“Come on Rajji, try once more!” Shikha urged. “Bhai did it, I am sure you can too.”
Rajani shook her head,.“I don’t think I can.”
“Just…,” Rajani raised her shoulders and let them fall helplessly. “I can’t.”
“Why can’t you?”
Rajani shook her head staring at her broken arm in the cast.
“Oh come on! Don’t go the tragedy queen way. Why not? Changed your mind about becoming a doctor?”
“Yes.” Rajani grabbed the lifeline but Shikha wasn’t fooled one bit.
“Liar! You are a lazy cowardly lump.” She snorted.
Rajani swallowed. “Cowardly?”
“Yes. Too cowardly to pursue your dream.”
Rajani hung her head. “Mamma Papa want me to…” she began.
“Exactly!” pounced Shikha, “they want you to. But what do you want?”
Rajani shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.”
“It does. Remember what the career counseling mam told us? Career is like a marriage, once you choose it, it’s becomes your partner for life. So choose wisely.”
“I like Math.”
“But you love medicine right?”
“Oh Shiks anyone would think you don’t want me to come along with you to college! Wouldn’t you like me to be there with you?”
“I would of course. But not if you are going to burst into tears every other minute.”
“I am not bursting into tears!” Rajani was up in arms.
“You could have fooled me,” Shikha snapped, “Just look at your face. The great martyr, Rajani Rani, off to the guillotine.”
“I am not.”
“Okay fine. Here,” Rajani bared her teeth, “that better?”
“What? I didn’t see.” Shikha said, fiddling about on the dresser.
“This.” Rajani stretched her lips and held it for Shikha’s inspection and approval.
“You decide.” Shikha found what she was looking for. She held the hand mirror and let Rajani have a glimpse of her pale dull face, hollow sunken lifeless eyes topped by the ugly grimace pasted on her face.
“Whaa!” Rajani backed off.
“Haven’t been looking in the mirror have you?” Shikha said grimly. “One look and you back off while we have to see this ghastly apparition day in and day out. How fair is that?”
“I am sorry.” Rajani sat there shame-faced. “I will make a greater effort.”
“To cover up your emotions?” Shikha rolled her eyes.
Rajani was silent.
“That’s not what I meant you know? I meant that you have to drag yourself out of the pit that you have fallen into and start afresh. What’s the harm?”
“But Shiks, suppose I don’t get in next year either? What will I do alone in some God-forsaken college? At least you are here now.” She smiled convincingly. “If you are there, sooner or later, I will be fine.” She reached out and squeezed her hand.
Shikha jerked her hand away quite out of patience with the watery Rajji. “Now I am here. What will happen later, when I get married and go away? You have to take a stand, fight for what you want. At least be clear what you want!”
“All I want is for Mamma Papa and you to be happy.”
“I don’t know about your parents but I will be happy if you become a doctor.”
“Oh now I know!” Rajani’s brow cleared. “You wanted to save on doctors fees.” There was a ghost of a twinkle in her eye.
Shikha glared at her. “Yes of course. What else?” She refused to be appeased.
“Shiks did you read the Harry Potter book yet?”
“Changing the topic wont make the problem go away.” Shikha was like a dog with a bone.
“Oho Shiks, drop it. I am fine. Pucca promise.” She made a creditable attempt at a smile. “I have made up my mind. I want to do Math honors and,” her eyes twinkled, “score higher than you.”
“Oh right!” Rajani nodded, “now I understand why you don’t want me to join you in college. You are afraid I will beat you…” she jumped out of reach just as Shikha made a lunge at her. “Hey watch out huh! I have a broken arm.”
“So what? I got a broken head. Just because nobody can see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there.” She huffed.
“Okay okay fine. Truce? Tell me, did you read the Harry Potter book yet?”
“Yes! And you know what happens….”
“Nooooo…Lalalalalalaaaa” Poor Rajani had only one hand free to plug her ears. Hence Rajani attempted to drown out Shikha’s voice. Nisha came running.
