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Joined: 01 January 2009
2.) Manav and Archana have a cute moment during the Hartalika pooja and Manav gets nostalgic seeing Archu dressed as a married woman after such a long time.
3.) Manav talks to Vedant and Vandu about their views on the situation in the house. While Vedant is indifferent to Archu's presence and family strifes and wants to focus on studies only, Vandu is upset and wants Archu to go away.
4.) The next day Ganesh Chaturthi is celebrated with pomp and show in the chawl. The chawl dwellers are surprised to see Manav and Archu together like a normal couple inspite of the harassment complaint.
5.) Savita Aai notices Archana wearing her mangalsutra and mingling with chawl dwellers. She ill treats Archu but instead of staying silent, Archu answers her back and shuts her up.
6.) Manav meets Dharmesh Jaipurwala, a spare part dealer and agrees to keep his spare parts in his garage till Dharmesh's deal with Girishji is resolved.
7.) Later Archu tells Manav everything and he supports her. The family has a light moment again during the evening pooja.
8.) Savita, angry with Archu's behavior, throws Archu's luggage out. When Manav protests, she asks him also to get out. This enrages Manav and both of them have a fight, ultimately Archu stops it.
9.) Manav is angry with Savita but cannot see her going to sleep hungry, similarily Savita is angry with Manav but cannot see Manav hating her. She is also upset that none of the family members supported her. In order to teach everyone a lesson, she renounces all household duties.
10.) Alone in their bedroom, Manav tries hard to ignore his wife's physical presence and his attraction for her. He tells her that he will tell everyone about his illness sometime later. Archana however, goes ahead and tells it to his Baba the very next morning, who is crushed that Manav hid it from him.
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Joined: 01 January 2009
"Why didn't you phone me?" was the question Manav faced as soon as he entered the house that night. Archana was standing at the kitchen door with a frown on her face, mixed with feelings of concern, rolling a dough ball in her hand. She came closer to him. "You had promised me that you would call me and tell me whatever the doctor told after your tests. You didn't!"
He gave her a half angry glare, then walked into the bedroom to get fresh. Archana stood in the doorway with a puzzled look. First he did not call her, like he had promised to, then he did not pick up her calls when she phoned to ask him, and now he was angry with her and refusing to talk! Shouldn't it be the other way round? Shouldn't she be angry with him?
She walked into the bedroom, only to find him fumbling for his clothes in the cupboard. "You won't find your track pants there," she called out. He didn't pay attention, and continued to search in the rack. "Don't!" she groaned. "You will spoil my neat arrangement of clothes! Why don't you listen to me? You won't get your track pants there!"
He looked at her suddenly. "Do you listen to me?"' he asked with an annoyed look. Without waiting for an answer, he flounced off to the bathroom with his clothes. Archana stood there, confused about what had happened.
Both of them were silent at the dinner table that night. Manav talked to Archana in monosyllables, and Archana too was a little wary of him. The twins were too engrossed in watching a film on TV to note anything. Aai was eating in her room. They did not even realize when Baba entered the house.
"Ahem!" said Baba in a loud voice and everyone turned to look. He was staggering a little, but he did not seem to be drunk. Or maybe he had come out of it.
Manav got up. "Are you okay Baba?" he asked, helping him sit. Baba gave a weak smile. "Are you okay Manav?"
Manav gave a nervous smile and looked up at the kids. Baba looked at them too. "I'm okay!" he said loudly. "I'm absolutely okay. But I'm hungry!"
"I'll get dinner." Said Archana immediately and rushed into the kitchen. She came out with a plate and Baba served himself. "Mmm.. nice Archana!" he said, taking a bite. "Ever since you've come back, we're getting good food, haha!"
Manav gave a small uncomfortable smile, and the kids looked at each other. Archana noticed Manav's discomfort. There would be a lot of discussion tonight in the bedroom, she thought.
Archana closed the door behind her as she entered the bedroom. Manav immediately turned on his side and pretended to sleep. Archana went and sat near him. She waited for a few moments then spoke up.
"I know you are not sleeping." She said in a small voice. "Please tell me what the doctor said."
"I'm not in the mood to talk."
"Don't talk." She said. "Just tell me and go to sleep again."
"The doctor said that the tumour has shown a little growth and eyesight has become worse than earlier. Other medical details she did not tell me. Tests for surgery are normal. She said she will finalise a date soon after talking to her senior. And she has asked to make financial arrangements. That's it. Now go, go and tell Baba this also."
Saying this, he again lay down on his side.
It took a while for Archana to let everything sink in. "Oh," she said. "You're upset because I told Baba everything, right?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
Archana took in a deep breath. "Manav, please give me a chance to speak." Manav did not respond. "Please let me explain to you at least!"
"Go to sleep." Manav said curtly. "You must be tired after school and office and then the household work."
"I did not go to school today."
Manav sat up in bed, looking very flushed. "Why?" he demanded. "I had told you na that you must go to school? Then why did you not go? Oh yes, my words and my opinions have no value, right?"
Archana was calm. "At least my lie made you look at me and talk to me a little."
Manav looked away from her. He did not speak.
"You are angry with me bcos I told Baba, right?"
Manav looked at her squarely. "Baba was wandering on the roads in a drunken state this afternoon. When I came to get my reports to go to the hospital, I saw him and tried to get him back. From his drunken talks I understood that you have told him everything. He was murmuring about how he is a useless father unable to do anything for me, and God is punishing me so much and all that. See, this is why I did not want to tell him so soon. He got worried and stressed and got drunk. But you disregarded it all!"
"It makes no difference Manav." Said Archana. "His reaction would have been the same whether you tell him today or tomorrow."
Manav did not say anything. Archana sighed. "Please let me give my side of the story."
"Manav, if I really did not care about your opinion, I would have already gone and told everyone- the twins, Aai, Baba- that too the very first day I came. Even today morning, I could have told everything to the rest of the people, but I told only Baba. Have you thought why?"
Manav did not answer.
"Bcos I wanted you to tell everyone when you are ready. All the same I was not convinced about your decision to keep it a secret, so I told Baba as I expected him to guide us regarding the whole thing. I felt telling him everything would help in handling the situation better-whether to tell everyone, how to tell the kids, how to tell Aai, how to help you etc. And somewhere I had hoped that it would help everyone understand how much stress is there on you and they would cooperate with you in this tough time."
Manav stood up anxiously. "Did telling Baba help? And why do you need to tell my sob story to everyone beforehand? I have no intention to heal broken relationships in this way and neither do I keep expectations from people to understand anything or help me out."
"Archana, I did not tell them everything so far for a reason. I had told it to Tarun, so I expect you know it too. I don't keep large expectations from people who have let me down in the past. It's not like I hold grudges, but I just steady myself to manage things on my own so as not to be disappointed later.. I would have told them in a few days after all the arrangements were made and things settled down.."
"But you need everyone NOW.. you cannot possibly manage everything alone.."
"Try and understand.. I don't like pestering anyone for help again and again only to fall flat on my face on the last moment or be disheartened.. and especially now when things are bad between me and Sachin, me and Aai, even the most basic expectations look Herculean.."
"Manav where does the question of pestering come in? They are our family members. If they want to help they will help by themselves. But we have to ignore our own ego and take the first step of informing them, otherwise how will they come to know that something is wrong? How can they fulfill the expectations which we keep from them subconsciously if we don't even inform?"
