"Asad?" She knew he wasn't sleeping.
"Is it different and new each time for you too?" Zoya whispered, long after they'd kissed goodnight.
"What do you mean?" Asad wondered.
"I mean, no matter how many times we make love, it feels different each time."
"The sensations are new even though we may have tried the same position a thousand times before?"
"Umm hmm. Why's that?"
" ... I'm sure there's some scientific explanation for it. Based on our moods, hormones ... what we ate or drank that day ... cells renewing, whether you're ovulating or close to--"
Zoya scooted over to hug him. "Don't give me science ... give me the romantic Jahanpanah version."
Asad smiled. His voice lowered to a husky drawl. "It's the poetic chemistry of our blood, babe ... it surges to complete each other like the Yin and the Yang--the dark and the light, sound and silence ... night and day--forever reaching, forever nestling."
She sighed in his arms, at peace and infinitely content.
"Each time is new because the earth, the moon and the stars are never in the same place when we meet and ... mate. And because we're destined to dance this sensual dance for eternity. It's what makes the world go round," he continued.
Asad traced the infinity charm she wore as a pendant these days so that Zaid wouldn't get scratched when she held him. He lifted the pendant to his lips and looked up into her face. She'd fallen asleep, a slight smile curving her lips into a perfect bow.
"Great," he muttered in good humor. "She asks me to recite poetry and dozes off in the middle of it. Thanks, babe, thanks for being such a great audience."
"You're welcome," she patted his cheek like their son, sighed again and turned over.
Asad chuckled, tucked the rajai over her bare shoulders and fell asleep soon after counting his blessings. His son dreamt of angels and toes and Dobby was curled up in his favorite corner on the settee. Big bear had been packed off to the cleaners and his wife slept by his side, fingers interlaced with his.
Aal iz well.
Zoya was right. He had indeed come a long way.
Two nights later she bolted upright in the dead of night. Her heart thundered madly. Zoya looked down at Asad to anchor herself. Her hand clenched on his shoulder.
Should she or shouldn't she?
She shook him awake.
"Asad! Hold me, I had the most horrible dream!"
"What? Nightmare? C'mere," he tried to tuck her into his side to soothe her fears. He was surprised. She hadn't had those nightmares since--
"No," Zoya protested and squirmed. "It wasn't that nightmare. But it was pretty scary. And sick!"
Asad cracked a reluctant eye open now that he knew that it wasn't that old nightmare. Thank god.
"Sick? How's that?"
She clammed up and tightened into a stiff plank.
"Zoya, what's the point of waking me up and then not telling me?" he grumbled.
"Umm ... it was so stupid. I don't even want to say it out loud."
"Fine," he turned over to go back to sleep.
"Asad! Aren't you even a little bit curious?"
"I'm too sleepy to be curious. Can it keep till the morning?"
Asad sighed. Obviously she wanted him to pry it out of her. God alone knew why his wife called him the drama queen when she had dibs on the title.
"OK, tell me," he coaxed.
"I feel sick just thinking about it."
"Then don't think about it and go back to sleep."
"I can't stop thinking about it. And I doubt if I'll be able to sleep now."
"Then just tell me."
He sighed. And waited.
"It was the weirdest thing. I was dressed as a bride and running away from gundas."
"Umm, babe, that was no dream. That really happened, remember? The day I saw you the first time? At the dargah"remember, you said 'qubool nahin hai,' and fled. And then Akram--"
She swatted his shoulder. As if she needed to be reminded of that turning point in her life! And his.
"No! This wasn't that! As I was running I kept thinking I have to get to Mr. Khan--it's our wedding day!"
"Why didn't you call me?" Asad asked, intrigued by the Runaway Bride, Part II drama in spite of himself. Her dreams would have to be just as dramatic as her, wouldn't they?
"I don't know," Zoya groused in answer.
"I'm pretty sure your phone was dead because you forgot to charge it, right? How many times do I have to remind you to keep your phone fully charged? You never listen!"
"Asad, stop getting mad at me. It was a just dream. I'm already so miserable and you're yelling at me!"
"OK, OK, I'm sorry." Only his wife could make him apologize for what was her fault. "Tell me what happened next."
She sniffed. "I think I was your bride. Do you think I was running away from our marriage?" Zoya burst into terrified tears.
