Rajani picked up the loaded tray her mother had been diligently piling and walked away. Didn’t she matter to anybody?
“Mami!” Akash ran up to her and clung to her legs. “I am hungry. What have you got?”
“Lots and lots of stuff.” Rajani put down the tray and gave him a tight hug. “But let’s get you cleaned up first.”
“Do you need any help Rani?” Rajani turned to stare disbelievingly at Harsha. He looked concerned. “Will you be able to manage?”
“Yeah.” Rajani mumbled, unable to digest this smooth, polite and human-like husband. What was wrong with him? What game was he playing?
“Rani do you think he needs to wear a jacket?” Harsha fussed. “It’s rather cold inside the house don’t you think?”
Rajani’s heart thudded. Maybe he was offering an olive branch. Perhaps he was turning over a new leaf. She gave him a tentative smile. “Yes I’ll do that.”
“Akash be a good boy. Don’t tease your Mami.” He cautioned the little boy.
“Harsha!” Suryakant called. “Come beta come for lunch.”
“Yes, I am coming,” he turned to Suryakant and smiled. “Let Rajani come.”
“She will come,” said Nisha, “You sit. Everything will get cold. Rani, hurry up. Look Harsha’s waiting for you.”
That’s a first.
“Mamma,” Rajani tried again after later after lunch was over and she had put down Akash for a nap, but Nisha was having none of it.
“Please Rani beta don’t start on your list of complaints,” frazzled and overwrought she snapped. “I don’t see what your problem is! Harsha is such a good boy.”
So that was his game! Putting up an act for her parents.
“So kind considerate, loving and adjusting, if only you had a baby, things would be fine. He’s so good with Akash and Lucky. If children like him he can’t be all bad.”
“Can I do anything to help?” Harsha popped into the kitchen.
“Oh no no!” Nisha was floored. “Everything is under control. Did you want something?”
“Yes!” Harsha smiled. “I want you to rest. You’ve been working so hard on that delicious meal fit for a king.”
“Oh you kind boy,” Nisha melted in a gooey puddle.
“Come on and sit with us. Today I’ll make tea and pakoras.”
“No!” gasped Nisha. “I’ll make…”
“Not at all.” Harsha forcibly led out Nisha from the kitchen, “You put your feet up and relax. And don’t worry I make good tea and pakoras. Right Rani?”
“Yes he does.” Rajani couldn’t deny it.
“There you have it from the horse’s mouth. Come and show me where all the stuff is…”
“I’ll show,” Ritu jumped up, “she wouldn’t know.”
“Harsha is such a down-to-earth and cool person.” Suryakant looked gratified. “You should never take hasty decisions beta. Aren’t you glad I didn’t let you come home that day?”
“No I am not.” Rajani said baldly.
“That’s her problem!” Nisha groaned. “Never happy. Always complaining.”
“You keep quiet.” Suryakant snapped at Nisha. “Rani beta, while living other there will be differences of opinion. Don’t you fight and disagree with your mother, with me? But you still love us right?” He put out a hand and patted her on the head. “You have such a warm, loving and giving nature. Why are you stifling that? Let it all come out. Shower them with love, care and serve them like you would us. And in no time, they will love you more than they love Rekha.” He smiled at her fondly.
“So you love Bhabhi more than me?” She choked and tears glistened in her eyes before sliding down.
“Ahh Rani beta!” Suryakant shook his head ruefully. “See that’s your problem. You personalize everything and are over sensitive. And everything centers on you and your emotions. It’s time to grow up and put yourself on the back shelf for some time. It is time to focus on the others, their thoughts, their needs, their comfort.”
“But Papa, it’s all about them! Always. It’s never ever about me. Nobody even cares whether I have eaten or not.” She couldn’t speak any further.
“There you go being oversensitive! Why should anybody ask you? And why should you have to ask? It’s your home! You have every right to eat whatever you like, whenever you like. Don’t forget that you are new there. Every new house has a system of its own. You have to adjust to it. They are not going to adjust to it.” Suryakant sighed. “Perhaps it is our fault for pampering you, for giving you everything on a platter. And now at the least sign of resistance you get upset. But real life is not like that. You have to be patient, give before you receive. Be kind, loving and caring, they will no choice but to welcome you into their lives with open arms.” He said kindly. “And you too will get adjusted to their ways. Trust me.”
