|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
Chanda’s mobile vibrated beside her at about 6.45 am. She woke up with a jerk to see that the call was from home. She took the call to hear her father at the other end. “Hello Pappa, Good Morning!” she said, her voice slurred with sleep.
“Hello Beta! I have some wonderful news for you. But I want that to be a surprise. I have booked you on the 9 o’clock flight to Jaipur. You come over here and we will talk.”
That brought Chanda up on her bed with a jerk. What was happening? “Pappa, is something wrong? You or Mamma are not feeling well or something? Don’t keep me in suspense. I…”
Mohan interrupted his daughter to say, “I told you it’s a surprise. Nothing to feel worried about.” There was a smile in his voice as he uttered that. “Lakshman has mailed you the tickets. You can get back to hostel tomorrow night. Wake up my dear and just come over.” Chanda was surprised to hear the excitement in Mohan’s voice.
As she got ready, Chanda was rather upset that she will not get to spend time with Ranveer. But then, maybe it was all for the best. Their relationship was getting too intense, too fast. She concluded that the break would do them good.
Chanda’s mobile rang as she was waiting for the metro train to arrive. It was Ranveer. She had planned to call him after checking in at the airport.
“Hi Sweetheart, Good Morning,” cooed Ranveer’s voice in her ear, tickling her pink. “Hi!” said Chanda, her voice breathless with excitement as she climbed into the train that arrived just then.
“You already out somewhere?” asked Ranveer, hearing the announcement in the background.
“Yeah! Actually, I was going to call you when I checked in at the airport. I’m going home to Jaipur for the weekend. Pappa called me today morning to tell me that.”
“What?” Ranveer’s voice was startled. He had been hoping to spend a lot of time with her this weekend. This was a shock. “All okay at home, nah?” he asked, worry creeping in at the sudden trip.
Chanda laughed as she said, “Believe it or not, I asked my father the same thing. Everything’s fine, I believe. He has planned some kind of a surprise. He just refused to tell me. Nor would Mamma or any of my bros. I think I’ll need to get there before I find out.”
“Alright! You carry on and we’ll be in touch,” said Ranveer, the disappointment obvious in his voice. He could not stop himself from adding, “I’d been looking forward to getting to know you better this weekend.”
“Oh Ranveer,” sighed Chanda. “Tell me about it. I was thinking the same. I’m so sorry I…”
“Hey, no need to feel sorry. You’ll be back at work on Monday, right? Cheer up!” ordered Ranveer.
They spoke for a few more minutes about this and that before Chanda got off the yellow line at Rajiv Chowk to change into the blue one that would take her to Dwarka Sector 21, the closest metro station to the domestic airport. She just had a tote bag as she stepped on to the escalator that would take her to the correct platform.
The flight was on time and the plane touched Jaipur airport in just 45 minutes. Chanda looked forward to seeing her family now that the disappointment of leaving Ranveer was past.
The twins had come to the airport to pick Chanda up. Both the guys spoke nineteen to a dozen while Chanda watched on, an amused expression on her face. She knew that she would have to wait to get a word in edgeways as they filled her up on what all had happened in the family over the past four months – since her last visit home.
They were almost halfway home before Chanda got a chance to talk. “What’s happening guys? Why did Pappa want me to get home so urgently?”
Shatru was driving with Chanda in the passenger seat. Bharat spoke from the back. “Actually Chanda, Veerendra’s father has come home to stay with us for a few days. He’s keen to meet you…”
Chanda made a shocked noise when she heard what he had to say. Why would Veerendra’s father want to visit them now of all the time? Had her errant husband returned home to his village? Chanda blanched when she thought of Ranveer and her feelings for him. All these years, she had kept herself away from meeting any guy exactly for this reason. And now, just when she had finally opened up to someone, her past had decided to catch up with her. Tears of anger blurred Chanda’s eyes while she did her best to stop them from falling down.
Shatru sensed that things were not quite what they should be and frowned at his twin in the rearview mirror. Bharat shrugged, not able to understand what the problem was. The brothers were too close to their sister to be tactful. Shatru asked outright, “Are you upset Chanda? Is Surendra uncle’s visit bothering you? Do you want to return to Delhi?” he asked. He did not like his only sister being upset.
Chanda could not help smiling through her tears as she looked at Shatru. “Oh Shatru, I missed you guys so much.” She took a tissue from the box on the dashboard to wipe her eyes in a hurry. “Sorry about that. Tell me, what’s up? Has Veerendra returned home finally?” she asked.
Bharat shook his head as she turned to look at him. “No Chanda. Veerendra’s still missing,” he declared much to Chanda’s relief. She raised her eyebrows as if to ask what her father-in-law was doing in their house if that was not the case.
Shatru gestured to Bharat not to say anything as he said, “I think it’s best if you let Mamma and Pappa tell you everything.” Just then, the car entered the gates to their bungalow as if on cue.
Chanda could not stop the sigh of pleasure that broke out from her as she saw ‘home sweet home’. She felt so cherished by her family that she simply loved being back.
Her parents and other brothers stepped out of the main door to greet her even before the car stopped.
“Chanda, meri pyaari bachchi
,” said her mother as she gathered Chanda’s slender form to her ample one. “I’m so glad to see you,” she continued, her voice wobbly with unshed tears.
Mohan, Ram and Lakshman hugged Chanda in turn before she finally entered the house. Luckily, Surendra was still in his room. He had deliberately stayed away from the family reunion as he wanted to give Chanda time to get used to the presence of her father-in-law in their house after all these years.
Chanda went to sit on the dining table as her mother served breakfast. She was hungry as she ate the pyaaz ki kachori
that her mother had had the cook make that morning. It was Chanda’s favourite and she had so missed home food. After a few bites, Chanda looked up at her father as it was obvious that he was bursting to tell her something.
“You never asked me what the surprise is about Chanda,” said Mohan, sensing that all was not quite hunky dory.
“Bharat told me Pappa,” said Chanda in a subdued voice.
Mohan gave Meera a swift glance to catch her reassuring nod before saying, “Well Chanda, it’s like this. Your Mamma and I went to an astrologer who assured us that we will be able to find Veerendra quite easily. That’s when the two of us went to meet his family. Veerendra is not in touch with them either. But Surendraji has come here in the hope that we can trace Veerendra with the astrologer’s help.
Chanda pretended an interest that she was far from feeling while she swallowed the hot tea with great difficulty. She pushed her plate away as she thought that even one more bite of the kachori would choke her. Meera could not believe what she saw in front of her eyes. She had been sure that Chanda would be thrilled that finally something was being done about her single status. But it was obvious that Chanda was not at all happy.
Chanda felt hunted at the look of hope on her parents’ faces. What could she tell them? She looked at her brothers in turn. They also appeared quite happy with the idea of locating her errant husband, even as every man was looking at her intently, scowls of varying degrees on each one’s face.
Into this scene walked in Surendra, confident about his daughter-in-law’s welcome. Why not? The rest of the family had been so nice to him over the past 48 hours. And moreover, the astrologer was very clear that Veera will be found and will definitely get together with his child bride.
Chanda went pale as she tried hard to keep down the little breakfast that she had consumed.