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Joined: 01 January 2009
1.) Archana decides to go and meet Sachin and persuade him to come back. Manav, meanwhile, goes to the bank to pay the loan instalment.
2.) Sachin welcomes Archana warmly and tells her all that happened with him. (Failure of his business scheme-> Arguments with Sweety-> Loss of money invested in shares-> Breaking up with Sweety-> Realising Savita Aai's scheming through Shravani-> Joining call centre)
3.) Archana persuades him to return home. Sachin, who is ashamed of returning as a loser, refuses. She tells him of Manav's illness which alarms Sachin but he is still hesitant. Finally she loses her temper when Sachin offers to help financially but refuses to return, and the two end up fighting.
4.) Owing to the rains, Satish offers Manav a lift in his car while returning from the bank. His polite and warm behaviour makes Manav feel guilty, and he apologises for indirectly coming between Satish and Archana's wedding both times, to which Satish says that he was anyways prepared for the wedding being cancelled cos Archana had always openly shown signs of being in love with Manav and deeply caring for him, even in those days when she hated him- that she was his and no one else's. He tells Manav that his loan instalments had been pushed forward cos of Archana's pleas. Manav is dumbstruck.
5.) An emotional Manav breaks down in front of Archana as he realises that she was his and forever to stay. Archana consoles him as the couple hug.
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Anijoyce, dhahi, sushantfan, suan, fansush,
Joined: 01 January 2009
Archana sat at the dressing table, getting ready to go to office. In her mind, she rehearsed all that she was going to say to her seniors about the days on which she needed a leave owing to Manav's hospitalisation.
She sighed. The day of the surgery was finally coming closer- tomorrow Manav would be hospitalised. While she tried to convince herself that it would all turn out to be good and they had nothing really to lose, she couldn't help feeling worried. A brain surgery was something really major- how would she be able to handle it all alone, she wondered. No, she had Manav's family, HER family with her, and even her own Aai Baba and Vaishali had promised to stand by her. Plus there was Tarun. They would together handle the situation and fight it well- she convinced herself.
Her thoughts were distracted by Manav coming back into the room after his bath. He stopped near her.
"Aren't you going to office today?" he asked her.
"Of course I'm going," she said, running a comb through her hair one last time. "Why?"
"No, you're late, plus you're getting ready as if.." he did not speak ahead and simply smiled, clearly amused.
She continued combing her hair. "I have to try and look good all the time. Otherwise people simply walk past me in towels without even noticing that I'm there." she said slowly.
Manav nervously held the towel around his waist more firmly and walked inside as she tried to hide a giggle. He changed quickly and then started walking out of the room. He looked at her naughty face in the mirror, she smiled at him like a child who had taken revenge for the jab. Unable to control himself, he pulled Archana's cheek quickly. Then he walked away, shaking his head and smiling to himself.
Archana turned to look at him, very pleased. Manav suddenly seemed so different from what he had been all these days. He did not say anything new, but there was a spring in his steps and an easyness in his behaviour- it seemed like the Manav who was always cool and light at heart was slowly returning.
He was sitting in front of the television when she came to him, all ready to leave for office. "Manav I'm leaving.." she said. "Have you decided about your plans for the day?" To avoid staying in the house with Savita Aai alone all day long and to avoid feeling jobless, Manav usually stayed outside, completing some small work, or spent time in the garage supplying spare parts to people and fitting them, ignoring Archana's instructions telling him not to strain his eyes.
"Yes, I will have to go to Tarun's father to take the cheque.. Tarun asked me to collect the cheque from him.. Uncle wanted to meet me anyway.."
"And how is Tarun?"
"Very well. It felt really good to talk to Tarun after so many days.. he has promised that he will take a break in his busy schedule and come back to India before my surgery."
Thank goodness!- thought Archana, heaving a sigh of relief. Manav would feel stronger if Tarun was with him. She dreaded of what Tarun would say to HER though. Last time she had told him of wanting to stop the divorce, he had been very critical of her flip-flopping. He quite clearly disliked the whole Karanjkar family, minus Vaishali, for hurting Manav time and again. If he had been there when she had returned back and when the harassment complaint had taken place, he would have given her an earful for sure.
Ah well, she would deal with him when he came back.
Archana thought over what Manav had said about going to meet Tarun's parents. "Should I come along?" she asked.
"Arey no, there is no need to be so formal with them.. you go for your office.. achha listen.."
"What is it?"
Manav hesitated a little. "Archana, when you met Sachin the other day at the mall, did he give you any phone number or address? Think again.."
"Manav, I told you, he gave me nothing. But why are you asking?"
"Actually," Manav started, "I wanted to go and meet him once myself.. was thinking if there was any way of finding out where he lived.. maybe contact some of his friends again, or wait at the same mall.. he might come again."
Archana felt uncomfortable. She did not want to hide from Manav that she had met Sachin already, but she did not want to hurt him by telling that Sachin had refused to come even after she had told him of Manav's illness. Even though Sachin had his reasons for not returning, yet it went without saying that Manav would feel very bad.
And the last thing she wanted was Manav to go and request Sachin yet again and be refused for the umpteenth time. She knew that the last time Manav had gone to fetch Sachin, he had felt pretty much humiliated and had vowed never to go again.
