Awesome story will try to read all chapters just read first five and an already in love with it
Wonderful wonderful chapter 118
She just couldn't help it. Almost every other night she woke up at odd hours and crept up to the crib to sneak an anxious finger under Zaid's nose.
Zoya always exhaled in relief on feeling his warm breath on her finger. And then she scolded herself for being a paranoid nutcase.
One night she heard a chuckle from Asad. "I already checked. He's fine," he said softly.
"You do it too?" Zoya asked feeling caught out, yet glad that she wasn't alone in her fears.
"Asad, I know it's crazy but sometimes I wake up with this terrible fear. What if something happened and he couldn't cry out for help! I tell myself that it's nothing, I'm just being paranoid, but I still have to check."
"Oh god, me too."
He rolled over to hold her tight once she got into bed.
"Do you think all parents do this?" she asked.
"Probably. Definitely first-time parents."
"Thank god! I thought I was being an idiot."
"Not this time, babe."
"Asad," she swatted him playfully, "you're so mean!"
"Did you just call me ka*mina?' "
"No! That's not what that means!"
"I'm pretty sure mean' means ka*mina' in Hindi."
"Jeez Jahanpanah! Let's not play the dictionary game, OK!"
"But Jahanpanah is so good at the dic--"
"Asad!" Giggling, she shut him up and promptly forgot to scold him for being so bad as he proceeded to show her just how good he really was.
In a week's time the giant bear that had traveled the seven seas was showing some signs of stress. He'd been placed in the corner where once Asad's guitar had held place of pride. But now its stand had been packed away in the storeroom and the guitar rested in the monster's hairy paws.
Asad had hated this re-decoration. He didn't mind losing his room to his wife and son. Or even Dobby.
But this beast?
"I told you I'm not letting that monster anywhere near my kid," he reminded Zoya of his pledge from months ago when Zaid was still in utero.
"Shh, Mr. Khan! Jeeju will hear you and feel so bad!"
"So after Jeeju leaves we can dump it in the storeroom and get my stand back?"
"Hmm, we'll see. Though I don't know what you have against the poor thing. It's just adorbs!"
Adorbs? Asad huffed and hissed in disgruntlement. It was many things, but adorbs it was not.
But Asad grinned suddenly. Who knew that he had a very sympathetic comrade: Dobby detested the thing just as much if not more.
"Good boy," he high-fived the cat as he left for work that morning.
In fact he chuckled when he heard Zoya yell a minute later as he let himself out the main door: "DOBBY! You bad, BAD boy!"
"What happened?" Aapi, Jeeju and Dilshad ran in to see if Dobby had done something to the baby.
Holding their noses, they burst out laughing.
Zaid looked up happily from face to face. He was growing stronger day by day and could even hold up his head now. His daddy had just kissed him goodbye and he was lying in his crib on his tummy admiring his fingers--there were so many of them and they wiggled funny. Why weren't they as strong as Abbu's? And when could he play with Abbu's guitar? Both Ammi and Abbu grabbed his fingers away whenever he tried to touch and eat the strings.
"Why'd you do that?" Zoya was holding Dobby by the scruff of his neck and shaking him.
Because Dobby had not only clawed the bear's eye out. He'd also taken a nice, stinky dump on the bear's leg. He was marking his territory and this bear was a trespasser.
Dobby mewled in protest, squirming to be let down.
Zaid chuckled to himself and bent his head to gnaw on his fist. His mom was saying something but he couldn't see her over the crib.
"You are so yucky! And you're grounded, mister!" Zoya continued to scold the cat as the glint in his eye became more polished. "Don't even think that you'll get away with this!"
She locked him up in his traveling crate. Dobby yowled in anger all the while the mess was being cleaned up. Zoya planted her hands on her waist and scowled at him after she was done.
Big bear would have to be sent out for dry cleaning.
"I'm really angry with you!" she wagged her finger at him. "Don't talk to me!"
Aapi yelped suddenly.
They all looked at her in alarm.
"He turned over! Zaid just flipped himself on his back!"
A cheer went up and Zaid kicked his arms and legs in joy at being the center of attention of so many adoring faces that were suddenly leaning over his crib.
What happened? Tell me, he begged trying to arch his back. His hands tried to clap.
No! I want to be on my back! BACK! NOW!
He didn't know why they all wanted to put him on his stomach again. Zaid frowned. It had taken him so long to turn himself over.
He grunted making a deep humming sound: "MmmHhmmm." And did it again.
"Yay!" another cheer went up.
Dobby stopped his caterwauling, his ears straining to hear this change in tones. Good boy? They must obviously mean him. That's what Asad had called him just a little while back.
He began whining to be let out.
"Nikaal do bechare ko," Jeeju urged Zoya. He was tickling the baby's feet. Zaid squealed in delight, This new Nanu had become his new best friend.
