Unwilling to push Bhai in this mood, Rajani nodded to Shikha to choose her meal. After a bit of whispered conversation, they arrived at a reluctant consensus and placed their order (pssst just in case you are interested, the poor waiter’s notepad was all but finished by the time they were done – they changed their minds so many times. It was only when Abhi looked up from his mobile and intervened that the final order was placed. The waiter demanded a 15 minute recess to recover from an order overdose 😀 Oh dear there I go rambling again…)
Exhausted, the girls sank back into their seats and attempted to recover from the extreme strain of having to choose between the yummy and the delicious. If only Papa was here to set the budget constraints and Mamma to decide what they liked – things would have been so much simpler. And of course Bhai would also have been easier to manage.
He wore such a grim distant expression. Rajani’s heart went out to him. Poor Bhai, so much of discomfort and yet he was here – for her.
“Bhai did you take some medicine?” Abhi ignored her. “I know!” Rajani clicked her fingers. “I have Pudin Hara in the hostel. I will give it you when we go back.” She paused. “Or better still I will buy for you from the chemist shop. There is bound to be one here.” She got up. “I will be back in a jiffy. Come Shikha.”
“Rani sit down,” Abhi said wearily, “there’s no need to fuss so much.” He shook his head. “Just like Mom.” His eyes widened in alarm. “And don’t you dare mention any of this to Mom or Papa. Okay?”
Rajani looked rather helplessly at Shikha who rolled her eyes.
“Okay?” Abhi insisted. “I will never hear the end of it. In fact, it would be best if you said I saw the movie with you before leaving for Manipal.”
“You mean lie to Mamma and Papa?” Rajani was aghast.
“Grow up Rajani! It’s not really a lie, a white lie.”
“But why lie at all? What difference does it make?”
Abhi shrugged. “I am just trying to save them a bit of worry. They worry when I am on the road. So if I tell them I am with you guys watching a movie, they will have to worry half the time.” He looked smug.
“But wont they become suspicious if you reach in half the time?”
“Oh Rani don’t quibble. I will handle that! Just do what I am saying okay?
Uncomfortable, Rajani hesitated. The arrival of their order was a welcome diversion.
Abhi’s phone beeped. He sipped his fresh lime soda. He fidgeted for a bit. “Oh I almost forgot! I better go and get your movie tickets.” He was gone before they could protest.
“What’s up with him?” Rajani wondered. Shikha shrugged. She had learned the hard way to keep her thoughts regarding her brother to herself. Rajani was not only protective of her brother but also held double standards where he was concerned. She was allowed to criticize him but woe betides anyone if they dared to even think ill of him.
Abhi was back in remarkably a short time. “There you go,” he handed Rajani two tickets for the movie Partner. “I am sure you will enjoy the movie, it’s a total laugh riot.” He smiled and then coughed. He shuffled and ruffled his hair.
The girls looked at him perplexed.
There was something odd…
“Oh and I bumped into a gang from college.” He waved his hand, “They wanted to meet you. Ritu, Sahil, Ganga meet my sister Rani, I mean Rajani and her friend Shikha.”
They smiled and exchanged greetings. Rajani looked at Shikha who looked at her warningly. Ritu was wearing a pink top.
“Nice to see you guys!” Ganga sang out. “Abhi do you mind if we go for a spot of shopping?”
“Sure go ahead.”
“Great then, catch you later. Will call you. Coming Ritu?”
Ritu made a face. “No thanks! I don’t want to be the odd woman out.” Ritu looked at the girls. “If you don’t mind could I join you guys? I think I will be more welcome here!” She grinned at Ganga who stuck out her tongue and vanished dragging Sahil along with her.
Ritu looked at Rajani. “You sure you don’t mind right? Ganga’s already ditched me.” She mourned.
“Oh no, no of course not,” the girls disclaimed. “Please join us.”
Abhi rushed to pull out a chair. Rajani stared. Shikha nudged her. Rajani coughed. “What a lovely pink top!”
Ritu smiled. “Thank you. It is nice isn’t it?”
“Yes! Where did you buy it from?” Rajani was determined to have her fun. She slid a sidelong glance to Abhi who was looking at Ritu. Rajani was taken aback at the besotted expression on Bhai’s face. It was quite a shock – her cool, collected Devil may care Bhai making puppy eyes at a girl!
“Oh I got it as a gift.”
“Ritu!” They started at the urgency in Abhi’s voice. He lightened. “I mean, what will you have? Here have a look,” he thrust the menu card at her.
Rajani’s shoulders shook alarmingly. Shikha gave up elbowing her.
“Oh I couldn’t eat anything! I am stuffed.” She turned to Abhi. “Aren’t you?”
“Have something,” Abhi cut in, “the fresh lime soda is very refreshing.”
Ritu wavered. “Hmm. Lemme see.” She picked up his glass and took a sip. “Yeah nice! The mint flavor and the hint of ginger are good.” She smiled at Abhi. “Okay I will have one.”
Abhi flushed with pleasure and shot up to catch the waiter’s eye.
Rajani’s giggles dried up as she watched the byplay in wide-eyed silence.
“So,” she smiled at the girls, “you are both studying Math honors here?”
They nodded dumbly.
Ritu shuddered. “I don’t know how any one could do Math! You must be real brainy.”
Rajani mellowed. “Nothing of the sort. In fact I wanted to be a doctor like Bhai.”
“Oh that’s interesting. I didn’t know!” She looked at Abhi. “You should have also joined Abhi at Manipal. We would have had fun.”
Rajani swallowed wishing she had kept her mouth shut. “No, it’s not like that. I had got into AIIMS and other medical colleges in Delhi but…”
“Oh dash it look at the time! Almost time for your show Rani. Come on hurry up and finish up.”
“But Bhai the movie starts at 1.30 pm and it’s barely 12.30.”
“Oh. Are you sure the ticket says 1.30 and not 12.30?”
“Yeah sure Bhai. Here have a look.”
Abhi peered intently at the tickets. “Yeah. That right. Oh well any way never mind. You still got to eat, there’s still loads left!”
“Oh I am stuffed.” Shikha groaned.
“Me too. Can we pack it?”
“Pack a doggy bag?” Abhi was scathing, “that’s so…”
“But we al…”
“Never mind, do as you wish.” He cut in hastily. “But I doubt if they will let you carry it in the movie hall.” He warned.
“That’s the way here.” Abhi said. “Excuse me.” He trotted off to the washroom.
Excuse me!? Since when did Bhai excuse himself?
Up next Chapter 86: Movie Time