“Good that you closed that chapter.” Pakhi said. “Despite everything I don’t think it would have worked out well with Riteish.”
Rajani sighed and rubbed her throbbing forehead. “That’s a moot point and no point discussing it.”
“You are right,” Pakhi said briskly. “So what are you going to do? Did you talk to the lawyer?”
Rajani shook her head. “I didn’t get a chance. There’s so much happening. Then at the wedding…” she trailed off.
“What happened at the wedding?”
“We had a public spat. He was very rude to me in front of his cousin and I just saw red.” Pakhi had to strain to hear her. “I lost my cool and…and called a spade a spade.”
“You mean….?” Pakhi deliberately left it hanging.
“Yes. Thankfully Rohan, his cousin, had shooed everyone away when Harsha had begun shouting. So only he heard when I called him out for marrying me on false pretenses.”
“Damn.” Pakhi banged her hand on the table. “I wish everyone had been there to hear it.”
“Yeah well.” Rajani drew patterns. “I don’t wish to publicly humiliate him or anything like that. Actually he is also a victim of Society isn’t he? I just want that he let me go with Anisha.”
“And that’s not happening?”
Rajani shook her head. “He says he wouldn’t be able to live without his daughter.”
“And you fell for that?”
“It’s not like that Pakhi.” Rajani tried to explain. “He does love Ani and he’s concerned for her future.”
“But just not enough to take care of her mother.” Pakhi snorted. “If he was so concerned, he should move out of his parents house. At least give you some space and freedom?”
“Well he says people who dump their parents should be shot.”
“I suppose he means your Bhai?”
“Forget it.” Pakhi waved her hand. “What did Rohan say?”
“Rohan promised to talk to him. Arrive at a compromise. He also promised to talk to my parents.”
“Well at least that is something.” Pakhi said encouragingly. “But has he taken some action or it was just talk?”
“No. He did talk to Harsha. Not that anything really materialized. But my parents are expected to come this weekend, to talk to my in-laws.”
Pakhi smiled in relief and held up her crossed fingers.
“I think the best thing for you would be to shift back to Chandigarh, take up a job…”
Rajani shook her head. “No I want to do PhD. I’ll take Math tuition like Papa. There’s a lot of money and flexibility. I can take care of Ani too. It’s not far from Delhi. Harsha can come over whenever he likes to meet Ani. I wouldn’t want to deprive her of her father. As it is I am…”
“Oh please Rajani don’t drown in guilt now.” Pakhi was exasperated. “Despite your assertions, I am not sure he is that devoted a father. Or son. It’s just that he wants things his way, on his terms, live in society with his head held high with his trophy wife and child. One of these days, sooner or later he is going to demand a son to complete the picture.”
Rajani was silent.
“What?” Pakhi prodded. “He already wants a son?”
Rajani shook her head. She swallowed. “MIL. At the wedding, she said it was time I produced a brother for Ani.”
“What did Harsha say?”
“Harsha wasn’t there.”
“Oh so you have to produce a son out of thin air or what? I’m telling you Rajani better plan your escape asap. Otherwise before you know it, you’ll be pregnant, giving your parents another reason to back off.”
“No. This time I wont fall into their trap.” Rajani was determined. “After Rohan talked to them, my parents were convinced and supportive.”
“You mean they didn’t believe you when you had told them he was gay?”
Rajani shrugged. “Seems to be so. Or they were in denial. Perhaps they had time to digest and accept. And the fact that a third person was saying made a difference. Anyhow, Papa promised to come and sort it out.”
“Well?” Pakhi accosted Rajani first thing on Monday morning. “Did Papa come?”
“Yes. They came.”
Rajani shrugged. “And nothing.”
Pakhis stared. “What do you mean nothing?”
“They came. They apologized for my behavior and gave,” her voice broke.
“Gave what?” Pakhi asked with foreboding.
“Ten thousand rupees to Harsha, as shagun. And left.” Rajani’s eyes were tortured. “They had come prepared. They had got an envelope. They had no intention of taking me back. And I had packed my bags.” She broke down. “It was so humiliating. All the sneers and taunts as I unpacked my bags.”
“You should have left!” Pakhi was enraged. “You should have walked out dammit.”
“Where could I go? What about Ani?”
“Taken her to Chandigarh. Stayed with your parents!”
“How can I go where I am not wanted?”
“You aren’t wanted here either!”
“At least Ani is wanted here! I have a legal right to stay here.”
“You will always have the right to go home to your parents.”
“Yes that’s true.” Rajani gave a mirthless laugh. “I can go back any time I want. Without Ani.”
Pakhi swore and kicked the chair so hard that it overturned. “You know what, Rajani? Pakhi snapped her fingers. “Call their bluff.” Rajani looked blankly at Pakhi. “Land up without Ani and see how welcoming your parents are.”
Rajani shook her head and stood up. “You are talking like Riteish! Besides don’t you see if I did that Harsha could accuse me of child desertion and win the custody battle. I…I can’t lose Ani too.”
“Relax!” Pakhi pulled her down. “All I’m asking is to call their bluff. Tell them you agree and you will come without Ani.”
“What purpose would that serve?”
“It would serve to make you see that you cannot rely on your parents. You have to rely on yourself.” Pakhi exhorted. “Your father is an expert administrator – delay and deny justice. He knows how to pull your strings, coax you to adjust and compromise, blackmail you. And if all else fails, promise to come and sort it out, calm you down with false promises and hopes and then come and give shagun to their beloved damaadji. Pfftt.” Pakhi ended her tirade with a rude sound.
Rajani wore a pale pinched expression. She raised tortured eyes to Pakhi. “Sometimes to survive, to be able to breathe, you…you need to have at least a few illusions intact.”
“You still have illusions left?” Pakhi was incredulous. “After they gave shagun to Harsha?”
Rajani flinched. “All said and done, they are my parents Pakhi. What choice do I have but to close my eyes and move on? What else can I do? Where can I go?” Rajani paused. “These days I keep having the same dream,” her voice was low and raw, “that I am climbing the stairs and jumping off with Ani in my arms.”
“Don’t…don’t think like that!” Pakhi was horrified. “I didn’t mean to push you. Please don’t think you don’t have any options. There’s still the lawyer. Oh and Rohan? Did you tell him about the outcome of your parents’ intervention?”
“No I haven’t managed to talk to him yet.” Rajani sighed. “Perhaps he can convince Harsha to go for an amicable divorce. He is my only hope now.”
A/N Hello as you can see I am back and thank you for still being here 🙂 And for fans of IPK – I posted one flash fiction last week. Here’s the link if you haven’t read it already – Faith & Fury. Look forward to your reactions here and there.