Rosie (Chapter 10)

Glory Sasikala

Serialized novel, by Glory Sasikala


I make no difference
over one and all I shine
said the Moon, take a chance on me
and you will just be fine

Prateik reached home the next day morning. But he stayed up in his room, relaxing and planning on how to tell his family. He was tired from his journey. He slept a lot. 
“Baba, you will come down to dinner?” Chacha asked.
Prateik looked up from his bed. “Yes Chacha. I will be up in a while. Will have a bath and freshen up and come down.”
“Okay son.”
The old man turned to go.
“Yes son?”
“I need to... There’s something important I have to say. To you.”
“To me?”
“Yes, to you...and to everybody. But I need you to be the first person to hear it. I…I’m getting married.”
The man stood transfixed, staring at Prateik.
“What did you say?”
Prateik relaxed and smiled at him, “I’m getting married Chacha.”
“Baba!” Chacha came up to Prateik and hugged him tight, tears pouring down his face.
“How many days I have waited to hear you say those words!”
Prateik hugged him back, then he moved him a little away from him and took the old, wrinkled hand in his and looked into his eyes and said, “I know. That’s why I wanted you to be the first person to know. Her name is Rosie. She…she’s a teacher. Very beautiful,” he smiled at the old man.
“Yes, that she is I’m sure,” Chacha chuckled.
“There’s something about her, Chacha. But…she is not rich Chacha. She lives in a basti. No parents. Brother is a carpenter.”
The old man patted Prateik’s hand back, “Then she must be very special. You’ve seen something different about her.”
“Yes Chacha!” said Prateik, eagerly, “She’s amazing!”
The old man laughed, “Come on, get dressed and come downstairs. Everybody is waiting. I’ve never been this happy before.”
Prateik relaxed back in his pillow. “Okay.”
Meanwhile, downstairs, everyone was getting ready for dinner. Dinner was always family time, a rule set by Tushar. They were a fairly young lot and they enjoyed sitting around the table talking and laughing and catching up with each other’s day. It was very relaxing and informal.
Two servants laid out the table, being supervised closely by the women. Tushar and Udhayan were in parlour adjacent to the dining hall. It was a cosy parlour with comfortable chairs all around. There was no television there, but there were books and magazines in the shelf. The family tended to wander to this room after their meals to relax and talk for a while. 
Tushar was seated in a chair and sipping a glass of wine. Udhayan sat opposite him with a glass of wine too.
“You wanted to talk to me?”
Tushar nodded thoughtfully, looked deep into his glass. “Yes... I need to say something. Avinash Uncle called in.”
Udhayan raised his brow, “That’s odd. He doesn’t come out of the house nowadays.”
“Yes. His son Abhinav has taken over. Even then, Uncle is still the Zamindar. He is kept informed. He takes an active interest in the running of their estate.”
“What did he want?”
Tushar was now staring intently at his glass. He took his time as he measured his words, “They have a daughter. Karishma. Her name is Karishma. She is now 25 years old.”
“I remember her. She was my junior in school.”
“Why do you remember her?”
“Just like that,” said Udhayan, a twinkle in his eyes.
“You shouldn’t be remembering any girl,” said Tushar, smiling too.
Udhayan laughed, “She was very good looking okay? A sportswoman. She used to run very fast.”
“Must have gotten tired of running,” said Tushar, “Wants to settle down She’s agreed to get married now. Uncle was asking if Prateik would be interested.”
“Oh!” said Udhayan. 
“Yes,” said Tushar, “Your crush from school days just might turn out to be your sister-in-law.”
Udhayan laughed, I don’t think so.”
“Why not?” Tushar asked him sharply. He knew that Prateik and Udhayan were good friends, being closer to each other age-wise. Tushar was always considered the elder brother, to be treated with respect and a little distance maintained. The fact was that Prateik and Udhayan were not very fond of Tushar, who they felt was too money minded and singularly lacking in a sense of fun.
“He’s just not interested. But then, again, you could ask him.”
Tushar moved restlessly and said angrily, “Wonder what he wants—a girl who is so exceptional that she dropped right out of the sky?”