She tried to busy herself in straightening the table. "Why do you want to meet him?"
"To persuade him to come home now. Yes, we had a fight, a bitter one, but a lot of time has passed now. I want to ask him to let bygones be bygones."
She tried to dismiss the issue just as she had seen Savita Aai doing it. "He will come home when he wants to." She said matter of factly.
Manav looked at her suspiciously. "You don't want him to come back? Are you angry with him? The other day, you were wishing for him to come back and now.."
"No, it's not like that.. I just think it's futile.. I think Baba or someone elder from the family should talk to him.. he will not listen to you considering he had such a big argument with you.."
"But I want to meet him!" Manav persisted. "I want to mend things with him before I get admitted.. you know very well that there are.. umm.. risks in a surgery as major as this.."
Archana stopped working and looked at him in shock while Manav bit his lip. "Don't even think of such things!" she said curtly. She picked up her bag and walked out of the house. Manav smacked his forehead. He turned sideways and looked at Savita Aai who was witnessing the whole scenario with interest. He looked away, while Savita Aai came and stood closer to him.
"Do you want to meet Sachin?"
He looked up at her in amazement. They rarely spoke these days, except when they made curt remarks in general, pretending those weren't addressed to each other.
"How does it matter.." he murmured.
"You want to meet him or not?" she asked him irritatedly.
"Yes.." he murmured uncomfortably. "But I don't know.."
"I know where Sachin lives!" said Aai eagerly. "I even met him!"
"You did?!" asked a flabbergasted Manav. "Then why did you not tell us?"
She bit her lip but stayed silent.
"Why did you not tell me?" he asked again.
She tried to avoid the question. "Do you want to meet Sachin or not? Yes na? Then come with me, your wife might not want you to unite with your brother, but I will take you to the place where he lives. He is in good health and absolutely fit and fine- he even has a job now."
"But why is he working? Wasn't Sweety's Dad going to fund his business plans?" questioned Manav. "Oh ho, ask him all these questions when you meet him yourself." Said Savita, pleased to find an excuse to spend some time with Manav alone and get some brownie points for helping him, with no Archana to interfere in their bonding.
It was a silent journey for Manav and Savita. He helped her climb into the bus by holding her hand, she helped him separate the change and buy the tickets. They did not speak to each other, and Manav kept looking out of the window most of the time.
They reached their destination at last. Savita Aai guided him to the apartment in the chawl which Sachin shared with a friend. To Manav's great dismay, it was locked.
"He is usually at home at this time," Aai muttered. "Let's wait for a while."
And so they waited. Waited for almost two hours, till they were hot and hungry. Manav kept looking at his watch, and Aai's face grew anxious. Where was Sachin?
Finally a guy walked up to the house and opened the door. Manav ran upto him. "Sachin..?" he asked hopefully. It was not him. "Sorry.." Manav murmured.
The guy looked at them questioningly. "Sachin does not live here now. He left this place."
"He left?! But where did he go?"
"I don't know.. I just got a message from him.. he said he would call later.."
"Give me his phone number." Said Manav. He took the number and dialled it on his cell.. then cut the line. "Switched off."
The guy was still waiting for them to introduce themselves, so Manav told him everything and asked him to inform in case Sachin came back to collect some of the things he had left behind in the apartment. Then both Manav and Aai started walking back towards the bus stop, with Aai looking extremely guilty. They boarded the bus again. Since it was crowded , Manav led Aai to the seats in the front part of the bus which were reserved for women and senior citizens.
"Arey Aaji, why are you pushing everyone here!" protested a boy as Aai squeezed past him to get to the front. He made a disgusted face. "Can't she wait till the bus becomes a little less crowded and then squeeze past! As it is, it's so hot and sweaty! Don't have brains or what?!"
"You have a lot of brains right?" asked Manav suddenly, his face red.
The boy turned a little nervous. "I didn't say anything to you did I.."
"She is my mother." Said Manav angrily. "And anyways, is this the way to talk to elderly people? Tameez nahi hai? Why use words like 'you don't have brains or what'."
The boy opened up his mouth to answer, but then left it, probably realizing he would not be getting any support in the bus. Manav led Aai to the front, asked the person sitting in the senior citizen seat to get up and made Aai sit there. A few minutes later, as the bus became empty, he got a seat for himself too and sat down, thinking about how to contact Sachin.
"Shift." a meek voice told him.
He looked up. It was Savita, gesturing to the seat next to him. He quietly shifted and she sat down with him. She kept looking at her hands in her lap.
"Are you angry with me that I didn't tell you earlier about Sachin?" Savita spoke finally.
Manav was taken aback. "Leave it now.." he muttered.
"Trust me, this time I did not want to separate you from him or anything like that.." Aai said meekly. "I know, this is what you must be thinking of me now.. since I seeded misunderstandings between you and Sachin earlier.. and didn't tell you about his whereabouts also. I really wanted you to meet him before the surgery.. I didn't know he would be vacating the place else I would have taken you there earlier.
"I said na leave it now.." Manav said irritatedly. "He wouldn't have come back anyway. He is probably still mad at me."
Savita was silent for some time. Then she said, "He is not mad at you now.. his not returning home is not due to his differences with you.."
