A/N: So this is a Mirchi AU where Jai and Vennela are part of the same extended, joint family. The rest of the plot remains the same, this story focuses more on Jai and Vennela and their relationship.
I own nothing – all characters belong to their respective owners and I make no money off this. (Please don’t sue me.)
This fic will be a ten parter, with each part based on a prompt from the old Livejournal community “10Iloveyou” which gave a set of 10 prompts based on love, as the name implies.
Part 1 – Trust
‘Bava wake up pls.’
‘Bava waaaaaakeeeee upppppp.’
Stirring at the sound of incessant beeping, Jai grumbled under his breath as he fumbled for the phone with eyes still closed.
Opening bleary eyes, he glared at the offending machine. This was why he’d wanted to avoid smartphones-but of course, he had been convinced that he needed a phone that was WhatsApp compatible, because “Baavaaaa, pleaaase, how will we ever stay in touch if you don’t have a smartphone?”
Sighing, he typed out a quick reply.
Almost the very next second, his phone rang.
Settling a little deeper into the cocoon of bedsheets and blanket he had made for himself, Jai answered the call.
A jaw cracking yawn mangled the word and he shook his head to clear it. “Vennu, what’s up?”
“I need your help, bava! Wake up and turn your computer on!”
Rolling his eyes, Jai simply stretched, and waited for his cousin to go on.
“I need to make this presentation for my class – and I need to copy some information that’s in a PDF. I don’t know why, but it’s not copying the paragraph I’ve selected, bava. Help me, pleaase?”
“Abaah, Vennu, what is this nonsense? Why do class three kids need presentations? Can’t you just do something else instead?”
“Bava, it’s a requirement – now we’re a smart school! Please help, bava, pleeease?”
Heaving a put-upon sigh, Jai struggled out of bed. “Okay, if you’re not able to copy it, I think you need to convert the PDF.”
“What?” Vennu wailed. “How do I do that now?”
Chuckling, Jai said, “Send it over to me, and I’ll do it for you. I’ll convert it to a MS Word document and send it back to you.”
“Oh my god, bava, thank you so much!”
“Next time I come to Rentachintala, you’re treating me to an awesome lunch! Or coffee.”
“Yeah, yeah, bava, whatever you want! Thanks so much! I’ll send the file right now!”
Laughing to himself, Jai tossed his phone on the bed and shuffled off to the bathroom for his morning ablutions.
“Amma, I’m off to the office!”
“Jai, wait – have something to eat before you go!” His mother looked up from the breakfast table, reading glasses on her nose and a slice of buttered toast on her plate.
“Amma, I only have time for a quick coffee! Not all of us have jobs where we can walk in whenever we want!”
“What!” His mom turned to him, laughing, and Jai was struck again by her beauty. He knew children generally found their mothers to be beautiful, but his mother really was lovely. In her silk saree, with her hair swept back, she looked almost as young as he was.
“Do you even have an idea of how hard I have to work?” She went on, now, mock scolding him. “It may look like all I do is plan parties and play with flowers, but it does take a lot of thought to make everything perfect! After all, a wedding is in a once in a lifetime thing!” She blinked at her own words, and her eyes took on a faraway, sorrowful look.
Jai cursed himself for his inadvertent slip-up. He’d spoken heedlessly, simply making a joke, but he’d somehow ended up reminding Amma of his father.
“Yes, yes, I know how hard you work,” he bulldozed over the delicate moment, hoping to bring his mother out of her sadness. “But it’s still less than me. I design buildings! You play with flowers!”
His mother gave him a look, her earlier sadness forgotten. “Well, whatever you do, have something to eat before you leave. Come on, now, sit down.”
Half an hour later, as Jai drove to the office, his heart was heavy. It had been nearly twelve years since his parents had separated, but his mother still hadn’t moved on. But then, neither had his father. Separated by ideologies but still bound by love, it had been a lonely existence for his parents.
He’d only been fifteen when his mother had left her husband’s home in Rentachintala – and he’d not seen his father since, except for in the background of family photos that Vennela sometimes shared on WhatsApp. Vennela herself had been thirteen, and she’d cried and cried when her atha had left. They’d been very close when Vennu was a kid, and even now, Vennela sometimes asked him to share pictures of his mom.
