Saturday, 21 October 2017

PART 38: Ehsaas


Over the next few months, Armaan and Riddhima became busier with their professional lives.

They now belonged to the selected group of couples called 'DINKS- Double Income No Kids'category. They purchased another car, had a full time maid and cook. They often talked to each other through 'post it' notes on the refrigerator. They spent very few hours together, but their passion and love for each other was still intact. They still managed to go out for romantic dinners, go for long drives, and have a passionate time in bed with each other.

 Things started changing once Armaan was promoted to a salaried staff physician. He was no longer a trainee dependent on a stipend anymore. He was offered a fat pay packet with a promise of bonus based on productivity. Essentially, the more business he brought to the center, the higher his bonus would be.

Armaan was on a high after his promotion. He came home with the offer and contract. Riddhima was happy for him, but cautioned him not to get carried away, "Armaan….bhagwan ki daya se humare paas bahut hai…..ek chota ghar hai, hamara pyaar hai…..hum apne apne career mein khush hain……kahin zyaada paise ke laalach mein koi tum se galti na ho jaaye…..aakhir tum doctor logon ki madad karne ke liye bane the…..paisa tho apne aap aa jaayega……uske peeche jitna bhaagoge, wo utna hi kum lagega…."

Armaan smiled, "Riddhima….life is not that simple….tum nahin samjhogi…..a man's success is measured by his bank balance and his fame…..khaali pyaar aur sewa se zindagi nahin chalti….samjhi meri bholi basanti!" he pinched her cheek and turned the pages of the offer made to him.

Riddhima did not agree with Armaan, but kept quiet, in the hope that Armaan would eventually realize that money was not the most important thing in life.

She added shyly, "Armaan….bas meri ek ichha hai."

"Kaun si ichha?" Armaan asked absent-mindedly as he went over his new contract with the Surgical Center.

Riddhima sat down next to him, "Armaan…..ek bachha….ab tho hamari shaadi ko bhi 11/2 saal ho gaya hain….aur tumhari training bhi khatam ho gayi hai."

Armaan looked up and said thoughtfully, "I know Riddhima…even I would like to have a little baby in the house….but let's just wait a few months….main chahta hoon hum ek ghar khareed lein…you know we will need more room when the baby arrives….aur ek baar main thoda establish bhi ho jaaoon…..tum bhi tho abhi apni pehli album ki recording mein busy ho….let's just wait another 6 months….how about after our 2 nd anniversary?" Armaan winked at her and got up to place the contract in his briefcase.

Riddhima once again buried her desire to be a mother; she did not want to force Armaan into parenthood, after all it was a big commitment.

One of the first assignments Armaan was given as a staff member was to organize the annual convention of Plastic surgeons. The convention was being held in Mumbai this year. Modi Surgical Center was given the responsibility for making the arrangements for the weeklong conference. Plastic surgeons from all over the world were going to attend the convention. Armaan considered himself privileged, that he was considered a crucial member of the organizing team. He told Riddhima, "Riddhima….ab 2 hafte mujhey bilkul bhool jaana…..I will be busy from 6 in the morning to midnight…..we have to get everything ready for the conference and then the weeklong conference would be extremely busy."

Riddhima circled her arms around his neck, "tumhey bhoolna itna aasaan nahin hai…..ab tho tumhari aadat si ho gayi hai," she teased him.

Armaan lifted her in his arms, "tho main sirf ek aadat hoon?"

Riddhima wrinkled her nose, "haan….aadat! Aur wo bhi bahut buri!"

Armaan bruised her bare waist with his lips, "jaanti ho buri aadat se peecha chutaana kitna mushkil hai?"

Riddhima giggled, "tho kaun chudhaana chaahta hai peecha?" They were both in splits and fell one on top of the other and rolled on the living room floor.

The Annual Plastic Surgeons convention started with a lot of pomp and show. Dinner, drinks, and entertainment programs for the visiting surgeons and their spouse followed the daytime scientific meetings. Some of the young single surgeons were also provided with special 'escort' services. Anjali helped Armaan procure these special services. Armaan was grateful to Anjali for providing the escorts and also arrange different entertainment programs in the evening. They even had a Bollywood night with songs and dances on display for the surgeons.

On the second day of the conference, Riddhima received a call from Padma. Padma sounded frantic on the phone, 'Beti…beti….bhaiya ko dil ka daura padhaa hai….tu jaldi Ramgarh aa jaa….yahan ke doctor keh rahe hain ki unke paas zyaada waqt nahin hai," she started sobbing on the phone and could not speak.

