“See how nice your husband and in-laws are?” Nisha was ecstatic.
After dinner, Nisha had wasted no time in calling up Sunaina, requesting permission to extend Rani’s parole.
Sunaina had been very warm and supportive. “But of course Nishaji, Rani may stay over at your place. Besides, it is a matter between husband and wife why should I interfere? I will miss Rani, of course. Where is she? It seems as if she has forgotten all about me!”
“Of course, of course, here Rani, speak with your mother.”
Rajani backed away. Her mother glared at her and gestured furiously but Rajani shook her head. Nisha thrust the phone into her hand.
“Namaste Mummyji,” cornered, Rajani mumbled unenthusiastically.
“Namaste beta Namaste. How are you? Remember me?”
“Please Mummyji, why are you saying that?” Rajani was on the back foot.
“What did I say wrong? Did you spare even a thought for your poor mother-in-law? All alone at home, no son, no daughter, just these empty walls for company.” She sniffed.
“I am sorry. I should have called.” Rajani felt guilty. “I’ll come back tomorrow…” she didn’t want to say but yet the words slipped out before she could stop them.
She cursed herself.
“Ah my sweet child! Thank you for saying that. It means so much. Don’t mind the words of a sentimental old lady. If it makes you happy, stay over at your mother’s place for a day or two…”
“Oh I thought until Bhai’s wedding…”
“Oh that’s too many days! After the wedding you’ll be going for the honeymoon, then your friend’s wedding and then back to college. When will you spend time with me?”
“What about Bhai’s wedding…?”
“Don’t you worry about that. We will go together. It will be so much fun! I am so looking forward to it! Come back soon. Until then I will make do with my son.” She laughed.
“You are so lucky,” Nisha gushed, “She is so understanding warm and generous.”
“But I wanted to be here until Bhai’s wedding.” Rajani grumbled.
“You will be coming over with them.”
“Why should I come over with them like a guest? This is my brother’s wedding, I should be here not…”
“Hush! Count your blessings my dear. I wasn’t allowed to even attend any of my sister’s weddings. If you had but seen your Dadi,” she shuddered and lowered her voice, “she was a terror. She didn’t allow me to even breathe without her permission.”
“Oh please Mamma, don’t exaggerate,” Rajani snapped. “As if that is possible.”
“What do you know! And I hope you never have to know. You are blessed to have such a caring considerate mother-in-law. And with such a wonderful person as their mother, her children are bound to be good human beings.”
“Rani beta, you really need to be a bit more patient and adjusting.”
“Well I don’t understand why I need someone else’s permission to attend my own brother’s wedding or even stay at my home.”
“That is because, this is no longer your home, your home is…”
Rajani burst into a storm of tears.
Nisha sighed and looked at her husband helplessly.
Yesterday, after the men had left for their worldly chores, Nisha had had a hard time managing a hysterical Rajani. At her wits end, Nisha had recruited Kirti and Shikha and all three had their hands full trying to calm Rajani down. She finally wore herself down and lay hiccupping intermittently unable to say a word without the tears beginning to flow again.
There had been dinner to make and here Rani was looking like a podgy balloon. Ice packs, hot packs, cucumber and what not were recruited to bring down the puffiness to non-remarkable limits. Kirti was a friend and helped Nisha cook up a presentable dinner while Shikha kept Rajani company with strict instructions not to say anything that would set her off. Shikha dragged her home and displayed all the goodies that she had been splurging on. Not one to hold on to her tragedies, Rajani allowed herself to be drawn away from her bleak present and take pleasure from Shikha’s bright future. Though once or twice her eyes overflowed once again. Shikha managed to bring the flood under control by acting the clown and successfully distracting her.
And now again things were back to square one. With no Shikha around and Harsha in the next room.
“You talk to her,” Nisha appealed to her husband. “You are the only one she ever listens to. I still have to clear the dinner things.” She escaped.
“Rani beta, stop crying beta,” Suryakant exerted himself and successfully brought the flood under control. He listened patiently to her grouses and experiences at the Goel household, Harsha’s meanness, how horrible he was, rude etc etc.
He paced the floor. “I am sorry beta you had to undergo all this. He seemed such a nice boy, and today also he was perfectly amiable and easygoing. But don’t worry you don’t take any of this nonsense lying down. Give back as good as you get. Your father is still alive he will take care of you. Be brave and face your destiny. If you like I will speak to your father-in-law, and refuse to send you back.” He paused. “It may be a bit awkward at Abhi’s wedding but you are more important to me than…” he choked up.
“No Papa. It’s okay. I don’t want to create any trouble at Bhai’s wedding. Perhaps I am over-reacting. Perhaps Harsha was tired and irritable. His mother was very nice to me. Don’t worry Papa, I will manage don’t worry.”
“That’s my girl!” Suryakant was emotional enough to give his daughter a brief but tight hug.
Rajani smiled at him. He looked so relieved, so pleased with her. She wouldn’t, couldn’t do anything to upset him. She loved him the mostest of all.
And he loved her, cared for her, listened to her woes. What more could she ask for.
She felt lighter than she had in days.
“Be polite and nice to your husband,” Nisha said before she went to bed. “How many husbands are so considerate of their wife’s needs and wishes? How many will agree to leave their wife in her home? Be sure to say thank you properly. Are you listening to me Rani?”
“Mamma, you don’t know…”
“I don’t know? Now I have to learn things from you? Your father, brother, everyone is a fool or what? Didn’t you see what a gentleman he is? I am sure you must have done some mischief, which he didn’t like. He did say you were childish.”
“And he is rude, overbearing…”
“Hush!” Nisha clapped a hand over her mouth and silenced her. “Not one word more. We will talk about this later. Okay?”
Rajani nodded mutinously.
“But you will first say thank you to him. Perhaps you both made mistakes. He’s making an effort and you should also show generosity of spirit.”
Why should I say thank you? This is my home, my life. Why do I need anybody’s permission to come home?