Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Chapter 25 : I'll Love You Longer Than Forever - AR FF

Armaan sighed as he stepped outside the ward to take a breather. There was too much of work to be done. Anjali and Atul had called him sometime back, asking him to check on their patients as well, since he was already at the hospital.
Since he was looking after Riddhima's patients as well (for those few cases where they weren't working together), adding on Anjali and Atul's patients had taken a toll on him.
Finally, after 4 long hours, he was done. He made his way to the coffee machine and made himself a cup of espresso. He sat down and relished his coffee, before going to check in on Rahul.

This is going to be a blast, he thought sarcastically, before entering Rahul's room.
Rahul was propped up on his bed, watching TV. He looked away when he heard the door opening. Seeing that it was Armaan, he sighed.
"Kya kaam hai?" Rahul asked.
"Kuch nahi, bas teri dawa ka time ho gaya hai," Armaan replied, emptying some medicines into a cup and giving them to him.
"Main khud le sakta hu, thanks," Rahul replied, giving the cup back to Armaan.
"Rahul, medicines le le," Armaan said.
"Tere haath se!" Rahul scoffed, "Kabhi nahi."
"Dawa hi de raha hu, zeher nahi," Armaan replied.
"Tere haath se toh amrit bhi zeher hi lagega," Rahul muttered, loud ebough for Armaan to hear.
"Abbe! Tujhe problem kya hai? Haan? Main jabse teri ulti - seedhi baatein, tere saare taane sunn raha hu. Iska yeh matlab nahi hai ki jo main mein aaye tu woh keh de. Samjha? Aur tujhe kya haq hai mujhse aise baat karneka?" Armaan blasted, finally losing his patience with Rahul.
"Tu jaanta hai mujhe kya problem hai! Meri problem hai tu! Chala kyu nahi jaata yahaan se? Aur Riddhima meri behen jaisi hai. Haq hai mujhe uske achche - bure ke baare mein sochne ka," Rahul thundered.
"Agar Basket ko koi problem nahi hai, toh tujhe kyu hai?" Armaan asked.
"Sirf isliye kyuki Riddhu ne tujhe maaf kar diya hai, iska yeh matlab nahi hai ki main bhi kar du," Rahul replied. "Riddhu bhool gayi hogi woh waqt jo usne tere bina guzaara, main nahi bhoola hu."
"Rahul, main jaanta hu ki mere jaane se Riddhima ko bohot takleef hui, lekin main bhi uske bina koi khush nahi tha. Aur humne apne saare problems sort out kar liye hai. Toh tu ab aur problems kyu create kar raha hai?"
"Main? Problems create kar raha hu? Sirf isliye ki main tujhse baat nahi karna chaahta, ya tujhe pasand nahi karta, usse kya problems hogi? Jab main Sanjeevani mein naya - naya aaya tha, tab bhi mujhe tu pasand nahi tha, aur tujhe main. Tab sab theek tha. Toh ab bhi sab theek hi hoga."
Armaan sighed.
"Woh... Woh pehle ki baat hai, Rahul. Tab mein aur ab mein bohot fark hai. Tu kya chaahta hai, ki main yeh samjhu ki pichle 3 saalon mein tere - mere rishte mein kuch nahi badla?"
"Haan. Aisa hi samajh le."
Armaan scoffed.
"Yeh sab kyu?"
"Tu jaanta hai kyu."
"Mere aur Riddhima ke beech jo hua, woh sab theek hai, ab."
"Jaanta hu. Dekha hai maine tum dono ko saath. Aur main khush hu, ki Riddhu ab khush hai. Lekin main tujhe maaf nahi kar sakta."
"Tujhe pata hai, Rahul, mujhe laga tha ki mere saare doston mein se, meri situation sabse zyada achchi tarah se tu samjhega. Tere aur Muskaan ke beech job hi hua, uske baad, mujhe laga ki koi mujhe support kare ya na kare, tu zaroor karega."
"Muskaan ko isme beech mein mat la. Humaare beech jo bhi hua ho, woh tere aur Riddhu se alag hai. Tune nahi dekha Riddhu kaisi thi us waqt. Maine dekha hai usse. Kitne dard mein thi woh, tu is baat ka andaaza bhi nahi laga sakta."