"Babe, one, it was just a dream. Two, would I even let such a thing happen?" He hugged her sobbing form and continued to calm her down.
"It felt so real."
"It wasn't. Look around you--you're in our bed. That's our son sleeping over there peacefully. We did get married, even celebrated our first wedding anniversary some months ago and like you said that day, 'aal iz well.' " Asad tried to get her to smile.
"No, you don't understand! All wasn't well. I was running away and ... and I ended up in this big hall ..."
Her breath jammed. He could feel the tension stiffen her body again. Asad stroked her back to make her relax. Why did this dream have her so rattled?
"There were many brides and grooms there. I think it was an Ishtimayi nikaah for the poor ... I tried to hide there thinking the gundas wouldn't be able to find me among the other brides."
"Good girl! That was some smart thinking right there. See, I always knew you'd be able to take care of yourself. Who knew you'd be Jhansi ki Rani Bond even in your own dream!"
Any other time and she'd have preened at the compliment. Not now.
"But baby, why're you so upset? Did something bad happen in the dream?"
She punched his arm. "That's what I'm trying to tell you!" She took a deep breath and then babbled in a rush. "Panicked, I sat down at one of the places reserved for a bride and the ceremony started! I was so scared. I tried to get out of there but then I spotted one of those goons who was trying to kill me so I sat back down."
"Asad, you aren't listening! There was a guy on the other side of the pardah! And then my phone rang and I answered it. It was you! I was so relieved."
"So your phone was working? Thank god! Then why didn't you try calling me when you were running away from those killers?"
Asad was a man of precision and linear logic. He didn't like gaps and loopholes of any kind. And right now that was really exasperating to Zoya. Jeez, she was pretty sure that when Jahanpanah dreamed, his dreams were made up of cubes of pure logic and crystals of unadulterated reason. And they probably marched in tight military lines from point A to B.
She grabbed his kurta collar. "LIS-ten to me. So yeah, where was I? Yes, you answered the phone and asked me where I was." She got teary again to Asad's mounting confusion. Wasn't that a good thing that she'd manage to catch hold of him over the phone? Her dreams were as disorganized as her.
"And I said I was fine and that I'd be home soon. You asked me, 'are you OK?' like you always do, and I answered, 'Haan haan!' "
She paused and gulped in anguish.
"And?" Asad urged. It was a good thing that she was OK, right?
"... And suddenly there were cries of 'Mubarak ho!' I turned around and they were congratulating me! Asad, I was married to someone else!" Zoya was getting more and more worked up.
Asad was trying to stay awake and keep a straight face. Both were hard. He coughed to cover up his snicker.
"Allah miyan what's wrong with you, Mr. Khan! How can you find this funny! And you know what the worst part was? When the dulha on the other side lifted his sehra, it was Ayaan! It was a total batsh*it crazy NIGHTMARE!"
Asad couldn't hold it together any more. He choked on his own laughter and spluttered.
She was livid.
He laughed as he'd never laughed before. He laughed so hard that she punched his arm again and in trying to dodge her blows he rolled off the bed.
Zoya scooted over to gaze down at him anxiously. "Are you OK?"
And then she laughed too.
Because her question reminded her of the thousand times Mr. Khan had asked her, "Are you OK?" when they'd fought and fake-hated each other. He'd asked her that when he'd flipped her off this bed on her very first night in this house too.
"No, I'm not OK," Asad said through a coughing fit. "That was the most ridiculous thing you could have dreamed of, Mrs. Khan! That's not a nightmare, that's a lame ass comedy show that should be banned!"
"I know! But why did I have such a horrible dream? Could it be a sign or something?"
Asad lifted himself off the floor and dusted his kurta. He was wide awake now. "I'm no Freud but I'm pretty sure it's all benign. A sign? It better not be! It's probably just a sign of your lunatic imagination and crackpot theories!"
"Hmmph, that's comforting to know!" She shuffled back to her side of the bed and turned her back on him.
"Zoya, you can't seriously be upset about such a fool thing! It was a freaking dream for god's sake."
"But I am upset! It was awful! It felt so vivid and real. My heart was beating so hard as I ran and I felt this sinking feeling when they announced ..."
Asad folded her into his arms. "That was just an incredibly foolish dream. I know it made you feel rotten but nothing like that is even possible."
