The Vixen - Chapter 3
The Vixen - Chapter 314 mins 991 14 mins 991
The afternoon went busy for Nandini as she had to visit the site she was working on as a freelancing interior designer. But her creativity and insight seemed to be stuck as her mind kept going back to the event that had ruined their breakfast.
It was almost evening by the time she returned to her car. Before she could start the ignition, her phone rang. It was Gargi.
“Hello?” Nandini spoke into the phone.
“Hi. Are you busy?” Gargi asked.
“No, tell me. How are things at home? Is everything settled?” Nandini asked.
There was a pause.
“Not really. Mom hasn’t come out of her room since after breakfast, not even for lunch. Anupam and Tanya went out for breakfast and returned just now, probably had their lunch also outside, and they are also holed up inside their room. I don’t know Nandini, but from the moment that girl has come to this house, the entire atmosphere has…changed. I was so ecstatic that my brother was coming for my marriage, but it feels like Tanya has jinxed all the happiness and positivity that was brewing in this household.”
“Anupriti, who arrived just today morning, went to stay with Neeraj’s cousin, seeing the atmosphere in the house. She didn’t want Neeraj and Ruchi to witness the tamasha any more. I feel…sad. I feel guilty but I think it would have been better if Anupam had not come at all,” Gargi said, sounding extremely troubled.
Nandini could understand her predicament. Gargi was getting married soon, and she wanted the days leading up to her marriage to be happy memories with her parents and siblings. This was her time to laugh and relax with close family and friends. But Tanya was ruining everything. And it had been not even a day that she had arrived! But she had no idea what to do. She had been a witness to how exactly Tanya was screwing with the happiness of the Puri family. But Anupam seemed blind folded when it came to her, and unless they could open his eyes, nothing could be done!
“Did you speak to Anupam?” Nandini asked.
They couldn’t talk to Tanya, but they could at least make Anupam see reason, she thought.
“No. He doesn’t seem in the mood to talk either,” Gargi said, sounding dejected. “Anyway, we all are going shopping tomorrow morning, don’t forget,” she added.
This shopping plan was planned specially for Anupam’s sake, so they could buy a traditional attire for Anupam. Gargi was through with most of her shopping, though she still needed to buy a few outfits for occasions like the first pooja and other traditional occasions post-marriage. From the time it was planned, Nandini had been looking forward to it, to spending more time with Anupam albeit amongst a crowd of relatives. But now there were more than one reasons for her to not go. Yet, she had to, for Gargi’s sake. And that single reason was reason enough for her.
“Yes, yes, let’s hope Tanya is well behaved, for everyone’s sake,” she said and Gargi chuckled humourlessly.
That evening, as they had dinner, Nandini and her family discussed about what had happened that morning.
“I think we, outsiders, shouldn’t interfere in their family matters. Mandira, you and Nandini should stay out of it. Don’t go to their place till they feel comfortable inviting you, what with the arrival of that girl,” her dad said.
“No. This is the time Shalini actually needs me to be there, Mahesh. I can’t just abandon her when she is facing such stress. I am her friend and I must be there with her, unless she specifically asks me not to. Same is the case with Nandini. Gargi needs her, now more than ever,” her mom said.
Nandini agreed with her mom.
“Okay, but whatever you say, I don’t have a good feeling about that girl,” dad said.
Nandini couldn’t agree more.
Later that night, Nandini was about to retire to bed when her phone rang. It was Gargi.
Nandini looked at the wall clock. It was 10:30 pm. Why was Gargi calling so late?
“Hello, Nandini!” Gargi sounded anxious.
“What happened?” she asked, sitting up in her bed.
“There was another show down. And Anupam left the house in a huff. He hasn’t returned yet and I don’t know what to do,” she said, beginning to sob as she spoke.
“When did he leave? Is Tanya with him?” Nandini asked, getting out of her bed.
“No. Anupam left at around 6. And Tanya is in the bedroom. She has locked herself inside and won’t bother to respond to my knocks. Mom and dad have been in their room since, and they don’t know Anupam hasn’t come back yet. I don’t know what to do, where to look for him!” Gargi said, sobbing even more and struggling to maintain composure.
“Have you checked with any of his friends?” Nandini asked. She had put the phone on speaker and was now changing into a tee shirt and jeans.
“Yes, just the few he is in contact with, no one has heard from him,” Gargi sobbed.
“Okay. Listen Gargi, don’t get stressed out. I am going to find him and bring him back home, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Nandini”.
Nandini tiptoed out of the house. She didn’t want to alert her parents for obvious reasons. She could tell them later.
She hurried to her car. She knew exactly where to look for Anupam.
