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The next morning Snigdha woke up grumbling, with the theme song of Thakumar Jhuli blasting from their neighbour’s television set. The little kid next door annoyed the crap out of her. The kid’s room was directly next to hers and the sounds of cartoon shows blaring all day long from his room irritated her to no end, especially when she had some examination preparations to do or when she was trying to get some well-earned sleep.

Snigdha got out of bed and went to the bathroom to freshen up, all the while cursing her neighbours for not handling their kid better. Her head was feeling very heavy and uncomfortable because of her crying jag last night. She decided to get some sleep after breakfast.

She sat down at the breakfast table and rested her head on it in an effort to soothe her headache. As soon as Srestha entered and saw Snigdha with her head on the table, she started admonishing Snigdha, “Why are you sleeping right after waking up in the morning, Mini? What are your in-laws going to say, if you keep up these lazy habits after marriage?”

Snigdha flared up as usual on hearing the in-laws lecture from her mother. It irked her to think that just because she was a girl, she was supposed to be all goody goody and perfect after marriage. Before her mother could continue, she said exasperatedly, “Mom, I’m having a splitting headache, couldn’t sleep well last night, and the nasty brat in the Sharma’s house woke me up with his stupid cartoon songs. I want to get back to bed after breakfast. You and your lecture! Where’s dad?”

Just then Jatin entered with a grin on his face and an empty bucket in his hand—he had been watering his precious plants. As soon as he saw his daughter’s unhappy face his enthusiastic grin subsided and he asked worriedly, “Mini, are you all right? It’s Sunday; you should be looking fresh and happy. Did you sleep properly?”

Snigdha replied, “No! That Sharma kid woke me up. I have a headache.”

Srestha said in a superior tone, “I keep asking you to massage your feet with oil before going to bed. I’ve told you a hundred times that you will sleep better that way. But you never listen.” Nobody said anything in reply. Both father and daughter were used to ignoring such pearls of wisdom from Srestha, though they both knew that sometimes her advices did work. Snigdha turned her face away from her mother, not in the mood to fight with her.

Suddenly Jatin asked enthusiastically, “Would you both like to go out tonight? We can have dinner outside. What say?”

This sudden plan surprised Snigdha. She stared at her father and found his scruntinising eyes fixed on her. She got instantly uncomfortable. She knew her father didn’t say much like her mother, but he saw more than she did. She sighed deeply. Hiding her pain from her parents had been the biggest struggle in her life. And, the only way to keep them from digging too deep was to conform to their wishes readily, pretending to be happy. That was the only reason she had taken the job of a lecturer when her father had insisted. So, again she agreed to her father’s plan, though all she wanted was to sleep all day. Her father, happy with her approval, decided to visit the Heritage Mall in the evening.

As they sat down for breakfast, Snigdha was suddenly thankful. She looked at her parents fondly as they made plans for the evening. They were chatting happily, her mother was serving them noodles, her father was insisting her mother to have breakfast before doing anything else. Snigdha felt her mood lift slightly as a deep sense of contentment and security rose within her. She was sure even if the world turned upside-down, her parents would still be there with her.

That morning Snigdha helped her father with his office work; Jatin owned a construction company. She checked the accounts for him. She noticed her father staring at her concernedly at times and realised that her father could sense her unease. But they didn’t talk about anything uncomfortable. Instead, they finished their work quickly and decided to play Ludo—the quintessential Bengali game. Her father tried to cheat at the game as usual and Snigdha started protesting. So, they had a rematch which she ended up winning.

By the time evening came, Snigdha was feeling better and a lot less anxious. She was sure she wouldn’t get her invitation card. They went to the mall and ended up buying loads of new clothes and some household stuff. Later when they returned home after having dinner at a Mughlai restaurant, Snigdha was smiling naturally—the kind of happy smile that she generally had, the smile that made Jatin and Srestha feel content.

The next morning when Jatin came into the downstairs hall and handed Snigdha a fancy reddish envelope, Snigdha was in a hurry to finish her breakfast so that she could leave for college early. She didn’t notice the significance of the letter at first, but eventually her eyes got pulled towards it and she froze. Slowly, with trembling fingers, she slit open the envelope and out came the beautifully decorated, square piece of white card, printed with red letters that made Snigdha’s head spin.

The Apex College Alumni

Invites you cordially

for the

reunion of all the ex-students on the year 2019.

The party will be held at

the SPRING CLUB, at 59 Boulevard Street

on the 29th June.

The colour scheme of the party is RED and WHITE for the women.

For the men it would be WHITE and BROWN.

Kindly let us know if you are interested in attending the party at the e-mail address

[email protected]

Srestha took the letter from Snigdha’s numb fingers when she saw Snigdha staring at it with a shocked face. Srestha was dumbfounded to see that a simple invitation for a reunion was affecting her daughter like this. “Is there something wrong? Why do you look like this?”

Snigdha stood up, her legs feeling leaden all of a sudden. “I don’t want to attend this party.”

Srestha’s eyebrows pulled up in suspicion. “Why not? All your old friends will be there. Why don’t you want to go?”

Jatin interrupted mercifully, “Because she has sense, Srestha. Those fellows from her college are no good. No need of meeting them. We’ll go for a small trip that day, so you won’t feel left out, Mini. Where should we go?”

“You decide, dad.” Snigdha picked up her handbag and srode out, fighting the rising panic inside her.

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