Joined: 25 February 2012
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Joined: 15 January 2006
Or so he thought! (wink)
Haaayyyeee *imagination runs wild* ...
Ha ... I guessed Atya would say something like that ... that her work is over here .. or her purpose is over here .. or something like that ...
Hmm .. Vedant is definitely talking a lot more to archana ... probably fed up with him mum by now ...
He is definitely a bit more of the rebellious kind than his sister in his own quiet way , not the in-your-face way like sachin , if you know what I mean ...
And vandu called her a cow ? wait a minute ... she isnt the first , right ? I think savita and manav have called her that before?
Cant wait to see varsha again .. and hear from her .. its high time ...
and cant wait to know whats happened to sachin ... hopefully he is suffering ...
and cant wait to know about whats next on the garage front ...
and cant wait to see whats next in the kitchen chronicles .. ..
cant wait to .. well you get the idea ..
This part felt like a "setting up the stage for things to come" kinda part ...
The following 5 member(s) liked the above post:
Anijoyce, ahaanfan, stefanandre, bonnefille, suan,
Joined: 01 January 2009
"Oh I've been absolutely fine!" said Savita in her usual boisterous manner. If anyone compared her to her earlier avatar, no one could find a speck of a difference.
"We were wondering what had happened to you all these days," said a neighbour. "We thought you had reclined into a corner of the house while your daughter in law took the reins in her hand."
"Rubbish!" said Savita dismissively. "Arey I'm Savita, the tigress of this chawl, and that two penny worth girl is just a lamb. You can imagine how much hold she must be having in that house. She can bleat as much as she wants, but when I roar, she still trembles with fear!" She laughed out loud.
"Yes, but your son seems to be in the palm of her hand now."
"What nonsense! He is my son, and that is still my house! Nothing in the house happens without my permission!"
"AAAIII!!" interrupted Vandita, as she came huffing and puffing into the living room where her Aai was chatting with the neighbours. She was still in her school uniform and she tried to catch a breath as she stood near her Aai.
"Aai did you see?"
"Manav Dada has bought a new washing machine!"
"WHAT!!" blurted out a flabbergasted Savita. She looked at her friends in disbelief. "Is this some joke Vandu?"
"Oh no Aai, go and see for yourself, Vahini and Dada are getting it unloaded now."
Angrily Savita made her way outside the house, the neighbours still following her. Vandu was right. A big brown carton, with the name 'Whirlpool' stamped on it in big bold letters, had been unloaded from a tempo, and now Manav was pushing it towards the staircase. Around him excited neighbours had gathered to watch, and some were even talking to him about it.
Vedant, still in his school uniform, also came outside to watch. "No freaking kidding! You were right!"
"Oh yes I was! Isn't it awesome! We are the first ones in our chawl to have a washing machine!" danced Vandita happily.
"I'll go and help Manav Dada in getting it up the stairs," said Vedant and darted down. Vandita, on the other hand, went to tell this new bit of news to her friends.
"Ahem." A neighbour cleared her throat. "I guess the tigress was not aware of this little shopping trip by the two lambs."
Savita turned red with anger. "All of you don't have any work or what? Go, go to your homes!" she said and rushed into the house, stomping her feet angrily. The neighbours giggled and shook their heads. "She will never change," they whispered.
Inside the house, Manav, Vedant and Archana were discussing the best site to keep the washing machine and plug it in.
'The kitchen is the best place," said Archana. "Filling the machine with water will be easy, and I can operate and keep an eye on it even while doing other chores of the kitchen.
"How about the bathroom?"
"The bathroom is small."
"We can't plug the machine there! And anyway, the machine has to be used in the morning. People will be using the bathroom in the morning.
"Oh for god's sake rip open the carton first!" complained Vandita. "I'm dying to have a look at the colour!"
"Ufff! Girls will be girls! It's just a washing machine, not a lipstick. How does the colour matter?" remarked Vedant in irritation.
"Don't sneer at me like that! I shall complain to Baba!"
"Stop fighting both of you! We have to decide before the electrician comes. I have to go back to work," said Manav sternly.
In all this commotion, Savita stood in a corner, completely ignored. Arrival of a washing machine in the house might seem fickle to most people for whom it was a common day to day necessity, but for the Deshmukhs, it really made for news of celebration. No one else in their chawl had a washing machine. If it was any other day, she would have danced with joy and bragged about it to her friends that her son had bought a washing machine for her. Today however, she was upset.
"Wow, what manners in this house!" Savita clapped her hands loudly, making everyone turn. "No one takes the advice of elders before buying anything now."
Manav grunted while Archana prayed. She didn't want another fight now.
"What is the problem now?"
"Why have you bought this machine?" demanded Savita angrily. "Did this witch ask you to buy it for her?"
Manav banged his hand on the carton in frustration. "Don't break the new machine." Vandita whispered, scared.
"Few days ago, everyone was being told that we are under a financial crisis. And now this! Brand new washing machine for Devi Archana! The rest of the house on the other hand is under cost cutting."
"Aai.." Manav started. But Archana intervened. "Manav let me handle it."
"Manav we decided.."
He did not say anything. Yes, they had mutually decided that no other family member would intervene in Archana and Savita's bickering. Intervening just escalated the tension in the house, but brought no solution to the argument. They bickered anyway.
