“Chalo Hamaray Saath..!” Anjali offered.
“Kyun? Auto walon Ka strike Hai Kya? Bye bye Phati Sadi!” Mami spat. But Khushi didn’t mind. She was saved from Sham. She was happy. She turned to leave.
“Chalo!” came an order and she looked back. He had said it so forcefully, that Mami’s resistance died out, so was Khushi’s. She turned and walked with the family.
“Aray.. Mamaji? Aap?” she was surprised. “Haan! Amma said I should go and meet Pandit ji.. She has faith in him...!” he said smiling at her. She saw Aakash walking towards them.
“So that was Aakash sir!” she concluded frowning at Sham behaviour. Entire Raizadas except nani and Lavanya had gathered. They walked together. For a change, Arnav was lingering behind. She was surprised. He looked at her angrily and she turned her face.
“I will go get the car!” Aakash went ahead. “Aray wah? Yeh driver nahi chalaa raha?” she was surprised. He looked at her threateningly. “What? What did I do now?” she was confused at his reactions.
“Aap sub Hamaray Ghar Chaliye naa?” Khushi invited Mamaji glancing at him.
“Hello hi bye bye! Koi Jarurat Hani!” Mami refused. “Aray, Kyun Nahi? Jarur Aaenge!” Mamaji had to oppose. Mami was furious.
“Aray Manorama, Diwali hain? We will wish them and come back!” He placed his hand on Mami’s shoulder. She frowned and looked away. Khushi looked at him and found him staring at her. She blushed for no reason. Aakash brought in the car. They all looked at each other.
“Tum Peeche jao!” Mimi ordered her. She grinned and said “Haan Mamiji!” Aakash opened the hatch and she hopped in swiftly. Before the hatch was closed, he hopped in to her horror and everybody’s surprise. They sat facing each other on congested side seats. Mamaji took passenger seat and Aakash drove away. She gaped at him with open mouth.
“What?” he asked her. She looked away. He raised his eyebrow. Their knees brushed as they travelled. “Di, give the bags here! And that container” he said with smirk.
“Smirk? What is he upto?” she shuddered and soon found herself packed between bags. “Careful, it contains liquid” he placed her the container on her laps and she held it securely with both her hands. She was trying to avoid brushing with his knees and he sat more relaxed. She frowned.
“Khushi bitiya.. tumharay babuji kaisay hain?” Mamaji asked looking back. She turned, he placed his hand on her knees. She forgot to answer. “Liquid!” he pointed at the container on her knees. She looked at him angrily. Mamaji was still waiting for the answer. “He is ok now. Improving!” she said straightening herself up. He smirked still placing his hand on her knee. She couldn’t jerk it away as her hands were busy holding the container. He was enjoying her helplessness. Aakash took a turn on the bending road and his smirk grew. The car jumped over the rambler strips and they almost changed the places bumping on each other. The lid popped up and the container toppled on her.
“Awaaa...!” she screamed and Aakash stopped with screeching brakes. The Gulab Jamoon and the syrup container had toppled on her and her dress soaked in the liquid. A sweet smell spread over and he looked away.
“What the hell! What did you do?” he yelled. “What? What did i do?” she was furious now.
“You spoilt my car, Damn it!” he clenched his fists. She felt guilty.
“No.. I had held it securely.. that speedbreaker..!” she said weakly looking at him. His smirk grew and she blew her top in rage. “You..!” she raised her finger and he glared at her. She took her hand back.
“You did it!” she accused and he yelled.. “Shut up!”
“Its ok Khushi. Your house is near. Don’t worry!” Anjali consoled her. He pulled himself away turning in that tiny space and wore disgust on his face. She turned her face in embarrassment. Her dress was soaked in syrup, her braid was all wet and smell of sugar syrup and gulab Jamoon had spread all over!
“Roll down the windows Aakash!” he said loudly looking at her condition. He picked up other bags. “Di keep them away.. My car... Damn it!” he frowned. “Its ok, Bhai we will get it cleaned at Happy ji’s garage!” Aakash wouldn’t leave the opportunity. Arnav didn’t answer. He still gazed at Khushi wickedly.
“Hello hi bye bye.. Phati Sadi.. is there a single work you can do without goofing up?” asked Mami and Khushi looked away in tears. She looked up. “Aap ko Maza Aataa Hoga Naa?” she asked her devi mayya sulkily pressing her lips tightly. He looked at her. “Aru Aap ko bhi..!” she looked at him angrily.
“Nahi, Mujhe Maza Nahi Aata!” he said in a bare whisper and she winced. He was looking at her seriously. She felt sticky.
“Hay Bhagawaan... Ab Ghar main Kya hoga?” she couldn’t foresee. She prayed hard. They stopped at her place and he hopped out immediately.
“Aakash, you go with them. I will get it cleaned” he said taking the keys from Aakash. Khushi ran inside straight to the bathroom. Payal was shocked to see all of them. She didn’t know what to do. Buwaji came forward to welcome them. Mami and Buwaji were gauging each other. Mamaji looked around. Amma was at the door of Babuji’s room.
“Shashi ji.?” Mamaji started the conversation. “He he better now!” she moved away from the door and Mamaji and Aakash entered Babuji’s room. Payal ran inside to make tea. Amma sat on the chair looking at Mamiji’s disgust. Mami refused to talk to anyone.
