Why hadn’t Shikha come for her function despite being in town?
How could she do this?
But she would deal with Shikha later.
Right now there was more important matters on her mind – the feet touching business. But even worse, how dare he discuss her with Bhabhi? Could he not have told her directly? How would he like it if she complained about the subtle hints and gestures of his mother and sister? Did they think she was a fool?
Fuming she called him up.
He disconnected her call.
Rajani’s blood pressure shot through the roof.
How dare he?
“Mammaaa!” Rajani barged into her parents’ room.
“What’s the matter Rani?”
“Everything!” Rajani flung herself on the bed and burst into loud sobs.
Suryakant and Nisha who were congratulating each other on a well-turned out event were taken aback.
“What happened Rani?”
“Did someone say something?”
“If you don’t tell us how will we sort it out?”
“There’s nothing to sort out Papa,” Rajani sat up. “I am not marrying Harsha and that’s it.”
“Why? Everything went off so well! What craziness is this?”
“You don’t know what he wants Papa.” Rajani dissolved into sobs once again.
“There she goes again!” Suryakant was furious and looked ready to tear out his hair – or Nisha’s.
Abhi entered the room and saved the day. “I’ll tell you what happened. Stop crying Rani. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill.”
“Molehill?” Stung, Rajani sat up ready to make mincemeat of her precious Bhai.
“Yes molehill. Mom, it’s nothing. Ritu told me about it. Harsha just asked Ritu to pass a message to Rani about their family’s way of greeting the elders. That’s it. And that was enough to rile this Maharani.”
“That’s it?” Rani screeched in indignation. “Mamma, do you know how I am supposed to greet everybody? I have to bend down and touch both feet with both hands and remain in that position until they lay their hand on my head.”
“So?” Suryakant sat down. “That’s our culture. We all do it. What’s the big deal?”
“It is so humiliating! I have never done it. Bhai also doesn’t do it like that. And when I did it like Bhai, Harsha complained to Ritu! Why Ritu? Why couldn’t he talk to me directly?”
“Don’t call Ritu by her name. She is your Bhabhi.” Abhi snapped.
Ritu stepped inside. She shook her head at Abhi. “Harsha didn’t mean it like that. We are friends so he found it easier to talk to me. He didn’t want to get into an argument with you.”
“Well he is going to get an argument from me if he thinks he can humiliate me like this in front of his family.”
“Rani, relax. I think you are over-tired and that’s why you are overreacting.” Nisha spoke in soothing tones. “Rest now. We’ll talk in the morning.”
“There’s nothing to talk. I am not marrying Harsha and that’s that.” Rajani flounced out of the room.
Where the hell was Shikha?
She had a good mind to call her up to first rip her up for deserting her at this crucial juncture and then unburden her seething emotions.
It was 1 am.
And her phone was discharged.
Ritu was sharing her room – darn it! She would have to wait.
“Where the hell were you?”
Rajani called up Shikha the next morning after breakfast.
“Oh it’s Rajani Rani?” Shikha counterattacked.
“I like that! You don’t come for my wedding function and now you are calling me names?”
“Why didn’t you call me last evening? I could be dead for all you know.”
“What happened?” A sudden dread assaulted Rajani. “Are you okay?”
“Too late to ask. I am already dead, remember?”
“What’s the matter? Why didn’t you come? I was waiting and waiting…” Rajani’s broke down as the events of the last evening played out once again.
“Never mind. You tell me, how was it?”
“Awful.” Rajani was blunt. “I feel as if I am being pushed off a cliff and by my own family. It feels so wrong Shikhs! I wish I could run away.”
“Don’t over-react Rajji! I am sure things are not as bad as you make them out to be.”
“You have no idea Shikhs. They want to humiliate me, insult me….”
Rajani launched into a detailed description of the custom tailor-made to break her spine and spirit.
“Oh come on Rajji! That isn’t such a big deal. Everybody does it…”
“Who everybody? I have never seen anybody do it.”
“It’s all over the TV…”
“Soaps? Do you do it?”
“No…but we have other customs – worse ones.”
“Like the one that says I cannot go to my friend’s wedding function because a proper invitation was not issued to them…I mean us.”
“You need an invitation to come…?”
“I don’t need. My in-laws do.”
“Didn’t they get a card? I specifically told Didi.”
“We got a card by post. No phone call, no personal visit, no shagun…”
“You could have come?”
“How could I? I was supposed to come with them. In fact Mummy and Papa also didn’t go to maintain solidarity and protest against the insult meted out to my in-laws.”
“Oh Rajji, it was awful!” It was Shikha’s turn to breakdown. “I begged and pleaded. I tried every trick in the trade. But they were adamant. They refused to let me go. And I am not even married yet.”
“Why didn’t you talk to Amu?”
“I did. He was really sweet and comforting. He said he would speak to his mother. But then he texted back that he had an urgent teleconference and wouldn’t be able to speak until much later. That’s why…”
Urgent telecon on a Saturday morning? But Rajani forbore to say anything.
“I am sorry Shikhs. I will speak to Harsha…”
“Never mind Rajji, it’s bound to create a huge ruckus. It’s not worth it. In any case, the function is over and done with. I can’t attend it can I?”
“But it’s not fair. They just can’t do this. Not when I had requested…”
“Drop it Rajji. Please. Unnecessarily there will be an altercation, a misunderstanding. I will come for the wedding. Your parents already came over and invited my in-laws, gave a big box of sweets and begged them to come over. So relax. It’s all good Rajji. So how was the function?”
Rajji was furious and itching to have full-blown gloves off bout with Harsha.
She called him up.
But he didn’t pick her phone.
Instead he texted her – Will pick you up for lunch in an hour. Be ready.
She was more than ready for lunch.
She even had her choice of dish planned.
Haru darling – roasted, toasted, grilled, steamed fried broiled…
Click here for the next chapter: Truce