Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – VI

Like I suspected this story is not going to finish in 6 (or 7) parts but to make up for dragging it, I will be posting chapters daily (if you like of course!)

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Chapter 6: A Lovely Confession and a Spat

“Where were you?” a bleary-eyed Titu attacked him the next morning as Sonu sat on the balcony his tea forgotten and crinkling. “I waited and waited for you.”

Sonu started. “But why? I texted you didn’t I? It was late and I…”

“Late? It was barely 11 pm!”

“Yeah. I guess I just wanted to be alone.”

“Alone and you? That’s a first! What’s wrong with you?”

“Wrong? Nothing. Everything is right. Just perfect. You know Titu it’s such a wonderful feeling to be in love. I don’t want to share it with anyone, not even,” he looked at him apologetically, “With you.” He shook his head. “I feel as if I am flying and there’s nothing I cannot do.”

“Oh my God,” Titu retired precipitously to the kitchen for some caffeine boost. So armed and somewhat rejuvenated, he returned to harass Sonu. “You are serious about her? Wasn’t one evening with her enough to get rid of that whimsy?”

“Nope. A life time wont be enough.” Sonu was serene and confident.

“She agreed?” Titu’s heart sank.

“Not by a long shot.”

“I am sure she’s playing hard to get to pique your interest and keep you hooked. She’s smarter than the other girls who are so obvious in their intent.”

“You misunderstand her.”

“And you understand her?”

“Not yet.” Sonu shook his head. “But there’s something in her eyes, a deep seated pain, a wounded look that slashes my heart.” He clenched his fists. “I want to kill whoever put it there,” he growled.

“My, my!” marveled Titu, “what an active imagination you have?! I also met her I didn’t see anything like that? She was laughing and chatting as normally as anyone else, perhaps,” he amended, “a little bit more sense than the average behenji. That’s her only claim to fame.” Titu declared. “Listen Sonu,” he cautioned, “don’t get taken in by the tragedy queen act. She’s not our type of girl. Just forget her and move on.”

“And I am wondering just who is my type of girl? Someone who dances well, parties and drinks? Didn’t we agree that we wanted to settle down?”

“But she doesn’t want to settle down does she? She said it very clearly that she wasn’t interested in marrying. So even if you do manage to convince her to marry, I am warning you, housekeeping will fall on your shoulders.”

“All that is inconsequential and a tiny price to pay if she will agree to have me in her life.”

“You’ve lost it man!” Titu was worried. “You and I are going to Goa and not coming back until you are completely rid of this evil spirit.”

Sonu didn’t object and went along with his friend’s suggestion. If Titu was right, it was an infatuation, a passing obsession, might as well take measures to rise above it. She deserved better and more than a passing interest. Yet in the midst of exotic locales, high on feni and romantic beaches, all he could see was her – laughing teasing, brooding, resigned, blanked out and that raw anguish that had flashed in her eyes before it was tucked away out of sight. Something horrifying had happened in college that much he was sure, but what? He raised his glass at Titu gyrating on the deck with a crush of people shook his head and turned away to admire the colors of sunset. Would she have found this romantic or would she have made some cutting comment about nature showing off? He clicked a picture and wished he could send it to her. But she had deigned to even share her number. Now the only way to contact her was to go to her home. Unless…

“Hi! I’m here to discuss a loan.” Sonu landed up at her bank.

Lovely jerked up. “What are you doing here?!”

“Told you,” he grinned, taking the seat across her, “I want a loan.”

She looked at him primly and straightened the sheets on her table. “I don’t deal with loans. I deal with claims,” she shot him a look from her brow, “I’m the bank’s unofficial troubleshooter,” he could have sworn there was a gleam behind the spectacles, “and I have special permission to shoot troublemakers.”

“Well,” he shrugged toying with a stapler on her table, “if you can’t give me a loan, I will stake a claim to your time.”

“I don’t have any time.” She dismissed him.

“But you will go home?” He pointed out. “I’ll drop you home.”

“I can go home by myself.” She snapped. “Thank you.”

“It’s no trouble.” He smiled setting her teeth on edge. Ignoring him, she nodded to the customer standing behind Sonu. “Yes? Please tell me.” She invited.

Unfazed Sonu stood up. “I’ll catch you after work.” He sauntered away while she stared at his retreating back with annoyance and anticipation. Contrarily to punish him (and herself for that transgression, that leap in her heart) she dithered over her work, until she was all caught up. Let him sweat it out, she was still seething over his high-handed behavior, but he was probably cozily ensconced in his air-conditioned gas-guzzler, she thought sourly switching off and locking up for the day. Or maybe he had gotten bored and left, she couldn’t help looking this way and that to see if he was actually around.

“Looking for me?” he popped up from behind.

Arrogant and full of himself, he definitely needed to be taken down a peg or two. “One can’t be too careful,” She curled her lips, “with the kind of good-for-nothings loitering on the streets.”

“What do you mean?”

“The streets of Delhi are choc-a-bloc with suited and booted,” she gave him a scathing disgusted look, “rabid dogs.”

He turned on his heels and walked away.

Good riddance to bad rubbish, she thought triumphantly. But it was a hollow victory. And it was strange how much space ‘rubbish’ could occupy her mind.

She couldn’t get his hurt expression out of her head. Every time she tried to focus on her studies, his eyes would flash up on the pages of her book – surely that hadn’t been a hint of tears? What had she said that he got so upset? She shut her traitorous book with a snap. And why did she care? Because what I said was plain mean? Besides what right did she have to insult him like this?

But it was okay for him to pester and harass me?

He wasn’t harassing! That’s just his way.

Yeah right, make excuses for him. What about me?

Apologize to him.

To him?! But why should I? He started it.

So you finish it. By apologizing. Show him that you are a better person. Can you do that?

I guess. But what if he takes it as encouragement?

Surely you know how to control one man? And you want to be an IAS officer?

She sighed. She had been way out of line and he deserved an apology. Staring at his calling card, she dithered for a long time. Should she call him? Should she apologize in person? Maybe she could pay him a visit at his office? But wouldn’t that give him the wrong message? Give him a tacit license to dog her steps. Besides they had nothing in common. What was the point in building a relationship that was based on a false premise? Relationship! She didn’t do relationships! Darn him for wasting so much of her time and thoughts! She needed to study. May as well be over and done with it.

She texted him – Hi.