Manav's ears perked up. "Did he say that?" he asked hopefully. "What else did he say?"
"Nothing much." Said Savita. Manav however looked on for more. So Savita continued.
"Sachin and I had an argument.. a big one. Shravani had told him..err.. lots of things about all I did.. to you and him and Archana and Shravani too.. and some others he figured out by himself.. he is not angry at you now.. rather he was very regretful the last time I met him.."
Manav was shocked. "So this is why you did not tell anyone.." he asked in disbelief. "Bcos it would have been embarrassing for you."
"No, it's not like that." Said Savita Aai sadly. "If that was the case then I wouldn't have brought you here today. Actually Sachin himself did not want to return home- he was very angry with me and ashamed of himself. He had lost a lot in business and personal life, he had broken off with Sweety, and he did not want me to tell you about him till he managed to salvage his career and finances. I did not want to get on his wrong side any more, and he did not want to come home as a loser- he had failed in business, he had loans to pay.."
"That is not a substantial reason to hide such a big thing from me." Said Manav sharply. "Why did you hide about Sachin's whereabouts?"
Savita kept quiet for sometime, and Manav kept staring at her with a frown. Finally she murmured, "I wanted him to go back to Sweety and get married to her, and I knew none of you would support me if you came to know, that is why.."
Manav smacked his forehead. "Why did you have to push his buttons regarding Sweety?" he said irritatedly.
Savita looked equally fed up with Manav. "You will never understand that, just like you have never understood why I have always favoured Shravani over Archana. Leave it."
"What did you say to him?" Manav asked her sternly.
"Nothing much." She said in a huff, looking away. "Just asked him not to come home till he patches up with that girl.."
"AAaiii.." groaned Manav.
"I did change my stand later though, when he did not relent, and asked him to return anyway.. but by then he wasn't willing to listen at all- he was angry with me and exceedingly rude." Aai explained. "The foolish boy!"
"You will never change!" said Manav irritatedly. "You tried to control Archana and my life by bringing in Shravani, and you still didn't learn. You still wanted Sachin to do your bidding for money sake!"
"Well what else was I supposed to do?" demanded Aai. "You have so many loans on your head! You will be admitted tomorrow in the hospital- we need money for your treatment! You won't be able to work after the surgery as well! Your beautiful wife's in laws are constantly creating troubles for you and your father does nothing except giving out his usual bland philosophy, and now he has involved you in another legal battle against the Lokhande trio. Everything in the house is coolly ignoring the big financial problem looming ahead! And in the midst of all this, Sachin, despite having failed once, still hadn't come to his senses. He was still borrowing money and investing in shares and stuff. I have spent half my life dealing with your unemployed Baba and financial problems- I didn't want a recap of the same situation and problems for you! I told him point blank- it is time you take up your responsibilities now. If you want to dream big and be dependent on others all your life, then rather be a ghar jamai and help your family by getting married to a rich girl. Don't make them suffer!"
"That was harsh." Said Manav angrily.
"But it worked!" said Savita Aai triumphantly. "My taunts and threats never worked on your Baba, but they worked on Sachin!"
"Sachin got married to Sweety?" Manav asked worriedly.
"No, I mean, Sachin went and found a job for himself." Said Aai happily. "You know, he works now in a call centre."
"A call centre?!" said Manav in shock. First Aai had forced Sachin to get married to a rich girl, and then she had pushed his highly educated brother to do any small job which came his way. "I didn't educate Sachin so much so that he could join a call centre." Said Manav angrily to Savita.
"Why? What is wrong with that? Didn't you also join a garage to run the house? Haven't I sold papads and achars to run the house? Then what is wrong if he also takes up whatever he is getting in this moment of crisis to financially support the house?"
Manav didn't know what to say. Somewhere, he was happy to see Aai prioritising him and pushing other children for a change, the way she had done to him in the past for his siblings. It made him feel that Aai thought for him just like she thought for the other children, that she hadn't manipulated him in the past cos he was a stepson or used him. But on the same side, he felt bad that Aai had pushed Sachin to marry this time against his will or forcibly made him work below his credentials. Wrong was wrong, for whatever reason though it might have been done. Plus he dreaded to think of how Sachin would be thinking of her now.
"It's still wrong though." He told her finally. "You shouldn't have compromised one son's future for another's."
"Why.. didn't you also leave your studies for Sachin's future.." said Savita softly. "Look, I feel bad that I did not tell all of you about Sachin all these days.. but I had no other option..sometimes, for the betterment of everyone, we have to take some harsh steps. And I really thought if Sachin patches up with Sweety, a lot of our problems would end- especially for you. I didn't want you to worry about financial problems in the hospital. And hence this step from my side to get Sachin and Sweety married. I am not apologetic for thinking in this manner at all. I have seen the world more than all of you."
"Yes.. but.. it is not right.." Manav tried to explain. "Marriage is.. holy.. one shouldn't play around with it.. asking Sachin to get married for monetary sake would have been wrong.."