"Really? You promise," Zoya asked in a small voice. She wanted so bad to be convinced by his words but the images were still swirling in her mind in bright Technicolor.
"Yes. Think about it, just saying 'haan,' over the phone doesn't make you married--even in a dream. Was the Qazi Saheb blind or something? Were the rest of the people there brain-dead or zombies?"
She cracked a smile but then remembered something. "But I said 'haan' at least a couple of times," she wailed in fresh alarm.
"Please, it wouldn't have mattered if you said it a billion times. Who gets married while answering a phone! That's just bizarre. Did you eat junk food today? May be that's scrambled your brain more than usual," Asad teased.
"Asad, don't laugh at me. Not for this. It feels too raw."
He heard the tears in her voice and sobered up quick.
"Babe, if that was possible and you could get married to just about anyone by saying 'haan, haan' on the phone, wouldn't I have taken your phone away and burnt it by now!"
"Yeah right, like that's ever going to happen!" she countered with a small smile. She could imagine him doing it and her dimple deepened. "Not even you, Mr.Khan, can separate me from my phone!"
"You mean you'll keep your wretched phone even though you might get phone-married to someone else by just saying, 'haan, haan' distractedly?"
"Asad," she smacked his arm again for being so wicked. But lightly. She was beginning to see the wackiness of the dream too. Thank you, Allah miyan!
"No, think about it. What if you're talking to the sabzi wala or pizza guy and he says, 'madamji, apka order mill gaya?' and you say, 'haan, haan.' That'll mean you're married to them now?"
His teasing was really beginning to annoy her now.
"Haan, haan," she announced, tongue firmly in cheek. It might just shut him up.
Asad sucked in some air. His nostrils flared. "It would? You would? How dare you! Incredibly foolish!" He punched his pillow and muttered savagely.
It was Zoya's turn to laugh now at his expense. "Allah miyan, what's wrong with you, Mr. Khan! You silly man, I just said 'haan, haan' to you! Only you, OK?"
His brow cleared. Yes she had. He grabbed her by her waist and she giggled up at him.
"You're in need of a good and through spanking."
"Haan, haan," Zoya batted her lashes at him.
He couldn't resist. He bent his head to kiss her eyes. "It's a good thing I married you when I had the chance. God only knows how many nikaahs you'd keep running away from."
"Haan, haan," she said softly.
Asad chuckled. It was a hilarious dream--a girl known for running away from the mere idea of a marriage, on the run again, and then ending up married over the phone--by accident!
He kissed the top of her head. "Does Mrs. Khan want some late night sugar?"
"With a side of spice and ice?"
"Served with a spoon?"
Zoya blushed. "Haan, haan," she giggled.
She made a face. "I'm in the mood for Nutella."
"Fine," he muttered and shuffled off to make a sandwich for her.
Back home in the US she'd have asked for some peanut butter but she'd banned anything to do with peanuts from the house because of Asad's allergies.
These days she was weirdly getting hungry in the middle of the night.
And super randy after her midnight snack.
Sometimes the remnants of the snack turned into foreplay. But this was Asad we're talking about here. Food on the bed meant Jahanpanah was not satisfied till the sheets had been changed and put in the wash and he'd showered and made her wash up too.
On some days Zoya didn't mind the extra work. On other nights she grumbled. "Wow, it's like trading a whole day's of work for just a little se*x candy. Remind me not to do this next time." Or she'd hold her phone to her mouth and record into it, "note to self--Zoya, no spoon plate F-U--"
She'd laugh up at him. Her prude of a Jahanpanah could be such F-U-N to tease.
He'd mock-glower at her. Because even he knew, the next time she suggested it, he'd run to the kitchen for their spoon plate F-U-N.
Because yeah, it was that good, food stains on the bedsheets notwithstanding. And even Jahanpanahs relaxed their bedroom rules for chocolatey and whipped cream romps now and then. And then black forest pastries went really well with a dollop of melting vanilla icecream and his begum on the side, didn't they? He loved to hear her hisses as the frozen delight melted from her heat just begging to be licked.
This time when she was close to coming, he leaned in closer when he saw her lips move.
"No dream, or what you said in any silly dream, matters. Running away from a thousand nikaahs doesn't matter. What matters is that you said 'qubool hai' to me. And only me," Asad whispered.
