Joined: 24 January 2012
5 months later
Khushi searched around the whole festively decorated great hall of Shantivan for her husband with restless eyes. She hadn't seen him for the past one hour or so since her God Bharai rituals have started. Her lips twitched with barely controlled giggles as she remembered how some of his elder relatives had teased him, with Nani leading them on, when he had first come down, helping her get down the stairs to get to the temporary stage made in the middle of the hall for her to sit on. Now, in hindsight, she could appreciate the fact that what an absolute sweetheart her husband had been, to brave the journey to a hall full of women just looking for the opportunity to tease him to death, just so he could make sure that she was comfortably seated & didn't need anything else. She also realized that she shouldn't have laughed so mercilessly at his obvious discomfort, but as she remembered the redness of his cheek at one of his distant maternal Grandmother's comment, accompanied with a wink, about how they thought their Chhote would never even marry & in reality Chhote was such a Chhupa Rustam that they were now all gathered here today to celebrate the arrival of Chhote's Chhote! He had all but sprinted from the hall after that.
But now that he wasn't here, Khushi missed him terribly as she heard another lady whisper in her left ear the same thing she had heard atleast 50 times in the last one hour, "May you get a healthy baby who is just as brilliant & exceptional, but a little less moody than its father." She smiled thankfully at the lady, & thought back to the past five months. Yes, exceptional was the word for her husband alright. None of the residents of Shantivan, including herself, can still believe how Arnav has taken care of his moody, emotional, & at times downright irrational wife throughout her whole pregnancy. She still can't believe Arnavji had stopped drinking his most favorite black coffee at home, after finding out the smell makes her feel unbelievably nauseating, & now he only drinks it when he's in the office.
Khushi felt a glowing sense of happiness warming her insides as she remembered how much time her Arnavji had spent with her in these past months. He hadn't missed a single antenatal visit of hers, being there with her every time, on time, no matter how many meetings he had to reschedule or cancel due to this. When they had got the first snapshot of his kiddo which was very distinct & featured her head, arms, legs, hands, and feet, he had carried it around the whole day, going over from people to people, first in Shantivan & then to the absolute horror of his employees, in his office, & showing off his little angel's beautiful features to everyone. & Khushi got to know from Akaash that although most of them couldn't make out anything distinguished in the snapshot, everyone swore that this baby was the most beautiful one they had ever seen in their life. In the end, Khushi had to forbid him from showing the snap off to everyone who came in the office after a very distressed Aman called her up one day, complaining to her how ASR had almost bit off the head of their accounts head, after poor old man had failed to place the baby in the snap & praised her beauty by placing his finger on a distant spot on the snap.
Khushi was smiling thinking of the incident of how he had reacted to her ban on showing off his kiddo's beauty, when she saw him coming down the stairs, dressed in casuals, with the most adorable accessory in his arms, Ananya. Anjali's daughter has come a long way from when she had first come into this house, & she bears full proof to the statement that, nothing is more nurturing for a child than unconditional & absolute love. She was practically blooming like a flower in Arnav's casual hold of her tiny body & as soon as she located her mother & both Mami's sitting on the low stage, she almost jumped out of Arnav's arms to settle herself into the lap of one of them, any one of them. Arnav stopped at her wiggling motions & turned his head to fully look at her, then he said in a dry voice with a genuinely incredulous expression on his face, "That doesn't hurt my feelings at all now! Here I am, walking up & down the whole of the second floor just to calm down your fidgeting & the moment you lay eyes on them, I might as well be obsolete!" Then with a parting kiss on the top of the little girl's curly-haired head, he dropped her on Payal's lap & without any politeness towards any of the ladies present there, he came & took Khushi's hand in his own & looked at Anjali to ask, "It's time. Are you done with all the rituals that are supposed to bless them both?"
Even before Anjali could nod in a 'yes', Arnav tugged at Khushi's hand, prompting her to move. Then he came forward & with his other hand under her elbow, helped Khushi stand up on her slightly swollen feet. As Khushi stood up & looked down the length of herself, she couldn't believe how much like a fat-bellied barrel she looked in the blood-red Lehenga. But before she could deliberate on that more, she felt Arnav tugging her towards him, & as she descended from the stage by keeping her hand on his shoulder for support, she felt his hand go around her waist to steady her & suddenly she felt his breath fanning her cheeks as he whispered only for her ears, "You look SO beautiful. Why did I ever let you come out of the bedroom to this circus, I have no idea!" & then he openly laughed as Khushi blushed a delicate pink.
