|Dolls created by Jayashree Karthik|
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Ranveer woke up quite late the next day as sleep had evaded him till 4 am. The children had not gone to school to celebrate their uncle’s return. That’s when Ranveer decided to take the two of them, their mother Meena and his own mother Sona to the market. In his eagerness to get back home, he had not bothered to get any gifts. Jeetu had decided not to go with them as their grandfather had asked him to stay back.
The BMW was parked in the compound as he and Jeetu had got it from outside quite late at night. The kids were quite thrilled to see the car and were excited about taking a ride in it. After settling the four of them in the car, Ranveer answered his nephew’s eager questions patiently while driving the couple of miles to the main market. He knew the route like the back of his hand and was not at all surprised that he could remember it very well.
The moment they got out of the car, Ranveer’s cell phone pinged – once, twice and five more times. There were seven SMSes in all. Four of them were from Ram and the rest from a strange number. Ramsingh had tried calling him and wanted Ranveer to call him urgently. Wondering what could have happened for the generally cool and unruffled Ram to send such imperative messages, Ranveer decided to wait for a few more minutes as he gave all his attention to his family members.
After shopping for clothes and toys for the kids and saris for the women of the family, Ranveer took his four relatives to a shop selling men’s clothes. As he encouraged the women to check out clothes for the male members of the family, Ranveer excused himself to call Ram. Ram picked his cell immediately and for the next few minutes Ranveer listened to him with awe on his face, not able to control his jaw from dropping. His lips stretched in a wide grin as he made Ram repeat his news.
Chanda was his wife. The woman he had fallen in love with was the same one as the child whom he had married fourteen years back. Ranveer felt dazed. Talk about coincidences! This was but incredible! He instinctively called Chanda on his speed dial and was quite irritated to get the message that the number was temporarily disconnected.
Ranveer automatically checked the other three messages on his phone. They were all from the same number. It was from someone called Ram Maheshwari. The first message was a request that Ranveer call back ASAP. Maheshwari sounded familiar. Ranveer thought for a minute and realized that it was Chanda’s surname. This was obviously someone from her family. A grin split Ranveer’s face as he realized that this person must be one of his in-laws.
Ranveer checked the second message to see that it contained Chanda’s new contact number and the address to some hotel in Mount Abu where she was staying just now. So that’s where Chanda had gone. But why would she change her number?
Just then Ranveer recalled that his own father had gone to Chanda’s house in Jaipur. Oh, then there was a chance that Chanda was being persuaded to get back together with her husband who had dumped his child bride. What must she have been? Ranveer screwed his eyes to think. Chanda was twenty-two today. That must have made her eight when she had married him. Ranveer grimaced. What a terrible thing to happen to a kid!
No wonder she had gone into hiding at Mount Abu. Ranveer checked to see that his mother and sister-in-law were quite busy while the kids were playing with the toy robot that he had got them. He decided to call Ram Maheshwari.
Over the next few minutes, Ranveer found out that Ram was his eldest brother-in-law and he had been right in guessing the reason for Chanda having taken refuge at Mount Abu. Ram informed him that Chanda’s new number was also not accessible. Ranveer came to a quick decision and told Ram that he would rather go meet her personally and break the news.
Ram agreed that it was an excellent idea and wished him the very best.
RAM AND LAKSHMAN DECIDED TO RETURN HOME and were extremely satisfied with a job well done. They did not bother to tell their parents the true state of affairs and decided to wait for Ranveer to bring Chanda home. Another day or two did not matter at this point. They did not want to spoil her moment of glory.
JEETENDRA CALLED HIS FATHER as his grandfather looked on. He still did not know why Veera had stopped him but could not deny his grandpa’s request. He called Mohanji’s home and after the preliminary enquiries, requested to speak to his father. Surendra came on the phone and Jeetu promptly gave the receiver to his grandfather.
Choudhry Daada’s voice broke as he told his son the good news that his younger son was back home. “What?” asked Surendra, “Is that true, Pappa?” Father and son spoke for some time as Daadaji explained how Veera had decided to return on his own. He advised his son to stay put until Veera got back home from the market where he had gone with the kids and the women of the family.
Ranveer was in a tearing hurry as he returned home with the others. The excited ladies and kids brought in all the gifts as Ranveer got out last. He had tried calling Chanda on the new number but had been unable to get through. Now, he had also lost the signal after leaving the market. He decided to leave immediately and go to Mount Abu.
