“Oh Nisha,” Kirti hurriedly took back the phone, “nothing like that. You know how Biji is. She didn’t mean it like that. Biji’s sleep was disturbed because of their shouts and all so she was a bit irritated. Otherwise no major issue. It is in Biji’s nature to speak without thinking but she has a heart of gold. Really. You know that don’t you?”
“Yes Bhabhiji, of course we know that,” Suryakant was back on the line.
“Yes Bhai sahib. In fact, just a little while ago Biji proposed a trip to the circus, and suggested we club it with a picnic. Then there is the village fair. It would indeed be a pity if Rajani were to miss those. But if you really feel that Rajani is being ill treated here, Lalit can always come and pick her….”
“Bahu give the phone to me,” Biji ordered. Kirti hurriedly handed the phone while casting her thoughts back to the conversation, had she said anything that Biji could take offense to – she sincerely hoped not!
“Hello? This is Biji speaking.”
“Biji! This is Suryakant. Please accept my humble greetings to you Biji. How are you Biji? I am sorry that Rani is bothering you Biji…”
“Oh she is no bother,” Biji dismissed, “the thing is I keep forgetting that she is a guest, that she is not one of my children….”
“Oh no Biji!” Suryakant was horrified. “Please don’t say that! She is of course your own granddaughter and we are your children. Please forgive us our foolish mistakes. We are indeed very grateful and beholden to you that you graciously allowed her to come and stay at your place. She can only gain from such an experience.” Suryakant fell over to ingratiate himself and soothe ruffled feathers. “We don’t mind anything that you could ever say to her. Like Shikha, you have full rights on Rani as well. As an elder you can and indeed, should discipline her as you see fit. If you don’t discipline her how will she learn? We have full faith in your care and love Biji. On one side you scold them and then you go and arrange such lovely treats as circus, picnic!” he laughed, “I wish I was a child again…”
“Hmm, children will be children. I am glad at least you are taking this episode in a mature manner. Be happy.” Biji handed the phone back to Kirti.
“Hello Bhai sahib?” Kirti paused and waited until Biji had left the room, “I am sorry that we couldn’t keep Rajani happy. But don’t worry, I will call Lalit and ask him to take Rajani back to Chandigarh.”
“Oh no no Bhabhiji,” Suryakant protested, “please don’t embarrass us by saying sorry. I have full faith in you and Biji. Forgive her because she is still a child and has never been away from home.” Suryakant hastened to justify. “Let me talk to her, I will explain to her. I know she would also be very upset about missing the circus and fair if she came back home. Besides I would hate to put Suriji to all that trouble over a little misunderstanding.”
“Rani, don’t you want to go to the fair, see the circus?”
“Yes.” Rajani said in a small voice.
“Okay then go and say sorry to Biji and be a good girl. Don’t do things to annoy Biji.”
“Why should I say sorry to Biji? I didn’t do anything! Even Shikha was playing marbles.”
“Rani,” her father’s tone brooked no opposition, “remember it was your decision to go. Now you just can’t demand to come back home. Just think how disgraceful it will be for all concerned.” He paused and softened his tone, “And I know you will also regret your decision, missing out on so much fun, for what? Just a scolding?”
“No Rani. This is not done. You created a fuss and made a mountain out of a molehill. And just for that you should apologize to Biji. She has been so kind to take you in, keep you at her home just like she would her own child. Poor Biji was so upset that she felt it necessary to talk to me,” he drew in his breath sharply, “No no, it’s too mortifying to think of the scene you must have created. Now go and apologize to Biji and carry on having fun like you were having all this while – you were having fun before today weren’t you?” Suryakant asked.
“Ye….es,” Rajani said reluctantly.
“Good, now be a good girl and say bye to your mother,” Suryakant handed the phone to Nisha who had been pulling at his sleeve ever since. He glared at her and shook his head warningly at her. Chastened and subdued, she nodded meekly, “Hello Rani dear,” she managed to say cheerfully.
“Mamma,” Rajani’s voice wobbled, “I don’t want to stay here. The boys tease me, are mean to me and Biji always support them,” she wailed.
“Rani,” tears welled up in Nisha’s eyes, but she controlled herself as Suryakant nudged her. She coughed and sniffed. “Oho Rani you know you can’t always have everything your way can you?” she said lovingly. “You have to take some not so good things with the good right dear? Here also you complain that Bhai teases you, your grandmother favors Bhai, etc etc. Now forget all this, go and apologize to Biji and think of all the fun things that await you. When your Bhai will get to know, he will be very jealous of you. I think I better not tell him what fun you are having, he will surely,” Nisha caught herself as Suryakant tapped at his watch, “Hey Bhagwan, just think of the expenditure! Your Aunty’s phone bill will touch the sky!” guiltily she disconnected the phone.
“Oh we shouldn’t have sent Rani,” Nisha burst into tears.
“Nonsense,” Suryakant said robustly, “she is perfectly fine and having a much better time than she would have had within these four walls.”
“No,” Nisha wiped her face and shook her head, “poor thing is very unhappy.”
“Unhappy now because you are giving it so much importance. Just let her be and next minute she will bounce back. At least you should know that about her?” Suryakant said hardily.
“No,” Nisha shook her head, “it’s not so simple. If it was, Biji would have never asked to speak…”
“Just shows that Biji is very well aware of protocols and norms. She was kind enough to speak to reassure us. It speaks highly of her character and stature. It is our fault and we are guilty of a major oversight.” Nisha looked questioning at Suryakant. “Since we sent Rani, did we ever call up Biji to thank her for her hospitality? Who likes to take the responsibility of another’s child in today’s time and era? No one. We have been remiss in our duties and responsibilities.”
“How’s all that related to Rani?” Nisha protested sniffling into her dupatta. “Poor thing was crying so much. Why did Biji have to scold her? She should have some consideration for a little girl, so far away from home…”
“Oh please Nisha, stop all this nonsense. She is fine. I am sure, if you call her up half-an hour later, she would have forgotten all this and busy planning her next mischief…”
“Mischief and Rani?!” Nisha was up in arms. “She is such a sweet biddable girl, so easy to manage her. She…”
“Okay, okay fine. Now can I have some peace and quiet please? Just one Sunday in a week and that too one can’t relax,” he grumbled, “some drama or the other always on.” He briskly jerked the newspaper and disappeared behind it.
Nisha stood there twisting her fingers. Rani’s cry still echoed in her ears. She could see Rani was still crying, sobbing, hiccupping – restlessness filled her heart. Unable to restrain her emotions, she burst out, “It was wrong on our part to send Rani away just because Abhi has exams. Maybe it’s time we called her back…”
“No Nisha.” Suryakant put down the newspaper and shook his finger. “Don’t take hasty flip-flop decisions. Stick to one. She has been gone almost ten days now. Just a couple of weeks more and she will be back. We need to be unemotional and practical about this. They are nice people and so kind of them to offer to give Rani a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually experience village life. And now how can we suddenly say we are bringing her back? Just think how awkward it will be – as good as saying we don’t trust them. How awful for them. No no, we must show some consideration, some lihaz for their feelings.”
What about my feelings? What about Rani’s feelings? But the words remained unsaid. Wilting under Suryakant’s fierce glare, Nisha wiped her tears and walked to the kitchen where she drowned her sorrows in the innumerable chores that awaited her.
What about Rajani’s feelings one may well ask…
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