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“Okay Mom, ho jayega. Don’t worry.” But even as she was saying it, Radhika knew it was futile; her mother was going to keep worrying. Actually she herself was more than worried but if she had let on even a hint of that worry to her mother, she would have wasted no time in telling her father and he would have been on the next plane to Mumbai. She sighed, “I have got to go now Mom. Give my love to Dad. Bye.”
“Bye Beta.” Her mother sounded unconvinced but taking no chances, Radhika hung up the phone. Then she got up and went to the tiny kitchen and made herself a cup of tea. Picking up a packet of biscuits, she took the steaming hot mug to her room and switched on her laptop. She walked to the windows to pull back the curtains and let the fading evening light enter herroom. Then she sat down and searched the internet for new accommodation trying at the same time not to let her mother’s worry get to her. Although, she admitted it was a monumental problem. Of course she had always known that it was only a matter of time beforeKavita and Mohan moved out to a place of their own. But now that she was staring the situation in the face it became a whole lot real. They were moving out next month which left barely three weeks for her to search for a suitable place for herself. The landlady wanted it for her own nephew and his wife who were moving in from Bangalore.
“Why are you worried? Of course you can move in with us till you do find a place.” Both Mohan and Kavita had repeatedly insisted and reassured. But of course she was never going to do that. They had not even been married a year yet. As it is they always fussed about her being ‘single’, insisting on dragging her along wherever they went and she was always resisting their efforts. Like even now they had all but pulled her to accompany them for a film they were going out for. She smiled as she remembered the amused look on Mohan’s face as he looked at Kavita’s eager one. They really were a match made in heaven and a perfect example of ‘opposites attract’. He was quiet; she was talkative. He was an introvert; she was an extrovert. He was a sit at home type; she wanted to go out. And she watched every film every Friday and he did too because he couldn’t say no to her. It all boiled down to one common indulgence – each other. A love like theirs was truly rare.
Just then her phone rang intruding into her problems and she knew, just knew who it was even before she glanced at the number. She smiled as shepicked up the phone and took the call. “Hello Papa.”
He came straight to the point, “So when are you coming home? For when should I get your ticket booked?”
“I can get a ticket booked just as well from here Papa. I am twenty two years old, not two,” She said wryly. “But I can’t come home just yet. Summer camp starts next week. “
“And how long is that going to last?” he asked.
“Two weeks and then after that I have to look for a new place by the end of this month. I have already told you all this earlier Papa.” She said indulgently.
“I know. So okay I am giving you by the end of this month to find a place and then if you don’t find one you are coming home.” He said firmly.
“Of course. I promised you I will.”
“I meant permanently.”
“Papa I have a job, some responsibility!” she protested
“Without a roof over your head?” he said dramatically.
“Papa stop being so dramatic!” she laughed. “I’ll find a place by then.”
“Good. But just in case you don’t….” he said again.
“I will!” she said with more conviction that she felt. And really, how hard could it really be?
They talked some more mostly about her younger brother, Ajay who had just finished doing his final year of Business Management. A couple of minutes later the call ended with more promises to her Dad before she was back on the internet getting down to the most important job at hand. House hunting in Mumbai.
Monday morning dawned bright. It also brought a spring in her step. It was the last week of school before the vacations began. It was only a few months ago that she had first come to Mumbai and the city had lived up to her expectations. The pulse, the buzz, the people, the dynamic culture, she had fallen in love with everything that was the melting pot called Mumbai. There was so much to do during vacation time and contrary to what everyone at home thought, she was going to find a place and not only that she was going to stick it out. On that optimistic note she began another day with her cute little bunch of tiny tots at school.
She now looked at Aditya with new eyes, with a different insight. Her heart went out to the quiet little boy who she now saw was the spitting image of his father. Immensely serious with dark brooding eyes. She took extra care to make even more of an effort now to try to engage him in group activities with other children. She spoke directly to him and encouraged him to respond. Nine out of ten times he did not respond and remained in his shell but the one time he did, she felt victorious. She could tell that for a three and a half year old, he was more than intelligent; she noticed the bright spark of interest in his eyes whenever she engaged the class in something interactive but the somberness remained.
The week passed in a busy blur. There was so much to do. All the preparations had to be made for the summer camp. It was hectic, it was fun and before she knew it Monday morning, the first day of the Summer camp was here. The only shadow on the horizon was another weekend gone by of futile house hunting.
But while she was in school it was fun time. And although they could be demanding brats she loved being with the kids. Not only were they enjoying their fun activities but also as decided by the rest of the staff, they were going to make the children prepare tiny skits in small groups. The idea was to make every child participate in no matter how small a capacity. And then on the final day they were to make a presentation and put up a show for the parents.
She coaxed and cajoled, tempted and persuaded and to her unbelievable delight Aditya finally agreed to play the part of a cow in the animal farm skit. All he, as well as the other children of the group, had to do was to put on their respective fancy dresses and gather on stage to move to a nursery rhyme. The whole act would not last more than two minutes. But for the little children it was more than enough time. Radhika just prayed that Aditya wouldn’t suddenly back out and refuse to participate. But to her relief he came to rehearse each day as a willing participant.
And because this was such a precious achievementshe went beyond protocol and the night before the final day, having extracted his phone number from Aditya’s school file she called his father, Madhav Dewan. She quickly dialled the number before an attack of second thoughts assailed her already spiralling nerves.
