Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Chapter 17 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF


"Di..." she stared, her voice quivering badly.
"Ridzy?" Anjali asked, worried about the sudden change in her voice.
"Aap, aap, aapne Rahul ko file, file nikal kar di thi na?" she asked.
"Nahi, maine usse bata diya tha ki kahaan rakhi hain. Actually itne saare reports the aur mujhe pata nahi tha ki usse exactly kaunsa waala chahiye tha, toh maine socha ki main usse drawer hi dikha du. Kyu? Kya hua?" Anjali asked.

"Di... Di... woh... woh actually, us drawer mein adoption ke papers bhi the..." Riddhima whispered.
"Haan, shayad honge. Par usse kya hua Riddhima? Rahul tere adoption ke baare mein jaanta haina?"
"Haan, woh, woh adoption ke baare mein jaanta hai, par woh Mumma ke baare mein nahi jaanta."
"Matlab? Mujhe kuch samajh nahi aaya Ridzy."
"Matlab woh nahi jaanta ki Mumma hi meri Maa hain. Usse lagta hai ki Smriti Maa aur Papa mujhe kisi orphanage se laaye the."
"What? Usse Mom ke baare mein nahi pata?!"
"Nahi," Riddhima whispered, her voice barely audible.
"Par, usse kuch, aise kaise?"
"Maine usse nahi bataya. Jab usne adoption ke baare mein poocha toh maine usse jhooth keh diya. Ki woh mujhe orphanage se laaye the."
"Ridzy!" Anjali whisper screamed. "Tune usse utna bada jhooth kyu kaha?"
"Toh main aur kya karti Di?"
"Tujhe usse sach nahi chupana chahiye tha. Kya wajah thi, ki tune usse nahi bataya?"
"Main kaise batati, Di? Main nahi chaahti thi ki woh Maa ke baare mein kuch bhi galat soche."
"Tujhe kya laga? Jab Rahul ko pata chalega, ki tu Mom ki beti hai aur Mom - Dad ne tujhe isliye adopt kiya kyuki Mom ka fianc unhe chodkar chala gaya tha, toh woh Mom ke baare mein galat sochne lagega?"
"Haan," Riddhima whispered, ashamed of herself, for thinking that way about her best friend.
"Ridzy... Tu aise soch bhi kaise sakti hai? Woh bhi Rahul ke baare mein? Armaan ko bataate waqt toh tune nahi socha."
"Armaan ko toh mujhse bhi pehle se pata tha, Di. Usse chupaane ki toh kabhi naubat hi nahi aayi."
"Par tujhe Rahul se yeh baat nahi chupaani chahiye thi."
"Jaanti hu."
"Ab tu kya karegi?"
"Main Rahul ko manaa lungi. Aap... aap Maa se kahiye ki woh tension na lein. Main Rahul se baat karungi."
Riddhima quickly said her goodbyes and hung up. Next, she tried calling Rahul. However, he didn't answer her calls. After several failed attempts, she started to get hysterical. The tears finally came and her dam broke as she fell to the ground and sobbed bitterly. It was because of her that Rahul had left the house. He didn't tell the others about his reasons for leaving, obviously trying to protect Riddhima from their outburst. She felt so ashamed of herself. She should have told him everything. What was she thinking? That Rahul, her Rahul, her best friend, her brother would not understand Mumma's situation? Of course he would. He was one of the nicest human beings she had me. He was always objective, never jumping to conclusions and understanding of the other person's situation and their point of view.
Thinking about him made her feel sadder. She didn't know how long she sat there, crying, but she felt someone's arms around her. They pulled her back into their chest and held her close. She didn't need to open her eyes to see who it was. She could recognize that touch anywhere. It was her Armaan. Here to save her, as always.
Armaan had started to get worried after Riddhima hadn't returned for a good half hour. To make sure that she was okay, he decided to go check on her. Nothing could have prepared him for the sight in front of him. There she was, curled into a ball, sitting on her knees and resting her arms on them, her face hidden. Her body was shaking with what he knew were hysterical sobs. He couldn't bear to see her that way. For a moment, he was stunned not knowing what to do. He didn't know what was wrong and he didn't know if him trying to comfort her might make it worse. But, his Basket was crying and he couldn't see her that way. So, he strode forward purposefully and took her in his arms. She immediately relaxed into him, using him as her anchor.
