Part 27: The Games We Play
"Kya hua Naina? Sorry...Reena! Sameer queried as he joined her waiting on the road. He'd checked through the chink in his window that Mr. A hadn't appeared as yet on his white-battered horse, or if you prefer to call it a Bajaj scooter. It had been almost half an hour, yet Naina was still standing there with Diya by her side. So Sameer had hastened downstairs to check what was the matter.
"Wo pata nahi ab tak Arvind aaye nahi...aaj bola tha Diya ko Children's Park leke jayenge thodi der...teen chaar mahine se kahin bahar gaye nahi na to bahot zidd kar rahi thi...! Naina explained.
"Ohh...! Sameer eyed Diya who shyly smiled up at him, before hiding her face inside her mother's pallu. Sameer smiled back and ruffled her hair. So Silky! For a moment, an absurd, yet gleeful thought crept though his mind. Could it be that...Diya...Diya was his and Naina's daughter? The dream from last week was still vivid in his mind. His brain went into a rampant overdrive- that could explain Naina's anger and her rushed marriage. He peered at Diya's face, trying to find any semblance between him and the little girl. But apart from the high cheekbones, which even A had; her brown doe eyes, which Naina too had, the silky locks were the only things to base his theory upon. But the grounds were flimsy for such an argument. Plus, Naina had not been pregnant then. And the last time he'd made love to her, for he'd replayed this scenario hundreds of times, he remembered clearly, much to his dismay, he'd used protection. But even that wasn't 100% safe right? What if? But that would be leaving too much to chance.
"Kya soch rahe ho? he heard Naina ask.
"Wo Diya ke baal itne silky hai na..., he blurted still lost in his thoughts. He looked up, alarmed at what he'd let slip.
But she seemed preoccupied to pay him any heed. "Toh?
"Wo...toh kuch nahi...achi baat hai...mere bhi silky hai naa..., he trailed off, now wishing he'd kept his mouth shut.
Naina raised her eyes and mocked, "Toh? Sameer couldn't tell if she'd understood the direction of his question. She hadn't he decided or else he might have been rewarded with a slap on his face. Stop fantasizing Sameer. The novel is still playing in your mind, coupled with the weird dream from last week. Just because a child's hair is as lustrous as yours doesn't mean you have fathered the child, even if you wish it was so.
"Ahh...kuch nahi...ek kaam karo...A...Arvind ko call kar lo office se..., Sameer suggested.
Naina looked at him and nodded. "Thanks!
Five minutes later, she replaced the receiver, sounding disappointed. "Wo aaj Lab mein bahot kaam hai...free nahi ho payenge..Aur kal to wo Chennai jaa rahe hain kaam se...wo bhi do hafte ke liye!
Diya heard this exchange and whined in dismay. "Mummmaaa...park jaana hai!
"Baad mein jayenge beta...! Naina tried to placate her.
"Nahi abhi jana hai! she continued for a while, as Naina tried to ignore her daughter's protests.
"Diya zidd nahi karte...baad mein chale jayenge kya ho gaya! Naina glowered at her daughter.
Sameer sensed Naina's growing anger and wished Diya would keep shut. But when Diya continued to grumble, Naina's patience snapped and she took it upon herself to berate her incessantly, and Sameer for no explainable reason, did not like it. He couldn't bear to see an innocent child being reprimanded for just wishing for an outing.
"Itna gussa kyun kar rahi ho...bacchi toh hai! Sameer rebuked her. And then he lifted Diya in his arms and muttered, "uncle le jaayenge aapko park! Chalega? Rona band karo beta! And he wiped the tears from Diya's eyes.
"Uhh...nahi...tum rehne do...main le jaungi ise..., Naina muttered, not wanting to meet his gaze and to see the way he was affectionately handling her child. Their child. Her heart craved to let him know. But she knew she must not jeopardize her relationship now. And as it is, Sameer had never been faithful. It was possible that he may snatch Diya away from her as well- and Naina could not live without her daughter. And then there was Arvind- his trust would be shattered.
"Naina...Reena...late ho raha hai...akele kaise jaogi...main le jaata hun saath...vaise bhi mera kaam khatam ho gaya hai..., Sameer said, still coddling Diya and nuzzling his nose against hers.
