“Relax! I didn’t ‘put him up to this’.” At Rajani’s disbelieving snort, Shikha hastened to add, “I swear. But I was kind of hoping that this would give Harry the ‘push’ that he so clearly needed.” Shikha sounded smug. “I hope you said yes?”
“No! Why would I say yes? I don’t want to marry Harry!”
“Of course you do. Ever since I remember you have been fighting with me for the right to marry Harry. Well I grant you full rights so feel free to marry him.” Shikha chortled bowled over by her own wittiness and brilliance.
“Shut up Shikha! It’s not funny.”
Shikha sobered. “Of course it is not funny. But I am really thrilled. Things are working out for the best, don’t you see? This is just what you need. A friend and companion for life. Who better than Harry? He is such a great guy, just the kind of person who will let you fly high and yet be your sheet anchor…”
“Wow, I didn’t know you liked Harry so much. Maybe you should have married him.”
“Rajji, I don’t know why you are acting so difficult about this. Just calm down and think about it. This is the best possible solution out of this mess.”
“The best possible solution would be if we could go back and carry on as if the last month or so hadn’t happened – you weren’t getting married, I wasn’t getting married.”
“Grow up Rajji. We can’t turn the clock can we? We have no control over the past but we can change the future can’t we?”
“We can’t change anything. Whatever will be will be. And whatever happens, happens for the best etc etc.”
“Don’t be such a fatalist. Or so negative. At least we can try?”
“What’s the point Shikha? How much do I know Harry? And does he know me? The real me? I very much doubt it. What about his parents? Will they accept me? Will they agree to an instant wedding? Will Papa agree? I am tired Shikhs. I can’t fight any more.”
“Rajji it’s a question of your life! You can’t afford to give up so easily. You know what they say don’t you – act in haste and repent at leisure?”
“Tell that to my parents, Shikhs. I don’t want this ‘action’ but I got no choice…”
“That’s what I am trying to tell you Rajji. You have a choice. At least, talk to your parents? Tell them about Harry…”
“What should I tell them Shikhs? That some southy classmate wants to marry me, I am not too sure, do you think I should marry him? Do you think Papa would say Yes Beta go ahead and marry him?”
“At least talk to him!”
“I can’t Shikhs. So embarrassing…”
“Uff Rajji you are the limit really. Embarrassing? Really? Talk to your mother then.”
“Okay fine fine. Drop this topic okay? Bye.” Rajani disconnected the phone.
But Shikha wasn’t giving up so easily. She called Rajani the next day and the next day. She nagged Rajani for all she was worth. Yet strangely enough, the more Shikha insisted Rajani talk to her parents, the more she dug her heels in and refused to do so, driving Shikha quite around the bend. Frustrated beyond measure, she confided her apprehensions and brilliant plan to her mother, who in turn talked to Nisha.
“Rani, what’s this Shikha saying about Harikrishan?” Suryakant called her.
Cursing Shikha, Rajani fumbled for an answer. “What about him Papa?”
“Do you want to marry him?”
Rajani flushed. “Nothing like that Papa.”
“Nothing Papa. He…he said he wanted to marry me…”
“Do you want to marry him?”
“I don’t know Papa. I never thought of marrying him. He is a nice guy we, I mean Shikha and I are go…friends with him. But nothing special.” Rajani’s heart was thudding madly and her palms were sweating. She felt as if she was standing on a sheer cliff in the midst of nowhere – either way she was a goner. Oh wait there was sparkling blue pool on one side, perhaps if she took the plunge she could make it.
And Harry would never let her just die. He would do anything to make life easier…
“Look beta, I don’t want to force you into anything. But you must consider all options before taking a decision. Do you understand what I am saying?”
Rajani made an indeterminate strangled sound.
“What I mean is when you contemplate marriage, you have to consider various aspects such as the family background, culture customs, status in society etc. I personally have nothing against love marriages. Look at Abhi, he is getting married to the girl of his choice. Did we say anything? Did we object? No, because, they have known each other many years. Besides she belongs to North India – their culture and customs is like ours. But this boy is from the South. They have different customs and rituals and they are often very traditional and rigid. As the daughter-in-law you will have to follow them strictly. Are you ready for this massive change? Remember, nothing will change for him. But for you, everything will be different. Will you be able to adjust? Think about it and let me know.”
Rajani’s head was in a whirr. She couldn’t think straight. It was too much of an effort. She desperately missed Shikha – she wished she were here. So that she could murder her. She would happily go to the gallows.
Rajani had a sudden image of an overflowing suitcase – people taking turns to sit on it to snap it shut – Bhai, Papa, Mamma. There was no escape she had to fit in, somehow.
She curled up.
“No Papa. Whatever you think best.” Relief flooded her.
It was true! Real happiness was in making others happy. Besides, her grouse was not with her groom, her issue was with marriage itself. If she had to get married – it didn’t matter who it was.
“Good decision beta. I am proud of you. You don’t worry about anything. The boy I choose for you will be the best of the best. You wont have any cause for complaint.” Suryakant bubbled with relief. Everything was as it should be.
“Yes Papa.” Rajani felt light as air. Her Papa was happy. He was proud of her. What more could she ask for?
In Chandigarh, Shikha got an earful from Nisha and her mother for interfering in matters, which were none of her concern. She listened sullenly to the strictures dished out, apologized gracefully and abjectly. But, not one to give up so easily, at the first opportunity, she called up Rajani.
“Are you crazy or what?” Rajani held the phone away from her ear as Shikha screeched like an over-the-top banshee. “Why are you determined to destroy your life like this? Don’t give in so easily Rajji. It’s a question of your entire life – not some college course that will get over in a year or two. Harry is a way better option than some unknown devil.”
“How do you know?”
“How do I know? How do I…?” Shikha sputtered. “You know Harry…”
“Truly speaking how much do I really know about Harry? He’s just a classmate who thinks he has a crush on me. You know what I think? I think that he has been tricked into believing he ‘loves’ with me because everyone teased him so much about me!” Rajani made a rude sound. “As if! If he really loved me, he wouldn’t have given up. He would have nagged me, tried harder…”
“God Rajji you really are the limit!” Shikha was ready to tear her hair out. “What do you want from Harry? To cut out his heart and lay it out for you to see?”
“Forget Harry. What about his parents? Will they agree to the wedding? That too such a quick wedding? Why would they?”
“That’s Harry’s problem Rajji, let him sort it out with his parents.”
“Even if he did sort it out, it would still be my problem. It would be like jumping from the frying pan into the fire. What do I know about south Indian culture and customs? Even their food is different – I like it but not 24×7 for the rest of my life. And I would have to live in some tiny town in the South, far far away from my parents. And what if Harry and I do not gel well as a couple? No I can’t take such a big risk.” Rajani was adamant.
“Oh but you are taking a risk! Can’t you see it? Marriage is a BIG risk. And to an unknown guy…”
“Look who’s talking?” Rajani snapped.
“It’s not the same thing.” Shikha denied hotly.
“How is it not the same thing? You are getting married to a guy you haven’t even seen.”
“Yes but I have talked to him. He sounds like a decent…”
“There is a huge difference between sounding and being decent.”
“I agree. That’s why Harry is such a great choice for you.”
“Harry! Harry! Harry! I am sick and tired of you thrusting him on to me. If you are so enamored with him, maybe you should marry him.”
“If he wasn’t so crazy about you, I would have.” Shikha disconnected the phone.
Click here for Chapter 115: Meet the Groom