On RBO anniversary, I dedicate an OS that has characters from original show ...Shantanu and Khanak...hence the dialogues are in Hindi... As you know, that I write exclusively in English, so writing Hindi dialogues was a tough task and took so much time. Spare me on mistakes there. The story goes on from where Odhani went off air... around 11 months later, in their life ...****
** Everything I do...**
Since an hour Khanak had been sitting still on the bed, holding a pillow close to her ……focused nowhere, lost in her thoughts and wondering what to do, next.
Shantanu had been sitting on the couch, writing mails on his laptop, checking messages and replying to them, though his attention drifted to his wife, after every few minutes. He had been observing her since evening and knew that she was restless. He had talked to her and she had assured him that she was fine. But he knew that she had said it just like that, simply to make him feel better. They had dinner with everyone downstairs, later came upstairs and then became busy with the chores like changing the clothes of the twins, their little ones….. feeding them and putting them to sleep on their cozy bed.
Finally, Shantanu got some time free for himself. He opened his laptop as he settled on the couch facing the bed but his mind was not in his work. He could see her worried and upset, sitting right across him, on the bed and he couldn't concentrate, anymore. It had been an hour now and he finally decided that he needed to talk to her again.
"Ji……" Instantly her mind stopped racing back and forth and she was back to her role of a being a devoted wife, wondering if her husband needed something.
"Main kaam nahi kar pa raha hu, yaar ……!!" He complained in a helpless tone.
"Kuch chahiye aapko……" She was immediately attentive and prepared to get up, assuming a request for coffee which he sometimes loved to have while composing his tunes or working on the internet, late at night.
"Nahi !! Mujhe kuch nahi chahiye. Aur tum mere baare mein sochna band karo. Main kaam isliye nahi kar pa raha hu kyunki tum pareshaan ho !"
"Main thik hu, Shantanu !" She lied, with a nod, telling herself more than him that she was fine.
He slightly turned his neck to look at her and smiled at the sweet lies she spoke everyday, for others, to make them happy and stressfree, neglecting her wishes, her desires and even her ambitions. She observed him looking at her with a warm smile on his face and that made her smile too…..but rather sheepishly.
"Aap aise kyu dekh rahe hai ? Maine kaha na ki main thik hu."
"Tum kyu jhooth bol rahi ho, Khanak ?"
"Err………woh……." She hesitated to speak and then lowered her neck to avoid meeting his gaze. He could read her like an open book and to lie to him was not only futile but embarrassing too. He had always caught her and later, he either teased her about it or talked constantly so that she was relieved.
Once again, like always, he kept everything aside to come and sit beside her. She had been hoping for him to come and sit with her but didn't want to disturb him. But like always, he knew what he should do to relieve her. She didn't raise her neck but kept looking at her hands in her lap. He was facing her and he stretched his hand to take her hands in his own and asked, "Tumhe Delhi jana hai na ? Toh problem kya hai ?"
"Shantanu, aap jaante hai ki main nahi ja sakti hu……" She raised her eyes and looked at him. The sad look in her eyes was clearly visible even though she tried hard to hide it in a fake smile that she always put for benefit for others. And almost everyone fell for that fake but enchanting smile from her, except him, who was never satisfied unless he had it in the purest of forms……nothing less than a genuine and honest smile pleased him.
"Kyu nahi ja sakti ?" He asked in a soft voice. And she couldn't explain the roller coaster of emotions going through her. She got up and spoke in an irritated voice, "Bas, nahi ja sakti. Baar baar kyu pooch rahe hai ?" She walked up to the dressing table and picked up his belongings, his wallet, his watch, his aviators and phone to keep them in an arranged manner in one corner, an act simply done to distract herself and appear busy. Even he knew very well, that she was simply trying to avoid him, by doing this and appear engaged in something.
She kept cleaning the dressing table for a few seconds and he observed her keenly before forming sentences using the random words darting through his mind.
"Main sun rahi hu !" She whispered softly.
"Yahan aake baitho……"
She remained busy in arranging the table, "Aap boliye……"
"Dekho Khanak, mujhe lagta hai ki yeh ek bahut bada mauka hai jo tumhe nahi chorhna chahiye. Tum kitni mehnat karti ho slums ke chotey baccho ke liye…..ki yeh log padhey, ……likhe…….kuch seekhe…… and kya kahte hai usko….. 'self-dependent' ko……?"
She smiled and answered, "Aatm-nirbhar….."
