“Sorry Bhabhi,” Poo huffed as she came up behind her, “Dono Deva aur Chotti mil kar bhi itna nahi bhagaya hoga!” she claimed.
“Nonsense!” Khushi squeezed and tickled little Devi squirming and rolling about shrieking her joy. “You are just old.” She grinned up at an affronted Poo.
“Tiya mera gift?” [ Tiya kyon yehi soch rahe hain na? Guess kiya? Haan? Toh aage bado! Nahi? Toh aapko yaad hoga ki jis din Nani passed away ussi raat ko Devi was born. Khushi got it into her head that Devi was Naniji and insisted that Devi call her Khushi. But Poo nahi maani. Bahut vaadh-vivaadh ke baad, Khushi agreed to Bitiya. Poo wasn’t too happy with that either but Khushi was so upset that she gave in. Devi promptly shortened it to Tiya – toh kaisan lagi yeh snippet?]
“Devi!” Poo hissed. “Aise koi bolta hai kya?”
“Rehne do Poo. Tiya ko toh bol hi sakti hai.” Khushi dug out a gaily wrapped packet from a drawer. “Aur yeh tumhare aur Aman ke liye…”
“Arre Bhabhi, Aman ke liye bhi?”
Khushi laughed and pinched her cheek, “Achchaji! Tumhara theek hai?!”
“Aur kya,” Poo shrugged, “Humara toh haq hai!”
Khushi hugged her. “Of course! Aur isi naate, Damaadji ka bhi haq hai.”
“Yeh sab chodiye. Kaise raha aapka trip?” She coughed. “Unke bina?”
“Not you too!” Khushi groaned.
Poo grinned. “Teer nishane par lagi na?”
Poo laughed. “Seriously Bhabhi, mujhe toh pucca pata hai, ASR ke bina aapko bilkul bhi achcha nahi laga hoga.” She paused. “Waise somebody was like a famished bear with his pot of honey out of reach.”
“Aapki marzi aap vishawas karo na karo.” Poo shrugged. “Aap toh aise nahi the na?” She smirked.
“Nahi aisa bilkul bhi nahi thi,” Khushi denied, “Aur hoon bhi kyon? Guddu ke saath thi, koi dantne wala nahi tha, issme na achcha lagne wali baat kya hai.”
“Hmm. Jaise khane mein namak mirch kam ho? Waise?”
“Poo I am going to Manipal tomorrow. Chotti ka program hai Saturday ko. Tum bhi chalo?” Khushi determinedly changed the topic.
“Doll!” Devi emerged victorious from her battle with the wrapping paper which lay in shreds all over the settee.
“Uho!” Poo scrabbled to clean up.
“Poo?” Khushi questioned.
“You know I would love to Bhabhi. If I could I would leave Devi with Maji and go off with you.”
“Phir kya problem hai?”
Poo made a face. “Sunday ko ASR…”
Poo ko bhi pata hai!
Sirf mein hi bekaar hoon.
“Arre nahi Poo! Tum kyon sorry bol rahi ho? Duty calls right?” Khushi smiled brightly. “Oh I forgot I got this sweater for your mother-in-law. Kaisi hain?”
“Theek hai. She also wanted to come. But…”
“But I wanted to meet you alone,” confessed Poo. “Aisa nahi hai ki she will say or do anything bad,” Poo rushed to explain, “but just aise hi.”
“I know what you mean,” Khushi nodded. “Toh kya excuse diya?”
Poo giggled. “I didn’t. I waited for the day I knew she was to go for a satsang.”
“Arre wah! Poo toh sach mein sayani ho gayi hai.” Khushi was impressed.
Poo shrugged. “Kabhi kabhi I am really desperate for my space.”
“Haan jo kabhi mila nahi woh bahut precious lagta hai.”
“No Bhabhi. It’s a recently acquired trait. I just want to be. Par time hi kahan hai? I fall asleep making lists and plans and wake up to implement them. Aur saath saath iski yeh demand uski woh chik chik.”
“Enjoy it while it lasts.” Khushi’s eyes were bright, “all too soon it will be main aur meri tanhai.” She gave a twisted smile.
“Aww Bhabhi.” Poo reached out to hug her. “Aisa kyun hota hai, jab jo cheez hoti hai hum usse appreciate nahi karte?”
Khushi swallowed and shrugged. “Because we are ungrateful greedy people? Hamesha kuch aur, kuch aur dhoondhte rehte hain.”
“Par aap toh aise nahi hain. Jaise hain waise hi khush hain. Hamesha. Pehli baar aapko maayoos dekh rahi hoon.”
Khushi shook her head and tried to smile. “And this too shall pass. Anyway, I understand. Tumhare liye mushkil hai jaana. Main akeli hi chali jaaongi. Kab tak kisike saath ka intezaar karoongi.”
Poo looked as if she was going to burst into tears.
Khushi smiled. “Don’t worry Poo. Devi Maiyya hain na. She probably has something else planned for me. Arre DNaniji yeh kya kar rahi hain aap?” Khushi burst out laughing.
While they were busy chatting, Devi had been busy investigating Poo’s gift – a makeup kit and she had wasted no time slathering herself and her new doll.
“Hey Bhagwan! Yeh cartoon bhi na. Ek minute ki chain nahi.” Poo expertly moped up the ravages, “Aise nahi beta aise lagate hain. Aur abhi nahin, jab party ho tab. Theek hai?”
Devi wasn’t on the same page and was ready to argue the point but the arrival of Pax (short for Pakwan the robot) carrying snacks diverted her as it did the adults.