"Jeeju, woh bechara nahin hai!"
Zoya didn't know why Dilshad chuckled all of a sudden.
"See, he's begging so much. I'm sure he's sorry," Jeeju continued the appeal on Dobby's behalf. He'd picked up Zaid by now; the kid was trying to reach for his glasses--all the world's Nanus must wear these things.
"Fine! But only for you, Jeeju. I'm still mad at him. He does this again and he's dead to me!"
"Don't be mad, raje. He's just a baby too. He must be jealous of the bear."
Anwar still remembered how Dobby had saved Zoya's and the baby's life when he'd attacked Tanveer in the gudia factory. He'd told Asad and Zoya later: "Dobby ko sau khoon maaf hain!" And everyone else had seemed to agree too: Dobby could get away with murder. This billi had already been to Hadj and back--sau choohe devoured or not.
Sighing in resignation Zoya lifted Dobby out.
Both the cat and Zaid lunged toward one another. They'd become best buds by now. Zoya deposited the cat on the bed and brought Zaid over. This was their playground, their akhada, if you will.
Content, they all watched the two play with one another. Clad just in diapers, Zaid cooed making the most divine noises as he swatted at Dobby. His legs and arms flailed and flapped. Dobby allowed Zaid to grab him by his fur and pinch hard--only the kid had special license to do this. Zaid loved his tickling whiskers and often plucked at them without meaning to hurt the cat. Sometimes a fist would grab the cat's ear and yank hard.
But Dobby didn't seem to mind--only the baby had been given this honor.
When Zaid flipped on his back once again Dobby made a thrilled sound and ran around him in merry circles as if to say, "do it again! Do't again! AgAIN!"
Zoya put Zaid back on his tummy. Everyone was filming this circus by now.
"Hmmm--" Frowning and humming in concentration the kid turned over once again. But this time his butt landed smack on Dobby's tail.
"ME-ROOOW!" the cat yelped and leaped a foot in the air.
"Ha! Serves you right, you stinky monster!" Zoya clapped, immensely proud of her son.
Zoya lifted Zaid high in her arms making kissy faces up at him. He loved it when his parents did this. Arms swinging and legs sawing he gurgled down at her. She held him close to her dropping a million kisses on his head.
Dobby leaped up on Zoya's shoulder to nuzzle her chin--begging for some sugar too.
"OK fine, I forgive you," she said to him. "But don't do it again. EVER!"
"Hmmphhh!" the cat grunted as he washed a paw. He wasn't the kind to make promises he didn't intend to keep.
At work when Asad's phone announced a notification he looked at the attached video debating whether to open it or not. It was a gamble: it could either be another one of his wife's teasing clips or it could be a brand new brag video starring Zaid.
He took the risk and grinned a second later.
"Bhai?" Ayaan asked.
"Zaid just turned over on his back."
"Let me see!"
Asad replayed the video for him. Not even a whole day and it already had over a hundred views!
"Shabash, mera cheetah!" Ayaan crowed, pumping a fist. "Strong legs. I'm telling you, he's going to be great at football." He looked at his brother and shook his head sadly. "But knowing you and Mona Darling, most probably he'll end up playing cricket! Bahut na-insafi hai."
Asad said nothing. He watched Zoya pick up Zaid and cuddle him as Dobby tried to apologize and patao her.
"Uh oh, Mona darling's not happy with him," Ayaan noted. "What did Dobby Mi-ya-oon do today?"
Asad laughed. "Dobby Mi-ya-oon was a very good boy today!"
But he sobered when Prasad entered to give him some papers and stack re-done blueprints.
Swearing under his breath Asad pulled up the corresponding files on his laptop. "And I'm not happy with the West Lake project," he sighed, pushing his chair back and standing up to glare out the window.
Prasad cleared his throat behind him. Asad turned to face him bracing for impact. Worse was coming; Prasad wouldn't shuffle otherwise.
"Sir, there was a blockade. Our shipment of wire PC strand got hijacked from NH 86."
"Sh*it! Great, just bloody great," Ayaan muttered, throwing up his hands. This was the second time they'd had trouble with one of their shipments.
Ayaan looked at his brother with puppy-dog eyes. "Bhai, trust your instincts. If it feels off, then it must be." Zoya'd pretty much said the same thing. Except she'd used stranger expressions and more animated gestures.
"Asad, this is major hinky," she'd frothed and foamed at the mouth some weeks ago when he'd told her about it.
He wiped his brow with an impatient hand. Yes, this project had been a pain in the side since the start. It was something they'd taken on in those dread-soaked days of being hunted and haunted by Tanveer, and may be his radar and bullsh*it detector were on the fritz that day.
In fact this project was on its way to becoming a bad Hindi movie plot: a land deal gone wrong, local thugs terrorizing workers, petty on-site thefts, sabotage and skirmishes, and many other stings and blows to sap morale. They were looking into legal and financial recourses to stop the hemorrhaging, but the damage control was getting trickier.
