Your sales figures are down this month. If they don’t improve in the next quarter, we will have to let you go.
Did you get your periods?
Traveling again? At this hour? Alone? Doesn’t your husband object?
Rekha’s baby is so cute and pretty! When will you have a child? Having too much fun on the go eh? Time to settle down!
Haven’t you got your salary yet? How many times do I have to explain to you? I don’t want to touch my earnings. I am saving that for a house of our own. We need to be smart and careful about our expenses.
Wait outside. The doctor is busy. What can I do if you have been waiting for two hours? You should have studied harder and become a doctor yourself.
What’s a pretty girl like you doing selling medicines?
Why don’t we discuss the advantages of your product over coffee? Maybe dinner?
Get another job Rani. How long can you continue like this? Didn’t the doctor say your reports are normal now? You need to start a family.
Help Mummy with dinner. Poor thing she has to manage everything while you have fun gallivanting across the country. God only knows what you are up to…
The voices bombarded Rajani even as the train shuddered and clattered at full speed. No respite even here. Yet this was the only place she felt she could breathe. If only she could be always traveling. How she wished she could be Viktor Navorski. Lose her identity be stuck on a terminal forever – away from all the voices demanding poking prodding pushing cutting and punching out bits and pieces from her heart.
But of course that wasn’t possible.
And now her only solace, her job too was on the line. She had three months. But Papa was right. She needed another job, one that would allow her to stay at home. Build a physical relationship with her husband as the doctor had advised. Not that Harsha cared. He was only interested in her salary. Her office required submission of weekly expense accounts to office, but to Harsha she had to justify her daily debit credit balance. She chaffed and rebelled at all the restrictions imposed upon her. She wanted scream, shout break free but there was no respite, not for her, not for Shikha and not for her mother.
Ritu was acting up. She was showing her true colors. She was poisoning Abhi’s ears against his family. She was inciting him to leave Chandigarh, go abroad or worse, shift to Delhi. There was no space here, Ritu had complained. Your Papa promptly built another floor on the terrace. An independent unit. They could be together yet independent. But Ritu wanted complete independence. She was a clever wily girl. Manipulative. Selfish. She didn’t even let Sameer go to his granny while she was home. Even if Sameer wanted to…
And so it went on and on.
Rajani dreaded calling home. Instead of being able to unburden her soul, cry on her mother’s shoulder, she had to be her mother’s distress center. A talk with her mother left her feeling even more miserable and depressed. If only she could go back home! That door was not open for her. Not now. If Mamma’s litany of woes were anywhere near the truth. Rajani didn’t want to be the cause of a permanent rift or any sort of rift in her family.
Perhaps if Bhai and Bhabhi left…no! What was she thinking? Rajani was horrified at her own selfishness. If Bhai left for Delhi or Canada her parents would be devastated. But it would be the best solution for you the tiny voice in her head whispered. You can go back home and things could go back to being as they were. They could pretend Bhai was in college.
No! She wouldn’t think like that. Besides she wanted her dream – her baby. No sacrifice was too big for her little princess. She would bite the bullet. She would, come what may.
But only until she had her baby.
Look at Shikha, best of all worlds. She was lucky to have Lucky in her life. The two of them were a complete unit. Despite everything Shikha was happy, content. And that was how she too would be – once she had her baby.
“Rajji!” Shikha sounded thrilled, excited. “When are you coming to Chandi?”
Rajani massaged her neck, she had dozed off and now she had a crick in the neck. “I don’t know Shikhs. I on the way to Delhi and have to go to office tomorrow and see what schedule they hand me…”
“Oho Rajji! You and your work. Bunk and come to Chandi! We’ll have some real fun and masti. One final blast before I leave…”
“Leave?” Rajani perked up. “Where?”
“Back home, where else?” Shikha was blasé.
“What do you mean Shikha?” Rajani was astonished. “You spoke to me only yesterday and then also you were so upset…”
“Well it’s all fine now.” Shikha gave a happy laugh.
“But…but I really cannot understand Shikhs how you can forgive him!” Rajani burst out. “He hurt you…you could have died.”
“Nonsense.” Shikha dismissed airily. She giggled. “It was actually a tiny cut.”
