After the storm comes the calm. Except it was an uneasy calm – there was a thick undercurrent that simmered and bubbled.
Rising to the occasion, Sunaina banned Harsha from meeting Rajani until he had slept off his angst.
Ever the obedient son, bowing to his mother’s uncompromising glare, Harsha beat a hasty retreat and went to sleep. While Rajani spent sleepless nights – her unhappy thoughts were better than the terrifying nightmares that haunted her whenever she dozed off. Her eyes were swollen from crying and lack of sleep.
Sunaina hovered over her like an anxious mother hen. “Relax beta. Everything will be fine. Just relax.” Sunaina clucked and flapped over and over again. “It’s all the pressure of organizing a wedding. Poor thing has been sleepless for weeks. And then his leg hurts. And of course he loves me very much. He worries about me, Rekha, everyone. But he was wrong to take it out on you. Don’t worry. I have explained to him how wrong he was to scold you for no rhyme or reason. Things will be fine when you go for the honeymoon. Just you wait and see.” She prattled on and on as she helped Rajani unpack her things and her gifts.
Rajani shuddered. She didn’t want to go anywhere with Harsha. Couldn’t the tickets be cancelled? Couldn’t her MIL come along too?
“Rani did you speak to your parents?”
“I…I can’t find my phone.” Rajani mumbled.
“Oh I forgot to tell you. I kept it inside the almirah. You were sleeping and the maids were hovering around.” She lowered her voice. “You never know with them. Why risk it? So I kept it inside.” She pulled out the bunch of keys hanging from her waist, “I’ll take it out and charge it. It must be discharged by now. You take my phone and speak to her. Poor thing must be worried. Although I did speak to her twice to tell her you were fine. I didn’t want to worry her unnecessarily.” She looked at Rajani. “I remember Rekha was hysterical the first few days after the wedding – she didn’t like anything over there and created such a fuss. I was so stressed, so stressed, I had to be hospitalized with high BP, near stroke, and almost died of a heart attack.”
Sunaina dialed Nisha’s number. “Hello Nishaji!” Her voice rang out cheerily, “I just called to say thank you for giving us your lovely daughter. We are having so much fun unpacking gifts, playing antakshri, here speak to her,” Sunaina put the phone on speaker mode and thrust the phone at Rajani.
“Hello Mamma,” her voice cracked.
“Rani beta it seems as if you have already forgotten your mother. No phone for two days. I went crazy with worry. But I am happy now. It is good to know you are settling down at your new home, making new friends, here speak to your father…”
“Hello Papa,” Rajani was openly weeping now.
“How are you?” He asked gruffly.
“Oh she’s fine!” Sunaina butted in, “just a tiny bit overtired from all the wedding exertion. Tell me how are the wedding preparations going on? I feel sorry for you, no scope for a breather even. Rush from one wedding to another. If you would like us to lend a hand, do let us know. After all Abhi is also our son…”
“Please don’t embarrass us. You have been so kind, so good, if there is anything we can do…?”
“No, no everything is just perfect Bhaisahab. We are just sorry that very soon Rani will be going back to college. In just a couple of days, she has become a part of our family. If I had my way I would keep her with me and not let her go. But I am also a woman, the mother of a girl, I know the value of education, she must go and complete her studies fulfill her dreams and make us all proud…”
“Rani is very lucky to get a family like yours Bhabhiji and especially such a caring considerate mother like you. Otherwise in these times in-laws are…if there is anything, anything at all that I can do…”
“No no Bhaisahab, you are embarrassing us now. You have given your daughter, what else can we ask for?”
“Please don’t hesitate…”
“There’s just this tiny thing…I don’t want to bother you…”
“It is no bother. Tell me please!” Suryakant begged. “It would be my honor and pleasure to help in any little way that I can.”
“No, no I shouldn’t have said anything. It’s nothing. I don’t understand these bank matters. I overheard Harsha’s father…never mind.”
“Oh but I insist!”
“It’s just that Rani has received some gift checks in her maiden name but we were planning to include her name in Hari’s account. Like I have a joint account with my husband. Anyway, encashing those checks maybe a problem is what I understood. But I maybe wrong, don’t mind the confusions of an ignorant…”
“No, no Bhabhiji, you are right! Absolutely right! Encashing them maybe problematic. Please give those checks to Rani, she can deposit them in her bank account in Bangalore and I will transfer an equivalent amount to Harsha and Rani’s joint account.”
“Oh that is so kind of you. And you solved such a tricky issue in a jiffy! I must tell my husband to consult you on matters of business too.”
“Bhabhiji, you are too kind. Okay Bhabhiji, Namaste.”
“Yes yes of course, you must be busy. Sorry to keep you engaged, Rani beta say bye to your Papa. Don’t worry, you will go and meet them in just a couple of days for the pag phera ritual.”
And Rani had to be content with that.
Counting hours to the time she would be back home, she began compiling her list of grievances and complaints. She was going to be there for a short time and didn’t want to risk missing out on anything.
She was up early and ready before it was time to leave.
“When are you coming Papa?”
“Oh, don’t you know? I am not coming.”
“What!” The walls closed in on her.
“I mean, I am not coming because I am busy in the wedding preparations…”
“Hear me out beta. But your in-laws very kindly agreed to send you by taxi. It should be reaching your home any minute now.”
“I will be traveling alone by taxi to Chandigarh?”
“Why would you be alone? Harsha will be there with you.”
“No! I don’t want to travel with him.”
“What are you saying beta? He’s your husband…”
“Namaste Bhaisahab,” Sunaina took the phone from her, “the taxi has reached. They will be leaving in just a little while. Namaste.”
“Mummyji please!” Panic stricken at the thought of having to travel with Harsha, Rajani forgot herself so far as to clutch her MIL’s arm.
“Relax beta, you are going home! You should be happy not…”
“Please come along with us! Please!” she begged, “He hates me.” Rajani just stopped short of saying he will kill me.
“Nonsense. Hari!” She raised her voice and called. Rajani cowered behind her MIL.
“Good. Look what you have done to the poor girl. I can feel her shivering and trembling. Apologize to her. Is this any way to behave? Is this what I have taught you? You are shaming me by your reprehensible behavior.”
“I am sorry Rajani. I don’t know what happened to me. I went a bit crazy from lack of sleep I think. But still that doesn’t excuse my behavior. I am really ashamed of myself. Please forgive. I assure you I will mind my temper.” Harsha raised his hands and touched his ears.
The second installment of Khulasa Times is up – anyone interested?