The evening was a blur of dance, music, chatter and laughter. And wonders of wonders, Rajani too let down her hair and joined the party – possibly she danced the hardest.
Her family was too relieved to question but Shikha nagged her. “What’s with the make over?”
“What?” Rajani was too breathless to speak.
“I’ve never seen you dance like this before!”
“I’ve never gotten married before!” Rajani caught hold of Shikha and whirled her around.
“Rajji! Are you going to tell me what happened? Or do you want me to choke it out of you?”
“Choke it out of me.” She stuck out her tongue at a flabbergasted Shikha and waltzed over to where Rekha and Sunaina were and joined them.
Shikha seethed. She bared her teeth and marched over to them. “Hello Aunty! You dance so well!”
“Thank you beta.” Sunaina smiled. “Join us.”
“Thank you Aunty. Umm…err Aunty may I borrow your bahu for minute? My pallu has become loose.”
“Take Rekha. She wanted to go to the washroom in any case. Go along now.”
Frustrated, Shikha glared at Rajani who went off into one of her fits. Thankfully her MIL didn’t notice anything amiss. Besides she was fretting about her absent son. “I wish he was here. I am sure he would have enjoyed. But he is so shy and reserved. I hope you can shake him out of his shell.”
Rajani smiled. “I doubt it. Even I am shy and reserved.”
“But you don’t look it. I just love the way you are dancing.”
“Oh that!” Rajani blushed and laughed. “I am just so happy and relieved.”
“Crazy girl.” Her MIL pinched her cheeks affectionately. They smiled at each other conspiratorially.
“Are you going to tell me or not?” Shikha was back hissing angrily into Rajani’s ears.
“No.” Rajani was serene and cool.
“Fine! I swear I’ll…I’ll…I’ll tell Haru darling about Harry…”
Rajani’s expression changed. She glared at Shikha. “What’s there to tell?”
“Nothing,” Shikha said promptly thrilled to have gotten a rise out of that Rajji ki bachchi, “But I can always embellish and make up tales.” She said with a malicious grin.
Rajani relaxed and smiled. Feeling rather tired after her exuberant exertion she moved away from the dance floor to rest her aching feet. “Go ahead! In fact, I wish you had thought of it earlier, then I wouldn’t even have been here! I would…”
“Rajii!” Shikha stamped her foot. “Are you going to tell me or not?”
“How come you suddenly look so cool and at peace? And what was all that about?” she waved to the dance floor. “That is so unlike you.”
Rajani shrugged. “My mother-in-law wanted me to dance, let down my hair…”
“So you aren’t going to tell me?”
“Oh Shikhs I want to tell you!” Rajani dropped her airs and graces.
“Then tell me!”
“Oh but I can’t!”
“I promised Mummyji.”
“You promised Mummyji to keep secrets from me? Your BFF forever and ever?”
“As if you don’t keep secrets from me!” Rajani shot back instantly. She hadn’t forgotten or forgiven.
“Oh please!” Shikha would have stomped off but Rajani whispered, “I’ll tell you later.”
Shikha had little choice but to agree. “Okay fine! But at least give me a hint.” She pleaded.
Rajani giggled and shook her head. “My lips are sealed. Besides there are too many people here. Come over tomorrow. Early morning. At five. I have to do some puja.”
Shikha groaned. But she was there. She didn’t want to risk Rajani backing out for any reason.
“Spill it.” She ordered.
“Yesterday, when my in-laws landed up for the sangeet and mehendi after the oohs and aahs were done, my MIL took me aside for a chat.”
“What did she say?”
“She said…said that…that Mamma had talked to her and not to worry about getting pregnant. She would take care of it.”
Shikha stared. “How would she take care of it?”
Rajani shrugged. “How do I know? I am just relieved that she is on my side.”
“But this is really strange.”
“Why is it strange?” Rajani flared up. “She was very understanding and kind. She said she couldn’t finish her graduation because she became pregnant and then she had to leave her job because Rekha was a premature baby. She doesn’t want me to suffer like she did.”
“That’s a first!” Shikha was incredulous.
“What do you mean?”
“All MILs are frustrated monsters waiting to take out their life angst on their DILs”
“What nonsense!” Rajani scoffed. “Anyway mine isn’t like that. She’s really a darling and a sweetheart.”
“Maybe you should marry her instead of Haru darling.” Shikha’s lips curled.
“Very funny.” Rajani huffed.
Shikha looked at her consideringly.
“What?” Rajani asked.
“Why do I get the feeling you aren’t telling me the real deal?”
“Real deal? What’s that?”
“If I knew I wouldn’t be asking you would I?”
“There’s no real deal. I just told you the facts. I really am thrilled and relieved about the no baby stress.”
“Hmm,” Shikha was only half-convinced. Why did she get the feeling there was more to it? That Rajani was keeping something from her? She sighed. But this was to happen. If she were fair, she was guilty of keeping secrets from Rajani too. At least if she hadn’t panicked over her delayed periods, Rajani wouldn’t have ever known about her pre-marital shenanigans. “Oh well, so long as you are happy.” She hugged her.
“Oh I am. Finally I took your advice and accepted my fate. If this is meant to be, so be it.” She laughed.
“Good girl!” Shikha ran back to her home.
Rajani stared after her guiltily. She wished she could have told Shikha the real story. But she had promised her MIL not to tell anybody. But Shikha was not just anybody. She was her BFF and there was nothing she didn’t know about her. But then that was before. When they had been children. Now they were adults, with different goals, ambitions and life aspirations. Besides, Shikha was the one to start keeping secrets not her.
But still, she dearly wished she could share the conversation, which she had had with the MIL.
When her in-laws had arrived (minus Haru) for the sangeet and mehendi function, Sunaina had taken her aside for a quick chat.
“You are looking lovely my dear daughter,” she gushed.
Rajani sat mutely, her heart thudding, hands cold and clammy. Had Mamma talked to her? Should she ask? But what if she hadn’t? Then she would have to explain? She shuddered. No! She couldn’t do that. Best to let Mamma sort it out. She had promised. But what if she forgot…
“What are you thinking dear? Aren’t you going to share your thoughts with your Mummy? Rekha always tells me everything.”
“N…nothing,” stammered Rajani. This is your chance! Say it! Mamma was probably bluffing when she said she would talk. But honestly what could Mamma say? That…that…that…my daughter is marrying your son but she doesn’t want to…want to…hey Bhagwan! Please do something, please!
“Beta,” Sunaina held her hands, “Oh your hands are freezing! What happened? Are you cold?”
Rajani shook her head.
Rajani hesitated and then nodded.
“Don’t worry about the wedding. Everything is going fine. All the arrangements are wonderful and you are looking stunning. We are happy to welcome you to our family.”
Rajani smiled. “It’s not that,” she managed to stutter.
But Rajani couldn’t speak any further. She looked down and shook her head.
Click here of the next chapter: Reprieve and a new Hiccup