“Khushi, how is elbow now?” asked Anjali holding her hand. “It’s alright now!” she said glancing at him angrily for forcing her to take that prod of needle. He smirked.
“Anjali bitiya, I want to talk to you, you sit with me! Khushi bitiya, we will drop you!” Nani had decided everything. Khushi sat on the passenger seat reluctantly, glancing at him angrily. He too glared at her flaring up his nose. Nani smiled and sat back with Anjali and both of them got engrossed in planning for the Pooja. Khushi kept quiet tightly folding her arms on her chest. He was weeding through the heavy traffic and they both looked at each other startled.
Khushi closed her eyes shut in fright hoping desperately that he had not seen. He looked at her and at the couple walking down the street ahead. He looked from the rear view mirror at his Di and Nani. Both of them were so engrossed that they were not looking at the road ahead. Khushi had joined her hands praying her devi Mayya to make all the other three blind temporarily. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Payal and Aakash were walking down the street looking like Amitabh Bacchan and Jaya Bhaduri walking down the street.
Khushi frowned in frustration. “Why does she have to walk on this road only! Hope they have not seen her with Aakash Sir!” she glanced at Arnav and found him looking at her. She looked away embarrassed. She looked back and took a sigh of relief.
“I saw!” he gave her a threatening look. She pleaded with her eyes. His smirk grew. He had a new weapon on both Aakash and Khushi.
“What?” came a question from behind and Khushi shuddered in fright. “Yeah Jiji, Marawaa Degi!” she muttered.
“Nothing Di!” he said casually and Anjali went back to her talks. They reached and Nani announced that she would like to visit her Amma. Khushi smiled broadly welcoming them. He remained in the car and she frowned.
“Aray Chote.. come along!” Nani prodded him and he was left with no option. He got down with grumpy face. Guptas welcomed them and Buwaji asked Khushi to get tea for them. She did. Payal came in and froze looking at the Raizadas.
“Where were you, Payaliya?” asked Buwaji angrily. Payal ran inside to help Khushi. Khushi turned her face angrily. Payal had put her in a tight spot. Though Anjali and Nani had not notices, ASR had seen it and that was more dangerous. Payal was addition to Khushi’s problems.
Payal realized it and she took the tray from Khushi guiltily. Khushi prepared another plate of snacks and came out. Buwaji had started off explaining her worries about the wedding of these two girls. Khushi felt embarrassed.
“Yeh Dono Ki Shaadi Ho Jaati Yoh Achha Hota! These two should have got married before his illness.!” Buwaji said hopelessly.
“Don’t worry, everything will be alright!” Nani consoled. Babuji on wheel chair was staring at Anjali with tears streaming down his cheeks. Amma was wiping off his face. Khushi took over from Amma.
“Aray, don’t worry about the girls. They both are so good. Anyone would marry them..!” Anjali said smiling at them. Payal blushed. Khushi glanced at ASR angrily.
“Yeah.. but you know, good nature is not sufficient now a days..!” Buwaji said practically.
“Rahanay do naa, Buwaji!” Khushi wanted to stop Buwaji desperately.
“Yeh to Acchha Hua ki Sham Babua Nay...!” “Stop it Buwaji. Chai thandi ho rahi hain!” Khushi interrupted hurriedly. ASR stared at her suspiciously.
“Chaltay Hain!” Nani joined hands and turned. ASR stood before Babuji staring at him. Babuji’s eyes flickered before they filled with tears again. ASR nodded and went out turning his back on Khushi, without a word. “I promise!” he closed his eyes sitting in the car.
*********** ********* ******
“Khushi... sorry! Bol naa Khushi! I should have been at home...!” Payal pleaded guiltily. Khushi had not spoken to her at all. She turned her face angrily.
“Khushi... woh .. I went to deliver the motifs..!” she explained.
“Forget those motifs and the orders, Jiji!” Khushi turned to Payal angrily. Payal gaped at her.
