“I don’t believe this!” Rajani stared at the laptop screen.
Harsha looked up from his paper. “What?”
“The PhD results are out! I didn’t get a call for the interview. Even though I cleared the theory.” Rajani was too shocked to even cry.
“Maybe they have other criteria for an interview call which you didn’t fulfill?”
“What other criteria? They had mentioned on the website that all candidates listed would be called for the interview.”
Harsha shrugged. “Who knows? Anyway PhD would have been a waste of time. Better to take up a job.”
“I wanted to do a PhD.” Rajani couldn’t believe fate could be so cruel, once again.
Why always me?
“Never mind beta.” Sunaina consoled her. “Whatever happens, happens for the best. What do you need a PhD degree for? If you become busy in studies, what will happen to us? We are getting old, we need you to take care of us, give us a grandson to carry the family name forward.”
Yeah right! Tell that to the stork. Rajani thought bitterly.
Despair and anger tore at her. But this time she resolved not to take things lying down. She was determined to get to the bottom of it. If necessary she would sue them.
But where could she go? Whom should she approach? She didn’t know a thing about DU; why would anyone entertain her request?
Depressed she moped around the house until Harsha stepped in. He asked around and accompanied her to DU and after running from one clerk to another they found the culprit.
“Yes, your name is on the list.” The clerk showed her the records. “And the interview letter was posted too.”
“But I didn’t get the letter. You must not have posted it.”
“That’s not possible Madam. Perhaps you gave an incorrect address?”
“No! You must have made a mistake in the address!” Rajani snapped.
“Shush!” Harsha glared at her. “He’s been so helpful and you are snapping at him?”
“I am sure he made a mistake in writing out the address.” Rajani wanted to strangle them both.
“No Madam. Here, see this is the list of addresses where letters were posted under UPC. This is your address isn’t it?”
“Yes. Thank you.” Harsha pulled at her. “We’ll check at the post office. Thank you again for your help.”
Rajani stood her ground. “If we find that the post office didn’t deliver the letter will it help me secure a seat?”
The clerk laughed. “Think for yourself Madam! Is that possible? Nobody would entertain your request, if it had been your admission letter perhaps but interview letter? No chance.”
“Come let’s go to the post office.” Harsha said.
“Forget it Harsha, there’s no point is there?” Rajani said wearily. “You heard what he said didn’t you?”
“Never mind Rajani,” He consoled her. “You can try again next year.”
Rajani was quiet on the way back. She had struck a blank wall. All her hopes were dashed. She could feel her heart’s desire slip away once more. But yet the restlessness and agitation was missing. Was she too numb to feel anything? Or was it because this was not the end? There was always next year.
Or was it something else?
For two days Harsha had stuck by her side and plodded on even when she had at times felt like giving up. He hadn’t talked much but neither had he snapped at her or put her down. She had felt his silent support and even compassion for her.
He had been a real friend.
Emotions overwhelmed her.
She turned to Harsha. “Thank you. I really appreciate your support.”
Flushing, he grunted and turned away.
A flash of insight struck Rajani. He was shy! That would explain a lot of things.
Before she could change her mind, Rajani rushed on. “I know we got off to a bad start. Can we make a fresh start and try to be friends?” She held out her hand.
Harsha looked around the Metro scandalized. “Are you crazy?”
Rajani dropped her hand and giggled. He was shy!
“What’s so funny?” He grumbled.
“You are funny!” She wrinkled her nose at him.
“Shush! What will everyone think?”
“Everyone?” Rajani’s voice rose over the din. “Nobody cares or even knows that we exist!”
“Shush!” He edged away from her.
Rajani giggled to herself. Self-conscious too!
“Problem sorted?” Sunaina took a look at Rajani’s face and asked.
Rajani sighed and shook her head. “No. My interview letter got lost in the post.”
“Oh no you poor dear. Now what?”
Rajani shrugged. “Nothing. I will try again next year, I guess.”
“That’s the spirit beta.” Sunaina praised. “In the meanwhile perhaps you can take up a job.”
“Yes, provided I get something suitable. I been checking at the DU website, not many opportunities right now.”
“Why don’t you take up Math tuition? There’s a huge demand for Math teachers and you don’t have to go anywhere.”
Rajani made a face. “I am not too keen on teaching kids 2+2 that is no fun.”
“Life is not all about fun. Sometimes you have to do as the situation demands.” Sunaina vanished into the kitchen.
Rajani stared. She looked at Harsha. He got up and left the dining table. Rajani followed him. “Is there something that I don’t know but I should know?” she asked.
“I don’t know what you mean.” He mumbled and went to change.
Rajani sat thinking. What did Mummyji mean? What situation?
She cornered Harsha. “Tell me please. What did Mummyji mean? Or should I go and ask her?”
“It’s nothing. Mummy is a worrier. Everything will be fine. Ups and downs happen in businesses.”
“What happened?” She insisted.
Harsha shrugged. “The usual. Some bad deals, business losses and now things look rather bleak. But we are working on it. We expect a turnaround soon.”
“I have been hearing about this turnaround for the past one year now.” Sunaina stood at their door. “Pretty soon we’ll have to go around with a begging bowl.”
“Mummy, please don’t exaggerate!” Harsha flared up. “It isn’t that bad and never will be.”
“Father and son can lie to themselves if they like, but I refuse to turn a blind eye to the writing on the wall.” Sunaina said. “And how long are you going to hide the truth from your wife? It is time you accepted that she is part of your life and this family.”
Rajani sank down on the bed, trying to process the information. Business was bad. For over a year. And nobody said anything to her? Because she was an outsider? Or because they wanted to spare her the worry? Another thought struck her. Was it because of his business that Harsha was so rude and short-tempered? Everyone else had been so full of praise of him.
Things began to look clearer, brighter. Businesses could recover. And so would their marriage. It was good that she hadn’t got admission to PhD. She would have been a burden on them. Now she could earn money and help them tide over the family crisis. As a member of the family, it was her responsibility to help in anyway she could.
She could see the gratefulness and love shining in Harsha’s eyes as he held her hand and declared to everyone during Diwali, “We wouldn’t be celebrating Diwali but for my dear wife who pulled us out of a major crisis. It is thanks to her that we didn’t have to file for bankruptcy. Please give it up for my wonderful wife Rajani Ahuja Goel.”
Wearing a halo, Rajani turned to Harsha. “Can I help with your business? I am already taking tuition, but I can take up a job until I get into PhD next year?” she said awkwardly afraid of hurting his sentiments, triggering another altercation. It wasn’t as if she was earning crores. Just peanuts. But she wanted to let him know that she was ready to share her meager earnings if that would be of any help.
“Let me think.” Rajani caught the half embarrassed half appreciative expression before he quickly left the room. Sunaina embraced her warmly. “Thank you dear thank you! You are our Goddess Lakshmi. Since you were in hostel we had been having a tough time. But now that you are back, things will be good again. Bless you my dear, bless you.”
Rajani’s halo grew brighter. She felt she had sprouted wings too. She was floating above ground.
“Our life is the sum total of all the decisions we make every day, and those decisions are determined by our priorities.” Myles Munroe