Joined: 01 January 2009
Archana and Manav walked back to the chawl, just in time for the evening aarti. A crowd had now assembled in front of the pandal, and Vandita and Vedant could be seen too. Manav waved to them, and they joined him in the crowd. "How was your day?"
"Great!" chirped Vandita happily. "I was at my friend's house for most part of the day. She is going to perform at a function, so she showed me her dance and we designed her costume together."
Manav smiled. "You seem to have had a good time. And that reminds me, on what will you perform this year in our Chawl Ganpati function? There will be a special night for performances, remember?"
Vandita turned sheepish. "I was actually thinking of not performing this year." She said. "Aai told that we shouldn't take part."
"Don't listen to Aai." Manav said flatly. "You have taken part every year, take part this year also. We haven't done anything wrong, so there is no need to remain in hiding like culprits. At least you and Vedant don't need to do that- you children are in no way involved with the whole thing."
"I don't know Dada.." she said, a little scared. Manav nudged Vedant to say something. "Yes, of course you should take part. Sing a bhajan or something.." (bhajan=religious songs)
"Bhajan?" questioned Vandu with one brow raised. "People will doze off if I sing a bhajan.. I was thinking of a dance number or something like that.."
Manav and Vedant were flabbergasted. "No no, no need to dance on any of those pathetic Munni and Sheila songs." Said Manav with a disgusted face.
"But I will choose a good song!" persisted Vandita.
"All songs are rubbish these days! You are not going to dance on any of those songs. Do a classical or folk dance or sing a bhajan- that's it. No dancing on those rubbish songs."
"I agree with Dada!" said Vedant stoutly. "There are lots of boys in the chawl and.. ahem.. don't dance on such songs that's it."
Vandita fumed. "First you put the idea into my head and now you don't let me follow it." She said angrily. She was surprised to hear giggling from the back. She turned to see Archana, laughing with her hand on the mouth- enjoying the banter between the siblings. She put a hand on Vandu's shoulder. "Don't worry, we shall try and find something in between- a balancing act."
Vandu didn't know how to react. She stared with a confused expression. Thankfully the priest called everyone for the aarti at that moment. Archana noticed that Damodar Baba had come but Savita Aai was still missing.
"What did I miss?" he asked. "You missed the sthapna in the morning. Baba where were you?" asked Manav with a frown. Damodar gave a sheepish smile, and Manav shook his head in irritation.
After the aarti was done, everyone sat down together on the mats that had been laid down in front of the chawl, and the schedule for the activities of the next few days was declared by the Chawl Committee. As everyone had predicted, there were some special functions to be held in the evenings, usually after 8, since that was when most people were back at home after work, and some competitions to be held in the holiday mornings for the women and children. A function for performances by the children, a Rangoli and Mehndi competition, games for little children, drawing and painting competitions, an Antakshari competition for teams- the announcements got instant applause as soon as they came out from the mouth of the old Uncles. The people chatted away and had to be silenced from time to time. While Vandita thought hard about whether to perform or not and on what to perform, Archana hoped to shine in the Rangoli and Mehndi competitions. She really wanted to socialize with the chawl dwellers now.
"What will you take part in?" Manav asked Vedant.
"Drawing competition, and Antakshari.. but wait, Sachin Dada is not there this time.. well I'll take part with you, if you don't form a team with Vahini, that is.." he added in a small voice.
"Ah no, let's see, there's time for that.." said Manav. He was thankful that the festivities had managed to drag everyone out of the usual tension and look forward to something more exciting for a change. He didn't know how long it would last though.
Alas, he didn't know that his worst fears were going to come true, very soon.
After some more chatting, eating Prasad, and singing Ganesh Stotra together, the people started getting up to go back to their houses. Vandita and Vedant too got up to go to the house, while Manav and Archana and Baba slowly followed from behind, discussing about the day.
When they reached their house however, they got the shock of their life.
At the doorway, there was a suitcase and a large bag. It seemed to have been hurriedly stuffed with clothes, some of the cloth could be seen coming out of the suitcase.