"Bohot aasaani se andaaza laga sakta hu main. Kyuki main bhi utni hi takleef, utne hi dard mein tha. Aur Muskaan ko kyu na kau beech mein? Tumhaari situation bhi humaare jaisi hi thi. Aur tujhe kya lagta hai? Tere jaane ke baad Muskaan bohot khush thi? Maine bhi usse dard aur takleef mein dekha hai. Tere liye rote hue dekha hai. Lekin maine phir bhi teri baat samjhi. Tu kyu usse chodke gaya, uski wajah samjhi. Tujhe support bhi kiya. Kya tu bhi mere liye waisa nahi kar sakta?"
"Maine tujhse kaha na, Armaan. Humaare situations bohot alag the. Tu mat compare kar."
"Kaise? Kaise alag the? Samjha mujhe?"
"Main Muskaan ko marne ke liye chodke nahi gaya tha," Rahul whispered solemnly.
Armaan looked at Rahul on hearing those words and smacked him hard across his face.
"Teri himmat kaise hui aisa kehne ki?" Armaan asked, his voice dangerously low, spitting poison.
Rahul just rubbed his hand across his cheek and smiled wryly.
"Woh kehte haina, sach hamesha kadwa hota hai," Rahul said.
"Yeh sach nahi hai," Armaan replied.
"Armaan tere inkaar karne se sach badalne waala nahi hai. Tu toh Riddhu ke hosh mein aane tak bhi nahi ruka. Uske pehle hi chala gaya. Kamse kam itni toh himmat rakhta ki usse nazre mila kar usse bata sake ki usse chodkar jaa raha hai," Rahul said.
"Tu jaanta hai ki main usse jhooth nahi keh paata. Agar usse dekhta, toh uski aankhon mein dekhkar kabhi nahi keh paata ki usse pyaar nahi karta."
"Toh sach bataane ki bhi himmat rakhni chahiye thi tujhe, Armaan."
"Sach jaankar woh mujhe kabhi jaane nahi deti," he replied.
"Agar tu sach much jaana chaahta, toh tujhe rok bhi nahi paati," Rahul said.
Taking a deep breath, Rahul continued.
"Armaan, main yeh nahi keh raha ki main tujhse isliye nafrat karta hu kyuki tu Riddhu ko chodke chala gaya. Main toh aisa tujhse bilkul nahi keh sakta, kyuki maine bhi wahi kiya tha. Main bas yeh keh raha hu, ki tera tareeka galat tha."
"Toh main kya karta, Rahul?"
"Tujhe Riddhu ko, hum sabko sach bataana chahiye tha."
Armaan shook his head on hearing him.
"Nahi, main sahi keh raha hu. Agar tu sach kehta, toh kamse kam Riddhu itne waqt tak khudse nafrat nahi karti, yeh soch kar ki tu usse chod kar chala gaya, kyuki kami usme thi. Usse pata hota, ki tu gaya hai, kyuki kami tujhme hai. Usse pata hota, ki tu chahe uske saath na ho, lekin tera pyaar hamesha uske saath hai. Yeh bohot badi baat hai, Armaan. Isse Riddhu ko bohot fark padta. Tere bina uska waqt itna bura nahi hota, kyuki usse pata hota, ki tu jahaan bhi, jaisa bhi hai, usse pyaar karta hai."
"Yahi problem haina, tujhe? Ki maine Riddhima ko aisa feel karaya ki woh mere layak nahi hai?" Armaan asked.
Rahul nodded his agreement.
"Lekin tu samajh nahi raha. Agar Basket ko pata hota, ki main usse pyaar karta hu, woh kabhi apni zindagi mein aage nahi badh paati, bas yahi umeed lagaye baithi rehti, ki kisi din main theek ho jaunga aur uske paas waapas aa jaunga. Aur main aisa hone nahi de sakta tha, kyuki mujhe toh khud bhi nahi pata tha, ki main kabhi pehle jaisa ho paunga ya nahi. Maine socha, ki agar usse pata chalega, ki main usse sirf isliye chodke chala gaya kyuki woh kabhi chal nahi paayegi, toh woh mujhse nafrat karne lagegi. Aur uski yeh nafrat usse mujhe bhulaane mein madad karegi," Armaan explained.
