Link to Previous Article
Aashi felt his tightening grip around her waist and rather than stiffening , her instinct made her lean into him. The two looked straight ahead and struggled to maintain a casual smile.
“Hi Saahil.” Aashi said cheerfully walking towards him making Om let go of her. “How are you?”
“Wow Aishani Didi. Your big shoe is also gone and you look good!” Saahil said excited.
Om raised his eyebrows in surprise.
“Wow Saahil. You are smooth!”
“That’s my boy!” Shivaay said proudly as Shikhar looked on amused.
Soon everyone was downstairs. Soumya and Rudra came to the hall looking strained while Priyanka followed them looking nervous. She stopped in her tracks as she saw Shikhar standing there talking to Om. Her dark burnt orange kurtaa seemed to be lending some of its color to her face while she clutched her bronze , crushed silk dupatta with her right hand. Then, gathering courage, she walked forward towards everyone.
Shikhar and Aishani were introduced to Ranjana by Om. Aishani’s face softened as she looked at Soumya’s mother and a fleeting regret touched her heart before vanishing. ” Hello Aunty,” she said softly, “I am so happy to meet you.You have an amazingly beautiful and kind daughter.”
Ranjana smiled and looked at Soumya with pride. Soumya shrank under her mother’s loving and trusting gaze but tried to smile.
Priyanka walked uncertainly towards Aishani and Shikhar. “Hi Aishani di.” she said softly.
“Hi Priyanka!” Aashi said hugging her. “How are you?”
“Good. How is your foot?”
“Much better. See?” Aashi said smiling.
Shikhar stood beside them but was distracted by Dadi explaining something to everyone. Aishani noticed Priyanka looking at Shikhar.
“Bhaiya, did you say hi to Priyanka?” she said tapping Shikhar on his arm.
Startled, Shikhar turned towards them. “Oh! Sorry, I was listening to what Dadi was saying. Hi Priyanka. How are you?”
“Fine.” Priyanka said smiling nervously. “I’ll see what Dadi was saying.” she said hurriedly and left. Shikhar looked puzzled while Aashi rubbed her forehead and sighed.
Dadi wanted everyone to participate in the evening aarti. They walked over to the gorgeous temple next to the hall. Dadi put her hand gently on Saahil’s back and ushered him to walk with her towards the temple. Anika looked quizzically at Shivaay who just nodded reassuringly. Dadi performed the aarti and applied the first tilak to Saahil and fed him the prasad. Then handing over the aarti plate to Jhanvi, she kissed Saahil’s forehead and said, “You will always be special for me.”
Anika felt overcome with emotion and dabbed at her eyes. Once the aarti and prasad had been taken by everyone they went over to the hall.
After a while of talking and snacks, Rudra got a call and went to the entrance. When he came back, he had three of Saahil’s best friends from his old school. Everyone looked surprised while Saahil squealed with excitement and grabbed his crutches to come to them. He hadn’t been able to see these old friends for months now.
Rudra smiled looking at them. Then he saw the elders looking curiously at him. “Actually, we thought that since it’s Saahil’s party, he should have some fun too. So we kept a surprise kids party near the pool area. Don’t worry a few of us will be there to make sure the kids are safe. We just wanted Saahil to really enjoy today and always remember it.”
Dadi smiled. “Rudra, this was a brilliant idea. Take them to their special party but Saahil will have to come back for a few minutes in between. There is something important I have planned.” Rudra nodded and took the kids to their section with Soumya and Priyanka following him.
Anika looked at Dadi with some doubt.
“Anika, beta go see if the dinner preparations are going ok.”
“They are fine Dadi. I checked a couple of hours ago.”
“Still. Just make sure everything is OK.”
Anika nodded and went to the kitchen partially to check on everything and partially to let off her anxiety. Aishani decided to follow her to see if she needed any help.
Once Anika had left, Dadi called Shivaay.
“Shivaay, I need your help with something. Come here.” she said getting up from where she was sitting and walked over to her . “Om , you come too.”
After they were done talking to Dadi, both Shivaay and Om looked a little worried and discussed something.
“I’ll go and tell her now.” Shivaay said. “She will be upset if she comes to know that I knew and did not tell her.”
“You just got to know. Dadi said they will be here any minute now. You need to stay here. We will explain later. Something goes wrong, I’ll handle it, I promise.” Om tried to reason.
Just then Anika came back from the kitchen flustered. Aishani followed her. “The kitchen staff is saying that Dadi ordered snacks and refreshments for ten extra guests this evening. Who else is coming?”
