Rosie (Chapter 11)

Glory Sasikala

Serialized novel, by Glory Sasikala


Though sometimes so grim, I can make you writhe
most times I’m gentle Moonlight
bonny and blithe
“Come in!” they all chorused as Prateik stood at the doorstep of Rosie’s house. They had been expecting him. He had called earlier to let them know that there had been some new developments in his life that he wanted to have a discussion about.
Prateik smiled. He bent to take off his shoes, but Chetan forestalled him. “Let them be, it’s okay,” he said. Prateik said, “You don’t mind?”
“It’s okay really. Please come in.”
Prateik came in and went straight to Grandma and touched her feet. She put her hand on his head and said, “God Bless you son.”
He then took his seat.
“I hope you had a comfortable journey?” asked Chetan.
“Yes. It’s just four hours of good roads. How have you all been?” His eyes included all of them but came to rest on Rosie, who was standing at the door leading to the inner rooms. She looked very beautiful indeed, clad in a cream-white salwar suit, her hair freshly washed and let down in unruly curls, two strands, one from each side, pulled back with a clutch at the back. As always, she wore little-to-no make-up, and except for a thin gold chain with a heart-shaped locket around her neck, no accessories either. She had on tiny diamond ear studs that sparkled so. She was glowing from inner happiness from all that was going on in her life. And she was in love.
Prateik could not take his eyes off of her. White rose...beautiful white rose…
She blushed and went in.
“Prateik! Prateik! Hi!”
Prateik turned to Chetan with great difficulty.
“Yaar, please pay us some attention too!” Chetan laughed. They all laughed.
“Where are Suman and Rashmi?” Prateik asked.
There was the sound of running feet in the corridor, and then, the girls appeared at the doorway.
“Hello!” said Prateik, “How are you?”
They smiled at him. “We’re fine,” said Rashmi, “How are you?”
“I’m doing good. Why don’t you both come in?”
“We’ll be staying with our friends downstairs tonight,” Suman said, “We’ve got homework to do. We came up to say hello to you. And to have dinner.”
“I have something for the two of you,” Prateik said. He put his hand in his pocket and took out two big Cadbury’s chocolate bars.
“For us?” asked Suman, her eyes big and round.
“Thank you so much!”
They came in and took a bar each.
Then they ran inside the house.
“Come,” said Chetan to Prateik. “We’ll have dinner and then we’ll talk.”
He led Prateik inside. This was the first time that Prateik was seeing the interior of the house, and he was in for a shock. The rather small Living Room led to a big and spacious hall. A huge table covered in a lovely white table cloth was on the right side but not too close to the wall. Dark brown wooden chairs made of rosewood were set around. Doorways to several rooms led from this hall. There was one doorway right next to the one that led to the Living Room. There were two more doorways on the wall to the left. Another doorway on the side right opposite the Living Room led to a rather spacious Kitchen. Next to the Kitchen was a doorway with a small stairway of maybe 5-6 steps. On the farther end of the right wall was another doorway.
Prateik, who loved architecture, was very interested. The building looked shabby on the outside but was obviously spacious inside. Chetan pointed to the doorway next to the Living Room. “Grandma’s room. We need to keep an eye on her.” Then he pointed to the two rooms on the left. “Suman and Rashmi share a room. And this is the store room.” Then he pointed to the stairway. “It leads to the terrace. We have a small garden there and my wife and Rosie like to dry spices there and make pickles. He pointed to the doorway on the right side. “That’s Rosie’s room.”
Prateik looked around as he pointed. “This is quite a spacious house! It doesn’t look like that from the outside.”
“Yes,” said Chetan, “We live here on rent. These buildings are condemned and will be demolished soon. They are very old and rather dangerous. We will have to start looking out for a new place soon.”
Prateik nodded.