"Bhai, this looks like a carefully orchestrated strike."
"Hmm." If he told Zoya this he could already see how it would go.
Funny, he was beginning to think like her: first came the outrage: How dare someone do this! Then came anger: No one messes with me. Then came cold determination: let's see who's at the bottom of this, and end this like ninja cowboys.
But their methodologies differed.
She'd run to her iPad for research. And he to his rolodex: who might he contact for speedy, no-nonsense action?
"Rakesh!" both had yelled at the same time.
"I'm sure his business was dying without our family protection plan, anyways!" Zoya joked. "He should give us a frequent flier discount!"
"Or we should just retain him on a permanent basis," Asad added more seriously.
Zoya shook her head. "Aww, always the practical Mr. Khan!"
They hadn't seen Rakesh since the last family party they'd invited him to. In the post-Tanveer and Mangalpur Part II victories, Rakesh had become a close family friend. In fact it was Rakesh's wife who had told them about the gym that everyone had joined. And his 9 year-old daughter adored Zaid. Apparently she was pestering her parents to get her a baby of her own.
Babies. Who knew they could be so dangerous.
One look at a happy baby and everyone wanted one of their own. And with Zaid Miyan as the dimpled poster child of babyhood? There was no hope at all. The Indian government may as well pack up its family planning tents and brochures.
Asad reached for the phone.
"Rakesh?" Ayaan asked.
"Um hmm. I want more thorough background checks. May be we missed something the last time."
"Makes sense. Let me check with my friend. His dad's the Division Commisioner of SADA--he might be able to tell us more," Ayaan said.
Inspired by Naz's example the girls joined the gym too. They went on the days they didn't have Taekwondo practice, though sometimes they still grumbled at the early hours they had to keep thanks to Nikhat madam and her job. While they teased her that soon they could exercise at whatever time they pleased, Zoya and Humaira felt a twinge of sorrow. Soon it would be just the two of them"all their sisters-in-law would be gone. Nothing would be the same or as much fun.
Nikhat didn't even want to join the gym. What was the point? She'd be leaving in a month or so. But the girls insisted by chanting some "one for all, all for one" mantra. She didn't even like the machines. But one Zumba class later, she was hooked. Why hadn't she discovered this sooner?
Her mother-in-law was campaigning for the moms to join too. Zeenat was game but Raziya, Shireen and Dilshad were too embarrassed or shy.
They had all turned to look guiltily at Siddiqui Saheb but he was busy with Zaid and said nothing.
"It'll be such fun! Afterwards we can chat at a caf over iced cappuchinos and smoothies," Naz was trying to sell the idea.
"Phir gym ka fayeda kya?" Anwar muttered, shaking his head. He was lucky Naz didn't hear him.
"But who'll watch Zaid?" Dilshad asked. Zaid was the perfect excuse for anything these days and shamelessly used by his parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles.
"Arre, what are the guys for? So many Nanas and Dadas and Dads and Chachus and Phuphas! Kis din kaam ayenge? People without uteruses should also enjoy taking care of babies! Hmm, may be I'll have Faiz babysit Zaid. It'll be good practice, right Nikhat?"
Nikhat covered her face and groaned. Here we go again. But she smiled. She kinda loved this kind of saas-bahu banter. It was so much the opposite of what she had imagined the saas-bahu relationship to be as a scared teen and young adult.
Besides, Feroze had given her permission to ignore his mother's infernal teasing; she could even choose to sass her saas back if she wanted. "Whatever you're comfortable with," he'd told her. "Mom'll love it!"
Because often Nikhat had to be reiminded to stand up for herself and he was especially good at getting her to do that, wasn't he? And also because he knew of Nikhat's unsaid fears. What if their baby was dark like her?
"So what? The baby would be just as gorgeous as its mom and we would love our child no matter how dark or fair. And don't worry about my mom either. She doesn't need to know our plans for starting a family," he hurried to reassure her. "We'll do it when we're good and ready. Right now Zaid should be enough to fulfill everyone's grandparent fantasies."
Right. Zaid would probably agree. He was in no mood to share the daily adoration as yet. There you go, Zaid to the rescue again. Told you he had super powers.
But Naz had only gotten worse once she held Zaid in her arms and he beamed up at her, being his cutest. "Oh my god! I want one like this too!"
"Aunty hold him up, let me take a picture of you with Zaid miyan," Nuzzhat had fueled the fire. "You can even post these on your social media sites and test drive your DPs as a Dadi-in-waiting," she poured on some more ghee.
The girl was back to being her usual madcap self. But she was seriously considering vegetarianism. Not a tattoo, thank god. That dig had been merely to shock-zap her mom.
"Nuzzhat," her sister hissed. "Stop throwing me under the bus!"
