Joined: 23 February 2008
yeap. Me three
Joined: 25 March 2008
yeap. Me three
Joined: 25 March 2008
Six – Jeet
"So your marriage is the hot topic of discussion here, did you know that?"
No need to to lose my cool. Jeet took a deep breath and replied to his colleague, who he had to put up with on more than just a professional level, owing to the fact that he happened to be his closest friend.
"Unless my marriage has anything to do with the job my father has given you, I don't see why you need to mention it. We were talking business, so let's keep it that way. You realise I only put up with your comments because you're my friend? Anyone else, and they wouldn't be working with me right now."
"And I heard marriage makes people happier. At least during the honeymoon," Vijay said reproachfully.
"Yes, well, I'm ecstatic, Vijay. Dying of happiness. Is that all?"
"No…actually – let me point out that you put up with me because I am your friend. And that gives me every right to ask you why you disappeared early and left me to deal with the factories. And – don't interrupt! We're done talking business here, I know – you take over here, your father flies out and gets the Mumbai offices back on their feet, and I'm your second in command till that's all finished. Right?"
Jeet laughed. "Right. Fine, ask away."
"So how's my bhabhi? Anything like the Ice Queen from the office? You know, she's not so bad to look at – the other day I almost dropped dead in the lobby at the sight of her…that woman is a goddess, yaar. If she takes her glasses off for me just once I'll die a happy man."
"Leave Rekha alone, Vijay. She's not interested," Jeet leaned against the railing and winked through the glass at Soni, who was inside packing. She shook her head and went back to what she was doing, smiling. "Yes, I suppose they have one thing in common. You have to fight to earn their approval. Which is something you, my friend, will never take the trouble to do."
"Fair enough," Vijay said cheerfully. "But a man can dream eh, Jeet? Although, being married, you just lost that privilege."
"Don't feel too sorry for me," Jeet said. "I'll see you when I get back. And we can discuss Ratan Wadhwa's business proposal in length, although I don't believe he'd be willing to cut that deal. Where's the profit for him?"
Putting his phone away, he turned round as Soni appeared beside him, lips parted, awe on her face.
She made him turn back again so he was looking out over the rails of the balcony.
"My darling wife, what is it you want me to see?"
She hit him, but not too hard. "Jeet, look at that sunset. Isn't it beautiful?"
He looked briefly at the sky - unnoticed by him, the setting of the sun had brought on a splash of vivid colour across the sky, but uninterested, he found his eyes invariably drawn back to Soni.
"Sunset? What sunset? I'm looking at something so beautiful I can see nothing else," he said, enveloping her in his arms from behind. "And I don't want to look at anything else either."
Her body relaxed slightly, and she placed her hands over his, now encircling her waist.
"You'll never change, Jeet," she said, leaning back against him so that their cheeks were touching.
"Not even after seven lives," he replied laughingly, and tightened his hold on her. "So you'll have to be the one who changes. Tell me you love me, Soni."
She broke away with a hint of a giggle. "We're leaving tomorrow, and half your clothes are scattered all the over the place. At least let me finish my work."
It wasn't ideal, but Jeet supposed it was the best he could have expected considering Mamma's temperament. Bhai had assured him that he had spoken to her and that she had seemed somewhat resigned to his marriage, something she had refused to do until then. However, Mamma was downright cold in her manner towards Soni, sharply contrasting with her warm and effusive welcome of him.
But now, as he sat with bhai and Papaji after dinner, stirrings of contentment began within him and he allowed himself to believe that things could only improve.
"The house is already looking brighter with you back," remarked bhai. "Everything is going fine, except…Papaji, I wish you would listen to me. Must you leave for Mumbai so soon?"
Jeet earnestly agreed. "Papji, I've told you so many times that I'm prepared to go to Mumbai myself. There's no need for you to go so far, or work so hard – you have bhai, you have me – why do you insist on being so stubborn?"
His father's indulgent smile made Jeet realise that nothing he said would make an impression, and a sideways glance at bhai's expression was enough for him to deduce that bhai had broached this topic before, but with no more success than him.
"I don't know whether to count it as a blessing or my misfortune that I have sons as dutiful as you both. But I will say this you, Jeet, as I have already said to Veer – I need to be there in person to bring the situation under control – no, puttar, I don't doubt your capability," he added, as Jeet began to protest, "but circumstances are that way. Who are we negotiate with what is meant to be?"
Bhai frowned. "You mean fate? What do we owe to circumstances? I don't believe these kinds of things. Papaji, however a situation may be, a person has the right and freedom to make their own decisions. I could at least come with you, let me help."
"Not to be sidetracked, I see," said Papaji. "Puttar, before we return to our discussion, a word of advice. Don't take the power of circumstance so lightly. There comes a time in a man's life when he has to put aside his fears and desires to bend to the will of the situation, and ignore what he wants to do for what he must do."
