Mohan’s whole body had been kept on fire; he felt the same. He could not react to anything else but to express his shock in a silent way. He tightened hold around her and hid her between his arms. He did not want this world, any chance to hurt his little princess anymore.
“Who told you this Geet!!!” he asked. He had to control his inner turmoil. Already she had been scared of experiencing his anger in the morning. He had to be calm now.
Geet moved her head little and looked at him. “That Rajji was saying that Maan would never come back. I am not wearing my necklace. Her aunty also doesn’t wear a necklace and she said her husband has gone to God’s place. Baba Maan has gone for function na, he will come back an Baba.. Bolo Na Baba!!” She was asking, holding Mohan chin innocently, and was waiting for her answer but Mohan had no answer. What could he say? Neither could he tell the truth that Maan would never come back. He has gone very far from here and nor could he lie. He couldn’t give Geet fake hope about Maan’s comeback. He could not make Geet understand the situation because she was very small. His lips were sealed with no words inside.
“Who is she Geet?” He tried to divert the topic.
Geet looked where Mohan had pointed, “She is Panna, Baba. She is my friend” Geet said smiling, rubbing her red itching eyes.
Panna Said Namaste joining her hand.
“Khush Raho Beta. So are you in same class with Geet?”
Panna said yes.
“Geet, you didn’t tell me about her, why? Did you give her toffee?”” He kept Geet down on the floor.
“Wo Baba I had forgotten to tell you. Haan I had given but you know Baba, she didn’t give me anything” She complained cutely. She had forgotten the reason why she had come here. Panna came running to Mohan and defended herself,
“No uncle, I didn’t know today her birthday, otherwise I sure would have brought something”
“Really Panna?? What would you have given me?” Geet asked excitedly.
“Don’t know, I will ask Papa”
Mohan smiled hearing their innocent baby convo. He wishes if Geet life could change, forgetting everything. His chain of thought broken with Panna shouted,
And the next second Mohan saw Panna was in Mr. Vyas arms. He looked at them confused.
Mr. Vyas asked Panna how she was here, then his eyes fell on little Geet, wearing a frilled pink frock, reached till her knees, she was looking not less than a fairy child.
“Who is that angle?”
He put Panna down and asked Geet. Geet felt shy and hid behind Mohan.
“Papa she is Geet, my friend, today’s her birthday” Panna introduced her.
“She is my daughter sir” Mohan said, tried to bring Geet front but she was going back smiling.
“Ohoo .. so today’s her birthday. Come here Beta!!”
But she didn’t come out.
“Panna did you gift her anything Beta?”
Panna nodded no. Vyas picked out some money from his wallet and advanced to Geet. Mohan though tried to refuse but Vyas did not hear and kept money in Geet hand forcefully.
“Buy whatever you like Geet, okay”
Now Geet came out and nodded. She looked at Mohan who also nodded and she ran to Panna and showed her money.
“Come Panna we would eat Golgappa!!’
Panna asked for permission from Vyas and after his acceptance both kids hastened out giggling.
“Your daughter is very cute Mohan” Vyas exclaimed when Geet came inside running and tugged Mohan’s hand in hurry.
“Baba but you didn’t tell me, I’m not widow na!!”
“Widow!!!!” Vyas’ mouth opened hearing the harsh word from Geet mouth. Mohan sensed his confusion. He said “no’ to Geet “No you’re not Beta” And Geet happily ran away out with Panna, leaving her father trapped among questioning eyes of his boss.
“What did she say Mohan?” Vyas was still in utter shock.
“Nothing sir, she had heard this word somewhere else and was asking me about it” He answered hesitatingly but Vyas was thinking something else. He had already heard a strange child marriage story the very after coming in this village.
“Is it same Geet?” His mind questioned. After seeing Mohan’s hesitation and worried face his doubt started struggling to become true but how he could have been sure that this was the same Geet. He forced Mohan to tell the truth.
“Mohan you can trust me. Perhaps I can help you”
Mohan knew this matter could not have been kept hidden for long from Vyas and so he decided to tell him everything himself before he hear it from outsiders. Anyway he had seen Vyas kindness and he knew he would not make fun of his condition. With a heavy heart he started telling what had happened.
One and half month before,
One evening again Mohan met Alka in the temple. Everyone was gathered there for evening prayer. Geet was playing with her friends hide and seek and was so engrossed in her play that she did not know that one small pair of eyes were staring at her from far.
Maan was standing holding his mother Pallu and watching children play but more his eyes were following Geet’s every movement. She was the only kid whom he used to know in this village. Mohindar was making Alka meet with a few people when he saw Maan.
“Maan Beta, why don’t you play with them?’ Mohan somewhere used to think about this silent child, he had a soft corner for Maan. Alka had told that after his father’s death, he became like this. Before he used to play with his father, he was the same like other children but now, he changed totally. She tried hard to make him recover from his father’s death shock but Maan was going to drown in his aloofness. Alka also wanted Maan to mingle with them but Maan did not show any interest.
Maan was continually watching Geet antics. Her smile, her laugh when she used to catch someone and her pout when she was being caught. Her jump when no one was able to find her and her stamping of foot, when she did not want to be a seeker. Her every act started pulling him out of his shell slowly. Did not know when he started smiling but no elder noticed it.
It was Geet turn to hide when suddenly Aarti started in the temple with a loud bell sound. All started gathering at one place and started singing prayer songs along with clapping. Songs started playing on loud speakers also. Geet, who was hiding behind a big mango tree, also tried to come out when two-three dogs started barking due to loud sound and she got scared. She started crying but no one could hear her sound. She was hell scared. Though the dogs stood little far but still Geet could not gather courage to escape and her cry started to increase along with the crowd sound. Maan noticed her trouble. He had been watching her cry. He tugged Alka saree to tell her but she did not notice. He looked for Mohan but Mohan was missing in the crowd and finally he saw that Geet hit a dog with a stone and he started barking on her more dangerously. Maan runs to rescue her, himself.
Geet stopped crying when she saw Maan.
Maan picked up few sticks and started throwing on dogs from little far and succeeded to reach to Geet but by this act dogs became more dangerous. They started scaring both children with their bark when Alka turned to find where Maan is and saw children in danger. She screamed and gained attention of people and with help of them, she rescued both children. In fear Geet was crying loud and was holding Maan hand tight that after escaping also she did not leave him. Mohan also came running and tried to take Geet in arms but she was not ready to leave Maan hand and was crying bitterly. Failing Alka made Maan and Geet sat on a bench and Mohan went to bring water and gave to Geet. She drank it still sobbing, holding Maan hand. She was shivering in fear.
“Mohan, she is so scared, I think it would be good if she plays with Maan for some time” Alka suggested.
Severely Mohan tried to take her home but Geet was not ready to leave Maan. She had fear that Mohan again would leave her and go. Finally Mohan had to agree and along with Alka, she also went to Haveli to play with Maan.