Her sister grinned at her shamelessly.
"Awesome idea!" Naz lit up. "My friends are going to be so jealous!"
Since her stay at the Khan house Nuzzhat'd christened the baby "Zaid Miyan" and his sidekick, "Dobby Meow." Everyone had adopted those monikers.
And Ayaan had taken it a step further; he'd embroidered that simple tag into elaborate stories of the "Adventures of Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-ya-oon." Basically, these were rehashed stories of the ones he remembered from his childhood weaving in many of his and Bhaijaan's escapades. Sometimes he'd add the tadka of real-life stories of how he'd torture his sisters and Humaira when they were kids. That incident where he'd hung one of the dolls by a noose and suspended it from the roof-top making it dangle across the girls' balcony? That became a story of how Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-ya-oon saved the kingdom from an evil witch who had possessed the princess.
Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-ya-oon battled one-eyed pirates on the high seas and stole mangos from evil Kings' orchards to feed the poor, they flew fighter jets and rescued orphans, they tricked villains and trapped mean old ogres. They were superheroes and secret agents with a license to thrill.
"Raaburt, you should write these down you know, they're really cute," Zoya had encouraged him more than once. And more than once, she'd secretly video recorded this Chachu-bhatija story-time. Ayaan's fabulous narratives reminded her of tales from the "Arabian Nights." And that always reminded her of Asad calling her his Sheherazade. Oh man, she had it bad.
"One day, Mona Darling, I just might," Ayaan replied but went back to entertaining his nephew.
"And then Zaid Miyan spun in the air, SWISHHT! And his flying kick dropped the evil sorcerer like a fly! PHLABT! And Dobby Mi-ya-oon scratched their logo on the villain's cheek with a razor-sharp claw, ZZZeDdd!"
Zaid clapped his hands. He loved his Chachu's sound effects--even more so than the complicated stories.
"Yes Ammi, the gym has yoga and Tai Chi classes if you don't want to do the machines," Zoya continued to persuade Dilshad into joining them at the gym.
There was a lot of giggling but finally the moms agreed to try out the guest passes. It was the only way to shut up the girls and Naz. After all there were stories and adventures in waiting for the newly expanded Zingo hotties. And one day, may be they'd even get to play cameos in the "Adventures of Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-ya-oon."
Even Dadi didn't want to be left behind.
"The doctor told me that light exercise would be good to strengthen my knees and back," she pouted and batted her lashes at a protesting Rashid.
All this meant shopping for gym bags and accessories, new shoes and a back support belt for Dadi. Rashid couldn't get a word in edgewise to dissuade his mother.
She rolled over him like a tank.
The moms entered the gym giggling too, red-faced and avoiding eye contact. But seeing men and women of all ages and sizes had made them relax and excited to try on this new role. Yes, some people looked their way, but they went back to doing their own thing. The moms relaxed. They were anonymous and invisible once again.
"See, it's like the park, just indoors, and with machines instead of plants and paths!" Humaira soothed the moms' remaining fears.
They squared their shoulders and tied their dupatas around their waists.
"Sure, but it doesn't have hot Col. Mehra," Zoya joked elbowing the girls.
"Hayee, Col. Mehra!" Dadi fangurled with a hand on her heart. "I go to the park just for him."
Everyone hawed and guffawed. "He's not bad for an uncleji!"
"Not even a dadbod!" Zoya giggled.
"And he's single!" Nuzzhat made eyes.
"And that salt and pepper hair!" Humaira gushed.
"Tum sab bade badmaash ho! Ammi ko bhi bigaad diya," Shireen wagged her finger at them as the girls fanned themselves.
"Ooh, I want to see this hotbod Col. Mehra," Naz gushed.
"Let's invite him for tea at the Siddiqui house," Zoya winked. "We should always honor our national heroes!"
Shireen moaned as she clutched her forehead. May be her daughters would have a better chance at tehzeeb and lihaz in America because things weren't looking too good around here.
She adjusted her kurta self-consciously and looked up to see a good-looking boy emerge from the pool area. Helplessly Shireen started to tag after him--it was a force of habit after all.
Nikhat held her elbow firmly.
She knew what was coming. Her mother had done this for far too long; she'd become that shaadi-craving, rishta-begging zombie that all Indian mothers of daughters become as soon as their girls turn 18. As a mother of two girls, by now Shireen could probably sleep-walk her way to an eligible bachelor guided only by her mom-radar: "Beta apka naam kya hai?" If he turned out to be Muslim, her next barrage of questions would be:"Aap kya karte ho? Apke Ammi Abbu? Aur bhai behen?"
Nikhat shuddered remembering her own days of being unmarried. Her mother had become a basket case then. Every party or function, and the woman would morph into those politicians begging for votes: "Aapki nazar mein koi ladka ho to batayeega, please!" or, "hamari Nikhat ke liye bhi koi accha ladka dekhiye." Thank god, those days were behind them.