Tushar continued, “He has to listen. He can’t continue like this. Father has not left him much. He must marry well.”
Uday looked at his elder brother, wide-eyed.
“What do you mean, father hasn’t left him much? Surely he has an equal share?”
“We are not landlords, Udhay. There’s just this house and the cultivated lands. These belong only to you and me.”
“What??!!” exclaimed Udhayan. “I thought Prateik had a share too.”
“Dinner’s ready!”
“Anyway, we'll talk it out after dinner. I have to talk to Prateik anyway.”
Tushar and Udhayan walked into the dining room.
Tushar looked at Chacha, who was standing by the table, “Where’s Prateik?”
“He’ll be down soon,” said Chacha, “He’s a bit tired.”
Tushar nodded and sat down at his usual place, at the head of the table.
Prateik came in and smiled at all of them.
He looked at his sisters-in-law, “Sorry I kept you waiting.”
Radhika smiled at him, “Not too late. We've just started.”
“Let him apologize. He has to learn not to waste other people’s time,” Tushar said.
Prateik smiled, “Was a bit tired.”
Chacha served him.
“How was your trip?” asked Tushar.
“Good. I met Mrs. Das. They are doing okay. Managing.”
“It took you two days to see her?”
Prateik turned red, “I had other work.”
Udhayan looked sharply at Prateik, but he did not say anything.
Prateik continued to eat but kept turning to look at Tushar. It was obvious he was nervous.
“Is there anything you wish to tell me?” Tushar asked Prateik.
“! No! What I mean is not right now. After dinner, yes.”
Tushar looked at Udhayan, and they both smiled at each other.
“Well,” said Tushar, “If you’re done stuttering, you’d better concentrate on your food.”
“Chitha, did you get me something?” asked Nalini, Udhayan’s younger daughter, a 10-year-old child.
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I did. Chacha will give it to you after dinner.”
“What is it?”
Prateik smiled at her, “It’s only for little girls who chew their food and finish what’s on their plate.”
She giggled.
They carried on a light-hearted conversation through the meal, laughing and talking and enjoying being together.
The children ran over to Chacha after the meal and badgered him to give them the gifts. So he left instructions with the other servants, and then took the children upstairs to Prateik’s chambers.
The women stayed on in the hall, supervising the servants and talking and laughing among themselves.
Tushar, Udhayan and Prateik made their way to the parlour. 
Tushar went over to a cabinet and took down three glasses and poured out some wine. 
He brought the glasses over to Udhayan and Prateik. They were seated opposite each other.
Tushar chose a comfortable chair opposite Prateik. 
“Well?” said Tushar. 
“Well,” said Prateik, taking a deep breath, “I’ve...I’ve decided to get married.”
Both brothers looked at him, then at each other and then back at him.
“Well?” asked Prateik.
“You’ve chosen the girl?”
“Yes,” said Prateik, “I went to meet my old buddy Sudhir. If you remember him? But he had moved to another place. I met this girl at the place where he used to stay. She’s a teacher. Her name is Rosie.”
Prateik looked at Udhayan. He had a twinkle in his eye. “You liked her as soon as you met her,” he stated.
“Yes,” said Prateik, going red, “I did. So...I went back the next day and asked her grandmother. She has a grandmother and a brother and two younger sisters. The brother is married. Chetan, his name is. So...Grandma asked me to come the next day. So I went the next day. I spoke to Rosie....and she refused.”
Both Tushar and Udhayan were listening intently. 
“Why did she refuse?”
“They don’t have parents. Both parents are dead. Her sisters are rather young. One is12 years old and the other is 10. And Rosie felt she could not leave them and get married.
“Makes sense,” said Tushar, blandly.
“So...I offered to take care of the girls as well.”
“What!” Tushar exclaimed, leaning forward, “Are you out of your mind?”
Prateik looked at him, startled.
“Why, what’s the matter? It’s just two little girls.”
“Two little girls? Is this girl—Rosie—is she well off?”