Archana started. "Aai, yes we have a financial problem in the house, but we have brought this machine on a monthly instalment of just rupees five hundred. It is much cheaper than hiring a maid or and more practical than quitting my job to handle household work. A washing machine also saves time, detergent and water- we won't need to fill so many buckets of water every day in the morning or wash clothes down at the tap. In every way, it comes across as a very good solution. And the best thing is that it gives everyone a feeling of self sufficiency- everyone can operate a machine and wash their clothes themselves."
"So now you will make my Vandu- Vedant work?" shrieked Aai. Archana breathed hard. "Aai, I did not mean it in that way. I meant to say that now they won't have to be dependent on me.. if I'm not there, the house won't go haywire."
"In any case the house won't go haywire if you go away." Shrieked Savita. "The day you go away I will feed 11 beggars!"
"Aai, stop exaggerating the matter. What is the problem if something has been bought to give some comfort to those running the house?" asked Manav irritatedly.
"You're a good one to speak!" shot back Aai. "All these years your mother used to run the house alone, at that time you never got something like this for her!"
"Because you never asked me!" answered back Manav. "You always said it was unnecessary expense, rather you wanted to save the money and invest it in gold!"
Savita ignored his answer. "Maybe you and your wife have forgotten the basic manners of at least informing the elders about the changes to take place in the house?!"
Archana considered. Yes, no matter what differences were there, she could at least have told Aai.
"I apologise for that. Next time I will tell you."
"And next time onwards I will have a look at the accounts as well!" shouted Aai. "I need to have a look at the way you are running this house, else you will end up blowing all the hard earned money of my son on your idle pursuits."
"Aai.." Manav started.
She gave Manav a hurt look. "I will never forgive you for this." She said ruefully and walked inside the house.
The house was silent for a few minutes as everyone digested the whole situation which had been very happy just a few minutes ago. Finally Vandita broke the silence.
"Fine, don't open the carton. At least tell me the colour of the washing machine?"
It is incredible how something that can be perceived as ordinary and frivolous by some, means so much to others. The arrival of the washing machine was one such thing. Everyone had different reactions, and everyone viewed it differently- Vandita was happy and excited, while Vedant was amazed but quiet. Manav seemed relaxed and Archana was quiet but eager to learn about it fast. Aai was nervous- to her, this new development symbolized a change in the dynamics of the house. The heart of the house lay in the kitchen- it was from there that the woman had the hold of the house. She was beginning to wonder if by giving up all household duties to Archana, she had worsened the situation for herself. Her fears about the same intensified after the family conference.
'The family conference' took place in the dining room of the Deshmukhs after dinner that night. Damodar, happy about something new coming in the house and Archana growing from strength to strength, wanted to celebrate, thankfully not with alcohol but with something sweet. At the spur of the moment it was decided- they would all go out together to have kulfi at the nearby kulfi stall which opened at night. Even Vedant, who always grunted at the thought of going outside and being separated from his beloved books, agreed. Archana and Manav, who were too pleased with everyone's reaction, immediately agreed. But before that they wanted to discuss with the kids about some new plans to be implemented in the household.
"I wanted to talk to both of you." Manav started talking, switching off the TV, much to Savita's annoyance. He wanted her to hear what he was about to say. And though he didn't speak about it, everyone understood, Savita too.
"We have brought a new washing machine today. The reason?"
"To play football!" declared Vedant. Vandu giggled.
Manav grinned. "Yeah, stupid question, I know. See, the main point I wanted to talk about is this- your Vahini is a working woman. She has her job and home both to manage, and it is getting a bit out of hand for her, especially cos the load of work miraculously keeps increasing with each passing day."
Everyone understood. Savita switched on the TV again and started flipping channels, trying to appear totally uninterested. Manav ignored and continued.
"Even though she is trying her best, yet it is not possible for her to handle the house alone. After all, there are 6 of us in this house, and she has to work and attend school too."
"So, what are you hinting at?" asked Vedant suspiciously.
Manav sighed. "What I want to say is this- all of us will have to take up certain responsibilities of the house."
Both Vedant and Vandita were silent. The whole thing didn't seem nice anymore.
"We have studies." Vedant said, as if trying to remind Manav. Manav felt uncomfortable being reminded of this, he didn't really like his siblings to work when they should be studying. However, he reminded himself the brainstorming kitchen session of last night and tried to be firm.
"No one is asking you to forego studies," said Manav. "Just help in some of the little chores in the house in your free time, like you used to do earlier when Aai told you to- you know, getting things from the market, helping in the kitchen etc. We don't want this to be made into a political issue later on so we're approaching it now itself."
The voice of the TV went louder. Damodar gave Savita a dirty look.
"Besides, I'm sure Archana can teach you lots in the kitchen too," said Damodar to Vandita. She looked doubtful. It didn't look like a great idea to her.
Manav drew in a long breath. "Listen guys, we are family. And a family works like a unit- together. It's not just about the work load or effective functioning, but in general, this is the way family members bond. One person cannot handle everything. And again, this is the way.. umm.." he quoted Archana's words directly. ".. umm.. you will learn to handle responsibility."
"We never did all this earlier," said Vandu in what seemed like a sulky voice. "You did help your Aai earlier Vandu, didn't you? So what is so different now?" demanded Baba. "Our study load has increased now," persisted Vandita. "Vedant has to give the medical entrance exam next year, and I too have to get good marks in order to get a good college of my choice. We can't help round the house now."
