Rajani flew down to Delhi on Friday evening for her Godhbharai function.
At the insistence of her father she hadn’t informed the college authorities that she was going out of station.
“Bunk college!” Rajani had been scandalized. “But why?”
“It’s just half a day beta,” Suryakant was quite out of patience with his straight-laced daughter. “What if they refuse?”
“But it’s against the rules! What if they suspend me or rusticate me?”
“Over a half-day leave?!” Suryakant was incredulous, “don’t be silly Rani.”
“No Rani, I cannot take the risk of you applying for leave and the college refusing. Everything has been arranged for the 15th evening. They’ve sent the invitations, so just come on 14th evening…”
“No buts Rani. I am sending the tickets. Talk to Harsha and let him know.” He disconnected the phone before Rajani could protest any further.
“How are you?” Rajani called up. Haru darling Rajani giggled to herself. She could just picture his face. Bubbles rose up and choked her.
“Okay.” He sounded stiff and formal.
“Are you comfortable?” Rajani tried to rein in her wayward thoughts. “Any pain? Discomfort?”
“Comfortable?” He snorted. “What do mean? I have a cast on my leg, how can I be comfortable?”
Rajani flushed. “I just meant…”
“I know what you meant. You were doing just lip service, ask if I am okay and I should say yes and everything is just hunky dory so that you can be comfortable.”
“You don’t want me to be comfortable?”
“I didn’t say that. All I said was I cannot pretend to be something I am not just to please you.”
“When did I say that? All I did was ask a question.”
“It was implicit in your question…”
“What’s wrong with you? It was just a polite question…”
“Oh forget it,” he snapped, “why did you call?”
Rajani swallowed. This wasn’t how she had imagined the conversation would go. A terrible dread engulfed her she went hot and then cold. This is wrong, this is wrong every instinct every nerve, every cell screamed.
“I called to enquire about your health,” she spoke in a dull tone, “and to inform you that I am coming to Delhi for the Godhbharai function on the 15th.”
“Why this sudden change in plans? No issues with leave now?”
“What on earth is the matter with you?” Rajani burst out. “Papa didn’t want to disturb everyone else for my sake. He thought it would be easier if I came to Delhi on a half-day leave.”
“And save a lot of money.”
The penny dropped.
“You are angry because your family’s all-expenses paid vacation fizzled out?”
“How dare you speak to me like that?”
“How dare you speak about my father like that?”
“What did I say? Don’t misread and over-interpret my words.”
“If only I was! If only I was! I really don’t think this marriage is going to work Harsha. We don’t have any understanding, empathy or connect. It is better we call off the wedding. I will speak to Papa. I can’t. I just can’t.” Rajani was becoming more and more agitated.
“Rani beta,” Sunaina was on the phone, “What happened dear? Don’t mind Harsha, he is irritated because of the cast. He is stuck in the house and is taking out his frustration on all of us. Even I got an earful this morning.” she laughed. “Can you guess why? Because the maid had left the floor too wet! Apparently I don’t know how to handle maids, I am too lax and soft on them and so on and on. Just ignore him beta. Rani?”
Rajani was sobbing. “Sorry,” she mumbled.
“Why are you saying sorry? It’s Harsha’s fault. He will say sorry. Is this any way to talk to one’s future wife? Harsha, say sorry,” she ordered.
“Sorry,” Harsha came on the phone, “I didn’t mean to snap. My back is aching and I am tired of hobbling around. There’s so much work and I cannot help…”
“It’s okay.” Rajani felt bad, poor thing was in pain and discomfort, no wonder he got so mad when she asked but couldn’t he have just said so rather than flying into a temper? “I am sorry too. I should have understood.”
“Let’s just forget it. You take care. How are you coming to Delhi?”
“There will be other people on the plane.”
“Very funny. I meant is somebody accompanying you? Your father or your brother?”
“No they are very busy. And what’s the big deal? It’s just a couple of hours flight, I will be fine…”
“But you have to go to the airport, check in, handle luggage, no, no it isn’t as easy as you are making it out to be…”
“I have already traveled once before. It’s not a big deal.”
“No I am not comfortable with you traveling alone…”
“You don’t know…”
“You are unnecessarily complicating…”
“Rani beta,” it was Sunaina again, “you don’t worry about anything. Harsha’s father will speak to your father.”
“Don’t worry beta. Everything will be fine. You take care and see you soon. Oh I am really looking forward to meeting you. Bye beta.”
Rajani stared at her now silent phone with mixed feelings. Her to-be-MIL seemed to be a nicer person than Harsha. But she was glad that she intervened when she did, matters could have escalated beyond repair, Rajani admitted to herself. I should have been more circumspect, she castigated herself. Thank you Bhagwanji, she sent up a prayer.
But, it was strange how she intervened at the right time both times – almost as if she was listening in on the conversation. She blushed and thanked her stars that she hadn’t said anything out of the way.
“Rani,” it was Suryakant, “I have requested a colleague’s wife’s brother to pick you up from the hostel and drop you to the airport.”
“Why Papa?!” Rajani was horrified and embarrassed. “I can manage.”
“Harsha isn’t comfortable with you traveling alone and now even I am having misgivings. I tried to identify someone who was also traveling to Delhi but I couldn’t find anyone.”
“But Papa, this is so weird, to impose on an unknown person just to…”
“Don’t worry about that. This colleague, he owes me – I have given free tuitions to his son, so it’s okay. What I am worried about is how Harsha will react to you traveling alone on the flight. He is right, you are too…”
“I am too young and inexperienced to travel alone but not to get married?”
“Rani,” Nisha came on the line, “you should be happy that you have such a caring husband.”
“He isn’t my husband yet.” Rajani banged the phone down. How high-handed and dominating could someone be, she seethed. How dare he treat her like a child? She would show him, she swore.
“Thank you Uncle. Yes I will be fine Uncle. I really am sorry to bother you Uncle. Very kind of you Uncle. Thank you Uncle.” Rajani thanked and apologized about a million times to the gentleman who dutifully picked her up at the hostel and dropped her to the airport. The crazy office traffic, the fact that he had had to leave office early to pick her up and that he would have to wade through the traffic on the return journey as well made her feel terribly guilty. Damn Harsha.
She waved her escort away and joined the queue. “Yes Papa, I have reached the airport. Bye Papa, Harsha is calling.”
“Hello? Yes I reached the airport. I was talking to Papa. No, I didn’t come alone. Uncle dropped me. What do you mean which Uncle? Look I got to go, sorry,” she fumbled with her phone, ticket and Id.
Calvin for a change in mood 😉
Click here for Chapter 127: Airport Drama