“Rani beta, you are too sensitive. I am sure it is nothing like that. Rekha is pregnant, that’s why. And call her Didi, she is older to you. What will everyone say? That we haven’t taught you anything? And your father will be angry with me for not teaching you the ropes of life – do you want that? To create trouble over here too? We all already so stressed and frazzled. The expense of two weddings and now they went and bought 4 saris. What was the need to spend so much? An additional 50,000 Rs that we can ill afford. I would have insisted on the air tickets but for this unexpected expense…”
“What unexpected expense?” Rajani was confused.
“Your father and brother, went to the market…”
“Rani beta,” Suryakant came in, “are you packed? Come let’s go to the Rock Garden. There’s time, and Harsha agreed to visit.”
“I don’t want to go Papa. I have been there a zillion times.”
“No. It doesn’t look nice beta. Harsha would like you to be there. Come along now. Hurry up and change. We are waiting.” Suryakant walked out.
“Come on now. You heard your father.” Nisha saw the impending storm and hustled Rajani. “What will you wear? This sari or…”
“There isn’t time Mamma. Didn’t you hear Papa?” Rajani was extra sweet. “I will go as I am. I will just change my top, or maybe just top it with a jacket…”
“In your jeans!” Nisha gasped.
“So what?” Rajani slipped on a jacket and brushed her hair. “I have been all over Chandigarh in my jeans for like forever. What’s changed?” She was glad it was winters the offending chura were hidden (albeit uncomfortably) under the jacket sleeves. “Okay bye Mamma. I am ready.” Her eyes glittered. Harsha wanted her along was it? He thought he would always get his way. Oh boy he was in for a shock. Rajani all but rubbed her hands in glee.
“Rani,” Nisha was relieved. She had been dreading another flood but this Rani was a pleasant change, “change your dress…”
Rajani walked out and swept past the men sitting in the drawing room. “Let’s go Papa.”
“Aren’t you going to change?” Suryakant asked.
Rajani raised her arms and looked down upon herself. “I’m good Papa. Besides we don’t have much time do we? It’s already 10.30 and we have to leave by 2 pm, pack, have lunch, where’s the time? I will need at least an hour to wear a sari…”
“Not if your mother helps…”
“If you insist Papa,” she said docilely with a malicious look at Harsha, “but don’t blame me if I get late.”
“Okay, okay, let’s go. Okay Harsha?”
He nodded. With a dark look at Rajani.
She grinned to herself. It was such a sunny warm day. Just perfect. Perhaps she could take off her jacket too.
Rajani was at her brightest best. She insisted on exploring all phases of the sprawling Rock Gardens. She demanded that her husband see the Sukhna lake, take a turn around in the boat. It was well past 1 pm by the time they reached home. There was a mad rush to pack, have lunch and leave by 2.30.
Rajani giggled to herself.
She had gotten her way.
She was still wearing her jeans.
Riding high on her wave of success, Rajani bid her parents and brother adieu with remarkable sangfroid.
There was a definite chill in the car but did Rajani care? Nope. She felt on top of the world as if she had snatched her identity, her very existence from the jaws of imminent oblivion. At every step, at every turn she was thwarted, checked and forced to be someone else.
She was done doing that.
Her jeans were proof of her victory and she reveled in it.
Halfway through, she spoke. “I wish to go to the washroom.”
He ignored her.
Gritting her teeth, she spoke to the driver. “Bhaiyya, please stop at a decent Dhaba.”
“Not now,” Harsha said, “I’ll tell you when and where to stop.”
“No you wont,” Rajani turned on him, “I want to go now.”
“I know a good clean place. It will be easier for you to wear your sari…”
“Wear my sari? Are you crazy or what?” The words slipped out before she could stop them.
Harsha lost his temper. “How dare you speak to me like that? Have you no manners? Is this what your parents have taught you? You think I am going to let you insult me and my family by landing up at home in this attire…”
The viciousness of the explosion stunned Rajani but she rallied around, “What’s wrong with this attire? I am covered from top to toe and it will be very late by the time we land up home, who’s going to…”
“That is none of your concern. You are wearing a sari and that’s that.”
“No I am not.”
“Fine. We aren’t stopping for a washroom either.”
“Fine.” Rajani turned away to look blindly through the window too angry to even cry. There was silence in the car. An hour later, the driver stopped the car near a run down Dhaba for a cup of tea. The men relieved themselves in the open. Rajani didn’t like the look of the Dhaba so she opted for a Coke.
A tactical blunder of gigantic proportions.
Pretty soon, she was desperate. Her victory jeans became her nemesis as they relentlessly and viciously bore down upon her bladder.
She squirmed with discomfort. “I need to visit the washroom.” She swallowed her pride and placed her request once again.
“We will stop only if you promise to wear a sari.”
“How can I wear a sari? I don’t know how to wear a sari on my own…”
“I don’t care. You should have thought about that before leaving. Either you wear a sari or we don’t stop at all.”
Rajani held on for another half hour before giving in. She was out of the car before it stopped. Relieved she emerged from the washroom feeling refreshed and rebellious.
She would just get into the car, to hell with Harsha and his crazy demands.
Harsha was waiting for her outside the car. “Here, take this sari. You can drape it over your jeans and wear the jacket on top. Nobody will notice…”
“Exactly! Nobody will notice. I told you I am not wearing a sari…” she reached for the car door but Harsha stepped in.
“You are not getting into the car if you don’t wear a sari.”
“Will you leave me here and go or what?” she scoffed.
“Yes. And don’t forget I have your mobile and purse.” He thrust the sari into her hands. He got into the car and slammed the door. “Either you go and wear the sari or I am leaving now.”
Surely he was bluffing?
Perhaps she should call his bluff.
Still on her high horse, Rajani looked around.
It was dark and deserted. No money. No phone. Perhaps she would have some money tucked away in some corner of her jeans or jacket but could she risk it?
She would be alone her in this deserted place for at least four or five hours before her father could come. A police van came and stopped a couple of feet away.
Perhaps she could ask them for help?
She took a step towards them. From the corner of her eye she saw Harsha roll down the window.
He was scared was he? Serve him bloody well right!
“Excuse me Bhaisahab.” She stepped towards the policemen.
Click here for the next chapter: Self-Goal