"These are my things." Said Archana, her face turning pale. She looked at Manav who had turned red with anger. He picked up her suitcase. "Come, let's go in." he said, walking towards the door. Archana exchanged a worried look with Damodar Baba.
A voice stopped Manav as soon as he entered the house. "One minute Manav, this girl will not set foot in this house!!"
Aai was standing with her hands on her hips, fuming with rage. She gave Archana a dirty look.
"Why?" asked Manav, struggling to maintain his cool.
"Because I have decided, that is why!"
"But what did she do?" asked Damodar.
"She opened my locker!! She stole stuff from it. And then she insulted me in front of the chawl!! I told that no one will participate in the chawl function, but still she participated- she was there mingling with everyone and embarrassing us even more after that police complaint! I will not let this girl live in my house, aye you! Get out!! And take your luggage else I will keep it near the garbage dump!"
More lies!- thought Manav, rolling his eyes at the 'insult claims' in the chawl. And what were you doing yourself, he thought angrily.
Archana tried to speak. "Aai I know you are angry, but please try and understand.."
"GET OUT!!!" Savita hollered, taking angry steps towards her. "Or do you want me to throw you out???"
"As if you will throw her out and I and Baba will be watching with helpless faces, tears running down her cheeks." Said Manav in a tart, mocking voice. Savita gave an angry look. "You don't interfere, this is between me and her!"
"It's not. And.."
Archana pulled Manav by the arm, noticing he was getting angry now. "Manav please let me talk."
"You let me speak!" he said in an annoyed voice. She backed off and looked at Damodar Baba. He told her to take cue from him and not interfere in the mother-son fight. Archana watched worriedly.
"Baba gave her keys to open the locker." He said calmly, crossing his arms. "And I told the kids not to pay attention to what you said to them. Now speak."
Savita went wild with fury. "You did it!?!" she shrieked. "I cannot believe you are so much under her influence that you actually could go against me.. I had told that no one will go! And I cannot believe you are supporting her inspite of knowing she was wrong- she took out things from my locker without my permission!!"
"Even I could not believe you would be troubling my wife around so much that you would actually not even give her her mangalsutra! I know you still have all her jewellery and have no plans to ever return them! As if the dowry was not enough to satisfy you! And wow, you actually dared to repeat your behavior towards Archana! Even after the police complaint you have not changed. And then instead of admitting your own mistakes, you go around blaming others when they retaliate in a situation gone out of control."
"Excellent!" said Savita, clapping her hands. "Now the 'ideal son' is here to give me a lecture! Supporting his wife who brought doom to this house but not the mother who raised him. Wah! What an ideal son!"
"It is futile to reason with you or talk to you." Manav retorted."I don't know why I even try."
That was enough to get Savita all fired up. "Well don't talk to me then! I don't need you!" she yelled. "GET OUT!! BOTH OF YOU! Immediately NOWW!!!"
Manav looked at her in shock. "You are throwing ME out of this house?" he asked in a bewildered voice. "After troubling me so much, wreaking havoc on my life, you are now asking me to get out of MY HOME?"
Behind, Vandita was scared. Vedant hurried up ahead- "Aai no, please.."
"Get inside, quick! Don't speak in between. This is an adult matter." Vedant gave his Aai an angry look. Adult matter- sure! What about when she had been trying to instigate Vandita against Archana and asking both of them to support her against Manav? Had it not been an adult matter then? He did not say anything but anger started creeping up in his heart.
"And you, ten minutes to pack your luggage, else I will throw you out without anything." She said flatly.
Manav was totally out of control now. He rushed forward agitatedly, even as Archana tried to hold him back. "ONE MINUTE!!!" he thundered. "I am NOT leaving this house! I have slogged for 16 years, and earned for this house! I have wasted my future for this house- you can't make me homeless now! This is my house! I have made it! I will not leave it just because someone wants me to. I am good, but I am not foolish!"
Archana slapped her forehead in desperation. Mother- son were alike in some ways. They could really bring the house upside down when they went ballistic. And today was one of those rare days when both of them seemed to be having a scream fest.
