Ranveer did not meet anyone till he reached the door. They were probably having dinner. Dinner had always been a family affair in the Choudhry household with everyone sitting in the kitchen together while Ranveer’s mother made hot rotis in the choola. There used to be a lot of laughter and conversation between his grandparents, father, brother Jeetendra, his young wife Meena and Veerendra. His mother Sona used to watch on with a smile on her face, not talking much.
Ranveer was just about to cross the threshold when he realized that wearing shoes inside the house was a no-no. He stepped back to remove his track shoes and socks before walking inside.
!” he called out softly, unconsciously keeping his fingers crossed that Choudhry Daada
was still alive.
A couple of children walked into the hall from the direction of the kitchen. They were quickly followed by a young man who must definitely be Jeetendra.
?” asked Jeetendra, surprised to see a well-dressed stranger who was obviously from the city.
“Jeetu!” said Ranveer, his voice hoarse with sudden emotion. Jeetendra and Veerendra had been as thick as thieves. While four years separated the brothers, they used to hang out together with the same group of friends.
Jeetendra stared at the man who had walked into their home. That tone was so familiar and it could only belong to one person. “Veera?” He walked closer to the stranger to have a better look at his face as the light was not too bright.
Ranveer nodded his head vigorously, moving closer to his elder brother. The next moment, both the men were hugging each other as the children looked on in fascination. They had never seen Veera Chacha
but had heard about him from their grandmother. But no one mentioned Chacha’s
name in front of their grandfather Surendra.
Preeti, the elder child, ran inside to call the other members of the family. The ten-year-old was excited to impart this piece of news as she was confident that she was probably going to shake everyone up.
“Amma, Daadima, Badima, Bade Pappa
!” yelled Preeti as she went into the kitchen. “Veera Chacha
She could have dropped a bombshell for the reaction she got from the three women in the kitchen. Daadaji’s
head jerked when he heard his grandson’s name, a wide smile breaking out on his face. It looked like Surendra had finally managed to locate his errant younger son.
Sona did not even bother to wipe the tears that poured from her eyes as she rushed to the hall, for once forgetting to behave like a daughter-in-law. She did not wait for her father-in-law and mother-in-law to take the lead. She had waited too long to see her younger son and no force in the world was going to stop her from doing so, now that he had come home.
Meena helped her grandparents-in-law as the trio walked slowly behind Sona.
Sona walked into the hall just as Jeetendra pushed Ranveer a couple of feet away to look at him. “Tu seth ban gaya re
,” he said, a proud smile on his face. There was not a trace of envy on the elder brother’s face as he realized that his younger sibling had obviously done well in life.
“Aisa kuch nahi hai Jeetu. Tu kaise ho? Aur Meena Bhabhi? Mummy kaisi hai?
” He looked up to see his mother walking in just as he was asking about her.
Ranveer moved away from his brother and walked towards his mother. “Mummy
,” he said as he pulled her into his arms.
Sona cried her heart out in her son’s arms. She had not only missed him but had been so worried about his safety. However much she had prayed to God to keep Veera out of harm’s way, not seeing him nor knowing his whereabouts over the past fourteen years had taken a toll on her. While Surendra had ranted and raved about his missing son, the quiet Sona had shed many a tear.
Finally, after all these years, her son was home.Daadaji
had stopped being angry with his favourite grandson as worry about him had taken over after a couple of weeks since he went missing. He hugged the grown up Veera and pulled him into the warmth of family.
Veera was duly introduced to his niece Preeti who gave him a toothy smile and his 7-year-old nephew Vikas who was quite tall for his age. It was as if the years between had never been as they all sat down to dinner.
“Where’s Surendra?” asked Daadaji who had been wondering why Veera was not accompanied by his father.
” asked Veera turned Ranveer, a frown on his face. “I was going to ask you the same thing. Where is he?”
Now it was Daadaji’s
turn to frown. “Arre, your father went to Jaipur in search of you. Now that he has found you, how come you are home all by yourself? Where is your father?”