Sticky hands fisted in his hair, sugared legs wrapped around his hips, she breathed, "haan, haan! HAAN! I love you, Mr. Khan," and collapsed.
"That's my girl," he came too.
And what do you know. He was even able to get in the last word this time. He bent to lick a smear from the side of her mouth. Mmm, she tasted of vanilla and caramel sauce. And him.
But when Asad saw Ayaan at work the next morning he shot him the nastiest glare he could muster. Ayaan staggered. That look was gone in a second but Ayaan still hadn't found his bindaas equilibrium.
Uh oh. Now what had he done?
Asad was embarrassed. He hadn't meant to shoot daggers at his kid brother. It was just that when he set eyes on him this morning he flashbacked to Zoya's ridiculous dream. Jeez. He was also reminded of what he'd said to her last night in his best Batman avatar: "You ever phone-marry someone else and I'll tear your phone-shauhar apart limb to limb even if it is my brother!"
Zoya was right. That nightmare was "totes gross."
Asad shook himself and clapped a hand on Ayaan's shoulder to banish any ill-will. He could see the wide-eyed panic in Ayaan's eyes. Asad knew exactly what was going on in his brother's head. He'd seen that face a thousand times growing up. Ayaan was going over the list of his offenses in his head and was trying to figure out which was the easiest one to own up to in order to escape with the lighest punishment.
"I'm sorry," Asad said gently. "I was thinking of something else."
"You're sure, Bhai? I didn't do anything?"
Asad grinned. "Not this time, Ayaan Chachu. Not this time." But to mess with him he slapped Ayaan upside the head just as his brother had relaxed and re-adjusted his collar and saintly glow.
"What was that for?" Ayaan yelped. "You just said I did nothing!"
"That was for all the times when you did something wrong and I didn't catch you!"
"Don't Bhai' me or act so shocked. I know it in my gut that there're many things you think you've gotten away with. I've been wondering about some of the antics of Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-ya-oon. They sound way too familiar to be complete fiction."
Ayaan blushed. "Bhaijaan, save your Jahanpanah Bond detective act for Mona Darling, OK! It doesn't work on me." And with that he thumbed his nose in that signature coolcat gesture of his. He was untouchable.
"Ayaan, I'm watching you!"
"I know!" Ayaan ruffled his hair and grinned impishly. "I'm that good, aren't I?"
Asad threw his head back and laughed. "No, you're that bad. And Mukka Ahmed Khan knows that too. And Mukka Ahmed Khan also fondly remembers 'Operation Pyaasi Atma,' by the way."
They'd just exited the elevator and Ayaan stopped short. Oh sh*it. Operation Pyaasi Atma was a doozy. Bhaijaan's back-handed rap across his cheek had hurt like a motherfu--
"Bhai, why would you remind me of that? It was bad enough that I had to wear a saree and wig. What a dash mein bumboo that was! Do you know how hard it was to tie that bhutiya thing?"
He got smacked upside the head again.
"Whoa, Bhai what do you eat, man? Why's that hand of yours all loha singh on crack?"
"The better to hit you and crack your skull with, that's why. And because it remembers, Ayaan. It remembers," his brother muttered cryptically and walked off to the conference room for the day's first meeting.
Ayaan grinned though. Now wouldn't Operation Pyaasi Atma be just the perfect adventure for Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-ya-oon? Thanks for reminding me, Bhaijaan! I owe you one.
"Thanks to your stupid dream I felt like smacking Ayaan around all morning," Asad grumbled to Zoya over the phone at lunch.
Zoya giggled. "Haw, Mr. Khan, I hope you didn't act on those vengeful fantasies. You're the one who convinced me it was just a silly dream."
"It was a silly dream but it left such a bad taste in the mouth."
"I know. That's exactly what I was trying to tell you last night."
"Mrs. Khan," Asad's voice rumbled. "I may just have to chain you to me so that you don't get into any more trouble. Specially in your dreams!"
"And keep a finger on your mouth so that you're not going around saying, "haan, haan, to random guys."
"Asad!" she protested at his infernal teasing. He would never let her live this silliness down. "Mr. Khan, I'd recommend better uses for that finger!"
He chuckled ... and blushed. She was right. More reason for him to keep her chained to his side. No way was he letting her out of his sight.
"Anyways," Zoya continued. "I was thinking that if I tell Humaira about the dream then Ayaan might have to be put in a witness protection program."
