“Nani ji let us go complete the work..!” Khushi said flashing angry looks at ASR. His smirk had not vanished making her angrier.
“But Bitiya.. you go with them..!” Nani said. Khushi looked at Lavanya’s room and said “We have time, Nani ji!” She went to Nani’s room.
“Nani ji..I will help you. Let them go and spend time together. You know, they hardly get time together..! They should spend more time...” she preached. Nani shook her head.
“You two had planned earlier, isn’t it? Now don’t change it because Chote is there!” she said authoritatively. Khushi frowned. “Your Chote is the problem..!” she muttered furiously. Nani had a smile on her face.
“What is this?” Khushi asked looking at a big wooden carved box. “Oh! My good old memories..!” Nani said dreamily. Khushi’s eyes flashed. “Open it?” she asked excitedly. Nani looked around. “Let us complete this first, and then will open it leisurely!” she said and Khushi sprang into action speeding up suddenly. When everything else was put back at its place, she looked at Nani expectantly. Nani smiled.
“Humm ok” She took out a bunch of keys. Khushi sat on the floor keeping the box on the bed. She looked at Nani with wide eyes. Nani took the key and unlocked the box. She pulled the lid up.
“Khushi...!” he barked from the door. Khushi got up struggling and hit her head on the box.
“Awaay!” she groaned and he leapt forward. “Careful!” he yelled pressing his hand on her head.
“Khushi Bitiya...!” Nani to got up with a jerk.
“I am fine, Nani ji!” she jerked her head from his grip.
“Can’t you do a single thing right?” he barked and she flared up her nose.
“I was doing everything right.. until you came in!” she retorted. He came on to her angrily. She was hiding already behind Nani for her safety.
“Chalo!” he ordered.
“No.. I am not coming... I am working with Nani ji!” she said adamantly looking at Nani for support. But Nani had changed the party.
“No Khushi bitiya.. My sandook Box can wait. You go with him and enjoy shopping..!” she ordered her. Khushi frowned muttering.. “Enjoy? With him?... Hey devi mayya, rakshaa karanaa!” she prayed hard. She reluctantly went out of the door with him. Nani looked at both of them with tearful eyes.
“I have seen him so relaxed, first time in so many years!” She took out his mother’s picture from her Sandook, wooden box. “I think I am doing the right thing.. I know she is the only one who can handle him, worthy to be your daughter in law...!” she held the picture to her heart sitting on the bed for a long time gazing at her open Sandook.
“Where are we going?” Khushi couldn’t be quiet for long. “Shopping !” came a morose answer from Lavanya! Khushi understood.
“Umm.. Lavanya ji.. I will get down at the next bus stop and then will go home..!” she said reasonably.
“Oh god! I left my scooter at Shantivan..!” she exclaimed. He looked at her from rear view mirror.
“Koi baat Nani. I will ride it tomorrow!” she gave the answer. No one was paying any attention to her mumble. Lavanya was frowning for having Khushi with her. ASR didn’t feel the need to respond.
“Umm Arnav ji, drop me at the next signal. I will go home from there. Lavanya ji, enjoy shopping.. !” she said picking up her bag. He ignored her and crossed the signal.
“ASR, drop her here! Thank you Chamakili!” Lavanya said smiling for the first time. He didn’t bother.
“ASR..!” Lavanya held his hand. “No! She is coming with us!” he declared.
“Why?” they both asked shocked. Khushi badly wanted to get down. She knew she was unwanted there.
“I have to reach home early. Everyone must be waiting for me!” she said impatiently. He didn’t bother.
“Arnav ji..!” Khushi held his hand on the gear and he looked at her from the mirror. She took it back immediately and looked at him pleadingly. He smirked. She looked at him frightened. “Smirk? What is he up to?” she wondered. His smirk grew. Lavanya stomped.
“Yeh Nani bhi naa! I am sure, she is doing it on purpose... But I will show her who I am!” Lavanya thought with a vengeance.
“Yeh Nani ji Bhi Naa! Samazti Nahi... Hum Kabab Main Haddi Ban Rahain Hai! Nani doesn’t know, two is company three is crowd..!” Khushi muttered looking at Arnav. He was enjoying the sulk of these ladies. Both were frustrated.
“Thik hain... I will see when we get down!” Khushi thought clutching her mouth. He was glaring at her. “Sochanaa bhi matt!” he warned and she winced. Lavanya looked back at Khushi questioningly. Khushi shook her head “Nothing!” she forced a smile on her face.
They stopped at the parking area of a huge Nucleus Mall. Khushi got down first and looked around at the ocean of the cars. The boy gave her the ticket. She looked at it not knowing what to do with it and kept it in her bag.
“Arnav ji, Please.. let me go!” she pleaded dragging herself behind them. He completely ignored her. They crossed the security check through metal detectors. Khushi felt awkward in that search area. Lavanya had glued herself to ASR, wrapping her hand around his and Khushi was behind trying to keep pace with them, looking around at the glitter and illumination all around. The AC Mall was buzzing with activity. She gaped at the huge shops displaying the costliest items. Her mouth fell open.
“Shut you mouth up!” he barked coming back in search of her when he found she was not behind. She winced.
“Arnav ji..!” she pleaded looking around in fright. “Shut up!” he yelled and a few people turned their heads in his direction.
“Downmarket yelling in the classy Mall!” she retorted. He held her elbow and dragged her along.
“You need to be trained in mannerism, Ms Gupta. Have a look around. You may not get to see these items again..!” he said contemptuously. Khushi blew her top. “You will pay for this, Mr. Raizada..” she challenged him openly. He smirked. “Let us see!”