"Ammi, no more boys!" she jerked her mother's arm and turned her around. "You're done, remember!"
Shireen slapped her head. Ya Allah, what was wrong with her! Yes, she was done. Shukranallah!
"Is everything OK at work with Asad?" Siddiqui asked Zoya one evening.
Everyone was visiting the Siddiqui house. What was the point of texting and facetiming between two houses when they could just all be together?
Asad and Ayaan were still at work, however.
"Kyun Abbu? What happened?"
"No, he called and was talking to Rashid too. Some project is bothering him?"
"Oh that! Yes, there is some issue with that new development. He's been working longer hours too," she pouted as she rubbed noses with Zaid.
She frowned as she saw her father stretch his neck and wince. "What happened, Abbu? Did you hurt yourself?"
"No, it's just a little stiffness in my neck. I must have slept wrong."
"Here, you hold Zaid and I'll give you a neck rub."
"So Mr. Khan called you?" she prompted as she massaged his shoulders.
Siddiqui saheb bounced Zaid in his lap. The boy was on his way to discovering the wonderful world of toes. They looked like fingers and even tasted the same; but were stubbier and kind of useless--they couldn't even hold anything. And why were they so far away from his mouth?
"Yes ... aah beta, that feels good," Siddiqui said as her fingers applied more pressure to his sore neck muscles.
Zaid looked up at his Nana. How did he know it feels so good?
"Aaahhhaaah," the baby crooned. His mom and Nanu smiled down at him. But Zaid stopped once he was able to stuff his toes into his mouth. He hummed now.
"Asad was asking about some suppliers or contractors, and our history with them. We worked with them in the past but broke off ties because ... because they weren't reliable."
Siddiqui continued to talk about the politics of the construction industry in India.
She had a lot of questions.
But soon Zaid started to fuss. He wasn't enjoying these grim tales. They didn't even have any sound effects, or his Chachu making him fly through the air like a fighter jet and beating up bad guys. So lame.
But he perked right up when he was deposited in his Faiz Phupha's lap. After his dad and Chachu, this was the other guy who really got him. He was learning to do the fist bump and bro handshake from his favorite Phupha. This too came with fun sounds and moves: SWOOSH! Finger wiggle. SMACK! Elbow cross. PHU! PHA! The big explosion. BAM! And then that was followed by a tickle-fest, which always ended in a grand finale: the loudest and tickliest tummy raspberries!
Apparently everybody else loved this too. He would look up to see nearly a dozen faces beaming down at him. Because the sight and sound of a giggling baby is balm--even for a mended soul. Then his Dadis and Nanis always touched their eyes and rubbed something behind his ears. It tickled even more.
Hmm. When he grew older he would check behind his ears to see exactly what it was that they were looking for. Or were they hiding something back there? Because Faiz Phupha always did a trick where he pulled out an American quarter from behind his ear. How'd he even do that?
Zaid was made to wave his mom, aunts and grandmoms goodbye as they went off to watch Hritik Roshan's latest film. Merrily he settled in the crook of his Dadu's arm for a boys' night in. It was time for a snooze. His belly was full, bladder empty, and those raspberries, fist bumps and investigating the ear mystery had exhausted him.
Rashid smiled looking down at him. "Just like Asad. He too would curl his toes and bury his face in my arm like this when he slept." He tried to cover the baby with the soft blanket. But Zaid kicked it off. The temperature was just right--he didn't need no blanky. He was toasty and feeling just right--like his mom said about that Goldilocks.
He didn't know what fights and debates brewed over his sleeping head between his Indian and American Nanas.
"It's your turn."
"Nahin, Siddiqui Saheb, you hold him. He's used to being with you after all," Anwar would say.
"No, no. Apka haq zyada hai. You should spend every waking moment with him. He needs you more," Siddiqui would say. "And then I love to hear the stories you tell him about Zoya's childhood."
And so it went.
Then invariably his Dadu would chuckle. "Two cats ki fight mein, the Bandar was always the winner," he would tell Zaid when he was awake. Because, by now, even Zaid knew this story well: two cats fighting over a piece of bread went to the monkey for justice. The crafty monkey would break the bread into two and eat a little off the larger piece leaving nothing for the feuding felines.
For some reason, his Dadu loved this story even more than him. And for some reason he always told him this story when his Nanas quarreled. Afterwards his Dadu would whisper a secret in his ear: "Pehle aap, pehle aap karte-karte, Nana logon ki train nikal gayi!"
Hmm. One day he would ask his Dadu: who's this Nana logon who keeps missing his train? Does he miss the train because of the crafty monkey? Dadu should learn from Chachu: Chachu made the best train sounds!
"How was your day?" Zoya asked Asad when he got home late. Again.
He just sighed a half-grunt.
