"Vijay jī, jevaṇa zhālyāpāsūna tumhī mājhyāśī kāhīça bolalā nāhī." You haven't spoken to me since dinner. Sharada let loose her pallu as they finished washing the dishes together.
Vijay had decided early in life that he was too old to learn to cook, but he had grown to enjoy washing dishes. When Milind and Sulochana had been newlyweds, the dishes had been Vijay's excuse to give them some privacy, and it had turned into his own quality time with Sharada. Their reconnection had blessed them with Nikhil, after which Vijay, shaken in his belief that a respectable man's only precaution should be self-restraint, had allowed himself a vasectomy, reassured by the doctor that no one other than Mandar's mother would ever find out about it. Even these days, after spending the whole day under the hot sun, selling sarees by the roadside, Vijay wasn't too tired to wash dishes with Sharada.
"Bolāyalā ase kāya āhe, Sharada?" What is there to say? Vijay began what they both knew he couldn't resist saying to her. "Tulā tara aikāyalā āvaḍaṇāra nāhī." You won't like to hear it. "Gelyā āṭhavaḍyāta tūça to mulagā mājhyākaḍe tiffin poçavāyalā pāṭhavalāsa, tyāçā āza hā pariṇāma bhogatoya." Last week, you yourself sent that boy to me to deliver the tiffin, and the consequence of that is what I have to endure today.
That boy was Raghav Rao, their son-in-law, and it was not lost on Sharada that Vijay hadn't called him "to vyasanī lāzamoḍyā" - that profligate shame-stripper - or similar choice names.
"Kāya zhāle tarī?" But what happened? Sharada gave Vijay his opening; he counted on her to humour him.
"Mājhyāśī lāḍīgoḍī karūna tyāne sāḍyā dākhavāyalā bhāga pāḍale." He cajoled and wheedled me until I was obliged to show him sarees. "Mhaṇe, dhākaṭyā bahiṇīcyā lagnāta Pañjābiṇīṃçe mānapāna karāyalā bhārītalyā bhārī sāḍyā havyāta." He said, it's his little sister's wedding and he wants the most expensive of expensive sarees as honoraria for Panjabi women. "Dīḍaśe sāḍyāñcī order kaḷavato, ase sāṅgūna nighūna gelā." He told me he would order 150 sarees, and left. Vijay's voice rose slightly with each sentence as he came closer to the mortifying part of the story.
"Āṇi visaralā kī kāya?" And he forgot, really? Sharada suspected that Raghav had once again made a promise that meant nothing to him after he caught his chase. She had heard from Krishna, Raghav promised Pallavi a dozen showrooms if she married him, but as soon as they were married, he told her she couldn't even have the key to her own shop.
"Nāhī, nighaṇyāādhīça tyāne phone varūna niropa pāṭhavalā asaṇāra, kāraṇa ardhyā tāsātaça tyāçā to māṇūsa akkhī rakkama gheūna hazara zhālā." No, he must have sent a message on his phone even before he left, because within half an hour that man of his showed up with the full amount.
"Farhad?" Sharada guessed. Vijay nodded glumly. "Evaḍhā tumaçā ādara kelā tara kuṭhe māśī śiṅkalī?" If he showed you that much respect, what fly-sneeze got in the way of your deal?
"Mī Madhavan-kaḍūna tyā dīḍaśe bharazarī sāḍyā āṇalyā, paravāça tujhyā āvaḍatyā zāṃvayācyā gharī poçavalyā, āṇi āza Madhavan malā kāya mhaṇālā, māhīta āhe kā tulā?" I brought in those 150 richly embroidered sarees from Madhavan, delivered them to your favourite son-in-law's house just the day before yesterday, and today Madhavan said to me, you don't even know what he said!
Here it comes, Sharada thought. What did Raghav do to hurt Vijay jī's pride this time? At least Vijay jī is calling Raghav our son-in-law this time, and not our landlord! Maybe it's not so bad, whatever he did.
"Madhavan-cyā bālapaṇīcyā śāḷetalī eka śikṣikā ātā vṛddhāśramāta rahāte." A teacher from Madhavan's school days now lives in an old age home. "Dara āṭhavaḍyālā ticyā bheṭīlā to tithe zāto." He goes there every week to visit her. "Āza tine nesalelī sāḍī pāhūna to thakka zhālā, kāraṇa mī vikalelyā tyācyāça bhārī sāḍyāṃpaikī tī eka hotī." Today, he was stunned to see what she was wearing - because it was one of his own expensive sarees that I had sold! "Āṇi aśīça eka eka paravā mājhyākaḍūna Madhavan-ne vikalelī bharazarī sāḍī āza tyā vṛddhāśramātalyā pratyeka bāīcyā aṅgāvara disata hotī!" And just like her, today every woman in that old age home was wearing a richly embroidered saree that Madhavan had sold through me just the day before yesterday!