Not wanting to create too much excitement, he called Jeetu aside and explained the whole situation to him. Jeetendra was equally amazed when he heard Veera’s story. He had returned home to divorce his child wife and had discovered this morning that his bride was the same woman he had fallen in love with in Delhi. What a miracle!
“Will you please explain this to everyone Jeetu? I don’t want to waste any time finding Chanda. If I sit down to explain, it might take a whole day. If I leave now, I’ll be able to reach Mount Abu before night falls.”
Jeetu was nodding vigorously even before Ranveer finished talking. He could well understand that his brother was eager to go meet Chanda as soon as possible.
“Don’t you worry, Veera. You go on and find Chanda. I’ll explain the situation to everyone.” A small frown came on Jeetu’s face as he wondered loudly, “Will you come home again? Or will it be a long time before we see you again?” he asked, his eyes suddenly damp with unshed tears. He did not want to lose his brother all over again. He had missed him so.
Ranveer hugged Jeetendra close as he said, “Of course you’ll see me soon, Jeetu. I’ll visit you all more often and you must bring everyone to Delhi as soon as you can, of course.” He took out his pen, made a note of the house phone number, wrote out his own cell number and house address on another piece of paper and gave it to his brother. He walked into the house in a rush and touched Daada and Daadi’s feet before hugging his mother. He told them that he had to leave in a hurry but would be back in a few days and will bring his father and wife home with him. Before they could recover enough and ask him any question, Ranveer had got into his car, reversed it and left the compound.
He drove at a steady speed of 80 km an hour once he left town. The GPS was a great help as he navigated through unfamiliar territory. While he thought of stopping to call Chanda when his phone picked up a signal, Ranveer decided not to waste time taking a break. He would surprise her. A smirk kept tugging Ranveer’s face as he recalled Chanda’s comment on how rarely he smiled.
He loved her! There, he had finally admitted it to himself. He loved Chanda and she was his. She was also definitely attracted to him. Otherwise, she would not have run away when her father-in-law – Veera’s father – had gone over to her home. Ranveer visualized her amazement when she found out that Veera and Ranveer were one and the same.
There came a thought from deep down. Would Chanda forgive him for leaving her in the lurch after getting married to her? Would she understand that he had felt smothered at the thought of becoming a responsible family man at the young age of thirteen?
Ranveer shook his head to clear it off any morbid thoughts. If she liked him as much as he believed she did, Chanda would definitely forgive him. And there was no sense in trying to change the past. What was done was over! Ranveer for one had no regrets. In fact, he felt that the jigsaw of his life had fallen in place quite perfectly.
On that cheery note, Ranveer hummed along with the blaring music on his car radio as his car ate up the miles greedily.
CHANDA REMOVED HER CELL PHONE FROM HER HANDBAG to check for any messages or calls. She had been surprised at not having received any from Ram and Lakshman. They had called her both in the morning and evening every day.
There was a possibility that she had been out of range when she had gone trekking. But they had returned by 4 pm. Chanda had been so tired that she had slept for a while. It was past 7 pm and her brothers had not called.
Chanda noticed that her phone had gone off. She smote her forehead as she realized that it had no charge. That had been stupid. She plugged her cell into the charger and switched it on after a couple of minutes. Surprisingly, no messages came through. Possibly, no one had tried to contact her. With a sigh of relief, Chanda decided to go down for dinner leaving her phone back in her room. She sent an SMS to Ram’s and Lakshman’s phones saying that she was fine.
RANVEER REACHED MOUNT ABU and went in search of Chanda’s hotel. He stopped to call her cell one more time. This time it rang… and rang… and rang. A small frown creased Ranveer’s forehead as he wondered at it. No point sweating over it, he decided. He checked the route once more on his GPS and took a right turn to reach the hotel.
Parking his car, Ranveer got out and stretched his legs. They felt cramped after that long ride without a break. Pocketing his car keys, he walked into the hotel reception to enquire about their guest.
The dining room was on the left and Ranveer’s head turned with a jerk when he heard a woman’s laugh. She was sitting at a corner table laughing her head off at a joke. A wide grin split Ranveer’s face as he changed direction and walked towards the dining room.
Chanda caught a man walking towards her in her peripheral. His swagger looked familiar. The smile was wiped from her face when she looked up to see Ranveer walking towards her.
What was he doing here? And how had he found her? Oh God! She had so wanted to sort out the snarl of her child marriage before meeting him again. That’s why she was hiding out here. There was her father-in-law staying with her parents, waiting for her to get back with her errant husband of fourteen years. Here was the man she loved who had come looking for her. Chanda felt torn. Would he still want her after hearing the story of her life?
Chanda’s lips drooped!