"That bad, huh?"
"Aww, poor baby," Zoya hugged him from the back slipping her hands under his suit jacket.
"God, that feels good."
"We missed you," she called out after him as he went to freshen up. But he first stopped by Zaid's crib. He hated that he was missing time with his son--missing those milestones that he mostly saw on video these days.
"What if he thinks that I'm just one of the uncles or granddads who plays with him once in a while?" He asked Zoya much later, after barely picking through his re-heated dinner. He felt moody. He was tired ... yet restless.
"Please Mr. Khan, stop being a drama queen. As if that could ever happen!"
She smiled and brushed his hair off his forehead to stroke his cheek before kissing him. "Absolutely! There's only one guy in this whole world who's his Abbu and that's you. Besides, my son isn't a dumbo. He'll always know exactly who you are wherever you may be."
"I hardly spend any time with him these days." Asad's voice dipped in fatigue. "He's asleep when I come home. How will he kno--?"
"Asad, his heartbeat knows. He knew you since before he was born. He knows your voice and looks for you. He knows your touch, your breath. C'mon! You haven't seen it but I see him when you're holding him--how he clutches your shirt. He grabs on to your finger and pats your face like nobody else's. He raises his head to be kissed by you-just expecting it as if it were the most natural thing in the world. When you walk in, he throws himself at you to hold him. Allah Miyan, he wiggles like crazy to be held by you. He knows, OK? And he'll always know."
She rose to pick up a sleeping Zaid and lay him in his father's arms. The baby snuffled and then settled into the crook of his dad's arm. Asad adjusted him gently to hold the child against his chest; their heartbeats synced and the universe righted itself. He felt Zaid's breath fan his neck and smiled to see a tiny fist clench on his kurta. Like clockwork.
"See?" Zoya said. She stroked his back.
"He's growing up so fast!" Asad ran his hand over the little fist and perfect feet. "I miss watching you nurse him. He has this incredible connection to you but I ..."
"And he has an even more incredible connection to you! Have you seen his face when you're singing to him? It's as though he forgets to blink or thinks that if he blinks he'll miss something."
Asad still remained unconvinced. He stared out of the window rocking Zaid slightly. With the light streaming in from the window it was a beautiful silhouette in the dark room. She wished she could take a picture to capture this vignette: a vulnerable father and a trusting child knitted in one another, knotted by need. But Asad needed his fears allayed first.
"OK, how about this? Once he's on the bottle you can take over the midnight feedings! That should give you a lot more of dad-son bonding moments."
"You'll stop nursing?" Asad turned to ask in dismay. He didn't know if it bothered him for the baby's sake or his own.
"Not any time soon. But eventually it'll happen. He'll be on solids pretty soon." She walked up behind him to hold both of them. "You won't be late coming home every night. Some days you'll come home early to surprise him. Other days you may even take off just to take him to the park, or to go watch a match or a movie. Most likely you'll take him for his music classes, or practice and training for cricket or soccer. Give it up, Asad. You couldn't be a bad dad even if you tried. Enough of this pity party!"
"How can you be so sure?"
"Because, you're you. And it's who you are. Would I have fallen in love with you otherwise?"
And we have our fatherless childhoods to remind us to try our absolute best: we won't let history repeat itself--her unspoken words resonated between them.
"Your son will love you and worship you. You are and will always be his role model. Don't forget you've already played the dad figure to Najma and Ayaan. How could you not do right by your own son? You've had such great practice!"
Zoya molded herself into his back letting her warmth seep in to comfort him. And like his son he was beginning to feel just right too.
"You used to be my superhero and now you are ours," she went on. "Remember, it says so on the nikahnama? And the Jahanpanah-ma!"
The scrapbook she'd given to him on their anniversary had somehow come to be nicknamed that: Jahanpanah-ma"just like "Akbarnama," but not quite!
Asad chuckled. She had the quirkiest explanations to get him to smile. And relax.
Sensing his wellness Zoya kissed his back. "Finally, my Jahanpanah is back! Where did you go to back there?"
"To a dark place."
"Don't you dare!" She paused and he could have sworn he felt her lips curl as her finger traced words on his back. "You know, Mr. Khan, one day, a long time ago, someone asked me: aap kyun mere andheron mein roshni ban ke aati hain?' "
Asad grinned. He turned around to put to pull her to his side. "Um, babe, I was drugged on bhang then, remember?"
"Asad!" she hissed so that Zaid wouldn't wake up.
He laughed at her outrage and kissed the top of her head. "And if I remember correctly, someone once told me: When it was dark, you always carried the sun in your hand for me.' "
"So basically you and I are each other's flashlights? And you're my Torch Ahmed Khan?"
Asad smiled. "And you are my Bijli-girane-main-hoon-ayee, Ms. Farooqui?"
Zoya dimpled up brightly at him. She loved her romantic Akdu when he was at his wittiest best.
