“Shall we leave?” Harsha was stone-faced.
Rajani began to ease out from her seat. “At least wipe your face.” He hissed. “Do you want to create a scene?”
Unable to say a word, Rajani tried her best to compose herself and make a swift exit.
“Which flavor do you like?” Stopping in front of an ice cream van, Harsha asked.
Unable to rebuff his obvious efforts at reconciliation, Rajani mumbled. “Chocolate,” even as a fresh batch of tears slid down her cheeks.
“Chocolate makes you cry?”
Rajani gave a watery laugh and made an effort to control her wayward emotions. “I am sorry.” She blew her nose. “Thank you.” Rajani accepted the cup of ice cream. “Please thank your mother and sister from my side for the bracelet. I do like it.” She could also be generous.
Harsha unbent. “Perhaps it would be better if you thanked them yourself.”
Rajani baulked. “I…I don’t have their number.”
“I’ll give it you. Note it down.”
“Text me the numbers.”
“Better to note it.”
“I’ll probably lose the paper.”
“I hope you aren’t serious! Don’t forget in less than a month you will have to manage our entire household.”
Rajani’s eyes widened in horror, “Oh! I couldn’t!”
“Of course Mother will be there to guide you but ultimately it will be your responsibility. If you cannot keep one piece of paper safely who will manage important papers, documents etc.?”
Cornered, Rajani looked for an escape clause but all doors seemed to be closing in on her. “But…but I will be here doing my Masters!” she clutched at it like a shield.
“For just about a year and a half. After that it will be your responsibility. My mother is getting old she needs a bit of a rest and relaxation. So start by taking responsibility of a piece of paper.”
Heartily sick of the topic, Rajani drew out her notepad and dutifully noted the numbers.
“Oh look at the time! I better rush. I meant to drop you but now it’s too late. If only you had not insisted on arguing…
And if only you hadn’t insisted on saving on text charges Rajani wished she could say it aloud. “Bye.”
“Let me know when you reach the hostel.”
A little while later Harsha called up. “Where are you?”
“Why didn’t you inform me? I was worried about you.”
“I didn’t want you to incur unnecessary roaming charges.” It slipped out before Rajani could stop herself. She held her breath.
“I suppose that is a matter of consideration.” He approved! “But I did tell you to call me. I hope you didn’t have any trouble finding transportation?”
Rajani rolled her eyes. “Yes, no problem. Have you reached the airport?”
“No not yet, I think it will take another half hour or so.”
“By the way, I forgot to tell you. For the trousseau don’t bother buying any western dresses. We are a very traditional and conservative family and Indian wear is best.”
“But what about while at home, surely…”
“We are a close knit and big family. Elders keep dropping in and best to stick to Indian wear.”
Rajani was silent. She felt as if she were being squeezed into a mould that wasn’t her size or shape.
“I’ve got to go, there is another call coming.” She disconnected his phone.
“Hello Rani. Everything okay?”
“How does it matter?” Rajani snapped.
“Of course it matters. Tell me what happened?”
“Nothing Mamma. I think Harsha and I think very differently…”
“But of course Rani! Differences will be there – you both are two different individuals. You have to adjust and mould…”
“Why should I adjust…?”
“It’s not just about you adjusting dear! He will also have to adjust…was he very upset about your short hair?”
“How do you know?” Did he say anything?”
“No, no, he didn’t say anything to us.”
“He said something to Ritu and she told your Bhai…”
“And he told you and now you are telling me. Circle complete.”
“Why are you so upset Rani? This was expected. You shouldn’t have cut your hair.”
“It’s my hair Mamma. Don’t I have any say about how long or short my hair can be?”
“Don’t be difficult about such a little thing Rani. It is just hair. And you have such beautiful hair. It is criminal to destroy such beauty. You should be thankful to have such good hair and the fact that people appreciate it so much and not crib about it.”
