“Why are you so such a drama queen?” Nisha put a hand to her head, “We knew you had the headphones on and the music turned on really loud, isn’t it?” Nisha looked at her knowingly.
Rajani looked away. She fiddled with the bottles on the counter, “Even Papa didn’t come to call me?” Rajani said in a small voice.
“Oh he was out for a Christmas party, how could he call you for dinner when he was himself absent?” said Nisha reasonably.
“He could have called me up. He knew I was upset,” Rajani was hurt and peeved. “We are home and he is out partying? That is a first,” Rajani said.
“Don’t use that tone Rani,” Nisha warned her, “He is very busy dear, this is a time for building contacts and goodwill so he had to go, try to understand, after all you are no longer a baby.” Her mother caressed her curls. She frowned. “If only you had not cut your hair, he wouldn’t be so stand-offish. he was determined to be patient and understanding with but you are the one who put his back up, now suffer the consequences.” Nisha switched off the microwave and took out the plate. “Here…”
But Rajani had turned away, easy tears springing to her eyes. “I don’t want to eat anything thank you,” she said stiffly, “I am sure you only made food to suit Bhai’s tastes,” she taunted.
“Okay fine, as you wish, then he can have this apple pie tomorrow for breakfast,” she paused, “I didn’t give it to him even though he asked for it saying that it was for you, but,” Nisha shrugged as she thrust the plate back into the fridge, “If you don’t want to eat…”
“Apple pie!” squealed Rajani, “Oh you are the best Mamma,” she dug out the plate and inhaled the fragrance, “Wow nobody makes apple pie like you Mom,” she broke of a bit and chewed it slowly savoring the taste, “Yummy mummy,” she hugged her mother and sat down happily to make short work of the apple pie, “I hope there’s more,” she asked half expectantly, half guiltily, “Bhai hasn’t had right?”
“Nobody has had,” her mother laughed, “But don’t worry I made loads, everyone can have their hearts fill.”
“Thanks Mom,” Rajani gave her a tight squeeze, “I was hungry.”
Nisha patted her cheek, “I know sweetie, Abhi went to call you for dinner but you didn’t open the door, so what could we do short of breaking it down hmm?” she yawned, “And then even I couldn’t sleep,” she paused not willing to admit to worrying what if Rani had taken some extreme step, “go to sleep but don’t lock the door,” she cautioned and switched off the lights, “Things will be better tomorrow,” she said comfortingly, “just remember not to annoy or irritate your father.”
Rajani swallowed and nodded her head before heading off to sleep.
The next day she woke up late and had no opportunity to talk to her father until late in the evening. Both her mother and Abhi were out on some errands so it was just her at home. “Papa, you are so late,” she pouted as she let him in.
Suryakant looked at her – she looked about ten years old. Was he right in insisting she get married? Perhaps not, but he didn’t make the rules – he was just trying to follow them. “Sorry beta, work and more work,” he sighed and sat down in front of the blower, “It’s really cold tonight, where’s everybody?”
“Bhai has taken Mom to the market, she had some grocery shopping to do, I will be right back,” she disappeared into the kitchen and reappeared with a bowl of steaming hot vegetable soup. “You must be hungry.” She made a face as she sank down on the cushion by his feet. “I am sure you haven’t eaten anything since morning.”
He didn’t answer her, he was too busy slurping up the soup. “Lovely,” he smacked his lips, “Did you make it?”
He looked pleased. “I didn’t know you could make soup?”
“I didn’t! I was alone and bored. So I looked it up on the net. My first dish ever.”
“You have a good knack for cooking.” Suryakant looked satisfied. “Just like your mother. Your husband is a lucky guy.”
An instant protest sprang to Rajani’s lips but she was determined to not antagonize her father. He had apparently forgiven her transgression or forgotten about it since she was wearing a thick woolen cap.
“Want some more?”
Suryakant hesitated but then held out his bowl, “Okay but only a little, leave some for the others too,” he said.
“Of course,” she returned with a refill, “I will make tomato soup tomorrow or would you like some chicken soup?”
Suryakant looked at her. “How about both? Tomorrow tomato soup and then chicken soup?” Suryakant lowered his voice even though Nisha wasn’t around. “Your Mom makes awful soup and insists I have it,” he wore a tragic expression.
Rajani giggled. “I will write out the recipe for Mom and show her how to make it as well,” she promised, “Then you can have my soup whenever you like.”
Suryakant patted her head. “How did your exams go?”
“Okay I guess,” mumbled Rajani, “But this time I don’t think I will be among the toppers.” She heaved a deep sigh.
“Why ever not?” Suryakant’s brows drew together.
Rajani made a moue and pulled at the tassels hanging down from the sofa covers, “You know why?” she swallowed hard.
She leaned against his leg and sniffed, “Papa why are you insisting I get married? Please Papa,” she raised her head and clutched his hand, “Please Papa, don’t force me to get married, I don’t want to get married you know that,” tears rolled down her cheeks as she begged him to let her off the hook.
“Oh my dearest Rani,” Suryakant wiped her cheeks, “Do you think I want to get you married, send you away from me?” he shook his head, “No sweetheart, no. If I had my way I would keep you with me forever. I didn’t even want to send you to Bengaluru but you wanted to study so I gave in to your wishes.” He closed his eyes and leaned back into his seat.
Rajani grabbed his hand and held on to it for dear life, “Then this time also please listen to me, I promise you wont regret it, if you want I will do PhD from Chandigarh, I wont go anywhere else, I will do whatever you say,” she promised recklessly.
Suryakant shook his head, “This is the agony that every father of a girl has to bear, and there is no avoiding it dear; this is the rule of the society. Daughters have to get married and go away to their in-laws place, bring joy and new life to another house.”
“But Papa, times are changing, things are different now,” Rajani said desperately, “Besides, I am not saying I wont get married ever, I will, I promise and to whoever you decide I promise but please not just yet, at such short notice, I am not at all mentally prepared and we…”
“Hush my Rani hush,” Suryakant smiled sadly as he shushed her, “Will you ever be mentally prepared to go?” he shook his head, “I know I will never be. Only I know how much I missed you these last few years. I am afraid I will never want to let you go, and people will then point fingers and say ‘look there goes the man who lives off his daughter’s earnings’ I could never bear that,” he straightened, “Do you want your father to be shamed in this way, never to be able to raise his head amongst his peers?”
Rajani’s eyes filled with tears – she still couldn’t understand why it was important that she get married before her brother, but she did understand that it was important for her father – enough to bring tears into his eyes. And that she could never stomach – tears because of her, never – she stiffened and wiped her tears, “As you think best Papa,” she bowed.
Rajani was rewarded with the most brilliant of smiles and a rare hug from her father, “That’s my girl!” he gloated, “I knew you would never ever break my heart or disobey me, and don’t you worry Rani, I will find the world’s best guy for you, I will make sure he let’s you complete your studies and allows you to work, then you will be happy too right?”
Rajani smiled through her tears, “Yes Papa, then I will be happy too,” she echoed.
But in truth, her father’s happiness and relief was reward enough.
Click here for Chapter 112: Home Sweet Home