Prateik hesitated, then said, “No. In fact, I met her in a ramshackle building in a basti-like area. Her brother is a carpenter and she is a teacher. They are the only earning members.”
Tushar threw up his hands in the air in despair, “I was just telling Udhay that Avinash Uncle was asking about you...for his daughter Karishma. Couldn’t you have at least consulted me before you made any decisions?”
Prateik looked at his brother and said politely, “I’m sorry, but I really liked Rosie. She’s the one I want to marry.”
“So much so you didn’t think how it would affect the family for you to bring in not just a girl we don’t know but her sisters as well. If only you had thought this through, I’m sure…”
Prateik wasn’t smiling any more. He looked coldly at his brother, “I’m 34 years old and this is only girl I want to marry. There’s nothing to think through.”
“So what happens when these little girls grow up? You’re going to have your own family, your own children, and then, there are these two girls too. They need to go to college, get an education, get married…and all that’s going to cost you a lot. Tell me now whether you needed to think things through or not.”
“I repeat,” said Prateik, “I love Rosie and I will be marrying her and I will be taking care of her two sisters. I’m sure we can afford it.”
Tushar looked disbelieving at him as if he hadn’t heard him right, “We? Who’s ‘we’? There’s no ‘we’ here. You’ve been living here in this house only because you’re not married. It’s one thing to take care of a brother and another to take care of a whole family. The Will states otherwise.”
Prateik looked startled, “I thought…”
“You thought the Will that father wrote divided the property equally, didn’t you? So it’s time you asked a few questions and I gave you answers.”
“What’s in the Will?” asked Prateik.
“We’re not landlords; rather, we weren’t landlords when Father was alive. We had the farming lands and we had this house. Udhayan and I have married well. We own some property, some houses given out for rent. We’re landlords by marriage, which has nothing to do with the Will. According to the Will, the house and the farming lands are to be divided equally between Udhayan and me.”
Udhayan was listening too, “But we can modify the Will to include Prateik too, right?”
Prateik looked from one to the other, “But…what about me?”
“You...” said Tushar, hesitating, “…have been left the huge bungalow at the end of the village with the surrounding gardens.”
“What! The haunted bungalow?”
“Yes. And it’s not haunted; just not lived in for a long while now. No one died there and there are no ghosts.”
Prateik looked flabbergasted.
“But...what will I do in that place? It’s fallen apart.”
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” Tushar said disdainfully, “It has to be renovated, that's all.”
“ will help me renovate it?”
“Well…” said Tushar, looking at his nails, “I was going to…if you married well. But now, I don’t think I want to have anything to do with you.”
Even Udhayan looked surprised. “Coming on a bit too strong brother,” he said.
“Well,” said Tushar, “I don’t think I want to associate with the girl and the family you have chosen. I don’t want to welcome them into this house.”
“But…” said Prateik, going red, “You…”
“I mean it,” said Tushar, “I will not welcome that girl here or her family. You seem to be determined to marry her and take care of her and her sisters. You’ve made it clear you’re a grown person. So… do it your way. Or…” he paused, “Do it my way and marry the girl I’ve chosen for you.”
Prateik got up. “You’ve made yourself quite clear brother. I’ll see myself out by tomorrow morning.”
“That will suit us all very well,” said Tushar, “Meanwhile, I will send a copy of Father’s Will through Chacha to your room. I don’t want to be accused of cheating. Udhayan, you will get a copy too.”
Prateik and Udhayan nodded.
The turn of the conversation was so sudden and so cold, it caught both Prateik and Udhayan off-guard.
“Tushar, wait!” said Udhayan, “Think this through.”
“I have,” said Tushar, “As much as he has.”
“You’re just angry he didn’t consult you or marry the girl you chose for him.”
Tushar halted in his tracks. He thought for a while. Then he said, “Right. I don’t like bad choices.”
Then he turned and left.
Udhayan turned to Prateik. Prateik went to the window and stared out. Udhayan went over to the table and poured out some wine and handed the glass to him.
“Drink up. We’re going out.”
Prateik turned to him, “Where?”
Udhayan looked out of the window. “When’s the best time to see a haunted house?”