"Tyā vṛddhāśramāta hyāça sāḍyā kuṭhūna poçalyā asatīla?" How could these same sarees have reached that old age home? Sharada wondered aloud.
"Kāhī gūḍhagahana nāhī tyāta." There's no mystery to it. "Madhavan-ne sāḍīçe kautuka kele tevhāṃ tyā bāīṃnī svataḥhūna sāṅgitale kī to vṛddhāśrama çālavaṇārā eka Ramaswami nāṃvāçā āhe, tyāne tyā sāḍyā vāṭūna dilyā." When Madhavan admired the saree, that lady herself told him that someone named Ramaswami runs that old age home, and he distributed those sarees. "Tujhyā zāṃvayāne svataḥcyā bahiṇīcyā lagnātalyā mānapānācī ādhīça vyavasthā kelī asaṇāra, tarī tyā kāruṇyakalpavṛkṣāne dayā mhaṇūna āpalyāvara paise phekale, mājhyākaḍūna sāḍyā ghetalyā, āṇi tyāṃçā upayoga nāhī mhaṇūna tyā Ramaswami-kaḍūna dāna kelyācī pāvatī miḷavalī." Your son-in-law must have already ordered the honoraria for his sister's wedding, but that wishing-tree of charity took pity and threw money at us, took sarees from me, and having no use for them, obtained a receipt from that Ramaswami for his donation.
Sharada closed her eyes to hold back her tears. How humiliating for poor Vijay jī! Of course Raghav had meant to be kind, and it was sheer bad luck that his act of charity had been found out. That poor boy was trying so hard to find out what they needed and do it for them, and he must have learned to control his temper, or he couldn't have persuaded Vijay jī to eat with him last week. How was she going to prevent Vijay jī from confronting Raghav and derailing her plan to reunite her family?
"Itake kāhī vāīṭa nāhī he." This isn't all that bad. "Madhavan āpaleça mitra āheta, te kuṇālā sāṅgaṇāra nāhīta." Madhavan is our friend; he won't tell anyone. "Āpaṇa hyā prasaṅgāçā vicāra soḍūyā, āṇi śatapāvalī karāyalā bāhera paḍūyā." Let's stop thinking about this incident, and step outside for a walk around the block.
After their walk, Vijay lay down in their bedroom, and Sharada slipped out to make a phone call to Raghav.
"Namaste, Āī, kaise haiṃ āpa?"
"Raghav, beṭā, we are all fine, but listen, there has been some sort of misunderstanding. Our friend Madhavan, whose sarees Vijay jī sells, recognized the sarees that you bought from Vijay jī. The residents at an old age home were wearing them. Beṭā, Vijay jī knows that you didn't want those sarees for Kirti's wedding."
Raghav exhaled furiously through his nose. "Āī, it wasn't like that, please believe me." Raghav quickly explained what had happened to Sharada, and said, "Now that you know, Āī, can you pass it on to Sasurajī and reassure him that I meant no disrespect?"
"No, Raghav. Tell me, when you have children, and they quarrel with somebody, what will you do? Will you say sorry for them? Will you order your child to say sorry?"
Raghav, who often promised his Amma that he would say sorry to someone, and neglected to do so, understood that there was no easy answer. He never hesitated to say sorry when he felt like it, but being made to feel sorry by someone else - well, he had made himself rich so that no one could make him bow down like that! He was not sure what to expect of his hypothetical children, but Sharada clearly expected him to explain himself to Vijay.
"Āī, I will visit you early tomorrow morning to talk to Sasurajī."
They ended the call, but Raghav's mind was still on what Āī had said. That Sanakī Buḍḍhā sells sarees on the roadside, and they're not even his own sarees? The designs belong to his friend Madhavan?
Early the next day, before Vijay had even had breakfast, Raghav entered his home. Sharada, of course, insisted that Raghav should sit down to breakfast with Vijay, Milind, Mandar, Manasi, Nikhil, and Amruta. Sulochana was sleeping in as usual, and would demand her special tea later.
Vijay would rather have gone to work on an empty stomach than waited for breakfast with Raghav smiling across from him. But Sharada had insisted that he should hear what Raghav had to say.
"Sasurajī, Mandar, everyone, Sunny was taken to jail early yesterday morning." Raghav looked around the table. Everyone's attention was on him.
"How did that happen?" Manasi spoke for all of them.
"As you know, when Mandar was found alive, the charge of vehicular homicide against Sunny had to be dropped, and charges of impaired driving, vehicular assault, and leaving the scene of a crime were too difficult to prove after all of this time. That is my fault, of course; I kept the car hidden until the bloodstains on it could not be proved to belong to Mandar," Raghav admitted.
Vijay said nothing, but his eyes showed pain at the mention of Mandar's injuries. Mandar held his hand to reassure him.
"However, the night before last, a witness came forward who saw everything, and that witness's statement was enough for the police to arrest Sunny for all three charges."