"See, this is the point." Said Manav. "As soon as one informs, subconsciously one starts expecting and then one feels bad when people don't fulfill expectations. Like it happened today- again Baba got drunk and collapsed. Now if you tell them, is it going to change their attitudes towards me? There are problems in all relationships at the moment. What if they keep these conflicts above me? I know Aai will take care of me if she comes to know everything, but I somewhere don't want her to take care of me now, and she might not want it too. Both of us are not comfortable, in fact I might start feeling guilty. And if she gives me guilt trips yet again for having wasted away the money earlier and curse you, like in the past, and Sachin follows suit, then it will simply hurt me more to see my own people behaving in this way instead of truly supporting me as a family should!"
"Yes I remember all this very well and I also remember that you told me- inspite of all your fights with them and their inability to stand on your expectations in the past- that they love you and you love them.", said Archana. "I have never blamed you for calling my concern as 'sympathy' since you never saw that side of me earlier, and I understand that you will never think of your own people that way- you know them too well to mistake their genuine concern for pity, you have seen it in the past. Then why not give them a chance? Sometimes shocks are what are required when we start taking relationships for granted. It helps in removing the cloaks of ego, jealousy and other negative emotions which hide the deeper emotions of concern and love. They may have taken you for granted in the past or hurt you, they may be angry with you, but if they truly love you, they will put aside all these differences and truly support you in your testing times. Anyway it's not happy moments but testing times that teach how strong a relationship is."
"And if they don't do it, it will only lead to more heartache. It is never useful to keep high expectations from anyone."
"How you can have such a low opinion of your own family members?" Asked Archana in an irritated voice.
"Bcos I have gone through this earlier!" shot back Manav. "You have been in this house for less than a week, I know them since a long time. I have seen my brother being of no help to me all these years, calling me selfish and disregarding my emotions and expectations repeatedly, pressing me for a marriage I did not want at a time when I needed a shoulder to cry. I have seen my mother taking me for granted, cheating me behind my back and giving me repeated guilt trips. I have seen my father drowning himself in alcohol everytime the house needed him. I have seen them relying on me all the time to be strong and solve every problem of the house. I have seen it all! Don't blame me now if I have zero expectations from them and wish to handle everything myself."
"Fine!" said Archana. "Then their actions shouldn't affect you! Why do you keep getting hurt each time they do something you hadn't expected? Truth is that subconsciously you still hope they will stand by you and that is not wrong at all. Strifes happen in every family, yet we all expect our loved ones to be with us during our tough times. There is nothing wrong in seeking help from them."
Manav looked away. "You won't understand." He said.
"Yes I won't understand." Said Archana. "And frankly speaking I don't want to understand now. You told me that you don't care about right and wrong, you want peace in the house, right? Same with me. I don't care about right and wrong now, I am just worried about you. You think I don't notice how stressed out you are these days? Do you think I don't notice that after every fight with Aai your condition gets worse and you keep pondering about it? Do you think I don't worry about all the work you insist on doing till the very last day before you get admitted? Do you think I don't worry about the financial implications of all this- that you are basically handling everything ALONE as of now? Do you want me to keep waiting for the day you develop a high BP or something and then your surgery gets complicated? It's a brain surgery for god's sake Manav not an injection!"
"Archana, you are over reacting."
"I'm NOT over reacting." She lashed out. "It's you who doesn't understand that I'm worried to death for you! I don't care about your relationship with Savita Aai or Sachin or anyone else as much as I care for YOU. Those things will get sorted out with time, but your condition is of utmost importance to me right now. You do so much for them, it's time they also come to know how much you are going through and get a reality check about the way they are supposed to behave with you and that if you do so much for them, they must do it for you too. I'm not begging any of them for help, just informing them, if they care about you they will come round by themselves and I don't think there is anything wrong in it. After all you do for them, it is justified for us to keep basic expectations from them- like NOT troubling you any more in such difficult situations and helping you out financially. There is nothing to feel guilty in this. And if they don't do this much also, then we will get to know how much 'love' is really there in this family, and that it is best to get separated instead of struggling so hard so as to not make them suffer."
"Archana, enough." Said Manav angrily. "You don't know about my family members, so stop jumping to conclusions about them. If you cannot deal with them or if you are tired of them, then go home to your Aai. That is best for everyone anyway."
There was no way Archana was going to follow the simple solution Manav had suggested, and kept suggesting every time, so she went to bed promptly and sat down. Manav breathed heavily for some time, his face taut, looking out of the window into the distance. Slowly his mind cleared. He looked at her, she was looking very subdued. He went and sat near her. Both did not say anything for a while.
"I'm sorry." She said finally.
"Cos it's all my fault. I hurt you and led things to a fight. I should have opposed you rather than disobeying in this manner. But I'm not sorry for talking to Baba. You had told me you would be happy if I do what I feel is RIGHT rather than doing what PLEASES you. And I know for sure that if I had left it to you, you would not have told Baba or anyone else till maybe the very end and tried to handle everything all alone like a superhero. You don't understand the simple thing that you CANNOT handle everything alone. This time the situation is different and far more serious. You might think my reasons were wrong, but if you had been in MY place, you would have understood."
Manav softened. "I'm sorry too." He said. "I shouldn't have said that you are over-reacting, and I should have called you from the hospital. I understand you are worried for my condition. Maybe since you are on the other side, you view things differently than me."
"Yes." She agreed. "I, Baba, Sachin, Aai, the twins- we are all on one side. We are all your family and worried for you. I know how worried I was when I came to know everything. I know how the initial shock later gave me courage to do something that I always wanted to do but could never do- take a stand for you. I know you do not understand it, but still.." she continued. "And so this helps me view things with a different perspective and expect that maybe others will follow the same route as me- that they too will come round and support you wholeheartedly when they realize the gravity of the situation. Manav, you say you do not want others to know beforehand (and worry) when they anyway cannot help in the situation. But have you given a single thought to the fact that hiding anything in this house is impossible? Vandita eavesdrops on us sometimes, you know that, don't you?"
Manav nodded. Vandita had herself accepted this. (previous part)
"Vandita eavesdrops on us, Vedant visits this room occasionally to borrow your shirts or for some other little thing- your files, prescriptions, everything is there in this room. Aai also keeps tabs on us. Have you ever thought what will happen if they chance upon something regarding your illness? Since you have told them nothing, they too might feel scared in talking about it. Anyways they are younger and can't come up to you demanding explanations. Little knowledge is always a dangerous thing. They might even get more worried, making up stories in their heads from whatever little Filmi knowledge they have about brain tumours, or what they have read or heard elsewhere. Your tests will be done till the last moment, how much longer will you delay telling them? Do you think even now people are not noticing the fact that you strain your eyes every now and then and your head aches everyday? Talking to them frankly is the better way out. Tell them everything and also why there is so much hope in your case. Tell them how your treatment will be done. Let them feel that they are involved with you in the road to recovery. The more openly you share with them about your treatment, lesser they will worry, and the more comfortable they will get with this fact. Else they might get very worried when all of it falls on them suddenly."
Manav felt exasperated. "Do the kids really need to go through all this Archana?" he said. "We are there to handle it, why involve them.."
Archana sighed. "Manav, I understand that owing to your own early exposure to family problems and the way they matured you early in life, you feel the need to give your siblings normalcy and protect their innocence. But Manav, they are not really kids anymore now! They're 16! And at some point, they have to face all this in life. I don't mean that they should give up their studies or games and run around with me in the hospital. No. We adults can manage all that. But if all these unfortunate events are happening around us, then rather than being shrugged off and told not to get involved at all, they need to be given a chance to be exposed to all this in a HEALTHY WAY and take up responsibility appropriate to their age. This is also a part of growing up- unless you want to make them into clones of Sachin who, due to all the pampering and leeways, never matured in true sense till the end. The earlier we teach them the spelling of responsibility, the better it is."