“You have lost all your orders Jiji!” Khushi was sure.
“Khushi...!” Payal opened her mouth, but Khushi stopped her angrily, raising her hand. Payal looked shocked.
“That Monster has seen you and Aakash sir and so did I!” Khushi said and turned her back frustrated.
“Khushi... I am sorry!” Payal looked ghostly. As usual she started crying.
“Jiji, stop it!” Khushi wiped her eyes.
“Woh.. I just went to deliver the Motifs...!” Payal gave a lame excuse.
“Yeah, I can understand!” Khushi said sarcastically.
“Khushi, I promise.. I will never meet him again!” Payal pinched her neck. Khushi smiled sadly.
“Yeah, Jiji, you will never meet him. That Monster will forbid him from meeting you!” she was right. Payal broke down again.
“Sorry, Khushi! I put you in trouble... more trouble..!” Payal hid her face in her knees. Khushi felt sorry for her. “I know Jiji... what you two share between you. He is perfect for you. Kind, calm, considerate, mature...!” she thought adding all superlatives for Aakash Sir.
“I don’t know, what will happen tomorrow! I think, I will be blasted off into pieces...He will have another weapon to call me a gold digger... He will not spare me for using my sister to trick his brother..! Hey Devi Mayya! Raksha Karana. I can take the brunt.. but not my Jiji! Please Devi Mayya, save her. Let her get what she deserves... Please Devi Mayya... give him some good sense, this time...!” Khushi prayed hard keeping her head at her Devi Mayya’s feet. Payal has not stopped sobbing. Khushi got up.
“Jiji, stop crying! Don’t tell this to anyone. I am going there tomorrow. I will see the situation there. Hope everything settles down soon..” She cupped Payal’s face emotionally. “Jiji... I want you to be happy... that’s what I know and I will do anything for your happiness!” she said with determination.
“Even if he asks me to beg before him, i will do that... only for my Jiji.. !” she knew what she would face the next day. ASR was not to keep quiet over this issue. He surely would blow his top!
“Devi Mayya, Shakti Dena!” she prayed holding her crying elder sister.
******* ********* ******
“Jiji, I am going.. keep the Sweets ready by eleven and i will come and collect them..!” She ordered lifting the container of samples. Early morning Khushi went and distributed the samples in Mandir Complex. “I have to take the auto..!” she had no choice.
She entered Raizada House with bated breath and apprehension. The pooja preparations were in full swing. Lavanya was moving around aimlessly in her mini skirt.
“Chamakili..!” Lavanya sounded relieved. “Lavanya ji.. get ready!” Khushi suggested. “I am ready, Khushi!” she said surprised. Khushi surveyed her from head to toe and then said in a small voice..
“It will be difficult for you to sit on the floor for Pooja with this dress... that’s why..!” Lavanya looked at herself and then realizing her mistake bit her tongue. “You are right, Chamakili.. that’s why I depend on you so much. You suggest the right thing always!” Lavanya patted on Khush’s cheek and went
into her room.
Khushi looked around and froze. He was there at the top of the flight of stairs. Khushi looked down praying her Devi Mayya! She waited there closing her eyes for the first round of yelling and shouting.
Nothing happened! He started descending and Khushi shrunk, getting ready for the physical assault. He walked past her ignoring her completely. She turned back as he walked and took a sigh of relief. He didn’t even look at her. She dashed inside in fright. “What is he up to? Something is wrong!” she had no clue. She looked around going into the kitchen.
Aakash was nowhere to be seen. Khushi grew restless. “Umm Ram Prakash ji, where is Aakash sir?” she asked in a whisper.
“Aakash bhaiyya? He went away early morning..!” he said and Khushi winced. “Jaroor usiinay bhejaa hogaa! He must have sent Aakash sir away... That Monster!” Khushi clenched her fists in rage. “Next is my turn..!” she thought shuddering.