She stared at her phone. Single tick. Double tick. No last seen status. Perhaps he was asleep – it was 3 am. Her heart thudded. The ticks turned blue. He was online. She sat up clutching the pillow to her middle. Why was he not responding? Perhaps he didn’t know it was her? Her DP also gave no clue as to her identity. It’s me, Lovely she typed and then hesitated, Jigyasa.

Still no response.

She checked the DP, it was him and he was still online. Was he ignoring her or was he mad at her; or worse hurt because of her?

It is Sonu isn’t it?

He was typing!

No.

She stared. She could have sworn it was him.

Oops. I did check the DP.

Did you?

She frowned and checked again. She almost gasped with surprise.

A mangy unkempt dog stared back at her.

I am sorry. It came out spontaneously.

For what? He wasn’t ready to absolve her so easily.

For crossing that line

Prove it

Prove what?

That you are sorry. Meet me after work tomorrow.

No.

Fine. He went offline.

I’m busy tomorrow. She yielded. Maybe on Friday.

Great!

Already regretting her hasty decision (and annoyed that he did take her apology as a license to continue pursuing her), she typed back but why do you want to meet me?

Even I wonder.

Her heart thudded.

I just have to. Like an addiction I am helpless

Her heart stopped.

I can’t stop thinking about you. It’s as if there’s nothing in my world apart from you.

She felt hot and cold. Her fingers shook as she slowly typed. Perhaps that’s because I am the new toy that you cannot have.

Perhaps

She swallowed hard to dislodge the lump in her throat.

Or

She froze and stared at her screen.

I have fallen in love with you

Tears rolled down her cheeks. She wiped them away fiercely. You are crazy

Yes. About you

What do you know about me?

Nothing. But that doesn’t matter. I only know that I cannot live without you.

Sweat beaded her brow. She felt as if she were flying yet a dreadful weight dragged her down.

Her phone pinged.

Let me live. Marry me. Please.

Go to hell. She switched off her phone and gave into the luxury of gut-wrenching sobs into her pillow.

Heavy eyed and listless, she got through the next day alternating between exhilaration and dread of meeting Sonu. She cautiously and reluctantly switched on her phone at the office. Disappointment tore through her. Not a single message from him. She was the new toy. He was already bored of her. Or accepted that she was unattainable. Well that suited her just fine and she was well out of all that mess she had sworn she would never get into it. She threw herself into her work. But she couldn’t resist checking her phone about a million times. He wasn’t waiting for her outside the bank either.

This wasn’t like him to give up so easily she couldn’t help thinking. Had she again hurt his feelings by saying go to hell? What if something had happened to him?

What do care? She jeered herself. And what do you know about him? Nothing right. Just be thankful that he is out of your hair and get on with your life. Stop moping and get back to studying.

She pulled herself together and immersed herself into the world of academics. Like always this was her sanctuary her abode of peace and tranquility where she could forget about the world, and herself. Yet once in a while Sonu managed to intrude here as well. Where was he

By the next day she was concerned enough to call up his mobile from the office landline. She didn’t want him to get the wrong message again. But his phone was switched off. Why would he switch off his phone? It’s not like she was pursuing him.

Maybe someone else was. Maybe she had come back into his life. Maybe he was regretting his hasty declaration. Maybe, argh!

Forget him. Move on.

I would if only I knew he was fine.

Why do you care?

There were no answers or she didn’t want to admit to them. She had only one thought – how to get news of Sonu?

After three dreadful days her phone pinged.

Hello from Hell.

***

Do let me know if you prefer daily or alternate day updates.

 

FFfAW: The Pick-me-up

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The Pick-me-up

Words 175

“Come for a walk?” Reema was at the door. “Please! I need to vent.”

“Sure.” Dia shut the door behind her. “Yikes it is hot!” she gasped.

“I know,” Reema agreed, “But I simply had to get out.”

“What happened?”

“It’s every damn thing,” Reema groaned, “and the weather isn’t helping. I have an office deadline, college cut offs and admissions are giving us sleepless nights and on top of it, my father-in-law.”

“What’s he done?”

“He has begun to invite random people home.” Reema groaned. “We’ve guests for dinner and lunch.”

“Just make twice the amount.”

“One batch is pure vegetarian.”

“Oops!”

“Exactly.” Reema sighed. “But there’s one good thing.”

“What?” Dia wiped her brow.

“I don’t dread Hell anymore.”

“Right. It couldn’t be hotter than the kitchen.”

They laughed.

“I guess I better get back.” They traced their steps back. “I can see another crisis looming.”

“What?”

“The husband has a cold.”

“Oh no!” Dia commiserated. “Poor you.”

“Thanks for the shoulder.” Reema grinned.

“Anytime.” Dia winked. “But remember, it’s my turn tomorrow.”

***

Written for the FFfAW challenge – a story in 175 words or less. Thanks to Priceless Joy for hosting the challenge and I am happy to have managed to rise to the challenge this week. Successfully or not, is up to you to decide! To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – V

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4: The Unfinished Story

 

Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

Back home, he had another task cut out.

“What?! Why!?” Titu was annoyed. He had been quite sure Lovely would veto Sonu’s plans and save him the bother. Dammit now he would have to spend time in her company. What if anyone asked who she was? He couldn’t very well say fiancé could he? She was downright ugly and a blot on his standards. “I don’t want to get to know her better!” He echoed Lovely’s sentiments. “What’s the point?”

“What will everyone say?” Sonu asked. “We did put off the engagement saying that you needed time to get to know her didn’t you? And if you don’t meet at least a couple of times, they are going to get suspicious. Even her own Aunt and Uncle.”

“What a bore.” Titu grumbled. “And what a waste of a perfectly good evening.”

“If you were so dead against going, why didn’t you say something before I went to meet her?”

“I did! But you didn’t listen,” Titu pointed out. “Besides I thought she would refuse. I am still surprised that she agreed.”

“She had no choice.” Sonu smirked. “Plus she also has a vested interest,” He pointed out smugly, “She needs to keep up appearances of this engagement.”

“Makes sense.” Titu nodded, “but,” he shot Sonu a keen look, “what doesn’t make sense, is your interest?”

“My interest?” Sonu got up to pour himself a glass of water. He drained it. “I don’t know what you mean.” He picked up his car keys. “Okay then see you at around 7?”

“What’s going on Sonu?” Titu stood in front of him.\

“Going on? Nothing.” Sonu shrugged. “I just remembered, I was supposed to meet a caterer…”

“Don’t lie Sonu!” Titu interrupted, “If you know me, I also know you. So out with it.” He insisted.

