Mahima and Pakhi were fast asleep when Nikhil woke them up, it was 9 in the morning and they were about to reach Siliguri.
Nikhil said, “Mahima wake up dear, we would reach within 10 minutes.”
Mahima tried to open her then swollen eyes, as she had been shedding tears the entire night. Little Pakhi already woke up and hugged her father while he waited for his morning kiss from the child.
Mahima yawned and almost in her sleep said, “what time is it?”
“It’s 9 in the morning, get up now”, said Nikhil.
Mahima, all of a sudden woke up from her deep slumber and she began reckoning the mishappenings of the previous night! Just immediately she slided her head in air to get a glimpse of Pakhi, who was busy combing her long curls.
“What happened? Why don’t you start moving and arranging the stuff?”, again asked Nikhil.
Mahima was still absent-mindedly staring at Pakhi. “Where is your mind?, bellowed Nikhil, “If you are in no mood then tell me, I shall do the packing”.
Mahima was taken aback with his tone and she replied, “I shall do the packing, anyway it’s me who does it everytime.”
Nikhil insolently stared at Mahima and said, “Please don’t start your melodrama here, I am sorry I asked you for packing. We shall be reaching soon, I am holding Pakhi and you please put back her clothes and blanket in the bag”
Mahima did as per Nikhil’s instructions while her eyes were glued to Pakhi all the time. They both had an eye contact when Pakhi suddenly turned around, which was awkward for Mahima and she drifted away her gaze.
Pakhi grinned at Mahima and said, “Good morning dear! I hope you have a wonderful holiday at my homestay.”
“Your homestay? We have booked our tickets in a hotel already and so I am sorry but..” Mahima couldn’t finish her sentence and Nikhil intervened, “We would be boarding in Pakhi’s homestay. Sorry I forgot to mention you but last night she showed some amazing pictures of her place and also the beautiful scenery that surrounds, so I have decided to go for her homestay instead of a high end hotel.”
Mahima’s eyes gleamed as she coldly watched her husband and Pakhi in the same frame while she sat with her child in the lap.
The bus honked numerous times before settling for a particular spot in the Siliguri bus stand. The passengers followed one another in a queue and picked up their luggages one after the other from the huge door that opened from the bottom of the bus.
Mahima in her pink salwar kameez and hair tucked in a low bun was struggling with her white dupatta and the child under the sun. Nikhil was busy checking with the luggages and Pakhi stood by him. Mahima miserably felt that she had come for her husband’s honeymoon and not her own family trip!
The luggages were soon arranged and Nikhil carried each one along with Pakhi’s red trolley bag. Mahima was not meeting her eyes with Pakhi until now but she couldn’t keep her calm when she witnessed Nikhil picking up Pakhi’s hair tie from the ground and cleaning it with bottled water! “I can even share my hair tie with her, Nikhil. You don’t need to touch the dirt”, said Mahima glaring at them, while she loosened her hair bun and pulled out the hair tie leaving her hair undone and messy.
Nikhil chuckled and said, “She has her own, she wouldn’t need to use yours. I have cleaned it already. Moreover you can’t manage your hair strands this way, you better make that bun again.”
The journey begins as Mahima and Pakhi took the seats of the middle row in the Innova with the little one sitting between the two ladies. Nikhil took the front seat beside the young driver who wore a red t shirt and a black cap. Luggages were packed at the back of the car with essentials at the top. Mahima took out a pack of croissants from her handbag and asked Nikhil to take a few.
He pulled out a couple of chocolate croissants and gave one to Pakhi. He then looked at Mahima in malice as if it was so wrong of her to not have offered the croissants at first to Pakhi. Mahima smiled in disbelief, and tried her best to hold back her tears and looked at Pakhi requesting her to take a few more croissants, to which she politely refused.
The rest of the journey, three of them spent rather peacefully without initiating any conversation whatsoever. Except Nikhil and the driver, nobody was awake to enjoy the scenic beauty around. There were continuous stretches of green mountain ranges on one side of the road and a deep valley beneath. The Innova moved in circles while it climbed up the ranges through the narrow road carved from it. The sky was blue with white cotton like clouds. The cool and pleasant weather suddenly was too cold to bear and it was time to put on some warm clothes. Mahima had woken up from her little nap then, as she searched for her sweater and her girl’s mufflers. Nikhil whispered to Mahima so that he doesn’t disturb Pakhi who was asleep with her headphones on, ” Mahima, hand me my jacket and please take out the blanket from the yellow side bag, and place it over Pakhi. She couldn’t sleep properly last night, let’s not wake her up now.”
Mahima didn’t know why she was not howling or shouting at Nikhil but just following his orders. She placed a brown blanket over Pakhi and herself snuggled with little Pakhi and closed her eyes.
Nikhil saw Pakhi’s face cuddled in the blanket from the rear view mirror and kept staring at it. He realised he had tears at the corner of his eyes and it was beyond any doubt that he loved Pakhi from the core of his heart.
By 3.30 in the evening the car entered through a huge brown gate. The property had a beautiful rose garden in the front and the name plate infront of the wooden polished door read ‘Happy Homestay’.
Pakhi was first to get out of the car and immediately 2-3 men in uniform rushed to her and greeted her with a bow.
“Hi everyone, I hope you all are doing well. Well the family you see, are not just any guests. They are my special people and I want the best service for them”, commanded Pakhi to the men in uniform.
Mahima carried her little daughter who was fast asleep in her lap even then. Nikhil smiled at Pakhi and said, “Please arrange a room next to yours. It would be great to have you around.”
“Can you just hold Pakhi for a while, I have been carrying her since morning”, said Mahima in an irritable tone.
Nikhil beckoned Mahima towards him and said, “Oh sorry I almost forgot about her. Give her to me.”
Pakhi asked the service men to arrange room number 9 which faced the valleys and had the best sunrise views for Nikhil and his family.
She looked at Nikhil and said, “I am in room number 8. I could take you for shopping in the evening and sightseeing the next day, if Mahima has no problems.”
Nikhil grinned and replied, “Haha no! Obviously we would love to have you around. Mahima shall be happy too”, and he immediately looked at Mahima for a reassurance!
Mahima smiled in acceptance, though her mind was full of denial. She was broken into several pieces already. She didn’t know how to mend her family to normalcy again, only if it was ever so!
Nikhil with his daughter in lap followed Pakhi to have a look around the property while Mahima sat in the reception room, all alone drenched in her mournful thoughts.
To be continued….
Next episode comes up tomorrow!