That made Asad smile fully for the first time today. His saali was no less than General Jeeju. And she'd bust Ayaan's chops for any imaginary transgressions too. "No, we can't have that. Who would entertain us with more whacky Chronicles of Zaid Miyan and Dobby Miya-oon then?"
"Ooh, I've come to look forward to those. I know you find Raabert's sound effects annoying but Zaid adores them."
He agreed. "So for Zaid's sake we'll keep this secret from his Khala."
Asad looked up to see Ayaan with his puppy-dog face lounging at the door. Zoya groaned at the other end. "Mr. Khan, don't you dare tell Raabert about that moronic dream!"
"Um ... voh ... actually ..."
Zoya smacked her head. Sometimes her husband was completely useless. Zaid looked up from her arms and gurgled in protest. He wanted to FaceTime with his Abbu but his mom was holding the phone away. Zaid banged his arms around and kicked his legs. Where's Abbu???
"Shh," his mom calmed him. "We'll talk to Abbu later."
"Really Bhai, you still do that voh actually thing?" Ayaan bounded in and planted himself on the chair opposite from his brother. He swung his legs over the armrest. "What's with you today? You're acting all weird."
Asad hung up and stared at his brother.
Ayaan quirked an eyebrow. "So are you going to tell me or not?"
Asad sighed. "Zoya's birthday is coming up. I'm planning something special."
Ayaan's face lit up. "Mona's birthday! Cool. Give her a surprise--let's all pretend to forget her birthday and not wish her. Then when she's totally mad at us we'll surprise her with a party."
Asad frowned. There was no way he'd do that to Zoya.
She'd flay him alive. And he wanted to live long enough to see his son grow up.
"Bad idea. I don't want to upset her on her birthday." He remembered his own grim birthdays of yesteryear. No matter how much he hated the day, a part of him would glow when Ammi, Najma and Ayaan wished him early in the morning.
"In fact, I'm planning to do the opposite," Asad continued. "Low key wishes, flowers, and I'll come to work, promising to take her out for dinner. Then we'll give her the surprise party. She won't be expecting it."
"Wow Bhaijaan, maan gaye! You're the boss for a reason. Keep her expectations low and still come out looking like a hero."
He obviously had a lot to learn from his brother. Had it been him and Humaira's birthday, Ayaan would have done things his way and made her mad enough to deny him se*x for at least a month.
Ayaan straightened in the chair when Prasad knocked and poked his head in. "Sir, Rakesh sir is here."
"Show him in."
"Without Zaid?" Zoya pouted when Asad told her his plans for dinner on her birthday.
"It'll just be for a couple of hours. He can hang out with Ammi and Aapi. He'll be fine," Asad added when he saw her face.
"But we don't have to go out. We can stay in and order out. I won't mind."
Asad exhaled. He should have known she'd say that and ruin his plans. "No, I want it to be special and I want you all to myself. If we stay home then you'll be busy with everyone else. Can't a guy enjoy some couple time with his wife without playing second fiddle to his son or family?"
"Asad, we have the nights to ourselves."
"But we haven't dressed up, been out, just the two of us for the longest time. Not since Siddiqui Saheb and Aunty gave us that resort package for our anniversary. Please," he raised her hand to his lips looking deep into her eyes and she blushed.
Asad hooked a finger under her chin to raise her face to his. "No, say, haan, haan.' "
Surprised laughter pealed from her lips. It had been two weeks since that episode and hideous dream.
"Haan, haan," she said shyly.
"Then be ready tomorrow."
"OK. No, I mean, haan, haan."
"Good girl," he lifted her off her feet to plant a hard kiss on her mouth.
"Mr. Khan, you sure know how to keep a girl happy." Her cheeks were red, eyes sparkling.
Asad pressed his forehead to hers. "I aim to please, Mrs. Asad Ahmed Khan. I aim to please." He slid his tongue in before any more last words fell out of her mouth to upstage him. She shuddered in need as he teased the roof of her mouth before sucking on her upper lip.
The pressure of keeping Zoya's party both a surprise and a success was mounting. Asad wanted her birthday gift to also be a thank you for what she'd done to chase away his fears of being an absentee father who was working late hours these days.