They sat there for sometime, Riddhima crying and Armaan soothing her. After a while, her sobs subsided and Armaan asked her the reason for her breakdown.
"Jaan, kya hua? Tum aise? Sab theek haina?" He asked in a whisper.
"N - N - Nahi... Kuch bhi theek nahi hai," Riddhima replied, hiccupping a little.
"Kya hua?"
"W - W - Woh... Ra - Rahul..." she trailed off.
"Jaan, kya hua hai Rahul ko?"
"Armaan, please mujhe waapas le chalo... mujhe yahaan nahi rehna," she told him.
"Par baat kya hai?"
"Hum baad mein baat kar sakte hai? Please? Abhi mujhe ghar jaana hai."
"Theek hai. Tumhe ghar jaana hai toh hum chalte hain."
He gathered her in his arms and made his way back. He took her to his room and then after making sure she was settled, he went to tell the others but Riddhima stopped him.
"Nahi, tum... tum kahaan jaa rahe ho?" Riddhima asked, clutching his shirt tightly in her hand.
"Main bas bahaar jaa raha hu, Naina aur Yuvi se baat karne. Bas yun gaya aur yun aaya," he said, gently prying her fingers off his shirt.
"Tum jaldi waapas aa jaaoge na?"
"Haan baby, abhi waapas aa jaaunga."
"Promise?"
"Pakka promise," saying so he turned to leave.
"Armaan?" she called, causing him to turn back.
"Tum mujhe kabhi chodkar toh nahi jaaoge na?" she asked in a small voice.
Armaan was shocked to hear this. He thought they were past this stage where she was constantly worried that he would leave her again. He vowed to her, time and again, that he wouldn't. She had started to believe him, as well. Then why was she asking him that all of a sudden? Armaan was a little uncomfortable with it. What had happened between her and Rahul that had made her so insecure?
Nevertheless, he knew he had to comfort her. So, he made his way back to her bed and sat beside her, wrapping her up in his arms.
"Main tumhe kabhi bhi chodkar nahi jaunga," he said, fervently.
"Agar maine kuch aisa kiya jisse tumhe dukh pohonche, tab bhi nahi?"
"Tab bhi nahi."
"Agar maine tumhe pareshaan kiya, tumhaari koi baat nahi suni toh?"
"Toh bhi tumhe chodkar nahi jaunga."
"Agar tumse naaraaz hokar tumse baat karna chod hiya toh?"
"Toh tumhe manaunga, par tumhe chodkar nahi jaaunga."
"Agar maine tumse koi bohot badi sachchai chupaayi toh?" she asked finally, her voice breaking a little.
The tone of her voice was enough for Armaan to understand this was why Rahul and her were in this situation. She had hidden something from him, something big and Rahul was, obviously, having a hard time to come to terms with it. Armaan didn't blame him. It must have been a really huge thing otherwise Rahul wouldn't have reacted the way he did.
"Bolo Armaan, agar maine tumse koi bohot badi, koi bohot important baat chupaayi, toh kya tum mujhe chod doge?" she asked.
Armaan sighed and extracted her from his arms. She panicked and tried to snuggle against him again, but Armaan firmly held her shoulders, preventing her from doing so.
He held her chin and forced her to look into his eyes. Then, with the most sincere tone he could muster, he whispered, "Main tumhe kabhi bhi, kisi bhi wajah se, kisike liye bhi, kahin bhi chodkar nahi jaane waala. I promise. I love you."
"I love you, too," Riddhima whispered, hugging him hard.
"Shhh. It's okay," Armaan soothed her as he felt her tears wetting his shirt.
He felt her nod against him.
"Jaan?" he asked tentatively.
Feeling her nod, he continued, "Mujhe bataogi kya hua? Rahul theek haina?"
"Main... main bohot buri hu Armaan. Maine Rahul ko nahi bataya, aur ab woh mujse nafrat karta hai!"
"Hey... Hey! Aisa nahi hai, Riddhima. Rahul tumhaara sabse achcha dost hai, woh tumse kabhi nafrat nahi kar sakta."