As Arnav helped Khushi up the stairs, he asked her teasingly, "Had enough fun, being the centre of all that attention, while I was saddled with Anya, who as it turns out doesn't even like me that much when it comes to her Mom & Mamis." & Khushi laughed at his annoyed expression, "You know very well that she's smitten with you. It's just that she hasn't seen us since long as we were all busy with preparing for the functions." & then she fixed him with a pointed stare as she reasoned, "& you were only asked to babysit Ananya, beacuse she likes you better than her Nanny & you were the one who didn't go to office like Jijaaji & Mamaji, just because there was a ladies' function at home."
Arnav's lips twitched in an amused smile at his wife's well aimed jibe, & as he pulled Khushi closer to his side, he asked, cautiously keeping the humor out of his voice, "When I was coming down with Anya, I saw that lady whisper something in your ears. What did she say?" Khushi smiled & as she looked up at him, her eyes twinkled, "Same thing that every other lady has been saying to me all evening. That, may our baby be just like you. In each & every way. You see, pretty much all of them think you're perfect." & she flashed him a brilliant smile as she came to a halt in her speech, letting him know that she, indeed, was included among one of those ladies who thought he was perfect. But her husband showed none of the gratefulness she thought he should have shown because of being thought of as 'perfect'. Wasn't he a perfectionist when it came to his family & work? Then why did he look mildly irritated right now?
Khushi knew exactly why her husband looked irritated when he spoke next, "I don't want that." & when from Khushi's frown he deduced she wasn't following him, he elaborated, "I don't want kiddo to be like me. I want her to be beautiful, kind, smart, generous & loving. Much like her mother actually. Preferably less crazy, but definitely as spunky as her mother is." his eyes, that were on her, were full of such raw adoration that Khushi felt almost giddy. She looked over her shoulder & saw everyone was busy downstairs chatting with each other. Khushi hastily leaned over & pressed a kiss on the corner of his lips.
Once they were in the corridor leading to their room, when Khushi turned towards the door of their bedroom, she felt Arnav stop her by pulling her from behind. She looked at him questioningly & he said, with his face revealing no clues to her, "Come on. I gotta show you something." Khushi's brows furrowed, now what? Then she shook her head a bit wearily & said in a tired voice, "Ok, but I have to visit the washroom first. It's been almost an hour & your kiddo seems to think my bladder is something it can use as a makeshift punching bag." Hearing this Arnav hasitily openned the door to their room & helped her towards the washroom. On her way there, Khushi looked at him thoughtfully & said, "You know what, she is already too much like you! Giving her mother a tough time & using her as a punching bag in the first nine months of meeting her. Didn't you do something much like that?" she said with a clearly laughing voice. But one look at Arnav's gloomy expression after hearing her words told her, her attempt at levity wasn't well received by her husband.
Arnav averted his wife's eyes, looked ahead & asked drily, "Was it a joke?" Khushi gulped as she reached the door of the washroom, she held the doorjamb with one hand & turned to face him, smiling a bit pacifyingly, "Got it?" Arnav watched her smile falter & said drily, "When the joke is too close to the real truth, it's a bit hard to see the funny side of it." & as he saw her expression fall dramatically, he walked up to her & gently started removing the thin veil that Payal & Anjali had put over her head before the rituals of the function started, taking off the pins very carefully so as not to hurt her. After it was removed, he carelessly tossed the veil away on the floor behind & said slowly, "We have come a long way with each other, Biwi, to be able to take a few painful jokes from each other, even when sometimes they sound like smartly intended taunts." & he pulled her face towards him with a hand cupping her jaw to kiss he forehead. Khushi immediately started with her denials, "No I wasn't..." Then as she saw the knowing smile in his eyes, she pouted, "Ok! So what if I was? I have only one husband & he has been known to be pretty mean to me! So what if I taunt him every now & then about it?" Arnav laughed at her sudden wifeliness & turned her to go inside the washroom with an order for her to be careful.
Ten minutes later, when Khushi stood against the closed door of the bedroom next to theirs, which she had been denied access to for the last couple of months, she couldn't believe she was actually gonna see what was inside. Every member of the household, even HP, had maintained careful watch of her movements during these months to see to it that, she was in no condition to enter the room, before it was fully done. This was to be their baby's nursery. Every member of the family had contributed to decorate the room, with Anjali being the chief decorator & Arnav being the furniture supplier. Khushi looked at Arnav questioningly, asking silently, 'Are you sure you want me to see it today?'
Arnav reached forward to turn the door handle while he asked a question of his own, "What is today's date?" Khushi looked at him quizzically, wondering what today's date had to do with her viewing the nursery. Then she answered, shrugging a little, "15?" Arnav looked at her & smiled, saying, "Then tomorrow will be 16. 16 July." Then he pushed the door open & moving her inside the room with a little nudge, he switched on the light while whispering in her ears, "Happy Birthday, Biwi."