Half turning to place his empty glass on the table, Jeet caught sight of his brother's face, which no longer had the stubborn expression he had been wearing only moments before. Instead, bhai faltered, almost startled by Papaji's words.
"However the situation may be, a man can never be forced to do the wrong thing," bhai spoke as if to himself. He looked up almost defensively. "Even then a person does what he thinks is right."
Perplexed by this exchange, Jeet watched them both, realising what his father did not – there was something more than the tension over the business on bhai's mind. Before he could think about it, his father replied.
"Forcing one of you to Mumbai, when both have work to do here – now that wouldn't be right," he shook his head.
"Enough, Jeet! You only just arrived today and already you begin on this subject? It scares me, watching you both react like this – I'm not that old yet, I can still manage some work."
Jeet grinned. "Of course, Papaji. No one seeing you for the first time couldever think we were your sons – you being that smart."
"Grandsons, perhaps?" Papaji chuckled, and then glanced at Veer before continuing in a more serious tone, "Jeet, it was never my intention to trouble you with this. I'm extremely impressed by your willingness to shoulder responsibility – the responsibility that comes with the business, and even with marriage."
"Mamma's delighted, you saw that this afternoon," bhai smiled approvingly.
"You know how your mother can be," said Papaji as he rose, eyes twinkling. "Goodnight."
Jeet turned to Veer, who was still watching Papaji as he walked up the stairs.
"Bhai, what news?" he asked. "Has anything exciting been happening at home?"
Bhai took his time to reply, a wry smile lingering on his face.
Joined: 03 January 2008
Joined: 25 March 2008
Joined: 25 March 2008
Seven - Veer
It wasn't until a few days later that Veer exchanged more than just a couple of words with Soni. He was coming downstairs one evening, mind occupied with events much outside the house and his family, when he saw Soni sitting in a corner of the hall with Simran on her play mat. He was halfway down, and too far to hear what she was saying as she both cooed and sang to Simran but he halted for a few moments at the sight of them both, so close they could have been mother and daughter. He smiled as Soni rubbed noses with Simran, making the baby wave her arms even more enthusiastically.
As he came closer, Soni started at the sound of his approach and immediately made to get to her feet.
"Mummyji, it's almost finished, just –" she stopped mid sentence as she saw him and broke into a smile, but Veer noticed her discomfort, betrayed by the way she carried on twisting her fingers together.
"Relax," he smiled, spreading his arms. "No need to worry. Mamma and Jyothi left to go shopping – you didn't know? I believe Lovely bua insisted on accompanying them at the very last minute."
Their eyes met, and a playful understanding quickly passed between them. Lovely bua, for all her charm, was not exactly on the best of terms with Mamma and Jyothi.
"Uh…" Veer paused, wanting to alleviate some of Soni's uneasiness, but unsure how, as he was all too aware it was linked to her slip regarding his mother. "Can I bother you for some tea?"
"Of course, jeeju – I was only playing with Simran," she bent to pick up the baby but Veer held out a hand to stop her.
"No, it's fine, I'll sit with her."
Soni gave him another quick smile and gathering her duapatta, went into the kitchen.
"Hello, Simran," he poked her stomach softly and she kicked out vigorously. "Arre – what kind of injustice is this? You're rejecting me after three days in Soni's company?"
He looked up. Soni was standing by the window that opened into the kitchen, struggling with what seemed to be a jar of tea powder. Taking Simran with him, he made his way into the kitchen, where they awkwardly exchanged Simran and the jar. Oblivious to her part in this kind of juggling act, Simran gurgled with delight as she reached Soni's arms and was rewarded by a kiss on the cheek.
Somebody seemed to have jammed the lid on and twisted it as hard as possible; Veer could see why Soni had not been able to open it. Once he had removed the lid he placed the jar on the counter, and accepted Simran back so Soni could make the tea.
"Thank you," Her thanks came with another smile, and Veer watched her as she moved around the kitchen. Soni used smiles like currency – they seemed to be a part of her vocabulary, easily distributed to everyone and anyone and, he thought, a great deal uplifting for one's morale.
"Ouch," Simran shook him from his thoughts as she grabbed hold of a tiny but painful fistful of hair and grabbed hard. "Simran!"
Simran giggled and pulled harder, and Soni hurried to them, leaving the saucepan on the stove. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Veer had to appreciate the irony of Inspector Veer Khurana defeated by the tenacious grip of a toddler.
"Simran," Soni admonished sternly, "No, Simran, we don't do that."
She gently pried Simran's fingers away and then automatically smoothed his hair back into place. Veer raised his eyebrows, body stiffening slightly as her hand brushed against his hair, as skin momentarily came into contact with skin.
Soni gasped, something Veer only heard because she was so close, and her hand recoiled.