Mindful of the outcome of her internal debate, Khushi resolved to go alone.
Not that there was much time (or option what with Chotti sending messages every other hour) and Khushi began arrangements accordingly. Dance bhi toh choreograph karna tha [sach kahe that was what tilted the balance – Green room, make up, lights, stage, a captive audience. Dil dhak dhak toh karega hi na].
And then all of a sudden Anya (egged on by Chotti, who in turn was egged by her chat with Da, who was of course directed by none other than DM Herself) tapak padi.
“Kya Mami, sab se milne ka time hai, mujhe hi bhool gaye!” She grumbled.
“Arre aise kaise?” Khushi retaliated, “Sab humse milne aaye the! Di bhi, aur tum ho ki ab aayi ho.”
“Arre Mami! I especially bunked office to meet you.”
Khushi looked at the clock. “At 6 pm?”
Anya coughed. “Haan toh? I left early. Packing for Manipal?” Anya looked around the room which was a mess. “So many clothes! Kitne din…”
“Uho, yeh toh sab Chotti Madam ka aadesh hai. Hum toh sirf courier ka kaam…”
“Don’t lie Mami, aap toh dance teacher banker bhi jaa rahein hain…”
“Pata nahi ho payega bhi ki nahi. Time kahan hai. They have their classes, and by the time I reach and manage to interact with them it will be Wednesday. Batao kab kya hoga?”
“Classes kahan hai? Abhi toh college fest chal raha hai na?” Anya lolled on the recliner, “And don’t worry. If these kids want, they can do anything. Aap ne steps taiyyar kar liya ki nahi?”
“Hmm kya? Karke dikhao!”
Khushi shook her head. “Dekhna hai toh chalo.”
Anya sat up. “Now that’s an idea!”
Khushi looked at her eagerly. “Chalo na!”
“Hmm. I would love to. But to go so far for two days seems like such a waste.”
“Do din hi sahi! Come with me…”
“And get stuck inside again while you teach them to dance? No thanks.”
“Toh kya chahthi ho?”
“To see the horizon. Stare into the distance with nothing jogging for my attention. Not work, not home, not the kids or Sherry or Maji.” Anya sighed. “Just main aur meri tanhai.”
“I will be there.” Khushi objected.
Anya looked at her. “I could learn to ignore you.” She giggled at Khushi’s expression. “Waise how will you go? ASR ki duty nahi karni? I am guessing you will take the last flight out on Saturday right after the show, right?”
Khushi glared at Anya. “Ji nahin. I will spend the Sunday with Chotti. And,” she paused.
“And?” Anya prompted.
“And on Monday,” Khushi said in a rush, “I will go to God’s own country. Stay on a houseboat. Take a lazy ride on the backwaters…”
“Yeh hui na baat!” Anya jumped up and hugged Khushi. “Count me in.”
“Sacchi?” Khushi sank down.
Hadd hai Khushi. Kya ho gaya hai tere daring ko?
“Oh.” Anya was disappointed. “You were pulling my leg.”
“No. No.” Khushi denied. “I’m in. If you go.”
“Yes! Lets! It will be great fun. And serve Sherry right. Main kabse…”
“Pooch toh lo. What about Keira and Maira?”
“Nah they are mast in their own world. They don’t need me or anyone else so long as they have each other. Just someone to feed them and generally take care of them.”
“Chachiji and Sherry se baat toh karni hogi?”
“Kar loongi. Aap batao. You won’t back out, will you? What if ASR…”
“Woh kya bolenge? I am the boss of me.”
“Yeah right.” Anya burst out laughing.
“What so funny?” Khushi was affronted.
“Nothing.” Anya straightened her expression. “I am the boss of me sounds so funny coming from you. I mean the phrase.” She added hastily.
Khushi grinned. “I picked it up in the States. At the park one girl was yelling at the boy who was with her. Bahut sahi laga.”
“Chaliye kuch toh seekha!” Anya said rather cheekily.
Khushi gave her a dour look. “Let’s see tumne kitna seekha. Aur plan banakar peeche toh nahi hat jaati – Sherry ne mana kar diya…”
“Koi chance nahi!” Anya tossed her head. “Just you wait and watch.”
“Sure. Main tickets book karwati hoon. Flight tomorrow evening and return two weeks later.” There was a hint of a challenge in her voice (although her heart stopped and then beat furiously – two weeks! Ek week theek tha).
“Cool. I better rush then. Lots of things to organize.” She hugged Khushi. “Oh I am so excited. And don’t worry about CSR. I’ll manage him.”
“Don’t you dare say anything to him!” Khushi warned.
“Oh! Like that is it?” Anya giggled.
“Jaisa bhi ho, no need to manage CSR,” Khushi repeated, “hum sambhal lenge. In fact, kisiko unko kuch kehne ki zaroorat nahi hai. Di aur Poo ko bhi bol denge. Unko jo bhi bolna hai, hum bolenge. Okay?”
“Cool.” Anya gave her a long considering look. “I hope you know what you are doing.”
“Of course.” Khushi said with far greater confidence than she was feeling.
Anya was gone with a wave.
Aur ab tak nahi aayi
Ditch kar diya hoga
Aati bhi kaise…
“Hi!” Anya waved.
“Uff!” Khushi frowned with a hand to her heart. “I had given up on you.”
“Aise kaise?” Anya settled herself down. “Aana toh tha hi na?”
Tears pricked her eyes. “Of course.” She blinked them back and smiled.
Click here for Chapter 509