Continuing from where I left off 🙂
“Mili?…” Jai ventured at the dinner table, not having had the opportunity to converse with his daughter all day. For after the guests had left, she had locked herself up in her room until her mother had finally coaxed her out for a bite. But she hadn’t tasted her meal…, just pushed the food around her plate for the past half hour.
She stood up, “I think I’ll turn in. It’s been a long day. Good night.”
“But beta (child) we have to talk…” Jai’s voice trailed off when he saw Mili disappear down the corridor without even a glance back. He looked askance at his wife, who was watching the proceedings with a discerning smile on her face.
“Kiran…we really do need to talk to her…”
“Our daughter is confused. Consider it a good sign.” She said, placing a reassuring hand on her husband’s.
Mili turned the TV off and tossed the remote away frustrated. Watching documentaries usually helped her fall asleep but not tonight. Her mind refused to distract itself from the topic of Ahaan. He had made it all so difficult.
She was indeed quite confused. It was not black and white anymore. She couldn’t just pick up the phone and say no to him.
Why? Because she didn’t want to hurt him? Because she cared about how he felt? Did it mean that her feelings for him had undergone a drastic change or was it because they had been silly and unrealistic to begin with… A product of an immature adolescent mind. He had never really done anything to incur such animosity from her. His behavior had always been exemplary.
Perhaps mother is right. I victimized him because he was different and his silence made him easy prey. I acted like a cruel child, and he took it all quietly. Even now he bears no malice towards me whatsoever.
Mili was overtaken by tremendous guilt. I should apologize and tell Ahaan that I am not worthy of him.
Swinging her legs off the bed, she walked up to where her sitar rested. She picked it up and began playing absently. Her fingers flew up and down the instrument effortlessly, playing a favorite tune of their own accord.
‘I dabble in a little guitar myself…’
Mili smiled… ‘Dabble’ in Mr TOI’s vocabulary would equal a significant degree of proficiency. She could picture Ahaan strumming expertly on his guitar. Perhaps we could even do a Jugalbandi together, a musical east-west fusion.
No! What am I thinking? That could never be… A frown of distress marred her clear brow.
Placing her beloved instrument aside, she picked up the phone and dialed her elder sister’s number, but then changed her mind immediately.
No.. Sheela di (elder sister) will tell me to be obedient and submit to whatever mama and papaji decide because they know best, Mili mused, recalling the events of four years ago when her sister had complied with Grandpa’s wishes and wedded his best friend’s young nephew, just because he had given him his word. She had quit her studies and had not uttered even a single word of complaint just because the family honor was at stake. It was a different matter altogether that Rohan Jiju (brother in law) had turned out to be the perfect match for her.
She opted to call her best friend Annie instead.
“Mili! What are you doing calling me at this ungodly hour!”
It was 4:30 in the morning.
“I’m sorry Annie but it’s important! It’s a matter of life and death!”
Mili flinched as she heard her friend burst into a loud cackle. “Mili, for heaven’s sake stop being melodramatic! Just jump in with your eyes closed!”
“What do you mean, Annie?”
“Say yes to Ahaan.” Her friend replied.
“Of course! This happens to be a very small town my friend!”
“But… how?” Mili asked, puzzled. Annie had been one of her biggest collaborators, when it came to putting Ahaan in his place.
Her friend sounded chagrined. “Mili, I have never told you this, but all of us; me, Jess, Sonia, Priya, had a crush of sorts on Ahaan. In fact we had even formed a secret Ahaan fan club.”
Mili’s eyes widened, “And I was kept from it all?”
“How could we tell you? Seeing the way you behaved with him all the time! And you bulldozed us into playing along. The poor guy!… Must say you are very lucky Mili, that he wishes to marry you despite it all. The only reasonable explanation is that he has developed a soft corner for you or perhaps has even fallen head over heels in love with you. Just say yes Mili… don’t even think anymore about it.”
The remaining hours of the morning were spent in deep reflection. Mili was unable to absorb the fact that she had been among the very few in school, who had considered Ahaan to be a dork and a geek. Her actions had been wantonly from the very start, which made her crime even more grave. I must repent, she thought.
“Have you made a decision, Mili?” He asked anxiously, when he received her call late that afternoon.
“I want to meet you.”
“Sure. When can I pick you up?”
“No. I will meet you at the Taj cafe in half an hour.”
So she’s trying to break it to me gently, he thought.
“Will you be there, Ahaan?”
“Yes, Mili. I’ll be there.”
Note: Jugalbandi [Joo-gul-bon-dee] जुगलबंधी <- Hindi is an Indian classical musical performance featuring two solo musicians.