|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
Lakshman opened the door to Chanda’s bedroom. It was late in the evening on Saturday. The family had left her alone after lunch as it was obvious that she did not want to be disturbed. But all of them had been surprised when she had not come down till now.
The room was in darkness as Lakshman looked at the bed. Seeing that Chanda was not there, he turned towards the light switch when he noticed that she was sitting at the window. As he walked towards her, Lakshman was shocked to notice her posture. She looked defeated as she sat there, her knees drawn to her chin while her face was buried in them. Her small body shook now and again as sobs overcame her.
He walked to his sister silently and placed a hand on her head, stroking it fondly. Chanda raised startled eyes to see who it was. Seeing her favourite brother, she fell into his arms, crying.
Lakshman held her tight, not saying a word. He waited for the tears to abate before pulling her gently towards the bed. He made her sit down before taking a seat next to her. Again, he willed her to talk with his very silence.
Slowly the story came tumbling out. Chanda did not leave anything. She told him how she had always kept away from boys and later men, believing herself to be a married woman. She said how she had met Ranveer and could not help the growing attraction right from first sight. Once her sorry tale was over, she looked at Lakshman with red-rimmed eyes.
“I love him, Lakshman. I can’t go back to become Veerendra’s wife. How can I? All these years there was no news of him. Now suddenly after I meet someone I love, his father turns up after Mamma and Pappa go to an astrologer who has a lot to say about him. Why? Why me?” She smote her forehead before Lakshman could stop her.
He took her hand and held it tightly as he hugged her. He thought hard, not saying anything. Lakshman was a man of few words and when he spoke, it usually struck a strong chord with the listener.
Chanda put her head on her brother’s muscular shoulder and waited for him to come up with a solution. She was confident that it would be in her favour, just as it had always been since childhood.
After some time he told her, “I’m sure you can take a week off from your college and work, can’t you?”
Chanda looked up at him, her dark eyes searching. What did he want her to do? Not that she had an argument. She was just curious. She nodded as she said, “I think I can.”
“Tell you what? Why don’t you take a break from everything while Ram and I sort out things here? You go to Mount Abu and just chill. Who do you want to go with? The twins or Mamma-Pappa?” He stopped to answer his own question, “I think Mamma-Pappa is out of the question as Surendra Uncle is here just now. Do you want to go with Bharat and Shatru?” He looked at his little sister, love overflowing in his heart. He had adored her from the moment she opened her eyes for the first time.
Chanda looked at Lakshman steadily as she asked, “Will you go with me?”
“I’m sorry Sweetie. I’ll be best off holding the fort here. This thing needs to be sorted out before we decide what to tell Veerendra’s father. I wish that he had not been dragged into the picture at this stage,” he said, echoing Chanda’s thoughts. “But then, it’s already done. Ram and I will set out to find the errant Veerendra and set the record straight. You…”
“Will it be expecting too much to ask to go on my own? I don’t think I’ll be good company for the twins. You know they love fun and just now I’m not in the mood for it,” said Chanda. She felt strongly that she wanted to get away from everyone. She would not have minded Lakshman’s company as he knew how to keep silent. Chatter was one thing she could not stomach just then.
While Chanda’s family was very close and loved one another absolutely, each one also knew how to give the others their space.
“You must go alone if that’s what you want, Chanda.” Chanda blushed when he said, “Give me your Ranveer’s contact number before you leave. I’ll only get in touch with him if and when it’s absolutely necessary,” he smiled, looking at her red face.
Chanda nodded her head. It all sounded so simple. She only wished that the next week was already over. What a weekend! And she had expected to spend it in Ranveer’s arms.
Chanda pulled at Lakshman’s elbow just as he got up. “Lakshman, can you give me another SIM card? I don’t want Ranveer to call me when….”
Lakshman nodded his head in understanding. “Of course! I’ll put you on a flight maybe tomorrow? Or do you want to leave today?” he asked.
“I don’t want to fly. I think I’ll go by bus,” said Chanda as she mentally planned her trip. She was glad that she had something else to focus on. She felt a mite better that she had transferred her problems to her brother who was more capable of sorting things out. She knew he was an expert at that.
A small smile broke out on Chanda’s face as she moved forward to hug Lakshman. “You know something? I must be the luckiest girl on earth. To have such parents and brothers, especially one such as you Lakshman,” she said, meaning every word.
Lakshman hugged her back before saying, “Do you need help with your packing? It’s bound to be very cold out there. And promise me that you’ll not worry too much? I’ll ensure that you’re free of Veerendra and get hitched to this Ranveer. That is, if Ranveer’s also keen to wed you.”
A wide smile broke out on Chanda’s ravaged face as she knew that Lakshman never made a promise that he did not keep. She nodded her head through the tears of affection that sprung to her eyes.
Lakshman wiped them away before saying, “That’s one thing I can’t stomach, Chanda. I know you’re feeling emotional and all that, but please don’t cry. I don’t think Ranveer can handle it either,” he said, tongue firmly in cheek.
Chanda laughed softly quite sure that Ranveer would never be able to handle it. It seemed that Lakshman could already sense how the other man was.
She decided to call Parth at the office and inform him of a family emergency and the need for a week off. She would not call Ranveer. While she knew that he would want to know what had happened to her, Chanda decided that it would be best if they kept out of touch until everything got sorted out. It would be nice to go up to the hills. They had always had the ability to bring a sense of calm.
Her parents were not too happy at the turn of events. But the understanding folks that they were, they realized that not all was hunky dory and agreed to let Chanda go on the trip. They let Surendra believe that Chanda had to get back to college when she left the next day afternoon. She had a new phone number that was known only to the family and it had been quite easy to wangle the leave of absence from Parth.
Chanda set off on her journey into the hills, a backpack carrying all the stuff she would need. Lakshman saw her off at the bus stop and reassured her that he would take care of everything and keep her posted on the various developments.
RANVEER WALKED INTO THE OFFICE ON MONDAY MORNING, A SMALL SCOWL ON HIS FACE. He had still not heard from Chanda and he was quite irritated. He knew that her family was important to her and all that. But was she being fair to him?
He thought back on their last meeting. She had cuddled up like a kitten in his arms. What had happened now that she could not call him even once? Or even pick up his call and just say ‘hi’? Ranveer was quite disgusted.
He had forgotten all about his plan to go back to his village, see his family and annul his marriage. That did not seem to be the priority just now.
One hour later, he was surprised to see that Chanda was not logged on to the office LAN. His scowl grew heavier as Shikha walked in just then.
“Hi Ranveer, how was your weekend?” she asked, her voice extra cheerful. She had just heard from Parth that Chanda was on leave for a week. That meant that she had Ranveer all to herself. It was one of those Mondays when nothing could go wrong, it seemed.
“I’m kind of busy, Shikha. Did you want something urgent? You can always…”
“Talk to Ram, I know. That’s what you tell me and I’ve heard you, every time,” said Shikha, quite boldly. In her cheerful mood, she did not realize that her boss was feeling anything but. She went to seat herself on the edge of his large table and said, “I don’t need anything. I just came to ask you whether you’re aware that Chanda, you know the kid from that college, is on leave. Don’t quite know about the kids of today. They really think they can get away with anything. In my days as a trainee…”
Ranveer drowned out her voice further as he tried to understand whether he had heard her right. Chanda was not coming to work for how long? He was ready to burst a blood vessel. He got up from his chair and told Shikha sarcastically, “I’m sure with the new week beginning and all that, you do have some work to do. If you can’t find work, do tell me soon. It’ll help me decide whether the company can afford to keep you or not.”
Chanda’s jaw dropped as Ranveer walked out of his office.