"You don't have to take in extra work." Piped in Archana hurriedly. "Just complete your own chores by yourself- like making your beds in the morning, keeping your books and room tidy etc. Help me occasionally if I'm in a spot of trouble, but otherwise, basically take charge of your own things. Rest all I will do. Trust me, that is enough. And it will make you into nice responsible adults," she said with a grin.
Vedant and Vandita didn't look very happy. It was not nice to be adults after all.
Manav spoke again. "If it interferes with your studies and stuff, then fine, we'll quit the whole thing. But give it a try at least."
"Come on children! It is not nice to see that your elder brother is having to convince you so hard to help around a little," said Damodar in a displeased voice.
"It's not about the work Baba, it's about me." Archana said very honestly, much to Manav's surprise. Baba looked at her and even Savita lowered the volume of the TV to hear what she was saying.
Manav whispered, "Not now Archana.."
"No Manav, it is high time that we discuss these things once and for all and end the issue." She looked back at everyone who were hanging on to every word, wondering what she wanted to say.
"I know you don't like me." She said matter of factly. She looked straight at Vandita. "I know you don't want to work alongside me. I know you feel uncomfortable thinking that your simple acts of helping me will be seen as 'taking sides'. But I will be very honest with both of you. I need help. Not really help in managing the house but rather in the form of cooperation from both of you, especially regarding the future."
The kids now looked serious. Manav elbowed Archana. "No Manav, they should know and understand such things now." She turned to look at them again. "These household chores are just one aspect of the situation. There are many others. Manav will be hospitalised soon. We have to make preparations for that- not just financial, but also many other preparations. I will be honest and admit that I will not be able to handle everything alone, no matter how hard I try. I have a job that I cannot quit since Manav will not be working during hospitalisation and some days after that- even if I quit night school, I won't be able to handle everything alone then- managing office work, household chores, and then hospital. Manav will be in the hospital, someone will have to be with him, someone will have to get food for him and the person who stays in the hospital, we shall have to coordinate and stay up with him, make him feel comfortable, get medicines, meet the doctors, run the house and manage finances. Most importantly, we have to support each other in the EMOTIONAL TURMOIL that is due for us ahead. Right now, it is unfortunate that Manav is being forced to speak up on every little problem that crops up at home, but we cannot trouble him then. We will HAVE to work as a team then, and trust me, that time is not far away now."
The kids listened with rapt attention. It was for the first time that they were being spoken on this issue so directly. Manav elbowed Archana to shut up. He suddenly felt uncomfortable bringing up this matter in front of them. They were kids! They were his little babies whom he had taught how to walk! They needn't think of all this. They needed to go and study, watch movies, latest fashion and play- do all that he had not got a chance to do. Unfortunately Archana didn't see them as 'kids'.
"The household work is not the main thing we are trying to emphasize here." She continued. "That is something I will manage on my own anyway, even if you do not help me. The main point is that we need to learn to keep our personal equations aside for the more important bigger picture. I know you don't like me and I will not force anyone to love me. But everyone present here loves Manav. I just want that for his sake at least, we get together.This whole issue, at least for me, is not about wanting help, but rather expecting cooperation from all of you, requesting you to cooperate for the times ahead. They will not be easy and it is only if we are together that we can manage those times." She raised her voice to make sure Savita Aai could hear. "And by everyone, I mean everyone. Love me, hate me, you are free to think of me as you want. But please cooperate with me- for Manav's sake. All of you know he gets affected by daily strifes in the household and the fact that even little matters are made into battles. I don't want a one off solution for just household chores. I want a proper solution for everything ahead."
The kids sat silent for some time, very grave and serious. Manav interrupted the discussion. "Enough of all this. Let's go for Kulfi now."
"Whoa, what was all that?" asked Manav in a half annoyed voice as he licked his kulfi. Vedant and Vandita had met some common friends and Baba was talking to the kulfiwala.
"I told you my opinion on all this a few days ago." Archana reminded. "And you yourself said that you would talk to Vedant Vandita for help. It was your idea."
"Yes, but I had just suggested speaking about helping in some chores. I hadn't thought you would encourage them to get so.. umm.. involved in whatever problems we are facing. There is a difference in both the things- what happened today was a direct confrontation with the adult matters at home. Have you forgotten how old they are?"
"No, but we've spoken about that too."
"It doesn't matter, Archana, what matters is that they are kids! Assigning little chores to them is different and involving them in this way is different. And I'm really not in favour of you convincing people by using my 'illness card'.
Archana looked at him amazed. "What exactly do you mean by saying 'the illness card'? Manav, you make me sound so manipulative!"
"The illness card, as you say is actually a grave truth we are confronted with, and it is high time people understand the seriousness of the situation. I don't care if people see it as 'buying sympathy'," said Archana with a frown.
It was at that time that Manav saw 'her'.
She was standing some distance away, trying to look at the couple. She turned away meekly as she saw Manav staring at her, and he could immediately guess that she was embarrassed at having been caught. He gulped, closed his eyes for a few minutes and then looked at the kids. They had finished their kulfis and were now coming back with Damodar Baba. Manav turned to Archana.
