Kirti consoled and cajoled Rajani into good humor soon enough. The saving grace was that when Biji attacked her, she promptly burst into tears and hence didn’t catch the damning words. Besides the boys were were rounded up and punished. That was like balm to Rajani’s bruised sentiments and worked like a charm to turn off the waterworks.
The ladies of the house decreed that the boys had to sit down and hold their ears with their hands behind their knees – for half hour each, homework for one hour every afternoon, in separate rooms and apologize to Rajani. A chorus of protests rose but was instantly quelled – their mothers used their Brahmastra – will ‘tell Bade Papa all’.
“Say sorry to that townie? But why should we? What did we do?”
“Just thank your stars and do what we say. Otherwise we will let ‘him’ deal with you. And he will surely make you apologize to Rajani.”
The boys duly sat in the ‘murga’ position for their scheduled half an hour, while the girls peered from the window giggling and whispering. It was of course no surprise that the boys spent their ‘time’ plotting and planning all sorts of evil plans to extract revenge.
“Apologize to her! No chance. Just you wait, I will make her apologize before the holidays are over otherwise you can change my name.” Golu swore.
The ladies of the house were given a wide berth for the next few days – they too gave up trying to get the boys to apologize to Rajani. No point in wasting time after an impossible task. Especially when there was so much to be done.
Thus began the ‘tease the girls and make them cry’ movement. And of course, make Rajani say sorry. Not that it required much effort and innovation on part of the boys. In fact it was ridiculously easy – they achieved their first victory without even trying.
The boys were in a huddle whispering and trying to come with a decent acceptable plan, which wouldn’t backfire, when Kallu spied the girls from the corner of his eyes. He nudged the others and they instantly fell silent. That was enough to fire the girls’ curiosity, “What were you boys talking about?” Shikha asked suspiciously.
“Nothing.” Kallu looked at the boys and shook his head. He whistled tunelessly.
“Something. Definitely something.” Shikha insisted. “I saw you boys whispering…”
“So,” Kallu challenged, “any rule against whispering? All day long you girls keep whispering and giggling amongst yourselves don’t you?”
Shikha reluctantly accepted the argument and walked away her head held high. But Rajani was made of sterner stuff – besides curiosity was killing her. “No rule, but you have to tell us what you have to hide from us.”
Kallu crossed his arms. “Otherwise?”
“Otherwise, we will tell Bade Papa,” she said.
“Go ahead. Go and tell him,” challenged Kallu. “Oh Bade Papa, Bade Papa, the boys were whispering.” He mimicked her. The boys clapped him on his back and fell about laughing. “Bade Papa will be so happy because he is always telling us to talk softly.”
Rajani’s face fell, which amused the boys even more. They crowed and mocked her even louder. “Go on, go and tell him.” He poked her. “Shall I go and tell him that the town girl is upset because we were whispering. Please cane us so that she maybe happy again? Don’t worry we wont let Biji save us this time.”
Rajani went hot and cold. Bade Papa would have caned them? Surely not? What if he had? All because of her – her heart sank and tears came into her eyes. “I didn’t mean for you to be caned…”
“Oh really? Go tell that to the dogs,” Kallu said rudely and walked off with the others leaving Rajani feeling quite miserable.
Something wasn’t right and it was her fault. Unable to digest the guilt, Rajani ran after the boys and muttered, “Sorry, I didn’t mean to get you into trouble with Bade Papa. Actually I got scared when Bade Papa started questioning us…” she trailed off, feeling foolish and small. Tears slid down her cheek and she sniffed dolefully.
The boys looked blankly at each other feeling a bit let down. She had said sorry on her own with no effort on their part! That wasn’t quite done was it? Did Golu deserve to have his sorry served on a platter like this? Not fair – shouldn’t he have had to work at least a bit towards the fulfillment of his vow?
“Okay okay fine, fine, just don’t drown us now.” Golu muttered gruffly.
Rajani wiped her face. She smiled at them. “Where are you going? To fly kites? Can Shikha and I come and help you?” she asked eagerly.
“Hmm.” Golu reluctantly nodded. Rajani gave a whoop of delight and rushed off to call Shikha while the boys glared accusingly at Golu. “What?” he said defensively. “She said sorry didn’t she?”
“And you invited her to fly kites with us? Next she will want to play marbles, gilli-danda, catch-me-if-you-can, kho-kho, kabaddi, then also you will say yes?”
“Yeah so?” Golu stuck to his stance, “they are guests after all. On what grounds could I refuse? Suppose she went and complained? Don’t think Bade Papa has forgotten anything. If there is any more fracas, he is bound to thrash us first and ask questions later.”
The voices of dissent fell silent.
The two girls came up at a run, “Come on let’s go!” Shikha panted excited. “Look Bholu Bhaiyya, Bade Papa got a kite for us as well. He said you would teach us to fly it. You will wont you?”
Golu looked meaningfully at the others even as they avoided meeting his eyes. Bholu had no choice but to agree.
Much to the surprise of the boys, they had a fun filled afternoon. The guilt-ridden girls, anxious to make amends, fell over themselves in their eagerness to please. They fetched, carried, ran, cheered, clapped and generally did everything that was possible to ingratiate themselves. The boys lapped it all up. They weren’t too bad they admitted to themselves and allowed them to join in their other favorite games as well – except for kabaddi of course.
The days whooshed by happily enough barring a few more squabbles and contretemps.
One evening, when the hot dusty bunch were returning home, the good doctor called out, “Kallu beta, tell your father that ration has come.”
Kallu stared and then nodded disinterestedly. Rajani who was with him was confused. “And?” she asked the doctor.
The doctor smiled and said, “That’s it, just tell him that the ration has come.”
It didn’t make sense to Rajani – there was a sense of incompleteness to the message. Surely there was something more to be conveyed. And what was this ration that had come? She had a whispered hurried conversation with Shikha. She also couldnt make head or tail of the message.
“So will you get the ration?” Shikha asked hoping for some more information on this mysterious message.
The doctor shook his head and said shortly. “No I won’t get it.”
The girls found his reaction a bit rude and were taken aback. They ran back home and duly reported it to Kirti.
“You asked the doctor if he would get the ration?” Kirti was horrified.
“Yes,” Shikha readily admitted it even as Rajani vigorously nodded her head, “but he just shook his head and refused.” There was an incredulous note in her voice – sort of like how dare he refuse – no wonder Mummy was so annoyed.
Kirti paced the floor in agitation. The girls looked at each other in vindication – the doctor was wrong to be so rude and curt in his refusal! Kirti picked up her phone and called up her husband and narrated the incident.
Gratified, the girls hung around trying to grasp the conversation, wondering how the doctor would be punished…
“Yes, Shikha was also there. Yes she also….yes yes I agree, this is not right, I don’t know what everyone will think. Yes I will tell them. Yes that is best. No I won’t discuss this with anyone. You also please do not mention it, especially not to Biji.”
Not tell Biji? But why? Not fair. Biji should be told, how rude and discourteous her ‘son’ was, she should know how they were being ill treated by…
Kirti put down the phone and turned to them with a serious expression. They looked at her in anticipation. But then to their collective horror, Kirti said the unthinkable. “Both of you will have to apologize to the doctor.”
“Apologize? Us!!! But why?” The girls were aghast. If anything, he should apologize for his curtness. Why should they?
“Because I am saying so,” Kirti said shortly. “First thing tomorrow morning.” She walked off effectively putting an end to further discussion.
For next chapter click on link below:-