"He liked her anyway.." said Aai. "Though he realised later that they were not 'compatible'. When I wanted him to get married to that Sweety, he said he had wisened up and no longer chased money but lovvve. All bullshit if you ask me. I married for practical reasons- to a guy years older to me, and with child-simply cos my father had no dowry for me and your Baba did not ask for dowry. If you look at it that way, you can see a compromise here also, made for monetary reasons."
Manav felt embarrassed. He kept quiet. Savita continued.
"But today I am not sorry or sad about it at all. In fact I don't even consider it a compromise. It was just the way things were done in those days- though kids of today's generation would look differently at it. At the end of the day, my relationship with your Baba worked. Any relationship works if you actually WANT to MAKE it work."
Manav looked up in surprise. This was what Archana too had said to him. Aai and Archana- poles apart, but somewhere, they did have the same foundation. Afterall, hadn't Aai too stayed on with marriage and a poverty stricken life and loads of responsibilities, just the way Archana had given her all to her marriage, even consented to return back to someone who she thought had cheated her? They had very different approaches towards relationships, but still, both of them gave their ALL to their relationships. Somewhere, they were similar.
But Aai and Archana..? It was like comparing chalk and cheese!
He shook his thoughts away, and focussed instead on what Aai had said. "Sweety is too young to marry right now- barely 18. She would have repented later on- this generatio barely wants to adjust anyways. Leave all that, so why did you take me to Sachin now..? Why did you tell me about him? Now toh I will definitely not let you force him for marriage."
"You wanted to meet him before your surgery, that is why." Said Savita quietly. "I don't care if revealing everything made me look like a selfish, cunning, manipulating, greedy mother in your eyes. That toh I already am. I may not talk to you a lot these days, but I can see through you the same way as earlier. I know that right now you need HIM more than the MONEY he can bring by getting married to Sweety."
She looked down at her hands. Choked with emotions, Manav couldn't say a word.
They returned to their chawl and dragging their feet, climbed the stairs. They had reached the end of the stairs when they heard loud voices coming from inside.
"Dada give me the remote! I watch just ten minutes of news daily, why can't you let me see that also!" Vedant was arguing.
"No, give me the remote, I have to watch Styletrendz!" this was Vandita.
Manav and Savita walked to their house in amazement. "Arey stop shouting, come and get your plates!!" they heard Archana call out.
They stood at the door of the house, taking in the scene before them.
In the living room of the house, in front of the television set, were Vandita and Vedant arguing for the remote and how news or fashion was better.
Archana was transferring pakoras or bhajias or whatever they were from a big plate to several small ones, and serving chutney from little bowls.
"I will decide what to watch! I have missed so many matches on TV.. hell.. I have not seen TV since such a long time.. no one can take the remote from me today!!!"
Manav couldn't believe his eyes as he saw Sachin sitting in front of him, the remote in his hands, changing channels excitedly. The light from the television was getting reflected in Sachin's naughty eyes, as he took the plate of pakoras from Archana. "Thanks Vahini! No sauce?" he made a face.
"You will have to go and get a new bottle from the shop downstairs," she said, and turned. She was surprised to see Manav and Aai both standing there together in front of her. She smiled and looked at Sachin.
Manav felt numb as he and Aai walked to Sachin, and Vandita and Vedant watched them with smiles and a knowing look. Sachin who had turned the bottle of sauce upside down and was tapping it on its bottom, hoping for some leftover sauce to come out, noticed them. "Oh hi!" he said, trying to sound casual. "Does anyone have a better plan to procure sauce without taking the effort to go to the market?"
"Sachin!" Manav said finally, a wide smile breaking on his face. He felt like laughing and crying and rejoicing and slapping his brother- all at once. He wanted to hug him and slap him silly, and tell him how much he had been missed, and reprimand him and threaten him and shower him with wishes and blessings- but somehow every reaction seemed blocked out- he could express nothing- he felt he was in some kind of a dream. Somehow he managed to raise his hand and put it on Sachin's cheek. Next to him, Savita Aai was on the verge of tears, relieved to finally see her son back home.
"Oh my god.." exclaimed Manav. "Oh my God!" he said. "You are really back!"
Sachin smiled widely and shied a little. "Yes, I'm back." He said. "And back for good."
After dinner, they sat together on the swing in the balcony where they had played as children, and Sachin told Manav about everything that had happened ever since he had left home, his current job and his plans for the future.
"I am trying for a few jobs.." said Sachin sheepishly. He knew that Manav was disappointed to see his highly educated brother working in a call centre now. "I am sorry I let you down Dada.. you gave up so much to educate us.. you made me an engineer cos you yourself could never become one.. but don't worry I will get a good job soon.. my friend is looking for.."
"Arey its okay." Said Manav, trying to hide his disappointment and smiling at him. "The good thing is that you have realised your mistake and come back home.. I am glad that both you and Sweety realised what you were doing and took back your steps.. else today both of you would have got stuck in a marriage you didn't want."
Sachin nodded, and looked at the CT scans in front of him. Manav had told him about his illness in detail, as well as all that had happened in the last few days when Sachin had not been there. Sachin knew most of it- he had heard another version of the same story from Vedant and Vandita.
Manav sat silently for a few minutes and then asked Sachin softly, "I guess you also must be angry with Archana cos of the harassment complaint.."