The last line hit the mark. Manav was silent for a while.
Archana continued. "Then again, don't you think we need to be careful? What if there is some sudden emergency and I'm not there? Obviously the others should know at least some basic things about your condition, so that god-forbid, if anything happens, they should know at least what to do and whom to contact, instead of screaming frantically for help, wondering what has happened all of a sudden. And then.."
"Okay okay I got it.I will think about this." He said slowly.
"And what about Aai and Sachin?" she asked cautiously.
"Now don't get me started again." He said in a warning tone.
"If you tell the kids, Aai will come to know by default."
"I know." Said Manav. "Let's see."
Both of them sat silently for a while. Archana tried to lighten the mood. "Wow," she said demurely. "We actually argued today like a typical husband and wife!"
Manav smiled. "Any day I would prefer these arguments than.." he stopped midway. 'Than what we have gone through earlier'- he had wanted to say, recollecting the nearly three-four weeks of their divorce + harassment complaint phase.
Archana knew what he wanted to say. She continued cheerfully. "Since we argued like a typical husband and wife, we should make up in the same way."
Manav's invisible antennas came out. "What are you talking about?" he asked suspiciously.
"Oh come on Manav, don't tell me that you don't know how husband and wife make up after fighting?"
Wait- was Archana talking about that which must not be talked about?
He shifted uncomfortably. "We should go to sleep." He said and got up from bed.
"Arey wait!" she said, pulling his hand. "I am talking about something na!"
"I know what you are talking about." He said quietly, sitting down next to her and pulling his hand away.
Manav didn't know what to say and what to do. He looked at her only to find that she was waiting for his reply with an innocent, eager expression on her face. He gulped nervously. Since when had his shy wife become so besharam?
"Umm.. I don't think.. we.. our relationship.. is not in that stage currently that.."
"But what is wrong in going out for a movie?" she asked.
Manav gave her a blank look. "Movie?"
"Obviously! Why, what did you think?"
He was about to say what he had been assuming, but controlled himself in the nick of time. She had been talking about going to a movie! "Movie!" he said aloud, relaxed. "Haha! Movie! Ha!"
Archana meanwhile looked at Manav as if he had gone mad. "Well, my friends used to say that husband and wife make up by spending some quality time with each other."
Manav simply shook his head, laughing at his thoughts.
"What are you shaking your head for?" she asked innocently.
"Nothing," he lied.
"Well then," she continued in a small and cautious voice. "Shall we go?"
He came back from his old thoughts to this new one. "Um.. Archana no.. I'm not in the mood.."
She tried to hide her disappointment. "Actually, you are always so stressed these days, so I thought, it would be a breather.."
He gave her a small smile. "I know, but please.. my head.."
"Anywhere else you'd like to go?"
He shook his head.
"Anything else you'd like to do?"
He shook his head again.
"No problem, we shall do whatever you are comfortable with." She said with a smile and got up to get her clothes, while he wondered whether he had rejected her innocent wish too outrightly. He swallowed his medicines while she came back in her night gown.
"Manav, should I massage your head? You will feel better.."
"No Archana.." he said, lying down on his side of the bed. "I just want to sleep."
"Alright." She said. "But then go to sleep only.. don't keep thinking the same things over and over.."
"Hmm..." He said, pulling a sheet over himself. Archana too lay down on bed. A few minutes later, she turned to look at him. He seemed to be asleep. The doctor's words ran through her mind. Her heart brimming with emotions, she fondled his hair lovingly. Months back, he had told her that he liked it when she did so. Today too, he stirred in his sleep, a small smile playing on his lips and then rested back comfortably. She watched him sleep for a few minutes and then lay down next to him, thinking about how to make financial arrangements for Manav's treatment.
It was another busy morning at the Deshmukh house next morning. And a particularly busy one for Archana.
Now that Aai had told she had given up all household responsibilities and asked everyone to fend for themselves, all the work load had come on Archana's shoulders. Yesterday morning had been relatively light, but today there was lot of work. She hurried between getting ready for office, making breakfast and washing the utensils.
"Umm.." Vandita stuck up her head at the kitchen doorway. "The clothes for yesterday are not washed. Aai said she wouldn't be doing any household work, so who's going to wash clothes from now on?"
"I am.. I guess." Said Archana.
She could see Vandita hesitating for a moment, then she reached out and took the dirty clothes from her hand. "Give them to me. I will wash them with the rest of the pile." She said, as Vandita walked away after giving an uncomfortable smile. Archana looked at the pile of dirty clothes and dirty vessels in the sink. She hadn't washed clothes yesterday cos she had been running late for office after mopping and sweeping the house and making meals, but she couldn't do it again today. She would have to do the laundry even if she was late for office again today, she thought.
"Look who is here!" a voice boomed in from the living room. Archana wiped her hands hurriedly and came out of the kitchen. She was surprised to see Damodar Baba entering the house with a suitcase, the slender, grey haired figure of Atya following him.
"Atya!!!" squealed the children and rushed to touch her feet. Manav too came out and was pleasantly surprised. Even Savita Aai came out with a rare smile on her face. Archana pulled her pallu round her shoulders, nervously thinking of all the explanations she would have to give all over again.
There, Atya plonked herself on the diwaan and sat messaging her knees. "Ah my knees! It was such a long journey, really! But am I glad to see all of you again after such a long time! You twins, you look like such grown ups now!"
The twins smiled proudly. "And you Manav, have lost a lot of weight." She observed.
Manav was alarmed. "Really?" he said nervously, looking at himself. According to what Dr. Ritika had told him, losing weight was not a good sign.
Atya laughed. "No no, I mean not that much, but yes you seem to have lost weight running from here and there." He bent to touch her feet and she slapped him on the back. "I'll talk to you later." She whispered in his ear. "There are loads of things I have to talk to you about."
He nodded uncomfortably. "What happened to your knees?"
"Don't ask," she grumbled. "The damp weather in our old Delhi house got too much for me I think. Every now and then my knees pain."
"Don't worry Tai!" Savita's clear voice came up from behind. "The daughter in law is there na! She'll take care of you now."
Everyone felt a bit weird at this statement considering it came from Savita. Archana came forward nervously and touched Atya's feet. Atya seemed just as she had always been- warm and kind. "Welcome back beta!" she said, her soft grey eyes looking down on her kindly. "We have lots to catch up, but first some tea."
Archana nodded and entered the kitchen again. She could hear the banter behind her- the kids were begging to be allowed to skip school. Atya was apologizing for not bringing any gifts for anyone- explaining that she had come in a bit of hurry- she had got a ticket for Mumbai at the last minute, considering there was so much of rush for Ganesh Chaturthi.
Archana was brewing up some more tea when Manav entered. "I am leaving for the garage.." he started. He looked her up from top to bottom. "You aren't ready for office yet?"
"Hmm..?" asked Archana. "I think I will take a leave today."
"Leave again?" said Manav. "At this rate your office folks will throw you out."
She tried to laugh, but then said, "Actually Atya is here, so.."
"So Aai Baba are there to give her company, you go to work." Said Manav. Archana looked hesitant. "Atya might need help and some attention, I think I shall take a leave for today, as it is there are some unfinished chores in the house."