"Maine kaha na main le jaungi...! Naina realized she must've shouted, for a few people, including Rita looked up from their desks.
"Mere saath nahi jaana koi baat nahi...gaadi bhej deta hun driver ke saath chali jao..okay! Sameer responded slowly, coldy, his own anger seeping through now.
Wordlessly, Naina took Diya from Sameer's arms, whilst the child clamoured for that friendly uncle's affection over her scolding mother, and walked down the steps of the office.
"Abhi tak itni akdu hai! he murmured to himself and sprinted after her.
He reached her just as she'd hailed an auto. He saw her climb into it with Diya. Before the auto could revv up again, Sameer stopped it and entered besides her. "Chalo bhaiya!
The auto driver started the vehicle, while Naina looked on in shock at his audacity.
But Sameer chose not to explain. He sat away from her on the other edge of the seat, careful not to touch her, his legs spread out and palms crossed together over his knees, and continued to stare out of the auto instead of at her.
Diya chuckled, happy that the nice uncle had given them company and spared her from her mother's recent rise in temper.
Sameer smiled back at Diya affectionately.
"Tumhe kisne bola andar aane ke liye? Naina found her voice.
Sameer's brows furrowed as he tried to tame his rage. He did not respond and resumed staring out of the auto.
"Sameer...main tumse baat kar rahi hun! Tumhe auto mein ghusne ke liye kisne bola? Naina snapped yet again, her own anger building up again.
Sameer bit his lip and retorted, "Mrs. Mittal..aap akeli hain...shayad aapko Dilli ke baare mein zyada pata nahi...shaam hone wali hai...raat ko aate time andhera hoga aur ek akeli aurat, ek choti bacchi ke saath raat gaye safe nahi hai...aap mere office se nikli hain to aap meri zimmedari hain jab tak aapke husband nahi aa jate...okay! Main sirf aapko safely ghar chodna chahta hun...aapko meri car se nahi jaana to auto se hi sahi.
"Main tumhari responsibility nahi hun!
"Theek hai...lekin tumhari akad ke chakkar mein main Diya ko leke risk nahi lunga samjhi! Infact- aap mujhe ignore kijiye...kyunki main aapki safety ke liye aaya hun...aapke saath waqt bitane ke liye nahi! All right? With this, he turned away in a huff, leaving Naina speechless amidst the honking by the auto as it waded through the traffic. Does he really care this much about Diya? And what was this aap' again? He used to do this everytime he was angry with her- start addressing her formally, as if she meant nothing to him. Did she or did she not? At least he was concerned about her safetly. Naina brushed her thoughts aside as India Gate came into view.
An hour later, Diya was busy enjoying her evening with the children around. She reveled in the soap bubble blowing apparatus that Naina had brought for her and she was busy trying to show off her caliber of being able to blow huge bubbles to the kids around.
Naina was sitting at a nearby bench watching her with happiness and a strange sense of satisfaction. Sameer was seated on the other end of the bench, his expression still sullen, while he kept an eye on Diya. Whenever she strode up to him to show him the bubbles she'd blown, his expression mildened, and he smiled broadly and clapped, encouraging her. And then, he again crossed his hands across his chest and his expression turned back into a scowl aware that Naina was noticing him.
Unable to take the silent treatment anymore, Naina got up from her place and walked over to him. Sameer did not bother to acknowledge her and kept his eyes fixated on Diya.
"I'm sorry...! she mumbled. Sameer pretended not to hear her.
Naina cleared her throat. "I'm sorry...! she repeated, loudly this time. Sameer arched his brows at her and then glanced away again without response.
"I'm sorry Sameer...maine kaafi rudely baat ki...wo Diya ko leke main kaafi protective hun...aur mujhe laga ki..., she was cut-off by Sameer. "Aur tumhe laga ki main tumhe akela paake tumhara fayeda uthana chahunga ya Diya ko kuch nuksaan pahunchaunga?
Naina was at a loss of words. This wasn't what she'd thought exactly- but the thought of sitting with him in his car had made her extremely uneasy, and before she knew what she was doing, she'd snapped back at him and refused his offer for any help. Perhaps she'd been scared of her pent-up feelings that she wanted to avoid any proximity to him, that too, when the two of them were all alone. Also, she had a strangely fear that Sameer would somehow uncover the truth about Diya's parentage if he spent more time with her. She might blurt it out. Deep down, she felt she might be wrong in concealing the truth from him, but she couldn't place his widely varying behavior when it concerned her or Diya. She might easily mistake his generosity for Diya as his affection for her, like she'd felt all those years back that Sameer had truly loved her.
