“Do you want to go and visit Aditi Ma’am?” Pakhi asked a few days later.
Rajani looked up in surprise. “Why what happened?”
“Apparently she has high fever. Tanya went to see her. She lives all alone. So I thought maybe we should also…”
“I guess we should also go,” agreed Rajani reluctantly. “But I can’t be late going home.”
“Why don’t we take permission from Tanya and leave early?” suggested Pakhi.
Armed with sanction, directions, good wishes and goodies, the two sailed out on their mission of the day. Rajani drove while Pakhi fiddled with the radio playing her favorite songs on full volume, shrieking navigation instructions once in a while. Feeling as if she was out on parole, Rajani let down her hair and joined Pakhi is singing along with her, that is when she wasn’t giggling at her antics. It was a miracle she didn’t crash into anyone on the way.
“Wow Rajani the way you drive is insane!” A relieved Pakhi fell out of the car as it screeched to a halt at their destination.
“All your fault!” Retorted a bright and fresh Rajani, “how can I drive straight if you insist on playing the fool?”
“Ok now hush!” Pakhi cautioned. “We’ve come to pay a courtesy call not for a party. You take the bouquet I will take the fruits and the card. Okay?”
“I hope she’s okay enough to receive guests.” Rajani fretted as they rang the bell.
“We wont stay long. We’ll just say hello and ask if she needs anything and be on our way.” The maid opened the door and led them into the sitting room where Aditi was reclining on the couch. She smiled and waved them to the sofa in front of her.
“How are you Ma’am?” they chorused.
“I’m better thank you.” She accepted their gifts shaking her head. “You shouldn’t have.”
“These are official Ma’am.” Pakhi grinned. “The Big Boss’ orders. He specially commanded us to convey his personal good wishes and speedy recovery.”
Rajani snickered and then coughed to cover up her gaffe.
“Please tell him I’m not exactly on my death bed.” Aditi said dryly.
“But this is the first time in 11 years that you’ve taken more than a day off.” Pakhi said admiringly. “Quite a record Ma’am.”
Aditi’s lips twisted. “Work is all I have. What will you have tea or coffee?”
“Nothing Ma’am,” Rajani shot to her feet. “We’ll be leaving.”
“Nonsense. You must have something. Madhu,” she said to the lady who served them water and rasgullas, “bring coffee for everyone.” She turned to them. “Or would you prefer tea?”
Rajani shook her head dumbly nudging Pakhi who was busy in her phone. Pakhi stood up. “I’ve to leave Ma’am.”
Rajani and Aditi stared in surprise. “All well?” Aditi asked with concern.
“My father’s been admitted to the hospital with chest pain.”
“Oh no!” Rajani gasped. “Shall I come with you?”
“No.” Pakhi shook her head. “He’s seems to be stable now and you also have to go home. I’ll take a cab. Will you be able to go on your own…?”
“Don’t worry about me!” Rajani gave her a little push. “I’ll take my directions from Ma’am. You go.”
Aditi nodded. “Take care and wish him a quick recovery.”
“Thank you.” Pakhi left and so did Madhu after serving the coffee.
Rajani shifted uncomfortably. “Ma’am you please rest. I will also leave, if you could give me the directions?” She paused. “Oh I could use Google Maps.” She fiddled with her phone and reset the route after confirming Aditi’s address. “Okay Ma’am.” She stood up.
“Have your coffee.” Aditi’s voice brooked no arguments. Rajani subsided. She sipped at her coffee scalding her tongue.
“How’s the coffee?” Aditi asked.
“Good Ma’am. Very nice. Hot and strong.” Rajani gushed. She braved another sip.
“Nonsense.” Aditi snorted. “She forgot to put sugar.” She padded to the kitchen.
Rajani ran after her bleating, “Ma’am, please Ma’am. It’s okay. It really is. I’ll do it Ma’am. You please sit. You aren’t well, that’s why I never said anything.”
Aditi rounded on her. “You’ll never get anywhere in life if you don’t assert yourself.”
“It’s nothing Ma’am.” Rajani shook her head. “It is just good manners and respect out of courtesy Ma’am.”