"Jeeju, I'm sorry – it's habit, I –" she stammered. Swallowing, she tried again. "I meant…it happens to Jeet all the time…"
A hissing from the stove made her whip her head round and he saw her expression change to despair as the milk in the tea finally succumbed to the heat and bubbled up out of the saucepan and over the sides. Soni rushed to the stove, grabbed a cloth and began to wipe up the mess.
"Jeeju, I'm so sorry, I'll make you some more right away –"
"No," he said, rather suddenly. "It's fine, Soni."
"It won't take –"
What was supposed to have been a firm refusal came out more sharply than he intended and Soni drew back from the stove.
"Ok," she said softly, not meeting his eyes.
Outwardly calm, he walked out of the kitchen and back upstairs, wondering why on earth he was feeling like he had just made a fool out of himself somehow. It wasn't until he reached his room and tried to pick up the file he had previously abandoned for tea that he realised Simran was still in his arms.
The sound of raised voices cut into his musings. Mamma. And it was coming from Jeet's room. Face grim, he made his way down the corridor, suddenly aware he had been expecting this, and at the same time afraid for it.
"– exactly do you think of yourself?" Mamma with her back to him, voice more harsh than he had ever heard it. "Whatever arts you've used scheme your way into my house and my son's heart, you always were and will be nothing more than a burden – "
"Enough, Mamma!" he cried, already angry for not intervening earlier.
Mamma spun round, shock on her face, and Veer saw Soni look up, face tearstained. The tears that continued to flow down her face only fuelled his anger and he stepped into the room, putting himself between Mamma and Soni.
"Mamma…why are you speaking to Soni like this?" he demanded.
His mother smiled, a smile he recognized but was only just beginning to realise its meaning.
"What am I doing? Veer, this is a matter between a mother in law and her daughter. Why do you worry yourself with it?"
"Then why – " he looked back at Soni, who was biting her lip, looking from them both in trepidation. "Why is Soni crying?"
"Oh, puttar," Mamma walked around him to put an arm around Soni. "You know how sensitive Soni bahu is. This is nothing – a small matter."
Veer felt his frown deepen as he watched Soni look up at Mamma, eyes bewildered and shining with the tears of moments ago.
"Mamma, people don't cry like this over a small matter. I know what I just heard."
He perceived his mother's guilty expression with certainty, at the same time wishing he himself had mistaken a harmless situation to be more serious than it actually was.
"However small the matter can be, how can you reduce someone to tears like this?" Why do you want to hurt Soni?" he asked.
Mamma's eyes narrowed and she let go of Soni as would flick away a fly, something inconsequential, and she took a step towards him.
"Don't interfere, Veer. You're asking me this? When you know how much I have always done for Soni? You know that whatever I do, I do for Soni's wellbeing."
Veer's expression didn't change, and he shook his head, eyes never leaving Mamma's.
"No, Mamma. Not anymore. You give me these reassurances, but where do you show it? Why do you give an innocent girl such reason to fear you?"
"Fine," she said suddenly, jaw clenched. "You want to know why I am unhappy? I have only two sons, both of whom I had so much plans for. You know I want only the best for you, puttar." her expression was half pleading, and it hit Veer with a jolt that Mamma believed what she was saying. It was not a misunderstanding, but an old prejudice that he perhaps could not have the strength to break.
"But both you and Jeet married –" she was cut off by her own disgust, and Veer watched her with a mixture of building rage and sadness. "My only sons married girls I would not even allow as servants –"
"Mamma!" Veer's incredulous fury prevented him from realising how much his own voice was raised. As his mother visibly reeled backwards, stunned, he grit his teeth and fought for control, closer than he had ever been to giving in to his anger.
"Perhaps the fault was mine," he heard his own voice, quiet, but a rough quality to it that he had never brought out in the confines of his home. "You hated Rajji the same way, didn't you? And I – I said nothing. I did nothing."
He swallowed and looked down, amazed at the tears that began to sting, at the sorrow and regret that mingled with his fierce intent.
"I loved her, Mamma."
His mother looked away, scowling. Why wouldn't she understand? He felt a tear, threatening to fall from the verge of his lashes, and he brushed it away abruptly.
"Perhaps you will never understand, but I loved her," he said more forcefully. "I gave Rajji my love freely but she was forced to seek solace in tears." His voice hardened. "So understand this, Mamma. I won't make the same mistakes twice. I won't let Soni suffer the way my Rajji did, otherwise –"
"Otherwise what?" snapped Mamma, looking at him for the first time. "What more will you say to your mother?"
The audacity of his behaviour had not escaped Veer. He took his mother's stiff hands into his own, ashamed of himself for everything that had been said so far, but holding firm to his resolve.
"At least for your son," he said softly. "For Jeet. Do for him what you couldn't do for me. Please promise me this, Mamma."
Mamma's eyes flickered slightly and she shook her hands out of his grip. Without a glance at him, she swept out of the room.
Joined: 16 March 2006
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