“I really don’t know what you are talking about!” Sonu stuck to his story. “I am just trying to help…”

“How are you helping me by forcing me to meet this girl? She doesn’t want to marry me and even I don’t want to marry her….”

“Exactly,” Nodded Sonu, “We need a valid reason to break off isn’t it? The sooner we meet and the oftener we meet the earlier we can convince Ghasitaram that you aren’t suited.” Seeing Titu’s unconvinced expression, he added, “You do know Ghasitaram is hell bent on this alliance?” Titu nodded glumly. “It’s not going to be easy to break this one,” Sonu warned. “We have to find a solid reason one that even Ghasitaram wont be able to overlook.”

“That will be tough,” admitted Titu, “the way he waxes eloquent about his friend. In fact he said until college they were like you and me. It was because of the partition they lost touch until now.”

“I know. He told me that as well. And that’s why we have to meet Lovely and find some solid reason that would convince Ghasitaram.”

“What if he doesn’t get convinced?” The dreadful possibility gave Titu the jitters. “I am not marrying that girl and that’s final!”

“Okay fine! I’ll think of something.” Sonu reassured him.

“I know!” Titu snapped his fingers. “You could marry her.” He said slyly. “You seem quite taken in with her.”

“Rubbish.” Sonu hedged. “It’s just that she’s piqued my interest. She’s so…so different and refreshing from the usual girls, that’s all.”

That’s all. Titu grinned to himself. This was getting interesting. He made no more objections until he saw Lovely.

“You do know we aren’t going to the temple for bhajan kirtan?” Titu said as Lovely got into the car.

She paused in the act of shutting the door, the only indication that the barb had hit home. “Yes.” She slammed the door shut and pulled at the seat belt.

“Then why are you dressed as if you are?” Titu deliberately rubbed it in ignoring Sonu’s glare in the rear view mirror.

“What’s wrong with what I am wearing?” Lovely said stiffly looking down at her sober full sleeved salwar kameez. “Besides, how does it matter what I wear?”

“Of course it matters!” Titu didn’t start the car. “We are going to a friend’s engagement party. What will everyone think? That my fiancé is a behenji?”

“Shut up and drive,” Ordered Sonu from the backsat.

“As you wish,” Titu slid the car into gear and zoomed off. “But for your kind information we are going to a discotheque. So don’t blame me if everyone stares at you or makes fun of you.”

“I thought it was a formal function.” Lovely said stiffly. “Not some half-naked dance party at a discotheque.”

“Call it what you like but we people like to wear clothes which we are comfortable in and not what society expects us to wear.” Titu tapped his fingers on the wheel one eye on Sonu’s black expression. He laughed to himself.

“I am comfortable in these clothes, thank you very much.” Lovely sat stiff and composed as Titu gunned down the road.

“Whatever.” he looked at Sonu through the rear-view mirror, “She can be your friend, fiancé whatever. I refuse to be associated with her.” He screeched to a halt. “Here we are.” He got down from the car. Sonu leaped out and accosted Titu. “How can you be so rude?”

“I had to be rude to be kind,” Titu was unfazed. “If she went in looking like that they would demolish her in no time.” He shook his head. “What were you thinking? And what the hell are you playing at?”

Lovely exited from the car. She slammed the door with finality. “I’ve booked a cab. I am going home. Thank you for a fine evening.” She glared at Sonu.

“Hey no!” Sonu went to her. “Don’t do that! If you don’t want to attend the party,” he looked behind where Titu was already deep in conversation with a couple of girls in bits and pieces of garments, “I’ll drop you home.”

“No thanks.” She raised a hand. “I’ve had enough of your hospitality.” She raised a hand to hail her cab.

Sonu walked up to the cab and dismissed him with a 100-rupee note. He turned to face a fuming Lovely. “If you don’t want to attend the party, I won’t insist. But please let me drop you home. Please.” Lovely glared at him before looking away. Taking it as tacit acceptance he went to Titu. “Give me the car keys. I’ll drop her and come back.”

“Sure.” Titu said affably and handed over the keys to him.

“Please,” Sonu held open the car door and waved her in. She looked up from her phone where she was hunting for a cab. Pursing her lips, she got into the car with a regal swish.

Sonu hurried over to the other side and started the car. “Sorry.” He said. “It’s all my fault. A misunderstanding. I should have warned you about the kind of party.”

“Yes you should have. They you wouldn’t have had to waste your time picking and dropping a behenji.”

Sonu winced but rallied. “Titu said that! Not me. I would never say that to you. Not in a million years.” He swore.

“Wouldn’t matter even if you did.” She dismissed his avowal rather rudely. “I just find it weird that all their lives girls are constantly nagged to dress properly, cover properly sit properly and then wham one fine day she is supposed to drop ALL her inhibitions and along with it everything else! She’s not supposed to draw any attention to herself; She should blend into the background and yet be attractive engaging and forward enough to catch a rich handsome husband. Idiotic double standards.” She ranted.

“Yes I suppose the mixed signals can be confusing,” he slowed the car and slid in to the parking.

“Confusing? They are dizzying and oh so frustrating!” She looked around. “Why are we stopping here?”

“I thought it was only good manners to at least treat you to dinner.” He unstrapped himself and got out of the car. He opened her door where she sat mutinously.

“I don’t want dinner. And definitely not with you.”

“Ouch.” Sonu winced. “No one has ever been so rude to me ever in my life and definitely not a beautiful girl.”

Lovely snorted and crossed her arms.

“Please. Look the guard is coming. Please don’t make a scene. Please!” he begged. The security guard had begun to stroll towards them. Rolling her eyes, Lovely got down from the car. “I don’t like these blackmailing tactics.” She warned. “And it’s the second one tonight. One more and you’ve had it.”

“Yes Ma’am.” He said meekly shutting the door behind her. “I wasn’t very sure what kind of food you’d like so I chose Indian. Is it okay?” He asked worried. “Would you have preferred Chinese or Italian? We can go to another joint nearby if you like.” He waved his hand.

“No.” She shook her head. “I’m not here to ‘enjoy’ my food but only to fulfill my years of ingrained societal niceties, to complete a formality and sooner the better.” She looked at her watch. “I have to study.”

“It will be a quick meal I promise.” Sonu looked at the hovering obsequious waiter. “Anything special you would like me to order?”

She didn’t even deign to reply. Sonu quickly gave their order and dismissed him. “Your ingrained good manners don’t extend to me?” He half-joked half-complained.

She looked at him with a puzzled arrested expression. “You are different.” His heart leaped. “You and Titu. I feel like banging both your heads together.” She said conversationally. “You especially get my goat.” She looked at him thoughtfully. “And I don’t seem to feel the need to censor my words with you.”

