“Bhai.. Where were you?” Aakash entered the conference room to find Arnav working. He didn’t even look up.
“Bhai..!” Aakash took a step forward in that dark room.
“I am busy, Aakash!” he said gravely. Aakash understood. “Bhai.. Nani is not well. She had high fever.. Doctor had come!” He gave him the information. Arnav looked up.
“How is she now?” he asked in a bear whisper. “She is alright now! But Doctor has advised her to take rest…!” said Aakash, pulling a chair. Arnav nodded.
“Bhai, why were you not picking up the phone?” he asked looking around at the huge empty conference room. “I was busy!” he said.
“Aman said, you are working from here…!” Aakash was puzzled. “Humm!” came a monosyllable.
“Conference room?” Aakash asked and Arnav looked lost.
“Who brought me out? I was in conference with myself..!” Khushi’s mischief flashed. He got up with a jerk.
“Aakash check the consignment to be sent today…!” he ordered hinting that Aakash should leave.
ASR crossed the conference room and came into his private room which buffered between his cabin and the conference room. He couldn’t stand there even for few minutes. It was Khushi everywhere…!
“Damn it!” he turned his back. She was all over his office. He couldn’t see a single space where there was no Khushi….! He came back and picked up his car keys. He drove off. She was sitting by his side struggling to remove the seat belt. “Utaranaa Hain!”
He turned his face. She was opening the hatch to hop in.. she was on the back seat looking around and bending forward to switch on the music system…!
He stopped abruptly and turned.
He was in Nani’s room gazing down at her. She turned her face.
“Do you have any idea, what you have done to her?” Nani asked enraged.
“Yes!” he said.
“Do you have any remorse?” she asked hopefully.
“No! I was right… I am always right!” he said turning his back on her and left her room.
“Aray, Chote? When did you come?” Anjali asked. He stopped. “Didn’t you remember? Its Bhai dooj today!” she said sulkily. He nodded.
“Where were you?” she asked following him.
“Work!” he said entering his room.
“Chote..!” Anjali held his hand. He looked at her. “What is it?” she asked.
“Nothing!” he said. She looked into his eyes. “You can’t hide!” she said. He looked away.
“You had a row with Nani!” she said and he turned to her. He nodded.
“And Khushi?” she asked. “Khu..!” he chocked turning his face. Anjali’s grip on his hand tightened.
“Di… please, leave me alone..! I will come down for lunch!” he said moving away from her. She looked at him and turned.
“Sir? Are you alright sir?” Khushi peeped into his room to rub salt on his wound.
“Get out!” he yelled.
“What?” Anjali turned shocked.
“No! Nothing.. Sorry Di!” he clutched his fists in frustration. Anjali went out without a word.
He came down for lunch. Aakash too had come home with a pack of gift for his Di. Arnav looked away. The table was laid. Aakash gave Anjali her gift. She looked at Arnav. He took out his wallet…
“No, Chote! I don’t want money!” she said firmly. Sham palms were twitching to grab the wallet. Arnav looked at her Di.
“Sorry, Di!” he said looking away. She smiled. “But one thing you can give me..!” she said. He looked at her.
“A promise.. that next year you will get me a beautiful bhabhi…! Your wife!” she said giggling and winking at Lavanya. He closed his eyes. Lavanya blushed. She came forward..
“ASR! You asked me something, yesterday night!” she held his hand. He looked at her blankly.
“The answer is ‘YES’ ASR!” she said looking into his eyes.
“Hayain? Hello Hi.. did he Propoj you, Ms Tiptop?” Mami asked excitedly. “No!” was ASR’s reaction. Anjali looked at him in surprise. “Aray.. Nani!” Aakash ran forward seeing Nani at the door of her room. Arnav followed. “Help me!” Nani said holding Aakash’s hand. Arnav froze! Aakash brought her down.
She assumed her chair and said in a weak voice.
“Humay kuch baat karani hain! I want to say something..!”
“Nani…!” Anjali got up from her chair.
“No! please don’t stop me!” Nani raised her hand weakly. Arnav looked apprehensive. He gazed at her. She ignored him.
