“What’s the matter Shikhs?”
“Everything!” Shikha shut the door of her room and burst into tears.
“Shikha! What happened?” Rajani was alarmed. “Is it Amu? Did you two have a fight?”
Shikha continued to bawl without being able to speak one coherent word. Rajani tried her best to calm down a near hysterical Shikha and even bawled along with her in sympathy. But that just worsened matters.
Rajani was at her wits end. And any time either her mother or Shikha’s mother would come to call them. Besides she was dying of curiosity.
“Okay fine. I am going to call Aunty.”
It worked like a charm.
Shikha sat up, her face all swollen and blotchy. “No! Don’t do that please!” Her dupatta was drenched. Rajani pulled her up and pushed her into the washroom. “Splash some water on your face,” she ordered. “Drink this.” She thrust a glass of water into her hand. “And now tell me what happened.” She raised a hand. “Without crying. Otherwise I won’t be telling just Aunty, I will tell Biji as well.”
Shikha twisted her fingers and wailed. “Oh Rajji I am in deep trouble. I don’t know what I am going to do!”
“What is the matter?” Rajani felt like tearing her hair out.
“Rajji…” she hiccupped, “Rajji, I…I’m pregnant.”
“Are you sure?”
“I missed my periods.”
“But did you…did you and Amu…” Rajani wasn’t quite sure how to proceed.
“Oh Shikhs! How could you? Haven’t we seen enough Hindi movies and read MBs?”
“I thought that was just fiction. I didn’t think…”
“Well you should have thought!” Rajani snapped. “Haven’t you heard – act in haste and repent at leisure?”
“Stop lecturing me!” Shikha snapped back. “Help me!”
“How? I don’t know anything about all this stuff. I didn’t even know that…” her tone was aggrieved. To tell the truth she was scandalized possibly as much as Biji would have been. Plus she was hurt. Such a big step and Shikha hadn’t even told her? How far had they really grown?
“I didn’t plan it! It just happened.” Shikha muttered pleating her dupatta.
“It can’t just happen…” Rajani was skeptical.
“What do you know? You haven’t even kissed…”
“Don’t bring me into this okay?”
“Sorry Rajji. It’s just that you aren’t trying to understand me. It seems as if you are judging me, just like everyone else would,” the tears started to flow.
Rajani was instantly contrite. “I am sorry Shikhs,” she hugged her, “don’t cry. We’ll find a solution. I promise. Stop crying please. We don’t have much time. Mamma will call me back any moment. Or yours will. Worse Biji will come…”
Shikha swallowed her tears and nodded. “What should I do Rajji?”
Rajani’s platitudes dried up. What the hell did she know?
“Umm…have you told Amu?”
Shikha shook her head.
“But why not?” He should…”
“No! So embarrassing…”
“Embarrassing?” Rajani was incredulous.
“Yes of course! We didn’t mean for anything to happen. But it just happened in the heat of the moment…”
“But where was the scope?” Rajani couldn’t quite reconcile herself to the idea that Shikha would actually…no!
“Amu had planned a surprise for me. We went out for a movie and lunch. Then later he took me to his friend’s house, but they weren’t there. So…” she trailed off.
“They weren’t there?” Rajani frowned, “so how did you get in?”
“Amu had a spare key.”
“Very convenient!” the words slipped out before she could stop herself.
Shikha flared up. “There you go judging again.”
“I am not judging! I am just trying to understand…”
“What is there to understand? And what is the big deal? We are going to be married in less than a week…”
“There you have your solution! How does it matter if you are pregnant or not? Soon you will be married and it’s okay to be pregnant.” Rajani coughed. “Nobody need know anything about when you…”
“Duh! Don’t you think I know that?!”
Rajani stared. “Then why are you so upset?”
“I am upset because I don’t want to be pregnant so soon. I wanted to enjoy, travel have a lot of fun with Amu and not be saddled with a baby. What if you got pregnant? What about your precious Math?”
Rajani stared. That aspect had never struck her. Her blood ran cold. What if she became pregnant? Was…was that their game plan? Was that why they had agreed to her demands? They knew…no!
“Rajji!” Shikha shook her. “What happened? Are you even listening to me?”
Rajani sank down on the bed. “Of course I am listening.”
Shikha scuffed her shoe. “Now you know why I don’t want to tell Amu?”
Rajani looked at her in horror. “Shikha! You can’t be thinking of actually getting rid of the baby?”
“It’s not a baby yet!” Shikha flared up. “It’s just a lump of cells.”
“No! Don’t put ideas into my head!” Shikha closed her ears. “I don’t know anything about babies. I am just a baby myself. What do I know about babies or how to bring them up? If they got to know I was pregnant, they won’t let me go to America with Amu. They’ll keep me here with them. Oh Rajji! I don’t want to stay here!” she wailed.
“Okay okay now don’t start crying again. Let me think this through.” Rajani massaged her temple and attempted to think rationally.
“How do you know you are pregnant?”
“My periods are late. Duh!”
“Five days? But that’s nothing. I mean one week here or there is nothing for me…”
“I don’t know about you but I am always dot down on the same day. Every month.”
“Maybe you mixed up the dates?”
“When…when did you and Amu? I mean he’s been here only for 10 -15 days right?
“The day before you came back from college. He was upset about me leaving him. So was I and then…” Shikha reddened.
So did Rajani. She coughed. “That means 5 days ago right?”
“But that was your date…” Rajani blenched.
“But I wasn’t!”
“But I wasn’t!”
“Anyway,” Rajani attempted to distance herself from the unromantic messy images that instantly arose in her mind, “I don’t think you can be pregnant.”
Shikha looked at with hope admixed with despair. “How would you know?”
“I vaguely remember something from the biology class. Don’t you remember?”
Shikha shook her head.
“Do you have your bio book?”
“After so many years? No!”
“Hang on. I have mine. I’ll be back.” She flew back home to rummage through her cupboard. There it was stuffed right in the back corner! She had loved this book so much, so many dreams, so many…she sighed. She flipped the pages.
“What are you doing Rani?”
“Nothing Mamma.” Rajani looked up guiltily searching wildly for some plausible reason.
“Then why are you…” Nisha looked at the book in her hand.
“Oh this?” Rajani stood up, “nothing Mamma, somebody asked me a bio question and I was just checking…”
“Somebody had come to Shikha’s house…”
“It’s not important Mamma!” Rajani felt frazzled. “I’ll just be back.” She dashed off with the book in hand.
Shikha fell on her. “Where the hell have you been? Did you find…?”
“Let’s go inside and read.”
Rajani swiftly flicked the familiar pages and pounced on the chapter of human reproduction. Unable to bear the stress, Shikha began chanting her prayers, begging pleading bargaining while Rajani pored over the book.
“Shush! You are making me nervous too,” Rajani snapped.
Shikha went to the far end of the room and hid behind the curtains.
Oh what would she do if she were pregnant?
And something for Calvin fans 😀