He'd begun FaceTiming with her and Zaid at least twice a day from work and she'd talked him into organizing a new company annual event: bring your kids to work day. It was common in the US, she told him, as a way to introduce kids to many career options and to make the workplace more family-friendly.
So last Saturday, a half working day, was dedicated to the children.
The office was suddenly overrun with kids of all ages. Laughter, shouts and squeals erupted from all corners as proud parents introduced their kids and co-workers. Later the kids ran small errands and watched their dads or moms at work. Meanwhile paper planes zoomed and daisy chains bloomed as Ayaan uncle showed off near the copy machine. Office chairs morphed into spinning rides--the corridor was temporarily transformed into a track for chair races. The accounting department parents and kids won hands down. Pictures were taken, selfies posted, and the bounce houses and cotton candy and stilt-walkers and clowns entertained them later in the converted parking lot.
And all the while Zaid bounced around the office proudly attached to his beaming dad in a baby carrier. The women in the office gushed to see "Sir" being such a doting dad; Zaid lapped up the attention from this new fan club--their adoration wasn't that new to him though. He was already used to that!
His mom had made sure that he was well-rested and fed before baby's special day out. He was sporting his Dhoni jersey and the smallest pair of jeans. But it was the tiny pair of red baby hightop sneakers that won hearts all around that day. There was even a miniature baseball cap but it had fallen off long ago and was now stuffed in his Abbu's pocket for safekeeping.
His Chachu wanted to borrow him to impress the office girls but Asad refused. "Get your own," he growled.
While he loved spending time with Zaid, everyone touching the baby and pinching his cheeks was not sitting well with Asad. It was only superhuman effort on his part to not rush to his cabin and slather the kid in hand sanitizer. Zoya had warned him: "Mr. Khan, you can't keep him in a germ-free environment forever. You've got to give his immune system a fighting chance."
What a day! The pumped bre*ast milk was in the break room's fridge, the bag of beeping, light-up and rattling toys was parked by his dad's desk beside the diaper bag, and his favorite blanky was draped across his dad's office sofa.
Not even five minutes, and Zaid's stuff had taken over Asad's lair.
Zoya had left Zaid with Asad to give them uninterrupted father-son time. So he had to do things at work that he'd never done before. His office coffee table served as a changing station when Zaid filled his diaper.
"Download complete ho gaya?" Ayaan asked his nephew.
Zaid babbled happily, waving an arm and chewing on his toy phone as his Chachu entertained him. Like his mom, Zaid loved his phone just as passionately. Prasad had offered that his daughter could help but Asad refused. He wanted to do his son's work himself.
"BOO!" Ayaan popped his face out from behind his hands and Zaid cackled in glee. The phone went flying as he flung his arms and legs wanting more fun. Ayaan was commanded to retrieve it and wipe it down with a disinfectant wipe.
Asad disposed of the diaper and carried his son to the bathroom for a more thorough cleaning.
"BYE!" Ayaan called out. He waved the phone"its buttons lit up and it made high-pitched beeping sounds.
"bbbaaa" Zaid responded but then he got distracted by his dad's knuckle. He gnawed on it and hummed.
"Nangu bum!" Ayaan teased from the door as he watched his brother gently tend to his nephew. He never ceased to be amazed at Bhaijaan's patience and tenderness when he was with Zaid.
Zaid remained unfazed by Chachu's teasing. He blew bubbles in his Zen state as Asad kissed his downy head. The baby chuckled as plumes of talc rose and his bum was restored to being fresh and new again.
Later in the day Zaid even got to sit in his dad's lap at the office chair. But he didn't like that Abbu pushed the laptop away from his grasping fingers. He wanted to bang on the keys with both hands too.
"Abhi tu hi laptop hai," Ayaan Chachu told him just as he was scrunching up his face to bellow in protest.
Uh oh. Looks like it was nap time.
As the phone rang and Asad reached out to answer it, Ayaan scooped Zaid up and made an airplane out of him. Zaid loved this. His frown turned upside down.
Asad smiled at their antics as he concluded the phone call. Zaid lunged toward him and he caught him up in his arms to swing his son over his head. This was the best day he'd had at work, Asad thought as he settled a drowsy Zaid in his arms.
Ayaan was dragged away by a gaggle of young boys who wanted him to play cricket with them.
Zaid gazed unblinkingly at his dad; he was covered with his favorite blanky and sucking hungrily on his bottle. And Abbu was humming softly. What else could a boy want? A couple of hearty burps later he was all set to pack it in.