"Yes.. umm.." he cleared his throat. "You guys go ahead, we'll come back in a little while.
He looked at Archana. She was as surprised as the other family members. Oh well, maybe Manav wanted to reprimand her some more.
The kids didn't say anything, but Baba's face lit up into a big smile. "Of course beta, come come, we'll go home." And he ushered the kids away.
"Learn to give some space to your Dada Vahini." He told the kids. "They're husband and wife, let them spend some time alone also."
Vandita was quiet. "I don't like her."
"It doesn't matter. Your brother likes her."
Archana hadn't sat for more than 2 minutes, when someone came and sat near her. Archana couldn't believe her eyes. She looked at Manav who was paying the kulfiwala. She then looked down at her hands. They sat in silence for a while.
"How are you Aai?"
Sulochana Aai did not say anything for a few minutes. Instead she looked at the spinach and coriander in Archana's basket, the ones she had bought on the way to the Kulfi stall. "What vegetables are these?" she frowned. "Did you buy them just now?"
"Who in their right mind goes shopping for vegetables at 10 o clock?" she said irritatedly. "All these vegetables will be stale. You should have bought all this in the morning. This is probably leftover stuff."
"I don't get time to go to the market in the morning." Archana said quietly. "I am very busy these days.
"Great!" scoffed Sulochana Aai. "You buy such things and then your in laws will say that I have not taught you anything. Is this the way you are running that house? If I had done something like this, I would have had to hear from my MIL."
Archana did not say anything. Aai continued. "And what is this hair parting? You look so much elder than your age. It's been six months since you got married- not 20 years. Even your sandals are not nice, the nails are not made up properly, is this the way new brides dress up? You should wear bright sarees, do some makeup and.."
"How are you Aai?" asked Archana once again.
The wall of defiance finally broke. Sulochana started weeping. "How do you expect me to be?" she asked Archana. "I haven't been alright for a moment ever since you left our home and went back to Manav. Worrying about you day or night, wondering whether they are treating you well or not.. especially your mother in law.. life has been hell."
"Did Vaishu not tell you?" asked Archana. "I have been very well."
"Vaishu knows nothing!" scoffed her Aai. "She can be taken in by your attempts to look happy and satisfied, I will not be." Sulochana fondled Archana's head affectionately. "All these days I've been fighting the urge to meet you; always kept thinking I would make you come back home, that you would finally give in to my anger, but I guess it isn't happening. Finally I had to accept it that there are other people that matter now in my daughter's life, and I have to accept them no matter what I think of them. Children can walk away from their parents' house by making their own decisions, parents do not have that liberty. You have gone, Vinod has gone, Varsha also does not call us now. Only Vaishali remains, she too will get married and go away soon."
Tears sprang up in Archana's eyes. She knew that her Aai must be very lonely right now, with three of her children away from her for various reasons. "I did not want all of it to happen this way either," she said, "But I really had no choice. It was a now or never moment for me. If I had left Manav in the lurch at that moment, then neither could I have forgiven myself, nor could Manav have ever accepted me again. Problems occur between husband and wife, but sometimes these problems seem fickle in comparison to the greater picture. Same with me. I could not leave Manav alone in that state."
She expected her Aai to say something sharp, but surprisingly, Aai did not. "You are right." She said, taking in a deep breath. "You care about Manav and would go through anything for him, and I care for you and would do anything for you." She sighed and looked at her again. "How is he now? Vaishu told something about the surgery.,"
"In a fortnight, maybe." Said Archana. "We are arranging for it."
Aai nodded. She hesitated before saying the next few words. "You have money..?"
Archana stiffened up. Vinod's accusations of Archana and the Deshmukhs loading off money from the Karanjkars rang in her ears again. "Yes." She said curtly. "We have made arrangements."
"Do not lie to me." Said her Aai. "I know you are upset bcos of Vinod. Trust me, he is also feeling very guilty. He felt too ashamed to face you after that, it happened on the spur of the moment, he hadn't meant it that way."
"I don't want any money, and neither does Manav." Said Archana. "If we need money, we will take it from Tarun."
"Tarun is not here. And don't forget that whatever it is, I am still your mother. If I support Vinod inspite of the fact that he walked away from us, I will support you too. Manav had spent on me when I had got a heart attack. He must have taken it from someone on loan, I guess. Take the money from me and return it on our behalf. I guess that would not hurt Manav's self respect too, right?
"I don't know." Said Archana. Both of them did not say anything for long. Manav, who was still at the kulfi stall, listening to bits of their conversation, pretended to be lost in his own world.
"Coping with new responsibilities?" her mother broke the silence. "How is it going?"
"Good." Said Archana quietly. "I'm learning new things every day. Running the Deshmukh household is very different from the Karanjkar household- I'm trying my best to fit in."
"You look overworked.."
"It's nothing." Archana brushed the matter aside. "Just time management problems. If anything, it's Manav who is overworked- he works at Girishji's garage and then looks into our own garage too- he's trying to save on labour by repairing it himself as much as possible."
Sulochana Aai nodded. "How is everyone treating you?" she asked anxiously. "I hope they are at least decent with you?"
