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She hadn't meant to ignore her mobile, but had just been too involved in the sketch she was doing to realize that it was ringing.
"Too busy to talk this evening; on another call perhaps?"
"Nay KT, who would be calling this time of night? I was just in the middle of something that's all, and didn't hear the phone at first.
"Aacha, well if you are too busy..."
"Nay, KT, I'm all yours; how are you?"
Sighing heavily at the idiocy of the question and the reasoning behind it, Rachna continued, "KT, did I ever mention that Naomi's brother lived in the UK? It's funny really, although she is allowed to reside in student housing, her parents were so happy that she selected a university in the city where he works. It was really great for her, well for both of us to have someone older nearby to look out for us, you know. I guess for her it could be a bit overbearing having your big brother around so much, but he always checked on us and made sure the two of us were ok. Poor Naomi, I swear she has to talk to him every other day or so, just to check in to see how she doing here, but it's nice to get the chance to speak to him when he does Skype her. He really reminds me a lot of Mayank."
"Naomi's brother is the "go-to-guy?"
"Yes, why what on earth were you thinking?"
"Well, actually.. so you never receive calls from him directly then?"
"Believe me, I'm sure in his view I fit in the same category as his irritating little sister; who by the way, was only trying to deflect speculation today at lunch from the two of us, that's all. Anyway, I hope you were you calling to confirm the schedule for tomorrow as you did seem a little distracted earlier today. We should be finished classes by 2:00 tomorrow afternoon, so Naomi and I will make our way to the studio after that. We should have time for a couple of fittings."
"I could just come and collect the two of you."
"That won't be necessary, we will be okay. Oh, and by the way KT, even if I was receiving calls directly, they wouldn't mean anything; this is the only telephone call I look forward to now."
Racing through the corridor, already fifteen minutes late, Rachna paused to take Naomi's call.
"Ra, how much longer will you be? I'm just at the gate now."
"I'm sorry, I just got stuck here. See if you can grab a rickshaw, and I will be right there, okay?"
"Okay, I will be waiting, but hurry."
Approaching the college entrance, Rachna noted that Naomi was still attempting to get a rickshaw to no avail. "Great," she thought, "Now we'll be even later." Perhaps they she should have agreed for KT to collect them, she thought; an idea confirmed as she noticed that two motorcycle riders had stopped adjacent to her friend, and one of them was now getting off to approach her. "Oh God." Rachna thought as she quickened her steps.
Apart from a cursory hello, Naomi ignored the young man who had approached her as she attempted to hail an approaching rickshaw. Only when she felt her wrist being touched, did she turn her attention to the person. "Excuse me, how dare you!"
"Your henna is very beautiful; did you do it for someone special?"
Attempting to pull out of the grip of this stranger who thought it okay to touch her, Naomi looked up at the man, and vented her fury, "You want to get a look at the henna design, well you will get a real close view, if you don't let me go, mate!" Only on realization that the second rider had got off his bike did she grasp that she may be a little over her head. She was looking around for assistance when, almost simultaneously two hands came down to grip the young man's arm.
"Let go of my friend now!"
"Abhi, what the hell is wrong with you?"
Rachna looked up at the second man in relief that he wasn't adding to this problem. "Perhaps you can teach your friend some manners; how dare he.."
"Rachna, it is Rachna right? I'm sorry he shouldn't have done this."
Startled by the use of her name by a complete stranger, Rachna loosened her grip and watched as the man, forcibly removed his friend's hand and shoved him away.
"Ra," Naomi whispered, "do you know him?"
"Nay, I don't, I've never met him before." Glad at that moment for an empty rickshaw to be approaching, Rachna hailed it, and the two of them scrambled into it, escaping the strange situation.
"Dammit Abhi, what is wrong with you?" Shekhar had demanded of his friend as he pushed him away from the two young women. "I won't spare you if you ruin this for me!"
"You can't be serious Shekhar, you can't be considering her? That sounds like your mother talking not you."
"Are you sure Ra, I mean how did he know your name?"
"I honestly don't know." Realizing they were approaching their destination, Rachna turned to her friend, "Please let's just let it go until we get home okay?"
"Sure Ra, it's just so bizarre though."
Their minds elsewhere, Rachna and Naomi left the studio, still contemplating the strange situation. As they walked to her house Rachna noticed the older woman leaving and stopped in shock. She had only seen her briefly six months ago, and then too she had had a profound effect on her life.
"Namaste Aunty Ji"
"Rachna beta, welcome back home. I was hoping to see you today when I visited but was told that you were working. Did your studies go well?"
"Yes Aunty, they did. Since I'm here now, would you like to come back home?"
"Nay, nay beta, that's all right, but I did want to say that Shekhar is very anxious for the two of you to finally meet. Everything happened so quickly with your overseas studies that you didn't have the opportunity before, but now you are back and we will now make arrangements very soon."
"Ji Aunty, Namaste."
Watching as the older woman got into the awaiting car, Rachna waved goodbye, more by rote, than in actual farewell. Waving back, all the woman could think of was at last she had found the perfect Bahu; she would now ensure that there would be no more hindrances to this marriage; one delay had been enough.
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