Half an hour later, Nandini climbed the rocks that lined Nariman point, to get closer to the one Anupam sat on.
This had been their favourite hangout place while in college, and the place they would come to get de-stressed.
Anupam sat looking at the dark black ocean faraway.
Nandini just went and sat next to him, without speaking a word. She had messaged Gargi that she had found him and that she should relax, that she would bring him back home. Now she would have to wait for Anupam to open up.
“How did you find me?” he finally asked, still not looking at her.
“You know how,” she said, smiling.
Anupam shook his head and smiled at her. Both stayed silent for some time, the only sound being the waves crashing on the rocks.
Anupam broke the silence.
“What carefree days they were, right? No stress at all! How we enjoyed life! Never thought life would be so…so….” He fell short of words to describe how his life had become.
“Complicated?” Nandini asked.
“Yes, that’s it. You know, it’s fascinating, how you still complete my thoughts,” he said, smiling.
Nandini blushed, and immediately hoped that Anupam hadn’t noticed it.
They sat like that for some more time, Anupam staring far away into the ocean, at the small yet bright light coming from a ship, while Nandini stared at the dark, angry waves that crashed along the rocks and broke into a million white pearls.
“What happened Anupam?” she finally asked him.
Anupam shook his head again.
“I just don’t know Nandu, what my parent’s problem is. Why are they being so adamant and rude and stubborn? I brought Tanya here to be with my family, to introduce her to everyone, and she is my responsibility. We cannot keep insulting and humiliating her at every step. Is that too much to ask for?”
Nandini didn’t speak anything for some time. She knew he was angry, and anything she said against Tanya could potentially ignite him even more.
They both continued looking at the ocean, and enjoying each other’s silence.
“Do you remember the twins?” Nandini asked after some time.
“Nayan and Nayantara? The epic ones,” Anupam said as he recalled their class mates. “They used to fight like cats and dogs, and I mean literally!” he laughed at the memory. Nandini laughed too. She too remembered that, very vividly.
“Yes, they were chalk and cheese, opposite poles! They used to fight all the time, never got along with each other for even a moment. Except…”.
“Except when they relished chicken,” Anupam laughed. “I can still visualise the way Nayan used to chew off every single bite of chicken biryani.”
“Yes. But their family was a strict vegetarian, did you know that?”
“Yes, of course. After any party, both would together decide the fake vegetarian menu they would tell their parents they supposedly had at the party. Full preparation, even if they got questioned separately,” Anupam said. “Sometimes, Nayan would make us smuggle chicken lollipops to his terrace. Me, Ritesh, Mohan and Nayan. Then he would go downstairs and stand guard while Nayantara would sneak to the terrace and have her share. We almost got caught once,” Anupam laughed even more at the memory.
Nandini smiled. It was really amazing how small things like these stayed forever in memory, and made one nostalgic even to think about them. Even she could visualise the way Nayantara would pounce on chicken kebabs and relish them.
“What would have happened if their parents had somehow come to know about this?” she asked.
“Oh my God! I can’t even imagine! They were very strict about being vegetarians. All hell would have broken loose,” Anupam replied.
“But I sometimes feel, they should have just told their parents that they like non-veg food, they do not consider eating it a sin, that it is a rich source of proteins and vitamins, and that it’s their personal choice. That way, they could be free to eat whatever they wanted, and whenever! Isn’t it?” Nandini asked.
“Are you out of your mind? Why would they do that? Other than the fact that they would probably have kicked them out of the house, why to hurt someone over their sentiments and beliefs? Even now, you know, when they are all grown up and there is no chance of them getting kicked out, Nayan and his family have to eat non veg secretly, without letting their parents know”.
“If they won’t get kicked out now, they should just tell it to their parents, right? Why suffer because of their orthodox and conservative beliefs?”
“Of course not. Why would they hurt their own parents by doing that?”
Nandini paused for a moment to let what he said hang in the air.
“So you agree, right?” she then asked, looking at Anupam, staring him in the eyes.
It suddenly dawned upon Anupam what Nandini was trying to do. She saw, as the confusion in his eyes, as to why she had broached this topic out of the blue and was speaking about it in this unexpected way, cleared.
“Anupam, they are your parents. And they love you. But there’s a generation gap between us, and they are rigid about certain things, values, they have been brought up to hold onto. You can’t change them overnight. I don’t mean to say what they are saying is right and you and Tanya are wrong. It is not at all about that. It is about caring for their wishes, respecting the values which they hold important.”
Anupam stared back ahead as Nandini spoke further.
