“Samosa?” Rajani looked up at Riteish who stood there holding a rapidly greasing packet giving of mouthwatering flavors. “They are hot and crisp,” he grinned engagingly. “And the weather is just right for it!”
She looked around. “Where’s Ma’am?” Was she alone in the office?
“She’s just coming,” he said reassuringly, “go on and have one, even though I got two for each.”
“Two!” Rajani accepted one, not that she had much choice. “Actually I shouldn’t be having this, my stomach…”
“Will be fine after this.” He grinned. “It must be protesting at all the bland satwik stuff you are feeding it.”
“Oh well, tomorrow’s Sunday!” Rajani bit into it. “If only there was tea.” She wished.
“Ma’am chai.” Parkash appeared magically bearing a tea tray.
Riteish laughed. “You should have wished for something else!” He jumped up and pulled a chair for Tanya. “Ma’am tea break. Parkash these are for you.”
“Looks like we’ll be here for dinner too.” Tanya broke off a piece and popped it into her mouth.
Rajani looked at her in alarm. “Why? More work?”
Tanya shook her head. “No. The sky is overcast and heavy rain is predicted.”
“No problem!” Riteish took another samosa. “I’ll drop you home. I got Dad’s car today.”\
“My husband’s coming to pick me up. I’ll drop you Rajani.”
“But that would be out of your way.” Objected Riteish. “I’ll drop Rajani.” He looked at Rajani and added. “And Parkash.”
“Okay, we’ll see.” Tanya drained her cup. “By the way, why are you still at the office? What’s pending?”
“Nothing.” Riteish shrugged. They stared. “Actually I was supposed to meet someone at the mall at 7 pm. I thought might as well hang around at the office until then.”
Rajani peered out of the window. “It’s raining.”
“Let’s wrap this up quickly.” Tanya said. “I shouldn’t have let Nidhi go but she spun such a sob story about her husband, anyway,” she brushed away the crumbs and got to her feet, “Now I’ll have to make the changes. It’s been years since I did it.”
“I’ll do it.” Riteish offered.
“Would you?” Tanya was grateful.
“Sure. May as well make myself useful while I am here.” He took the manuscript from Tanya and pulled his chair closer to the table.
“Rajani, leave that and sit with Riteish. Then we don’t need to do another separate check. It’ll be faster and the sooner we are done the better it will be for us.”
They worked swiftly and silently except for when Rajani called out something that Riteish had missed.
“How much longer?” Tanya stood behind them.
“Maybe another 30 minutes?” Riteish flicked through the pages. “Why?”
“Nothing. My husband is here. And as predicted it is raining cats and dogs. Anyway carry on and hurry up.” She went back to her desk.
“Tell her to leave,” Riteish spoke in an undertone. “If you say she’ll leave.”
“She’s here just for you.”
“Meaning it is because you didn’t finish your work on time, she has to hang around as she can’t leave you alone here can she?”
“But you are here.”
“Exactly. So tell her. And save her an earful from her husband. Will you be able to sleep at night thinking of…?”
Rajani immediately regretted Tanya leaving. The office felt like a huge expanse that was rapidly closing in on her. She felt like running away. Relax Rani relax, she urged herself. Nothing’s going to happen. Riteish is here. But what if he…?
The rush of blood in her head as her heart thudded was louder than the din created by the heavy downpour. What if Tanya was right and they couldn’t leave office? No. She shouldn’t be here. Oh what a fool she was. If anything happened it would be her fault.
“Rajani,” Tanya called up, “you also better leave.”
“But I…we haven’t finished.”
“Never mind. I called up Aditi Ma’am who gave me an earful for leaving you alone in the office. Besides, Boss Lady is going out of town for the next few days so the pressure is off. So you pack up and leave. And get Riteish to drop you.”
“No. I mean I’ll manage.”
“What do you mean no? The roads are flooded.”
“Don’t worry about me Ma’am,” Rajani reiterated, “I’ll manage.”
“Okay fine,” Tanya sighed in defeat, “I’ll come back and pick you up.”
“No!” Rajani was horrified. “I…I’ll ask Riteish.”
“What did Ma’am say?” Riteish asked.