“Namaste!” Anjali spoke sweetly and Amma smiled at her.
“Nand Kishore..! Payaliya, bring water..!” Buwaji yelled. “Happy Diwali..!” Anjali greeted everyone. Mami sat there with grumpy face. Khushi was still inside cleaning the sweet syrup from her body talking to her Devi Mayya angrily. There was no hot water. She had to have a cold water bath shivering all over. She was rubbing soap and muttering furiously.
“Ab yeh Rakshas Gaadi Dhonay kay paise bhi Lagayaga!” She muttered. “I don’t know for how much i am indebted to him. May be a lac rupees? Or even more? I don’t know. I will have to ask him the account statement..! This Laad Governer...! I have to pay him back as soon as possible..!” she muttered rubbing her dress with soap.
“Yeh Dress toh gaya..!” she gave up finally.
“Jiji.. she called out keeping the bathroom door ajar!” Payal came.. “Jiji.. woh darawaja Band Karo naa! Humay Bahar aanaa hai!” she said in a whisper. Payal closed their room door behind her.
“Khushi came out. ASR had not yet returned..
“Aray, Khushi.. get ready!” Anjali said and Khushi looked at herself. “I am ready!” she said confused. “No I mean.. you are coming with us... !” said Anjali giggling and Khushi bit her tongue. She shuddered remembering the syrup and said..
“No! I will come in time.. you go ahead!” her cheeks grew pink in embarrassment.
“Aray.. Kya hua, NandKishore!” Buwaji looked at Khushi. “Nahaike Kyun Aai ho? NandKishore!” she asked loudly and Khushi’s ears grew red.
“Aray.. she bathed with sugar syrup..!” Anjali said giggling and Mami had a smile on her face. Buwaji looked confused. Anjali narrated the incidence and she burst out in laughter.
“Aray... yeh paramesari... can’t do anything straight... always messes up...!” she said laughing her heart out.
“Even in childhood... yeh titaliya.. !” she started off with Khushi’s childhood stories to her embarrassment.
“Yeh Sanaka Devi... I tell you... She is a tornado... Kab Sanakaygi Kuch bol Nahi Sakatay, Nandkishore..! She is unpredictable..! She needs a person who will control her...! Otherwise... Nandkishore..!” Buwaji started off.
“Woh.. Sham Babua.. hi Usay Sambha Sakata Hai... Ek baar Inaki..Shaadi..!” Buwaji was cut off in between..
“Rahanay dijiye naa Buwaji..! they are getting late!” Khushi tried to stop Buwaji weakly holding her hand. She saw his figure at the door and got up stuggling.
“Aa .. Aaiye..!” she welcomed him. He looked at her sternly.
“What happened?” Asked Mamaji. Khushi held the tea cup and he refused to have it.
“Without sugar!” she murmured, he ignored, she frowned, he smirked! Amma came with mithai packets.
“We didn’t prepare much this year. But these are Lacknowee special sweets... and these are with sugar free. Khushi prepared specially...!” she said looking at Khushi fondly. ASR raised his eyebrow looking at her and she blushed.
“Yeah..! This Sanakaa devi... prepares everything double... one sugar free and one sweet!” Buwaji said and Anjali raised her eyebrows looking at her younger brother.
“No.. I mean... people are health conscious ... so made them... demand...trial..!” her voice trailed looking at his flared up nose. “Now what did I do wrong?” she didn’t know. He got up.
“Let’s go!” He said sternly..! Everyone got up to go. He looked at Babuji’s room and barged in. Khushi gaped with her mouth falling open. Within a few seconds he came out ready to do.
“Chalo..!” he looked at her. “What?” she looked confused.
“Aray.. she is not coming now! She will come later!” Anjali said getting up holding Aakash’s hand. Aakash stole a glance at Payal. They both were very conscious about Mami’s presence avoiding to look at each other. Arnav looked at Khushi.
“Chalo!” he ordered. Her mouth fell open. “Aray, Khushi.. get ready and go with them..!” Amma pushed her. She looked at him angrily.. Payal went behind her to help her get ready.
“Khushi came out with the morning red saree letting her hair lose... the curly hairlocks dangling merrily on her forehead with a red stone studded bindi and matching bangles tinkling in sweet melody. His mouth fell open. He was completely stunned.
“Aray wah! Khushi... you look so beautiful..!” Anjali cupped her face on his behalf. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. She blushed competing with her red saree, her cheeks grew red. She was wearing the same morning saree little differently, not pinning the pallu in folds but letting it rest on her elbow. The mesmerizing charm was broken by Mami’s disdainful whip..
“Ek hi Acchi Sadi Hain? Hello hi bye bye?” she asked and Khushi looked startled.
“Let us go!” he barked and she followed him.
“um.. Anjali ji.. I mean .. Can I... umm.. I mean Can I sit here with you?” she stuttered, stealing a glance at him. She didn’t want to sit with him at the back. Anjali nodded and Mami frowned.
“Nahi... !” she put her foot down and Khushi reluctantly went behind. The hatch was open and he was already in waiting. “Careful..!” he whispered when again she stepped over her pallu losing her balance. He helped her holding her hand. She blushed. He forgot to release the grip. They were facing each other and he was gazing at her mesmerised. She was looking down this time very careful not to brush with his knees. They didn’t know when they came to Raizada House.. “Shantivan..!” where Lavanya was waiting for Khushi to help her get ready for the party..!