The entire house smelt of fresh jasmine. I tip toed carefully through the big Rangoli that was drawn at the entrance.
Kirti weds Nikhil – I saw the shimmering wedding card in my hand.
The festival spirits were high. The house was pristine. I could hear some murmurs.
As I entered the house, I first saw an old lady, looking at a room. I angled my head in the direction of the look and I found a divine puja room.
“Uma, this is beautiful.” The old lady complimented.
The middle aged woman smiled and seemed to continue to meticulously place the strings of flowers for almost all of the framed pictures of the deities.
“Hey.” I heard a voice. Kirti, my friend stood there, smiling at me. She was the bride. She had invited me for her wedding.
“Paati(Grandma), this is my friend. The aspiring writer, whom I told about- you remember?” She spoke to the old lady.
“She is Srimathi, my grandma.”Kirti smiled. I smiled at her grandma and joined my hands to greet with respect. Srimathi invited me in and asked me to take a seat.
The middle aged woman from inside came out as she heard the introductions going on.
“She is Uma Mami, my mom’s brother’s wife. “Kirit introduced Uma to me. I smiled at her too.
I saw Srimathi walking towards the entrance. She walked to the doorstep and stood there, as if expecting someone.
“Harshith!” Kirti and I turned to a loud, firm voice that came from inside.
“That’s my Thatha(Grandpa), Mr. Gopal.”, Kirti spoke in a low voice.
“Appa he has gone for bathing.” I heard another voice, coming from a middle aged man.
“That’s my uncle, Mohan – Uma Aunty’s husband- Father of two, Harshith and Harini.” Kirti tried to clear my mind.
“How many times have I asked him to align the chairs neatly under the table, once not in use? Look at that.” Gopal pointed to a chair near the dining table.
“Using his laptop on the Dining table, eating in the bed, sleeping till 9 in the morning, when are these children going to learn some discipline?” Gopal continued.
Mohan shook his head and smiled. He slowly walked towards the dining table arranged the chairs and turned towards us as Kirti called him.
“Uncle,” she called.
“Uncle, this is my friend – My school friend whom I had invited for the wedding.”
“How are you my child?” Mohan’s warm voice greeted me.
“I am fine. Thanks.” I smiled.
“Take this juice.” Uma came out of the kitchen. “Sit down child, make yourself comfortable.” Uma showed me the sofa, as she placed a plate full of snacks on the pristine coffee table that was place in front of the sofa. Uma saw Gopal coming towards us. She smiled at us and went inside.
I again joined my hands and greeted Mr. Gopal, nevertheless to say, the head of the family. He acknowledged my greetings and smiled at me, as Kirti introduced me.
He was well disciplined, well-groomed and swift like a greased lightning.
“It is not new, at least for us,” Mohan’s voice broke my chain of thoughts. “My mom, my wife Uma and children have known who my father is. He is personified as an epitome of perfection and precision. He is our inspiration. “Mohan smiled.
“All five of your grandchildren are meeting after a long time. Your children might understand your demanding nature, but your grandchildren won’t. If you are going to demand discipline in everything, let me tell you, your grandchildren are going to hate you. For the next few days, this house is going to look beautiful even with imperfections.” Srimathi warned her husband.
Gopal did not bother to reply. He sat on his rocking chair with a paper in his hand.
Srimathi was still standing near the door, her eyes, peering out at the huge gate.
“Is she expecting someone?” I asked Kirti.
“Yes, my Chithi(Aunt) Akhila.” Kirti replied as I sipped in the juice.
“When is Akhila coming?” Uma enquired about her sister-in-law to her husband.
“Let me call and check.” Mohan pulled out his mobile.
Thanuja and Akhila are the daughters of Mr. Gopal and Mrs. Srimathi Chakravarthy. Thanuja is the eldest daughter of the Chakravarthy family. Kirti, Thanuja’s only daughter, the eldest granddaughter of the Chakravarthy’s is getting married in another fifteen days.
Kirti lost her father a couple of years ago. Mohan took up the responsibilities of leading the wedding preparations and other negotiations with the Groom’s family from the front.
As per Gopal’s request, the wedding was planned to take place in Chennai where the grand parents are living along with their only son, Mohan.
I heard about all of this from Kirti, when she called me for inviting me.
“Where are you?” Mohan’s voice disturbed the prevailing silence and my thoughts. “That’s great. Welcome. Welcome.” Mohan cut the call.
“Amma, come and sit. It will take another twenty minutes for them to come.” Mohan held his mom’s hands and led her inside.
He walked to the kitchen. Uma was already in the kitchen. I heard the clinging sound of the spatulas against the vessels.
“Yes Meena. Go to the store room behind and bring a bag of sugar. From today onwards, sweets must be a part of every day’s lunch. Bring 2 packets of Sooji too. “Mohan heard his wife as he entered the kitchen.
“Coffee?” Uma smiled at him.
“Before that, just because your in-laws are with you, it does not mean that you are still the newbie daughter-in-law. You are 50 years old. Take care of your health. The following days might be very busy for us, with the rituals going around. I might not be around every time to remind you, but, still don’t forget to take your tablets. “He paused to look at his wife.
“Sure I will.” Uma smiled.
“One more thing, “Mohan continued as if he remembered something.
“Yes.” Uma looked at him curiously.
“A cup of coffee.” He smiled. Uma ignited the stove to heat the milk.
As Mohan walked out of the kitchen, he saw us sitting in the living room.
“Make yourself comfortable child. You are most welcome to the first wedding of the Chakravarthy family’s second generation.” He smiled at me, asking me to have my lunch there, which I respectfully denied.
He smiled and walked in.
I looked at Kirti.
“Your family is as interesting as you described.” I smiled at her.
‘Will I be really able to weave a story around these characters?’ I wondered.
