Azure here….back with the next part. Sorry about the late updates. I am not sure of these two stories are liked enough for me to publish here. Do let me know.
Ruhi Sethi – Ragini
Sahil Tandon – Sanskar
Tarun Kakkar – Laksh
As I walked down the stairs that night, for dinner, I heard someone call out to me.
“Ruhi partner, myself Raj. Naam toh suna hi hoga” (Ruhi partner, I am Raj, you must have heard the name)
I turned towards the direction on the voice and saw Raj uncle standing there, Shah Rukh Khan (SRK) pose with his arms open and all!
I couldn’t help but break into a smile, as I looked at him. I ran down the stairs and hugged him tight. He chuckled, patting my back.
“Oye! Don’t forget I am also Suri” Papa yelled from behind him.
That is right! Papa’s name is Surinder but as happens in Sikh/Pujabi families, he had become Suri to all. Both friends were big fans of SRK movie ‘Rab Ne Banadi Jodi’, especially because their names were the same as those of SRK in the film.
Oh and the yelling, that was our usual form of communication! If anyone was too quiet, the assumption was that they were sick or there was something seriously wrong with them.
“Oye chad! Asi original tusi duplicate” (Leave it, I am original. You are duplicate) Raj uncle shot at Papa before busting into laughter over his own joke.
I shook my head at them. They were amazing friends and this kind of banter was common between them. It was the life of their relationship.
“Met your hero?” Raj uncle asked me softly after a while.
I just stared at Raj uncle, a heaviness settling in at his mention. I didn’t know what to tell him. I hadn’t met him and I wasn’t sure that was part of my plan during this wedding trip. My wedding trip.
“Her hero is here!” Tarun said enthusiastically, jumping down a few stairs. I rolled my eyes. So filmy! And so like Tarun! I did say he would fit right in with my family.
Raj uncle smiled at Tarun and patted his back “How are you, son? All okay? Your first time in India, right?”
“Oh it’s amazing! Fabulous! Out of this world!” Tarun said excitedly. He was literally bouncing with joy. Our family circus was his dream come true! What can I say? I chose someone who would fit into the family better than me!
“Have you seen the city yet?” Raj uncle asked him
“We are taking him out to see it” my cousin Baldev cut in quickly. Baldev was the youngest son of my bua. My father’s sister. They were based in Kulu. But as happened in Indian marriages, they were here for my wedding and wedding preparations.
I looked pointedly at Baldev, Bunty to all of us. I wondered what he was up to. I hadn’t seen him in 10 years. But from what I remembered of him, he was never one to do something for others, unless there was something in it for him. Some ulterior motive.
“Don’t worry. We will be there as well” someone said, from behind me. I turned to find Sanjana standing behind me. She was Bally’s elder sister; five years younger to me.
Studious Sanjana, that is how she was known in our family when any of the elders wanted to give us an example of someone to be followed. Sanju, was what we called her otherwise.
Sanju pushed her specs up her nose as she observed me. She was a zoologist. And right at that moment, I felt like one of her animal exhibit. All ready to dissect!
“What?” I asked her finally, worried by the scrutiny she was putting me under. Did I have something on my face? I wouldn’t put it past my cousins to do something like that while I slept.
Sanju just shook her head and walked away, leaving me feeling more apprehensive about what they had done.
I rushed to Bejee. I could trust her to tell me the truth. “Bejee, do I have something on my face?” I asked her seriously
“You are beautiful, Molu” she said with a smile.
Yes! That is me! Molu! I did say everyone in my family had nicknames. Mine was Molu. I hadn’t heard it in 10 years. It felt odd to hear it now. I loved hearing it at that time, but there was a different reason for it. Now it just felt plain awkward.
I hoped Tarun would never hear about it. I would never hear the end of it then. Roo was much better. More sensible and, well, sort of less childish, I guess.
“Molu!” Tarun exclaimed
Oh dear god! He had heard it. I sunk my head in my hands.
“Molu” he said again amused.
“Tarun!” I warned him lifting my head.
His family wasn’t one for nicknames. Tarun didn’t have one as a result. I did call him idiot and crazy monkey once is while, but that was just me!
“Molu!” he uttered, this time with a questioning tone as he broke into a smile. He wanted the story behind it, I knew. But I was in no mood to reveal it.
“Yes! Molu! Give it a rest already!” I told him annoyed, as I walked towards the dining table.
He came and stood near me, bumping his shoulder with mine. I looked at him sternly. He gave me a teasing smile “So” he drawled “Is there a Golu as well?” he asked lifting his eyebrows
A slight sadness came over me. I covered it quickly, throwing him an angry look
“Or is that supposed to be me?” he asked still continuing lifting his eyebrows
I rolled my eyes “I am going to help Mom in setting the food on the table. Behave!” I told him firmly as I walked away.
I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that there was a Golu already there. That I was named Molu because we were always together. That I hadn’t seen him in 10 years.
My mom had cooked up a feast for dinner. Practically everything I loved was there. I couldn’t believe she had done all of this, just for me. I told her so.
“I didn’t do it alone. I had help. Your Shalini Maa helped” she told me with a bright smile
“Shalini Maa” I questioned, looking at her
“You are back after such a long time. We didn’t know when we would see you again” Shalini Maa said with a bright smile “How could we not prepare your favorites?” she asked
I hugged them both tightly “You are the best, do you know that” I told them. They really were.
Tarun was thoroughly enjoying being pampered, during the dinner. Bua and my youngest Chachi (father’s brother’s wife) were literally feeding him. He was sitting sandwiched between them and smiling brightly like he had won some award.
At one point he even blushed when Chachi pulled his cheeks and called him ‘hunk’. I literally spewed the water that I was drinking. Wow! My Chachi from Chandigarh, who considered herself the style queen, calling someone a hunk. That was new!
Her kids were just like her. Behaving more like models and style icons, than family, I thought sorely. I could never forget them. At least one of them.
I took a deep breath and looked away. No point in digging up the past. That seemed to have become my mantra since I got back home. I repeated it again, in my head.
“Are you okay?” Sanju asked. She was sitting next to me.
I nodded once. She looked at me for a minute and then shrugged her shoulder, going back to her food.
I looked around. We were a noisy bunch and tonight was no different. It was sort of chaotic, people screaming for food dishes, bowls being passed around, people making conversations from across the table. Basically, our normal everyday dinner. I hadn’t been to one in 10 years, but nothing had changed since the last one.
That is baring one thing. Or rather one person.
Since I was born and could understand the concept of food and dinner, he had always been part of every meal that this family had together. Be it in this house or his.
Today felt like an exception. While everything was just as it should have been. Everyone was happy and having fun. Tarun was ecstatic, in fact!
But the family dinner, any family dinner, felt incomplete without his presence somehow.
The only problem was that I wasn’t sure I wanted him here.
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