"Haan……wahiii !!" He smiled widely with sparkling eyes, smartly avoiding the torture of having to repeat the difficult Hindi word, "woh ban jaaye !!!……and tumne itna time diya hai apni organization ko…… apne kaam mein itni jaan laga di hai ……ab agar woh log chahte hain ki Delhi ke seminar mien tum ek speech do, toh socho yeh kitna bada saamaan hai ?"
She grinned and raised herself to come and sit on the bed, facing him, "Saamaan nahi Shantanu, …….'Sammaan'….." and giggled with it.
"Arrey yaar !! Main tumhe kuch samjhaa raha hu aur tum meri Hindi mein galtiyan dhoondh rahi ho !!" He spoke with a fake irritation, making her grin more. She was always better after talking to him. Whether the problem was solved or not was a totally different issue. But talking to him was therapeutic even if it was for a few minutes. He had never let her remain upset for a long time.
Adoringly, she looked at him and asked, "Toh aap hi bataiye ne ki main kya karu ?"
"Karna kya hai ? Jao Delhi and ek aisi speech do ki duniya hil jaaye….." he used his hands with that for effect.
She laughed again at the way he said it. The fact that she was smiling again made her feel proud of him, and revel in the glory that it had never happened that she was with him and had sulked for anything for long. He had a solution for every problem that she had. Though it couldn't be said the same for his own problems and he turned to her like a kid when he faced even a small problem in his life.
"Lekin kaise ? Seminar toh Next Sunday ko hai ?" She voiced her worry.
"Toh kya hua ?" He shrugged.
She nodded immediately, even without thinking and said, "Nahi !"
"Shantanu, Nahi !! Bas main nahi jaungi. Next Sunday ko aapke naye album ka music launch hai. Woh occasion chorker main kaise jaa sakti hu ?"
He teased her, with a wide smile, "Kya baat hai, Khanak ?? o.c.c.a.s.i.o.n?? Not bad !!"
She was embarrassed at this and whacked him at his arm, "Aap nahi sudhrenge, na ?"
"Ouch ! Mujhe thanks kahne ki bajaye, yeh salook kar rahi ho ?!! Tumhaari English perfect ho gayi hai na……ab kyu poochogi mujhe….??"
"Haan, sahi kaha !" She gazed deeply into his eyes and teased him back, with a grin, "Kaam pura ho gaya !! Aapse English seekhne ke alawa aur koi matlab nahi tha mujhe !! Jaiye abhi couch pe……wahi jagah hai aapki….."
He didn't remove his eyes and kept looking at her, chuckling softly. He had always loved it that she returned back to his remarks and teases with equally witty answers. He had never won after teasing her as she teased him back and usually she was the one who always had an upper hand in irritating him.
"Bahut smart ho gayi ho ?" He smirked and tried to hold her arm to draw her close to tackle her but she cleverly dodged it with a giggle.
"Ji haan….. 'smart' …..ishmart nahi……aapse bhi jyada !!"
"Is se pata chalta hai ki main kitna accha teacher hu."
"Ji nahi……main acchi student hu……"
"Arrey jao jao !!" He signaled with his hand to brush off her claims, while she grinned. He observed her for a while, as she laughed and her smile made him forget everything else. One stroke of destiny had made him the most fortunate person in this world and he was immensely thankful for that…….he always remembered his responsibility to keep this girl happy, as she had never thought twice before putting herself the last when it came to issues related to him and his family. And now after the twins, her life revolved only around Shantanu, kids and Khandelwals. Yet she managed to do things that made her feel she had a purpose in life. She had joined and organization and taught young kids from slums and helped them to become self dependent. Everyone supported her in Khandelwal family. Her efforts were widely appreciated and now she was asked to speak in an International seminar.
He became serious, "Khanak, tumhe jana chahiye !!"
"Main nahi jaungi." She nodded.
"Tum Delhi jaa rahi ho, bas !" he declared without waiting for her answer.
"Aapka music launch chorhker main nahi jaungi, Shantanu. Mere liye woh jyada zaroori hai !"
He spoke fast.…..in a flow,"Aur mere liye yeh jyada zaroori hai ki meri wife ko itna bada recognition mila hai. How can you leave this opportunity yaar ? International seminar hai yeh. Bahut saare log aayenge, videsho se delegates aa rahe hai and there is a representation from UNICEF. They'll be funding your organization….. You'll be speaking on stage and everyone will be listening to you. It's such an honour…..this is once in a life time opportunity."
She gaped at him in disbelief and shrugged, "Mujhe English aa gayi hai, iska matlab yeh nahi hai ki aap itni jaldi jaldi bolo. Thoda waqt lagta hai samajhne mein." She whined in complaint, as she was a little confused.
