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I laid back in my business class recliner on the flight. It was a long journey of about fifteen hours I was traveling back to my country after a long time. It was five years since I had last visited my parents back in India. I had informed them earlier that I would be visiting them in late august.
I was dying to meet my family after such a long period. Ma, Papa, my elder sister Sanjana, and my younger brother Nikhil, it was so long seeing them that I just wanted this flight to end soon so that I could jump up to them.
‘Ma’am, Ma’am’ I heard a flight attendant cooing in my ears. I didn’t realize when sleep consumed me and I slept for so many hours. I got up at her words ‘Ma’am we are crossing a turbulence zone please pull up your seat and fasten your seat belt’ she said politely.
Probably I failed to hear the flight announcement as I was in a deep sleep. I pulled my seat upright and fastened my seatbelt. The next few hours passed in a blur when finally the announcement was made for the landing. I was too excited to see my family but at the same time, I was tired as I was traveling from the past thirty hours. I couldn’t get a direct flight from Los Angeles so I decided to take one from New York. It was six in the evening when my flight landed. A few more minutes at the airport and I came out of it pulling my luggage outside. It suddenly felt almost as if I had dropped into a humid atmosphere. I looked around as my Dad had said that he would send someone to receive me. My eyes wandered around the huge premise of the airport when I spotted someone. Was that Raj? Yes, it was him.
Raj also saw me and then he called my sister and my brother. They reached me, Sanju pulled me into a bear hug followed by Nikhil, and then finally it was Raj who too hugged me.
‘How is my S-S-S Simran?’ he asked in fake stuttering.
Sanju sometimes referred him, Shah-Rukh Khan, though he never looked like him or even close to him. He chose me as his Simran over Sanju always quoting “Saali toh aadhi gharwali hoti hai” andthat he had the official right to flirt with me. Raj was a loving brother-in-law and one of my best friends. I could share anything with him he was such an assuring person.
‘I am amazing, as always, how do I look?’ I chuckled slowly when my gaze went towards Nikhil. He stood silent for a long time.
‘What happened, Nick? Did you fail in your Maths exam again?’ I asked giggling to him but I couldn’t see anyone else smiling around me as if I had reminded them of something unwanted.
‘No. It’s not like that Anvita. It’s just...f-forget it. You must be tired. I think we should move forward. How long are we still going to wait?’ Sanju said, sharing a half-smile.
It was a bit weird, I knew she deliberately changed the topic and I looked again at Nikhil raising my eyebrows to get any clue but he didn’t share any. He took my luggage and Raj helped him with the same. I thought to leave it for a while and that I would talk to Sanju once we reach home.
We headed towards the car. Raj was in the driver’s seat, Nikhil next to him while I and Sanju sat at the back. I asked many questions to them and tried initiating some conversation with Sanju but neither she nor Nikhil was reacting the way they usually did and answered really short. It was only Raj who was interested in talking to me. I knew it was a long drive from the airport to our home and thus I decided to get a power nap as I was damn tired and sleep-deprived. I reclined my head at the back seat and soon the sleep consumed me.
My sleep was disturbed when I felt the vehicle stopping. Did we reach this early? Or Raj drove with a supersonic speed? I sat straight into my seat but what do I see it was not our home but it was ‘the Leela Palace’. What were we doing over here? I was confused I couldn’t get anything. Was this their plan for the dinner? All such thoughts crossed my mind.
‘Come out Anvita. What are you thinking?’ Sanju asked politely.
I stepped out of the car and looked at all of them ‘Are we going to have any dinner over here?’ I asked Sanju and she gently nodded refusing me.
“No we are here for something else, come along with me and I’ll let you know everything,” she said with a gentle smile and I followed in her direction.
She walked straight towards the lift and clicked the button that led to the seventh floor. I was totally confused. What was happening? The lift dinged and we came out, she ushered me towards a room on that floor and opened it with the key card that she took out from her purse.
We got inside and my eyes widened at the sight of the room in which we were standing. It looked like some kind of executive room that carried all the luxuries. I had a wide smile on my face and I admired the setting of the room.
Sanju smiled at me and turned to the wardrobe. She took out an exquisite bandhani saree in the red and orange combination and gave it to me.
‘What’s going on Sanju?’ I raised my eyebrows and asked her.
‘It’s just nothing, remember? Mom and Dad told you about a ‘pooja’ when you talked to us on the phone?’ she replied referring to the last conversation I had with our parents on the phone.
‘Oh! Ya! I remember’ I replied remembering it.
‘You have to wear a saree for it and I think this one will look great upon you, just change and I’ll see you in half an hour’
‘But Sanju don’t you think this is quite too heavy just for the sake of a puja?’ I bit my lower lip in doubt.
‘No Anvi, we are also having a party after that, a traditional one, so just change and I’ll see you okay, and by the way, I have placed the matching jewelry in the cupboard do wear that’ she said and left the room without giving me a chance to discuss further.