Veera had been dragged home that day and scolded severely but it hadn’t affected him at all. In fact, he had already made plans to meet Ishi in the dead of the night.
After finishing his dinner, he was heading upstairs to his room when he had heard his mother, father, uncle and aunt talking about something in hushed tones. Not meaning to eavesdrop, he had almost turned away when suddenly he had heard his name. Pressing his ears to the door, he had started to listen.
“We have to send them to Pravin. There’s no other way. I just don’t trust that family at all,” he heard his father say.
Send who away?
“But don’t you think you need to tell him before doing that. He might not like it,” he heard his mother’s soothing voice reason.
“I don’t care, Uma. If he doesn’t understand the situation now then he never will.”
“Give him some time to understand. He doesn’t know everything. He is just a boy, Bhaisa,” he heard his uncle, Shekher Kakasa’s voice opine.
“He’s not a boy, Shekher. You should have seen him today the way I did.”
“Bhaisa, he was just defending his brothers,” his aunt Girija Kakisa said.
“No, he was not. What he did doesn’t classify as defence. Time and again I have told him not to meet that girl but he doesn’t listen. He has to understand and the only way he will is when we send him away to Pravin’s.
“No buts, Uma. If I don’t send Veera away from this place then something major will happen and we will regret it forever.”
Veera’s body trembled with pent-up agony as he heard his father’s words. He can’t leave. Staying without meeting her was out of the question. Somehow he always survived the school days because there was always the lure of the holidays.
But hours, days, months and years without seeing Ishi, without meeting her, without talking to her, without playing with her—
Suddenly Veera couldn’t think anymore. Agitated, he started to beat the door in front with frantic energy not caring at all about the consequences.
He has to stop this.
The door opened with a jerk and he stumbled into the room.
“What is it, Veera?” he heard his mother ask in a panic-stricken voice as she lowered herself to his height.
“You-You are sending me……away?!”
Vikramveer was the first to respond but his sternness increased by manifold as he registered the look of defiance on his son’s face.
“Yes, we are. You are going to stay with your Pravin Kaka from now on.”
Veera looked at his father and kept the eye contact till he could. But as soon as he realised that his father wouldn’t change his decision, his shoulders slacked and he crumbled in his mother’s arms. His disgruntled sobs were nothing compared to the dull ache settling inside him.
“Veera, it’s for your own good. I believe you know that your father would never do anything to hurt you,” he heard his mother say as she rubbed his head soothingly.
But it didn’t do anything. In fact, knowing that his mother had already agreed to this only increased the anguish inside.
“Uma, there’s no need to explain. Pack his things; he is leaving with Shekher right now.”
The moment he heard his father, Veera stood up straight and looked at him.
“I am not going anywhere,” he said, his jaw tightening with resolve.
“Veera, I’m not asking. I’m telling you that you are leaving with Shekher and that’s an order.”
“And I have told you that I’m not leaving.”
His father’s voice boomed in the room but Veera stood his ground.
“Veera, go to your room. We’ll talk about this,” Uma said dragging him towards the door.
“No Uma, there will be no talking. He has to obey. I’ve told him not to meet that girl a million times but he doesn’t listen. What happened today shouldn’t have happened. He doesn’t understand the consequences.”
“I’m not leaving,” Veera said taking a step towards his father.
Just as Vikramveer was about to approach him to reprimand, Dalip Sangawat, Shekher’s younger brother, along with his wife Roopa entered the room.
“The Raijdas’ have called the panchayat to settle the matter. They have accused that Veera attacked their son first,” Dalip informed and then turned towards Veera.
“It’s all because of you, Veera. Your father has made the right decision of sending you away.”
Veera’s eyes narrowed as he heard his uncle’s unemotional cold tone. Somehow he had never liked Dalip Kakasa. There was something about him that made the warning signals go all red in his mind. His eyes shifted to his wife and he found her snickering, which was not something new as she had always resented Veera’s presence.
However, the smile on her face right now was not something he had seen before. It was as if she was smiling inwardly rejoicing a private triumph.
“It’s okay Dalip, we can handle the panchayat. It’s good they had approached them; there couldn’t have been a better way-out,” Vikramveer said as he sat down.
“No buts, Dalip. Tomorrow we will face the panchayat. Uma, pack Veera’s things. He is leaving with Shekher tonight.”
Veera trembled a little just as he heard his father but steadied himself. He was not leaving and that was for sure even if it meant promising something that would tear him apart.
Slowly he approached his father and looked up at him.
“Go to your room, Veera. I have nothing more to say to you,” he heard his father say.
“Don’t send me away, please.”
But Vikramveer ignored his plea.
Suddenly he felt his mother’s hand on his head and as he looked at her, he saw her coaxing him towards the door.
Veera slanted his gaze at his father and saw him sitting sternly avoiding his eyes. There was nothing else he could do but this.
“I am not leaving,” Veera reiterated, jaw clenching with effort.
“No Baba, I’m not leaving you, Ma and Gera here alone.”
He saw his father looking at him with anger but right now he was not afraid of him. He didn’t have the liberty to cower in fear.
He swallowed the lump of pain and then said in a firm voice, “If you don’t want me to meet Ishi, then I promise I’ll never meet her. But I am not leaving you people and that’s final.”
Saying this, he left.