“I think, Ms Lavanya Kasyap has learnt the norms of this house, by now! Hence forth she will handle on her own… Khushi Bitiya…!” she went breathless.
“Nani..!” Anjali stood up! Arnav forgot to breathe. Nani raised her hand again.
“Khushi need not come here in this house! We don’t need her...!” she said what she wanted to. Arnav looked up at her tear filled eyes.
“Why?” asked both Anjali and Lavanya..
“Aray Wah! Saasu Maa… good decision! Bye bye phati sadi!” mami was all happy. Aakash only gaped at all of them.
“Shut up, Manorama!” Nani reprimanded. “But Nani…!”
“No!” Anjali was cut off! Nani got up with effort. Arnav was nearest. He got up to support. She raised her hand. “I am still strong enough!” she said walking without any help and Arnav froze!
Lavanya looked apprehensive. Manage everything, without Khushi? She was not confident. She looked at her ASR!
Sham didn’t hide his smirk. “That is ok. I am sure Lavanya can manage. We don’t need that girl in this house!” he said with satisfaction looking at Lavanya. She smiled faintly. Anjali looked grave. “Something is wrong..!” she looked at her little brother. He was still standing looking in Nani’s direction.
“Chote..!” she called out. He clutched his phone to his ears. “Yes Mr. Dhingra...!” he went away striding over.
“Chote... Kheer toh khatay jao!” She said in a small voice. “I must find out!” she thought resolutely.
“I know, you have not had your food. Have this..!” Khushi was waiting with a soup bowl in front of sick ASR..
“Shut up!” he couldn’t control his anger... “What?” someone called from the other side. “No.. not for you Mr. Dhringra..Sorry!” he came back to senses. He pulled open the main door.....
“Don’t you ever show your face again...!” He stopped dead. He turned in anguish. “Khu....!” he clenched his fists. “No!” he turned and marched out of the house. Going to the office was out of question. He drove aimlessly not knowing where he was going...
****** ******** ********
“Jiji... Suno naa!” Khushi pulled payal who was busy making order methai...!
“Khushi... later! Not now! I am busy!” Payal said slapping Khushi’s advancing hand to sneak jilebee from the plate.
“Help me pack these!” she ordered looking at Khushi. Khushi obeyed. “Khushi we need to deliver ten Kg. Before four!” Payal showed her the time and they both busied themselves.
“Khushi ji!” Sham was at the kitchen door leaning against the door folding his hands, looking at her fondly. Khushi turned her back frowning. “Aa Gaye... Vakil Saab!” she muttered and turned to face him.
“Aray Sham Ji? Where did you disappear from Mandir?” She wouldn’t leave the opportunity.
“I know.. Some urgent work!” She answered her own question. “But Maananaa padega, Sham ji.. You disappear in a blink...!” she said loudly.
“Khushi..!” Buwaji was at the door behind Sham. “Aray Buwaji... Really... he has some disappearing charm..! Phew... here he goes..!” Khushi blew in the air giggling. Sham frowned.
“Khushi.. today I am taking you to my new flat...!” he said coming in and picking up a jilebee from the plate. He dabbed it to his lips and then put it into his mouth. He licked his lips. Khushi was disgusted. She looked at her sister.
“Khushi... hurry up! We have to pack and deliver!” Payal said loudly and they both turned their backs on Buwaji and her sham.
“Get ready in the evening... and then we will go buy your engagement ring!” he said authoritatively as if everything was decided. Khushi gaped at Buwaji and she nodded smiling broadly. She looked at sham and he raised his eyebrow. “You cannot escape this time, Khushi!.. it will be late in the evening... i will take you for dinner... and then, I will take to you my new flat....!” He smiled sweetly to Khushi’s dismay.
******** ********* *********
Arnav returned home after driving aimlessly for hours. Anjali had gone out with Lavanya.
“Get one black coffee!” he ordered Ram Prakash and started climbing stairs to his room.
“Aray.. Devayani...! Listen to me..!” Latika was in Nani’s room. Nani was sitting on her bed and Latika had pulled the chair nearer. Arnav couldn’t walk away seeing Latika in Nani’s room.