Manav looked around at the vessels in the sink, the dirty clothes and recalled Aai's words about how Archana would take care of Atya. "Or maybe I'll go a little late to office," Archana offered hurriedly.
He thought it wiser not to say anything more at the moment and go with the flow. "Do as you think is right." He said curtly and walked out.
He was walking out when he met Baba in the verandah, sitting with a newspaper. "Mind if I sit with you?" he asked.
"Not at all." Said Baba, smiling cheerfully at him.
"Why didn't you tell us Atya was going to come?"
"Why didn't you tell us about your surgery?"
Manav felt sheepish and looked down. Baba laughed. "I leave it up to you about why you didn't want to tell us. And I leave it to you about when you want to tell everyone. Regarding Atya, her ticket got confirmed at the last minute. She had called at the neighbour's house, but I forgot about it cos I got drunk. You know how she always comes to the chawl Ganpati celebrations every year.."
"Yes I know.." said Manav. "Baba, did you talk to her already?"
Baba smiled. "I talked to her on phone only Manav." He said sadly. "I told na, I was drunk when she called. I ended up telling her everything on the phone. I was so down and worried at that time that I could not hold myself anymore. I needed to have someone to talk. I cannot even fathom how you stayed silent for so many days. My poor child, you have borne too much alone, not anymore now. I will support you." He said firmly. Then he pondered a little. "I know you must be thinking that as usual I drowned myself in alcohol instead of staying strong to help you, what to do beta, some things in life cannot be overcome so easily. Alcohol has become my support now. Yes I faltered again. But believe me when I say that I'm with you and I will help you out of this mess- don't worry at all. Tell me what the doctor told you."
Manav sighed. He told his Baba everything.
"Hmm.." Baba thought hard. "We need to make financial arrangements."
"Not just for the surgery, but also for some time after that." Said Manav. "I don't think I will be allowed to go back to work so soon. Anyways, let's see."
"I will talk to some old friends from theatre." Baba promised. "I'm sure they will be able to help in some way or the other.."
"It's okay Baba." Manav said. "Tarun is there. He has made me promise him that if I need money I will go to him first. His father won't let him use the family earnings (since he has hardly earned anything himself) on the garage or our day to day expenses, but he will not hesitate to help in a medical emergency."
"Yeah.. that's true." Said Baba thoughtfully. "You stay in touch with Tarun okay.. and now you keep me informed. When have you thought of telling everybody?"
Manav's mind went back to the discussion of last night. "Soon, I think." He signed off. Baba smiled.
"I'm so glad you're back Atya.", said Archana as she settled down next to Atya with a cup of tea in her hands, and a plate of rice grain to pick out stones from.
"So am I, that YOU are back." Said Atya with a smile. Archana looked a little embarrassed. "It's a long story.."
"I know some of it.." said Atya. "Damodar told me some things on the way back from the station. I'm shocked that so much happened in this house and I was not told. Yes, I was with my sister who is in mourning right now, but that does not mean you won't even tell me what is happening here.. I mean, the police was involved and.."
Archana flushed. "The police complaint was really a black mark." She said sheepishly. "It made everything very complicated. Things would have been easier if my Vahini had not resorted to this.. I didn't want things to get so ugly ever.."
"I know Archana.." sighed Atya. "I know Savita very well.. and although I accept that all she did was wrong, it would have been better if the complaint had not been made and things sorted out at the family level. I am upset with God that it had to happen- she is anyways getting her punishment of having two sons away from her, the police beatings were so not required. She has suffered on too long, in my opinion, and her suffering is not yet over." Atya looked up at Archana. "Don't think I'm justifying her in anyway. Manav's anger is valid and understandable, but I can't help feeling sorry for Savita Vahini too. Maybe I'm a bit biased cos I've known her more than anyone in the house, and know certain stances of her life that others have not seen, not even Manav, cos he was a kid at that time. My understanding of Savita is different."
"Then help me understand her!" said Archana eagerly. "I for one, have never been able to understand her. I can't figure out whether she hates Manav or loves him, whether she is good or bad, whether she is.."
Atya laughed. "If I tell you everything Archana, then it will be a tad too easy for you, don't you think? My Manav has done so much to win you, you should also work hard a little to understand Savita Aai, the twins etc.", said Atya mischievously.
Archana's face fell.
Atya laughed again. "Archana, of course I will be there to help you when I feel you need it, but I want you to try and understand the members of the house on their own. It will help you bond with them. It is very easy for me to tell everyone that 'hey you all, you must love Archana and accept her back'- they all respect me and for my sake they would do it too, but it serves no purpose. It might give you instant entry and position in this house but not in their hearts. You remember, I never told you also to accept Manav back or return in those days when you didn't trust him? I wanted you to figure out for yourself about what you want and come back, not pressurize you emotionally like Damodar. If a thing has to happen, it needs to happen for the right reason."
Archana nodded. "I know I have my task cut out for me." She said. "And it's not as if I'm running away from it. I always knew I have to win back my place on my own. I just hope you will guide me. I really could do with some encouragement in this house. Manav is by my side, but I feel he is secretly just expecting me to pack my bags and go away in a few days. He thinks I will go away soon cos I don't trust him, don't love him, and can't stick to my decisions."
"Is he right?" asked Atya quietly.
Archana wondered whether she could tell Atya her predicament and then decided to confide. Atya was the one with whom she could talk on a woman to woman basis without the fear of being judged. She started telling Atya about how, though she had initially returned to the house determined to accept Manav back and forgive him, simply cos she loved him, yet now she had started feeling that he had never been guilty in the first place. Her belief was not based on any solid proof but rather based on her observation of Manav, his reaction to events, and some revelations about Aai and her lies.
"He supported me even against Aai and was so horrified by all that Aai told about my character in public.", she revealed. "He is such a fair man that he stood with what was right even when he had no personal attachment left in the marriage. He could not have cheated me." She said, looking into space.
She looked at Atya only to find her staring at her with a mysterious smile on her face. Atya's smile grew wider. "I always thought you are a very balanced and fair person, even though emotional, and that stands.", she finally said. "Well your reasoning is absolutely right. And I'm so glad that from a point when you knew nothing about Manav six months back and doubted him, today you have grown to understand him so well. Despite all the setbacks you and Manav have gone through, your relationship has grown in a healthy direction all this while, the graph has never gone downwards. That in itself is a good sign."
Archana blushed, pleased with these words. Most people always said that their relationship was disasterous, but Atya had seen it in a different light. She hung on eagerly, waiting to hear more.
"And let me tell you one more thing." Atya said, straightening up. "I met Varsha in Delhi."
Archana was shocked. "Really?" she said. "When?"
"It's been some time now, no actually it's been a lot of time. I saw her at the railway station, and I had asked her to maintain contact, but she didn't do it."
Archana's mind raced fast. "Atya was it about 10 days ago?" she asked, her heart thumping loudly. Varsha had called from Delhi 10 days ago, before Vaishali's engagement, claiming that she was there on a business trip. Manjusha Vahini had told about the conversation.
"Longer than that." Said Atya. "More like a month or so."
Archana went over everything. It means the chances of Manav's words being true were now increasing. Varsha could indeed have been in Delhi all this time! Maybe she had never gone to London at all and had been in Delhi just like Manav had said. She would have to call Vaishali and tell her about this new development, she thought.
"So you are also against me?" said Savita Aai, crossing her arms in front of Atya.
