The first week in the States was a blur as it whizzed past them what with the newness of the place and settling down to strange ways of the west – bread, bread and bread. Khushi revolted after the first two days and made roti sabzi. Devansh tucked in eagerly but then shook his head, “No Mom, let’s stick to bread. Don’t spoil my habit, who will make roti for me when you aren’t there?”
Khushi stared at him aghast. “But you can hardly have bread for breakfast lunch and dinner.”
“Wohi theek hai. Cheap and best.”
“Cheap ki kya zaroorat hai?” Khushi flared up.
“Careful Mom, you are speaking like Dad,” Deva shut her up.
For a little while.
“You should learn how to make roti sabzi,” she declared, “aur bhi cheap and best.”
And then started her Guddu-ko-chef- banao abhiyaan. Kicking and screaming.
Having made her intentions clear, she took tiny steps. One day shopping, one day veggie identification, another day, masala test, another day, atta kneading etc etc. Until Deva was an expert at making hot air balloons on the tawa. Khushi toh phuli nahi samai, hai mera Guddu she gushed and nibbled her finger. “Ab hum paratha…”
“No Mom, now we will chill a bit. I have got the hang of it, let me practice a bit. From now on, dinner is on me.”
“But hum kya karenge?” Khushi wailed, “Tum toh chale jaate ho, phir…”
“Arre Mom! I have to practice na? Otherwise how will I manage when you aren’t here? Haan agar apne pati Parmeshwar ko chod kar hamesha mere paas rahogi toh batao,” he laughed at her expression and hugged hard. “I think you should start going out, exploring the city…”
“Aur kya. Go around, see the sights. It’s fall time and the city is gorgeous as are the parks, the leaves, you just have to see it to believe it. Come on Mom.” He urged. “Ghar par beithne ke liye thodi na aayi ho?”
“I’ll go with you on weekends…”
“I have other plans for the weekends, besides, ek weekend toh settling down mein hi khatam ho gaya, bache 3 weekends, ek mein we have to go and meet Anki bhaiyaa, toh bache do…”
“Okay fine!” Khushi said and made another attempt, “but what if I get lost?”
“Then I’ll come and rescue you.” Deva was unfazed. “Here,” he pressed a transparent tiny patch on her inner arm. “There, now you’ll never get lost.”
Khushi stared at it with suspicion. “What’s this?”
“A panic button cum GPS which can guide you home and show me where you are in real time.”
“Huh? Yeah paper thin strip? Yeah batayega?”
“Yes Momma darling. The latest invention in town for children, people with Alzheimer’s and others who then are free to move about without being afraid of being lost. On the downside, there is no privacy, for each and every activity is recorded. He shook his finger, “So no hanky panky huh? Otherwise I will tell to Daddy.”
“Chup kar badmash.”
Deva coughed. “Actually Ma, I don’t need to tell Dad anything.” He nodded to the device, “That is sponsored by Dad with an alert to him.” He grinned, “Dad thought I wasn’t responsible enough to keep track of his precious biwi.”
Khushi was at once charmed and infuriated. She made to strip away the invasive prying chip, “Ma! That’s very expensive huh and non-re-stickable.”
Fuming Khushi desisted. Samajhte kya hai woh apne aap ko. Laad Governor kahin ke.
So it happened that Khushi stepped out alone and drank in the sights. But she couldn’t help wishing someone was there with her – Chotti hoti toh aisa kehti, Di hoti toh, Arnav…nahi nahi, she wouldn’t think about him. She was on an ASR detox wasn’t she? Waise bhi ek phone nahi kar sakte aur yeh – yeh hath kadi aur bhej diya.
Hum bhi Khushi Kumari Gupta Singh Raizada hain. Humne bhi kacchi goliyan nahi kheli hain.
Zara hum bhi toh dekhein kitna nazar rakh rahein hain aap hum par.
Khushi looked around until she found a deserted back alley and entered it, although not without trepidation. It looked seedy and quite disreputable. Was it worth the risk? Just for some ego satisfaction.
What if the Laad…Her phone buzzed. “What the hell Khushi. Wahan kahan jaa rahi ho?” He blasted her from thousands of miles away.
“Arre aap itni jaldi uth gaye?”
“Sone deti kahan ho? Na yahan na wahan.” He disconnected the call, while her chip bleated agitatedly.
Resignedly she turned back to the main road. Mil gayi kaleje ko thandak? She berated herself. Coochie coo ho gayi ho toh thoda sheher bhi dekhle?
A tear slid down her cheek.
She looked around. If Sridevi could do it in English Vinglish so could she. Guddu was right it was beautiful outside and the fall colors were stunning. Perhaps tomorrow she would venture further to the park and she would enjoy herself too. Take tons of photographs. Arre haan gifts bhi toh lene hai! Ab nahi toh kab. List bhi toh lambi hai. She entered a shop and busied herself in giving the Laad Governor alerts of a different kind.
All too soon it was time for Khushi to come back home to her Laad Governor. She was sad to leave her Guddu but confident that he would manage and was in a good place. He had become remarkably domesticated showing a flair for cooking. Khushi toh Khushi se phooli nahi samai. “Arre wah yeh toh bada hi tasty bana hai? Recipe…”
“Arre Mom, everything is on the net. You taught me the basics and now I can make just about everything. Agar mann karei toh.” He grinned.
“DM ka lakh lakh shukr hai. Hume toh vishwas hi nahi hota,” Khushi shook her head, “Ki humara Guddu itna accha khana…”
“Chalo accha hai, kamse kam you wont blame my wife for making me cook.” He burst out laughing at her expression. “No Mom, koi nahi hai. Yet.”