"Oh ho! Slogged for 16 years!" Taunted Savita. "Well, remember one thing Manav, this is not just YOUR house. You would never have been able to manage this house and this family all these years if I hadn't been there! I have run this house on your meagre earnings, in all bad conditions, even when you were small and couldn't support us I have run this house! All on my own! So don't you dare claim this is YOUR house. In all fairness this is MY house!"
"Aai, Manav, please!" Archana tried to speak. "Please don't fight. You know the NGO people are keeping tabs on me and all of you to check up on your behavior. Aai, if you throw me out you will get into trouble."
"I DON'T CARE!!" shouted Aai. "I just want you out! And him too!" she pointed at Manav. "I will NOT leave! Do what you want to!" he retorted, just as Archana tried to shush him.
"You are being unreasonable right now Aai, think with a calm head and you will realize what catastrophe you are unleashing on everyone. Stop your childish anger now." Archana said firmly. Manav opened his mouth to speak but Archana requested him with her eyes not to butt in and spoil the matter now.
Savita slowly calmed down and realized what Archana was saying was right- the NGO people would really take her to task if they came to know that she had thrown Archana out. She looked at Archana rubbing her hand on Manav's arm to calm him. Savita gritted her teeth. She hated this girl.
"Enough of all this!" said Damodar finally, shaking his head. "Not a word on this issue now. Everyone quietly come for dinner."
"No dinner today." Said Savita in a half sullen, half angry voice with a pinch of pain. "I won't be able to eat after everything that has happened today. My son.. I raised him up lovingly and today.. he has gone blind and is doing all wrong things.. troubling me, hurting me.." She scrunched up her face to cry.
Guilt trip again!- Manav rolled his eyes. "Well, I am in full mood to eat today." He said, walking to the dining table and pulling a chair for himself dramatically. He sat on it. "I have had a long day at work, just so that I can earn some money for my family. I'm tired and veryyy hungry. And I'm not going to sleep on an empty stomach just cos some people chose to give me a guilt trip. I'm not punishing myself endlessly cos of others- I'm done with all that now and frankly speaking now I'm tired of it."
Savita's mouth fell open. Damodar gave a smirk, which did not go unnoticed by Savita. She fumed. "Of course Manav," he said, going and sitting with him. "Those who chose to make themselves unhappy can stay that way. I too am very hungry. I will also eat."
Manav looked at Vedant. "Will you be eating as well?"
Savita gave an angry look to Vedant. "Yes," he said, clearing his throat. "I have to study tonight, cos there will be functions in the upcoming days."
"Good, what about you Vandita?"
Vandita looked shocked. She fumbled, looking at her Aai questioningly. Damodar piped in- "Of course she will also eat! The children shouldn't go to sleep on an empty stomach for whatever reason! Come now beta, come and sit!"
Vandita looked confused. She went and quietly sat on the dining table with a guilty face. Archana went and stood near the dining table too. Savita was left standing alone in the centre of the room, while the whole Deshmukh family, (barring Sachin) sat together. Damodar gave her a victorious smirk. Savita stamped her foot angrily and went into her room. She closed the door as angry tears flowed through her eyes. Great!- she thought- None of my family members support me. Everyone is on Archana's side. She wished Sachin had been with her in the house- he would have definitely supported his Aai. Alas! Thanks to her scheming and plotting, Sachin was gone and she had no news of him. In fact all her past deeds were backfiring on her now. Yes she had taken Archana's jewellery and mangalsutra, and she had honestly no plans to return them, but she had never thought that both Archana and Manav would speak up against it, and that the rest of the family members would support them. She had never thought that Manav would go against her decision without even having a discussion with her, or would support Archana against her. She had never thought that a day would come when both she and Manav would fight regarding the house- it was a fact that the family had survived all these years because of BOTH of them, because of their team, not because of one person. An upset Savita sat on the floor and began to weep.
Outside, everyone was sitting in silence. Manav looked at Archana. "Dinner?" he asked.