Atya sighed, resting against the edge of the bed in Savita Aai's bedroom. "I am not against anyone." She said strictly. "But I need you to understand and listen to me so that I can help you out of the mess you've made for yourself."
"Is that what you have come here for?" asked Savita curtly. "Did Manav's Baba ask you to come here to boss over me?"
"I have come for the Ganesh Chaturthi celebrations of the chawl, the place I belong to. He did not call me, and this is actually something I should rather be taking offence over, that all of you do not consider me part of this family. The police came in this house, my house, you chose to throw Manav out of my house and I was unaware of everything."
(Note: In early episodes of PR, it was told that the Deshmukh house belonged to Kaka. Same extends to Atya here)
Savita felt embarrassed. Atya had never exercised her rights over the house until today. "Speak." she said.
"Thankyou." Said Atya, taking in a deep breath. "Now Savita, you've done some really terrible things. Damodar told me everything."
"That bevdaa knows nothing.." Savita started, raising her voice, and an exasperated Atya sighed.
"Stop it Savita, listen to me now." She said sternly. "You've done some terrible things- cheating Manav, instigating Shravani, poisoning Sachin's mind, hurting Archana. I know you didn't like Archana, and I can even understand that you were angry with her for having hurt Manav, but I didn't know you would stoop to such low levels. You have no right to treat your children like toys to get what you want. I understand you have seen poverty and an abusive life, but you have no right to manipulate others life to get out of that poverty or even worse, inflict abuse on others. Life may have given you a bad hand, but that doesn't mean that it justifies that you vent the same bitterness back at others. Accept this."
Savita didn't say anything.
Atya continued. "Despite all that happened, I know one thing- you may have got some different ideas about what you thought would guarantee happiness for your family and yourself (a rich life), you used their trust on you and cheated them behind their backs, but I know that you are not their enemy. You have brought all of them up with dedication and love and made umpteen sacrifices for them. They value it, Manav too. That is why I'm saying- there is still time Savita. Make up with Manav. He loves you and he will accept to forget everything that happened if you make one small, but genuine move."
Savita stared angrily at Atya. "Okay so you want me to go apologize to Manav and that wife of his? And then maybe the whole of the stupid Karanjkar clan? And then maybe their neighbours and.."
"No use speaking to her!" grunted Damodar from a corner, who had entered and had been listening to the conversation. "Mad woman! She does not know what she is losing by ill treating a good bahu like Archana."
"What has your Archana done for us till date that you praise her to the skies?" Savita lashed out. "If I start with the full story of how much my Manav has suffered since the day he came in contact with the Karanjkars, the day will end!"
"Huh!" said Damodar in a huff. "Look who doesn't want to face the truth now!" taunted Savita.
"Truth? You want to know the truth? The truth is that Manav has not suffered due to the Karanjkars as much as he has by your and Sachin's actions. This is the truth!"
Savita looked at him angrily and was about to say something when Atya shushed her. "Stop fighting both of you!" she said angrily. "Here I'm trying to bring about a settlement and.. Damodar.. get out!"
Damodar Baba was taken aback. "I.. me.. arey.."
"Get out now!" said Atya irritatedly. "Or stay silent in the corner." Baba sat grumpily in the corner. Atya turned to Savita again. "You tell me what have you thought. See Savita, I know you better than all others in the house. I know that even though your past few actions have been very selfish and you have taken Manav for granted since a long time, yet I would STILL say you are the best thing to happen to Manav."
Atya could hear a loud 'hmph!' from Damodar's corner, but she choose to ignore it. Instead, she continued. "I don't want your beautiful relationship with him to get ruined. Make up with him now. I will speak to him if required. If he really hated you he would have separated from this house. He hasn't. There is still hope."
"He won't listen to me." Said Savita Aai. "He is too blinded in Archana's words and her love to even listen to me. If he had wanted to make up with me, he would have forgotten everything long back. He hasn't. He doesn't even talk to me these days."
"Savita, first of all learn to consider Manav as an individual in himself." said Atya. "Try not to think of him only as Archana's husband or the son who always listened to you in the past. Think of him only as Manav and how he must have felt when cheated by his near and dear ones- for a minute forget that Archana has anything to do with it at all. Cos from what Damodar has told me, the problem is between you and Manav ONLY. Archana is nowhere here. Yes, your ill treatment of Archana compounds Manav's fury, but if you think that things will improve between the two of you if Archana goes away- then no, it's not going to happen! Things can improve only if the two of you decide that you want to move ahead, not by the presence or absence of a third person. As I see it currently, Archana has no major influence on Manav anyway."
Savita did not say anything. Atya held her hand. "See Savita, you and your children have seen enough harsh times. You worked hard for them. Now they are the ones who should take care of you and they want to do it too. But if you stick to your ego you will not only ruin your remaining life but.."
"I can take care of myself." Savita said coldly. "I don't need anyone."
Atya sighed. "Why don't you understand? It's not a one way street Savita! It's not like just you need them! No matter how big they grow and how independent they become, they will always need you with them! Don't bring matters to a point where your children distance themselves from you and then feel uncomfortable in sharing their troubles with you. Especially Manav. Since childhood, he has been affected bcos of the actions of his parents- be it Damodar's alcoholism, your fights, your behavior towards Archana leading to police complaint, your actions and scheming behind his back and now this fight between you and him. I don't want him to suffer anymore now." Said Atya.
At that moment, Atya did not know that her words were having a silent effect on not just Savita Aai, but also on someone else.
Archana stood in the line for the tap, waiting for her turn to come. Again and again, she looked at her watch and sighed. She would have to hurry up now and leave for office, and complete the rest of the household chores in the evening.. no wait.. she had school in the evening.. hmm.. okay she would do it after dinner.. but then when would she study? Oh dear! Managing a whole household single handedly was not easy, especially with a full time job and night school, along with hours of study time. At her home, she had Aai and Vaishali with her, but here there seemed to be no one to share the load. What was she to do?
She was lost in her thoughts when a hand tapped her shoulder. She turned to see it was a middle aged woman standing in the line behind her. Others too were peering from behind. Archana smiled at them. "How are you Archana?" they asked.
"I'm good, how are you all?" she asked politely.
"Fine." One of them replied. Another one asked. "I hope you are really good.."
"I did not understand.."
"I hope the Deshmukhs are treating you properly." One woman continued. "I mean.. going by the fact that you had to make a police complaint against them, they must have treated you badly in the past.."
Archana was stumped. She did not know what to say. She was fumbling for an answer, when another one spoke in. "What 'in the past'? The same behavior is continuing now also. Didn't you see Savita ill-treating her on the day of Ganesh Puja?"
Archana hurried to speak. "Things are fine at home." She said quickly. "I and Aai have sorted things amongst ourselves. The complaint was just a matter blown out of proportion, nothing else."
"Beta whom are you fooling?" asked one woman. The elderly ladies had now crowded her and other people had gathered to look at the commotion as well. "We all know Savita harassed you. We all saw her throwing you out, badmouthing you. We all know you had problems with Manav too, that is why you went away leaving him alone.."
Archana was alarmed. Another woman continued. "It is good that you made a police complaint against such people. I tell you, so uncivilized these Deshmukhs are. The elder Deshmukh is also good for nothing, younger son ran away from home, and elder son turned out to be the worst- beating his wife and.."
"Manav did nothing!" Archana said suddenly. "You know nothing about the whole thing, so please stop drawing conclusions. The complaint was false, that is all."