“Hello hi bye bye! We don’t want a decorative piece, we wanted a helper..!” spat Mamiji looking at Khushi standing in Nani’s room like a statue and Khushi sprang into action brushing aside all her grim thoughts. “Stay away from him, Khushi! Don’t even show your face... Avoid trouble!” she thought resolutely and started helping Ram Prakash.
But Nani had a different plan for Khushi. She wanted her Chote to realize who was better. She was all set to put her plan into execution.
“Khushi Bitiya, give this to Chote! He is in his room!” she said pointing at the tray with tea cup!
“Tea? Not black coffee?” She muttered surprised. Nani smiled. “Aray I forgot.. ! Khushi bitiya prepare coffee for him and take it to his room!” she ordered and left. Khushi frowned looking up at Devi Mayya muttering. “You must be enjoying...!” she raised her finger.
She froze looking at his shattered room as she entered. He was nowhere to be seen. She crossed the room and came to the poolside to find him gazing at the waves of water. The water reflected on his grim face.
“C..Coffee!” she stammered. “Jao! Go!” came the response and she hurriedly kept the coffee tray on the poolside table and straightened herself up.
“Go!” he yelled turning to face her. She ran back to Nani’s room. The shattered room flashing before her eyes, she grew restless. “What has happened to him? Why did he look like a sleep deprived person? How can I cheer him up?” she was worried about him.
“Arnav ji, what happened?” she badly wanted to hold his hand and ask him. Her eyes filled with tears reflecting his anguish. “Hey devi Mayya.. what is this feeling? Why am I feeling so bad? Please... please... Unakay Dukh Door Karo..!” she prayed. She had never felt so drawn towards him. She wanted to go back to his room forgetting her resolution to stay away from him. She was ready to take the brunt but somehow wanted him back to normal.
“Awaaa!” she heard the scream and a crashing sound from the kitchen. She ran to the kitchen to see Nani clutching the platform.
“Nani ji? What happened?” she pulled the nearby stool and helped nani sit. She was clutching her Shinbone and calf. “Cramp, Khushi..!” she was clearly in pain. Anjali reached kitchen and looking at Nani screamed in panic.
“Nani...! Call Chote!” she ordered and Khushi ran back.
“woh... Nani!” Khushi stammered panic struck.
“What?” Next moment Arnav was in the kitchen followed by Khushi.
“Chote..!” Nani groaned in pain. “Relax Nani!” he lifted her in one jerk and carried her to her room. Khushi ran ahead to open the door and keep her bed ready with pillows at the feet. He put her down. Anjali followed. Lavanya appeared at the door.
“What happened?” she asked looking at Nani. “Woh.. Nani got cramp in her calf. Sometimes she experiences it and can’t move her leg..!” Anjali informed.
“Oh! We should call the doctor..!” she suggested. Khushi had already started massaging her leg pressing it, feeling the lump in her calf.
“Nani ji! Don’t worry! I will get the oil” Khushi said and ran to the kitchen. Nani was still in pain. Arnav sat by her side holding her hand. “I will call the doctor!” he said taking out his phone.
“No chate! You know! I will be alright!” Nani said determinedly. She hated doctors. Khushi came with Luke warm oil and said.
“Don’t worry Nani. You will be alright in no time!” she applied a little oil and started massaging her shin, pressing the lump formed by cramp. Nani closed her eyes and said..“You all go. Pandit ji will come anytime...!”
“Let’s cancel it!” said Arnav looking at his sister. “No chote.. Pooja will happen!” Nani said sternly. “You all go, Khushi will be here!” ordered Nani. They all left, except Arnav. He sat on the chair and said..
“Nani I will be with you.. Khushi, you go!” he said looking at her.
“Will you be able to aassage her?” Khushi asked angrily and he looked away. Nani smiled.
After a while, Khushi said “Arnav ji, you go. I will manage..!” he looked at her and left the room without a word. Nani had a smile on her satisfied face. “Now to the next level!” she smirked. Her plan was working...!