"Umm yeah.." she said uncomfortably. "But I can't make dinner so soon, it will take at least 15 minutes, and you are all sitting on the dining table as if the food is going to appear magically out of somewhere.. umm.. don't you all have to wash or something."
Manav felt sheepish. In the over enthusiasm of the fight and his own dramatic behavior, he had forgotten about washing and freshening up. "Yeah I'll go and clean up." He said, while Vedant tried to suppress a smile. Vandita gave him an irritated look. How could this duffer giggle when her Aai was so upset- she thought. Her face turned worried again as she thought about her Aai.
"I hope you have made something good for all of us today Archana." Called out Damodar. "It's a festival after all. Those who want to mope and cry and fight on this day also, we can do nothing about them, but the rest of us should enjoy na, not suffer!" Archana passed a small smile.
"Good! So you make some lovely dinner, till then we can discuss our plans for the coming week!" said Damodar cheerfully, trying to change the serious mood. Satisfied that her father-in- law was there to help calm things down, Archana walked into the kitchen. She had her ingredients prepared from the morning. She quickly got down to make the stuff- thick and sweet puran polis, kadhi and simple rice with ghee on top. 20 minutes later, she was ready with the stuff, when Vandita came there. "Baba told me to help you."
"It's all done," Archana smiled. "Just carry the bowls outside, while I come with the plates."
Manav returned a little while later, with wet hair. Apparently he had had a bath to calm himself. His head must be aching again- Archana thought. He also looked more quiet and serious now. She served food to everyone, and everyone helped themselves too. Manav's eyes were on the door of his mother's bedroom.
"Some more kadhi Manav?"
"Huh?" asked Manav, distracted. "Uh.. yeah, serve it." He said, his eyes still on the door. He looked at his plate, playing with the spoon, but he had no heart to eat. It was as if he had lost his appetite. He remembered Vandu's words telling him that Aai did not eat properly these days.
"Is the food okay?"
"Yes.." he said absent mindedly, and noticed everyone staring at him. It was then that he remembered he hadn't started eating at all. He immediately broke off a piece of the puran poli and put it in his mouth. "It's nice." He said, passing a small smile to her. She was still standing next to him. "Sit na!"
She sat slowly on the chair next to him, feeling a little weird. She looked around herself. Baba was at the head of the dining table, Vandu and Vedant opposite her and Manav. Vandita looked worried and Vedant was just nodding without any attention as such to their father. Even Manav looked distracted.
"It's so nice that we are all sitting together to eat today." Remarked Baba. "I don't remember the last time we had a meal together."
Everyone smiled uncomfortably. Yes, it was the first time the family was sitting together to eat since so many days, and that was a very good sign, but something seemed amiss.
Archana finally spoke up. "Vandita, go and give this plate to Aai." She said. "If you talk to her she will eat."
Vandu started getting up, but Vedant pulled her by the arm, making her sit again. "Don't go now!" he whispered. "Aai will take out all her anger on you. You don't go right now."
"Vedant is right." Manav said gruffly. He took the plate from Archana's hands. "Let me go and settle this."
"Manav please, no more arguments now.." Archana started.
"She will shout at you Manav," said Baba. "You don't enrage her right now."
"It's good." He said matter of factly. "Instead of arguing back I will simply listen to all her angry talks for once and get done with it. Once she takes out all her anger, she will feel better and the house will also be more peaceful. That is what she wanted anyway. That is why she wanted to throw me out of the house today."
Everyone watched awkwardly as Manav made his way towards Aai's bedroom and knocked on the door. "Who is it?" she asked.
There was silence for a few minutes and then she opened the door and turned away. "What is it?" she asked in a tart voice.
"I've brought dinner." He said quietly. She didn't reply. He took in a deep breath. "Don't take out your anger on the food. Take it out on me if you want and end it today."
"Things are not alright between us and probably will never be the same- such squabbles are a part of our life now I think, will you keep starving every day till then?"
She did not answer again, and he continued speaking. "I couldn't care less about your guilt trips, but all of us are concerned about your health. You haven't been eating properly since some days now, Vandu told me yesterday. You are angry with me, don't take it out on the other people please."