“She said to leave office right away.”
“And what were you to ask me?”
“Nothing. “ Rajani began gathering her things. “Okay bye.” She waved to him and Parkash who was hovering about worriedly.
Her heart skipped a beat at the way he called her name. Damn damn and triple damn. Ignoring Riteish, she exited the office and ran down the stairs only to stop at building exit. Pushing through the crowd of people under the porch she stared. Was that the road or a river? How would she go home? How could she stay here? She looked around. Only men. Not a single girl. Her heart sank.
“Rajani.” He was behind her. Ready to battle her.
She relaxed and gave in. “Can your car swim?” She waved a hand and stifled a giggle.
“Swim and fly.” He led the way out to the rear entrance. “But can you run?”
“You bet!” Shedding inhibitions and what ifs, Rajani got into the spirit of the game.
Laughing, giggling, shrieking and thoroughly drenched, Rajani dripped all over Riteish’ car. “Don’t you have a towel? Parkashji if only you could have brought chai and pakoras!”
“Yes it would have been a picnic.” Riteish agreed. He started the car and inched his way forward peering through the hazed windscreen where the wipers ineffectually battled the torrential downpour.
“Hello?” Rajani picked up her phone. “Yes Ma’am. We are on the way home. Yes Ma’am in Riteish’ car. Thank you Ma’am.” She put down the phone. “That was Aditi Ma’am.”
“I guessed it.”
“How?” Rajani objected. “It could have been Tanya Ma’am.”
“Nah. You don’t sound like a scared rabbit about to be swooped down upon by a vulture while talking to TM.”
“What?!” Rajani was half amused, half offended. “I do not look or sound like a scared rabbit.”
“But BBW is like a vulture waiting to swoop down on you isn’t she?”
“Nonsense!” Rajani exclaimed casting a glance at Parkash who sat at the back staring out of the blurred window. “She’s nothing of the sort.”
“Did you inform your husband?”
“I had texted him earlier that I was stuck up at work.”
“Didn’t he contact you after that?”
Rajani shook her head. Her phone rang.
“Hello? Yeah Avi, thanks we are fine. Riteish has kindly,” She looked at him who rolled his eyes, “agreed to drop Parkashji and me. Yes. The rain is pretty bad and the traffic is crawling. Did…is Pakhi…? Oh okay. That’s great. Okay will talk tomorrow. Getting a call from Tanya Ma’am. Hello Ma’am, yes, we are on our way. Thank you Ma’am. Yes will text when I reach home. Bye Ma’am.”
“Yes Mom,” It was Riteish’ turn to give his roll call. “I’m fine Mom. I don’t know when I’ll be back, as the roads are choc-a-bloc. Okay bye.”
“Sir,” Parkash spoke up, “I’ll get down at that corner.”
“You live here?”
“A bit further inside Madam, but it will be quicker if I walk. Besides the car may get stuck in the narrow lanes. Thank you.”
Encased in a private isolated bubble with Riteish where no could pry or peer, Rajani felt odd. Not unsafe or uncomfortable and that’s why it was odd.
“So,” Rajani determinedly, blindly stared ahead, “What happened about your wedding?”
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you about that.” Riteish confessed.
“What?” Rajani’s heart thudded. Don’t. Say. Anything. Don’t…
“I met this girl at a wedding.”
Her heart stopped then made a mad dash to leap out of her ears. She firmly squelched down on it.
She cleared her throat. “And?”
“The groom refused to marry her for some apparent flimsy reason. But of course a dowry related drama.” His brow darkened.
Rajani frowned. “So by this girl, you mean the bride?”
“Yes. She was amazing, how she handled the whole thing. She’s the one who kicked him out even though her parents were trying for a compromise.”
“That’s brave of her.”
“Now there’s a lot of backlash from her family. Her father had a heart attack. He’s in hospital and her mother is constantly crying.”
“Don’t tell me you are planning to marry her?” Rajani was shocked.
“Why not?” Riteish asked. “They are a good family. My parents have no objections.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t marry her then and there!” Rajani said. “Bollywood style.”
