That morning had begun as everyday at Raichand household. By the time Mohit had come down to have breakfast, Radhika was leaving for school and Mala was trying to make that perfect cup of coffee for him in between kissing and hugging Radhika goodbye for the day. Radhika had almost reached the main gate when she had seen Mohit coming down. She had run back to hug and kiss daddy before finally leaving. Mohit smiled at Mala when she brought his coffee. Just behind her was Rohini, their house-maid, bringing a tray carrying freshly-made paranthas. Mohit had already begun eating a toast by then. He quickly finished it and picked a hot aloo ka parantha. Mala chuckled. She sipped on her nimbu pani quietly. Mohit’s complete concentration was on his parantha. Once he was through, he picked up his mug and spoke for the first time that morning “You make the best paranthas in the world”. Mala laughed but said nothing. She knew her husband was a foodie and when hungry even average food worked for him the same way. And she also knew that it was not she but her sister-in-law Ritika who made Mohit’s favorite paranthas. This thought made her sad.Within the first 6 months of her marriage with Mohit, she and Ritika had become best friends or rather soul sisters. And as time had passed, Ritika had started sharing all her secrets with Mala. It was during one of their shopping sessions, Ritika had very casually mentioned about Ajay. Mala still remembered very clearly how things had unfolded post that. She had been happy and knowing the bond Mohit and Ritika shared, she had initially wondered why Ritika was reluctant to talk about Ajay with Mohit. But then when finally she had got to know, she knew this match was impossible.

“Tomorrow is Radhika’s parent-teacher meeting? By when do you think we’ll get free? I’ve a meeting at 12.” Mohit’s voice brought Mala back to present. By then, Mohit had finished his breakfast and was getting up to get ready for office. “We should be free by 11 latest. Post that you can leave for the meeting directly. I’ll stay back for a session with pre-nursery kids at the school. It’s a Saturday and I’m relatively free too. Head mistress had called yesterday for the same. By the time it’ll get over, Radhika will also be through with her classes and we can come back together. I’ll call the driver to pick us up.” Mala said. Mohit smiled. He was proud of his wife. She managed her personal and professional lives beautifully. Mala was a leading child psychologist of the city. She loved her family and her work. She enjoyed taking such sessions at Radhika’s school.

Mohit came down half an hour later all set to leave. Mala was talking on her mobile phone. Mala was listening intently and Mohit immediately knew it was his very-dominating mom-in-law on the other side. Mohit decided not to disturb and sat down to wait for her to finish since as a rule neither of them left home without hugging the other. Mala looked up to see Mohit waiting but she didn’t want to cut-short her mother since the discussion was important. After a few moments Mohit’s phone rang and he got up to take the call. It was very difficult for him to sit and talk on a mobile phone unless he was in bed feeling lazy. He moved out in the porch to not disturb Mala.

“Hello. Mohit Raichand.” He took the call.

Mala had seen Mohit walk out with his phone. After ending the call, she walked towards the porch. She wanted to tell him what mom was discussing over the phone. It was exciting, important and urgent. She knew Mohit was waiting to hug her goodbye for the day. As she stepped out, she saw Mohit sitting on the only couch in the veranda. She wondered if he was still on phone since she was facing his back and wasn’t able to see what he was up to. She hurried towards him and made her way to the space next to him on the couch. He wasn’t talking. He was silently sitting and looking at some faraway thing in the garden. But she could make out that he wasn’t seeing anything in particular. He was just lost somewhere. His face wasn’t giving away anything of what was going inside him. Her husband was not very expressive, she knew. Hope all is well, was her first thought. She gently put her left hand on his right shoulder and asked kindly “What happened Mohit? Who called up?” Mohit turned towards her and she could see that he was in pain. But it was not just pain. There was something more. He said nothing. He just hugged her and got up to leave for work. She saw him walking slowly to his car, climb in and drive away. She was worried now.