Khushi gasped loudly as she saw the breathtakingly beautiful room in the glow of the softly illuminating light. It was in a word heart-warming, decorated in soft tones of pink & gold. A soft-pink & golden cot lining the wall of one side of the room, & a plush queen-size pink armchair with a pink footrest in front of it placed just beside the cot. There was even a swinging armchair in front of the French widows covering an entire side of the room, There was a fully functional, compact, changing station beside a medium sized wardrobe. Khushi noted with amusement that, these two were also somehow adorned in pink & gold. She found a little bassinette covered in pink frills in one corner of the room for bathing the baby in it.
There were a baby bottle sterilizer with a set of 6 different sizes bottles inside it, a bottle warmer & a small electric water heater jug placed side by side atop a little counter. Khushi went over to the table & stood over it with her hand on her hips, her back had now started to ache a little with the constant sitting on the low stool for the past couple of hours, then she looked back at her husband & said in an amazed voice, "Arnavji, I don't even know how to use all these!" She turned again to survey the alien array of appliances.
She felt Arnav's hand at her lower back & then he gently started to rub in slow circular motions of his hands. Khushi leaned back against the welcome pressure of his hands as she thought of how generous her Arnavji had been with his latenight Gol Gappe & Cup-cake runs, & his backrubs & foot rubs since she had started complaining about aches in her back & her swollen feet. Then Khushi smiled a secret smile, thinking of how every time he took her feet in his hands to massage them, she still remembered of that Diwali night, when she had hurt her ankle & he had taken her left foot in his hands to twist it better. She came back to present suddenly when she heard Arnav saying calmly, "I also don't know how to use them. We'll learn together by reading the manuals."
Arnav didn't know what happened then, but suddenly his wife moved away to free her lower back from his clutches & then she turned swiftly & hugged him to her with all her might. His immediate thought was to check if she was crying, & when he satisfied himself that she wasn't, just standing there with her cheek firmly pressed to his chest, he tried to coax her to look up at him, so that he could see her face to gather what's got into her. Khushi slowly looked up at Arnav as he cupped her cheeks to ease her & she smiled at him. Then suddenly her smile turned to naughtiness after she noticed the concern in his eyes, & she laughed as she said, "Nothing! You know my hormones these days! We just can't get enough of you!!" & as she saw Arnav's lips curve into a relieved smile too, she hugged him briefly again, saying, "Thank you. This is the best birthday gift I've ever got. It's even better than your 2lakh rupees' hand bag!"
This time Arnav openly laughed as he remembered what a debacle they both had made of her last birthday. Then he pulled back from her, & said while going over to the dresser, "But this room is actually a gift from the whole household. & this is especially from me. For you." He opened one door of the dresser & pulled out a musical mobile made of small stars.
The golden & silver stars were so delicately pretty that Khushi found herself mesmerized by the glint of them. Khushi touched the light stars with the tips of her fingers & marvelled at the soothingly tinkling sound they made. Then she noticed something & suddenly she pulled back & pouted at Arnav, "But this is for hanging over the cot! & you said this was for me? It's clearly not Arnavji!" She tried to move away as she pretended to be a little hurt by the deceit she accused him of. But Arnav was too quick for her, now that she didn't have the same agility in her movements as she did 4-5 months before. He easily caught her arm before she could move futher away & pulled her closer gently, but firmly, brushing aside her puny efforts at resistance.
"Look at them, Biwi. What are they?" he asked her indicating towards the stars. When Khushi continued to just stare at him through narrowed eyes, he cupped her face with his free hand. "Stars!! & what do they represent to you?" & this time before Khushi could even begin to answer, he wound both his hands around her & his kiddo, with the chime still clutched in his hand, & said with his lips against her temple, "I thought kiddo should have her grandparents around her, to watch over her, just like her mother has them around her."
Arnav felt Khushi suddenly grip his waist very tightly as she hid her face in his chest & he felt her mumbling something rapidly against his neck & smiling fondly at his wife's craziness, he just gathered her more securely in the circle of his arms, running his hand through her hair in a wordless caress. What he didn't know was, this time his wife wasn't being crazy, she was just thanking her lucky stars, her deceased parents, her favorite Devi Maiyya, & every other deity she had ever heard of for watching over her, for being so kind to her & for giving her such a magnanimous Rajkumar who frequently made her feel like such a precious creature, that sometimes she felt she would just have to spend the rest of her life thanking the divine spirits & even then it wouldn't be enough. & as she pressed her lips to his chest through the opening of his shirt, she said a thousand times in her heart, "Arnavji, I love you. I love you. I love you, Damn it!"
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