"Nahi Armaan, main jaanti hu. Woh mujse nafrat karne laga hai. Isliye mera phone bhi nahi utha raha."
"Ho sakta hai ki usne nahi suna ho ki uska phone baj raha hai, ya woh busy ho. Relax, Riddhima. Kuch nahi hoga."
"Nahi Armaan. Woh ghar chodke chala gaya. Woh ab wahaan rehna bhi nahi chaahta!"
"Riddhima, tum mujhe please bataogi ki kya hua?"
"Rahul ko mere aur Mumma ke baar mein pata chal gaya Armaan."
"Matlab?"
"Matlab usse pata chal gaya ki Mumma hi meri asli Maa hain."
"Rahul ko nahi pata tha?" Armaan asked, surprised. Given how close they were, Armaan assumed he would know all about it. Everyone knew about Riddhima's adoption, no thanks to her drunken confession at Rahul and Muskaan's break up party, but very few people knew that Padma Mom was actually her mother.
"Nahi, maine usse nahi bataya tha," Riddhima replied in a small voice.
"What?!" Armaan exclaimed, absolutely flabbergasted.
"Riddhima...tumne usse kyu nahi bataya?"
"Armaan, yeh sab important nahi hai. Important yeh hai ki hume abhi waapas jaana hai."
Armaan nodded. "Main sabko batake aata hu."
He hurried outside to the garden where everyone was playing.
"Yuvi, Naina, jaldi se packing karo. Hum waapas jaa rahe hain," he told the two of them.
"Par Armaan, aise achaanak? Kya hua? Kuch problem hai kya?" Yuvi asked.
"Haan, Yuvi, thodi problem hai, humein abhi nikalna padega."
Yuvi and Naina nodded and then left to pack.
Armaan then turned to Bua. "Sorry, Bua, hum is tarah achaanak jaa rahe hai, lekin yeh zaroori hai."
"Kya hua beta? Tu pareshaan lag raha hai. Riddhima toh theek hai na?"
"Haan, Bua. Riddhima theek hai. Bas kuch bohot zaroori kaam aa gaya hai. Aur isliye humein jaana hoga."
"Theek hai. Dhyaan se jaana beta. Aur apna aur Riddhima ka khayaal rakhna."
Armaan smiled and touched her feet. She blessed him and then took him in a motherly hug.
Armaan smiled at her and then left. He packed his bags and then took them to Riddhima's room. She was sitting on the bed in a foetal position, gazing outside the window, lost in her thoughts.
Armaan sighed. He packed her stuff and then sat down on the bed beside her. He pulled her into his arms, kissing her head.
He held her for a few minutes before whispering, "Riddhima, chalein? Sab ready hai."
Riddhima nodded slightly. Armaan helped her off the bed and then they made their way out, Armaan held onto Riddhima's hand tightly in one of his own, the other one carrying their bags.
When they reached outside, they saw that Yuvi and Naina were already waiting for them.
Riddhima saw them and tried to smile but failed miserably. This made them realize that there was something really wrong. It was enough to get them worried. Armaan saw the change in their expressions and realized what they were thinking. He looked at them and shook his head slightly, trying to indicate that it was not a major problem.
"Yuvi, tu drive kar lega please?" he asked.
Yuvi nodded. Armaan and Yuvi loaded the bags as Riddhima bid goodbye to Bua.
When they were done, they all went in to see the kids before leaving.
After a lot of tears and promises to visit again soon, the four of them were on their way.
All settled, they drove back. Naina took the passenger seat in front with Yuvi driving and Armaan and Riddhima settled in the back.
"Armaan, tum Rahul ko phone lagane ki koshish karo. Shayad tumhaara phone utha le?"
Armaan nodded. He took Rahul's number out of Riddhima's phone and dialed. As it began to ring, he waited with bated breath, hoping that Rahul would answer.
Sure enough, a few rings later, Rahul answered with a "Hello."
"Rahul?"
"Haan. Aap kaun?"
"Rahul, please, phone mat kaatna. Ek baar meri baat sunnle, please."
"Armaan," Rahul sighed.
"Haan."
"Mujhe tujhse baat karne mein koi interest nahi hai. Aur Riddhu se kehde meri baare mein sochke tension na le. Jab mujhe usse baat karni hogi main khud kar lunga."
