Viren was so bored! He didn't like pooja's at the best of times and here he was standing with people he didn't know, waiting for it to start! He looked at the door again, Nivi and Divya still hadn't come; she'd said 6.30 and it was closer to 8 and the pooja would start any minute...he saw his Dad coming his way at a distance and quickly escaped from the people he was with and went to find some food.
'Haath mat lagana khaane ko!' Viren jumped at the loud voice behind him as he reached towards a tray of food. He turned quickly, expecting Vandana but instead saw Nivi and Divya at the kitchen door, both laughing at the caught out look on his face. He shook his head in relief but he wasn't ready to let them off the hook; either for laughing at him or for making him wait all this time... 'Aayi ye aayi ye, you're only an hour later than you said you'd be. I suppose we should all be grateful you came at all...' he narrowed his eyes and gave them both an attitude filled smile before walking straight past them biting into a samosa he'd sneaked off the tray.
Nivi and Divya looked at each other as Viren walked past and rolled their eyes. 'I swear guys throw more tantrums than girls!' Divya said as they went into the kitchen to get the trays Vandana had asked them. They went back out and set the trays down where they'd been told before Divya left to find her mum and Nivi saw Viren was talking to Yash and Dadi. He was wearing a blue kurta and it suited him just as much as his regular clothes did. Nivi had to admit to herself that Divya had been right earlier, even though she'd never say it out loud! She watched as he laughed at something Yash said and was surprised when suddenly looked over at her and caught her staring. He smiled slowly and Nivi quickly started talking to the auntie she was standing by, not really knowing what she was saying.
Viren laughed when he saw Nivi start talking to some lady; he knew she'd ask Nivi so many questions it'd drive her mad and wondered if he should go and save her. He watched as she looked a little confused and answered something the lady asked and then saw her politely answer more questions although he couldn't hear them. She had on a navy blue suit and was wearing jewellery which sparkled in the light as she brushed her hair behind her ears. He couldn't tell if she was wearing make-up, she didn't need it anyway; she looked beautiful and he found it hard to believe that it was the same Moti who always had dirt on her face and messy hair... As he watched, she started to get a slightly trapped look on her face; the lady wasn't stopping with her questions and he saw Nivi look around for an escape.
'Nivedita, tum yahaan ho?! Main tumhe kabse dhoond raha tha! Kuch zaroori kaam hai...excuse me auntie,' Viren smiled sweetly at the lady and then took Nivi's arm as they escaped. 'You're welcome!' he said to Nivi as they got away. 'Hai bagvaan, she was getting my whole life story!' Nivi started laughing and Viren said 'I know, she got mine earlier too!' They both laughed and Viren said 'You look nice Nivedita.' Nivi blushed a tiny bit but covered it up by saying 'Thanks Viren, you don't look AS bad as normal either!' with a small smile. After a few seconds, they heard Dadiji say the pooja was about to start so they went and sat down near the back and Divya joined them.
During the pooja, Viren got bored again and started to look around while everyone had their heads down. He saw his mum turn around at the front to see where he was and when her eyes fell on him he gave her a small wave and she looked relieved he was there before turning back to face the front. It wasn't that he hated religion or anything, he just thought it was a personal experience and didn't see the point in big gatherings.
He turned a little to look at Nivi, expecting her to be fidgeting like him; she'd never sat still for long that he remembered so he was surprised to find her sitting quietly with her eyes closed and her hands clasped in front of her listening to the pundits' words. She had her scarf on her head and looked so quiet and peaceful; Viren again thought how in some things she was just the same but in others she had changed. He watched her until he realised the pooja was coming to an end.
After the pooja ended people began to gather in groups and some started to leave; Nivi turned and smiled at Viren contentedly before he reminded her that she was supposed to give him something. 'Oh haan, chalo mere saath!' Nivi got up and motioned to Divya to come too but she shook her head and made an excuse before going over to stand by her parents. Nivi walked over to where she'd left Viren's flute on a table in the corner and waited for him to catch up. Everyone was in the main hall so they were alone as Nivi held out the box and said 'You didn't figure out what it was did you?!' Viren looked at the box and shook his head and laughed when she said 'Pata tha muhje! I even thought of how you could pay me back.'
She looked so happy that Viren didn't have the heart to tease her too much so he just said 'Teek hai Moti, are you going to give it to me or make me wait all night?!' Nivi narrowed her eyes at the 'Moti' but let it go as she handed him the box and watched his face light up when he opened it. 'My flute! Where did you find it? I looked all over the roof for it this morning!' He couldn't believe he'd not thought of it but there was no way Nivi could have had it so it hadn't occured to him. Nivi frowned, 'The roof? I found it on the floor after I threw water at you...it fell out of your pocket!' Viren laughed as he remembered and said thanks before blowing into the flute experimentally a couple of times.
'So what's the payback?' he asked her after a few seconds and Nivi just smiled and looked a little shy all of a sudden 'It's nothing really, I'd just love to hear you play it sometime that's all...' Viren shook his head 'Bas?! You could have asked for anything and that's all you wanted?' He looked so surprised that Nivi laughed and shrugged, feeling a little embarrassed. She asked him if he played often and he told her he played it whenever he had something on his mind because it calmed him. 'Sorry, you probably could have used it this afternoon then...' Viren smiled and said 'Haan, if I'd had it, I might not have been so rude to you, sorry!' He really did look sorry so Nivi said it was ok and then she suddenly realised how quiet it was.
'I should go; everyone's probably waiting for me!' Nivi turned to go and Viren followed her out still holding his flute. They got to the hall to see everyone was getting ready to leave. Nivi went and touched Dadaji's feet who told her off for not coming to see them more often. Viren watched as she said sorry to Dadaji and then went to speak to Vandana and his mum before going to stand by Dadi and Divya.
Viren went over to them and said by to Yash and Dadi as they left and then held Nivi back a little saying 'Thanks for your help with the flowers...and for my flute!' with a smile. Divya leaned over and said 'Bye Viren!' before putting a hand on Nivi's shoulder saying 'Chale..?' with an extra big smile. Nivi looked a little embarrassed and Viren couldn't figure out why as she said bye all in a rush and gave Divya an evil look as they left. He watched them leave and then went to clean his flute and may be play it a little, feeling happy. He looked at it as he went, smiling as he remembered how Nivi had gotten shy when she said she wanted to hear him play sometime.