Pleased, Sonu leaned back as the waiter served them their drinks. “Cheers!” He raised his drink in a toast. “May you continue to be honest and frank with me.” He indicated her drink with his glass. “Don’t worry, that’s non-alcoholic.”

“So,” she raised an eyebrow, “Yours is alcoholic?”

“Yes.” He took a sip. “Alcohol keeps me focused.” He grinned.

She crossed her arms. “After you finish dinner, I’ll take a cab.” She said pointedly.

“Just one drink,” he promised. “So,” he leaned forrd, “Do you actually like studying?”

“Yes.” She nodded.

“Strange.” Sonu looked at her with concern. “Since when do you have this disease?”

Lovely threw back her head and laughed. He stared at the transformation it brought to her face. She glowed and he was the moth to her light.

“No I am serious.” He insisted wishing he could keep her animated and alive always. He hated the pained withdrawn look that she often wore. “Were you fond of studying even as a child?”

“Yes. Studies came easily to me.” She shrugged. “My parents, especially my father encouraged me and I always topped my school.” Her face clouded. “Until they passed away.”

“I am sorry.” Sonu cursed himself. That dreaded look was back. “It must have been very tough. I lost my mother and that was so difficult to cope with but to lose both your parents.” He shook his head. Surely that wasn’t why she appeared to wear a mask to cover the real her? “How did you cope?”

“I was shifted to the hostel soon after they passed away. It was the best solution for all concerned. Dadi had taken the loss of Papa badly and Chachi had her hands full with two young children and my tantrums alternating with bouts of depression were too much for them to handle.”

“Hostel must have just worsened things for you.”

“No actually it didn’t.” She toyed with the cutlery wearing a far away look. “Hostel was the best thing for me. There was no time to mope or mourn. Life was too busy and hectic with sports and extra-curricular activities. They put me into theater, which was very therapeutic for me. I got the chance to forget myself, become somebody else and also give me perspective and helped me to cope with my loss. Plus while in hostel I could pretend everything was fine, that my parents were still at home, I was just studying.” She swallowed. “That’s why I often refused to go home during vacations.”

“You aren’t taking your drink?” he asked. “Should I order something else?”

“I don’t take drinks with strangers.” She said baldly.

He stared. “I am sitting right here! How could I have laced your drink?”

She shrugged. “How do I know you aren’t in cahoots with the waiter? He seemed to be pretty paly with you.”

Giving her a resigned look he reached out and poured half of her drink into his now empty glass and downed it. “Happy? Convinced?”

“One can’t be too careful.” She refused to apologize.

“I am surprised that you actually agreed to have dinner with me.”

“If you remember,” she pointed out, “I didn’t agree. I have a horror of creating scenes and drawing attention.” She admitted. “But,” she warned. “I am a black belt in judo and karate.”

“Oh.” He was impressed. “I am glad you are on my side.”

She just raised an eyebrow. He grinned cheekily. “So where did you learn self-defense? In school?” He attacked his food.

“I wish.” The brooding dark look was back. “I learned it in college.”

Something had happened in college?

“You studied from DU right?” she nodded. “You stayed with you grandparents?”

“Initially. Then I shifted to the hostel.”

Definitely something in college.

“What did you study?”

“Math. You?”

“Math!” His eyes widened. “Don’t even ask!”

“Did you even go to college?” She mocked.

“Good question!” He grinned engagingly. “I only remember the college canteen.” He looked at her empty plate. “Aren’t you going to eat either?” He pointed to his plate. “Look I’ve been eating and drinking and am still alive.”

“There are worse things than death.” But she helped herself to a piece of naan and some dal.

What he dearly wished to ask but wisely held his tongue. “How’s your grandfather?”

“Not well.” She said shortly.  She took a cautious sip of her drink and put her napkin on the table. “How soon can we go?”

“Once you finish eating.” He promised. “You’ll have to go home and cook dinner for yourself.”

“I already cooked before coming.”

“You cooked?”

“But of course. I get the children ready for school, pack their tiffin serve breakfast, make lunch for everyone and do it all over again in the evening.”

“What does your Chachi do?”

“She oversees everything, decides the menu, controls the purse strings, manages her in-laws, husband kids…”

“But I suppose the children’s homework is also your headache?”

She softened. “The children are no bother.”

“You should thank me.” He asked for the finger bowl

“Why?” she frowned.

“At least you won’t have to serve dinner tonight.”

She laughed. “Actually, honestly that was also one of the reasons I got down from the car.”

“Is that also the reason you are so against marriage? Because you have to cook clean and serve?”

“Partly.” She shrugged. “I don’t mind the work so much as the skewedness of the relationship. Why is everything just her responsibility? Why should she only cook…?”

“That’s not true! Even I know how to cook.” Sonu claimed. “In fact I make a mean biryani and often on weekends when the mood strikes, I cook for everyone.”

“Good for you,” she applauded. “But can you do that everyday not just when the mood strikes you? Four meals a day, every day regardless of heat, the humidity, health and mood?” He was silent. “And listen to complaints and criticisms?”

“That shouldn’t be enough to put you off marriage,” he argued. “You could keep a cook, an army of helpers. And what about children? You do like them don’t you?”

“Yes of course.” She nodded. “Later, when I am better settled in my career and have bought a house of my own, I intend to adopt a child, or as many as I can afford. But I have no intentions of being a slave to someone else’s moods and dictates.”

“No place for men?”

“No.” She stood up. “Can we go now? Or should I book a cab.” She scrolled through her phone.

“Let me pay the bill and we are out of here.” He promised. “How about an ice-cream on the way. Then you won’t have to scrounge for something in the kitchen.”

Her lips twitched. She nodded. “I do like ice-cream.” She admitted.

“Finally!” He pumped his fist

“Can I have your phone number?” he asked as he dropped her off home after a companionable ice-cream binge topped with arguments and discussions over the best flavors and brands.

“You can,” she said, “but you may not.”

“Damn.” He banged on the wheel setting off the horn. She frowned at him and got off the car. “Why not?” he wasn’t giving up so easily.

“Why should I? You do have the landline number don’t you?”

“I thought we could chat sometimes?”

“I don’t have time to chat.”

“Okay fine.” He surrendered. “At least take my card.” He thrust it into her hand.

“Why would I need your card?”

“Who knows?” He shrugged. “Perhaps to plan a wedding?”

He was rewarded with a laugh before she disappeared inside.