"Dekh, tujhe mujhse baat nahi karni toh theek hai. Ek baar Riddhima se karle. Woh bohot pareshaan hai. Please."
"Dekh Armaan. Tu is maamle mein mat pad. Main jaanta hu mujhe kya karna hai."
"Nahi. Agar tu jaanta, toh yeh bakwaas nahi karta. Tujhe samajh nahi aa raha kya?"
Riddhima snuggled in closer to Armaan and sighed. She knew that Rahul wouldn't agree to talk to her so soon. She was just relieved that he was fine. Armaan kissed her head.
"Mujhe kya samajh nahi aa raha?" Rahul asked.
"Yehi ki Riddhima is waqt bohot pareshaan hai aur tujhse baat karna chaahti hai?"
"Har baar har cheez uski marzi se nahi ho sakti, Armaan. Woh baat karna chaahti hai toh main usse baat karu, woh mujhse itni badi sachchai chupaaye aur main chup rahu?  Har kuch uske hisaab se nahi ho sakta. Tu usse yeh baat samjha de."
"Rahul...please, meri baat sunn..."
Rahul hung up before Armaan could go further.
Armaan sighed defeatedly.
"I'm sorry, woh meri baat nahi sunn raha," Armaan told Riddhima, dejected.
Riddhima just shook her head. "Tumhaari galti nahi hai. Atleast woh theek toh hai. Tumhe pata hai woh kahaan reh raha hai?"
Armaan nodded negatively.
"I just hope woh jaldi mujhse baat karne ke liye ready ho jaaye. Main jaanti hu ki meri glati hai. Mujhe usse sab kuch bata dena chahiye tha. Par maine nahi bataya."
"Hey. It's okay. Joh ho gaya, woh ho gaya. Woh tumhe maaf kar dega. Tumse zyada time gussa nahi reh sakta. Yeh tum bhi jaanti ho, main bhi aur woh bhi. Tum wahaan jaakar usse aamne saamne baat karna. Sab theek ho jaayega," Armaan replied, kissing her head.
Riddhima fell asleep sometime later. Yuvi felt that time was good to talk.
"Armaan? Kya hua? Dr. Riddhima itni pareshaan kyun hain?"
"Kuch nahi. Bas aise hi. You know, misunderstandings and stuff? Kuch tension lene ki baat nahi hai."
Yuvi nodded, taking the message - to not talk about it anymore.
The ride back was absolutely miserable for Armaan. He couldn't bear to see Riddhima that way. He had to find a way to fix all of this. But, he didn't know what to do. He had no idea where Rahul was at the moment and Rahul was certainly not going to answer his calls now. To top it all off Rahul was still mad at him for everything. With all these obstacles in front of him, how was he supposed to talk Rahul into forgiving Riddhima?
He sighed helplessly, thinking about all that could go wrong. He needed to figure something out, and he needed to do it quick.  He decided to call Atul. Maybe, he would be able to help out. Turned out, he was right.
"Hey Champ," Armaan greeted Atul.
"Hi Armaan."
"Champ, sunn, tu meri thodi help kar sakta hai?"
"Haan bol. Sunn raha hu main."
"Woh actually mujhe na... nahi actually, mujhe nahi, mere ek dost ek problem se nikalne mein teri help chahiye."
Atul smiled on hearing this. It never got old. Armaan had been asking Atul for help so that he could solve His friend's' problems since the beginning of the internship days.
It hadn't taken Atul long to figure out that the friend' was actually Armaan himself. But, he had played along, seeing as he had no idea that Armaan had actually been asking for advice regarding Riddhima.
"Woh mera dost..."
"Haan, bolna. Kya hua tere dost ko?"
"Woh usne na apne sabse achche dost se ek bohot badi baat chupaayi. Aur ab uske dost ko woh pata chal gayi, woh bhi kisi aur se. Aur ab woh mere dost se baat nahi kar raha. Usse bataya bhi aur kahin gayab ho gaya hai. Toh mera dost bohot tension mein hai. Aur main bhi. Toh ab mere dost ko kya karna chahiye?"