Rahul didn't know what to say to that.
"Tu samajh raha haina?" Armaan pleaded with him.
"Armaan, main..." Rahul trailed off, at a loss of words.
"Tu kya?"
Rahul shook his head, not saying anything. The two of them sat silently for sometime, before Rahul asked.
"Armaan? Ek baat poochu?"
On seeing Armaan nod, he asked, "Tujhe kya sach mein laga ki Riddhu tujhe bhula degi?"
"Aisa kyu pooch raha hai?"
"Tujhe kya laga? Ki Riddhu ka pyaar tere liye itna kamzor tha, ki woh tujhe itni asaani se bhula de?"
"Ek second ke liye bhi nahi. Mujhe nahi laga ki woh mujhe bhula degi. Main chaahta bhi nahi tha, ki woh aisa kare. Main bas yeh chaahta tha ki woh apni zindagi mein aage badhe. Mujhe apni zindagi ka ek chota hissa samjhe, naa ki apni poori zindagi. Aur rahi baat Riddhima ke pyaar ki, toh uske pyaar par main kabhi shaq kar hi nahi sakta. Mujhe bachaane ke liye usne apni jaan ki parwah bhi nahi ki. Uske baad main kaise kabhi uske pyaar pe shaq karta?"
"Lekin usne toh tere pyaar pe shaq kiya. Jab sabne kaha kit u usse kyu chodke gaya. Usne maan liya. Agar woh us din Shashank Uncle aur Padma Aunty ki baat nahi sunti, toh shayad usse abhi bhi yahi lagta ki tu usse uski bimaari ki wajah se chodkar chala gaya."
"Jaanta hu," Armaan replied.
"Tujhe is baat se koi problem nahi hai?"
"Nahi, kyuki main samajh sakta hu ki woh kya soch rahi thi?"
"Kya?"
"Yahi ki woh Armaan uska Armaan nahi tha," he replied promptly.
"Matlab?"
"Matlab, amnesia ke baad, main waapas Riddhima se pyaar karne laga tha. Lekin main usse utna pyaar nahi kar sakta tha jitna main accident se pehle karta tha. Us waqt, mere liye, hum dono ke liye woh relationship naya tha. Lekin Riddhima mujhse pehle se pyaar karti thi. Main nahi karta tha. Mere mann mein Riddhima ke liye utni gehri feelings nahi thi jitni pehle thi. Kyuki main toh usse theek tarah jaanta bhi nahi tha. Us waqt mujhe sirf itna pata tha ki woh is duniya ki sabse beautiful, helping aur caring insaan hai."
"Kya itna sab feel karna kaafi nahi hai? I mean, tu usse pyaar karta tha. Kya tera pyaar kaafi nahi tha?"
"Lekin main tab usse utna pyaar nahi karta tha, jitna main pehle karta tha. Shayad isliye uske liye yeh believe karna aasaan ho gaya ki main usse chodke jaa sakta hu. Aur maine isliye hi woh kaha. Kyuki mujhe pata tha, ki woh is baat ka shaq nahi karegi. Agar woh accident nahi hua hota, agar mujhe amnesia nahi hota, toh mujhe nahi lagta ki Basket kabhi yeh sab bakwaas ko sach maan leti."
Rahul just stared at him, amazed. Armaan felt a little uncomfortable in his gaze.
"Kya hua? Aise kyu dekh raha hai?"
"Nahi, bas. Tu aur Riddhima. Itna sab kuch hone ke baad bhi tum dono ko ek - doosre ko itni aasaani se maaf kar diya."
Armaan smiled on hearing that.
"Maaf karne ke liye koi galti hi nahi thi, Rahul. Riddhima ko laga ki main usse chodkar chala gaya kyuki main usse pyaar nahi karta tha. Jo ki main chaahta tha usse lage. Aur Riddhima jaanti thi ki maine sab uske liye kiya. Na usse mujhe maaf karne ki zarurat thi na mujhe usse."
