The Suris were very fond of Rajani and the idea appealed to them. It was a win-win situation for all – Shikha wouldn’t be alone and once in college Rajani was sure to recover. Staying here alone, moping over what could have been, wasn’t going to help.
They lost no time in consulting the Ahujas for even the Bengaluru College admission was on its last legs.
Suryakant saw merit in the suggestion. He would have never thought of sending Rajani alone so far but if Shikha was going and Suri was willing to not only arrange for Rajani’s admission but also share the task of escorting them, it made sense to accept the offer. Nisha was dead against it.
“Send her away so far?” She was aghast. “In this condition? How will she manage? What if…”
“There is no end to what ifs.” Suryakant had made up his mind. “What choice do we have? Let her join a local college? Would that not worsen her pain? Every day she is sure to meet some well-meaning person or the other who would pour salt over her wounds. They would pity her, sympathize with her do tsk tsk while laughing behind her back, making fun of us – No, no out of the question.”
“Why not let her rest and recover at home? She could study and give the exam again next year?”
“What if she doesn’t get through next year? I cannot bear to see her heart break once again. This is the best possible solution for her – put her in a new environment, she will be so busy adjusting that she will have no time to mope or mourn.”
Nish had no choice but to accept her husband’s decision. But she could and did shed buckets for her unfortunate child.
“Rani beta.” Suryakant sat down beside the pale shadow of his bright bubbly girl. It hurt to see her like this. But he clamped down on his emotions, that wouldn’t help her. “Rani I think it is best if you joined college,” hope flared in Rajani’s dull eyes Papa was sending her to Manipal, “in Bengaluru. Shikha is going there to do Math honors. You are good at Math and aced the boards too. I am sure you will enjoy it.” He patted her bent head. He cleared his throat. “No point in crying over spilt milk. And always remember whatever happens, happens for the best. There must be something good in this also. You were not meant to be a doctor. And you mustn’t forget that being a doctor and managing home, hearth, children is very difficult.” Rajani looked at her father. Encouraged, he nodded. “Just think dear, soon in a couple of years you will be married…”
“I don’t want to get married.” Rajani interrupted. “I want to work. Be independent. Earn my own salary. That’s why…” tears slid down her cheeks.
“I understand beta,” Suryakant was his softest best, “and I appreciate this mind set of yours.” Rajani wiped her tears. “But so what if you don’t become a doctor, you can still work. Do graduation and then do a B. Ed course and you can easily get a job in a school. And that’s the best kind of a job for a lady – respectable, decent hours and lots of vacations. The pay isn’t too bad. And the best part is, suppose your husband or in-laws don’t want you to go out and work, you can always take home tuitions! Wouldn’t that be great? You contribute to the family finances, retain your independence and stay at home and manage the kitchen like a good wife should.”
“But Papa, I don’t want to get married. I don’t want to teach in a school. I want to help people get better.”
“And what better way than to educate them?”
“But Papa, couldn’t I try for medicine again next year? Like Bhai did?”
“Didn’t you tell your mother that you didn’t want to try again?”
Rajani nodded her head. “Yes Papa. But I have been thinking…”
“Don’t think so much. Just do what I am telling you. I know what is best for you and that is to move on. What’s the point in wasting a year? Suppose next year too something happens? After all who can fight fate? No, no I cannot permit you to take the risk.”
“Papa please?” Rajani was like a broken record.
“Rani, you are young and you haven’t seen anything of life nor do you understands the signs. When such a big thing happens,” he pointed to her cast, “then it is time to change directions. Trust me. Right now a golden opportunity has fallen into our laps, without even moving a finger. Suriji himself came to our house, offered to arrange your admission, in a subject, which is your strength. And Shikha your best friend will also be with you – how big a sign is that? Fate is trying to tell you something and if you don’t heed it,” he shook his head, “it can only lead to disaster.”
Suryakant stood up. “I said what I had to. Now it’s up to you. After all you are a big enough to take life’s decisions on your own.” He wore a defeated expression. “What can I say? I can only give you my blessings.” He patted her head and walked away with a slow heavy tread.
