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Joined: 01 January 2009
Recap- Part 77 and 78:
1.) News of Manav's illness is finally revealed to all. The children get very worried and Savita Aai is horrified and upset that Manav did not tell her but told Archu (this is what she thinks). She is also angry that the Karanjkars put Manav in jail inspite of knowing about his condition so she goes to their house and fights with them.
2.) Vedant talks to Archana about Manav's condition and she guides him. Savita Aai is not happy.
3.) Atya tries to divert attention from gloom by indulging the family in chawl competitions like Antakshari and dance competition. The family share some light moments.
4.) Damodar Baba reveals his plan of making a counter complaint against Manjusha for defamation. Savita Aai feels it is a wrong decision since this will enrage Lokhandes and they might hurt Manav more.
5.) Savita Aai talks to Manav about it and also tells him to break up his marriage with Archana to avoid any further trouble in his state. Everyone doubts that Savita's intention is not to 'protect' Manav but rather to get Archana out of the house by hook or crook cos of her hatred for Archu. Savita feels bad when she comes to know this and says that this time she was being a villain only for Manav's betterment.
6.) Aai feels that Manav's betterment lies in breaking all contacts with the Karanjkar family and having Archu out of his life. She decides to make Archu leave the D-house herself. This is done by troubling her when she wants to study and increasing the load of household work to unimaginable levels.
7.) Baba and Aai have heated debates on the court case against Manjusha. In the midst of all this, Vinod, comes to the D house and has a talk with Archana asking her not to make the complaint. Archana explains her stand. The matter ultimately turns to accusations, with Vinod muttering about the D house loading off money from the K family and exploiting them financially. Archana is hurt.
8.) Manav consoles a heartbroken Archana who decides not to expect any understanding or help from her brother or sister in law in the future. She is very angry with Manju since she can see that her brother was speaking Manju's words. Also, Vinod and Manju separate from their parents due to their differences, something which was again, always Manju's idea.
9.) Manav tried to make Archana feel better by fetching her from school like in old days. This pleases her immensely and they have a heartfelt conversation along with some light moments, which are cherished by Manav.
10.) After some more thought, Manav finally decides to go with his Baba's decision and signs on the dotted line to make a court case against Manjusha. Aai is hurt that Manav did not listen to her like always and instead went by his Baba's impractical advice. She has no more doubts in her mind that Manav has completely changed.
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Joined: 01 January 2009
The days at the Deshmukh household sped by- in small jokes and tears, in arguments and sweet discussions- as if these things had become part of life. No one realized when it was already time for Bappa to go.
Truly, the Ganpati festival enthralled them all and livened them up considerably, and Atya's visit added to it. The Deshmukhs had now started getting back to normalcy- interacting with people like before, taking part in festivities and events and basically, taking life in its stride- trying to enjoy whatever little happiness they got. Mehndi competition filled the air with the fragrance of henna and the rangoli competition made for decorated motifs in front of every house in the chawl. Daily evening aartis were not just for devotion, but also for mingling and chatting with the extended chawl family- the neighbours. Nights were spent in watching movies or television, Atya regaling old tales and Baba joining in with funny anecdotes. Archana and Atya together helped Vandita with her dance performance for the chawl function, a lavani on a Marathi song. While Savita taught Vandita a few dance steps, Atya dressed her up with Archana's sari and jewellery, since Vandita herself was reclusive, fearing Savita Aai. The fact that Archana did her makeup was conveniently hidden. But all in all, things went well. Where everything seemed so gloomy in the house previously, now things seemed to be perking up for all.
Of course, side by side, strifes continued in the household.
Archana rushed up the stairs with a big bucket, puffing and heaving against her breath, trying her best not to let the water fall. She rested for a moment at the top of the stairs, looking at her watch. No way! She would be late for office again today!
It would be her third day in a row. Every day nowadays she was late cos she couldn't complete the household work in time- cooking, washing clothes, cleaning the house, cleaning vessels etc etc etc. By the time she got ready to rush off to office, she would already be tired. Then after night school, it would be more work, and finally, staying awake till late to complete homework and study a little. No wonder, her friends at school had started pointing out that she was developing dark circles. She looked at herself in the reflection of a window- hair flying over from the bun she had hurriedly tied, sweaty forehead, pale face, and tired eyes. In a few days, Manav would be repulsed, she thought dejectedly.
Atya understood her condition. Time and again, she would try and help Archana, but on some or the other pretext, Savita would take Atya away with her, sometimes for a walk, sometimes to sit and gossip. Everyday, Archana would be surprised to see the work load only increasing- more dishes in the sink, more clothes to be washed, floor getting dirty again and again. Much as she tried hard to cope with her duties, a solution could never be reached. Manav had stopped advising her now, cos she refused to listen to him. He simply observed her and shook his head, giving her an 'I told you so' look, and rolled up his sleeves to help her in any little way he could. It made her feel guilty to see him doing the house work and getting involved in womanly kitchen politics, but she really had no other choice now.
Presently, she picked up her bucket and filled the tank in the kitchen, then rushed down for a second go at the tap, so that she could wash all the clothes quickly. She was in such a hurry that she almost collided with Vedant, who was coming up the stairs.
"Breakfast on the table," she said quickly, passing by him. He looked at her in bewilderment and couldn't help feeling sorry for her, as he saw her standing in the line by herself, looking at her watch again and again. He had observed her for the past few days now, and though he never talked to her, he could see she was overburdened and overworked, and that his Aai wasn't really being kind to her. Every night, Aai didn't let her study with him in the dining room, and she had to study in her bedroom under a night lamp. Any little decision made for the household was talked of in sarcastic tones and voices. He also knew that Archana had been quite upset ever since her brother had come to meet her- he had seen her crying on Manav Dada's chest in the kitchen. Poor girl- he thought. But what could he do about it? He was already in trouble himself- Aai had been cold to him since the last 3-4 days, since he had talked a little to Archana regarding Manav's treatment, and explained to her about it. Aai was already upset that Manav Dada had gone against her decision to launch a court case against the Karanjkars, and was openly helping Archana now. He didn't want to do anything to infuriate her now. He shrugged and walked off.
