“See! Nani... All the shopping done for Diwali..!” Anjali was excited. “You know? He spent two days with me shopping for the festival..!” Anjali rested her head on Sham’s shoulder. He patted on her head. “We do this every year, Raani Sahebaa!” he said sweetly. Everyone nodded.
“Hello hi bye bye.. let me see what you you have bought ...!” Mami started opening the shopping bags. “Wait Mami.. we will have to put the labels ...!” Anjali came to her help and they got engrossed in showing the purchases.
“Lavanya, this is for you! The daughter in law of this House!” Anjali pulled out an expensive saree with matching jewellery.
“Really? This is so pretty! ASR, look!” she took the packets to ASR. He nodded with a line of smile. Mami had got jewellery of her choice. Aakash and Nani were happy with whatever was bought for them.
“Umm... Di.. can I exchange this for a diamond ring?” asked Lavanya looking at the ruby ring in the set of neckless, bangles and earrings..! Arnav looked up.
“Umm.. yes Lavanya ji.. but why exchange? Chote will gift you..! Isn’t it Chote?” Anjali teased her little brother.
“Yeah! ASR, we will go and buy the ring, i had seen it in the Mall!” Lavanya said dreaminly.
“You go and buy it, Lavanya! I will pay for it!” he said sipping his tea.
“You know? Its all his choice. I mean he selected all the items so meticulously for everyone remembering everyone’s liking. She admired and adored her husband of being the best husband in the world.
“And what did he buy for himself?” asked Nani fondly. “Nothing..!” he said smiling. “I have the best family in this world.. why would I need anything else?” he said overwhelmed with the love of Raizadas.
“That’s not fair! Jijaji, you have to buy something for you..!” Aakash said looking at his big brother.
“No... wait! We will buy something for you! It will be a surprise!” Aakash said again looking at Arnav for his approval. He nodded.
“What is this?” Mami picked up the last bag. “Yeh? This is for Khushi!” Anjali said loudly and Arnav glanced at the packet.
“Khushi? Why? Hello hi bye bye? Anjali why did you buy for her?” Mami asked disgusted.
“Aray Mami... She has done so much for us! I just felt like giving her something in return” she opened the packet. It was a lamon yello saree with pearl work and red and yellow stone studded matching jewellery.
“You know, he selected!” she raised the packet and looked at her husband fondly. He smiled slyly.
“Haain? He selected? When did he meet her? Hello hi bye bye? Kahi bahar milay ho kaa Damaadji?” Mami was bang on. Sham looked nervous. But Anjali said smiling..
“I was there naa Mami! I told him a lot about Khushi and he said, this would suit her!” she said looking at everyone for approval. Arnav paid no attention to the discussion.
“I have to start the new project after Diwali. I must be prepared this time to keep the cost under control!” he thought seriously getting up to go.
“Wait, Chote! This is for you!” she picked up another packet kept aside. “Ok!” he said not bothering to open it.
“Don’t you want to see?” she asked sulkily.
“No! If its not of my choice, I won’t wear it!” he said curtly. “What? Chote..!” Anjali puffed out her cheeks morose with her little brother. Arnav had moved away.
“Atleast have a look at it!” she opened a box of gold bracelet and cufflinks! He glanced at it. “I don’t wear that thing! But cufflinks ... ok!” he approved cufflinks and went away.
“Yeh chote bhi naa...!” Anjali shook her head hopelessly. “I am going out, Di! Will be back in couple of hours!” he said and went out picking up his car keys.
********* ********* ********
Khushi came home completely exhausted with the day’s work. She had more orders for Diwali and Payal too was busy with the work. The tuitions were doubled as the unit tests were nearing. Khushi and Payal were working round the clock.
“Hi ray NandKishore..! Yeh Sanaka Devi.. can’t keep the things tidy!” Buwaji yelled picking up her bag. “I will, Buwaji!” let me finish my tea first!” Khushi yelled back.
“Don’t know! Whom to believe..!” Buwaji banged her forehead with her fist and sat on the chair completely lost. She had been to Panditji for horoscope matching and the facts revealed by Panditji were exactly matching with Khushi’s past. Then he had revealed Khushi’s future.
