Chapter 439: The Cat is Out

Mamaji of course agreed with Arnav’s dictates but as Khushi had predicted Mamiji ka munh bund karna mushkil hi nahi, na mumkin tha.

“Welcome Sasuma welcome,” Manorama stood at the doorway decked in all her jatak finery, “Humari yaad aa hi gayi finally ya phir aapke ladle Chotte aur pyari bahuriya Kusii have thrown you out of your house?” she simpered archly casting a worried glance at her luggage and trying to guess the period of her stay at Mumbai – kahin permanent bhisit hua toh?

Nani looked at her with open dislike, “Itne saal ho gaye Manorama, zara sa bhi nahi badle,” she snapped.

“You are wrong Sasuma,” sneered Manorama loftily, “I have changed, changed a lot,” she avowed, “I am no longer a struggling socialite desperate to blend in, I am the most happening Mumbai socialite,” she boasted, “Kissi bhi Mumbai newspaper main dekh lijiye, humara photo zaroor milega aapko,” she declared proudly.

Nani looked her up and down scornfully, “Self praise is no praise, aur waisan bhi I was talking about your poisonous tongue not your sartorial splendor, jisse hume kauno matlab naahi,” she cast another disgusted look at Manorama before swishing away inside the house.

Nani settled in her son’s home soon enough but she saw enough to unsettle her. The ways at her Mumbai home was completely alien to her – unlike RM, here there was no such thing as a family gathering, a meal taken together – nothing of the sort, it was more like a hotel, run by an efficient staff where people just dropped in with their orders, a bit of a change and rest before rushing off to do whatever they were busy doing.

She couldn’t help but be shocked at the lifestyle and going ons at Mumbai Mansion – no doubt they worked hard (well she hoped and presumed they did because they were clearly rolling in money) but they partied even harder. In just the week Nani was there, there were two parties at their home and they went out on the other nights – at least the ladies and Aakash did while her son and Palash stayed back – some consolation.

Nani watched all this with deep misgivings and a sense of alienation – humare zamane main toh aisan naahi howat aur nahi Delhi ma – she thought with great disapproval.

Nani’s meeting with Payal was also a shock for the poor old dear. Gone was the sweet, desi girl of yesteryears, she was now the true Bahu of Mano darling complete with Western wear and trendy hair style who made her appearance almost two days after Nani’s arrival, “Sorry Dadiji,” she apologized gracefully in her soft voice, “I was busy at an NGO meet at Chennai so couldn’t get away earlier, aap kaise hain?” she touched her feet.

Slightly mollified, Nani waved aside her tardy entry and demanded after her great grandsons, “Oh you haven’t met Palash hai na? He is very busy these days with his tuition and Yash aapko toh pata hai na that he is studying law in Pune? Another year or two to go and then he will be back, I have told him about your visit and asked him to come over this weekend if he can manage,” she shrugged, “but you know aaj kal ke bachche kisiki sunnte kahan hai.”

Dadi looked at her and Aakash in dismay, “But I have come specifically to see all of you, koi toh humse milne aata hi nahi,” she swallowed, “Humari yaad kisiko nahi aati kya?” she looked reproachfully at Manohar who fumbled and mumbled, “Aisan baat nahi hai Amma, hum sab aapko miss kartein hain, bas sab itne busy hai ki bas poochiye mat, achcha kiya jo aap aa gayi now we can all be comfortable and happy together,” he said heartily.

“Aisan baat hai toh why did nobody ever ask me over? Worried that I might take you up on your khokhla offer?” Nani spoke rather bitterly.

“Sach sach bataiye Sasuma,” Manorama made a grand entry at the doorway, “Has your darling Khushi bitiya’s halo worn off finally ya phir has your beloved Chotte shown you the door?”

“Manorama!” hissed Manohar, “phir se shuru ho gayi! Amma ko pareshan mat karo, kuch nashta chai,” he pushed her.

“There are servants for that sort of work haan agar Sasuma ko party-varty jaana hain toh most welcome hai na Payal darling?” Payal smiled and nodded, “Dadiji hum change karke aatein hain and Mom,” she turned to Manorama, “I need to discuss a proposition that Gauri floated.”

“Excuse me Sasuma, hum Savita ko bhej dete hain please feel free to ask for whatever you require, isse apna hi ghar samajhiye,” Manorama said grandly before snootily turning on her heel and walking off in deep conversation with Payal.

Nani sighed and shook her head as she adjusted her pallu – some things would never change – but yahan toh even Payal had! My son is completely outnumbered and overpowered here, she thought with a catch in her heart, bechara itna seedha aur soft-spoken hai anybody could take him for a ride. Manorama toh karti hi thi but she had sort of expected Payal to be the traditional bahu, look after the house as it should be not go gallivanting about the country or attending parties late at night – dancing with strange unknown men aur photos main toh lag raha tha ki drink bhi kar rahi hai – aur clothes toh poocho mat! Hey Devi Maiyya ab iss umar ma yehi dekhne ko baaki reh gaya?

She was a fool to have come here, but woh bhi kya karti? It had been so long since she had seen her family and a dreadful notion had caught hold of her, there was something wrong, seriously wrong and a sense of finality – her time was nearing the end – she needed to do this, she needed to see them one last time, convince herself that they were well and happy in their own world – then she could bid adieu to this world without any regrets.

But abhi bhi her fears and concerns hadn’t been laid to complete rest, no doubt Manorama hadn’t been as welcoming as she would have liked yet there was a sense of familiarity, a sense of continuity in her barbed taunts, she expected nothing better from her but it was Aakash who worried her. He hadn’t spoken more than a couple of syllables and he wore a guilty expression and showed a tendency to hide behind his wife, “Aakash bitwa, idhar aayea,” she called affectionately “Humre paas beithiye.”

Reluctantly Aakash came and sat beside her, “Ji Dadi?” he mumbled fiddling with his phone.

“Ka baat hai bitwa, sab theek hai na?” she said gently, “Aaj kal Delhi aana nahi hota kya?”

“Nahi Dadi just busy in work, time hi nahi milta,” Aakash excused himself.

“Itna bhi kya busy,” she complained, “Kabhi kabhi apne Dadi se milne toh aa sakte ho?” she said querulously.

“Kya Dadi!” Aakash flared up and quit beating around the bush, “Sab pata hote huye bhi aap aise keh rahein hain?” he stood up with a jerk.

“Shant ho jao Bitwa!” Mamaji called urgently.

Nani looked at him in surprise, “Kya pata hai?” she was totally bewildered yet she got a dreadful feeling at the bottom of her stomach – oh so there was something, something that she didn’t know of which had soured the relationship to this level.

“Please Dadi,” Aakash raised his hand, “Zyaada baniye mat, I don’t know what they have told you but let me tell you it’s not my fault,” he glared fiercely at her.

Nani just stared at him.

“Meri koi galati nahi hai,” Aakash reiterated, “It is all the great Arnav Singh Raizada’s fault and if he thinks he can emotionally blackmail me into chipping in for his financial losses due to his own stupidity by sending you as his emissary, he is his laboring under a huge misconception,” he burst out, “Let Bhai say whatever he likes, the whole mess is his fault and his alone,” Aakash stood there all red-faced and fists clenched.

‘Aakash!’ burst out both Payal and Mamaji, but Aakash rounded on them as well and shook his finger at them, “Now don’t you ‘Aakash’ me, bas bahut ho gaya Bhai ki tanashahi, I don’t want to have to do anything to do with them, if Dadi wants to stay here, she is most welcome but I will have no mention of them or how great they are or how bechara,” he slammed the door shut on his way out.

Payal rushed out after him.

***

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