Archana entered the house again, and much to her horror, ended up slipping on the water that had fallen when she had carried the bucket the first time. She sat up, trying to hold back tears. Vedant rushed to her side.
"Are you alright?" he asked in concern. She nodded. "I'm okay. I don't think I broke anything."
"Get up and walk about," he suggested and helped her sit on the diwan. She sat in silence, then looked up and smiled at him weakly. "I'm alright. Thanks." She looked at the water on the floor and sighed. She would have to mop the floor again.
"Umm," Vedant hesitated before speaking. "Do you want help?"
"Oh no.. I'm alright now.."
"I mean, regarding the work.." he said, indicating her overturned bucket. "I can stand in the line and fill the bucket and get it up for you if you want.. in the meantime you can clean this.."
"Oh no don't bother.. I will do it.."
"It's alright.. I am sure you too have to change and go to office.. I will fill the buckets, not a big deal, I'm free right now.." he assured her.
She gave him a grateful smile, and he smiled back uncomfortably. She went into the kitchen to get a mop while he took the bucket and came back in a while, emptied it, then went again.
"What is going on here?"
Vedant was taken aback to see Savita standing in the living room, hands on hips, her eyes flashing with anger. He gulped nervously, then looked around for help. Neither Manav nor Baba were at home.
Archana came out from the kitchen and was startled at this confrontation between mother and son. "Actually.."
"You shut up!" barked Savita. "You.. you tell me.. what is going on?"
"Nothing much.." said Vedant, trying to be brave. "She.. Vahini.. was having a bit of a trouble.. so I thought of helping her a little.."
He could see his Aai's face turning red with anger, and couldn't help feeling nervous.
"Okay.. so someone is feeling sympathetic for her now!" taunted Savita. "Side taking in full force in the house! First Manav, then his Baba, then Atya, now my own children!"
"There's nothing like that." Said Vedant, a trifle annoyed. "But there's something called basic courtesy.. in front of my eyes she fell and was so troubled.. it was quite obvious that she was having a hard time today.."
"And the other day too.. when you took money from her and talked to her.." demanded Savita. "Aai, that was for Manav Dada."
"Enough of your excuses! Shame on you! This woman caused havoc in this house and yet you are carrying pails of water for her!"
"Why are you dragging Vedant in all this?" asked Archana. "He is just being decent and.."
"I am talking to my son!" roared Savita. "He will answer, you don't speak! But unfortunately he has also forgotten his mother and is openly taking the side of the woman who has caused so much grief to his mother."
"Aai, you are exaggerating the matter.." Vedant sighed. He was losing his patience now. He could see Vandita indicating him to keep quiet. "I'm not taking any sides- it's just that she does so much of work in this house, manages everything for us- she needed a little help today so I did it- didn't I help you sometimes when you were overworked?"
"There is a difference between her and me.", said Savita angrily. "She is not your mother. She spoilt everything for this house.. and.."
"Aai, please, let's not get into that aspect.", said Vedant grimly. "I have been told by Dada and Baba to stay away from all this.. and that was what I was trying to do.."
"So even you are back answering me now!" shrieked Savita. "Fine, go, and don't talk to me now! Stay with her! Lift her pails. Make chapattis for her! Worship the ground she walks on!"
Vedant was shocked. "But Aai.."
"No, it's decided on my part!" said Savita angrily. "It's either me or her!" and with that Savita entered into her room and locked the door.
Vedant banged the bucket on the floor and left the house in a huff. Archana slapped her forehead. This house was never calm.
Savita did not talk to Vedant for the rest of the day, and everyone in the house noticed it. Vandita related the incident to Manav and Baba, and while Baba just muttered a few angry words, Manav asked Vedant to go and make up with Aai.
After dinner that night, Vedant went up to her, asking her to talk to him. "Please Aai, don't be so harsh on me." He pleaded.
"Don't come to me.", she said, pushing him away. "Go to your favourite Vahini Archana."
"I'm not on her side, Aai, really." He said. "It is you whom I adore. But of course, it is impossible not to feel sorry for her with everything that has been happening.."
"Sorry?" repeated Savita. "Sorry for her? Why? What has happened to her? She is enjoying.. it is ME who has been deserted by all and sundry.."
"Oh come on Aai.." said Vedant. "You know it.."
"No, I don't know it." Persisted Savita. "Tell me, I want to know. Why is everyone sympathizing with that girl, when it is me who is suffering more than her!"
"Aai, isn't it obvious?" Blurted out Vedant. "She could have had a much easier life if she had started living separately with Manav Dada, like people suggested her to, but she didn't. She is still living here with us- in this hostility, against her family, her parents. And inspite of the fact that she is not welcome here, she is still taking responsibility of all of us. And she never complains. She is trying to help all of us. This house would have become a pig-sty if she hadn't devoted so much of time and effort to it, inspite of her busy schedules. She even contributes to the house financially now. I am not saying that she is right and you are wrong, but she does a lot for us, genuinely. In the midst of all this, if I helped her carry buckets just ONCE because she fell and got hurt, what is so wrong in it?"
"No, nothing is wrong!" said Savita angrily, upset that even the young ones were edging towards Archana now. "Go, you also go to her now, and stay with that mahaan Vahini of yours! No need to be with me.."
