“Hey Nidhi why are you late?” Pakhi asked as Nidhi made an appearance while they were having lunch.
“And what’s in that big box you are carrying?” Rajani couldn’t help asking. “Looks like sweets to me.”
“It is!” Nidhi put it on their lunch table and dramatically held up her left hand. “Tantaraa!”
Squeals and shouts erupted. “Oh you got engaged! You didn’t even tell us! Congratulations! Who’s he? Show us the photographs! Show us!” the clamor rose even as they oohed and aahed over her ring.
Nidhi laughed, blushed and simpered. “It happened suddenly. His parents had come over to see me and decided to hold a simple ceremony then and there.”
“They must have come prepared?” Avantika objected. “What about the ring?”
Nidhi smirked. “He’s been carrying the ring with him for over a fortnight now.”
“Yes. I was the one who kept saying that his parents should agree they should come and formally ask for my hand. I don’t want any tongues wagging or having my mother face any unpleasant questions.”
“That’s really sweet of you Nidhi,” Rajani applauded.
“It’s the least I could do.” She paused. “And a test to see how much he cared for me.” She grinned.
“Smart girl!” Clapped Pakhi. “You’ve already got him dancing to your tunes.”
“Well he’s the one who’s desperately in love with me.” Nidhi tossed her head. “At least that is what he claims.”
“Does he have a name?” Tanya asked taking a big chunk of sweet. “Or don’t you say it?” she twinkled and they all giggled.
“Nothing like that!” Nidhi defended herself stoutly. “His name is Rahul.”
“Rahul!” they chorused. “The real hero!” they pored over his photo. “Oh he’s tall fair and handsome. Are you sure his real name isn’t Shah Rukh?” Laughter and chortles shook them.
“So what does he do?”
“He’s into business. He has a shop in Karol Bagh of woolens. He purchases in bulk from the different branded mills and sells it here. He’s planning to expand his business to Nepal as well.”
“That’s really good Nidhi. Congratulations and wish you all the very best for your future.” Tanya took it upon herself to convey their good wishes.
“Thank you.” Nidhi smiled.
“Does he have any brothers and sisters?” Rajani asked. “Are you going to stay with them after marriage.”
“No!” Nidhi was horrified. “I would have never said yes in that case! They stay at Rohtak. Not too far not too close. But he has two elder sisters married.”
“How’s the MIL?” Avantika asked with a tongue in cheek.
Nidhi shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. They are in Rohtak while we are here in Delhi, enough distance between us to keep us together.” She winked.
Rajani looked at her enviously but Tanya licked her fingers and said, “In-laws have their uses you know. And it only takes a bit of effort to get along happily.”
“Yeah right!” Sneered Nidhi. “Now even Pakhi wouldn’t agree with you.”
“Is it?” Tanya looked at Pakhi who wore a morose look.
“Yeah.” She made a face. “They are beginning to show their true colors and are getting on my nerves. They never let me have any time with my husband. He’s so busy, leaves early comes back late and on weekends,” she shook her head and fell silent as Aditi’s chair grated and she walked away.
“What?” they poked her once they had finished with their nervous giggles at Aditi’s rather pointed exit and muttered – Another tragic story in the making.
“Nothing. Something or the other is always on and I am in the kitchen and he with his parents. I swear I will break the teapot on someone’s head one of these days.”
“Oh you have tea in a teapot?” Avantika was interested
“Don’t ask,” Pakhi groaned, “initially I was so entranced and found it such a cute custom – the teapot, the sugar bowl, the tiny teaspoons cups and saucers – you know the kind you see in movies?”
“But it is so much work! Especially in winters – they have tea about a zillion times. And each time I have to wash it, wipe it and put it away as it can’t be trusted to the maid.”
“And the water is so cold, my fingers become numb and I nearly dropped a cup the other day. I wonder what will happen if I do break a cup, apparently it is from my MIL’s wedding trousseau.”
“I bet she took it out now.” Nidhi interjected.
Pakhi looked at her struck. “Exactly! I am sure…”
“No, no, even my MIL has stuff older than any of you,” Tanya objected, “they did keep things more carefully…”
“Hey Rajani,” Avantika turned to her, “what happened about your MIL’s diamond ring?”
“Don’t ask.” It was Rajani’s turn to groan, “a bull blown drama.”
“Tell us!” they chorused.
“There’s no time,” Tanya hustled.
“Oh please, another five minutes please,” Avantika begged, “we’ll stay ten minutes later,” she promised.
“Aditi Ma’am will be mad,” warned Tanya.
“You go,” Nidhi said, “we’ll be in just a bit.”
“Okay okay, hurry up and tell,” Tanya settled down unwilling to miss the concluding part of the episode.
“Yeah well, that day while shopping we had visited a jewelry store and Mummyji had expressed her liking,” Rajani coughed, “well many items but one particular diamond ring which she reserved very pointedly.”
“How much was it for?” Avantika asked.
“Fifty thousand bucks.”
“Wow! That’s steep.”
“Almost twice my salary.”
“So? Your husband shelled out the rest?”
“Well, he wasn’t very keen. He said Mummyji had been wanting a flat TV for long and we could give her one for her birthday.”
“Oh, so you gave her a TV?”
“Yes. I was more than happy. I promptly ordered a 32 inch TV from the shop in the neighborhood.”
“She was happy?”
“She said she was. She smiled and hugged me. But…”
“She didn’t let the guy install it.”
“She said the muhurat wasn’t right.”
“Muhurat for TV installation?” Pakhi said incredulously.
“Then?” All eyes were on her.
“Then the next day when I reached home, she had the TV installed but it was a 50 inch TV.”
“You mean she exchanged the one you gave?” Avantika asked. “Who paid for the difference?”
“I did. Who else?”
“May as well have given her the diamond ring,” Tanya stood up.
Rajani looked at her dolefully. “Exactly, the cost came to just about the same.”
“And very likely you will have to shell out for a diamond ring at the next occasion.” Nidhi predicted.
“Yes. Their anniversary.” Rajani sighed. “In two months time. My husband has already told me not to spend any of my salary. Not that I have any scope or access to it.”
“Why not?” Pakhi asked.
“We have a joint account and he has the cheque book.”
“How unfair!” cried Nidhi. “I will never share my bank account.”
“Nobody should!” Tanya said. “But think of it this way, if you had a house of your own and had to pay rent and other bills it would turn out to be just as much wouldn’t it? Perhaps this could be cheaper, right?”
Rajani looked at her and reluctantly nodded. “So just pretend you are giving rent!” Tanya said bracingly.
Click here for the next chapter: Escape