Dull and sad, Rajani could only stare after him.
Next it was Nisha’s turn to convince her.
“Ra…niii.” Nisha fell on her neck and burst into tears. “Whose evil eye has put a jinx on our happiness? First it was poor Maya who had to leave us, then your Bhai didn’t get in to medical college despite trying so hard and now youuuuuuu.” She sobbed and sobbed. “What bad karma are we paying for? What wrong have we ever done to others that we have to pay such a heavy price?” Nisha was quite inconsolable and Rajani was hard put to manage her.
Nisha was a crier of course and they had shed many a tear together over various events and non-events but Rajani had never seen her lose control quite as much before. Concerned and heart going out to her mother, Rajani roused herself and set about consoling her mother.
“Never mind Mamma. What Papa said is right. There must be something good in this also. Fate is giving us an indication and if we don’t take the hint there will be disaster. Now come on,” she pushed her mother up and wiped her tears, “don’t cry, be happy. Things could have been worse.” She choked on her smile.
“How much worse could it have been?” Nisha was beyond consolation.
“Well,” Rajani hated to say it but she didn’t know how else to convince her mother, “I could have gone the way Maya didi did.”
Nisha stared at her blankly freezing up before dissolving in a torrent of emotional outburst, “How dare you say such a thing? How can you remind me of that? Oh I can’t take this anguish and pain any more. Bhagwanji call me back to you, please.”
“Mamma!” once again the tears started rolling down Rajani’s cheeks, “What about me? What about Papa and Bhai?”
They sobbed on each other’s shoulders and ultimately ended with Rajani biting the bullet.
“It’s okay Mamma. Don’t cry. I am fine. And Papa was right. It will be fun to go to college with Shiks. I was dreading going away alone but now it’s all well. I should go and be happy that my year is not being wasted. And I like Math and in fact, I am better at Math than Shikha is!” She laughed.
Cheered by the return of the familiar carefree Rajani, Nisha took heart and managed to control herself. A little later, she was composed enough to submit a mission-accomplished report to Suryakant.
Kirti conveyed the good news to Shikha, who surprisingly frowned and dashed off to Rajani’s place.
“Oh so the Maharani decided to return to from wherever she had vanished.” She pounced without any further ado.
Rajani gaped. “Wha…? What’s the matter? You look angry?”
“Angry?” Shikha thrust her face into hers, “of course I am angry. For a month now you have been wallowing in self-pity, ignoring me, as if you don’t even know who I am, behaving as if you are the only one to have suffered. I also missed the counseling, DU, even I had made plans, HUGE plans.”
Rajani winced and shrank back. “Relax Shikha, my arm…”
“Your arm.” Shikha was on the warpath, “Just because it is broken doesn’t mean that you have more pain than I do. I have massive blinding headaches. I can’t sleep at nights but did you ask me even once? What will you ask? You don’t even let ME ask!” fumes emerged from Shikha’s nose and ears while shooting sparks from her red eyes.
Rajani stared at her taken aback with the unexpected vitriolic attack. Her nostrils flared, her lips quivered, “Sh…iks,” her voice shook, “you look just like Biji,” she gasped before erupting into giggles.
Horror struck, Shikha froze until Rajani’s giggles got the better of her – Shikha let go of her dignity and joined in heartily. It had been quite a while. They giggled to their hearts content until Rajani’s tears started. Shikha held her and let her cry.
“Okay enough now.” Shikha’s back was aching, “leave some tears for when you say bye to Aunty and Uncle. By the way, why the tears?”
Rajani sniffed and blew her nose. She gave Shikha a watery smile. “I did want to be doctor.” Her voice trembled but she held on.
Shikha narrowed her eyes and frowned. “Exactly what I came to talk to you about before you started all this rona-dhona, Ganga-Jamuna and dragged me into the waterworks.” She paused. “If you want to be a doctor, why did you agree to the Math honors? You could try again next year. You did it once, you could do it again!” she snapped her fingers.
Rajani stared at her in hope and despair.
Up next Chapter 68: Reboot