It's Not Right...but It's Okay(3)

By: Anuj Tiwari


She pretends to work but intently listens to everything he has to say, all the while choosing not to reply.

‘At what time do you have to leave for Kolkata tomorrow, Arjun?’ she asks as she walks out of the kitchen. Before he can even reply, she says, ‘Dinner is ready. Call everyone, Arjun.’

‘Mom, what happened?’ he asks, conscious of the change in her behaviour. ‘Are you making this face because I leave tomorrow or because I am debating with you?’ he asks again, following her from the hall to the kitchen.

‘What if I say both?’ she says.

This happens every time. Whenever Arjun is about to return, his mom becomes emotional.

‘Mom, it’s been eight years that I have been away from home, and you still become emotional every time I leave.’ Arjun tries to console her.

She ignores him but Arjun is sure that she is going to cry as the time of his departure comes closer.

‘Don’t worry, I won’t run away,’ he says, trying to pacify her as he knows it’s bothering her but she cannot bring herself to talk about it.

‘But be careful about our status in society. You live there and you must be meeting many girls, but be careful because I won’t support you at every step.’ She puts a chapati on his plate while waiting for others to join them.

‘What if I fall in love with someone? And what if that someone falls for me?’

Arjun holds her shoulders while she keeps the plates on the table for others. ‘Mom, listen, please. I promise, I won’t hurt you by making commitments to anyone without your permission. Can you please smile now? Please?’

‘Okay, now sit and have dinner,’ she says, turning her back to him.

Arjun knows she has smiled secretly.

‘Okay, let’s make a deal—my choice, your permission.’ Arjun says, as everyone starts gathering at the dining table.

His dad sits on his right and his elder sister Nee sits to the left. Her name is Neeraj, but he calls her Nee because it’s the nickname he gave her since he learned to talk. These days, his Nanu is also at home.

‘Kusum, why don’t you join us as well?’ his Nanu asks his mom.

He has just crossed over into his sixties but the older he gets, the more liberal he becomes. This is what Arjun has come to understand. This singular and surprising aspect of his ageing has brought them closer in the last few years.

‘You can start. I will join in some time,’ his mom replies from kitchen.

That has been her nature for as long as Arjun can remember. To have her meal right at the end after serving everyone. She comes to the hall and pours daal in his bowl, and refills all their glasses with water.

His Nanu had heard the conversation between Arjun and his mom. With his experiences his Nanu weighs in on love and arranged marriages. He feels lucky to have a grandparent who gets better with age, just like fine wine, and who discusses Arjun’s life openly without any reservations.

‘You should register yourself on matrimonial portals. There are so many options and you can meet someone well suited,’ his Nanu says.

‘Not a bad option?’

‘Yes, try that. You must.’

‘Nanu, are you sure you want me to register on a matrimonial portal?’ Arjun asks with a smile. He continues, ‘There is no need for that. Someone will surely come my way someday. As of now, I need to pack my bag. I have to leave for Kolkata. If I stay here for a few more weeks I’ll surely be married to someone by the end of it.’

‘By the way, Bong girls are beautiful though they are clever as well,’ his Nanu says with a hearty laugh.

‘Nanu,’ Arjun says, embarrassed.

‘Yeah, I know. I have spent nine years of my life there,’ his Nanu says, smiling.

‘You must concentrate on your work. There is no hurry, okay? And don’t listen to him,’ his mom says, her anxiety showing on her face. She continues, ‘Well, Anushka is also going to Kolkata with you, right?’

‘Yes.’

‘And where will she stay?’

‘Don’t worry, Mom, she’s not staying with me. She has relatives in Kolkata,’ he teases her.

‘Pack your bag and dress appropriately wherever you go.’

‘Yes, Ma, I will.’