Rajani spent the next few days in Aditi’s apartment alternating between bouts of hysteria and resigned acceptance. She jumped at every doorbell ring, swish of footsteps, and screech of cars. The pain in her jaw didn’t let her sleep or rest yet she welcomed the pain – it reminded her and strengthened her resolve not to cave in to her fears and insecurities. Not to her in-laws not to her parents. She had to strike out on her own. But, how and where? She couldn’t stay indefinitely with Aditi could she? Sooner or later, her husband would enquire at the office and word would leak out and there would be hell to pay. She couldn’t do that to Aditi, not after what she had done for her.
“Ma’am could you help me sell off the car and some jewelry? I will go to Chandigarh.”
“Chandigarh? To your parents?!” Aditi was dismayed.
“No Ma’am. Not to my parents. Don’t worry I am not even considering contacting them, but it is my city. I am familiar with it and somehow feel safer there. I’ll take a PG, put Ani in a crèche find a job. But I need money to tide me over the initial period.”
“I have money.” Aditi said gruffly. “You can return it whenever you are comfortable.”
Rajani shook her head. “I think it is time I stood on my own two feet. I need to stop leaning on others, expecting and waiting for others to take care of me.”
“I am glad you are thinking like that Rajani but then again are you sure you are well enough to go it on your own?” Aditi fretted. “You aren’t completely recovered, your tooth is fractured, and it will require some sittings. And doing all this on your own isn’t going to be easy. Ani is also unsettled and disturbed. How will you….?”
“Ma’am!” Rajani interrupted, “You are my strength and inspiration. If you think like that how will I move on?”
“Ah Rajani,” Aditi sank down beside her, “I didn’t mean to inspire you to jump into the fire! You must think and plan ahead. What you did that night was right and the only option but it was an emergency and acted on the spur of the moment. From now on you need to think, strategize, plan and then move.”
“Yes Ma’am. And my first step is money. The next is to ask your help in disposing of my assets. I am working on my third step.” Rajani gave a lop-sided smile.
Aditi sighed and nodded. “Fair enough. We’ll go step by step.”
“Yes. And I also need to open a bank account. Harsha has access to my office account.”
“Good thinking.” Aditi said approvingly. “I’ll organize that as well. I have a spare SIM card lying around.” She raised a hand. “Use it for now and you can return it when you have your own. Okay?”
Rajani nodded. “I’ve already destroyed my SIM. I didn’t want them tracing me through any means.”
“Yes.” Aditi agreed. “That’s why I didn’t tell anybody in office either. Pakhi and Tanya are terribly worried but I thought it better that they worry than let anything slip.” She hesitated. “Harsha had come by at the office today.”
“Wh…what did he say?”
“He said he had come to drop off your lunch, which you had forgotten.” Aditi snorted.
Rajani cracked up. “My lunch!” she gasped through her giggles. “After missing for three days.”
Aditi glared at her. “It’s not funny.” She scolded.
“Oh but it is! Besides, it is better than crying isn’t it?” She sobered. “What did you say?”
Aditi shrugged. “I didn’t have to. Pakhi flew at him and rained abuses at his head forcing him to beat a hasty retreat. Tanya threatened to call the police.”
“Dear Pakhi.” Rajani misted. “Maybe I will email them.” She hesitated. “I haven’t opened my mail account since then. I am still not sure if I am strong enough to resist any plea from my father.” She faltered.
“Write a letter. I will post it.”
Rajani nodded gratefully. “Ma’am I also need to purchase a laptop. A second hand maybe? But I don’t know much about…”
“Use mine to search for one online. Shortlist a couple and I will ask a friend to check out the best one.”
“I don’t know what I would have done without you.” Rajani teared up.
“Help is always there for those who ask for it.” Aditi brushed it away. “The important thing is to ask.” Her lips twisted. “Like they say, even a mother doesn’t feed her child unless she cries.”
“Sometimes not even then.” Rajani broke down.
“Mamma!” Anisha came charging from her corner where she was happily playing with her new toys, courtesy Ti Ma’am. She turned towards Aditi and shook her finger. “Scolding Mamma?” she scowled.
“Get a grip Rajani, I’m about to be slaughtered.” Aditi hid behind the sofa. Anger forgotten Anisha chortled and toddled after her. Rajani wiped her face and joined the fun. Thank god for Anisha.
Restless and sleepless, Rajani accepted Aditi’s loan of her laptop and scoured the net for hours on end. She even ventured to make a few enquiries and phone calls.
“Ma’am! I found a place to stay in Chandigarh.” Rajani was euphoric. “It is quite far from our place. But more importantly the lady who’s offering the PG runs a playschool on the ground floor. I talked to her. She’s willing to give me the room, a job and admission to Anisha!” Rajani did a little jig. “I don’t have to move out anywhere! Can you believe that?”
Aditi stared at her and turned away. But Rajani had caught the sheen in her eyes.
“Ma’am?” she questioned softly. Aditi coughed and cleared her throat. “Good things happen to those who stay up all night fixated on their goal.”
“You showed me the way Ma’am. I do not even have words to express my gratitude.” Rajani stopped herself from hugging Aditi.
“What’s the next step?”
“I’ll take an early morning bus to Chandigarh tomorrow…”
“I’ll go with you.” Aditi said. “For my peace of mind.” She added as Rajani opened her mouth to protest. “And give me the details of this lady. I’ll have her credentials checked out. You can never be too careful.” She said darkly.
“What about the FIR?” Aditi asked carefully. “Would you like to file it before you move from here? Or you would rather forget all about it and move on.”
Rajani’s expression changed. “I’ve been avoiding thinking about that.” She confessed. “Clearly I wish to forget about it. But,” her voice hardened, “I cannot, I should not. They must be punished for their actions.” She faltered. “Even my parents.” She looked pleadingly at Aditi. “But I need time…”
“There’s no rush,” Aditi soothed. “Find your feet. Build your confidence and then take it up from there.”
“Thank you Ma’am.” Rajani said gratefully. “I did think it would be better to file the FIR from Chandigarh rather than Delhi. It would be my home turf and I wouldn’t have to travel up and down for the case.”
“Makes sense.” Aditi approved the plan. She paused. “But do let me know when you file a case. I will come to Chandigarh…”
This time Rajani threw her arms around Aditi. “Oh thank you!!! I was fearing going to the police station alone.”
Aditi shifted uncomfortably. “It’s nothing. I think I need to start expanding my horizons, take leave from office, see the world.” She mused. “Maybe I can convince Tanya and Pakhi for a girls trip…” Aditi once again had her breath squeezed out of her.
“Oh yes yes yes!” Rajani danced for joy. “That would be great! Give me one month’s time to settle down. I promise I will get my house in order. I will make you proud of me.” She swore.
“You’ve already made me proud.” Aditi smiled through her tears.
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