Restless and agitated, Rajani sat down beside the computer (yes they had finally bought one) and switched it on.
“Mamma, I need the password.”
Nisha came in bustling, “Go to the kitchen and make sure the milk doesn’t boil over.”
The chair grated as Rajani got to her feet. “Please Mamma, it doesn’t take that long to key in the password. Or are you afraid I will ‘see’ the password?” she stomped off and glared fiercely at the crinkling milk as if daring it to spill over. The smell of the paratha frying on the tava grated on her oversensitive nerves and she pressed a hand to her mouth.
“It’s done.” Nisha pushed her out of the kitchen. “But why are you sitting down on the computer so early? Okay fine as you like.” She backed away as Rajani swung around to face her. “Here, take this paratha along it’s almost done…”
Rajani made a dash for the washroom. Heaving and retching she clung to the washbasin, but nothing came out. She coughed and splashed her face with cold water and met her mother’s eyes in the mirror.
Nisha wiped her face with her dupatta, “Rani,” her eyes widened and her nose twitched – she dashed off to the kitchen waving the karchi like a sword in the hope that that would stop the milk from boiling over.
Nisha came back to where Rajani sat staring at blank screen, “Look Mamma even the computer has started lying.”
“What do you mean?”
“See it throws up a blank page and then declares ‘done’!” she pointed at the left hand corner – sure enough it was written ‘Done’. “Or it will coolly write ‘page not found’ as if it’s the other person’s fault.” She grumbled and repeatedly clicked the refresh button but with no luck.
“Oho Rani, don’t do that! Think of the poor mouse – soon that wont work either. Maybe the internet is not working?”
“When does it?” Rajani’s voice was bitter.
“Never mind dear. Now I know. It will be good news. Just you wait.” Nisha looked confident and positively cheerful.
Rajani stared. “What happened? Just a minute ago you were crying because you were sure I would fail…”
“No, no dear. You misunderstood me. I was upset because of your pathetic state not because…anyway, the milk boiled over,” she smiled.
“So?” Rajani was blank.
“It is a good sign! Boiling over of milk is a sign of gains and growth. So relax.”
“How can I? If only this internet would work!” Rajani sighed frustrated and irritated as she refreshed the page for the nth time.
“Ufff. GRRRR.” Rajani was quite at the end of her tether –stress, nausea, hunger, fear, excitement and now an uncooperative Internet. She wanted to smash something. But what? She relieved the jostling bubbling cauldron of emotions by bursting into tears.
“Rani! Beta!” Nisha enfolded her in her arms and couldn’t help sniffling too – poor Rani.
“Is my breakf…” Suryakant entered the dining room and stopped short at the sight that met his eyes. “What on earth…?”
“You manage your daughter,” Nisha disentangled herself and bustled off to the kitchen.
“There, there beta.” Suryakant patted her head. “Stop crying. How will crying help.”
“Papa! You can help!”
“Papa please just say everything will be fine and even if it is not you will still love me. Please say that!”
Suryakant withdrew. “What new drama is this? Do you know something that I don’t? Have the results been declared? Did you actually f…”
“No! Papa please! How can you even think such a thing?”
“You only said,” He snapped, feeling nervous and jittery. Just how badly had she done in the exams? And he had been boasting about her to… “Tell me the truth Rani once and for all.” He shook his finger and spoke sternly. “Were you lying when you said the exams had gone well?”
“Yes of course Papa,” Rajani wrung her hands, “but so many things can go wrong! The examiner may be in a bad mood, the papers may get lost…”
Suryakant raised his hand. “I don’t believe in such nonsensical stories. Those spread such lies are the ones who failed and don’t like to admit their faults. They prefer to pass on the blame to the others and thereby avoid taking responsibility for their actions. Understand? Now rein in your flights of fanciful thinking and take a realistic view of the situation. If you studied and answered the questions correctly – you will do well. Period. Understand?”
Rajani nodded dutifully.
“Where’s my breakfast?” Suryakant raised his voice just as Nisha came out of the kitchen at a trot carrying a tray full of delicious goodies.
Suryakant grunted and worked his way through his favorite meal of the day. And it was Nisha’s job to keep track of his likes and dislikes, pick up nuances and trending topics and make sure the menu reflected the same. Half way through he looked up. “Rani what about your breakfast?”
In lieu of an answer, Rajani pressed a hand to her mouth and dashed off once again.
Suryakant looked at Nisha who was wringing her hands. “What?”
“Please don’t go to the office, you can see what state Rani is in and if the results are…” she buried her face in her arms and burst into tears.
“What happened Mamma? Have my results…” Tears started rolling down her cheeks.
Suryakant was quite annoyed and he made no bones about it. “Nothing has happened – Yet.” They froze. “Now, can I have my breakfast in peace? Both of you join me.” He ordered but they both looked at each other and shuddered.
“Papa, the internet still isn’t working. What will we do? How will I know my results?”
“Probably best if we didn’t get to know your results.”
“Papa!” Rajani protested.
“Obviously, if this is the state without the results, once they come I wonder what will happen.” Sated, he went to wash up. Rajani tagged along.
“Papa, choose one finger.” She held out two fingers and stood with her eyes closed lips moving. “Please!” She interrupted her prayers to urge him to hurry up and decide her fate.
“Oh Rani!” Suryakant sighed, “Okay, this one,” saying he touched the bigger finger before Nisha could stop him.
Rajani dissolved in a flood of tears. “I am surely going to fail. Oh Papa I am so…sorreeee.” She cried buckets.
Suryakant withdrew from the circus while Nisha tried her best to console Rajani
“Shush dear shush. Everything will be fine. Just have some patience and faith dear.” Nisha went step further and asserted. “I know everything will be fine.”
“Oh Mamma! You are sure na? You aren’t just saying that are you?” Rajani’s wet face glowed with hope.
Nisha clamped down on her own fears and worries and pasted a confident smile on her face. “Of course I am sure. Would I lie to you?”
“Oh Mamma.” Rajani sank into her arms in relief.
“It’s not just fine!” Suryakant stood at the doorway wearing a strange expression. He held up his mobile. “I just got a message from the board.”
Rajani gave a shriek and proceeded to strangle her mother. “Nooo!!! Papa please…
“Relax dear.” Rajani looked up in surprise. His face was glowing and he was smiling. He nodded at her startled look. “Yes you have not only done very well but you topped the state boards as well!”
Their roof all but flew off.
Rajani jumped up and down in delight. And Nisha joined in. Suryakant wished he too could forget his status and join in.
“How much did I get?” Rajani eagerly took the phone from her father and pored over the sms.
“Very good Rani!” Nisha couldn’t believe her eyes, “100% in math and 99% in physics and an overall 97.6%. My daughter is brilliant!” She ran to the mandir to convey her gratefulness while Rajani floated up amongst the clouds.
“What about Shikha?” Rajani asked once she had calmed down.
Suryakant shook his head. “I don’t know. I just got an sms regarding your marks and that you had topped from my ‘contact’ in the board office.
Rajani clapped her hands and danced out on her way to Shikha’s.
“Rajji!” Shikha stood leaning by the door pale but smiling, “How did you do? I got 92% but I got 100 % in math!”
“Yay! Me too!” they hugged each other, “and Shiks I topped the state boards with 97.6% can you believe it?”
It was Suri’s roof’s turn to tremble and cling on with grim determination. It barely made it what with all the pandemonium and hullabaloo that permeated to all corners of Chandigarh.
Up next Chapter 65: Right on Top