Archana laughed softly. "They are in trouble with Savita Aai bcos they are more than decent." She recollected the incident about Vedant being 'boycotted' by Savita Aai, and Atya being asked to leave, and Manav being almost thrown out cos he had spoken up for her, and Damodar Baba being ridiculed more than ever. She told her of how Manav did not speak to Savita Aai directly but raised his voice to ensure that she heard whatever he said. Though it was a serious matter, Sulochana couldn't help smiling at the RBSA gang and the 'atrocities' Savita Aai was heaving on her family members with little support from others.
"And what about Manav.. is he treating you well?"
"Very well. He takes good care of me."
Her discomfort vanished, she seemed more at ease. "You are happy with him na.. in this marriage.. he is keeping you happy na?" asked Sulochana, somewhat hesitatingly.
Such a simple question, and yet Archana did not have a perfect answer. What was she to say? That old wounds had not healed yet? That Manav did not have faith in her resolutions to save the marriage? That he was disheartened by their marriage? That she felt depressed each time he slept with his back to her? Or was she supposed to relate the other picture of this seemingly depressing marriage- that her husband had risen to the occasion and supported her against all and sundry, simply bcos he could not bear anyone hurting her? That every time she felt depressed or sad, he was there to make her feel better in any small or big way- including last time when Vinod had hurt her? That she may not be sleeping with him, but she found herself covered securely with his sheets every morning when she fell asleep while studying at night? That despite the distance between them, she felt closer to him than she had ever felt before? That even in all the insecurities surrounding them, she felt a thousand times more at peace than when she had been living in her Aai's house, away from Manav, worrying about her future.
"I made the right decision when I went back to him." She said after a lot of thought. "And everyday Manav gives me more reasons to make me feel the same."
Her answer seemed to satisfy Sulochana Aai, who smiled. Encouraged, Archana talked a little more to her Aai- about her first Ganeshotsav at her husband's place, about the things she had cooked, about the new washing machine they had bought and the consequent celebration. She tried to relate it all as if her life was full of colours and was rewarded when Aai asked more questions and even gave her tips about how to manage the household- tips that Archana knew would be very useful to her.
"I should be going now." Archana said, looking at her watch. "Everyone is waiting at home, and I have to get up early for tomorrow as well."
"Yes yes go." Said Sulochana, hurriedly wiping her tears. "Don't keep Manav waiting for long.. and remember.. you need me at any time, you can call me- money, support, anything you want. I may have supported Manjusha in the past, am still supporting her in the court case for defamation but that doesn't mean I am against you. Parents cannot choose between their two children."
Archana nodded with a small smile on her face. After talking to her Aai, somehow she felt more fresh and relaxed, and stronger too. Now that she had her two strengths- Manav and her Aai with her, she was ready to take on the world. They walked together to where Manav was finally finishing his fourth kulfi (obviously, he had to do something at the stall). He indicated a silent Namaste to Sulochana Aai who tried to smile feebly. "I will get an auto for you." He said. He walked to the end of the road and stopped an auto for her. Sulochana thanked him and got inside. The auto zoomed to life and at the end of the road, waited for the traffic signal to clear. Archana and Manav meanwhile turned away to walk back home. Manav looked back- needless to say, Sulochana Aai was looking at Archana with concerned, worried eyes.
He didn't really know why he did it, but the next moment, as if on impulse, he put his arm around Archana. He could see she was surprised, she looked at him with wonderment- her big eyes opened wide, sparkling with happiness and eager anticipation, and it took no genius to figure out that she was extremely delighted by his little gesture. His own attention however, was not at her. He took a sneak peek at the back, where he could see Sulochana Aai was wiping her eyes with a handkerchief. It was difficult to be a parent, Manav thought, but more than that, it was difficult to understand a parent. Parents felt angry when their children went against their decisions, they did everything to bring them back, but despite everything, at the end of the day, they just wanted their children to be happy- no matter if that happiness meant that their children would never return to the path parents themselves wanted. For the first time today, he saw Sulochana Aai satisfied at the thought that he was there to keep Archana happy, and that, in spite of all her past and present dislike for him.
They passed their old familiar park nearby. Archana brightened up when she looked at it. "Manav do you remember, we used to come here when we were newly married."
"Yes I remember," said Manav. "Can we sit here for sometime please?"
"Archana, we should go home." Manav started. "Just 10 minutes. I want to see how much this place has changed in all these days."
They walked inside through the broken gate. Archana noticed that the benches had deteriorated more than ever, one swing was broken."
"As bad as ever." Manav commented.
"Some things have changed." She said, pointing out the rows of wild flowers, imparting a sweet fragrance. "It might not be apparent but you can feel it. Besides, I'm glad the place is the same. I used to like it." She looked about at the flickering lamp post nearby. "There are still no lights."
Manav smiled. In those days, he had always thought that this park was a good place for new couples cos it was so dark and secluded, yet romantic. "You didn't like this place in those days." He teased her. "You were scared of the darkness." Both of them smiled at those sweet memories.
"Thankyou Manav." He heard a small voice say. Archana was looking at him with her doe like eyes quivering with emotions. "Thankyou for letting me speak to my Aai."
"I have never stopped you from talking to any member of your family." Manav replied. "It is Savita Aai who demands such things from you, not me or anyone else."
"Yes.. but.." Archana thought hard about how to say it. "I know that you don't like my family members anymore and don't want anything to do with them.. and so you would obviously have the expectation somewhere that your wife should respect your wishes.. and do what you do.. so.."