"Nothing doing! Get out!" shouted Savita. Vedant walked out unhappily, and saw Vandita who was giving him an 'I-told-you-this-would-happen' look, Manav and Atya who looked disturbed.. and Archana who was too tired to react to anything.
"I will talk to her.", said Manav, getting up.
"No, I will talk to her now.", said Atya, getting up. "Enough of the molly coodling. She needs to face the truth."
She went inside and sat down on the bed next to Savita. "Savita, what are you doing?" she asked, trying to control her frustration. "Why are you making things so difficult for everyone?"
"Great! Now you also come and advise me only! Everyone in the house is advising me, from Manav to his Baba to his younger brother. I have no respect in this house now."
"Well you could do with a little advice now. Savita, stop being unreasonable, and stop fighting with everyone in this house due to Archana."
"Anything else?" asked Savita haughtily.
"Yes. Stop controlling your children." Advised Atya. "They aren't tiny tots anymore- even Vedant and Vandita. They have grown up now. They observe things and they get affected by them. They have started developing their own viewpoints and opinions now. They have started noticing your ill treatment of Archana and Manav- even if you don't let them speak about it. If you crush them so vehemently, you will distance them from you. You have already done it with respect to Manav. Look how far he is from you today. Stop trying to control Vedant and Vandita now, stop trying to govern their actions regarding Archana and Manav now. The tighter you try to hold sand in your fists, the more it comes out-remember that!"
"Anything else?" asked Savita, utterly disinterested.
"YES! Take hold of your ego and control your actions before you end up losing everything!" said Atya hysterically now. "The way you are approaching things, you will end up blowing away your happy little world. Stop looking at Archana as your enemy and anyone who talks to her as someone betraying you. You will regret it Savita, you really will!"
"Is that all?" asked Savita. "Bcos if your lecture is over, then please go."
Atya stood shocked. "You are asking me to leave your room?!"
"I AM ASKING YOU TO LEAVE MY HOUSE!!!" said Savita, getting up suddenly. "Oh sorry, this is your house legally, well, then I request you to stop getting into the affairs of MY family, my children, my daughter in law. You were not told any of this earlier, remember? Cos these were our personal affairs, not to be shared with all and sundry. Please stop advising me on such matters now."
Atya stood shell shocked. "Savita, you are angry now.."
"Oh no, I am completely in my right mind.", said Savita in a steely voice. "Please go, and leave us to our own state. It is quite apparent that you are on Archana's side and you do not have an unbiased view of the situation. I have enough people on my hands to trouble me, I need no more. Please leave. I don't think you are of any help to me or the household, or even to your darling Archana, for that matter!"
Atya stood there for a few minutes, gazing at Savita, then nodded. "You are right. It is time for me to leave now."
She walked out of the room, where all the family members were standing outside at the door. Manav and Baba were very angry, and while Manav followed Atya to talk to her, Baba walked inside the room to shout at Savita Aai for insulting Atya.
"Atya, I'm so sorry... I.. I.." Manav stuttered, not able to believe what had happened in the house. He was very angry with Savita Aai for insulting Atya in this manner. She just gave him a sad smile in reply. "She was not totally wrong, though." Said Atya. "I cannot help anyone here.. and now I shudder to see what Savita will go through in the house- I have always had a soft corner for her, and it hurts me to see Savita distancing herself from her children."
"Atya, you are not thinking of going away, are you?" asked Manav.
Atya did not answer. Manav looked agitated while Archana stood a little distance away, wringing her pallu in her hands, debating on whether it would be better for her to go and apologize to Savita Aai to make her 'win' and thus calm her down.
"Wow, so it's Atya's turn to join the RBSA gang now."
Archana turned to look at where the sarcastic voice had come from. It was Vedant, grumpily watching TV in a corner.
"Rejected by Savita Aai." Vedant clarified. "You, me, Baba and Manav Dada. Atya joined it today. Only Vandita remains, and going by her behaviour, I think she'll survive without becoming a RBSA."
Archana didn't know whether to laugh or express disappointment. "Look I'm sorry Vedant.. I guess you shouldn't have helped me at all.. sigh! It ended up with trouble for you."
Vedant shrugged and went inside. He was obviously in a bad mood.
"Atya you cannot go!" pouted Manav.
"I'm not going immediately," she replied back. "After the Ganesh Visarjan."
Manav looked shocked. "Atya, you know how Aai is.. how can you take her words to heart.."
"I am not taking offence.." said Atya. "Manav, she was right in what she said. I cannot help anyone here in anyway- not you, not Archana. I am old and cannot help in you in your tasks."
"Atya, ever since you have come here, things have improved. We feel better just cos we know you are there to give us good advice. The atmosphere of the house has changed and.."
"That means my job is complete now," replied Atya with a smile. "I came here to meet all of you, to solve the problems here, to counsel the family based on my experiences in life, in particular Savita- cos I have a soft corner for her, you know that. I wanted to prevent her from getting hurt in the future, but unfortunately she is hell bent on destroying her happiness."
"Now my work here is done Manav. I tried to reduce the friction and negativity in the house- tried to break the ice between Archana and the kids and Savita and you. Beyond this, things will go in the direction all of you try in. Beyond this I can do nothing. But what I foresee for Savita is not very pleasant. The way I see it- tomorrow all of you will be fine, Savita will be the one who will be hurt. So I think I should just leave now."
Manav just look at her in amazement, wondering what she meant.
"And anways, I am needed in Delhi now. What did you tell me two days back about Varsha?"
Manav turned quiet.
"Manav, it is important for you to get in touch with Varsha and get her back. As you told me, you have done everything to contact her, but failed. She too has not called home since days, this I came to know from Archana. This is a worrisome situation. Only God knows how that girl is surviving alone in Delhi."
