Would he, would he not?
Khushi’s heart went dhak dhak as she contemplated the enormity of her action 28000 ft above the ground. Yeh nahi that she was going off on to meet his daughter in the company of his niece – but that she was doing so without informing him.
For her, this was a first.
Over the years, Arnav never bothered to inform Khushi of his plans. And even if he did it was in a round about way. Mera brown shirt kahan hai? Suitcase nikalwa dena. Dawai mangwa lena etc etc.
And Khushi, being Khushi, would instantly guess or ask a thousand questions until she had got to the bottom of the matter. Achcha to Singapore jaana hai. Oh London? Hum bhi jaa rahein hain? Etc.
But as far as Khushi was concerned, she very rarely ventured out if at all. And when she had to, she would dither over it for days. Babuji is not well. Maybe I should go and see him. Aapko kya lagta hai? Aapka kya plan hai. You get the gist right?
So, there was a subtle equation between them – that he was free to do what he liked, while she should take his permission or at least work her plans around his convenience.
Khushi realizing this, rather belatedly, rebelled and revolted – but old habits die hard.
No wonder her heart went dhak dhak. Plus her conscience gave a twinge or two. Bechara. Kitna parshaan hoga. He would be totally lost. Itne din baad ghar aakar he wouldn’t find her. What if he flipped? What if he was unwell?
She went hot and cold.
Arre high horse pe to iss baat par dhyan hi nahi gaya! Bahut galat kiya Khushi. Chotti ko samaan dekar, dance sikha kar wapas aajaaongi. Program recording dekh loongi…
Aur Anya? Usko ditch kar dogi?
Anya samajhdar hai. Meri tarah. Woh samajh jayegi.
Par hamesha hi main kyon samjhoon?
Aur today earlier in the day when she had tried to speak to him, he had disconnected saying, “Haan Khushi sab theek hai. Abhi jogging kar raha hoon. Talk to you later.”
Na toh later aaya aur na hi mera haal chaal poocha.
He may not be concerned about me but mujhe toh hai.
If only I knew he was fine. Khushi heaved a deep sigh.
“Having second thoughts?”
Khushi’s startled guilty eyes met Anya’s knowing ones.
“Chori karni nahi aati toh karte kyon ho aap?”
“I don’t know what you mean.” Khushi was very much upon her dignity.
Anya laughed. “You didn’t tell CSR about our little trip, did you? Go on admit it.”
“H…haan toh?” Khushi bluffed. “Har baat batana zaroori hai kya?”
“Nahi zaroori toh nahi hai, but common courtesy hai. After all partners ko pata hona chahiye…”
“Exactly!” Khushi pounced. “He never tells me anything! Aur poochte hain toh kehte hai Aman se poocho.” She clammed up.
Anya settled back in her seat. “Haan toh theek hai na. Phir kyon stressed out hain?”
“Nahi kahan stressed out hoon?” Khushi denied. “I am just worried about him – ki theek toh hain na. Kuch batate bhi nahi…”
“Kuch hoga toh batayenge na! Chill Mami chill. He’s a grown man and not Devi or…”
“Mujhe toh aisa hi lagta hai,” Khushi pulled a face, “Deal ke siwaye kuch hosh hi nahi hai.”
“Aisa kuch nahi hai Mami. And you can stop fretting. He’s fine.”
“Kaise pata?” Khushi was unconvinced.
“Because I asked him and he said great, just cracked a deal, going out to celebrate.”
“Oh.” Khushi was taken aback. “When?”
“Abhi.” She held up her phone. “See his text? Ab toh khush?”
Khushi sat back with mixed feelings. He was fine. DM ka lakh lakh shukr hai. But hume toh aise nahi batate kuch bhi. Humse naaraz hain kya? Humne kuch galat kiya? Humari galati hai kya? Koi aur toh…
“Now what!” Anya was exasperated. “Two weeks aise moonh phulakar rahenge kya? Isse toh achcha…”
“Nahi nahi!” Khushi rushed to disclaim. “All good. I was just thanking DM. Let the party begin!” She held up her glass of juice.