Next moment, Khushi was in a huge leather bag shop and was asking for travelling bags. She was enjoying the variety commenting on every bag the salesperson showed and rejecting it. Arnav grew restless.
“Do you really want to buy?” He asked her gritting his teeth feeling embarrassed at her weird comments. She was enjoying. “Can you show me.. that one? That... that one behind the red one... yeah... Oh! Its very small... I want a bigger one...!” she commented when the sales person took the trouble to bring that largest size bag down on the counter. The sales person gaped at her. “This is the largest size we have madam!” he said politely.
“Oh is it? But he has a bag bigger than this... I wanted of that size!” she waved at ASR, grinning wickedly.
“Khushi Chalo!” he dragged her out of the shop. She looked at him angrily.
“What are you doing here? And where is Lavanya ji? Where have you left her!” she asked wrenching her elbow free. He spat anger.
“Chup Chap Chalo!” he held her hand tightly. She was all set to create havoc. She saw a kid with popcorn bucket. Her eyes lit up. She stopped. So did he. “What?” he asked bewildered.
“Wait!” she said rummaging through her bag. He looked away in frustration. She took out a paper cone of peanuts and said..
“I didn’t know, we can eat while walking in this Classy Mall!” she started munching peanuts noisily.
“Huumm... have some!” she held out some for him. He gritted his teeth and came on to her. She stood her ground. She was enjoying his embarrassment. She tossed one up and tried to catch it with her mouth open. He caught it in the mid air before she could and looked at her.
“Challenge?” she asked him raising her eyebrows. He looked away. She tossed another one and in the haste of getting hold of it, bumped on him. “Khushi..!” he grabbed her tightly. She looked up and her eyes met his. He opened his fist leaving her and she saw her tossed peanut. She smiled. “Humm.. you win, this time!” she admitted. “I always win!” he said with a glint. They seemed to have forgotten the world around. His phone rang. “ASR, where are you?” Lavanya asked from somewhere and they both came back to their senses.
“Chalo!” he ordered her moving ahead.
“See this..!” she forgot to chomp looking at a Kurti hung in the showcase. She gaped at the price tag.
“One thousand three hundred?” she screamed in shock. Arnav stopped and came back to pull her.
“Jiji, embroiders better than this.. and we sell only for three hundred rupees..!” she was flabbergasted. Her eyes flashed. She went inside the shop.
“Who is the owner?” she asked. “What is it, Madam?” the manager came forward.
“See, this Kurti.. “ she started off. She had a business opportunity. Aranv dragged her out of the shop.
“Arnav ji.. can you ask that shop owner ? Jiji makes better than these!” Khushi said in excitement. ASR looked at her bright face and leaving her, went inside. Within five minutes he came back with a card and thrusting it in her hand said..
“This is the business card. Call them tomorrow and ask your questions. “Now lets go!” he dragged her. She kept on munching thoughtfully. “So we have to ask for business card..! Humm..I should print one for Jiji!” she said loudly. He stopped to look at her holding her hand.
“ASR! I didn’t like anything..!” Lavanya stood before them and Khushi tried to free her hand from his.
“Chamakili?” Lavanya looked at both of them. He didn’t leave Khushi’s hand. She tried her best to wrench it free. “Stop struggling!” he yelled at her and she stood like a statue.
“What rubbish, you yokel, bumpkin.!” Lavanya came on to Khushi blowing her top. Khushi didn’t know what her mistake was. Lavanya couldn’t stand her ASR holding Khushi’s hand. She pulled him and marched ahead wrapping her hand on his. Khushi went behind them sulkily. They were in another section. Khushi was thoroughly bored. Lavanya was on a buying spree. She kept on dumping the shopping bags on Khushi. Khushi dragged herself behind them laden with bags.
“Do you want to buy something?” Lavanya asked as a formality. Khushi shook her head and flashing an angry look at him said sarcastically.. “No Lavanya Madam. I don’t see anything downmarket here. You know my choice...!” she looked at ASR.
Lavanya had walked into jewellery section. ASR’s cell rang. He went away. Lavanya came to Khushi.. “You stay outside..!” she said sternly. “I don’t want any risk!” she muttered and Khushi looked at her. Lavanya was still in rage..! She looked at the security guard and said..
“She is my servant. She will wait here outside..!” she gestured at a stool outside and barged in confidently. Khushi sat there with her insides burning. Her eyes burnt in anger. He came back after some time and found her outside the jewellery section.
“Why are you here?” he asked looking around for Lavanya.
“Servants are not allowed inside....!” she said looking straight into his eyes. He was shocked.
“What?” he asked coming nearer. She stood up with all the bags.
“Lavanya ji is waiting for you inside...!” she said looking away. “And I want to go home..!” she said determined to go home.
“ASR!” Lavanya came out. “ASR its such a beautiful design... Come!” she pulled him. “Chamakili.. you wait here..!” she said casually oblivious to what effect her words had on Khushi.
“No, Lavanya ji! There was a call from home. I should be going!” she kept all the bags down on the floor. Lavanya shrugged.. “ASR..!” she called out. He looked at Khushi’s furious face and took a step ahead. She turned her back on him.
“Khushi..!” he tried to hold her hand. She raised her hand. “No Mr. Raizada.. I have had enough of your classy shopping. I am going home!” she said turning to face him. He stood there watching her going away from him...!
“Khushi...!” his heart ached. She turned. He went towards her. She took out the parking ticket. Thrusting it in his hand she said.. “You may require this to go back!” and stormed out of the Mall.