“Her destiny shows a lot of endurance for this girl. Bharay Puray Ghar Main Iski Shadi Mat Kijiye! Don’t wed her in a joint family... she is a bad omen...!” Panditji had said. Buwaji came back lost in thoughts.
“He is right. She is a bad omen. Shashi Babua is ill because of her..! All our property is gone because of her. She is the reason for her parents’ death” Buwaji had confirmation of the fortune telling by Panditji. “I should send her as soon as possible from this house... She should marry Sham Babua!” she concluded and was ready to do anything to put her plan into action.
“Let this Diwali be over. I will see to it that she gets married to Sham... by hook or crook! Sham Babua will take her away... Our bad days will be over..!” she thought resolutely.
********** ******** ***********
“Anjali bitiya.. what happened? Did you ask him?” Nani said seriously. Arnav had gone out without even having his breakfast.
“Umm Nani.. actually, Sham ji made a passing remark about umm... Sheeshmahal..last night!” Anjali revealed.
“What? Why?” Nani asked shocked. “He knows... Chote gets upset whenever we talk about these things.. then why did Damaadji speak about Sheeshmahal..?” Nani was upset too.
“Umm Nani, there is a rumour that they will be converting it to a five star hotel!” Anjali said gravely. Nani shook her head hopelessly.
“He is upset, Anjali bitiya... he has hurt himself physically... have you seen his room?” Nani asked Anjali. Anjali nodded.
“I have asked Ram Prakash to clean it!” she said with tears in her eyes.
“I don’t know, when he is going to come out of his past..! He should stop this...! He should stop hurting himself...” Nani was in tears too.
“There should be someone in his life who would take away his anguish..!” she said gravely. Anjali nodded.
“Lavanya ji is there now. I am sure Nani, he will soon come out of it!” Anjali said with optimism.
“Humm.. Lavanya... She didn’t even notice that he was upset and has hurt his wrist..! She was busy with her party plans asking him come along with her!” Nani said disdainfully. Anjali had no explanation. She too had noticed that Lavanya was oblivious to Arnav’s anguish.
“Is she looking at him, as a source of income?” Nani asked narrowing her eyes. “No Nani.. She... I think she needs time to understand him...! She doesn’t know what he has gone through!” Anjali defended her Chote’s choice.
“Humm...!” Nani sighed getting up. “Does she really love him?” she asked going to her room and Anjali sat there lost in her Chote’s thoughts.
“What if I had not opened his room in time? What was he up to? Killing himself.. No! .. He was frustrated... frustrated that he couldn’t do anything at that time.. when our house.. our sheeshmahal was snatched away from us... when Mamma .. shot...!” she sobbed.
“No.. I have left all these behind. I don’t want to remember anything... I am happy in this life... I should help him come out of the past... I will! I will bring him out of this..!” she got up resolutely.
*********** ******** **********
“Anjali ji.. Amma has sent these for you!” Khushi kept the packets on the table. Anjali smiled faintly.
“Thank you!” she said. Khushi looked around. She saw Nani ji coming down. She got up.
“Thank you!” she said. Khushi looked around. She saw Nani ji coming down. She got up.
“Aray Nani ji..!” she smiled broadly. Nani reciprocated. “Chamakili...come I will show you my shopping list!” Lavanya called her out. Khushi looked at Anjali and Nani’s face and said
“Yeah Lavanya ji.. I will come..! Let me make tea for us..!” she went into the kitchen. “Both of them look upset! Why?” she had no answer.
“The reason may be anything... I should bring smile on their faces!” she said smiling herself.
“Di..!” she turned around with a jerk to find him at the kitchen door.
“Where is Di?” he asked.
“Sh... she was at the table..!” Khushi answered looking at his face. He turned and went out.
“What happened? He is upset too! And why there is a bandage on his wrist?” She was puzzled.
“Arnav ji, what happened?” she wanted to ask holding his injured hand. “Humm..!” she sighed. “If I do that, he will break my wrist..!” she winced and came out with the tray and tea cosy. She saw only Nani sitting there. “Where is everybody?” she asked bewildered.
“Manorama has gone for shopping with her husband..! Anjali and Chote...!” she pointed at Anjali’s room. “Should I..?” she asked Nani and she nodded.