"Maa….main ….main jaldi aa rahi hoon," Riddhima said tearfully. She was at the music studio. Her hands were trembling; her mind was numb; she was in a state of confusion, 'ab kya karoon main? Armaan…Armaan,' she dialed his number. Thankfully, he was just stepping out of a seminar at the convention, "Riddhima! Kya hua?"

"Armaan," she burst out into tears, "mamaji…mamaji…ko heart attack hua hai….wo bahut bimaar hain," she could not speak anymore.

"Riddhima….Riddhima…calm down….unhe yahan bula lao," Armaan suggested

"Armaan….unki halat bahut naazuk hai…..main Ramgarh jaana chaahti hoon…pata nahin un se phir mil sakoon ya nahin….please Armaan mujhey Ramgarh le chalo," she pleaded tearfully.

Armaan looked around; the convention hall was filling up with the surgeons as they walked from one seminar room to another, "Riddhima….main abhi kaise jaa sakta hoon? Yeh conference ki saari zimmedaari mujhpar hai…aisa karo, main ek driver ka intezaam kar deta hoon…..tum abhi nikal jao…main baad mein aane ki koshish karoonga…OK? Don't worry….let me call around for a driver," he hung up and was about to call his assistant, when he was whisked away by one of the delegates, who was not happy with the microphone in the conference room, "yes sir! Main abhi doosra mike laata hoon," Armaan got distracted and walked away.

Riddhima waited patiently for Armaan's call. She could not help her tears from flowing. Abhimanyu was walking by, "Arre Riddhima! Kya hua? Kyon ro rahi ho?"

Riddhima told Abhimanyu what had happened between her sobs, "mere liye please ek driver ka intezaam kar do….main abhi jaana chaahti hoon….warna taxi kar loongi."

"Nahin nahin Riddhima! Main tumhey le chalta hoon….after all what are friends for? I know Armaan is busy with his conference….chalo abhi nikal chalte hain," Abhimanyu picked Riddhima's bag and walked out of the studio.

Riddhima agreed without any protests; she could not think clearly and was anxious to get to Ramgarh. Abhimanyu was a perfect companion throughout the journey. He listened patiently to Riddhima, as she spoke fondly about Ramgarh and her 'mamaji' By the time they reached Ramgarh, it was late at night.  

Riddhima had an ominous feeling as they walked towards Dr Misra's house.

Riddhima and Abhimanyu heard the sobs get louder as they walked inside the house.

Riddhima froze as she saw her mamaji's body lying on the floor, wrapped in a white sheet. She saw Padma, Lovely, Tamanna, Atul and others sitting around the body grieving the late Dr Misra.

Riddhima could not control herself; she fell on the floor and sobbed loudly on her uncle's chest, "nahin…mamaji aap aise nahin jaa sakte….hum sab ko chhod kar kahin nahin jaa sakte…..aapko tho abhi nana bhi ban na hai maamaji…..itni jaldi aap ko kisne kaha retire hone ko?"

Tamanna and Atul helped Riddhima on her feet. A limp Riddhima just fell on her mother's lap and cried her heart out.

Abhimanyu felt sorry for Riddhima, but just sat down with the other men.

Riddhima was inconsolable all night. Everyone had been waiting for her to arrive before taking the body away for the final rites.

Dr Shashank Misra was a very well respected and loved person in Ramgarh. It seemed like the whole town joined in for the funeral procession, which set out early in the morning.

As Dr Misra did not have a son, Padma was hoping that Armaan would have filled in his shoes and performed the last rites. Instead, Atul took upon the role of a son and filled the void. Abhimanyu helped Atul with all the other ceremonies.

Riddhima did not pay heed to her phone calls; she was too distraught to even call or speak to Armaan. She wanted to cry on Armaan's shoulder; he was the only one who could comfort her. She remembered her growing years with her mamaji, how she practically took care of all his needs till she met Armaan, how supportive Dr Misra had been of Armaan and their marriage…..and now he was gone for good……Armaan unhey dekh bhi nahin paaya…jis insaan ne Armaan ko itna kuch sikhaaya……itna samman diya…..Armaan unhi se milne nahin aaya…..that fact hurt Riddhima's feelings more than anything at this point.

Finally, Lovely called Mumbai and informed Armaan about Surybhan's death. Armaan felt bad, but could not go to Ramgarh because of the conference. He thought, 'ab tho waise bhi Dr Misra nahin rahe…..mere jaane se kya faayda hoga?"

"Armaan…I hope you remember I am performing tonight for your surgeons," Anjali came up to Armaan while he hung up on his call with Lovely, "make sure you look your best….after my dance, we will go out for dinner." Anjali beamed.

Armaan nodded with a faint smile, his thoughts still in Ramgarh- kaash main jaa sakta, par Riddhima bahadur ladki hai…sab sambhaal legi, "yes, I will be there Anjali!" he replied.

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