The Dining Hall was bright and cheery and Rosie’s magic touch was evident everywhere. The walls were white, making the room look spacious and airy. Cheerful and bright cotton curtains, not too heavy and in keeping with the place. Tiny ornaments here and there, some beautiful paintings on the wall. A small table was set against the wall on the left side and held some photographs. Another small table in the corner held a huge urn with an indoor plant. The effect was at once cheery and disorderly enough not to be intimidating. The chairs at the dining table had crocheted covers around the back rest. A small table set next to the dining table with three compartments, one below the other, held the food dishes.
Prateik went over to the wash basin near the kitchen and washed his hands.
He sat down at the head of the table, and Chetan and Grandma sat down on either side of him, and next to them sat Suman and Rashmi.
Prateik looked at Rosie and Priya. “Why don't you join us? We can serve for ourselves.”
Grandma placed a hand over his, “Son, you know it’s not done that way here. We serve our guests. They will eat later.”
Prateik nodded. 
The food was delicious. There was biryani and puri and kurma and raita (onions in curd), and salad. There was white rice and dal (lentil soup) and pickles and fries. This was followed by the simple dessert of kheer with cashews and dry grapes in it.
Prateik felt he had never eaten a more tasty meal, but he wasn’t sure it was just the food. Rosie was serving him and her proximity was heady and intoxicating. His head spun every time she came close. He wanted the meal to go on and on...
They were done. They were back at the Living Room. Priya handed Prateik and Chetan a cup of tea. She gave Grandma her medicines. Then she and Rosie went back inside to have their dinner. Suman and Rashmi left for their friend’s place downstairs to study and sleep there. Prateik and Chetan continued a general conversation and waited for the women.
“I hope you’re okay Rosie?” asked Priya.
“Yes,” said Rosie, “Why are you asking?”
“He keeps giving you anxious looks.”
Rosie blushed and said, “Whatever it is, I am ready to support him and be with him.”
Priya looked at her quizzically and laughed, “Not yet married and already so, so faithful!”
Rosie blushed, “Bhabhi, stop it! It must have something to do with the marriage arrangements I’m sure.”
“We’ll find out soon enough.”
They had their dinner and cleared the table a bit, but not too much. They would do it later, after Prateik left.
They went back to the Living Room.
Chetan beckoned to Priya. “Come sit next to me,” he said. Priya moved gracefully to sit next to him.
Rosie moved to sit next to Grandma on the divan.
“Well,” said Chetan to Prateik, “Tell us.”
“Well,” said Prateik, looking uneasily at Rosie, “I have a problem. Remember how I had said that I’m very rich and that our father had left us a lot of land? Well, that’s not entirely true...”
He then updated them about the developments. “Turns out all I have are my job—and I will be getting another job with my brother—and this huge, ghost bungalow.”
“Ghost bungalow,” cackled Grandma, happily, “Bhooth Bungalow.”
Chetan smiled.
“Well?” asked Prateik, looking around anxiously.
Rosie looked at Chetan. He reached out a hand and ruffled her hair. “You answer this one. It’s your life.”
She smiled at him, “Thank you Chetan.” She then looked directly at Prateik, “I did not agree to marry you for your money,” she said simply.
He smiled, “Yes. But it's not just that. The elders of the family should welcome the girl. My brother Tushar is the eldest of this family, but...”
“Are you going to remain unmarried because of him?”
“No! Honestly, it doesn’t matter at all. I mean, it would be nice if he would co-operate, but I’m a grown man, and I make my own decisions. I am just worried you might refuse because of him.”
“I understand,” said Rosie, “Thank you for being sensitive to my needs and taking my opinions into consideration. But I’m okay. You’re there...and I have faith that you will take care of me and not let anyone hurt me. I will listen to you and go by your instructions. I think that will keep me safe since you know your family well.”
Prateik nodded, “That’s true,” he said, “At this point, I do know what’s best.”
“What about my sisters?”
“What about them?” he asked, puzzled.
“Can they come along too or not?”
“Oh that! Of course they’re coming. That’s no issue at all!”
Rosie smiled at him and nodded, “So...what is it that you want us to do?”
