“Phone call for you.” Kallu delivered the message.
Rajani flew downstairs, “Mamma!” she was quite out of breath but she had too much to share, “Mamma, we are going for a picnic tomorrow, then the circus. And, Aunty is stitching salwar suit for us both. Our first salwar suit! And it has a dupatta too. Can you imagine? I hope I can get photos for you. Biji told Chote Papa to get for us. Mine is blue,” she swallowed, and despite herself, a plaintive note entered her voice and dimmed her exuberance, “Shikha’s is pink. You know I like pink better…”
“Now Rani,” Suryakant interrupted, “don’t start complaining. Count your blessings, how many times have I told you? Count your blessings. Be happy about what you have and not cry about what you don’t have. See, that day if you had come home, you would have missed everything? Even your first salwar suit – pink or blue how does it matter?”
“Oh hello Papa,” Rajani said in a subdued tone but not quite ready to give up her point of view, “pink looks prettier…”
“Did you say thank you to Biji? Did you offer to help Aunty with the house chores or are you just jumping and prancing about adding to their work and stress than helping them.” Suryakant raised his hand and gestured to his wife to stop gesticulating wildly and instructing him. “Now don’t embarrass us anymore and be a good girl Rani.” His voice softened, “You are my bestest good girl aren’t you dear?”
“Yes Papa,” Rajani was instantly mollified, “I will be a good girl. Don’t worry Papa. I didn’t say anything about the pink suit to Aunty or Shikha.”
Relief flooded Suryakant. “That’s my Rani. Here talk to your mother.”
“Hello Rani dear, how are you Rani?” Love and affection dripped from Nisha’s voice.
“I am fine Mamma. We are going to the circus tomorrow and before that we are going for a picnic. Aunty is making salwar suits for both of us.”
“That’s great dear. I hope you have lots of fun. But be careful and play safely. Don’t go near the animals at the circus, stay close to your Aunty, don’t leave her side, you know children can get lost at such gatherings, be careful, okay bye dear, miss you, take care…” Suryakant wrested the phone from her and put it down.
“What?” Nisha was upset, “I hardly spoke to her…”
“There’s no need to speak more than that,” snapped Suryakant, “Do you know how much the phone bill will be like this month? And on top of it Abhi’s phone bill is increasing day by day,” he grumbled. “Who does he talk to so much on the phone?” He questioned.
Nisha shrugged. “How would I know? He did say he calls up his friends to clear up doubts and all. I have seen him talking on the phone and solving math problems. But don’t you think we need to also do something special for Shikha?”
Suryakant looked at her.
“I mean they are doing so much, circus, picnic, new suit…”
“That you should have thought of before sending her in her frocks,” Suryakant shook his head. “Don’t you have any sense? Sending her to a village in frocks,” he snorted.
“So what?” Nisha flared up, “she wears the same clothes as Shikha does. If there was any such restriction, Kirti should have mentioned it. How would I know?” She defended herself.
But Suryakant wasn’t impressed. “You should have made it your business to find out. You could have discussed it with me…”
“So now it’s my fault is it that Rani is staying amongst strangers and following their dictates? If you remember, you were the one who was keen to send her off. I didn’t want her to go at all. It’s been so many days, I don’t know how she is managing alone.” Nisha’s eyes filled, “poor baby…”
“I marvel at the way you take a conversation from one point to some where else,” Suryakant said. “Please don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. In fact there isn’t even a molehill. Didn’t you hear Rani? She is having the time of her life. And we can always buy some decent appropriate gift for the Suris. Maybe a dinner set or something?” Nisha nodded and turned to go but Suryakant hadn’t finished yet. “Keep a look out in festival sales later this year and you can send something for Biji as well. That will even out the favor.” Satisfaction dripped from his voice as he neatly shrugged off the burden of the favor.
“Rajji! Rajji!” Shikha was calling from the balcony. Rajani put the phone down and dashed off. “What is…oh!” she gasped.
