Chapter 164: Unholy Days

The week flew by and Shikha too flew off to be with her husband. But even though Amu was overjoyed, Shikha’s happiness was marred by the fact that her MIL insisted on accompanying her. How could Shikha cross the seven seas on her own? No, no, she couldn’t allow it. If something happened to Shikha, Amar would never forgive her. So leaving the comfort of her home, leaving the responsibility of her kingdom to another, she took this extreme step for the happiness of her son and of course bahu. Besides, what did Shikha know about running a home? Nothing. She had little choice but to go along, show her the ropes and help her set up home and standards. Since Shikha was a slow and reluctant learner, it took Biji more than six months to train Shikha and to tell the truth, she was only half-trained before Biji was forced to cut short her visit as her daughter was expecting and needed her mother.

Busy with her new family, home and country, Shikha didn’t get much time to contact her friend. It wasn’t that she didn’t miss her, there were times when all she wanted was to pour out her guts to Rajani but it was never the right time. She would store it up to share later and later became later and later. Besides how much could one talk with husband and MIL in the same room? Time zones and expenses were an additional hurdle. One time constant companions indulged in occasional stilted polite conversations, which became more and more infrequent.

Rajani continued to focus on academics and not surprisingly she topped her class and went from strength to strength. On the home front things continued to be volatile and flared up ever so often.

Rekha delivered a bonny baby boy and Rajani went over to join the celebrations and ceremonies at her father insistence.

“Everyone is going to be there. What will they think? No, no I cannot allow it. You must come and do your duties as the bahu of the family.”

“But Papa, Harsha never said anything to me, neither did Mummyji. They know I don’t have any leave.”

“They are very considerate people. They didn’t want to disturb you. Sunainji let slip something and I really feel you should be here.”

“What did she say?”

“That’s not important beta. You are needed and expected here. I am sending the tickets. Take one day leave or just bunk college and be here.”

Bunk college?

 How things had changed! How many times had she heard her father shout at Abhi, scold him for bunking college while he was in Chandigarh? Once, he had even thrashed him.

And today?

Rajani felt strange – nothing was sacrosanct, or absolute. Not friendship, not guiding principles, what else was in store?

Rajani ended up flying out for the naamkaran ceremony. It was a whirlwind trip where Rajani spent more time travelling than at home. She barely got a glimpse of the baby for there was much to be done at home. So many guests, so many mouths to feed, so many cups of tea to be served over and over again, puris to be fried, utensils to be washed, guests to be greeted, feet to be touched, questions to be answered, shopping to be done, gifts to be presented. Every muscle, every joint screeched their protest, even her cheeks hurt from all the smiling and talking.

Rajani soaked up the silence of her hostel room. Thank God that was over. She could go back to her beloved studies.

Until it was Teej, Diwali, Lori, Holi, Rakhi, Karwa Chauth.

People asked her how she could bear to be away from her family but if truth were told, she never felt she was away from their clutches. They were constantly breathing down her back, via texts, phone calls and the mandatory family Skype calls. She felt crowded and cornered; only during classes and late at night while the world slept, did she breathe easy and lose herself in reassuring world of Mr Mathematics.

Every visit home was a roller coaster ride and before she had recovered from one she was thrust upon another. Diwali was a big occasion to exchange gifts and sweets, as was Karwa Chauth. Every festival that Rajani attended seemed to be centered around malls and involved shopping and more shopping. And then showing off while partying till late at night.

But the worst was probably Holi.

Holi was a non-event at the Ahujas – something to be sneered at and peered at from the safety of barred doors and windows. Not for them the mixing with the riff raff, getting wet and dirty. Each year, on Holi, Nisha would ritually put a teeka on each of them. And they would decorously do the same and share sweets before tuning to Holi songs on the TV. Distracted and lured by the shouts and shrieks of fun and frolic, Rajani would at times sneak off to peer through the cracks and wonder at their enjoyment. This was one festival where not even Shikha (a Holi buff) could lure her out. Shikha had tried several the tricks and baits but they had all failed. When they were about 12 years old, Shikha had come up with an elaborate plan but that had only made matters worse and antagonized Rajani once and for all.

“Rajji!” Shikha called from outside where she stood with a jug.

“Go away!” Rajani slammed the door.

“Hey! Open the door!” Shikha banged the door. “I just want water.”

“Why?” Rajani was suspicious. “Don’t you have water at home?”

“No! That’s the problem. We don’t even have drinking water. Can you give some?” She held up the jug.

Rajani looked at her mother, who nodded. Rajani ran to the kitchen and took out a bottle from the refrigerator and poured it into Shikha’s jug.

Shikha promptly emptied the colored water onto Rajani’s head. “Happy Holi!”

Rajani gasped with the shock of the ice-cold water. She shrieked and screamed and pummeled Shikha. She caught a terrible cold and was in bed with fever for about a week sealing her dislike of the festival.