“You and one of your cousins are here – The one who misplaced the chair. Who else? I remember your grandmother telling five.” I counted in my mind.
Kirti had a good laugh.
“That chair guy is Harshith.”She smiled.
“You remember, they were talking about my Chithi Akhila? She has two kids- Arjun and Adhithi. That sums up to 5. “She smiled.
Kirti, Harshith, the two invisible ones and it tallied only four. I threw a skeptical look at Kirti. She smiled as if she caught my dubiety.
“I forgot to mention about my Mohan Mama’s daughter. She is in Pune. She will be here after few days.” Kirti smiled.
I greeted the elders, wished Kirti good luck and assured that I will join them a couple of days before the wedding and left the house.
“Can I meet her?” I asked, as Kirti came along with me up to the huge gate.
“She is in Pune.” Kirti shot a vague look at me.
“I am going to Pune tomorrow as a part of my job. My company has a Business operational center there. So I thought I would meet her.”
“She is a little weird, but you can meet her.” Kirti smiled and shared her contact.
We spoke for more than ten minutes as we stood near the huge Iron Gate. I bade a bye and walked out.
I let out a sigh and headed out.
As I walked I tried to save the contact Kirti gave me a few minutes before.
“Hey, her name?” I almost shouted.
“Harini.” She smiled and waved to me.Pune, Maharastra
“Dr.Harini.”, she heard a voice from the adjacent room.
She hurriedly placed the echo cardiogram report on the table and rushed inside, ignoring me, who sat in front of her.
The chief doctor’s room and Harini’s were separated by an automatic lock door. As the door took time to close behind Harini, I was able to hear some of the initial conversations.
“Yes, Doctor.” She responded to Dr. Sachin Patil’s call as she entered his room. Dr. Sachin was one of the leading cardiologists of the nation.
“Here is the report of Mr. Rahul. I have specified the medication. Go through the report, give general advice and other instructions and ask them to pay a visit every month.” Her chief doctor, under whom she was working as a junior doctor and also as the research analyst in cardiovascular system, handed over a bunch of papers to her.
“Sure Doctor.” Harini collected the papers and walked out to her table.
“Prakash Ji. Please ask Rahul and his family to come in.” She ordered the P.R.O, Prakash, who regulates the patients in and out of the consulting room.
“Can you please wait outside? My patient’s information is always confidential. My shift ends in another few minutes. I will call you in, once I get some time. I am sorry.” She apologized and looked at me, waiting for me to go out. I gathered my mobile and walked out of her room, waiting at the entrance.
She read through the prescription for her patient and gave them general advice.
“Please avoid fatty foods. No sugary foods too. Don’t eat a lot. Eat often and eat less. You have to follow this strictly. The medicines are given to ease the block in arteries. Your strict diet plays a major role too. Please go for a brisk walk every day. Please visit us after a month. ” Harini carefully placed the reports inside the envelope exclusive for the patient and gave it to them. I was able to get it from the sound the polythene bag made.
The family thanked her and left the room.
“So how is it going doctor?” A young male doctor in his white coat asked as he entered the room. He was followed by a young female doctor. I entered her room too.
Harini saw me. “This is Shipra and Kunal, pursuing specializations in orthopedics and gastronomy, respectively.” Harini introduced me to the young doctors.
“Guys, she is my first cousin’s friend.” Harini introduced me to her fellow doctors. “Know what? She is inspired by my family and wants to write a story about my cousin’s wedding. Her office’s branch is here in Pune. She had come for work and she came here to meet me.”
Shipra and Kunal greeted me as they took their seats.
“Hey come let us go. It is 8.”Shipra called Harini.
“No. It is only 7.59 PM. Let’s wait.”Harini replied.
“Why can’t you be nice?” Kunal asked as he took the chair. “We were listening to what you were speaking.” Shipra smiled sheepishly.
“What? What do you mean? I was kind enough. Did you look at his report? There was such a heavy blockage. We have now given medicines to widen his artery. If I am not firm in advising, they will not take it seriously.” She removed her coat and folded it neatly.
“That is right, but you need to be nice and soft to establish a personal connection. “ Shipra placed an arm around her shoulders.
Harini signaled them to stay quiet. The clock struck 8 PM.
“Excuse me, doctor.” She entered into Dr. Sachin’s room once again. “My shift is over. I am leaving for the day. “She paused.
“Okay.” He replied.
“Sir, as a research analyst under you, I have a gentle reminder. As I informed a couple of months ago, I will be on leave from tomorrow for ten days. I am going to my home town for my cousin’s wedding.” She reminded him.
“Oh. OK. I remember that now. Fine. Have a good time.” He smiled.
She closed the door behind and turned to Shipra.
“And now, for your personal connection stuff, See, there is nothing wrong in conveying things as it is. I am a firm believer of facts. It is important to be true than being nice. I don’t sugar-coat words or mince them. My mouth is neither a bakery nor a sausage machine.” She took her books off the table.
The trio moved. I moved along with them.
My inferiority complex level rose rapidly as I Walked beside Harini. She had a picture perfect slim body, her cotton salwar accentuating her perfect curves.
My eyes scanned Shipra. She looked like a better option to restore my confidence. She was a couple of inches taller than me but, that was okay. Being short is always cute, I reminded myself. She was almost the same size of mine.
I slowly moved and took a place beside Shipra.
We reached the cafeteria. As we talked, I came to know that Shipra and Harini stayed together in the medical college hostel.
We took seats around a table.
Harini’s phone rang.
“Is it? Have you found it?” She asked in excitement.
“Hey, I have been waiting all day long, wracking my brain. Better we find out the solution tonight. You know how curious I am. I cannot handle something when left untold or partially told. ”Harini continued to talk. “Don’t tell me. You are just going to end up chatting with your boyfriend. Anyways, Bye.” Harini cut the call.