“Shikhs!” Rajani was aghast. She had been having nightmares of Shikha lying bleeding while Lucky cried, alone, in a foreign land, with no food, no water, slowly starving too weak to even cry out. “How can you…?”
“Well he did push me!” Shikha said defensively. “And I could have died, if it had been a bigger cut. But I have to admit that it wasn’t entirely his fault. I was also very angry and very rude.” She paused. “I used some really foul language which I think pushed him over the edge.”
Rajani was silent trying to process and re-create the poor Shikha images imprinted in her mind.
“But…but you are sure you’ll be okay? This could again happen with disastrous results this time…”
“Yes. I know.” Shikha admitted. “But I can’t deny Lucky his father can I? These things happen. Best to forget and move on.”
“If you intend to forgive and forget, why make such a hue and cry?” Rajani was unable to understand.
“You are such a buddhoo Rajji.” Shikha sighed. “That was of utmost importance! If I hadn’t protested, created a ruckus and nobody knew of it, he would have probably seen it as a weakness on my part. But now he knows that I am not someone who will take any sort of nonsense lying down.”
“But…but Shikhs is it safe to go back…? What if he again…?”
“He promised he wouldn’t. He said he was frustrated, jealous and depressed because I wasn’t paying him any attention….”
“But Lucky will still need your full attention…”
“Yes. I told him that. Everyone, meaning my parents and his parents sat down and discussed the issue and came up with a solution.”
“Amu’s younger cousin, Namrat, is going along with me to the US. She will do a course and help me around the house, take care of Lucky until he is old enough to go to pre-school.”
“Oh.” Rajani was silent. “Namrat is nice?”
“I guess.” Shikha brushed it aside. “It all depends how you manage people right?”
“And you know how to manage people?” Rajani was skeptical.
“Of course.” Shikha was smug. “Didn’t you see how I made Amu dance to my tunes? Take a few tips from me.”
Maybe I should.
“If you are sure and if you are happy,” Rajani sighed, “then I am happy too. But I will miss you.”
“What difference does it make whether I am here or in Chandi?” Shikha snorted. “How many times did you come to see me? Once that too with your darling MIL. Pshaw.”
“I know.” Rajani swallowed. “But still it was nice knowing you are just a little while away.” Tears slid down her cheeks. She hurriedly wiped them away. “But I am happy for you. Really.”
“Come away to the States Rajji. Apply for a job there and come over! That’s the best solution to your problem. Dump these horrible people.”
“If only I could!” The words slipped out.
“And why can’t you?”
“How can I? What about…”
“Dump them Rajji.” Shikha exhorted. “Run away before it is too late.”
“I can’t do that! My parents…”
“Why can’t you? You brother is planning to fly away. So can you!”
“But that’s why I can’t!” protested Rajani. “Bhai will go away, who will look after them?”
Shikha sighed. “Have you ever flown in an airplane?”
“What?” Rajani was confused. “Yeah of course.”
“Didn’t you pay attention to the safety instructions? Make sure to wear the oxygen mask first before helping others. That’s the mantra – first save yourself.” Shikha advised.
First save yourself.
First save yourself.
First save yourself.
She couldn’t save her job. How could she save herself?
If only her knight in shining armor would ride out from the shadows and snatch her away from here!
Oh hush! There he was! She could hear the thundering clattering….
Her knight, her savior was upon her…
Only it wasn’t.
It was the dementors come to suck the life and joy out of her life.
No! No! Not my daughter. My little princess.
Delirious, she tossed and turned. She had to go to office. Her raison d’être was slipping away. She couldn’t lose her job. She couldn’t. She tried to stand up, get up from bed but she couldn’t.
Snatches of conversation floated into her consciousness.
Needs to rest.
She struggled and thrashed about. “But I have to go to office! Compulsory marketing meet in Mumbai. All have to attend. I have to go. I have to!” she stood up.
Her world spun and went blank.
A/N Dear Friends did you know Moonshine has completed two years? Has it really been that long? Doesnt seem like it to me at least. A big thank you to all of you for being part of this difficult journey. As a heads up, next week we move on to Part 4 with a change of scene and characters – hope you will like! Have a super weekend and thanks once again 🙂