Manav nodded. "Tarun has hired a detective in Delhi and we are trying to find Varsha through him. As you know, Varsha is out of jail illegally. So we cannot involve the police. I talked to Shinde Bhau, he is trying to delay future interrogation by the narcotics team, which thinks Varsha is recuperating in the hospital. Contrary to what Shinde Bhau believed, the case hasn't lost steam, rather investigations have become more furious bcos of other similar incidents of drug trafficking in the city."
"So what happens if the narcotics team or someone else discovers that Varsha is not in the hospital and that you and Shinde Bhau helped her elope?"
Manav looked perturbed. "It won't be good at all. I already regret having taken Shinde Bhau's idea and going down the illegal route for the first time in my life. It backfired on me."
"That is why I'm saying that I should return there," said Atya. "When I had met Varsha at Delhi long ago at the station, I was living with your Janki Atya. I had given her the address. Varsha might contact me if she is in trouble or anything like that. I am the link between both of you now. And maybe I can talk to your cousins and coordinate the search in Delhi. Varsha needs one of us over there to handle the situation, more particularly a woman. You understand how it is.."
"I should go to Delhi myself."
"Manav you cannot go now. You have your surgery in a few days. There are relatives in Delhi, they will help. You stay here. We need someone to coordinate with Shinde Bhau as well, and only you can do that."
Manav nodded. "I just hope she is safe." He murmured. "She better have a good explanation for not being in touch. I am tired of her hide and seek games now. She should at least call at her home and tell that she is fine. God knows what she is getting for hiding stuff from us."
He looked at Atya. "Are you sure you want to go?" he asked her again. "We really need you now."
Atya tried to laugh. "I am always there with you Manav. It's just that Savita's words made me realise that yes, more than here, I need to be at Delhi now. Right now, there are people with you here- Archana, Damodar and so on.
"Yeah yeah.." said Manav.
Atya gave an understanding smile. "I actually wanted to talk to you about Archana, but I will speak only if you are actually in the mood to take some advice."
"Atya you say na, you know I always listen to you.." said Manav quickly.
"Manav, I can understand that you are disappointed with your marriage. With time, as situations improve, things will heal at that end. This is a phase, it will pass. What I was wondering about was, have you totally stopped trying to talk to Archana about your innocence in everything Ajit accused you of- the brothel fiasco, trying to trap Ajit in the garage burning issue, accusations of trying to blackmail him, accusations of having run away like a coward and not attending the court hearing when you realised your 'plans' had failed, then again, your alleged relationship with Shravani- all of it. Archana came back in this house wanting to accept you inspite of all those accusations, but still, is it not your duty to ensure that she comes to know the truth?"
"I don't know Atya.." said Manav, looking down. "I have sort of lost will. At one time it was very important for me to bring out the truth, but today I hardly care. I am indifferent to what Archana thinks about me, what her parents think about me, I care about nothing, somewhere I feel that I really do not owe any explanations to them now. I have tried enough from my end. If they want to believe me, they can, otherwise I don't care. It's like, I have lost interest in all of it, plus so many other problems have plagued me that.."
"I know, I know." Sighed Atya. "But still, think about it. Archana came back and inspite of what everyone expected, she's still here.."
"What I want to see if she will be there even after I get better after my surgery, or even after Ajit plays some more tricks." Said Manav dryly.
"She will be there of course, and the probability increases if you choose to bring out your innocence in front of her," said Atya. "Nothing works from one side. It takes two to make things better. Why don't you just introduce her to Shinde Bhau.. he might tell her that you were with Varsha one day before the court hearing and that is why you missed it, that you got beaten by Ajit's men and so on. It isn't ample amount of proof or direct proof of your innocence in the brothel fiasco, but it might give Archana a reason to consider your side of the story, since it would definitely prove you weren't lying about the court hearing and Varsha at least."
"Shinde Bhau is a busy man. I am grateful that he has helped me and Varsha in this whole matter on Shravani's recommendation. Now I don't want to trouble him any more. As it is, he knows little about us. Anyway Atya, I think Archana should be knowing me better than that by now. I would be happier if she gives my story consideration on her own, but I guess that is too much to ask for."
Atya did not say anything. She just smiled. No point in revealing anything at the moment. Some heartfelt conversations were meant to be reserved only for husband and wife, she thought.
It was one day before the Ganesh Visarjan. The hustle and bustle had returned and people were all pumped up about the Mahaprasad and the Visarjan, which was as grand an affair as the Ganesh Sthapana itself. In Manav's chawl too, preparations for the next day had begun. It was to be a grand affair and everyone had been given their own share of responsibility for the event to take place smoothly..
Atya had finally announced her decision of going back home. Though she had not spoken about Savita, everyone had figured out that somewhere Savita's words had hit her hard, and they had not taken it lightly. Vedant shot angry looks at his Aai and left the room, Damodar went away to drown himself in alcohol and Vandita hesitated, and later went to help Atya with her packing.
For Archana, Atya's leaving was a nightmare. She had figured out that things would get easy with Atya around, but she had no such luck. Savita Aai had sobered down all these days with Atya around, the atmosphere of the house had improved, Atya had been there to console her and listen to her confusions and endless thoughts- guide her about everything. Now she had no one. She tried to coax Atya to stay, but Atya laughed away the matter saying that Archana and Manav needed to learn how to handle the house and all the family members on their own without a buffer like her (Atya), that their team work would be enough. She said that even Bappa went away after the pooja, so she was just a mere mortal. She spent her time helping Archana and giving her tips, watching movies with the children, admonishing Damodar for drinking and so on. Not willing to accept her faults, Savita ignored Atya totally, though Atya tried to be civil to her.