He grew agitated. "Fine! I am sorry. I shouldn't have asked the kids to go against you without discussing the matter with you first. But frankly speaking I thought there was no point in discussing, cos it seems impossible for us to have a peaceful discussion these days. I was angry at you already and it compounded when I came to know you're poisoning the kids against me and Archana, dictating the kids and pretty much everyone. I'm tired of all this and I want some peace in the house now but your actions guarantee that I will never get it. And I want the kids to have a normal life too. If you feel embarrassed to face people due to the complaint, it is understandable, but don't let the kids suffer for something they are not involved in. I never had a normal childhood and youth, at least let them have it! Don't push the buttons of everyone in the house. And for god's sake stop instigating others."
He took a deep breath. "Let's end the matter here. I said sorry also. Now please eat!"
He kept the food on the bed and walked away.
As he walked away, Savita looked back at him with tears in her eyes. Slowly she walked to the edge of the bed where he had kept the plate. Despite everything gone horribly wrong between them, he still cared for her somewhere, she could see it. If he had taken Archana's side in the argument, then he had also come and apologized to her solely to satisfy her elder ego, by making her win the argument, so that she could eat dinner. There was no other reason. He might have been very hurt over everything she had done in the past and today also, but he still cared for her. She had known it all along- Manav could never hate her whatever might be the case. And this was the reason she hated Archana more than ever- if Archana had not been in the picture, Manav would have forgiven her. He would have been hurt, just like today, but still tried to put everything behind and move on, she thought.
"I won't lose my son to you Archana Karanjkar." She thought angrily, as she put a morsel into her mouth. "I will get him back."
Outside the Deshmukh family was finishing dinner. The ambience had improved considerably after Manav came back from Aai's room. Baba had continued talking and prodding everyone to speak, and finally succeeded in lifting everyone out of their gloomy moods. By the time dinner was done, Vedant and Vandita were discussing the events to be held next week in the chawl, with Manav and Archana joining in at times.
As everyone started getting up, they were startled by Savita who entered the room and banged a bunch of keys on the table.
"All of you obviously don't need me." She said. "All of you are grown up enough to make your own decisions, decide for yourself what you want, whom you want to support (she gave Archana a nasty look). Okay then, run the house by yourself. From today, I will not run the house. Washing, cooking, cleaning- nothing I will do. I think all of you can manage well without me now that she is here."
And she walked away, just as suddenly as she had come. Now they would understand her importance, she thought!
Everyone was stunned into silence for a few minutes. "What was that?" asked Vedant. Vandita shook her head. "I have no clue."
"I can never understand you Manav!"
Manav looked at Archana who had entered the room, wiping her hands on a napkin after washing the vessels.
"Why what happened?"
She rested on the back of the bed. "You can be so impulsive one moment, and calm and collected some moments later. Today toh, you totally blew me away. First you argued with Aai, then got all dramatic, then yourself behaved maturedly by going and apologizing and convincing her to eat. You are weird."
"Aadat daal lo!" (Get habituated) Manav said flatly with a smirk. "Of course you don't know me fully. It is one thing to fall in love in 13 days (Archana rolled her eyes: Oh the sarcasm, she thought) or when you are living separately meeting only for half an hour every day, it is a different thing to LIVE day in and day out with someone under one roof. The real relationship starts when two people start living together, it is then that they start understanding each other in true sense."
"True." She said, remembering how witnessing Manav's behavior ever since she had come back had led her to feel that he wasn't guilty of all the wrong doings he had been accused of. That reminded her- she had to speak to Vaishali whether she had been able to find something regarding Varsha!
She looked back at Manav. "Are you still upset about whatever happened between you and Aai today?"
"I'm not thinking about it."
"You can't lie to me." She persisted. "It's okay if you don't want to talk about it, but at least don't lie to me."
"There's nothing like that." He said. "I'm genuinely not thinking about it now. At least that's what I'm trying to do. It's pointless to ponder over everything. The way things have been going, it's quite obvious there are going to be little tiffs and big squabbles everyday. That is why I had started considering living separately, inspite of the fact that I didn't want it. I can see now why everyone was saying that it would be a good idea to separate. Somewhere even the kids are being forced to choose and I don't like that."
