Sunaina and Rekha returned to Delhi loaded with goodies but minus their bahurani.
But Rajani was in no condition to appreciate or celebrate her victory. She had high fever and was delirious, which was the primary reason the Goels beat a hasty retreat.
The ladies had sat in the parlor guzzling hot chai, coffee soup and delicious goodies served by Ritu and entertained by the antics of Sameer and Akash while Nisha tried all tricks in the trade to harangue and pressurize Rajani. Boxed, cornered Rajani felt as she was being pushed slowly, relentlessly into the wall she was leaning against. A little more pressure, she thought hazily and she would come out on the other side on platform 9 3/4 at King’s Cross Station at London.
She began to shiver and shake and in the span of a few minutes had 102 0 F fever which shot up to 104 soon thereafter. She slid down in a heap as blessed unconscious enveloped her.
There was confusion and panic and Goels had a long journey, so they left. After being suitably compensated for their efforts
Rajani babbled, tossed and turned while her mother cold compressed her in a futile attempt to bring the fever down. The doctor came and shook his head and prescribed a battery of blood tests.
The fever came down after a few days of intense therapy with antipyretics but she lay listlessly on the bed moping and rehashing and reliving the tragedies of her life and what could have been. It seemed as if she was trapped in an endless cycle of dirty linen being washed over and over again. There were no escape or hope and worse, she could not think of a time other than the past two years. It was if she had always been married. If only she had some escape, some succor, a job, a life but even Sameer’s therapeutic company was denied her.
Who knew what infection she was carrying?
The weakness, the limbo, the negativity of her thoughts, her mother’s homilies, rants, pleadings, her father’s silence, Abhi and Ritu’s pointed accusatory stances – Rajani couldn’t breathe. She felt as if slowly and steadily she was being smothered to death. If only death would come sooner than later, she thought dully. Perhaps she should have gone back to Delhi – at least over there she had been too exhausted to think so much. At least over there she had been able to sleep at night.
Hey Bhagwan to what crossroads have I come to that my sasural seems a better option than my own home?
Why do I keep forgetting this isn’t my home?
This is Bhabhi’s home.
Perhaps she thinks of me the same way I think of Rekha.
Rajani’s blood ran cold. How awful! She had to do something. She had to find a job. Join college. Be independent.
Her shoulders drooped. Her certificates. But she could take tuition classes! Excited and revived at the thought of having someone else for company, she tackled her father, “Papa I want to take tuition classes.”
“No.” Suryakant didn’t even look at her.
Rajani stared as he walked away.
“You think it is so easy to get things your way, manipulate your father?” It was Nisha miffed at the direct approach of Rajani’s. “You thought why bring Mamma into it? Why argue with her, let me ask Dad straightway, he is very reasonable, he will agree in the blink of any eye. But you forget,” she sighed and turned away, “Never mind.”
“What Mamma?” Rajani was curious.
“It is something Mamma,” Rajani insisted.
“Nothing. You think all your education, freedom everything was your father’s voluntary gift to you? No. It was at my efforts and insistence that he agreed to send you to Bangalore. I pleaded and vouched for you. You are my responsibility. And now I have to pay the cost of your rebellion, your selfishness,” Nisha accused even as she dissolved in a flood of tears. “Our entire house is in tatters all because of your stubbornness, just because of your ego, your Bhai Bhabhi’s marriage is on the rocks, there is no peace…”
“I don’t believe this Mamma!” Rajani felt like smashing the repaired computer monitor lying within reach, “you are blaming me? Why did you force me to get married? Did I not beg plead….”
“All that is water under the bridge. It is time you made adjustments and moved on. Keep the larger picture in mind. With time everything will be fine. Go back to Harsha, have a child and then see how he will hang around you wagging his tail…”
“What nonsense you speak Mamma. Do you even know he hasn’t even touched me, leave alone…”
“You have to entice him, draw him close, make sure that he is tied to your apron strings, away from his mother…”
Rajani was aghast. She had spilled all to her mother and this what she had to say. Was this her mother speaking? Was this how her mother thought?
Was she going mad or was the world mad? She suddenly feared for her safety. At least in Delhi she could be detached from the people around, feel distinct and superior to them. But here she was being sucked into quicksand, her mouth nose clogged up with wet sand.
There, she was again thinking she was better off in Delhi.
Perhaps she had been better off in her sasural.
Had she made a massive blunder by walking out?
But what choice did she have?
But she couldn’t continue to stay here could she?
Which was better – Delhi or Chandigarh?
Delhi or Chandigarh?
Delhi or Chandigarh?
Delhi or Chandigarh?
Her head spun. She wanted to scream shout do anything to break free…
“Rani!” Suryakant called.
“Come sit by my side.” He patted the sofa. “I have talked to your in-laws…”
“I don’t want to go back Papa. I don’t want to…”
He raised a hand. “Listen to me Rani. Just listen to me.” He said sternly but not unkindly. “I have your best interests at heart and have taken care of all your grievances. Everything will be fine. Trust me. Your in-laws are good people. It’s just that they have had business losses, which you should have told me about,” he looked at her reproachfully. “Anyway, I am investing some money in their business….”
Rajani sat up. “But why Papa? That’s what they want. Money…”
“Then let them have it. It if brings peace and happiness for my daughter, I am willing to spend any amount of money.”
“But Papa, I can’t live there in the same house…”
“You have no faith in your Papa do you? Did I not tell you to trust me? I am investing money in their business but in return I wrangled a deal for you. A separate independent flat for you and Harsha.”
Rajani stared at her father with mixed feelings. This was the solution to all her problems! She needn’t give up on her dream for a baby!
But would Harsha agree? He had such strong notions about children’s duty towards their parents?
“Harsha would never agree Papa.” She spoke dully as her dreams of a baby faded into nothingness.
“His parents have promised to speak to him. Sunainaji has assured me that he would agree. She even volunteered to look for a flat in the same locality so that you can be close by yet not step on each others toes. She is very eager to make amends for her forgetfulness. And you should also not make accusatory derogatory comments about them. Nobody will like it. Would you like it if Harsha said rude things to me or your mother?”
Rajani pleated the edge of her kurta. But he does say rude things about you.
“Don’t think so much Rani! It will work out beta. I have talked to your father-in-law. They too don’t want their son’s marriage to break up. Everybody is compromising and adjusting. Harsha is coming tomorrow. It is time for you to leave aside your doubts and fears and take that one step. Will you, can you do this much for your Papa? Trust me, everything will be alright.”