“Haan wohi theek hai. Padne aaye ho, wohi karna, baaki sab ke liye toh zindagi padi hai.”
“Yeh sab kya time dekh kar aata hai Mom? Aapko toh pata hi hoga?” Guddu teased her.
Khushi made a face. “Priorities pe dhyaan do.”
“Ji Mom.” He hugged her. “I will miss you,” tears crowded Khushi’s eyes, “but thanks to you and your intensive training, I will manage.”
Khushi swallowed. “Of course you will. You are a model student. Chotti ko bhi khana banana sikhane ki koshish kari thi but she makes such a mess! Kabhi samet ke nahi rakhti….”
“Arre Mom. Woh toh Chotti hai na?!” They laughed.
“Aur yeh aapke liye Di.” Khushi held out a cleverly designed stole which could double as a sweater or shawl with a hoodie.
“Iski kya zaroorat thi?”
“Zaroorat ka toh pata nahi, dekha, aapki yaad aayi toh hum le aaye.”
“Aww you are a sweetheart,” Di hugged Khushi.
“Aur yeh dekhiye, yeh Anya ke liye.”
“Haan humne socha ek aapke liye bhi le…”
“Main aur yeh crop top!” Di was scandalized, “Dekho Anya pehnegi kin ahi, ya phir Sherry pehenne dega ki nahi.”
“Arre Di, kyon nahi dega? Bachchon ko humare paas chod kar ghoomne jaayenge toh pehen legi!”
They giggled and fell to rifling through the pile of gifts. Khushi had bought an entire boxful of stuff. Not that India mein nahi milti thi yeh sab, but yahan fursat nahi hoti thi aur na hi mood. Wahan she spent several afternoons browsing through the local shops, wondering and dithering and had a blast. Kabhi yeh sab kiya hi nahi na. Ab there was nothing better to do – at least during the day. So every day, she would leave home at around 11 am carrying some sandwiches and fruits, take a leisurely stroll through the park, admire the trees, have her lunch and then a solid 4 to 5 hours of shopping and return home loaded with goodies and photos.
“Chotte ke liye kya laye?”
“Haaw aise kaise?” Di’s heart broke for her lil bro.
“Poocha tha humne, par mana kar diya…”
“Poochoge toh mana hi karega na?”
“Hmmph. Usko sau khoon maaf aur hum…”
“Ab kya kiya?” Di asked wearily, “Anya se umeed hai, tumse nahi Khushi.”
“Jaise aapko kuch pata hi nahi, Di. I come back after one whole month and he disappears to London? Yeh koi baat hui?”
“Arre achchanak ek deal…”
“Deal. Deal. Deal. Aur kuch hai ki nahi life mein?”
“Achcha dikhao toh kya layi ho Chotte ke liye.”
Still grumbling Khushi dug out a long coat. “The biggest, heaviest and most expensive coat I could find. Nahi toh unko pasand nahi aayega.”
“Arre yeh toh bahut achcha…”
“Usse chodiye Di, yeh dekhiye, Ankit ne bheja hai aapke liye.”
“Kya hua Di? Pasand nahi aaya?”
“Chunti kato hume,” she blinked still staring, “Hume toh vishwas hi nahi hota ki Ankit humare liye,” her face fell, “Zaroor uske girlfriend…”
“Kya Di,” Khushi frowned, “ek toh bacche ne effort kari and now you think. Accha agar girlfriend ne kiya bhi toh kya hua?”
“Did you meet her?” Anjali looked eagerly at Khushi, “Kaisi hai?”
“Uff Di!” Khushi groaned, “You are still stuck on that?”
“Haan toh?” Anjali frowned, “Pata hai na Chotti tried to extract information from him last time, photo bhi mangi thi.”
“He sent 10 photographs! Ek Russian, ek African, ek…”
“Arre Di, he was just messing with Chotti,” Khushi paused, “and you.” She grinned looking so much like Ankit that Di almost pulled her ear.
“Uff yeh ladka bhi na.”
“Itni tension hai toh aap chale kyon nahi jaate?” Khushi asked. “He would be so happy.”
“Yeah right,” Anjali pouted.
“No really!” Khushi avowed, “Usne khud bola hai…”
“I can’t risk it.” Anjali bit her lip.
“Risk it matlab?”
“Arre pata nahi kya dekhne ko milega,” Anjali made a moue.
“Uff Di aap bhi na!” Khushi clapped a hand to her head. “Pata nahi kaun se century mein hain aap…”
“Really Khushi?” Anjali was up in arms, “What if Guddu…”
“What if Guddu?! Accept toh karna padega na? What I cannot change what’s the point of worrying about it?”
“Toh koi bhi ho accept kar logi?” Di was skeptical.
“Arre Di, aap abhi bhi wohi baat ko lekar atki hain?”
PS: Aaj ke liye bas itna hi. Sorry aane mein thodi der ho gayi. Haan haan hum jaante hain aap humare absentia ke baare mein nahi soch rahe par the one and only ASR ke baare mein wonderiyaing. Ki gaye toh kahan gaye? Kaise manage kiya Khushi ke bina. Kitna roye etc etc. But sorry to disappoint you me dears, Arnav to bade hi maze mein tha. Hi was on a high moral ground, ki Deva bhi akele nahi gaya, aur Khushi ne bhi apne pankh felaye aur woh bina guilty feel kiya apne business par dhyan de sakta tha. Aur Di toh thi hi, she insisted that he shift to her place, so it was like old times.
Click here for Chapter 507