"Just bcos you chose to defend wrong, it does not become right." Another woman said. "We all know what Savita has been doing- shameless woman!"
"And what have all of you been doing?" retorted Archana. "What have all of you done to be so proud of?"
"Hold your tongue woman!" said one angrily.
"I don't mean to be rude to any of you." Said Archana. "But tell me- when I was being thrown out of the chawl, each time, why did no one stop Aai? Why did no one take me in the day I returned, and I had to sit on the steps, shielding myself from the rain? All of you are women! Why did no one say anything when Aai treated me so badly in front of everyone?"
The onlookers had no answer now. Archana looked around at the crowd of women standing and listening to the conversation. No one had any answer. Finally one spoke, "Archana beta, we thought it was a household feud.."
"Then let it remain a household feud now also.. don't make it into a social issue." Said Archana, trying to control her anger. "You don't need to question me about my husband and label him as a wife beating kind when you don't know half the story. Don't be quick to judge him just bcos someone made a police complaint against him when he didn't even deserve to be punished. He didn't even know what I was going through. When he came to know, he saved me from every evil and it is bcos of him that I'm here in the house now. He has guts to accept the truth and fight for what is right, unlike all of you, who stayed as silent spectators. So who is better here? Unfortunately, the police complaint was made against him and not against all of you- thank your stars for that instead of passing judgements. Of course, everyone wants gossip. But no one wants to think that there has to be a reason why I'm back in this so called wife beater's home. No one wants to give a chance to the person they've seen grow up in front of them."
With this Archana turned and angrily climbed up the steps to her house with her empty bucket. She was scared that if she stayed longer she might end up saying something rude to them, and that was the last thing she wanted at the moment.
As she entered the house, she saw Baba who was sitting on the swing in the balcony. He turned to look up as she came in. He raised his eye brows and she understood that he had heard everything that had happened below. He shifted slightly on the swing.
Archana went and sat on the small toadstool kept near the swing. For some time, both of them said nothing.
Finally Baba spoke. "Arguing with the chawl people serves no purpose." He said. "They are not going to believe you."
"I don't care." Said Archana. "I don't like it when people assume that all of you are bad and ill treating me, just cos of the police complaint."
"Well it's true." He said sadly. "Savita did treat you badly."
"Baba, but.." Archana protested. "Why should Manav get labeled as a wife-beater or a demon who harasses his wife? As it is he was jailed. This is oh so not fair! Same about you! I don't like anyone saying bad things about you. Aai too, but about her we can do nothing since everyone has seen her behavior. And anyway, no one is treating me badly now!"
Baba smiled. "It's a part of our life now." He said. "We have to live with it."
"Well I'm not going to live with it." She said insolently.
"In front of how many people will you defend Manav, haan?" Baba asked. "10? 20? 30? 1000? Arey beta, they will come back again to taunt. If not taunt, they will whisper in closed circles. You cannot shut everyone's mouths."
Archana looked away. Pertinent points, she knew. But somehow she was not prepared to live through it. She could not tolerate people calling Manav names and thinking the worst of him. She could not tolerate that the Deshmukh family should have to hide their faces and be embarassed bcos of the police complaint made against them.
"There must be a way.."
"There is a way." Baba said. "But it's not easy."
"What?" asked Archana suddenly.
"You are asking me?" Baba smiled. "Don't you remember? You and Manav told me that the social worker at your NGO, Mrs. Ruhia told you about the case that you can file against Manjusha.."
"Abru Nuksani.." Archana remembered.
"Yes.." agreed Baba. "We can make a complaint against Manjusha wherein you can testify that Manav and I never harassed you. We can get a written/published apology and legal compensation from Manjusha, and everyone will come to know the truth. Earlier you had refused since Manav had wanted to include Savita also, but if we make the case only on both our names, then you can honestly testify and won't have to lie in court.."
"Yes.." Archana said. "I had already said that I would support Manav if he did that. But I don't think he will file a case now."
Archana was silent for a while. Baba prodded her. "Why beta?"
She looked up. "People will obviously question why Aai did not get an apology and will draw conclusions.. I'm guessing Manav did not want to make things awkward for Aai.. we did not talk about it, but I think this is the reason he did not follow up on that issue anymore.. I think he just satisfied himself by making it known that I would have supported him, in case he had filed the case against Manjusha Vahini."
Baba sighed. "I don't know what to do with this boy." He said. "He still thinks about those who don't think about him.. but I won't let him suffer anymore for being good." Baba looked at Archana with determination. "I won't let Manav suffer silently bcos of his parents mistakes now. He has suffered enough right from childhood for no fault of his. Not any more. I and Savita really do not have a great reputation to protect, but my Manav did have the spotless image of a honest, hardworking man- and that should remain! Let Savita not get a public apology. Let people question. But Manav should get his name cleared out of this mess. The world should know that he was not guilty and he never harassed you."
Archana felt restless. "Baba, I don't think Manav will agree to make the complaint.." she said. "And in any case, he has too many things to think about right now.. he cannot take any more stress.. now one more court case.."
"I know.." said Baba thoughfully. "That is why I was thinking not to ask him to make the counter complaint against Manjusha.."
"I will make the complaint against Manjusha." Said Baba quietly. "I will handle this whole issue myself- right from arranging for money, filing for lawyer, legal formalities- everything. I will look into it. You don't worry.
Archana wondered if she was in a dream. Was it really Baba who had said that? Wait- was he drunk- she wondered. Only that could explain his ideas- which seemed to be impossible as of now.
He didn't look drunk. He looked absolutely calm, waiting for an answer.
"Well.." he said. "What do you think?"
"Um.. well.. Baba.. I don't know what to say.." she remembered Manav telling her not to keep very high expectations from Baba. From where would Baba get the money for the court case, she wondered. Stealing from Aai's locker again? Or asking Manav to arrange money for him? Ultimately everything zig-zagged it's way back to Manav again.
Baba laughed at himself. "You must be thinking na, this drunkard has gone mad. He has no money or means and yet is making such huge plans.. hai na?"
"No Baba.. it's not like that." Said Archana quickly. "If you are really serious about filing the case, then I'm there to support you.."
"Think over it properly Archana." Baba said. "If you stand in court against your Vahini, your family won't be too pleased. Your brother might break relations with you. Think over it and decide."
Archana hesitated for a moment, recollecting everything that had happened in the past few days. She remembered how she had agreed to give testimony last time, but then withdrawn cos she had felt that it would be wrong, illegal, dangerous and set a bad example if she lied about Savita in the courtroom.
But here she didn't have to lie. She just had to continue on the path she had taken. If it was true that Manjusha Vahini's complaint was valid and Savita Aai was indeed guilty and should not be defended unfairly, then it was also true that Manav and Baba had been punished most unfairly too. They also needed justice. If she could stand against her husband, saying she would not testify unfairly for Savita Aai, then what was wrong in standing with him against Manjusha vahini, this time again for the truth?
She looked at Baba. "You don't worry Baba." She said with a smile. "I won't back out. I make decisions late, and oscillate sometimes, but once I make them, I stick to them. I won't let you down."
Baba smiled. "Good." He said. "So now I'll start making preparations for this court case. Don't tell anything to Manav as of now. If he comes to know, he will get perturbed and finally insist on making the arrangements himself to save me all the trouble. You know how he is."
Archana laughed softly at his last line. Yes, she knew how he was- her Manav.