“Well,” said Prateik, “I want you...all of you,” he said, looking around at the family, “To come tomorrow with me and see Grandma’s Bhooth Bungalow. I will take you to my city...actually, it’s a village...tomorrow. There’s a nice hotel there, ‘Seaside Resort’. There’s no seaside and it’s not a resort. Just a very nice hotel,” he smiled.
They all laughed.
“It belongs to my friend. He likes beaches, so…It’s a very nice hotel and well maintained. We’ll have lunch on the way and go there. You can rest and have tea. I will pick you all up at around 6 pm and take you to my house. It’s called The Mahal...because that’s what it is: A huge palace, which now belongs to my two older brothers. Udhayan lives in the left wing. He and my sister-in-law will be hosting dinner. I will bring you back to the hotel after dinner. We will leave the next day, just after breakfast to see the Bungalow. Chacha will come with us. After Grandma has seen the place, Chacha and Jahangir, my driver, will bring her back to the hotel and take care of her. We—Chetan and Rosie and Priya and Suman and Rashmi—must stay behind and spend a lot of time there. The house is at the end of the village. We will have to name the house. You—Rosie—will have to take a lot of decisions.”
“Such as?” she asked.
“Such as whether you want to stay in that house or whether we must sell it and buy a house within the village. I must warn you that the house is very big—quite palatial—with acres of ground around it. It’s all very wild and overgrown now, but my brother, Udhayan, will be helping us renovate the place completely. There will be security guards at the gate and dogs. The walls are very high and have barbed wires. So safety is not that much of an issue. But...the choice is yours. You must decide where you want us to live. And, if you decide that you want us to live in the house, then the interiors will be designed to your convenience. First we will renovate the live-in area—rooms for us and for Suman and Rashmi, the kitchen and other common rooms. Once we have moved in, the renovation of the other parts of the house can be carried out, again, according to your wishes.”
“You will give your inputs too? It’s our house, surely?”
He smiled, “Yes, of course! I’m an architect. We’ll collaborate and get things done as a team.”
Chetan got up suddenly and went inside. It was beginning to dawn on him rather forcefully that he would be parting with his three sisters soon. And he was not okay with it as yet, although he knew it was the right thing to do. He was close to tears all the time now.
They waited patiently for him to come back. He came back after a while, “Sorry,” he said, “I’m finding this hard to take...”
His voice broke down. 
“Chetan,” said Priya, reaching out to touch his hand, “Grandma...”
“Yes,” he said, “Yes,” he smiled a watery smile, “Well, it’s weekend. It’s holiday for Rosie and the girls, and I shall take off tomorrow. So, yes, we can all go...if you can ensure that Grandma will not be taxed too much or feel the strain.”
“I promise you that,” said Prateik. 
Prateik arrived the next day at around 9 am, post breakfast. They had all had breakfast. As they all came out and down the stairs, a whole lot of heads peeped out and a lot of neighbours talked to Rosie and Chetan and Priya, who answered back patiently, explaining where they were going and why. They knew that the neighbours were all very curious, and they would find out sooner or later, and it was best they heard it from them.
Prateik tried hard not to look at Rosie. He was startled to find her wearing jeans. She wore jeans and sneakers and a red short-sleeved sweat shirt that suited her slim figure so well. She had tucked in the sweat shirt and had on a long, slim belt around her waist. Her hair was done in a high ponytail and her sunglasses were on her head and she carried a rather stylist sling bag. Suman and Rashmi were in jeans too. Priya wore a plain dark blue kameez with a dark pink salwar and dupatta. She was carrying the baby. She looked very young indeed. They were a rather good looking lot. Chetan too was in jeans and a casual checked shirt. Prateik gave Rosie sidelong glances, and for the first time, he had doubts.
He lagged behind with Chetan for a word, “Are you sure I’m not cradle snatching?” he asked Chetan, looking at Rosie. Chetan followed his gaze and laughed, “I guess you are. She will be turning 22 soon.”
“I’m near 34 now,” said Prateik, then added sagely, “Ah well, I don’t think I can live without her.”