“Shweta.” Harini told Shipra.
“Shweta is our roommate. These guys found a medical puzzle in internet and they found a partial answer. She is eager to find the rest. “ Shipra cleared.
“And I have to say, for the extra kindness you have in your tone, I have already started to feel sorry for your husband.” Kunal added a sarcastic tone.
“This is how I am. My words are harsh. My thoughts aren’t. I speak the facts. So if he can understand that, it is going to be okay. I am not that unbearable.”Harini smiled.
“Probably you need someone to hear your thoughts.” I added.
“On the dot. That’s what we always try to say.” Shipra looked at me.
“That’s the writer for me.”Harini smiled.
I smiled too. I guessed that was a compliment. The table had four steel glasses for water and a jug.
Harini arranged four glasses in proper pattern and shook the jar. The gurgling of the water wasn’t audible.
“If they place a jar, they are supposed to fill it. But they don’t. Great.”Harini threw her arm in despair.
I smiled. I got reminded of Gopal who arranged the chair neatly.
Shipra saw me smiling.
“Strange, isn’t it? That’s how she is. She is so perfect in everything to the extent that even headphones come out of her bag untangled.”
I nodded and smiled. She was an interesting person.
“Bhaiya” Shipra called out for the boy who was serving dishes to the other table.
“How hungry are you all?” Shipra threw a general question at the rest of the group.
“I am dying out of hunger.” Kunal answered.
The café owner’s minion came close to us.
“Two butter rotis and Dhal Makhni, for me.” Shipra began and placed the order for all of us except Harini.
“One Carrot juice without sugar and one tomato salad.” Harini ordered. Shipra made a face.
“Ok, I repeat.” The minion said aloud and repeated their order except for the Dhal Makhani.
“Shipz darling, he left out your atherosclerosis.” Harini chuckled.
“If you are going to call my favorite dish that way, then you will have to suffer an ethmoidal undisputed fracture.” Shipra snubbed Harini.
I threw a weird a look at Kunal.
“No worries. Atherosclerosis is the medical term for blood vessel blockage in heart. Harini is mentioning about the butter in Shipra’s dish that might cause the disease. Shipra in turn told Harini that she would punch Harini on her face and break her nose. Ethmoid is the nasal bone.” Kunal shrugged his shoulders as he explained to me.
“Oh My god, but how?” I was shocked.
“This is what happens when a cardiologist and orthopedic doctor converse and you are their best buddy.” Kunal smiled.
Shipra and Harini had a good laugh.
I almost fainted at the explanation, but luckily regained my conscience as the aroma of butter roti hit my nose.Lohegaon Airport, Pune:
The next day, Shipra, Harini and I stood at the airport. Shipra had come to send us off. I made sure to book the return travel with the same airlines, with whom Harini was travelling.
“I told you. “ Harini spoke to Shipra.
“I got ready at 6.23 A.M. You were late by 18 minutes. If we had started by 7, we would have definitely reached airport in 23 minutes. Now it has taken almost 47 mins.” Harini pointed to her watch. “The flight is at 9.25 P.M. I still have only 44 minutes left.”
“We call her digital clock. According to her there are no thirties and forty fives. Ever thing comes down to the minute.” Shipra spoke to me.
This girl was constantly taking me by surprise. I smiled at my own thoughts.
Harini bade a bye to Shipra and turned towards me. I took my baggage and followed her.
I turned to hug Shipra and waved at her. The scene behind, caught my eyes.
“Sir, luggage.” The auto driver shouted on top his lungs. A young man, who rushed in, ran back to the Auto.
“Sorry. Was this yours? ” he placed the bag inside the auto. His expression still perplexed.
“Sir, I meant about this.” The driver pointed to a suitcase that was left unattended inside the auto. “You bought a bag and a suit case Sir. You took your bag, while you left the suitcase inside the Auto. ” The driver threw a weird look.
“Sorry.” The young man smiled. I saw him walking towards us.
“Hey Miss.Fact. Have a safe trip.” Shipra smiled.
Harini had earned the epithet ‘Fact’ after her fondness towards facts, science and precision.
The young man, who rushed in, turned his head as he heard the name. Harini made a face, and then smiled at Shipra before turning to leave.
“Excuse me. I forgot my watch and my mobile ran out of charge. May I know the time?” he asked me.
“It is 8.50.”I replied, his sudden question, taking me by surprise.
“Ok, I should be having 30 – 40 minutes for the departure. Thanks.” He turned away. My mind toggled between the two contrasting characters to my right and left.
Interesting. I smiled.
How good it would be if they could meet? I wondered.
My brain already began weaving a story around these two contrasting characters. I could definitely write a story, if they could meet, I smiled involuntarily.
“It was nice meeting you.” Harini’s voice disturbed my thoughts. I smiled at her as we walked towards the airport.
My Dilemma about writing a story based on Kirti’s wedding was resolved in the next few minutes.
They met. I wrote.
When and How? – That is where the actual story is going to begin.
The next few pages are going to be the wedding gala and all that follows. From the next page onwards, I am going to be a silent listener of the rest of the happening and going to pen down the story in my perspective.
Hope you all have fun!
Harini walked through an array of empty chairs inside the flight. She was twenty minutes early. In Harini’s terms, she still had 22 minutes for the take-off. As she approached her seat, he saw a man and his son seated in the adjacent seat.
“Excuse me. I have to go in.” She uttered. The man turned to her. He looked young and smart. He looked familiar. She immediately recognized who it was. He was the one who left his baggage in the auto. She sat and fastened her seat belts.
“Are you sure this big plane won’t fall?” The child’s voice disturbed her. Harini turned towards the child.
“No Baby. It won’t. “His father assured.