“Yes Mamma. I am very grateful to ‘them’ for appreciating my lustrous locks. Don’t worry Mamma, soon more appreciation will come our way – my dusky skin, my scar…”
“Your scar? What did he say?”
“Why? Didn’t Ritu Bhabhi say anything to Bhai?”
“Oh never mind I will ask him. Did you give him the cuff links?”
“Waste of money.”
“Why are you being so difficult?”
“I didn’t say that – your beloved to-be son-in-law said.”
“Oh! He was just being polite and considerate.”
“Did he…he give you anything?”
“Yes of course. A bracelet, especially chosen for me by his darling sister.”
“You didn’t like it?”
“I didn’t like it? Mamma, it’s the ugliest thing ever. Nobody in their right minds would wear it or buy it.”
“Now now Rajani don’t be so critical. People have different choices. It’s the thought that counts.”
It’s the thought that I am concerned about.
“I do wish I had thought of telling you to send a gift for your sister-in-law as well.” Nisha fretted. “I wonder what they must be thinking of us? After all we are the girl’s side.”
“Please Mamma, don’t make such a big thing out of it. He gave me a gift and I gave him a gift. Neither of us liked it. End of story. Why drag the others into it? Then you will say, I should have given his mother something as well.”
“Yes. Perhaps we should have. I don’t know what they must be expecting from you. I hope they don’t get a bad impression about you…I must talk to your father and perhaps send something. Rani, you must call them up and thank them.”
“Mamma, I haven’t even met them! I feel strange calling them up and talking to them…”
“What’s so strange about it? They are your people, your family, you have to spend the rest of your lives with them…”
“Oh please Mamma, next you will be saying only my dead body should leave that house…”
“How was lunch? What did you have?” Nisha changed the topic.
“We had Chinese.” Rajani was still seething.
“That’s good. He knows that you liked Chinese and very indulgent of him.” Nisha’s voice was heavy with satisfaction.
Not so much to treat me to soup Rajani was still craving for some hot soup, but she forbore to raise that issue. What was the point?
“I wonder who told him?” Rajani mused.
“Told him what?”
“That I like Chinese. Did you?”
“No. Perhaps Papa or Abhi must have told him.”
“I am sure it was Ritu who told him.”
“Ritu Bhabhi you mean. And so what even if she did? Sweet of her, don’t you think?”
No I don’t. Rajani wasn’t quite happy about the closeness Harsha and Ritu apparently shared. Not quite comfortable about discussing her misgivings, Rajani talked to Shikha.
“Oho!” Shikha was on her own trip. “Someone is really possessive and jealous!”
“Oh shut up Shikhs. It’s nothing like that. It’s just a weird thing, something strange…”
“Nonsense Rajji.” Shikha interrupted robustly. “Are you trying to say Ritu is having an affair with Harsha? But she loves your brother doesn’t she? And what’s the point in running two affairs? She has to choose one and move on ahead isn’t it? And she has chosen your brother. Harsha and Ritu are very good friends from childhood, they must be sharing an extraordinary bond. Can’t you accept that?”
Rajani played with her fingernail. “I suppose.” She mumbled. Was Shikha right? Was she jealous? Was she being possessive?
Hey Bhagwan and they weren’t even married yet.
Dear friends – asli zindagi is playing up and I seem to have no time. As I may have mentioned before, I have taken up a full time job again and on top of it, since this development was rather sudden I had certain trips and tours planned. That means I don’t even have weekends to catch up on my writing. I hope you will understand if I am not so regular for a month or two. I shall be back with Moonshine on 8th March – I am hoping to build up a bank of updates like I used to with SS so that I dont have to keep interrupting every so often. In the meanwhile I hope you will continue to visit Stories and More perhaps read a flash fiction or two or just browse some pictures 🙂
On a different note, I seem to have got a grip on A Tangled Web and parts 5 and 6 will soon be up. Thank you for your patience and indulgence.
I hope you guys learn something from Calvin 😉
Click here for Chapter 121: Of Sils and Mils