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After having had some water and sitting in total silence for some time, Kanak started to realize what had just taken place. She had shared her most painful emotions with the person who had probably caused her the second most painful experience in her life. She recalled the moments right after her wedding and the sense of disbelief and suffocation at entering that household. Each horrifying memory associated with her stay with Uma’s family went past her mind. She felt her blood surge in her veins and rush to her head. She then recalled escaping and discussing the shop documents with Arvind who had told her that they were valid and it would be next to impossible to contest them in court. Her meeting with Ved and rest of the family except Vansh, and how they had reacted to the signs of her being married slowly took place of her anger against Uma and she felt her heart break at the memory of their reaction. Completely unaware of Uma stealing glances at her completely quiet form, Kanak now reminisced her return to Uma’s house and the beginning of her pretense. Each of her lie, each deception, all of it gradually drenched her in guilt and silent tears flowed out of her eyes that she did not attempt to wipe for the fear of being noticed. Sounds and sights of Pushkar now went past her window and she realized they were close to their destination. Before long, the car came to a halt.
“We are at the registry office Kanak.” Uma said softly handing her his kerchief.
Taken aback, Kanak looked at him with her blood shot eyes, her tear-stained face revealing her activity of the past hour. ” How did he know. I did not so much as shake or hiccup.” she thought bewildered. She took the kerchief from him, poured some water on it, and wiped her face clean. Its cooling effect on her eyes brought down the redness in them and also mad her feel better.
” I need to say something to you, before we go inside.” she said in a voice raspy from continuous crying.
Uma nodded patiently.
” What you did to me was unforgivable. A man who thinks he can do that to a woman, for whatever reason, cannot have any real respect for them. But…what I did was unforgivable too. Bonding with innocent people and gaining their love and trust, knowing fully well that I was going to leave them never to look back. Saras, Shiv, Maasa, and later Maasisa…deceiving their affection and trust… unpardonable. Well, I told Maasa everything from the beginning but it doesn’t count as I did it knowing she couldn’t tell anyone. So”
“You told Maasa everything?” Uma asked surprised.
“Everything. From the beginning. My reasons, my guilt, my complaint, my love, my hatred, my anger, my happiness…she became a trusted confidant for me. When she is well again, I don’t know what she will have to say about me but I know she will understand me. But anyway, what I wanted to…”
“When she gets well again?” Uma said wiping his own eyes quietly and turned to look at Kanak. The look in his eyes, made her heart stop and skip a beat. She had never seen anyone look at her like that and whatever that look was, it made her gut stir. ” You say that so confidently Kanak.” Uma said in a composed voice now.
” Confident about what? That she will get well? It’s not just me. I am sure everyone sees it but they don’t say anything. I have seen some improvement in her manner every single time I sat with her. You won’t believe it, but I think my non-stop and nonsense talk can motivate people to want to get up and run. So it does have benefits.”
Uma looked at her in disbelief for a second and burst out laughing. He looked so different when he laughed like that that Kanak couldn’t help joining in. They laughed together for a few seconds.
” Anyway, coming back to what I was saying” Kanak said becoming serious again.” No doubt you will pay for what you did with me. You already have paid a little by having to put up with someone like me. But I also did something wrong. So, think again, do you really want to give this shop to me? ”
Uma gazed at her for a while. “Yes.” He said letting out a deep breath. ” Believe it or not, you will also pay for your deception. You already have a little by putting up with traditions that bit into your soul. But wait until later and you will see what I mean. As of now, knowing what this shop means to an old lady and how it was taken from her, I cannot keep it. It has nothing to do with you. Now let’s go or the office will close.”
Kanak swallowed back the tears that threatened to wet her cheeks again, got down from the car, and together with Uma, she walked into the registry office.
The entire process took about half an hour. When they walked out of the office, Gabbasa was waiting for them. Uma went to talk to him, explained something, and then came back. “Let’s go.” he said.
” Where?” Kanak said clutching her bag that contained the precious documents. “Remember, I am going back to my home. It’s good bye now. Thank you for this. Sorry for my wrong. But as you said, I have paid a little and will pay more later.”
Uma fixed his glance on her. “Come with me Kanak. You are not just strolling into your grandmother’s house. I am coming to drop you off.”
Kanak looked back at him stunned.
” Get in the car and I’ll explain.” Uma said as he held her hand and pulled her with him.
Partially because she was conscious of her surroundings and partially because she was afraid of what he might do if she refused, Kanak followed him and got into his car. Uma started to drive and looked straight ahead. “What were you planning to tell your family? How would you explain getting these papers? What were you going to tell them about your coming back to them, since they think you left them to marry someone you loved?”
” I don’t know. I didn’t think about that. Bhabho probably still doesn’t know that the shop was sold, only Babasa and we three siblings knew. I would just tell them I got the shop back and plead with them not to ask questions. And about my marriage, I don’t know, I would say anything…like, maybe that I made a mistake and that my husband left me or something like that…” she said hastily saying the first thoughts that occurred to her.
Uma turned to look at her angrily. “How can you be so foolish! You were planning to say that? And how would you be treated after that? First you betrayed them for love and then your love left you so now you are back to them? How would they feel and how would that make you look?”
” Doesn’t matter, as long as my Bhabho gets her soul, her shop back. I would beg for forgiveness and Vansh bhaiya would support me no matter what. Ved bhaiya would also forgive me later.”
Uma shook his head in disbelief as he drove on. ” Unbelievable!” he said under his breath.
Another half an hour later, Uma stopped the car in front of Kanak’s house.
“Think again Uma, you really don’t need to come with me. If you are with me how will I justify not going back with you? And I won’t go back with you. ” Kanak said starting to panic now.
Uma simply got out of the car and came around to open her door.
” Is this your way to trap me again, go in and pretend to be nice to me so I’ll feel pressured to go back with you. That’s what you meant when you said I’ll pay more for my deception? You’ll take me back to torture me? I won’t go!” A fresh onslaught of angry tears was beginning to threaten Kanak and she fought hard to swallow them back.
“Kanak” Una said in at incredibly low volume, ” Get down and come inside with me. We are in front of your grandmother’s house and if you push me, I will not hesitate to create a scene. But I don’t want to do that. You will not walk into that house alone and you will not say that the man you loved abandoned you so you are back. And if you can, look into my eyes once.”
Compelled by his tone Kanak did as asked. She got out of her seat and stood in front of him to look into his eyes.
” I will not force you. Never again.” He said very softly.
Kanak felt her agitation quiet down to a dull trepidation. Her shoulders drooped, and her head dropped. She let him hold her hand. Uma closed the car door. Her hand felt ice-cold and clammy in his hand. Her face looked pale and completely devoid of its usual pink tinge. A mild tremor from her hand shook his. Uma realized just how scared she was and he felt his heart lurch painfully. He left her hand for a moment and put his left hand around her shoulder. ” Just for once, believe me Kanak. It will be ok.” he said softly. Then he held her right hand again, and walked with her into the Rathi house entrance which was wide open.
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