“Anika, listen…” Shivaay had just started to speak when his phone rang.”Yes, let them come in. They have been invited.” he said. “I’ll explain later.” He said to Anika as he walked towards the entrance.
Anika looked at him in a daze as a small bunch of people came in and by the look of them, they looked like media people.
“Om, what is happening? Why are they here?” Anika asked surprised.
“Anika, we will talk later. Just go with the flow for now.” Om said quietly as Aishani looked perplexed at them.
Dadi joined Shivaay in greeting them and then got them in. “Om, go call Saahil for a few minutes.” she said.
Soon, Saahil and his friends along with Rudra, Soumya, and Priyanka came in looking clueless.
“Come Saahil. Anika and Shivaay, you also come here.” She said. ” I invited all of you to share a happiness our family got. My grandson Shivaay and his wife Anika are now proud parents to Saahil through a formal adoption. Hereon , Saahil is Saahil Singh Oberoi. Although as Anika’s brother, Saahil was already our child, we are all very happy with this formal addition to our family. Sooner or later, this news would have been discussed and maybe misunderstood and misrepresented. So I wanted to make a correct and formal announcement. Thank you for coming. Please have refreshments before you leave.”
The media persons asked Shivaay, Anika, and Dadi a few questions and then requested some pictures. Anika posed stiffly with Shivaay and Saahil. Then the media guests were ushered in for refreshments.
Anika was in a shaky state by the end of it all. “Shivaay did you know this was planned?”
“Yes. But I just got to…” before he could finish she walked away .
Om was standing with Aishani looking at them. He saw Anika march past them. “I’ll have to go and talk to her Aashi. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Aishani looked taken aback. Then she looked at Shivaay walking towards the living area and went to him.
“Anika! Listen to me. We need to talk.”
Om said catching up with her.”Come with me” he said taking her towards a balcony that overlooked the lawns.
He saw her nervous state and decided to give her a minute to recover.
“I told him all about my doubts over publicizing this event too much. He should have prepared me for it. He did not even tell me.”
“He just got to know!!” Om said in a slightly raised voice.
Anika looked at him in disbelief.
“Anika, you have been going out of your way to keep this party low key. You did not want even a few guests who are our close business associates, to be invited and wanted it to be strictly a family affair. Dadi honored that wish of yours. Even then you have been looking like you were walking on eggshells!!Why!!? That is the reason why Dadi kept this a secret from everyone. She knew that if you came to know you would find a way to not let it happen.What is it that is so wrong with what just happened?”
“Om. We adopted Saahil so we could make decisions about his life. Not to publicize him as an Oberoi and look like i manipulated Shivaay and got Saahil a right he did not deserve.I did not want anybody’s sentiments getting hurt.”
“Just listen to yourself.” Om said. ” Anika! Saahil IS an Oberoi now. Get that in your head and accept it yourself to begin with. And anyway, is it possible to do the right thing while keeping each and every person’s sentiments in mind?”
Anika stared at him unable to answer.
“And whose “sentiments” are you talking about. Dad’s and Choti Ma’s ? Just until a few months ago some of their so called sentiments were ripping the rest of the family apart.”
Om took a deep breath.”Anika, Saahil is legally your and Shivaay’s son now. You can’t say, we just adopted him so he wouldn’t be snatched from us and so that we can take decisions for him. He is seven now. What will happen when he fifteen or sixteen? Will he have this half-son status because it was only given within the boundaries of this house? Have you thought about what that could do to him? When he goes to school, to college, interacts socially, there needs to be a clear understanding that he has the recognition of being Shivaay’s son or he will land up living a confused life that might damage him. And why? Both of you love him like your own child. All of us love him like he is our own child. Even Dad and Choti Ma love him. Except that they may still have that one point about “child by birth” that you were so worried about. You are so fixated on that one thing, that you have lost sight of what’s best for Saahil’s future and you are punishing Shivaay for what he did not do. Dadi told us literally ten minutes before the media arrived.”
Anika felt miserable. A few tears rolled down her cheeks as remorse and guilt over how blindsided she had been and how she had hurt Shivaay, hit her.
Om was very quiet for a few seconds. Then he added firmly. “One thing I want to clarify to you today. Shivaay’s children, Saahil included, and Rudra and my children whenever they may arrive, will NOT go through the same crap that Shivaay, me, Rudra, and Prinku went through due to Dad’s and Choti Ma’s ambition,ego, bickerings, and clashes leave alone the other nasty stuff we saw as children due to just Dad. So please get over your complexes and accept reality.”
