“What’s the matter Rajani?” Sunaina asked.
Rajani bent her head and mumbled, “Nothing.”
“Your mother hinted at something.” Sunaina put a hand under her chin and forced her to look at her. “Is it about that?”
Rajani blushed but nodded.
Sunaina embraced her. “Don’t worry about it. It’s funny how things get sorted by itself. I was also nervous about the same thing, about how you would react, but look God is so kind!”
Puzzled, Rajani stared at Sunaina.
Sunaina patted Rajani’s hand. “You know about the dosha in Harsha’s horoscope right?”
“The thing is Panditji had insisted that this marriage is good for Harsha but in order to ensure that something untoward like the accident doesn’t happen again we need to take care of the dosha in his horoscope.”
Rajani looked at her questioningly.
“Both of you need to offer prayers at the temple early morning. And visit the temple every Saturday.”
“Oh but the temple is at the other end of the campus!”
“Never mind beta,” Sunaina said soothingly. “You go to the temple every weekend and during weekdays just pray in your room. You can do that can’t you?”
Relieved Rajani nodded.
Sunaina smiled and patted her. She coughed. “You both also need to lead simple and pure lives for at least one year.”
Rajani nodded, but she couldn’t help but feel as if she were missing something.
Judging Rajani’s all at sea expression correctly, Sunaina elaborated (or at least tried to), “That means both of you cannot…cannot you know…”
Rajani stared at Sunaina – did she really mean what she thought she heard? Did that mean, she didn’t have to…not for a year?
“Yes beta, it would have been ideal to postpone the wedding but your father was keen on an early wedding.” She laughed. “Actually to tell the truth, we didn’t want to risk losing you so we are going ahead with the wedding but your ‘real marriage’ will begin after you finish college and are back home with us. Is that okay?”
Rajani couldn’t believe her ears.
“But…but the honeymoon…Papa arranged…”
“I got that all sorted. You will be staying with a cousin of mine. You can utilize the time to get to know each other, become friends, fall in love before you start your full fledged journey.”
Rajani threw her arms around Sunaina as a huge burden lifted off her shoulders. She felt free. How amazing! Nothing was going to change. She wouldn’t become pregnant! Thank you Bhagwanji thank you – all those bitter feelings and recriminations she had held against her Bhagwanji for making her miss the AIIMS admission, DU admission, and this latest wedding trap vanished in an instant. She was on top of the world.
“Rani!” Sunaina’s strangled laugh reached her ears, “I can’t breathe.”
Rajani let go of her. “Sorry!” she sparkled finally looking like the quintessential glowing bride.
“Oh you look lovely! I mean lovelier than before!” Sunaina remarked. “That means you were nervous about this?”
“Yes,” Rajani said, feeling her inhibitions vanish, “and getting pregnant.”
“Oh! And I was nervous about telling you this! I thought you would be upset…”
“No! All in good time.” Rajani felt euphoric enough to say.
“Yes! We are lucky to have such a mature and understanding bahu…”
“Mummy! How you go on and on,” Rekha had interrupted their tete-a-tete, “Let the poor girl be! It’s her sangeet, let her enjoy, come and dance with us Bhabhi!”
“Yes, yes, no need to be so jealous Rekha. I was just getting to know my new daughter. She is happy to listen to me, not like you…”
“Oh come on Mummy…”
“Okay okay fine, fine, she’s coming. I’ll bring her to the dance floor. You go on ahead and be careful Rekha, don’t forget you are pregnant.” She cautioned but Rekha had vanished in the melee.
“Come Rani, time to dance!” She caught her by the hand and led her towards the dance floor, “Rani, best to keep this conversation between us.”
Rajani looked at her.
Sunaina nodded. “Yes, beta. You don’t know people, they love to gossip and say horrible things. Best to keep quiet about matters that are nobody’s business but ours. Don’t you agree?”
“And no need to discuss it with your parents either. If you mother asks, just say I reassured you that you wouldn’t get pregnant. If you are happy, she won’t ask anything more, am I right?”
“Come on then! Let’s join the party!”
And what a party it had been – Rajani had never much cared for parties but yesterday had been different, special. After all it was her wedding bash. She wished Harsha had been there to share her joy.
But would Harsha be as happy? Rajani’s euphoria vanished. What if he disobeyed his mother? What if he forced himself on her? Her cheeks burned. What was she supposed to do – give in or resist? She would follow her mother’s in laws dictates, she decided. After all she was older and it was all for Harsha’s well being. She couldn’t let him jeopardize his future, his health could she?
There was not much scope for internal dialogues after that – besides she was completely preoccupied with suppressing those butterflies aflutter in the pit of her stomach. She was led through a variety of rituals and customs each more involved and inexplicable than the other, not to mention exhausting. She was looking forward to being married if it meant freedom from all this over-the-top drama and heavy, poking and pinching attires.
Thank God it was winter – how on earth did people get married in the summers?
The day flew by and all too soon it was time for the wedding. Harsha arrived in due course complete with band baaja and baraat. Unlike many brides, Rajani was all ready and waiting for her groom. Suryakant thought it was bad manners to keep anyone waiting, especially the groom and had it planned to the minutest finest detail.
Yet strangely enough, Rajani wasn’t called to the mandap – not for a long time. As she waited she couldn’t help comparing her state to death row inmates waiting to be summoned for their execution. The sooner it was done, the better it would be.
Why was there a delay?
Would her phone ring with a last minute reprieve?
Oh! If only that were possible.
But what about her father? He would never survive the shock.
Bhagwanji please let everything be all right. Please.
“Shikhs, would you please go and see what’s happening?”
Shikha jumped up. “You’ll be okay alone?”
“But you are wearing so much gold. Aunty told me to…”
“Just go will you? And even if someone does come what will you do? Fight them off?” Rajani scoffed. “Go!”
“Yeah, be right back.”
“What?” She turned at the door.
“Come back quick. Don’t get lost in Amu’s eyes or arms.”
Shikha grinned. “I’ll try not to.”
But Shikha clearly didn’t believe her own words. Before long, three young giggling girls joined Rajani. “Shikha didi sent us to keep you company.” They informed her as they oohed and aahed over her wedding dress, her make-up, her jewelry, her eyes, her skin, “Jiju is so lucky!”
“Rajani didi is so lucky!”
“Why do you say that? Have you seen Jiju?”
“No but I can’t wait to meet my Prince Charming, marry him and live happily ever after.”
Their excited chatter got on Rajani’s nerves. She dearly wished she could exchange places with any of them.
Where the hell was Shikha ki bachchi?
As usual Calvin is up to no good.