“We are on the way to the hostel now Uncle.” Shikha began walking pulling Rajani along so as not to give lie to her words. “There was some college fracas in the morning and we had to go to the Dean’s office to sort it out. In the hullabaloo, Rajani must have missed the phone call.” Instinctively, Shikha opted for safety and settled for the half-truth.
But Rajani wouldn’t let well enough alone. She wrested her phone away Shikha and burst out. “Oh Papa! It’s been such a terrible morning. Everyone was teasing me about Bhai and then someone had locked a cat inside a drawer, which flew out.” Rajani steamrolled ahead quite uncaring if Suryakant was on board or whether she made any sense. “The Dean called me for an explanation. He threatened to expel Sameer. Oh Papa I wish Bhai had come in the morning then none of this would have happened.”
“Called you for an explanation?! Explanation for what?”
“Explanation about the sequence of events and whether I had any hand or knowledge about the cat trapped in the drawer.”
“You are not making any sense Rani.” Suryakant was all at sea, his primary concern being his daughter’s sanity. “Cat, drawer? What could you possibly have to do with cats?”
“Exactly Papa!” Rani wiped her face and perked up. She felt comforted that her father knew her so well. “What could I have to do with cats? But these people didn’t believe me and thought it was either me or Sameer…” Rani began sobbing again.
This time Shikha took away the phone, “Hello Uncle, this is Shikha. Please don’t worry about Rajani. Everything is fine and sorted out now and nobody is blaming Rajani now. Some boys were having some fun and poor Rajani got entangled in it, but now everything is fine. Rajani is just a bit emotionally charged. She will soon be fine.”
“Okay if you say so,” Suryakant was relieved and glad of the chance to let matters drop, for now. He would take an account from Abhi and then draw his own conclusion of the matter. Now it was time to bring the other watering pot under control before she flooded Chandigarh or tore his shirtsleeve.
“Come on Budhoo, stop crying,” Shikha urged, “Everything is fine now so why are you crying?” Shikha coughed and gave a sly look. “Should I call Harry? Poor thing was looking so upset throughout! It’s a wonder that he didn’t smash his way into the Dean’s office.”
Rajani sniffed and made a valiant attempt to bring her overwrought emotions under control. She scrubbed her face dry and glared at Shikha who was quite unfazed. If anything she looked pleased with herself.
“Oh look there’s your precious Bhai. Now stop crying for goodness sake!” Shikha hissed as she plastered a smile on her face. “Hello Abhi bhaiyya. Good to see you.”
Abhi was clearly on the warpath yet he valiantly swallowed his ire and returned the greeting politely enough even though his eyes darted towards Rajani shooting daggers, “ Hello Shikha. Good to see you too. Sorry I am late.” His voice was heavy with sarcasm.
Rajani scrubbed her face and sniffed. She opened her mouth but no words would come out. Shikha rolled her eyes. “No problem bhaiyya,” she said sweetly, “actually we also just got free. There was some brouhaha at the college and we were all stuck at the Dean’s office. We just got free.”
“I see. And what exactly happened? How was Rani involved?”
Shikha groaned mentally. Uncle had already called and briefed Abhi. Now phone calls weren’t a waste of money? She thought a bit put out as Rajani’s sobs began afresh.
“Have you eaten Bhaiyya?” Shikha said brightly. “You must be starving. We definitely are! Isn’t it so Rajji?” Shikha nudged her but Rajani was too involved in the waterworks to give much thought to anything else. “I think we can chat while eating.” Shikha suggested. “Shall we go to Rocky’s?” She began walking dragging Rajani along. Abhi followed albeit reluctantly. He was hungry. Rocky’s would hopefully also have a washroom.
“What’s this place?” Abhi stopped short in his tracks as he stared at Rocky’s joint with deep suspicion and disdain.
Shikha was taken aback as was Rajani – so much as to forget her woes. “The college canteen Bhai,” said timidly. “It’s very good. Especially the bread pakoras.”
“I come all the way from Manipal to eat bread pakoras?” Abhi was incredulous. “No thanks.”
“But…but Bhai, we don’t have anything else at this time, he makes samosas a bit later in the day.”
“We’ll go out then,” Abhi said decisively, “this joint looks most unhealthy and quite repulsive,” he gave a shudder. “You should see our college canteen,” he boasted rather superiorly, “so clean and classy not like this rundown shabby makeshift canteen…”
“Are we going to Manipal hostel canteen for lunch?” Shikha couldn’t quite help herself.
Abhi didn’t even bother with a glance to her – he simply walked off leaving the girls to follow him. He walked with swift strides and the girls were hard put to keep pace. Shikha was fuming and in a good mind not to go for lunch at all and said as much to Rajani.
“Rajani, you carry on ahead, I think I will stay back. I am feeling rather tired,” she fibbed though not very convincingly.
Rajani would have none of it and turned on the waterworks once again. “No! Shiks don’t leave me alone with Bhai in this mood. Please! He is bound to chew my head off. Didn’t you see how mad he was?” Rajani held on to Shikha’s arm in a death grip to ensure that she couldn’t just disappear.
Shikha pried away Rajani’s fingers. “Don’t exaggerate Rajji. He isn’t going to anything of the sort. He is after all your brother.” Shikha tried to buck her up. “And if he did want to eat you up why would he bother to go to some fancy restaurant?”
“Budhoo.” Rajani gave a watery smile. “You know what I mean. If you were there Bhai would have to control his temper out of consideration of your presence. Please Shiks, don’t ditch me please. I swear I wont lend you my Math notes if you don’t come. Please Shiks please.” Rajani alternately begged and threatened while Abhi strode off ahead quite unmindful of the drama being played out behind his back.
Shikha had little choice but to give in. “Okay fine,” she grumbled, “but I swear if your brother is rude to me or you, I will give him a piece of my mind.”
“Please relax Shiks, he wont do anything of the sort.” A relieved Rajani soothed her. “He is probably just starving. He will be back to his usual sunny self once he has eaten.” They giggled.
Rajani’s eyes widened as she worriedly scanned the crowd ahead. “But where is Bhai?”
Up next Chapter 82: Truce