Monday, 9 October 2017

PART 32:Ehsaas


Armaan got back around 3 in the morning after attending to various 'emergencies' at the center. He was surprised that none of the cases he was asked to see that night were not true 'emergencies.' They could have easily been attended to the next morning.

"Pata nahin Dr Modi ko itni urgency kyat hi aaj raat?" He thought as he walked back home, "well, who am I to question him? I have to do my duty."

He found Riddhima sitting at the dining table with her head down. She was fast asleep. The food was cold and untouched. The candles had melted into stubs of smoke by now.

Armaan felt really guilty; he lifted Riddhima in his arms and took her to the bedroom. He laid her down on the bed and plunked next to her; he was exhausted after the long day. He grabbed Riddhima's hand; closed his eyes and was soon fast asleep.

Armaan and Riddhima spent their anniversary with unsatiated appetites, but held each other's hands all night, as if reminding each other that they still existed in each other's lives. Now it was up to them, whether they would continue to hold hands through the ups and downs of life, or let some unknown and vicious force drift their hands away from each other……


Riddhima received a call from Abhimanyu.

"Hi Riddhima! How was your evening?"

"Oh, it was fine….how was the premier?" Riddhima asked

"It was great! I am sure Armaan would have told you….I met him there." Abhimanyu said with a devilish smile on his face.

Riddhima could not believe her ears. She felt her head spinning; she sat down and paused.

"Hello! Hello! Riddhima…are you alright? I hope maine kuch aisa tho nahin keh diya? Kya Armaan ne bataaya nahin tumhey wo Premier par gaya tha?" Abhimanyu added salt to her wounds.

Riddhima closed her eyes and let a tear escape. Her voice wavered a little, "A..Abhimanyu…aapko koi galat fehmi huyi hogi…Armaan tho poori shaam mere saath hi tha!" She had to lie. She couldn't bear the fact, that the person she worshiped and loved so much would ever speak anything but the truth, "Bye Abhimanyu! Mujhey zara kaam hai…aap se baad mein baat karoongi."

Riddhima felt dizzy and buried her face in her hands. She started sobbing silently, "aisa nahin ho sakta…..Armaan mujhse kuch nahin chupa sakta….Abhimanyu jhooth bol raha hai….mera Armaan sirf kaam mein busy tha…..mera dil jaanta hai….chaahe koi kuch bhi kahe."

She heard the door open.

"Hi Riddhima! Surprise, surprise!" Armaan walked in the door, unusually early that afternoon.

Riddhima was pleasantly surprised; she wiped her tears and got up, "Armaan? Aaj itni jaldi kaise aa gaye?"

"Mere saath chalo!" He grabbed her hand and walked out of the apartment.

"Kahan jaa rahe hain?" she protested

"Ek surprise hai tumhare liye," Armaan grinned and pulled her into the elevator.

Riddhima looked at him quizzically, "kya surprise hai Armaan?"

Armaan just grinned and put his arm around her, 'bas abhi pataa chal jaayega."

They arrived in the lobby and walked to the parking lot. There was a brand new Honda City parked in a spot. Armaan took out the keys and gestured, 'this is for my wife! Tumhara anniversary gift!"

Riddhima had a faint smile on her face, "Armaan…..mujhey car ki zaroorat nahin hai."

"Kyon nahin hai? Poore din ghar par akeli rehti ho….ab kahin bhi aa jaa sakti ho….tumhare driving se tho Mumbai waale bhi darr jaayenge!" Armaan laughed

Riddhima was glad that Armaan had at least thought about her, but a part of her was still not thrilled…..was it the conversation with Abhimanyu? Or was it the fact that Armaan was trying to appease her with material gifts to make up for last evening?

"Main abhi aayi," Riddhima turned around and went upstairs.

Armaan waited impatiently, "yeh khush nahin huyi car se? She should be happy to know how generous her hubby is…..kaam chhod kar aaj poore din car dealership par baitha raha….aur yeh nakhare dikha rahi hai?" he was a little put off.

Riddhima came back with a small statue in her hand, "yeh Ganapati ka statute tumhari car mein rahega tho hamesha tumhari raksha karenge," she entered the driver's side and placed the statue on the dashboard.

Armaan smiled and sat on the passenger seat, "theek hai Ganapati mujhey dekhte rahenge, aur main tumhey!" he took out Riddhima's photograph from his wallet and placed it next to the statue.

Riddhima smiled, "abhi tho keh rahe the car mere liye laaye ho?"

Armaan winked at her, "of course car tho tumhari hi hai, bas main tho driver hoon!"

Riddhima shook her head, "bahut jhooth bolne lage ho tum!" she said sarcastically.

"Jhooth? Aur main? Haan yeh jhooth hai ki main tumse pyaar karta hoon, aur tumhare liye pagal hoon….kyon jhooth hai na?" he chuckled.

Riddhima became a little serious and pondered silently, "kabhie kabhie lagta hai tum sach much jhooth bol rahe ho."

"Kyon kya hua? Itni serious kyon ho gayi?"

"Kuch nahin," she said softly.

"Chalo let's take the car for a ride, utho main drive karta hoon…..memsaab…aap yahan baithiye aur apne driver ko kaam karne dee jiye," Armaan got out and took the driver's seat.

Armaan and Riddhima spent the day with each other roaming around the city.

Armaan was very excited and told her about Dr Modi's recommendation to promote him to a full staff status before his training was over, "jaanti ho Riddhima….what that means?"

Riddhima just shrugged her shoulders, "iska matlab hum Ramgarh jaldi wapas jaa sakenge?"

The car came to a screeching halt as soon as Armaan heard that, "Ramgarh? Abhi itni jaldi wapas kaise jaa sakte hain? Ek baar main staff member ban jaaoon, phir 1-2 saal kaam karke aur kuch saving karke hi wapas jaa sakte hain….you know I have invested a lot in this program….at least I should bear the fruits of my labor… don't realize the potential I have….I can earn a lot more and then save enough to move in a year or two….main yeh sab tumhari khushi ke liye hi tho kar raha hoon," he squeezed her hand and smiled at her.

Riddhima was not sure though, "Armaan….meri khushi tho sirf tumhare saath hai…..mujhey zyaada paise mein koi dilchaspi nahin hai…..I just need you, not wealth."

Armaan sighed, "Riddhima! Yeh sab kitaabi baatein hai…..paise ke bina hum kuch nahin kar sakte…remember the horrible fire in Ramgarh? If we had more money and facilities, we could have done so much more."

How could Riddhima ever forget those ill-fated days; after all she had lost her most precious gift from God due to the fire.

"Shayad tum theek kehte ho Armaan….par mujhey darr hai ki is paise ke junoon mein tum mujhse door na ho jaao."

Armaan restarted the car, "Tum se door hone ki tho main soch bhi nahin sakta Riddhima…..don't worry….waise tumne Abhimanyu ke saath gaane ke baare mein kya socha?"

"No, I am not interested," she said

"I think you should do it! Tumhara mann bhi laga rahega, and you can earn some money too!" he grinned.

Riddhima just stared at him silently.

"Kyon? Abhimanyu is working in Bollywood now, I bet he is going to do well….I bet he will pay you well!" Armaan continued.

"I need some time to think about it!" Riddhima replied softly and averted her gaze from him, staring out the window.

…to be continued….

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