Jai had asked his mom about his father many times – why did they leave, why his father never came to visit, how come they never went to Rentachintala to visit his dad, why couldn’t they stay together – and after hearing the same thing over and over – “We separated because we felt it was the best thing to do. You can meet him again, some day.” – Jai had grown tired of asking. Especially when he finally noticed the heartbreak in his mother’s eyes whenever he brought up the topic.
Now, he didn’t know or care much about why his parents had separated. It was enough that they lived apart, and neither of them was happy about it.
He wondered what his father was doing at that moment. Did he still think of them? Or had he forgotten them both completely?
‘Next time I come to Rentachintala, you’re treating me to an awesome lunch! Or coffee.’
Yeah, right, Vennela thought to herself. She hadn’t seen her atha or bava in more than ten years, him ever coming back to Rentachintala was a distant dream.
As she lined her eyes with kajal, her phone beeped.
‘Sent you the file,’ read the WhatsApp message from her bava. ‘Now go and teach your little kids – enjoy! It’s festival time for you!’
Laughing at his habit of translating Telugu idioms, Vennu sent him a smiley in reply.
And now she was getting late. Pulling on a set of matching bangles, she pinned up her saree and ran downstairs.
“Amma, idli pettu!” (Amma, give me my idils!”)
“Abbaah, maharani garu finally arrives!” Her mother looked up at her with a glare. “No thought of helping your poor mother, instead you want me to do seva for you!” Her mother wiped the table with unnecessary force as she picked up her husband’s plate and moved to place it in the sink.
“Choodu, mama!” (“Look at her, mama!”) Vennu pouted as she sat down at the dining table next to her uncle, Jai’s father.
“You don’t bother about her, thalli,” her Deva mama said. “Your mother was the same when she was your age. I remember how she argued with Amma before she got married!”
“Haan, bava, pamper her a little more!” Vennu’s father said, shaking his head as he sipped his coffee.
Sticking her tongue out at her father, Vennela served herself idlis and started eating.
“If you keep pampering her like that, annaya, she’ll have trouble when she gets married,” Vennu’s mother said, entering the room with coffee for her daughter. “And then her mother-in-law will scold us for not raising this moddhu properly!”
“Thaank you, Amma!” Giving her mother a blinding smile, Vennu grabbed the coffee mug. Eating quickly, she took a sip and washed the idlis down with coffee.
Another quick sip and she stood up. “Okay, I need to go!”
“So quickly?” her mama said, even as her mom gave a wordless sound of protest. “What did you even eat?”
“No time, mama, need to go!” Vennu said, picking up her purse and her files and rushing for the door. “See you in the evening!”
Heaving a sigh, Vennela entered her home and made a beeline for the sofa set in the living room, where she settled with a sigh, throwing her purse onto the coffee table. Walking to and from the school was fun when the weather was nice, but in the summers, the humidity made even her daily fifteen minute walk feel draining. Added to that were her sarees. She couldn’t wait to go upstairs and change into her salwar kameez.
“Amma, won’t you even give me a glass of water?” she asked, putting on her most pitiful face.
Her parents, her aunt and uncle and Deva mama were all congregated around the television, watching the evening news. Her mother got up to get her some water, even as her father clucked his tongue.
“Look at you, Vennu, all worn out. Why do you continue with this job if they make you work so much?” He shook his head. “When you told me you would work in the local school, I thought you would be home for lunch everyday and you would get two months summer holidays, just like the kids. But this school principal is working you to the bone!”
“Shall I have a word with Satya?” Deva mama said, muting the television as he looked at her in concern. “What’s the use of your boss being my classmate if I can’t do something for you?”
“Mama, please don’t,” Vennu said, gratefully taking the glass of water from her mother. “It’s not so bad, and I don’t want you to spoil your friendship with the princi.”
As she took a sip of her water, her eye drifted to the television. “Bava!”
Hurriedly slamming her glass on the table, Vennela grabbed the remote out of her mama’s hands, turning on the sound. “That’s bava!” she said, pointing.