He had a small toy plane and was trying to position it in midair, while it fell every time.
“.. but this does.” The small boy frowned as he showed the toy plane.
“There are numerous invisible strings under this big plane. As it flies high, the strings will hold this plane.” The fathered tried to convince.
Harini let out a sigh as she shook her head.
Let it be. It is none of your business. Her mind ordered. She sat still.
“Who attaches the strings?” The boy asked. Harini was as curious as the young boy to get the answer.
“God does that for us.” The man replied.
Harini could not stand it anymore. She had read so many stories and novels, in which a flight travel had changed one’s life upside down. She thought why this one shouldn’t be one of those kinds to the man beside her. She decided to speak her mind and enlighten him.
“Don’t preach about Gods. Teach him about gravity.” She muttered.
The man turned to her in surprise- A surprise by the sudden intervention of a stranger.
“I know it is none of my business. Sorry for poking my nose, I just thought it is my duty to correct where science is not being told right. Your son is asking you a question with great credence that you would give the right answers. Don’t mislead him. It is a sin.” She shook her head.
The man to her left smiled. Harini was intrigued. The flight had started to bustle with people. Passengers slowly got in.
“Pappu.” Another man who walked towards their seat called for the young boy. “Daddy.” The boy rushed to him.
“Daddy?” Harini crooked her brows.
The man to her left smiled. “He is my friend’s son. I took him to a cookie shop to buy him a pack. My friend’s wife missed her wallet in the waiting area. I took the child into the flight while his parents went in search of the wallet.” He smiled.
He expected Harini to smile and apologize.
“If it is a sin to mislead your children, it is a crime to mislead others’.” She was more furious, to his surprise.
It had hardly been a couple of minutes. The girl by his side was already taking him by surprise.
The man had a good laugh.
“Just relax.” he smiled.
“Paapu, come here.” He called. The boy hopped off his mom’s lap and came to the man.
“Today is my birthday. We have a party at home.” The little boy spoke to Harini.
“Happy birthday.” Harini smiled.
“Didi wants to tell you something about the plane.” The man to her left gave the lead.
Harini hesitated for a moment. She gathered herself and began.
“Listen, baby. This toy plane does not stand in midair because it is subjected to gravity, while this real aircraft is designed to win over gravity and stay right in midair. “
“Gratuee.” The boy tried to repeat the word ‘Gravity’, busy playing with the toy plane.
“How cute!” Harini exclaimed. She held his arms and tried to explain about Newton and apple.
“Whooooshh!” The kid pouted his lips and moved the aircraft across Harini’s face. He stopped as he heard the word apple.
“Mama makes apple milkshake. Mama, Apple milkshake.” He yelled, looking at his mom. Harini was embarrassed. Few of the passengers turned towards her.
The man beside chuckled. “It is not that I don’t know about gravity. I just know what to tell and what not to, to a four year old kid. “He smiled. “By the way, he is turning four today.”
“Didi, Milkshake!” The kid extended his arms towards Harini. He was very cute. Harini took him in her arms, ignoring the man’s comment.
“Call me Aunty. I am 19 years and 8 months elder to you. I am little older for your eldest sister.” She grinned.
The man looked at her, eyes wide.
“You astonish me.” He smiled. His smile was warm and radiant.
“You don’t snub someone when you are astonished by them.”Harini cut him short, keeping his previous reply in mind.
“Oh, Well. I am sorry. I did not mean to hurt you.” He smiled. “By the way I am Sarva. Nice to meet you.”
“Oh, and, I am Harini.” She said. Definitely, not nice to meet you. She thought, turning towards the window.
The boy hopped off Harini’s lap and moved to his mom.
“Well. I was astonished by how you asked him to call you Aunty. I thought girls like it when they are judged younger for their age, by the way, not to miss; your petite frame just makes you look so young. “Sarva smiled.
“Three things Mr. Sarva. One, I AM YOUNG. I am just old enough for a 4 year old kid to call me Aunt. Two, I don’t like men flirting with me. So better mind your business and Three, don’t stereotype. Not all women are the same. ” She turned towards the window, the turn, swifter and sharper than the previous.
The next half an hour of the travel went in complete silence, especially in the seat where Harini and Sarva were seated adjacent to each other. The prevailing silence was disturbed by the announcement from the captain’s cabinet. Due to turbulence, the air craft was raised from its normal altitude of 8500 f.t to 13800f.t.
Sarva smiled at Harini.
“When your science can win the gravity, why not such disturbances too?” He raised an eyebrow.
“Turbulence is something very common. Every aircraft is designed to withhold certain amount of turbulence and cabin pressure on such high altitudes.” Harini cut him short. As she tried plug in her headsets back on to her ears and turn on the music, she suddenly heard a heavy breathing.
The elderly man who sat at the back of Sarva found it difficult to breath. Sarva turned on the lights, requesting the immediate attention of the cabin crew.
“Just move.” Harini got up in haste. “He needs some help.”
“What can we do?” Sarva asked in panic.
“Just shut up.” She snubbed him.
The hostess reached the seat.
The hostess pulled down the oxygen mask. A yellow silicon cup hung before the passenger.
Harini and the cabinet member secured the mask on the elder man’s face.
Harini held the man’s hand, as if to check on his pulse.
“There is no medical emergency. He just needs to relax. “She spoke to the Airhostess, without explicitly informing that she was a doctor. The second Airhostess came closer and made sure things were under control.
The cabinet crew took care of the situation.
“Inhale and exhale normally as you would generally do. This mask is providing you the oxygen. Your heart rate is increasing, which is not a good sign. Take deep breaths. Calm down. Everything is normal around you. ” Harini instructed the man.
The cabinet crew stood in amazement at the sudden act from a passenger.
