The Vixen - Chapter 5
The Vixen - Chapter 59 mins 1.0K 9 mins 1.0K
“So mom, Tanya didn’t mean to insult you, she just wanted to be helpful. And Tanya, even though your intention was good, the way it got portrayed was wrong. So in future, be careful, especially in public places,” Anupriti spoke, as everyone listened in rapt attention, eyes glued to the floor in the study room of the Puri house where they all had gathered. As the drama had unfolded since morning, no one had had lunch, and it was Anupriti who had decided to sort all of this out face to face. Nandini had stuck around with Gargi even though Mandira had left long back, and she too sat with the family.
“We all are together for Gargi’s wedding. We all have been really looking forward to this occasion, our get-together, and this happy celebration. Let us not spoil it because of small, meaningless hassles. So, we are letting this topic go. Mom, and Tanya, I want you both to see eye to eye henceforth, and be on the same page. We have much less time and so many things to do! We can’t waste away every day bickering amongst ourselves!” she said further.
There was almost a pin drop of silence in the room as Anupriti’s words reverberated around, echoing in each and everyone’s mind.
Then Anupam spoke.
“I agree didi, even I am sorry I let my anger get the better of me. Sorry mom, and sorry Gargi. Let’s decide not to let such trivial matters upset us. For Gargi’s sake. And Anu didi, please come to stay here with jiju and Ruchi. I know you went away after our showdown yesterday. But at this time, we need to be together as a family. I promise you, I will take care that there will be no such arguments again,” he said and went up to hug Anupriti.
Puri uncle, aunty, and Gargi, all teary-eyed, got up and joined the two, giving themselves a poignant group hug. Nandini smiled even though her eyes too had watered, and as she cast a glance at Tanya, expecting her to be undergoing similar emotions, she was taken aback to see her face stone hard and completely expressionless.
“So now on, only laughter in this house,” Anupriti declared, as they let each other go.
“Tanya, feel comfortable and at home here. We are like your parents. You can tell us whatever you need, okay?” Puri uncle said to Tanya, and Shalini aunty too nodded in her direction.
Nandini was surprised to see Tanya’s face lighting up in a wide smile, completely different from the indifferent and emotionless face from moments ago, and acknowledging their gesture. Somehow, Nandini felt sure this was nothing but a mask she was wearing to deceive the Puri family. She hoped she was wrong.
“Tonight, we are all meeting Rishabh’s family. The Ahuja’s have arranged a small, close-knit party, with us, Nandini’s family, and one more family. So, let’s have lunch and rest for a while before we head over to the party,” Shalini aunty announced, coming back into her role of the domineering matriarch she always was. “And Nandini, there’s a small surprise for you,” she said, smiling, and left, chatting to Anupriti on their way to the dining room.
“What surprise?” Anupam asked Gargi even before Nandini had the chance to ask.
“I have no idea,” Gargi replied, “Mom and her concepts of surprise scare me”.
They all laughed.
Nandini reached the Lagoona restaurant at sharp 7 in the evening with her parents and Nimish, her brother. The lawn of the restaurant had been cordoned off for the private party arranged by the Ahuja’s.
Rishabh’s parents, along with Shalini aunty, welcomed them and escorted them inside.
The lawn was lined by lush green trees that were illuminated by bright neon lights. Multi-colored fairy lights ran along with the exotic-looking bushes and shrubs that grew in exquisite pots adorning every corner of the lawn. A long buffet table covered in sparklingly clean white, satin cloth occupied an entire side of the lawn. Nandini could see a lavish spread across the table, starting from soup and starters, right till the dessert, which was a tray bursting with assorted pastries. There was a separate bar area that served drinks. For such a small party, the buffet spread looked quite exquisite and lavish, Nandini wondered.
Uniformed waiters moved along amongst the guests, offering mocktails, cocktails, and veg and nonveg starters. Nandini picked up one corn cheese ball on a toothpick and began scanning the garden for Gargi. She spotted Anupam standing in one corner, away from everyone else, flanked by Tanya, who seemed to be chattering as she drank some brown liquid from a glass. Tanya seemed decently dressed and Nandini almost heaved a sigh of relief that at least today’s party would be uneventful, fingers crossed.
She spotted Gargi at a table, talking to Rishabh and his younger brother Rishi when she heard someone calling her name from behind her. Startled, she turned around, to find a handsome man, dressed in an impeccable navy-blue suit, smiling at her.
“Recognize me?” he asked, still smiling.
Nandini felt her cheeks burn red as she couldn’t place him.
“I-I am sorry, I don’t…”.
“Not a big deal. No one recognizes me anymore,” he smiled, waving a hand casually. Nandini kept watching him with interest mixed with confusion.
“Remember Mohit - the moron?” he asked her, and it was suddenly a eureka moment for Nandini.
She suddenly remembered the plump boy from school, who was bullied by everyone. No one included him in their games and he was constantly targeted by the older boys. He had left school after sixth grade. Or was it seventh?