“Aise kaise Mami?” Anya objected. “Kam se kam wine toh le hi sakte hain.” She raised a hand got two glasses of wine and thus began their party.
The rest of the flight was a blast as Anya regaled her with tales of her twins. Plus, the wine helped settle Khushi and her over-wrought nerves.
Once they reached Manipal, they were swept into an entirely different world.
It was college festival time with classes closed, campus decorated with festoons and banners crowded with budding doctors from all over the country.
“Mom! Di!” Chotti squeezed the breath out of them by turns. “I can’t believe that you are actually here.” She screamed above the blaring music. “Come this way. I booked a guest house room. With great difficulty let me tell you. As you can see it’s all overbooked.”
“Phir kaise manage kiya?” Khushi looked around the spacious top-class accommodation. “We could have checked into a hotel…”
“Hotels are also booked up besides being far from the venue. You can’t really participate from so far. Anyway I pulled the ASR card and voila,” she spread her arms and twirled, “the Director’s special at your disposal.”
“You called your Dad?” Khushi stared.
Anya burst out laughing.
“What’s the matter?” A confused Chotti looked from one to the other.
Khushi pressed her lips and crossed her arms while Anya rolled on the bed quite hysterical.
“Di!” Chotti pummeled her half laughing herself, “Kuch toh bolo!”
“Your mother was trying to keep this visit a secret from your Dad.” Anya managed to gasp.
“What? But why?” Chotti looked askance at Khushi who looked away.
“Be…cause she is a Laad Go…verness.” Anya snorted.
Chotti rolled her eyes. “Come on Ma. Like really?”
“Nonsense.” Khushi attempted to recover lost ground.
“Phir se on your high horse?” Chotti facepalmed. “Pata nahi what game you and Dad keep playing.” She shook her head. Her brow wrinkled. “But Dad was fine when I asked him to pull strings. He said sure. And he also asked me to make sure that I had the details of your stay in Kerala. Kaunsa houseboat, itinerary kya hai etc etc.”
“Dekha dekha!” Khushi pounced. “He’s spying on me.”
“Rubbish! He’s just looking out for you. Kitna khayal hai unhe.”
“Toh hume hi pooch lete!” Khushi shot back.
“Would you have told him?” Anya asked with a knowing look.
“Haan toh woh mujhe bhi toh nahi batate! Aman se pooch lo. Hmph.”
“Oh Mom!” Chotti scolded Khushi, “itne saal you’ve pampered and spoiled Dad, now suddenly you can’t ask him to change can you?”
“Toh sab humari galati hai kya?”
“Uff! Yeh aap Dad ke saath sort kar lena. Let’s have some fun, paint the campus red, come on Ma, everyone is waiting to start the rehearsals. Or do you want to rest?”
He hadn’t given up on her!
All of a sudden, Khushi was as if she were freed. Free from guilt and hurt. Yehi toh unka tareeka hai. High-handed Laad Governor kahin ke. Hmmph.
“Chalo let’s dance,” Khushi shed her blues – aur itna zor ne naachi ki ghunghroo toot gaye.
Arre mahol hi kuch aisa tha – thoda jadu, thoda nasha aur bahut saari masti. Bacche jo saath mein the. Aur dance program bhi sar par tha aur yeh koi exam ki padhai toh thin ahi ki neend aajaati ya bore ho jaate.
Khushi had come well prepared with her dance steps as Chotti had been organized enough to send her a couple of songs which they had shortlisted for their program. Khushi went one step further and choreographed a medley on them. The girls loved it, well the boys too but they didn’t have much of a say. 😀
Khushi was a hard taskmaster and didn’t let the dancers off the hook until they were almost ready to beg for a good old lecture on the Krebs cycle or pore over the muscles and bones of a cut-up cadaver. At least they would get to sit!
They crashed out in the early hours of the morning and needless to say woke up late. But not so late that they couldn’t take a tour of the choc-a-bloc campus, sample the culinary spread at the ongoing food fest and participate in the Rangoli and win a prize too.
And go back to rehearsals.
And more rehearsals.
Click here for Chapter 510