He looked at her. She was listening with rapt attention and looked very thoughtful.
"You don't want to sleep or what?" asked Manav, patting his pillow. She nodded. "Yes, I'll change and come.
She went to the cupboard and took out her clothes. She then went in the bathroom, while Manav busied himself in trying to read some papers. A moment later, however she was back.
"You have made the bathroom so wet!" she complained.
"Obviously!" he said. "I just had a bath, so obviously the bathroom is not going to be dry." He kept reading the paper, when he saw Archana was still standing there with a confused face, with a hint of discomfort. "What happened now?" he asked.
She muttered something.
"I have to change." She said, evading his eyes.
He turned red. Quietly he put the paper down and lay down on his side with his back to her, his heart beating fast. He tried to think of something else, and looked here and there, only to find himself staring at the mirror. He quickly closed his eyes tightly. The noise of the rustling of the clothes and the bangles made him uncomfortable.
Archana changed quietly, and then walked to the other side of the bed. She giggled when she saw Manav lying down with his eyes closed so tightly and his face tensed. She walked closer to him and sat down on the bed. He didn't notice. She tapped him lightly on the shoulder.
"HUH!" Manav got up with a shudder, sending her into giggles again. He smiled at his own behavior as he watched Archana laugh. "What is this?" he asked, staring at her clothes.
She adjusted the neck of her caftan. "Umm.. I just thought that since I'm going to live here only now, so I should make myself a little comfortable.. it is very taxing to sleep in a saree.. it's okay na if I wear this.. I mean.. I will only wear it in our bedroom, not in front of other family members.."
"Huh? Yeah sure, no problem." He said. She gave him a grateful smile as she walked off. His eyes followed her as she walked away. The mango coloured caftan that she was wearing went well with her fair skin. It highlighted her curves subtly and softly, and she looked more relaxed and at home- not the right feeling for him, he reminded himself. This girl had come back purely for sympathy reasons and still didn't trust him- who knew when she would come in Ajit's talks or some other proof and move out of the house again, leaving him high and dry. He had better not get ideas into his head only to fall flat on his face again, he told himself, and sighed.
So close, yet so far!
But one thing was for sure- for whatever few days she was in the house, she was going to make it very tough for him, he thought a little uneasily. After all, it was not easy to share a room with a beautiful woman who looked like an angel, talked softly, touched hands or shoulder while talking, was so concerned about him, and most importantly, whom he loved-- and yet remain unaffected and aloof from her! It would have been so good if she had followed his advice and gone back to her Aai, he thought. Whose stupid idea had it been to let Archana live in the house, whose stupid idea? Clearly the person had no idea how difficult he had made things for poor Manav, thought Manav, sympathizing with himself as he closed his eyes and tried to get some sleep.
Ah well, he thought- Aadat daalni padegi! (will have to get habituated)
He opened his eyes to see Archana peering over him. "What is it now?" he asked.
"You have to go to the doctor tomorrow. You have an appointment."
"Ah yes!" he said. "Thanks for reminding."
"Has the doctor told anything about the surgery, when it will be done, etc."
"Archana there are a number of patients in waiting. They decide on the basis of seriousness of case. My case is comparatively less complicated.. and anyway all my tests have not been done till now.. they will decide soon.. I guess tomorrow.."
"The tests must be expensive, right?"
"MRI is expensive. But I made some cash today so it's okay."
He noticed that she looked a little worried. "What happened?"
"Manav, let me come with you to the doctor tomorrow.."
He was alarmed. "Archana, no!"
"Archana please, I can go by myself.."
"But I want to be there with you.."
"Archana, trust me, it will be better if you don't come, you will start crying in front of the doctor.."
"I won't cry." She promised. "I will be very strong." She noticed Manav staring doubtfully at her. "What?" she asked.
He put his finger on her cheek and picked up a tear drop. He balanced it on his finger and showed it to her, as it glistened like a pearl.
