Khushi got startled when the vehicle stopped suddenly.
‘What happened Arnavji? Why did you hit the brakes? Did anything come in front?’ asked Khushi and tried to stretch her neck to get a better view of the road in front of the SUV.
‘No Khushi, there is nothing there. But, you tell me, what did you just say?’
‘What? What did I say? … Only that I wanted to go home and take rest … What’s wrong in that?’
‘No, not that. After that what did you say?’
‘Af…ter … that? Oh, after that I said Naniji and Di would be happy to hear the news.’
‘And, then?’ asked Arnav. ‘And then what, nothing else’ declared Khushi.
‘Khushi, you said that Nani and Di would be happy when I told them the news. ‘
‘Yes, so?’ inquired Khushi
‘Khushi, why would I tell them? You would be telling, isn’t it?’
‘Arnavji, what are you saying? How will I tell them? It will sound so odd! What will I say, that ‘Naniji, Di, I am pregnant’. It sounds so blatant and unabashed … I can’t do that!’ explained Khushi
Arnav thought for a second. Of course, Khushi is right. How can she tell them? It would look so absurd.
Khushi continued, ‘Arnavji, why won’t you tell them? It shouldn’t be difficult for you. You’ve always talked to them about lot of things, then why not this?’ Then after a thought, she continued, ‘I hope … you are not worried about Di … because you needn’t. She will really be happy … Trust me.’
‘You are right, Khushi. I was not thinking. Actually, I hadn’t thought about it at all. And no, I am not worried about Di. I know she will be very happy. I am just thinking about how to tell them this good news … … Don’t worry … we both will tell them together. Okay?’ asked Arnav placing his palm on her cheek.
Khushi smiled and nodded. Arnav started driving the SUV. As the vehicle made its way homewards, both were now lost in thoughts.
Khushi immediately started thinking about Di. She knew Di would be happy. Her thoughts went back to the day after Payal and Akash left for USA. Khushi was feeling low. It had been 18 hours since the flight departure and she was desperate to talk to her Jiji. Feeling her sadness, Nani and Anjali came to pacify her.
‘Khushi bitiya, don’t worry. As soon as they land, Akash will call and you can talk to your Jiji. I know both you and Payal have always been together. You are both very lucky that both of you sisters are married into the same family’ said Nani.
‘I know, Naniji. I am fine. It is only that, I have never spent so many hours without talking to her. She would listen to all my blabbering. And now I am feeling odd that I have to wait for so long to even hear her voice.’
Nani smiled. ‘Why, Anjali and me are there to listen to your blabbering, isn’t it? … … Khushi bitiya, do you know, when I got married, I used to miss everyone, especially my sister very much. I used to cry almost everyday thinking of her. But, after some time, when I got pregnant with Anjali’s mother, everything changed. My priorities, responsibilities, etc. etc. Not that I forgot my sister or didn’t miss her, but other things took over and I didn’t feel so sad.’
‘Hmm … So, all Khushiji has to do is give us a good news very quickly and everything will be fine. What do you have to say to that, Khushiji?’ Anjali exclaimed.
Hearing that Khushi blushed. ‘Nani, did you see that? So, Khushiji knows how to blush! Hmm …’ Anjali started teasing Khushi. Khushi felt very shy and went away from the room. But, she could hear Anjali’s laughter as she ran away from there.
Now, sitting in the SUV, lost in Di’s thoughts, Khushi could hear the same laughter echoing in her ears and a shy smile came over her face. She leaned backwards, rested her head on the head rest and closed her eyes to relax.
Arnav too was lost in thoughts. He couldn’t understand why he was feeling uneasy at the thought of conveying the good news. Khushi was right. He could always tell them anything before – good ones, bad ones, harsh ones – whether they liked it or not. Why, he had even told them that he didn’t want to marry Lavanya, but would rather live in with her. But then, the reasons for such behavior were different. He was trying to run away from a strong feeling, a pull, a desire that he felt for this jhalli girl who had fallen in his arms that night in Lucknow in Sheesh Mahal. She had been slowing invading his mind, his senses ever since, pushing behind all bad memories that he had had since he was a 14 year old. That very same jhalli girl was now his love, his wife sitting next to him in his SUV, and soon she would be the mother of his child.
Arnav was elated at that very thought. He turned sideways to look at his wife. She had dozed off, perhaps listening to the soft instrumental music that was playing in the car. It had been a hectic day after all, for both of them.
But, now he had a bigger task lying ahead. How was he supposed to tell them? He started feeling awkward. ‘Awkward? Why dammit?’ he thought. But, there had always been those little things that he couldn’t say, which normally people could. He had to practice in front of the mirror to say sorry to Khushi. He couldn’t say ‘I love you’ to Khushi very easily. Atleast not until he looked into the nozzle of a gun pointed at him and contemplated death. He had to say those magical three words that his heart was wanting to tell all along.
He hadn’t yet learnt to say Happy Birthday. But, he had been trying, slowly. Learning to do those things which people would normally do. He was changing, more so, ever since Khushi became part of his life. Somewhere along the way, being with Khushi, he found his lost childhood. He became that 14 year old at times, asking Nani to prepare her special delicacies, joking about Di’s religious procedures, recalling all the pranks he played on Akash and so on. And now this boy was going to be a father. How is he supposed to say that? The 14 year old boy in him was making it all awkward. But, he had to. And he decided he wouldn’t make it too difficult.
Arnav parked the SUV gently in the RM parking lot. He turned to look at Khushi. She was still sleeping, resting her head on the window. Few strands of her hair were dangling on her forehead, concealing partly the view of her beautiful face. Arnav leaned forward and put those strands behind her ear.
‘Khushi’, he called softly
‘Wake up. We’re home.’
~ ~ ~
… To be continued …