Prateik looked at him and he grinned, “Right.”
“Wait a second, I’ll be back.”
“Where are you going?”
“To get the keys to the gate.”
Udhayan soon came back with a bunch of keys.
Prateik gulped down the wine and set the glass down.
“Let’s go.”
Udhayan drove while Prateik sat next to him. Udhayan kept up a light conversation as he drove to the end of the village where the houses ended. Beyond that were paddy fields as far as eye could see. He drove down the road by the side of the fields, thus passing many side streets and houses till they reached the last side street. Beyond it, there was just this huge wall. The wall ran the whole length of the side street, which was a dead end on the other side. The wall ran a whole length along the main road too. Udhayan drove on till he reached the huge iron gate, black-painted and higher than the walls on either side. A huge iron lock hung on the padlock. Udhayan stopped the car and got out. 
“Wow!” said Prateik, getting out too.
They stood there looking through the gate. A gravel driveway seemed to go on and on and disappear. Through the trees, they could make out the shape of the house. It was a big bungalow, dark and empty and scary.
“Why isn’t anyone there?” asked Prateik, peering in. “There’s no night watchman.”
“Because there’s nothing to watch” Udhayan said.
“Bramble bushes and trees,” Udhayan said. He fitted a key in the lock and it opened. He pushed the gate open and they walked down the driveway. There was bright, silvery Moonlight, which actually added to the spookiness. Soon they reached a point from where they could see the house clearly. There it was, bathed in moonlight, tall and big and white with huge pillars in front.
“This is nice!” said Prateik staring at it, “I decide to get married and bring my bride to get killed or haunted.”
He turned and looked at Udhayan and they both burst out laughing. It seemed they could not stop laughing. Udhayan clapped Prateik on the back, “All yours buddy!”
They went off into whoops again.
Prateik quietened down, “Udhay, what am I going to do?”
Udhayan put an arm around Prateik’s shoulder.
“Hmmm…Let’s see. You’re going to bring your bride here,” he said.
“I can’t do that. You know I can’t.”
They walked back to the car.
“Of course you can!” said Udhay, “Get back in the car. We need to talk this through.”
Prateik got in. Udhayan locked the gate, and then got in. He drove to a night hotel and parked the car in the parking lot there. But they didn’t get out.
“Safer to park here. We can talk in peace.”
Prateik nodded.
Someone knocked on the window. Udhay opened it. He gave the man some money. “We’re not going in. We need to talk.”
“Right Sir.”
It was a small town and the family was well known.
Udhayan turned to Prateik.
“So…I’m going to give you enough money to renovate that house till you and Rosie have it the way you want it. The garden will be cleared too, of course. And there have to be a couple of night watchmen and dogs sent out there. I will spend till I’m sure you’re okay. What you will do is repay me at some point when you’re earning enough to do so.”
Prateik listened, “And why would you do all that for me?”
“Because I’m your brother and I can afford to do it, and I think you’ll be earning very well in no time. You’re already working, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” said Prateik, “I buy and sell artwork. I do get paid well, but…”
“It’s not enough,” Udhayan finished for him, “It’s not a time-consuming job. So take up one more job; with me. My manager is moving out. Be my manager. Learn about real estate and stocks and finance. There’s a lot to be learnt. I’ll teach you and guide you.”
“Now, don’t rush into protest Prateik,” he continued, as Prateik opened his mouth to speak, “Trust me, you’re going to be fine. And you will repay me. I’m just loaning you the money.”
“What makes you think I’ll be fine?”
“Well,” said Udhayan, “You’ve been off marriage for a long time now. Look at you. You’re 34. And then, you meet this girl…and you’re…love-struck. She’s not rich, but she’s someone special, isn’t she? She’s the one.”
Prateik grew red and turned and looked out of the window, “Yes, she is.”
“A special girl. She’ll make things right.”
The silvery moonlight bathed everything in sight, and it was almost as bright as daylight.
Prateik ran a hand through his hair, then he turned to his brother and hugged him, “Thank you so much for being there for us. Yes, she will make things right.”

[To be continued ...]

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