He looked at the time on his phone. Just 11 pm. And four missed calls from Titu. He looked up at the dark sky and the moon stared back at him. He suddenly cherished the silence, the loneliness. He couldn’t stomach the thought of going back to the blaring thudding music the gyrating mass of bodies. Not when he was in a different world altogether. He wanted to savor the evening, every gesture, every nuance every expression.

***

Sorry for the rather long update. A bit of the text was inadvertently deleted and when I got down to rewriting it, it just went on and on🙄 I just hope I haven’t missed or messed up facts and flow. I am banking on you to let me know. 😅 Next update is on Monday. Have a grand weekend.

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – IV

Links to the previous parts are here:

Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Chapter 4 The Unfinished Story

Sonu stood outside the nondescript door in a modest locality and hesitated. What was he doing here? You are here to maintain facades, he told himself sternly. But why you? Titu should be here, he’s the one who is ‘supposed’ to marry her?

But Titu had refused outright. “Let’s not get carried away with this charade okay? She wants to play pretend-to-marry-me because she wants to study undisturbed right?”

Sonu had reluctantly nodded his head.

“So how’s my landing up going to help her in her goal?”

“But her Aunt and Uncle will suspect something is amiss if you guys don’t meet up frequently.” Sonu said.

“Fine!” Titu gave in, “You arrange a meeting with her. Call her up, meet her, do whatever. Just don’t ask me to meet her to arrange a ‘for-show’ meeting.”

And here he was, outside her door, wondering rather belatedly what exactly her was doing here.

Oh yeah – to fix up a meeting with Titu.

You could have called her.

I did, remember? But she wasn’t there.

Yeah right. You could have texted her.

On her Chachi’s mobile?

You could have asked her for Lovely’s number?

What if Chachi doesn’t see text messages? Anyways I have to fix this asap as Titu is free only today.

Yeah right.

I don’t like what you are insinuating. Sonu firmly squashed that pesky nitpicker in his head and rang the bell.

There was crash, a scream and a yell. Before Sonu could bang on the door, it opened and a pair of arms wrapped around his waist and clung to him, “Save me Papa, save me!”

“Suriiiiii!” Hair flying Lovely came up at a run and stopped short as she saw who it was at the door. The animation in her eyes died down and a mask slid into place.

“Suri,” she disentangled the little girl and hissed, “Go inside. I’ll deal with you later,” she promised in a dire voice.

Embarrassed, Suri slunk away.

“Namaste.” She said formally while trying to gather her flying tresses and coax them into a bun. “Please sit.” She said decorously. “Did you have some work with Chacha Chachi? I am sorry they are out and will be late. I’ll get some water.” She turned away.

“No!” Sonu stopped her. “I don’t want water or tea or coffee,” he added hastily at her expression.

“But you must have something! I’ll get an earful otherwise.” She fretted.

“You can always tell them, we don’t eat anything from the to-be-bride’s house before the wedding.” He grinned at her.

“Why?” She sat down. “So that you can eat her head for the rest of her life?” He could swear he saw a dimple peep out.

“You are so quick!” He praised. “You deserve to be in the IAS!” He looked at her. “You aren’t wearing your spectacles.”

She looked away. “I…I am wearing my contacts.”

“Yet that day you wore your thick ugly spectacles?” He said softly. “And not just that, you armed yourself with a shapeless dress with an oversized dupatta and topped it with an oily hairdo.”

“I did hate making a spectacle of myself.” This time he clearly saw the dimple. She sighed “I thought of scaring you away with all the paraphernalia but since it Dadaji had made his intentions very clear I decided to change tactics and get some protected time till my exam.” Her eyes twinkled and her dimples were in full view.

Sonu blinked to clear the daze. “Didn’t your Aunt say anything?”

“Chachi is always too caught up in her make up to worry about me. Chachaji approved of my traditional appearance as did Dadi.” She seemed to clam up. “Let me get you a cold drink.”

On the verge of protesting, Sonu subsided. It would give him a reason to prolong his stay.

Now why would you want to do that?

Distracted by muffled giggles, he looked up. Two bright pairs of eyes were inspecting him from behind the curtains. He beckoned them.

Tripping, pushing and shoving they presented themselves. “And who may you be?” He asked with a smile.

“That’s Suri or Surabhi,” Lovely re-entered carrying a tray, “and that’s Lata, my cousins. Say Namaste and go in.” She ordered, offering the Coke to Sonu.

“We want to stay and talk to Jijaji.” Suri piped up.

Sonu choked and sputtered. Lovely offered him a couple of napkins. She glared at the two girls looking on avidly. “He’s not…go inside!” She jerked her head.

They shuffled away.

“You didn’t say why you came?” Lovely asked rather abruptly.

“To hear the rest of the story.”

“What story?” She frowned. Her brow cleared. “Oh that?”

“Yes that story. I am sure it didn’t end there did it?”

“No it didn’t.” A small smile played about her mouth. “She extracted her pound of flesh.”

“How? She spoke the truth? And they believed her?”

“You think anyone would believe a woman over a man? In those days? Even today, when it is his word against hers, his voice is louder isn’t it?” she looked at him with a sneer. “Even if she shouts herself hoarse from the rooftops.”

He brushed it away. “So what happened? I am genuinely curious.”

“You could have googled it.” At his look of chagrin and irritation, she yielded. “Okay fine, I’ll tell you just for the sheer pleasure of showing you the power of silence.”

Sonu looked at her puzzled. “Power of silence?”

Lovely raised a hand. “Patience! Chandra was put in jail and then began the hearings. Chidham and his lawyer friend fed her with lots of escape routes – say that Radha used to often fight with me, say that she attacked me, say that she tripped on the sickle, say that it was in self-defense – etc etc. Chandra was silent through these exhortations and meetings. When the judge asked her of any bad blood between her and Radha or whether it was in self-defense, she calmly refuted possibilities and accepted culpability of the crime. Chidham and Dukhiram were shocked. Unable to bear the guilt Dukhiram confessed the truth – he was hungry and she refused him food so he had killed her. Determined to save his brother, Chidham too jumped into the fray and said it was he not his brother Dukhiram who had killed Radha because she had refused him food.”

Sonu looked at Lovely with a resigned expression. “Too little too late eh?”

“Yeah. Sort of.” Lovely nodded and continued, “Naturally the judge was not convinced and convicted Chandra. She was awarded the death sentence.”