“Hmmmm!! Coming on too strong brother!”
Prateik made sure they were comfortably settled in the car, especially Grandma and Priya, who was taking care of the baby. He had thoughtfully bought books and comics and snacks and games for Suman and Rashmi and some magazines for Chetan and Priya and Rosie. But no one touched the books. They had not been on a holiday in a very long time, and everything was so very exciting. The girls looked out the window and chattered away as did Rosie and Priya. Prateik and Chetan carried on idle conversation. Grandma slept a lot. The baby cried some and grew restless. Priya fed the baby and it fell asleep. Prateik pointed out various landmarks to them and spoke of their significance.
They soon pulled into the driveway of a lovely roadside restaurant. They all trooped in. The women headed for the restroom to freshen up, as did the men. They had a lovely but simple meal of rice and dal and fish fry and salad. It was light and delicious. Prateik then ordered coffee for all of them. 
Soon, they were back on the road. They turned down the archway at the beginning of Kiranpur. They reached a black gate. They could see a lovely white building past the walls. The guard saluted to Prateik and opened the gate. Jahangir drove in. Seaside Resort. The bellboys took their luggage. Rosie and Grandma had a room for themselves as did Suman and Rashmi. Chetan and Priya had their own room. Rosie settled Grandma in their room and she soon fell asleep. Rosie then went over to the girls’ room. They were quite excited and squealing with delight. They explored every nook and corner of their rooms. 
“Rosie! Come and see the view!” they screamed, “It’s gorgeous!”
Rosie went over to the window and looked out. And there lay the vast stretch of land on all sides as far as eye could see—paddy fields and lakes and streams and coconut trees and mango groves and hills. It was breathtaking.
“Beautiful!” she said.
Prateik had gone home and upstairs to his room. But something was bothering him. What was it that he had not done? Something rankled…
He did not change his clothes. Instead, he went downstairs again and made his way to Tushar’s chambers. The house was so built that both brothers had their own set of rooms in the opposite wings. Udhay’s rooms were in the left wing and Tushar’s to the right. Prateik lived upstairs.
He knocked on the door. He heard footsteps, and then, Radhika opened the door.
“May I speak to Tushar?” Prateik asked.
“Yes of course!” said Radhika. “Please come in.”
She led Prateik to the Living Room, which was quite dark because all the windows were closed. She switched on the lights and opened the windows. It was a beautiful room with a fireplace on one side and tastefully and carefully chosen furniture and decor.
Radhika lowered her voice, “Have they arrived?”
Prateik smiled and whispered back, “Yes, Bhabi, they have. I wish you could meet them.”
Radha grimaced, “He’s stubborn. For the first time since we got married, I don’t think I like him.”
Prateik laughed. “Have you talked to him?”
“Yes. He won’t listen.  He...okay here he is.”
Tushar came into the Living Room. “Hello!” he said, genially to his brother. He went over to light the fire at the fireplace. “Radhika, if you could bring us some tea?”
“Sit down,’ he said to Prateik. The voice was naturally authoritarian, the voice of an elder brother who stood in no ceremony with his younger sibling.
Prateik did not sit down. “I came to talk to you.”
“You can do that sitting down.”
Prateik ignored that. “Tushar, Rosie has come here for the first time with her family. I understand you are disappointed with my choice of wife, but...please don’t take it out on Rosie. If father and mother were here, they would have welcomed her.”

“If father and mother were here, the girl would not come to the house before the marriage,” said Tushar, sharply.
“We are not going to stay here. You have not agreed to that. And now, I too feel it’s not a good idea. She has come to see the Bhooth Bungalow.”
“Bhooth Bungalow? Is that what you call it?”
“Have you seen it?” Prateik asked.
“Ya...I had gone that way the other day. Nothing that renovation cannot restore. It’s good ground and a strong building.”
“Yes, we’re going there tomorrow. Rosie will decide whether we are to keep it or sell it.”
