Joined: 13 November 2011
Joined: 13 November 2011
"Chote!" Her voice stopped him at the threshold. He closed his eyes in a feeble effort to calm down his grated nerves and stood there without moving a muscle. He was already late to a meeting but he wasn't in a mood to face the disembowelment of his sister's emotions all over patio.
"Here, eat this," she said walking up to him. Her bangles made enough noise to let him know that she was standing only two feet behind him. But he couldn't bring himself to turn around and look at her in the eye.
"What is it, di?" He asked mechanically. The fight the siblings had had the previous night had left a bitter taste in his mouth and he was still pissed at her. He didn't want the residual anger roar back to rage and have yet another row early in the morning.
"I had gone to temple and-"
"I have told you many times that I don't believe in God or such things. Don't force me into something that I have no regard for," he said forcefully and stepped out.
"But it's your birthday today," she said with quivering voice.
He closed his eyes again and took a deep breath. He finally turned around and glared at his sister. "Anjali, I haven't celebrated my birthday in last two decades and you know it very well. If asking me to do things I don't wish to be bothered with is your way of initiating a conversation after last night, then you are way past wrong," he snarled at her.
Without waiting for a response, he turned and slid to his car. Anjali stood at the patio in muted agony of hurt and disappointment as her brother continued to ignore her. The frequency of the arguments between them was getting smaller and smaller and now a day didn't get past them without caustic words being exchanged between the two.
She refused to believe that her husband was the root cause of it all. Arnav called her a doormat and a pushover in heat of argument. She had stood up straight, slapped her younger brother and defended her husband's virtuosity with all her strength and smartness. In the end, he had only smirked at her in mockery.
She wiped stray tears from her cheek and walked back inside Raizada mansion.
"Thanks Payal," fifty four year old Pankaj Gupta took the hot tea cup gratefully from his older daughter. Payal smiled bemused at her father's morning ritual of drinking tea, eating namkeen bashfully escaping his wife's ever scrutinizing eyes and reading newspaper cover to cover. When she walked back to kitchen, she could hear her mother grumbling about her husband namkeen smuggling habits and a daughter who pampers her father.
"Relax ma," she said hugging her mother from back. She rested her chin on her mother's shoulder and smelled the sugary aroma of vermicelli kheer waffling from the open container. "What's the occasion?" She asked stealing a ghee-fried cashew nut.
Garima Gupta sighed deeply. "It's Khushi's birthday today," she said softly. Payal stiffened and let her mother go. Garima turned around at the loss of contact. "It's been seven years..." Tears pooled in her eyes and she snatched a kitchen tissue and dabbed her eyes.
"She made that decision mom and didn't care for what anyone thought of her or us for that matter." Payal's voice was hard. "I am sick and tired of this," she said with venom.
"Payal..." Garima cried out.
"Khushi decided to leave us ma and apart from the occasional emails and phone calls, she hasn't bothered to come here and find out how we are coping after the mess she left for us to clean," Payal bit out.
"She didn't have a choice Payal..." Garima tried to rationalize.
"We all have a choice ma. She just chose not to include us in hers." Payal said turning around. "We have never been her priority ma."
"Khushi isn't like the rest of us Payal," Garima said softly. "She is more attracted to abstraction of humanity than the people who represent it." The mother's voice was filled with sadness and a melancholy of several years.
Payal walked out of the kitchen wordlessly.
Next chapter: Chapter 2, Only You
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