And sure enough, there at the bottom of the screen were the words: “Jai Pusapati is the NDTV Emerging Architect of the Year 2017”.
Immediately, a hush descended on the room, and Vennela bit her tongue. Why couldn’t she just have kept her mouth shut? She dreaded turning to look at Deva mama now, she couldn’t bear to see the sadness in her eyes.
On screen, bava was climbing the stairs to the podium as people clapped, and then he was accepting the award with a smile. The presenter handed him a mic, and bava fidgeted a little, clearly not in his element when it came to public speaking.
“Thanks, thanks everyone, thanks a lot,” he said, seeming to fumble for words. Then it was like a wave of confidence flowed through him, and he smiled. “I want to thank my parents, who taught me to dream big. It’s because of my mother and my father that I’m standing here today in front of you all, accepting this award.” As people clapped, bava went on to thank his colleagues and partners, but Vennela heard none of it, because that was when Deva mama suddenly got up and lft the room, wiping at his streaming eyes.
“Bava, bava!” Her father called, going after him, and her mother clutched the pallu of her saree as she murmured, “Paapum! My poor brother!”
Feeling more wretched than ever, Vennela turned to her mother. “Sorry, Amma,” she cried, catching her mother’s hand. “I didn’t realise I would make mama so sad!”
“Picchi pilla!” Her mother said, running a hand over Vennela’s hair. “Annaya’s very happy! All these years, he’s been thinking that Jai has forgotten him. I told him it’s not true – I know Latha vadina and annaya have their differences, but how can a son forget his own father? I had that much trust in Jai! He’s his father’s son, after all. And now that’s annayya’s seen it with his own eyes – poor man! – he became emotional,” she said, wiping at her own eyes.
Her heart hurting for her poor Deva mama, Vennela looked after mama and her father. “Will Deva mama be alright?”
“Your father will look after him,” her mother said confidently. “Before he married me, your father was annayya’s best friend and colleague at the bank. He knows how to handle him!”
“Now,” her mother went on, “go get changed and come downstairs quickly! I’ll have hot coffee ready for you!”
With a mind whirring with questions, Vennela picked up her purse and walked slowly up the stairs to her room.
Falling onto her bed, she pulled out her phone.
‘Bava! Just saw you on tv!’
‘Why didn’t you tell me about the architect award?’
‘Ooh so they broadcast that today? Hmm, no reason why I didn’t tell you. It was very recent, anyway. The ceremony was just last week.’
‘Ok. Congrats, bava! Mama was very happy when he saw you on tv.’
As the silence dragged on, Vennela wondered if she had said too much. Had she overstepped and hurt her bava? They never spoke much about mama and atha, though Vennela longed to know how her atha was, just as much as she was sure Jai longed to hear about his father.
They had promised, though, in those early days when atha had first taken Jai away – in the days when they communicated through letters! – that they would stay in touch, and that even if they would not discuss prickly subjects like Jai’s parents, Jai would tell Vennela about her favourite aunt, and Vennela would tell Jai about his father.
As they had grown up, each had slowly stopped mentioning Jai’s parents, perhaps because they finally realised how painful the situation was – for everyone. Jai hated learning about his father from a second hand source, he hated that he had to keep it a secret from his mother – and Vennela had hated asking Jai for information about atha and begging him to come back home, and bring atha with him.
Now, as her message to bava went unanswered, Vennela bit her lip, wondering if she had made a mistake.
‘Nanna saw me? What did he say?’
Vennela smiled in relief. Those few words were enough to make her understand that she wasn’t wrong.
‘Mama was very, very happy, bava! He was so proud!’
Taking the hint, Vennela changed the subject.
‘Thanks for your help in the morning, bava! I knew you could solve my problem! The presentation is tomorrow, so if I need anything else from you, I’ll message you tonight?’
‘Okay. I’m sure you’ll do well in the presentation.’
Smiling, Vennela tossed the phone aside. A plan was brewing in her mind, and if all went well, her bava would finally be having coffee in Rentachintala with her soon.
After all, her mama deserved to see his son again.