Chapter 7: The one with the stroll
"Khushi weren't you going to go to church today? That was the excuse you gave me for not coming to the mall, was it not?" Payal asked
"Yes, jiji, I went there but on our way back home, dada's bike had gotten a puncture. That's when we met NK and Aakash. They were nice enough to promise us a ride home."
"Khushi you are lucky it was these two, they are nice guys, but what have I told you? You can't trust people so easily, getting in a car without after thought. You were promised a ride home, and then they bring you here all alone, why didn't you react?"
"She's not alone, I'm here with her. Payal, did you really think that I would leave Khushi alone? I love her, you know that." Dada said quickly to help Khushi
"Oh, I didn't see you Dada, sorry. How are you? Payal asked a bit ashamed.
Before Dada could respond. Anjali spoke up: "Payal, for heavens sake can you continue your big sister routine later? I don't want to stay in the sun and ruin my perfect complexion. Come on NK, take our bags and put them in the trunk."
Nk did as he was told, he quickly took the bags (while cursing and saying, girls don't care how much their things weigh, they know they can make a poor sucker carry them). When the car was fully loaded with the hundred bags the two girls had managed to acquire in a span of two hours, all of them noticed the small predicament they faced. They were in total seven and the jeep only had room for five. That literally meant that two of them would have to find another form of transportation. They watched each other for some time, no one seemed willing to give up their ride. Waiting for someone else to offer their seat up.
Khushi watched every one a bit amused and then spoke up: "Jiji and I can walk, our home is close from here. Isn't that right?"
Payal simply nodded her head to indicate her consent, while smiling. But Anjali wasn't having this, she had come with her friend and she didn't want her annoying little sister getting in the way of their day out. Payal always brought her along, and today finally when she had gotten a chance to spend some time with Payal without Khushi. Here she was again, interfering. To be honest Anjali wasn't the only one saddened by the prospect of Payal leaving, but the other person stayed true to himself and kept quiet. But to his relief anjali took hold of the situation, in the only way she knew how. Being overly sweet on the outside, hiding God knows what inside.
"But Payal, I don't think your cute Dada will be conformable to go with us without one of you. Also you have so many bags, how will you two carry them? They are quite heavy you know (A amen sister could be heard from NK at this point). And not to mention, how hard it will be for NK to take them out again while making sure that they really are your and not mine. And even if we forget that, how can we let to girls walk when there are boys here. No, no I won't have it. You were supposed to come to my place and it's best we stick to that plan. I would therefore recommend that we let Khushi walk with one of the boys. We both know how found she is of walking, she has told us that a multiple times."
Arnav had kept his mouth shut for what seemed like an eternity. He had had it with these idiots. He would get back at Aakash and NK later. They were supposed to rescue him from a girls day out, not bring more girls and with that more problems. For now he would settle with just leaving. And clearly they weren't going to come to a conclusion soon enough for him. He sighed and spoke up:
"Why don't you all continue planning while I leave."
"Oh that settles it then, Chotte and Khushi will walk and the rest of us can take the car. We'll drop Their Dada home and come and pick Chotte"
"Di, I didn't mean that I'll go with her, I simply wanted to let you know that I'm leaving."
"Don't be silly, you'll escort her home. And that's final."
"Fine, I'll go with her, but there is no need to get me, I'll manage."
Anjali was amused by the turn of events, not only did she get Khushi of her and Payal's back. She just made sure that Khushi's walk home, was going to be anything but pleasant. Arnav couldn't say no to her, but that didn't mean he was going to be nice about it.
Khushi just wanted to get home, she didn't really care who was coming with her. She would have preferred walking alone, but life had a tendency of giving her lemons. She only wanted to know if her Dada was okay with this, and seeing him smile she decided all is well.
Everyone said their goodbyes and the car drove off. This left the two of them alone. Both didn't know if they should say something or simply keep quiet. Neither of them wanted to speak to the other one, but perhaps they should. It was after all a fifteen minute walk.
