“Go on,” Harsha said, “Didn’t you hear your father?”
“Aren’t you coming?” Rajani asked.
“It’s your function.”
“Are you angry with me?”
“Why would I be angry?”
“I don’t know.” Rajani was restless. “You look off.”
“Go. Everybody is staring at us.”
“Rani?” Rajani walked away with her father. But she couldn’t help wondering what was wrong. Something surely was. And where the hell was Shikha? How could she not come? Despite being in Delhi – how could she do this to her?
The ceremony began, which didn’t help matters.
She felt belittled and humiliated as she sat with her pallu held out begging for gifts. People trooped in by the droves, passed comments on her skin, features, body composition, jewelry while she pasted a smile on her face and touched their feet. One by one they dropped stuff into her lap, which was whisked away by her helpful sister-in-law whispering a running commentary in her ear.
“Oh look at Chachi’s earrings! Arent they gorgeous?”
“That’s kanjoos Mami. I’m surprised she brought a gift. I wonder what she got?”
“That my Bua from America. She always gets me loads of branded cosmetics. I love them. Don’t you?”
“Look at her bag – Hidesign. I wonder if they won a lottery ticket, clothes from Zara…”
Rajani’s cheeks and neck ached from all the smiling and nodding not to mention sitting cross-legged. She wondered how Rekha was managing despite being pregnant. But Rekha was quite oblivious to any physical discomfort, she appeared to be in a completely different zone altogether as she chattered happily to all and sundry. Rajani wished she could be half as carefree.
If only she knew what was bothering Harsha.
“What’s wrong?” Rajani could help asking him later.
“Nothing.” He was curt and made to leave.
“Why are you avoiding me?”
“Why are you sticking to me? So embarrassing.” He strode off.
Rajani stared after him. He was embarrassed to be seen with her? Strange fellow.
“We want a photo of the couple. Come on! Come on everybody.” Rekha gathered everybody around and pushed Harsha and Rajani together. Rajani was half afraid Harsha would throw off his sister’s attempts at pushing them closer. But he did no such thing. He smiled indulgently at her and even put his arm around Rajani at her insistence. Although he did drop it right afterwards. With all the teasing and catcalls, it was difficult to say who was redder – Rajani or Harsha.
“That was a wonderful party,” Sunaina gushed, “wasn’t it?”
“Of course!” Chorused Rajani’s parents.
“Rekha organized it on her own.” Sunaina said proudly.
“What? No credit to me?” Kuldeep was hurt.
“Oh but are you and Rekha are one unit!” Sunaina smiled at him. “But he is right. He has been a source immense support for us, especially since Hari is not so mobile. Rekha did the ground work, designing and planning while he did all the running around.”
“Not fair Mummy,” Rekha butted in, “who went shopping with you?”
There was laughter all around.
“Indeed, it was a very grand function.” Suryakant was fulsome in his praise. “We really appreciate all the arrangements.”
“If the wedding is even half this grand, I will die a happy contented woman,” declared Sunaina.
“Allow us to take your leave,” Suryakant folded his hands.
“This time I shall allow you to take our Rani bitiya but next time we will take her with us!” Sunaina enfolded her in her embrace before another round of feet touching began.
Rajani was fast beginning to detest this ritual – especially when it came to touching Rekha and her husband’s feet. And if they asked her to touch Harsha’s feet…
“No!” said someone, “she is at a higher rank than her.”
“But Rekha is older,” said another.
“Rank is more important. She is her Bhabhi.”
“Age is more important.” And so on it went.
Until Suryakant nudged her. Rajani resisted but then caved in. She was rewarded by a huge smile from her father and a round of applause from the others.
Before the party dispersed for the night, arrangements were made for Rajani to meet Rekha and Sunaina. “We need to go shopping, visit the tailor and generally have fun,” Sunaina said. Rajani hesitated. She shot a glance to her father and then to Harsha.
“Okay fine!” Sunaina laughed, “You can have lunch with Hari. Okay?”
Rajani blushed. She nodded. Harsha looked grimmer than before. Rajani’s heart sank. What was the matter? Didn’t he want to meet her?
Uncaring of all the eyes trained on her, Rajani marched up to Harsha and threatened in a low voice, “If you don’t tell me what’s wrong I swear I will call off the wedding.”
For a moment it looked as if Harsha would ignore her. “Ask Ritu.” He said without looking at her.
Surprised, Rajani allowed Nisha to lead her away and back to the hotel where they were staying.
All Rajani wanted to do (even more than change and extract herself from the bling that she was encased in) was corner Ritu. What did Harsha mean?
Fortunately, Rajani and Ritu were sharing a room and Rajani wasted no time in cornering her.
“Why is Harsha angry?”
To her credit, Ritu didn’t try to deny it. She sighed. “You have to understand, he is a reserved shy kind of person and he didn’t like it that you were singling him out and speaking to him in public.”
Rajani stared at Ritu open-mouthed. She didn’t know whether to laugh to fly into a towering rage. Was he really mad over such a stupid thing? And for heaven’s sake they were just talking and not…not…not doing anything more than that!
“Anything else?” Rajani controlled herself with an effort.
“Ye..es,” Ritu looked a bit uncomfortable, “he didn’t like the way you greeted his family.”
Rajani frowned. “Meaning? I don’t understand? I don’t remember being rude or anything.”
“No. It’s just that you weren’t respectful enough.”
“I said Namaste to everyone. I touched everyone’s feet. Even the maid’s feet.” Giggles bubbled up as the image of Muniya’s horrified expression as Rajani included her in her ‘feet touching’ spree sprang up.
“That’s not how feet are touched.”
Rajani’s giggles dried up. “What do you mean?”
“You were just bending a bit, with your arm, sometimes left arm outstretched towards their feet.”
“Yeah. So? That’s how I have seen Bhai do it. I have never touched anyone’s feet before.”
“In their family, you have to bend down and touch both feet with both hands and remain in that position until they lay their hand on your head.”
“What a whole lot of bullshit!”
Look forward to your comments and reactions and a bit of Calvin as distraction 🙂
Click here for Chapter 130: Jarring Notes