"Sorry? she squeaked again.
"It's okay! he nodded, the frown still there on his face, but his features had softened a little. "Ghar kahan hai tumhara?
The tums' are back Naina noted happily. "Moti Bagh...!
"Okay...jab chalna ho bata dena...driver bhijwa dunga...!
And then they again immersed themselves in the antics of the children playing there as dusk fell. Naina realized it was probably the first time, she and Sameer were both sitting together, watching their daughter play.
Soon after, Diya pulled Sameer uncle by his arm and wanted to play hide and seek with him. With mommy's temper flaring today, she did not dare to ask her. Naina giggled and planted a kiss on her cheeks.
"Diya uncle thak jayenge...tang nahi karte aise! Naina taught her in a motherly manner.
"Koi nahi...mujhe bacche pasand hain! Sameer smiled at her and Naina's heart missed a beat. "Kabse? thought both Sameer and Naina simulataneously.
"1 2 3 4...5...10...main aa raha hun! Sameer counted. Though he could easily spot Diya ambushed behind a shrub, he acted as if he couldn't find her in the allotted time of five minutes. And when Diya's turn came, Sameer made himself as conspicuous as possible for the little child to find.
Naina laughed along merrily. It was a fine day indeed. Now Diya was playing with her own father!
Diya was now chattering with two children nearby- a girl with her hair tied up in two pigtails, who looked almost six or seven years old, and the other one, a small boy of around Diya's age, probably siblings judging by their appearances.
Sameer and Naina sat talking about her novel, about Arvind's research, while they saw Diya laughing and screaming as she ran around the park with the two kids. Minutes later, when Sameer and Naina looked at her, the scene had changed completely. The children were rolling on the ground, and Diya and the other girl were busy hitting the young boy. They had straddled the child, while he continued to cry, and Diya and the other girl smacked him. Alarmed, Naina and Sameer rushed to the spot and rescued the boy from Diya. His parents also came running there. Naina and Sameer asked for forgiveness citing Diya was nave. The reason it appeared was that the boy had cheated in one of the games and a squabble had ensued, and the girls had decided to punish him. The other set of parents chided their own daughter for not taking care of her younger brother and soon the crowd dispersed.
Naina's anger had returned. Sameer too wasn't much pleased with Diya's behavior initially, but chuckled when he got to know the reason, and how Diya had taken it upon herself to punish him and even gotten his sister to do the same.
"Kya...khee khee khee...? Naina cocked her eyes at him and then glared at Diya. She simpered under her mother's gaze. Diya looked at Sameer uncle who surreptiously passed her a wink and smiled. Diya's face lit up at his support. Naina noticed the exchange and looked up from the bruise on Diya's forehead to Sameer.
"Tum zyada sheh mat do ise...dikhne mein jitni bholi lagti hai na...utni hi tez hai...din bhar bhagadaudi...aaye din maar peet! Naina slammed Diya. "Samajh nahi aata? Kitni baar mana kiya hai ki ache bacche aise ladai jhagda nahi karte...aap pyaar se nahi samjha sakte the Varun ko? Kahan se seekh rahi ho aap yeh haath chalana? Diya lowered her eyes.
But Naina was not done. "Din badin bigadti jaa rahi hai yeh ladki! Zidd ka koi hisaab nahi...jo chahiye so chahiye...abhi zabardasti aapki wajah se hum yahan aaye aur yahan pe fir aapne hungama shuru kar diya? School mein yahi haal...yahan pe bhi wahi haal! Ek thappad padega na! Naina clenched her teeth and raised her hand. Diya flinched and Sameer gasped. But Naina regained control and instead of slapping her, she jabbed at her forehead and continued to mumble about her misbehavior and simultaneously wiped the mud from her face with her saree.
Sameer was alarmed by Naina's anger and how Diya was becoming the object of it since today evening. "Aur log mujhe koste hain ki mujhe bahot gussa aata hai...ise kya kahenge..inka to gussa bhi khandani hai!
