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******* Part 5 *******
"Chalo Radhika, ab Bidaai ka waqt hai" Mrinalini said as she entered the room. The whole marriage had gone smoothly, there were not many people present at the wedding, just close relatives and few family friends. The marriage had taken place at the Haveli upon serpanch's insistence instead of at the temple as it was planned. Mrinalini was just glad that the wedding happened without any mishap, her brother as promised followed all the rituals, took the pheras, tied the mangalsutra and filled the maang with sindoor but he never did once glance at Radhika. Mrinalini sighed, Radhika had too much to do, she wondered if the girl was capable of following what Mrinalini planned for her…………
"Tum dono yanhee ruko main arti ki thali lathi hoon" Mrinalini said, walking past them and entering the house to get everything in order for the grah-pravesh of the new Bahu, the eldest daughter-in-law of the Raghvansh family. She ignored the envious look Muskaan was giving to Radhika, whose face was still concealed with the ghunghat. Mrinalini smirked as she arranged the thali and the kalash remembering the shocked face of Muskaan when she saw Radhika, and then later the surprised faces of rest of the family members, they all were surprised and shocked by seeing the beauty of Radhika.
Dev Raghvansh watched silently as his sister performed all the Ghra-Pravesh rituals happily. He was happy to see the smile and happiness back on his sister's face, for the past two years every since Sia's death he had felt like he had lost his sister along with his niece but now seeing her so happy and back to her normal self gave him immense relief. It did not matter that he had to sacrifice his freedom for it, it did not matter that he had to use Vishaka and break her heart for it, it did not matter that he had to forget about the feelings he was developing for Vishaka because it all meant nothing when it came to seeing his sister happy and out of depression.
Mrinalini watched happily as her brother and his wife entered the house, she had never been this happy before in her life. Her long waited dream of seeing her brother married and settled has finally came true, and she had fulfilled the promise she had made of finding the most beautiful girl for her brother. She watched as Radhika staggered while walking in, she quickly moved to help her but stopped seeing her brother helping her.
"Sabhal ke" whispered Dev to his wife holding her left arm as she steadied herself.
Radhika nodded her head, holding back the cry from pain; his hold on her arm was tight. She did not want to be here, she did not want to live in this new haveli with a new family. She did not know what marriage really meant, she did not know what she was suppose to do as a wife, she did not know what it meant to be a Bahu of the family as this stranger who her father called Mrinalini had constantly been calling her. All she knew was that she wanted to get away from everything; she wanted to go back to her room and live her life in seclusion as she was used to. She did not like this new life her father had thrust her in, she had cried and begged her father to let her stay in the haveli but all her pleading went unheard. He had simply ordered her to stop with the crying and get ready for the marriage. For the first time in her life Radhika felt hatred for her father when he had pushed her inside the car and sent her away from him to this new life, to this new family to live amongst strangers who were now her family. She was torn. Part of her was elated to finally be away from her father and brothers tortures but the other part was filled with grief to be thrown away from the only place she ever knew but mostly she was terrified to finally be married to the man whom her brothers had told the horrifying tales about his tortures. She just hoped that he was not too horrible to her, not as mean as her brothers have been telling her for years.
Radhika did not know how she lived through the past two days, with these strangers staring at her, asking her questions, applying stuff on her face and body and dressing her up in the most heaviest and the beautiful dress she had ever seen. She had sat still throughout the whole process, following every instruction as a robot, her mind was far away from her body, her mind and her soul was in her room, in the basement where she sat on her bed reading her favorite book. But even that practice didn't seem to work because every now and then her mind returned to the happenings around her, she felt the many eyes on her, she cringed at the loud voices all around her controlling the urge to cover her ears with her hands and flee back to her room. Her mind returned when she felt her father placing her hand on the stranger's hand who was now going to be her husband, her mind returned when the stranger tied the long black and gold beaded thread on her neck, her mind returned when she felt his fingers filling something on her parted hair. She did not know why her mind returned to her body at these times, she did not know why she could not return back to her sanctuary away from all the crowd and loud voices. She had felt like she was trapped in her own body. She just needed to perform the task in front of her so as not to anger her father or brothers or shame her pati. She remembered giving her father and brothers pleaded look, her eyes begging them to not send her away but her father had only glared at her in anger and her brothers smirked as they watched her drive away from the haveli in the car filled with strangers. She had remained still with fear throughout the long drive, her head bent down as she sat beside her husband afraid to even make slight movement in the presence of these strangers.
"Matarani ki kripa se sab kuch theek se ho gaya" It was the voice of Kamini that brought Radhika back from her thoughts.
She sat there on the sofa beside her husband as everyone talked about the marriage. The voices were getting louder, they were too many people around her, she grasped her hands together in a tight grip fighting the urge to run and hide in her room away from the crowd and the loudness. Then she felt it, she saw it, she was back in her room sitting on the bed reading her favorite book there was no voices and no people, everything was just like it always was….. She was away… far away from the reality; she was back at the haveli….. she was completely unaware of her surrounding, she did not see the people around her, she did not hear the voices of Vivek and Rahul teasing Dev, she was safe in her room with her book…..
"Radhika" Mrinalini called out; getting no response she placed her hand on her shoulder and shook her.