Asad bumped his head with hers. And they looked at Zaid who slept on in his Abbu's arms, cherubic and peaceful. "We are probably spotlights and searchlights too"because we seek each other out and lift each other out of the dark."
Zoya's eyes misted. " ... like guiding lights?"
"Hmm," he sighed.
She stroked his brow. "You're my North Star."
"I thought I was your sun. Have I been demoted?"
She giggled. "OK, you're my sun by day and my North Star at night. Jeez!"
"I thought Zaid was your son."
"Asad!" she kind of giggle-growled.
Zaid stirred and both of them turned to shush him; they felt guilty for waking him up. He raised his head and blinked. In the dark his eyes rounded like saucers.
"Hi baby. Look who's here, it's Abbu!" Zoya said softly, still wrapped in the circle of Asad's arm.
Zaid grinned and flapped his arms. Asad's face was in the shadows. Did he even see his dad? He didn't need to. The way he fit in them he knew he was in his dad's arms. With a soft sigh he tucked his head into his dad's neck and fell back asleep. His palm feathered against and patted Asad's cheek.
Asad turned his mouth to kiss it.
Zaid's body relaxed.
"Oh god, I miss this so much."
"There's nothing to miss. See, he woke up, said hi to you, and went back to sleep"snug as a bug in a rug. In his world, aal iz well. And somehow he just knew that you needed that."
Asad relaxed too. There was no call to be so broody ... or to feel so guilty. Everything would be OK. His son was right, aal iz well.
They lingered over Zaid's crib after laying him down to watch him. Their hands fussed over his hair and blanket and then stilled in prayer.
"If you can make it on time, let's take him to the dargah tomorrow," Zoya whispered.
"Good idea. I'll try. What new things did my son do today?"
"His humming is getting louder and longer, and he finally got all his toes to fit into his mouth!" He'd been trying for about a week.
Asad gulped. He didn't know whether to be proud of his son's developing motor skills or be grossed out.
"Relax, Mr. Khan. He's a baby--his feet don't even touch the ground."
"Thank god. He won't do that when he's older, right?"
"No, apparently they outgrow it. Right now he's just exploring his environment--too bad it's through taste!"
Asad groaned suddenly.
"What?" she asked.
"When Ayaan was a toddler he used to show off by stuffing both his big toes into his mouth. Oh god, what if it's contagious? Or genetic?" Asad clutched his heart, his own eyes wide as saucers now.
That scene from the past popped in full technicolor glory before his eyes as Zoya laughed.
"Bhai, BhaiJAAN! Look what I can do," he'd call out. "I bet you can't do that."
"Yuck, Ayaan that's so gross. I wouldn't even want to try. Did you wash your feet?"
Mouth full, Ayaan would gleefully shake his head. No. His messy curls would bounce in further mutiny.
"Take them out, or your teeth'll be all crooked when you grow up," he'd always remind his kid brother resisting the urge to hurl. Was he really that paternal, even as a kid--a mere 8 year-old?
Ayaan never listened. And he did grow up to have crooked teeth. Idiot!
Asad hooked her elbow to pull her back into his arms.
"So tell me more about bhang raat," he whispered in her ear.
She giggled. In their various chit-chats when recalling the old days, somehow that night had been christened, "bhang raat." They didn't even remember who it was that come up with that name. Probably Asad. Because Zoya recalled asking, "like Chand raat?"
"Like suhaag raat!" he'd breathed.
"Haw, could that night've been our suhaag raat?"
"If I wasn't such a fool, sure!" He still remembered he'd called her a "misfit" that night and she'd taken it to heart. "Aap kabhi ek acchi bahu ya biwi nahin ban sakteen," he'd announced self-righteously. And she had believed him.
"Asad, don't beat up yourself over it. It was a beautiful night. And it was the first time I saw you lighten up and laugh. I loved it!"
They had fallen a little more in love that night, hadn't they? And, under the influence of the drug, or the magic of a barsaat ki raat, they'd even admitted it to each other before things went bad the next day.
Zoya cupped his face in her hands. "I've loved to see you laugh since that night!"
"And what else happened on bhang raat?" he prompted as they swayed lightly. It was still a hazy memory for him. He remembered getting to the farmhouse after their car broke down, and Zoya offering the pakoras. But pretty much a lot of it was a blur after that.
"We danced in the rain!"
"I don't remember if we danced that night. But I do remember you dancing outside this window trying to remind me!"
"Well, I danced. And you mostly kinda just watched," Zoya sassed as she skipped away.
"I guess Pappu can't dance, sala!" Zoya taunted.
"I can dance! And I think I did."
"Oh, so your memory is returning, Mr. Khan! The bhang didn't burn away all those cells?"
