Rajani was gone for two whole hours, doing all the things that he loved doing – so not very fair, Abhi grumbled silently to himself as he padded to the kitchen for some cold water. He took a deep swallow of the chilled water and wiped his chin. Here he was drinking water and that maharani was probably guzzling down gallons of Coke while watching the magic show.
It had been ages since he had watched any show and magic shows were his favorite –he would have loved to be a magician – anything but a doctor. Doctors were so boring. And the amount of studying they needed to do – no time for any relaxation or entertainment.
Boy, he sure was in desperate need of some entertainment. Abhi slowly shuffled back to his room. If only Rajani was here – she was Abhi’s live 24/7 entertainment channel, albeit unwittingly.
Abhi grinned to himself – how he had made Rani run around him and do his bidding just to find out when the new Harry Potter book was releasing.
“Rani,” he would call out with his nose buried studiously in some fat book.
“What?” dropping everything she would come rushing.
“Copy out these notes for me.”
“No.” Acting pricey Rajani turned up her insubstantial nose.
“Fine.” Abhi shrugged and went back to his book. “But don’t expect me to find out when your precious Harry Potter book is coming out.”
Torn, Rajani hovered over him, restlessly moving from one foot to the other. “Okay fine, I will do it.”
Once Rajani had the requisite information she had declared open rebellion and had even thumbed her nose at him. But then this wasn’t the only trick up Abhi’s sleeve.
“Where are you going Rani?”
“To iron my uniform.”
“Well then iron my uniform as well.”
“Why should I? Iron your own uniform.” Rajani refused pointblank.
Abhi heaved a huge sigh, “If only Maya hadn’t gone…”
Rajani froze. “Bhai…”
“Don’t talk to me. Leave me alone.” He turned his back to her. “Maya why did you have to go? If only you had not gone, today you would have surely…”
“Okay fine Bhai, I will iron your uniform. But please don’t be angry if it is not too well ironed. I am still learning how to do it right.”
“Okay okay, fine, fine. You do it. I will do the final round. Yours as well.” He said feeling generous.
“Hmm,” he said flicking through his notes.
“Did…did you love Mayadidi very much?”
Abhi looked up. He nodded and went back to his books.
“Was she very pretty?”
“Yes! She was the prettiest baby girl ever. She was so fair. And she had a tiny mouth with pink lips. Her eyes were blue-green in color. She used to call me Dada,” he paused.
“Can I call you Dada too?” Rajani asked eagerly.
“No.” Abhi frowned at her fiercely.
“What happened to her?”
Abhi shrugged. “Who knows? She had high fever. I think she was hardly 2 or 3 years old.” Abhi looked at Rajani’s whose eyes were filling up fast. “What do you care? You didn’t even know her.”
Rajani sniffed and rubbed her eyes. “Tell me more about her. What kind of hair did she have?”
“I don’t remember much myself, I was also just about 4 years old or so. Go and ask Mom, if you are so curious.”
“Oh I couldn’t ask Mamma, she always starts crying. Did you love her very much? Did Papa also love her? More than me?”
“Oh stop all these questions! Don’t disturb me. I have loads to study. Go do the ironing.” Uncomfortable Abhi pushed her away.
It wasn’t that Abhi really missed his little sister – it was just that the concern and sympathy in Rajani’s eyes made him feel a little guilty for manipulating her for his benefit. But then it was Rani’s fault for being such a little fool – he had as good as told her that he hardly remembered anything clearly and still she insisted on believing that he was still grieving for his lost sister.
Silly, sentimental little Rani.
“Bhaaaiiii! I am back!” Rajani declared rather unnecessarily at the top of her voice as she burst into his room.
“Yeah so? Can’t you see I am studying? It was so peaceful before and now I wont get one jot worth of work done.” Relieved, Abhi shut his book with a snap.
“Oh Bhai it was such a wonderful party!” Rajani gushed. “I wish you had been there. The magic show was superb. Though,” she looked away guiltily, “I was giggling most of the time.” She confessed.
Rajani hung her head.
“That…that magician was speaking such nonsensical words, gili abra gili dabra kadabra gili gili go,” Rajani’s lips trembled, her nostrils too began quivering, she stuttered even as she valiantly tried to control the rising attack of giggles.
Rajani sobered up. “That is why,” she muttered looking down, “I was giggling.”
“Uff you are too much,” rued Abhi, “thank God I wasn’t there.”
“Anyway, look what I got for you!” Rajani emptied the contents of little bag she was carrying on the table.
Despite Abhi’s determination to be cool and blasé, he couldn’t quite hide the glitter in his face. “Chocolates.” He said almost reverentially. This was one weakness the siblings shared apart from dental cavities, of course. And hence, chocolates were more or less banned in the Ahuja household, which made it even more sought after.
