business cum pleasure arrangement on mutually agreed terms and conditions.”
Kshitij sighed. “That’s good but you’ll soon realize it’s easier said than done.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean relationships are not like business deals or a math problem where two plus two make four. They are complicated and end up with partners not being on the same page on a range of things.” Ankit made to speak but Kshitij forestalled him, “But I understand this is your journey, your life and you will, as you must, do as you think best. But I want you to know that we are always there for you and love you very much.”
“I think something’s gone into my eyes,” Ankit mumbled and turned away.
“Mine too.” Kshitij pulled him into a bear hug.
Rishta banana itna aasaan hai jitna mitti se mitti par mitti likhna Aur rishta nibhana utna hi mushkil jitna paani se paani par paani likhna ~ vb
PS Shayad Woh Aisa Hi Hai wala post dekha? Light Triad Scale test kiya? Accha baba score nahi poochongi. Liya ki nahi yeh toh bata do. Aur itna silencia kyon? Self goal ho gaya kya? 😛
Click here for Chapter 505