“Don’t overdo. It was so nice of you to help him, but, from now on leave it to the cabinet crew, they will take care. Checking on the pulse is just too much.” Sarva spoke to Harini.
“What? You mean I am overacting? Excuse me; I am a doctor, who will be soon pursuing M.D in cardiology. I know this situation better. Just mind your business.” She glared at him for a second and continued to look at the passenger.
She ignored the astonished gaze from Sarva.
The aircraft was brought back to the normal altitude as the turbulence subsidized.
The elderly man was now comfortable and the mask was removed. Harini got back to her seat.
“ Wow! A doctor?” Sarva spoke, as she sat.
“What else did you think? A janitor of this aircraft?
“Well, I am so sorry..,” he tried to speak.
“For the third time, please try to mind your own business.” She snubbed him.
It was 9.30 in the morning. The fragrances of the Agarbathis, which were lit for the morning puja, were still lingering in the air.
She moved in, removed her slippers and placed them on the shoe rack.
“Hey Doctor.” She heard a shrill voice from behind. “Uma, Mami. Your daughter has arrived.” Harini turned towards the direction of the voice. It was Adithi.
“Hey!” Harini smiled. Adithi pulled Harini into a tight hug.
Harini saw her mom walking out of the kitchen. She smiled broadly. She slowly released herself from Adithi’s hug and walked towards her mom.
“How are you?” Her mom asked, tears glistening in her eyes.
“I am all good Amma. You seem so busy.” Harini pointed to the sweat buds on her mom’s forehead.
“Happens.” Her mom smiled. “You have gone down a lot.” Her mom frowned.
“I prefer healthy foods. I am little cautious about what I eat and how much I eat. I deal with the most vital organ of the body and I know how to keep it healthy.” She replied.
“I want my daughter to be happy and relaxed. Not just a strict doctor. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”
“It is fine Amma.”She gave an assuring smile.
Harini saw a tall handsome guy walking towards them.
“Hi, How are you?” he smiled.
“Arjun!” Harini exclaimed. “I am good. How are you? And what are all these muscles? Working out eh?” Harini smiled at him.
“Yes, Kinda.” He smiled, not taking his eyes off her.
“Nice.” She smiled and quickly turning her face , missing his stare , as she heard a voice behind and felt a light bash on her head.
“Ouch!” Harini exclaimed as she turned to see her brother.
“Hey Idiot,” She spoke still rubbing the spot on her head on which her brother had hit her hard. “It is paining.” She glared.
“How are you?” Harshit tried to put an arm around her shoulders.
She pushed his hand away. “I was fine, until your stupid act.” She replied, her reply evident that she was still upset.
“These are just normal things in between a brother and a sister.”
“Come on Harshith. Grow up.” She shook her head. Srimathi came out of the Puja room hearing the noises.
“Harini, my sweetheart!” Srimathi cupped her face. “Paati! How are you and where is Thatha?” Harini asked.
“Your Thatha and Appa have gone to the bank.” Srimathi smiled. “Okay. “She smiled, trying to hide the disappointment.
“Hey, where is the bride?” Harini turned to Adithi.
“Over phone. “ Adhithi winked.
Harini smiled as she moved up to her room to unpack her things. She sat on the bed, unfastening the zip of her suitcase. Adithi and Harshith slowly got into her room.
“Look what I have bought for you.” She pulled out a blazer. “This is for your U.S trip next month. “ She smiled.
“Thanks baby sister. I love it.” Harshith grinned.
“For me?” Adithi asked, moving closer, prying into Harini’s suitcase.
“Hey, Kabhi Kabhi Adithi. Don’t go too close. You might smell iodine and antiseptics.”
“You still call her that way?” Harini was curious.
“He doesn’t even know the lyrics of that song. Yet he keeps mocking me.”Adithi complained.
“You don’t know? Fine you have to sing then.”Harini got ready for some drama.
“Kabhi Kabhi Adithi Adithi zilagi Hona hona Hotha hai.” He sang in his hoarse voice.
Adithi laughed until her stomach started to hurt. Harini couldn’t control her laughter either. Arjun entered the room and joined them.
“Stop laughing , you ‘A’ child.”Harshith snubbed Adithi.
Harini looked puzzled.
“Ashok, Akhila, Arjun and Adithi. – They are the official ‘A’ family.”Harshith grinned.
“So you are the first ‘A’ child.”Adithi looked at Arjun and continued to laugh as she remembered Harshith’s singing again. Arjun remained quiet, smiling like a shy child.
“He hasn’t changed a bit, as diffident as always. “Harini looked at Arjun.
It took more than three minutes for the laughter to settle down.
“By the way, coming to the gift, this is for you, Adithi.“ Harini handed over a beautiful pair of earrings to Adithi. She handed over a formal shirt to Arjun.
“It looks lovely. Hey, Harini, Know what? We are going to go on a shopping spree. For the next few days it is going to be dazzling Lehengas, shimmering danglers and loads of fun. What say?” Adithi raised her eyebrows rapidly in excitement.
Harini smiled. The cousins had a good talk after which Harini had her breakfast. Kirti was nowhere seen.
An hour rolled by.
They heard the sharp sound of the doorbell.
“Must be Thatha and Appa.” Harini came down, taking two steps at a time to reach the door.
She stood there, frozen for a moment, as she opened the door. Kirti came running behind.
“Hey!” Kirti exclaimed as she stood behind Harini. Harini made a face, making no attempt to hide the disgust in her eyes.
“Sarva, Come in. I was just talking to Nikhil. He told me that you are here for selling a joint property. Nikhil will be landing here only after a week. He just called me. We will be so glad if you would stay here. Come in. You are first from the groom’s side for the stay.” Kirti smiled.
“Hey, Harini. When did you come?” Kirti asked Harini. She looked at her mobile.
“An hour and 7 minutes ago, while you were busy over phone. “ Harini looked at Kirti.
