“Well, did you manage to meet the lawyer yesterday?” Pakhi questioned during lunch. Now that BBW was in the know, any break was a time for updates and strategic moves.
Rajani shook her head. “I couldn’t go.” She flushed under their accusing glares. “Ani had high fever. I had to rush back home and cancel the appointment.”
“That makes it the fourth creative and unique excuse you’ve come up with for not meeting the lawyer.” Pakhi said admiringly.
“Oh please Pakhi,” snapped a frazzled Rajani. “These are not excuses! They are genuine reasons.”
“Oh yeah?” Pakhi raised an eyebrow. “Guests at home is a genuine reason? I would have made sure not to go back until they had left even if I didn’t have anything to do!”
“You don’t understand.” Rajani wailed.
“Exactly.” Aditi intervened. “Let her be. It’s her decision, her life, her choice.”
Both Pakhi and Rajani looked chastised. “Don’t say like that Ma’am.” Rajani felt constrained to say. “It’s not like I don’t want to meet the lawyer but my father isn’t keen…”
“You actually asked for his blessings?” Aditi raised an eyebrow. “I am amazed at your optimism and faith in your father.”
“It’s not like that Ma’am. He promised to find a lawyer who was reliable and…”
“And I am the Queen of England.” Snorted Pakhi. Tanya frowned at Pakhi as Rajani looked even more downcast.
“That’s the problem with women.” Aditi rued. “We always seek validation from others – parents, teachers, friends, colleagues – everyone. We don’t have the gumption to rely on ourselves. We want to please everyone and end up pleasing no one.”
“It’s not like that Ma’am.” Rajani parroted lamely.
“Tell me Rajani, your brother, when he decided to go abroad, did your parents agree? Were they happy with his decision?”
“No. Not at all.” Rajani denied. “Mamma was most upset and cried for months. Papa didn’t speak to Bhai for weeks.”
“But still he went off abroad because he wanted to right? Your parents didn’t disown him did they?” “Disown him?” Pakhi interjected. “They funded his entire family’s translocation and are now planning to help him set up his clinic over there.” Rajani wilted under the gaze of three pairs of accusing eyes. “Yes they forgave him. Yes they are helping him. They are like that only – loving and generous. And I can’t be like him selfish.”
“Selfish or know your own mind?” Aditi asked. “That’s another problem, many girls never really learn to take responsibility for her own decision. First it is her father, then her husband and then her son who guides her actions. And of course if you have no son then it is free for all.”
“That’s not true!” Rajani refuted strongly. “I do know what I want. It’s just that I don’t want to hurt anybody in the process.”
Aditi laughed. “That’s like a lioness telling her cubs I love you and want to get you food but that would mean hurting another mamma’s cubs, so better you go hungry.”
Rajani flinched but she held her ground. “You don’t understand Ma’am. They are my parents. They brought me into this world, fed me educated me and now they are old, unhappy, unwell and lonely. If I also go against them, they would be completely shattered.”
“So instead you will sacrifice yourself and Anisha?”
“I will make sure nothing happens to Anisha,” Rajani vowed.
“How?” Asked Aditi. “The vultures wont be content with your flesh, they will want a pound or two of hers as well.” Aditi predicted direly.
“I won’t let them!” Rajani said fiercely.
“You may not have a choice,” Aditi continued relentlessly.
“I think you should go back to your parents.” Tanya took pity on Rajani. “It is the perfect win-win solution. They are unhappy and lonely. So are you. They need support. So do you. Best if you move in them, be each others crutch.”
Rajani shook her head with rising agitation. “My father will have a heart attack…”
“He won’t. He just thinks he will.” Soothed Tanya. “He’s panicking and doesn’t want to take the responsibility of taking such a big decision against the so called societal norms. Once you take the step, take the decision he will fall in line. He is after all your father.”
“He won’t.” Rajani was adamant. “You dont know him. I do. He would rather die than go against society…”
“Who the hell or what the hell is this ‘Society’? Aditi’s eyes flashed. “Tell me does this ‘Society support or even tolerate homosexuality?” Rajani paled. “Isnt it an open secret in your family that Harsha is gay? Did anyone from his family shun him? Did the ‘Society’ rise up in collective horror and burn him at the stake? Did your in-laws disown their son? Did your parents?”
Rajani was silent.
“Exactly!” Pakhi took up the cudgels. “Why can’t you move into your parents place? Let them scream and shout. Better than being strangled by your own husband.”
“I can’t go where Ani is not wanted, where she is cursed day and night. She’s old enough to understand the vibes…”
“I understand only one thing Rajani.” Aditi stood up. “That you are not willing to take responsibility of your own life. You want someone else to take your life decisions.”
“That’s not true!” Rajani gasped. “All I want is that Ani should be safe and happy.”
“And you think you are giving her that by enduring injustice and violence? If Anisha is old enough to catch your parents’ negative vibes and comments do you think she cannot latch on to the unrest at home? How long before she is caught in the crossfire?”
“I know Ma’am.” Rajani said. “That’s why I maintain a low profile at home and try not to provoke…”
“Unbelievable!” Aditi gathered her things. “You think that is enough to maintain peace? Very likely that is going to provoke them, give them an upper hand, a sense of power and invincibility. They will know you don’t have any place to go, that you would never complain against them to the police, take any action. From now on it will be no holds barred,” Aditi predicted.
“Ma’am is right isn’t she?” Pakhi asked as they trooped downstairs. “Ever since he tried to strangle you he has become more aggressive and overbearing hasn’t he? Nobody said anything, not his parents, not your parents, not you – he has nothing to fear.”
Tanya put a comforting arm around Rajani. “Nothing in life comes easy and also remember you cannot please everyone. You have to listen to your gut instinct and do what is best for not just Anisha but yourself too. It is not selfishness to look out for your happiness, it is essential that you do for without a happy contented mother, Anisha’s future is doomed.”
“I understand.” Rajani nodded. “Thank you.” “I will go to the lawyer today.” She promised.
“We unfortunately live in a corporate world where group decision-making is made to avoid failure rather than achieving success.” Bill Cahan.
A/N Hello friends another little heads up. From now on until Moonshine is completed, I intend to go for daily posting of the chapters – enough is enough right? Hope you will be able to spare some time daily for Rajani and her woes. If not well you can always opt for binge reading – so long as you read! Be with you tomorrow.
Click here to read the next chapter – Rock Bottom