"Who is that witness?" Milind asked.
"Kirti?" Vijay repeated, stunned. The criminal's accomplice?
"Kirti is willing to testify that Sunny was drunk, that he was driving when the car struck Mandar, and that he drove away. Unfortunately, the watchman who witnessed the hit-and-run, Mr. Vipul Kadam, could not be taken at his word alone -"
"After you paid him to lie to Pallavi!" Vijay would not tolerate Raghav's arm's-length narration.
"Yes, that is also my fault," Raghav said, "but lying to Pallavi wasn't perjury, so he can testify in court once and for all. Kirti's testimony will carry more weight because she will admit that she herself left the scene of the crime. The expected sentence for Kirti is probation."
"Kirti is willing to incriminate herself? Why?" Milind asked.
"Last week, Sasurajī took the time to help me choose sarees for gifts in Kirti's wedding. I told Kirti, of course, and ever since then, her mood changed, she became very quiet. Later, she told me that she was miserable because, as she said, 'These sarees are Vijay Uncle's blessing, and I don't deserve it.' Sasurajī, when you had your second heart attack, it was Kirti who told me that I was responsible. And now that Kirti knows that it was Mandar whom she left to die, she believes that if she had told the truth, maybe you wouldn't have had the first heart attack. Kirti and Sunny had some arguments about her mood, and two days ago, when they were at his place, he hit her. She was looking for balm and discovered some date rape drugs. She couldn't overlook that, so she called off the wedding and had Sunny arrested."
"Poor Kirti," said Manasi. Raghav gave her a thankful look.
"By the way, Sasurajī, Sunny claims that the date rape drugs aren't his; they belong to his friend Rocky, the one who blackmailed Ragini to steal a necklace from my showroom to frame you. So, Ragini is trying to use Sunny's testimony to prosecute Rocky for drugging her. I don't know if Rocky will go to jail, but I thought you might want to know."
Vijay cleared his throat. "Raghav, I thought you donated those sarees to the old age home because you never wanted them for Kirti's wedding."
"I won't lie, Sasurajī. I had no plans to choose the wedding gifts myself. I was paying a wedding coordinator to do that. But I liked what you showed me. Then, when the wedding was called off, I didn't want those sarees to sit on a shelf, so I thought of Ramaswami. Ramaswami thinks of the old age home ladies as his mothers. So, as soon as he distributed the sarees, they all got dressed up to take photos with him. Your sarees are appreciated more than honoraria, please believe me."
"We believe you," Milind spoke for everyone at the table.
"Someday, Sasurajī, Kirti will get married, and I will need exquisite sarees again. Sorry, but I can't buy them from you again." Raghav cast his bait, and Vijay bit.
"Why not? Did your principles change so quickly?"
"I realized that you're in competition with Pallavi. Your sarees are designed by your friend Madhavan, not by anyone associated with Deshmukh Saree Emporium. How would it look, if Manasi got married and the honoraria came from Madhavan and not Deshmukh Saree Emporium? Same rule for Kirti."
Raghav turned to Manasi. "By the way, Manasi, do you want me to pay a visit to Rahul? Just say the word, and I can have him at your feet."
"Leave Rahul alone, Raghav! I mean it!" Manasi told him firmly, and Milind patted her shoulder reassuringly.
"I see your point." Vijay said sternly.
"There's more," Raghav said. "It's bad publicity for Pallavi's business that her Bābā sells someone else's sarees. As her husband, I can't tolerate that."
"Hm. Don't you mean, it's bad publicity for Raghav Rao that his father-in-law can be seen sitting on a roadside? Well, I started on the roadside and I'm not ashamed -"
"Old news, Sasurajī. The tabloids reported it months ago and there's no more juice to strain out of it. My customers want flashy jewelry; bad publicity for me personally doesn't really hurt my business. So, this is about Pallavi. You renounced the shop to let her have it. If you really want to stay out of her way, you will stop selling Madhavan's sarees and accept my business proposal instead."
Mandar and Nikhil exchanged furtive smiles. Raghav was pressing Bābā's buttons like an expert.
"What is your proposal?" Vijay asked.
"Pallavi donates ten percent of the shop's revenue to an orphanage. She doesn't get any good publicity because no one knows about her donations. She wouldn't want it either. But with your help, I can get her the good publicity that she deserves. I want you to demonstrate traditional saree hand-weaving techniques for guided tours from schools and colleges. Jayati Jewels' publicity department will arrange the tours. You can set up with your loom right here at home, or tell me what else you need. You will inspire children to feel pride in their state heritage, and you will earn money from the tour fees. Of course, we'll have sarees on display from Deshmukh Saree Emporium, and advertise that ten percent of the price goes to the orphanage."
Raghav paused, and let Vijay think about his words. Come on, buḍḍhe, it's not that hard, he thought.