The day of Ganesh Visarjan finally arrived. There was a lot of rush in the chawl, as people got ready to do the final aarti for Lord Ganesha. Later in the evening, there would be the Mahaprasad, where all the people would have dinner together after the Visarjan. There would also be a small prize distribution ceremony, in which all the people who had won in the different competitions throughout the week would be awarded.
For now, people sat together in groups, some making arrangements for the evening dinner, some decorating the big pandal, some making arrangements for the idol to be carried to the truck from where it would be transported to Chaupati, where it would be immersed in the sea.
"Such a waste of resources and energy," remarked Vedant to no one in particular, looking at the idol being readied up to be immersed in the sea, as he sat with a book in his hands. "With so much of dedication and enthusiasm, we make a beautiful idol every year, and then at the end of it all, we immerse it into the sea amidst the fishes and the wastes."
Archana, who was completing her share of work quickly, laughed at Vedant's remark. "At least spare the Lord your grumpiness!"
"I am not grumpy." He said in an annoyed voice, turning to look at her. "It was a genuine thought. So much of wastage, and then again, even our seas get polluted when we immerse the idols in them. Why not just let them be in the pandals? They look so beautiful that way, and we can worship them all the year around too."
"But then the purpose won't be complete." Archana pointed out.
Vedant turned to look at her. "What purpose?"
Archana dusted her hands. "You see, it is believed that when we pray to the Lord for all these days, then the idol takes up all the negativity surrounding us. God engulfs it within itself, and so, we immerse the idol in water to give a final end to that negativity."
"In water?" Vedant raised a brow.
"Yes." Archana thought for a moment. "Just like how we immerse the ashes of our deceased in water? It is said that everything completes its journey and ends up in water."
"Yes, including the toxic wastes of our industries." laughed Vedant. "We should have a better system to immerse our idols. Better get smaller idols and immerse them in clean water pools, or use environment friendly idols, I guess."
"Lots of chitchatting going on," remarked Damodar with a smile. Vedant smirked and looked away. Archana went back to her work, she noticed that after many weeks Savita Aai had got dressed up today, with flowers in her hair and a nice sari.
"Aai is coming to the chawl Puja today?"
Damodar Baba nodded. "I think she finally realized that she cannot isolate herself up from everyone bcos of the harassment complaint. Plus she was saying that we might need the help of our friends and relatives in the future keeping Manav's medical condition in mind, so it is better to be on good terms with them."
Archana nodded. It was nice to see Aai sobering up for Manav's sake.
"Anyways, she's not going to find it difficult to gel with the womenfolk again. She has to make some witty remarks, share some juicy gossip, bargain with some vegetable vendors, dance at the function and she'll get her fans back," smirked Baba. Vedant smiled too. Savita Aai's dance was famous in the chawl. Archana too remembered the dance Aai had done during their wedding celebrations. She had been shocked and amazed, both together. Then again, Aai was actually that sort of personality who could both shock and amaze you.
"Is Aai talking to you now?" asked Archana to Vedant, not really expecting a conversation. To her surprise however, he replied back.
"Very little." He answered. "And she's quite cold to me. And if she has seen me laughing and joking with you then I'm gone for good."
"Listen, if it bothers you and everyone so much, then don't talk to me," said Archana, evidently perturbed. "I think we were perfectly alright all these days when we were living as strangers in the same house. As the lines have been blurred, we are having troubles. I guess Manav was right, maybe it would have been better if we had been living separately. You, Aai or anyone else wouldn't have any trouble."
"See, it's not about that," explained Vedant. "It's about me. I am not a kid now, I'm almost 17! But people expect me to not have my own thoughts on any issue, and that I should blindly support them- their hate, their anger, whatever. It's not the first time this is happening here." He paused to think. "They say we are children, so we shouldn't speak in adult matters, then they say we're adults so we're supposed to be mature and think and not behave childishly, well, when we do think, and speak what we think, then we're again reprimanded. I'm tired of being treated and punished like a kid in this house now, for any small or big thing that I do. And it's not just me, even Vandu is treated the same way. It happened during Rakhi, Aai scolded her and ruined the festival for her."
Archana pondered on Vedant's words. She knew well that he was going through the usual phase that all teenagers go through, when they start developing their own opinions and tend to be rebellious when suppressed. At her own home, Varsha and Vaishali had always had fights with Sulochana Aai- Varsha in particular, over matters as simple as the clothes she could wear, the time limits for her, or bigger matters like the subjects to be taken at college. Somewhat similar about Vedant. He simply did not want to get involved in the arguments at home and he wasn't liking it that few were pushing his buttons even for such a non controversial stand, and rather expecting to pick a side, rather, pick their side. He was growing up, in fact both the children were no longer children but transforming into adults, and subconsciously they wanted to be treated like adults now, and their stand to be respected. They didn't like being dismissed as children now. Vandita too, for instance had some views on the issue, bcos of which she hadn't warmed upto Archana inspite of her Baba and Atya advising her repeatedly. It was difficult to explain to them the point of view of the elders in the scenario, and it wasn't possible to let the children have their way all the times- though they were growing up, they weren't grown up. It was important to handle this phase with maturity and have a healthy give and take of opinions so that both the sides could understand each others' point of view and react or rethink accordingly. The last thing she wanted was for Vedant and Vandita to become rebellious and end up hurting people they loved.
"Waise, you know, it's true actually."
Archana looked up.
"The negativity thing." He chuckled and showed her the book he had been reading. There were some long flowcharts and diagrams, and she couldn't understand anything.
"In the photosynthetic cycle in plants, the negatively charged electrons go through the whole cycle and in the end, combine with the others in the cycle to form water which is formed during photosynthesis along with glucose. So yes, all negativity does go in water, even in nature."
Archana smiled. She knew only the basics of the photosynthetic cycle which she had learnt as much as her IXth class syllabus permitted, but she did get the gist of what he wanted to say. Hmm.. maybe one day she would also take up biology later and then get to read all this, she thought.
