Anya was rather quiet at the dinner table, though not so much as to draw any attention to herself or raise eyebrows; but she clearly was in a reflective mood after her talk with her parents and of course, Khushi.
Following her chat with Anjali and Khsitij, she felt loads better – she felt light and free, as if a huge burden had actually been lifted; strange that she didn’t even know she had been lugging it with her. The altercation with her parents, the heated argument (the first ever!), the thoughtless words she had screamed at them – she blushed to even think about them and had not even mentioned them to Mami, what would she have thought of her? – it had left her more shaken and disturbed than she had let on. She was disgusted and ashamed of herself, how could she be so rude, she didn’t even stop to think for a moment how her parents would feel and for what? Was it because she really had ‘feelings’ for Sherry or was it because she just didn’t like the idea of being answerable, or because it meant her ‘independence’ at stake? Could anyone be truly ‘independent’ she wondered, rather belatedly (ah well better late than never eh?) Even her parents, as adults were answerable to her and in fact always consulted her; like now when they wanted to go away for a couple of days, they had asked her ‘permission’ even Ankit’s for that matter. As a family, weren’t they all dependent on each other, have expectations from each other, care for each other, didn’t she caution Ankit all the time?
She shook her head at herself, and you consider yourself wise, old and mature, she silently jeered herself. Did you bother to put yourself in their place, leave that, how would you like it if either of them refused to be answerable to you citing ‘independence’? But her parents were the best – her throat clogged, she was the luckiest girl in the whole world to have such a wonderful family. BadiNani was right; DM took away with one hand but gave back with both hands. Thank you Devi Maiyya, unbidden, she sent up a brief prayer of gratefulness.
Her mind wandered back to the satisfying conversation with her parents.
A little while ago
“Hello Anya?” there has been a faint note of panic in Anjie’s voice, as she took Anya’s call, “Everything ok?”
“Yes Anjie,” Anya muttered hesitantly wondering how to begin to apologize, justify, explain; there was silence, then a tremulous sigh, “Anya darling, don’t have to say anything sweetheart,” She could hear the tears in Anjie’s voice, “Thank you for calling darling, I’ve been so worried and upset, I didn’t want to leave you like that, but…”
“Oh Anjie, I am sorry I was really mean to you and dad, I love you Anjie, I miss you, don’t be mad at me please Mommy,” Anya burst in, the words flowing out easily along with her tears; since Anjali too was in tears, it fell to Khsitij to manage her and Anya as best as he could. Sometime later when they had both calmed down to hold a coherent conversation, Anya reassured her parents, “I am sorry Mom, Dad, this Sherry thing, it’s nothing you know, don’t worry, I over-reacted, my fault, of course you would be worried and concerned, I am just 14, I understand now, I am sorry, I promise I won’t do anything foolish, you guys enjoy yourselves ok?” Anya unburdened herself, hiccuping intermittently.
“Anya darling we love you, how can we be mad at you, but yes we were worried, and not just your fault you know,” the relief in Anjali’s voice was palpable, “We too over-reacted, actually,” she hesitated and ignoring Khsitij warning shake, it was easier to say on the phone she decided and perhaps it was time Anya knew the harsh truth; if Anya could learn from her mistakes, if the knowledge helped her be even a little more circumspect, then she would share her agony and shame, “Actually Anya, I overreacted because of certain unfortunate incidents in the past; before I met you or your father,” she swallowed as her voice failed her, Kshitij squeezed her hand and hugged her; drawing strength from his warm solid presence, she continued, “My earlier husband, he…he tricked me, actually he tricked all of us and…and married me under false pretensions, just…just to get his hands on my wealth,” her voice broke, “he set out to destroy not only the peace of the Raizadas but also that of the Guptas; he also made life threatening attacks on your Mamu, Dadaji and,” Anjie faltered, but then she steeled herself for Anya’s benefit; Anya was at standing at the threshold of womanhood, times were changing, she was growing up fast and she couldn’t be shielded from the harsh realities of life lest it all come back to attack her, “even our unborn child,” her voice strengthened and firmed, “all for his selfish gains.”
There was a shocked silence as Anya tried to absorb the full import of what Anjie was saying; her heart went out to Anjie – oh the agony she must have suffered, “Oh Anjie,” she whispered, “I am so so very very sorry, I didn’t realize, and my thoughtless comments, time and again, oh I am really really sorry,” guilt clawed Anya; how she had pestered Anjie for a baby; oh how it must have hurt – her tears fell thick and fast.