"I am no one to be angry with anyone.." said Sachin gruffly. "At least she was there with all of you when it all happened. She stood by you. She even testified against her family in court for all of you. I was lost in my own world, and later I felt too weak to come back and take up my responsibilities for a change. I have no right to point fingers at her, if I do that there will be 4 pointing back at me.."
Manav simply stared at Sachin.
"But yes, I am angry and upset with the Karanjkars." He confessed. "I don't think I can ever forgive them for it.. how long were all of you in the police station?"
"Close to one hour." Said Manav, recalling that day. "I sent Vedant immediately to fetch Archana and she got us all released from jail.. otherwise god knows what would have happened."
"True." Said Sachin, his blood boiling inside at the thought of his family members in prison, and that he had not been there with them at that time. There were some mistakes whose guilt remained throughout life, and by leaving home, he had made a bed of thorns to lie on for the rest of his life. Thank goodness he had listened to Archana Vahini, swallowed his pride and ambitions and returned home, else he would have felt even worse later, knowing that he had not been with his brother in the most difficult time of his life.
"Can you ever forgive me Dada.." Sachin started.
""Leave it now.." Manav shut him up affectionately. "It's all in the past.. and we have to start afresh now."
Sachin nodded, trying to gulp back tears. Manav added, "And isn't it worth applauding that you corrected yourself and accepted your mistake in front of all? Very few people do that Sachin! I will be frank, I had not expected you to come home on your own, I thought we would have to cajole, scold or shout at you. But you swallowed your ego and came on your own- I'm so proud of you for the courage you showed in coming back and facing everyone inspite of being ashamed that you didn't come back as the winner you had set out to be."
Sachin looked around, feeling awkward. Only Archana and he knew what the real truth was. He tried to change the topic and sound cheerful again. "My own career and personal life went for a toss- it was actually destined to be that way only, considering I never listened to anyone and obstinately followed what I wanted to do.. but I am happy that things are going well at your end.."
Manav burst out laughing. "What is going on right in my life? I have a surgery to undergo! My in laws hate me and Ajit is out for my blood! Varsha is still missing! And my garage is still closed!" he remarked.
"Yes, but you are trying in the spare parts business, Archana Vahini told me you have got some leads to contact Varsha.. and then most importantly.. Vahini came back home.. and everything seems fine between both of you.. this reminds me- how did it happen?" Sachin asked in a confused manner. "The last thing I know, both of you were getting divorced."
Manav smiled. "Yes.. we were getting divorced.. but maybe fate had other plans for us." He then told Sachin everything about how Archana had decided for the divorce but never been happy with it, that the days before their ultimate separation had actually brought out the depth of her feelings for him- so much that she had actually thought that even if he was the 'bad guy' as painted by Ajit, he could be given a second chance in life, since he really loved her and was essentially a nice man.
Sachin burst out laughing. "Oh my God!" he laughed, holding his stomach. "I thought such things happened only in Hindi films! Wife sees the good side of her horrible husband and ends up reforming him! Except that the twist here is that the husband was never bad at all!"
Manav smiled too. "Yeah, she did realise it ultimately when she started living in this house again- she herself questioned the evidences shown by Ajit and came to the conclusion that something was not right, that I couldn't be guilty. You remember Sachin, once Shravani had ridiculed Archana and mine relationship, saying what sort of a Pavitra Rishta was this, if Archana needed proofs to come back to me? Well, she never needed them. She came back on her own, she embraced my life, my troubles, everything wholeheartedly and has never looked back. I think the only thing that was required to settle the misunderstandings between us was not proofs or witnesses, but just an understanding of each other's characters- something that was not there in the beginning cos Archana didn't know me well, but with time, in separations and togetherness, she understood the real 'me', and ultimately all misunderstandings ended."
Sachin continued listening to his brother with a small smile on his face. Manav smiled at nothing in particular and continued staring in the darkness.
"I will admit, in the beginning I was very angry with her when she returned. She had come to know of my illness and so I thought she had come back only for sympathy reasons- she had never shown any involvement before, you know, and I didn't want such 'charity' from her after so many insults.. but slowly I understood that sometimes it is not easy to show the depth of your feelings for each other openly, and unfortunately Archana had been in exactly that condition- you remember the first day of the divorce hearing na?- all of us were so angry at her apparent cold heartedness, we never realised she too had been tearing up inside cos of the divorce. Earlier when she returned back, I felt angry that she wanted to 'give me a chance' cos of sympathy reasons when actually she should have asked me for forgiveness- but now I laugh at it, and it leaves me with a warm feeling- that this girl actually wanted to return to this marriage cos she saw something good and respect worthy in her 'horrible husband'. There are very few people out there who trust the goodness in others, and foolish as it might sound, Archana is one of them. She turned Ajit's plan on its head. She is the only one who could do it.. in fact.. considering that I had no evidence, that it was an arranged marriage with Archana knowing very little about me and Ajit being part of their family- this was the only antidote to Ajit's plan!"
"That is true." Said Sachin. "Vahini is definitely one who doesn't believe in holding grudges or wishing ill of anyone- always wanting others to get back to a happy life. I might not agree with her approach at all times.. she is too emotional and tender hearted for my understanding and always willing to forgive and forget.. but that does not stop me from appreciating this quality in her." He looked at his brother's happy face. "I'm happy that things worked out for you Dada, trust me, I really really am. You deserve someone like Vahini only, someone who can fill your life with the positivity and tender love it needs."