“The system isn’t fair.” Admitted Sonu, “but things are different now…”

“Is it?” queried Lovely. “Anyway to end the story, despite repeated pleas, Chandra refused to meet her husband even once before her death. When she was asked why, she said only one word,” she paused. “Maron or die, possibly the Bengali equivalent of rot in hell or even the F word…”

Sonu looked bewildered. “How…what does that mean?”

“Don’t you have any sensibility or sensitivity?” Lovely sighed in frustration. “By refusing to meet Chidham, by refusing to give him the scope to confess his guilt, sorrow and shame, she ‘punished’ Chidham.” Lovely’s eyes glowed. “She sentenced Chidham to lifelong guilt and shame one from which he would probably never be able to recover.”

Dazed, Sonu shook his head. “Women are so…so devious and complicated.”

“Men are not?”

“Nope.” Sonu shook his head.

“You are right.” Lovely gave a bitter laugh. “They have only one thing on their minds.” She got up. “I am sure you must be busy. Thank you for coming.”

“That’s not fair,” Sonu protested without getting up, “We don’t just have S.E.X on our minds.”

“And you proved it.” She mocked. “I wasn’t talking of that one thing.”

“Then what were you hinting at?” Challenged Sonu.

“I meant power, control and dominance.” Lovely’s eyes flashed. “Isn’t that what sex is all about?”

“No.” Sonu shook his head.

“There’s no point in continuing this conversation.” She was back to her wooden self. “Was there anything else?” she asked politely but pointedly.

“I would love to continue that conversation,” Sonu got to his feet, “But actually I came to ask if you were free to go out this evening?”

“Go out where?” She was suspicious. “With whom? Why…?”

“Whoa!” Sonu raised his hands as a shield. “Give me a break! Let me complete will you?”

Lovely shook her head. “I’m busy. I have to study.” She looked at her watch. “In any case, I wasted a lot of time today.” She gave him a scathing look.

Sonu laughed. “I, on the other hand had a most educative day. I have suddenly developed a very healthy respect and regard for women. Who knows how they may turn against you?”

“And men are so innocent and blameless.” She sneered.

“We are like that only.” Sonu wore a pious expression. “Anyway, I wont take up more of your time now, but will be back around 8 pm with Titu and go for a party.”

“I told you! I have to study. Besides, I don’t do parties.”

“Come on! Don’t be such a stick in the mud. You and Titu can get to know each…”

“Hey! Wait.” Lovely jumped in alarm. “Did you not get what I said the other day? I am NOT going through this marriage.” She cast a worried look around and lowered her voice. “So there is no point in getting to know Titu or anyone else.”

“Okay,” Sonu eased off and continued glibly, “I framed that incorrectly. What I meant was that we need to maintain appearances, otherwise our families will become suspicious. You do want to be free of matrimonial hassles until October don’t you?”

“And what’s in it for you?” She asked skeptical. “I cannot believe you are doing this for purely altruistic reasons.”

Exactly. What’s in it for you Sonu?

He shrugged. “I told you. I am like that only. Kind, considerate and every ready to help others.”

Before Lovely could protest, or worse, walk off her uncle and aunty entered. They gushed and fawned over Sonu until Lovely was ready to throw up. And he wasn’t even the groom she thought sourly.

“But of course you must go Lovely!” Aunty said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to get to know your future life partner. Enjoy and cherish these moments.” She patted Sonu. “Thank you beta. She will go. Would you like some tea?” She asked all solicitous concern. “Coffee? Cold drink.”

“Thank you.” He escaped victorious yet avoiding meeting Lovely’s furious eyes with a trapped expression. “Lovely was most hospitable and made me feel very welcome.” His eyes danced as he met hers.

***

Click here for Chapter 5: A Lovely Dinner

 

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – III

If you’ve just joined the fun, perhaps you may like to read the previous two chapters first, otherwise feel free to scroll away 🙂

Click here for Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Click here for Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Chapter 3: A Lovely Story

Sonu relaxed. He reached out and took a pakora. “So why did you agree to come today?”

“I had no choice.” Lovely shrugged. “When the offer came from your grandfather, everyone was ecstatic,” she paused, “even envious. It was as if I had won the Nobel Prize or something. And of course there was no question of refusing. That’s just the groom’s prerogative.”

Sonu was perplexed. Now that Titu was ‘safe’ from the clutches of yet another unsuitable not to mention unscrupulous manipulative witch, he focused on the girl and the mixed signals he was getting.

“You don’t want to marry Titu?” Sonu asked.

She shook her head.

“But you want us to play along for a while?” He wanted to be sure.

“Yes.”

“For how long?” Sonu’s bored into hers before they dropped.

“Until 15th October.”

The boys looked at each other puzzled. “Okay, look,” Sonu said, “this isn’t fair. You know everything about us while we know next to nothing about you. If you want us to play along, you better come clean and spill the beans. Otherwise…”

“Otherwise what?” Lovely challenged.

“Otherwise I will insist that you two get married next week.”

“Hey!” An alarmed Titu sat up straight. “Why make me the scapegoat?”

“Shush!” Sonu hushed him, “this isn’t about you. It is about her.” He turned to her. “Are you going to tell us or,” he looked suggestively towards the restaurant where the parents were laughing loudly and talking excitedly.

Lovely took off her glasses and rubbed her eyes. “Fair enough.” She nodded. “Here’s the thing. I want to join the civil services. My exams are in October and I don’t want repeated exhibitions for the purposes of finding a suitable groom and neither am I prepared to hear a million taunts for rejecting the best groom ever and far far beyond my station in society.”

“Oh.” They looked blankly at her. “You actually want to study?” Sonu’s voice dropped to a disbelieving whisper.

“Yes!” Her eyes sparkled bringing an attractive glow to her otherwise unremarkable face. “I love academics. I want to work, study, and be independent and answerable to only myself. At least in personal matters.”

“What if you don’t clear the exams?” Sonu drummed his fingers on the table. “They are very tough aren’t they?”

“Yes they are tough, especially so because I am working as a Probationary Officer at a bank. I hardly get any time to study. But I will get into civil services.” She wore a determined look. “If not this year then next year, or the next. No matter how many years it takes.” There was a fanatical gleam in her eye.

“Hey!” An alarmed Titu sat up. “Does that mean…?”

Lovely gave him a pitying look. “Relax. You only need to play along for the next two months or so. I’ll manage after that.”

“Why don’t you talk this out with your parents?” Sonu was curious.

“Don’t you know?”

“What?”

“My parents died in a road accident when I was 14 years old. I was put in the hostel. When I completed schooling I came to Delhi and have been living with my grandparents.” She said in an emotionless monotone. “Now that grandfather has had a stroke and Dadi isn’t keeping well either, they want to marry me off and fulfill that last obligation.”