Correctly reading into her brother’s reaction, Rajani couldn’t help but boast, “I could get only two initially but then when I told Uncle that you really liked chocolates, he gave me so many more.”
Abhi’s face darkened. He stared at her aghast. “You mean you begged for chocolates for me? As if I was dying to eat these stupid chocolates? How embarrassing!” He dropped the chocolate as if it were a cockroach or something equally disgusting.
Rajani’s face fell. “I…I didn’t beg, I only said…”
“I only said,” said Abhi in a horrible mocking sneer, “who asked you to say anything? Did I ask you to? Did I tell you to get chocolates for me? So then why did you have to go and say anything to them about me? What will they think about us? You really are too much Rani. You should be certified and locked away for good. Poking your nose into matters that are none of your business.” Abhi was well and truly riled and he made no effort to soften his tone or words.
Rajani’s eyes filled with tears. “I…I didn’t think Bhai. I…I only thought…”
“I didn’t think, I only thought, shut up,” he yelled, “wait just let me tell Mom,” he got up, “Mom!”
“Nooo! Bhai!” Rajani caught hold of his hand, “Please don’t tell Mamma, she will be very angry with me. Tell me what to do? I will do it. Anything.” She promised recklessly.
“What can you do?” Abhi said rudely, “except mess up things. If only Maya was here, none of this would have ever happened.”
The dam broke and Rajani’s tears overflowed. “I am sorry Bhai. I really am. I will go and tell Suri uncle that…”
“Oh please Rani, don’t you dare go and say anything to anybody now,” Abhi clapped his hands together and bowed facetiously, “Not even Shikha, understand?”
Rajani nodded, sobbing softly all the while.
“Now stop all this rona-dhona.”
“First say you aren’t angry with me,” Rajani valiantly scrubbed her tear-streaked face.
“How can I say that? I can’t just lie can I?”
“Please Bhai, please.”
“Get out and leave me alone.”
Feeling a bit scared at the expression on Bhai’s face Rajani thought it prudent to leave the room. She went to the living room and sat quietly beside her father as he worked his books. It’s not fair, I sacrificed the doll and now Bhai is also so angry with me, she thought dolefully. Mamma says if you are giving and generous, you will also receive generously. But look what happened. It’s not fair. I don’t like it if anyone is mad at me. What should I do now?
Suryakant looked down once or twice questioningly at the uncharacteristically silent girl but he was busy. Besides, she was probably tired from her day out. He let her be.
After a judicious interval (about three and a half minutes), Rajani peeked back into her brother’s room and stared at his bent head.
When he didn’t look up or yell at her, she slowly shuffled back in and stood guiltily in front of him.
He continued to ignore her.
“Bhai,” she mumbled.
She reached out a tentative hand and poked him. “Bhai please don’t be angry with me. I said I am sorry.”
Abhi glared at her fiercely. “Sorry doesn’t make a dead man alive.”
She drooped. She felt awful. She wished there was a magic button or something to rewind the day. Maybe just the last couple of hours. It was all her fault. She was such a chatterbox.
“I promise I will not chatter so much. I promise I wont giggle so much.”
Abhi shook his head disbelievingly. “And the sun will rise in the west.”
“Why not?” Rajani said innocently. “Maybe it will. Anything is possible.”
Abhi burst out laughing. “You are crazy.”
Rajani nodded happily relieved that Bhai wasn’t so mad at her anymore, even though she couldn’t quite get why he wasn’t mad at her anymore. “Forgiven me?”
“Not so easily madam. You will have to pay penalty.”
“Anything.” Rajani willingly awaited her punishment.
Abhi tapped his chin thoughtfully. “Okay fine, if you promise to polish my school shoes for one whole month without me having to ask you or you telling Mom why you are doing it, then I will forgive you.” He waved his hand grandly.
Rajani perked up. “Done!” she smiled. “I will go and do them just now.” She turned to leave.
“Tomorrow is Sunday stupid. And mind you, don’t say a word to anybody, not Mom not Papa.” He suddenly grinned. “I bet that is a greater punishment for you than polishing shoes.” He casually picked up a chocolate and bit off a large chunk. He chewed it thoughtfully, “Hmm nice chocolates.”
“Hain na?” Rajani said eagerly reaching for one but he slapped her hand away.
“Those are mine aren’t they? Moti.” He jeered.
Rajani flared up. “Why do you say that? I am not fat at all. Nobody calls me moti except for you.”
Abhi popped the rest of the chocolate in his mouth, “What do they call you – roly-poly girl?”
“Bhai!” Rajani made to rush at him, but Abhi raised his hand, “I am thinking that one month of shoe polishing is too little, maybe I should…”
Thwarted Rajani stamped her foot and ran out of the room.
Abhi laughed softly to himself and began whistling tunelessly. It was such fun to tease Rani – besides he had gotten a good deal for himself – freedom from polishing shoes for a month.
But wait – had he let her off too lightly?
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