“But Mom this is crazy!” Rajani threw up her hands almost in tears, “Why don’t you understand, I am not ready to get married just yet, its too soon, how can I just married to some unknown guy from the street, who does that? I mean would you?” she pleaded.
Nisha nodded her head several times, “That is exactly what I did.”
“Oh but Mom, the times have changed and this is the twenty first century not we are no longer in the medieval ages, please Mom, I don’t care whether you did or not, I cannot and will not get married just because Bhai wants to get married,” Rajani paused, “Or because Shikha is getting married. That’s what this is all about isn’t it?” she turned around and accused hotly, “Is this some sort of a competition that just because Shikha is getting married Papa decided to just dump me off to the next man we meet,” she said bitterly.
“Stop it Rajani,” snapped Nisha, “No need to be so melodramatic, he is your own father not some step-father, he is doing what is best for you, he doesn’t want society to point fingers at us.”
“Doesn’t want ‘society’ to point fingers at us,” echoed Rajani disbelievingly, “What society are you talking about? We have lived in Chandigarh all our lives yet we hardly know anybody, we don’t have any relatives, Papa has no connection with his brother and you hardly meet your sisters, so who is this ‘society’ that will point fingers at us? And for what – not getting married at 20? I just don’t believe this,” Rajani angrily paced the room and threw the cushion in a fit of frustrated anger.
“Rajani! This is no way to behave!” her mother scolded her, “You really have become a spoilt brat and it is a good thing that you are getting married soon, later it will be even more difficult to find a groom for such an opinionated badly behaved woman.”
Rajani looked around, “Where did Papa go?”
“He…he had some work,” said Nisha vaguely.
“Very convenient,” Rajani nodded her head, “I arrive home for my vacations and he promptly vanishes on some ‘work’, that too on Christmas day,” Rajani snorted disbelievingly, “I wonder if he plans to avoid me for the next ten days as well or maybe even until I am safely married off and is someone else’s headache,” she bit out.
“It’s all your fault,” Nisha shot back instantly, “If you hadn’t challenged him so obviously by cutting your hair…”
“It’s just hair Mom, it will grow back in just six months so big deal,” Rajani screamed, “But once I get married, I will never be free to do what I want, don’t you get that? I had dreams, I had ambitions, I had plans, I meant to go places but now you want to chain me between the bedroom and the kitchen, so not done Mom, so not done,” Rajani broke down and she burst into a torrent of tears.
“Don’t be like that Rani, you know it’s nothing like that,” Nisha sank down beside her and hugged her, the fight going out of her, “Your father has your best interests at heart, you know that don’t you dear?” she patted and caressed her soothingly, “That’s enough dear, come on dear, go wash up and change, I will make your favorite stuffed parathas, you must be starving, just look how thin you have become, come you’ll feel better once you eat something.”
Rajani walked off – that’s right, fatten the calf before the slaughter.
Huddled under the covers, Rajani stared blankly at the ceiling as sleep eluded her. She looked at her mobile – 2.13 am – still a long night ahead. Her stomach growled with hunger. She sighed and sat up, switching on the table lamp and pulling the bedclothes snugly around her – last evening had been a total disaster.
Her brother had come over for an extended weekend after dropping Ritu to her parents place and Rajani had immediately attacked him, “Bhai what’s all this nonsense, why am I being forced to get married before you get married, do something Bhai,” she alternately raged and pleaded with him.
“What can I do Rani?” said Abhi helplessly, “We wanted to get married straight after MBBS but then you were underage, at that time both Ritu and her parents understood our stand and cooperated with us,” he shrugged, “Now it’s our turn, her brother is almost thirty, he too cannot get married before Ritu, so they are also keen to wrap this up as soon as possible.”
“From where did this law suddenly spring up that a brother cannot get married before his sister?” Rajani was up in arms, “What will happen if such a thing does happen, will we be arrested and thrown into jail?”
“Please Rajani,” Abhi wearily raised his hand, “I just finished a grueling 24-hour duty and have been travelling for the past 5 hours, can you give me a break please?” he massaged his neck.
“Oho Rajani drop it will you,” Nisha jumped up and fussed around her son with a bottle of balm, “You are so selfish,” she attacked her daughter, “All you can think of is yourself, can’t you see the poor boy is all fagged out, leave him alone.”
“I will gladly leave him alone,” screamed Rajani, “If only you people would leave me alone,” she stormed out of the room and banged the door behind her. She refused dinner hoping her father would surely come and coax her into eating. Surely he would understand her and give up his illogical demand? She brightened – what fun it would be Bhai’s wedding, Shikha’s wedding she couldn’t wait to attend them both.
Papa, please give up your zid, please agree to this one wish of mine, I promise I will never ask for anything ever again, Rajani begged silently.
But he didn’t come.
Hunger pangs gave Rajani no respite – admitting defeat, she threw off her covers and immediately shivered – brr it was cold. She hurriedly pulled on her socks and draped her mother’s thick woolen shawl and crept out of the room in search of sustenance. Mom must have cooked delicious items for her darling son, she sneered to herself. She opened the fridge door cautiously.
Almost instantly, the kitchen lights came on, “Yikes,” Rajani jumped and let go of the door. Naturally jumpy and skittish, it didn’t take much to startle her or scare her. She turned around and leaned against the counter, a hand to her heart, “Mamma, you gave me a heart attack,” she took deep breaths.
“Hungry right? You could never sleep on an empty stomach, why do you try?” Nisha shook her head and drew out a covered box from the fridge. Rajani tried to peer at it rather unsuccessfully. She placed something on a plate and shoved it into the microwave, “I missed you at the dinner table, I had spent hours cooking for you and you didn’t even have the courtesy to come and eat.”
“Well if somebody had come and called me, I would have come to eat,” she sniffed, “But nobody did, too busy gorging I suppose, who has the time to care about poor little me,” she said.
“Nonsense Rani, now don’t drown in self-pity for heaven’s sake,” Nisha said briskly, “Both Abhi and I went and called you, even banged on your door, but you didn’t respond, so we gave up,” she shrugged as she took out some more goodies.
“You gave up?” questioned Rajani. “I could have easily been hanging from the fan?” she pointed out munching on some homemade namkeens.
Click here for Chapter 111: Papa is Happy