Khushi looked hesitantly at Arnav and started to walk, she didn't wait to see if he joined her. She wasn't really bothered, either the brat would follow her or not, what difference would it make really? She could take care of herself, and his company wasn't desired. You may say a necessary evil. She had met him a couple of times now, first at the club, then in college and lastly when she had accompanied her jiji to Anjali's home. And every time, he had managed to rattle her one way or the other. At the club, he had dragged her away when she was dancing, in college he had ignored her when she had tried to be nice and say hello and at home he had gone too far. When he had seen her at his place he had declared loudly and condescendingly: "What's wrong with our security, they let just about anybody enter." The more she thought about it the angrier did she get. She decided that she didn't need to talk to him, after all he was such a……what is the word for it….hmm….laad…..laad governor, that's right, he believed himself to be better then people, so that was the perfect name for him. She beamed at her own sheer brilliance.
Arnav saw the silly girl starting to walk without even saying a simple, let's go. She was so damn irritating, hell she was more then that, she was full on infuriating. She seemed to have some personal vendetta against him. Every time he had the unfortunate experience of meeting her, she somehow managed to multiply the disgust she showed him. At the club, when he tried to help her getting ride of that sleaze guy , she snapped at him. Then at their college she first said hello to him and when he nodded a hi back, she just kept on walking by. And the last straw was when she came to his house, he was casually talking to NK about a incident they had had in their house, she gave him a look so full of resentment, it almost shock him. Who do she think she is? No, one comes to his house and behaves this way. And today, when his doing his Di a favor and walking her home, she doesn't even have the decency to address him. He watered of this "pagal", but he had to listen to his Di. So, he put his personal feelings aside and said:
"Hey, wait up Khushi. We are supposed to walk together. What's the rush?"
"You don't have to walk with me, I know the way. You can leave and to what ever it is you do."
""Actually, I have to walk with you. I never disobey my Di. Since we have to tolerate each other. Can't we make the best out of it?
"Sure, but are you certain you want to risk being seen with just about anybody. Don't blame me later."
"Khushi, I don't even know what that means, but for the sake of argument. Why not? I'm ready to risk it."
"Your choice, don't say I didn't warn you. So, what would you like to talk about?"
"Anything will do. Why don't you tell me what you think about Delhi. Are you missing Lucknow?"
"I didn't know you knew where I was from. And of course I'm missing lucknow, that's home. But delhi is growing on me, I have met some really nice people here."
"Well thank you miss Khushi, happy to improve the impression of a city."
"Oh your such a laad governor, I didn't mean you, I meant my dada. He's so adorable and his taken me in and treats me as a real grandchild. And some of the regulars at the caf, they always leave huge tips."
"Ouch that hurt, you prefer an old man compared to the great what did you call me….laad governor? You really are an complete pagal. He isn't your real dada then, but you surely must miss your real one and your parents. That's what makes Lucknow home, right?
As Arnav said the last words he saw Khushi's happy face change emotion, he couldn't pin point what it was. Maybe a combination of hurt, pain and loss. He wasn't good with emotions but he wasn't totally handicapped either. Therefore he decided to not pursue this specific subject further. He started to talk about anything he could think of; the weather, yesterday's cricket match, how there are too many malls in delhi etc. etc. He also covered the basic everyday questions as: "What time did you get up?" "What are you plans for today?" "What did you have for lunch?"
Khushi hadn't known what to answer when he asked about her family. She wasn't comfortable discussing it with a almost stranger. Especially not one she disliked. But then she noticed how he caught on what she was feeling. And his efforts to change the subject and help her avoid the question. Her dislike instantly turned into gratitude. She started enjoying their trivial conversation. He wasn't as bad as she thought. The laad governor had potential. She found herself wondering, how much potential? They had talked non stop and the next time she looked up she saw her buildings front door. The stroll that had started as an necessary evil, had now become an pleasant affair. She didn't want it to end. This day had turned out beyond expectations. First she had the pleasure of meeting Lily Dadi and now he had maybe found a friends in laad governor. She wasn't sure but she wanted to explore the options. After that her mouth started to speak in it's own account.
"Actually Arnav, I haven't had lunch. Would you like to join me, if you don't have any other plans?"
Arnav was more then surprised by the change in her behavior. This pagal had gone from unfriendly to super social in a matter of minutes. He welcomed the change though. He had enjoyed their walk and he liked the idea of it continuing. He on the other hand had already eaten, but she didn't know that. And he was a young and health guy, of course he had room for more food. He actually had more room for Khushi.
"Sure why not, I know a good Chinese restaurant nearby."
"No, no restaurant, we'll eat street food. It tastes so much better and comes at a fraction of the price."
And once again Arnav was reminded that he and khushi couldn't be friends. The girl was pagal and wanted to (food) poison him intentionally.