Mala, for the second time in her life, was getting very impatient. The first one was when she and Mohit were waiting for her pregnancy report 4 years back. Today, she knew something had happened but somehow she also knew it wasn’t bad. She cancelled all her appointments for the day and decided to go and talk to Mohit at his office. He wouldn’t talk on phone.

Mohit was getting restless now. He had tried not to think about it but that is exactly what he had ended up doing the whole morning. But surprisingly he didn’t feel the same anger today. He only felt longing and ache. His mind was wondering why his feelings had changed suddenly but his heart knew the reason.

A knock on the door startled Mohit. He had instructed his secretary to cancel all meetings and not let anyone disturb him. He was confused and wanted some time alone. He hadn’t shared anything with Mala also. He was now feeling guilty for that since he knew she would be worrying. But then he didn’t know how to react to this himself. All emotions that he had buried inside the deepest corner of his heart 3 years back were struggling to come out. And the only one that he had let stay with him, anger, was eluding him today. He didn’t want to be rude to whosoever it was. “Come in” he was cold. “Hi. Hope I’m not disturbing you.” Mala tried to sound cheerful. Familiar, kind voice made Mohit look up. “Hi. You never disturb me. Why are you standing there? Come in & sit.” He knew why she was there. Somehow he had expected it. Mala made herself comfortable and smiled at Mohit. He offered her a glass of water lying on his table that she declined. “Do I need to ask?” She came to the point directly. No formalities required between them. Mohit knew he had no option.

“I got a call from Ajay this morning. He and Ritika have been blessed with a baby girl. I was the first person he called.” Mohit took his time to say this. “What? And you are telling this to me now? This is awesome. Let’s go and see them.” Mala was thrilled. Mohit didn’t react. “No we can’t. We’ve no relation with them.” He tried to sound angry but failed. His voice was sad, very sad. Mala’s heart went out to him. She got up and moved around the table to come near him. He turned to look at her and a tear rolled out of his eye. That was it. He couldn’t hold it back anymore. He hugged her belly and started crying like a child. Mala put her arms around his head protectively and let all the angst, fear, ego of years come out. She didn’t stop him. She didn’t utter a word. She stood there like that for a long time. But she was relieved. She knew that after this she’ll get her Mohit back. Mohit who had stopped being that carefree, easy going, mischievous guy whom she had married. He used to be the life of all the parties they attended but after that fateful day 3 years back, he had stopped going to the parties. He had become more of a recluse. He had turned his back away from his sister and had decided that she didn’t exist for him any more. It was a sad day. Mala still remembered how after so much of coaxing had Ritika agreed to finally talk to Mohit about Ajay. Mohit, being the over-protective brother he was, had asked many questions about the guy including his family background. And he had out rightly said no because Ajay belonged to a scheduled caste. Ritika and Mala both knew this would happen but Mala was optimistic that Mohit would eventually agree since he loved his baby sister a lot. But Mohit had said a strict no. In fact he had ordered Ritika not to meet Ajay again. He had asked Mala to look for a suitable boy for Ritika urgently so they could marry her off. Ritika had been heartbroken. She had said nothing then but two days later she had taken a step that even Mala couldn’t have imagined in the wildest of her dreams. She had gone ahead all by herself and married Ajay in a temple. Ritika had always been a brave and open minded girl. It was a big thing for her to do too since her brother was all she had after their parents had passed away. But she loved Ajay equally.

Mohit pulled away from Mala. “Let’s go” Mala said. “Are you sure? She must be very angry with me. I left her all alone at the time when she needed me. I even didn’t let you stay in touch with her. I am so angry with myself.” Mohit said in a small voice. “She must have already forgiven you. She loves you a lot. She must be waiting for you. We have to go now.” Mala was clear. Mohit got up immediately. “Should we pick Radhika on way? She’ll be so happy to meet her little sister” Mohit asked. Mala smiled “Great idea”. She was finally feeling at peace. And she knew Mohit too was.