Archana looked out of the kitchen window into the chawl below. She could see Vedant Vandita and Damodar along with Atya and the rest of the chawl dwellers, enjoying the film quiz taking place as part of the Ganpati celebrations. She wished she could join them too, unfortunately she was stuck up in completing her chores. She had accompanied Atya to the nearby temple and it had taken some time. She had returned immediately and set to work. Goodness- how much work there was in this house, she thought to herself. 7 people in the house currently- managing it alone was not easy.
She heard someone clearing his throat. She turned to look. It was Manav.
"So did you go to nightschool, if not to office?" he asked.
She gave him a tired smile. "Yes I did, and then accompanied Atya to the temple later..."
"Hmm.." he said, picking up a utensil from the sink and starting to wash it. "I will do it," said Archana in a perturbed voice. He did not listen and continued washing it.
"Archana, take my advice, go home as soon as you can." He said calmly.
"This is my home now." Said Archana in a small voice. Manav shrugged. "Listen to me." He said. "My Aai will continue making things difficult for you.."
"Manav, we already talked this over.."
"Yes, and you said you can handle my Aai effectively, and I can see how you are handling her.." he said.
"Well, I did handle her nicely didn't I?" she asked. "I stopped her nasty words and.."
Manav looked away for a moment. "It's frankly not enough.." he said. "I don't want to get into details now.. just go back home quickly."
"I won't." she said in a determined voice. "You know very well I won't go back. This is my house and my responsibility as well."
He looked at her, surprised. She looked at her waist, he followed her gaze and he could see the keys of the household tucked away at her slender, curved waist. He groaned.
"Who gave this to you?" he demanded.
"Atya did." Said Archana innocently, with a hint of pride in her voice. "She said that I'm the daughter in law of this house and it is my right as well as responsibility now."
"Great!" said Manav. "She worsened things for you by making it 'official'."
"What do you mean?"
"Go home." He repeated. "Quickly go back home. With a full time job and school, you won't be able to manage this house alone. Aai is taking advantage of it by pushing you into it so that in the end you'll be caught up badly in the whole thing and suffer."
She frowned. "What makes you think so? I have run my home single handedly ever since I was 13. So why not now?"
"Bcos this time people like my Aai are there!" he said in an exasperated voice. "It is so difficult to reason with you." He muttered, banging the utensil into the sink.
"I will manage my house myself." She said confidently. "You leave it to me, this is my department. Just like the garage is your department."
"Department?" asked Manav, amused. "What department?"
"Well I manage the house, you manage the garage. This way we divide the tension load, what say?" she said, smiling sheepishly. Manav only shrugged in response. "Okay, so Miss. Homemaker.."
"Mrs. Homemaker.." she corrected.
"Yes, whatever." He said. "What other plans have you made? Just for curiosity sake I want to know."
She beamed at him. "We will save money for the garage repairs and other expenses." She said. "Right now, you get about Rs. 17,000 and most of it goes into household expenses. Add Rs. 10,000 -15,000 that we get from leasing out the garage. It goes in paying the bank instalments. And I make Rs. 6,000. So if we cut on household expenses, we can save upto Rs. 10,000 per month."
"And how are you going to cut on household expenses, especially with the festival season around the corner?"
She thought for a moment. "I will think it over. You leave it to me. I am confident about my ability to run the house. It's the only thing I know well. You can trust me this time at least Manav.", she said almost in a pleading voice.
Manav softened. "No, I know you can do a good job, I don't doubt your abilities, it's just that I'm trying to look out for you against any potential trouble and.. ah! Leave it. I will reserve my comments as of now." He said. Archana smiled. "You always look out for any potential trouble for me.. but when I worry about you, you say I'm over reacting." She said, referring to last night.
"Don't remind me now, please." He said, as she washed her hands and together they walked out of the kitchen after switching the light. "Listen, I think we should take advice from Atya about when and how to tell the kids and Aai. She will advise best. I want to get done with this as soon as possible."
Archana nodded in agreement. "Now?"
Manav exhaled deeply. "Yes, if possible." He looked down to where they were sitting in the chawl compound. "We should go down there."
They joined the rest of the group down in the chawl compound where everyone was sitting in front of the pandal stage, enjoying the film quiz- two people in a team. Clues were being given out on stage. Once there, Manav told Atya that he wanted to talk to her. "It is something important.", he whispered. Atya agreed and went with him into the house, while Savita Aai, who was sitting in the balcony, looked at them walking away.
Archana meanwhile, went and called up Vaishali through Manav's cell phone. She had been quite busy the whole day and not been able to speak to Vaishali, and she went on to do it now. It felt good to hear Vaishali's enthusiastic voice on the phone. Together they discussed about home, family members and Varsha. Archana told Vaishali what Atya had told about Varsha, that she had met her in Delhi. "First it was only Manav, and now Atya is saying the same thing." Said Archana. "And we DID get a phone call from Delhi, didn't we?"
"I couldn't get through Varshu Tai's email id cos I didn't have the password, but I checked out her FB profile.", revealed Vaishali. "Her friends have posted on her wall asking her when she will join them in London.. and they are the same ones who were going along with her to London."
Archana froze. Her next few words came out in the form of a whisper. "More and more voices are joining in to say that Varsha is in Delhi and not in London.. I.. I don't know what to do now Vaishu.. I hope Varsha is safe.. goodness.. why isn't this girl contacting us.. she has left behind such a mess over here!"
"I know!" said Vaishali exasperatedly. "I am myself worried for her now. I mean, if she really is in trouble, why isn't she seeking help from us? Why not tell us about it? Why be such an oversmart sassy girl and try and handle it on her own? She's just making it worse for all of us here, and most importantly for Manav Jiju."
"There must be some reason for her silence." Said Archana throughtfully. "At least I'd like to believe that, as of now."
"Tai, your problem is that you are too good." Said Vaishali. "You want to give a chance to everyone. Me, I'm not so good. I'm frankly irritated by Varsha Tai now. I hope she has a good reason, else I'll be really annoyed with her."
"If she is in Delhi then we must contact her in some way.. anyway.."
"I've sent her an email." Informed Vaishali. "I'm also going through her list of FB friends in Delhi, who knows maybe she is staying with one of them? Maybe we can get some clues?"
"Hopefully," said Archana. "How is Aai?"
"Just the same." Said Vaishali in a dull voice. "She's still angry at Baba for not bringing you back home, and she's very worried for you. She was hoping you would come for the Ganpati celebrations.."
Archana felt sad. "Tell Aai that I will not come this year." She said. "Under present circumstances it won't be proper."
"You are still upset about the harassment complaint, hai na?"
Archana did not say anything. Vaishali continued. "Aai Baba were quite silent during the pooja festivities this year. It was only Manjusha Vahini who handled everything, saying we don't need to mope and cry when no bad things have happened in our own house."
Archana remembered the court case soon to be filed against Manjusha. "Vaishu, I have to tell you something.." she said.
Archana went back and sat with the rest of the family members in the open chawl space. She tried to peer into the piece of paper in which Vandita was writing down the name of films in accordance with the clues being given out on stage. Vandita looked uncomfortable, but did not say anything, and continued to write whatever she could think of. Vedant and Damodar were in the other team, and quite confident of winning.
Manav came a few minutes later and sat down next to her. He looked very grave and serious.
"What did Atya say?" asked Archana nervously.
"Na tum jano na hum." Replied Manav.
Archana looked confused, only to realise he was talking to Vandu not to her. Vandu meanwhile scribbled the name of the film quickly on her piece of paper, and asked for more help.