“Oh my God! Mohit Agarwal! Is that really you? Where did you disappear? It’s been…ten years? Fifteen? And…you seem to have literally transformed!” she exclaimed.
Mohit laughed an easy laugh. “I know,” he said, “I have heard that so many times since returning from the UK. We actually shifted to the UK after my sixth grade, and I have never been back here since then, except once, for meeting my grandmother who was terminally ill, that too almost six years back.”
“Oh, I always wondered where you had disappeared,” Nandini said.
“It was actually difficult for Mohit the plump moron to disappear so easily, right?” Mohit asked, and both laughed again.
“Oh, so you both already know each other! Great!” Shalini aunty gushed, startling them both.
Suddenly it dawned upon Nandini what exactly was going on. So this was Shalini aunty’s surprise? Her and Mohit’s matchmaking?
“Yes, aunty. We went to school together,” Mohit replied.
“So, do you remember me as well? Or just pretty girls?” Anupam asked. Nandini never noticed when he had come close enough to partake in their conversation. Shalini aunty hurried over to a woman standing some feet away.
Anupam had spoken in a very friendly tone, but Nandini wondered if there was a tinge of sarcasm to it.
“Anupam, how are you, bro? And congrats!” Mohit shook hands with Anupam, and even though Anupam smiled as he returned the handshake, Nandini could sense his body stiffen. Was she imagining it?
“Come on everyone. The dinner is ready,” Shalini aunty announced, as she approached Nandini, Mohit, and Anupam with the woman in toe.
“Neetu, meet Nandini, Mandira’s daughter. Nandini, this is Mohit’s mother. The queen of the Agarwal empire,” and they both laughed, even as Nandini smiled awkwardly, and then proceeded to touch the feet of Neetu aunty.
Shalini aunty seemed extremely determined to make this match final then and there.
“So Nandini, tell aunty what all you do,” she began. Nandini felt odd, and she realized Mohit also had started looking for an escape. Anupam stood there, stiff, and unrelenting to Tanya’s glares, who watched the exchange from a distance, never leaving her glass.
“Mom, the caterer wants a word with you,” Gargi came calling.
“Excuse me, you all continue,” Shalini aunty said and left hurriedly.
Gargi winked at Nandini from the distance. Nandini was thankful for the rescue.
Even Neetu aunty was not in a hurry to interview Nandini.
“I think it's better you two talk to each other. Nice to meet you Nandini. I have heard a lot about you,” she said, smiling, and left to join the other group of chattering elders.
“Thank God,” Mohit said, as relieved as Nandini.
“I know! These moms and their obsession with marriages of their kids,” Nandini laughed.
To Nandini’s surprise, Anupam stayed put, as if determined not to give them any privacy.
To reduce the tension in the atmosphere, which was mainly created by the cold stare Anupam was fixing Mohit with, Nandini started some conversation.
“So, what do you do, Mohit?” she asked.
“I have done MBA finance, and I work as a senior analyst in a multinational company,” Mohit said. “What do you do?”
Nandini was feeling awkward. Anupam just stood there but never spoke a word, and even this casual conversation was not bringing any respite.
“I have done a diploma in interior designing, and I am taking up freelance projects,” she replied, distracted.
“That’s interesting. I would love to see some of your work,” Mohit said. He seemed completely unfazed by Anupam’s demeanor.
“Sure, anytime. How long are you in India?” she asked.
“Well, I am here on a match-making mission. So as soon as I settle on a girl that my mom likes, I will be free to go,” Mohit laughed.
They made small talk for some more time, Nandini trying to include Anupam in the conversations unsuccessfully. Out of the corner of her eye, Nandini saw Tanya seated at a table, laughing with someone. Nandini turned around slightly to see that she was chatting with Rishi. From the way she laughed, Nandini thought she was drunk. She looked over at Anupam, but Anupam just stood watching Mohit intently.
Nandini half-listened as Mohit told her more about his MBA college and the treks he went to on weekends before Gargi began frantically waving and summoning her.
“Excuse me, but I think Shalini aunty needs some help,” Nandini said, and even though she didn’t want to leave Mohit with Anupam alone, she hurried over to where Gargi stood.
“What’s up with Anupam? Why is he being so weird around Mohit?” Nandini asked Gargi.
Gargi looked at the two of them standing awkwardly, none speaking to the other.
“I think he disapproves of Mohit,” Gargi said matter-of-factly.
“Well, I never approved of Tanya either,” she said.
At that, Gargi pulled her by hand and took her inside the lobby of the hotel, towards a corner.
“That is what I want to tell you about. Ashish just called. He hacked Tanya’s profile,” she said, looking very anxious.
“And?” Nandini asked, impatient to know what he had found.
“Well, Tanya Andrews’s Facebook profile was created just two years back. Before that, she did not exist”.