Arnav Singh Raizada was a ruthless, composed, calculative person. Anyone who had come into contact with him would tell you that. They would even go a step further to say that there was nothing in this world that would agitate him.
So, they would be very surprised to find him running after a 3 year old in the gift store.
“Ali, you get back here right now!” He cried, running after a girl in bright pink frock and pigtails. “Ali, you are so grounded!”
“Mamu, what is the point of grounding her? She is only three, she can’t go anywhere” Aasha put in her two cents, hoping to ease her mama’s frustration, but only managing to irritate him further.
Arnav finally caught up to Aaliyah, his three year old daughter, who was more trouble than her three foot frame would suggest. She truly was Khushi’s daughter in every sense.
“Ali, how many times do I have to tell you to not run off?” He whisper yelled at her. “What if you had gotten lost?”
“Papa, the store is empty anyway, she wouldn’t have been lost, hain na Ali?” suggested Akhil, her ever helpful brother, not wanting his sister to get in trouble.
“Akhil, how many times do I have to tell you to not interfere when I am scolding Ali?” Arnav reprimanded his five year old son. “It was fine today, but what if she does this when we are in a crowded area?”
“Sorry papa, won’t happen again” said Akhil, with his head bent and tears welling up in his eyes. Akhil hated it when he disappointed his papa, he was his hero.
Seeing his son’s sagging shoulders, Arnav sighed. Putting his naughty three year old down, he knelt down in front of his son and putting a hand on his shoulder said, “Akhil , I’m sorry for yelling at you, I know you don’t want your sister to get in trouble, but sometimes I have to scold her to make her understand, okay?” he pacified his son. Because no matter how hard-ass he was in his business, he just couldn’t be the reason for his children’s tears.
“Mamu, how much longer do we have to be here? I am starving!” Aasha stomped her feat in anger. “It has already been 2 hours since we go to the store, what do you think you’ll find now that you haven’t in all that time?”
“Ashu, you know we have to get a present for your mami for her birthday, right?” The kids and Arnav were at Mall for the past two hours trying to find the prefect gift for Khushi. Even though she told the kids that she didn’t want anything, like every year, Arnav knew that the kid in Khushi would be waiting for a surprise, and he didn’t want to disappoint her.
“So, what do you suggest we get her?” asked a now thoroughly irritated Aasha.
“What about the new mixer maa wanted?” asked Akhil.
“No, Akhi. As it is she spends way too much time in the kitchen” with something akin to a pout forming on his lips. “Besides I read in some magazine that giving cooking utensils as gifts offends women” Women!He thought, he would never understand them!
“Since when do you read those kind of magazines, mamu?” asked a grinning Aasha, not one to let an opportunity to tease him go. But the glare Arnav sent her made her drop the subject.
“What about some jewelry?” suggested Aasha, just wanting to get out of there.
“No, Khushi wouldn’t want jewelry, besides I get it for her all the time” said Arnav, shooting that one down.
“I got it! How about we do all the chores for her and make sure she can relax all day?” said Arnav, liking the idea of a well rested Khushi. She works way too much!
“But papa, we do that every Sunday, what’s so special with that?” said Akhil, now getting as frustrated as Aasha.
All this was being watched by a pair of eyes that belonged to curious three year old. But as soon as she saw a sweet store and smelled the sweet syrup, she lost her interest in the conversation and yelled
“Ali, that is a brilliant idea, something Khushi would love so much!” exclaimed Arnav, “We could make jalebi’s for her!” saying this he picked up Aaliyah, who was shaking her head at him and struggling to get down.
“No papa! I want Jalebis” she said, pointing at the sweet shop and the freshly fried jalebis. Aaliyah loved jalebis as much as Khushi, both mother and daughter would spend hours in the kitchen making perfect swirls of piping hot jalebis.
Even though Arnav didn’t let them have excess sweets with fear of them getting diabetes, he couldn’t control them when it came to jalebis. Both Akhil and Aaliyah loved jalebis, Ali more than her brother.
“Okay, sweets! I’ll buy you two, okay? but no more!” said Arnav trying to be stern but he knew as soon as he saw the puppy dog eyes from both his daughter and son, that he lost. Groaning and grumbling at Khushi for introducing them to the sweet, he walked towards the sweet shop, followed by Aasha who was happy to finally get some food into her stomach.