Tushar raised his brow but he said nothing. Despite his show of bravado, Tushar was a little scared of Prateik and Udhayan. They seemed so different from him and worked well as a team. And somehow, he felt, they had more fun.
“So if you don’t want to move into this house, what is it you wanted to see me about?”
“Can you not be there to welcome Rosie tonight? Udhayan had invited her to dinner and she will be coming here with her family. Can you not come and greet her for my sake? You and Bhabhi? Can we not all have dinner together?”
Tushar looked deeply at the fire, “Maybe...” he conceded, “But don’t ask me to come to the wedding. I will not put my family through that.”
Prateik nodded. “You can bless us tonight.”
He turned to leave. Then he turned back and looked straight at Tushar, “Thank you.”
He turned and left the room.
 “They’ve come!” said Chacha, looking anxiously at Tushar. They were all gathered in the Living Room, waiting for Rosie and her family to arrive with Prateik. Tushar and Radhika and their children, and Udhayan and Monisha and their children. And Chacha. They were all formally dressed and in their best clothes. The men wore tuxedoes and white shirt and the women wore lovely silk saris. Although he sulked a lot, when it came down to actually receiving guests, Tushar was very particular about courtesy. They had to dress well, and he made it compulsory that they all be down in the Living Room well before the guests arrived and wait to receive them.
Tonight was no exception despite his reluctance to receive the guests. He stood in one corner, talking to Udhayan.
“Let’s hope they’re good people,” he said.
“Relax,” said Udhayan, "Have you ever known Prateik to misjudge?”
“This might be a first time then. The girl is beautiful, that’s for sure. And love is blind. I hope the family is good too.”
Udhayan smiled.
But now, they had arrived. They could hear the car outside. The door was open. Prateik entered first and was startled to see them all assembled in the room, dressed in their best. He was followed by Chetan. Suman and Rashmi followed. Priya and Rosie held Grandma on either side and were the last to enter. Priya was carrying the baby.
Grandma’s son and daughter-in-law had been very good looking indeed, and the children were, all of them, beautiful. Chetan was indeed as handsome as Rosie was beautiful—a fact that had completely escaped Prateik’s attention until now. He was in a dark suit with a purple tie, and he looked like he had stepped out of a fashion magazine, so handsome was he with his auburn hair and deep brown eyes. He was also six feet tall and every inch a Punjabi man.
Rosie had chosen the girls’ dresses carefully. Rashmi wore a straight cut dark blue frock and Suman wore a light pink frock with frills. Both girls had on stockings and shoes. Rashmi had shoulder-length hair, left open and framing her face. Suman had long hair going up to her waist. She had on a white hairband. Both girls were undoubtedly growing up to be beauties. Rosie had taught them to carry themselves with grace, but they had never been outside of their own circle and were feeling a bit lost and very shy. Priya wore a baby pink chiffon sari, her hair done is a chignon with long curls left deliberately loose on either side of her lovely, piquant face. She was smiling and one could not help notice how pretty she was and how deeply the dimples dented her cheeks. Grandma wore her customary white sari and she had on a sweater as well as a shawl around her shoulders because she felt quite cold. She had found it difficult navigating the stairs in all the places.
Priya looked at Rosie and said, “I’ll take care of her Rosie. You go in first.”
Rosie nodded and stepped into the hall behind Suman and Rashmi—and everyone drew in their breath, their eyes turned sharply towards her. She was clad in maroon dress that flowed to her feet, the bodice of which crossed over her young breasts. The dark of the colour brought out the white of her skin. She was much taller in her heels. She had washed her hair and set it free in curls to frame her face in beautiful disarray. She had on the tiny diamond ear studs and the thin gold chain with the heart-shaped locket. She did not wear any bangles, which accentuated the length of her lovely arms. Her face was glowing, an unfathomable depth and sensitivity in her lovely brown eyes. She had used very light make-up—just some eye-liner and lipstick.
She looked around the room, smiling a little uncertainly, and then at Prateik.
Udhayan stepped forward and shook hands with Chetan. “I’m Udhayan, Prateik’s second brother.”
