Monday, 17 July 2017

PART 5 : Ehsaas

Armaan and Riddhima arrived at a luxury apartment complex on the outskirts of Pune. Atul was Riddhima's first cousin, but had achieved tremendous success as a businessman at a young age. He had a medical transcription business with clients in the UK and USA. He maintained an office in Pune and Hyderabad, which were the off-shore back offices for his foreign clients.

Atul greeted his little sister at the door, "meri pyaari si behnaa….kitne din ho gaye tujhey dekhey?…," he hugged her at the door, 'Hi I am Atul Joshi, Riddhima's cousin…you must be Dr Armaan Malik?" Atul extended his hand towards Armaan.

"Nice to meet you Mr Joshi," Armaan shook his hand firmly

"Atul! Call me Atul. Can I call you Armaan?" Atul asked in a friendly voice.

"Of course Atul," Armaan replied as they entered the apartment.

Armaan could tell that Atul was definitely doing well for himself. Atul reminded him of his brother-in-law, Shubhankar who had done well in the last few years, thanks to the IT boom.

Armaan was intrigued to know that Atul's business was in a way related to the medical field. The two men hit it off well; Atul was pleased to meet an intelligent and curious man like Armaan. Riddhima felt left out and complained, "bhaiyya! Main aap se milne aayi hoon, aur aap hain ki apne kaam ki baaton mein lag gaye!"

"Oh sorry behnaa, chal rakhi nikaal, dekh tera bhai tere liye London se kya laaya hai?" Atul excused himself and went to fetch something from his room.

As they were waiting for Atul, Armaan's mobil rang, 'Hello! Oh Muskaan!.....I miss you too," Armaan excused himself and went to the balcony to take the call.

Riddhima's color drained from her face when she heard what Armaan had just said. The fact that Armaan wanted to talk to this girl in privacy, and that he missed her was enough of a clue for Riddhima- "zaroor unki koi girlfriend hogi. Lekin mujhey kya?"

Although Riddhima tried to ignore it, the realization that Armaan had a girlfriend kept nagging her. Atul came back with a beautiful box and stretched his hand for Riddhima to tie the rakhi, "kya hua behnaa? Kahan kho gayi?" Riddhima was obviously distracted and just shook her head, 'Oh..wo kuch nahin bhaiyya….dikhaaiye kya laaye hain mere liye?"

"pehle rakhi, phir maasi ki mithai, tab jaake tujhey tera gift milega….samjhi!" Atul teased her playfully.

Meanwhile, Armaan and Muskaan caught up on their respective lives.

"Accha Armaan, kya gaon ki gori mili?' Muskaan teased him.

Armaan blushed a little at that comment and said, "Hmm….gori tho hai, par gaon ki? I am not sure…wo tho kisi bhi sheher waali ki chutti kar de…."

Muskaan: "Really? Tho mili… Armaan, I had no idea tumhey ek mahine mein hi koi mil jaayegi…."

Armaan: "sach bataaun Muskaan….pata nahin kyon par aisa lagta hai usey bahut pehle se jaanta hoon…..kya matlab hai iska?"

Muskaan: "Armaan looks like you may have caught the love bug!" she laughed

Armaan: "how can you be so sure?"

Muskaan: " Iska jawaab tumhey kal subah mil jaayega.."

Armaan: "kal subah?"

Muskaan: "haan yadi aaj raat tumhein neend nahin aayi na….bas samjho you have a serious case of loveria! Chalo bye…I have to attend a delivery….kal phone karti hoon to get a status update…."

Armaan sighed as he hung up, "Muskaan! You and your hypothesis! Dekhte hain…..neend aati hai ya nahin?"

Armaan joined the brother and sister in the living room. Riddhima was admiring her beautiful bracelet presented to her by her brother. Armaan saw the pearls on her dainty wrist and could not help commenting on it, "looks like your brother has good taste!"

"Kyon nahin bhai….after all my beautiful sister deserves something as pretty as her!" Atul commented and hugged Riddhima.

Armaan noticed that Riddhima averted his gaze and her color was a little off.

Their journey back to Ramgarh was very quiet; Riddhima stayed mum and aloof most of the trip and buried herself in her book and finally dozed off.

Armaan was perplexed, "aakhir aisa kya hua? Itni chup kyon hai? Maine kahin kuch tho nahin keh diya phir se? Oh god! Kahin uska haath pakda tha, iss liye naaraz tho nahin?…..main bhi bhool jaata hoon ki yeh Mumbai nahin hai……I should be careful, par kya karoon apne aap ko sambhaal kyon nahin paa raha? May be Muskaan is right!" Armaan spent the rest of the journey just gazing at Riddhima's beautiful angelic face as she rocked gently with the moving train.

They arrived Ramgarh late at night.

"Main tumhey ghar chhod deta hoon…" Armaan offered.

"Nahin koi baat nahin main chali jaaoongi…" Riddhima looked away. The thought of Armaan's girlfriend was still nagging her. She tried her best to act normal, but as always, her eyes gave in to her inner feelings.