Shikha stood there wearing her kurta. “How is it?”
Rajani looked at her with envy. “It’s very nice…”
“Mamma, it’s very loose, I wanted a fitting kurta not a drum,” complained the budding model.
“Nothing doing Shikha,” Kirti said, “drum is what you will get.” She looked at Rajani and caught her forlorn expression. “Don’t worry Rajani,” she called out from her place by the sewing machine, “yours will be done soon as well. You can then try it on. I will make both your salwars together.”
They jumped for joy. Shikha moped about in front of the mirror and pinched in the kurta from the sides and stared at her reflection. She tried it one with the dupatta as well while Rajani fidgeted around in an agony of impatience until hers was done.
“Oh! I look so grown up and big don’t I?” Rajani admired herself in the mirror. She drew the dupatta over her head and glanced coyly from behind it like she had seen the aunts do.
Kirti stretched to ease her aching back. “Well do you like it?”
“Oh yes Aunty. I just love it!” she cast Shikha a sly look. “It’s even better than Shikha’s! Thank you.” She threw her arms around Kirti for a spontaneous hug.
“Aww, you are a sweet child. Welcome beta.” Kirti affectionately pinched her cheeks.
“Mummy!” Shikha wailed, “You made Rajji’s fitting but mine is a drum. I don’t want to wear such a loose one.”
“Oho Shikha don’t fuss now. It’s already so late and I still have to make the salwars. Now change your clothes and let me work in peace.”
An ecstatic Rajani dragged away a fretting Shikha, “Never mind Shikha, nothing will be visible under the dupatta,” she consoled.
Shikha jerked her arm away, “I don’t want to wear the dupatta like an ‘amma’. You do that,” she sneered, “I am going to wear it like the film heroines, around my neck. Have you ever seen them wear such ill-fitting kurtas?”
“Oho Shikha, we aren’t in some movie are we? And who is going to see us? There will be nobody but us, so how does it matter what we wear?” argued Rajani.
“You are such a budhoo Rajji,” Shikha said scornfully, “it’s a matter of style. Besides, if nobody was going to see us, why would Biji bother to get salwar suits stitched for us?”
“Leave it Rajani.” Shikha turned away, “it’s easy for you to say, yours is nice and fitting. Not a drum like mine. I hate my dress, I hate it hate it,” she ran away.
Rajani stared in consternation. Now what? She slowly walked back to Kirti and stood there quietly beside Kirti as she furiously worked the sewing machine.
Without turning Kirti asked. “Yes dear?”
“Aunty,” Rajani said, “Aunty, Shikha is very sad.”
“Sad? About what?”
“The kurta. It’s very loose,” Kirti stopped her work to look at Rajani. “She says,” Rajani added, afraid that Kirti maybe offended. “Could you please alter it?”
Kirti sighed. “I’ll try.”
Rajani clapped her hands and jumped up and down.
“I said I will try,” cautioned Kirti, “I am not promising anything. I still have to complete the salwars, then there’s dinner, I don’t know if there will be time…”
Unheeding, Rajani threw her arms around Kirti. “Thank you thank you, Shikha will be so happy. Shikhaaaaaaaa….”
Kirti raised a hand and then dropped it helplessly. She sighed and got back to her work – it was going to be a long night. Perhaps if she could be excused from the dinner chores – but would Biji agree? What? You need so much time to make just two salwar suits? If I spent so much time on just stitching, I would have never been able to bring up 3 boys single-handedly. And we didn’t have such conveniences in those days, fridge, gas…Kirti winced. Best not to say anything. She would rather stay up the whole night than get an earful from Biji. She just hoped and prayed that neither of the girls got into any trouble – anymore fracas and their entire outing would be jeopardized.
Hey Bhagwan – please have mercy!
Please do check out today's Post - Where there is a Will.... Up next Chapter 41:Refitting