Abhi returned some time later with Ritu. Thankfully by that time Rajani was feeling more composed and at home.
“Hello Rani!” Ritu gushed over-familiarly, “How have you been? Oh you’ve lost weight! It suits you!”
Suryakant smiled. “Didn’t I say so Rani? If only your hair…”
“No Papaji,” Ritu turned to him with deference and yet with firmness, “the short haircut is the in thing. And the best part is that it give Rani a cute elfin look.”
“I suppose,” Suryakant said vaguely, “but the groom’s side prefer long hair…”
“They have old fashioned ideas.” Ritu dismissed, “but Harsha is progressive and a forward thinker. He told me that although all his life he’s had a weakness for long hair, he admits to having grown comfortable with his fiancée’s hair cut.” She winked at Rajani who blushed but couldn’t help smiling back.
Suryakant harrumphed and grunted. “Well that’s good then.”
“Yes. Mummyji we can maybe try a new hair style for her, trim her hair,” at Nisha’s apprehensive glance towards Suryakant, she added, “just a little trim, it will make her look real smart and cool. Harsha will like it, I am sure.” She clinched the argument.
Taking Suryakant’s silence and unchanged complexion as acquiescence, Nisha nodded. The glowing smile on Rani face eased the burden on her heart. “Ritu beta, we don’t have any sense of style and latest trends. Do what you and Rajani think best.” She gave her a free hand. “But make sure Harsha won’t have any objections. If necessary talk to him, we just want him to be happy. So that our daughter is happy.”
“Oh don’t worry about Harsha!” Ritu linked her arm with Rajani’s, “he’s a very adjusting kind of a person,” she turned to Rajani, “have you seen your wedding stuff?”
Rajani shook her head.
“Come let’s go and see. We bought the most gorgeous of things for you. Not that I didn’t!” she giggled. She led Rajani inside but stopped at the doorway to look at Nisha. “Shall I show her?” she requested.
Nisha’s expression cleared. “Of course beta. Go ahead. This is your home. I’ll go and prepare dinner.”
“Oh then let me help you. But Rani, don’t you dare see the things without me,” she called laughingly over her shoulder. But Nisha pushed her back, “No, I got the kitchen. You show her the things, and also sort out those which need to be given to the tailor.” She lowered her voice. “She’s a bit low and apprehensive…”
“We can have dinner a little later, can’t we Papaji?” Ritu requested Suryakant, “I am sure Mummyji would also like to show the things to Rani and she would also like her mother to…”
Ritu smiled. “If you want tea I can…”
“No beta, I am fine thank you,” he shook his head, “go pamper Rani. Poor thing is home for only a few more days.” He disappeared inside.
Rajani’s eyes filled with ready tears.
“Oh come on! Cheer up,” Ritu exhorted, “otherwise I will pass on the bad stuff to you,” she teased.
Rajani sniffled but gave a watery smile.
“That’s my good little sister and friend,” Ritu gave her a hug and pulled both them to Rani’s room which was crammed with boxes and bags.
“We’ll need to organize the stuff otherwise you’ll have to sleep in the drawing room!” Ritu exclaimed.
“No, it’s okay,” Nisha said, “We decided that Rani will sleep with me and their father can share the room with Abhi.”
“Oh yes! That’s a good idea. Come on let’s not waste time. Let me show you the stuff quickly then I can go and help Mummyji with dinner.”
“Time enough for all that Ritu,” Nisha waved her away, “show her the wedding lehenga…”
“Oh we didn’t buy that remember? We said we would let Rani decide? We’ve got to go to the lehenga shop tomorrow and the tailor, where’s the list…?” she hunted around. “Oh here it is,” she took it out from the drawer while Rajani stood around forlornly. Ritu looked so comfortable and natural as if this was her home, her room while she was already an outsider. She hadn’t even seen her new home. Where was her home? The hostel?
“Look we bought these dress material, do you like it?”
Rani hesitated, “The color is nice but it is so heavy…”
“Of course it is! This wedding stuff, it can’t be light and simple! You’ve got to be the best and the most shiny…”
“That can be the wedding lehenga but the others…”
“Oh no no! You have no idea do you? You are the bride – their pride and honor. All eyes will be pinned on you – pre-wedding, post-wedding morning, noon and night, and every time you have to be tip top, right Mummyji?”
“Yes. She is right Rani, you have to pay more attention to how you dress, how you carry yourself, what you say, how you say,” Rajani felt the walls close in on her, “and please no giggles! Remember you are no longer a little girl, you are the bahu of a family, so…”
“Oh Mummyji, you are scaring her! Just look at her so terrified.” Ritu laughed but gave her a tight hug. “I can understand Rani, I really can but trust me Harsha is a very good boy. I have known him for many years now and he is a true gentleman. Quiet and perhaps not very demonstrative but he has a heart of gold. You will be very happy with him,” she flicked a glance at Nisha who was busy sorting some things at the other corner of the room, “And if he acts high and mighty just fill your eyes with tears and he will instantly melt at your feet,” she whispered giggling all the while.
Rajani smiled back, feeling a bit better about Harsha.
“No Mummyji!” Ritu rushed over to Nisha, “that pile is mine. I have kept Rani’s stuff here. This one is all the readymade stuff and this one is for the tailor. Rani why don’t you try these, just in case something needs altering?”
They spent a pleasant evening as Rani modeled her clothes. To complete the picture, Ritu swiftly applied some make up despite Rajani’s protests and insisted on roping in Suryakant and Abhi’s as well.
Abhi was his usual big bro mode. “Ouch!” he winced and shied away from her.
“All that glitter hurts my eyes.” He shaded his eyes.
“Mamma!” Rajani wailed.
“Stop fooling around!” Ritu poked him. “What do you think?”
“I think,” he stroked his chin at he looked at Rajani, “Everyone is going to run away screaming.” He smirked. “Or faint.”
Ritu caught hold of Rajani before she stomped away.
“Abhishek!” Ritu shrieked. “Don’t be mean. Isnt she looking pretty?”
“Yeah. Yeah. Actually she is.” He confessed under duress. He held up his thumb. Rani wasn’t quite sure if she could trust him, not with the twinkle in his eye. Was that a thumbs up or was he thumbing his nose at her?
“He really is the limit.” Ritu fumed Clearly she too caught the ambiguity in his response. “Papaji what do you think?”
Suryakant stared at Rajani. “I think,” he said at last, “ that Rani could look very nice, if only she made a little effort.” Tears welled up in his eyes. “My beautiful little girl ready to fly the nest.”
Rajani’s make-up ran down her cheeks.
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