“We’ll go out and eat ice cream. It will be too expensive here right?”
Harsha nodded. Rajani was gratified at the look of approval on his face.
“Unless you find it difficult to stand?” she asked anxiously.
“Yes it is a bit difficult to stand,” Harsha admitted.
“Then let’s order here.”
“No let’s go home.” He took out his phone to call Kuldeep. “There are loads of sweets at home.”
“Your home?” Rajani’s pulse quickened and her hands turned clammy.
“No of course not. You go to your place. I will go to mine.”
Rajani toyed with her glass. “I would have liked to see your home.”
“What’s in a house? The people make a house home, and you’ve already met us all.”
“But still I would have liked to see where I am going to stay…”
“How does it matter? If you don’t like the house will you call off the wedding?”
“I didn’t say that! I was just curious.”
“And I am sure you know that curiosity killed the cat.”
“Very funny.” Rajani wasn’t amused. But before she could air her ruffled views, an avalanche of people descended on them.
Actually it was just Sunaina and Rekha.
“Oh here are the lovebirds!” Sunaina tittered. “I hope we aren’t disturbing you? Kuldeep said you were done and we thought we would join you for dessert before he takes us shopping.”
“Mummy! Don’t be mean.” Rekha pulled her away. “We can sit at another table.”
“No! Why should you do that?” Harsha signaled to the waiter to join tables. “We would be happy to have your company.”
“What! Bored of each other already?” Kuldeep sauntered in whirling the car keys. “What’s this hurry to go home?”
“Rajani has a flight to catch. She has to pack…”
“That’s much later!” Rekha piped up. “We need to take her shopping.”
“I am not going shopping.” Harsha protested.
“Who asked you?” His mother said sweetly. “I am going with my two daughters and my friend Nisha.”
“Yes dear. Come let’s go. She’s waiting at the jewelry shop for us.”
“What about dessert Mummy?” Harsha asked. “Didn’t you want to…?”
“I was just joking beta,” Sunaina smiled affectionately at her son. “Nisha is waiting for us. We’ve had lunch and what if Nisha insists on treating us to coffee or something? It wouldn’t be polite to refuse right? Anyway we better rush, there’s a lot to do – we need to choose dress materials and give it for stitching too. Come on! We hardly have any time.” She hustled them.
Rajani and Nisha staggered back to the hotel overloaded with bags and boxes.
Suryakant was jumping around like a cat on a hot tin roof. “Hurry! Rani will miss the flight! Hurry! Are you crazy or what? Have you no concept of time? Rani at least you…”
“What could we do? They were going on an on,” Nisha hurried about collecting and packing Rajani’s things strewn all over. “We will be out in five minutes, don’t worry.”
Suryakant huffed and puffed but he forbore to say anything until they were safely in the cab. Feeling better he allowed everyone (and himself) to catch their collective breaths.
Until they hit a patch of choc-a-bloc traffic.
“What the hell were you doing for four hours? This is heights of irresponsibility. You should have been home at least an hour ago…”
“What could we do?” Nisha tried to calm down her husband, “they were Rani’s in-laws…”
“Didn’t you tell them about Rani’s flight?”
“We did! And they could hardly not know – you kept calling and telling us to hurry. But they were busy shopping…”
“With your money.” Rajani was simmering. “Then they were too tired to move an inch. They were dying of thirst, something to drink followed by coffee and some of those delicious desserts that the hi-fi café served.”
“Yes.” Nisha was still gasping. “The café bill was 10,000 Rs.”
“10,000!” Suryakant was aghast. “What did you have – gold biscuits?”
“It was a swanky joint. And then they wanted to have something packed for Harsha and his father. Then they remembered a bunch of guests were coming so they had half the shop packed.”
“And how much was the shopping bill?”
“I am not sure.” Nisha confessed.
“I finished all the money…”
“Finished all the money that I gave you?!”
“Yes. At the jewelry store.”
“I did tell them that we had already purchases jewelry from our trusted shop in Chandigarh but they wanted some branded designer jewelry for their bahu so that they could all wear matching sets.”
“Stuff and nonsense.” Rajani interjected.
“And we still have to pay for the dress materials and stitching charges to the boutique. Since they know Sunainaji pretty well, they agreed to settle the bill later.”
“But they must have given you an estimate?”
“It’s almost as much as the jewelry bill Papa!”
“Yes Papa. They bought and ordered stuff for themselves as well. They are horrible greedy people Papa. I don’t like them at all Papa. Can’t we…”
“Hush Rani!” Nisha shook her head warningly, “it’s too late to back out now. We have had the Godh Bharai…”
“So what Mamma? People back out of marriages what is a Godh Bharai? Harsha and I have nothing in common. They are nothing but blood-sucking leeches Papa. Please Papa…”
“It is customary to spend for your daughter’s in-laws Rani. They are nothing out of the ordinary. Anywhere we get you married, we will have to bear this much expenses.” Suryakant said.
“How unfair Papa!”
“Unfair or not, that is the society norm. And we can do little to change it…”
“You can Papa! You can refuse to toe the line…”
“It’s only money beta. Don’t worry, I have been saving up all these years just for that. For a minute I was taken aback, but it is well within my budget. I will spare no expenses to ensure my daughter has a happy wedded life.”
“Oh look we have reached the airport. Now Rani, be careful and don’t mess up like last time. You were lucky to get a seat on another flight. I don’t want another additional expense…”
“We can do away with all expenses Papa, if you just call off the wedding! Please Papa,” Rajani begged, “Please, please Papa. Let me finish my studies, get a job, earn some money and then I will marry…”
“Abhi can’t wait that long beta…”
“Enough of arguing Rani. This topic is closed. If you insist on arguing further, I am not sending you back to college,” Suryakant flared up.
Nisha butted in, “She’s just nervous poor thing. She doesn’t mean anything. Come on Rani, you don’t want to miss your flight do you? Go on now. Don’t cry Rani, it’s just for a couple of weeks and then you will be back for the wedding. Three weddings, just imagine, what fun…”
“Okay okay fine fine, let her go will you?” Suryakant cut short Nisha. “Go on now Rani and mind what you do and where you go. Keep me posted.”
“Papa, if they ask for dowry, I swear I wont marry him.”
“Relax Rani, if they ask for dowry, I will break off the marriage. Okay?”
Slightly appeased, Rajani walked away without a backward glance. Her mother’s tears would be sure to open her own floodgates.
PS Terribly sorry! Completely forgot it was posting day 😦 Calvin to calm you down 😉