Rahul's head was almost spinning now. This talk had given him a lot to think about. Admittedly, he had never thought the way Armaan had. He hadn't even considered that Armaan may have been lying before that phone call with Riddhima, when she had called him and told him about her conversation with her parents and how she was going to search for Armaan.
Though he was happy that Armaan hadn't left her for such selfish reasons, he was still mad at him for leaving Riddhima in that state. Those days after the shootout had been extremely difficult for Riddhima, and she had needed Armaan the most then. No one was able to comfort her, not Anjali, not Padma Aunty and not Shashank Uncle. She had needed Armaan then. But, Armaan hadn't been there.
Rahul had thought that going through such an intense and daunting event together, with the threat of loosing each other forever would have had Armaan & Riddhima tied at the hip for ages to come. He had thought that it would be impossible to see one of them without the other. He had been pretty confident that Armaan would be moving back to the Gupta House (with or without the help of an excuse), just so that he could reassure himself that Riddhima was there.
That she was safe. That she was happy (Because they were together. And because they had come out of the whole ordeal alive).
He had thought many things. Of how Armaan would behave. How Riddhima would behave. But, nothing of that sort had happened because Armaan had just up and left.
That, in itself had been really surprising. He distinctly remembered that the first thing Armaan had asked about after gaining consciousness had been whether or not Riddhima was safe. He had fought tooth and nail to be able to get out of his bed and go see Riddhima. After several arguments and shouting and pointing of fingers, Armaan had been allowed to see her. He had spent a long time with her, sitting by her bed, holding her hand and talking to her. Rahul knew, because he had been standing outside the room and watching them.
And then, Armaan had left. He had left without a word. To anybody. Nobody knew where he was.  Not him. Not Atul. Not Nikki. Obviously, not Riddhima, either (Because she hadn't woken up, yet).
Everyone had been confused as to what had happened. Why had Armaan left so suddenly? Where had he gone? With whom? They had all been concerned and worried.
That is, until Dr. Shashank had talked to them. He had told them that Armaan had left, that he no longer wanted to be with Riddhima. He had said that he couldn't bear to spend his life with a physically handicapped person and so there was no point in dragging the whole thing further.
Dr. Shashank had not felt right to ask him to stay when he so obviously, wanted to leave. And so, he had let Armaan go, wherever the Hell it was he had went.
That was when all the concern vanished and loathing and repulsion had taken its place. Armaan was an asshole, Rahul concluded after that. Leaving the supposed love of his life alone in this. Riddhima would never be able to emerge from this, he was sure.
And he was proven right, for the first few days. Riddhima had been inconsolable in her grief. She wasted away all her time crying over Armaan, detesting herself for not being good enough. No one had been able to make her see that it wasn't her, it was him. She had, literally, jumped in fron of a bullet to save his Armaan's life and if he couldn't appreciate it, he wasn't worth her anyway.
The treatments in India were proving to be futile. And so, Rahul had urged Shashank Uncle to let him take Riddhima to London, to his mom. She was a celebrated orthopaedic surgeon and Rahul was sure that she could treat Riddhima.
After a lot of discussions, he had agreed, albeit reluctantly. And so, Rahul, Riddhima and Anjali had ended up in London. His mom had taken up Riddhima's case immediately. Within a few sessions, she had realized that Riddhima hadn't been cured because it felt as though she didn't want to be. It seemed that she was content to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
She had talked about her concerns to Rahul and Anjali and that was when she had found out about Armaan and his betrayal. She had suggested the Riddhima go see a therapist because it was of utmost importance that Riddhima have the willingness to heal. She couldn't do that for Riddhima. Thus, it was better that Riddhima see a specialist.
After a lot of arguments, Riddhima had finally conceded to see one. A few sessions with Dr. Hazel Waters (A/N - Yes, I did that. This is my top fantasy that will never be fulfilled. Thank you for that, John Green.) and the change was amazing. Riddhima was slowly coming out of her shell and becoming the Riddhima she was before. Maybe even more confident.
With the final hurdle taken care of, Rahul's mom had started Riddhima's treatment and a few months later, Riddhima took her first steps, again.
