After a restless night, a bleary eyed Rajani inspected her meager collection of traditional wear. Only two with a dupatta – of which one was short sleeved. That meant she didn’t have any choice.
Or did she?
She rubbed the scar on her arm – he had issues with her skin color, what would his reaction be if he saw the scar? Should she wait until it was too late or was it better to have it sorted out right away? Destroy illusions her parents were determined to hang on to?
“Hi Rajji.” It was Shikha. “Aunty said you met Harsha yesterday?”
“Yes.” Still smarting from their earlier altercation, Rajani was a bit short with Shikha. Yet she couldn’t help but feel a twinge of concern. Shikha sounded so low. “He’s okay I guess. But what’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing.” Shikha tried to make light of it. “How does he look? Any photos?”
“No. I completely forgot. I will try to click some photos this afternoon when we go out for lunch.”
“Oh wow! You have a date! That’s nice.”
“What’s wrong Shikhs?” Rajani coaxed.
“Nothing. We had our first disagreement.”
“Some relatives of his are coming over to ‘see’ me. Apparently they are very conservative, so I have to wear dupatta over my head, touch their feet, blah blah.” Shikha grumbled. “I don’t like all these rules and restrictions. What’s the point in staying in the States if you are going to be regressive?”
“Come on Shikhs, he isn’t regressive is he? He is probably trying to save you from people like Biji, nitpicking and finding faults with you. You should appreciate that he thought to warn you in advance. And it’s not like it is forever is it?”
“Wow Rajji. You’ve really matured overnight!” Shikha sounded more like herself. “From where or should I say whom did you get so much gyaan?”
“I always had it. You were too blind to appreciate it.” Rajani said loftily. She spoiled it by giggling. Shikha joined in.
“Oh Shikhs what a mess both of us are in.” Rajani gave a groan. “I feel like the philosopher Chandy spoke about in school – remember?”
“Oh yes. What was it?” Shikha tried to recollect. “The philosopher is like a blind man,” she minced her words in a high artificial manner, “searching in a dark room for a black cat,” she gave a dramatic pause, “which is not there!” They finished together.
“Damn nonsense this wedding business.” Rajani cursed. “I don’t know what is right and what is not.”
“What’s the problem?” Shikha asked.
“I have to go out for lunch with him. He asked me to wear something traditional. With a dupatta. Is he going to dictate what I wear as well?”
“Come on Rajji. Didn’t you advice me to go with the flow?”
“Your case is different. You are meeting his family, your in-laws for the first time. Some decorum, some formalities have to be maintained. But here, it’s just a casual lunch between us, to get to know each other. We should pretend to be something we aren’t should we?”
“Don’t create trouble for yourself, unnecessarily Rajji. Just go with the flow. It’s not such a big thing is it?”
“What are you planning Rajji?” Shikha asked with foreboding.
“Nothing. What could I plan?! In any case, he is my only hope isn’t he? He wants me to complete Masters, though he wasn’t as positive about PhD.”
“Give him some time. I am sure he will come around later. Once you are married, you can surely ‘convince’ him to dance to your tunes?”
“I suppose. Okay bye. Talk to you later.”
Rajani got back to staring at her wardrobe. She chewed her lip, unable to bring herself to toe the line. Shikha’s predicament had just served to make her even more rebellious.
Harsha called up. “I am running a bit late. Can we meet at the restaurant? I have to pack my luggage as well.”
“Sure.” Rajani mumbled, quite put out. He couldn’t be bothered to come and pick her?
Was that okay?
No. So not right.
He should know that he couldn’t take her for granted. After all morning showed the day.
But how to tell him?
Outside the restaurant, Rajani hesitated, what if he wasn’t here?
Should she sit and wait for him inside or outside?
This was so embarrassing and awkward she fumed. She had never been inside a restaurant alone, what if people stared? Damn it, she should have told Harsha to wait outside for her. And now his phone was unreachable…
“Yes Madam?” Someone asked her obsequiously. But she saw the inquisitive glint in his eyes – which irritated her even more.
“I am supposed to meet someone…” she mumbled.
“Please come and have a seat.” He ushered her inside.
She looked around apprehensively. That guy with his back to the entrance looked like him.
Or was it someone else?
She edged up to him, tamping down on her escalating annoyance – couldn’t he have sat facing the door? Who sat waiting for someone with their backs?
“You are late!” he snapped.
“There was traffic.” She hated the conciliatory note in her voice as she quickly slid into the seat opposite him to avoid another confrontation.
“You should have accounted for traffic…”
“I am not in the habit of traveling outside campus, so I…”
“Well that’s good.” Mollified, he backed down.
Which served as a license for her to give vent to her grievances.
“I was waiting outside the restaurant for a good ten minutes, wondering if I should come in or not. It was so embarrassing! I have never gone to a restaurant alone before.”
“Yes. I can understand. I apologize.” He smirked.
She frowned. Why did he look so pleased with himself? A sudden thought flashed. Had he been testing her? She gritted her teeth.
He coughed. “I have already placed the order. Chinese. But no soup. They are exorbitantly priced and empty fillers.”
“I like soup.” Rajani said as she perused the menu.
“If you order soup now, the other stuff will get cold. I also have to leave in an hour.”
“Fine.” Rajani thrust the menu card away rather petulantly.
“What’s that?” He asked staring at her arm.
Rajani slid her hands under the table. “A scar.”
“I can see that. How did you get it?”
“I had an accident. Right after school. I missed my admission at AIIMS,” she choked up.
“But nobody mentioned it to me! Not Ritu, nor your parents.”
“It’s just a scar.” Rajani snapped.
“But still I should have known about it.”
“Well you know now don’t you?” Rajani’s tone was bitter and challenging. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Mind your tone.”
“You mind your manners.”
There was silence as the waiter arrived with their order and served them.
Rajani was near tears and couldn’t swallow because of the lump in her throat.
Harsha put down his fork. “I am sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude. I was just surprised that’s all.”
Rajani’s tears spilled over.
Harsha looked around scandalized. “Don’t cry! What will everyone think?”
Rajani sniffed and wiped her face.
He smiled at her. “Come on now eat up. Ritu told me you like Chinese food?”
Rajani accepted the olive branch and smiled at him.
“Yes. I do.” She tucked in feeling ravenous. “What about you?”
“Even I like Chinese. But I am vegetarian. What about you?”
“I eat chicken and eggs. Though I am not very fond of it.”
“It’s okay.” Harsha waved his fork magnanimously. “You can eat non-veg if you like. My parents also eat non-veg food as does my sister. But we don’t cook it at home. Do you know how to cook?”
A/N Dear friends as you can see the story is headed the other way – from a possible romantic one to an ‘arranged’ life, which may too realistic and hence unpalatable for many. As I can see there are not many takers for Moonshine as it is but the few that are there may also have second thoughts seeing a downward trend. I understand, I really do – very likely if I were the reader, I too would have ditched it. Lucky you have the choice 😉
But in case you are determined to hang in till the bitter end (fingers crossed), I thought I should take a sort of an opinion poll – should I approach MS in the fast forward mode or nitpick and dissect the issues that flare out of control. Thanks for reading so far and hopefully chipping in with your views.
Click here for Chapter 119: Waterworks