"I have no such expectations." He clarified. "Not from you at least."
Archana fell silent.
He waited for her to speak again, when she did not speak, he spoke again- "I do not dislike them as such. I can understand some of their actions and the circumstances, but after a point it becomes difficult for me to keep thinking of their perspective all the time and not feel bad about everything that happens to me, and especially in the harassment complaint scenario. Your Baba was extremely decent to apologize for Manjusha's doing, but what to do, I am human after all."
"I'm pretty much indifferent to them now." said Manav, thinking deeply. "Yes, indifferent is the right word. I don't care what they think about me, I don't care about trying to keep them happy. But I do understand that you can never break ties with them because they are your parents, so I would never demand or expect that from you. In fact, if I am myself staying with Savita Aai inspite of all that she did to me and you, then it would be wrong to demand that you should break ties with your parents. It's just not fair."
He looked at Archana, and was amazed by her face glowing under the moonlit sky. He couldn't understand whether the glow was due to her natural beauty or because she looked truly proud and happy, why, this he didn't know. She kept staring at him with a small smile on her face and eyes filled with love, and he didn't know where to look.
"We need to go home now." He reminded her.
"Just a few more minutes," she said. Every few minutes however, she turned to look at him, her own words to her mother ringing in her ears- "Every day Manav gives me more reasons to make me feel the same."- Truly, where in the world would she find another such a considerate husband, who would place her feelings before his ego, or who would think so much about right and wrong? In spite of everything, he still thought about her so much, about her little happiness and joys, about not denying her anything- what would she have done without him. From thinking of her comfort to her inner desires and her self respect, he did it all for her. Her Manav, he was truly a gem of a person. He had even understood the sentiments of her Aai and tried to comfort her in his own way by assuring that he was there to keep Archana happy. Indeed, there was no one like him, she thought as she looked at him with puppy eyes.
The silence and her staring was making Manav feel weird. He started speaking, "What were you saying about Baba?"
"What?" she asked, not recollecting anything. Manav gave her a weird look. "Yesterday, when we made plans..???"
"Oh yes, ah well, it is something about his alcoholism actually. I don't know whether it will be successful or not, but in any case, it is something Baba would like to do."
"Getting rid of Baba's alcoholism is different," said Manav thoughfully. "He has attempted to do it in the past, he knows it is bad for him in every way, and yet he has not been able to leave it. He says he can never leave it. There is a depression in his life which he has never been able to overcome no matter how much he, and all of us, try."
"I'm not sure if it will work or not, but it's worth trying." Archana said. Manav shrugged. "Of course it is. Then again, he does listen to you. He doesn't listen to others just as much."
"Manav, what will you give me if I get Baba to leave alcohol?" asked Archana with a naughty smile.
"Nothing," said Manav grimly. Archana pouted.
"What?" asked Manav incredulously. Archana tried to look sullen. "I did so much work in the house, look how rough my hands have become.."
"Wow." Laughed Manav. "Both of us have rough hands now."
He continued laughing and Archana continued to pretend to sulk. "You gift me nothing!" she complained.
"I gave you a washing machine, remember?"
"That is for the whole house, meant for household work, not for me as a person."
"Well, you didn't give me anything either," Manav shot back. "I was washing vessels with you all these days."
"I gifted you two shirts," she reminded him.
"You said at that time that it was a pending gift. I want a fresh gift NOW for washing those vessels." He declared like a child.
Archana started laughing while he stared at her in amazement.
"What was there to laugh in this?" he asked.
"You won't understand," she said, trying to control her laughter. He stood scratching his head. Yes, he did not understand. He finally stood up. "Time to go." He announced.
She stood up with him too. "Manav," she muttered, looking at him with eyes full of love.
She did not say anything but just stared at him. Then, as if on impulse, she stood on tiptoe and gave him a soft peck on his cheek.
He was so stunned that he couldn't move. After a good 10 seconds, he moved his neck to have a look at her. She couldn't see him cos there was so little light around, but she was sure that he had turned red with embarrassment. Not wanting to face him, she quickly turned and started walking out in quick steps, blushing to herself. Was she mad or what?- she asked herself, grinning from ear to ear. But then what could she do? All that love, it needed an outlet very badly- she explained to herself. And it was not her fault if her husband was so super adorable. She composed herself, tried to look as if nothing had happened and started walking coolly on the streets, feeling like the queen of the world.
Following her out of the park in quick steps, Manav still expected himself to come out of the dream, pinching himself hard every few minutes. In the morning he would find out red marks on his hand, but that is another story. Right now, he touched his cheek softly, running his hand along his stubble. It had been too fast, but yeah it was nice.. whatever it was. Oh dear, why was she making things so difficult for him in whatever few days she was here, he thought uncomfortably.
As if in answer, the flickering light of the park lit up at once, as bright as ever.
They reached home, and without talking to each other, went about their bedtime chores. This did not go unnoticed by the other family members who thought that maybe they had had an argument or something- after all, Manav had indeed seemed miffed with Archana at the family conference.
Baba put his hand on Manav's shoulder, taking him by surprise. "It happens." He explained. "Such things keep happening between husband and wife. But in the end they only strengthen relationships. Life would not be the same without such daily occurrences."
