I leaned in a little, cleared my throat, lowered my volume and told her, “He is the same son she had outside of wedlock or some such thing.” On hearing this, Sheela retreated in her chair, her jaws opening wide in disbelief, as if to not miss taking in this big scoop—“Yeah?! Ohhh!”
If someone were to describe my smile at this point, they would use the word ‘smug’. I must admit, I felt great joy in giving out that piece of news to her. This was followed by both of us slurping our teas and tapping the biscuits on the plate to dust the crumbs off of it, so we could dip it in our chai.
Before the silence got any more awkward, she changed topic and said, “You know what, Mukund continues to ill-treat my nephew at my mother’s place. I feel so bad for Sahil.”
My immediate impulse was to ask ‘Well, why don’t you intervene?’, especially since Mukund was her own brother. But it felt like me asking that would break the delightful flow of our conversation. So, instead, I said, “Tch, so sad. Mukund doesn’t seem to be that kind of a guy at all!”
Sheela was quick to correct me, “Oh please. He’s very much ‘that kind’. Being the only son, he has always had his way. Besides, he has never left that house in all of his 45 years, so he does as he pleases there.”
I added, “But I don’t understand why Chikki would send Sahil to live with him. Am I wrong to assume Chikki is being irresponsible?”
I wanted to make sure I wasn't being wrong, you know.
She responded, “Chikki argues that she has sent Sahil to our mother’s, and she is not wrong but she, more than anyone, knows how territorial Mukund can be. Since they both were so thick, all through our childhood. And I was all by myself, as the elder one.”
I agreed and said, “Yeah, even Sanath always complains how his siblings were a unit and he was left to fend for himself as the youngest, all through his childhood.”
“Tch, poor Sanath!”, Sheela said.
I added, “And it really annoys him today, when those very siblings are quick to tell us, that we should get our daughter married since she is already 24. What makes them think we aren’t worried and concerned? If we found a suitable boy, do you think we would have waited so late?”
Sheela added, “Ridiculous! It is so annoying, nahi ka? That people are so interested in discussing other’s lives and gossiping about them. Why can’t people mind their own business, really?!”
We both wondered in amazement.