The burping towel still draped over his shoulder Asad rose with him from his chair. He padded to the window to gaze down at the happy scene of many other parents with their kids in the parking lot. Lines snaked in front of the chaat and ice cream vendors, bubbles soared up to pop, and balloons bobbed. He could even see the medical van. With kids around who knew who'd trip or fall, scr*ape a knee or poke an eye out.
He looked down at Zaid just in time to see those lashes flutter and whisper close. Asad bent to kiss that forehead. "sleep tight, baby."
He turned at the soft whisper and smiled at Zoya.
"Did you guys have fun?"
Asad nodded. Zoya glided forward and stroked Zaid's rounded cheek. "Aww, he's all tuckered out. Did Abbu make my baby work extra hard at office today?"
They watched the tiny chest rise and fall. It was a hypnotic sight. It reminded Zoya of how Asad sometimes played the sound of Zaid's heartbeat from the first ultrasound. And now even Zaid's eyes would widen and he'd clap when he heard that familiar sound.
"Dhak-dhak, dhak-dhak-dhak-dhak-dhak-dhak," his mom would say.
"ta-ka-ta-ka-ta-ka," he would mimic her.
Asad leaned to kiss her temple. "Someone's been having chaat I see." He used their son's burping towel to wipe off a tell-tale smudge.
Zoya snickered. Who could resist the call of the tava's clang and sizzle, that smell of the piping hot tikkis? And who could stop at one plate and not have gol gappas or bhel (minus the peanuts) afterwards?
She took Asad's hand and led him to the couch. "So, how was it?" she wanted to know all the details.
"Amazing. I had no idea how having kids around you transforms a space. Everything is a plaything and no rules apply. They even had an office chair race! It's like rediscovering the world at their eye level."
"But it's messy?" Zoya asked knowing her husband's neat freak ways.
"It's messy, but it's all good. Good for the soul kind of messy."
Zoya leaned in to kiss his cheek. Wow, Jahanpanah was a changed man indeed. "And Zaid? Did he have fun?"
"He loved it. He's made at least two girlfriends. If he had a facebook or twitter account, he'd have about a million followers by now."
She saw Asad's cheek drop and rest against their son's head. Aw, poor baby, her husband was exhausted from being a fulltime daddy today. Zoya snuggled up next to her favorite desi boyz. She had missed them so much!
When Ayaan snuck in half an hour later to check on his Bhai and little champ, he smirked at the vision before him.
It was deja vu all over again.
With just a tiny difference. Or two.
The last time he'd seen Bhai and Mona Darling asleep like this was the night she'd got hurt when that bit*ch Tanveer had pushed her down the stairs.
He took a picture of all three of them--Mona's head once again leaning against Bhai's shoulder, and Bhai's head resting against Zaid's sleek head this time. Bhaijaan still hadn't removed the snowy-white burping towel from his shoulder--it made him look so domestic ... and yet so natural--as if he was born to do this. So vulnerable and yet ... majestic even. Ayaan felt a tug. Two years ago no one could have imagined this bliss for Bhai. But it had been hard won. He prayed that nothing would ever disrupt this cozy vignette. Ever.
The picture pinged across a dozen phones the next instant.
Multiple silent duas and loud Awws followed. Everyone's heart echoed the same prayer.
On Bhai and Mona's informal sangeet party, Najma had captioned the first picture: "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lions sleep tonight."
Ayaan's caption added the necessary update. "Zaid Miyan's first day in office. He scored a six and a hat trick as he clean-bowled all Dhonis!"
But he couldn't resist waxing poetic at this sight and hurriedly added, "in the jungle, the mighty jungle, our favorite pride sleeps tonight."
(If his nephew were awake, Ayaan would have held him and sang while posing, "Chal beta selfie le le re!")
He added another message. God knows why, but he was feeling major senti all of a sudden: "Zaid had a long day giving darshan, so he's on a break now. Because even mighty superheroes need a nap and snuggle with their Ammi and Abbu to recharge their superpowers. Till the next adventure of Zaid Miyan and Dobby Mi-Ya-oon, it's bye from all of us!"
Song in Title:
My Name is Khan (2010): "Sajda"
What a beautiful update !
Topic started by dixeij
Last replied by -jass-