“Why didn’t you tell me Harry was getting married?” Shikha attacked. “Or that he was going abroad?”
“Didn’t I tell you?” Rajani mumbled. “I thought I had told you.”
“Why would I lie?” Rajani flared up.
“Because you are a liar – you are lying to everybody – to me, to Harsha, to Harry and most of all yourself.”
“But not to Papa,” Rajani broke down. “If only he would agree, if he could see…”
“You are not a child anymore Rajji,” Shikha castigated her, “it’s still not too late to change your mind. If you are so unsure and unwilling, put your foot down, extricate yourself from this quicksand…”
“No Shikhs, it is too late. I have made my bed and I have to lie on it…”
“You didn’t make it Rajji! Your Papa did…”
“Yes and Papa knows best. I will go along for Papa’s sake if not for anyone or anything else. He doesn’t deserve to be humiliated and insulted in public, just because his daughter was too selfish to see anything but her own convenience and comfort.”
“What rot you talk Rajji! This is a question of your life…”
“And what do I know of life?” Rajani felt exhaustion creeping up on her. She was tired of fighting everyone – Bhai, Mamma, Papa, and Harsha.
And now she was fighting Shikha, the only one who was willing to hear her, was on her side. But all that she could come up with were arguments that the others had been instilling into her.
“Compromise is a part and parcel of life Shikhs and all successful marriages demand a little sacrifice. I guess I am too rigid and immature to understand and see the larger picture. But my parents know what is best for me, and I should just let them guide me rather than poke my nose into matters that that are beyond my understanding.”
“But do you and Harsha should have some basis for tying the knot? All you do is argue, fight and cry buckets…”
“That is probably my fault. I shouldn’t be so judgmental or sensitive. It is high time I accepted that people are different. I will try to be more open and accepting of what Bhagwanji has in store for me.”
“Well whatever you do Rajji for heaven’s sake stick to one thing,” Shikha exhorted, “if you go ahead with this wedding just accept it wholeheartedly and if you are unable to do so, walk out now, face a little flak, lose the ‘good girl’ tag for a while to live a better life later.”
“No I promised Papa. No more protests, no more objections, I will happily go ahead with the wedding.”
“What brought on this change?”
“Nothing. Perhaps this is called growing up?”
“Growing up my foot. What did dear Papa say?”
“I hate it when you speak of Papa like that!” Rajani flared up. “Why are you so against Papa? He loves me and wants the best for me. Poor Papa is backed into a corner and trapped between fulfilling expectations and demands of the society and his unmarried scarred daughter on the other side.”
“Yes Shikhs. Yesterday I made Papa cry.” Rajani broke down into sobs. “I couldn’t stand it Shikhs, he begged me, can you imagine that? I can’t see him like this – all broken and helpless. He has never asked me for anything…”
“And so that gives him the right to suffocate you to death?”
“Don’t be so melodramatic Shikhs. It’s nothing like that. I have no particular issue with Harsha. Every family has their own rituals and it is customary for the boys’ side to expect the girls’ side to give things. Besides they are not demanding anything as such, Mamma only insisted on paying and…”
“Okay fine! If you have made your peace with it, I have nothing more to say.” Shikha cut in. Then belying her own words, “But, remember this is your last chance Rajji, after a two weeks it will be too late to back out…”
“I am sure Shikhs, stop worrying about me! Tell me, how are the wedding preparations going? When is Amu coming?”
“In two days.”
“What! And you didn’t even tell me!”
“Where was the time? You are always so busy fighting with me.”
“Excuse me! I was fighting? Really? Or you were too upset that Harry is getting married?”
“For the record I was upset that you hadnt told me he was getting married not that he was getting married.”
“What would I lie about?”
“That you have a crush on Harry?”
“What are you saying? Sacrilege! Don’t you know I am a one-man woman? I have only one man on my mind – Ammmuuuuu!”
The girls fell about giggling.
“When are you coming Rajji? Did you get your leave?”
“Yes. They gave me three weeks leave but I will have to forgo my summer vacations.”
“Oh that’s too bad.”
“Whatever, so long as they don’t suspend me…”
“Oh they would never do that. They were just bluffing.”
“I am not so sure. Besides I didn’t want to risk it. Anyway it’s all sorted now and I will be in Delhi by end of next week. Where will you be then? In Delhi or Chandi?”
“Let’s see. I will see if we can all meet in Delhi and then you and I can travel back to Chandi together.”
“Great! I am dying to see Amu…”
“Heyyy! He is mine! You are welcome to die to see Harsha jiju…”
“Why would I ‘die’ to see him? I live to see him…”
They began giggling again.
“Oho look at this girl!” Biji grumbled as she sat with her hookah. She didn’t look a day older than when we had last met her. And she had landed up at Kirti’s bag and baggage to attend her granddaughter’s wedding and make sure all went as per norms. “She does nothing but hang around with her phone. How will she manage a home I wonder? Bahu did you teach her to cook or not? I hope she can rustle up a meal on her own?
“Uhuh! Bye Rajji! Biji’s got a bee in her bonnet.”
“When doesn’t she? Bye! See you soon.”
“Who was that on the phone? That brat Rajani right?”
“Hmmph.” Biji was torn between airing her views on girls who stayed in hostels while their wedding was around the corner and other more important matters. She settled for the latter.
“Can you cook?”
“Ye…es. Sort of.” Shikha shot her mother an apprehensive glance. “Why?”
“Today’s lunch is your responsibility. Kirti come on let’s go out shopping. We will be back by lunch. Hungry and exhausted. Make sure everything is ready, table laid by the time we come back. Got it?”
“No Mummy for you! Will she be going along with you to your sasural?”
“But I have never cooked a full meal all by myself!”
Biji glared at Kirti. “Well then it is high time you did so. In just a few days you will be married and you will fly off to Umrica. Who will cook for you there? Your husband? I believe there are no servants in Umrica?”