Veera looked first at his grandfather and then at Jeetu to check whether what he heard was right. “Why would Pappa
search for me in Jaipur? I live in Delhi,” he said, his voice puzzled.
Jeetendra replied, “Pappa
went to Jaipur to meet your in-laws. Mohan uncle and Meera aunty had been here last week to meet us all. They…”
He regaled Ranveer with the whole story of their father going to Jaipur.
Veera listened to his brother, finding himself in a fix. It looked like his parents-in-law and his family members were keen to get him back together with his child wife. And here he was home, planning to divorce her. Will they be ready to forgive him a second time? He had been quite surprised at his whole family accepting the return of the prodigal son without any bitterness. Will that continue once he told them the purpose of his visit?
Ranveer had not run away from his child bride and carved a life for himself away from his family only to return after fourteen years and get together with the same girl. Dammit! Why did life have to be so complicated?
Ranveer waited for Jeetu to complete his tale before saying, “I didn’t know anything about this. I just decided to come home on my own.”
Daadaji was extremely surprised to hear this bit of news just as the rest of the family was. That probably meant that Surendra was not even aware that Veera had been found or rather that Veera had found them.
Dinner was over by now and Veera did not even realize what he had eaten, his mind far away from food. He began to wonder whether he had made a mistake coming back home at this point in time. Everyone shifted to the main hall where Daadaji
said, “Jeetu, call your father immediately and tell him Veera’s home.”
Jeetu got up to immediately obey his grandfather. Ranveer stopped him saying, “Wait a minute, Jeetu. Don’t you think it’s very late? Pappa’s
Jeetu stared at Veera, trying to understand the hidden meaning in his brother’s words. Both of them knew quite well that Surendra never went to sleep before 11 pm. Veera’s eyes clearly instructed Jeetu not to make the call.
Veera looked at his Daadaji
who was staring at Jeetu, waiting for him to phone his father. Realizing that it was up to him to avoid the situation, Veera said, “Why don’t you wait for the morning? Let Pappa
sleep peacefully. After all, he is staying at someone’s home. It might not the most convenient moment to give him news of my return home.” His fingers were crossed for the second time that night as he willed his grandfather to agree with him.Daadaji
looked from one grandson to another and thought for a minute before saying, “Maybe you are right Veera. Let’s not disturb your father till morning.” But the intelligent old man sensed that something was not quite as it should be.
Ranveer told his family of his adventures since the day of his marriage. Even the kids stayed up to hear their Chacha’s
life story while he glossed over the difficult days before he met David and Jane. Daadaji
had tears in his eyes as he listened to how his grandson had educated himself with the foreigners’ help and set up his own flourishing business.
“So, Veera, you have become a city man through and through, it seems,” said Daadaji, feeling quite proud of his younger grandson’s achievements. “Your wife and her parents will also be so happy to know about this. You know, it was by chance that Mohan and his wife came here last week. What a coincidence that you also decided to come back to us at the same time. It all must be the grace of God and your mother’s prayers.” Sona nodded her head, tears of gratitude flowing from her eyes in a continuous stream. She was holding on to her son’s hand that she had not let go from the moment she had set eyes on him.
Ranveer felt smothered at the mention of his wife and parents-in-law. Could he never escape his marriage? Will he ever be able to explain to his family members that he was in love with someone else? They could not force him to set up house with his wife of fourteen years, of course. But Ranveer did not want any more animosity between him and his family.
From what he heard, his father had been extremely upset at his disappearance and had turned quite bitter over the years. How would he react to Ranveer’s bid to divorce his wife?
It was quite late when everyone finally went to sleep. Ranveer insisted on sleeping on the sofa in the hall, his favourite place since childhood. He had grown up a lot since then, but somehow he felt that he would be able to regain the peace that he had lost over the past few days by lying there. But sleep eluded him as Ranveer’s mind tortured him endlessly through the night and no amount of positive thinking could bring him solace as he tossed and turned on the old sofa.