"Oh that.. that just came out by mistake.." she said, wiping it up quickly.
"Yes, tomorrow also it will come out by mistake, that is why I'm saying, let me go alone to the doctor.."
She looked away from him grumpily. Then she turned back and said- "Take someone else with you at least."
"Who else is there? No one else knows."
"Then tell them!"
"Later Archana.." he said. "Not right now. Let things settle down a little, let the test results come out, let the surgery date be decided, after that. There is no point in worrying them in advance."
Yes- she knew Manav would say this. She remembered that Tarun had also told her that owing to his past experience, Manav had somewhere stopped keeping big expectations from anyone in his family. All the same, she felt uneasy with his decision. Somehow she didn't feel all of it was going in the right way. All these things, they added up somewhere, she felt, but she couldn't figure out how.
She shook her head and turned to face Manav again.
"Listen, don't be worried regarding my illness. Your being tensed is not going to change things. Preserve your strength and be patient. I'm telling you, don't get involved very seriously in the problems of the house also. Try and stay away from Aai as much as possible. That reminds me- when are you going to rejoin school?"
"School?" she repeated. "Night school?"
"Yes. You haven't gone to school a single day ever since you came back!"
"I know." She said sheepishly. "There was so much problem here so..I'll go from tomorrow."
"Yes. But I want one from you too."
"Keep me informed the whole time. Phone me from the hospital also, please?"
She looked so pensive and affected that Manav was touched. He patted her head lightly and and tried to give his best reassuring smile. "Don't worry, I will keep you informed. I will phone you before going and I will tell you whatever the doctor tells too. Happy now?"
She wasn't happy as such, but she nodded anyway. Manav turned on his side and slept with his back to her again, wondering what was more difficult for him to ignore- her physical presence, or her emotional involvement in his life.
"One for me also."
Archana was taken aback to see Damodar Baba entering the kitchen early in the morning. She quickly adjusted her hair and her sari and smiled respectfully at him.
"Yes Baba I will make tea for you also. I was just about to make some more for Manav."
"Where is he?"
"He is in the line, he is filling buckets." She said, a little disappointed. She didn't like it that Manav worked so much. Then again, it helped to keep him occupied and not be depressed, she thought.
"Did you remove the idol of Ganesha from this plate?" Baba asked her. "I had filled it with water and kept the idol in it, to ask God to help us out of this troubled times."
"Yes, I removed it day before yesterday. Ganesha Chaturthi was there, after all. And anyway, God has done what he could have done." Said Archana philosophically, reflecting on how the truth that Manav had tried to hide from her had come out just in time, and she had also stopped the divorce, plus the whole harassment complaint issue which could have broken Manav and her relation forever, but had not. "God can just give us a direction, it is for us to follow it and make it yield positive results. And I think Ganpati Bappa has given us the directions which we are supposed to follow."
Baba smiled at her. "Good you removed it.. now that the grihalakshmi is back, things will get on track slowly.. I'm glad things are somewhat coming back to normalcy in this house." Said Damodar Baba.
Archana smiled thoughtfully. "Normalcy?" she asked. "Somehow I feel we are far from normalcy."
"I know that." He admitted. "But at least it was a good start. The festival went well yesterday, the children mingled and we were all happy, except for Savita's shouting and screeching all went well, and that is anyway not going to end anytime soon. We might as well learn to ignore it." He said matter of factly.
Archana found it a little weird. "Baba," she said a little hesitantly. "Can I ask you a question?"
"I hope you will not take offence.."
"Archana, go on!"
"Baba, why don't you talk to Manav and Aai and sort out their matter?" she asked slowly. "You are the only one who can do it. You are close to both, you are the eldest in the house and.."
".. and I'm also the one whose opinions are usually disregarded in this house." Laughed Damodar Baba at himself.
"But Baba, you are elder to both of them, if you sternly ask them not to fight and instead settle their matter, then things will fall into place. You are the only one who can control both of them. Instead of supporting Manav so strongly against Savita Aai and making her more angry, you need to end this fight between them. It is important to resolve the situation so that no one has to take sides."