“I am so sorry dear. I have loads to tell you. Before that…” She paused and turned to Sarva.
“Sarva, come in. This is Harini. My cousin. Of course, I have so many people to introduce.” Kirti smiled and turned to Harini. “Harini, this is Sarva, one of my good friends. He is the closest friend of Nikhil. So he is our common friend.”
“We know each other.” Sarva smiled, pointing to Harini.
“Hey, how on earth is that?” Kirti looked suspiciously at Harini.
“Come on. Why do you have to do this?” She shrugged her shoulders looking at Sarva. “Hey, we just took the same plane and that is it. “ Harini spoke , looking at Kirti, as she took a deep breath.
“That’s fine. He is a…”Kirti tried to talk more about Sarva.
“I know enough about him. By the way, I heard about the groom from my mom, but, you knew him already? Is it a love marriage? ”Harini made a face.
“What is there to make a face?” Sarva interrupted.
Harini ignored his comment.
“Yes, it is a love marriage. I met him in New Delhi.” Kirti smiled.
“You are put up in Delhi only for the past ten months, right? How could you fall in love so quickly?” Harini spoke as they slowly walked in.
“Don’t shout.” Kirti bit her lip.
“It takes only few seconds to fall in love. It is the instinct. It is the decision at the fraction of the second. Most of the life changing decisions are taken in the fraction of a second only. It happens when you go by pure instincts and not by facts and time. ”Sarva took his time to reply.
“Pathetic.” Harini shook her head.
“Thanks.” Sarva smiled.
“What the hell? I thought I just insulted you.” Harini’s curt reply poured in.
“That’s true. You ignored me initially but now you made it a point to reply at least to insult me.” Sarva grinned.
“I… ” Harini began.
“SSSHHHH.” Sarva and Harini heard Kirti shushing them.
Aditi, Arjun and Harshith joined them.
“Acha, listen now. Sarva this is Arjun, the macho guy, Aditi , his sister, the coolest of all, Harshith the humor galore and you already know, Harini his sister, the most nerdy.” Kirti now turned towards her cousins.
“Guys, this is Sarva, one of my good friends.”
The cousin gang greeted the new guy with a big smile, while Aditi paused, as it was her turn.
“You look familiar and before that you look so smart.” Aditi shook her hands. Sarva smiled.
“Why is that in a wedding, there is always a guy like this who comes from nowhere and scores?” Harshith mumbled to Arjun.
“I love you for this.” Harshith tuned as he heard Harini’s voice.
“He is good. I like his charisma.” Adithi grinned.
Harshith moved a couple of steps away. “I hate this guy.” He uttered.
“Sarva, why don’t you sit here? I will be back. ” Kirti excused herself and took the cousin group farther from Sarva.
“Guys.” Kirti’s voice grabbed the cousins’ attention. “Before anything, Harini, I need your help.”
“What?” Harini shrugged her shoulders.
“See, Sarva is indeed our common friend. However the decision about Sarva staying here until the wedding was taken in the last minute. If I am going to tell your dad or Thatha that he is Nikhil’s friend and he is going to stay with us for the wedding ….,” Kirti was interrupted by Harini.
“Question,” She began. ”He came to Chennai, fine. Why he should stay with us?”
Harshith gave her thumbs up and signaled her to proceed further.
“That’s rude.” Adithi interrupted.
“Come on. He is an important guest. Sarva’s and Nikhil’s parents know each other very well. We are ought to give him the due respect as you would give to a groom’s family member.” Kirti replied firm and loud.
Srimathi and Uma came out and saw a strange young man sitting in the sofa and the cousins huddled in a tight ball.
“Kirti!” Thanuja called.
“Amma, this is Sarva, Nikhil’s close friend.” Kirti spoke to her mom and introduced Sarva to the rest of the group.
“He will be staying with us, until Nikhil and his family reaches Chennai.” Kirti made a childish face, expecting their acknowledgement.
“Please be seated here, my son. I shall get you something for drinking.”Thanuja smiled at Sarva and rushed in, taking Kirti’s hand in hers. The cousin group followed.
“Kirti, why are you giving us surprises? What will we answer your Thatha or Mama? ”Kirti’s mom spoke in haste.
“Ma, I am so sorry. I do not see any big troubles here.” Kirti pressed her lips.
“Yes, neither I do. When the love marriage was accepted in the first place, making a stranger to stay along with us for ten odd days should never be a trouble.” Harini folded her hands across her chest.
“Harini, please be quiet.” Her mom insisted.
Srimathi joined the group. Thanuja narrated the story.
“It is time for Mohan and his father to come back. Let me talk to them.”Srimathi walked out.
“Ma, why wasn’t I told that it was a love marriage?” Harini asked her mom.
“Well I can explain, but not now, this is not the right time… “Uma was interrupted as she heard Gopal’s voice.
Harini peeped out.
Her dad and her grandpa had arrived.
“Thatha.” Harini exclaimed and ran to her grandpa.
“My child, how are you?” Gopal gave a gentle pat on his grandchild’s head.
“I missed you so much, Thatha. Nothing is perfect in a hostel or P.G. life.” Harini smiled as she leaned against his shoulders.
“Appa.” She extended her hands. Mohan smiled and held his daughter’s hand.
“Thatha , This is Nikhil’s friend, Sarva. He is going to stay with us for the rest of the days until Nikhil lands here.” Kirti spoke with a hesitation.
“Hmmm,” Gopal thought for a second. He looked at Mohan.
