“Nikhil! How could you hide this from me?”, bellowed Avantika. She was gasping in anger in her gold embroidered salwar kameez. It was the day of their engagement ceremony. In the huge hall, stood Avantika’s parents with a few more relatives and Nikhil’s father with a young girl. There were pompous noises all around the house except the room where Nikhil and the others conversed.
Avantika’s mother wiped her tears and yelled, “I would have never known this family’s dirty little secrets if I wasn’t informed in time by Mr. Mehta, (who was their family friend). I would never let my daughter marry in such a disgraceful family.”
Nikhil’s father in a subdued tone said, “I request all of you to be a little soft with your voices. There are people outside. We can sit and talk about it, as it isn’t really important in the context of the engagement.”
In an enraged voice Avantika’s father said, “I reckon there isn’t any point discussing the engagement now. It is off the cards. I would not let my beloved daughter be a part of a filthy family where the woman of the house bears an illegitimate child, who was gladly accepted back in the family.”
Nikhil was infuriated then and was just about to thrash the nearby flower vase on the floor when Avankita in her shrill voice spoke up, “I cannot believe that Nikhil had hidden the truth about Pakhi, for so long. I have no business commenting on your family and the practice of accepting an impure blood, but this relationship is over.” She walked out of the hall as well as the engagement. She was soon followed by her family and relatives who were fuming in anger as well as disgust. Mr. Mehta with his shrewd smile stared at Nikhil and went away slamming the door behind.
Nikhil’s father was already broken then, he all of a suddenly sat on the chair behind only to lose his balance and fall down. The young girl who sobbed bitterly in the corner dashed to him and tried to pull him back into the chair and just the very next moment she was pushed back by Nikhil who groaned and with his red anguished eyes bellowed, ” Get lost, don’t you dare touch my father. You should have never been allowed a place in the family. I lost my mother, we lost our family because of you. Father and I were so mistaken, I regret. I hope you know who your father is, go and search for him. We no more need you in our lives.”
He pulled up his father struggling hard and put him back into the chair. His father was weeping today because his old wounds had resurfaced. His wife had cheated on him, soon after Nikhil was born. She was seeing a man who had left his wife after confirmation of her pregnancy. For more than 2 decades the family of four lived happily together, under the same roof with only the mother knowing the truth. One miserable morning he got hold of an anonymous letter which told about his wife’s extra marital affair in the past and also about the illegitimate daughter which he had imagined to be his own.
He was shattered into pieces which he could have never picked up. Soon the peace of the family was destroyed and in the agony of his betrayal and hatred, he asked his wife to leave the house with ‘her’ daughter. Nikhil sobbed for days, weeks and months but couldn’t forgive his mother, though he had been in constant touch with his half sister because his love for her didn’t diminish an inch even after knowing everything . A couple of years later the news of Nikhil’s mother’s death reached him. He couldn’t believe she was gone, the woman he had loved all his life. He rushed to her place to glimpse her for one last time. There was no more anger but only love in his heart for his dead love and the daughter he had thought to be his own. He called back her home. Their old happy home was once again filled with happiness. The girl who had already completed her Mba then was happy assisting her brother in the family business.
Everything broke apart today, on the day of Nikhil’s engagement.
Nikhil looked up at her half sister and said with a broken voice, “leave the house and never come back.”
With tears in her eyes she left the house of the men who she thought to be her father and brother. Within a month Nikhil’s father breathed his last with a sudden stroke. Nikhil had never known that the sister who he had driven away from the house sneaked inside, for one last time to glance at the man she called ‘father’.
With a mug of coffee in his hand Nikhil looked up at Mahima, who sat with teary eyes in the front. She had almost frozen and with much difficulty uttered, “The sister is Pakhi?” Nikhil nodded in affirmation.
Mahima bent forward and clasped his hands, she beckoned Pakhi to sit beside her, who was sitting in the corner with her little niece in the lap. She then looked at Pakhi in the eyes, “You are coming back with us and live in our apartment in Rubypark. I don’t know what to say but as I love my Pakhi I would love you too, because now I know what made your brother choose this name for our his child.”
Pakhi was at loss of words and she could only smile while tears flown down her eyes. Mahima turned towards Nikhil and in an angry babyish voice said, “What you thought, it’s better to make the wife jealous by faking an affair so that she accepts your long lost sister?” She chuckled with teary eyes and continued, ” I am not Avantika and always remember your Mahima would love anyone who is dear to you. You would be living with both your Pakhis until both of them get married, one a little sooner and the other may be 2 decades later“
Pakhi blushed a little and said her first words in hours, “I am sorry to have bothered you in the last couple of days. I always want you 3 to live happily”. She was intervened by Mahima as she corrected her, “Not we 3, but all 4 of us. Until you tell me whom you are going to marry.”
Nikhil had the widest smile ever while he paid for the coffee and walked out of the coffee shop holding Mahima’s hands. He said, “You really thought she was my ex lover or I was having an affair? I love you with all my heart, may be I couldn’t shower you with the best of my feelings because I was torn inside for what I had done to Pakhi. The loss was unbearable when I imagined you might also leave me if you knew the truth. I promise you that I would be the best of Nikhil from now.”
Soon they were joined by the two Pakhis and the 4 crossed the lanes of the mall road chattering, while a wave of happiness surrounded them.
P.s – Nikhil didn’t forget to bring them two Pashmina shawls.
And they lived happily ever after!