He laughed loudly and said, "Har koi ruk ruk ke, English ka ek ek word alag karke nahi bolta hai, Khanak. You…. know….. everything. Now… you …just…. need… to…. practice…and work ….. on…. speed ….."
"Ab……aa gaya samajh mein." She grinned happily in her own adorable trademark style.
"Thik hai……toh final ho gaya !"
"Nahi……aisey kaisey ?" She raised her hand in a question.
"Woh aise, ki seminar din mein hai aur Music launch raat ko."
"Toh ?? Main itni jaldi wapas kaise aaungi ?"
"Flight se ?"
She paused to stare at him as if he was speaking Greek. Holding her palm close on his forehead, as if to check if he was well, she raised her eyebrows.
"Aap mazak kar rahe hain na ??" She disregarded him with a fake smile and tried to get up again. He held her wrist and jerked her to sit back again with a confident smile on his face, "Nahi, Khanak. Main bilkul majak nahi kar raha hu !"
She could see the confident grin on his face and it terrified her all the more. She had been upset at both the events falling on the same day and had already made a decision to stay back with him and not go for the seminar. She would have never left his music album launch but having to leave her seminar was painful too….She had desired to go, had it been on any other day !!
His suggestion was not bad, it could make her attend both events, but something like traveling alone by an aeroplane was not less a small thing.
"Shantanu, hawai jahaz se ??" She opened her eyes wide and blinked several times, in refusal to believe if it was actually what he meant.
"Aapko pata hai na ki main kabhi 'hawai jahaj' mein nahi baithi hun ?"
"Haan, toh……. there is always a first time. And yahan toh majboori hai !"
"Mujhe bahut dar lagta hai, Shantanu."
"Jab kabhi baithi hi nahi, toh kis baat ka darr ?? Aise hi ?? Duur duur se ??" He smirked to tease her.
"Woh itna bada hota hai………itna upar…….aasmaan mein……??!!" She made him laugh more with her doubts and prejudices.
"Koi tumhe kha nahi jayega, Khanak. Mumbai airport so rozana sau se upar flights take off and land karti hai ! Koi itni badi baat nahi hai, jitna tum usko exaggerate kar rahi ho ?"
"Exaaa – kya ?"
"Exaggerate – matlab……badha chadha ke batana……."
"Main exa---ge – rate nahi kar rahi hu……mujhe sach mein darr lagta hai !" She was tensed now. She knew that, now that he had decided, he won't settle unless he sent her in the flight.
"Saara darr nikal jayega, ek baar travel karne ke baad. Andar se toh ekdum bus ke jaisa hi hota hai. Pata bhi nahi chalega ki aasmaan mein udd rahe hai."
"Lekin wahan kaise jaaker baithna hai, kahan jana hai, mujhe kaun batayega ?"
"Don't worry ! Main andar airport tak tumhare saath jaunga, boarding paas lekar tumhare haath mein dunga and tumhara saaman check-in karwa dunga. Sirf security check ke baad tumhe akele jana hoga. Wahan announcement hota rahega. Help ke liye crew hoga. Tum sirf us line mein khadi ho jana. Who khud tumhe aircraft mein le jayenge. It is easier that bus or train travel."
"Nahi, Shantanu !!" She tried to control her rapidly beating heart beats which were out of bounds by now.
This irritated him and he got up from her side of the bed, pulled a blanket with a jerk, and unfolded it to lie by his side, fuming in anger, "Tumhaari marzi !!"
For a moment, she was taken aback at his anger. He had one of those labile moods that went off and on at his will, leaving her clueless and zapped, sometimes. But she knew that his anger dissipated as quickly as it came. She just waited for him to calm down for a moment before she started pacifying him. He slowly walked towards his side and sat near him. He turned away.
"Arrey baap rey, itna gussa ??"
He turned to look at her and remarked, "Mujhe lagta tha ki tum bahut brave and strong ho……magar tum fattoo nikli….…."
"Main fattoo nahi hu !" Unknowingly, she transformed to her JKR avatar.
"Aur nahi toh kya ? Shahar ki saari padhi likhi ladkiya akele travel karti hain, subah se shaam tak har mushkil ka himmat se saamna karti hai……"
She challenged him, with a craving for appreciation from her husband, "Main bhi toh karti hu. Saara din akele travel karti hu……poore shahar mein apne kaam karti hu…..."