It had been an absolutely amazing day. The joy that had coursed through Rahul had been unparallel when he finally saw Riddhima out of the wheelchair. They had gone totally overboard, throwing a party. Rahul had even recorded the whole thing on his phone and sent it to Shashank Uncle, who couldn't have been happier.
Slowly, but steadily, the physical therapy sessions worked and Riddhima was able to walk and run as if nothing had ever happened to her.
All through her treatment, Rahul had been her one constant. He had been there through everything - the therapy sessions with Dr. Waters, the appointments with his mother, all physical therapy sessions. Through the laughter and the tears and the pain and the joy.
Rahul was extremely pleased with himself for being able to help Riddhima, but somewhere deep down, he always knew that Armaan should have been there in his place. The thought made his stomach churn. All those months, and not one single piece of communication from him. Not even to tell them that he was still alive.
Rahul had been extremely pissed with him for all that he did to Riddhima. Then, Riddhima left and a few days after that he got that damned phone call.
Armaan had been the hero, after all.
Go figure.
But, Rahul had still been unable to forgive him, even after knowing the truth.
Because, he knew, that all those months Armaan should have been doing what he did.
"Rahul! Kya soch raha hai?" Armaan asked him, shaking his shoulder, bringing Rahul out of his thoughts.
"Huh?" He asked, disoriented.
"Kya hua? Tu kahaan kho gaya?" Armaan asked.
"Kuch nahi. Bas aise hi," Rahul replied.
"Rahul, kya hum please yeh saari baatein bhool kar, phirse dost banne ki koshish nahi kar sakte?" Armaan pleaded.
Rahul sighed.
"Dekh, main jaanta hu, ki tujhe is baat se problem hai ki main Riddhima ko aise waqt mein chodke chala gaya. Lekin tu meri baat samajh. Agar main yahaan reh jaata, aur Riddhima ko kuch ho jaata toh? Main khudko kabhi maaf nahi kar paata," Armaan said.
"Tere yahaan rehne se Riddhima ko kaise kuch ho sakta tha?" Rahul asked.
Armaan sighed. It seemed as though he was giving the same explanation again today. First, with Muskaan and now with Rahul. But, this was important. He needed Rahul to understand. Like Muskaan, Armaan was pretty sure that Rahul had not considered the consequences of Armaan & Riddhima being together with their disabilities and short comings. It felt as though no one had, except for him.
Everyone was just focused on the fact that he had left. No one had stopped to consider that leaving was the best thing he could have done, given the circumstances. What other choice did he have?
Stay here and watch Riddhima's helplessness, not being to do anything about it? And then, as his mental health deteriorated, watch as he became the reason for all the pain in her world? What would have happened if he had done something that would have been life - threatening to her?
"Armaan? Main tujhse kuch pooch raha hu," Rahul said, waving his hand in front Armaan.
"Tu mujhse keh raha tha ki main Riddhima ko marne ke liye chod gaya. Agar meri wajah se uski jaan chali jaati toh? Tune kabhi aisa socha?" Armaan asked, his voice pained. He couldn't imagine what he would do if something happened to Riddhima. And, if it had been his fault? He would rather die than cause her pain.
Armaan looked at Rahul, who seemed to be in deep thought.
"Mujhe kuch samajh hi nahi aa raha. Main kya sochu aur kya nahi. Ek taraf toh Riddhu ka dard aur takleef, jo teri wajah se tha. Aur doosri taraf, teri baat bhi main samajh sakta hu. Shayad us waqt is tarah jhooth bolke jaane ke alawa tere paas koi aur option nahi tha. Lekin main kya karu?" Rahul asked.
"Rahul, main jaanta hu ki hum dono ke beech is sabke wajah se thode problems create ho gaye hain. Lekin, hum un sabko bhula kar phir se dost nahi ban sakte?"
Rahul contemplated Armaan's words.
"Koshish toh kar sakte hain," he finally said.
Armaan smiled widely on hearing this. Rahul smiled back, faintly, before clapping Armaan's shoulder.
Yes, Armaan thought, we're gonna be just fine.

xxx
prags (pragati)

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