Beri Piya

Kusum holding a tray with two tea cups and some biscuits in her hand smiled as Priyush the singing master told Nishka for her incorrect sur. She entered the room with a teasing smile and kept the tray on the floor next to Nishka. Looking at the practice she got up and started to leave when Nishka stopped her noticing her smile.

Nishka in an angry voice asked “What you think this is an easy song? Why don’t you try it out, sing a song common sing without any errors?”

Kusum apologetically explained “No didi I didn’t do anything. I cannot sing at all.”

Nishka barked again “I saw you smiling now show me your talent.”

Priyush wanting to stop this interrupted, “Nishka! She just acknowledged my presence didn’t smile at the practice, let her go, let us finish this. Only one final round and you are set to this song.” He was getting late for his next session.

Nishka insisted “No I no want to hear from her, common Kusum go head else will not let you go home today.”

Kusum widening eyes “oh didi, I did not smile at you, please let me go.”

Looking at Nishka’s expression Kusum understood didi was in no mood to spare her. She closed her eyes started a Marathi song with the worse sur ever. She opened her eyes to find both people in front of her laughing silently and then loudly as they realize Kusum is all red with shame. Kusum ran away.

Nishka said aloud “Kusum is a very sweet girl, her parents married her off to a very old man who died within 6 months of the marriage.  Her relatives at husbands place made life hell for the poor girl. We found her near the village well when we visited Ratanpur last year. Since then she is with us and helps me with daily work. I also let her go to school in the morning she loves studying.”

Priyush was staring at Nishka’s happy face and then asked “We?”

Nishka smiled and dreamingly said “Neel and me equal to ‘we’.”

Priyush could hardly hear the explanation properly as he kept staring at her brown eyes. He just loves her eyes and the soft sweet voice. The clock strike made him come to reality and he saw his watch realizing he has to hurry up.

He woke Nishka from her own dream and asked: Why were you in a hurry to learn the song by today? I saw a big improvement in you since we started 3 months ago. But last week you stopped our regular practice and insisted on learning this song.

Nishka realized she forgot to invite him said “Oh yes! Will you please come tomorrow in the evening by 6 here? I want to tell you something.”

Priyush happiness and hopes visible in his eyes “Oh sure of course what is it?”

Nishka teasingly said “Oh you come tomorrow you will know.”

She smiles and started to get up and continued “I am taking off from my hotel too, my sister will take care tomorrow.”

Priyush concluded “oh okay seems it is a big day (Priyush hopes rises to get a pleasant surprise the next day). I have never seen you taking off from the hotel. You are very hard working Nishka, hotel, blogs and cooking classes you manage all. Amazing!”

Nishka shly “Yeah it is a big day.” Chooses to ignore the rest of the comments.

Next Day, Priyush all happy and excited to get surprise gets a chocolate bouquet just what Nishika likes rings the bell. Nishka opens the door. She is wearing a beautiful chiffon saree and long earrings with makeup on her face.

Nishka smiling said “Hi sir please come in.

Priyush giving the bouquet shyly “please call me Priyush I have told you so many times. You look amazing.”

She added a thank you and leads him to a room lit with candles and decorated with balloons and ribbons. She smiles and calls Kusum. Kusum comes in with a cake in her hand.

Nishka narrowing her eyes asked “Where are the candles Kusum?”

Kusum rushes back, Nishka makes a disappointing face and switch on a small light over a photograph hung on the wall. She then looks at Priyush and asks his permission to sing, he nodded with a yes.

Nishka sings the complete song beautifully, Priyush looks at her mesmerized and falling deeply in love with her. Kusum smiles happily knowing her didi had been practicing hard for today. Meanwhile, she lit the candles on the cake and handed to Nishka.

After the song Nishka, turned to Priyush for feedback, he was very happy and showed her two thumbs-up and a wide smile. Satisfied with the response from her teacher, she looked at the man in the photograph on the wall, tears pouring out of her eyes she said “Happy anniversary Neel! I kept my promise and sang the whole song, hope you liked it.” Controlling herself she then said “I miss you darling I am so lonely without you.” This time she could not stop her tears and rushed out of the room.

Priyush surprised turned to Kusum for explanation, he was expecting something for himself, an acknowledgement of his love, and the current situation was not at all understandable. He was confused and needed to know what was happening. Kusum could gauge the restlessness of the music guru and asked him to sit down. Offering him some water she started to narrate the story.

“Neelji and Nishka didi met 5 years ago and fell in love. They were crazy travelers and enjoyed each other’s company while travelling around the world.” Tears rolled down her eyes as if she really adored their love story. “They found me in one of their travel adventure and brought me here after fighting with my tribe in the village around 1.5 years ago as I had a very torturous life there. Villagers believed it is a bad omen to take a punished widow which is me out of the village boundary. Neelji didn’t trust anyone in the area and fought for me taking me along. Neelji and didi got married a year ago today we all lived here.

Nishka didi had a dream to open a restaurant or food corner but pushed it as she wanted me to study and Neelji to get settled. But he forced and made her open this restaurant, he wanted her to be independent. They had a bet that didi will sing a song on her 1st anniversary celebration and beri piya was then selected. Neelji was very supportive to both of us, he didn’t consider me an omen or a maid he considered me his sister. He died because of my bad luck and the belief of my tribe 4 months back. Since then didi is working towards the song and running a successful restaurant and I support her in every possible way, I will study harder and make sure to make Nellji and didi proud of me and take our little food corner to bigger heights. It’s because of me they had to separate I will never let them down.”

Nishka gave a tap on Kusum’s head and hugged her tightly. She was much better and in control now, her eyes had the same love and glory which attracted Priyush from the day he met her. She signaled Kusum to get the food ready and with one hand picked up the cake, cutting the cake she took a piece on a plate and offered for her music sir. She smiled and said “I am sorry for my behavior and Kusum’s burst out, she is a very good girl otherwise.”

Priyush fell even more deeply in love with her, he had an urge to express his feeling but controlled and said “she is a good girl and loves you immensely. I am sorry about your loss, I see you are very brave. Now that you have completed learning the song I will have to find a new student”. Nishka gave a wide smile and said “you were very patient with me, Neil knew how bad I sing but he challenged me so I could learn and move ahead. It is not because of Kusum I lost my love he was suffering long before we found her. Thank you Priyush for your support and help, I can know move on and live better”.

They had their food and Priyush left the house looking at Nishka for the last time.  He knew she will now do much better with her life as there was a new spark in her eyes.

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