Radhika came back to her surroundings when she felt someone shaking her. She drew in a long breath realizing there was no going back to that life again. She watched through her veil as Kamini asked if she was alright.
"Chalo Radhika, you must be tired. Mein tumhe tumhara kamra dikha dethi hoon" Mrinalini said wrapping an arm around Radhika's shoulder and walking her up the stairs to her new room. All the while chatting about how she will like her new room and this new house. Radhika just walked with her in a daze, her eyes drifting from the hand placed on her arm to Mrinalini's face in wonder. She didn't know what to do, she was in shock, for the first time in many years someone had touched her with care, after many years someone was looking at her with such affection. It was affection Radhika was sure of it, as she had seen that same look before, she had been bestowed with the same smile and the same affectionate eyes before but that had been many years ago….. when she had felt loved, when she had someone who held her, who loved her….. but that person had died a long time ago…. Her mother had broken the promise to be with her forever and left her alone to live a lonely life….. her mother……
"This is your new room, I hope you will like it and if you don't then we can always change it according to your choice" Mrinalini said as she sat beside Radhika on the bed and lifted her veil to look at her.
"Bilkul Pari ho tum" Mrinalini said as she stared at Radhika's beautiful face. She smiled when she saw Radhika tried to cover her yawn with her hands. "You are very tired. Why don't you freshen up and rest for a while. It will take some time for Dev Bhai so just rest till he comes" Mrinalini said as she patted Radhika's head. Radhika looked at Mrinalini with fear and confusion, not understanding what she was taking about. Who was this Dev and why would he come to her room? Will he hurt her? what did she do wrong?
"Tumhara Pati hai yanhi pe tho ayenga. Yeh kamra ab tum dono ka hai" Mrinalini explained upon seeing Radhika's confused face wondering why the confusion, she had explained everything to the girl while dressing her in the wedding attire. "Your bag is beside that table, I will leave now. We have too much work tomorrow. Kal muh-dikhai hai, aur phir tumhe halwa bhi toh banana hai na kal subha nashte me" Mrinalini explained Radhika.
Radhika stared in shock, her eyes wide open, as she watched Mrinalini lean in and kiss her forehead wishing her goodnight before walking out of the room. Radhika sat still in shock, confusion and amazement at the behavior of this stranger who instructed her to call her 'Didi". She could not believe it; she hesitantly raised her hand and touched her forehead, tears falling down her eyes as she was reminded of her mother after so many years….. the one person who had loved her, the one person who use to wish her goodnight every night by kissing her forehead. She stood up and walked towards her bag, took out her white kurta she wore for bed and walked towards the door Didi had pointed as the bathroom. She was in a trance as she replayed the moments spent with Didi, every word, every gesture she gave Radhika reminded her of her mother…..
"Ma…. Yeh Pati kya hota hai" 5 year old Radhika asked her mother.
"Pati woh hota hai jo aurat ko pura karta hai" Krishna answered wondering why her daughter wanted to know about it.
"Kya Pati bura hota hai Ma? Kya woh bohut marta hai, Baba and Dadaji ki tarha" Radhika asked as she nestled in her mother's arms. She did not understand the definition her mother gave her of Pati.
"Aapse kisne kaha Pati bura hota hai?" Krishna asked her as she hugged her daughter.
"Nirendra Bhaiyaji ne kaha, he said he will tell Baba to send me to my pati and then my pati will beat me and will make me work and take away all my books" Radhika informed her mother lifting her head from her mother's shoulder. "Kya woh sahi kehrahein hai Ma? Kya Baba humme sach me Pati ke paas bhejdenge?" Radhika asked her mother as tears welled up in her eyes with the fear of getting beaten by pati.
"Arreh meri beti, don't listen to your brother. No one will send you away till I am with you. Aur pati itna bura nahi hota, agar kabhi aapko aapke pati ke paas bhejde toh aap unka ache se khayaal rakhna, unki har baath maanna, unhe kush rakhna. Agar aap yeh sabh karlo gi toh shayad woh aapse pyaar bhi kare" Krishna explained her daughter. She did not believe in filling her daughter with tales of prince charming coming and whisking her away to a life filled with love. Krishna did not want to give her daughter an illusion, a hope that will be broken when she sees the reality of the world. She did not want her daughter to bear the hurt and loss as she herself had to face when she realized how different life was from the fairy tales, how different the prince charming was in real life.
"Jaise aap humse pyar karthi ho waise Ma?" Radhika asked her mother as she rested her head on her mother's shoulder again, sucking on her thumb.
"Haan meri Pari, bilkul waisehi par kya pata shayad aapka pati aapse humse bhi zyaada pyaar kare" Krishna answered her daughter, placing a kiss on her forehead. She sighed and prayed to god for her daughter's unknown future.
Radhika drifted off to sleep with the memories of her mother which seemed to suddenly surface from inside her heart where she had hidden them but looking at Mrinalini, seeing the same affectionate smile and care in her eyes had reminded her of her mother. She had long forgotten the good times of her life she had spent when her mother was alive, for the past ten years she had lived trying to forget all those good memories and she was successful in forgetting everything about her mother but now they were all coming back to her….
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