Title: How Her Heart Behaves
Author: smitha_r
Rating: PG
Fandom(s): Bollywood - Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi
Pairing(s): TaanixOC, TaanixSurinder
Summary: Alone with her thoughts, Taani has a lot of time to remember happier times.
Notes: Written because I wish we had seen more of Taani's thoughts in addition to Surinder's. Betaed by LilAni

-

Sometimes the memories are so real, so fresh, that it feels like they happened yesterday.

-

Taani and her best friend Chandni have become enthralled with the idea of learning how to ride a motorcycle. Fortunately for them, Chandni's brother Rishi has just such a thing. They sneak off with the vehicle while Rishi and his friends are inside eating. Out in the fields they take turns at the helm of the thrumming machine, all power and speed as it cuts through the brown grass and sprays mud everywhere. Taani and Chandni scream and whoop as they careen across the moist ground. It's like the world is at their feet. They feel invincible, blessed to live in this moment of pure joy as the wind whips across their faces.

Eventually, Rishi and his friend Madhan come and find them in the field. As usual, Rishi scolds his younger sister, clutching her shoulders with tired consternation. "It's not safe for a sixteen year old girl to mess with these things! If Ma and Ba knew what you were doing-"

"Arre, leave them alone, yaar." Madhan says cheerfully. He's always cheerful, a calming breeze in the wake of Rishi's constant worrying. "No one knows they're out here except for us. Why should we have all the fun?"

Taani thanks Madhan for seeing reason. "We can take care of ourselves."

"I know you can." He smiles. It's a very nice smile, she suddenly notices. This despite the fact that she's seen his smile a thousand times before. Taani can't help but smile back at him.

Rishi sighs, knowing this is a battle he inevitably loses. "Don't encourage them. They could break their necks if they aren't careful."

"Unlikely; no force in the world can tame us!" Chandni proclaims, climbing back on the motorcycle, revving the engine, and taking off with glee.

Rishi freaks outs and runs after her, mud splattering onto his shoes and pants as Madhan and Taani stand back and laugh at the sight. It's a good feeling and Taani's cheeks hurt from grinning.

As their laughter dies down, Madhan turns and faces her. "But really, Taani, don't ever change. You're perfect the way you are."

-

A knock on her door throws her out of her reverie. For a moment she's startled by her surroundings, by this strange and unfamiliar room. So much has changed in so little time...

She knows who it is but doesn't respond. He can wait. Making him wait, making him worry, is the only way she can lash out at a world that ruined her dreams for happiness.

-

She meets him when she is seven years old. Rishi and Chandni are fighting over dhokla when Madhan steals her mango lassi. She chases him around the garden as her father shakes his head, knowing that scolding his strong-willed daughter will be of no use. "You are as the lord made you." He says with a shrug. "And so is he."

"But Papa, he stole my lassi! He's mean!" In response to her statement, Madhan holds the drink out to her in a gesture of truce. Staring at the boy for a moment (maybe he's not all mean), Taani snatches it back and sticks her tongue out at him.

-

Hours pass but Taani barely notices them. She has lost everything and struggles to control the misery that consumes her. She can't go an hour without bursting into tears, alone in the canopy bed that seems as large as an uncaring ocean to her. It hurts her that her father has left this earth, but he was a man far past his prime and both of them had known about his heart condition. But Madhan... why did he have to die? Why had God taken away the love of her life and placed her in the care of a timid nobody?

The very idea of moving past the locked doors of her room, towards a world where Madhan is not there to hold her and wipe away her tears, seems like a daunting nightmare.

-

"I wonder what's taking bhaiyya so long." Chandni muses, looking around the movie theater. "I'd better tell him the show is starting."

She winks discreetly at Taani before getting up in search of Rishi.

Taani doesn't care that Rishi stares or Chandni giggles when they finally take their seats, seeing Madhan with his arm around her shoulder and Taani's hand meshed with his. Why should she care? Why should other people have anything to do with the way they feel about each other?

This is new territory they are heading into but neither of them are afraid or worried about what anyone will think. Madhan tells her, as he walks her home, exactly how he feels and Taani knows she feels the same.

I don't feel alone when I'm with you.

-

It dawns on her like a slap in the face; I'm being rude and inconsiderate. Surinder has done nothing wrong.

Not only has he done nothing wrong, he has done everything in his power to make her life easier thus far. So she finally gets up from the bed and moves towards her unopened suitcase, searching for the bright red churidar she planned on wearing on her honeymoon. Might as well put it to some use.

Then she pushes all the sorrow and sadness down, out of her reach, out of her mind, so that she can show Surinder that she is willing to do what she must. She smiles and makes small talk and serves drinks, talks a little about her family and the town where she came from. But all the while there is still a numbness in her heart that refuses to budge, no matter how cheerful she pretends to be.

-

Madhan gets mad at her once and only once.

They're hanging out together at the market and Taani can't help but notice that he's not very talkative. His shoulders are slumped and his hands are stuffed in his pocket, like he's trudging through the rain instead of spending a gorgeous spring day with his girlfriend.

When they sit down for gol gappa, she asks him what's wrong.

"My aunt was talking to your father yesterday. He's looking for a husband for you."

Taani smiles teasingly. "I know, I heard him on the phone with my uncle from Bhatinda."

"Why didn't you say anything?" He's terse, annoyed, and Taani is a little taken aback.

"Because then he would know I was eavesdropping. Besides, he already knows we are together." Taani pauses, realizing that she needs to take this to the next level. "Maybe he doesn't understand how serious we are. I'll have to talk to him."

"About... marriage?"

She smiles happily, knowing he's been waiting for this even though he's never said so aloud. "Yes."

Madhan's eyes light up and he reaches out to brush her cheek. "Thank you. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you, Taani." Madhan says quietly, eyes full of love.

She puts her hand over his and gives it a squeeze. "You won't. Not now, not ever."

-

Loving Suri isn't like loving Madhan. With Madhan, life was a passionate dream.

There is something slow and persistent about her love for Suri, as if their bond will outlive God himself.

-

There's this new song on the radio that she can't stop thinking about; she loves it so much she compulsively created an entire routine for it inside her head. She demonstrates the entire thing for her father and while he's pleased, it's not enough. So she calls Madhan on her mobile and asks him to meet her at the field. The field for motorcycle practice, the field of their carefree teen years, the field of their secret midnight trysts.

She dances for Madhan in the light of the full moon, lost in the beauty of the moment. He looks at Taani like he's forgotten the rest of the world exists.

-end-