"I don't know about the bhang. But you sure burned me up." Asad yanked her back to spin and slam her against his chest. "And how can you say Pappu can't dance, sala? You, Mrs. Khan, must be losing your memory cells. Remember Valentine's Day? I thought I already showed you dance kisse kehte hain, Ms. Farooqui."
Her breath caught. "I don't remember Valentine's Day but I do remember Valentine's night. And speaking of burning me up, you were scorching hot that night," she felt that quivery feel zing through her again. Her knees had been jelly that day. No, night.
Zoya ran a charged finger down his throat following up with a thorough nibbling. "Oh god, Asad! How many nights I dreamed of what could have happened between us! I ached for you! Show me what you would have done to me that night ... and on our bhang raat."
His eyes drooped as if drugged. And she felt the familiar fire flare up between them. Asad ran his thumb across her lips and dipped his head to trail kisses down her throat. Her blood was already pounding ... rushing to meet his lips and tongue ... he could feel it through her sensitized skin.
"That night was beautiful because nothing happened between us when anything could have happened. It was innocent and se*xy at the same time, shy and bold ... new and soft. It was a night of wonder and magic. I wouldn't change a thing about that night. Except what I said later. If I could take back those stupid words about you being a misfit, I would, in a heartbeat."
"Shh, it's all behind us." Zoya hushed him trying to cover his mouth. But that made her skin crave his caresses even more. "Why'd you have to bring that up! I thought we banned all that talk and put it behind us."
"Because I plan to show you exactly how fit you are. You for me, and me for you. The perfect fit." Asad waggled his brows in devilry to banish all shadows of the past.
"Mr. Khan! Wow, that's so original!" But she smiled inspite of herself. That never got old. She could hear him say that a million times and never get tired of it.
Asad touched his forehead to hers. "I'll burn that perfect fit into your body and soul."
"Show me," she whispered and hissed the next second as his hands snaked under her cami to cup and tease her.
"See? That night I didn't do this ... or this." He hitched her up on his hip and sucked on a pebbled peak that peeked through the silk. "Because you weren't mine as yet. Like you are, now."
Her legs wrapped around him gratefully and she peeled the cami away from her hungry nipple to give him direct access. Zoya's thighs clenched around him as his mouth tugged harder. Her head fell back. She couldn't help the soft guttural sounds from escaping.
All language was dissolving, and vocabulary, disappearing. His whispered words left her more and more inarticulate. She was on fire, but had been reduced to a blurry, buzzy, primal mess of sounds and sighs, cries and moans.
As he lay her down on the bed and pulled off her silk cami and boy shorts, his hands roved over her silken, molten body.
Her body was returning to its pre-pregnancy shape. Asad nipped at the curve of her waist. "That night I couldn't have worshipped your body as I do now because you weren't the mother of my child yet."
"Oh god, Asad," she moaned. Her mouth felt dry, her head dizzy.
"I could have done this," he sucked hard at her bre*ast again. "But then it wouldn't have been swollen as it is tonight with mother's milk."
Zoya whimpered. "You're driving me crazy," she gasped. She was so close. This was such exquisite torture. She writhed and keened at the intensity of her undoing. "Please ... you're killing me ..."
"I wouldn't have known then that this would completely tip you over ..." Fingers stroking and strumming, he leaned to swirl his tongue at her throat, and down her cleavage to nip at her belly button.
Zoya covered her mouth to stop herself from being any louder. She felt his mouth trail lower. Deliciously lower. His thumb tugged her ready flesh upward and he bent his head to mine that narrowed, satin slit.
" ... and drive you crazy," he said between swift strokes.
She thrashed under the assault and crumpled.
Yes, this is how it should have been. She wouldn't change a thing either about that bhang raat. Because this is where it had brought them: her, spent in his arms as her husband kissed and entered her. His thrusts were familiar and yet each sensation new. Her fingers dug into his shoulders; her knees hugged his sides. Their bodies moved more urgently, frantically. The waves of pleasure resurged and crested.
"Asad, I love you," she whispered, wiping his damp brow. "Even more than I loved you then."
"You're not a misfit," Asad breathed.
"I know." Zoya's hands roamed over his slick back.
"You're my Ms. Fit."
"And you're my Mr. Right."
"Um hmm," Asad gloated.
" ... who fits perfectly right! Each time, every time."
He chuckled, still breathing hard, heart still hammering. "Must you always have the last word?"
"Yes really, Mr. Khan!"
"Because it says so in the fine print on our nikahnama. And on Zaid's birth certificate. Everywhere where your name is next to mine. And it says so right here," Zoya held up his palm with her initial and kissed it.
It did. Signed, sealed and delivered.
She was right.
"I love you more," he made another valiant try.
He shut up.
Song in Title:
Taare Zameen Par (2007): "Kholo Kholo Darwaaze"
loved asad dobby scene...they have common enemy...
Topic started by dixeij
Last replied by -jass-