“I have tried Papa.” She cried. “Trust me Papa. They are horrible people and Harsha is really mean to me. They don’t understand anything other than money…”
Nisha nudged her with a worried look towards the kitchen. “Shush!”
“Don’t worry about money beta, not while your Papa is alive.” Suryakant became emotional. “Give them and then give them some more. Give them more than they ask for until they are tired of asking. Always remember beta, that it’s your job, your responsibility as the wife, the daughter-in-law and the better person to make a place for yourself in that home, make them accept you and love you. You wouldn’t like to be branded as a home-breaker would you?”
“But Papa, you cannot clap with one hand. And how much can you give? And why should I give? Can I not be accepted for myself, for the person I am, rather than the material goods I represent?”
“All these books that you’ve read have turned your head,” Nisha remarked. “Grow up Rani. That doesn’t happen in real life. If only you could have a child, everything would be fine,” Nisha moaned and wiped her eyes on her dupatta. “That’s what is lacking in his life. A child. He looks so relaxed and carefree playing with the kids. And he’s so caring about you too….”
“Oh please Mamma! All that is an act, just for you people. You should see him at home….” She shuddered.
“Hush!” Nisha frowned. “It’s natural he would be different at home but the basic nature cannot change. At home there’s work pressure…”
“As if I don’t have work pressure!”
“Pressures of a business are different from that of a job. You won’t understand.” Suryakant said.
“I don’t even want to understand! I don’t want to stay with him and his family period.”
“Oh please Rani,” Abhi burst in, “I agree with Mom. You are a born cribber. Harsha is such a great guy. Good family, with a house in South Delhi, car driver, what else do you want? Time to stop blaming others and grow up Rani.” He got up. “I need to go to the market for some medicines.”
Resentfully Rajani watched as Nisha took the children out to wave goodbye to Abhi.
“Papa please try and understand…”
“Relax beta,” he patted her on the head, “and have some patience. All will be well. I promise. Your mother is right. If only you had a baby. I think Harsha is very disappointed and frustrated because you haven’t…”
“I haven’t?” Rani burst out. “I could if only he could!”
“Hot crispy pakoras and masala chai!” Sang out Ritu as they emerged from the kitchen.
Suryakant’s shocked eyes met Rajani’s over Ritu’s head as she placed the the steaming tray on the table.
A pale but determined Rajani met her father’s eyes without blinking. He looked away.
“So what’s the plan?” Harsha asked Ritu. “When do you plan to leave for Delhi? Tomorrow?”
“Yes. We’ve booked a cab…”
“Cancel it,” Harsha interrupted, “we can go together. It’s a big car, even you can come along,” he looked at Nisha who shook her head. “We won’t go. I couldn’t bear to actually see him go off….” Nisha choked.
“Aww Mummyji.” Ritu put an arm around her, “she’s very emotional poor thing.”
“Wouldn’t you be if someone took away Lucky from you?” Rajani couldn’t help saying.
Ritu gave a laugh. “Lucky is a baby! Abhi is a big boy. Besides it was his idea…”
“I’m sure,” Rajani said snidely before picking up Akash, “do you want to go to the loo? And it’s time for your milk.”
“I don’t want any milk!” Akash arched away from Rajani.
“Fine then I’ll just give it Lucky then and soon he will grow bigger, taller and stronger…”
“No! I’ll drink my milk! I wont let Lucky drink it.”
“Good boy.” Rajani cuddled and kissed him. Papa knew! He had finally understood. He would do something she was sure. It was her fault for not being clear. She should have made sure they understood what the problem was long before.
A/N: Hello people, how you doing? It’s a long weekend and I am off to a little holiday so the next update will be on Wednesday. See you then! Or maybe on some other post on my neatly indexed and re-organized blog? Well how about it? 😀