“Where’s Pakhi?” That was the question of the day at the office. Rajani had a dreadful feeling and could barely focus on her work. “Avantika, what do you think happened to Pakhi?” she wandered over to her desk for some emotional solace in shared concern.
“I don’t know!” Avantika was equally if not more distraught. “I called her up last night itself but there was no response. I sent so many text messages too and now her phone is switched off.”
“Isn’t there someone else we can call?” Rajani asked. “Poor Pakhi. I hope she is fine.”
“If she were, she would be in office.” Avantika said darkly. “I’m sure,” she pressed her lips together.
“What?” Rajani asked with foreboding.
“Nothing.” She shook her head.
“Go back to your seat Rajani,” Tanya came up to them.
“Any news of Pakhi?” she asked with a mixture of hope and fear.
“Her husband called.” Tanya said woodenly.
“Oh. I am glad.” Rajani smiled in relief. “Is she okay?”
“She’s on leave.”
“Leave?” Rajani looked at Avantika. “Why?”
“She’s had a miscarriage.”
“Miscarriage!” They chorused.
“Yes. Now enough chatter. Go back to work. And Rajani, please focus, there so many oversights in the last copy I cannot even count. If it had gone to Aditi…” she trailed away at Rajani paled even more.
“Sorry Ma’am,” a chastened and unhappy Rajani slunk away to her seat.
Miscarriage or forced to abort? Poor poor Pakhi. Tears slid down Rajani’s cheeks. She had been so happy. What must she be going through now?
“What’s the point of crying now?” Aditi stood behind. “Nothing on earth is going to bring the baby back.” Rajani stood up and wiped her face.
“I’m just feeling sorry for her.” Rajani mumbled.
“Sorry? What good will that do? Besides she made her choice…”
“It wasn’t her choice!” Rajani was too upset to keep quiet at that slander, “she was forced to it.”
“Nobody can force you to do anything. You allow it to happen.” Aditi spoke calmly enough but her eyes were glittering with suppressed emotions. “You cannot go through life blaming others for your state. You have to grow up and take responsibility for yourself and your baby.”
“Yes Ma’am. But not everybody is strong like you.” Rajani felt emboldened to say.
Aditi’s eyes blanked out. “Then suffer the consequences.” She said coldly. “And if you are so impressed with Pakhi’s situation perhaps you should re-visit your own future goals?”
Rajani flushed but stood her ground. “That won’t happen with me Ma’am. I won’t let it.”
“Yeah right.” Aditi walked away.
Those two words loaded with skepticism and condescending disdain sliced through Rajani like a knife. She wanted to run after Aditi and show her the piece of paper where Harsha had given his word. That would wipe the supercilious arrogance off her face. Who the hell did she think she was? Maybe she too would have a daughter and that would show her. Rajani seethed.
Rajani calmed down only after she shared the incident with Harsha who was properly horrified and up in arms. “How can they do that?”
“They are horrible people.” Rajani said. “I wonder how Pakhi will spend the rest of her life with such a person.”
“Terrible.” Harsha shook his head. “They shouldn’t have done that.”
Soothed and reassured Rajani ventured to ask. “Did you fix an appointment with the IVF doctor?”
Harsha shook his head. “I found another doctor. A friend recommended him. He’s very effective and is much cheaper too. I fixed an appointment for next week.”
And you can pocket the 2 lakhs Papa sent you.
Rajani smiled. “That’s good.”
“Yes. God willing we will soon have a baby.”
Rajani forgot herself to give him a hug. He stiffened and coughed. “Err well, I was thinking that perhaps you should purchase a car. Commuting is difficult for you isn’t it?”
Rajani’s eyes glowed.
“Ma’am, can I get a salary certificate?” Rajani asked Tanya.
“I guess,” Tanya shrugged, “Why do you need one?”
“We are planning to buy a car,” Rajani said, “with a loan from the bank.”
“From your salary?” Avantika couldn’t help butting in.
Rajani flushed. “Yes, but it’s for me. And it’s better that I invest my salary in a car rather than spend it on birthday gifts for my sister-in-law and her family.”
“Oh you are still doing that?” Tanya said despite herself.
“But of course! And their demands and expectations are going up. They reserve the choicest demands for their precious brother and bhabhi.” Rajani said snidely. She grinned, “But I think even Harsha is beginning to feel the pinch and is pretty irritated about it. It was his idea to tie up my salary to pay for the loan, so that we can safely say we don’t have any money!”
“Smart guy.” They laughed.
“Did you ask the accounts people why I get my salary much later than the others?” Rajani asked.
“Apparently it’s because you don’t have an account in the company bank downstairs where the company has its account.”
Rajani stared. “How does that matter?”
Tanya shrugged. “No idea. In my personal opinion these guys are too lazy to make another separate check for you. It’s easier for them to transfer salaries to accounts in the bank. Or they have some tie up with the bank people.” Tanya said darkly.
“So there’s no solution? My monthly loan would have to go by 7th of every month and if they don’t release my salary by then, things could get very stressful.”
“Why worry when Papa is there?” Nidhi too joined the discussion.
“I couldn’t do that!” Rajani was affronted.
“If you have trouble paying the loan, I could lend you the money,” Riteish spoke from his seat without turning around.
Rajani flushed and glared at him. “Didn’t you hear what I said? I don’t want to take money from anybody else?”
“It’s not such a big deal,” Riteish pushed back his chair to look at her. “Your father wouldn’t take back the money but I would.” He grinned.
Rajani seethed. What the hell was he thinking offering her money that too in public? What would the others think? She could already see Nidhi grin knowingly and wink at Avantika.
“What’s going on here?”
They instantly dispersed until only Rajani was left standing by Tanya’s desk. “Yes?” Aditi raised an eyebrow.
“Ma’am it’s about her salary,” Tanya explained the situation. “I don’t know how to solve the problem.”
“Why don’t you open an account in bank downstairs?” Aditi asked.
“Yes!” Tanya looked at Rajani, “that’s the best and the easiest thing to do.”
“Oh.” Rajani dithered. “I would have to ask my husband…”
“Why?” Aditi questioned. “Do you ask his permission to breathe?”
Rajani flushed. “No. It’s not like that. But we share an account and he handles all the finances…”
“All the more reason you should have a separate account so that at least you at least have some control over your finances, know where all your money is going.” Embarrassed, Rajani looked away. “Well anyway, this is the only solution feasible, take it or leave it. For reasons best known to them, the accounts people wont mend their ways to suit you.”
Rajani wrestled with the problem the entire day. What Aditi had said made perfect sense she would have some control and say over her finances. Not like now where she handed over her check to Harsha each month after getting earfuls from him for the delay in salary, and how she should blast and sue the company and then have to ‘beg’ for her daily expenses. And then again get earfuls for her spendthrift ways not to mention carelessness with money etc etc. If she complained to Papa he would just brush it away, “Never mind Rani, you have my credit card right? Use it to take out money for whatever expenses you need. Don’t ask him.”
But she didn’t want to ask or take from Papa either. She was earning. She had a right over her money. How she spent it. Where she spent it. How freeing it would be not to have to answer to anybody or ask anybody for money.
But what about Harsha? How would he take it? Would he allow it? Do you take permission from him to breathe? Aditi’s mocking sneer echoed and Rajani immediately felt ashamed of herself. She was right. She should have control over her finances. But things were just smoothing out with Harsha, she quailed at the thought of another bone of contention among themselves. She was tired of fighting him and everybody else.