"You know, you are like your Dada." She told Vedant with a smile. "He also used to give me examples from physics and everyday surroundings to boost me. It used to make me interested in studies, especially cos I don't like physics and maths."
"Like which one?"
"Like.. umm.." she tried to remember. She sat near Vedant and told him of how an iron gets magnetised when subjected to stress (magnetic field) and how one could learn an important lesson from it about the adversities of life. Vedant nodded.
"Dada used to teach me till class XIth. He might not have completed his studies but he does have a sharp mind. Really, what is he doing as a mechanic!"
"Say that to Ganpati Bappa," said Manav who had heard the last part of their conversation. He was surprised to see Vedant and Archana talking at length today. He would have stopped to make some small talk but a neighbour called out to him. "The truck isn't starting Manav!" he shouted loudly. "Come and have a look at it."
"Coming," Manav shouted back.
He quickly followed the guy named Chetan to the truck they had hired to transport the people and the idol to Chaupati beach for the immersion. He took a good look at the engine, straining his eyes.
"Are you having too much of trouble?" asked Chetan softly. "I know, it isn't right to exert in this condition.."
Manav was shocked. "How did you know?"
"My wife told me." Chetan said matter of factly. "Now don't ask me how she came to know. I don't know that myself."
Manav shook his head. Gossip travelled fast in the chawl, he knew that, but so fast? He tried to ignore the issue. "One of the parts in the engine needs to be changed. This truck seems to be quite old.."
"It is, actually.." nodded Chetan. "So will we have to go to the garage now?"
"I guess so.. yes.." agreed Manav. Chetan sighed. "I miss those days when we had a garage so close to the chawl. Ever since your garage closed down, everyone has been having trouble."
Manav was beginning to be reminded of older sorrows, but this was not the time, he told himself firmly. "Come along", he said, walking to his own garage- 'Vinayak garage'- that he had rented out as a warehouse ever since it had been destroyed in the fire. Recently, a spare parts owner who had been having trouble with Girishji had stored his goods there- what was his name- oh yes, Dharmesh Jaipurwala, Manav remembered. Well, he wouldn't mind if Manav took one or two things from the whole bulk. It wasn't as if he was distributing it for free anyway, the chawl committee who had paid for the truck would pay for the replacement part as well, Manav thought. No one should really have any problems.
"So are you into spare parts these days?" asked Chetan as he looked around at all the goods in the garage.
"No" said Manav. "They are not mine. I'm just storing them. Make sure to tell the Committee members that they will have to pay. I am responsible for this stuff."
"Okay." Said Chetan, rummaging through the goods. "I don't know this company."
"It is a lesser known brand." Explained Manav. "But the goods are of the best quality, and cheaper than the usual. Trust me on that."
"Oh I do trust you." Said Chetan. "Actually, I need a silencer for my bike as well. The person at the nearest garage said that it will cost me a good amount, plus I shall have to drop the bike there. If it's alright, can you sell me a silencer as well? You fix it for me here in the chawl itself."
Manav pondered. Yeah sure why not. Dharmesh ji wouldn't mind if Manav sold some of his goods, would he? In any case, if he minded, Manav could buy the goods and return it to his stock. No harm done. And he wasn't eating up Girishji's business cos Chetan hadn't intended to go to Girishji's garage anyway- the one where Manav worked.
"Sure Chetan, take a silencer from the box, I'll repair your bike for you."
Vandita was sitting alone when Manav came and sat quietly next to her. She turned to look at him. "I hope I get some good prize for the dance competition I won." She said. "Last year they just handed out boxes of sketch pens. I don't want sketch pens!"
"I heard they are giving out crayons this year," said Manav mischievously. Vandita groaned and Manav laughed. "The photographs will come out soon. Remind me to pick up the copies of your performance."
Vandita nodded. "Am I supposed to share my prize with her?"
She hesitated. "With Vahini." She said in a small voice, as if it were prohibited to speak about her. "She gave me her sari, her jewellery and did my makeup so.."
"Well, I think the decent thing would be to thank her once, the rest is really upto you," said Manav. "By the way, Vandita do you have any idea how people are getting to know of my illness in the chawl?"
Vandita lowered her head. "Did you tell someone?"
"I told just 2 people." She confessed. "They are my best friends, and I wanted to share with them. Maybe someone in their families leaked it out."
"It's alright, it's not something I wanted to hide as such, but yeah, I was just surprised, that's all." Said Manav. "No wonder people have been treating me well these days. After the harassment complaint, I always got the feeling that they were trying to avoid talking to me."
"Maybe they have started seeing you in different light cos of Vahini's argument with the chawl dwellers."
Manav was shocked. "What argument?"
"You don't know?" Vandita related how Archana had shut up the chawl women who had been sniggering about the complaint. "She defended everyone, and you in particular. I never thought she could answer back that way, you know what a cow she is."
Her eyes widened with fear while a smile came on Manav's lips. "No, I didn't mean it in that way!" said Vandita quickly. "I mean yes I did but in the positive sense, you know she is so cow like.. and then.."
"Yes yes, I got it." Said Manav, trying to control his laughter. Vandita relaxed. "Dada, you better go ahead now, you will be asked to do the main aarti today."
"How do you know?"
"News in the chawl travels fast." Winked Vandita. "Anyway, it is only fair. We have a lot to pray for this time. Right?"
Manav wanted to say that such special attention made him feel uncomfortable at times, as if people expected him to die and not be there for next year's pooja. He did not however say it to Vandita. She had been very worried for the last few days and was still apprehensive. Yes, he had a lot to pray for, and although he was still clueless about where his current crop of problems and struggles were leading him, he was still trying to find a way. The faces of his family members gave him strength to wriggle a way out. He wasn't giving up, not in the 'find Varsha scenario', not in his financial troubles, not in his medical problems. Fight he would, and he just hoped that with the festival coming to an end, Bappa would take away some of the negativity from his life as well.