Manav was flabbergasted! Now how in the world did Baba know about what had happened in the park- he was talking about that, was he not? Had Baba or Vedant waited up for them and seen them at the park? He quickly went up to his room and checked his cheek in the mirror. No, Archana had not been wearing lipstick and there were no marks on his cheek. Then how did Baba come to know- poor Manav wondered.
He quickly changed, got into bed and pretended to sleep. The headaches had returned but today they did not seem half as bad to him. His thoughts kept returning to their initial days of matrimony, when he used to get nervous in front of Archana, and would keep thinking and searching for romantic opportunities, like in the park. Today he had relived that moment again, and although it did seem a little off track considering the present state of their equation, it still managed to make him feel.. umm.. he didn't know how to define it. How could one keep thinking about the question marks of life all the time- such antidotes to misery from time to time were useful indeed, he told himself dreamily. He needed more of such lightness in his life, this cheer, before all his hair turned white from thinking so much or his tumour erupted out of the constant tension. For some time the complications in their relationship fizzled out from his mind, the sweetness of the gesture clouded it all. There was so much that a little love could do at times. He kept thinking about Archana - wow, that was quite brave actually- he thought to himself. He remembered the sensation of her soft lips on his cheek, (thought it had lasted for less than 2 seconds) and touched his cheek at that spot. His stubble pricked him and brought him back to reality.
I should sleep now- he told himself. In a corner of his mind, a voice rang- "Start shaving regularly now."
Archana meanwhile was in the kitchen, making sure that everything was prim and proper for the upcoming morning. Vedant entered the kitchen.
She turned to look. He was standing near her and it looked as if he wanted to talk.
"Do you want something?"
"Uh yeah.. biscuits.. I feel hungry while studying at night... where do you keep them nowadays?"
"The same place where they used to be earlier."
He gave a sheepish smile and reached out for the container. Archana waited for him to speak. He gave her an embarrassed look at having been caught.
"Actually I wanted to speak. If you're not too tired, that is.."
"Sure. Go on.."
"Well actually, what you said tonight.." Vedant said thoughtfully, not sure about how to frame his thoughts into words. "I agree with it. I mean, that part where you said that at least for Manav Dada, we should put our personal problems aside and keep peace in this house. Atya used to emphasize on the same thing.. I too believe in it.. and now you too.."
"I always felt so," said Archana. "I guess no one wanted to listen at that time."
"True.' He said. "Manav Dada gets affected by our fights and I don't think it is right to trouble him so much, not in this stage at least."
"In this stage? What about rest of the time?" asked Archana with a laugh.
He smiled a little. "I mean, all the time, but particularly now."
"I agree." She said. "I was half afraid that your Dada would get angry with me for saying all that. He doesn't like to speak of his illness, or ask help from anyone or make other people adjust for his own sake."
"Yeah.. I know." Agreed Vedant.
"In fact, this is what I had wanted to say at that time also, but your Dada shut me up on the pretext of kulfi. I wanted to say that if you have problems with me then it's fine." She said with a smile. "Just stick by your Dada."
"Stick by Dada? In what?"
"Vedant, it's not just me who finds it difficult to manage everything. Your Dada finds it difficult too. But he doesn't say anything to anyone- he feels that everyone counts on him for everything, it's his job to handle it all. He can hardly see anything properly, his eyesight is worsening, yet he works in the garage, repairs our own garage, helps in the house, takes on all our tensions- everything. He does everything perfect at the cost of his own health and comfort. I tell him but he doesn't listen to me."
"I know." Vedant hung his head. "But I can do nothing in that regard. I can't quit school and I can't help him in the garage. I don't know the job"
"Oh no no.. I am not suggesting that you start working with your Dada," said Archana, alarmed. "Forgive me if my words ended up looking that way. We elders are there to manage all that, don't think about working or helping your brother in his chores- you won't be able to do them and it's not fair too. It's just that, I sometimes feel," she thought hard about how to say it. "Sometimes it's good to SHOW that you care instead of just storing away all the emotions in your heart. It is because our little actions of warmth end up giving great joy to people, especially when they are stressed or feel lonely. Like what I have observed in this house," she suddenly stopped speaking. "Leave it."
"No no continue.." said Vedant immediately. "I want to know what you think."
Archana hesitated. She didn't know how he would take it. But now that she had started speaking, she had to finish it. So she tried to be brave. "Well, I don't know Vedant.. I have always felt Manav feels the need to try too hard. He feels he has to manage everything in this house, that he is responsible for every little tension in everyone's lives, he thinks from everyone's POV and he feels the need to be fair with everyone, sometimes at the cost of himself- overtime in the garage, spending long nights awake, thinking of solutions, counselling every single member and so on. Even thought Manav's sense of responsibility is a virtue indeed, yet, sometimes it makes Manav take on more than he can chew. He exhausts himself mentally, physically and emotionally."
"I know." Agreed Vedant. "You are trying to say that we should help him, right? Well, I do, whenever I can. In fact all of us do."
Archana looked thoughtful. "I have often felt that even if we cannot share Manav's burden of work, it would be nice if we let Manav know, by little actions, that we are there for him- little actions that may seem very frivilous, but make him feel special, and that we are there for him, he is not alone to handle everything himself. It would make him feel less lonely in his position of responsibility, and overall, just make him feel better. Everyone likes to feel loved."