Tushar stepped forward then and shook hands with Chetan. “I’m Tushar, Prateik’s elder brother.”
Then, much to the surprise of everyone present, Tushar went over to Grandma and said, “Please come Grandma.” He then led her to a comfortable chair a little further away and seated her gently. “Are you comfortable?” he asked.
Everyone in the family had been stunned into silence by his gesture. He then turned to Prateik, “Well, aren’t you going to introduce us?”
Thus urged, Prateik remembered his manners and made the introductions. "There is someone I want you to meet,” he said, and he went to the doorway and brought Chacha in, “Chacha this is Rosie.”
Rosie touched Chacha’s feet and he smiled with delight as he looked at her. He placed his hands on her head and said, “God Bless you my child.”
Prateik then introduced everyone else to Chacha.
“So happy. Very happy,” said Chacha, smiling at all of them. “Now I will go and see to the dinner.”
He moved out of the room. They were all seated in the Living Room and a servant served them water.
Radhika came over to Priya and took the baby and went back to Monisha. It was a long time since there had been a baby in the house and they were delighted. The baby had just been fed and was in a mood to be gracious and smile and gurgle and be cute.
“Which class are you in?” Tushar asked Rashmi.
“Seventh standard,” she said, shyly.
“And you?”
“Fifth standard.”
“You must have a lot of friends in school,” Udhayan said,
“You have some friends here too, pointing to the children. Why don’t you all get to know each other?”
Rashmi and Suman got up and went over to talk to the children.
And thus, the small talk continued as the hosts endeavoured to put their guests at ease.
Soon Chacha came in and said, “Dinner is ready.” He went over to Radhika and took the baby, “I will take care of it while you eat.”
The baby went to him willingly enough.
Tushar got up and went over to Grandma. “Grandma,” he said, “We are all a young lot here. I am the eldest. We are informal here and we talk a lot. All our discussions are mainly during dinner time. We laugh a lot, and we don’t ask the children to sit separately. They sit at the main table. Come, let me take you to the dining hall.”
The dinner turned out to be a happy, relaxed meal.
“Help Grandma,” said Tushar to his eldest son, “Take her to the room.”
Prateik and Udhayan exchanged glances as did Radhika and Monisha. This show of courtesy was unexpected.
Tushar got up to wash his hands. Prateik moved close to Udhayan and whispered, “What’s with him?”
Udhay shrugged, “Guess he misses mom and dad.”
“Oh...” said Prateik, but not really comprehending, “or maybe he just likes her. She’s kind of cute.”
Udhayan smiled at him. “Maybe.”
“Can we help with clearing up?” Priya asked Radhika.
“Well, technically, the servants clear up and we supervise. So...yes! You can stay here with us. And maybe later on, we can go over to my room. I’d like to show you some photos in the albums.”
“Oh, we would like that!” said Rosie.
“I must say, you’re the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen,” said Monisha, frankly.
Rosie blushed, “Thank you. I wasn’t aware of it, you know. Nobody’s told me that.”
Monisha laughed, “I’m glad they didn’t.”
The children had meanwhile taken Suman and Rashmi in their stride and all of them had disappeared.
In the adjacent room, the men were all settled in. Grandma was settled comfortably in a corner with her feet up on an ottoman. Tushar had given her some betel leaf and betel nut, and she sat there relaxing and chewing away happily.
“So you have a carpentry shop?” asked Tushar of Chetan.
“Yes,” said Chetan.
That set the tone of the conversation and the men discussed various subjects related to carpentry in depth, and then, they moved on to real estate and agriculture. 
“You’re surprisingly very knowledgeable,” said Tushar. 
Chetan smiled, “We were land owners too. In Punjab. We had wheat fields...My father gambled away our fortune. And then, unfortunately both he and mother died. Our relatives did not help us and we had to move out in search of work. That’s how we came to Kolkata. Hard times...Grandma took care of us. She worked night and day. She was a tailor. I didn’t go to school. Instead I specialized in a trade. I interned with a carpenter and then started my own unit.”