He answered the phone on the third ring, “Hello?”
On hearing his deep, dark voice she gripped her phone hard and came to a standstill in act of pacing her room. Sudden panic gripped her and she wondered what was she doing calling a parent in private time? Was she crazy? She was almost hanging up when he spoke again, “Hello?”
Finally snapping out of her inertia she spoke “Uh yes. Hello Mr. Dewan, this is Radhika Kapoor, your son Aditya’s class teacher.” To her eternal relief her voice sounded normal instead of the strange fluttery way she was feeling inside.
There was a moment’s pause during which she had a horrible feeling she had made an utter fool of herself before he spoke, “Yes, good evening Miss Kapoor?”
She plunged ahead. “I presume you must have received the school’s invitation card for the function tomorrow?”
Again a fractional pause before he said, “Yes I have….?”
She gripped the phone a little tighter and said, “Well Mr. Dewan I only wanted to ask you I hope you will be attending?”
This time there was a definite pause, “I don’t quite follow Miss Kapoor?”
“Oh, so like I had guessed you have no plans of attending….” She just knew it!
“Miss Kapoor, are we going anywhere with this?”
Radhika sucked in her breath at the man’s sheer arrogance!
“Yes we are Mr. Dewan,” she spoke, her voice having lost all its uncertainty, was gathering steam now. “The purpose for this call is that I would like to request you to please take out time from your tight schedule and attend the function tomorrow. It will take only an hour of your time but you will get to see your son performing on stage.”
This time when the pause came she knew she had taken the wind out of his sails; whatever he was expecting it hadn’t been this……
“As you well know it’s a great step towards his healing and towards coming out of his shell.” When there was still no response she felt compelled to continue, “Mr. Dewan you will not believe…..”
But before she could carry on his deep voice cut in quietly, “I will be there Miss Kapoor.”
Now it was her turn to fall into a moment’s stunned silence before she spoke, “That will be just wonderful Mr. Dewan. Please bring his grandmother along too. I am sure she too will be delighted.”
This time there was amusement in his voice when he said wryly, “Sure Miss. Kapoor I will. Good night. And thank you.”
Barely had she put the phone down when there was a knock on the door and a second later it was pushed open. Kavita’s head popped in first and then the rest of her. Thank god just in time. She wasn’t up for Kavita’s inevitable questioning just yet.
“Hi!” Radhika said.
“Hi”, Kavita replied then walked over to the bed and flopped down, “Okay, what are you wearing tomorrow?”
Radhika walked over to the bed side table with an inner sense of great relief and deposited her phone. She was glad that the sharp Kavita had not heard anything. Not that there was anything to hide, but she’d grill her! And really there was nothing to discuss.
“Me too. Mohan insisted I wear one; you know how cumbersome I find them!’ she said exasperatedly. “Butcome on, show me yours.”
“I haven’t decided which one yet.” She opened her wardrobe and extracted the only two sarees she possessed.
She laid them on the bed.
Kavita shook her head.
“What?” Radhika asked.
“Boring” Kavita stated.
“It’s a school function” she felt compelled to remind her friend.
“So? That doesn’t mean you have to look like a school Marm”
Radhika rolled her eyes. Kavita was irrepressible! “Actually,” said Radhika, “there’s another one. Just received it today by courier.”
“From?” Kavita’s eyes were suddenly wide with interest.
“Oh boring you!”
Radhika laughed. “Kavita! Who would be sending me couriers?”
She laid out the saree on the bed and looking at it shook her head and said, “I don’t think I will be wearing this, it’s too…..”
But Kavita, as soon as she saw the sari exclaimed delightedly, “of course you’ll be wearing it and you’re right. It is ‘too’! And that’s exactly why you are going to wear it” she decreed.
What had massi been thinking when she had sent it? She wondered. On second thoughts she knew what she had been thinking when she had sent it, she had literally told her so herself…… ‘You will knock everybody out!”
“Massi school function hai there will be parents and kids!” she had told her.
To which she had incredibly replied, “Kuchh bhi ho sakta hai! Kabhi koi mil hi jaata hai. Aisi jagahon petoh log miltey hain!” she had informed her wisely.
And why was her Mom such a gossip anyway? She shook her head and sighed. It was no use; they were thick as thieves, those two.
“Beta, you never know” she had still continued to stress. “It will do wonders for your confidence and all the young girls your age dress like this for formal functions. And you can’t even say it’s over the top. Its understated.” she had added emphatically.
“Just look at it; its sheer chiffon!” She said now trying to convince Kavita this time.
“Well darling chiffon is supposed to be sheer. It’s beautiful. What a colour!” she said of the peach hues that were blending into creams and off whites. It was edged all around with the thinnest glimmer ofsomething silvery. “It’s exquisite!” Kavita announced.
Then she stood up and walked to the door, “Good night. It’s decided. You’ve got to wear it. It will knock the socks off Madhav Dewan.”
“Yes?” she turned around at the door to look at her.
“You really don’t object that he’s married?” Radhika asked incredulously.
“No. Because I know he’s a widower.”
And with that final parting shot she was gone with the door closed behind her and Radhika staring at it.
Ten minutes later Radhika crawled into bed andspent a restless night tossing and turning and dreaming about the Adonis, Madhav Dewan.
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Purva Mehta Books
by Purva Mehta
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