Starved: This is the 16th episode of Riva Razdan’s serialized novel Nonsense and Respectability

to summarize: On the way to their own apartment in the middle of the night, Seher tells Raahi and Zaara that Saahil probably wouldn’t defend her.

The Pandits’ first breakfast in their new home was a silent affair as each tried to forget the unpleasant events of the previous evening, as if they were running away from a bad dream. Unfortunately, it wasn’t really a breakfast either. As the girls silently waited for Cafe Suzette to deliver their toast and eggs to them that morning, Raahi internally berated herself for not thinking about stocking their new home’s refrigerator the week before. But then, how could she have known that her stupid stepson was going to chase them out of the house in the middle of the night?

Luckily, Seher had produced sachets of Nescafe and cream from his suitcase travel kit and made them three mugs of hotel room coffee, which the Pandits gratefully sipped, enjoying the warmth of their mugs. familiar flower patterns in their hands while they ignored the rumble of their stomachs.

Neither of them was going to tear up the package of Mint Oreos Seher had left with the drinks. It seemed wrong, somehow, to swallow the cookies that had obviously been bought for Saahil, or by Saahil at one point. Raahi still couldn’t believe that the boy she had thought was so reliable and charming, hadn’t even bothered to call the next morning to see if Seher was okay. As everyone’s first early riser, Saahil must have already been up and briefed on all of the sordid facts of the night before. So why wasn’t he there, sharing their breakfast with them? Didn’t he care?

Seher, unable to bear his mother’s worried gaze any longer, put his cup down.

“He texted,” she said emphatically. “He was very polite. I haven’t answered yet.

But far from reassuring Raahi, this series of cold statements falling like ice in already cold water only worried him more. She was dying to ask an appropriate question about how her daughter was feeling, but it was clear from the determined tilt of Seher’s chin that she would not give out any real information.

Zaara, thinking the subject was closed, reached out for the packet of Oreos, but at a glance from her mother, her hand instead fell on the bag of brown sugar, which the young girl in her desperate hunger tore apart. and poured into his mouth like it was a bundle of pop-rock. If Seher hadn’t been so determined not to betray any emotion that morning, she would have laughed.

But she didn’t want to laugh. She didn’t want to recognize Oreos as anything other than a pile of meaningless chocolate cookies. There was no obvious and unbearable lack in their new living room. It was perfect, in fact, she thought, as she let her eyes drift away from her worried family and float into the white-walled room around them. Her mother had done a great job over the past two weeks, making this compact, concrete box of an apartment as spacious and inviting as possible.

It had come as a shock to them, when they first arrived in Bombay, to find that the penthouse they thought they had bought at a bargain price was more of a bargain size than they realized. had imagined it. While the square footage was as promised, the interior of the house had been terribly planned with unnecessary columns and arches (which had not been displayed in the brochures) limiting the available space and making the whole house much smaller and less airy than it was. advertised to be.

But having no more energy to fight real estate agents, Raahi decided to make the most of a bad situation by building space in the cramped apartment with white walls, minimal furniture and lots of plants. flourishing.

“The lavender pressed on the walls is a lovely touch mom,” Seher said, injecting as much warmth as possible into her voice to compensate for her earlier bluntness. “It looks a bit like an indoor Zen garden.

“Thanks, beta,” Raahi said. But his eyes turned to the Oreos again.

“Zaara, what do you think of the place? Seher asked quickly. Raahi’s mouth sank into his plump pout, understanding the hint.

“Mom did a great job with what she had,” Zaara admitted. “But I can’t believe this room has only one light source. And this is it.

Zaara looked up in disgust at the garish, crystal and gold chandelier that hung from the low ceiling and ruined the clean elegance of the room.

“I tried to get rid of it,” Raahi also narrowed her eyes in horror. “But the electrician said it would involve a complete rewiring. And I don’t think we have the budget for it right now.

“No, we don’t,” Seher confirmed. “Not until you get a teaching job and at least have a stable income.”

Zaara sighed and tried not to let her memory return to their beloved home in Mayfair, which had been lovingly built by mother and daughters during their 20 years in London.

In a way, living in Aparna’s house made her imagine that they were just vacationing in Bombay. But now, sitting in an apartment that was a quarter the size of their house, drew her attention too strongly to the reality of their situation and filled her with pain that Seher and Raahi were mature enough to ignore.

“Our Dior candelabra would fit perfectly into this room,” Zaara suddenly said. “Did we bring him back with us?” “

Raahi sighed.

“It was four kilogram Zaara. We did not do it.

“But it was gold.”

“Bronze plated,” Seher pointed out.

“And he held the candles between the wings of the golden butterflies.”

“Clearly a necessity,” Seher smiles.

“It was vintage, a heirloom piece,” Zaara insisted, irritated at not being taken seriously.

“More like a thrift store. Mom and you found it at the Saint-Ouen Market.

“We won it from that awful lady who hissed at me for eating roasted chestnuts in the store. Which, moreover, is totally authorized at the Market. It was a moment of triumph.

“For the trader, maybe. You have paid too much.

“We don’t have. Mom, tell her …”

“The girls are resting. It was just a candelabra, my darling Zaara. We’ll have all kinds of new lights in a few weeks when I save some money.

At that, Zaara collapses in complete defeat and Seher holds back a smile.

“I can be frugal,” Raahi said, giving them both a superior look.

– Yes, Zaara sighed. “Like you were at Foodhall last week.” “

“Excuse me. Mrs. Brie,” Raahi said, with a breath. “It was your idea to visit the wine and cheese section that got the ball rolling.”

“That’s right,” Zaara conceded with a wistful look at their bare table. “It’s a shame we weren’t able to keep any of this cheese. Especially since Seher broke his savings account for that … “

There was a strong inspiration from Seher which silenced Zaara.

Raahi held her breath, fearing that the girl who had been brave all this time might break under this drop of water and burst into tears at the injustice of it all.

But Seher burst out laughing.

To the surprise of her family, she shook with great bursts of gaiety.

“I did. I broke my savings account for cheese,” she laughed. “And we couldn’t even eat it!”

Besides, it was also difficult for their direct minds not to see the humor in it. Soon the three Pandits were laughing very hard at themselves and the irony of the universe.

And somehow, having each other for a laugh in a house that, although small, was definitely theirs, eased their situation and took away all the inconvenience from the night before.

“Do you know what he sent me?” Seher said suddenly, amid the bursts of laughter. She pulled out her phone and read Saahil’s last message, deepening her voice for effect.

” ‘Yes. How are you doing? ‘”

And that triggered all three of them again. They laughed and laughed, until the doorbell rang.

“It must be the Swiggy guy,” Seher said, wiping his eyes and getting up to open the door.

“Bless him,” Zaara added, laughing. “The only man we can count on. “

“Hush,” Raahi said, but wiped the tears of laughter from her eyes and spat again.

Seher shook his head, still laughing, and opened the door. But there she couldn’t find a delivery boy carrying a brown paper bag of toast, eggs, and blessed coffee. Instead, there was a tall, red-cheeked man, holding a large ribbon basket of what looked like gourmet cheese, fruit, and freshly baked bread. Oddly enough, from Foodhall.

“Jaspal Singh Guru,” his jovial voice echoed through their house as he lifted the blue basket as an offering.

“I’m in love with your mother.

The mirth faded from Seher’s face just as the laughter in the living room died down.

(To be continued)

This is the 16th episode of Riva Razdan’s serialized novel Nonsense and Respectability, released every Sunday.

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