“Be careful your good manners and lihaaz aren’t taken as sign of assent.”
“I don’t know what you mean Ma’am.” Rajani paled and her heart thudded.
“Don’t you?” Rajani looked down.
“What action have you taken?”
“Nothing Ma’am. What action can I take? Every time I took a stand it just backfired and things became worse for me.”
“You are like Sati.” Aditi said.
“Sati?” Rajani was confused at the sudden switch in conversation.
“You don’t know Shiv-Sati story?”
“Vaguely.” Rajani said.
“Eons ago, Lord Shiva cut off his feminine half – Adishakti – to help Brahma to create the world,” Aditi explained, “When Her work was done and it was time for Her to return to Him, She took the form of Sati. But Sati was human, bound by the limitations of the five elements that she was made of. To overcome them, Sati needed to undergo a series of austere penances and tapasya and attain her place by His side. But even though she was willing, Sati lacked purpose and determination. She was easily distracted and diverted. And because of that Adishakti took the decision to rid herself of ayogya or unworthy Sati and be reborn as another who would be more capable of reaching her one and only Lord Shiva despite being a human. She was reborn as Parvati who had unflinching focus and strength of purpose to overcome the obstacles to achieve her destiny Him and find Her own self in the process.”
Rajani nodded, “Oh yes now I remember the story but I am not sure I see the connection. They are Gods and Goddesses how can it relate to me?”
“They are what you choose them to be. Both Sati and you struggle to achieve your individual destinations – hers was Lord Shiva and yours is freedom. You have also made attempts but they have been half-hearted and you easily get distracted and discouraged from following your heart and achieving your goal of independence. You have to learn from Sati, destroy yourself, go beyond yourself, bring out the Adishakti within you and achieve your goal.” Aditi spoke passionately and her eyes flashed fire.
Rajani shook her head. “No Ma’am. These are stories. And it is easy to say but not to do.”
“Listen Rajani,” Aditi spoke with an urgency, “Nothing worthwhile in life is easy to get. You have to, have to find that strength within you and walk out now before things get out of hand.”
“Don’t worry Ma’am. Please don’t take any stress on account of me.” Rajani soothed her. “I am fine. The situation is under control. Nobody said anything after that first time. I almost feel I imagined the whole thing, made a mountain out of a molehill.” Rajani gave an embarrassed laugh.
Aditi if anything looked more worried and agitated. “You don’t understand Rajani. These people are dangerous. They will wait until your defenses are down, when you are least expecting it and pounce. You won’t have a chance. They’ll take everything and you’ll be left with nothing.”
Rajani was beginning to feel irritated. What business was it of hers? But she couldn’t be rude to her could she? “Ma’am please, I appreciate your concern but I really have exhausted my options. I don’t have a choice but to cope as well as I can.”
“There is always, always a choice,” spittle flew out of Aditi’s mouth, “you just have to be ready to pay the price. Walk out today. Rent a place, put your daughter in a crèche…”
“Harsha wouldn’t allow it…”
“File an FIR…”
“My parents would never allow…”
“Damn your parents to hell. Forget them, forget everybody, just think of Anisha…”
“I am thinking of Anisha. She is safest at home.”
“SAYS WHO?” Rajani shrank back in terror as Aditi screamed like a madwoman. “When they can’t get through to you they will use Anisha to destroy you.”
“How can they do that? She is the apple of her father’s eye, their granddaughter, they may dislike me, disown me but they do love her and care for her, not like my parents.”
“Rajani for the last time I am telling you…” Aditi continued doggedly but Rajani had had enough.
She stood up. “Please Ma’am, I can and will take care of my daughter. I know what is best for her. Possibly you don’t really understand….”
“I DON’T UNDERSTAND!?” There was a crash as Aditi swept the cups off the table.
A/N The next update is, as you may have guessed, is Aditi’s story and is rather disturbing and would recommend the sensitive readers to give this chapter a skip and move on to the next one. But since the next chapter isn’t yet quite ready I will post both chapters on Monday. Do share your thoughts (especially if the parallels didn’t work) and see you on Monday – have a wonderful weekend.