People had started gathering in the centre of the chawl space now, and Manav led Vandu to the front as well. The rest of the family joined them. He was surprised to see his Aai mingling with the chawl women again and pretending as if nothing had gone wrong in her home and she was still the bindaas character she had always been. He ignored her talks and walked to the front where the priest, an old member of the chawl was beckoning him, telling they had decided that they would let Manav do the special pooja today. With his whole family standing together, in one frame, for the first time since the wedding day, Manav prostrated in front of the Lord and prayed to Lord Ganesha to remove all troubles from their life.
(Deva Shree Ganesha background score)
Archana was cleaning the kitchen that night when Manav came quietly and stood by the door. She thought he would say something, but for a long time, he said nothing. Finally he spoke. "Back to square one."
She looked at him in confusion. He spoke again- "Atya goes away soon, Aai has brought out her claws again, and battle lines are being drawn in the house."
She didn't know what to say, so she just nodded. She was tired and eager to go and sleep quickly.
She finished her work, switched off the lights and was about to walk out, when Manav caught her hand. "We need to talk." He said.
At this hour- she thought. It was almost twelve! Oh well, it made sense. They never got to talk in the mornings these days since she was so busy with work, and even Manav devoted mornings to renovating his garage these days. Late nights were the only time of the day when they were free.
"Is it something serious?"
He nodded. She felt a little nervous, then started making some tea for herself. He stood against the kitchen counter, his arms folded, his face taut, as if he were thinking hard.
"We have to make a strategy for the days after Atya leaves." Announced Manav, as if he were talking about a battle plan. "Otherwise what happened between you, Vedant and Aai will continue to happen every other day. All these things are linked to each other."
Archana felt embarrassed. She told Manav what Vedant had told her, and asked him what he thought about it.
"It is important, I feel." She said. "Vedant and Vandita are changing now, so we must understand that."
He nodded. It felt weird somewhere, the thought of both his siblings as 'grown ups'. He was used to calling them kids, and he was the one who had held them the first after they had been born. That image had stuck. He was reminded of Archana's words when she had insisted that they should be told the truth about his illness, that they were not kids anymore and should be given the chance to grow and understand things and even take up responsibility. Maybe Archana saw them in a different perspective since she had not seen them growing from little children who could barely speak and who dirtied their clothes all the time. For him, they would always remain kids, he thought. However he tucked away this little info in his brain and decided to henceforth discuss things with Vandita without sounding dismissive in any way.
"And what are we going to do about the reason that caused it all?" he asked.
Archana flushed. "Manav, I know I'm not managing the house as well as you'd expected it.. but.."
"Oh no, you're doing better than my expectations." He said gravely. "My expectations were much worse. I knew from the beginning that this was what Aai wanted. She has no support in this house, she knows she cannot hurt you bcos of the police complaint, and so she is resorting to these tactics- withdrawing herself from household work and then troubling you regarding it by heaping more and more on you. It's slow poison, she is waiting for you to break up and withdraw. I had warned you about it, remember?"
Archana hung her head. Not one problem could she manage without Manav, she thought dejectedly. It was not nice that the man of the house had to get into these womanly kitchen politics now. She couldn't even say that she would handle it herself.
"Talking to her is futile." He said irritatedly. "She is on her own trip, she listens to no one, she thinks no one notices, truth is that everyone can see through her motives now."
"Leave it then," said Archana. "No point in arguing with her and raising your own BP."
"But we cannot leave things at this stage." Persisted Manav. "I mean, look at yourself! You will collapse anyday now if you continue this way."
"There are many working women who manage both home and work."
"Yes, but they get some sort of help- in the form of appliances, maids, family members etc. Here you are working alone in the most primitive of conditions. At your home it was a different thing- you had people there to help you. Here there is no one! Archana, accept it that things cannot continue this way and start thinking seriously about alternatives, otherwise I will call your Aai and ask her to take you away," warned Manav very seriously.
She was alarmed. "Why do you always bring in about me going back home?" she said in an annoyed voice. "This was really not necessary."
"Bcos this is the only thing that perks you up and makes you listen to me, else you usually don't." He said nonchalantly. She was about to fight this accusation but he silenced her. "We'll keep a maid too."
"No way!" she said quickly. "Maids charge a lot, we cannot afford it that juncture- we have to save for too many things right now."
"But you work too, and if you are contributing towards the house, we can spend some part of your salary for your comfort.."
"Yes, but considering that you will be hospitalized, it is evident that income will stop flowing in the house in those days- we have to save for the rainy days."
Both of them were silent. Oh, it would be so nice to have lots of money. Money could not buy happiness but it could surely buy comfort, and sometimes that comfort translated to lots of happiness.
"I think I should reduce some of my activities and pay more attention to home," said Archana thoughfully. "Quitting job is not a solution, so maybe I should quit school instead."
Manav looked up at her suddenly. She tried to smile.
"I don't get time to study anyway.. it is better to be perfect in what you do rather than do 10 things incomplete. Nowadays I reach office late, don't get time to study for school and am unable to manage the house properly."
"But that is what Aai wants," persisted Manav. "She wants you to start quitting everything one by one, earlier she wanted you to quit your job and now this. If this continues, she will make you quit the house in the end. No, this will not do."
"Archana, trust me, you are lucky that you got a chance to go back in life and study again. I haven't, and I don't think I ever will. Don't lose this chance now- it is going to make a big difference in your life later." Manav told her very seriously.
She understood. None of them spoke anything for some time.