“Anjali ji?” Khushi called out knocking the door. “Yes Khushi, coming!” she said coming out holding her brother’s hand. She looked at both of them and turning her back on them came down. He started walking towards his room.
“Chote..! Atleast have tea with us! Please?” Anjali pleaded with moist eyes. He turned and came back.
Khushi went to Lavanya’s room. “Lavanya ji? Tea” she called out. “Chamakili I am getting ready. Send a glass of juice for me!” she ordered from her room and Khushi came back. She placed the snacks plates on the table and started pouring the tea in the cups. The silence was killing.
“You know Nani ji? We have started making stuff for new borns’ also! Amma makes fabulous quilts... !” she said brightly looking around at the grim faces. Nani nodded smiling.
“Anjali bitiya..now its hi time, you start seriously thinking about starting a family..!” Nani said and Anjali blushed. Arnav looked at his sister’s blushed face. That hint was enough for Khushi. She sat by her side, away from Nani and Arnav!
“Yeah, Anjali ji.. You should... but you know... there is a small thing you should take care of!” she said loudly. Both Anjali and Nani raised their eyebrows. “And what is that?” Asked Anjali...
“Ummm... wait a minute...!” she rummaged in her bag and took out a guava. “Umm I need munching while thinking..!” she said seriously and Anjali giggled. Arnav looked away hopelessly.
“Pagal!” he blurted. She chomped to his irritation. He gazed at her guava and she clutched her bag. He could see few more in her bulging bag. He looked away.
“You know what? You have to be careful from some influences..!” she whispered in her ears.
“Why?” she asked. “What is going on?” Nani asked rolling her eyes. “Secret talk, Naniji.. no one should know!” she glanced at Arnav. “Now what is she up to?” he thought flashing an angry look.
“If you get a baby boy... and if he picks up his uncle’s traits... Imagine what will happen?” Khushi clutched her head as if stopping it from spinning. Anjali giggled. Nani got up from the place and sat next to Anjali to join the fun.
“Shut up!” he yelled angrily. “Wait chote! Let me hear..!” Nani said equally loudly. “Have some more tea!” she poured another cup of tea for him. He sat there frustrated trying to hear what the fun was with an expressionless face.
“You know what, When the baby will be born.. he will not cry... he will say ‘what the..!” Khushi said giggling. “Who brought me out? I was in a conference with myself inside, Damn it!’ she completed and Anjali and Nani burst out in laughter.
“Yeah.. and then he will say.. send my milk to my room! I am busy!” mimicked Anjali puffing her cheeks. Arnav looked at the trio angrily.
“Yeah and you will have another wardrobe full of black color..!” Khushi added to the giggles. “Yeah and a white here and there for a change!” Khushi looked at his all black attire.
“And then when a nanny like me will come to play with him... !” Khushi stopped abruptly looking at his furious face. He had got up clenching his fists.
“Stop it!” he yelled and Khushi winced in fright. “Haan I forgot! He will say Stop it! I don’t play with girls..! Where is my laptop?” she added and he looked away hiding his smile. He turned to move.
“Sit down Chote.. there is lot more to come! Have something...!” Nani pulled his legs, pulling his hand, making him sit on the chair again!
“Umm This? Amarood?” Khushi took out a guava from her bag and held it out for him! He glared at her turning his face. She placed it on the table looking at him..
“What rubbish!” he gritted his teeth. “Haan.. this one! Another one..What rubbish!” Anjali giggled.
“What if she delivers a baby girl?” asked Nani and Arnav looked at Khushi.
“Oh! That will be great! She will be like Anjali ji! Sweet, Kind, beautiful, like a Barbie dall! Hamari Gudia Raani!” Khushi said dreamily staring unfocused imagining a baby on Anjali’s laps. Arnav gaped at her. “Pagal!” his lip curled up in a smile and Nani wiped her eyes looking at her grandson’s face. Anjali too was dreamy imagining a baby. Arnav walked away picking up the guava from the table, with a smile, the anguish was replaced with a dream of his Di having a baby!! “If Di is happy, that’s all for me!” he thought digging his teeth in ripe Amarood!
The bad omen named Khushi was spreading Khushi- joy and happiness everywhere!!
“I am not wrong! She is the only one for you! Chote, when will you realize?” Nani turned her face to hide her tears.