Manav blushed and looked away. "You know, earlier I used to feel she was a little too soft on everyone, an emotional fool, but I later realised that she thinks with her heart only after using her intellect, her mind first, not blindly. That is why it took time for her to analyse and say no to the divorce. Earlier I used to think she is actually a misfit in this home, in MY home, in MY life." Said Manav. "With her rose coloured glasses, I was sure that she would end up being used and manipulated by everyone, and then fall prey to another misunderstanding by Ajit and leave me high and dry. But she never fell for Ajit's sinister plans after that! And now I feel no one could have handled this volatile Deshmukh household more appropriately than her. I mean, she just KNOWS how to handle every member of the house differently, how to convince him/her, make them see reason- she is good in handling relationships, she even helped me understand Vedant and Vandita recently and pointed out that they were growing up and needed to be handled differently. She never tolerates crap from Aai, and yet never crosses her limits- with Aai she is practical and logical; she is timid and obedient, yet puts forth her opinion respectfully in front of Baba and manages to scold him too; she talks to Vedant in the language of a friend, but with Vandita she is more tactical and talks using me as the centre point, cos Vandita hasn't warmed up to her so much; for Atya she is a devoted student and listener and.."
"..And she can also scold and shout and be an angry vahini when required." Finished Sachin, remembering how Archana and he had fought.
Manav looked at Sachin questioningly. "Whom did Archana scold?" he asked.
"Uh oh no one!" said Sachin hurriedly. "What were you saying?" he asked
"You made me forget what I was saying!" said Manav, scratching his head. "You were gushing about how perfect Archana Vahini is." Prodded Sachin.
"Perfect? Umm.. I don't know.. nah.. she is not perfect as such.. she has a lot of flaws too,.. but yes.. she is a perfect fit for this crooked Deshmukh family.. I don't know.. maybe it is too soon for me to change my stand.. but.. I nowadays get a vibe that everything will limp back to place now.. I don't think I have ever admired so many qualities in a woman as much as I have in Archana- she is soft hearted and innocent, willing to trust the goodness in others, but she is no emotional fool, she is cautious even while believing others, and can fight for her rights and principles and what she truly believes in. Till the end she did NOT testify falsely for Savita Aai in the harassment complaint issue, but she went against her family for Baba and me to give us justice. She is not cold hearted to her own family or her parents, neither has she forgotten them for my parents, she just knows where and how to draw the line- she never lets Aai insult her parents, neither does she let her mother or Vahini insult me! She is not perfect, but she tries to be a stronger woman for herself and her own people and I find that sooo inspiring. You have no idea how much your docile, meek Vahini has changed herself to fit into this household."
Sachin looked longingly at his brother, remembering the day he had himself ridiculed Manav and Archana's relationship, when Manav had tried to give him some well intentioned advice regarding Sweety. Well, now Sweety was nowhere in the picture, and Dada and Vahini were together and happy. Sachin had been proved wrong pathetically by fate time and again, but it was a defeat he was happy about. The respect his Dada and Vahini shared for each other and their faith in each other was both inspiring as well as extremely sweet to witness. It did not leave any doubts as to how much they both loved and understood each other- just the sort of love and understanding that had been missing in his relationship with Sweety, Sachin thought, feeling more and more convinced that he had made the right decision in breaking up with her.
"Are both of you just going to sit talking all night?" asked Archana, coming up to them. "What are both of you talking about?"
"Nothing just usual things." Said Sachin, then added with a grin. "Dada was sharing his 'mann ki bhadaas' regarding you.. you know.. all these days he had no one to confide in.."
Archana's eyes shot up questioningly while Manav looked shocked. "Arey what the.. Archana.. he is just.. blabbering."
"Yeah.. just like you were blabbering a while back." Said Sachin casually. "About how Archana Vahini has made you into a joru ka ghulam who does everything she says now.."
Archana hurried to speak. "It's a lie! He doesn't listen to me at all!!!"
"I do listen to you!" said Manav indignantly. "How much more do you want from me?"
"You don't take care of yourself even after I have asked you hundreds of times!" Archana pouted, even as Sachin sat back to enjoy the fun. "Veryyy careless!!!" he shook his head.
"And you never keep the clothes properly in the clothes rack though I have told you so many times! I have to arrange everything again and again!" she said. Sachin shook his head. "Verryyy bad!!!" he said loudly.
"And you don't drink milk!!" finished Archana. "He doesn't drink milk?" said Sachin loudly, pretending to be shocked. "Oh my God!!"
"Arey but.." Manav stammered. He looked at Sachin's naughty grin and understood what was happening. He gave him a whack on the back of his head. "Narad Muni! Started already!" he said sternly.
"Ouch! Gently please, today is my first day back! I should get a few days leeway!" said Sachin rubbing the back of his head.
"Leeway?! Huh!" said Manav, assembling all his reports to put them away. "You deserve a thrashing for troubling us so much all these days!"
Sachin grinned as Manav walked away. Archana was smiling at him. "I just knew things would be better once you were back. Thankyou so much for coming back."