Vedant stood looking at her. Such high words went above his head.
Archana sighed. "You know when I was very young, I used to watch my mother do everything alone. I would stay with her when she worked in the kitchen- I would sit on the kitchen counter with my doll the way you are sitting now, and talk to her, ask her about why she did this and that and so on. I did practically NOTHING, NO WORK, but still my mother used to like it somewhere, that where my other siblings spent their free time playing, I spent a little of my time talking to my mother in the kitchen so that she would not get bored. Even though it was something very small, yet somewhere, it bonded me and my mother. She started sharing everything with me."
Vedant kept looking at her, thinking hard.
Archana smiled. "I think we should go to sleep now. It's been a long day."
"Goodnight vahini, I hope Dada is not angry with you now.."
Archana turned to look at Vedant. "Who said he is angry with me?"
"Uh.. actually today.. during the discussion.. we thought he got angry with you.."
Archana laughed. "Well I don't think he was angry with me cos of the discussion, but I don't know about his feelings after our return from the kulfiwala's." She chuckled, and left the kitchen leaving Vedant to ponder by himself. Lights were switched off in the Deshmukh household, and very soon every member lay on his/her bed, thinking about their wishes, dreams and about the little things that make so much of a difference in life.
(my favourite song from the movie Khatta Meetha.. it goes "Thoda hai, thode ki zaroorat hai, zindagi, fir bhi yahan, khoobsurat hai..". I urge you to have a look at it.. such a nice song! Its also the song sequence/background music for the Deshmukh family as they all dream tonight)
Another morning in the Deshmukh household. Manav got up to the noise of a gentle humming noise. He sat up in bed wondering what it was. After a few minutes of recollection, he understood that it must be the new washing machine. Oh, good for Archana, he thought sleepily. She wouldn't have to wait for hours at the tap now.
That reminded him, he had work to do.
He got out of bed, freshened up and went to the kitchen. Archana seemed to be in a good mood as she worked by herself. She saw him coming and turned away.
He too didn't know whether he was supposed to say anything about the kiss or not. He didn't even know what to say. Best was to ignore it as if nothing had happened.
He reached out for his buckets. They were not there. He scratched his head and looked here and there but could not find them. "Archana where are my.."
"MOVE!!" came a voice. Manav turned to see Vedant coming up with a bucket in his hand. He emptied it into the tank. "Oh, hi Dada!"
"Vedant, what are you doing so early?" asked Manav, utterly surprised. "Oh Dada I thought I would get up and study in the morning before going to school. Then when I got up, I saw the buckets and thought I might as well help you out too."
"Arey but Vedant, I will do it na.." Manav took the buckets from his hand. "You go and sleep, or study, or do whatever you want to do.."
"Oh come on Dada, it's just a small exercise, will hardly take half an hour. You go and get some more sleep, you work so hard and Vahini told your head also aches.."
Manav shot Archana an irritated look. Archana pretended to be immersed in cooking.
"That is nothing," he said coolly. "Vedu, you go and.."
"Dada, you have been doing it all these years to help Aai cos you cared for her, now when you could do with a bit of help yourself, why stop me?" asked Vedant innocently.
Manav was stumped. He had no answer to this question at all. He fumbled for words, but Vedant took the buckets firmly from his hand and went down to get more water.
Manav turned to Archana. "Did you say something to him?"
"No." Archana lied point blank.
"What happened to him?"
"How do I know? He is your brother, ask him."
"He is behaving a little different today.. he never did anything like this earlier.."
"I told you that they are growing up now."
"Yes.. but.." Manav looked at Vedant from the kitchen window. "Suddenly..??? It was very sweet of him though.."
She smiled to herself. "Go to sleep now." She told him.
"I won't get sleep now." He said. "Everyone is hell bent on driving away my sleep these days.. last night it was you and.."
He stopped speaking. After a few minutes he spoke.
"What was that last night, by the way?"
"Nothing." She said, trying hard not to giggle. "Sorry if it offended you."
He seemed horrified. "No nothing like that.. but umm.. uh.. yeah.. oh whatever!"
Back to square one, thought Archana with a sigh.
Manav stood up. "I think I shall go to the garage and check out the spare parts."
"I used up some of them during the Ganesh Chaturthi function. A few other people were also asking me about them. I will ask Dharmesh Jaipurwala if he is okay with me selling the spare parts to the people who are demanding for them."
"Fine," smiled Archana. "Go after tea." She turned to give him his tea cup and it was the first time that morning that they come face to face with each other. She looked at him eagerly, and was surprised to see him look away and blush.
He did not say anything. He took his cup and went away in a corner to sip his tea. Archana wanted to burst out with laughter. It seemed like she had 'traumatised' Manav last night. Manav on the other hand was amazed at her. Suddenly she seemed to have got her confidence back- whether it was because of the washing machine, meeting with her Aai or due to the kiss, this he didn't know.
This morning was going along just fine, thought Archana. She had started her work on a good note, Vedant seemed to be warming to her, Manav was in a good mood, and Archana was expecting some good news later in the day. Vaishali had promised her some news about Varsha. A friend had promised to hack Varsha's email id's and facebook accounts, after she had not responded to messages and emails. Vaishali had suggested that maybe it would help in giving some clue about Varsha.
What Archana did not know was the news that would come out would leave her devastated.
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