“Anya darling, you are not to blame yourself for anything,” Anjali’s voice was strong and firm, “You are one of best things that happened to me, it is true that when Devi Maiyya takes away with one hand, she gives back with two hands,” Anjali’s voice was laced with with a wealth of love and affection, “You brought back meaning into my life, gave me a reason to smile, to hope once again, dare to live again,” she coughed and cleared her throat, “ I didn’t tell you all this to blame you but to show you that we cannot be overly cautious in these matters,” She paused and then continued, “You are not only very young but also very wealthy and I wouldn’t want you to fall into the same trap as I did; I didn’t want to disillusion you at such a young age, but I would hate for you to fall into the clutches of a gold-digger,” she paused and then rushed on, “of course I am not saying that your friend is anything like that,” she hastily added in case Anya got the wrong impression, “I am just trying to make you understand why I couldn’t deal with this in a more rational manner,” she apologized, “And hopefully also caution you against rushing headlong into something that you may regret later.”
Anya listened in silence, appropriately horrified and chastened; they were right, she was very young and immature, “I am sorry Anjie, I didn’t know, I understand. I really do, you can yell at me any time you want, just just don’t be mad at me please, love you and dad loads,” she assured them again and again and sought reassurance as well.
She now sat nibbling thoughtfully at her food only dimly aware of the conversation at the dining table, ‘life-threatening attacks on Mamu, Dadaji and Anjie’s unborn child!’ But that meant his own child – how could anyone be so evil? She shuddered at the anguish and pain that must have been Anjie’s; her heart went out to her. Young as she was, Anya could still comprehend the depth of the tragedy of losing one’s child and to do that by the hands of one’s own husband -how much more terrible it must have been. No wonder she had nearly burst an artery when she had gotten to know about Sherry, she mused. Justifiable, she mused to herself. ‘Life threatening attacks on Mamu and Dadaji’ as well – how was Dadaji linked to all this? She wondered. As far as she knew, they weren’t all that well off, so money couldn’t have been…
Anya’s investigative direction of thoughts was broken by the boys who got into a squabble; she hurriedly separated them. Arnav took permission to take a piece of chicken, she smiled and nodded. She saw Arnav trying to cajole Khushi into trying a bit of the chicken. She was struck as she observed the two – strange how she had never noticed how they looked at each other before! She had always thought that they were forever fighting and squabbling like children or worse, siblings.
But then today as she looked at the pair of them lost in a world of their own, Anya was aware of goose pimples; she felt as if she were intruding on a very private moment, a light flush stained her cheeks; she hurriedly looked away. Unable to resist, she looked back – she could feel herself getting sucked into the maelstrom of emotions, her heart fluttered and she blushed furiously, she felt as if she too were part of an emotionally intense moment; guiltily she dragged her eyes away.
She played around with her food as several thoughts jostled within; one thing was clear, she wouldn’t marry until and unless the guy looked at her like Mamu looked at Mami, she vowed. Or perhaps till she felt just as Mami clearly did! Her expressive face mirrored her thoughts so evocatively that there was no scope for any doubts – the absolutely adoring expression, she looked totally besotted and so deeply in love. And no wonder Mamu was staring at her so…so…yes, no other word for it, so hungrily at Mami – and Mami, she looked so happy, so ethereally beautiful, a glow suffused her face – it was almost as if they were enveloped in a magical cocoon where only the two of them existed. She sneaked a look again, her heart warmed over; she felt as if she could reach out and touch their ‘love’ it was so palpable and tangible; so this was what was love, she thought with a catch in her heart; I have finally seen love, she thought awed by the phenomenon and that is what she aspired to now.
It was this or nothing, she vowed – so Sherry was just a good friend, she smiled to herself, a bit relieved. For if truth be told, she did have a sort of a crush on him, but now it was all clear, that was just puppy love, the real thing was still elusive; she looked down at her plate, intently drawing squiggles with a finger.
She sighed soulfully and then grinned, everybody would be relieved, Sherry included! Come to think of it, perhaps he too was worried that she would fall for him and that is why he was constantly talking of her studies, her career – hmpph fat chance, he was sooo old, probably be bald and wearing dentures by the time she was of age! She grinned and texted (not chexting as she was all messy with sauce and all),: ‘Lucky day for you – got a grilling about our ‘friendship’ But for my diplomacy you would have been dead meat 😛 ‘
A dancing bull stomped triumphantly across her screen: ‘Phew! Thanks 😀 Off to celebrate with my girlfriend – Bye kiddo’
She smiled and made a face, he and his girlfriends, never a moment without them! She signed off and quietly clicked a priceless photo of her favorite couple (apart from her parents of course).
She grinned wickedly at their sudden start as they came back from wherever they had disappeared.
Even Mamu looked a bit sheepish.
Her grin widened.
Click here for Chapter 254