"Nah.. don't make me feel guilty now.." said Sachin, feeling shy.
"I was surprised that you returned." Said Archana. "After our fight yesterday, I hadn't expected you too."
"I too had not thought of returning. But ek toh news of Dada's illness, and then.." Sachin paused. "You were right in what you said. I cannot have the luxury to make the choices all the time and take on responsibilities when I am in the mood too. It felt bad to hear all this from someone who is new in the family.. I was pretty embarrassed and angry.. but then again, it felt bad that you were with my Dada and I wasn't.. I guess my initial reaction to return was to 'show you' that I was not selfish.. but after coming here I realised how much grief I have given everyone by staying away cos of my ego and false self respect. Thanks for updating me about things at home and correcting me.. I have so many people to thank.. who scolded me at the right time, Aai included.." he said, scratching his head. "Her threats and demands and taunts never worked on Baba, Manav or you- but they ended up working on me."
"Did you talk to her?" Archana asked.
"No, not much." Said Sachin. "I feel, sort of uncomfortable, and manipulated. I am pretty angry with her too.. but as I told Dada.. I have myself done so many wrong things that I don't know if I even have a right to accuse others now.."
"Leave that now." Said Archana. "Go and sleep.. it is late."
"Hmm.. wait tell me one thing.. when are we going to tell Dada?"
"About what brought me back?" asked Sachin. "About you coming to my home and scolding me? About the fact that I knew of his illness? Right now he assumes I knew nothing beforehand and I came on my own.."
"We are not going to tell him anything." Said Archana. "There is no need to tell him or anyone actually.."
"But he should know.. don't you think?" said Sachin, thinking of how nice Manav would feel if he came to know that Archana was one of the reasons for Sachin returning back. Vedant and Vandita, Aai and Baba- everyone would warm up to her some more if they came to know about it.
"There is no need Sachin." Said Archana. "See, Manav is one who doesn't like people to have pity on him.. especially his own family members. He doesn't like it when he feels, or is made to feel that his people came to him only cos of his illness and they wouldn't have tried to settle differences otherwise. He doesn't like his illness to become an obligation for everyone to be good to him. It makes him feel guilty of falling sick and troubling others."
"So we shall never tell him? And let him feel that I returned back home by myself..?"
"Umm yes.. it is better to make you retain that image of a caring brother in Manav's eyes.. see how happy he is that you returned cos you realised your responsibilities and were missing him.. it is such a source of hope to him.. he thinks his baby brother has finally wisened and grown up."
"But it is not true unfortunately." Said Sachin sadly. "I refused to come back initially.."
"But you did come after a little prodding, did you not?" Archana asked gently. "Sometimes seeing our loved ones in trouble bring out the real feelings from within us- breaks walls of ego, distrust and anger. You needed to know the truth, just like you really needed a harsh wake-up call from Savita Aai, wanting you to become a ghar jamai if not a working son. We shall tell Manav the truth one day.. some 8-10 years down the line, maybe.." Archana giggled at Sachin's shocked expression. "By that time your relationship with him will have been strengthened to the extent.. he will have seen your love, support and responsible side to the extent that this little revelation- that you didn't return on your own but bcos of a scolding and guilt trip by me- will not change your image in his eyes. You might not have grown up now, but you will grow up by then."
Sachin smiled. "You have too much faith in me.."
"Nah.. I just state what I see." Said Archana with a smile. "And I'm sure you will do just fine. "
Sachin blushed. "Stop predicting about my future now.. go to Manav Dada. He will be cursing me for keeping you here and him waiting all alone in his bedroom. Both of you have lost a lot of time thanks to Ajit, I don't want to be another nuisance now."
Archana smacked Sachin on his arm, blushing ferociously, even as he grinned and walked away. She smiled to herself and walked to her bedroom.
Sachin got out the mattresses and made his bed next to Vedant's in the living room. He hadn't met his father as yet, who was rehearsing for some street play based on.. of all topics in the world- Alcoholism!! Another of Archana Vahini's idea, he guessed, going by the fact that Baba was doing it for her NGO. Wow, a lot of things had happened in this house-both good and bad- ever since he had left it. It seemed like a different world altogether now, with Vahini back.
He smiled thinking about Archana Vahini. It was sweet of her for not wanting to take the credit of being the one to confront him and coerce him into coming back, and make him the hero of the whole situation instead. She really did think a lot about what would make Manav Dada happy, rather than what would make her look good in the eyes of everyone.
He felt a hand on his head and woke up with a start. It was Savita Aai, sitting near his pillow.
"Aai.." he said hesitatingly, getting up.
"You haven't even talked to me properly ever since you came back." Pouted Aai. "Are you still angry with me for shouting at you and demanding that you get married to Sweety if you don't want to work?"
"Leave it now." Murmured Sachin uncomfortably. "At least you were honest about your desire for a rich daughter in law. No manipulations involved this time. And this time I can understand your reasons too- Dada was ill and we needed the money. Nice to see that you thought about him."
Savita felt slightly embarrassed but said, "I am so happy you returned back on your own. I was worried that you wouldn't, cos you were so focussed on your ego trip and were angry with me too. I am happy the whole family is together again after all the drama and Manav doesn't have to depend on outsiders anymore, who came back claiming Manav had 'no one' with him."