“Kirti, let me talk. “They all heard a voice. It was Sarva. He turned to Mohan and Gopal. “Let me introduce myself. I am Sarva, one of Nikhil’s close friends. I work in Pune. When I was here in Chennai, my friend and I had bought a land as a joint property. He wants to sell it now. I flew down along with my friend and his family today for signing the documents. I went to his place, signed the documents and came here. My friend is in need of money and hence we had to sell the land quickly. This was totally unplanned. Since the day of sale and Nikhil’s wedding fell close, I decided to take off from my work and stay here. I thought I could use my vacation. Nikhil is a very close friend of mine. I can never afford to miss his wedding. I have few friends here as I did my college in Chennai. I spoke to Nikhil that I can arrange for a stay outside or at a friend’s place. I did not want to surprise you guys, especially when things are going in such organized way.” Sarva pointed to the house, paused for a moment and continued. ”But Nikhil insisted in staying here.”
The group looked him silently. His command over the language, his body language and clarity of thoughts were amazing. His confidence persuaded Gopal, who was the toughest one to get coaxed.
“.. Oh, Sure. If it is Nikhil’s friend, then he is our privileged guest. I would like to know more about you, my child. “Gopal smiled at Sarva.
The next moment Mohan got a call from Nikhil as he spoke about Sarva’s stay. Nikhil had the manners to apologize for the last minute decision. Mohan assured that there was no problem at all and Sarva was their privileged guest.
The people slowly dispersed, with Mohan greeting Sarva and taking him to Gopal’s room, while the women walked into the kitchen and the cousins moved to their rooms in the first floor.
It was almost 5 in the evening.
“Oh my God.” Sarva landed on the sofa with a thud, plunging his hands into the arm rest of the sofa.
“How was the questionnaire?” Arjun asked as he sat beside.
“Yeah! The general sets of questions that come up before letting any strangers stay in their house.” Sarva smiled.
“I was worried Thatha and Mohan Uncle might throw a lot of questions at you.” Adithi exclaimed.
“What is there to worry? You know what? There is no best medicine other than a good talk. Every problem in this world has one best solution – A good genuine talk. It warms the heart.”
“You are so cool.” Adithi joined Harini, who sat on the beautifully carved wooden swing. Kirti joined the group.
“What do you guys do?” Sarva casually turned his head towards the swing, placing his hand on the back rest of the sofa. ”Just wanted to know about you all.” He smiled.
“I work for a Journal in Delhi.”Kirti replied formally and chuckled. “As if you don’t know. Anyways Guys, Wanted to tell you this. Nikhil is a very close friend of Sarva. When Nikhil and I confirmed about our relationship, he made it a point to tell Sarva and then he introduced me too. That’s how Sarva and I became friends.”
“I am a civil engineer, working in Bangalore.” Adithi smiled.
“I work for a bank in Bangalore. “ Arjun added.
“I work in IT Sector in Chennai, I am committed to Adithi. “ It was Harshith‘s turn. He specified the relationship status in an attempt to stop Adithi from complimenting Sarva further on his looks.
“But I am single.” Sarva replied, adding to Harshith’s bewilderment.
“Hope you don’t remain one. It’s hard to find a girl to whom you are the first love.” Kirti added.
I want to be my girl’s first love. I will not break up with my girl; no one should have broken up with her too. Sarva thought.
“Weird.” Adithi made a face. The group laughed.
Harini sat there, still scrutinizing an image in her laptop.
“And you?” They heard Sarva say. All except Harini looked at him.
“Hey, he is asking you.” Adithi nudged Harini.
“What nonsense? As if you are hearing from me for the first time. We spoke about it in the plane, right? I really don’t like meaningless or unnecessary conversations. You know I am a doctor and you know I am from Pune. You know what I like to pursue too. Why is this unnecessary question?” She looked down again. There was an awkward silence in the group.
“Fine.” Sarva turned his head away.
“You are so rude.” Adithi murmured.
“Listen Adithi.” She hopped off from the swing, placing the laptop on the study table and headed towards the sofa.
“Listen Adithi, That is how I am and Mr.Sarva, I am so sorry if it had hurt you. I am definitely not a very cool person. I basically do not like thinking too much before talking. I feel that is a waste of time. That is why I am frank. I don’t mince words. I generally speak what is right and what comes to my mind at that point of time. I am sorry if that was rude.” She let out a sigh.
“Hey, that is fine. Don’t be sorry. It is ok.” Sarva smiled.
“You don’t have to lose your temper. You can be frank. You can tell Sarva that you work as duty doctor under Sachin Tendulkar. You can also tell him you don’t have a boyfriend. You hardly have friends, right? If there is any incoming call for Harini, from a man apart from her family members, it has to be Uber drivers.” Harshith chuckled.
Adithi and Harshith gave a high five. Sarva made an expression, feeling sorry for Harini.
” A Duty doctor?” Sarva crooked his brows.” I thought you told me something about cardiology?” He asked Harini, feigning a serious look.
“I work as a practicing Doctor. I am a research analyst. I will be soon pursuing cardiology under one of the leading cardiologists of the nation. Though I work in shifts, I am still a doctor, and Harshith, it is Dr. Sachin Patil and not Sachin Tendulkar. You idiot.” She glared at Harshith, ignoring Sarva and moved away, taking a seat on a couch near the swing.
“That was meant to be a joke, isn’t it? “Sarva whispered to Harshith.
“She doesn’t take things lightly. Even jokes. “Harshith shrugged.
“Can someone come to distribute the snacks?” They all heard a voice from Inside. Kriti volunteered and brought two large platters and one small one.
“Guys, here are some hot snacks.” Kirti came back with plates of pakoras and Chutney. “And, Sarva, here is your mobile. My mom handed it over to me now. Looks like you had left it in the room when you were talking to Thatha. You always have this habit of misplacing things and forgetting about it. “
“Sorry. “ Sarva extended his hand to get the mobile.
“Probably you mind things in bigger pictures and hence keep forgetting such small things.”Kirti smiled, as she handed over the plates to the cousins.
