“Did you get Papa’s message?” Rajani asked Harsha late at night. She had waited the entire evening for Harsha to mention it but no such luck. Rajani went from anticipation, to trepidation to irritation to annoyance. She felt like smashing something. It was as if everything was just hers and her parents’ responsibility. So damn unfair. She wanted to scream and rail. She settled for a pointed question allowing all the festering simmering emotions to shine through her tone, body language and expression hoping to goad a reaction from Harsha.
And got more than she asked for.
“What message?” His eyes glittered dangerously as the subtext found its mark.
“How many messages did Papa send you?” She retorted.
“I have better things to do than attend to your Papa’s message.”
“Was it such a complicated message? Shall I read it out to you? He forwarded it to me as well.”
“Careful Rajani, you are crossing your limits….”
“And I wish you would cross yours.” Pushed Rajani lashed out.
“What the hell do you mean?”
“Whatever you think it to mean!” Rajani flinched but held her ground. She was tired of tiptoeing around.
“So desperate!” he sneered. “Soon you will be catching someone on the road to service you.”
“How dare you?” Rajani threw the pillow at him. It hit the bottle on the dresser, which toppled over.
His lips curled even more. “Don’t you have any manners? Is this any way to behave? Didn’t your parents teach you anything? Apart from how to suck blood?”
“How dare you speak like that of my parents?” Rajani clenched her fists to prevent herself from clawing at him, “Who the hell do you think you are to pass judgment on others? Look at your own family first…”
“What’s wrong with my family? Your brother is the one who is running away from his responsibilities dumping them at my door. Who will they turn to in times of crisis on need? Me right? Now I have to look after them….”
“It’s all your sister’s fault. She’s the one who forced him to take this step…”
“Is Abhi such a weakling that he can’t even refuse his wife? Or is he conveniently hiding behind her skirt?”
“What nonsense you speak. And how is all this even pertinent to the question I asked? What did I say that evoked such a reaction? All I asked if you had got Papa’s message? So that we could plan our visit to the doctor.”
“You should have said so instead of dragging your father into the conversation.”
“You speak as if my father is some stranger and not part of the family.”
“This is a private matter between a husband and a wife. Why is he interfering so much?”
“Papa is not interfering, he is just trying to help…”
“You must have gone crying to him, complaining about…”
“Complaining about what?” Rajani asked aggressively. “Here my parents are taking a proactive stand on the entire thing spending a fortune so that we can have a happy married life…” she broke off as tears choked her.
“Yeah yeah, now start crying.” He derided. “That’s all you can do. Cry at the drop of a hat. You must have said something to your parents otherwise why would your father send me advice and messages regarding infertility specialists?”
“Oh!” Rajani scrubbed off her tears, “I get it. You are worried that I have told them all about what happens or rather doesn’t happen between us.” Harsha clenched his fists and turned away. “But I promised you and despite what you think of me, I believe in sticking to my promises.”
“It’s all your fault!” Rearming himself, he turned back to attack her once again. “You are so ugly.” He looked her up and down with a scathing disgusted expression, “I don’t feel like touching you. Not that would have helped matters because you aren’t capable of bearing children are you? Having befooled us with honeyed words your father is now trying to cover up by taking an extra interest in our bedroom affairs. Tell me what right does he have to poke his nose here? Do my parents…?”
Reeling from the shock of his accusations, Rajani tried to rally, “Oh really?” she wouldn’t cry, she wouldn’t. She placed her hands on her hips. “Every other day I get a pointed message about visiting pundits, astrologers, temples keeping fasts. Not that I have ever gotten a decent meal…”
“Watch your tongue Rajani…”
“Why the hell should I? You should know the truth. Or do you already know it and prefer to turn a blind eye to it?”
“Children children!” Sunaina came bustling in. “What’s the matter with you two? Do you want to wake your neighbors? Stop fighting and go to sleep.”
Harsha grabbed a pillow and stomped out.
“What happened beta? He’s had a long tiring day. What’s the need to irritate and annoy him…?”
“I just asked him a simple question and a yes or a no would have sufficed.” All the fight went out of her and weariness overwhelmed her. “Please Mummyji, even I have had a long tiring day, let’s drop this shall we? Good night.” She switched off the lights. She waited until Sunaina shut the door and burst into heartrending sobs muffled by the pillow.