"Maybe we should have moved out in the beginning itself. Staying here was a bad idea."
She looked at him. "You don't want to move out, do you? So it is settled we will not move out. No point in doing something that only makes you all the more unhappy. As it is, you are doing a lot for me. I, in contrast, have done nothing."
Manav was taken aback. He looked at her, she seemed to be in the dumps.
"I came back to this house cos I wanted to be your support. But it is turning out to be the other way. You keep bailing me out of all the problems I face here by taking all the tensions on your head. Not just in my problems with Aai, but even in the other things- I cannot even manage your house by myself and you are being forced to look into it, and I am not a very strong person, I know that. I get emotional and then you have to spend hours consoling me."
You are getting emotional again, Manav wanted to say but thankfully shut himself up.
They stood silently for some time, and were pulled back into reality with the tea brewing up to the surface. Archana shut off the gas quickly and poured the tea into a cup.
"The aroma of the tea is a little different." Manav said, sniffing it. "What did you put in it?"
She tried to hide a giggle. He looked funny sniffing at the cup like that. "A secret something." She said proudly. "It makes a simple tea taste so much better. Not my secret though."
He raised an eyebrow. "Savita Aai? I never noticed anything special in her tea, I've been drinking it for ages now."
"No not Savita Aai. Your Aai."
She was talking about his deceased Aai! Suddenly the cup of tea seemed like a treasure to him. He looked at it with love in his eyes, remembering his mother.
Archana looked at him with understanding. "You wouldn't have tasted it before, right? You were a child then."
He nodded. She poured the tea into half in another cup and handed it to him. He wanted to refuse, but he didn't.
"Let's hope we don't spoil our teeth drinking tea at such a late hour." She told him.
He smiled. He tasted it, the warm fluid felt lovely. And special.
"Who taught you?"
"Atya did. We were talking about old days and I wanted to know some things about Aai, I mean, now that I live here, I know all the members of the house, but nothing about her. She must be a special part of your life obviously, so I just wanted to know what sort of person she was.."
Manav smiled. This little eagerness on Archana's part to know about the special people in his life made him feel very special himself. It was incredible how Archana made people feel loved and cared for with her little actions. Archana smiled at him too.
"Atya said that your mother was a very good homemaker. Even in bad times she managed everything well for all of you." Archana sighed. "So was Savita Aai. I wish I could be one too."
"You are," said Manav, trying to boost her confidence. "You know you could have managed the house fairly well if Aai hadn't been playing tricks behind your back. Continue with the confidence that you had in the beginning- when you told me that you would run the house very well and even save a lot of money. I know you are a little depressed, but you did your best. It's just that.." he reflected on what Atya had said in the morning. "sometimes, it takes a team to complete a work successfully. One person fighting against everything makes it very difficult. Aai had Baba, Savita Aai had me, and.."
He thought of what to say. "And you have me as well.." he said, trying to encourage her.
She gave a small smile. He tried again. "Oh come on Archana, sometimes Tendulkar also gets out on zero runs. You used to say na, that you have run your own home for so many years now. Use that experience, that confidence!"
His words and his little gesture made her feel better. For his sake, she had to deliver. She tried to sound enthusiastic. "Of course! We will have to put our heads together and think out a feasible solution to our problems." said Archana, remembering how Atya had told her that she as a homemaker had to make her own rules and her own strategy to deal with things, she just needed to trust herself. She tried to think."It has to be something that is a combination of time management, a little investment, talking to family members and reducing the work we do."
So they did exactly that. For a long time, they sat up together, thinking about various permutations and combinations. At the end of their brainstorming kitchen session, they realised that two were definitely better than one, for they were able to chalk out a solution that satisfied both of them on all counts.
"I shall try to take a break at afternoon, when you have your lunch break," said Manav thoughtfully. "We shall go then."
"If it is not possible, then don't come. I will go with Pony," she said.
"No that is okay, I will try and come, but yes, you please buy a cell phone now," said Manav. "It gets very difficult to talk to you. Tomorrow we shall buy one too, else you will keep delaying it."
"I have been thinking about the budget too Manav."
"It's too late now. Show it to me tomorrow."
She nodded. She too was famished after all these talks.
He noticed it too. "We should sleep now." He told her.
She said, and quickly took the cups to wash them. Manav extended his arm and brought down a photo album kept on the side rack, flipping through its pages.
"We were going through old photographs today," she explained.
It was an extremely old album with black and white photos of his mother, his Baba in his younger days, Savita Aai and the kids- all 4 of them. Both husband and wife sat together on the kitchen counter as he told her about the childhood of the kids- how Sachin was the naughtiest, Vandita cried the most, Vedant was the good boy of the family and Manav was the caretaker of all these mischief mongers. Archana laughed, thoroughly enjoying herself. Sleep was forgotten. Strategy making was forgotten. Personal differences were forgotten, as both of them got lost in old and beautiful memories caught in those pictures, with Manav relating every little thing he could remember about his mother in particular. He evidently liked talking about his mother. Archana looked at her picture again. She must have been a very kind person, that would explain why everyone spoke so highly of her.
"Hey what are both of you doing, laughing like ghosts at this time of the night," Archana and Manav looked up in astonishment. It was Vedant, rubbing his eyes, looking extremely sleepy.
Manav closed the album. "We were about to go to sleep." He said.
"Good. I thought you guys forgot that you have a bedroom. Everything happens in the kitchen these days." Remarked Vedant slyly. Manav turned red as he remembered how Vedant had caught them hugging in the kitchen a few days back. Well, no more now, he thought. He wouldn't give him or anyone else another chance to make any comment or make him blush again.
Or so he thought! (wink)
Will update part 80 sooner than you expect. ;-) Thanks for being so patient.
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