And as fate would have it, Goels, on the other hand waited whole year for that one festival which was no-holds barred. Everyone and everything was fair game on Holi and the messier, dirtier it was the better it was. The entire extended family of the Goels would get together the night before, do Puja, burn Holika, play tambola whole night long and vie with each other to be the first one to play with colors. The first year Rajani missed her tryst with the Goel Holi but the second year she wasn’t so lucky. Harsha hinted and Suryakant sent the tickets.

Harsha picked her up from the airport and drove her home.

But not before a welcome spat at airport.

“What the hell are you wearing?” He blasted the moment he laid his eyes on her.

“What?” Rajani looked down at her jeans and full sleeves top. “I am covered from top to toe.”

“Don’t you know there are guests at home? What will they think? Go and change.” He ordered.

“Change?” Rajani looked at him stupidly.

“Yes change. I presume you have an Indian dress in that bag of yours? Now go and change.” Harsha crossed his arms and frowned ferociously.

Rajani gritted her teeth and went off to change, thankful that she did have something suitable in her bag.

“Where’s your bindi?”

Rajani shrugged, feeling a malicious pleasure. “I don’t have one.”

Harsha stepped on the accelerator and drove off. Rajani clutched the seat to steady herself. Her heart thumped. He looked furious. He took a detour through the market. He stopped the car and said, “Go and buy bindi and some bangles as well.”

Rajani stared at him disbelievingly. “It’s late! Most of the shops have shut and I don’t like the look of this market. I am not getting down.”

“FINE! We’ll just sit here then.”

***

A/N Thanks for hanging on friends. There a bit of a (hopefully) comic relief for IPK fans – A Musical Khulasa – have a super weekend!

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10 thoughts on “Chapter 164: Unholy Days”

  1. Life. Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum . More pain than khushi for Rajani. She has no ally in Harsha. He weilds the axe while her MIL behaves loving and caring towards her.( Probably knows her son will do the hard work)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Second year of marriage and they are still world apart..and to think she beared all this for more than a year and is still sane..Woah!!!
    Hope Holi celebrations would bring in something good for her and not be another sore memory

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seems like wishful thinking! I would prefer if something happens that forces her to take a stand, to take control of her life…but probably that too is wishful thinking 😀

      Like

  3. Harsha and family with their so called hints. And the irony of the story is that they call themselves progressive. Didn’t know calling oneself progressive is freeloading on Suryakant’s expenses. Worse is Suryakant himself promoting such a behaviour on part of the Goyals. They want Rajani to be the ideal daughter in law but not at all ready to move even an inch to make a conducive environment for Rajani.
    I hope Rajani sees through all of this and comes out victorious. She does need new friends and the support. Something which she should be getting from her family but sadly she is getting none. She is doing everything that is expected of her. Hope her new family does atleast a fraction of it to make her life a bit easier by ending their habits of not so subtle hints.
    And I hope Harsha has it in him to overlook minor problems in Rajani and focus on helping her to become a the person he wants to see her as without losing his cool.
    Strangely it is now Rajani who seems be the more sensible person out of the two inspite of being so young. This only shows the huge mine of potential that Rajani has. Hope she uses it o her full advantage in life and makes the best of every situation that life is offering.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Vishakha for sharing your thoughts. I hope so too! Everyone has the potential to make the best of what they have but the question is will they? The problem is that from the moment girls are born the worry about their marriage begins. Even ‘progressive’ parents educate their daughters insist on a career but accept that her primary ‘job’ is her family and her in-laws. To give priority to her job to be ambitious or even simply be professional (work late, attend office calls at home choose to give priority to work rather than homework) as too ‘forward’ and unseemly. After all everyone is being cooperative enough to ‘allow’ her to work. And she should understand, appreciate and be eternally grateful for that freedom…oops I seem to have gone off on a tangent. Anyway Rajani has been handed a raw deal and there’s so much happening that she doesnt even know which is the worst part. She is too busy alternately coping and then running away to get any clarity. Unfortunately while marriage is advocated and promoted (for girls) from day one, no one bothers to teach them how to cope. I seem to be digressing again…thanks for your company on this difficult journey.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ohhh.. I just forgot right to work under article 21 of Indian Constitution- Right to life- is applicable only to homo sapiens with XX chromosome. For the other group, it would always be ‘allowed to work’. (All pun/ sarcasm intended)
        Life is such a Pandora’s box that it’s difficult to imagine what one would end up with. Shikha the princess ended up with people asking for cars and furniture while she wouldn’t be even staying in Delhi. While Rajani’s mother in law wasn’t ashamed to take away Rajani’s jewellery clothes and stuff and on the other hand Ritu’s in laws were clear on not wanting anything and meaning it. Strange, all the three are women with both sons and daughters yet the kind of behaviour they show towards their daughter in laws are such a contrast to what they actually portray except for Nisha.

        Excellent writing. I could almost picturize the entire story with every emotions. It’s that clear.

        Liked by 1 person

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