“That does make sense.” Titu came to life. “You should get married. How will you cope alone when your Dada Dadi…?”

“Why?” objected Sonu, “She has her Uncle and Aunt doesn’t she? She can stay with them.”

“Why do I have to stay with somebody?” Lovely cut in.

They stared at her. “But…”

“Do you stay with anybody?” She asked Sonu.

“No. But…”

“Yeah.” Nodded Lovely. “But you are a MAN right? You can do ANYTHING!” She was seething. “While I have to stay under somebody’s protection.”

“It is for your own safety.” Titu said.

“Yeah right.” Lovely fumed.

“Is that why you are dressed so…so,” he searched for a word which wouldn’t sound offensive, “conservatively? To scare the groom away?”

“Dress?” She looked down upon herself. “What’s wrong with my dress?” She smacked herself on the head. “Oh sorry I forgot! You are broadminded people,” she jeered, “You don’t mind if a barely covered bride-to-be shakes a leg uninhibitedly in front of a crowd which includes her grandfather-in-laws and uncle-in-laws ogling her unabashedly do you?”

“To which era do you belong?” It was Sonu’s turn to sneer. “Eighteenth century? He clicked his fingers. “Snap out of it. This is the twenty-first century and nobody cares about such things. It’s prudish people like you with old-fashioned sensibilities that drag women down.” He shook his head and snorted. “And you want to be an IAS officer. To do what? Put women back into the purdah?”

“Twenty-first century is it?” Lovely refused to back down. “Don’t you want a good sanskari traditional bahu who will serve the family, bind the family, take care of everybody?”

“Of course!” Sonu defended, “Just like you would want a decent guy who would look after you and your family. That won’t change and should not change.”

“Oh please!” Lovely threw up her hands in disgust. “Which Utopian era do you belong? All that is required from the groom is that he be ready to ‘lend’ his name to her. In return, she has to sacrifice everything, if need be, her own life for his family.”

“What rot!” Sonu protested hotly.

“Is it?” Lovely leaned back into her chair. “Over a hundred years ago, Guru Rabindranatha Tagore wrote a story Punishment.”

“Yeah so?”

“You’d be surprised at how little if anything has changed since then.”

“Okay so what’s this story about?” Titu was interested despite himself.

“The story is set in deep rural Bengal and is about two poor brothers who are farmers – Dukhiram and Chidham.” Lovely dove into the story without any further ado. “They are married to Radha and Chandra respectively. Lovely drained her cup. “Chandra is about 17 or 18 years of age, is pretty and willful. Chidham too is handsome and has a roving eye. He often stays out nights without bringing any earnings, which irks his wife. She retaliates by going out often to the riverside and praising another man. Chidham doesn’t like it and abuses her verbally and physically. The next day she disappears to her uncle’s home, few villages away. Chidham could bring her back only after a lot of effort and pleadings.”

Sonu laughed. “Yes! Nothing has changed. She still does that and the poor husband has to dance to her tunes.”

Lovely rebuked him with her eyes and continued. “He has a love-hate relationship with his wife and obsesses about her. Because of her, he is so disturbed and restless that he fantasizes about her death, which could perhaps give him some peace.”

Sonu exchanged a knowing glance with Titu and raised his hand for a high-five. “Poor husband. I do feel for him. You are right! Again nothing has changed.” They laughed.

Lovely ignored them. “Radha and Chandra too don’t get along very well and neighbors are quite inured to their loud arguments and fights.”

The boys chortled and went for another high-five.

Lovely rolled her eyes. “That was the background of the story. The actual incident is about the day, the two brothers return home after a particularly unproductive day hungry and tired. The house is deathly silent. It is evident that things have been pretty bad between the two ladies today. Ignoring them, Dukhiram asks his wife to serve him food. Radha snaps at him and taunts him if she was supposed to go out and earn money for his food as well. Blind with rage, Dukhiram raises his sickle and kills her.”

“Oh!” Sonu sat up. “A sting in the tale!”

“Radha falls down beside Chandra spattering her with blood. Chandra opens her mouth to scream but Chidham claps a hand over her mouth. He doesn’t want anyone to know what has happened. It was dark. Perhaps no one would get to know. Perhaps they could dispose of the body.” Her voice rose and fell with Chidham’s thoughts. “And perhaps that’s what would have happened if a neighbor hadn’t decided to drop in at that moment to collect his dues.”

“What happened then?” Titu too was sucked in.

“The neighbor is naturally shocked to see the bloody scene and demands an explanation. Chidham falls at his feet and confesses, “Chandra killed her. Please save her.”

“What does Chandra say to that?”

“Nothing. She is too shocked to say anything. The neighbor, inured and witness to their daily fights, also a lawyer by profession, accepts it and says, “Tell the police that Dukhiram asked for food and she refused that’s why he got angry and killed her. We can get your brother off the hook. Don’t worry.”

Sonu looked at Titu and whistled.

Lovely raised an eyebrow. “Ironical isn’t it?” she gave a bitter laugh. “The truth shall set you free.”

“That’s it? That’s the story?” Sonu asked. “I don’t see the relevance,” he complained.

“No.” Lovely shook her head. “There’s more. Do you know what Chidham response was to this suggestion?”

“What?” they asked.

“Chidham said,” Lovely paused for dramatic effect, “I can get another wife but how can I get another brother?”

There was silence.

“Lovely!” It was her aunt calling.

“Coming Chachi.” She got up. “Can you see the parallels?”

Sonu exchanged glances with Titu and slowly shook his head.

It’s not about who is right and who is wrong,” Lovely said pointedly looking at Titu who flushed as he recalled his words to Sweety after she had garlanded him. “Isn’t that what you said in the twenty-first century? Clearly nothing has changed in the past one hundred years. What if Sweety was right and Sonu wrong?” She gave a bitter laugh. “But that is not important is it? What matters is that Sonu is your friend and you will support him in whatever he may have done – right or wrong. In all things, she is still comes a distant nobody on his list of priorities.” She walked away.

***

Click here for Chapter 4: An Unfinished Story

 

Why the Caged Bird Doesn’t Sing

caged-liz
Photo (c) Liz Young

Why the Caged Bird Doesn’t Sing

Words 100

“Once upon a time, I was young, happy and carefree.” He said addressing gathered guests on their gala anniversary celebrations. “Until I met her.”

Laughter.

“But,” he raised a hand; “I experienced true happiness only after marriage.”

