|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
Chanda got up in a hurry, her hands automatically coming together in a gesture of greeting as she said, “Namaste!” her voice subdued. No force on earth could have made her touch her father-in-law’s feet. As it is, she felt such a fraud. For the first time in her young life, she could not bring herself to share a truth with any of her family members. No wonder her nerves were frazzled.
Surendra walked closer to the beautiful young woman who was his daughter-in-law. Tears shimmered in his eyes as he looked at her innocent face. He was glad that she had obviously led a secure existence despite her husband abandoning her as a child. He touched her head in a blessing and Chanda shut her eyes as a strong emotion gripped her. She felt torn.
It was not this man’s fault that her husband – his son – had run away. And he had obviously suffered. She opened her eyes to give him a hesitant smile. Surendra put it down to shyness.
Surendra held her small hands in his as he said, “I’m so sorry for what you have had to undergo because of Veera, my child. I…”
Chanda shook her head in protest just as Mohan cut short Surendra’s apology. “Surendraji, please let the past go and let’s look forward to a much better future.”
Surendra felt overwhelmed by the affection bestowed on him by the Maheshwari family. He held his daughter-in-law’s hand gently as he led her to the sofa. He sat her beside him and quizzed her about her life in general.
To begin with, Chanda felt quite choked with thoughts of Ranveer crowding her mind. But soon, she sat up straight and answered all the questions that Surendra had for her.
Surendra could not help but admire the way Mohan and his wife Meera had brought up their children. All were so well-mannered and obviously educated. He could not help wondering about Veera. But then, the astrologer, Vidyasagar, had insisted that Veera must be very well educated and doing great financially too. A deep sigh shook up Surendra from within as he thought of his missing son. He wondered whether he would ever set eyes on him. But then, Mohan and Vidyasagar had given him a lot of hope.
The rest of the family came to sit around father-in-law and daughter-in-law.
“So,” said Mohan, “according to the astrologer, Veerendra must be living in or around Delhi.”
Chanda looked at her father in surprise and asked, “How is that possible, Pappa? Can the astrologer find out the whereabouts of a person just by seeing his horoscope? I can’t understand.”
Meera smiled widely as she said, “That’s the beauty of it all Chanda. You don’t know Vidyasagarji. He is just amazing. You know something, he saw your horoscope and immediately said that you and your husband were in the same place.”
Chanda went pale. What could they mean by that? She tried to recall the names and faces of all the men she had met since going to live in Delhi. She could not imagine any one of them being her errant husband.
“I don’t understand, Mamma. I’ve never met Veerendra. I’m sure I would have known if had,” she said, a frown on her face.
Mohan continued from there. “It’s like this my dear. Vidyasagarji could pin point where Veerendra must be positioned geographically. He said that it was very close to you. In fact, I was quite irritated with the astrologer in the beginning. I told him that you stayed in a ladies’ hostel and so it was not possible for Veerendra to be close to you.”
Chanda stared at her parents one by one. What were they saying? She could not understand. She shook her head, obviously perturbed. How could they trust the words of an astrologer and drag her father-in-law into the picture? She could not believe that her parents could have acted so foolishly.
Mohan then explained their visit to the astrologer, the conversation, the astrologer insisting that Veerendra’s horoscope had been wrongly written, how he must be very intelligent, probably a professor or a computer whiz, how all he touched would be turning to gold and more.
Chanda listened to her father without interrupting him, a dazed expression on her face. Could all this be possible for someone to predict by just seeing a ‘janam kundali’? She found it difficult to comprehend. But then, her parents sounded so convinced. So much so, that they had contacted Veerendra’s family and convinced them too.
Then what about her growing attraction for Ranveer? Chanda closed her eyes in sheer exhaustion. She did not think she could take any more. She recalled her latest meeting with Ranveer, how he had kissed her. Her throat closed up as tears stung her eyes. She heard her father’s voice in the background as her mind stopped registering his words.
Chanda’s head buzzed with lack of sleep, the shock of meeting her father-in-law and the fear that she might never meet Ranveer again. To everyone’s shock, Chanda dropped from the sofa down at her father-in-law’s feet in a dead faint.
RANVEER SAT IN FRONT OF HIS LAPTOP, TRYING TO GET SOME WORK DONE. It was Sunday and he had not heard from Chanda. He had been hesitant to call her as she must be quite busy with her family. She had but gone for just two days and he did not want to interrupt their reunion. But he so missed her.
Was it only a few weeks since he had set eyes on Chanda? Ranveer could not believe it. It seemed as if Chanda had been a part of his life forever.
Ranveer decided then and there that he would get in touch with his birth parents in the village and go forward with getting his marriage annulled. But before that, he wanted to see Chanda once again and reassure himself that their feelings for one another were genuine.
Ranveer could not wait for Monday morning to come fast enough.