“That’s the best education,” Tushar said, “I’ve seen that time and again. Those who specialize in a trade are set to do well in life. They’re professionals. What more do you want? Book knowledge can be got any time. Anyone choosing to learn can do it. There are any number of libraries, and reading material is always available. It’s the practical knowledge that’s hard to get.”
Chetan nodded, “I’m self-taught when it comes to books. I used to study with Rosie. She completed college, did her teacher’s training and got a job as a teacher. Things are okay now. Between her salary and mine, we manage.”
Tushar nodded, “You’ve done well. Surprisingly well for someone so young. It’s funny how one can while away a whole fortune but we’ve seen that happen so many times. Wrong financial decisions, wrong spending habits....”
“True,” said Udhayan, “but...I think you’re still underplaying your potential. Someone with so much of knowledge about things is potentially an asset for the grabbing. You could go in for bigger things, if you’re willing to take a little calculated risk. Not the kind of risk your father took. You know what I’m talking about.”
Tushar nodded, “I agree. With the proper financial backing, you could make your own fortune.”
Chetan laughed, a little embarrassed at this attention, “It's all okay now. I’m quite happy. It’s a small family, and now Rosie is settling down well too and so are the girls. I will miss them a lot…I’m already scared to face the day they will leave me, but…”
Both Tushar and Udhayan nodded but did not say anything. The same thoughts had crossed both their minds. They only wondered if Prateik would approve.
“May I come in?”
They all turned to see Rosie standing at the doorway. They could not help but stare at her, she was so breathtakingly beautiful. Even Tushar stared at her.
Recovering first, Prateik moved towards her. “Yes, of course Rosie. Please come in.”
She went straight to Tushar and stood before him. “Bhaiya, I heard you are not coming to the wedding.”
Thus confronted directly, Tushar coloured deeply and looked embarrassed. He dithered and said, “Well...”
“It’s okay. I’m sure you have your reasons. But we are starting a new life, and we would like to do so with the blessings of our elders. Could you and Radhika Didi bless us now please? And then you, bhaiya, and Monisha Didi,” she turned to Udhayan.
“Ah...yes,” said Tushar, and he turned and called out loudly, “Radhika!”
It sounded like a cry for help.
Radhika came into the room and looked wide-eyed from Tushar to Rosie.
“Didi, please bless us,” said Rosie. Prateik came to stand next to her, and together they touched Tushar and Radhika’s feet. 
“God Bless you!” said Radhika, blessing them from her heart. They got up. Radhika reached up and kissed Rosie on the cheek, “You really are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen too. And you're a very good girl. You will make Prateik very happy, I’m sure.”
Rosie smiled back. “Thank you Didi.”
Radhika looked at her husband and glared at him. He looked uncomfortable and embarrassed, then he put his arms around her, “Usually,” he said, “My wife is a very docile person. She never thwarts my word. But in this instance, she's gone rogue.”
“I haven’t!” Radhika protested.
“Yes darling, you have. You threatened me this afternoon.”
“Oh yes, I did,” said Radhika.
“Well, I didn’t want to say anything because, well, I like blessing you both. But the fact is…we’ve decided to come to the wedding. We decided this afternoon, after my wife went rogue.”
They all laughed. “This is great news Tushar,” said Prateik, and so filled with joy was he that, on an impulse, he went over and hugged his brother tight.
“Hey!” said Tushar, "I’m not finished yet!”
“There’s more?”
“Yes,” said Tushar, “Udhayan and Monisha, please bless them. Then we can sit and talk.”
Rosie looked at Prateik. For the first time, he put his arm around her and together they turned to Udhayan and Monisha.
“Could you please stand together too and bless us?”
“I was wondering why we weren’t being asked?” Udhayan complained. He and Monisha stood together and Rosie and Prateik touched their feet too.
“God bless you both,” said Udhayan, “We wish you well from the bottom of our hearts.”
“Everything has turned out well,” said Grandma happily from her couch.
