“Hey Rajani, come for lunch!” Called Pakhi but Rajani was fast asleep over her manuscript. Tanya clucked her tongue. “Poor thing. This is what happens when you’re forced to join office without adequate maternity leave.”
“Rajani,” Nidhi shook her.
“Let her be!” admonished Pakhi but it was too late Rajani woke up with a start.
“Sorry,” she rubbed her eyes.
“Never mind.” Tanya said. “Coming for lunch or do you prefer to sleep?”
Rajani looked at her bleary eyed and mumbled. “Sleep.”
“Go on then. You can have a quick lunch later.”
A grateful sleep-deprived Rajani had dozed off before they moved away from her desk.
“You didn’t have lunch?” Riteish asked later.
Rajani shook her head. “I was too sleepy.”
“But you need to eat!”
“Yeah I will.” She didn’t look up from her manuscript.
“You didn’t get lunch?”
Rajani didn’t answer him.
“Why did you have to join back so early I don’t understand.” He fumed.
“I thought you were happy that I was back.” Rajani flashed him a tired smile.
“It’s not funny.” He bit out.
Rajani subsided and went back to work, until Parkash came with tea and samosas.
“Samosas?” she queried looking greedily at them.
“Riteish sir asked me to get.”
She looked at Riteish. He reached out and took one. “I was starving. Serve to Tanya Ma’am and the others as well.” He took a bite. “Would you like one too?” he asked Rajani as an afterthought.
Smiling to herself, Rajani took one and bit into it. It was hot and crisp. Better than any bland lunch.
“Wait a minute,” Riteish stopped Parkash. He pulled out a clean sheet of paper and put two samosas on it. “Okay go and serve the others.” He pushed the ‘plate’ towards Rajani. “For you.”
“For me? But I thought you were starving?”
“I was.” Riteish said. “But I’m on a diet.”
Rajani stared. “Why order so many samosas if you are on a diet?”
“Told you,” he mumbled through a full mouth. “I was hungry. And I forgot that I was on a diet.”
“If you weren’t would you have eaten that pile of samosas?”
“Of course!” he boasted. “I can have ten samosas in a sitting.”
“Liar.” Rajani giggled.
“I’ll prove it to you one of these days.” He vowed. “Now finish up the sammys. They don’t taste good cold.”
“I’ll have it later.” Rajani said. “If you sure you don’t want to….”
“Yeah I’m sure.” She bent her head to her work and didn’t dare look up when she heard him mutter. “Besides you look as if you have eaten for centuries.”
“At least Noyonika should have understood and extended your leave.” Riteish continued to grumble while working on his cover design. “That’s the problem with you women, no empathy for another woman.”
“I guess she also knows I’m better off at the office.” The words slipped out before Rajani could stop them.
It was Riteish’ turn to stare. “What do you mean?
“Nothing. How’s Shweta?”
“She’s fine.” He looked at her. “She came back.”
“Oh! That’s great news!” Rajani was thrilled.
He shrugged. “Yes. Actually I thought about…” He trailed off as Tanya called him. He got up. “I’ll tell you later. When you drop me off at the bus stop.”
“So, you were saying?” Rajani asked as one by one the others got off her car.
“Let me drive,” he offered.
“No I am fine.” Rajani refused.
“But it must be difficult…”
“Difficult is in the mind.” Rajani cut in, “I drove to the hospital to get my stitches removed.” Rajani immediately regretted her outburst. “So,” she cleared her throat, “Tell me what you were going to say.”
“I took your advice and talked it out with her. I met her a couple of times while she was at her mother’s place. We went out for a movie, dinner.” He shrugged awkwardly. “You know, like couples do.”
“That’s nice!” Rajani smiled. “Why are you so embarrassed about dating your own wife?”
“Not embarrassed but it felt odd. But you were right. Once I talked to her I could see her perspective. And…” he trailed off.
“Perhaps, she didn’t deliberately go for an abortion.” He said cautiously. “She is still very upset over it.” He was silent. “I feel like a heel for being so judgmental and suspicious.”
“Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Rajani consoled. “Anyone can make a mistake! But I so glad things are sorted and you are back to being a couple.”
“All thanks to you.” He smiled at her. “Women are so confusing.”
“Excuse me!” Rajani protested. “I think men are confusing. And rude.”
“We aren’t rude.” Riteish protested. “Maybe a bit curt and short.” He admitted.
“What do you mean okay.”
“Nothing?” Riteish looked at her. “What did I say wrong? Are you mad at me?”
“No.” Rajani stared out of the windshield.
“Hey come on!” Riteish got antsy. “Don’t be like this. At least tell me what’s wrong.”
“That your bus stop?”
“First you answer my question.”
Rajani brought the car to a halt. “Bye.”
“What’s wrong Rajani? If I said something to hurt you I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Rajani was emotionless.
“Rajani,” Riteish pleaded in a semi panic-stricken voice
Rajani went off into whoops. “Doesn’t feel very nice when you are on the receiving end of curt and short does it?” she taunted victoriously.
He looked at her ruefully. “Point taken. I’m sorry. I’ll remember in future.”
Rajani inclined her head graciously. “Please do. Bye. Take care. And be nice to Shweta.” She rattled off instructions and advice. “Don’t worry, everything will fall into place soon.”
“Bye.” He stood there until she couldn’t see him anymore. Smiling she stepped on the accelerator and weaved in and out of the traffic. She couldn’t wait to get home. Her baby would be waiting for her!
“Are you going to be this late always?” Her MIL greeted her at the door handing her Anisha without even waiting for her to enter home or shrug off her bag, drop her keys or kick off her shoes. But Rajani didn’t mind. She cuddled and nuzzled her darling Ani. “She’s been crying since morning. Neither of Rekha’s children were ever such a bother.” Her MIL grumbled. “I couldn’t watch a single serial in peace. Now I’ll have to ask Mrs Verma to tell me what happened. So embarrassing. Just after I ticked her off the other day for poaching on my maid. And that Madhu, she’s acting too smart and weird. What business does she have talking to the neighbors? I think she’s outlived her stay at my house.”
“Mummyji please let’s first find another maid before we throw this one out.” Pleaded Rajani.
“How does it matter to you? You’ll be enjoying yourself at the office while I’ll be the one slaving away at home. First I was tied home because of my children and now because of Anisha, when will my time come?” She stomped out of the room as Rajani stared after her aghast at her outburst.
“Perhaps I should leave my job and wait until Ani is old enough to go to school.” Rajani suggested to Harsha.
“No. Nothing.” Rajani shrugged. “It’s just that perhaps it’s a bit much for Mummyji.” She said choosing her words carefully.
“Nonsense.” Dismissed Harsha. “Mummy loves babies.”
“Yes of course she does.” Rajani hastened to agree. “But she also needs her space and freedom. With Ani she doesn’t…”
“Don’t over-react and over-think,” Harsha interrupted. “Today was the first day and naturally Anisha would have been a handful. Everything will fall into place in a few days time.”
“But Mummyji said…”
“Oho Rajani, Mummy doesn’t mean half the hings she says so just let it be. Don’t go looking for trouble where there’s none.”
“Just drop it will you?” Harsha’s tone hardened. “Mummy looked after Rekha’s kids happily and now she’s happy to look after mine. And that’s that.” He took Anisha in his arms and walked out of the room.