“Oh you girls will be the death of me one of these days.” She retired a hand to her heart – though she was pleased to see that her old Rani was showing signs of returning.
“Please Shiks, please don’t tell me what happens. Let me read it first please.” Rajani was hopping up and down in agitation while Shikha had her nose up in the air.
“Hmmph. I have a good mind to tell you. You really have been a BIG pain.” Shikha scowled at Rajani ferociously. Rajani held her ear in abject apology. “But then, I also haven’t read it!” she grinned triumphantly.
“Whaaa…Shikhaa!” Rajani made to jump her but Shikha put a hand to her head. “Owww my head, oww!”
“Shiks, Shikha are you okay?” Rajani was instantly by her side. “I am sorry I didn’t mean to…”
“Okay okay now don’t drown me in your sorries and thank yous.” Shikha got up. “I better go and start reading Hari puttar and finish it before you do.” She stuck out her tongue at Rajani and vanished.
Nisha came running. “Rani! What’s the matter? Are you okay? Where’s Shikha?”
“She’s gone. Mamma where the Harry Potter book? Hurry, I want to read it.”
Nisha pulled out the book from the cupboard and handed it to her.
Rajani cradled the fat tome in her arm and caressed the cover. “Mamma could I have some chips, something to eat? I am starving.”
“Yes of course dear,” Nisha choked as tears pooled in her eyes.
But for once, Rajani didn’t notice. She was already far away from the land of Muggles.
And Nisha wasn’t even put out. She shook her head and dropped a kiss on her little baby’s head as the Potter starved Rajani plunged into the book.
Nish went off to her kitchen via a brief stopover at Bhagwanji for some heartfelt thanks and blessings for Shikha. She had thought that they had lost Rani forever.
The next few days passed in a magical daze with neither Shikha nor Rajani getting much sleep – they were too busy having nightmares or chewing nails down to the bone. They emerged hollow eyed and exhausted.
“No more Hari Puttar books,” they moaned when they finally met after their marathon reading sessions were over. But there were lots to discuss and sigh over – Ron and Hermione! Who would have thought? Perhaps Harry and Hermione but better this way – Ginny was no competition – they burst into giggles.
And before they had finished dissecting the latest book and comparing notes with the earlier volumes, it was time for them to go. There was just enough time for Rajani to get rid of her cast and begin some preliminary physiotherapy. Rajani’s arm was still painful and sore fortunately it was her left hand. As it is, even without the cast daily chores like plaiting her hair remained a major hurdle, but there was something else that was even more worrying.
When they went to the hospital to remove the cast, Suryakant was horrified. “Doctor, there is such a big scar. Can’t you do something?”
“You could try plastic surgery…
“Yes! Can you suggest a good doctor?”
“Sure I can. But remember, the scar is unlikely to vanish. Plus it is expensive and initially it may look worse…”
“Papa please,” Rajani pulled away her father after thanking the doctor. “Let it be Papa. It doesn’t bother me. I am happy to have my arm.” She smiled at her father. But he continued to frown.
Even Nisha was aghast. “Such a big scar! Now what will happen?” She stared at her husband. He walked inside.
“What will happen meaning?” Rajani was confused.
“Are you 18 or 8?” Snapped Nisha, “Who will want to get married to you now?”
It was Rajani’s turn to stare. “You mean because of this scar, I may not get married? Come on Mamma, this is the 21st century!”
“This may be the 31st century for all I care, people aren’t going to change.”
“Well I refuse to get married to a person who makes this scar a condition.” Rajani was very clear. “Don’t worry Mamma,” she gave her a hug, “I am not getting married any time soon. By the time I do, I will be working in such a high post, that the best of the best will be standing in queue begging to marry me.” Rajani giggled. “But of course I will remain true to your one and only Hari Puttar.”
Nisha couldn’t help but laugh yet a dull dread settled in the corner of her heart.
Up next Chapter 69: Off to College