They all smiled at her. Then they all sat down. Priya, who had come in with Monisha, now sat next to her husband.
Tushar took over the conversation.
“Prateik and Rosie, you are going to see the house tomorrow. We—Udhayan and I—won’t be able to come along as we have some urgent work. So...there are a few suggestions that we want to make. I have already spoken to Radhika and Monisha and Udhayan about this. It’s a suggestion, and it’s up to you both to consider it or reject it. We feel that maybe you could consider using that property for some other purpose—perhaps to start a school, since Rosie is a qualified teacher. And you could both continue to stay here. This house is so big that even our pettiness is small and insignificant and meaningless. There are enough rooms upstairs for so many more families. You both could choose your rooms. Again, this is just a suggestion.”
Prateik was completely taken aback, and Rosie was now round-eyed. Even Chetan and Priya were surprised.
“Thank you Tushar,” said Prateik, “Rosie and I will certainly talk about it and let you know.”
Rosie nodded.
“We’re already a lovely joint family and our children can all grow up together, including Suman and Rashmi.”
“He means he can keep an eye on you,” said Udhayan, grinning.
“Ah, yes, that too,” said Tushar, “Not that he’s ever listened to me. No respect for his elder brother. Rosie,”
Rosie turned to him, startled, “Yes Bhaiya?”
“I wish you better luck.”
They all laughed.
“So my other suggestion is this. I just thought of this one now, but I feel Udhayan agrees with me. I feel Chetan and his family and Grandma should also move in here.”
There was startled silence all around.
“I beg your pardon?” said Chetan, taken completely off-guard.
Udhayan put his arm around Chetan’s shoulder, “Yes, I was thinking the same thing. We need someone like you here. You can also have your own office and carpentry shop in the bungalow. I have such a need for a person like you and so does Tushar as well as a lot of other farmers in this area. We are not asking you to work for us…”
“No,” said Tushar, “That would be foolish. You continue to be an entrepreneur. We will just come to you with our needs as will others. You will be in high demand, there’s no doubt about that. The added advantage is that you can support Rosie in all her decisions, and maybe even help her with the renovations if she so chooses to use or stay at the bungalow.”
“And as for staying here,” Tushar continued, “Like I said, there is enough space here for everyone. You can have your own space upstairs and decide with Prateik about it. You can take up some rooms and Rosie and Prateik can take up some rooms. We are an independent lot really. We respect each other as separate family units but we do come down for dinner together. Not the other meals. It’s very refreshing to get together at the end of the day and sit and talk and relax. I’m sure you’ll agree?”
He turned to Priya. She smiled at him, “Yes. I come from a joint family, and it’s very nice to be together.”
Chetan moved forward, and shook Tushar’s hand, “It’s very generous of you to want to accommodate me and my family but…”
“But you think you will be beholden to us?”
“Ah…yes,” said Chetan.
“How is that? Apart from the house, we are all just working people here. We all pitch in an amount for the maintenance of the house. How will you be different? We will expect you to pitch in too. So how will you be beholden?”
“But…” said Chetan, uncertainly,
Udhayan pulled him back, “Don’t say anything now, bro. Talk it out with your wife, and then, with Prateik and Rosie. Anyways, it’s not going to be your decision,” he added slyly, looking at Priya.
She protested, “No bhaiya, I am not like that.”
“That’s what I too thought,” said Tushar, looking at Radhika, who glared back at him, “And yet, somehow…”
They all laughed.
“Please think about it,” said Tushar to Chetan, “I’m actually being selfish. I think you will bring us a fortune.”
Chetan laughed.
“Besides, Tushar can take care of Grandma,” said Prateik, sharing a sly grin with Udhayan.
“Yes,” said Tushar, seriously, “Grandma can stay with me.”
They all looked startled. 
“What’s with you and Grandma?” Udhayan asked, unable to contain his curiosity any longer.
“I don’t know…” said Tushar, looking at her, “Mom would have been this old had she been alive… And Grandma is kind of cute.”

[To be continued ...]

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