"You really think I have that much authority or influence in this house Archana?" asked Baba sadly. He tried to explain. "See beta, let me tell you something that you do not know properly in this house, since you haven't lived here and you are as good as new in this family. In this house, people respect me, speak well of me, encourage me in my ventures and so on. But I do not have a good amount of influence on them, or their decisions. You see, I have been less involved in the house all these years due to my alcoholism and theatre. I neither provided for the house, nor did I give any sort of emotional support to the members- I haven't been a good example to them.. So.. I have.. basically.. lost my place in this house."
Archana felt bad. "It's not true Baba, I don't think it's true, Manav speaks highly of you."
"Oh I know he does! He respects me and loves me since I'm his father, but I don't have an influence on his decisions like Savita had, or his Atya has. Similar is the case with other children. The children don't take my advices seriously everytime, but anything Manav or Savita tell them is always considered. Let me give you an example: Nobody took me seriously when I wanted a lavish wedding for you and Manav since you are the first DIL of this house. I and Atya alone made the plans- thankfully I had Atya with me for support at that time. Nobody took me seriously when I told Manav not to quit studies. Nobody took me seriously when I kept telling Manav that he shouldn't divorce you. And even now, when I told Manav to not leave you, he was ready to protest and eventually accepted my advice half willingly cos Tarun said the same as I said. He even blurted out that he lives in reality, not in daydreams like me. And let's not start about Savita, she never listens to me anyway."
Baba laughed out aloud. Archana felt more and more embarrassed by the minute.
"I have no one to blame for all this except myself." Baba continued. "Somehow my thinking does not appeal to them, maybe cos my thinking has only made me a failure in life. Or maybe as Manav says, my advice are easy to give but difficult to follow. Don't know what the case is.. I did try to convince Savita but it did not work out... I can try once again, but I myself doubt it will have any effect.
"Manav needs your support now Baba." Archana said quietly.
"I know." Agreed Baba. "He is going through a difficult patch of his life personally and financially and I'm with him all through. He has my support against Savita."
"I was not speaking of that sort of support." She continued. "I don't think that the divisions in the house, the 'taking sides against Savita Aai fights' are supporting Manav in any way. They are just worsening things for him."
Damodar Baba could not understand it. "Why Archana, what happened?"
She did not reply for a few minutes. Baba felt worried. "Archana is everything alright?"
"Nothing is alright." She said.
And that was the first time in her life when Archana openly disobeyed Manav.
Damodar Baba sat with his head in his hands, speechless.
"Manav asked me not to tell anyone, he wanted some more tests to be done first." Archana continued. "But I think it is important for everyone to know all this- yesterday Savita Aai was ready to throw Manav out of the house! Sachin too needs to know all this- Manav will be admitted to the hospital soon and it won't be an easy time for all of us, we really need the whole family to fight everything together now, Sachin too needs to fulfill his responsibilities now. That is why I'm telling you to talk to Aai. Tell her about Manav's condition also if necessary. Tell her to stop making things difficult for him every day. Manav might not express it but he was pretty upset over everything that happened yesterday. He cannot afford to take any more stress now- he already has a lot on his head."
Baba was silent for a little while more. "He did not tell me also." He said after sometime. "He didn't tell anyone. He again made me feel sorry for being a bad father."
"It's not like that Baba." Said Archana quickly.
"It is like that." Said Baba. "He could rely on Tarun but not on us. If my son cannot come to me in his difficult times it means somewhere I have failed- I know only this much."
He got up and turned to walk away. Archana watched him go with a sad expression. Would this revelation prove fruitful? Would it actually motivate Baba to take a strong stand for the first time and actually be a pillar of support to the family? Would it make him determined enough to solve the problems between Aai and Manav, would he try to explain to her what Manav was going through and that she needed to stop making things difficult for him or giving him guilt trips?
Or would Baba revert back to his alcohol, like he usually did when he was depressed?
Archana sighed to herself. Maybe it hadn't been such a good idea, she mused.
Okay, so that was part 75! Waiting for your comments and feedback. Have a nice weekend.
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