“I did consider it,” Rajani looked goggle-eyed at him, “but I had to talk to my parents first. Besides, her father had a heart attack and I could hardly…”
Rajani went off into one off her giggling fits.
“What?” Riteish asked.
“Nothing,” Rajani made a valiant attempt to clamp down on the rising tide of giggles, “I was just imagining you, Bollywood style,” she gasped and choked, “But sorry. I shouldn’t be laughing. Is her father okay?”
“Yes. I gave him sorbitrate tablets from my uncle, a heart patient who always carries them in his wallet.”
“Now you are a doctor!” giggles forgotten Rajani gaped at him.
“Not really. But I saved his life.” Riteish said in self-congratulatory tones.
Rajani went off into peals of laughter again.
Riteish grinned engagingly. His phone rang. “Yes Dad. I’m fine and so is your car. Yeah the traffic is horrendous. Will take a while. Don’t worry. Bye.”
“That was my father.” He said rather unnecessarily.
“All well at your home?” Riteish asked.
“Yes.” Rajani was wary. “Why?”
Riteish shrugged. “Strange that nobody called you up.”
Sudden tears choked Rajani. She swallowed hard. “They aren’t the worrying fussing kinds.” She managed to say.
“This kind of rain is unprecedented. Any normal person would be worried.”
“So what’s the girl’s name? Are you going to marry her?”
“Shweta.” Riteish said. “That’s what I wanted to ask you. Should I?”
“Ask me? But why? Ask your parents. What do they say?”
“They have no objections.”
“What about Shweta?”
“I haven’t discussed it with her. My parents will speak to hers in a day or two.”
“So it’s all fixed.” Rajani said in a hollow voice. Why was she so upset?
“If she agrees.” He held up crossed fingers.
“You’ve already decided, so why ask me?” Rajani was put out.
“Well, nothing’s fixed yet. So what do you think?”
“I don’t know,” Shrugged Rajani, “but isn’t it too rushed? I mean let her recover, find her bearings, decide if she wants to get married and….”
“As if the people around her will let her take her time,” Riteish interrupted.
“But how about going for a long engagement, go around for a bit, see if you are suited. I mean what do you really know about her except…”
“Oh no! That’s not feasible in our set up. If we didn’t get married later then she would be worse off than being ditched at the altar.”
“But that means she doesn’t actually have a choice but to accept whatever is handed to her!” Rajani objected.
“You mean I am not good enough for her?” Riteish was offended.
“I didn’t mean that!” Rajani rushed to disclaim. “I just meant act in haste and repent at leisure.” Rajani chattered away all the while wrestling with her unguarded thoughts. Why was she so upset at the thought of his marriage?
And why was Riteish discussing this with her?
Was there some underlying hidden covert agenda that she was missing?
Or was she being too fanciful, indulging in wishful thinking?
There was no way she could have any relationship with Riteish, not now. So what right did she have to prevent him from moving on?
“Okay bye Riteish. Thanks a lot and see you at the office tomorrow.”
She had to sort out and nip in the bud whatever had been unsaid – real or imagined.
She chickened out.
Firming her resolve, she turned back and said in a rush. “I’m pregnant.”
There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.*
Brutus in Julius Caesar by Shakespeare
*Until we find
the wisdom and courage
to ride on another opportune tide
with apologies to the Bard
A/N Whew that was one long convoluted update with a bit of a fast forward at the end wasn’t it? Well here’s the dope. I’ve been dealt a (justified) rap on the knuckles for being too nitpicking and detailed. Just having completed one such long involved update I have no option but concur. Hence I decided to speed up things a bit and perhaps not stress too much on the things that have already been dealt with ad nauseum in the earlier chapters. So hopefully there will be a change in tempo and cover newer grounds. But before that (coming to the real crux of the A/N) a little break is very much needed. No not just for penning or going off on a vacation but hardcore real back breaking work. We are planning to shift houses. Yikes!!!! That as you can imagine means making decisions – which to throw away, what to keep and what to donate and whom to donate. So if I am going to be busy in this, I won’t have any time to peek into Rajani’s life. Hence the break. So how about if I am back on the Ides of March? Oh that’s a Thursday? So okay then on 14th March?
By the way you do know that silence is akin to acquiescence?