He hid a smile which had started creeping in subtly on watching her changed attitude, now fiercely defending herself. His trick had finally worked. But he didn't give in so easily and continued, "Mumbai mein akele travel karna kaun si badi baat hai ? Driver hai, gaadi hai…..nahi ho to public transport itna efficient hai, local trains and all……aur kuch nahi toh auto har jagah mil jaate hai……it's a big thing to travel out of town ……"
"Main bhi toh gayi hu….. akele……shaher se bahar ……." She blurted…..then immediately, she bit her lip, making him smirk.
He leapt to sit on the bed and grinned making gestures with his hands, "Arrey Haaan !!……main toh bhool hi gaya tha…………tum ghar kitni baar chorhker gayi ho, Khanak ??" He started teasing her by taking his right thumb across the fingers and started counting.
"Shut up, Shantanu !!" She whacked on his arm once again and when he didn't stop teasing her, she hid her face in her palms.
He found it incredibly cute and wrapped his arms around her to take her in his warm embrace. She didn't remove her hands from her face and he buried his face in her silky hair on her shoulder, inhaling deeply through the fragrance that defined her, intoxicating him every time he came closer to her. When she didn't respond, he whispered, "Main toh samajhta tha ki tumhaari himmat ke saamne, shahar ki saari padhi likhi ladkiya kuch bhi nahi hai."
She removed her hands from her face and turned her neck to look at him, "Aapko sach mein aisa lagta tha…...?"
"Ab bhi lagta hai !!" His barely audible murmur didn't have a high pitch in the words but had an impact stronger than a hammer, knocking sense into her, right where it was needed.
"Aapko lagta hai ki main 'pahli baar'…. 'akele',….. 'hawai-jahaz' se kahin jaa sakti hu ?" She stressed on each word, when she asked, hoping for him to deny it, though knowing very well that he will only reassure her, more….
"Tum chaho toh kuch bhi kar sakti ho, Khanak !!"
"Aapko itna vishwaas hai mujhper ?"
"Issey bhi jyada !!"
She smiled and leaned her head to touch his forehead and breathed deeply.
"Jaogi ??" He asked slowly when she didn't speak anything for a while, and he knew that she had been thinking about it. She had leaned over him, as he reclined back at the headrest of the bed. Her head rested on his chest and he had secured her within the confines of his arms, to let her think without any worry or hitch.
His question made her move her neck to look at him at a close distance and her gaze was locked into his. He could clearly see the apprehension and the little uneasiness that had crept in there. Her big sparkling eyes talked to him. But she was confused and a bit nervous this time, which definitely was a positive sign, because she wasn't clearly refuting it. He was sure that one more try from him would make her say 'yes'.
"Khanak, tum easily decide kar sakti ho agar tumhe nahi jana hai. Mujhe pata hai ki tum music launch ke liye yahan rukna chahti ho. And trust me, I love that ! Meri har struggle aur har musibat mein tum mere saath rahi ho. Aur ab agar tum nahi hoti toh mujhe har success aur har khushi incomplete lagti hai. Tum rukogi toh mujhe bahut accha lagega. Lekin agar seminar attend karne jaogi toh jo khushi tum mujhe dogi, usko tum imagine bhi nahi kar sakti !!"
"Subah early morning flight se jana hai aur shaam ko wapas aana hai……bas !!"
"Aur Bacche ?"
"Baccho ka kya ?"
"Shantanu, mummyji aur ada London gaye hain, aapke cousin ki shaadi mein. Khushboo bhabhi apne papa ke ghar gayi hai aur Akshay bha office sambhal rahe hain. Bacchon ko kaun dekhega ??"
"Arrey, don't worry Khanak ! Main hu na !!"
"Aap ??!!" She opened her mouth as wide as possible, with a clear confused look on her face.
"Haan, music launch raat ko hai and din mein main free hu……"
"Aapko pata hain na ki woh 2 bacche hai !!... Twins ??!!" She warned him.
"Mujhe pata hai !!" he shrugged nonchalantly and said, "Sab kuch mujh pe chorh do Khanak, I'll manage !!"
"Really ??" She spoke imitating his style.
"Of course………!!" He declared confidently.
"Tum bhi toh akele flight se ja rahi ho…..pahli baar !! Itna toh smart mein bhi hu ki akele bahut kuch manage kar sakta hu……"
She smiled at the way he said it and looked at him with a disbelieving look in her eyes.
He bent to give a peck on her forehead and she took a deep breath and leaned back on his chest, hugging him tightly and whispered with a broad smile,"Thik hai…….aap tickets karwa dijiye !!"