“And this is for you.” Kirit extended a small plate to Harini. “Here you go Healthy oats Chila for you.” She smiled.
As the cousin group settled with the snacks, Harshith sat beside Adithi.
“Are you seriously into him?” Harshit asked Adithi.
“What? Why did you ask that? ” Adithi smiled at Harshith.
“You told him he was hot.”
“Of course he is.” Adithi grinned.
“Come on Harshith. I love you. I am seriously considering about marrying you. That does not mean I should not flirt. I am not a robot like your sister. If I see someone so hot and so close, I do compliment. That does not mean I will ditch you for him. Come on babe.” She winked.
“Yay! You are my sweetheart.” Harshith grinned from ear to ear.
“Harini.” They all heard a shrill cry. Harini stood in panic. Harini’s mom came running to her. She was followed by a panicked woman with a small boy in her hands.
“Harini, this is our neighbour’s son. He is not able to talk or cry. He is suddenly muted. His mom came for a general talk to our house, while her son was playing. All of a sudden she saw him sweating heavily and hence we brought him here.”
“Just a second mom. Make him sit on this chair.” Harini signalled. She asked the neighbour lady and her mom to calm down. She kept her plate aside and came closer to the boy.
“How old is he? Where was he playing?” She asked.
“He is 3 years. He was playing in the Garden.” The panicking mom replied in between her short breaths.
Harini thought for a moment.
“I will be back.” Harini went running to take a pair of gloves from her bag.
“She has a hospital in her bag?” Kirti murmured.
“Stop pulling her leg.” Sarva shushed Kirti.
Harini took a torch and peered into the kid’s mouth.
She put her fingers in. The boy retched as Harini placed her fingers deep inside his throat. Harini gently rubbed his chest to assuage his pain.
Harini grabbed a pebble that was stuck in his throat.
Adithi made a face as Harini had the pebble in her hand, covered with the boy’s saliva.
“He should have playfully put this inside his mouth and it got stuck in the trachea, making his breathing difficult and hence he had had palpitation. He is fine now.” Harini smiled at her mom and at the neighbor.
Harini rubbed the back and chest of the boy to prevent him from vomiting. Once his breathing was normal and the sweat buds disappeared, she asked the neighbor to take her son home. Harini’s mom smiled and left.
She removed the gloves, washed her hands with the sanitizer and dug into her Oats Chila again.
“How could you do that?” Adhithi asked, her disgust, evident from her face.
“Like putting your hands inside his mouth, take out an object covered with his saliva and able to eat again with the same hands. I know you used gloves, but still disgusting.” Harshith joined the conversation.
“Know what? Dissection classes begin from the second year, during which we have to dissect into thoracic cavity, abdominal cavity, skull, etc. of dead humans. We have to take out the parts and understand the anatomy. Initially we would not be given gloves too. It is all bare hands. Few of my lab classes were just before the lunch break. I had to tear the roti and push it inside my stomach, with the same hand in which I had held the human stomach, just few minutes ago. “She spoke to the group, which was then listening to her keenly.
“We doctors…” She paused to look at Harshith. “… Do not have the word, ‘disgusting’ in our dictionary.” She completed her oats chila as she spoke. She casually took the soiled plate for washing, ignoring the group behind, that stood dumbstruck.
“You did great.” Uma spoke to her child.
“Thank you. That is what we do. ”Harini shrugged. “By the way, why didn’t you tell me that it was a love marriage? “Harini brought back the conversation. She was curious.
“How do you want me to answer? Even I was told a little late.” Uma let out a sigh.
“Why can’t you ask them? You have all right to know about it. You are educated. You were at a bank. You quit your job for this family, remember? ”Harini looked at her mom.
“It is not easy to question your grandpa. Thanuja first spoke to her parents. They did not accept initially. It required for your father to pitch in. So he was told about it. I came to know about all this only after two rounds of discussion. These are parts and parcels of a woman’s life, who lives in a joint family. Anything and everything, goes first to the elders and then comes to your dad and then to me. Bitter truth.”
“I cannot accept it. You have to exercise your right.”
“It is difficult. You will understand when you have a family.”
“I will never live this way.”
“At some point of time, you have to.”
“Ma, you have been living the same way for the past 30 years in this family. No questions, no head shake to gesture your rejection. Just acceptance and head nod. Now why do you impose the same on me?”
“Harini, do you even think how much this is going to hurt me?”
“If a logical question is going to hurt you, then I am sorry, you are very..,” Harini shook her head as she stopped.
“Why did you stop in between? You can call me a fool. It is very foolish, I know.” Uma’s voice broke.
“I did not mean to hurt you. I am sorry.” Harini replied.
They heard a knock in the door. Sarva had come for placing the soiled plates.
Uma smiled and walked out trying to hide the tears in her eyes. Harini looked upset.
The rest of the day went smoothly, with usual interactions. Harini looked pre occupied and disturbed.
It was around 9 PM.
The moon shone bright above her head as Harini stood, leaning against the compound wall in the terrace.
“I know what’s bothering you.” She heard a voice from behind.
She turned to find him, standing tall against the night sky and bright moonlight, hands inside the pockets of his khaki shorts.
Why am I paying close attention to him? She thought, as she sighed loudly.
“Listen, Mr.Sarva. The last thing that I want to do is…,” she was interrupted by his voice.
“I know. The last thing you want to do is to talk to me.”
“I am already so upset…,” she was interrupted again by him.
“I know what is running in your mind.” He smiled.
“Just stop this ‘I know’ stuff and stop bragging.” Harini closed her ears.
He stood there smiling.
“Why don’t you just go away and leave me alone?”
“I just can’t simply leave you, when you are so much disturbed and disappointed.”
For the first time ever, since they met, she slowly looked at him, without snubbing him.
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