"I insist OK!" Armaan said authoritatively. Riddhima did not argue. Armaan was still kicking himself for holding her hand and promised himself that he would take things a little slower with her.

As Muskaan had predicted, Armaan had a restless, sleepless night. He paced up and down in his room, even went to the clinic to finish some paper work, but the more he tried to distract himself, the more Riddhima kept invading his thoughts:

Riddhima, herself was restless all night. She kept shaking her head to get Armaan's thoughts out of her mind, "jo mera nahin hai, main kyon uske khayaalon mein baar baar kho jaati hoon…..mujhey Armaan se door rehna chahiye….aaj tak mujhey kabhie aisa ehsaas nahin hua jaise aaj ho raha hai…..kyon…aakhir kyon?"


Being a Sunday, they did not have regular clinic hours. Lovely was also off that day, Dr Misra decided to take it easy and have Armaan deal with all the emergencies for the day. Armaan tried to sort out the equipment and supplies in the clinic and arrange all the new stuff he had purchased in Pune. As he was working, he heard familiar voices in the living room. He peeked out and was pleased to see Riddhima and Padma talking to Dr Misra.

Armaan walked out to the living room, but was dismayed when Riddhima saw him and turned around, "main kitchen mein jaati hoon….maa aap maamaji ke saath baithiye…"

"Aao beta! Kaisa raha Pune ka trip?" Padma asked Armaan, "meri dawaai laane ke liye bahut bahut shukriya.."

"bahut accha aunty…..waise aap aaj hi dawaai shuru kar dein tho accha hai….main zara clinic mein kaam khatam karta hoon," Armaan had no desire to stay there if Riddhima was not present.

Padma noticed that Armaan's eyes were searching for someone. Padma smiled to herself, her perceptive eyes had noticed what Lovely had noticed earlier-this dashing doctor was very interested in her demure daughter.

"Akele kyon kaam karte ho beta? Main Riddhima ko bhejti hoon tumhare paas….main khaana banaa doongi aaj.." Padma went to the kitchen and ordered Riddhima to help Armaan.

Riddhima reluctantly agreed as she knew there was no way she could avoid working with Armaan for another 11 months.

"Aapko kuch help chahiye Dr Malik?" Riddhima entered the clinic. Armaan's face lit up at her sight, but he noticed that she still looked a little sullen.

As they kept arranging all the new instruments and equipment, Armaan could not help asking her, "kal raat se itni chup kyon ho Basanti?"

Riddhima almost laughed at the way he addressed her, "nahin doctor aisi koi baat nahin hai…..aap shayad meri baaton se bore ho jaate honge, iss liye kam bol rahi hoon…"

"Wo tho hai….tumhari baatein bahut boring hoti hain, par jaane kyon mera bore hone ko mann kar raha hai.." Armaan smiled at her, teasing her with his eyes.

He was happy to see a faint smile on her face, but she did not say anything.

Armaan received a call, 'hello! Muskaan!" He noticed that as soon as he said Muskaan's name, Riddhima's face fell, "main tumhey baad mein call karta hoon…OK," now he knew why Riddhima was behaving so awkwardly. If Armaan's doubt was right, he had reason to celebrate.

"Accha tumhare koi bhai behen hain….Atul ke alaawa?" Armaan tried to start a conversation.

"Hmm….nahin ek door ki behen, Tamanna hai….wo yahin Ramgarh mein hi rehti hai…"

"Hmm…meri ek behen hai, Keerti…wo Bangalore mein hai, aur college mein ek bahut acchi friend hai, Muskaan," he noticed Riddhima averted his gaze at the mention of the name and tried to walk out, 'wo bhi meri behen jaisi hi hai...," Armaan walked closer to Riddhima, facig her. His guess was right- her face lit up like a candle, red like beetroot, blushing profusely.

"Riddhima….ek baat kahoon?," he stared into her eyes and continued, "tum chaahe kitni bhi chup rehne ki koshish karo, tumhari yeh aankhein kabhie chup nahin rehti….tumhare labzon se zyaada yeh aankhein bolti hain…bas padhne waala chaaiye…."

Riddhima could not hide her joy any longer; she ran to the living room and joined her mother in the kitchen.

Armaan picked his phone and called Muskaan, "Thanks Muskaan!"

"Thanks? For what?" Muskaan asked

"Tumhare naam ne kisi ke dil mein jalan ki aag lagaa di hai…" Armaan said

"Really? Tho yeh aag dono taraf baraabar lagi huyi hai? Kyon raat ko neend aayi ya nahin?" Muskaan laughed

"Tumhey kya lagta hai?" Armaan asked

"Nahin - nahin aayi! Dr Majnu, tumhari tho ab chutti ho gayi…..kab milwaa rahe ho?" Muskaan sounded very happy.

"Bas ek baar izhaar aur ho jaaye…," he hung up and followed Riddhima to the living room.


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