HAPPY 66th REPUBLIC DAY!
Khushi went to her room and began to think furiously.
Arnavji and balushahi or just balushahi?
Delhi or Lucknow?
Marriage or spinsterhood?
A life with Arnavji’s kisses or a life without Arnavji’s kisses?
She sat down on the bed with a huff. What kind of choice was this?
Moving to Delhi...making sweets in Delhi...being kissed by Arnavji...being able to touch his bare, hairless chest...it was a very attractive prospect. She could have the best of both worlds.
She smiled but suddenly the smile vanished.
But her Jiji?
How could she leave her Jiji behind?
Tears filled her eyes. In the chakkar of Arnavji’s lips and chest, she had forgotten her poor Jiji. How cruel she was! How thoughtless!
A picture of Payal washing dupattas rose in her mind. Her jiji was so sweet, so innocent, so silent, more silent than a real-life payal was.... She deserved better.
She ran back to Arnavji’s room and pushed open the door.
Arnav was lying on the bed worrying about Khushi’s response to his offer when she thrust open his door.
“Khushi, kya hua?” he asked.
She came weeping to him and sat down on the bed by him.
“Why are you crying?’ he asked, totally lost.
“I can’t marry you,” she sobbed.
He swallowed hard. He sat up.
“I will buy you a shop, Khushi. You can design it as you wish. You can employ as many people as you want and...” he began.
She drew a shuddering breath and threw her arms around his neck.
“You can make jalebis and balushahis and jamun and peda and rabdi and...and whatever you want,” he tried to tempt her, his heart beating loudly. He rubbed her back with his right hand.
“I can’t marry you. I am sorry,” she wept.
“Why?” he asked, sacred that all his plans were being toppled.
“I can’t leave her alone,” she sobbed into his neck.
“Whom?” he asked.
“My Jiji,” she blubbered.
“Your Jiji?” he asked. Now her Jiji was the problem? He had fought all the sweets and won. But now her Jiji was the next hurdle?
“My Jiji. She refused proposals because I wouldn’t get married. Now,” she wept.
“That’s OK,” he said, relieved. “Bring Payal to Delhi. Heck, bring your whole family to Delhi. Our house is huge and there’s ample space. We will look for a groom for her. I will find a boy for her,” he promised rashly.
She lifted her head and moved back a bit to look him the face. “You will?” She was so shocked that she forgot to cry.
“Yes, yes,” he promised. If every other plan failed, there was always Akash to sacrifice. What were brothers for, after all?
“You are a marriage broker?” Khushi asked, her eyes wide.
“No, but I will find someone,” he reassured her.
Khushi smiled. “Then I will marry you,” she assured him.
Arnav pulled her back into his arms, more relieved than he could say. If only the sun rose early today, he wished. He was scared to leave her alone all night. What if she came up with more reasons why she couldn’t marry him?
Khushi pulled out of his hold. “Acha, let me go to bed now. Shubhraatri,” she wished.
“Good night,” he murmured.
“Are you happy now?’ she asked.
“Very,” he admitted.
She leaned forward and kissed him on his cheek. It was no light peck or an air kiss. It was a sound kiss, a loud smooch with an ummmmmwah sound.
He smiled, his eyes twinkling with joy.
“You look nice smiling,” she remarked.
“You make me smile,” he confessed.
“I know. I am a regular clown,” she pouted.
“I am going to bed. He Devi Maiyya, what a man have I found? He does not let me sleep at night!” she complained in fun as she got up to leave.
Arnav choked at the unintended meaning in her complaint.
She walked out, pulling the door shut after her.
Next morning, all were at breakfast when Khushi walked in.
“Lo aa gayi Kumbhkarn’s elder sister,” Buaji hailed her. "Has the day dawned for you yet, you Sanka Devi?"
Arnav looked down at his plate to hide his laughter.
“Amma, Babuji, Buaji, I am going to marry Arnavji,” Khushi declared, too happy to worry about Buaji’s taunts.
“Ee kab hua, kaisen hua?” Mami asked, her mouth open.
Anjali stared at Arnav, unable to believe her ears or her eyes as she saw a light flush cover her Chotey’s face.
Akash stared at his bhai without blinking. Bhai wanted to eat veg pijja daily?
Nani covered her mouth with her hand.
“What did you say, Nandkisore?” Buaji asked.
“Don’t worry, Buaji. We will start a branch of Satwik Mishtaan Bhandar in Delhi,” Khushi reassured her. “Arnavji said he will help me.”
“Hein? Hamre Arnav bitwaa bill make issweets?” Mami asked.
“Khushi?” Payal asked, astounded.
“Don’t worry, jiji. Arnavji will look for a groom for you too,” Khushi set her mind at ease.
“Saasumma, ee kaa ho raha he?” Mami asked. “Hamre Arnav bitwaa bill phind a broom for Payaliyya? He who couldn’t phind a girlwaaa phor himself till now will phind a boy for Payaliyya?”
“Chotey?” Nani asked hopefully.
Arnav looked at the astounded faces of the Guptas.
“Amma, Babuji, Buaji, I would like to marry Khushi,” he said.
“Are you sure, babua?” Garima asked with a wary look at Khushi.
“Maybe you should think it over, Nandkisore,” Buaji tried to spare him.
“Yes, marriage is serious business,” Sasi muttered. “Aap soch leejiye.”
“I am sure,” Arnav said softly.
The Raizadas almost danced in joy.
“Khushi, are you sure? Really, really certain?” Sasi asked.
“Yes, babuji,” Khushi smiled happily. “I am sure. He is like that big toy Guddi has.”
“Guddi? Kamla’s granddaughter?” Buaji asked.
“Yes. She has this huge teddy bear. She pulls its ears, sits on it, lekin it does nothing. It still loves her. Arnavji is like that teddy bear,” Khushi smiled.
The Raizadas looked at Teddy Bear Raizada with new eyes.
“So shall we conduct the marriage between our diabetic teddy bear and our halwai?” Nani asked Sasi with a laugh.
“Yes,” Sasi laughed.
The Guptas and the Raizadas hugged in joy.
Arnav winked at Khushi.
“You look like an akhdoo but you are a naughty bhaloo,” she whispered in his ear.
"Only with you," he whispered back, touching her silky cheek with his lips.