“Anupam, Gargi is getting married. I know how close you both are. This is the last time she is going to be spending with her near and dear ones as a Puri, before she becomes a Ahuja. We all have to work towards making her happy, and making this phase of her life truly memorable. It is not about you or me or Tanya or your mom. It's about Gargi. And it has to stay about her. This time won’t come again, ever. And we don’t want to spoil her memories for life!”
Anupam didn’t say a word. He continued staring at the last of that ship.
“Imagine Anupam, if tomorrow, you visit Tanya’s place. You go in a Tee shirt, but Tanya’s father says it’s customary you wear a kurta at their place. Would you oblige, or would you fight and create tension between Tanya and her parents? By obliging, are you sacrificing any of your beliefs, or are you just respecting their wishes?”
Nandini stopped her monologue. Whatever she had bottled up inside her, she had laid it out. Anupam had listened patiently, and she just hoped she had gotten her point across.
They sat stealthily for another ten minutes. In utter silence.
Finally, Anupam turned to look at her.
“Nandu, this is what I like the best about you. Your clarity of thoughts. Thanks,” he said.
Then unexpectedly, he hugged her.
Nandini knew it was a completely platonic hug, and it meant that Anupam accepted what she had said. Yet, she couldn’t stop the butterflies in her stomach from getting to life and creating a havoc.
She hugged him back.
A different kind of peace settled between them as they again sat staring far away at the sea. Like the tension Nandini was feeling moments ago, about hurting or offending Anupam in some way even as she made her point, ebbed away.
“So, tell me Nandu. How has life been? What’s going on with you? We used to be such close friends, and look! Now I don’t even know if you have a boyfriend!” Anupam laughed, a teasing look on his face.
Nandini smiled. Once he was away from Tanya and her mess, Anupam did think about her after all!
“Life is good. Busy you can say,” she replied.
“You are free-lancing now, right? Mom told me. How’s the experience?” he asked.
“It’s good. This is a profession that I enjoy doing. So I love my job, and I do it from my heart. Still learning the tricks of the trade though. Not all lessons are taught in college,” Nandini said.
“Hey do you remember, we had a lesson about a Greek opera singer? The one who used to pour her heart and soul into her singing? I used to get bored by the lesson but you were inspired by a particular Greek word she used to describe it. What was that?” Anupam asked.
“Meraki – that’s the word. She sang with Meraki. When you leave a piece of yourself, your soul, creativity, and love in what you do, to put a little bit of yourself into something, that is Meraki,” Nandini replied.
That was something that had truly inspired her, and helped her shape her future right from the moment she read about it.
“That is what I think about you. You work with Meraki, putting a piece of your heart and soul into it, right?” Anupam said, eyeing her with admiration.
Nandini smiled. She felt so nice in his company, that she wished they could stay frozen in this moment.
“You still haven’t answered the other question,” Anupam asked. “Do you have a boyfriend?”
Nandini could feel her cheeks burn as the butterflies were live again.
“You never told us about your girlfriend,” Nandini said. She wanted to enjoy keeping him in suspense. The more she stayed a mystery, the more he would think about her. Men logic!
“So is that a yes?” he asked, looking at her expectantly.
“I am not telling you. you find out,” she said, laughing.
Anupam laughed too.
“Whoever is going to marry you, will have to take a class from me, on how to deal with you, you know,” he said. “I have a huge experience in dealing with the different moods and seasons of Nandini,” he said, making inverted commas in the air, and Nandini laughed hard.
An hour later, Anupam saw her off at her house. He insisted on accompanying her, albeit in separate cars, as it was a late hour.
“See you tomorrow morning,” he said, as they bade each other good night. Nandini hoped that things would improve here onwards, at least for Gargi’s sake.
The next morning, Nandini reached the Puri house with her mom, with something akin to trepidation in her heart. Shalini aunty welcomed both of them with open arms, but Nandini could feel the shift in atmosphere in this otherwise cheerful house. Everyone – Shalini aunty, Anupriti, Nandini and her mom, and Gargi sat in an awkward silence as they waited for Anupam and Tanya. It seemed like they were just waiting to find out what next bombshell Tanya was going to drop.
To everyone’s utter surprise, Tanya emerged from the stair case, dressed in a lemon yellow salwar suit, the mustard yellow dupatta properly pinned and draped over her left shoulder. She wore silver earrings, a matching necklace, and a yellow bindi. And as much as she hated to admit it, Nandini couldn’t stop noticing how absolutely gorgeous she looked.
Anupam was smiling as he followed Tanya down the steps, and even as all the ladies of the house continued gawking at Tanya, as Nandini looked at Anupam, he winked at her.
Nandini smiled. So Anupam had taken her advice to heart!