Biji waved her hand imperiously. “Consider it done. Go and ask him to pack his bags.” She waved away his effusive thanks. “A son doesn’t need to thank his mother. Be happy.” She blessed him as he touched her feet once again.
“Bahu, why haven’t you brought any tea and snacks for the good doctor? Do I have to tell you everything?”
“Yes Biji, we had asked the moment he came, but he refused.”
“He refused and you accepted his refusal?” Biji was aghast and her face turned purple. “Is this the way guests are entertained in this house? What is there to ask? Bring the refreshments.” She ordered.
“Yes Biji,” the younger one entered with a tall glass of lassi, “it’s so hot that’s why he refused tea so we made him some lassi,” she bent down and offered him the glass.
“No, no Biji, I don’t want,” he protested but in vain.
Biji sat there and watched him drink up his glass of lassi like she would any of her grandsons. She smiled in satisfaction. “Good, now you can go. And don’t forget to send of that loafer to Chandigarh by the first bus tomorrow. Lukhi beta, give the doctor Lallu’s phone number and address will you?” As Lukhi and Pappu moved out with the doctor, Biji lay down with a sigh.
As soon as they were out of earshot, she hollered, “Bahoooo.”
They came running. “Yes Biji?” they chorused.
“Yes Biji,” Biji mimicked, “Fools!” she snapped. “How did the boys escape? What if Lukhi had got his hands on the boys? Do you have any idea of the consequences?” The bahus shuddered under their decorously covered heads – how could they not know? Perhaps Kirti didn’t quite know…
“Can I not get one moment of peace in this house? Boyssss!” they came around and shuffled in sheepishly. “Do you have any idea what could…” the boys threw themselves on top of her and smothered her. She fell back on the bed under their weight. “Oh you boys will be the death of me,” she grumbled but her voice lacked venom. “Now tell me what happened this afternoon?” her eyes bore into each of theirs. “Don’t you dare lie to me, I can catch liars like this!” she snapped her fingers. Despite herself, the ghost of a twinkle appeared in her eyes. The boys instantly latched on to it and fell over themselves in painting out their great escape – the hero Chotu was pushed in front. Embarrassed and a little worried, he stood there, a picture of abject misery and repentance. “Sorry Biji,” he mumbled, “never again Biji,” he promised recklessly. “It wasn’t my fault Biji, I swear it wasn’t my idea. Bholu bhaiya and Golu bhaiya wanted to go out and fly kites, they tricked me into it…”
“And suppose you had broken your bones, your arms, legs, cracked your skull?” she ran her arms over his thin body caressingly, “then what would you have done?” she frowned at him and cuffed him on the ear.
“Oh Biji, I am very strong,” he clapped his puny muscles like he had seen the wrestlers do, “besides I am your grandson! What can happen to me? Not even death…”
“Shush!” Biji was horrified and clapped a hand over his mouth, “don’t say such things! Don’t tempt fate. Suppose something had happened to you? That would have put a permanent end to all this loitering and sneaking,” she warned. She waved her hands over his head warding off all evil eyes and forces.
“Don’t worry Biji,” Chotu angled his head jauntily and his chin jutted out defiantly, “I am not afraid of anything. Let anything happen. Besides I can always use a wheelchair. Such fun right Biji,” his eyes were bright with excitement, “Manju chachi’s mother uses a wheelchair. It’s really cool…”
“Stop it! What utter nonsense you boys speak,” she snapped and dealt him another tight one. “Now go, go and drink your milk and stay inside. Mind you, if I catch any of you going outside, I personally will ensure that I break your legs.” She picked up her stick and waved it threateningly. “Get it?”
They nodded dutifully.
Biji sank down on the bed quite exhausted by the activities. Life was indeed sometimes too much for her. She yearned for some peace and quiet. How nice it would be close her eyes and never wake up. Biji heaved a huge sigh – she couldn’t even think of dying, what would they all do without her? She shuddered – just a moment later and her beloved pieces of liver and kidneys would have had it. Anger flared in her breast -all because of those two unwanted pieces of weight with nothing better to do than grind moong dal on her chest.
“Girlssss.” Biji opened her eyes and roared.
The girls had been avidly drinking in the going ons from the inside window. It was their turn to crave escape from the confines of their home but the boys were quicker and more proactive. They ganged up and blocked their path. “Biji is calling you.” Golu rolled up his sleeves for good measure. The girls quailed and prudently opted to answer Biji’s summons.
“Yes Biji,” Shikha mumbled while Rajani cowered behind her.
“Who the hell do you think you are? Hardly two days old and creating such a ruckus! If you were my daughters I would have skinned you alive…”
“Biji please,” Kirti rushed in and stood in front of the girls, “please forgive them. They are just babies…”
“They are babies, but you are not are you?” Biji turned her ire on Kirti. “How dare you send the girls out without my permission? They did not ask me, but did you bother to ask me? Inform me? This is my house and I don’t even know who is going in and who is going out? Is this my standing in my own house? I wonder what would have happened if I had stayed with you? Hey Bhagwan,” she clapped a hand to her head, “did your parents teach you nothing? No manners, no lihaz or consideration? And this girl,” she glared at Shikha, “she has already grown wings, best if you get her married off bahu. Mark my words, the later she gets married the riskier it is,” she nodded her head several time. “But why am I wasting my breath, after all who am I? You will do what you think is right after discussion with your parents, not your poor husband’s mother. Hmmphh.” Biji snorted as she ran out of steam.
Used to her mother-in-law’s ways, Kirti let her rant without offering any justification or retaliation. She stood there quietly with her head bowed. Shikha also had had some experience – there was just no point is saying anything when Biji was off on one of her rants. So she too had no problems in zoning off – she was sure she could easily fly a kite, if only there was some way to get her hands on a kite, if only Papa was here…
But Rajani was not quite adept at holding her tongue. Even though she couldn’t quite follow Biji, she was able to grasp the gist of it quite easily. “But Biji, you didn’t scold the boys for not taking anybody’s permission? At least we took Kirti Aunty’s permission.” She said in her high clear voice seething with indignation.
Charged with undeniable bias Biji flared up even more. She shot to her feet, “You rascally ill-mannered girl! Learn to hold your tongue between your lips, girl. I am warning you. Otherwise, all this habit of advocacy and pleadings will land you into serious trouble in your in-laws house.” She turned to Kirti. “All your fault bahu, why did you get her here? She is the root of all trouble. What was the need to get her here I don’t understand. We never had any trouble with our girl, but ever since this…this loose tongued girl has come…”
“Biji,” Lukhi came back in after seeing the doctor and purchasing medicines, “please relax and rest.” He urged. He kindly patted a hysterically sobbing Rajani on the head, “Never mind little one, carry on.” He gave her a little push towards the door. Sobbing and hiccupping even more loudly she exited with the help of Kirti.
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