Savita snorted and Sachin frowned. "Was that about Archana Vahini?" he asked.
"Who else?" asked Savita angrily. "She apparently thinks we are a useless bunch of people who don't love Manav or can't take care of him. So Queen Bee had to descend in this humble abode from her heaven and the whole house now worships her for the kindness she bestowed on us. Big deal if she came back!"
Savita cursed under her breath.
"I don't think that is true." Said Sachin slowly. "The part about Archana Vahini thinking we don't love Manav or that we are incapable or anything like that.. I think she respects us given that we are related to Dada and knows that we matter to him and he matters to us.. else she wouldn't have come to get me back.. or shown so much faith in me, I guess. I still remember her saying what it would mean to Manav Dada if I came back and.."
"SHE GOT YOU BACK?!" asked a bewildered Savita. She had not expected that of all the people in the world, the one to convince Sachin to return would be his sister in law with whom he had lived only for a few days some months back and had yet to bond properly with.
"Umm yeah.." Sachin admitted. "She sort of.. scolded me for being childish and stuff.."
"How dare she.. wait I will see her now.. Archa.."
"NO WAIT!!" Sachin hurried to stop her. "Don't scold her. It's not her mistake, I was really behaving like a jerk and she lost her cool. Even you had to shout at me, remember?"
Aai looked at Sachin angrily and then spoke, "I am tired of this woman taking over this house and our lives. We have become what, puppets in her hand? And Manav toh is totally under her control now.. did you hear about the court case against Manjusha.. I told them all NOT to do it, but no one listened to me, not even Manav and.. he has even forgiven her so soon, favours her over me, Vedant and Vandita listen to her and even work alongside her, your Baba sings praises of her and.."
"Aai.. will you never change?" asked Sachin in exasperation. "I thought you learnt your lesson once when everyone turned against you after knowing of your manipulations and sinister plans, but no! Things have moved ahead, why can't you move ahead too, for everyone's sake?"
"Move ahead? How do you expect me forget everything and move ahead? Archana and her family have unleashed so much of destruction in this house, bcos of them Manav had to go through so much of stress and humiliation, we all have been humiliated so much, we were put in JAIL for god sake .. yes she did testify against Manjusha for our sake which was good, but it doesn't wipe out everything does it?"
"Well, isn't everyone moving ahead with you too after all that you've done? Am not I trying to move on even after.." Without another word, he turned his back to a shocked Savita and promptly lay down, shaking his head, murmuring about how some things in the house had not changed even a wee bit.
Archana walked to her bedroom, loosening her hair. Manav was standing by the window, looking outside at the chawl. He gave her a smile as she came in.
"You look so happy.." she began.
The curve on his lips only widened. "I am." He confessed and chuckled to himself. "Just a few hours ago, I was lamenting my fate.. wondering when and how I would be able to mend the differences between Sachin and myself.. and now.. not only is everything all right, but he is back home too! It is too good to be true, and too fast too, actually."
"Yes, it is unbelievable." She agreed, sitting at the dressing table.
Manav continued. "I wonder how he suddenly decided to come back home." He wondered out aloud.
"He has wisened up, nothing else." said Archana matter of factly. "All your brothers and your sister are mature intelligent people- it's only you who thinks they are kids and keeps mollycoodling them."
Manav frowned at her, then continued. "No.. but so suddenly.. and just before the surgery.. weird coincidence, don't you think?"
"True." Agreed Archana, combing her hair. "Divine intervention, I would say."
She stopped suddenly, when she noticed Manav was staring at her. "What happened?"
"You have done something." He said. "Hai na?"
"Rubbish!" said Archana dismissively. "Sachin came on his own. You should be proud of him."
"I AM proud of him- for turning over a new leaf. The Sachin who didn't want to compromise earlier works, has become more responsible- I believe it had more to do with his own awakening than merely Savita Aai's threats. I remember there was a time when he didn't want to handle my garage cos he thought it was beneath him, today he has no qualms working in a call centre- he doesn't look down upon small jobs now. He has certainly grown up. But I know you had something to do with his return."
"You imagine too much." Said Archana and started getting into bed.
"One of these days I will find out." Said Manav with a secret smile. Archana did not meet his eyes. "Yeah sure, all the best for that."
They lay down quietly for a while. Then Archana spoke again. "Manav, you asleep?"
He shook his head and turned to face her.
"Are you nervous, about tomorrow?"
Manav did not say anything, and Archana waited with bated breath.
"Yes and no." He replied. "I mean, there is apprehension no doubt, but after the little miracle that has happened today, I feel more positive. Someone is looking at us from above, after all."
He gave her a small smile. In return Archana beamed at him. "You just see Manav, this is just the first amongst our victories. I told you to have faith, didn't I? Well now things will go better here on. Cos good things happen to good people."
Finally- I updated! Apologies to everyone for not updating since such a long time (the longest I've been away, I think) but I had more commitments on the work side. Plus an exam to give in Dec. (please pray for me!!)Anyways, I managed to beat the trailer of KPC, haha. Leave your comments and feedback for this part, as always. Will PM everyone in my next study break.
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