– – – – –
“So, do we have everything we need to make some perfect jalebis?” asked Arnav, looking at his princess who was sitting on the counter beside him. She was going to be supervising his papa, to make sure that he didn’t mess up.
“Yes, papa, you have everything, except maa” she said with a cute frown on her face “Who is going to make the jalebis?”
“Ouch princess!” he lightly touching her nose, making her chuckle, “Your papa is going to make them and they are going to be perfect, you know why?”
“Why?” she asked, the curiosity that could only be seen in kids.
“Because he has you three helping him!” he said, looking at Akhil who was mixing the batter and Aashu who was stirring the syrup.
“Mamu, did you send mami somewhere? You know as soon as she smells this, she’ll know” said Aashu, pointing at the syrup.
“Yes, Ashu, she wanted to go to the mandir” said Arnav, frowning when he remembered how readily Khushi agreed to go. Usually she nagged him to accompany her, or at least drop her and the kids at the mandir.
Wiping the frown off his forehead, he said “So, let’s get to it!”
After two hours of grueling effort and a lot of cursing, and loosing a lot of money to his daughter, for aforementioned curses, they had a small pile of jalebis that could be recognized and tasted great from what the kids said.
“Do you think maa will like it papa?” asked Aaliyah with a cute hopeful smile on her face.
“Of course she will, princess! She’ll love them even more when she knows you made them for her!” he said tickling her, and delighting in her laugh that reverberated through shantivan.
“Arnav?” Khushi called, as soon as she stepped into the house. She could smell jalebis and she walked to the kitchen, trying to figure out who made them.
What she found was her two, no three, beautiful kids sitting on the dining room table with a pile of jalebis in the center.
As soon as they saw her, they rushed to her with exclamations of “Surprise!”
Arnav looked on with an indulgent smile, which grew even more seeing the brilliant smile of his wife’s face which made her face glow.
“Thank you! You didn’t have to do all this” she said looking at Arnav.
Arnav smiled and shook his head. “I didn’t do this. This was all your kids!” he said pointing to them, who were still hugging her.
She bent down and looked at the kids, “You did this for me? Thank you!”
They took hold of her hands and led her to the dining table, after seating her, each of them fed her a jalebi, wishing her happy birthday.
“Do you like it maa?” asked Akhil, as the other two waited with bated breath.
“I don’t like it beta” she said with a smile on her face. Seeing their faces fall, she rushed to explain “I loved it!”
With that, the smiles made a come back, even bigger this time. And they hugged her tight.
Over their shoulders, she looked at Arnav with tears in her eyes, and whispered “I love you.”
He in turn smiled a big smile at the sight in front of him, and mouthed “Me too.”
– – – – –
After having their dinner, which was a bigger affair than usual with the family making a fuss over her birthday, and putting the kids to sleep, she went into the room and locked the door.
She went to the poolside, where she found Arnav was waiting for her, staring at the stars.
She went over to him and hugged him from behind. “Thank you for helping the kids with the surprise, it meant a lot to them.”
He pulled her in front of him and held her in his arms, “It meant a lot to me too, to see their eyes light up with happiness.”
Seeing her lips stretch into a beautiful smile, he bent his head and captured her lips in a tender kiss.
“I love you, Khushi. More than I can tell you, more than you’ll ever know”
She held his face in her hands, looked him in the eyes and said “I love you too, Arnavji. Now and forever”
They stayed like that for a while, surrounded by comfortable silence, peaceful and happy.
“Arnavji?” she whispered, not wanting to break the silence. “I want to take a picture of us with the new phone” She said pointing to the iPhone he got for her, as a gift.
“Now?” he asked surprised.
“Yes, now!” she whined, sounding like a little kid. He sometimes couldn’t believe that she was a mother of two.
“Okay. Get it” he said, letting her leave his embrace reluctantly.
She pointed the phone at themselves, and said “Say cheese!” Making him roll his eyes and look at the phone with a smile.
After the flash, she jumped saying “One more, just one more?” she pouted.
“Okay, but this is the last!” he warned her.
“Okay” she smiled at him.
She turned the phone toward them again and said “I’m pregnant”. Clicking and catching her husband looking at her with his mouth open in shock.