Aishani looked at Shivaay. He looked a little upset but not out of his mind with worry. She saw Shikhar chatting with Tej and Shakti. Soumya’s mom and Pinky were talking to each other and Dadi and Jhanvi were nowhere to be seen. She just stood quietly not knowing where to go. Soumya, Rudra, and Priyanka had gone back with the kids.
“Shivaay Bhaiya, can you show me where the pool area is so I can be with the kids?”
Shivaay came out of his thoughtful state and realized that in all the drama, Aishani had been left alone. He felt bad and realized how odd the current situation must seem to her. “Yes,” he said. “Come. I’ll show you.”
Once they were a little away from where everyone was sitting Shivaay decided to talk to her as they walked slowly.”Aashi…It’s ok if I call you that right? Om has been referring to you like that and we are switching between Aashi and Aishani.”
Aishani blushed.”You can call me whatever you want.”
“Thanks. Aashi, you must be wondering what kind of circus just happened. It’s important you understand. I wouldn’t want Om’s life complicated because he was sorting out mine.”
“No bhaiya, I wouldn’t want to interfere in any personal matter.”
“Aashi! I am Om’s older brother. I know that you need to know!”
Aashi looked down uncomfortably.
“Anika was uncomfortable with publicizing Saahil’s adoption too much. She thought my mom might not like that. So Dadi, secretly called the media because she wants Saahil to get the recognition he deserves as my legally adopted son. All that sudden media attention made Anika nervous and confused. When she thought I had known it would happen but hadn’t told her she got upset. When Anika is super angry even with me, then she listens to just one person calmly and that’s Om. It’s like, sometimes, the only person you will listen to is your sibling. Om is the brother Anika never had. Saahil is so small that she has been more of a mother to him. She has fought alone with all the problems life threw her way. In Om, she found a brother who gets her and who can make her see things the way only a brother or a sister can. It’s complicated but I have a feeling that you will understand.”
Aashi smiled lightly looking ahead “That’s just Om. Honest, open, and direct without being offensive. He has a way of making people see things in their true light. I totally understand.” Then she realized how much she had said and looked at Shivaay nervously.
“Boy! You are a complete goner too. But don’t take my word for it. By all means go confirm it for yourself.” Shivaay said laughing as Aashi looked at him completely confused.
“There come the deadly duo.” Shivaay said looking behind her. “If I were a king, one would be my mahamantri the other my senapati. I think you know who’d be who.”
Aashi turned around to see Om and Anika walking towards them and she had to hold back her laughter listening to Shivaay’s comments. Om smiled looking at her while Anika looked sheepishly at Shivaay.
“Sorry.” she said standing next to Shivaay.
Shivaay looked at her scrubbed face, then at Om who blinked at Shivaay reassuringly.
“Come.” He said to Anika. “I need to talk to you too. And I have to go and make sure the press people are taken care of.” Anika nodded then turned towards Aashi. “Sorry Aashi that you had to see me like that.”
Aashi just smiled.
“Om, Aashi wanted to see where the kids were playing. Will you show her?” said Shivaay before he left.
“I will.” Said Om.
“Sorry I left you like that. There was no time to explain. Actually…”
“I know” Aashi said. “Shivaay Bhaiya explained.”
“He did?” Om said surprised. “Wow! So there is no confusion in your mind?”
“No.” Then she remembered something. “Just one. I don’t know why he called me a complete goner and said I could confirm it by myself.”
Om laughed out loud. “Did you say something about me before he said that?”
Aashi was surprised. “Just general stuff.” she said uncertainly.
Om looked at her with a curious glint in his eyes that made Aashi’s heart race. “Let’s rescue Shikhar from my dad. Then we will see what the kids are doing.” he said but before we go I need to show you something important.
“What?” Aashi asked curiously.
He pulled her along to an open room nearby and half-closed the door behind them.
“What’s here?” Aashi asked looking around at some shelves and a few tables.
“Privacy.” Om said pulling her in his arms. “Just for a short minute.”
Aashi stared into his deep eyes, her blood pounding in her head. Before he could make a single move, she held his face in between her hands, pulled it down towards herself, tip-toed and kissed him on his lips.
Om breathed in sharply as he lifted her off the floor kissing her back like his life depended on it.
Thanks for reading Everyone. I don’t know if this is still an Ishqbaaz FF or I have turned it into something else entirely. But it is what it is and hopefully still interesting. Adding Rudra and Priyanka’s part would have made it too long for one update so that will come up in the next chapter, fingers crossed ? Please comment if you can.