"Dada, come and sit here na," she said, indicating the ground next to her. She didn't want Archana to be with her. Manav got up and sat with her, and both of them pored over the paper, discussing the clues Vandu had lost out on.
"I think the next one is We are Family." Said Archana. Vandita gave her a weird look which made her feel a little wary. Manav tried to divert attention. "Maybe, let's see, Vandita here's the next one, I think it is.." he gulped, "Zindagi na Milegi Dobara."
Somehow Manav's words made Archana feel sad. "Manav.."
"Dada what is the next one?" interrrupted Vandita. Manav looked at Archana for a moment and then back at Vandita. Knowing that Vandita wanted to be left alone with Manav and she was unwanted, Archana did not intrude any more.
Damodar and Vedant, Manav and Vandu- Archu felt quite left out. She looked over at Vandita sitting between both of them. Now she couldn't even talk to Manav, she thought. How she wished the family members were less frigid with her.
"What happened to you?" asked Atya, sitting next to her. Archana shook her head. "Nothing. Umm.. did you talk..?"
Atya nodded. "Not now." She whispered. Apart from the fact that the children and the chawl people were sitting there, there was also the fact that she herself needed time to think. Inwardly she was worried for Manav, his condition, the strifes in the house, his finacial worries, his apprehensions regarding his marital life. Damodar had told her about it in his drunken state, but hearing it all from Manav's own mouth made her worry more for him. Just like others, she had also seen the strong side of him always, and had thought he could handle it. But this time it was different. Even today, though he had not cried at all and had tried to comfort her instead, saying he would manage everything, yet she could see the lingering worry and apprehension behind his words. What had happened to Manav who always consoled others? How sad was it that he had lost faith in his own people and destiny? Where were things going for her favourite nephew, she wondered worriedly.
"Atya are you okay?" Archana nudged her. Atya looked at her and smiled. She liked this girl. Something in her made Atya feel that she was the one who could help Manav and the family sail through these depressing times. After all, hadn't she come back to him without knowing he was innocent, and in a state when he was in deep trouble, for the sake of her concern for him, ignoring the fact that Savita lived in the house, that her husband was not well off, that he had cheated her? Till now, she had not yet got a chance to show how good or bad a wife she could be. Now she was trying her best, even going against her family. She wasn't a very strong person, but Atya could see that she was trying to be strong for him. Intentions mattered as much as actions did, and Archana's intentions had never been bad for the Deshmukh family, though the family had certainly suffered due to the alliance. She really deserved one chance. But now Manav had lost faith in her.. how would things get back to normal between them if he didn't give her a genuine chance? What could renew his faith in his own marriage?
She looked ahead at the large idol of Ganpati Bappa in front of her, as if asking him for an answer to her question. She looked sideways again to see that Archana looked pensive. "It's okay child, don't be worried. You are not alone now, we elders are there to advise and help." , she said, resting her hand on Archana's shoulder. She tried to change the topic. "I forgot to tell you earlier, this colour suits you." She indicated Archana's bottle green coloured sari. Archana looked down at it and smiled. "You gifted it to me, remember?"
"I did?" asked Atya. She looked at it carefully. "Oh yes, I gifted it to you for your first Vat Savitri Pooja, right?"
Archana nodded with a smile. "So is this the first time you are wearing it?" asked Atya cleverly.
Archana understood what Atya was trying to ask her- whether or not she had kept a fast for Manav and done the pooja for him that day. "No, it's not the first time I'm wearing it." She smiled. "I did keep a fast for Manav on Vat Savitri day, how could I not do it for my husband."
Atya gave an approving smile, and Archana shied away. She looked in front, remembering the fast and that day. She hoped Savitri Ma would remember the fast and take care of Manav.
What she did not know was that someone else had heard their conversation.
Though he pretended to be engrossed in Vandita's film quiz, Manav couldn't help pondering over what he had heard. Archana had kept a Vat Savitri fast for him, that too in those days when the situation between them had been highly hostile, when she had high doubts on him, when she had told him in quite clear words that she didn't feel comfortable in sitting with him in the garage inauguration pooja. In those days, quite clearly, she did not have any major interest in the marriage for whatever reason, unlike now. She had in fact, openly told him (just before he signed divorce papers) that she had never thought of him as a husband at all. He still remembered that these lines from her had broken his faith in his marriage.
Why then had she kept a fast for him in those days?
He tried not to think about it. He tried to concentrate on Vandita's quiz instead, but his thoughts kept going back to the conversation and to what he had told Archana the day she had come back, raising questions about how she had suddenly fallen in love with him within 13 days of signing divorce papers, or rather after coming to know of his illness, after being so indifferent all the time earlier during their separation. The reason he had so little faith in his marriage now was bcos he had reasons to think Archana had no feelings (or trust) for him all along as she had herself told him once, and had come back for sympathy reasons.
But this.. what did this mean?
He did not know what to make out of this revelation, whether it even held any significance or not. But somehow it got stuck in his mind and refused to budge. He looked at Archana again. Yes, the saree did look familiar. He remembered having seen her in the temple on Vat Savitri Puja afternoon, but he had not known that she had kept a fast for him. She had even talked about his court case against Ajit, but she hadn't told of her fast. In public, she had usually avoided talking to him, in private she had been very clear about her doubts on him and kept him at an arm's distance, even refused to sit in the garage inauguration pooja with him and yet secretly she had kept fasts for him? What did all this mean?
"Kya yehi pyaar hai?" Vandita's voice brought him back to earth. "Who knows." He murmured back.
"I'll write Kya yehi pyaar hai only.." said Vandita and scribbled it in her piece of paper.
"Let me also help.." Atya butted in, "Tell me which clue you haven't been able to solve.."
"Hero and heroine live apart from each other, yet their separation never lessens their love for each other.. they support each other all the while.. sometimes without the other knowing!"
"Amar Prem." Suggested Atya.
"Veer Zaara?" asked Archana.
"How many people are involved in this team?" questioned Vedant, turning from where he was sitting in the front with Damodar Baba. "This is not fair, 4 people in one team.."
"Aye you look in the front.", hissed back Vandita. "The prize will eventually come into our house only na, so why fret?"
But Vedant was adamant. "This is not fair. Vahini and Atya are not supposed to help. They should have made a separate team. What say Dada?"
"Huh?" asked Manav absent mindedly. He had been staring at Archana's green sari. "What were you saying?"
Vedant groaned and turned back while Damodar suppressed a smirk. Atya also smiled. "Vandita come here, show me what you have solved till now." She said. Vandita got up and sat next to Atya. Archana crept closer to Manav. "What happened to you?" she asked.
"Nothing, I'm probably just sleepy." He lied.
"Well you're not alone," said Archana, trying to hide an enormous yawn. "And I have to get up early tomorrow to finish the housework and then go to office and.."
Manav gave her an 'I- told- you-so' look. Archana straightened up. "Nothing big." She said coolly. "I have done more work than this at my Aai's home. I will handle it. You just wait and watch."
"For now I will be doing just that." He said. Of course, since he had no clue on what direction to take, as of now he was only supposed to wait and watch. At the moment, it was the womenfolk in the house- Archana, Savita Aai, Atya- who were making decisions back and forth. He too would speak, but at the opportune moment.
As of now, his mind continued to divert to the little revelation he had come across this evening, wondering if it held any significance, or was just a little piece of information meant to be tucked in the many channels of memory.
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