Chapter 149: Home Alone
As the car sped down the road, Rajani, sandwiched between her MIL and husband, felt as if she were witnessing a farce. She felt woozy and queasy, and even though the roads were empty the journey interminable. Her MIL kept up a flow of steady chatter and the words buzzed around her making her feel like screaming. She bit her lip and clenched her fists.
The car shuddered to a stop and not a moment too soon.
She got out of the car and her legs buckled, someone gathered her into his arms. She looked up blankly was it Harsha? No…no it was someone else…. who was it? He looked familiar….
She came to in an unfamiliar room on an unfamiliar bed with a million eyes boring into her. With a squawk of distress she sat up only to flop down again. Sunaina set up a screech and shooed everyone out of the room. She helped Rajani sit up and forced her to drink up a glass of extra sweet milk. Rajani gagged but MIL would have none of it. She helped Rajani take off her jewelry and heavy lehenga. In the privacy of the washroom Rajani gave in and threw up. After changing into her nightdress, she emerged from the washroom feeling more human. She looked around with curiosity – was this her room? Not bad but…
“Oh there you are Rani,” her MIL bustled in with a plateful of chole bhature. The fragrance wafted to Rajani, she made a U-turn and dashed inside to throw up again.
“Oh! You poor thing,” her MIL commiserated. “Harsha take this plate away. I think the smell is making her queasy. Isnt it?”
Rajani nodded weakly.
Muttering Harsha stomped away.
“Come beta, come and lie down. Make yourself comfortable, get inside the quilt. Do you want a hot water bottle?”
Rajani shook her head and gratefully slid inside.
Harsha reappeared wearing a frown.
“Harsha, sit with your wife,” MIL called, “I’ll get her some toast…”
“Oh please I couldn’t!” Rajani’s stomach churned.
“But you must eat something! When did you last eat?”
Rajani looked down.
“Hmm I thought so,” Sunaina clucked, “don’t worry I won’t force you like I did with the milk. I am sorry.”
“No, no it’s okay.” Rajani was embarrassed.
“Here, take this tablet. You wont feel so sick. Take it. Go on. I am not poisoning you!” she laughed.
Rajani went red, mumbling her apologies she accepted the tiny yellow pill all the while feeling Harsha’s eyes boring into her.
“Good girl.” Sunaina fussed over here. “Now lean back and relax while I get a crisp lightly buttered toast.”
“No…nothing thank you. Err…what happened? How did I…?” she patted the bed.
“Don’t worry nothing happened. You fainted and luckily Kuldeep was there. He caught you before you fell and hurt yourself…”
“Oh!” Rajani flamed with embarrassment. Was that why Harsha looked put out?
“It happens! I’ll get some toast…”
“I don’t want toast. Maybe just a cup of tea…?”
“Oh yes of course! How remiss of me. I’ll just make a cup and get it.” She hurried out.
Mumbling a thank you Rajani lay back gratefully against the pillows. She was dying for a cup of tea.
“Just who do you think you are?” He burst out.
Alarmed Rajani sat up. “Whaa..?”
“Giving orders to my mother as if she were your servant!”
Rajani flushed. “I didn’t mean it like that…”
“Yeah right. Not even a couple of hours since you’ve been home and you have everyone jumping through the hoops.”
“What did I do?”
“What did you do? You fainted. And then you occupied my parents’ bedroom and now my father is roaming the house like some displaced refugee while you loll about on the bed giving orders to my mother! What would you have me do? Maharani? Massage your temples or perhaps your legs?”
Rajani stared at him in horror and took the only recourse available. She burst into loud sobs. “Mammaaa!” she wailed.
Sunaina came rushing back. She clucked in distress and sympathy. “Oh you poor dear. What happened? Feeling sick? Should I call the doctor?”
Rajani shook her head violently. “I want to go home!” She sobbed even louder.
“Shush!” Sunaina rocked her. She looked at her son. “What did you say to her?”
“Nothing.” He stormed out of the room.
“Don’t mind him beta. He’s also tired, exhausted. Stop crying dear. You are just hungry. Wait a minute let me get the tea, it’s almost done.”
“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to order you to make tea.” Rajani hiccupped. “I didn’t want to disturb Papaji either. I am sorry. I will go and sit in the drawing room….”
“Stop crying beta, I can hardly make out what you are saying! Ah Rekha just calm her down will you. Rani beta, have some tea and toast you will feel better.” She handed over a hysterical Rajani to her daughter and trotted off to clarify matters with her son.
Rekha let her weep until the storm blew itself away. “Go and wash up,” she ordered. “Go on now.” She insisted not unkindly. Rajani staggered to the washroom and cleaned up. She felt dull and listless. All she wanted to do was go to sleep and wake up only when the nightmare was over. Or at the very least she was back to college.
Sunaina was back soon, with the culprit in tow. “Say sorry to her.” She ordered her son.
“Why should I say sorry? She’s the one…”
“She nothing! What do you know how it feels to be in a new home filled with strangers judging you? Be grateful you are a man and you don’t have to go through all this nonsense. And as if she fainted on purpose! And neither did she order me to make tea. It was my fault. I should have asked. Now are you going to apologize or should I do so on your behalf.”
Embarrassed Rajani sat up. “No it’s okay please don’t bother. It really is all right! I’ll have the tea and toast. I am fine. I don’t want Papaji to be uncomfortable because of me…”
“Apologize or…” Sunaina was uncompromising.
“I am sorry.” Harsha said stiffly before stalking off.
“That boy…” Sunaina started off to follow him but Rajani stopped her.
“Please Mummyji, let him be. Perhaps he is also hungry…?”
“Oh he’s just sleepy. He can go hungry but if his sleep is messed around with he is like a bear with a sore head. Rekha tell him to sleep it off.”
Rajani stood up and dusted the crumbs off her dress. “I’ll go to the other…room. Papaji…”
“Don’t worry. Your Papaji and Hari can both rest in his room while you, Rekha and I can rest here. Go on now. Don’t bother your head. Leave it all to me. Drink your tea.”
After Harsha’s unfair accusation Rajani didn’t think the tea would go down her throat but with two pairs of eyes boring into her, she had little choice but to down the oversweet over brewed tea. She determinedly chewed on the toast and smiled bravely at her MIL and SIL. “Thank you. I am fine. May I help in the…”
“No. You may not.” Sunaina was very firm. “Rest. I’ll take care of the guests and your home.” She smiled. “Make the most of being a new bride. After a few days, all that will be your responsibility.”
Rajani felt a wave of dizziness coming on again.