"Armaan tu Ridzy se kehde ki woh zyada tension na le. Rahul usse bohot jaldi maaf kar dega. Abhi woh bohot gusse mein hai, aur ho bhi kyu na? Ridz ne itni badi baat chupaayi usse, hum sabse. Dekh main jaanta hu ki humaare beech uske adoption ki baat us raat se nahi uthi jab usne nashe mein sabse se sachchai kahi thi. Lekin main jaanta hu, ki Rahul aur Ridz ne kai baar iske baare mein baat ki hogi, kyuki Rahul Muskaan se ab bhi pyaar karta hai - ye baat hum sab jaante hain. Woh uske paas waapas jaane ki wajah chaahta hai, isliye I'm sure ki usne Ridz se bohot sawaal kiye honge, is baare mein. Par phir bhi usne Rahul ko kuch nahi bataya. Aur Rahul ko apna sabse achcha dost kehti hai. Usse dukh toh hoga hi is baat ka. Lekin jab woh shaant hokar, thande dimaag se sochega, toh shayad woh Ridz ko maaf kar paaye."
"Tujhe kaise pata ki main Riddhima aur Rahul ki baat kar raha hu?"
"Armaan, Rahul mere ghar par hi hai."
"Tere ghar?"
"Haan, woh kuch dino tak yahin rahega. Usse abhi Gupta house waapas nahi jaana."
"Woh theek hai na? I mean, how is he holding up? Zyada pareshaan toh nahi hai? I hope woh zyada guilty nahi feel kar raha ho."
"Guilty toh woh feel kar raha hai. Lekin tu tension mat le. Main usse sambhaal lunga. Tu Ridz pe concentrate kar. Usse tere support ki bohot zyada zaroorat hai is waqt."
"Haan. Main khayal rakhunga uska," Armaan said, looking down at her. He kissed her head.
"Jaanta hu main. Armaan ko bataane ki zaroorat nahi hai ki Riddhima ka khayal rakhe. Kabhi kisiko uski jaan ka khayal rakhne nahi kehte."
Armaan smiled on hearing this.
"Rahul ne tujhse baat ki? Bohot zyada gussa hai woh?"
"Usne kuch kaha toh nahi. Jabse aaya hai toh kamre mein hi hai. Lekin main jaanta hu ki woh bohot gussa hai - Ridz pe bhi aur khud pe bhi. Ridz par kyu yeh toh tujhe pata hi hai. But I'm sure woh khudse bhi gussa hoga, kyuki usne Ridz ko itni buri tarah hurt kiya hai."
"Achcha? Tujhe bada pata hai."
"Pata toh hai," Atul answere, smiling ruefully.
"Kaise?"
"Experience haina."
"Achcha? Kabse?" Armaan asked grinning. This felt good. The silly banter with Atul. They hadn't spent much time together since his return and Armaan had missed Atul.
"Jabse tere aur Ridzy ke baare mein pata chala."
Armaan's smiled vanished instantly.
"I'm sorry, Champ. Mujhe pata hai us baat se tujhe bohot dukh hua. Main tujhe ya kisi aur ko hurt nahi karna chaahta tha. It's just ki us waqt haalaat aise the ki mujhe samajh nahi aa raha tha ki kya sahi hai, kya galat. I'm sorry."
"Jaanta hu main. Mera bhai kabhi mujhe hurt nahi karna chahega. Jo hua usme meri bhi galti thi. Mujhe teri situation bhi samajhni chahiye thi. Par main toh sirf apne baare mein hi soch raha tha. Agar Nikki nahi hoti toh..."
"Nikki..." Armaan whispered, smiling fondly at the thought of his best friend.
"Haan, usne hi mujhse aur Muski se baat karke hume teri situation explain ki thi."
"Oh."
"Haan."
"Chal main rakhta hu, waapas aakar baat karte hain."
"Theek hai, bye."
"Bye. Aur Champ?"
"Bol."
"Thanks."
"Saale, ab mujhe thanks bolega? Chal phone rakh, mujhe aur bhi kaam hai."
Finally, they hung up agter another round of goodbyes.
"Dr. Riddhima bohot lucky hai, Armaan. Kyuki unki life mein aap jaise log hain," Yuvi told him afterwards.
Armaan's answer was a delighted smile.

xxx
prags(pragati)

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