“Awww.” They nudged her and giggled.

Whenever your demands were met, she smiled at them.

“Thank you for the greatest joy of my life,” he pointed, “my darling Jaya.”

Whom you wanted me to abort, she swallowed.

“I am now the proud husband of a Bank Manager.”

Cheers and claps.

One who is not allowed to manage her own account. Her father beamed.

***

Written (with apologies to Maya Angelou) for the Friday Fictioneers – a story in 100 words or less. Thanks to Rochelle for hosting the challenge and Liz for the intriguing photo prompt. To read the other stories inspired by this prompt click here.

Sonu aur Titu ki Lovely – II

Click here for Chapter 1: A Lovely Noose

Chapter 2: A Lovely Surprise

Sonu flicked another glance at the girl. “But you have to admit there are advantages of having a like this girl as your wife. She would be only too grateful to be marrying anyone, leave aside someone so handsome as you, not to mention well off as well.” He clapped his friend on the back. “And she won’t say much either if you have interests elsewhere.” He winked.

“But what about my reputation? What will everybody say when they see my wife is a behenji?”

“Relax Titu! Why worry when Sonu is here? Let’s play along until it’s time to pull the rug and get rid of the girl.” He grinned. “Sweety was one hell of a teacher – she gave me some pretty neat ideas.”

“What are you two boys doing standing over there in one corner and gossiping like girls?” Dadi called. “Come and meet Lovely.”

At the meeting venue after the initial rounds of niceties, a round of tea and snacks, Mrs. Sharma set the ball rolling. “Let the children get to know each other.” As everyone nodded, she added, “Sonu you also go along.” She smiled. “You don’t mind do you Lovely beta?” she asked the girl who dumbly shook her head.

“So your name is Lovely?” Sonu cursed himself for the inane remark. But he was rather short on inspiration and pressured to break the escalating silence and disdainful disapproval emanating from the girl. What business had she to look down upon them?!

“My name is Jigyasa but I asked too many questions and wasn’t beautiful enough so my granny changed my name to Lovely.” She met Sonu’s look of surprise calmly enough. “Are your names actually Sonu and Titu?”

Sonu coughed, “My name is Sudarshan and his name is Trilokpati.”

Lovely’s eyes gleamed through her thick spectacles, “The Master of the Three Worlds,” it was her turn to cough (or was it to smother a giggle?), “but not mine.”

They stared blankly at her.

“Why are you both so surprised?” She asked aggressively in contrast to her demure cat-got-my-tongue look earlier. “Oh I get it,” she nodded, “I am so plain and ugly that I would be grateful and ready to marry any man. Even if he looks panic stricken at the thought of being tied to me for the rest of his life and his best friend is already plotting ways to get rid of me.”

Sonu opened his mouth but no words came out of it. Titu didn’t even try to speak.

“Why don’t we sit?” She waved to the comfortable lawn chairs under a colorful umbrella. “Should we order something?” She asked as the waiter hovered obsequiously in the background.

They shook their heads.

She raised a hand, “Three cups of tea and one plate pakoras.” She turned to the boys. “Paneer or mixed?” The cat had got their tongues. She sighed and said, “Two plates, one of each.”

She looked at them with a gleam in her eye.

“What’s so funny?” Huffed Sonu.

“If only you could see your faces,” Her lips twitched.

“So you were pulling our legs?” Sonu was on shaky ground. He couldn’t even decide whether that was better or not.

Lovely sobered and shook her head. “No. I am serious.” She paused. “I have no intentions of marrying you or anyone else. But,” she looked at them sternly, not unlike their 4th grade Hindi teacher, Mrs Dandona, “we won’t tell the others just yet.”

“Why not?” Sonu asked suspiciously.

“I have my reasons.” She said shortly.

“And why should we go along with you?” Sneered Sonu.

“Because if you don’t,” her lips thinned and her eyes narrowed (Mrs Dandy for sure!) “I will marry Titu.”

“Not if I can help it,” snapped Sonu immediately on the defensive.

Lovely looked at him pityingly. “You are a glutton for punishment aren’t you?”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Didn’t you learn anything from your run in with Sweety?”

They gaped at each other. “You know?!”

“Every sweet little detail, down to the tiny mole near Sweety’s belly button.” Her lips curled.

“Who are you?” An all too familiar sinking feeling enveloped Sonu. It was déjà vu. He stood up with his fists clenched. “Who sent you? Sweety?” He hissed.

“Relax!” Lovely rolled her eyes. She sat back as the waiter returned with their order. “Mmm hot sweet tea and crispy pakoras, what more can one want right? Go on dig in.” she urged before busying herself with the steaming goodies.

“Tell us,” Sonu bit out, “Otherwise…” he put a hand on Titu’s shoulder and stood up.

“So how’s it going?” Sonu and Titu turned around in surprise. Ghastiram stood there with a benign expression on his face. “Ah pakoras!” He reached out and helped himself to one. “Why are you boys standing?” He asked. “Urgent call of nature?” He laughed at his own joke. “Sit down, sit down.” he urged Titu.

“Please sit Dadaji,” Lovely got to her feet. “Please have a cup of tea.”

“No thanks beta.” He put his hand on her head in blessing. “You know Titu, Lovely is a very sweet girl.” He cast her an affectionate glance. “I’ve heard nothing but praises from everyone.” He patted her head “So warm and giving. And very mature and understanding.” He patted Titu. “Since she is my chuddi-buddy’s granddaughter, I didn’t want to keep her in the dark about anything. That’s why I told her all about Sweety and Pihu and,” he shook his finger at him, “you better tell her all about any other girl whom you may have had in your life. Best to start on a clean slate.” He took another pakora. “Carry on.” He said genially and moved away.

“He told you about Sweety?!” Sonu whistled.

“I don’t believe this!” Titu wore a dazed look, “Dadaji told you about the mole near Sweety’s belly button?”

Lovely shook her head. “No. He gave me all the wedding ceremony videos, including the jaymala.” She paused. “He wanted me to take an informed decision.” There was a faint note of incredulity in her voice. And a sneer.

“Oh so that is why you don’t want to marry Titu? Not that he’s desperate to marry you.” He exchanged a glance with Titu. “As if anybody could be.” He completed under his breath.

But she heard.

She stiffened and her lips twisted. “That suits me fine.” She looked at them with defiance. “I have no desire or intention to get married.”

Sonu relaxed. He reached out and took a pakora. “So why did you agree to come today?”

***

Click here for Chapter 3: A Lovely Story