“Sorry,” Nidhi emerged from her corner flush with newfound love, “did I disturb you?” Rajani shook her head. “I guess you must be remembering your days when you got married?”
Rajani smiled weakly.
Nidhi pulled up a chair beside Rajani. “Do you mind if I have my lunch here?”
Rajani shook her head.
“I’m starving.” Nidhi popped a big piece into her mouth. “Have some?” she offered belatedly.
Rajani shook her head. “I already had. Why didn’t you come for lunch?”
“I was busy pampering my hubby.” Nidhi winked. “You have to, if you want to win them over to your side. Otherwise it will always be Mamma this Mamma that.” She mocked.
“You were pretending?!” Rajani was shocked and fascinated.
“Not exactly.” Nidhi hurriedly chewed and swallowed. “Well okay. A bit. I do like him. But love is something else. But we have to keep our hubbies happy right?” Popping another big bite into her mouth, she looked around to see if any of the big bosses were around. “Besides, he loves me and is terribly possessive.” Nidhi laughed her face glowing with triumph and pride. “He flies into a rage if I don’t call him at least three times a day. In fact,” she giggled and almost choked over her food, “one day he refused to eat because I hadn’t called him to remind him to have his lunch.” She sighed and made a face but she couldn’t quite hide her pleasure, “I had to make a lot of effort to get back into his good books that day.” She quickly polished off the rest of her lunch. “Actually that night.” She pinked and giggled before gathering up her lunch box and sauntering off to her desk.
Rajani bent her head. Probably that was the trouble, she thought with sudden clarity, she hadn’t made enough of an effort to make the relationship work. She had gotten married and promptly gotten back to academics. She had never really tried to get to know Harsha. Be his partner. Mother him. Pamper him. Make him feel wanted. Mamma and Papa were right. It was up to her to make an effort, win everyone over and if she didn’t, it was her fault. And relationships were difficult and everyone had their highs and lows. Even Tanya. Maybe Bhai was right. Maybe she was a cribber. Maybe she expected too much. Maybe her head was in the clouds. Maybe she had been influenced and conditioned by the romantic novels and movies that showed perfect men.
But it wasn’t too late was it? She could try and try harder. Be a good wife. Try to follow Buaji’s advice and pull him to her, she faltered. Well, she could and would try. At least she could start by not judging him. And focus on his good points. Like how he had helped Papa. Things would improve between them, she vowed.
“Did you get a chance to find out what the matter was with Pakhi?” Rajani asked Avantika as they left the office and walked to the metro station.
“You don’t want to know.” Avantika shook her head.
“Why!” Rajani stopped short. “Is it the baby? Something wrong…”
“Something is wrong. But not with the baby. Her in-laws and their thinking.” Avantika said obscurely and darkly.
“Meaning?” Rajani’s brow furrowed.
“Meaning she’s expecting a girl and her in-laws want her to go for an abortion.”
“What!” Rajani was shocked. “But they can’t force her to do that!”
“It’s illegal.” Rajani said self-righteously.
“Illegal.” Snorted Avantika. “Isn’t sex determination illegal?”
“Exactly. So how did they know?”
“It’s simple,” shrugged Avantika, “If it’s a boy the doctor praises Bholenath and if it is a girl he invokes the Goddess. That’s how simple it is.”
“How do you know?”
“My sister.” Avantika said bleakly.
“Oh.” Rajani was silent. “And…”
“Yes. She underwent an abortion. She had no choice, particularly as she already had two daughters.”
“That’s so wrong and unfair.” Rajani cried.
“You and I can scream all we like but that’s how it is.” Avantika was matter-of-fact.
“Oh poor Pakhi!” Rajani’s heart went out to her. “What will she do now?”
“It all depends on her,” shrugged Avantika, “how strong she is to resist the dictates of her in-laws and her parents.”
“Her parents too!” Rajani gasped.
“Her parents want her to be happy and that means her in-laws to be happy. And if that means a murder or two so be it.”
“But what about her husband? The baby’s father? Surely he wouldn’t…”
“Again depends on what kind of a person he is. What his priorities are.”
“But this isn’t done. Besides this is their first child.”
“You mean it would be okay if it was their third or fourth daughter?”
“No! I didn’t mean that. I just meant that perhaps Pakhi wont have to undergo an abortion, perhaps her…”
“If I were Pakhi, I would undergo an abortion,” Avantika said, “I don’t want to bring my daughter into a world that doesn’t want her.”
“No! You shouldn’t say things like that!” Rajani was horrified.
“Why not?” Avantika refused to back down. “I won’t stay where I am not wanted and I won’t let my daughter be born in a place that doesn’t want her.” Avantika gave a pointed look at Rajani who flushed.
“You aren’t married, that’s why you say these things.” Rajani met Avantika’s eyes. “Once you are married, then we’ll talk.”
“Sure. My principles won’t change whether I am married or not. I will do what I think is right and this both my parents and my boyfriend know very well.”
“Good for you.” Was all Rajani could say.
“What happened?” Even Harsha noticed her low spirits.
“Nothing.” Rajani shook her head.
“Something at the office? Your job?”
“No. Job is okay. It’s just that I am feeling very bad for Pakhi.” She confided in a rush.
“Pakhi? The typist? What happened to her?”
“She’s expecting and her in-laws found out it’s a girl and they want her to abort the baby.” Rajani choked.
“It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus.” Harsha said.
“You mean if we have a daughter…” Rajani couldn’t speak any more.
“I didn’t say that!” Harsha started.
“Please tell me now,” Rajani wiped her cheeks and faced him determinedly, “if you are going to go for sex determination and then demand abortion I refuse to cooperate in any sort of fertility program.”
“Relax Rajani. The way you overreact and take everything personally…”
“I am not overreacting and this is personal. I want your word Harsha. If there is any possibility of this happening, I am out of here.” Rajani scrambled up as if she were going to leave right there and then.”
Harsha laughed. “What kind of monsters do you think we are Rajani? Don’t we love Dipika as much as Akash?”
“Yes. But what if we just have one girl? Would your mother…?”
“Don’t bring my mother into this,” snapped Harsha. “You want my word? You have it. You can even have it in writing.” He pulled a sheet of paper and scribbled on it and handed it to her with a flourish. “I may be many things but I am not a murderer.” He stomped out of the room. But Rajani felt light and free. He was all right! She was in a better position than Pakhi was. Bhai was right. She was a cribber – an immature and negative person, unable to adjust and mould herself. But not any more, she vowed to herself. She would try, and keep on trying until they accepted her and she was part of this family.
A/N Hello people, what’s up? A lot of silencia these days? The new year a bit too hectic or is Rajani and her yo-yo life rather too depressing and irritating? I’m afraid there’s not much I can do about it, other than offer you some diverse flash fiction which have snippets and color-coded (self-assessed) recommendations. Care to check it out the list? Click here
Have a great day 🙂
Click here for the next chapter: A Shocker