Naina was still rambling on and on about how Diya was becoming indisciplined- that she was not at all like her mother. Sameer cleared his throat, made a solemn face. "Naina..I'm really sorry!
Naina teared her eyes from Diya's to his in exasperation, "kya?
"I'm sorry...kab hua yeh?
"Kya hua Sameer? Naina responded in agitation as she picked out blades of grass from Diya's hair.
"Rakesh sir...unke baare mein pata nahi tha!
"Papa ke baare mein? Kya hua papa ko? Naina's eyes widened.
Sameer responded with a straight face, "mar gaye na...!
Naina was silent for a moment- her brain ceased to function. "K...Kya keh rahe ho Sameer?
"Haan...Rakesh sir mar gaye na...tabhi to unki aatma tumhare andar aa gayi hai! Sameer completed and then broke into a fit of giggles.
Naina finally comprehending the joke became flustered. "Kuch bhi!
"Aur kya...itne bure se koi daantata hai itni choti...itni pyaari bacchi ko? Wo bhi khud ki beti? Yeh Rakesh sir ke hi lakshan hain! Sameer remarked laughingly as he lifted Diya in his arms.
He chortled. "Ekdum unki beti ho! Tabse dekh raha hun...kabhi Diya pe gussa...kabhi mujhpe gussa...bechara pati tumhara...!
Naina couldn't help it and started giggling herself. "Chup raho!
"Vaise kaisa hai khusat aajkal? Sach mein to nahi...? Sameer slit his finger across his neck and then lolled his head.
Naina eyed him in mock indignation, but as she contemplated his question, she realized she indeed had no news of him. She prayed he was safe. All her family was safe.
"Koi jawab nahi...matlab sach mein tapak gaya? Sameer asked, this time a bit seriously, "vaise unhone toh kabhi kisi ko di nahi...lekin bhagwaan unki aatma ko shaanti dein...!
"Papa theek hain! Naina exclaimed, hoping that was the case. And Naina's brows furrowed further. "aur tumne papa ko khusat kaise kaha?
"Mooh se kaha aur kaise...aur please tum to use defend mat hi karo...ek exam mein number kam aane pe us kameene aadmi ne tumko bhukha marna chaha tha..., Sameer's face contorted with rage as he recalled that day.
Naina's expression softened. He remembers? After all these years?
"Please apne papa jaise mat behave karo...aaj daant rahi ho...kal bina baat ke thappad marna shuru kar dogi...thank God tum school teacher nahi ho varna mere jaise students ka kya hota, he smirked.
Naina couldn't help but smile herself, "Diya bahot ziddi hai...bilkul baat nahi maanti meri...aur dekho kaise ladai jhagde karne lagi hai!
"Naina...bacche nahi to kya hum bade zidd karenge? Pyaar se samjhana padta hai..aur fir kuch bacche chanchal hote hain...main bhi aisa hi tha bachpan mein...umar ke saath sab seekh jayegi...lekin aise agar hum apne bacchon ko darayenge to wo humse darne lagenge...fir hamse sach chupane lagenge! Aur fir tum use marogi, dantogi, to Diya bhi to wahi seekhegi aur aage chalke dusron ke sath wahi karegi!
With this, Sameer turned to Diya. "Diya beta...agar aap aise maar peet karoge...to uncle udaas ho jayenge...mumma bhi udaas ho jayengi...masti karna achi baat hai...lekin abhi us bacche ko lag jaati zor se toh...usko dard hota na...agar wo galti karta hai...to aap use batao aur bolo ki use sorry bolna chahiye...aur agar wo nahi bolta to apni teachers se ya mumma, papa se kaho...aaj aap use maroge...kal wo marega...aise Diya ko sab bura bolenge na...Diya buri hai? Is Diya bad?
Diya silently shook her head.
"Diya is a good girl na? To aaj se koi bhi Diya ko pareshan karta hai to wo aake ghar pe batayegi...aur koi nahi suntan na...toh uncle ko bhi bata sakti hai...uncle usko ekdum seedha kar denge!
Diya let out a toothy grin now, which showed her bereft of her front two incisors and nodded.
Sameer smiled indulgently at her and ruffled her hair again, while Naina kept looking in amazement at the duo conversing with each other. The maturity showed by Sameer and the love with which he treated the child had made her heart swell with joy.
Topic started by Samaina_1990
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