“Rani beta, I packed some methi sabji today for you. You like aloo methi don’t you?” Sunaina smiled affectionately at her downcast morose face. “Do eat it and tell me how it was. I made it. That Sharda is no good. She always makes too little to go around to everybody. And today there is ample leftover after packing for everyone. I am sure Sharda steals…”
“Mummyji!” Rajani gasped shocked out of her despair as Sharda dropped the broom with a clatter and walked out.
“Good riddance to bad rubbish,” Sunaina was unfazed, “Who does she think she is? Some maharani?” She sneered. “One goes, ten will come. But you don’t worry, I will speak to Harsha, he will go with you to the doctor. Whosoever’s problem it may be, it needs to be sorted out and nice of your father to take the initiative. Don’t mind Harsha he’s just a private reserved sort of a person and doesn’t like the idea of being discussed in public. Oh and take this orange too. Very sweet and juicy.” She dropped it into her bag.
Despondency and wretchedness racked Rajani. She couldn’t focus on her work. Harsha’s words of the night before floated like a solid wall between her and the words on the manuscript. You’re so ugly. I don’t feel like touching you played over and over again in a continuous relentless loop that remained unbroken even as her office colleagues stopped by her station for some work or just a hello.
“Madam is calling you.” Parkash informed her.
“Yes Ma’am?” Rajani reported.
“What’s this?” Aditi tapped at an article headline.
Rajani squinted at it. The Trialblazer She frowned. “But…” she blanched. “Trail not…” Rajani broke out in a sweat.
“Exactly.” Aditi’s voice was stern.
“Sorry Ma’am.” Rajani mumbled.
“Sorry doesn’t make a dead man alive. It’s gone to print. Who will pay for the mistake?”
“Sorry Ma’am.” Rajani twisted her fingers into a knot.
“How can you be so careless and inattentive to your work?”
“Sorry Ma’am.” Rajani reiterated. “It won’t happen again. I promise.” She blabbered. “I didn’t sleep last…”
Aditi raised a hand. “I don’t care. All of us have problems but leave them at home. Otherwise you can look for another job.”
Dismissed, Rajani gave in to her emotions and burst into sobs at her table. She felt someone come and hover around her head but too far gone Rajani didn’t care. Whoever it was shuffled for a bit went away only to be replaced with Pakhi.
“What happened Rajani?” She asked. But Rajani shook her head and waved her away. Tanya joined her and they forcibly made her sit up and drink some water. “Now tell me what happened? All well at home?”
The tears started again. “Trial,” she mumbled unable to say any more.
“Trial!” Exclaimed Tanya. “But what’s there to cry about?”
Rajani looked up. “Y…you know?” “Yeah. Of course. It was ready for print when Ma’am noticed the typo and we sorted it out.”
Rajani’s office world gave one final shudder and rolled into place. “It was corrected before…” she squeaked in relief.
Rajani wiped her face and blew her nose. “Ma’am blew me up and told me it had gone to print and it would take a lot of money to correct it. I thought they would deduct it from my salary and then at home…” she trailed off as once again the tears started flowing.
“Don’t worry.” Tanya grimaced. “Even I got an earful.” She lowered her voice. “I am sure BBW gave herself a good kicking too. The article came via her table.” She winked as Rajani stared. “Come on now wash your face and get back to work. Deadlines wait for no one.” She said briskly. “We can talk at lunch. Go on.” She shooed away Pakhi and Avantika who had also joined them.
Rajani returned to her table and stopped short. A chocolate! Who could it be? She looked around. There was nobody. Who could have left it here? Was it for her?
“Parkash, did you keep this chocolate…?”
She felt a sudden overwhelming craving for chocolate. Giving another look around she disrobed it and bit into a piece. Warm gooey sweetness flooded her mouth.
“Chocolate binge all by yourself?” Riteish stood behind.
She looked up guiltily. The warm gooey feeling spread to her heart at the expression in his eyes.
The mystery was solved.
She knew who had left the chocolate for her.
Click here for the next chapter: Office Succor